This is a new story, told in one part (although it's long!), and basically it links the end of Series 5 to the beginning of Series 6, with a bit of an operation mixed in. Therefore, it contains spoilers for Series 5 and everything that preceeded it, and also spoilers for 6x01 and vague spoilers for all of Series 6. This has been several weeks in the writing, so I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please review with your comments (good or bad :)). I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Spooks, it characters, or plot details from the series. The dialogue from 6x01 was written by Neil Cross. The lyrics are from 'Forever Young', originally by Alphaville (but I was listening to the Youth Group cover!).
That one, rasping breath makes it worth it
That one, rasping breath makes it worth it. She thinks that every ounce of pain was worth it for this dizzying, euphoric re-entry into the world. Her skin burns under the icy caress of the water and she grasps for Adam like a child, clinging to his shirt, her muscles not quite ready to take control. As she inhales for a second time, the cold London air saturates her body, life floods back into her system and impulses spark like electricity inside her as she gazes at a world she thought was lost.
It makes the lights brighter, now that she can feel again.
It makes the water colder.
Ros reaches for the boat and the hand that waits to haul her back into the world of the living. Water runs from her body and face, and the waves lap at her ankles as if to make one final bid to reclaim her. They haul her free. She's done it. She's dodged death. Again.
They sit side by side in Harry's office, not talking, not even looking at one another. The warmth of the lighting is welcome: he has scavenged an old shirt and a pair of bleached jeans from his locker, and has borrowed a pair of trainers from Zaf, but still the shiver remains, rattling around his body. He isn't sure if it cold or fear or tiredness. He hopes it's the latter. Adam Carter doesn't get scared.
He looks at Ros who is picking at her sweater, a look of unease on her face. She has borrowed the jumper from Jo, and it's a soft pink colour. Adam smiles at the scowl that creeps across her face as she encounters the little stripe of silk ribbon on the sleeve. That's what the scowl is for, that and the knowledge that they're going to have to go through psychiatric assessments again. Or possibly the knowledge that she won't be able to save her beloved leather jacket – Adam is pretty sure that something like that is both very expensive and not at all water resistant. He smiles again. He can't help it.
Harry walks into the room, his suit as crisp as ever, and sits opposite them, sinking a little into the expensive leather chair.
Harry doesn't say anything more. His eyes are tired and expectant. Adam looks at Ros because, for once, he isn't sure what to say. She saves him by speaking first.
"Don't be. We're here, aren't we?"
Harry smiles a little. "Better communications networks should have been set up, we should have put more agents on site. We failed you."
"As I said, we're here now. None of that matters."
Adam is impressed with the way that Ros is dealing with this. He knows that she has a reputation for being cold and unfeeling, but they've been through so much. If he listens hard enough he can still hear her screams echoing in his ears.
"I've managed to avoid an official inquiry. We may still have to conduct one internally, however, and that would mean interviews and statements… if you were prepared to give them, that is?" Harry looks a little uncertain.
Adam finds his voice, the vocal chords snapping momentarily back into action. "Of course we'll give them if they ask."
"Good. And I have to warn you that it will be necessary for you both to complete a full course of psychiatric assessments and profiling…"
Ros raises her hand from her lap and holds it out to stop Harry, the pink ribbon catching the light.
"We know, Harry. It's OK."
Harry looks relieved. "Good. Well then, go home and get some sleep. You may take a few days off if you wish, to…" he searches for the word, "recuperate."
Ros arches an eyebrow. Adam knows that she'll be back first thing in the morning, icy demeanour firmly in place and not a trace of pink in sight. He watches as she smiles at Harry, then at him and rises from her chair. The door thuds gently shut behind her.
"Adam…" Harry's voice catches Adam as he starts to stand up.
"I know that the time is not right now. You've been through too much. But we will need to talk about these events, about your condition and capabilities, and about whether or not you still pose a risk to the service and its aims." Harry is severe now, severe in his tone and with his words.
Anger boils inside Adam. Was he being labelled incapable again? What would it take to prove his competence?
"I'm over it." He keeps his sentence short because he doesn't want to shout.
"I highly doubt that."
"Then you doubt me: my capability, my nerve, my integrity."
"Just because you use big words, Adam, doesn't make you a man. You have ignored your condition like a child. You have put yourself and this service at extreme risk, placed yourself under excruciating pressure – I know this for the truth, Adam, I've seen the reports."
Harry throws a sheaf of papers onto the desk, all dated, all signed, all genuine.
"Those are confidential! It's my business!"
"It's not when you're putting my team in danger! Why do you think Ros had to go in there today?"
Adam is silent. He remembers his grief-fuelled rage, remembers how it ate at his insides, how bitter it tasted. He remembers how his own life had meant nothing to him. How he never even considered anybody else. He feels the shame wash over him, as the water had done only hours before. It cleanses his system of the burning anger. He takes a deep breath.
"I'm sorry." His voice is much quieter now. "I swear it's over, I've snapped out of it. I am in control."
"I know you think you are. I know you want to be. But you'll forgive me if I reserve judgement until after an official assessment."
Adam nods. It's the best option he's got.
Adam takes this as his cue to leave. He makes for the door, but Harry speaks again, just as he reaches for the handle.
"You can be proud of yourself, Adam. She may have gone in there because of you, but she also got out because of you."
It's a comforting thought. They regard each other for a few more seconds before the connection is broken. Adam turns away. He doesn't turn back for Harry's next instruction.
"Send Zaf in, will you?"
They still haven't found a replacement for Ruth. It's been a while now since Ruth died. Or rather 'died'. No one told Jo that Ruth had got away. They all said that she was dead. But Jo isn't stupid and she knows that Ruth can't be dead. She's seen the reports and there's no way that Ruth had a small tattoo of a skull and crossbones, or a pierced nose. Unless she had a very rebellious youth, which Jo doubts.
The Sally disaster didn't help matters either. Men in dark suits were sniffing around her case for weeks, not reaching any solid conclusions but causing endless disruption. They've been hunting for new recruits and trying to second older ones for a month or so now. They're not getting anywhere. Harry doesn't like any of them.
Jo sighs. Today they nearly lost Adam and Ros to a group of environmental terrorists. She wonders whether they might have lost Adam anyway. No one has told Jo what's wrong with Adam. But she's still not stupid and she can guess. He hasn't been right since Fiona died and he's been pushing himself far too hard.
She worries about what's to come. Harry called Zaf into his office half an hour ago, as Adam and Ros were leaving. He hasn't come out yet. Jo isn't sure what's lurking around the corner but she's pretty sure it won't be good.
The morning comes and Malcolm shifts from night to day without noticing. He doesn't sleep or stop to eat. Harry thinks that it's better not to worry Adam or Ros, if either come in they'll be notified, but it's not yet worth red flashing them. They've been through a lot.
Malcolm watches as Zaf readies himself – collects his papers, takes one last flick through his legend and stops to crack a joke for Jo's benefit. She laughs. Malcolm smiles. It's about time someone had something to smile about around here.
Zaf pulls his gaze from Jo and starts towards the pods. Malcolm doesn't have a good feeling about events that might be yet to come. He calls out. He can't stop himself.
Zaf grimaces. Malcolm knows that Zaf doesn't really want to do this. Zaf never thought he'd have to go back there.
Adam sits alone in his flat. It's quiet now.
Jenny was beautiful, wide-eyed, sympathetic. She had soft skin and a warm heart and innocence flowing from every pore.
Jenny is gone now.
Wes was tearful when Adam told him. Wes was defiant. Wes looked from Adam to the photograph of his mother and said nothing. He didn't need to. The hurt pouring from his eyes said it all.
Wes is gone now. To his grandparents. And then to boarding school.
Adam tells himself that he's doing the right thing. Wes can't be exposed to any more tragedy, any more violence.
He doesn't listen to the voice inside his head that tells him that Wes is an inconvenience. Fathers aren't supposed to think that about their children. He cries silently for the child that Wes is, the child that Adam wishes he could be. The child cries long after the tears have dried on Adam's face. The child cries for what could have been.
He doesn't want to relapse into that dirty, scary mental place. The place where he can't stand up with the weight of all his demons bearing down upon him. He reaches for his phone and searches through the numbers. Searches for solace.
Mum and Dad.
Delete. He hasn't looked through these numbers in so long.
He pauses. He wants so badly to press the button. To hear her voice and see her again, to talk through what happened.
He's slipping and he knows it. He throws the phone across the table and reaches for a second one. He flips it open and scrolls through the names. He finds what he's looking for and presses 'call'. When she picks up he knows he's done the right thing.
"I wondered when you would call."
The voice is flirty and Adam is helplessly seduced.
"Can I see you?"
"If I can get away."
The conversation lasts barely two minutes. Adam gets up and searches for his keys.
Ana is the wife of the Iranian Special Consul. Ana is attractive and intriguing and exciting. Ana thinks that Adam is a businessman and has fallen for him. Ana is an asset.
As he picks up his other phone he sees the name still illuminated on the screen.
His finger lingers over the 'call' key again and in his mind he wonders whether he's making the right decision. But he doesn't know what it is he wants from Ros.
He knows exactly what he wants from Ana.
Ros fingers her hair, trying to decide whether the expensive hairdresser was worth it. As she pulls on a soft black sweater she decides it was: forgetting the past meant making a change. She's always had long hair – a pair of long, fair plaits as a child; long loose waves as a teenager; a straighter, smarter style when she joined the services. But the blond bob suits her and gets in the way less. She likes it already.
She leaves her flat, entering the security code as she goes, and starts towards the tube station. She took a few hours off this morning for the haircut, but her fingers itch to get back to the gird, get back to work. She hasn't really got anything else in her life to occupy her.
She catches a glimpse of a news channel flickering on a television screen in a glamorous, glass-fronted hotel. Bob Hogan was on the news this morning. Not as Bob Hogan, of course, but she'd recognise his steely glare and haughty manner anywhere. Harry's been meeting with Hogan for a while now, but Ros doesn't like him. He never says so, but Bob thinks that the Americans are the superior race; Ros can read it in his eyes. This morning he was defending his nation as six US soldiers went on trial for war crimes. The abuse and humiliation and torture of twelve Iraqi prisoners. Ros has been tortured herself on enough occasions to know that the Americans weren't torturing them for information. The pictures on the news showed broken men tortured for fun – trophies for their captors. She knows that all nations torture in this way at some point, and that the British certainly aren't guilt-free. But she also despises the power that the Americans have at the moment and that Hogan seems to be using his power to protect these criminals. It seems that everyone answers to the Americans now, and she has a horrible feeling that they'll be answering to Hogan before too long.
Harry looks up from his desk as Ros enters the Grid. If he was truthful he had actually expected to see Ros before now. He's glad she took the morning off. Even a few hours away can do some good.
He watches as Jo smiles at her, possibly complimenting her on what appears to be a new haircut, and sends her through to his office.
"Has something happened?" Ros skips the pleasantries and heads straight for the business.
"We have something of a problem, yes." Harry skirts around the issue a little, waiting to see if she's up to a new operation.
"Does it have anything to do with Zaf's absence?"
Harry smiles. Ros is surprisingly observant, especially for someone who nearly drowned 18 hours ago.
"Zaf is overseeing the operation… at the other end."
"The other end?"
"Yes. In Tehran."
Adam is back at Thames House, facing his first session with the service psychiatrist. He had left Ana sleeping in the hotel bed an hour or so ago. He feels guilty that he requested the room be paid for on her card, but he didn't have a choice – he can't risk anyone, her husband or the service, finding out about the illicit affair.
The voice is cool and female, and he follows it into a well-lit room with comfortable chairs and a chaise long. Adam is surprised. He thought that they only used those in films. When he went to see his other psychiatrist, the one that the doctor recommended, he had always sat opposite her in a soft, leather chair. As the woman motions to the chaise long he sits on it and doesn't lie back. She doesn't push him to do so.
"How do you feel today, Mr Carter?"
Adam isn't sure whether the interrogation has started, or if she's merely wandering through protocol. He gives an answer that would be a suitable reply for either question.
"Better than yesterday."
He keeps his sentences short. He doesn't want this to take too long.
"In what way?"
So it was part of the assessment.
"In that I feel less tired, less nervous. I feel more in control."
"Are you telling me the truth or what you think I want to hear?" She questions him with calm and quiet confidence.
"The truth." He answers. "I feel better."
"Good." She's looking into his eyes, searching them for answers. She doesn't press the issue further, so Adam assumes his eyes say the right things.
"How did you feel yesterday?"
Adam opens his mouth but cannot speak, his mind searches for the words, how to express a whole world of uncomfortable feelings. His attempts to find his tongue are interrupted by the doctor as she spots his difficulty.
"Eloquence is not the key to sanity. Mental stability comes from the ability to express thoughts clearly and simply. Try speaking in words, not sentences."
It's the sort of thing he knew she would say – psychobabble, as his father used to call it. But he gives it a go, and finds that it's easier to talk this way.
"Low. Cold. Despondent. Numb. Scared. Childlike. Untouchable. Confident. Infuriated. Insecure. Elated."
"All at once?"
"All at once."
"And when you emerged from the water?"
Adam gives an involuntary shiver at the memory.
"Shaken. Controlled. Cold. Calm. Tired. Fortunate. Privileged."
"And the anger?"
"Lessened. It hasn't gone. But it doesn't control me anymore… it doesn't make me who I am. Does that make any sense?"
The doctor smiles. She doesn't answer but moves on.
"What about other people? How did you feel about others before yesterday?"
"I didn't. I couldn't feel for them. I could only feel for me."
Adam remembers Ana, sleeping on the expensive sheets and he knows he doesn't love her. He remembers Ros and how much he feels he has to say to her that he can't quite get out. He thinks about Wes and how much he loves him and why that means that he has to send Wes away. He thinks about Fiona and feels the grief stir a little inside him. He doesn't want to go back to that place. Ever.
"I don't know."
Adam doesn't answer. He can't keep the despair from his eyes. She's going to recommend a period of leave from work. He knows it.
"You know, Mr Carter, I think you should return to work."
Adam blinks twice in surprise.
"Yes. You can go now, unless there is anything else you wish to discuss."
"No." Adam pauses. "Thank you."
"That's quite alright. I'll see you on the 25th?"
He turns and walks from the room and heads for the Grid. His heart is thumping inside his chest. He thinks that if he can feel excited about something, then surely that's a step on the road to recovery.
In her room, the psychiatrist picks up her telephone and dials an internal phone number.
"Your man is fit for duty, Mr Pearce."
"Good." The doctor thinks that if she could see the man on the other end he would be smiling. "Are you sure?"
"Quite sure. His ability to know his own feelings and the way that they change, coupled with his acceptance that he still has to grieve shows an acute awareness of his own mind. I think that a work environment is the best place to stimulate this and that it is important for him to have regular contact with other people. He knows his own truth, Mr Pearce."
"Thank you, Doctor."
There is nothing more that needs to be said and the doctor hangs up. She's worked in the mysterious world of espionage for many years, observed some of the most broken minds in the world. She is grateful for the knowledge that some do manage to overcome adversity of their own creation. They have enough living, breathing enemies without having to do battle with their own minds.
Zaf shifts uncomfortably in his seat, jammed between a loud American businessman and a sombre looking Iranian woman. He sighs with the knowledge that he's stuck here for five and a half hours.
The plane picks up speed as it nears the runway and before long it's blazing through the British sunlight, soon to be entering a whole different world. Zaf has been to Tehran before: he was stationed there when he worked for MI6. He spent two years there, undercover catching terrorists and the fraudulent businessmen who ran them. It was an exciting time, one that for the most part he enjoyed. But his mind drifts to the reason that he was brought home, the reason that he agreed to join MI5. And he remembers why it is he doesn't look forward to returning.
The plane shakes a little.
"Ladies and gentlemen we appear to have encountered some turbulence. May I ask you to remain in your seats with the seatbelts fastened until we enter clearer skies. Thank you."
Drawn from the murky depths of his mind, Zaf hopes that this isn't an omen of troubled times to come.
"Why aren't we using '6 operatives? There must be plenty stationed in Iran, what with the volatile political climate?"
Harry sighs, they are not MI6's enemies and he thinks that the bizarre feud between the agencies is laughable. They are, after all, on the same side. Most of his officers, he realises, were seconded from MI6 and they are all completely competent. However, he doesn't know how to say that he doesn't want to relinquish control of the case. He wants his own officers to oversee it.
"I would prefer," he begins slowly, "that as few people as possible know about this operation. I want to stay clear of American interference, so I feel that it is best to keep anything relating to this situation within our own section."
Adam, Ros, Jo and Malcolm sit around the polished table staring at him. Adam and Ros with a little more interest – they have not yet been fully briefed. Jo rises from her chair. It's unusual that she gets the chance to explain the mission, to be the performer. It's usually Adam or Ros who stand at the head of the table and Harry is pleased that this situation is at least giving Joanna the chance to test herself.
"This is Hakim Akram, a known extremist and Al-Qaeda sympathiser."
A picture appears on the screen behind her. It shows a middle-aged man with dark hair and a scowl.
"We have received intelligence which suggests that Akram is attempting to courier an explosive device to London in order to attack the Iranian Embassy."
"What kind of device?"
"We don't know."
"And why the Embassy?"
Silence. Jo looks to Harry.
"We think that it is a deliberate attempt to sabotage a potential peace between the West and Iran. A few solid steps have been made recently – it seems that peace is a real possibility for the first time."
Silence. It's broken by Ros.
"Why are we keeping the Americans out of it?"
Harry sighs. Again.
"Because we think he's being financed by an American businessman, Martin Clarke."
"I've never heard of him." Adam looks questioningly at Harry.
"He's not famous, except perhaps in the criminal underworld. He's a silent partner in a number of large, corporate companies… has shady government connections… owns a few yachts… that sort of thing. Any number of governments, police forces and secret services would love to get something solid on Clarke. He's unofficially wanted almost everywhere."
"And no one's ever got him? For anything? Not even tax evasion?"
Ros is incredulous.
"No. He does everything through loyal middlemen and dubious companies. The middlemen can be silenced, the companies brought down, but there's never anything on Clarke. He's something of a hero in the criminal community."
"And if the Americans found out we were looking into him?"
"Things could get messy. They don't want to look like they're permitting criminal activity, but they're also rather fond of the money his businesses bring in. And, after all, he's never directly responsible – just the financier."
"Which makes him utterly responsible!" Ros is angry now.
"Well, in any case, we keep Bob Hogan out of this – is that clear?"
Harry surveys his team and waits for a nod or murmur of assent from every person.
"And Zaf?" Adam is the first to enquire to about the missing member of the team.
"Zaf has gone to Tehran to monitor Akram. He'll follow Akram and his team to Britain to keep us aware of his movements. We'll pick Akram up at the other end. It should be simple enough."
Jo looks a little concerned, Harry continues, doing his best to reassure her.
"Zaf is just there to make sure nothing goes wrong at that end. We want to question Akram and his men ourselves. We want to them to incriminate Clarke – once we have evidence, the Americans will not be able to intervene."
A sombre atmosphere hangs over the room. They know what this tentative peace has cost so far and they don't want to risk it on a bomb and a dead-man-walking.
"I believe you have been cultivating a useful asset within the Embassy, Adam?"
"Yes, but I don't think she's ready for any kind of…"
Harry cuts across him.
"I don't want her to do anything. That would be foolish in the extreme – we'd rather not warn Dariesh Bakshi of the exact threat in case he decides to take matters into his own hands. All I want you to do is talk to her and find out what you can about her husband's movements over the next few days – just in case we miss Akram. Can you do that?"
Adam nods his agreement.
"Good. The rest of you will need to prepare a procedure for the arrest of Akram and his men, and after that we'll need you to monitor any footage or intelligence that Zaf sends us from Tehran, or do a little digging with any other useful assets you might have."
The team rise from their chairs, understanding themselves to be dismissed.
Harry is proud of them.
The sun rises over the city of Tehran, illuminating the bustling streets and gleaming tower blocks. It's so much like London. And yet it's so far away.
Zaf looks out of his hotel room window and surveys the golden world below him. He wants there to be peace for this land. The girl on reception, the old taxi driver, the man who runs the 24-hour convenience store next to the hotel… they all deserve it. The people deserve it.
Zaf turns and looks towards the bed that he didn't sleep in last night, the covers are still immaculate, not a crease in sight. Sleep seemed pointless when it would be plagued by snatches of the past, when he wound spend hours imprisoned in his own mind, wading through dark and glittering memories searching for a resolution that would never come. This place might be beautiful, but Zaf never will forget the pain. Adam thinks he's the only one to have spent months being tortured at the hands of someone he thought was a friend.
Adam hangs up the phone. Ana is beautiful and intelligent and mysterious and exotic. She's petite and curvaceous, with skin the colour of milky coffee and a mop of soft chocolate curls. He knows he's falling and he knows it's wrong. Allowed, she's an asset – he can do anything to make her spill her secrets, but wrong.
He sits down in an armchair. It was easy, really. All he had to do was ask her when she was free, his tone flirtatious and seductive, and out came all her secrets, like diamonds dripping from her adulterous mouth. He sinks a little further into the seat and closes his eyes, slipping into state of semi-consciousness.
He's back in the water, gasping for air and struggling against the icy pull of the waves. He reaches for her, still desperately trying to take in oxygen, but feeling heavier by the minute. She's slipping from his grasp and he knows that unless he can hold onto her she'll slide back beneath the water and be lost to him. He tries to look for her in the mass of black water but he can't see her clearly. He calls a name he knows is hers, but his brain doesn't register the person behind it. She slips below the surface and he screams. In that split second he knows who she is.
She's Fiona. She's Ros. She's Ana.
He starts, his muscles snapping back into life, as though electricity were coursing through his body. His mind races as he tries to make sense of the pictures flashing through his mind.
Fiona is already lost to him. She got lost beneath those waves long ago, and he's learnt from experience that trying to pull her back is a fruitless, painful process. He doesn't want to go there again.
Ros is still there, still strong. He knows that she fights just as hard as he does, and he can see her holding her head high above the water. She's what he needs – someone who doesn't need to be wrapped in cotton wool, someone who might even be able take care of him sometimes. He's just not sure he can do it. The feelings are too raw, too complicated.
Ana is completely free of the water. She's not tied down by the pain and protocol of a life in the services. She flashes a flirtatious smile at him and flutters her eyelashes. She's held tight in her husband arms. All the same, a man's grip is easier to break that a mass of tangled, interconnected nerves and wires and emotions.
He looks back to Ros and his heart flutters as he sees her sink, just a little into the ferocious seas. He knows that he doesn't have long before she too is lost. Between Ana and Ros there is no competition and he knows it – only one of them could ever understand him and what he needs. But he can't do it. He can't say the words.
He reaches for his diary and marks in his next encounter with Ana.
He marks in his next appointment with the psychiatrist. He knows her name but he prefers to think of her as 'the psychiatrist'. Telling your problems to someone who can he pretend doesn't have issues of their own is easier than talking to 'real people'. He knows that to overcome this, he'll have to tell her about all these tangled thoughts. He sighs. It's going to be hard.
Ros is at the airport. The early morning air is cool and the muted light is welcome to her tired eyes. She and Jo are here, with a Special Branch squad and a battalion of uniformed police officers. Harry and Adam and Malcolm are back at Thames House. They're interviewing a few more potential candidates for Ruth's job. Ros is doubtful that any of them will get it. Harry hasn't liked any of them so far and she doesn't hold out any hope for the new bunch of robots. She flicked through their files earlier – they're all of a mediocre IQ and generic beauty – and most of them are blond. No… Ros doesn't think Harry will be employing any of them unless it's Adam making the final choice. Adam… She still isn't sure what she wants from him and she's worried about his new asset – she's seen the photo, and for the first time in her life she has competition. Competition? Ros shakes her head. She's not like that. She doesn't want Adam. Not really.
"Zaf's called in and he's at the airport, he'll call again before they board." Jo pops up from nowhere, shattering her reverie.
"Great. Has he still got eyeball on Akram?"
"Yep. Nothing to report as yet."
"Good. Thanks, Jo."
She waves dismissively, seeing something that might be pity in Jo's big, blue eyes. Ros knows that Jo sees more than she lets on, and the conversation that sits unformed on Jo's lips is not one that she wants to have right now.
Harry waves the last girl from the office with a small smile and closes the door.
"She's a promising candidate – a great reference from GCHQ." Adam waves a few sheets of paper in Harry's general direction.
"She's a no." Harry is blunt. He doesn't want another analyst from GCHQ. He doesn't want a young, blond girl. A smile that could never match Her smile. A girl that could never be Her.
"She had all the required qualities, Harry." Malcolm is trying to be reasonable. They need a new analyst – he can't continue on by himself.
"She's a no."
Harry leaves. Malcolm sighs. Adam drops the papers back onto the desk.
There's work to be done.
Zaf scans the departure lounge his heart racing. He had been reading the paper and his target had been well in sight. 'Had been'.
He flips open his phone and dials a familiar number.
"Ros? We've got a problem."
Ros rings the airport. She rings Harry. She rings Adam. In the end her ears are ringing with instructions. They have so little time. This can't go wrong.
Zaf runs from lounge to lounge and out into a cold, grey corridor.
He turns a corner.
He looks out of the window.
His heart stops.
Robert Hogan doesn't usually do this sort of thing himself. He has others to do the dirty tasks, meet the crooks and the criminals, write the bad cheques.
But he can't deny that his pulse quickens as his finger slide around the weapon. This man could jeopardise the CIA. And his department. And his job. And his reputation.
Doubt doesn't even enter his mind.
Harry paces around his office and wills the phone to ring with good news. He looks out from behind the glass and sees Adam and Malcolm glued to their own phones.
How can they have lost Akram? After all the trauma of the past few weeks this is the last thing that they need. If they fail to catch Akram he'll make it to London and then all hell will be unleashed. He's not a god-fearing man but a throws a little prayer to the heavens all the same. Harry will try anything to get the job done.
Zaf opens his mouth to shout. Maybe even to scream. He can't let his happen and suddenly hi feet begin to move of their own volition.
But he knows that he's too far away. Too late.
Robert Hogan smiles. He has to protect his own interests. Protect his own country.
His heart is beating so fast he feels as though it will break his chest open.
His hand is quite still.
His stance is solid.
Police and cameras and reporters and doctors swarm around the scene, but Bob Hogan and his mob of Americans are long gone.
Zaf left a while ago too.
He reports in to Harry, explains the situation and hangs up. It's midday and the sun shines brightly over Tehran. His long forgotten screams still echo inside his mind. Somewhere behind his eyelids a man that Zaf thought he knew reaches for knife. Zaf can't wait to leave.
He calls the airport and exchanges his ticket.
Home is calling.
Home sweet home.
There are several things that Harry Pearce knows.
One. Hakim Akram is dead.
Two. He was killed by Bob Hogan, CIA.
Three. Bob Hogan and his men will never be charged or put on trial for the crime. As Bob had said, it was in everyone's interests that Akram was eliminated.
Four. Bob Hogan won't bother about Zaf and what he saw. Bob doesn't have the patience and Zaf is no threat.
Five. They won't get Martin Clarke. Not now that Akram is gone. Maybe next time.
Six. He doesn't like Bob Hogan.
Seven. It appears that Bob Hogan will be sticking around.
Eight. He really doesn't like Bob Hogan.
Nine. He wishes Ruth were here.
Ten. He still doesn't like Bob Hogan.
Making lists always did comfort Harry. He thinks that the psychiatrist would probably have a lot to say about that. He expects that it's probably some kind of disorder these days. Back in his younger days it was a sign of an ordered mind and a logical character.
Harry Pearce sometimes prefers to live in the past. Especially when the present is so painful.
Elsewhere a whole new problem is brewing. A man hangs up the phone. He hopes that she'll see him soon. The woman. Miriam. She's from MI5 and he knows he's being a traitor. But he doesn't have any choice. When that blond woman first walked into his life he had no choice. It was this or excruciating pain. And he doesn't have a high pain threshold. He does, however, have information. Information on a wanted man. A man called Mehan Asnik.
The safe house is warm. Adam's arms are warm. She never meant to do this – it was a drink, nothing else. She'd just set up a meeting with an asset. He sounded worried and that's never a good sign. She had called Harry and he'd sounded worried too. She'd had been the one to call Adam. She had just needed some company.
She tries to convince herself that she's seeking only solace in his embrace. Something in the back of her mind tells her that she's looking for more than that. But she doesn't listen and Adam kisses her again. They fall into the sheets together.
Ros lets herself go.
Let's dance in style, let's dance for a while.
Zaf's phone rings and his heart sinks. He's waiting for his return flight. He wants to go home, wants to leave this place and all the bad memories. The memories that he knows can't tell anyone about. Not even Jo. And he likes her. Maybe even likes her a bit more than he should.
He picks up, but remains silent.
There's a pause. Harry's voice is quieter. Always the bearer of bad news.
"Is your legend still intact?"
Zaf sighs. He knew it. It's not over.
Jo glances in the mirror again. She can't quite believe she's done it. It's shorter. Much shorter. Much, much, much shorter. But she thinks she quite likes it really. She wonders if Zaf will like it. She hopes he'll be home soon. The flat is empty without him.
As if by some supernatural miracle, her phone rings and it's him. She answers brightly, a smile on her face.
"Hi, what's going on?" He sounds exhausted and there's something else in his voice that she can't quite place. Regret?
"I got my hair cut."
"What's it like?"
There's a pause.
Another pause. She breaks it first.
"What about you?"
He sighs, sighs again, and then explains.
None of them know what is to come.
Zaf doesn't know that Tehran, the place that caused him so much pain, will be the end of him. He doesn't know that he'll never be able to explain those demons to Jo. He doesn't know that he's about to experience pain as never before.
Ros doesn't know that in a matter of weeks she'll be somewhere else, living another life, smiling someone else's smile. She doesn't know that she'll leave Adam behind, and she doesn't know just how much her life is going to change.
Jo doesn't know that she'll soon learn why Ros and Fiona seemed cold at first; she doesn't know just how much she'll be hurting. She doesn't know that her life hangs by a thread, a time bomb that just keeps ticking.
Adam doesn't know that he'll lose Ros, just as he lost Fiona. What's more, he doesn't know that he'll cope this time – he'll be angry, his heart broken – but he'll cope. He doesn't know that he'll lose Ana too. He'll lose her but gain the possibility of a child, a whisper of something that could be good if the world were different.
Malcolm doesn't know he's soon to feel like a real hero, soon he'll live up to the tales he's told his mother. He doesn't know that he'll lose more friends to this job, and end up desperate to help them, to trade his moment of glory for their lives.
In a smart flat in the city, Ben Kaplan doesn't know that he's about to uncover a whole new world, a whole new range of possibilities. He doesn't know that he'll be the second member of Section D to give up a career as a journalist for something infinitely more dangerous.
In a disused bunker in the country, Connie James doesn't know that her retirement will be cut short. That the ghosts never can disappear completely and will be re-awoken by Harry, Malcolm and a band of bright, young officers. The crosswords run out eventually.
Harry doesn't know that his team will emerge from this year, broken and exhausted. He doesn't know that he'll emerge from this year with a title, as 'Sir Harry Pearce'.
None of them know what is to come.
In an underground lab near Tehran the blood and the death and the pain are becoming too much to bear.
"You're a liar, Mehan. This is not a tactical weapon. It is not a diplomatic bargaining tool. It only has one function… to wipe out entire cities. I know you hate them. But God, what a psychopath you are. Look what you have brought upon us, Mehan. Look what you've done."
He sinks to the floor.
Look at what you've done.
Mehan Asnik runs.