Title: Getting to Know You
Tom/Zoe, post-2x09, pg
Summary: Zoe and Tom start to deal with events in Ep9.
The ringing of the doorbell caused Tom to force himself to wipe dry his eyes and remove himself from Christine's comforting arms. He sniffled slightly, before practically removing any trace that he had been crying just moments before - one of the positives of having years worth of experience at hiding his emotions. Christine went to sit down as Tom moved towards the door, looking in the mirror and wiping what he hoped were the last traces of tears from his eyes as he speedily checked his reflection.
Looking through the spy-hole in the front door, the sight before him made him quickly unlatch the door. Zoe stood on his doorstep, trying her best to control the tears running down her cheeks.
'Hi,' he said softly.
'Hi,' she replied, shaking slightly. 'I'm sorry, it's just, I don't really have anyone else that I can talk to about this,' she finished as a fresh batch of tears trickled over the corners of her eyes.
Tom opened the door wider. 'It's ok, come on in,' he offered, placing a hand on her arm and guiding her in to the entrance hallway.
'Tom?' they heard Christine call from inside.
Zoe suddenly got an almost panicked look on her face, before turning back towards the door Tom had just closed, 'I'm sorry, I didn't realise you had… company. I'll leave.'
As she started to open the door, he placed a hand on it to stop it opening. 'Don't be ridiculous, come on in.'
Zoe paused, slightly unsure. Tom placed a gentle hand on the small of her back and proceeded to lead her into the living room, as Zoe hastily wiped away the tears from her eyes and tried to regain her composure, just as Tom had done moments before. As Tom entered the room with Zoe, Christine stood, slightly shocked but quickly wiping all emotion from her face.
'Hi,' Zoe began, 'I'm sorry to interrupt. I… didn't know you'd be here.'
Tom and Christine exchanged looks. 'Look, I'll leave. Sorry.' Zoe said, once again trying to escape the situation.
Tom once again took a hold of her arm, stopping her from going. 'Zoe, don't. I'll get you a drink, yeah? Stay. Please.'
Christine sensed that Tom and Zoe needed to talk, and, reluctantly, offered to leave. Tom looked up to meet her eyes, smiling apologetically. 'I'm sorry, Christine,' he started, as he walked her to the door, leaving Zoe to wander around Tom's kitchen, thinking about the last time she had been there, discussing her cover with Tom for their latest undercover operation.
'You can stay,' Tom offered, as he and Christine reached the front door.
'No,' she replied, leaning up to kiss him lightly on the lips, 'you two need each other to talk to about this. I wasn't there,' she added, knowing he would comprehend what she meant.
Tom smiled at her, grateful that she understood. 'I'll call you in the morning.' She smiled, before walking out the door and closing it behind her.
'Tom, I'm sorry,' Zoe started again as he returned to the kitchen. 'If I'd known she was here I wouldn't have come…'
'Zoe, it's fine, really,' he repeated, watching her in amusement.
'What?' she asked, smiling slightly.
'Nothing, nothing,' he grinned, as he poured out two glasses of wine, handing one to her which she readily took.
'How could we have left her, Tom?' she asked, softly, a moment later, her eyes directed towards the glass of wine she was resting on the island in the middle of the kitchen. 'We should have protected her. I promised her we'd protect her. That I'd protect her.' She looked up at him in anguish, her eyes filling up again with unshed tears.
Tom placed his glass on the island before moving towards her, and pulling her gently into his arms. The tears started to fall over onto her cheeks, as she slowly wrapped her arms around his neck, awkwardly at first, but becoming more comfortable as he began stroking her hair soothingly.
Tom tried to remain detached, but Zoe's tears brought it all back to him. They should have protected her. They had promised her that. He remembered the feel of Mariella in his arms, slowly dying, unable to move and in a great amount of pain from which he could not save her. There was no point in even trying, she was going to die, her killer had just made it so as to last longer. A horrible, horrible death.
It was a while before Tom realised he too was crying. Zoe pulled back slightly, looking into his eyes. 'I'm sorry,' she whispered, wiping away a few tears from her eyes once more, and smiling gently. 'I should have thought about the effects it had on you. After what you told Harry…' she trailed off, unable to finish her sentence.
Tom wiped the tears from his own eyes. 'So much for detachment,' he joked, before becoming serious once again. 'It was horrible,' he started again, softly this time. 'I couldn't,' he stopped, trying to compose himself, 'I couldn't help her. She was dying in my arms, and I couldn't help her.'
He shuddered, the conversation bringing the horrors of that night back to him in fast, graphic images – meeting Zoe's eyes, knowing that she knew, just by the look on his face, as he remembered holding the woman in his arms, helpless. He was a bloody MI-5 agent, and he couldn't save her.
He was jolted out of his disturbing memories by a soft hand wiping the tears from under his eyes, shyly but gently. His eyes met Zoe's where they held each others' gaze for a long moment, before both snapping out of the mesmerising moment, slightly shocked as to the emotions coursing round their bodies.
Reaching for their wine glasses, they made their way to the lounge area, where they sat down on the sofa, a substantial and awkward amount of space in between them.
'Maybe I should go,' Zoe started, after a few minutes of silence.
Tom looked round at her. 'Please don't,' was all he said. A simple, yet emotionally loaded plea.
She looked at him questioningly. 'If you go, I'll be alone. And if I'm alone,' he paused, unsure as to whether to divulge such a personal statement. Eventually, after spinning the consequences round in his head, he continued. 'If I'm alone, then my imagination will take over. I'll keep replaying it over and over in my mind, until I drive myself insane. Wondering if I could have done something, anything more than what I did.'
Zoe slowly shifted closer to him, quietly taking his hand. 'You did all you could. You were there for her, a comfort to her in her last moments of need. There was nothing you could do, Tom, nothing. You did what was probably the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her – you sat with her when she needed someone, you talked to her, told her she was a worthy human being, conveyed to her, whether through words or not, that she was a good person. She's in a better place now - but you did all you could, and I'm positive that she's grateful to you for that.'
Tom looked up at her, tears in his eyes as his hand clasped hers even tighter. 'Thanks,' he whispered, his voice pained, but his eyes grateful. 'How do you always manage to make me feel better?' he joked.
Zoe chuckled sadly, 'It's a gift.'
They smiled at each other, before Tom started playing with their joined hands nervously, bouncing them up and down on his knee, but still not letting go. 'Tell me about yourself, Zoe.'
She looked at him puzzled, aware that he was still clasping her hand. 'What do you mean?'
'We work together, I've know you for a long time, but I don't know all that much about you. Tell me what it's like… to be Zoe.'
She smiled at him, still slightly puzzled as to the drastic change of topic, but realising this was Tom's way of keeping them both occupied, their thoughts away from the dreadful scenes they had witnessed during their latest undercover mission.
'What do you want to know?'
'Anything, everything,' he said smiling. 'I think it's about time we got to know each other properly.'
'Well,' she grinned, 'shall we start at the beginning? My childhood was…'
The rest of the evening and night was spent discussing childhood, teenage crushes, university, the early years of MI-5, and everything else imaginable, as two friends became better friends, trying to forget the horrors of the world, and concentrating on the lighter side of life.
And although their hands eventually unclasped, neither occupant of the large sofa made any move to widen the distance between them, perfectly comfortable where they were.