Title: Beyond Borders
Chapter 1 – Challenging the Wrong Opponent
Summary: AU Ressler challenges the wrong enemy and soon finds himself fighting for his future. But when Red suggests an almost unthinkable solution to Liz, will she accept it to save Don's life? Or is the game over before it's even started? And if she does accept will both become a target now?
Disclaimer: I own nothing…only my muse and my ideas otherwise all characters belong to this amazing show! Any OC's are the work of a random name generator and any resemblance to anyone who reads this is pure coincidence!
A/N: Okay so yes I labelled this AU b/c in this Liz isn't married to Tom (you'll see why below hehe) and I just can't see her breaking up a marriage for this idea. I hope you all like this and give it a chance. I won't say too much so please enjoy!
"You're under arrest Stanton!" Ressler growls as he takes a few steps forward, hoping to arrest the lone occupant in the posh luxury suite. "I guess all your millions couldn't buy you common sense? Thought you'd be in the Cayman's by now."
"What makes you think my lingering here isn't on purpose? Are you alone Don?"
Ressler's brow slightly furrows at the use of his personal name; the small but brief tone of glee telling him to wait for backup. Where the hell is Keen!
"Turn around and put your hands on your head! You should know the drill by now."
"Why don't you come here and make me?" Stanton grins as he holds his ground, taunting the wary FBI Agent with a mocking tone.
"Because that's what you want."
"You do have the balls for it don't you Agent Ressler?"
"The game is over. Now drop to your knees an…" is all Ressler manages before Stanton actually charges. Ressler manages to get a shot off, clipping Roger Stanton in the shoulder before the two of them slam into the floor a few feet behind Ressler. Ressler's lips offer a grunt but he's quick to take action, punching Stanton in the side and trying to wrestle the large, tone frame off his.
"Shoulda listened!" Stanton growls in return as he produces a small knife and plunges it into the soft folds in Ressler's shoulder just above the shoulder blade. His lips utter a painful cry just as he knees Stanton in the groin and returns the hurt. Stanton's fingers pull back the bloody knife, intending to use it again. However, Ressler wasn't about to let that happen. He brings up his right hand, still firmly holding his gun and uses the butt end to punch Stanton in the jaw, snapping his head back and then once more in the eyes, forcing them to water and his body to spring free and roll away.
"Not…so fast!" Stanton huffs as he grabs the back of Ressler's coat and yanks backward, Ressler's body jerking back. He tries to wrestle his arms free but Stanton's fist slams down hard into the fresh wound, forcing his eyes to water instantly and his lips to cry out in pain.
Just as the knife rises once more, Liz finally enters the room, firing a warning shot – both of them knowing they need Roger Stanton alive.
"Drop the knife!" Liz shouts as Ressler struggles in vain to free himself. She looks at the blood on the end of the blade, no drips, but still fresh enough and her mind races to know if her partner had just been injured. With the cry that Ressler uttered she's sure she's right. "I won't tell you again!" She warns as she fires off a shot that misses him a second time.
"Next time…she won't be around to interfere."
"There won't be a next time! You're going into a dark hole for the rest of your life!" Ressler hisses as he rolls away and gets to his knees, his chest breathing hard but his brain commanding him to bite back the pain until he was in private. He offers her a small sideways glance as she moves in with her cuffs ready.
"You always send a beautiful woman to do your job Ressler?"
Knowing it's just a petty attempt to continue the verbal sparring, Ressler grits his teeth and slowly stands upright, shoving his gun back into its holster and biting back another surge of pain resounding throughout his shoulder as he yanks the cuffs from Liz's grasp and finishes off Stanton's arrest.
"Here, take him," Liz hands Stanton off to another Agent and then looks at Ressler in concern. "Was that blood yours?"
"No," Ressler lies in haste as Stanton turns and glares at him in contempt.
"Oh you're a poor liar Ressler, next time I'll make you bleed a lot more."
"Tell me when visiting hours are," Ressler shoots back as Liz gives him a small headshake. "Let's go."
"Where'd he get you?"
"Where?" She demands as she holds his gaze for a few seconds before he finds himself offering a weary sigh and lowering his defenses for a few moments to indulge her request.
"Shoulder, but it was nothing."
"Let's see it."
"It was nothing," Ressler resigns as heads for the front door to the luxury hotel suite. He hears her mumble something under her breath and looks back in wonder. "What's that?"
"I said would it kill you once to appear human?" She retorts in mild sarcasm as she pushes past him and heads for the hallway, muttering something else about understanding why he wasn't married. Ressler falls into step a few feet behind her, staring at her clenched jaw and inwardly cursing himself for not lowering his defenses at least a little to show her where he was stabbed. Lowering your defenses isn't a sign of weakness…it's a sign of trust. But he brushes off the antiquated notion as sentimental nonsense and steps into the elevator.
But as soon as he steps into the locker room back at work, he quickly pulls off his jacket and then grumbles at the chewed up bloody fabric staring back at him in contempt.
"Damn you're stubborn," Liz comments as appears in the doorway to the quiet room, looking at him in frustration.
"It was…" Ressler lightly stammers as she nears.
"Take off your shirt," she gestures to the dress shirt that was hiding his wound.
"I don't need…."
"Now," she demands as he finds himself giving in faster than even he expected.
"It just needs a bandage," he huffs as he starts to unbutton his shirt, pulling out his right arm but lingering on his left. "I got this okay?"
"One more arm."
"I don't need to be babied an….owww," he gasps as she pulls off the piece of fabric, forcing his lips to hiss and his fist to curl.
"Next time you won't mind a bit of babying," Liz tosses back as she reaches for the first aid kit. "Shelve the macho cave man act for a few seconds; I know what I'm doing."
"And you carry a gun," Ressler lightly smirks under his breath before he puts on a serious face.
"Wasn't sure I'd see it in my lifetime," Liz offers softly as she gently cleans the dried blood around the cut. After it was cleaned she could see it only looked worse than it was; it wouldn't impair the use of his limb.
"A genuine smile. It was there. You know you are allowed," she mentions as she reaches for a large bandage and opens it, "to let your guard down when the job is done. There. Almost good as new."
"Almost?" Ressler offers her a brief appreciative smile. "What do you mean by almost?"
"Goodnight Don, see you tomorrow."
"Wait…what…ah damn. I hate when she does that," he shakes his head as he watches her take her leave; the room once again silent and still. He turns back to his reflection and can only shake his head at her feistiness and self-assurance. He tosses the soiled dress shirt into the nearby garbage can and heads for his locker, grabs his jacket and heads for home; his mind still fuming about how Roger Stanton nearly slipped through their fingers and disappeared for good. Why's he still here? Ressler's mind ponders as he enters his quiet apartment.
For a few split seconds he pauses in the entranceway, wondering what it would be like to come home to a great woman like…Liz? Oh you know you've thought about it…his brain correctly teases as he angrily pulls off his jacket and tries to convince himself that being in love was a burden that he didn't want to experience again. Burden? You liked it and…
"And that's another life," Ressler whispers into the quiet air as he heads for his kitchen to start dinner. He hadn't even thought that a woman of Liz's caliber would be in his league, especially when he heard she was engaged. But then the engagement fell to pieces – again another surprise, but he thought maybe…just maybe. Why not ask her out for coffee…that's harmless…his brain reminds him as he gives his head a shake.
"I'm not good at small talk," Ressler resigns as he pulls open his fridge. For another split second he hears Liz's musical laugh, turns to see the two of them sitting at the small dining room table, a candle in the middle, soft music playing and them…
"Talking," Ressler groans as he turns back to the fridge and pulls it open. He puts the plate of leftovers into the microwave before he heads into the living room to turn on the TV; wanting to fill the void with anyone's voice except his own.
"Good morning Lizzie," Red greets Liz early the next morning. "How is Roger?"
"Roger Stanton?" Liz looks at Red in surprise.
"Hardly up to my caliber right?"
"Frankly yes," Liz replies with a firm nod. "What's your interest in Stanton? I know he's not on your list."
"Trying to win a bet with myself," Red answers as the two of them walk down the busy street toward her truck. "Who else did he tangle with?"
"Why the sudden interest in a local criminal?"
"What makes you think he's just local?"
"Why do I always get the feeling you know the answer before you ask the question?" Liz asks directly as she stops walking and looks at Red as he slowly lowers his glasses. "What else do you know about him? We couldn't find any international ties."
"How's Ressler's shoulder?"
"What?" Liz asks in shock as Red gives her a small head bow and takes his leave; Liz watching in disbelief before she pulls her phone and calls Cooper asking if anyone had visited Stanton.
"He had one visitor. His…"
"Accountant? He's more worried about his bank account than his freedom?"
"I know something doesn't add up. You on your way in?"
"Be there in fifteen."
Liz hangs up and hops into the front of the SUV, her mind now wondering why Stanton would call for his accountant. All his assets and accounts were frozen; Ressler had seen to that before the arrest warrant was issued and the manhunt began. And why on earth would Red be asking about Stanton? Red's interest was only in the criminals who, not only thought themselves untouchable, without his involvement they were. But when they weren't hunting a super criminal, regular criminals would have to do and Roger Stanton was just…regular? Something's going on.
As soon as the elevator doors open, Liz spies Ressler and heads toward him, a mild panicked expression on her face. "Stanton's accountant visited?"
"Late last night. We checked him out. He's only got a few minor infractions on his file but nothing major; certainly not the kind that would hang in the same circle as Roger Stanton. Their conversation must have been in code. Either that or both were drunk," Ressler hands her his hand-scribbled note, looking at her face as she studies the strange sentences.
"How's the weather in Germany?" "Snowdon would approve." "I'm sure the welcome will be warm." "I'll make sure you win the bid."
"It's gibberish," Liz looks at Ressler as he slightly purses his lips as their eyes remain locked for a few seconds before she turns away. "It's code. But for what?"
"He committed the four murders here. So if he thinks he's going to be sent to Germany for the murder five years ago he's wrong, we get him first," Ressler reminds her firmly.
"You testify in two days," Liz states as Ressler nods in agreement. "Snowdon…maybe he's leaked government secrets?"
"He's a nobody."
"Not necessarily. Maybe he has international ties we didn't discover."
"Meaning what?" Ressler presses as Cooper joins them. "What's going on?"
"Red asked about him this morning," Liz turns around and tells them.
"Red asked about Roger Stanton?" Ressler asks on shock. "Was he bored?"
"Must have been," Cooper interjects. "But right now Red Reddington's mood swings are moot. This guy…is not."
"We finally have a lead on Derek Warsaw?" Liz asks in surprise.
"Wanna go pick him up?" Cooper hands Ressler the arrest warrant.
"Let's roll," he nods to Liz before he turns and heads for the elevators to take them to the surface; Liz turning to Cooper with a small frown.
"He's up to something," she states thoughtfully.
"Red?" Cooper questions.
"I'm sure whatever it is is nothing. I'll see you both when you get back."
Liz hurries after Ressler, the doors closing and taking them up to the surface.
"What else did Red say about Stanton?"
"Worried he'll interfere with your testimony?"
"Wouldn't be the first time he's done something that would fit his own agenda and messed with us because he knows he can," Ressler replies dryly.
"You just don't like him," Liz retorts with a small smile as Ressler glances over in amusement. "How's the shoulder?"
"It's fine," he replies as he looks back to the road. "Okay…here we go."
They reach the seedy gentlemen's club and head inside, Liz making a comment about what kind of man would visit such an establishment and Ressler answering – sad and desperate ones.
"Derek Warsaw! You're under arrest!"
The arrest goes as planned, Ressler cuffing one of the FBI's most wanted and handing him off to be processed; the two of them heading back outside to return back to home base.
Ask her for coffee, Ressler's mind urges as they reach the front of the truck, Liz pulling the hand-scribbled note between Stanton and his so called accountant.
"Hey Keen I…" is all Ressler manages before two dark sedans pull up and four men in dark suits get out.
"Donald Ressler?" One of them asks as Liz turns and looks at the side of one of the trucks.
"Yes?" Ressler asks as two near them. "What's going on?"
"You need to come with us sir."
"Who are you?" Ressler asks in haste.
"Agent Wiles, Immigration."
"Immigration? What's this all about?" Liz asks in haste as one of them tries to take Ressler by the arm. "Hey! What's going on?"
"You need to remain here Agent Keen."
"What's this about?" Ressler demands as he tries to jerk his arm free.
"We'll explain along the way. Resisting this will only make it harder on you."
"Arrest," the agent tells them as he slams Ressler up against the side of the dark SUV and cuffs his wrists behind his back.
"Arrest? Hey let him go!"
"Why am I being arrested? Call Cooper. I'm sure this is a mistake," Ressler insists as Liz can only watch helplessly as Ressler is tucked away into the belly of the dark SUV and they pull away. But as soon as they do, she sees Red standing on the other side of the street watching her.
"You know what's going on don't you?" Liz demands firmly. "Who was that? Why did Immigration just take Ressler with them?" She asks as she calls Cooper. "What's this about?"
"How's the weather in Germany?" Red asks as Liz's eyes widen and then narrow; Cooper's voice connecting on the other end. "Cooper can't help Ressler. But I can."
"Help him? What do you mean? Where did they take him?"
"Tell Cooper to call Agent Susan Marks at Immigration."
"Liz, what's up?"
"Call…Agent Susan Marks at Immigration about Ressler and get back to me," Liz tells Cooper and then hangs up. "What happened to Don? What's going on?"
"Right about now, Agent Ressler is being taken to a holding cell and booked."
"Holding cell? Booked? On what grounds? What are you talking about? They arrested him!" Liz demands. "What did you do?" Liz asks angrily as he phone rings. "Cooper, where's Ressler?"
"He…he's been arrested. Liz I can't begin to tell you how absurd this is."
"Arrested?" She looks up at Red in shock. "Why?"
"He's been a bad boy," Red offers lightly.
"Apparently his citizenship has been revoked. He's been living here and working as an illegal immigrant and being deported back to Germany. He has twenty-four hours."
"This can't be happening," Liz stammers as she looks at Red, the expression on his face placid and calm. "I'm on my way there now."
"I'll meet you there. I'm sure this is just a paperwork error. Name mix-up. He'll be fine."
"What did you do? What!" Liz half shouts as Red as gestures to the lone waiting SUV. "This has something to do with why you asked about Stanton this morning right? His visit with his accountant last night? What did he do to Don?"
"Does he appreciate when you call him by his first name? Don? Kind of a plain name. He still hasn't mastered that yet in return, or has he? Calling you Liz?"
Liz gives Red an angry growl as she turns and hurries across the street for the waiting SUV. "This is just a technical mix-up. Cooper will fix it."
"Cooper might like to think he can fix the world but he can't fix this. I can."
Liz pauses before she turns the truck on just as Red gets into the passenger seat and locks the door.
"Do you want to help him or not?" Red asks pointedly.
"What's in it for you?"
"Cooper will arrive just in time to hear them tell poor Agent Ressler that his grandfather never applied for the proper citizenship paperwork when he came over from Germany therefore his family would be here illegally. The FBI hired him under the guise of a well-crafted lie."
"That's a lie. I've seen Ressler's file."
"It's been erased. But it was very neat wasn't it?"
"His parents are dead and he has no immediate family to back him up. Not one personal relative to vouch for the fact that he's actually an American citizen; or anyone who stood beside him to take the pledge. Someone related to make an honest judge think twice and look into whether this is all just a big computer glitch."
"This can't be happening. Stanton did this, didn't he?"
"Not personally. But I did tell you both a month ago, this wasn't a man to cross."
"You said that in passing and you said that about two others."
"Well I was right wasn't I?" Red retorts as they head toward the downtown office of Immigration and Naturalization. "Agent Ressler decided he knew better."
"Stanton was on our list; Ressler did his job. What does he want?"
"He wants Ressler out of the picture. Killing the only person left to testify against him would have looked suspicious…but a computer printout is a lot tougher to get the real truth from, and it's a lot more fun for Stanton this way. You know he likes his games. One push of a button and it's all gone."
"You know all this? I'll get…"
"I'm theorizing, which is what I'll tell any authority you dare to threaten me with. Besides," Red pauses, "who'd believe me? But if I was to continue theorizing, I'd say what's going to happen is this. He'll be booked by a judge who is friendly to Roger Stanton who will then rush the paperwork and Agent Ressler will be deported back to Germany where a very nice welcoming committee will be waiting to give him a warm welcome as soon as he steps off the plane, maybe while he's on it."
"This can't be happening."
"I'm sure he's saying the same thing right now. I don't think orange is his color, do you? His skin is too pale."
"This isn't funny. We have to help him. If he's behind bars…Stanton will walk."
"And we can't let that happen. I need Stanton behind bars for the next two days, preferably longer."
"Figures. You're using this nightmare for your own personal gain? Did you do this?"
"No. Stanton surprised me with this one. I guess I misjudged his imagination."
"That's just great. So what happens to Ressler?"
"He gets on that plane and you send…well whoever a very nice sympathy card."
"Red, I can't let that happen to him and you know that which is why you're here. What do you want from me?" Liz asks in haste. "You know someone …you must know someone who's a computer whiz who can fix this. Please. Please help me help him," Liz looks at Red, her voice pleading for help; her eyes soft and demanding at the same time. Red looks at her and frowns; his lips slightly pursing as he ponders her request but struggles with the conversation he had earlier in the day with someone on the opposite side. Keeping Ressler here and out of trouble would prove to be tricky. But it might be possible…if…
Red looks at her and pauses; the SUV nearing the daunting Federal building and Red's inner agitation building. How could he say no to her? Seeing her in such distress was almost unbearable. He had asked so much from her and now in her time of need….could he say no? Telling himself that this is probably a very bad idea and he could live to regret it, Red pulls his phone and dials.
Liz listens to Red speaking mandarin and can only shake her head; telling herself that this was just a technical glitch and by the time the SUV stops, Ressler would be walking out the front door, telling them it was back to business as usual. "Well?"
"Every Federal database as you know is backed up at the location of the office, but it's also backed up in a secret location that descent people don't know about. If Agent Ressler's files are still on the second backup location; my friend should be able to hack into it and restore the files back to normal."
"Good, how long will that take?"
"At least a few days. He has to find the second location first."
"A few days? Don has less than a day and if you say there's someone loyal to Stanton inside it could be shorter. That's not good enough. We need something else. A fix…whatever in the interim to delay the deportation process. I can't believe I'm even saying this!"
Red looks at her with some annoyance as he gets back on the phone and continues to talk at a rather rapid pace; Liz's mind racing as to what Ressler must be thinking right now. This can't be real…this is a joke right? Deported? Oh damn this can't be happening! They reach the front of the building and her eyes frantically scan for Ressler – nothing. He can't be…this is just a mix-up. A joke…it has to be.
"Okay I think I've come up with a solution."
"I'm almost afraid to ask," Liz lightly groans as her phone buzzes; Cooper's number on the display. "Hold on a second…Cooper, tell me this is just a joke."
"Fraid not Liz. Every piece of paperwork relating to Donald Ressler has been deleted. His grandfather's birth certificate was registered in Hamburg but that's it. Nothing showing his American citizenship or his family after him immigrating here properly or getting their paperwork and nothing on Don's being born an American citizen. I've called Ernie to look into it. But it'll take time."
"Yeah time Ressler doesn't have. He has a day or less at most."
"How do you know this?"
"Insider info. I'll get back to you," Liz huffs as she hangs up and looks over at red. "Okay so can't your friend create a new application? Do that and we'll get our inside guy to fast track it."
"Would be a viable solution if there wasn't a freeze on new applications. Staton's thought of everything. However, my friend can amend an application already in progress."
"This is a mess."
"It's the only solution right now. At least it can appear that Ressler's application for citizenship has been approved and is in progress. Stanton's man didn't touch any of those."
"There has to be another way."
"There isn't and at least it'll keep Ressler from being deported. He'll have to sit on his hands until this is all sorted out but he'll be alive. Right now the guard has been changed so to speak; so the judge loyal to Stanton is off and a new one is on staff for the next few hours. Time to go in there and rescue dear Agent Ressler."
"Okay fine…what's the file number I reference?"
"DR-61267. Oh and Lizzie…"
"There's one other thing you need to remember when you go in there."
"The application is for spousal sponsorship. So try to make it look genuine."
"Make…what look genuine? Wait a sec did you say…"
"That's right. Don is your husband."
A/N: Okay so I Googled the origin of the last name Ressler and found its German so that's what I used here. So thoughts? Is my muse insane? Should we go back to the board or would you all like us to continue and see what happens to Don and Liz with this new arrangement that Red has suggested? Is he really behind this? Will Liz go for it? Will Ressler play along and if so what whole set of new troubles will this bring if they are to pretend to be married while trying to keep one baddie in jail and track down another? And how will Ressler like being in Red's debt? Please do review as I'm soooo nervous about my first AU piece for this fandom (2nd overall) and that would mean so much and help me know to continue or just stop. Thanks!