Thank you once again for all the exceedingly lovely comments. And now for some slightly hesitant fluff, set sometime after S9... Not sure I'm totally wild about how it came out, but I'll leave you to judge ;)
The changes come slowly and, at first, they are so subtle that they are easily dismissible. A look held for longer than is normal in a professional setting; a hesitant smile when no one else is around to see it; an unexpected cup of tea placed on his desk along with the nightly collection of files for him to read and sign.
They are all acts that he could take as sympathy or an expression of pity for the intensity of the investigation he is currently facing as a result of his act of treason.
He hates that word, treason. It makes him think of plots and espionage and evil intent, when really all he intentionally committed was an act of love. The people on his board of enquiry don't see it that way, though. And, for the longest time, he thinks that Ruth doesn't see it that way, either.
But then the small changes start and Harry begins to wonder if maybe she does get it, after all. Or, the devil's advocate in him whispers, maybe she just feels guilty.
Yet even after the enquiry is over and he has got off with a much lighter telling off than he imagined, thanks to some cunning antics from his team and a well-timed foiling of a terrorist plot by himself that lends him some much-needed goodwill, the changes stick around. And, gradually, they become more overt – impossible to dismiss.
Ruth doesn't avoid him like she once did; she actually seeks him out, on the roof and by the Thames and in his office, after hours. They never talk about much, they're both clearly too nervous to take much more of a risk so soon (although really, Harry thinks, this saga has been going on for the better part of a decade; there have been three prime ministers and innumerable scandals in the time it's taken him and Ruth to bumble their way back and forth, only to end up as more-than-but-not-actually-practically-much-more-than-colleagues). But the gestures are there and, slowly, they effectively start over again.
He thinks that they should have done it much sooner. The whole thing is becoming fun again. Now when she comes into his office, he doesn't automatically steel himself for barbs being flung from every direction and line up retorts to use in response. Now, he looks forward to what she might say and takes a perverse pleasure in reading between the lines.
He's fairly certain that there are lines to read between, at any rate.
It's odd, in a way, having something approaching a personal relationship forming between them again, after so long of one existing only in his head. It's odd, and it starts so unexpectedly that he still can't allow himself to relax into it entirely, but it's lovely all the same.
Their topics of conversation eventually start to move away from work to good-natured chats about stories in the news, their personal efforts to stave off the effects of energy bill price rises, and their respective pets. The tone lightens; they both fall a little more.
One night, Ruth comes into his office wearing her coat and holding her bag. He's expecting her to say good night and is holding a small internal debate as to whether offering a lift would be seen as inappropriate, when suddenly and quite deliberately, she asks him if he'd like to go for a drink.
The part of him that houses the years' worth of hurt makes him hesitate, but then Ruth speaks again.
She tells him that she wants to talk about something important, that she's been thinking about things and she'd just really like to… talk to him. Her tone is unreadable but the look in her eyes is startlingly, brilliantly clear. She smiles at him and, just like that, he's sold.
Harry stands and pulls on his coat, crossing his office as he does. They walk across the Grid together in silence and then on, out of Thames House. As soon as they leave the building, Ruth tentatively slips her arm through his and he wonders if maybe, just maybe, they might be able to start collecting happy memories again.
Going for a drink seems as good a place as any to start.
I think this is the end, although it's not the ending I planned, so there might be another chapter… maybe. Hmm.
Thank you for reading!