In the Stillness

Chapter 12

"I mean, clearly you're in love with her."

The words reverberated into the sudden hush of the company. The comprehension of the words came quickly to Ressler, but the fitting response did not. Ressler's lips parted in an attempt to produce the expected words of denial or rebuttal, but such words failed to formulate in his mind. Tom's focused gaze was devouring the scene, watching and waiting to see how his inciting words had stirred afire in Ressler's controlled temperance.

But it wasn't that Ressler couldn't match Tom's fire, no. Ressler wanted nothing more than to pummel the other man with an attack of his own, but at that moment, he just couldn't fight him. It was just that, with the awakening jolt of those words also came the startling clarity of some hidden recess, of what he's been toiling, dismissing, and rejecting even. And although he'd rather be damned than to give the other man the satisfaction, Ressler had no words for him. No words to deny what was said, no words to resist any of it. He could only breathe in relief and in release, left only to agree with the owner of the wretched smirk that, indeed, he was completely and helplessly in love with Liz.

"Of course, you are." Tom nodded slightly to the wordless concession, as if a veiled agreement had just passed between the two men. Perhaps there needn't even be an exchange of words, as Ressler's strong upright stance not only accepted but welcomed the challenge with proud satisfaction.

"What is it that you want to say to me, Tom?" Liz cut in abruptly and took charge, wholly dismissing the stifling heat between the men. "What do you want?"

"Well, I was hoping we can have more of a private conversation."

Liz paused to consider Tom's request, then turned to Ressler, "Don, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Ressler's eyes befell on Liz, and the surge of love washed over him. He wasn't going anywhere. "Sorry, Liz…but I can't do that."

Tom's crooked smirk reemerged, just as Liz's eyes widened at the unexpected response, "Don…"

"What were you expecting, Lizzie?" Tom broke in with an assured swagger, "The knight in shining armor. He's here to protect you from the very bad man."

"Don, it's alright. I could handle this. I'll see you tomorrow." Liz spoke each word firmly, so as to cease contention. "Good bye, Don."

However, Ressler stood his ground, not taking his eyes off of Tom while being fully aware of the friction his own self brought. As much as he thought removing himself from this situation may be best, it just wasn't going to happen. There was absolutely no way that Ressler would leave Liz with this man, whose mystery and its menace rattled and terrified him to no end. Who is he, and what is he after?

Tom took notice of Ressler's resolve and knew this man will not be budging any time soon. "Well, then, isn't this a cozy situation? A husband, a wife, and this…third presence. Shall we go have some drinks together?"

"There is nothing you can say to her that I don't know already." Ressler asserted abruptly, whose bold words caused Liz to turn her face onto his, with lips parted in startled perplexity. So far, everything that had happened that night had been of completely unexpected reveal to Liz.

But a snicker escaped from Tom's lips, with his head nodding in reluctant agreement, "Of course, you know everything, and you may even be convinced of it. But here's the thing. You have no idea what you're getting into."

Ressler felt like a giant boulder had just landed upon his chest and knocked out the last breath from his lungs. He remembered those words all too clearly, and he had to exert every will and power to keep his legs from collapsing in helpless shock. It was Gina Zanetakos. She had said those exact same words to him, with the same undertone of threat and peril. Ressler felt as though a black gloom of danger was overtaking his entire senses, and suddenly found every limb rigid and every breath suffocating. All he wanted to do was take Liz's hand and flee from this man.

"What the hell does that suppose to mean?" Ressler tried his might to maintain leveled sensibility, but knew he was breaking down fast. This unknown figure before Liz, and the threat he posed upon her, drove him to the brink of desperate rage. "What the hell do you want with Liz?"

"Don, you need to calm down…" Liz spoke softly into their heated air, lightly touching Ressler's arm to gain his focus. Ressler's eyes flickered quickly to Liz, and he abruptly grabbed her arm and pulled her to position behind him. Then he placed his hand on the gun strapped to the holster across his chest.

"What are you going to do? Shoot me?" Tom laughed heartily, "Of all the crazy FBI vigilante…I could just see the headlines: a man shoots his lover's husband in jealous rage."

"Just who the hell are you, and who are you working for? What is your business with Liz?" Ressler's hand remained on his gun as he demanded with his unwavering gaze.

"What is the deal with these questions? Liz is my wife, that is my business." Tom was good, but he wasn't perfect. Ressler was relieved to find that Tom was not completely infallible; at the mention of his employer, Tom's eyes squinted ever so slightly, and that was all Ressler needed. Something had just touched Tom's nerve. Something was there.

"No, Liz is not your wife. She is your job." Ressler paused to avail a retort, but none came to him. Instead, what was shown to him was the gradual disappearance of the smirk on Tom's face, whose countenance now bore a focused composure, with a faint trace of strain and tension. Ressler was getting closer, whatever it was. "And if you hurt her in any way, I will kill you."

"You know, Agent Ressler, I've always thought you're a level-headed, clear-minded man, someone who truly embodies the typical FBI focus and intelligence. But now I see that I was completely wrong. You're nothing but a crazy nut, driven by blind jealousy that the woman you love is already married, and that you can never have her."

Ressler had expected this. Tom had now resorted to incite Ressler's nerves and rattle his emotions, but it only brought to the surface what Tom was desperately trying to do. Tom was attempting to deflect from Ressler's accusations, or at the very least, trying to hide from the inevitable discovery. Ressler wasn't going to give in, and ventured brazenly, "It's over. Your cover is blown."

"My cover? Right, because I'm a hired assassin, whose job was to keep tabs on Lizzie. Even if that meant marrying her." Tom challenged Ressler with eyes marked with sudden simplicity, with a voice that flowed smoothly without the apprehensive inflections of a liar. It disturbed Ressler that perhaps…just perhaps…that Tom might be telling the truth. What game was he playing?

"Keep talking, I'm listening."

"Well, now that my cover is blown, what are you going to do? Arrest me?"

"Yes."

"Oh, wouldn't you like that?" Tom's smirk returned, along with the cloying laughter, "Wouldn't you just love to get rid of me, so you can swoop down on my wife and claim her as yours? That was your plan all along, wasn't it? I knew you had a thing for her, even from the very beginning."

"My feelings for Liz have nothing to do with the satisfaction I'll get from arresting you." Ressler was keenly aware of Liz standing behind him, who had remained absolutely silent during the entire exchange. He sensed her soft stirring at the boldness of his words.

"Don't tell me, you got into her pants already? That was quick, Lizzie. Even for your standards, I mean, you know how long it took me."

Ressler's emotions boiled in heat, and as much as he attempted to quell its growing eruption, his own heart got the best of him. He took a step toward Tom with a clenched fist, but immediately regretted that he had shown his affected disposition. Tom, as expected, took on a satisfied smirk. "Oh, I see that got under your skin. What are you going to do, Agent Ressler? Arrest me for my comments?"

"Perhaps you need to leave, Tom. I think we've all had enough of this." Liz's voice rang firmly behind Ressler, and Tom shifted his attention onto her.

"Enough of what? That we are finally talking about what the heck that was happening between you two? All those late nights at work, or so-called work, when you stood me up time after time. You can't fool me, Lizzie. Every time he called you on the phone, I saw how you were, how you talked to him. A married woman cavorting around with another man, why, that would make you a…"

Tom was not granted the chance to finish that sentence as his jaw was met by a powerful punch from the left view. He struggled to stay on his feet and took small steps backwards, flailing feebly until his back hit the wall of the hallway. And as he leaned against the wall and found balance, Tom's eyes were lit with fire as his hand instinctively nursed his now reddish jaw. "What the hell…"

Ressler was not done with him either. He took an eager step toward Tom with a raised fist, but it was Liz who appeared into the gap, standing resolutely with arms stretched. "Don, not another step."

Ressler reluctantly halted at the touch of her hand on his chest, just as Liz turned to the other man, "Tom, you better get the hell out of here, now. I am finished with this."

Her words appeared slow to reach Tom's comprehension, but lucidity soon replaced his fiery demeanor, and he stood on his feet at last. He held his gaze steadily on Ressler, "You underestimate me, Agent Ressler. You have no idea what you've just stirred up."

And after a brief air of silence, Tom turned and walked down the hallway, without even a last look of acknowledgment toward Liz. Ressler watched him until he got into the elevator and disappeared completely. The absence of his presence did not bring relief, but instead what was left was the lingering wave of doom and impending peril. Tom's last words rang repeatedly in Ressler's mind, and he shuddered at how real those threats will inevitably become.

. . . . . .

"Just what the hell were you thinking? What the hell is wrong with you?"

As soon as Liz shut the door behind them, she turned to face him and immediately began the barrage of words thrown in absolute disbelief and anger. "Just what were you trying to do with Tom? I have told you, you are not to manhandle everything as you see fit."

"Liz…you have to know, Tom is not who he seems he is."

"Don, for the last time, you need to stop this."

"Liz…" Ressler took a step closer to Liz, and held out his hand in need to touch her, "Listen to me. Tom…is involved with something that is…dangerous and it is much deeper than I've thought."

"Don…"

"I don't know what it is, yet. But, don't ever see him again and be wary of him, as if your life depended on it."

It was then that Liz took notice of Ressler's hand resting gently on her shoulder, and winced upon seeing that his knuckles were raw red from the powerful punch he had eagerly presented to Tom. "Oh, god, your hand…"

She instantly took his hand into hers, and examined it closely for any abnormal strain. Ressler's eyes grazed over Liz's face as her warm and delicate hands cradled his own hand, and he felt like her touch alone could heal any of his ailments. They stood a mere breath away, and the nearness of her presence and the touch of her hands brought forth serene waves of something tangibly soothing and ardent. His breath quickened in desire to kiss her, and there was no use in denying that he was utterly devoted to her. He was in love with her.

"I'm going to get you some ice." Liz spoke with determination as she let go of his hand, and walked toward the small fridge.

"No, it's alright, really. This is nothing to be concerned about, the hand is perfectly fine."

Liz wholly ignored Ressler, and returned with a handful of ice cubes wrapped in a small hand towel. She then took his hand and placed the cool towel gently upon the knuckles while muttering, "I don't know why you resort to using your fist so much."

The cool sensation permeated throughout his throbbing knuckles, but at that moment, Ressler couldn't care less about the hand. All of his senses were helplessly distracted by the nearness of the woman he loved. While her focus was upon his hand, his focus was upon her porcelain face, unabashedly taking in the delicate curve of her eye lashes, the rosy hue of her cheeks, the languid lines of her neck, and the pink tint of her full lips. Ressler felt awashed with emotions beyond his control, and he gave in to the desires throbbing in his heart.

"Liz…" She turned her face to him, and as their eyes met, he lifted her chin delicately with his other hand, gently guiding her lips toward his lips. It surprised him that she didn't resist his touch upon her chin, and she let him assume that cautious claim of her lips. Emboldened by her willingness, Ressler moved his hand to frame her cheek, taking in the soft contours as he held it steadily in place as his lips neared hers. His eyes closed slowly in anticipation as they were mere a whisper away, but what met him was a firm hand upon his chest.

"Don…we can't do this."

She let go of his hand and took a tentative step back, just as Ressler opened his eyes and was already missing the warmth that had been in his grasp. It startled him to find her face etched in torment, and all he wanted to do was to hold her once again and declare his love to her, "Liz, I…"

"Don…I know how you feel…but nothing can ever happen between us." Liz spoke meekly, with her voice barely audible, even in the stillness of their small space. She turned her face away, as to avoid Ressler's eyes. She must've known that her words would be the dagger thrown into the core of his heart.

"It's just that…everything in my life feels out of control right now. Things are changing too fast, and too much. I need some things to be constant. I need you to be…"

"Liz, don't…" Ressler protested to her fears, to her insecurities, and to her refusal of her own heart. He knew by the way Liz allowed him the close proximity that the ardent yearnings were not his alone.

"Don…I'm sorry. You are my work partner, and that is who you are going to be. Nothing more, and nothing less. And that cannot change, ever."

"Liz, I know you're afraid…but you can't tell me you didn't feel something just now…"

She took another step away from Ressler, which troubled him beyond words. She was getting further and further away from him, and the distance of their wide divide was breaking his heart. Liz kept her eyes downward, refusing to allow him into her depth, "Don…I won't lie to you. I feel the same way…as you do. But, we can't ever…"

"Liz, just let me…"

"No, Don, nothing can happen between us. I've made up my mind, and I need you to accept that." Her words reverberated in the realm that suddenly became fuzzy for Ressler. Perhaps it was the severity and the finality of the words, but his heart just couldn't take it, and it had resorted to deny the truth of the existence. He felt as though the hope and the joy that were brought upon with love were now just broken promises thoughtlessly strewn on dry and barren recess.

"I think you should leave now."

Ressler had no words to give to Liz, and obliged her request without protest. He picked up his black coat off of the couch, and slowly made his way to the door. As he grabbed the door knob, he turned his face to her resolute figure, "Keep the door locked at all times, and don't open it for anyone. And make sure you have your gun with you at all times."

Those were the last words he uttered before disappearing swiftly out of her hotel room.

. . . . . .

Ressler made his way out of the elevator and unto the lobby, which was considerably quiet due to the late hour. He felt tempted to call in a surveillance watch on Liz's hotel room, but decided against it, for Liz would've never allowed it, and he wouldn't know how to explain his dogged protectiveness. And as he stepped out of the Ritz Carlton double door and into the frigid air of the snowing winter night, his feet instinctively halted at his reluctance to leave Liz unattended. His heart was heavy with distress and anguish, and the only thing that propelled his feet forward was the fact that Liz wanted nothing to do with him for the night.

Ressler clutched onto his coat tightly as he braced against the chill of the wind, with the icy snow pricking against his face and forcing the heat of his heart to cool clarity. He replayed her every word in his mind, all of her rejections and denials. But, at that moment, none of it mattered to him, and nothing changed about how he felt about her. He was in love with her, and perhaps more than ever. Everything made sense to him now. Everything he did, for as long as he could remember, was because he loved her.

All those times he had watched over her, was because he loved her. All those times he had sought after her, to ensure her safety, was because he loved her. All those times he was near her, keeping her in his close proximity, was because he loved her.

And Liz could fight and deny him for all she wants, but he was certain that time was coming when she will be forced to face up to her heart. Liz had admitted that she felt the same way as he did, and that small morsel of reveal gave him a surge of indescribable confidence and conviction. There will be a time when raw honesty will win over her heart, and she will have to surrender to it. She will see the messiness of all the worldly constraints she was holding onto, and she will release them willingly and without regret. And Liz will choose to love, however it disturbs the neat boundaries she had drawn. She will choose love, because there is no other higher endeavor and its pleasure.

The icy night air appeared to lose its frigid sting upon Ressler's sprightly steps onward. He was a man determined to pursue love, and despair had no longer a place in his heart. He placed his hope and faith in full conviction that love will always endure, and he was willing to wait for her for as long as it takes. For he was fully convinced that one day, they will be together in love, for the sake none other than love itself.

. . . . . .

A/N: First of all, thank you for all the reviews and support! You guys really inspire and encourage me. And my apologies for such a late update…those pesky school assignments kept me soooo busy :(

There's no Blacklist this week…boohoohoo. But can you believe the last two minutes of last ep?! I was on the floor, looking for my….jaw that just DROPPED! Holy cow! Finally, Tom is revealed as the SOB that's been duping Lizzie all this time. The next week's promo has him saying, "I even married the woman." OMG, I can't believe he called her "the woman", as if she's just a nameless object of his "job". I'm really looking forward to how the writers will BRING DOWN THE HOUSE (fingers crossed) on this storyline. There's been just too much build up, and the writers better deliver all the gory evil goods on Tom. And why is he beating up on Jolene? Oh, never mind…I'll just wait until next week.