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How to Save a Life

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I knew you were
You were gonna come to me
And here you are
But you better choose carefully
'Cause I’m capable of anything
Of anything and everything - Dark Horse - Katy Perry


"Harold...this simply will not work." The dark, gravelly voice rumbled from the shadows. Harold Cooper sat at his cluttered desk. A file lay open on the top of the strewn memos and sticky notes. A lone desk lamp cast a small pool of light in the cramped office space.


"You don't even know what we're dealing with here. You need to give her a chance." He shuffled a few more papers around searching for a piece of paper lost in the stack. He looked into the shadows, past the theatrics trying to make out the outline of the figure hiding within. A brief pull of his cigar lit the area where his face should be in a red glow. The smoke curling around in space to the ceiling. Cooper detested it but learned to let it go. They had a deal after all.


It was way past working hours and Cooper should have been home hours ago. They had been pouring over their latest case, one that had not only piqued the FBI's interest but the top brass themselves. The Director personally insisted that Cooper look into this particular "Blacklister". That meant that he had to take a more than minor involvement with the "Shadowman". A hand reached out and picked up the tumbler of scotch that rested on the edge of Cooper's desk. It had left a ring of condensation behind in its wake. The ice cubes clicked and settled against each other as the face finally emerged.


"This was not a part of our deal, Harold. It never was!" Raymond "Red" Reddington leveled his cold gaze upon the man he only more than tolerated as of late. Harold Cooper was a man to be grudgingly respected, if not admired. Since Reddington had "volunteered" to be a part of his ragtag team of misfits, questionable agents, highly incompentent by comparison, in the area they all lovingly referred to as the 'Post Office', he knew what cards would need to be played if his goals were to be accomplished. He had an agenda...he always had a plan, even when he was "caught" by the man he was now facing. They were in the middle of nowhere and even though Reddington knew the way in, it was often difficult to find the way out. He bit the inside of his cheek and shook his head.


"You well know by now, Reddington, that there are always exceptions to the deal. We do whatever we need to get the mission accomplished. I know in this case you are going to need a handler...someone believable that can pass off as a person of interest. You need someone on your arm. A distraction. We've gone over this before." Cooper laced his fingers together and rested them on the desk. He was unmoving in his opinion.


"I have every capable resource available in handling this situation on my own, Harold." Reddington stared down the man in front of him. His eyes not moving, not blinking staring at the Assistant Director with his most menacingly glare. His left eye twitched subtly when he finally looked away. He swirled his drink and finished it in one gulp. He pulled his chair into the dimming light and refused to see reason. "A girl...barely out of Quantico...what do you take me for? He shook his head and huffed a toothy laugh, "I've had more experience as a criminal and as a straight-laced, by-the-book officer before she was even a twinkle in her daddy's eye."


Cooper looked down at his desk. He picked up the placard he was searching for and presented it to Reddington. "Her name is Elizabeth Keen. She starts this assignment on Monday...and believe me she is quite capable." Reddington reached out a well-manicured hand and accepted the card and gave it a dismissive glance.


"I've worked with this team for almost a year now and I don't understand what this girl has to possibly bring to the table, especially in this particular case. Do you understand, Harold, that these are some of the most dangerous characters that very few have survived the world over...That they need to be eliminated and scattered by the most calculating minds that you possess in the FBI, CIA and all of your intelligence agencies combined? What am I to do babysitting a fledgling recruit straight out of the box who probably has only heard of this faction in passing? I told you, I would only work with the FBI under my own conditions and contract. I could easily disappear back into the woodwork and let your "fine team" handle all the dregs of society. I have nothing to gain from childcare..."


Cooper slammed his hand on the desk. "That is about enough. I won't have you tear our agents down. Indeed you did seek us out and indeed we have been grateful for your services. And yes, you have bested us thus far until you turned yourself into the FBI a year ago. You're right, we would never have caught you, but we were close. Agent Ressler was on your tail and I think you knew that."


"Donald was NEVER going to catch me..." Reddington chuckled incredulously. I had him going in circles and running into himself and I was never in the picture. Now you want to saddle me with this novice...with what to gain? I ask again."


------------

Across town at the Community Gym- Washington D.C.

She is currently doing her 20th lap around the regulation basketball court. There is a track encircling the court and there are maybe one or two other people in the gym with her. Sweat has beaded, dripped and fallen annoyingly into the valley of her breasts, but she ignores it. She ignores the screaming of her leg muscles as she continues to push. As she runs, her face is a mask of determination.


"She has graduated first in her class, mastered every course with high marks, Her area of expertise is profiling. She can read anyone like a book. She has analyzed countless cases batted to her and has even assisted top agents in live field work during her tenure at Quantico." Harold smiled proudly.


"Do you think she will be able to handle the mental and psychological abuse that is about to be thrown her way? I will not hesitate to let her fall when or if things go south. She will simply just be a casualty. Make no mistake, Harold...she will be in a lot of danger."


She has run over to the side of the gym where equipment such as jump ropes, basketballs, medicine balls, hand weights are waiting and selects a jump rope. She stares at a pinpoint spot on the wall opposite her and begins skipping the rope. She gradually gets faster and focussed, incessantly counting the number of skips she has made, not erring once in her push to go faster. Until she can stand no more, she tosses the rope away from her with a primal scream, thankful there are only a few concerned glances in her direction. People in the gym are used various grunts and groans. She does not stop and yet heads for the punching bag at the other side of the room. What drives her is unimaginable...the incessant need for achievement...the unattainable high that she strives to reach every day.


"Harold...I implore you one last time. I have not allowed myself to be locked up in that box in the dungeon of this place for countless months on end just for you to let me be a teacher of some sort. You know I am a criminal...The Concierge of Crime...I feed you the cases that most suit and benefit my needs. Throwing someone new and inexperienced in the mix leaves me in a really bad position. I'd rather go back to the box...truthfully how do you know you can trust me at all?"

He looks back at Reddington the side of his mouth twitching to a smirk. He has him. He has never seen Reddington try this hard to get out of something. "We gave you a chip...you are free to leave whenever you like. I don't think you'd even allow that if you didn't think that we weren't here to protect YOU from something. Care to get into that now? Why did you so willingly offer yourself to us? I have still to get that answer from you. I think you need us more than we want you. So we just add an extra clause to the deal. We need to have Agent Keen as your partner in this mission. There is no one else better prepared or suited for this assignment in our area. You will need to brief her on specifics and I will make sure she has the necessary files to get started. You meet her tomorrow at 0700. And now, if you will excuse me, I have a wife to get home to that I know is threatening to have me sleeping on the couch again. If there is anything further?"


Elizabeth mercilessly attacks the punching bag with every ounce of strength she has left in her body. Her muscles stretch and pull and ache with each blow. A trainer has stopped by to monitor her progress and encourages her for one more punch. Just one more. Fire dances in her eyes as she gives every last fiber of her being over to the force behind her punches.

"HEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!" Is her battle cry. She falls to the mat underneath her. Her body heaving, panting, arms out at her sides. Euphoria sings throughout her system. She is there.

-----------

Back at the Post Office -  Harold Cooper's Office.

Reddington stands up, prepared to leave. He grabs his hat, a fedora, the trademark symbol of who he is, and places it on his head. He tugs the brim once, settling it over his forehead. He stubs out his cigar in the ashtray that Harold keeps in the room just for his sake. He pockets the unused portion in the inside pocket of his tailored midnight blue suit coat. Cooper stands up and grabs his briefcase. He heads toward the door.


Reddington stopped Cooper who now had his hand on the doorknob, opening it to the world outside. He smiled showing a full set of teeth a sinister gleam in his eye. "Con permiso, Capitan. The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It's now time to see if you can dance."

 

 

 

But don't make me your enemy...

Chapter Text

 

You got to follow me slow cause you can't relate
Here you come you're coming up late
Open up wide Open up wider
Big Talk Big Talk
You're trying to get somber, I'm trying to get safe
I hear you won't talk, but it don't hold weight
Say I am a fight
Say I am a fighter
Big Walk Big Walk  - Big Talk – Conway

 

By the time Elizabeth Keen drug her weary, taxed body up the steps to her building in mid-town D.C., the streetlights were on and the moths had begun their dizzying dance, spiraling and spinning around the golden glow of the orbs that were spaced evenly along the road. It had started to sprinkle and she wanted to make sure she got home before the thunderstorm hit full force.  A rumbling in the distance made her breathe a sigh of relief that she had made it safely home.  Her husband, Tom Keen, had their only vehicle and was pacing the floors of their apartment waiting for her to return.  He knew how his wife of two years could be.  He had already heard her protests in his head when he had previously offered to pick her up more than once from wherever she decided to walk home from.  He admired her stubborn determinedness and knew that any disagreements on the subject were futile.  He had long given up trying to convince her that he could protect her from the elements of danger lurking in the dark.

Sure, he wanted to be her gallant knight, her protector, and yes he had been hurt a time or two when she refused his heroism, but then he learned that his wife’s independent streak was a part of her charm.  She was not a bad wife, on the contrary, he loved her even more for it.  However, he never put off that little niggling voice in the back of his brain that something could, just possibly, go wrong…and if it did, he would never forgive himself.  He peered out of the window breathing his own sigh of relief as he saw her moving slowly up the stairs.  He shook his head and smiled a boyishly floppy grin that melted many a lady’s heart in his younger years.    

He rushed to the front door and flung it open.  He stopped just as suddenly and looked at Elizabeth with concern.  She appeared to be limping painfully, gingerly putting her foot on the step above her.  She looked up when she saw Tom and gave him a “guilty” shrug.  He shook his head and laughed softly.  “Over did it again, Babe?”

“You could say that...” 

He came down the rest of the steps and lifted her effortlessly in his arms.  The rain had started coming down pretty good and was beginning to soak their clothes.    Elizabeth startled slightly in mock protest batting at his arms, scruffing her hand through his wet, black hair.  She allowed him to swoop her up and carry her back into the house.  “I got something that can help you with that…” He whispered seductively to her before brushing his nose alongside hers and placing a small kiss on her lips.  Elizabeth rested her head on his shoulder looking into his mirrored eyes and sighed softly. 

“I hope it has to do with a nice, long, hot shower and a shoulder rub…?”  She asked batting her eyes at him.

“How’d you guess?” 

“I know you too well, Babe.”  She said with a wink and lightly tickled his ribs, causing him to start and fake drop her before catching her again.  “ACCK…you bastard!”  She laughed as he hurried her off to the bathroom.

 

With the storm raging outside, the water inside was just the right temperature to take the chill off the room. Steam rising up from the side of the sunken tub and the candles were lit, smelling of vanilla and gardenias, Elizabeth slowly eased her tired limbs into the bath, hissing as the heat rose to her skin.  The water was hot, but she would get used to it.  The pink already rising to her cheeks, her hair piled on top of her head, she closed her eyes as she slipped further and further into the warm cocoon.  It felt wonderful.  She rested her head against the back of the tub and Tom reached over to turn off the taps.  He had swirled in some bubbles and now Elizabeth was incased in white foam that strategically hid her in all the right places.  She scooped up a handful of bubbles and blew it into Tom’s face.  He batted them away and shook his finger at her.  “Don’t make me come in there, young lady.”  He teased and went to get a few towels from the linen closet. 

 “Hey…what time do you have to be out tomorrow?”  He asked from behind the door to the closet.

She groaned and hooked her arms over either side of the tub and stared up at the ceiling.  “Don’t remind me.  I gotta be up by at least five in the morning.”  She studied her toes as they popped up from the bubbles at the end of the tub.  “I gotta be there by seven a.m.  I dunno, Tom…do you think I’m ready for this?”  She asked, a moment of doubt that only her husband would understand, creeping into her voice.  She had tried distracting herself by overdoing it at the gym.  Every time she had the time to pause, she reflected on if she was good enough handle the challenge before her.  Her first assignment, her first day on the job.  She was about to take the plunge right into the deep end and there was no way she wanted to be dragged away kicking and screaming. 

“Liz…”  Tom said, returning with the towels.  He looked at her with those eyes that always had her weak-kneed.  “Honey…I have faith in you!  I know this has bugged you all week, but you’re ready for this! You’re gonna knock em dead tomorrow.  You need to show them what you got and show them that you’re a force to be reckoned with.  They have all of your credentials, your accomplishments…it’s time to put the bookwork to the footwork and do what you’ve been training your whole life for.”  He leaned over the tub and placed a kiss on her forehead and leveled her again with seriousness in his eyes.  “We can focus on our life, our family now…you have a job, I have teaching…we can be secure.”

“Who are you and what have you done with my husband?”  She laughed and pulled him closer.  His lips found their way to hers and he began slowly teasing them open.  A hand went down into the water and cupped her breast.  She gasped in his mouth.  He was getting more aroused the deeper the kiss became and she moved her head aside as he began to kiss her jawline and down her neck.  Liz moaned his name softly, but it was more of a moan of frustration.  She put her hands gently on his army green sweatshirt and pushed him back.  “I gotta get to sleep, Tom…it’s a big day tomorrow.” 

Tom looked down brushing his thumb over her nipple once more and stood up from where he had been kneeling over the tub.  He shook out his hand and extended it out to Liz assisting her up from the tub.  The water sluiced off of her body and rained down into the disrupted pool.  Tom brought her her favorite white, fluffy towel and wrapped her body in it, taking another and proceeded to dry her hair.  She walked with him trailing behind her to their bedroom.  She noticed the mood had changed in the room and felt Tom’s disappointment at the fact that he had talked yet again about having a family and it seemed as if Elizabeth had brushed it aside, yet again.  She turned to him and rubbed her thumb across his eyebrow, smoothing out the tiny frown that had formed there.  “Well, we can at least try…to sleep.” She said winking at him and allowing her towel to drop and pool at her feet. 

Tom’s eyes lit up at the sight of his wife’s gorgeous body, tanned and toned, muscles present but not over the top.  He dropped the towel he was using to dry her hair and let his hands replace it in her tangled strands.  He nodded at her feigning seriousness.  “It’s always good to try.”

 

---------------------

Sunlight shone brightly through the slats of the blinds on the sleeping couple entangled in the sheets of the bed.  The trees were still dripping water from the thunderstorm and puddles of rainwater were gathered along the street and sidewalk, a river running to the drainage that lead to the sewer.  Elizabeth groaned and threw an arm over her eyes.  The haze and fog of last night’s escapades still made moving her limbs a real struggle and she didn’t want to lose the pleasant ache coursing through her body.  It seems as if someone else had a lot of pent up energy to release.  She guessed it was around 2 am when they both wore out and fell into a heap on top of each other barely able to whisper goodnight.  At least that’s what she thought she said…it could have come out “I’ll have fries with that…” for all she knew.

Somewhere through the sluggishness of her muddled thoughts she heard the screaming of one particular one forcing its way to the forefront of her mind.  She pinched her eyes together, trying to focus on what it was telling her.  ‘GET UP!!!’  It felt like someone had slammed a concrete block against her chest. Her eyes shot wide open and she then felt the excessive licking of their dog Hudson’s tongue against her cheek.  She futilely pushed at his fur and pushed at the sleeping body next to her trying to dislodge them both from her.

“Babe…BABE!!  What time is it??!!!”  She yelled at Tom.  He mumbled something incoherent back at her and tried to snuggle back into the sheets.

“Tom!!  Wake up!!”   Hudson barked at his master and Tom finally came around to coherency.

“Wha…What??!!  What’s going on??  What happened to the alarm clock?” Elizabeth grabbed his arm with his watch and groaned. 

“Six-fifteen!!! I’m LATE, Tom!! I’m sure it was the storm! I gotta use the car!” 

“You can’t use the car, I’m going to be late to class.” 

The next few minutes were a blur of clothes, coffee and toothpaste and not all in that order.  Liz ran into the kitchen to grab her toast and the butter for it in the fridge.  She had a piece dangling from her mouth when she realized she was stepping in a puddle of something.

“Pee…I’m standing in Pee!!”  She said exasperatingly, yanking off her trouser sock and hopping to the bedroom for another one. 

 Fifteen minutes later, stockings changed, blouse askew, shirt tail hanging out the back of her pants, toast still dangling from her mouth, Elizabeth Keen grabbed her blazer and purse and ran to the door.  Her hair was a little less than disheveled and she felt like she was forgetting something.  ‘Tom.’

She opened the door to him standing on the stoop, leaning against the rail.  He was looking at the cars go by, watching them splash into puddles, waiting to take her to work after all.  What’s wrong with being a little late to class?  He was sure his fourth graders would forgive him. 

He looked up at her as she finished tucking her pants in and adjusted her belt.  “Here we are…not sure how we got here…in fifteen minutes…I’m pretty sure my shirt is on backwards…but you….you look beautiful…”  He leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips. 

 

The ride to the rendezvous site was fairly hectic.  Traffic slowed to a crawl on the side streets and Liz nervously tapped her fingers on her bouncing leg.  Tom rested his hand on her knee calming her as he expertly and patiently weaved his way in and out of the throng of cars all heading to the inner city to their various concrete enclosures.  Liz bit her nail and tried to take a deep breath.  Her eyes kept dancing to the clock on the dashboard.  She was now ten minutes late.  This would not bode well for the first day on the job.  She had sent a text on to Assistant Director Cooper explaining that there had been an accident and she would be there as soon as she could.  Lying on the first day…another mark on her conscious.

Tom pulled along the curbside of the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Clouds had blocked a lot of the sun giving the building an almost ominous, looming presence wrapped in grey light.  The flag of the United States of America and the flag with the Federal Bureau of Investigation seal on it, flapped proudly in the wind.  Elizabeth looked back at Tom and gave him a shuddering sigh with a tight smile.  “You’ve got this, Elizabeth…I’ll see you tonight at dinner.”

“I love you, Tom.”

_____________________

She stood before the desk of the Assistant Director as he looked over the portfolio she submitted in front of him.  His dark rimmed glasses perched on his nose, his finger moving down the page, paused as he looked up to see her standing almost at attention, staring at a spot in the distance on the cabinet behind him.  Her eyes were half-lidded and her mouth had a grim downward tilt.  Cooper assessed the young agent in front of him.  A small smile played at his lips as he thought of how disciplined she was, how rigid and set her frame was.  This was an informal one on one and although she was late for the briefing, which he could see pained her greatly, he was not going to reprimand her on day one.  He wanted to get to know her a little before throwing her in the lion’s den.

“At ease, Agent Keen.”  Cooper said with a chuckle.   He watched as she relaxed slightly but still kept her stance.  “Please have a seat.”   He motioned toward a chair across from him.  A superior had joined them in the office and was sitting in the seat beside hers.  Elizabeth sat down and forced herself to take a deep breath. 

“Tell me a little about yourself.”  Cooper leaned back in his seat and steepled his fingers.  He put his forefingers to his lips and waited patiently.

“Well I graduated Quantico, top of my class.  I have an excellent record in marksmanship, tracking and day to day, my specialties are in profiling.  I’ve worked closely with Forensic Science and have completed my required practice field hours…I…”

“I know what your statistic read, Agent Keen,” Cooper said cutting her off.  “Tell me about you…Profile yourself.”

She leveled her eyes at him.  “Well….my colleagues call me Sir…”

“Why do you think they do that…?”

“Because they think I’m…a bitch.”

“Are you?”

Liz glanced to the side at the man sitting in the chair beside her.  He was studying her intently.  He said nothing as she looked back at Cooper.

“I am no-nonsense when it comes down to the brass tacks, Sir.  I believe in seeing a job to completion.  If I have to bark out a few orders or push someone to their breaking point to do so, I will not hesitate in doing it.  I have an incredible desire to see that justice is served and meted out accordingly.  I took this job to get inside the criminal mind.  I live, breathe, eat and sleep with some of the most deplorable people society has ever produced and they are all right up here.”  She tapped her forehead softly.  “I want to know them, understand them, and find out what drives them to do the things that they do, to hopefully one day, curtail the ever-growing disease that they have become to our society.”

Harold Cooper stared back at Elizabeth, impressed with her response.  He had rarely known an agent with the seemingly unquenchable thirst for the criminal mind and its infiltration on law abiding citizens.  He was almost certain she would be able to withstand the test she was about to be put to.  He rose from his desk, looming over it.  Elizabeth stood when he did and he approached her with his hand extended.

“Welcome aboard, Agent Keen.  Now, if you’ll come this way…I have someone that I would like you to meet.” 

Don't open up, you overcome
Don't show him what you really know, oh oh oh
It's getting hotter when you grab a hold
Don't let him make you let it go, oh oh oh

Chapter Text

 

 

I wish I would've met you
Now it's a little late
What you could've taught me
I could have saved some face
They think that your early ending
Was all wrong
For the most part they're right
But look how they all got strong - Hey Man, Nice Shot - Filter

 

The ride to the Post Office was eventful as well as slightly chaotic.  Elizabeth was confused as she and Cooper left the federal building and headed toward two black SUVs idling along the curb.

“We’re not staying here, sir?” 

“No, Keen…we are going offsite.  This will be your new rendezvous location from here on out.” 

Before leaving she had stopped by administration to receive her badge, her clearance, her service revolver and holster and signed a few forms. Cooper shifted impatiently looking at his watch.  He could hear the voice in his head now.  He hurriedly rushed Elizabeth to the parking lot and assisted her into the SUV. He got in beside her and tapped the back of the seat in front of him telling the driver to step on it. 

Cooper opened his briefcase extracting an official dossier and shoved it unceremoniously in Elizabeth’s hands. 

“Get yourself acquainted with the contents of this file.  It will be good to have some background knowledge of what you will be dealing with in the next few weeks, the assignment you are working.  This is a copy of all the information we have regarding our present situation.  Any insight you may have will be greatly appreciated, but we are going to get the bulk of our intelligence from our CI at the site.”

“Excuse me, sir…CI?”

“Yes, I was just getting around to that.  We have an informant that we rely heavily on that has allowed us to put an end to some of the worst criminal activity, not only in the United States but around the world.  He has been a very valuable asset to the FBI and we are not quick to end his obligation to us.  You will be working very closely with him on this case, not only as a partner, but someone who can possibly reign him in and keep him in check.  Let’s say he’s a little “difficult” to work with.  Are you able to handle a situation like this, Keen?”

Liz’s mouth drew a hard line.  She was well aware that she was not a seasoned agent and this seemed like a set-up to her on some other level.  Her immediate thoughts were back to the movie The Silence of the Lambs.  Was she going to be ‘Clarice Starling’ thrown into a Hannibal Lecter scenario?

“I don’t understand…why me?”  Liz perused over the file in her lap.  She saw pictures of some horrifying scenes, evil looking men in beards that reached their chests, a bloody battlefield of rocks and decimation.  She closed the file and looked back at Cooper.

“Let me be clear…you won’t be handling this all on your own.  We have other agents that will be on this assignment with you as well.  You will meet the lead agent, Donald Ressler when we get to the site.  The rest of the assignment will be explained when we arrive. I want to tell you a little more about the criminal informant that has brought the assignment to us.   

“Must be good to be…home again, sir.”

“Yeah…well, we’ll see about that.”

About a year ago, a man surrendered himself to us right in our front lobby. He just walked right up, handed the officer his passport and very calmly waited for us to take him down. 

 “Good Afternoon…I’m here to see Assistant Director Harold Cooper.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“I do not…”

He was someone that was very hot and sought after on our 10 most wanted list.  Of course, it was a shock to us all that he just so willingly turned himself in.  There had to be some sort of ulterior motive. 

“It’s called the Blacklist…the criminals who matter…the ones you don’t even know exist…and if you want my list you have to play by my rules…sounds exciting!”

We "graciously" accepted his surrender and for all the public knows he is safely put away behind high security bars.  But as for what really happened to the man, is something that only a handful of people have the clearance to obtain that information and now you will consider yourself one of them."

“If you want to save lives and catch the bad guys…pay attention…”

Liz’s brain was whirring ahead of Cooper’s words.  She remembered seeing something about this in the news. That was a while ago.  The name of the fugitive was on the tip of her tongue.  She could see him in her mind’s eye and she was trying her best to pull her mental file before Cooper told her who he was.  The caravan pulled up into an abandoned area and passed through a series of gates screeching to a halt in front of a loading dock.  Liz was beginning to form a mental picture of the man in her brain as she continued to recall the news reports of the day.  A lightbulb suddenly went off as Cooper opened his mouth to reveal who their source was. 

“Raymond Reddington!” 

 

--------------------------

“Harold…how good of you to show up!” Reddington greeted them at the service elevator Liz and Cooper had just stepped off of.  Liz was still trying to get her bearings as she wondered when the decent into nothingness was going to end.  The door opened into a large room the size of at least two football fields.  A sea of electronic equipment, computers, cameras, screens, a set of stairs leading up to a platform where several offices were situated. Liz glanced about the room quickly, watching bustling agents scurrying and some typing furiously on the laptops in front of them.  The man who had spoken had extended his hand to Cooper as if greeting them into his home and when Cooper raised his eyebrow in distaste and refused to offer his hand, he immediately turned to Elizabeth and extended it to her.   “Oh and look you brought your secretary with you.  I’ll have a coffee, black, no sugar…and make sure a lid is on it. I don’t want any spills on my suit.”

Liz’s mouth hung open at the audacity with which this man clearly insulted her and marked arrogance off of her mental bingo checklist.  She sized him up quickly.  The impeccable tan three-piece suit in question was indeed well tailored and spot free.  It hung well on his broad shoulders and svelte figure.  He was a little short in stature, Elizabeth was able to look him right in the eye without craning her neck in any way.  He had a close cropped hairstyle to mask the fact that he was beginning to bald and when her eyes traveled back to his face, she found him looking intently back at her seeming to know she was inventorying him.  His eyes, shielded by a pair of gold-hued aviator sunglasses asked ‘Like what you see?’ While the slight quirk of his upper lip invited her to continue to look.  The hand that was extended was supple and well cared for, a pinky ring adorning his finger.   

Liz minutely nodded her head and looked past him to the agent that had stepped up beside him. He was taller than Reddington, strawberry blond hair, standard suit and tie, boyish features set to an ‘I’m trying to be tough but pulling it off badly’ scowl, hands on hips, looking between the rude little man in front of him and at the Assistant Director.   He spoke with a brusque authority, cutting off any more barbs that Reddington had to offer, at least for the moment. 

“Sir, we have just started the briefing when you arrived…I’ll be glad to get you up to speed, Agent…?”

“Field Agent, Elizabeth Keen, reporting…” Liz said extending her hand to him and offering him a firm handshake.  She completely sidestepped Reddington and followed Ressler back over to a table where two other agents had positioned themselves around a laptop.  There was a set of three viewing screens above them positioned on the opposite wall and whatever was on the laptop was being projected to the screens.

Reddingon lowered his hand and watched Liz walk to the other side of the room with Ressler.  He looked over to Cooper who was grinning, folding his arms across his chest, watching Elizabeth as well.  He liked the way she was able to rebuff his off-color jibe in a professional manner and not allow him to get the first opening punch in what was likely to be a knock-out fight. He shook his head and laughed.  “Oh I like her, Harold…”

“She just may wind up surprising you.”  He nodded curtly and strode off to join the others.

Elizabeth introduced herself to the small group of people in front of her.  She learned that the “tough guy” was Donald Ressler, lead agent and apparent muscle of the team.  There was a smaller, more petite Indian woman who was to his left that extended a warm hand to her. 

“Meera Malik, investigative agent with the Central Intelligence Agency on classified assignment.”  Elizabeth nodded and looked toward the man that was sitting behind the laptop.

“Uhm…Aram…Mojtabai…” Aram said distracted, still looking at his laptop, pausing only briefly to quickly shake Liz’s hand.  I’m the tech guy here…I’m the guy who does all this…” He said waiving his hand around the laptop and then up to the screens.  He went back to clicking away, he scrubbed a hand over his beard and looked back to the men that were now approaching the desk.  He gave a concerned look to Reddington and back to the screen. 

“Now that the pleasantries have taken place, I suggest we get back to the matter at hand,” Reddington strolled over to stare back up at the viewscreens. He removed his glasses and tossed them on the tabletop.  He raised a hand to Ressler, who was about to provide a recap of what was already discussed.  “Don’t bother, Donald…I don’t want to be here all night…”

“The Khan Shaykhun chemical attack took place on April 4, 2017 on the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib Governorate of Syria. At the time of the attack, the town was under the control of Tahrir al-Sham, previously known as the al-Nusra Front.

The town was reported to have been struck by an airstrike by government forces followed by massive civilian chemical poisoning. The release of a toxic gas, which included sarin, or a similar substance killed at least 74 people and injured more than 557, according to the Idlib health authority. The attack was the deadliest use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war since the Ghouta chemical attack in 2013.

The governments of the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, and Israel, as well as Human Rights Watch have attributed the attack to the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Assad government denied using any chemical weapons in the air strike. The Russian Defense Ministry stated that Syrian aircraft had bombed a warehouse belonging to rebels which may have contained a rebel chemical arms stockpile".

Cooper spoke up “On April 7th, the United States launched 59 cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base, which U.S. intelligence claimed was the source of the attack.  Since then the United States Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on 271 employees of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center for their alleged role in producing chemical weapons.”

“Which leads us to today…  Meera’s cultured British tones chimed in.  “As most recent as of last week we were informed that about 500 people in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, had symptoms consistent with a chemical attack, burning eyes, breathing problems and white foam coming from their mouths and nostrils, according to several independent medical and rescue groups.”

While she spoke Aram posted the disturbing images of people suffering from the afflictions that Meera had been describing.  Elizabeth looked on in horror as the images flashed across the screen. 

Reddington continued.  His voice was now gravelly…clearly he was becoming affected by the narrative. Elizabeth wondered if he had a modicum of care for the people involved in this tragedy or was he in it for some sort of personal gain.  Cooper had told her on the ride over that she should always question his motives, to always be on her guard around him, because he was never all that he seemed and that she should always remember that first and foremost he was a criminal.  She had only known of Reddington by reputation.  He had been high on her list of criminals to profile, but had not really delved into his specifics since he had fallen off the radar around twenty years ago.  As soon as she was free she would do her research. 

“Residents said they heard objects falling from the sky, followed by a strange smell that witnesses said resembled chlorine. About 70 people died while sheltering in basements, the World Health Organization said. Of them, 43 had signs of being exposed to “highly toxic chemicals.”

Liz studied the man as he spoke, noting his mannerisms, the way he moved about the room, the quick jerky tilt of his head when he was making a specific point.  The way he chewed the inside of his lower lip, the haunted look in his eyes.  He clearly had seen a lot of horror in his day, but she couldn’t stop the fleeting thought through her brain…’I wonder how much of it was caused by his own hand?’

It had crept up on her suddenly, but the lack of sleep and the extra-curricular activities of the night before were starting to catch up to her.  She stifled a small yawn, trying her best not to lean against the desk.  She really needed coffee to help her to focus.  She yawned again the form in front of her becoming blurry for a millisecond.

“Am I boring you, Agent Keen?” 

She shook herself, mentally…busted.  She was not about to let him see that she was caught off-guard.  “Not at all...excuse me, late night.” 

Reddington regarded her his eyes narrowing, before turning back to face Cooper.  “Now we come to the latest Blacklister.   I have been precariously involved with members of the al Nusra Front as far back as the chemical attack in 2013.  I have had many dealings with the front not with chemical weapons, mind you but on a more traditional scale.  My business has profited handsomely with arms dealings between the factions and I say the more the merrier…none of my concern.  But when you’re dealing with Chemicals and destroying innocent lives in the most brutal of ways…well…that’s where I draw my lines.”

Ressler’s face hardened further, if that was possible.  “I’d like to take you out back for five minutes and show you what I think of your profits…”

Reddington rolled his eyes at the younger man.  “I’m sorry, Donald as much as I am flattered by your proposition, you’re not my type.”  He turned and spoke directly to Elizabeth, his eyes studied her face seeming to memorize her as he spoke.

“My associates within the Front, now known as Tahrir al-Sham, have informed me as of late that there will be a similar attack…let’s call it an attack of retribution for the United States’ response.  I was told that the “Infidel Americans” really should have kept their noses out of their business and that there will be hell to pay on ‘our side’.  They are sending scouts to gather at the embassy here in town to discuss the final details.  They have requested my presence to negotiate more arms while in the country to provide cover in case something goes awry.”

“When is this meeting to take place?”  Meera asked.

“The meeting will be masked under the guise of a charity event for the Prevention of Human Trafficking, this Saturday.”  Cooper stated while gritting his teeth.  “Ressler and Malik, you will attend as representatives of the POHT and Reddington will do what he needs to gather INTEL with Agent Keen posing as his escort. Aram will fit you with the latest tracking technology and monitoring equipment.”

“You’re gonna need a dress.”  Reddington smiled innocently at Elizabeth. There was a twinkle in his eye, imagining the possibilities of how she would look. She rolled her eyes and leveled him with a bored stare. 

“Now if you will all excuse me, Reddington said while palming his fedora, there is other business I need to attend to.  Harold…it’s been a BLAST…make sure you set up a time with myself and Agent Keen so that we can go over specifics.  I am assigning her a security detail from my own team.  I want someone watching her 24-7 now that she is on the case.”

“Wait right there…!!”  Both Cooper and Ressler spoke up at the same time.

Reddington turned back from his traipse to the elevator.  “Questions??”

“She doesn’t need a security detail, especially one of yours,” Ressler said with disdain. “I’ve got her back.”

“I can fully take care of myself if I’m in any danger.”  Elizabeth spoke up. 

Reddington laughed and rolled his tongue across his teeth.  “That’s a very bold answer, but a very incorrect one…they should have taught you at the academy that you ALWAYS rely on your team.  I’ll give you that as a strike one, and Donald…forgive me…it’s not that I don’t trust your abilities, but with the trouble you’ve had trying to bring me in, you’ll understand that I prefer to have my own protection...protecting the ones who are close to me.” 

He tipped his hat to the group and stepped on the elevator.  “We’ll be in touch!”

 

 

What a good shot…

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Can't keep my hands to myself
Think I'll dust 'em off, put 'em back up on the shelf
In case my little baby girl is in need
Am I coming out of left field?

The door to the loading dock opened to blaring sunshine.  The lone figure stood in the middle of the doorway, hand shielding his eyes over his glasses.  He spotted what he was looking for.  A car idling silently about half a block away.  He smiled a wide, toothy grin and with a jaunty gait made his way down the sidewalk to the waiting vehicle.  He tipped is fedora at the nondescript suit, with the earphone clearly visible protruding out of his ear, at the edge of the walk and approached the tall, dark and foreboding looking figure leaning up against the passenger door. 

“How did it go?”

“Same as it always does…oh by the way there’s an interesting little wrinkle added to the mix.”

The muscular man opened the door to the backseat and his passenger slipped in gracefully, taking out a cigar and leaning back on the soft leather, traces of the smile still on his lips.

“So that’s it then?”  Elizabeth turned to watch Cooper’s back as he started up the stairs to the catwalk that lead to his office. 

“What do you mean?”

“You’re just going to let him walk right on out of here?”  She looked at the Assistant Director in awe.  She thought that Reddington would at least have someone at his elbow at all times monitoring his activities, keeping tabs…doing whatever it was they did with him.

“Walk with me, Keen…I’ll show you to your office.”  Elizabeth grabbed her file and bag and headed up the stairs with Cooper.

“We have an agreement with Reddington. He provides us criminals off of his so-called Blacklist, and we let him have a little taste of freedom.  He’s been on the run for more than twenty years, always with eyes in the back of his head.  He never knows when we will come knocking on his door.  Never knows when one of us would meet him in a dark alley somewhere and have a bullet with his name on it.  It’s a gamble, Agent Keen.  I’m not happy with how the dice has been rolled but if it helps the Bureau I’m more than happy to go along with it.  Reddington has brought us more people than we could have ever done by ourselves in the amount of time that he has.  Our relationship is symbiotic, he needs us and we need him…  Although we’ll never fully admit to that.”  He said with a wink. 

They stopped at a door that already had the name Elizabeth Keen embossed on a name plate slid through the holder.  Cooper pushed open the door into a small room that contained a desk with a standard computer and a file cabinet.  Nothing to write home about. A twinge of pride rose in Elizabeth’s chest.  This was her space.  And even though it was small it was hers to call “home”.  She finally felt like a true agent and not just a trainee.  She placed her bag on the desk and turned to face Cooper.  “Why did it have to be Reddington, Sir? Why not someone else?” 

“Enough with the Sir, Keen…you can call me Cooper…I’m your superior but I’m still too young to be called, Sir.”  He chuckled and Liz relaxed.  “Even though Raymond Reddington was number four on our top 10, he had become something of a back burner item over the years.  He wasn’t our top priority. I think he realized that and decided to come back into the picture. We’ve seen more evidence of his movements pop up from time to time around the globe; profitable dealings in arms and money laundering with his name all over it, but he always successfully covered his tracks before we could locate him.  He has made quite a large sum of money off of people’s misery. He likes attention.  He likes being the star of the show.  But, I personally feel that there’s something more behind his intentions and that is something I’d like for you to try and figure out.  I need you to get close to him, Keen.  He has a weakness.  I need to you find it.  I need you to get behind the reasons as to why he’s turned up and why he’s so willing and eager to throw all of his cohorts under the bus.  We protect him with anonymity and take the credit for finding the “bad guys”, but he has all the answers.  You’re going to need to put your profiling skills to the test and get those answers to us.”

“Pull over here, Dembe…”  Red said as they drove down Pennsylvania Avenue past the federal building.  A few streets over was an office building that had all the outward appearances of a travel agency, a wall of brochures on places to go all over the world lined one wall, floor to ceiling. Cubicles where agents would sit to provide you the best package to get you to your desired destination at a “fraction of the cost” were situated in the back of the room. A life-sized mural of a jumbo jet back-splashed along the wall “flying the friendly skies”.  A few tacky, fake palm trees and potted plants of the “dustable” variety dotted the lobby where a couple of worn seats that had seen better days lie in wait for the next tourist seeking their “dream vacation”.

The car came to a stop and Dembe got out and opened the door for Red.  Reddington stepped out onto the sidewalk, always keeping an eye on his surroundings.  When he was in this town he needed to keep an extraordinarily low profile.  He was not to be seen in public or recognized.  It was no easy feat, since Washington D.C. had a reputation for holding most of the country’s law enforcement personnel.  There was literally a “G-man” on every corner, most likely two or three on a ‘good day’.  Reddington quickly stepped from the car to under the awning of the Travel Agency and slipped inside unnoticed, save for the jingle of the bell over the doorway.  No one greeted him at the reception desk and there was no one in the back rushing up to meet him. The room was quiet and still.   He went over to the desk and tapped the hotel style bell that had a sign beside it that said “ring for service”, once.  Leaning against the desk he kept his back to the door and his head bent low.  His hat covered most of his features. 

A side panel opened up in the back of the room behind the travel agents, cubicles, almost tucked away from view.  A portly, elderly man hobbled forth; cane in one hand supporting his girth, while a Louisville slugger that had seen better days was dangling haphazardly in the other.  His face held so many cracks and crags from old age that it almost looked as if he was carved from wood.  He may have appeared older than Methuselah but there was still a sharp, calculating glint in his eye that proved he was one that should not be trifled with.  He immediately recognized the bell ringer and tossed his bat to the side with a grunt.  “No…” he said aloud before turning back to the door.

“Milos, you old scallywag you…how the hell have you been?!” 

“I don’t care what it is, Raymond, the answer is…NO!”

“How long has it been…five, seven years??  I see business is still booming…although you could stand to use a few new furnishings.”

“You know damn good and well that there’s no business in the travel business, Red.”  Milos hobbled toward Reddington, intending to push him out of the building.  “I don’t want what you’re selling so, if you’ll excuse me.”

“Now what kind of greeting is that for an old acquaintance?  And who said anything about business…I’ve been looking to go on vacation lately…any recommendations?”  Reddington picked up a dusty brochure and shook some of the dust off of it, blowing some more to the floor.  “You should really run a feather duster over this place, Milos…you wouldn’t want the fire inspector saying that it wasn’t up to code.” 

“You’ve got about two minutes to come to your point, Raymond, I’m a very busy man.” Milos eyed the bat in the corner.  He may not be as spry as he used to be but he still had enough strength to get a “home run”.

“Is this still about that time I slept with Dobroslawa, back in the mother country?  How is your daughter by the way…sturdy as ever??”

Red sauntered over and put his hand on Milos’ shoulder, looking fiercely into his eyes.  “I’m going to need some information on a client of mine, and you’re just the man who can get the job done.  I need you to compel your sources and find out all you can for me on this client and I need it done in a real hurry. I will be back later this week to pick it up.  Do you think you’ll have a problem with my request?”  All of the lightheartedness and mirth had instantly dropped from Reddington’s tone.  His graveled voice resonated through Milos’ tired, old frame.

“When you put it like that…how can I resist?”  Milos said, taking the small business card that Reddington presented him.  “Who is the “client” in question?”  He looked down at the card.  It simply stated:  Field Agent Elizabeth S. Keen, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C.

“Your services will be rewarded handsomely as always, Milos...and perhaps…you might think of getting a real plant or two.”  Reddington fingered a dust covered, cloth leaf on his way out of the building. 

 

“So what do I do now?”  Liz asked sitting across from Cooper in his office. They had come in after her quick tour of her own.  She looked around the small space, trying to “feel out” her new boss.  He had pictures of his family on his desk, stacks of files in various places on the credenza, the floor his cluttered workspace.  He appeared to be a very busy man.  He had yet to become impatient with her or anyone, including the frustrating Reddington that she could see could definitely be one to get under his skin. 

Cooper looked across the desk at his newest agent.  He could see that she was going to be one that didn’t rest on her laurels and was ready to get out there and represent the F.B.I. to the fullest.  He remembered being exactly like her when he started out.  His determination hadn’t diminished, but with the knowledge and experience he had throughout the years, the drive had shifted.  It was now a matter of playing a game.  A game of chess and this time on the board the pieces were stacked in his favor.  There wasn’t many golden opportunities where infamous crime lords landed in the Bureau’s lap to become incredibly damaging informants, and to have him be the one in charge meant an excellent opportunity for advancement.  There had been quite a few incorrigibles put away in the past year alone.  He wasn’t about to jeopardize that for anything.

“That’s it…”  He said looking at her with a bland smile.  He nodded his head toward the door, he needed to get started, making calls, writing memos.

“Excuse me, Sir, er…Cooper, what do you mean ‘that’s it’?”  Elizabeth was totally unsure of what her next moves should be.  She tried to think ahead but came up with nothing.

“Go to your office and complete your daily reports, go home and we will contact you.”

Elizabeth was getting upset by Cooper’s nonchalance.  She honestly didn’t know the routine around here but the lack of communication was something to be desired.  She stood up to leave.  She needed to go to her office and gather her things and find a way back home.  She turned back to him, her stubborn streak not allowing her to be kept in the dark.  “So when exactly will that be?”   Cooper looked up from his paperwork, finally softening.

“Well...now…it’s just a matter of hurry up and wait, I’m afraid.  This is mostly on Reddington’s time table.  He calls the shots.  He’s the one that will ultimately lead us to the information we need to bring this faction to its knees…until then we just continue surveillance, and training.”  He paused.  “I want you to team up with Agent Ressler and shadow him for a few days.  He will get you acquainted with the dailies and you can assist him where needed.  Until then, study the materials I’ve given you and enjoy your afternoon.”

Reddington was clear across town on the way to his latest safe house when Elizabeth left the Post Office.  She had found Ressler in the office next to hers.  He was going over a report on his desk.  Liz looked at him and his face never seemed to lose its perpetual frown.  ‘He would be handsome if he just learned how to smile more.’ She thought.   She asked him for a ride home after informing him that she would shadow him for the time being.  He looked her up and down and shook his head.  “Ok, Keen but let me wrap this up first. I’ll give you the nickel tour on the way out the door. Welcome to the ‘Mad House’.”

 

Ooh woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now
I been feeling it since 1966, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still…

Chapter Text

 

Don't leave false illusions behind...

 

“Everything went smooth as silk, boss…in and out in ten minutes.”

“Excellent...anyone in the residence when you infiltrated?” 

“No…subjects not in residence at time of installation.”

 

------------------

Elizabeth arrived home around 3 pm.  The apartment was quiet.  Tom was due home at four, so she had found herself with a little free time.  Hudson greeted her at the door, happy to see her.  She went to put food in his bowl, but noticed that the bowl was still half full.  She raised an eyebrow and looked at her dog.   “Not hungry today, dude?”  She said scruffing his head.  She put on his leash and decided to go for a jog. 

She went to her bedroom to throw on some sweats after depositing her assignment on her makeshift desk in the living room.  She had been warned by Ressler to keep all correspondence on the case confidential and that everything that is dealt with in the Post Office would be considered classified.  Not to share with her husband, her friends, not even her priest.  She knew she could trust her husband not to pry into her work so that would not be a problem for her.  She peeled off her blazer and slipped out of her slacks, leaving them in a pile on the floor.  She remained in her blouse and panties and began opening drawers to find a pair of sweat pants and her sports bra.  She had a real unnerving feeling that she was being watched and she whipped around expecting to see someone in the room.  There was no one there. 

She stood in front of her floor-length mirror and began to undo the buttons on her mauve blouse.  She took note of the new hard lines in her abdomen, the amount of work she had been putting in at the gym was clearly paying off.  Her breasts were firm, pressed tight against her silk bra and when she undid the clasp she was pleased that they had not yet started to sag with age and time. They weren’t perfect, but she liked the way they complemented her trim body.  She slipped the sports bra over her head and adjusted “the girls” in place when something caught her eye in the mirror.  She whirled around quickly again and again there was nothing.  Hudson was snuffling in the corner of the room trying to find a place to settle.

“Don’t get too comfortable…”  She said trying to shake off the creepy feeling in the room. 

She threw on her sweats, put her hair in a messy ponytail, grabbed a water bottle and Hudson’s leash and headed to the door.  She looked around her apartment once more and still felt like something was off.  She shook her head and exited her home, Hudson taking the lead as she began her run to the patch of woods behind her apartment. 

…a red light blinked steadily on the camera and faded to black.

________

 

It was an unseasonably warm fall afternoon and the sun was still high enough in the sky to produce a good sweat.  Elizabeth made her way to the popular wooded path that surrounded a small lake.  There were many young couples with their small children, playing in the sand by the lake and walking along the path.  Elizabeth smiled at the children and allowed a couple to give Hudson a scruff on the head.  She veered off into the woods taking the manmade trail that worked its way throughout the expanse.  This was a good way to work out the tension of the day and reflect.  She carefully dodged tree roots and leaped over a few rocks in the pathway, Hudson only slightly ahead of her.  She picked up her pace and began a sprint, picturing in her mind an assailant chase. 

Her muscles rippled in her stomach as she continued to push herself.  She ran on noticing up ahead that a tree had fallen in front of the path and was blocking the way around it.  She dropped Hudson’s leash and with a whistle she indicated that he was to go under the tree.  She was going over it.  She used the tree as a hurdle and vaulted over the trunk, dropping into a crouched position.  Hudson came over to her, wagging his tail and licking her face. 

“Good boy…”  Elizabeth said.  She had worked up a sweat, perspiration beading on her skin.  Tendrils of her hair matted to her face.  She brushed them away and took a swallow from her water bottle.  She froze mid-drink as she thought she heard something again, behind her.  It sounded like a twig snapping.  It sounded too much like someone trying very hard not to be heard.  She looked over the fallen tree trunk and studied her area.  She knew people would be out here on the trails and she had passed a few, however these sounds seemed to be coming from off the path, deeper into the forest.  ‘Could be a deer…' She thought, almost dismissing the sound.  Then she heard what sounded like feedback from a walkie talkie.  Her eyes scanned the woods, rapidly darting to the trees and into the thicket.  Even Hudson seemed to be focused on a spot in the distance.

“C’mon boy…”  It’s time we got back.”  Liz said loud enough for anyone that may be in the area to hear.  She wanted to contact Cooper to see if he had put a detail on her so that it could at least explain some of the “creeped out” feelings she had been experiencing.  She didn’t like not knowing that she was being watched or followed regardless if it was for her safety or not.

She took her time walking back to her apartment.  She had been thinking along the way about how she was going to approach and deal with the person she knew was against all her training and discipline to respect and trust.  She still didn’t fully understand why a criminal at the upper echelons of his ilk would even remotely want to have anything to do with law enforcement or anything that had the potential to take him down and destroy what he had worked for.  ‘Maybe that’s it…”  She reasoned.  Maybe you had to be in it to know what they have on you.  To gain the upper hand.  She had no idea what his motives were, other than throwing the FBI a bone or two.  She shook her head as she put the key in the lock.  She personally didn’t feel that the FBI should give Reddington the time of day.  They shouldn’t be there at his beck and call.   There had to be more to the story and she was determined to find out.

Tom was already in the kitchen preparing dinner when she stopped in and hung up Hudson’s leash on the hook by the door. 

“Hey babe…” He said looking over at her.  “That doesn’t look like what you wore this morning.”

“They let me go early.”  She grimaced.

Tom went over and kissed her forehead.  She leaned into it breathing in the smell of his shirt.  He had yet to change or shower from his day at school.  “You could have gotten more comfortable…” she said poking his chest.  “What’s for dinner?”

“Why don’t you hop in the shower, and by the time you are finished it will almost be ready?”  Tom reached behind her and pulled her sweaty hairband out of her hair, letting her long brunette locks fall to her shoulders.  Tom’s eyes softened affectionately as he kissed her bare shoulder.  “You stink.”  He said with a smirk. 

Liz took mock offense and swatted his arms away.  “You really know how to woo a girl.”  She said rolling her eyes and turning away to the bathroom.  She left a trail of sweaty clothes to the shower, opened the frosted door and turned on the tap.  She stuck her hand under the spray of water until it gradually got hotter and was to her liking. 

 

“It’s show time…”  The camera zoomed in on the lithe woman as she stepped into the shower. 

 

Ten minutes of blissful warmth and a shower setting set to deep massage, Liz stuck her head out of the door, wondering where Tom was.  Usually, he would have ‘surprised’ her by now by joining her in the shower and helping her ‘get cleaned’.  She frowned as she looked down the hallway seeing nothing, but smelling good smells coming from the kitchen.  Her stomach responded and she smiled wistfully, thinking about a nice big plate of whatever Tom had concocted for the night’s meal.  She was about to stick her head back in and quickly finish her shower when a shadow crossed between the living room and the kitchen.  She paused and watched to see if the shadow would cross again, but there was nothing.  ‘Could be anything…’ she thought, but her heightened sense of unease was still about her and had followed her around since coming home.  She warily closed the door to the shower and tried to hum her unease away.  She lathered her hair up with shampoo and with her hands deep into her hair carefully avoiding any of the soap that may get into her eyes, she thought she heard something crash in the other room.  “Shit…” She muttered to herself.  It was a very loud crash and it startled her out of her deep thoughts and put her into a near panic.  She used her forearm to catch some of the shampoo that had managed to make its way down the side of her face and tuned her hearing into what was going on outside the bathroom.  “Tom…?” She called out cautiously.

It was deathly silent throughout the house.  Liz had stuck her head under the showerhead, desperate to clear the suds from her soapy scalp.  She needed to get out of this vulnerable state in case there was some kind of danger outside of this room.  ‘Why isn’t Tom answering me?’ She thought, scrubbing the thick globs of shampoo from her head.  ‘This is the part of the movie where the bad guy is standing behind the shower curtain wielding the butcher knife’…the thought came unbidden to her brain.  She turned to look at the frosted door of the shower and indeed there was an outline of a shadow of a man formed against the glass.  The sliding door began to open and Liz quickly glanced around for what she could use as a makeshift weapon.  All she had was a near empty bottle of shampoo.

“AAAAACCKKK!!!”  She screamed when the door crashed open.  She held the shampoo bottle in front of her, prepared to squirt her ‘attacker’ in the eye with a generous amount of shampoo at least to buy her some time.

“Whoa…WHOA!!  What….Liz!!”  An alarmed and naked Tom Keen stood before the open door of the shower his hands raised to his face. 

Liz stopped screaming enough to see that she had almost blinded Tom with a healthy dose of Pantene Pro V and immediately dropped the bottle to the floor.  “Oh, TOM!”  She said realizing how foolish she was and let out a nervous laugh.  “I’m so, SORRY!  I thought...well…you don’t want to know what I thought.”  She said as she pulled her hesitant husband into the shower with her.  He lowered his hands slightly.

“Is it safe?”

“Of course it is.”

“You looked like a screaming banshee ready to take me down with a bottle of conditioner…”

“Shampoo actually…and what’s with all the sneaking around, you jerk?”

“What do you mean sneaking around?  With all the noise I was making, I thought you could hear me from down the street!”

“Yeah…about that…what was all that racket?”  Liz turned her back to Tom affording him a nice look at the remaining trail of soap cascading its way down his wife’s smooth and flawless back.  It pooled in the dip of her lower back and slid over her curvaceous backside.  Tom could not help but allow himself to replace the path of the soap with his fingers and hands coming to rest at either side of Liz’s hips, stepping closer to her and burying his nose into her damp hair, breathing her in. 

“I accidently overturned the pasta out of the boiler and the pot crashed to the floor.”  He slid his hand up the side of her hip, over her taut stomach, coming to rest at the curve of her breast. 

“Tom...” She said in a scolding tone. 

“Yeah…I know…but Hudson was all too eager to help me clean up.” He laughed kissing a path from the base of her neck down her spine and across her shoulder blade.

“Well you scared the hell out of me!”  Liz replied turning to face her husband.  He was beginning to make her wonder what she was even nerved up over.  The day’s events were becoming a distant memory as she allowed him to continue his mouth exploration on her body.  His tongue teased her wet skin and he turned with her to press her against the back of the shower.

“I’m sorry, he breathed as he lifted one of her legs to rest on the lip of the shower. Just enough footing to make it easy for him to get a good leverage.  He kissed her nose, smiling at her shark like as she knew that he was hard and ready for her.  “I want you.”  He said as he drove in to her roughly causing her to gasp out. 

Liz knew Tom liked shower sex the best.  She didn’t have much to complain about herself.  She was more than happy to let him take over into thrusting into her hard and fast and wet as the water turned from lukewarm to tepid to cold.  She had wrapped her arms around his shoulders, her legs beginning to tremble as he continued, relentless into her.  There was no time for pleasantries or platitudes as he grunted and Liz’s eyes rolled to the back of her head.  She rode with him until he was panting hard calling her name and filling her with heat.  She pulled him close and kissed the side of his neck.  He held on to her for dear life. 

After a few moments of heavy breathing, coming down off of a wild ride, Tom stepped back and looked at Liz, a blush coming to his cheeks.  He was always a little embarrassed after showing her ‘how much she meant to him’.  His boyish smile met her eyes and he looked away to his feet. 

“You ok?”

“Sure, babe…never better.”

“Well that’s romantic…”  He poked her in the belly. 

She rewarded him with a slow, languid kiss and stepped out of the shower.  He watched her draw a heart in the steam on the mirror and move off to the bedroom.  He loved to watch her leave a room, confidence in her wake. 

“Hurry up and feed me, I’m starving!”  She called out from their room.  He heard her riffling around in a dresser door. “I’ve got so much to tell you!”

-------------

Somewhere…in some place….a set of TV monitors flickered from one end of their apartment to another.  One monitor showed a naked man exiting a shower stall, and another monitor showed a naked woman slipping a large t-shirt over her head.  A third monitor showed a dog laying in front of a doorway fast asleep.

 

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind
And I don't need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind, I can read your mind

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
You'd better run, better run, out run my gun.

 

Later that night after Tom had crawled wearily into bed, belly full and limbs weak, Liz still sat at the dining room table with her laptop open.  She had told Tom as much as she felt comfortable to disseminate from the case she was on.  She gave no specifics but let him know that it was more like a babysitting job rather than actual involvement.  That seemed about the easiest way to describe what she was doing…keeping an eye on one of the FBI’s most wanted. 

Tom seemed satisfied with her report only than to ask several questions about her safety.  He was concerned about what would happen if anything happened to go wrong.  How would he know?  What should he do?  She reassured him that the team she was with had her best interest and that they would be protecting each other if they were ever handed a difficult case with dangerous outcomes.  She kept the fact that she was probably in the most danger that she had ever been in, in and outside of her job, but she didn’t want to worry her husband.  She mused that this was probably why most agents were single.  She could empathize with how the other partner felt when their spouse didn’t come home.

She scrolled down the page of the document she was researching.  Most of the items had been redacted but she was able to gain information on a couple of points and correspond them with the information the folder that Cooper had given her.  She took a highlighter marker out of her bag and underlined a few key sentences and matched them with a picture out of the stack.  She yawned.  She had not touched base with Cooper for the remainder of the night and didn’t know whether to report back in in the morning to the black site.  ‘Wait for my call.’  He had said.

Something at the bottom of the document online piqued Liz’s interest.  There was a folder to click that had several jpg images.  She clicked the folder and there were at least 20 images attached to the folder.  She clicked one and a recognizable image appeared.  He was photographed from several yards away, but Liz could make out what the subject was doing.  Reddington, in a grey suit and tan fedora, shades over his eyes was smiling widely.  She clicked the next image, it was closer and there appeared to be something in Reddington’s hands.  Another image showed his hand on the shoulder of a uniformed man with dark black hair and a full black beard.  Liz critiqued Reddington’s face.  It appeared calm and at ease.  Another shot showed the envelope exchanged.  Liz looked carefully at the envelope.  It was full of something…Liz couldn’t make quite make out what the contents were.  The next shot showed the man walking away.  And the last shot showed Reddington seeming to look directly into the camera’s lens. His face was stone cold and blank.  She studied his eyes as they seemed to bore into her soul.  A hand went to her throat, it was if he was looking right through her.  She closed out of the folder and exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she was holding.  She wasn’t going to lie, there was something compelling about the man.  She felt herself slip into profile mode.  She pulled up ViCAP – the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and after putting in her password and code, pulled up Raymond “Red” Reddington in the search bar.  A long list of entries greeted her when she hit the enter button.  It was going to be a long night.

------------

 

Across town around the same time, Red’s meal had just been unceremoniously disrupted when a gang of thugs shot their way into the hole in the wall Chinese restaurant where he had gone to grab a quick bite. He had been regaling the older Asian server with a tall tale of when he had gotten seasick on a voyage to the Orient.  His laughter was stopped abruptly as he dove under the ruby red adorned tablecloth grabbing the older woman and pulling her with him.  He peeked over the top of the table wondering where the hell Dembe was and if the man had fallen asleep at the wheel.  He eased his gun from the holster strapped to his side, inside of his jacket.  The thugs had systematically begun looking through all the tables, working their way to the back.  Frightened patrons clutched at family members or dates and held them close.  It was a dimly lit restaurant so no one could make out any features on the hoodlums except the blinding flashlights on their heads and the guns in their hands.  Red thought it was now or never as he grabbed the woman’s arm and hauled her toward the back where the kitchen was.  The movement caused the punks to look toward the kitchen and they were in pursuit.  A couple of shots rang out and screams intensified.  Red quickly deposited the woman in the kitchen’s fridge and told her to sit tight.  She was terrified, but he shut her in.  The thugs burst into the kitchen sending the kitchen crew running in all directions.  There was complete chaos as everyone tossed pots and pans around and arms and limbs and guns were flying.  Red hid in the shadows at the back of the room.  There was an emergency exit but he was intent on taking out a few of these ‘assholes’ before anyone got seriously hurt.  He waited in the dark as one of them approached the back of the kitchen.  Red felt a bead of sweat trickle down the side of his face.  He bit his lip and took aim. 

Two quick shots in the middle of the punk’s chest fell him instantly.  Red’s bullets were armor piercing and they would be wise to learn that he was one who did not mess around.  The others in the group watched their comrade fall and immediately rushed over shooting in any direction they could. Red stepped out from the shadows, his mouth a grim line, death in his eyes, and began firing.  Where the thugs had no discipline and just shot everything that moved, Red picked the four off one by one like the precision of a well-oiled machine.  Head shots, chest shots, and two in the leg of another left him standing in a spray of bloodshed.  He wiped a finger under his eye, smearing the blood spatter from the nearest gunman and approached the one he had shot in the leg.  He allowed him to live…if only for a moment.

 

_______

Liz had read up on the man for nearly two hours.  She traced what they had on his whereabouts from the time he was considered for Admiral in the Navy until the time he had abandoned his wife and child on Christmas Eve.  He was remarkable in every aspect.  He was a dedicated officer.  He had mastered his field and received so many honors and medals and commendations that it had filled almost ten pages of text.  She had read every testimonial and every letter of reference, describing what a fine officer and asset he was to the branch.  Liz furrowed her brow.  ‘What happened to him?  What changed?’

The next few pages took a darker, downward, sinister turn.  Pictures of last known images of Reddington flashed on the screen as well as pictures of dead bodies, laid out almost mob style littering city streets, office buildings, even a barber shop, all in connection to Red as some of his adversaries.  Names and dates were beside the pictures and Liz studied the gruesome nature of each of their deaths.  Crimes that were said to have been connected to Reddington were listed and summarized by incident, date and time, solved or unsolved.  There was a row of links to click on that were separate from the gap of time that the FBI had lost track of Reddington until present.  Most of the links were titled, she skimmed them noting their odd names:  The Alchemist, The Freelancer, Wujing…The Stewmaker?  She tried clicking on the link but was blocked with restricted access entry only.  She tried using her code but with no success.  She went back to reading his mini-bio gleaning as much as she could about the man.  She wondered what damaged him so much and if she could maybe try to find the pieces of the puzzle that would get her the answers she sought.  She climbed into bed exhausted but with a plan in mind.

 

__________

 

Red grabbed the fallen assailant up by his shirt collar, the man screaming in agony as he was forced to put weight on his injured leg.  He shoved the man to the emergency exit and pushed him through letting him fall on his face in the gravel as they exited.  Dembe was on the outside just running up and out of breath.  His gun was drawn and a cold panic was in his eyes.  “Raymond…”

“You can explain later.  Go in and secure the perimeter.  Oh…and let the old woman out of the fridge.”  Dembe looked at him, puzzled but cautiously went back in the building. 

The gunman on the ground was trying to lift himself up and scurry away from Reddington’s wrath.  Red turned to look at him as he was pulling himself up to hobble away.  He grabbed him by the back of the neck and head slammed him into the nearest car.  The man groaned in agony and Red lifted his head again and slammed it down harder.  “Who sent you?”  No answer.

“Don’t make me ask again.  Who…sent…you?”  Red dug his finger into the man’s bullet wound.  He cried out in extreme duress, begging for Red to stop.  “I don’t know…he was just…he was just looking for you.” 

Dembe exited the building again.  He came over to Red and grabbed the thug up by his lapels.  His employer had done enough of the dirty work for one night.  Red took a handkerchief out and casually wiped the blood from his fingers and face.  “Raymond…this was found on one of the people.”  He produced a small cassette player with a tape inside.  He handed it to Reddington who pocketed it in his inside jacket pocket. 

He looked down at the gunman who was shaking in Dembe’s grip.  Blood was coursing down his face from the gash in his forehead.  He regarded him almost as if he was the bitterest taste in his mouth, and brushed some dirt off of his shoulder.  “It’s unfortunate, young man…but you won’t be able to tell him that you found me.”  Reddington punctuated his sentence with two rapid shots to the chest.  Dembe let him drop and they both walked off to his idling vehicle parked at the curb.  Dembe’s door was open in his rush but no one was in the area.  The heard the wail of approaching police sirens and they quickly got inside and drove off.  Never a dull moment for the Concierge of Crime…even on a Monday night.

You'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet

Chapter Text

A distant night bird mocks the sun.
I wake as I have always done,
To freshly scented sycamore
And cold bare feet on hardwood floor.
My steaming coffee warms my face
I'm disappointed in the taste.
But there's a peace the early brings
The morning world of growing things. - Early Morning Blues and Greens - The Monkees

Tuesday passed, uneventful.  Liz paced the floor of her apartment.  She had waited until mid-afternoon for her cell to ring.  By 2pm the phone had not rang and Liz sighed in frustration.  She decided she needed to go grocery shopping for the house and quickly put together a list of items.  She needed to do something to curb the uneasy feeling that still plagued her.  She felt alone in her home but not alone.  Giving herself a mental shake, she retrieved her keys from the bowl at the front of the apartment and headed toward the door. 

She stepped outside into a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  The sounds of locusts singing their choruses from the bushes was the first things she heard.  The sunlight shown through the leaves and a few cars passed her as she walked down the stairs.  She looked to the left and right of her and saw no one on the street.  There was a car parked at the corner that she had not seen in her neighborhood before.  No one was behind the wheel, so she ignored it.  She decided it would be a good idea to walk to the corner store which was about a block or two away.  It was a wholefoods market and she valued the quality of the produce it offered.  She knew the storekeeper and it was a rarity to find a store that wasn’t commercialized or overflowing with fat and sugar.

As she approached the store she noticed a slow moving car easing along the road beside her.  She tried not to pay attention but her natural detective instincts were kicking in and she glanced behind her.  The windows were tinted and she could not make out the individuals inside of the car.  Liz stopped and lowered her oversized shades as the car slowly rolled past her down the street.  The car did not stop but it was going slower than the 30 mile and hour speed limit.  She pulled the hairband holding her ponytail in place tighter, slipped her shades back up and continued walking on, making a mental note of the license plate of the vehicle. 

The wholefoods store looked like a throwback from the fifties.  It sat on the corner of Main Street and was part of a larger building that looked more modern than the market it rested upon.  Produce lined the walkway leading to the doors, and Elizabeth glanced over the offerings of tasty vegetables that would make a really great salad.  The store did not have automatic doors, instead, had an old wooden door with a bell attached on top.  She had seen other buildings like this in town, and was secretly pleased that DC still had a flare for the nostalgia. 

She had decided to dress in a pair of dark skinny jeans and a black tank-top/sports bra combo.  It was getting hotter as summer was at its peak working its way to the cooler days of autumn.  August was always sweltering in the city and she always thought ‘less is more’ when it came to apparel.  However, she didn’t show off her legs much in public which was disappointing, especially to Tom.  He liked seeing her in shorts and skirts but she seldom let her guard down to feel comfortable enough to do that.  That was just who she was.  She felt more comfortable in camo and combat boots.  Today she settled for a pair of black Keds.  She took off her shades and stuffed them into her oversized bag and opened the door. 

The store was pretty empty on a Tuesday afternoon.  She saw a few elderly women looking at this and that, whole grain breads, and fat free yogurt.  Liz saw the shopkeeper, Mr. Kaspbrak at his usual post behind the register and she marveled at how an ancient relic still worked these days…the machine and the man behind it.  She laughed softly to herself.  She waved politely at him and picked up a basket and headed down the bread aisle. 

She was studying the whole grains herself when she looked up and saw a silent, dark, pensive-looking man studying her more than the bread in front of him.  She pretended not to notice him, but every time she glanced in his direction he was staring at her. 

“Can I help you with something?”

“No, Elizabeth…I am just looking at the bread.”

“Wait…how do you...?”  She looked around the aisle, no one was in the area.  She began to feel nervous. She was on her guard and she felt her side for her service revolver.  She then remembered it was in her bag. 

The man turned to walk away and Liz was now beyond curious and more than a little miffed.  He hadn’t answered her question.  They were now in front of the deli section when she DID recognize another man casually studying the selection of cheeses that were lined across the wall. He was dressed again in a light three-piece suit that had Elizabeth tilting her head, wondering if he ever broke a sweat under all that material.  His shades were off and no fedora adorned his buzzed head.   He had picked up a wheel, sniffed it and replaced it chuckling to himself. 

“You know Agent Keen, he said not even turning to acknowledge her, Pule cheese, or just pule, is a cheese made from the milk of Balkan donkeys from Serbia. A distinctive dairy product of Serbian cuisine, pule is reportedly the ‘world's most expensive cheese’, fetching 1,000 Euros per kilogram.  God, what I wouldn’t give to have another one of Mama Teodora’s Kiflice rolls…simply delectable.”

Liz was truly stunned into silence.  He finally turned to look at her and she couldn’t help but notice the slight upward quirk to his lips, knowing her wheels were spinning fast inside of her head.  “I suppose I’ll have to make do with this in the meanwhile…mind if we shop together?”

“Why are you here?  I’ve never seen you here before.”  Liz looked at him warily. 

“Now that’s a fine way to speak to your partner.”  Red said, mocking hurt.  “I just happened to be in the neighborhood and I thought I’d stop in and give old Eddie Kaspbrak a heart attack.  He hasn’t seen me in years!” 

“We are not partners, and I don’t remember the last time I asked someone that I worked with if they wanted to go grocery shopping with me…and by the way…who’s the strong, silent type over there hovering the eggs?”

Reddington glanced in Dembe’s direction as the younger man continued to keep an eye on his boss out of the corner of his eye.  “Oh, that’s Dembe…the secret shopper.  I keep him around in case there’s any problem in the produce section.”  Dembe snorted.  Red ignored him.  “Now, Agent Keen would you do me the honor of helping me shop for dinner? There are just so many items to choose from and I just can’t quite decide…I thought maybe a profiler such as yourself might know the inner workings of 7,500 varieties of apples.” 

Liz pushed past his extended elbow meant for her to apparently ‘latch on to’ and follow him about the store.  He shook his head and laughed.  “I guess chivalry is indeed, dead…and we are partners.”  He followed after her.  Liz sighed in frustration and headed toward the meat section, intending to find a few lean salmon steaks for the week.  Red watched her as she studied the selection, the butcher coming out from the back, asking if they needed assistance.  Reddington grew impatient as he watched Elizabeth study each of the steaks carefully, looking for the best ones.  “Charlie…she’ll take both of those and throw in a handful of your filet mignons and a half a pound of bacon…a growing girl has to eat.” 

Elizabeth was boiling over with rage. “Now wait just one minute…who the hell…?!” 

Before she could finish her rant, Red had disappeared around the corner to the next aisle forcing her to run after him to keep up. She found him sorting through containers of pasta.  “Do you like lasagna, Agent Keen?”

“First of all, I don’t eat all that fat...and secondly…”

“…And secondly, you could stand a little protein in your diet.”  He finished the sentence for her.   

“You don’t even know me!  Don’t try and act like you can just get into my business because you’re helping me with my case.  You need me more than I’ll ever need you.”

“Now there’s where you’re mistaken...”

“What do you mean by that?”

They had found their way to the fruits and vegetables and Liz was angrily throwing broccoli stalks into her basket.  Red was looking over a large mound of potatoes and tossing a few into her basket as well.

“Nothing but starch!”  She shouted tossing a potato back at him, nearly missing his head.  He caught it and put two more into her basket. 

Liz went to the snap beans and began filling a plastic bag full of them.  They were on special.  While she was not looking Red pointed a few more items out to Dembe who surreptitiously loaded items in another cart and made his way to the front of the building.   

“What do you mean it’s not my case?”  Elizabeth began sorting through the apples looking for ones that were not bruised.  Everything was organic in the store and did not use pesticides.  The fruit had to be replaced almost daily, but they all looked beautiful today.  She selected four golden delicious apples and put them into her meager basket.

“I’ll forgive you since this is your first rodeo…but you DO work for me, as a matter of fact all of the FBI is under my whim.  Every success the bureau has had recently is due largely in part to me and for that I am owed a great debt.  I feed you the ‘bad guys’ and you go and round them up and put them away like the good little Feds you are.  It’s a GREAT relationship. But, enough about me...I could just go on all day!"  

“But why would you do that?” Liz asked incredulously, meaning more of the former and not so much of the latter.  They had reached the counter.  Mr. Kaspbrak was ringing up a large amount of groceries and Dembe was standing by the counter with his arms folded watching the door. 

Red avoided her question and smiled widely and warmly at the man behind the register.  “EDDIE! Thank you for your patience, we had a bit of trouble in the bakery.  Ms. Keen is a difficult person to shop for, but I believe we’ve settled on your mouth-watering lemon meringue." 

“I don’t believe this…”  Liz said out loud and glared menacingly between Reddington, the grocer and Dembe.  “I’m standing RIGHT HERE!”

“Please…add all of Ms. Keen’s items to my tab and have them delivered to her residence. Her husband should be home and can take it from there."

Red’s tab had gone way over the $500 mark and he waved off Elizabeth’s concerns and refused to give in to her protests.

“Anything you say, Mr. Reddington…it’s just so good to see you again!” 

“And you as well, Eddie…give my regards to your lovely wife.  I intend on paying my respects as soon as I can.”

 Elizabeth stormed out of the store and whirled to face him.  “I don’t know who you think you are, but this is not over.”

“That’s the one thing you’ve gotten right so far today…Agent Keen.”  Reddington said as he got into the car that Liz noticed was the one that had passed her earlier. He slipped on his shades and his ever-present fedora. “This is just the beginning.”

He left her standing in the middle of the sidewalk totally beside herself.  She absolutely HATED being made a fool of.  She watched the retreating vehicle's tail lights as it disappeared down the road.  “It’s on now…OH it is SO on.” 

Chapter Text

Relax
You're quite safe here

Reddington couldn’t stop the grin that had spread across his features.  He didn’t want to admit that he was becoming swept away by the spirited indignation of the young agent.  He wanted to gauge her reactions to the kind of stress he was capable of dispensing.  He shrugged at Dembe’s questioning glance in the rearview mirror. 

“Eh…I’ll give her a pass on level one.”  Dembe shook his head hiding a smile of his own and continued driving. 

“Is the security team still monitoring her movements from home?”

“Yes, Raymond.”

“Excellent.  They will provide me more Intel when the situation calls for it.  Right now I’m not particularly interested in the mating of rabbits and clumsy teachers.”

“We are here.”

Reddington exited the car and headed toward the back entrance of his safe house.  The sky was beginning to darken and it looked as if rain was in the forecast again.  He made it into his temporary accommodations as a loud thunderclap vibrated the walls.  The rain began to pour and Red went to the big bay window and looked outside at the sheets of rain.  “I hope she made it home ok.”  He mused.

He went to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a tumbler of bourbon and crossed over to a leather armchair that was facing the window and eased himself into it.  The rain always had a way of affecting his mood.  He stared as flashes of lightening lit up the sky in intervals. He didn’t bother to turn on any of the lights in the room and Dembe stuck his head in asking if he needed anything for the night.  Red waved him off and continued to grow morose over his glass. 

Dembe went to the fireplace and prepared to light a warm fire.  He was the only one who knew Raymond more that he knew himself.  He knew of his employer’s shifting moods and the reasons behind them.  He seldom, if ever, took offense to any barbs that happened to be thrown in his direction.  He simply took them on as part of his job description.  He valued his status in Reddington’s circle.  He knew Raymond never let anyone get too close to him.  To reach that place inside of him where he knew his well-guarded feelings lie.  He had watched over the man for many years and he knew how thick that barrier was.  The walls that were built the façade that was placed around his brain and his heart allowing him to believe that the concern he showed for the “victims in this world” really didn’t do anything but to please and service him in some way in the long run.  Dembe knew the truth.  He had seen Raymond in his highest heights and his lowest lows, even the time or two that he did feel…something. 

The fire began crackling nicely the logs settling into place and a warm golden glow lit up the room against the blue light cascading over the figure in the shadows.  He came around to face Reddington and looked at the man who had taken another swallow of his drink.  The puffiness around his eyes had deepened and pensive lines worried his brow.

“What is it?”

“Since when did I need a babysitter?”

Dembe couldn’t stop the chuckle that escaped his lips.  So that’s what the problem was.  He stood and placed a hand on the older man’s shoulder, squeezing lightly.  He took Reddington’s overcoat and hung it on the coat rack in the corner.  He placed his hat on the end table and poured himself a glass of his own, downing it in one gulp. 

“Perhaps Cooper thinks that you are getting too big for your britches.”

“Nonsense.”

“Maybe he thinks you need to get out more?  See other people.   She is beautiful, is she not?”

“I am not some simpering school boy in need of a nooner under the high school bleachers.  I don’t need the distractions.  I have far too much important matters to concern myself with…besides, she’s married.”

Dembe nodded.

“I’m old enough to be her father.”

Dembe nodded.

“Get me the phone, Dembe!”  Red said growling at the man who was already up and walking to Reddington’s coat.

He handed Red the phone and headed toward the door to go off to his adjoining room.  He caught Red’s eye as he left.  A twinkle of mirth was dancing in the darker man’s own as Reddington warned him, punching in numbers, “Not another word…”

Dembe nodded.

________

Liz was soaked by the time she took the stairs, two at a time, up to her apartment. She had ran about a block and half when the rain started as a small drizzle and with no warning turned into a huge thunderstorm.  She had tried using the umbrella she always carried in her bag, but the wind had kicked up and rendered it useless.  She tossed it back in her bag and hurried on.  She saw her home ahead as a lightning bolt snaked across the sky.  She fumbled in her bag looking for her keys.  She pushed her gun, wallet, book, other this and that items aside and found her keys next to her cell phone.  It started buzzing the minute she closed her hand around her keys.  She looked at the caller ID and didn’t recognize the number.

‘Four rings and still no pick up’, Reddington thought impatiently. 

Rain was pouring down from the awning and soaking Liz to the core.  Her tank top and sports bra clung to her skin and she was shaking as she put her key into the lock.  Her hair was drenched clinging to her back and shoulders.  Her phone continued to buzz in her bag.  Whoever it was would have to wait until she got in the house.  Hudson greeted her excitedly as she left puddles in the foyer.  She tossed her bag on the floor and Hudson snuffed it and turned his attention back to her.  Sitting on her counter were around 20 bags of groceries waiting for her.  She slapped her hand down on the countertop.  She didn’t understand where this anger had started building up inside and she knew she should appreciate his gesture, but she didn’t ask for the means of which she received his ‘gifts’. 

“Tom…are you here?”

He didn’t answer, and the phone continued to ring.

 

“Cooper here.”

“Harold…I thought for sure you would be waiting by your phone anticipating my call.  Here I am eight rings in and what…you had some other ‘Most wanted by the FBI crime lord’ on the other line?”

“What do you want, Reddington…? Charlene and I are at dinner now, with the Mayor.”

“Oh then by all means, do not let me interrupt.  How is Muriel these days?  Tell her that I’m not happy with the way my picture looks in the bank lobbies.  I’m sure they have caught a better grainer image of me by now.”

“To the point…Reddington.”

Liz kicked off her shoes and began peeling off her soaking clothes she grabbed a roll of paper towels from the kitchen and wadded up a few for her feet and skated across the floor to her bedroom trying not to drip all over the place.  The phone had stopped ringing and she opened her dresser to take out a pair of flannel pajamas.  After checking the bathroom, it appeared that Tom was not home.  If not, then how did the groceries get into their apartment?  She made her way back to the kitchen looking over the food that was bought for her.  She grimaced at a lot of the selections, thinking that Tom would put a lot of it to good use. The phone started ringing again and it startled her out of her reverie in the quiet room.

She shook herself mentally and went to where she dropped her bag in the hallway. 

“I need you to set up a dinner date between myself and Agent Keen, tomorrow night at 8:00 pm.  We’ll discuss the gala on Saturday. I also am meeting a contact at the restaurant that has a significant connection to the Syrian diplomats.  Tell her to dress casual.”

Cooper frowned.  “What’s with the date night…? You could easily explain all of this to Keen at the Post Office.” 

“I need to evaluate how she handles herself before we get to the gala, Harold.  You know how I feel about her tagging along in the first place, she might as well get her feet wet.”

“Consider it done.”

Reddington closed the cell and steepled his fingers in front of his mouth.  He continued to watch the rain, his dark thoughts taking over and the effects of the alcohol, he drifted in and out of consciousness, visions of a dark-haired lovely temptress dancing into his dreams.

“Hello?”

Silence.

“Hello…can you hear me?”

Silence on the other end of the line.

“Who is this...whose calling?”

“Leave it alone.”

“What?”  Liz pushed her cell closer to her ear.  She could barely hear what the caller was saying.  It sounded as if they were speaking from a wind tunnel.

“If you and your husband want to stay alive.  You will leave.  It.  ALONE!”

The line went dead.  The voice had sent chills down her spine.  She had never heard such evil in a tone of voice before.  She looked back at the phone and pulled up the recent calls.  The unknown caller contact flashed on her screen and she touched it, to return the call.  It rang and continued to ring.  No one picked up the phone.  Liz was becoming more unnerved by the second.  How did this person know her?  How did he know she was married?  She walked over to the window and looked outside to the street below.  Cars splashed through the rain puddles and it had grown darker since she had walked in.  What was going on here?  Where was Tom?  She paused the screaming voices in her brain and took several breaths.  She was trained better than this.  She needed to think rationally.  The phone rang again in her hand.  She practically dropped it on the ground.  Her nerves were scattered. 

“WHAT??!!”  She said harshly into the phone.  She didn’t check to see who was on the other line.  If it was the caller again, she was not going to put up with any more of his bullshit.  She had some questions and she was going to get some answers.

“Agent Keen.”

“OH…Cooper!”  Liz bit the inside of her lip in frustration. “I’m…I’m sorry! I didn’t recognize your number.  I need to add you to my contacts.”

“Not a problem, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, sir…sorry…I mean…you know what I mean…what can I do for you?  Do you need me to come in?”

“No…Reddington has made contact.”

Liz found herself holding on to the phone so tight it could have snapped in her hands at the mention of his name.  What was making her this frustrated over him?  She should not be letting him have the upper hand on her emotions.  She had better control on herself than this.  She just chalked it up to the phone call. 

“Yes?”

“He will rendezvous with you at Fiola’s at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue NW on tomorrow at 8:00 pm.  He has the itinerary for the case and the details for Saturday Night.” 

Elizabeth was about to protest, quite adamantly, that she preferred not to be alone with the man for any length of time, for anything other than business. 

“I know...Keen…before you even start.  It has to be done.  You have to get to know the man.  You have to be comfortable around him.  You don’t have to like him, but you are working with him.  Try to make the most of it.”   Cooper ended the call abruptly.

Liz deposited herself on the couch and tossed her phone on the coffee table.  She put her head in her hands and ran her fingers through her wet hair.  She needed to get a towel on her head before she caught a cold.

A key rattled in the lock and Liz bolted upright.  The door swung open and banged against the wall.  Tom bustled in with bags of Chinese food in each hand.  His back was damp and the bags were dripping water on the floor.  He shook stray drops of water out of his hair and kicked the door shut behind him.  He had a slip of paper stuck between his teeth.

“Cats and dogs doesn’t even BEGIN to describe it!”  He said around the paper in his mouth.  He went to deposit the bags of food on the table but saw the mountain of groceries already there.

“Uh…babe?” He took the paper out of his mouth and glanced at it, still not understanding its meaning.   He said looking over at Liz who had begun walking toward him, arms outstretched. “Were you hungry?”

“Tom, I’m so glad you’re home!”  Liz wrapped her arms around him underneath his wet jacket and held him tightly.

“What’s all this about?”  Tom said, confusedly, indicating…everything.

“I…I’m just glad you’re home…and safe!”  She reached for the paper he held in his hand and read the words.  Her face went pale and she ran to the door and opened it looking down the outside hall.  She saw no one there.  She was about to go further, but Tom pulled her in.  “Liz…Lizzie…what’s the matter??!!”

She ran in the house and locked the doors, the top dead bolt and even put the chain up.

“What does this mean?  ‘And your little dog, too’?

 

How do I get to sleep?

Chapter Text

 

I hear the ticking of the clock
I'm lying here the room's pitch dark

Liz awoke to the sounds of the buzzing coming from her front door.  She glanced at the clock noting that it was 5:15 am.  Her alarm was supposed to go off at six.  She was still on edge from the night before, every little sound heightening her nervousness.  She knew the smart thing to do was to report the incident and she had all intentions of doing so when she was next at the Post Office.  She groaned and put her legs over the side of her bed.  Tom was snoring loudly next to her and she let him sleep as she padded her way out of the bedroom to the living room where her intercom was.  

It was pitch black outside when she glanced out of her living room window.  She made a mental note of where her gun was before pressing the intercom button.  “Who is it?”

“It’s Agent Ressler. Keen, please tell me you are ready to go!” 

She looked down at herself, still dressed in her flannel pajamas.  Ressler had made no mention of stopping by when he spoke with her briefly the night before.

“Uh…sure.” She said buzzing the door for him to come in. 

Ressler cautiously entered her residence, scowl ever-present on his features.  He held two Styrofoam cups of steaming coffee in a carrier and gave her a once-over. 

“The Bureau never sleeps, Keen…I’m giving you five minutes to get your ass in gear.”

Liz looked at him sideways, wondering what planet he came from.  She said nothing to him and headed back to the bedroom.  She motioned toward the couch in case he wanted to sit.  Ressler put a hand on his hip and moved over to the window. 

Liz ran to her dresser and began flinging clothes out of the drawers.  She went to her closet and pulled out a dark blue blouse and black pantsuit.  She was trying to be quiet but when she looked back over to the bed she found Tom staring at her from the shadows.  The closet light was on and was only illuminating a small square of room.

“Liz…it’s (pause) five in the morning!”

“I know, Tom…I gotta get to work.  My partner is in the living room.”

“Shit, really?   Why didn’t you say something?”  He got out of bed clad only in pajama bottoms.

“You don’t have to go out there, Tom, really it’s ok.  I just need to get outta here.  Go back to bed.”  She was fastening a gold necklace around her neck, and a gold watch to her wrist. 

Tom was already halfway out of the bedroom door.  Liz sighed and went to brush her teeth and her hair. 

She found Tom leaning over the kitchen island staring intently at the man in the passable suit who was uncomfortably glancing around the apartment.  He was still holding the coffee in his hands and was perturbed that Tom hadn’t asked him to set it down anywhere. 

Liz had exited the bedroom and looked at the two men casually sizing the other up and could actually smell the tension in the room. 

“Hey sorry…have you guys met?”

“Yeah I told him who I was.”

She looked at Ressler juggling the coffee.  “You could have told him to put it down, Tom!” 

She grabbed the carrier from Ressler and deposited it on the kitchen island.  Tom helped himself to her cup.  His puppy dog eyes apologized to Liz but continued to stare unnervingly at the blonde agent who gave back as good as he got.

“Oh for Heaven’s sake.  Let’s go!”  Liz said as she grabbed her bag and headed toward the door.

“Nice meeting you…”  Tom sing-songed to Ressler as they exited the apartment.

“I think your husband’s the jealous type.”  Ressler smirked as he pushed past Keen and held the outter door for her. 

 

---------

Reddington was awake and in his office, in silk pajamas and a long silk dressing gown. When he wasn’t going through a bout of his seemingly endless insomnia, which often left him fully-dressed ready for action whenever the need arose, he loved to be completely comfortable and the feel of silk against his skin was delicious.  He wore a pair of OluKai Moloa men’s slippers that had genuine lamb’s skin that melded to his feet like a glove.  He was halfway through his morning scotch when Dembe knocked on his office door.  This latest safe house was equipped with more than what he needed and he was pleased.  He had been in a few that he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy but desperate times and all that business.  He preferred to stay in places that catered to his eclectic tastes.  He loved the look and feel of elegance.  He enjoyed opulence especially if it was at someone else’s expense.  He spoiled himself whenever he could on the finest things his hosts had to offer and they did it gladly to keep them rich and happy. 

Dembe found him going over the tape that he had recovered off of one of the assailants at the Chinese restaurant the other night. 

“….make him pay.”  Tape rewinds.  “There will come a day…”  Tape rewinds.  Reddington listened to the inflections and the tone.  He could pick out a distinct accent but the voice was unfamiliar to him.  He took some notes and slid the tape recorder into a desk drawer as Dembe approached. 

“I have the file on Elizabeth Keen.”  He said handing a manila packet over to Red who accepted it eagerly.  “Milos had a currier deliver it this morning.”

“Excellent.  Now I will find out who I’m dealing with here.  It’s always good to have a bit of background on the person who could potentially put me in the ground.” 

He flipped through the first few pages, mostly being surveillance, aerial shots, and younger pictures from a high school yearbook.  He landed on her entrance photo into the F.B.I. and paused.  He studied her face.  He admired her determined features.  Firmness in her brow that held a slight frown, unwavering blue eyes staring back at him.  Her auburn hair cascaded to her shoulders of her navy blue blazer.  He traced his thumb across her brow.  He had yet to actually see her smile.  What caught his attention most was the sad little downturn of her mouth.   Red fancied himself the best judge of character and he wondered what tragedies had befallen the young woman to be so resolute save for this one tell-tale characteristic.  Sympathy filled his vision as he flipped through the pages.  

 

He learned she was an orphan.  Her parents had died in a fire, when she was four years old.  She had had corrective surgery on a scar that lined her wrist.  He recalled not seeing a scar when he met her last, it may have been very faint. 

Her family history was vague but it appeared that they had defected from Russia and that Elizabeth Keen n’ee Scott was not her real name.  He flipped more pages and found a birth certificate for a Masha Rostova.  Reddington was intrigued.  What other secrets did this fledgling agent hold? 

He came across her F.B.I.  Special Agent Application.  Most of the items were redacted but he could see her qualifications and her field of expertise and her competency scores.  Her scoring was almost off the charts, further impressing him.  ‘I doubt she’s met the likes of me before.’ He thought with a snort.  ‘There’s book smart and there’s street smart.  We just need to find out how smart you are.’

He vowed to return to the folder to glean any future information and as he closed the file the page fell once again on her face.  “Are you going to be a problem?”  He asked the picture…he already knew the answer.

-------

 

Elizabeth had grabbed her gear from her locker.  Ressler stated that they were going out to the firing range for a few hours and then grab some lunch.  He wanted to go over some basic rules of engagement for Saturday night.  They needed to coordinate their own strategy, in case something headed south with Reddington.  Ressler had an inborn sense of distrust when it came to the man.  Liz watched the young man’s face as his jaw clenched every time he mentioned Reddington’s name.  He said that Meera would be briefed later and that she was out of state on other business.  She would be back before the gala on Saturday.  She did not see Harold Cooper in his office or on the way out of the black site.  Aram was at his usual post, deep into decoding and waved a brief hand and nodded in her direction. 

“Is he always so talkative?”  Liz asked nodding in his direction. 

“I dunno…I never get in his business.  I can’t understand him anyway.” He huffed a laugh.

They got back into the black SUV and headed to the shooting range.  The sky began to lighten as the sun peeked over the horizon.  The sunrise was beautiful in oranges and pinks.  Elizabeth smiled.  Her partner remained silent. 

“You don’t say much do you?”

“Only when I have something to say.”

“Is it always going to be like this?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well back when I was at the academy we’d always debate and argue over who had the better serial killer to profile in class? I enjoyed those times because I got to know my fellow collogues and also was able to put together a profile on what made them tick.   My instructor always seemed to give me the harder cases to profile.  Gary Ridgeway, The Green River Killer; Danny Rolling, The Gainesville Ripper.  He seemed to think I was more geared toward figuring out the sexual deviants.  It doesn’t take much to realize that certain men only like to think with one head.  It wasn’t a hard lesson to figure out with a lot of my male classmates as well.  I don’t know how many guys I shot down by the time I was a sophomore.”

She looked at him as he continued to drive.  He let her talk and not really provided much input.  He kept his eyes on the road, only grunting once or twice to show he was still listening.

“What about you?

“What?”

“What do you think of profiling?”

 “I don’t put a lot of stock in profiling.  Do you know what counts?  Facts.”

Liz smiled and sighed.  It was going to take a while to break this hard shell.  “Yeah I prepared a profile on you.”  Ressler looked over at her his eyebrow raised.   “Oh really?”

“Uptight, fueled by an inner rage, capable of the occasional moment of tenderness which likely leads to staying up all night watching Asian porn.  Which coincidentally brings me back to my subject on certain men.”  She quirked her lips finding it hard to hide her laugh. 

“See you got me all wrong, Keen.”  Ressler said parking the car and hopping out.  The gun range was in a large open field.  Other agents were already there and the din of gunfire was the only sounds seemingly for miles.  “I’m strictly all-American porn.” 

 

--------

Reddington decided on a nice hot shower before strolling down to the park later.  He had called one of his associates to meet him there and take the tape recorder from him to be analyzed.  He needed to know who was behind the attempted hit.  This was a side-track from his current mission but he was not about to let someone try and kill him, with at least finding out why.  And they had made a serious mistake.  They left him alive.  He smiled to himself.  He absolutely loved how people still underestimated him.  He stood in front of the large glass encased shower and reached in to turn on the tap.  He made the water scalding hot.  He didn’t think the temperature would ever be hot enough to erase the dirt that had buried itself deep into his soul.  He would never scrub that dirt away.  It was the only thing that ate at him.  Regret.  He’s had some truly dark moments in his life.  Loneliness…although he refused to admit it. He would love to wake up next to someone, but he knew with his lifestyle he never could make it on a permanent basis.  Selfishness.  For the mere fact that he could never give up this lifestyle for someone else.  No one has touched him in a way that would ever make him want to.  And the handful that did, were now…well the word regret keeps bubbling to the surface. 

 

He could never allow himself to open up and care for someone to allow himself that sort of sheer agony that goes along with loving a person.  He dropped his robe and pants and stepped into the hot spray.  He let the water seep into his tanned skin, burrow its way through the buzz fringe of hair on his head, cascade down the almost smooth plane of skin on his back.  It ran rivulets through the scarred tissue of flesh on his left shoulder.  He winced as he always did.  It still burned and burning water didn’t help, only inflamed.  He received his “battle scars” through a warehouse fire gone wrong.  He shook his head.  He would rather put that day far behind him. 

He lathered up a bar of Cle De Peau Beaute Synactif on an exfoliating loofa and began to scrub his body.  It felt good to have the gritty beads of the soap work its way into his lightly haired chest.  He rubbed the tension at the back of his neck.  Soap gathered in the dip of his lower back and trailed a fine line down his stomach to pool at his feet.  He leaned his head back in ecstasy as the jets of the shower kneaded his muscles as he continued to trail his way down, absently rubbing here and there letting the perfumed soap do its work.  It was Heavenly.  Even he had no words to describe the luxury a fine soap and jet spray could conjure.  As he began to take care of the center of his needs a vision floated unbidden into his brain.  Elizabeth.  Her picture from the file.  Reddington shot his eyes open.  He shook his head and nervously chuckled.  “Of all the...”  He continued to handle himself working the soap in and around all the intimate areas of his body and another flash of her at the grocery store, standing close to him, frustrated by his antics.  Her cute little upturned nose and frown gave him pause.  “Now this is unacceptable…”  He said to the shower wall. 

He quickly finished up and stepped out of the shower.  He looked back at it, frowning, almost blaming it for the thoughts that were rolling around his head this morning.  He grabbed his towel and knotted it around his waist.  It was going to be a very long day. 

------

 

“Nice shooting, Keen!”  Ressler said as he brought the retrieved silhouette target back from the range.  There were five center mass and two headshots neatly placed on the target.  Liz removed her earphones and goggles.  She was dressed in sweats and a ponytail high on her head. 

They had been on the range for a couple of hours.  Ressler had shown her proper techniques in taking down a suspect without firing a weapon and his own way of using a gun to apprehend the suspect.  He stressed that they did not shoot to kill a POI unless a life or death situation. He tried to show off when he suggested that she show him what to do in said situation.   He didn’t know what kind of field training she had and incorrectly assumed that all of her work had been behind a desk, her nose in a book.  She bet him that she could shoot any target at any distance and he took her up on the challenge.  He had been more than impressed when her accuracy became more honed the further the target.  A fine sheen of perspiration was forming on her skin as her concentration grew.  She smiled, pleased, when he praised her. 

They were now sitting at a diner called ‘The Greasy Spoon’ in the middle of town.  It was a hole in the wall in between two high rise buildings.  A relic of its time, it was one of the only few of its kind remaining in the concrete jungle.  Ressler liked going there from time to time.  The place was nothing to look at but the coffee was good.  The owner Dani insisted on keeping the diner the way it looked in the forties as to not lose any of its ‘charm’. 

They sat outside and ate a modest lunch.  Liz had a salad and Ressler a tuna sandwich.  She had finally gotten him to say a few words about his favorite sports team and was content to let him open up to her and was even surprised to find out that she liked the same team.  She was in mid-sentence, talking about the last game when something caught the corner of her eye.  It was a car similar to the one that was at the end of her street the other day.  There was a shadowy figure behind the wheel.  She couldn’t make out any features.  She almost didn’t pay it any mind and turned back to her conversation. 

 “You ok?” 

“Yeah…I’m fine.”  She said, turning back to the conversation.  She just had the oddest sensation at that moment.  She looked across the street to one of the office buildings and noticed a man staring at them from the window.  He just wasn’t “at the window”, he was looking directly at them as if watching their movements.  She frowned and looked at Ressler.  She was immediately propelled back to the fear she felt the night before.  The phone call, the note at the door.  She looked down the sidewalk and noticed lots of people going about their daily routines.  She saw someone at the corner by a lamp post.  He was talking into his shirt cuff.  She looked up and saw someone at the top of the neighboring building.

“Keen??”

“What…what? I’m sorry…you were saying something?” 

“What do you see, Keen?”

“Did Cooper put a surveillance detail on me yet?

“Not that I’m aware of.  He told me that I could handle you while in the field.  It gave things a more natural appearance…and it’s saves the taxpayers some money…” He snorted.

“We’re being watched.”  She put her shades on and turned her attention back to Ressler looking over his shoulder.

Ressler casually glanced around him and nodded.  “Seems like The Concierge of Crime is not following the rules.”

“Does he ever?”  Elizabeth was getting angrier by the second. 

“I’m going to go ahead and call this in.”  Ressler said flipping out his cell. 

“Don’t worry about it…I’ll handle this.”    Liz said as she pushed away from the table.  “I’ll meet you back at the site, okay?” 

“Are you sure about that, Keen?” 

“He’s not gonna let these guys intimidate me into playing by the rules either.  He’s about to get a piece of my mind.”

“I’ll make sure Cooper hears about this.  But we’ll know you’re safe.  Reddington may be a lot of things, but he’s good at protecting his own skin or anyone close to it.” 

After assuring Ressler that she would be ok, putting the fears of the previous night behind her. (She was trying to forget about what had happened, even though violating the protocols of her training)  She strode off in the direction of the guy behind the wheel of the car.  She went to the driver’s side and tapped on the glass.  The man rolled the window down looking as if he had just been caught red-handed, his face resigned into a scowl.

“Take me to your leader.”  

 

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone