The Long Game

Part 33-Conclusion

Author's Note: So, this story is concluding with this chapter. I have written a few times about whether I can go super AU and pretend Liz is not a wanted person literally all over the news, and it's just not going to work. I've actually written a couple of test chapters to even see if I could do it, and it's not working.

I was listening to Diggin My Grave by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper when thinking about Don and I'll Always Remember Us this Way by Lady Gaga when thinking about Liz, while writing this and I think both songs were a heavy influence. You can find them both on the A Star is Born Soundtrack-give it a listen.

I have a vision for another story that picks up a few years from now with them undercover and with all the crap that is about to happen on the Blacklist part of their story-so expect to see that coming but, for now, we need to close this story off—not necessarily in the happiest of places as a keenler lover. But, I'm hoping a satisfying ending for now.

For those who have been leaving reviews—thank you! For those who have not yet reviewed, consider leaving one now, so I can hear your thoughts on the story, the characters, and my writing. It helps me critically look at what worked and what didn't in this story.

Thanks for following this little tale.

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Don Ressler stood in the bedroom, their bedroom, and laughed. It was a deep, body shaking laugh that only a man who understood the irony of the situation could appreciate. He'd been played, played by Keen and by Reddington. By his feelings for her, by their relationship. Masha Rostova had played him. He had let her go, was sure it was for a better good, but now he wasn't so sure. And yet still, even after she killed someone, even after he was tasked with hunting her down, he had saved her life, risked his career, and let her go again. The woman got to him. She got to the heart of him in a way that was…disturbing. Even after admitting she was back with Tom, sleeping with him…even then.

"Am I just a fucking sucker for punishment?" Don asked under his breath as he picked up a bin and walked toward the closet.

He took all of her things off hangers and chucked them in one bin and took down his stuff and chucked it in another bin. He would have to get everything of his dry cleaned because the wrinkles that would be in everything. He didn't have the time or the energy to do anything properly today. Ressler left the bedroom and walked into the office and picked up the small pile of books he kept there to read at night and then threw them in his bin with the clothes. He walked into the kitchen and took out his allergy medication and her migraine meds, swiped her extra sunglasses off the hall table, pulled both of their coats out of the closet and walked with his and her shoes dangling from his hands and chucked them in the two bins. His dumping of things into the bins got more and more forceful each trip.

They had no clues about where she was, where they were. He had only had reports about Liz and Reddington but somehow felt Tom must have been with them as well. Liz would have brought him along if they were back together. She wouldn't have left him behind.

Don took off his coat and threw it on the bed, his anger was heating up his body and the gathering of their personal things before the FBI movers came in and took everything else was heating him up even more. It wasn't the work, it was the pain that was coursing through his body.

He went to the washroom and grabbed their toothbrushes and threw them in the garbage, threw out her makeup, her face wash, her hairbrush…anything that was personal, that was Liz, got thrown out. Even her damn curling iron, he felt a little vindictive about that, but with her hair short and blonde, she probably didn't need it anymore. At least, that's what he told himself as all of her personal care products filled up the washroom garbage bin. He looked at the overflowing bin and figured she should be grateful he wasn't throwing her clothes out onto the street or setting them on fire.

He grabbed his toiletry kit and threw it hard into the bin that was his, probably breaking his razor or his aftershave and not even giving a shit if it spilled all over his clothes. Don sat heavily on the bed and looked at her side table next to the bed and her dresser. He'd never looked in either, he'd always felt it was private what she kept in those spaces. The closet and washroom they shared so he saw her stuff there all the time. The dresser and the side table though…

Don took a deep breath and got up and opened one dresser drawer and took the clothes out and threw them in her bin. He opened drawer after drawer and threw more and more of her clothes into the bin until he got to her underwear drawer. Don dropped his head to his chest. The first item he saw was the bras she had been wearing when they first faked slepping together in Puerto Rico.

"Of course," Don sighed, as he picked up the bra and looked at it.

Closing his eyes he could go back to the moment, the bed, and viscerally be there with her. Feel her skin, her mouth hot against his, his worry that he was too close to her as he was under the covers…and then when they actually had sex in Puerto Rico she had only had on a hotel bathrobe. He had taken full advantage of the v-neck opening to access her breasts and the slit up the front of the robe to access her core.

"Stop," Don said to himself as he dropped the bra back in the drawer and scrooped up all of her bras and underwear and dumped them in the bin, throwing the lid on top for good measure so he couldn't see them.

He stood looking at the bin, his breathing irregular and his heart hammering.

"I should have just got my stuff," he said to himself. "She fucking left, who the fuck cares what happens to her shit."

He needed to get out of their bedroom, the bedroom where they had slept together, brushed their teeth together, got dressed, watched TV, made out, talked, faked sex…

He looked around suddenly realizing something. Of the times they had actually had sex, none of them had been here. In the space where they were a couple. What did that mean?

"It doesn't mean anything you fucking…" he chastised himself. "Get a god damned grip."

Don marched toward the washer and dryer and pulled out a load of laundry in the dryer that he had thrown in last time he was there, it was mostly his workout clothes. He unloaded it into a basket and carried it to the bedroom and dumped it in his bin.

Don walked back into the living room and looked around, was there anything else personal that he had missed? He grabbed the fake pictures of their wedding, the vacations they hadn't taken, the pictures that had been staged of them, and threw them, frames and all, into the garbage. Then, seeing one of him kissing her on their fake wedding day he picked it up. He took a quick swoop around the room like one would in a hotel room before leaving and, finding nothing else, went back to the bedroom and opened Liz's bin and dropped the framed picture of them at their fake wedding in her bin—he wasn't going to let her forget this, however badly she may want to. Finally, Don saw the last place he needed to look.

Sitting on her side of the bed…

"Her side of the bed?" He scoffed and chastised himself. Don shook his head and pulled open the drawer.

In it, there was a book he'd seen her reading, some hand cream, another book, and her spare wedding ring Reddington had bought them for Germany. Don picked up the biography of a Canadian in Rwanda and then the hand cream. He was tempted to smell it, but didn't need to go there, he knew what she smelled like, taste like, how she sounded when she orgasmed, how her face looked when she was caught off guard by something he said…he knew her. Or, at least, he thought he did. Don whipped the tube of cream and book against the far wall and watched the lid pop off and it hit the ground with it splattering against the wall and floor spilling all over the book. As childish as that was, it was satisfying.

He picked up her spare wedding ring and swallowed hard. He remembered putting it on her in their hotel room and her putting his on him. It was the closest to being actually married that Don had ever come. Don placed it on the bed next to him and reached in to get the last item, the book with the plain cover. It was as he did this, that his hand hit something at the back of the drawer that was a cylinder of some kind taped to the back of the drawer.

Don pulled at it and his stomach dropped when he saw the item. It was his old pill bottle, with his oxy in it that she had made disappear from his side drawer when he had admitted his habit. He knew she'd taken it and was grateful to her for it. Why she had taped it there he wasn't sure. Don opened the bottle, there were three pills inside.

He swallowed hard. It would be so easy to dull his pain with these right now. And he had pain. A deep aching pain of his heart being crushed in a vice. No one would deny him his pain.

"So much for being my fucking support system," Don said as a couple of tears came to the corners of his eyes and he wiped at them.

Don sat and stared at the pills, sitting so innocently at the bottom of the bottle and closed his eyes, placing the bottle on the night stand, not closing the lid, not sure he's made any decisions yet about them.

He reached with a shaky hand, the hand of an addict on the precipice of crossing that line for the last item, the book. He flipped it open and saw Liz's handwriting. He started to read.

The new place is great, so much better than our last apartment that was so small…

Don sighed, she had created an in-character journal as part of her cover. She was good, he wouldn't have thought to do that. He flipped through some more pages, expecting to see Liz Hughes making up situations about what their days were like and was surprised by what he found.

Don was freaking hilarious today. He rigged the shower so it would come on freezing cold when I started it. If I didn't love the man so much, I may have killed him after I got over the shock…

When he kisses me, my skin tingles and by hair stands on end…

With his broken leg, we've taken to watching 24 almost 24 hours a day and it's been really fun staying in bed with him all day and night eating popcorn and complaining about Kim…

I think I've married the perfect man, other women would kill to have him cook his 3-cheese…

Dinner tonight was difficult, we needed to talk about some of the issues he's been having with pulling away from me, some grief he is dealing with, and finally I understood why…

I laid all night holding him and soothing him like one would a child in pain, he cares so much for his brother, but the relationship is so strained there is guilt that comes with our trip home to his family…

I think if I didn't have to make a living, I could have stayed in bed with Don making love all day when we were in Germany, the way he knows how to work my body like a fine-tuned machine…

I'm surprised sometimes by how much I love Don, I know I shouldn't be, but I am. Especially when he looks at me with those eyes of his that tell me, no matter what, he's always there to support and love me even when…

Don felt his breath catch in his throat. It wasn't fake, it was them. Them as they were, but said in such a way that it sounds like a wife talking about her husband.

"Liz…" Don said as he continued to flip the pages. "Jesus Christ…"

She was laid bare in this journal, her thoughts, and her feelings about him, them. She loved him.

His phone started to ring. He looked toward it and stood to walk toward his jacket where it was sitting in a pocket and, as he stood three pictures fell out of the journal onto the floor.

He stopped and looked down at them. They were not staged pictures, but pictures she had taken of them and, for some reason, printed to have with her.

One was of the two of them sitting on a lounger on the beach in Puerto Rico, she was sitting between his legs and leaning back against him and they were both smiling and laughing in the picture. The second was one she had taken of them at a park in Baltimore that they had gone walking through one night when he had spoken with her about his addiction and she had told him she would be there for him always. They had been sitting on a bench and she had snapped it quick and texted it to him with the words: This is you sober. Never forget the happiness of sobriety.

Don felt a tear make it's way down his cheek. He grabbed the bottle of pills and quickly walked to the toilet and flushed them before he had a chance to think. He rinsed out the bottle and chucked it in the garbage with her makeup and curling iron.

He walked back to the journal slightly out of breath with his quick movement and the release he felt in not giving into temptation.

Don looked at the last picture and sighed.

He didn't know she'd kept it or printed it. They were eating breakfast in bed in Germany. Both of them had showered and pulled on robes after many hours spent naked, and she had ordered food for them. They were leaning into each other and she was playfully holding up a croissant for him to bite. It had been a ridiculous picture and still was, but it made him smile. It was them. It was them in love, with the glow of making love on their faces, the last time they had been together in that way.

Don swallowed hard and then realized he had not answered his phone. He carefully placed the pictures in the journal and walked over to his bin and placed it carefully on top. He pocketed her wedding ring and reached for his phone.

There was a message from a private number. He entered his code and heard her voice, as if she had known where he was, what he was doing, what he was reading, and what he was looking at.

"Don, I…" her voice stopped, she sounded choked up. "Thank you for saving me. Thank you."

Don closed his eyes and bit his lip.

"I don't…I don't know how to say goodbye to you…of all people. You are the most important person in my life…" Liz said, her voice choked and strained.

She started to cry.

Don wiped at a couple of tears that were falling from his eyes.

"There's a journal at our apartment…" Liz said quietly. "I will always remember us that way."

The call ended, and Don dropped the phone along his side and let the tears flow. He could feel her wedding ring burning in his pocket, smell her in the room from the exploded cream, hear her voice as it just spoke to him, and felt her arms wrap around him from behind.

He didn't know where she was, but he needed to find her.

THE END.