what was the plan again? she asks herself. There was a plan. She thought she maybe was being cute, cheeky, picking up his favorite food from Wing Yee, stopping by unannounced, casual. Planning to tell him everything. Truth. Honesty. Everything.
Now, standing in the hallway, she just feels foolish. What if he doesn't want to see her, what if it's too late, what if they had their chance and she already ruined it, what if he simply already ate.
But here she is at his door. Number 5. Willing herself to knock, but frozen with the fear of what might greet her when she does.
Suddenly, the door swings open.
"Keen?" Ressler asks. His expression inscrutable. "I thought I heard something rustling outside my door."
She stands there silently, dumbly, afraid. Like a child who knows they've done something wrong, but is too scared to admit it. Terrified of what punishment might be doled out.
why did I ever leave this man?
When she says nothing he asks, "What is all this?" looking down at the bags in her hands.
Good question, she thinks. What is this... An apology? A peace offering? A prayer that you will stop looking at me like I'm a complete stranger when I know how you taste.
She settles on something easier, lighter. "This..." she says, raising up the bags of food, "is the first of many attempts to make amends."
"Make amends. For what, exactly?" he asks, challenging her.
She glances up to the ceiling, searching for the words. Finding nothing there she sighs deeply and says "Everything." She settles her eyes on his face, silently begging him to soften, to keep his promise not to give up on her, to remember her.
An eternity passes or probably just a few seconds, but finally he steps back and waves her in. Over her shoulder she hears, "Wing Yee. I haven't been there since you left. I've been craving their orange chicken."
all I've been craving is you, she thinks.
She starts unloading the tidy white containers onto the counter, thankful it gives her hands something to do. Gives her mind something else to focus on besides the onslaught of memories from their night together that began bombarding her as soon as she stepped foot into his apartment.
Everywhere she looks is a memory... a shoe kicked off in the hallway, a shirt haphazardly thrown to the floor in the living room, a wall he pressed her against as they stumbled their way to his bed.
"Something on your mind, Keen?" he asks, as he sits down at one of the kitchen stools, farthest away from her. too far. It almost sounds innocent. Like all the other times he asked her that question in their office, on a stakeout. Except this time when she meets his eyes it's clear he knows exactly what is on her mind.
She focuses and changes course, determined to say something. She came here for a reason. To lay everything out. To find a foothold, a way over all of the walls he seems to have built up during her weeks away.
"Do you remember that night... it must have been 5, 6 years ago... You brought Wing Yee's to the office for my birthday dinner?" she asks.
"I remember," he says narrowing his eyes a bit.
She nods. "I think that's when it started."
Clearly unclear on what she means he asks, "When what started?"
"When I started falling in love with you," she answers. And follows it quickly with, "Orange chicken." Arm outstretched, container in hand. Pretending she didn't just dive into the ocean without a raft. Hoping he will rescue her before she drowns in uncertainty.
Surprise, shock and probably a few other emotions run across his face before quickly recovering. Settling into a sideways grin he grabs the container and shoots back with, "Well, to be honest Keen, I can't believe it took you that long. I am pretty amazing. I would have guessed it was love at first sight."
She laughs, a real, clear laugh, and smiles broadly. He threw her a lifeline and she clutches to it desperately.
He smiles back, and then looks down, turning his attention to his dinner.
They eat in silence for a few minutes.
"Remember that weekend we spent tracking down Marko Jankowics?" he asks suddenly.
"Dead guy in the stolen van and the pregnant, but not actually pregnant woman OD'ing in your living room? Yeah, I remember," she answers ruefully.
"That's when I knew," he says, looking at her pointedly.
All she can do is stare and try to remember to breathe as she digests his admission.
"I tried to convince myself I was just being a good friend. A good partner. But I knew." He smiles softly.
She can remember that weekend so clearly. How he didn't hesitate when she showed up at his door, hands covered in some stranger's blood... how after the wild weekend was over, he still offered to help her keep looking for answers...how she watched him tying his tie in the half lit office that Monday morning... his hands, his hands...
Another memory comes rushing back. With a big grin she asks, "Remember afterwards, on Monday morning, that ridiculous story Aram told us. About some gourmet taco truck he and Samar tried to track down in Georgetown."
"And how his bike got lost, but then found, and then stolen and then found again," Ressler adds.
"Yes!" She smiles, laughs slightly, shaking her head at the memory. "God, that feels like a lifetime ago."
"I think it was," he answers, sadness creeping into the nostalgia.
She takes a deep breath. It's now or never. So she dives back into the deep end. "Ressler... I know we can't go back... we can't get back to where we were before I left... but do you think... is there any chance or any way that..." what am I saying, she thinks. A quick breath in and, "I miss you." She looks at him, her eyes silently pleading with him to fill in the blanks, understand the full meaning of what she's asking beneath her broken rambling,
Ressler says nothing and she looks down, feeling herself getting pulled under the tide. Tears threaten to fall and drown her, drown them both, any minute.
Eventually, he slips off of his seat and steps toward her, closing the distance between them. She looks up with tears in her eyes, and fear in her heart.
But, he cups her face gently. "Liz, I love you. I just don't know if that's enough."
Biting back the tears as the waves come crashing in she nods and answers softly, "I get it," and an even softer, "I shouldn't have come." And a whispered, "I'm sorry."
She moves to grab her purse, to leave, to escape this haunted museum of what they had once, of what could have been.
He calls out, "Wait." and grabs her wrist. gently. always gently. "I think we just need some time. Time to figure this out. But, I told you before, I'm not giving up on you. I never will."
And that's when the tears start falling. happy tears? hopeful tears? maybe.
He pulls her close and wraps his arms around her, shushing her with, "It's gonna be okay, Liz. We'll figure it out."
God, she wants to believe him. He's warm and safe and solid. Still her island of calm in the maddening storm that is her life.
She looks up and feels something shift. One of his walls comes tumbling down, or maybe at least starts to crumble. He leans down and kisses her. Slow and determined, not like the frantic passion from that night before she left. One hand in her hair, he kisses her like they have all the time in the world.
Time. Time. Time.
So she'll wait. And she'll keep making amends. And he'll keep believing. And trying. He always has.