The drive back to the Post Office is silent, punctuated only with Samar occasionally sniffing and dabbing at her eyes. She's staring out the window at nothing as the city slides by in the early evening.
"I can't believe she's gone. After everything we've been through," she's says quietly. "Everything you guys have been through," she adds.
Neither can he. And he put it all in place. He can't find his voice to answer her. It's buried under a constriction in his throat that's holding it prisoner. Liz… Distracted, he slams on the brakes as a car stops in front of them. Samar lurches forward in the seat, hands outstretched to the dashboard as the vehicle slams to a sudden halt.
She looks quickly at him. "Would you like me to-"
She doesn't ask again, nor do they speak further as he moves off, more slowly now. Ten minutes later he drives into the underground parking lot and silently shuts off the engine. As she unbuckles her belt and opens her door, he sits there. He has no desire or ability to move. No desire to think properly anymore. Not yet. The day has ended with Liz in a body bag. The touch of her cold skin under his fingers burns into his memory. Instinctively, he takes his hand off the steering wheel and wipes his fingers on his coat. He's unaware Samar is standing outside the car watching him until she speaks.
"Would you like some-"
She nods, closes the car door and leaves him be. He sees her step into the yellow elevator through eyes that are focused inwardly. To a roadway, a body bag and Liz. His wife. Of Solomon. Guns. News choppers. Reddington. Kaplan. Dembe. Nik. It's all a blur that he can't sift through right now.
Audrey had died on a roadway near a bridge and it hits him square in the chest that so had Liz. Leaning back on the seat his eyes close. The fact that this is exactly what he needed to do to keep her safe hasn't had time to edge through the horror of seeing her…dead. It's not real yet it's conjured up memories in his head that break his heart because it LOOKED and FELT so real.
And the one thought that does make it through his mind coherently keeps repeating itself. What have I done?!
The plan worked. Flawlessly. Yet right now that doesn't offer any consolation. He's unable to see her again until it's safe to do so. She is in Kaplan's hands. And as capable as those hands are, Liz is now completely out of reach. No more talking to her. No more seeing her in the Post Office. No more shared glances, or breathing in the smell of her soft perfume as he stands near her. No more soft laughter as she shares the baby with him and their coworkers.
The passenger door opens, startling him as his head whips around to see Cooper climbing in beside him. He straightens in the seat and faces forward again, before dropping his eyes.
"Don, far be it for me to invade a man's personal space when he needs some, but I…" Cooper stops, exhales and shakes his head. "This is hard," he adds, "But I didn't want you to be alone."
Ressler nods. It is hard. Yet it shouldn't be. They both know she's not dead, only out of reach. But at Cooper's presence beside him, another thought resounds through his head. He should never have put the man or the team in this position.
As they watch, the elevator doors open and Aram and Samar exit together, his arm on her back. "Everyone knows. I told the agents after I got your call, right after Samar called Aram," he says quietly and turns to Ressler who hasn't said a word to him yet. "Why don't I drive you home? I'll have Charlene pick me up from there."
But he doesn't want to go home to an empty apartment. To an NSA laptop that is looking into an apartment that Liz will never return to. He sighs, "Thanks, but there's somewhere else I need to go."
"I'll take you," Cooper insists.
And about to offer further argument, it's suddenly all too difficult. Ressler leans back in the seat, defeated. He can't think right now. Without further resistance, he hands his boss the keys and opens the driver's door.
Cooper exits his side and they swap seats. As he fires up the engine and heads for the exit ramp he glances at Ressler, "Where to?"
Ressler looks at his phone, finds the text from Jacob and relays the address. Cooper doesn't ask where they are going and only drives. His lead agent needs him.
While Ressler has not spoken to Jacob since watching Liz loaded into a coroners' van, he's getting occasional updates in his ear from the man. And Jacob's small mic is picking up something else. The unmistakable snuffles and whimpers of a baby as he holds her. And Raymond Reddington's voice had been there too, telling her that she had a good name.
That's something he'll agree to disagree on with Liz. When he sees her again…whenever that may be. He and his wife are now apart. Their family splintered in three directions.
Something occurs to him and he turns to Cooper. "Charlene?"
Cooper smiles, watching the traffic as he drives through the evening. "Yeah, we have dinner plans tonight. We're, uh, talking again," he tells Ressler, before he makes a left turn.
"I'm glad to hear that. You two are…" Ressler's mind can't finish a complete thought right now, apparently.
"Thank you. I'm glad too," Cooper replies, looking at the buildings they're passing and recognizing the district they're in. "The nightclub, right?" he asks Ressler, who only nods.
Reddington has left, he knows that from Jacob's report fifteen minutes ago, though Baz and a couple of Red's men are still guarding the location. Finding his way through the dark streets, Cooper locates the building and parks at the back exit doors. Ressler turns his mic on and talks to Jacob. "We're here."
"We?" Jacob questions, but in a moment the silver hair of Baz appears as the man opens the back exit door in the dark. They slip inside, Baz takes a quick look outside then locks the exit door behind them again, motioning with his automatic rifle toward the center of the dance floor. The nightclub is dim, lit only with a few purple and soft white lights as they make their way down a few steps, dropping down a level as the deserted makeshift surgical unit looms before them. The room is quiet. No more blue clad doctors and nurses. No more bright lights and hospital monitors. No more Paul Anka or mirror ball.
No more Liz.
As they spot Jacob coming toward them in the dark, he's in silhouette, backlit in soft white light from the bar area. Cooper stops and sits at a small table, letting Ressler walk on alone to the man approaching them. Ressler can make out the small bundle in Jacob's arms. Not clearly, but enough to know what he's holding. Who he has in his arms.
"Hey, man," Jacob greets him quietly, turning a little so the soft light falls on them, but Ressler doesn't reply. He only has eyes for one person. One tiny sleeping child, her face the only part of her that's visible. His baby girl. His little princess.
"Oh, my God…" he whispers, as his fingers brush her tiny, unbelievably soft cheek.
"She's beautiful," Jacob agrees, adjusting her in his arms so that Ressler to take her.
And take her he does, as his tiny baby is placed in his waiting arms. She's lighter and smaller than he could ever imagine. And beautiful. So, so beautiful. Just like her mother.
"I'll, uh, be right over there," Jacob tells him, before squeezing his arm and walking to join Cooper at the small table. Ressler nods, and seeing a small couch nearby, takes a few steps and slowly sinks into a comfortable seat that seems to cradle his body just as he's cradling his baby girl.
He kisses her perfect cheek, moves her hat up just a little, sees the red hair, and then gently removes the hat completely. His little ginger girl is in his arms as his large hand cradles her tiny head. Before he knows it he's filling her forehead with soft butterfly kisses. As his lips gently brush her skin, she moves a little in his arms, and lowering her a little he gazes on her.
Tiny dark eyes barely open in the soft light as she looks up at him, her mouth opening a little as she squirms.
"Hey, baby girl…" he whispers, blinking back tears that blur his vision. "Daddy's girl…" He tells her softly and smiles at her. His fingers find her cheek and softly as he can, he strokes her soft skin as her sleepy eyes slowly blink.
And just like that, his heart belongs to another. Just like that, he's a daddy as she captures his heart instantly. In that one moment, he would now willingly lay down his life to protect his daughter.
A soft cry escapes her lips and as he looks up, Jacob is there handing him a warm bottle. He doesn't even know where the bottle came from, but he takes it, places the teat in her mouth and feeds his daughter for the first time. Her eyes are still open as she suckles, small drops of milk dotting her lips.
"You like that, huh?" he whispers to her, smiling, unable to take his eyes off her. Her little contented whimpers and suckling sounds fill his ears as she drinks.
Cooper is beside them now. "Congratulations, Don. She's beautiful."
She is. He never knew. He never realized how deep he'd feel it. That he'd feel it this quickly. "Daddy's little girl," he tells her as she slows now, having filled her belly. Removing the bottle, Jacob takes it and puts it aside.
"You'll need to burp her," Cooper says softly, watching Ressler hold her.
Right. He's never done that before.
"May I?" Cooper asks, and takes a cloth from Jacob who is apparently a very good nanny. Placing the cloth on his left shoulder he reaches for the baby as Ressler carefully hands her to his boss. Cooper pats her back expertly and chuckles as a very big burp for such a tiny girl reaches their ears. "Good girl, Agnes," he tells her as she falls asleep on his shoulder.
Ressler rubs her back, before Cooper gently lowers her and places her in his arms again. Leaning back gently in the chair, Ressler lays her on his chest as she sleeps.
"You're a natural at this," Cooper encourages, and once again Ressler can't take his eyes off his baby girl as he gently slips her hat back on.
Cooper sits down beside him while Jacob leans against the table.
"I'm sure you two have this part figured out, as best you can, under the circumstances," Cooper tells them both softly, keeping it low and out of earshot of Reddington's men. "Don, I know you will find a way to be with her just as you were with…Elizabeth. But if you need anything, and I mean anything, you come to me. Charlene and I are here to help you both in any way we can with this precious baby girl, understand?"
"Thank you," they both echo.
Ressler rubs his baby girls back and can barely feel her weight at just over 6lb against his chest. But it's not about how much she weighs or how little she is, because she has just filled his world and filled his heart. He longs for Liz to be beside him to share in this. To be with her, and sleep with her and lay their baby girl between them.
That time will come, but not yet. For now he must go on with the plan. He'd faltered, seeing her 'dead' in the street. Had momentarily lost his way at that sight. But this tiny human asleep on his chest, this little part of him has just refocused his heart. Refocused his aim on the goal. He can do this. He will do this.
He will reunite his family.