Rating: 14 (aka for older kids)
Archive: my site, spooks_creative, otherwise please ask first.
Summary: We all have weaknesses we must hide.
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, I make no money off this, please don't sue!
Spoilers: up through the end of season 4
Status: complete, 1/1
Copyright: (c) Siobhan Gormley 2006
Feedback: Be kind, feed me. :D
Author's Note: Cutting this one close to the deadline! My first "Spooks" fic, hopefully you'll like it. Thanks to chiroho for the beta. :)
Ruth Evershed's eyes fluttered shut as Harry Pearce's lips met hers, all sounds other than their breathing seeming to mute. The kiss was soft and sweet, two words she would never have associated with this man until this moment. His tongue gently teased her mouth open, briefly tickling her tongue before returning to his mouth.
As he pulled back from the all-too-brief embrace, the cacophony of the hotel bar they sat in assaulted her ears again. Ruth unconsciously licked her lips, tasting him again. A mixture of the single malt whiskey he'd been drinking and peppermint, the latter probably from a breath mint he had popped when she wasn't looking. Knowing that he'd anticipated kissing her made her smile.
She finally opened her eyes again to see a slightly mischievous smile on his lips. She couldn't stop the flush of red from colouring her cheeks, embarrassed at having been caught enjoying the ruse. She looked down at the skirt of her navy blue dress - newly purchased for this evening - her hands fiddling with it nervously.
Harry leaned toward her left ear - the one without an earpiece - and whispered, "Good job, I think we have Roos fooled."
Ruth nodded slightly, acknowledging his compliment silently, but wished that they didn't have to fool anyone. Wished it was for real.
She shook her head as if to clear that last thought from her mind. Silly girl, you're on an op, not a date. Keep focused!
Harry's eyes flitted to somewhere over her shoulder, most likely to Hermann Roos, their intended target who was sitting at the other end of the bar, then back to her. He smiled at her and placed his hand over hers where it sat on her right knee. Ruth felt her body temperature rise and willed herself to relax. Best way to do that, in her mind, was to review the op, focus on the logical, cold facts.
Hermann Roos was an Austrian biochemist who had been sent to England to work at his company's British facilities. He'd come to MI-5's attention when he suddenly started meeting with some well-known middlemen for Islamic extremist groups. They found out that he had some distant Arab lineage and felt some oddly placed loyalty to that parentage. His immediate family background gave no indication as to why he suddenly decided to take this route, but all MI-5 cared about was making sure he wasn't doing anything that could endanger others.
They found out that he was to pass on the formula to some super-bug to be used in the water system. Their attempt to get the location of the drop from a bug on his phone line had been thwarted when it was discovered before the location had been revealed. All they knew that it was going to happen Wednesday (tomorrow) morning and they needed to get a tracker on him in case they lost him in the morning traffic.
That was where Harry and Ruth came in. Well, originally Harry offered to join in on the op as they were down one man with Zaf off sick with a nasty flu. Then Harry had said that to make himself seem less conspicuous at the hotel, Ruth should join him. She had been surprised at his request. Not that she hadn't worked in the field before, but that Harry had specifically wanted her with him.
Of course she'd agreed to it, and the preparations began. Adam and Jo would set up an observation post in the room above Roos' at the hotel. Roos' room would be bugged with video and audio surveillance and the legend was prepared for Harry and Ruth: they were longtime lovers Matilda and Jack, meeting at the hotel for a "special evening." Ruth had blushed when she'd read that, thankfully with no one to see her reaction.
Her attention was brought back to Harry when he squeezed her hand - the signal that Roos was on the move, and so were they.
"Target on the move, intercept at the lift," Harry muttered into his sleeve, faking scratching his nose to cover it.
"Acknowledged," Adam responded from his position in the observation room. Harry and Ruth got up from their stools and left the bar.
Harry's warm hand held hers as they walked, making her body tingle with pleasure. Ruth kept her focus, not allowing her body to take over again. She'd already had enough trouble when Harry had first come to get her, distracted by the nice fit of the stylish grey suit he wore and the delicious scent of his cologne. If they'd been on a real date they never would have made it out of her house.
Ruth purposefully wavered as she walked, faking a somewhat drunken state. She reached into her clutch purse with her free hand, taking out the tiny tracking device she was to plant on Roos.
Roos reached the lift well before them, but fortunately a car didn't arrive immediately when he pushed the button. They walked up behind him and Ruth made as though their suddenly stopping threw her off and she reached out to Roos, grasping at his arm.
Roos reacted like anyone who was taken by surprise and jumped at the unexpected contact. When he saw Ruth his expression went from irritated surprise to pleasure at the view her low-cut neckline afforded him.
"So sorry," she stated, slurring her words just enough to make it convincing. She smiled at Roos and he smiled back.
"Okay, Matilda, enough of the flirting with other men. You know that doesn't do anything but annoy me," Harry said, making like he was going to pull Ruth back off Roos.
Ruth pouted, reaching up and stroking Roos' bare neck briefly, causing the man to look embarrassed. "Now, now, don't be saying such silly things in front of this nice man. You'll be giving him the wrong idea about me," she replied, giggling at the end before allowing herself to be pulled back to Harry's side.
"Sorry about that, she gets like this when she's had one too many," Harry explained, feigning embarrassment.
The lift arrived and they all got in, Roos and Harry each pressing their floor numbers. Harry steered Ruth to the back, leaning her against the wall, while Roos stood to the side and front of the car.
"Woo, moving," Ruth muttered, holding onto the hand bars as the lift started to move.
"Told you," Harry whispered to Roos, rolling his eyes toward Ruth when the other man looked at him in confusion.
"Stop talking about me like I can't hear you," Ruth commented, sounding perturbed.
Harry turned to her, looking innocent. "I don't know what you're talking about, dear."
"Oh please," she started, pushing herself upright so as to get in his face. "I'm a big girl and I know my limits. I can drink you under the table and that just embarrasses the hell out of you."
Harry's eyebrows raised and she caught real amusement in his eyes. "Maybe it embarrasses me because you have no self control," he shot back.
Ruth snorted. "You, talking about self control?" she retorted, then looked to Roos. "It's mighty rich of him considering the amount of sex he wants from me, and where."
Roos shifted uncomfortably on his feet, looking away from Ruth to the rising numbers, most probably willing it to get to his floor right now.
"Oh Christ, don't start that again. You didn't seem to have any complaints..." Harry began, but Ruth cut him off, glaring at him.
"I don't bloody well understand what's so wrong with a nice, comfortable bed!" she exclaimed, then moved beside Roos. "I mean, I like sex as much as anyone, but what's it say about a man who has to have sex on every available surface? Do you know how uncomfortable a dining room table is to lie on?"
Roos' face flushed red, clearly embarrassed by her words. Harry grabbed her arm and pulled her away from Roos. He held her flush against him with his hands flat against the small of her back, sending a shiver of pleasure through her. She crossed her arms in front of her chest to put a little bit of distance between them. "Matilda, I don't think he needs to hear this."
"Oh, but he needs to hear about my drinking, does he, Jack? I bet you'll enjoy that couch in the room this evening," she told him, pouting and looking away from him to the wall.
"I'm sorry, Matilda," Harry stated, letting one hand slide to her behind while the other moved to her chin, turning her head to face him again. He caressed her cheek briefly then let his hand slip down to join the other one.
If she hadn't known better she'd swear she saw a genuine hint of desire in his eyes. And from the way Roos looked out of the corner of her eye - desperately trying not to look at them and wishing he was anywhere but here - he believed the act as well.
"Stop calling me that, you know how I hate it," she flirted, her voice soft.
"Mattie," Harry growled playfully. Ruth grinned and slipped her arms around his neck.
"Yes Jackie?" she teased and he scrunched his face in displeasure.
"You know how much I hate that, love."
Before she responded, they arrived at Roos' floor and he quickly exited, barely waiting for the doors to open enough to let him out.
They watched him walk down the corridor, and when the doors to the lift closed again, Harry faced Ruth and asked with amusement, "Think we scared him off?"
Ruth couldn't hold back the laughter and Harry joined her, releasing her from his embrace. Ruth found she missed the warmth of him as he pulled back, then pushed that feeling down. No need to go getting all girly again.
Their laughter subsided once the lift reached their floor and they exited, heading for the observation room. Harry had slipped his hand into hers again, but Ruth just wrote it off as continuing the ruse until they were out of sight of anyone who may have seen them since they checked in.
As they entered the room, his hand disentangled from hers and was in his pocket in record time. Ruth tried not to be insulted by the quickness of his movements; after all, this was their job. But she couldn't help that small part of her that had feelings for the man and had actually enjoyed what had been going on for the last couple of hours. She hid her disappointment once they were face-to-face with Adam and Jo, who glanced at them with huge smiles before returning to the monitors. Roos was currently undressing for bed onscreen.
"What're the grins about?" Harry asked, scowling for their benefit.
"Saw that performance in the lift. You two are made for each other," Jo joked, looking away from the monitors to Harry. When she saw the expression on his face, her amusement disappeared and she was all business once again. Ruth couldn't help a small grin at her swift change in attitude.
"Roos seems to be going down for the night, and the tracker is functioning," Adam commented, pointing to the equipment that was quietly beeping next to him. "He doesn't appear to have noticed it. Good work, Ruth." Adam gave Ruth a quick smile, which she returned.
"She's learned from the best," Harry commented with no small amount of pride. The other three tried not to be too amused by him and they had to look away from each other lest they cracked up laughing.
"Nothing else to do for the evening," Adam stated, shifting subjects as he looked to Harry and Ruth. "But I'd suggest you give it at least an hour before you leave the room. Less suspicious."
Harry and Ruth nodded in understanding, then Harry made his way to a briefcase sitting on the coffee table in front of the couch. He took out some papers and sat down, starting to read them. Ruth looked around, seeing nothing she could immediately do, so she joined Harry on the couch. She looked down at the purse in her hands and wished she had something to do other than basically twiddle her thumbs for the next hour.
"Dining room table?" Harry suddenly muttered, shaking her out of her funk.
Ruth turned her gaze to him and saw Harry looking at her with a touch of amusement. She smiled nervously in response. "It was the first thing that popped into my head. You don't think it was too over-the-top, do you?"
Harry smiled pleasantly, calming her nerves. "No, I think it was just enough to make sure he wanted to put us right out of his head the second he was away from us."
Ruth chuckled. "I don't blame him." They went quiet for a moment, Ruth not certain what to say next.
"Nothing to do?" Harry suddenly asked, looking at her curiously.
"No, I didn't realize that we might have some time before we could leave."
Harry made a non-committal noise, then stated, holding up the papers in his hand, "Would you mind reading some of this? Nothing heavy, but I've got behind and would appreciate any help. Maybe write a one-paragraph summary?" The last question wasn't really a request, and Ruth knew it.
She snorted internally but kept a neutral expression. Playing to my strengths, she thought sarcastically. "Sure," she responded and Harry smiled.
He reached into the briefcase and pulled out several pages, then handed them to her. "Thank you."
Ruth gave him a small smile in response as she took the papers, then focused on the words before her.
Twenty minutes later she had finished the initial reading, then hunted up pen and paper to write up the summary. As she sat back down she could have sworn she caught Harry following her movements, but when she looked again - as surreptitiously as she could - he seemed very intent on the pages before him.
Ruth shook her head internally as she returned to the papers. The events of the evening - of the op, she reminded herself - were throwing her off. Normally she could stay completely focused on her job as most of it was straight research and report writing, making it so that anything highly emotional - like her growing feelings for Harry - could be put aside until she was home. But over the last few months, ever since the Angela incident really, Harry had been paying more attention to her, pushing her more out into the field and getting her extra training. She had agreed to do it - it was very difficult to say no to Harry - but she felt like little bits of her were being whittled away with each op and each new identity she took on.
Tonight's op was the first time she'd felt a little more like herself, if only for the time that she and Harry had been alone. She hadn't had to hide her feelings for him and that was an incredibly refreshing change. But in allowing herself to remove some of the walls she'd built up, she had fooled not only others who thought she was someone else, she had also fooled herself into believing that Harry's actions and words were as genuine as hers. When in reality it was all just another job, as she was finally waking up to again. Harry was pretending and no matter how much she hoped it to be otherwise that wasn't going to change. He saw her as a potential full-time agent - "a born spook" he'd called her - and that's what all his attentions were really about. She had to stop fantasizing or she'd get herself into deep trouble.
Ruth sighed sadly, pushing her thoughts to the back of her mind. She had work to do and sitting here feeling sorry for herself wasn't helping. She could wallow once she was home alone. She put down the papers she'd been staring at for the last couple of minutes and picked up the pen and pad, starting the summary.
A little more than half an hour later Harry's cell phone rang, shaking Ruth out of her reading of the latest paper. He flipped open the phone and spoke in short phrases, then finished off with, "I'll see you in about an hour." He hit 'end' and then hit a speed dial number, calling for his car.
Ruth gazed at Harry as he flipped the phone closed, mildly curious about the conversation she'd half-heard.
"Time to go," Harry told her, putting away his papers. She offered him the ones she had been reading and he tossed those in the briefcase as well before closing it up.
Harry and Ruth stood, he picking up the briefcase, and they said their goodbyes to Adam and Jo, who seemed to be enjoying some private joke. Ruth ignored Jo's knowing smile and followed Harry, leaving the room. She went to call the lift, but stopped when Harry grabbed her by the arm.
"Together," he stated simply, and she nodded in understanding. Safety in numbers and all that.
Harry let go of her and closed the door to the hotel room door properly. He then slipped his free hand into hers again and they walked to the lift, getting on it a few minutes later.
As they rode down, Ruth pondered what she'd do for the rest of the evening as she didn't feel in the least bit tired. There was a copy of "Roman Holiday" sitting on her coffee table that she'd been meaning to watch for the last couple of nights. But due to extra workload from this op, she'd not been able to watch it yet.
Yes, popcorn, that Cabernet opened on the weekend and Gregory Peck would go down nicely...
Her train of thought was broken when she felt something rubbing against the back of the hand that was linked with Harry's. She looked down and was surprised to see his thumb lazily moving back and forth across her skin. Ruth felt a shiver of heat rush through her at his actions, then looked up to his face to see a small smile poking up the corners of his mouth.
Harry obviously realized she was fairly gaping at him as he turned an amused gaze upon her. "Something wrong?" he asked, his tone daring her to tell him otherwise.
"Uh, no," she said, not quite sure what she could say. The only reason she could - or wanted to - fathom for him to be doing what he was doing was that it was part of the ruse they had to continue until they left the hotel.
She faced the doors of the lift, willing her body to not tingle as his teasing thumb continued its caressing.
He was a right bastard pulling this! He didn't have to do things like this now that they were alone. And he was bloody well enjoying every reaction he was getting out of her.
They arrived at the lobby and Ruth kept her gaze on the front doors as they exited the lift, eager to get herself away from her mad boss who seemed to enjoy tormenting her.
Once they made it outside, Ruth saw Harry's car waiting for him. While she would have liked a ride home on any other night, tonight she really just wanted to be able to go home alone and clear her head from the insanity of this evening.
"I'm afraid I can't offer you a ride home. I have an emergency meeting on the other side of town," he explained, as if reading her mind.
"That's fine, I'll just get a taxi," she stated, waving a waiting one over to the entrance with her left hand.
As the taxi pulled up, Ruth suddenly realized that Harry still held her right hand, but had stopped the caressing. She supposed that he had just gotten so used to it during the evening that he didn't even notice that he hadn't let her go. Of course, that begged the question, if she was so eager to get away, why hadn't she let go first as soon as they were outside?
Ruth refocused as Harry walked her to the taxi and finally disentangled his hand from hers, opening the door for her. He helped her get in, holding her hand again as she sat down and adjusted her dress.
She went to thank him, but was stunned into momentary silence when he lightly kissed the back of her hand, then let it go. She placed her hands on her lap, fidgeting slightly as he looked upon her softly.
"Goodnight, Ruth. I'll see you in the morning," he stated.
"Yes, goodnight Harry," she replied a bit dumbly.
Harry told the driver where to take her, then closed the door. With one final nod to her, the soft expression now gone, he then walked to his car without a backwards glance.
The taxi pulled away from the curb, nighttime scenery of London flashing past as she pondered what had just transpired. She could explain everything else away logically, but no matter how she tried, she couldn't quite figure out what had possessed him to gaze at her like that considering he'd been amused all the way down from the room, practically teasing her. And kissing her hand? Was that just another part of the ruse, or was there something else there that perhaps neither of them was ready to move forward on quite yet?
Ruth sighed tiredly. Nothing was every clear cut with that man, and tying herself up in knots mentally and emotionally was not going to help anything. Harry's own words during the Angela incident came to the front of her mind, because they were so true to this situation.
Self-denial, self-control. These are the things which keep us together in this job.
Yes, he was right. Without those things they'd all end up utterly mad or dead...
Suddenly something about his words twigged her. He had said, "These are the things which keep us together in this job." She had always assumed he was using it as a generalization, referring to all of them at MI-5, but he had said those words to her alone. Could he have meant the two of them? Had he tried, in his own roundabout way, to give her a hint of why he acted the way he did with her - one minute compassionate, the next cold - to let her know that he really did care, but he wasn't quite ready to let her in fully?
As Ruth sat there, running over every moment between them since she'd been seconded to MI-5, it suddenly felt like everything was coming together in her mind and finally making sense. He had spent so many years controlling himself, and then suddenly she comes in and upsets the apple cart, being nothing like what he was used to in his officers. In spite of how different she was he didn't seem to mind so much any more, actually seeming to let down those carefully maintained walls from time to time. And whenever he caught himself bringing down the wall, he shoved it back up. Just like she had been doing since she had discovered she had feelings for him beyond friendship.
But this evening, this op, had made it more difficult to hide behind those walls, for both of them.
Of course that didn't make him any less of a bastard for some of what he pulled tonight, she mused, smirking.
The taxi stopped in front of her house and Ruth paid the driver before getting out and shutting the door. The cab pulled away and she stood outside her darkened house. Normally it made her a little sad to see it like that, always hoping one day she could come home to someone waiting on her, but never seeing that day approaching. But tonight, maybe, just maybe, it wasn't so much of a pipe dream. Maybe that day would truly come, as long as they both could find a way to meet halfway.
With a feeling of pleasant warmth in her chest and a lighter step, Ruth walked up to her front door, looking forward to the future and whatever it might bring, for the first time in a long while.