Ruth looked at Harry through the windowed wall of his office. He was talking on the telephone and looked stern and concerned. But she knew him well enough to know that he wouldn't show it in his voice, he would seem confident and sure. She looked back down at the open file on her desk, there was always some dire emergency which kept them separated through their work.
One of the gang came over to her desk and handed her a piece of paper. She looked it over and read it within a few seconds, in this game a few minutes could be a few too long, so it was best to speed read everything given and act immediately, which is what she did.
She stood up and walked relatively fast to Harry's office, and threw open the door. Just as she had imagined he was sounding confident as he spoke, but his face showed signs of great unease. He hung up the phone as she slid the piece of paper in front of him. He picked it up and stared at it for what seemed like a blink of an eye, and then he spoke:
"Lunch, today, 1 o'clock. What do you think?"
'This is hardly the time to discuss it. Do you know what this means?' replied Ruth, indicating the paper.
"Of course I do. As much as it would appear I got this job based on my looks," joked Harry, "I also have some intelligence. It only means that for yet another day our jobs are secure and some nut job is planning to bomb one of the most important cities in the Western world. So. Dinner?"
Ruth was flummoxed. It wasn't as if this was the first time Harry had invited her out for a meal, but in this uncertain time she couldn't be sure whether it was for business or pleasure. She reasoned the only way to find out would be to show up.
"1 o'clock. Should I call the home secretary?"
"I doubt the home secretary would be interested in our eating habits." Harry stated.
'I meant about this.' said Ruth, taking the paper back from Harry.
"I'm well aware what you meant Ruth, I thought I was making a joke. Obviously I was mistaken. Hold off on the Home Secretary until we've got a handle on the situation. Gather the troops, conference room in three minutes."
… … … … … … … … … … Ruth participated at the meeting in full. She led the presentation, translated, explained... everything she was being paid to do. But her mind was far from on the job. They would stop this terrorist threat as they did every week, and another would pop up and take his place. That's just the way the world worked.
But this meal with Harry… how would that work? Was this just a softener for sending her back to GCHQ? She knew she was the best researcher in section D, heck, she was the best researcher MI5 had.
She convinced herself that this was not a lunch to end her position. And then she did what needed to be done with the job, and tried not to keep her eye on the clock for the remaining three hours 'til one o'clock.
… … … … … … … … …
Harry was not confused, nor was he under the influence of any substance. The whisky he'd had when he saw the home secretary didn't count. That was just part of the job. It was expected of him to indulge now and again, and he welcomed it with vigour and a sensible mind – a curse he'd had from childhood.
But though he wasn't confused, he was nervous. What if Ruth decided not to show up, as she had last time? What if he was called to see the PM suddenly? This was an uncertain time after all, and this latest threat was very real. They still had limited intel, and time was running out.
But he soon quietened these worries away from the conscious mind.
The 'phone rang. Harry spoke a few serious words in a hurry, and then cursed to himself.
Ruth would understand, she was forgiving and kind, and she didn't know the importance of this lunch.
… … … … … … … … …
"Harry." Spoke Ruth.
"About lunch…" Started Harry.
There was a moment of silence, as each looked embarrassedly at the other, and then Harry spoke,
"I have to see the PM. I didn't think I would, but this threat is becoming serious and he needs to be briefed by me personally. But we will go to lunch, tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow. Yes, of course, the PM. Obviously, go, go."
As Ruth watched Harry go through the pods, she was reminded of a line from a book she'd read as a child. Her mind altered it slightly, letting her feelings come to the surface in the privacy of her mind: 'Lunch yesterday, and lunch tomorrow, but never lunch today…'