A/N: I was listening to my music on shuffle as I wrote chapter 9 of AFTFE and "Cinderella" by Steve Moakler came on. I wasn't really paying attention and all of a sudden, one of his lines caught my attention: "Cinderella, it's not midnight." And this popped into my head. Don't know if I actually like it, but I thought I'd put it up anyway while I work on ch. 10. Theoretically set sometime in S10.
She leans over the rail and looks out over the city. She misses their roof, the one she knows by heart. She doesn't want to be here, despite it being Berlin and despite being here with him. She pretends that they're not here for work, but it doesn't help. She sighs and closes her eyes against the cool wind. She knows when he comes up behind her – she's always known his presence – and she can't help the smile that breaks out.
"I thought I might find you out here," he says. She turns to see that he's carrying two glasses of champagne, holding one out to her. She smiles and takes it.
"Thank you," she whispers. He smiles and joins her at the rail, sipping his drink.
"It's beautiful here," she says after a moment.
"Mmm. Although I wish we weren't here on official business."
She looks at him, but he doesn't acknowledge the double meaning in his statement. He continues staring out at the city.
"How was it inside?" she asks quietly after a moment.
"With all of the politicians?" he says with a smile. She nods. "Full of bloody politics," he says.
"You looked like you were enjoying yourself," she says softly. He looks at her.
"Mmm." She stares over the city. "You were even dancing."
"It's difficult to avoid when the Home Secretary is pushing you into five different women at once."
She tenses and he feels a pang of guilt for treating her like this after all she's done for him. He sighs and shakes his head.
"The DGSE liaison looked like she was enjoying your company."
He looks at her, so unused to hearing such bitterness in her voice. His heart leaps for a moment before he crushes it back down and shakes his head, even though he knows she can't see it.
"She's risen in her chosen career for her ability to lie," he says softly. "I doubt it had anything to do with the attention I was paying her."
"I wouldn't be so sure, Harry," she says darkly. "She looked like she was in deep trouble of falling in love with you."
"Would that be trouble?" he says, moving a breath closer. "Being in love with me, I mean."
She's not meeting his eyes, so he gives up and says instead, "She's in no danger from me and I'm in no danger from her."
"You say that with such confidence."
She stays silent. He's trying to catch her out – he's seen the way she's been looking at him all night – but she's not biting, so he continues as though nothing will ever change.
"She's not exactly my type," he says, "and I know I'm not hers. At least, not if that video of her and the Japanese ambassador from last night is any indication."
She tries to hide her smile from him, but he sees it and the warmth he's missed for so long fills his chest.
"Besides, she's French."
"You could go to Paris all the time," she whispers. He shakes his head again.
"I only need to go one more time," he says softly, "before I'll be happy."
She blushes gently in the moonlight as he takes her in. Her simple black dress is strapless and modestly decorated with small rhinestones. She's wearing a delicate diamond pendant that dances across her collarbone. Her hair, which had earlier been swept up into an intricate design of curls, has begun to collapse, soft tendrils falling down her neck and to the top of her shoulder blades. He longs to run his hands across her body, but they're barely talking. He can't even imagine what she would do if he tried anything. So he settles for staring at her and wishing she would meet his eyes.
"Why did you dance with her?"
He's caught off guard and answers with an instinctive, "What?"
"Why did you dance with her?" she repeats, still avoiding his eyes.
"Because I couldn't very well turn down a beautiful woman in front of her friends."
"I wish I hadn't," he admits quietly. "My time could have been better spent."
She doesn't speak. He downs the rest of his drink and sets the glass on the stones.
"You know," he says, "I wish you'd come out of your spell."
"I miss you," he says, meeting her eyes. "I miss you," he repeats when she doesn't move.
She wraps her arms around herself and stares at him, still not speaking. She shakes her head and he dares to hope that her eyes are gleaming. He reaches out, but she takes a step back. He holds out his hands in surrender.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I shouldn't have said that."
She doesn't respond. He's waiting for something romantic to pop into his head when she turns toward the ballroom and offers a stiff smile.
"I'd best turn in," she says, running her free hand down her dress to smooth out the wrinkles while the other hand clutches her glass. "Early morning and all that."
She's made it two steps when his hand is on her wrist and his voice is in her ear. "Ruth."
"Don't go quite yet," he murmurs. "I don't want to be alone."
"Oh, Cinderella," he breathes, his lips brushing over her ear, "it's not midnight."
She doesn't know why the tears come now, but they do. She blinks rapidly and tries to turn away from him as he pulls her glass from her hand and sets it on the stones next to his.
"It's not midnight," he repeats, drawing her slowly closer, his hand wrapping around her waist gently as he grips her hand.
"Harry," she whispers, hoping he'll hear what she's trying to say. He finally meets her gaze and sees what she means.
There, in those beautiful blue eyes that he misses every night, is love. Just love. She doesn't condemn him for his choices he's made before. She doesn't blame him for the death of another man. She doesn't. Not anymore. Now, in those teary eyes, he sees that she loves him, that she's always loved him.
He pulls her closer and she drops her head to his shoulder, pressing her face into his neck. He can feel the tears slipping down her face and onto his shirt. He hopes she doesn't notice the tears running down the strands of perfect curls as he rests his head on hers.
They move gracefully, two halves of one soul dancing.
She doesn't say anything, just holds him until the music stops and she tries to pull back. He pulls her back – it reminds her that this is how they've always been, pushing and pulling one another back to themselves – and holds her closer than before. She lets out the sob she's been holding back and he pulls back just enough to look at her. Her tears are clinging to her eyelashes and his own drop from his eyes as he brushes his thumb over her eyes.
"I can't bear to see you unhappy," he whispers. "Pour your eyes into mine. Oh, Cinderella," he whispers as he presses a kiss to her temple, "it's not midnight. Come out of your spell."
A/N: Well, I'm not sure I'm in love with it, but I'd love to hear from other people, even if you don't like it. :)