A/N: Thanks for reading and reviewing this little story, which began with the idea of Harry having a brief indiscretion which hovers over him getting together with Ruth. Final chapter.
Seven weeks later – Camden Markets:
"How about pink?"
"Harry, I already have a pink scarf."
"I know. What about this one?" He takes the end of the scarf, and in an uncharacteristic gesture, trails it under her chin.
"What do you think?" Ruth asks him. "Do you like it?"
If he is being honest, there are times when her indecision drives him to distraction. Despite this, he wishes to be nowhere else. It is Sunday, and they have agreed that, sparing national emergencies, they will spend each Sunday together, as a couple, doing coupley kinds of things. Ruth insists on it because she wants to believe that they can have a normal relationship in a normal world. Harry knows that Sundays are when they pretend to be like other people, all the time knowing that the old woman who sells rings and necklaces from the corner stall may be harbouring under her voluminous skirts a trigger device for a bomb, or the young man riding a bicycle aimlessly through the crowd could well be an FSB asset.
"Ruth, you will be the one to wear it. Do you like it?"
"Yes, but you're the one who will be looking at me wearing it. You have to like it, too."
He dips his head closer to her. "I like you whatever you're wearing, but especially when you're wearing nothing at all."
"Harry! You're so …... so .."
"Adorable …. sexy …. irresistible ….?"
"I was going to say adolescent... and predictable."
He pulls back from her in pretend shock, but then his face breaks into a smile, and his eyes cannot hide his adoration of her. God, he thinks, I'm becoming so bloody normal. But there are times when he enjoys normal. Their shared day of `normal' is what refuels him for the remainder of the week.
If they had to choose their favourite time of the week, both he and Ruth would say Sunday mornings. They would have had a late dinner, usually at his house, and in the morning – Sunday morning - they luxuriate in one another in whatever way takes their fancy. They usually begin by sitting up in bed reading – Ruth with a book, preferably an anthology of ancient love poetry, and Harry, reading glasses perched on his nose, the Sunday newspapers. Invariably, Harry's newspapers end up on Ruth's side of the bed, she scoffs and complains, suggesting he try moving into the 21st century, and read his news online like the rest of the modern world, to which he replies that, as a tactile animal, he prefers his news on paper rather than on a screen. He kisses her to placate her, and then books and newspapers are tossed aside, any clothing they have worn to bed is similarly discarded, and they indulge in one another's bodies until they are exhausted. Sunday morning sex is always the best sex of all. Their lovemaking is slow and languid, and they are free to take their time over pleasuring one another.
Sunday afternoon is for a drive to the country, a walk on the heath, or a visit to a market. Harry would much rather they spend all day in bed, preferably naked, but Ruth insists they get out and rub shoulders with the world they spend all week protecting. "We mustn't lose sight of why it is we do what we do," she says whenever he grumbles about crowds, or dogs, dog owners, or Sunday drivers. Today they are visiting Camden Markets, and despite Harry loathing being part of a crowd of people who are ambling aimlessly, rather than striding purposefully towards a known destination, he is enjoying himself immensely because he is with Ruth. She makes everything in his life worthwhile.
"You have to choose something," he says. "I always buy you something when we go out of a Sunday."
"Harry, you don't have to. I already have enough scarves."
"How about that one?" he picks up the mauve scarf which he'd held in front of her face, "And I think this one would look amazing on you." He takes an ivory and ice-blue silk scarf from a display above the counter. "Let me buy these for you, Ruth."
She smiles and nods. Harry's generosity is something she has difficulty accepting. He is never deterred by her reluctance to accept his gifts. If anything, it spurs him on.
"There's a bookshop I hadn't seen before," Ruth says, pulling Harry to the corner shop with books displayed in the windows. "I'm looking for a gift for Malcolm. There might be something in here."
"Does Malcolm need rewarding for his part in getting us together?" Harry asks.
"Definitely," she replies.
Twenty minutes later, they leave the shop, Ruth with a first edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves Of Grass" for Malcolm, and Harry with a copy of Peter Reid's "A Brief History Of Medieval Warfare", which he explains to Ruth he plans to read in his spare time.
"What spare time?" she quips, and he surreptitiously pats her bum before she turns to walk away.
"I could do with a coffee now," she says. "Accepting your gifts is exhausting work."
Harry smiles and takes her hand as they wend their way through the crowds to a coffee shop in an alleyway off the Camden High Street. Arriving as many of the late lunchtime crowd are leaving, they find a table for two at the back. Ruth sighs heavily as she sits down. "My feet are killing me. Since we've been together, Harry, I don't do nearly enough walking. You insist on driving me everywhere …."
"I do that because it's more efficient, Ruth. Besides, you and I know that crazy people are everywhere."
"I hope there are none in this shop, because I need to rest my feet."
Harry's phone chirrups, announcing the arrival of a text message. "Mmm," he says as he reads it, "I think you made a hit with my son. He signs off with `Give my love to your lovely lady'. He might be a lot of things, but he obviously has good taste in women."
"He might be talking about Scarlet."
"Somehow I doubt it." He watches her for a moment before continuing. "How did you do it, Ruth? How did you so easily make a connection with him?"
"I met him where he is, and not from where I am ... and it wasn't easy. Graham is hard work, like another Pearce I happen to know and love." She hesitates before continuing. "I also happen to know how it feels to be different."
"From how others expect me to be. It can't be easy for Graham to be the only son of Harry Pearce."
Three weeks earlier, Harry had organised a casual dinner at a pizza restaurant to introduce Ruth to his children. Catherine and Ruth had soon settled into easy conversation with one another, but Graham – seemingly there under orders from his sister – had taken much longer to thaw. There were so many times when he'd scowl, or sit back in his chair, cross his arms and sulk, or suddenly smile so widely that his whole face relaxed, and Ruth felt like laughing aloud, so closely did his mood changes resemble Harry's. Despite herself, Ruth found herself warming to Harry's son, and he'd responded to her.
"I'd been really worried when I heard that Dad was with someone," he told Ruth towards the end of the evening. "I mean, what sort of woman would want a crusty old fart like him? Now, seeing how different he is when he's with you …. well …. you must be someone pretty special. I can see what he sees in you, but I've no idea what you see in him."
"Your father has hidden depths, and what's more important, he has integrity. I'm proud of the man he is. He's all I've ever wanted, Graham. We've known one another a long time, and believe me, he's not a crusty old fart, even though he does a rather convincing impression of one."
"So long as he treats you well."
"He treats me very well."
And from that moment on, Ruth and Graham are friends.
"I feel like food, Ruth. Would you like Danish with your coffee?"
"Just a small one, thanks. I don't want to spoil dinner."
"Why? What are we having for dinner?"
"I thought we could ring for something. Do you feel like cooking, because I don't."
"We could have Chinese," Harry suggests.
"I'm happy with that."
Harry has only just sat down after ordering their coffee and cake, when a voice interrupts them.
"Harry. It is Harry, isn't it? I didn't, after all, get to see a lot of your face."
Harry and Ruth each look up to see a smart, well-dressed early-50's woman approach their table. Her eyes take in both of them, but they soon settle on Harry, and Ruth knows him well enough to realise that he doesn't wish to see this woman. He stares at her, his teeth clenched, his jaw jutting, his eyes flashing.
"Surely you haven't forgotten me, Harry, It's only been – what – three, four months? We had such a great time together. Is this your wife? I hadn't known you were married. Does she know about me? No?"
The woman, having turned to Ruth, held out her hand to her. "Meryl Cassidy. I met Harry a few months ago. He told me he was divorced, but obviously he's not."
Ruth ignored the woman's proffered hand. "Harry has told me about you, Meryl. Strangely, I imagined you'd be younger." And uncharacteristically for Ruth, she maintains steady eye contact with the woman. "He told me about your special skills with zippers."
Harry, about to ask Meryl to leave them be, almost chokes at Ruth's last comment. Meryl looks pleadingly at Harry, who takes a deep breath before he speaks. "We'd quite like you to go now, Meryl. The show's over, and my wife wins hands down."
Meryl turns, and leaves without another word.
It is then that a waitress delivers their coffees and Danish pastries, and so for a few minutes their attention is taken by working out who had the latte, and who had ordered the cappuccino. Ruth notices, as he adds sugar to his cappuccino, that Harry's hands are shaking. Remarkably for Ruth, her hands are steady.
"Thank you for that, Ruth," he says after a time. "I don't deserve you."
"She had a bloody nerve coming over here. It was obvious she was trying to upset us. It's clear to me you'd had a few drinks before you decided it was a good idea to shag her, Harry. She seemed rather sad and desperate. I had no need at all to be jealous of her."
"I had tried to tell you that." Harry stares into his cup of coffee before lifting his eyes to meet her own. "Forgive me," he says, reaching across the table for her hand, barely able to give her eye contact.
Ruth meets his hand with her own, and their fingers entwine. "I forgave you weeks ago. She, on the other hand …... she's a piece of work, and I won't ask you what you saw in her."
"The truth is that all I saw in her was an opportunity, and I'm not proud of that at all." He looks across the table at her, his face serious. "I love you, Ruth," he says.
"You'd better," she replies.
"Let's go home once we've finished our coffee."
"I'll be in on that. Any reason for the hurry?"
"What do you think?" He says, his eyes shining, his face full of love for her.
"You're a greedy man, Harry."
"Just greedy for you, Ruth."