He held himself, poised, not wanting to wake the woman next to him. Slowly, he shifted until he could reach across and turn off the alarm before it sounded. She was facing away, hair splayed over the pillow, arms outstretched, palms turned upward and long, slender fingers curled into loose fists. He looked down, his lips twisting into a frown; her pose was so familiar, so like she had come to rest in her hospital bed. It was a painful memory, one he pushed to the side, and he looked instead to her face, then wished he didn’t. Bruises had blossomed overnight, the graze on her cheek made worse in the pale, morning light, and he sent a silent curse to Harry Pearce for letting her into the field so soon.
He shook his head to dispel his thoughts as his hand hovered near her cheek, his fingers a breath away from truly touching her, trying not to wake her just yet.
“What time is it?”
He started at her words, then chastised himself. Of course, she would have been awake; he’d yet (and hoped not to) meet someone else who slept so lightly.
She rolled onto her back, not willing to open her eyes just yet, and raised an arm to press the back of her hand against her face; a gesture that on another woman would look entirely ridiculous.
“Elaborate,” she said, arching her back in a feline stretch.
“Six thirty,” he answered.
“I should get ready,” she said, her voice muffled by her arm.
“Surely, you can stay a bit longer,” he protested.
She shook her head but any words she was about to speak stopped when he pressed his lips against her pale shoulder. She shifted, her body inching toward the edge of the bed, but he placed a hand at her hip, keeping her close.
Three days ago.
The Grid was quiet, save for the hum of the air-conditioning and occasional beeps from the computers, which was why the sharp sound of heels rang loudly, catching everyone’s attention. Ruth looked up from her desk as the pod doors closed behind Ros Myers, who stepped into the office and cast her eyes around the large room. They had lost none of their intensity in the past five weeks, Ruth noticed, if anything they were harder. Ruth’s eyes moved from Ros’ face, to her body, and she saw nothing to suggest the woman had been in the centre of an explosion just over a month ago.
She looked as she always did; lithe, dangerous and composed.
“Oh, my god,” she heard Tariq whisper from beside her, “she’s...”
Ros pushed her shoulders back, her face setting itself into its customary unreadable expression. It was a clear defiance on her behalf; a dare of sorts for someone to tell her she shouldn’t be here, that she should still be recuperating. No one did, and she walked to her desk and sat down, pulling her keyboard towards her, ignoring the looks she continued to receive. Ruth heard another, softer, set of footsteps and was unsurprised to see Harry cross the Grid to Ros’ desk. He bent down, speaking softly in her ear and was forced to flinch backward to avoid being hit when she swivelled her chair to face him.
She shook her head, and Tariq fell silent and both continued to observe what was obviously an escalating argument. Harry’s jaw set even as Ros folded her arms and leant back in her chair, anger emanating from every pore.
Neither looked away.
Finally, Harry nodded and his words resounded around the Grid, easy for everyone to hear.
“Fine, but I’m not letting you into the field.”
It felt right for Ros to be back in the conference room, offering opinions, sitting at Harry’s right-hand side. She had been missed in the five weeks she had been in hospital and then at home, supposedly resting. Now, she looked intently at the screen as Lucas pressed the remote, and a man’s face flashed before them.
“We have been gathering intelligence for the past few days about this man, known to us as Jack McIntyre. However, there are no records that we can find and we’re working on the supposition this is an alias.”
Ros’ eyes narrowed as she memorised every aspect of the man’s face. In his sixties; hard-bitten, thin-lipped, his face deeply lined, hair close cut and still thick, despite his age. His eyes, deep sunken, with smudges under them like healing bruises, were alert but cold. She could tell without reading the report Ruth pushed in front of her that he was dangerous; there was something about his eyes which made her stomach twist and set her nerves on edge.
“Why are we interested in him?” she asked.
Lucas’ eyes snapped to hers, and it took him a moment to realise that she hadn’t been here and didn’t know about this particular operation.
“There was chatter after the bombing,” he answered. “McIntyre’s name came up several times.”
Ros nodded slowly, opening the file and spreading its contents out before her.
“Then I suggest we find out his real name.”
Harry watched Ros from his office as she read through the file, occasionally making notes. Her brow was knitted in concentration, an expression he had sorely missed. She was different to Adam in the way she approached operations. Where he would skim through a file, judging quickly what was pertinent and what was not, Ros chose to read it from cover-to-cover, often more than once until she passed any real judgement. Yes, she used a great deal of intuition and her supposition from her first reading was generally correct, but the extra time she spent spoke volumes of their differing methods.
“Am I interrupting?”
He started at Ruth’s voice but quickly regained his composure and waved her inside.
“You have a name?” he asked.
She made a face and shook her head.
“No, but I have found several references to a ‘McIntyre’ when I went back through the information we gathered from ‘Tiresias.’ I knew I’d read the name before and this proves it...”
He leant back in his chair and gestured for her to continue.
“His name is mentioned in the records of talks between several Russian officials and General Ali.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly.
“Have you given this to Ros?” he asked.
“Lucas is relaying it now...”
He looked once again to Ros’ desk to find her chair empty. His forehead wrinkled in bemusement but soon smoothed as he heard heels snapping against the floor. Seconds later, she entered his office, not sparing Ruth a second glance.
“If this involves General Ali then there is every possibility that the Pakistani President might know who our elusive ‘Jack McIntyre’ is,” she said without preamble. “And we have a contact who can speak with him directly.”
Harry blew out a long breath through his nose.
“Don’t ‘Ros’ me, Harry,” she snapped. “Andrew Lawrence has a relationship with President Madasa, one we can exploit.”
The two held each other’s gaze for several tense moments before he gave a curt nod.
“Show him the photograph and tell him to give it to Masada,” he said finally.
“You’re not coming?” she asked, surprised.
“No, you seemed to have struck up a rapport with him.”
The corners of Ros’ mouth curved upward of their own accord, and she couldn’t stop her next words spilling from her lips.
“Is that what we’re calling it these days?”
Harry opened his mouth to ask what she meant but she had already turned away and sauntered back into the Grid. She grabbed her coat from the back of her chair and continued towards the pods, which closed behind her with their familiar ‘whoosh.’ He turned to Ruth who looked similarly puzzled.
“What was that about?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I have no idea.”
Andrew rose to his feet as his secretary motioned Ros inside, maintaining a complete professional facade until the door was firmly closed. Now alone, he offered her a smile which she returned briefly as she sat down, crossing her legs.
“I need to ask you a favour,” she said immediately.
“Can you give this to President Medasa?” she asked, sliding a photo across the table.
He took it from her, letting his hand linger that little bit longer over hers.
“Who is this?”
“We have no idea,” she admitted. “We’re hoping Medasa does.”
He nodded, pushing the photo toward his computer, making a mental note to scan and email it as soon as possible. Ros got to her feet and stood still, as if not knowing what to do. He had come to realise in the few short weeks after the explosion how uncomfortable she was outside of work, especially on the personal side of things. He rounded his desk, hiding a smile as she held her hand for him to shake. It was so... awkward; a word he imagined was not often associated with Rosalind Myers. Entwining his fingers with hers, he pulled her forward until they were a scarce two-feet apart. He was taller by a few inches and leant down, kissing her gently on the cheek.
“I should get back,” Ros said as he drew back, genuinely disappointed.
“Unfortunately, I have to agree.”
Two days ago
Harry entered the Grid to find Ros already there. She looked far more relaxed with no one else there, tapping her lip with her pen as she read some document. He walked towards to her desk and looked over her shoulder, raising his eyebrows when he saw the words ‘eyes only’ stamped across the top in Russian.
“Should I ask how you acquired that?” he said, half-seriously.
Ros didn’t look up, even as she shook her head.
“No, you should not.”
Harry frowned as she marked a page before turning it. He wanted to say something, but had no idea what, and was saved by the ‘trill’ of his phone. It was a message from Andrew Lawrence, and he admitted to being surprised. That was a quick result, far quicker than he had expected. Harry looked to Ros, who appeared to be oblivious.
“The Home Secretary has something.”
“His name is ‘Rief Kernick,’” Ros announced, leaning forward and resting her elbows on the table, lacing her fingers together. “Andrew Lawrence showed the photo to President Madasa who, thankfully, was able to give us a quick answer.”
She nodded towards Ruth, who continued the narrative.
“He has several links to both Russia and Pakistan, and it appears he was the one who recruited ‘Marlin’ and master-minded the bombings last year.”
“How long is he in the UK?” Lucas asked, frowning.
“Until the day after tomorrow,” Ros answered. “He leaves on the twelve o’clock flight which leaves us hardly any time for manoeuvre.”
“I presume we have a plan.”
At his words, Ros exchanged a look with Ruth and Lucas, a look which set Harry’s nerves on edge.
“We have discovered that he likes blondes...”
“Absolutely not,” Harry interrupted immediately. “I’m sorry, but...”
“Harry, there is no one else,” Ros countered. “I have done this before...”
“Not after nearly being killed in an explosion.”
“Do you have a better plan?”
Harry frowned as he pulled the photograph of Kernick closer. The man was dangerous, and no doubt planning an attack on the United Kingdom in the near future. He had to be stopped... He looked at Ros and held her eyes for a moment. He knew she was capable, that she’d done this before, but so soon after...
“Fine,” he said, making up his mind, “you go in there, you do what needs to be done, then I want you straight out.”
Ros smiled thinly.
“So,” Andrew said, handing Ros a glass of scotch. “Do I get to ask about Rief Kernick?”
Ros smiled as she sat on the edge of the kitchen bench and took a sip of scotch; it ran down her throat, burning ever-so-slightly, but left a pleasant after-taste.
“I’m afraid not,” she said, scowling briefly. “’Need to know’ and all that.”
He frowned as he crossed over to her and tucked a strand of errant hair behind her ear.
“That’s really not fair,” he said, only half-joking.
“No,” she conceded, leaning into his touch, “but rules are rules.”
She raised her hands and placed them flat on his chest. He was deceptively muscular, she had come to know, and his body was a mass of hard vertices and lines she found oddly appealing.
“It’s not a hard operation,” she assured, tugging at his shirt to bring him closer.
He pressed his lips against hers and felt her fingers splay outward before digging once again into the material of his shirt. He rested one hand at her hip whilst snaking the other to the small of her back, pulling her forward.
“Promise me, you’ll be careful,” he said, drawing back briefly.
“I always am.”
Andrew leant back, raising a sceptical eyebrow.
“We both know that’s not true.”
He dipped his head down and touched his lips to the hollow of her neck. He’d come to know this was particularly sensitive spot, and Ros eyes fluttered close as she tilted her head back. She threaded her fingers through his hair and neither said anything as his lips travelled along her collarbone.
“I’ve been thinking...” Andrew said, his breath warm against her skin.
“Always dangerous,” she quipped, earning herself a gentle bite on the shoulder.
“I have been thinking,” he repeated, tracing the curve of her neck with his fingers. “What would Harry think of... of this,” he ended, unsure how to define what they, he and Ros, were doing.
She drew back sharply, causing his hand to fall.
“Not really the person I want to be thinking about at this point in time, Andrew,” she chastised, giving him an ironic smile.
“Is that so?” he teased, pulling her back.
“Yes, it is.”
He laughed softly, kissing her again.
“Anyway,” he continued, “If he disapproved I could always sack him and...”
“And I’d be his replacement,” Ros finished, putting a finger against his lips to quiet him. “I know.”
She reached out and undid the buttons of his shirt, sliding it over his shoulders where it fell onto the floor. Her fingers danced along his chest, but she stopped abruptly when it became too smooth.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he reminded her, reaching down and capturing her hand in his own.
“I know,” she admitted, “but...”
“No ‘buts’,” he said firmly. “Now, where were we?”
The corners of her mouth twitched.
“I think you know exactly where we were.”
Tariq blinked rapidly as Ros entered the Grid, looking around with her usual piercing stare. To say she looked... different was the understatement of the century. Her customary black leather jacket and jeans ensemble had been replaced with a simple but elegant dress, which fitted close against her skin, leaving nothing to the imagination. That was not to say that she was dressed inappropriately; rather she looked like a reserved woman who nevertheless knew exactly how attractive she was.
“Where’s Harry?” she asked, tapping her foot against the ground.
Spike heels, he noticed; long, thin and ridiculously high. How she managed to walk was beyond him.
“Office,” he answered.
She nodded and turned sharply, walking across the Grid. Tariq turned back to his desk to find Ruth looking at him, lips curved upward in a smile.
“What?” he demanded, jutting his chin forward.
She shook her head.
Ros didn’t bother to knock as she entered Harry’s office and he looked upward.
“What time are you going to the hotel?” he asked, leaning back in his chair.
“Once Tariq has attached the wire to my dress,” she answered promptly. “I just wanted to check no new information had come in whilst I was gone.”
He shook his head.
“Ros,” he called as she turned away.
She raised an eyebrow in lieu of speaking.
The hotel lobby was a marble monstrosity and Ros’ heels rang loudly against the floor, seeming to echo in the huge space. She felt exposed but no one batted an eyelid as she walked toward the hotel bar where Kernick was usually sat this time of evening. A bead of sweat trickled down her spine, and she thrust her shoulders back, dismissing her apprehension. She was surrounded by surveillance; Lucas was in a mini-van nearby, and Tariq was only a whisper away over the microphone.
Yes, she was being ridiculous.
Surely it was nerves about going back into the field after the explosion...
She had no time to react when a hand clamped over her mouth and she was pulled into an adjacent room. Ros struggled, kicking backward until she heard a muffled ‘oof’ but stopped moving when she felt a knife edge against her neck.
“Not a good idea, Rosalind.”
“Echo one, respond. Echo one... Ros!”
Lucas’ eyes widened as all he heard was crackling and he didn’t need Harry’s instruction of ‘find her’ to get out of the van and run toward the hotel.
“I’ll keep trying to get through,” he heard Tariq say, “but...”
Lucas inwardly swore as he entered the hotel and his coms stopped working. He was effectively blind and Ros was in one of hundreds of rooms.
A pair of strong hands pinned her arms to her sides and Ros bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself crying out as a fist collided with her stomach, making her double over. She could hear laughter around her, from three different men, and she clenched her jaw.
Patience, Ros, patience.
A hand twisted itself in her hair and she was pulled upward again, another blow landing on her torso, this time beneath her ribs. The wind was knocked from her lungs and she found herself unable to breathe.
She was let go and she fell to the ground on her knees, gasping for air. A pair of heavy boots came into view and she had no time to react as she was kicked in the stomach. She fell flat on her front and glared at the floor, her mind racing with possibilities of getting out of this room, away from these men, who had made her into some type of sport.
“Let her be for a second,” one said, with a thick Russian accent. “Get her breath back.”
Ros smirked; sometimes she loved being so slight. It gave the illusion of weakness; one people continued to believe and one she had exploited in the past. She raised herself onto her knees, looking upward, and her eyes landed on her three captors. The deep sunken eyes of Kernick were even more daunting in person, and a shiver ran down her spine as they roamed over her body. Not for any carnal desire, of that she was sure, but rather him guessing where he could hurt her most. She moved her eyes away from him, onto the second man, and was surprised that she recognised him; or rather, she had known his brother. The resemblance between him and Asa Darlek was too uncanny to be coincidence. The third looked like hired muscle and was the one who had been beating her.
He was the first she would target.
“All right, get going again.”
Ros tensed her body as the largest one approached, leering. Yes, she would enjoy this. She reached down and surreptitiously removed her shoes, holding one tightly in her hand.
“Get up... argh!”
He fell to the ground, the heel of her shoe embedded in his eye, and Ros wrenched it out, slamming it into his neck for good measure. Blood spilled onto the floor but she was already on her feet. Kernick took a step backward, leaving Darlek ahead. Ros could feel blood trickling down her chin and wiped it away irritably. Perhaps seeing this as a sign of weakness, Darlek lunged forward. Ros stepped to the side, kicking his feet out from beneath him, and he tripped, landing face-first. She heard footsteps behind her and twisted; just in time as Kernick thrust a knife toward her stomach. She grabbed his wrist and forced his hand backward, the sound of breaking bone resounding around the room. In a fluid movement she caught the knife as it feel toward the ground and stabbed upward, Kernick impaling himself as he struggled to get free.
“I wouldn’t recommend you doing that,” she said over-her-shoulder to Darlek, knowing he planned to fight.
He had rolled onto his back and she reached him in three long strides, kicking him beneath the ribs. He curled onto his side, wheezing, and she stepped backward, the adrenalin pulsing through her veins. She knew it would fade soon enough, and leant against the wall, getting her breath back and waited for help to arrive.
The Grid was humming with activity that stopped the instant Ros and Lucas stepped through the pods. Ruth inhaled sharply; the blonde was a sight to behold... and not in a good way. Ros paid the attention no heed, merely pushing her shoulders back and heading towards the showers. Lucas walked over to Ruth and Tariq and held up one hand as they opened their mouths to ask the inevitable ‘what the hell happened?’
“Kernick knew who she was,” he said, answering the unspoken question.
“How?” Ruth asked.
“Tomorrow,” Lucas said heavily. “It can wait until tomorrow.”
Lucas continued to Harry’s office, leaving them in his wake. Tariq looked to Ruth who had risen to her feet. He was so young, she realised, unused to the harsher aspects of this line of work.
Ruth’s thoughts, said in Ros’ voice, echoed in her mind as she rounded the desk and headed toward the showers. The blonde hadn’t said the word, but Ruth knew she had thought it, probably from the first moment they met. Now, three years later, Ruth had learned the harsher aspects of this profession; fleeing cities, always with the thought she could be captured and brought back. No, Ruth said to herself as she entered the showers; she was certainly not naive anymore. The water was running and she leant against the sink, waiting for Ros to re-emerge. Her black dress had been strewn on the floor, no doubt kicked away, and Ruth bent down and tangled her fingers in the black material. She could smell sweat, the faint scent of blood, and Ros’ perfume.
“I’d let you have it, but I doubt its wearable after tonight.”
Ruth jumped at Ros’ voice as she stepped out, dressed in a singlet and tracksuit pants. Make-up gone, hair clinging to the back of her neck; she looked different to her usual self.
“It wouldn’t fit anyway.”
She turned and Ruth’s eyes widened when she caught a glimpse of Ros’ exposed back. Pale skin mottled with raised pink flesh, made seemingly all the worse as it contrasted with the white singlet.
“It looks worse than it is,” Ros said, knowing what Ruth was thinking without turning her head. “Now, did you want anything?”
Ruth shook herself back into the present.
“I just wanted to see if you were all right,” she responded eventually.
“Evidently, I am.”
She gave Ruth an impenetrable smile as she walked past, zipping up her jacket as she went.
Ruth could only stare.
Andrew reached for the crystal tumbler, running the tip of his finger down its side, wiping away the condensation. It was displacement activity; he knew that, but anything to take his mind off things. And by ‘things’ he meant an operation of which he only knew the bare bones. He may have been the Home Secretary, but he was still not privy to the... finer details of MI-5 operations; a fact which he had previously taken in his stride, but which he now resented. Andrew wrapped his fingers around the tumbler, twisting it on the spot. Ros could be anywhere right now, and he had no idea of the location. If anything happened... He inwardly scoffed at himself, knowing how little use he would be.
The door to the flat opened, sending a stream of light flooding into the light, and he got to his feet quickly. His bare feet made no sound against the polished wood, but she still looked unsurprised when he rounded the corner. His throat constricted as he took in her full appearance. The black tracksuit she wore was too big, and hung from her body, but it was her face which made him falter. A bruise had already blossomed around her right eye, and her lip was split whilst her cheek was somewhat swollen. He took a step towards her and cupped the uninjured side of her face, tucking her hair behind her ear. The job was dangerous, she told him that often enough, but to see this...
He pressed his lips atop her head and drew her close, mindful of her bruised body. She stiffened briefly, still unaccustomed to this feeling of security, but soon relaxed and rested her forehead against his chest.
“How did this happen?” he asked softly.
“I was recognised,” she answered. “It’s a risk in any operation.”
Ros could almost see his look of scepticism and was unsurprised at his next words.
“Tomorrow, I am sacking Harry; you can be his replacement.”
She raised her hand and combed her fingers through his hair, mindful not to let any snag. Andrew’s hand skimmed along her side, trailing along her stomach, until he reached her cheek.
“You have an obsession,” she said drily, as he made small circles with his thumb.
It was true; he loved to touch her face, letting his fingers trace her delicately-boned features. She’d asked him why on several occasions, but his only response had been a shake of the head, a shrug of the shoulders, then a kiss.
“Perhaps,” he agreed, holding himself above her.
The lean muscle of his arms showed no signs of exertion, and she found herself wondering how long he could hold himself there. She touched the veins that snaked over his forearms as he lowered himself to nudge her head to the side, allowing him access to her neck. She let herself sink into the mattress and both made a sound of annoyance when her mobile phone sounded, a harsh ‘ring’ in the otherwise silent room.
“Perfect bloody timing,” Ros groused, looking at the caller ID which read ‘Harry.’
Ros’ bruises looked worse the day after and guilt flared in Harry’s chest as she entered the Grid. She looked around, noting that most of the team had already assembled themselves in the conference room, and didn’t bother taking off her coat as she headed over, Harry following close behind.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, taking his place at the head of the table.
She sat down, eyes narrowing into a glare, and ignored his question.
“I take it we have a game plan now that Kernick is dead,” she said instead.
“Tariq’s looking into his computer; I’m analysing all his phone activity...”
“Have you found anything, Tariq?” Ros asked, looking to the youngest member of the team.
He swallowed, flustered. “I haven’t managed to get inside yet,” he admitted.
Ros raised an eyebrow.
“And the reason you are still here is-?”
He blushed and rose to his feet, muttering apologies.
“Ros, you’re giving him a nervous disposition,” Ruth chided.
What might have been a smile touched Ros’ lips but disappeared almost immediately.
“Well, unfortunately we will have to brief the Home Secretary about this ... unfortunate turn of events,” Harry said, his expression making clear his opinion. “Which should be an interesting conversation.”
Ros nodded, though Harry was certain she hid a smile behind her hand.
Rain had soaked into the collar of his shirt, sending a chill over his skin, and he reached upward, trying to un-stick the material from his skin. It proved unsuccessful and he glared at Ros briefly as they walked down the corridors of Whitehall. She didn’t look remotely concerned, and he wondered – not for the first time – how she managed to keep such a level composure. Even the bruises didn’t retract from her impeccable comportment.
“If you’ll just...”
The secretary ushered them inside Andrew Lawrence’s office and he rose to greet them, giving them a smile.
“Ros,” he said, shaking her hand, “how are you feeling?”
Harry frowned at their exchange, it seemed so familiar, so comfortable, certainly not the usual with Ros and politicians.
“Harry,” Andrew said, his tone curt, perhaps even tinged with anger.
They sat down, and Harry gave him the update, slightly annoyed that Lawrence didn’t appear remotely surprised by any of the news. It was as if he had already been briefed... Harry looked to Ros, and found she was paying him little attention, rather focused on her knuckles, which he noticed for the first time were red-raw. She flexed her hands; slim fingers a pale spider against the polished table.
“Was that everything?” Lawrence asked, quirking an eyebrow.
“For now,” Harry answered, recognising the dismissal and getting to his feet.
It was odd, he felt a genuine respect for Andrew Lawrence after the explosion, as well as a certainty he was not a traitor. The younger man was also capable of holding his own against Harry; something that was no mean feat.
“Goodbye, Harry. Ros.”
Andrew smiled and Harry found himself floored. That smile said everything, almost as much as the one Andrew received briefly in return from the blonde. How Laurence had come to know about Kernick became clear, as did his concern about Ros, and his frostiness towards him.
It was Ros, pulling him into the present, and he blinked rapidly and turned on his heel, walking out of the office. Ros was at his side in seconds, her long legs covering the ground quickly, and he said nothing as they wound their way through the corridors. He shot her a side-long glance every now-and-then, searching for anything that may or may not prove his supposition.
Predictably; she gave nothing away.
“Am I interrupting something?”
Ruth looked into Harry’s office to find him examining Ros from the safety of his desk. His jaw was set, his mouth tilted downward in a frown as he peered at the blonde, his eyes fixed almost unnervingly on her slim figure. It could even have been labelled ‘voyeuristic’ were the two people in question not Rosalind Myers and Harry Pearce.
“Sorry, no, not at all,” he said quickly, startled out of his observations. “I was just...”
He waved his hand in Ros’ direction, not knowing how to finish his sentence. Ruth had no idea what had brought about Harry’s sudden paternal interest, but images of the previous night flooded back; Ros’ scarred back fixed behind her eyelids. It was to be expected, the explosion had taken out an entire floor, but to see Ros’ alabaster skin marred in such a way (part of her wanted to add ‘grotesque’) brought home that undeniable fact that despite appearances, Ros was not infallible. She was human just like herself, like Harry, like Lucas.
Funny, she thought, comparing herself in any way to Ros Myers; the other woman would most likely have been quite offended.
“You have something for me?” Harry said, not liking Ruth’s silence; she could normally be counted on for conversation.
“It can wait,” Ruth said, retreating, “you seem preoccupied,” she added at his puzzled expression, gesturing toward Ros who had leant forward and was speaking intently with Tariq; the latter who was chancing a smile and seemed pleased he was not cut down with a well-timed retort.
“I really shouldn’t have let her out,” he mused, more to himself than to Ruth.
She stepped forward again.
“Harry,” she said firmly, “have you ever known Ros Myers to back down from anything?”
He sighed as he placed his hands flat on the table, splaying his fingers outward.
“A fair point,” he conceded.
“I’m glad you’ve seen reason.”
She tilted her head to the side, genuinely worried when he seemed no less comforted.
“Are you worried about something else, Harry?” she asked.
He looked up, thoughts in a muddle. Ros’ failed operation, the shared smiles with Andrew Lawrence, the Home Secretary’s coolness towards him...
“No,” he said finally, opting for the simpler (perhaps even cowardly) answer. “No, nothing at all.”
The door to Ros’ flat shut quietly behind her and she walked into the living room, unsurprised to see Andrew in the kitchen. The smell of fresh pasta wafted towards her, mouth-watering, and she crossed the room quickly. He turned as she neared, no doubt alerted by her footsteps, and offered her a glass of wine which she gratefully accepted.
“Long day?” he asked.
“Hm, more... tedious,” she answered. “Phone calls and paperwork; two things I loathe.”
Ros said nothing, and took another sip of wine, relishing the way it warmed her body.
“I think Harry knows,” she said, leaning against the bench.
Andrew raised a supercilious eyebrow. “I’m guessing he’s not pleased?”
“He hasn’t said anything, actually."
Helooked to the side, surprised. Harry Pearce wasn’t renowned for keeping his opinions to himself; especially about anything that might jeopardise future operations.
“Don’t tell me he approves?” he said sceptically.
Ros shook her head a fraction of an inch.
“Oh, I never said that.”
He returned her wry smile and turned back, heaping pasta onto two plates and presenting one to her with a flourish.
“Well, you know what I could do-”
He stopped speaking when she covered his mouth with her hand, shaking her head.
“You’re not sacking him,” she said firmly, the twitching of her lips betraying her suppressed laughter.
He gave a petulant smile as she lifted her hand from his mouth and touched his chest, her fingers making their way beneath the shirt fabric. He shivered at her cold touch and leant forward, dinner forgotten.
“Spoil sport,” he whispered softly.
Ros smirked even as she undid his tie, the blue silk falling to the ground.