Disclaimer: It all belongs to the BBC and Kudos. **Spoilers for S10 press release.
Dimitri stared at the page in front of him. His brain couldn't quite compute why a high-tech organisation such as MI5 still had certain forms that could only be filled out on paper. Embarrassing forms. With embarrassing questions. And none was more so than the one over which his pen was poised. Just the title was enough to make even a hardened spy cringe. To Dimitri, it seemed to answer quite a few questions about the lives of his co-workers off the Grid: Form S24, Permission for Socialisation, probably blocked more relationships than it cleared.
He looked over to Harry's office. The S24 form had to be handed over in person while the Section Head flipped through files with pursed lips and its victim watched on silently, trying to read the minute reactions to parking fines and university-era affiliations. It was an ordeal, and Dimitri had only seen it happen once before. The results were apparently worth it (Jack and Eve were currently planning their wedding) but the process was something of a nightmare.
Dimitri looked up as the pods opened to reveal another new and unfamiliar face. The Grid was full of IA types now, keeping watch on Harry as the enquiry drew ever nearer. He had been denied the right to choose his team and instead his latest Section Chief had been forced upon him by higher powers. For the last few weeks, Dimitri had seen him do little but sit behind his desk and watch as some hot-blooded young thing did his job, and not half as well.
There was no room for loyalty, he noted resignedly, watching as another nameless figure took their place at the desk that formerly belonged to Beth.
It was clear that, next to Harry, Beth was the one most affected by the Lucas/John debacle. Her joining the service was a way to leave behind the very sort of deception and betrayal brought to light in the past month. She was meant to be finding the honourable alternative to her past. Instead it was chasing her down, reminding her just how untrustworthy humans can be. Needless to say, she hadn't taken it well. She had chosen decommissioning over risking something like it happening again.
He hated being at home nowadays. Crossing paths with Beth as she searched for a new home and a new job and a new life. He wanted to tell her what was happening on the Grid, how it had been invaded, but that conversation was off-limits now that she was a member of the public.
To avoid the possibility of seeing her in their flat, drinking wine and watching telly, he left early for laps at the local pool and stayed on the Grid late, looking for things to do that would justify his being there.
Erin was suspicious of his perceived over-zealousness but Dimitri often wasn't alone in nighttime vigils. Ruth sometimes sat at her computer, her eyes drooping while her hand directed the mouse aimlessly, until she eventually fell asleep over her keyboard. When he heard her breathing even out, Dimitri would gently shake her awake. She would open her eyes with a start, then nod sadly, take her coat from his outstretched hand and leave in silence. She very pointedly avoided her boss.
Harry simply watched the Grid, a sentinel in his office. He would invite Dimitri in for a reassuring glass of Scotch and the two men would stand guard together, saying little, just making sure that the Grid was still there. Everyone seemed to fear its vanishing.
Dimitri was certainly no exception.
Little by little, their jobs were being eaten up. They were untrustworthy, those old hands in Section D. He knew his every movement was being watched, recorded. The powers that be had to determine where his loyalty lay: with the government, MI5 or Harry.
If he were being honest with himself, not even Dimitri knew the answer to the question. Harry didn't seem to have much to say lately, shut away as a figurehead. Erin called the shots, and she made sure that anything Dimitri did was behind the security of a computer.
'Levendis! I want details of Coulter's known associates on my desk before you leave!'
He sighed as he started tapping at the keyboard. Office-bound. This wasn't what he had given up the adventurous Special Boat Service to do. Even if he'd seen all five of his best mates killed or destroyed over the years. Dimitri visited Scott once a week in hospital and tried to be cheery, telling stories and reminiscing about their shared childhood. Smiling, however, is a very difficult thing to do knowing that you were only centimetres from the same fate. Dimitri had taken that last shred of luck as a cue to exit.
In some ways, he felt being headhunted for the Security Service was a natural career progression. What with the signalling and intelligence gathering skills gained from the SBS, Dimitri fit their desired candidate profile more than adequately. A job with a less active role had proved to be a pleasant change, even if stray bullets were still an occupational risk.
That didn't mean that he enjoyed playing desk spook, though.
Only last week had he teased Beth about finding an office job and the boredom she would undoubtedly encounter in a cubicle on the twelfth floor. He taunted her like he taunted his younger sister Eleni, jesting and laughing and smiling. She had playfully slapped him away and continued making up an employment history that didn't breach the Official Secrets Act or mention illegal arms trading in Colombia, before bringing up The Girlfriend with a sly smirk.
'The Girlfriend?' he had echoed, imitating her vocal capitalisation. He was worried; had Beth been following him? She definitely had the time now to make a hobby of flatmate surveillance.
'Yes, The Girlfriend. The same number always popping up on your phone. It's the only number you leave the room to take.'
Dimitri had laughed, relieved. He hadn't given his number out for years.
'That's not my girlfriend Bailey.'
'No?' Beth's grin hadn't been convinced.
'Whose is it Dimitri?'
'Yes.' He had enjoyed seeing the expression of bewilderment pass over her face.
'You have an ex-wife?'
'Yes.' Dimitri had snapped up her wine glass and taken a sip. Cheap merlot. 'Just about everyone in the SBS has one.'
'You really don't seem the type, you know.'
He had laughed, patted her on the head like a sister. 'Don't I?'
'No. Nowhere near moody enough.' Beth had snatched her glass back with a smile.
'It was a long time ago. A century maybe. I've grown up.'
'I'm glad to hear it.'
'So why does The Ex call you so often?'
'She's getting remarried.'
'Yes. To a fellow teacher.'
'Does that bother you?'
'No. Should it?'
'I don't know.'
'It was a long time ago.'
'I'm invited to the wedding.'
'Seems a bit strange.'
'Inviting The Ex to the wedding.'
'She's just like a friend really.'
'Yes. A friend.'
'Well then. Everything's good.'
'Yes. Everything's good.'
They had been sitting opposite each other on the lounge, just looking at the other's face, before they both burst into childish laughter. Nothing was 'good'. And they thought that was simply hilarious.
Erin tapped her fingers on Dimitri's desk. Her face showed her displeasure at the vague look in his eyes and the fact that he hadn't tapped on his keyboard for at least ten minutes. 'I want that report in half an hour Levendis.'
'You said before I leave,' he retorted, not caring that disobedience was unwise in the current climate.
'I changed my mind. Half an hour.'
For someone so small, Erin had a disproportionate amount of authority about her. She had to be tough and brusque and generally unpleasant to make up for her tiny stature. Dimitri put her agitation and anger down to insecurity. It was all terribly forced. She wasn't an elegant 'ice queen' like the legendary Ros Myers. Erin Watts was just plain rude.
Nothing was ever said directly about the future of Harry or Section D. Erin kept them all busy with mundane tasks that minimised opportunities to talk about anything not related to a current operation. But it was this presence that seemed to say it all for Dimitri. They were in trouble, and though life on the Grid would continue, it wouldn't be the same. Once the enquiry got underway, he knew he would be summoned, one amongst many, to testify for or against Harry's actions concerning Albany and Lucas. It was a day he dreaded.
Dimitri had respected Harry from the beginning. Coming from the discipline of the SBS, he was used to implicitly trusting his superiors with his life. Things simply didn't work without trust. Even in the spying game, Dimitri had assumed (wrongly, it had turned out). Harry was a shrewd leader who worked tirelessly to defend his country. Unless Ruth's life was at risk, that is.
He and Tariq exchanged glances across the Grid as Erin once more approached Dimitri's desk, possibly to cut his limit down to two minutes or something else absurd. The techie pulled a face in response that Ruth caught in her peripheral vision before all three struggled to contain their silly smiles.
Dimitri saw that Erin was veering away from her demented-looking target. He still had twenty minutes to complete a dossier he would prefer to spend at least an hour on. The finished report was skimping somewhat on a few particulars but if the Chief wanted it done in an absurdly constricted time schedule then that was the sacrifice she would have to make. Dimitri placed it on her desk with a smirk and waited for the Grid to empty for the night.
He finished filling out Form S24 as Ruth finally stood up to leave for the evening, mumbling something about feeding her cat. Dimitri shook his head with a crooked grin. No wonder Beth hadn't lasted long living with the analyst. She hated cats, as well as the feeling that she was only a guest in Ruth's house. It was something she liked to remind Dimitri of whenever she sat down on their lounge in front of their telly.
Sharing a flat with Beth was something he would miss in the uncertain future. What made them ideal roommates in the beginning was what made them completely unsuitable roommates now that she had been decommissioned. They couldn't just talk national security over breakfast any more. Beth was a civilian. Dimitri didn't exist.
As the nine thirty news bulletin streaked across the Grid's TV screen in muted silence, Harry came out of his office, beckoning Dimitri to join him without a word. It had become their nighttime ritual, and both men found some small comfort in the company.
'How is Miss Bailey coping?' Harry asked, not looking up as he poured out two generous glasses of single malt.
Dimitri shrugged. 'Still looking for a job and a home.'
'Life on the outside isn't quite as idyllic as we imagine?'
'No, I don't think it is.' Dimitri didn't smile.
'And you. How are you coping?'
'Best as can be expected considering the new Chief.'
'Miss Watts certainly wouldn't have been my choice, but I am sure she is more than capable. Give her a chance, if only so you keep your job.' A grimace stretched over Harry's face.
They both settled into their chairs, looking out over the abandoned Grid.
'I have something for you,' Dimitri said at last, breaking the silence and shoving his embarrassment to one side. He held out the form. 'I don't think you've seen one of these for a while.'
Harry took the paper gingerly and then read the number in the corner. And then he laughed.
'It probably isn't a good time to be thinking of my personal life-'
'It's never a good time in this job,' interrupted Harry, 'but we must think of our private lives all the same. Not even we spies should be wholly defined by our occupation.'
Dimitri smiled a grateful smile.
'Well well,' muttered the Section Head, scanning the sheet, 'a professional bassoonist. How did you find her?'
'We go swimming at the same pool most mornings. Sometimes get a coffee from the kiosk. Yesterday she brought me homemade cupcakes.'
'Cupcakes?' repeated Harry incredulously. Dimitri presumed he looked even less like a cupcake man than an ex-wife man.
'Yes, pistachio and cardamom cupcakes. Surprisingly good combination. Her sister made them. I took that as a sign I should hurry up and ask her out; you don't bring cupcakes for strange men at the pool unless you like them.'
'No I don't suppose you do,' said Harry, failing to mask his surprise. It pleased Dimitri to think he still had some mystery of his own. 'Well, vetting your friend Patience will at least give me something to focus on while Miss Watts runs my section.'
Dimitri frowned. Everything about Harry was tired and resigned, and he was growing more hollow with each day. 'None of us like what's happening here.'
'No. No …'
Harry looked out to the sea of desks and files and computers. Dimitri wondered what he was seeing. Ghosts of colleagues past? The dead, forgotten and exiled all returned? Harry had been the head and the heart of Section D for so long … how much had he seen over the years?
Dimitri didn't like to think about such things. They only reminded him of the short life expectancy of his fellow Grid members. Not many people retired from this job. He hoped but didn't presume to be one of them in the future.
Feeling decidedly more melancholy than he did when he first handed over Form S24, Dimitri downed the rest of his Scotch. He wanted to get away. 'Thanks for the drink. Let me how it goes with Patience.' The tired man nodded. 'Goodnight Harry.'
As a pod slid open for him, Dimitri looked back to the Grid. It looked exactly the same way it had when he had first walked onto it, a promising, relatively fresh-faced new recruit. That had been only a year ago, but it felt more akin to a lifetime, he thought, taking in the solitary figure bent over a crystal tumbler.
No one survived this job unscathed. He hadn't expected to be an exception. After all, he had been a soldier. Death and destruction was a soldier's reality. But no matter how accustomed anyone was to violence and betrayal, those things still took their toll. Harry was paying that price now. When would Dimitri pay his?
The thought was warranted. He was about to bring an innocent bassoon player (whatever a bassoon was) into his chaotic and false world. Surely it was only courteous to let her know that his job would one day cause him to implode. Because some way or another – physically or psychologically - every spy did.
It was only a matter of time.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed my little filler. Comments and criticism much appreciated.