Disclaimer: Spooks belongs to Kudos and the BBC – if I owned them, something like this might have happened. Title isn't mine either.
A/N: This is a response to The Grand Tour's Spring fic challenge. Yes, I know it's a bit late but then again, it's coming up to Spring in the Southern Hemisphere :P Oh, and it's just a bit of fluffy fun – don't take it too seriously. :)
Thanks to the Peas for the encouragement and support (and the title ;) )
"Harry, it's me, Ruth."
"What time is it?"
"Late. Sorry to call at this hour, but..."
"Are you alright?"
"Me? Yes, I'm fine, thanks."
"Well, that's...that's good."
"Harry, I was wondering...I was wondering if perhaps you could come over..."
"To your place?"
Harry was puzzled. Why was she inviting him over? She had lover-boy with her, didn't she?
"Harry? Are you still there?"
"What? Yes, sorry. I thought you were…er, it doesn't matter." He paused. "I'll be about fifteen minutes."
"Right, OK. See you soon." There was a click as the call disconnected and then dialling tone.
Ruth looked at her watch: fifteen minutes and then she would get an explanation of why he'd been following her. She could have asked him on the phone but she wanted to see him, face-to-face, to see his reaction.
As he drove, Harry considered various reasons why Ruth would summon him to her house so late in the evening. He concluded that she must have seen him earlier and now she was going to confront him. As he saw it, he had two choices – confess what he'd been doing or go for an outright denial. There was no way he was going to admit to tailing her that evening if the boyfriend was there. The thought of her with another man made his heart ache but he had only himself to blame. He should have stopped wasting time and asked her out. They had become close over the years and he was sure their relationship had potential to develop but he'd held back, been cautious. Now it was too late.
Harry shifted from foot to foot as he waited for Ruth to answer the doorbell. When she opened the front door, she seemed reasonably calm, which he took as a good sign.
"Hello Harry. Come in."
He followed her down the hall and into the living room. There was no obvious sign that anyone else was in the house, at least not downstairs. He tried to ignore the voice in his head telling him that the boyfriend must be upstairs in bed – her bed.
"You, er, you wanted to see me?"
"Yes, yes I did." Ruth took a deep breath. "You were following me earlier tonight. Don't deny it, I saw you."
Harry was taken aback by her directness. "I wouldn't say I was following you. I was driving along behind you, coincidentally."
"So was it a coincidence that you happened to be following me last Saturday as well?"
"Was I?" Harry said, airily. "Can't say I saw you."
She clearly didn't believe him and the set of her jaw indicated she was getting very angry. "Do not lie to me."
It was ironic, he reflected, that she had proved to be an even better spook than he'd thought. He'd been careful the first two occasions and was certain she hadn't seen him but he couldn't be so sure about this evening. Perhaps, subconsciously, he'd allowed himself to be seen in order to provoke a confrontation with her. Well he'd definitely got that.
"OK, OK. I was following you this evening and last Saturday but it was for your own good."
Ruth raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? Please explain."
"Well, I saw you, quite by chance, a couple of weekends ago and you had someone, a man, in the car with you. I didn't intentionally follow you, really I didn't."
He started to pace around the room. "You pulled over to the side of the road and you, er, you…well, you got quite friendly with your passenger."
Ruth's anger lessened slightly and curiosity took over as she tried to work out what Harry was referring to and why it seemed to be making him embarrassed.
"I'm not sure what you mean…"
"Please Ruth; I saw you."
Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There was no way he wanted to describe, in detail, what he'd seen her doing but it was clear he would have to.
"You were leaning over your friend's lap… You were performing a…an intimate act on him."
"A what?!" she shrieked.
In an attempt to distance himself from his words, Harry blundered on. "Then I saw you the following weekend and he was with you again. You're clearly close to this man, whoever he is, but you haven't submitted an S24."
She moved closer to him, eyes blazing with fury, and prodded him in the chest.
"An S24…is that what this is all about?"
He attempted to back away from Ruth but found himself trapped between her and the sofa. "Yes, no, well, partly, I suppose."
"You know the rules. We need to know where you met him, that he is who he says he is, that kind of thing."
"I found him on the internet," she announced, loudly.
"On the internet?!" Harry shouted. "Ruth! What were you thinking? He could be anyone. People lie all the time on those dating websites. Or have you already checked him out? You know that's-"
"For God's sake, Harry." She was indignant. Something he'd said was nagging at the back of her mind but she was too angry to work out what it was.
"I'm not stupid or naïve," she continued hotly. "If you would just give me a chance to explain."
"He might be a weirdo or a lunatic or a stalker," Harry countered.
"The only stalker is you!"
Silenced by her accusation, Harry looked at Ruth and wondered if he could possibly talk his way out of the predicament he was now in.
"I'm sorry you think I'm a stalker, but I was, I am concerned about you. I don't want you being taken advantage of."
"Well I'm not being taken advantage of and I can prove it!"
She grabbed his arm and started to drag him out of the sitting room and down the hall.
Worried that he was going to end up in an unpleasant confrontation with her new boyfriend, Harry attempted to placate Ruth.
"There's no need, really. We can sort out the paperwork on Monday. I'm sure everything will be fine."
It was a waste of time; she was a woman on a mission.
Pausing only to retrieve her keys from her coat pocket, Ruth yanked open the front door and walked briskly down the garden path. She maintained her grip on Harry's arm until they stopped by her car. Opening the boot, she turned triumphantly to him and pointed:
"There! That's my new man! Do I still need to complete an S24?"
Harry stared into the back of the car. "It's a dummy," he said, eventually.
"He's a car-buddy." Ruth started to drag the item in question out of the boot. "I'll show you how he works."
She loaded the dummy into the front passenger seat and then settled herself into the driver's seat.
"He has a compressor built into his foot. You plug the lead into the cigarette lighter and then press this switch. It takes a few minutes, which is why I leave him partly inflated in the boot."
"I see," Harry said as Ruth finished her demonstration. "So what were you doing when I thought you were giving him, well, when you were stopped at the roadside?"
"I was just plugging him in to top up his air as he'd got a bit deflated."
"I know the feeling," Harry muttered under his breath. "I'm sorry, Ruth. It would seem that you're friend here is not the only dummy."
For the first time that evening Ruth allowed herself to relax and she smiled at him.
"Come on, help me put him back in the boot and then we can have a cup of tea."