AN: Set after their date in series 5 but as though her leaving never happened. Just a bit of a fluffy one shot for the anonymous person on Tumblr who messaged me and asked if I'd write a fic for Harry's birthday today. Hopefully it's to your liking. =0)
He can honestly say when he had woken this morning, dinner with Ruth had not been on his to-do list. Wish list yes, but not something he'd thought he'd actually get to do. Even if it was his birthday.
The envelope on his desk this morning had been the first surprise. Not many people knew it was his birthday.
Those that did tended to not acknowledge it.
How she'd found out he'd never question; but it touched him to think that he mattered enough for her to join in the celebration of his life.
When he'd first sat down and picked up the long, white envelope, he'd not known what to expect. Certainly not something pertaining to his birthday.
Seeing his name written across the front in a familiar scrawl, he'd felt a moment of fear.
Things between them had been awkward after their lone dinner date and while he wanted to fix it, he didn't know how. His past history of relationships showed that. And yet he loved her. Of that he was sure.
He didn't know the when or the how; but sometime in the three years she'd been on his team, she'd wormed her way into his heart. Settled upon it in a way he'd not experienced before.
But she was scared. Scared of what others would say about them behind their back.
He was scared too. Though the thought of the others meant little to him. He was more scared of screwing things up. Because he knew this was it.
So he let her be. For now. Until he could come up with a plan of action that let them explore and develop this...thing...between them. One that kept the whispers away and her from running. One he couldn't screw up.
And then this morning there'd been an envelope. With his name across the front. It'd scared him even more. With the distance between them, he'd a moment of panic that it was her resignation. A request to transfer to another section. To leave him.
Before opening it, he'd glanced up and onto the Grid with the hope of spotting her. But she wasn't there. The light on her desk was off; and while others milled about, Ruth was nowhere to be seen.
That had filled him with even more dread. Because she was always there before the others. Sometimes even prior to him. And he knew the envelope hadn't been there the night before when he'd left.
It was with trembling fingers he'd opened those glued pieces of paper. And found a folded piece of blank paper.
Slowly he'd pulled it out. Unfolded the creases and read the words.
Tonight. 7 o'clock. Danilo's Bistro.
There'd been nothing else. No pieces of paper carefully glued to the back or words written in invisible ink. Just those three lines.
And so here he sat.
With hope in his heart.
And a small smile on his face.
At the back table of a little bistro. With a bottle of red wine and a basket of two dinner rolls sitting on the small table between them. Where candles burning in old wine bottles dripped wax and cast a warm glow; chasing shadows and doubts far, far away.
Soft music was playing somewhere and the murmur of hushed conversations surrounded them.
He can tell she's nervous. Even more so than the first time they'd had dinner together. So much so that she hasn't met his eyes once since he'd sat down twenty minutes before. Just fiddled with the cutlery on the table.
And suddenly that hope was gone.
She doesn't want to be here.
It's the thought that has crept into his mind as he watches her fidget. It's that thought that has the smile slipping from his face.
"You don't want to be here." he speaks softly in the hope that the disappointment and rejection he's suddenly feeling can't be heard.
Napkin twisting in her fingers, she finally lifts her eyes to his and speaks; her voice barely above a whisper. "I want to be here."
"It sure doesn't look it to me."
She starts to speak but stops. This happens three times before she reaches for the glass of wine he'd poured for her and takes a long drink. Setting the glass back on the table, she tries again.
"I'm nervous." she finally get out. "And more than a little scared." Fingers twisting the napkin again, she looks down at the table. "I've never been good at this type of thing."
"What? Eating?" he asks, his fear and rejection retreating slightly. "Because it's really quite simple. You just pick up the cutlery you've been fiddling with all night and dig in."
With a half laugh she lifts her eyes to his again. "No. Not that. This...thing...between us. I've never been good at it." She pauses. "Actually, I've never been good socializing in general. Stumbling through conversations, knocking things over. I'm always worrying I'll say the wrong thing or do something completely uncouth and it makes it worse."
"You could never be uncouth."
"Harry I'm trying to be serious here."
"So am I." Taking a chance, he reached a hand across the table, resting it a top hers. He can tell she by the brief look of fear on her face that she wants to pull hers away. To run from the unexpected contact. But she surprises him. The fear slips away and she leaves her hand.
"Just be yourself." he says softly. "That's all I've ever wanted."
Eyes back on the napkin in her hand, she frowns. "What? The one they call the lonely cat woman? Who has too many books and very few friends? Who watches old movies on her days off?"
Thumb sliding across her knuckles, he reaches over with his free hand and gently lifts her chin. "Yes. That's the woman I want to have dinner with."
Chuckling softly, he lets his hand drop from her face. "Maybe. Or maybe I'm tired of all the lies and misconceptions in this world. Of people being something they're not. Maybe I want something true and pure and just a little naive. Someone who can still see the good in this world; even after they've seen the bad." he pauses a moment, his eyes watching her; his fingers closing over the hand under his. "Maybe I want to have dinner with a woman who knows the things I've done yet, still believes there's some good inside. And maybe, the only person I want to have dinner with is you."
Eyes still on his, she lets the napkin fall to the table. "You could be having dinner with some beautiful woman."
She feels the blush rising to her face but doesn't look away at his words.
"Ruth, you only see the worst in yourself, and all you don't have. You're intelligent, caring, beautiful and generous. You're also complex. I can see it all; your insecurities and strengths, the good and the bad; and I still want to be here. With you."
He stops. And waits.
He knows her well enough to know that she needs to process what he's said.
They've never been one for words. Nor very good at them. Not when it came to the personal. They're entire non-working relationship to this point had been glances and not-so-accidental touches; of small gestures and hope.
"I'm scared." she finally says, her voice small.
"So am I."
It's her turn to chuckle softly as she uses her free hand to trace the fine scar on the back of his hand.
"You're Harry Pearce."
He's confused at that. "What's that got to do with anything?"
She doesn't answer at first, just continues to run her fingers against his skin.
He watches her slowly touch him. It's innocent; her fingers on his hand; and yet he can honestly say it's one of the most erotic things he's ever experienced. The simple touch speaks louder than words.
"Your past and the infinite number of women you've been with; they scream the opposite of the fear of relationships."
He'd been so engrossed in the feeling of her skin on his that it takes a moment for the words to register but when they do, he frowns. "I've not been with an infinite number of women."
"The permission to socialize forms in your record speaks differently."
"That file's classified. How did you get ac...never mind. Why would you read it?"
"You read mine."
"I'm your...the...in charge of the Grid. They're provided to me." It's a bit disconcerting to know she's read the explicit details of his past. That she might know the unthinkable things he's done. "But there's no reason to read mine."
"I...I needed to know."
He senses they're crossing into dangerous ground. The one where they both put up their walls. So he does the only thing he can think of. He changes the topic slightly.
"You know, we've been here almost forty minutes and you've yet to change my opinion of you."
"What?" Confusion is evident in her voice.
With a smile gracing his face, Harry took a chance and turned the hand he'd been holding over; slowly sliding his fingers between hers. "We've been sitting here talking and you've yet to say or do anything to make me run away; to think you're unsocialable."
"But just now..."
His smile grows as she doesn't move her hand from his and for the first time tonight, he feels the lightness of hope that there can actually be a them.
"Was nothing more than a discussion. You're an analyst Ruth; it's what you and your mind are good at. I should know to expect you to fully research something; even more so if your heart is involved. There'll be times I forget briefly, but it won't ever make me leave."
She doesn't know what to say to that so she just nods and looks down at their joined hands, her thumb slowly rubbing against his. He's content; for now; to just sit and watch her run through her thoughts.
A short time later their meal arrives and he's forced to let go of her hand. She withdraws slowly to her side of the table but slowly lifts her eyes to his and smiles.
They talk quietly while eating their meals about lighthearted topics. The new book exhibit at the British Library, a new production of King Lear, a re-showing of some old movie at a theatre; things they're surprised to learn they have in common.
It's after they've finished the main courses and are waiting for desert that Harry asks the one thing he's been thinking of all day.
"What made you change your mind about having dinner? With me?"
She's startled at the sudden seriousness of their conversation again and she struggles for the right words. He can see the fear and nervousness creeping back and so he stands.
Crossing the short distance around the table, he stops by her and takes her hand. Pulling gently, he helps her rise to her feet.
The movements catch her off guard; the fear and nervousness she'd been feeling at his question dissolving for the moment. It comes back tenfold; though; as he leads her to the small dance floor.
He's taking a risk; he knows that; but he needs to show her they're good together. That they fit. Turning towards her, he grips her hand tightly in his; his other arm sliding around her waist to pull her close. She's tense as she stands there in front of him; her free hand hovering in the air by his shoulder.
He leans down until his lips are by her ears.
"Trust me. Trust me to not let you stumble."
There's a moment when he thinks she's going to pull away and run and he grips her to him tighter. His breath is warm against her hair.
"I won't ever let you fall too far on your own."
It's enough for her to relax; to let her hand come down on his shoulder. For her to lift her eyes to his.
They move slowly to the music; the only couple on the floor. He's careful to keep one arm around her waist, the other gripping hers tightly to him as they move. She's given in to the security of the gentle moments and lets her head rest lightly against his chest.
She speaks softly; her voice barely above a whisper. "I'm not scared right now." As she pulls back, she looks up at him. "I was wrong when I told you we couldn't have a second date. But I was so scared."
"There's nothing to be scared of."
"It took me awhile but I figured that out. I just...didn't...know how to tell you I wasn't scared anymore. That if the offer was still there, I wanted to go out with you again. Then the fear came back that you wouldn't want to; not after I ran both times. And I was back in that vicious cycle."
"What changed your mind?" he asks, his eyes on hers.
"The liaison from the Home Office."
"You talked to her about me? About us?" Confusion laced his voice.
"No." she said quickly, her face blushing. "She wouldn't talk to someone like me. I'm a peon in her eyes; not worth her time."
"She was always touching you. A brush of her fingers against your arm; her hand on your chest. Every time she came to see you, it was obvious she wanted you."
"I didn't notice."
"How could you not? She was basically screaming take me on your desk. It was driving Adam and Zaf batty that she wanted you and not them."
"She could have walked in wearing nothing but a pair of heels and a string of pearls and I wouldn't have noticed. She's not the one who's been taking over my thoughts." He pulled her against him again and smiled. It sounded like she was jealous. But his ego wanted the confirmation. "Were you jealous?"
"You were mine." she mumbled against his chest so that he barely heard her.
Barely but he did. This was turning out to be the most unexpectedly wonderful birthday he'd ever had. Smile growing, he leaned down until his lips were against her hair. "I'm sorry. I missed that. What did you say?"
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and spoke again, louder this time. "You were mine. And I didn't like that she was touching you."
"How positively possessive of you." he said, smirk evident in his voice.
Blushing fiercely, she kept her eyes closed as she continued. "I really, really lovike you and I was afraid I'd missed my chance."
"Ruth" he said softly, his heart soaring at that little declaration. Slowly, Harry let go of her hand and gently lifted her chin. "Open your eyes."
Shaking her head no, she tried to lower her head to his chest again.
"Please." he asked, his fingers gripping her in place. As her eyes eventually fluttered open, he grinned down at her, his lips hovering just above hers. "I really, really lovike you too."
As her eyes grew large, he lowered his head the last few centimeters needed to capture her lips with his.
It wasn't a long kiss or even the most passionate; but the feeling of his warm lips against hers made nothing else matter; that she was the most precious of things. As he lifted away slightly, her eyes fluttered open and met his smile with one of her own.
His breath was warm against her cheek as she moved her hand to cradle his cheek.
"Happy birthday." she said before moving to kiss him again.