Never fear - All We Were and All We Are is still going strong, and the next chapter of that shall be going up very shortly. I needed something new to get me back into the writing spirit though and this seems to have done the trick. It popped into my head in the summer and try as I might I haven't been able to get it out of my head. It's a little bit different from other spooks stories and don't worry - if people don't like it I'll delete it and forget I ever thought of it. An epic love story with a different time period, a different look at MI5, with some characters and twists from the actual series mixed in later on. I'm a history nerd, it has to be said, and therefore I decided to write this as an historical romance/drama with spooksy stuff mixed in for good measure. Anyway, like I said, I hope you like this. If not... it's gone, don't worry. Please review to let me know what you think :)
"Where's James when you need him?" Miles panted as he and his younger colleague streaked down the dirty, slum-like alleyways, flee-bitten cats and children alike scattering in order to get out of their way. At forty-one years of age, he was surely getting too old for running down back alleyways after considerably younger men, who were however, intent on removing their country's intelligence and gaining it for their own means. He had been chasing the O'Callaghan brothers for nearly five years and there was absolutely no way he was going to stop now, just when their operation had cornered them so perfectly. Unfortunately, his other, also younger colleague, James had been late leaving the base and thus, they were having to apprehend the two intelligence-stealing brothers on foot, with virtually no ammunition left at all. Surely the advantage of living in 1927 with new technologies at their fingertips, as opposed to the dark ages with nothing at all, meant that the British Intelligence Services could at least afford one car that could lead a colleague to get to a specific place at the correct time. Apparently not, because James had not turned up with the Ford when the chase had eventually ensued and now all those years of careful planning were flooding down the drain.
His other young colleague, Harry, a moderately new recruit fresh from the heights of Oxford University, and a year in the armed forces, was clearly a lot fitter than he was, but then he was only twenty- three. He was running with such concentrated determination in his eyes that it only made Miles try all the harder to keep up. Although he would never say it to Harry's face, because it was never good to create cockiness within new recruits as that would lead to complacency, Miles thought Harry had a lot of potential. Unlike his fellow junior officer, James, who was laidback and often lazy, Harry always seemed to have that same spark of moral determination he himself had had when he first joined the service. Now was just an example of this work ethic; here was Harry, running across the filthy backstreets of London at a half-past eight in the morning to apprehend two dangerous young men, who had stolen information to which it was vital should never be let out of the country. And James Davies had only just bothered to get out of bed. Miles was going to be having serious words with their Section Head, Frank, when they returned to base, but for now he kept going.
"How many rounds have you got left?" he questioned Harry as they continued running, Tommy O'Callaghan still within their sights; presumably Jimmy, the older and more assertive brother was further on ahead.
Harry checked, dodging past more young children, who for some reason, seemed to congregate in the back yards of old, derelict houses. Were these the standards young people were falling to these days? "Not many." He answered back, before clicking his revolver back into place, maintaining his running speed.
"Did you see if they were both armed?" Miles panted, knocking aside a rude adolescent who stood in his path and sneered 'toff' in his face.
"Jimmy is." Harry replied, keeping his eye firmly on Tommy, who was apparently tiring, his running pace slowing slightly.
"I think Tommy's run out of ammunition." Miles called back. "He couldn't seem able to fire in return to me back there."
"So what do you suggest?" Harry asked quickly.
"If we take down Tommy," Miles suggested. "Then older brother will come running."
"Take him down as in… kill him?" Harry questioned.
"No," Miles told him firmly. "Jimmy's the dominant brother – he's the one controlling Tommy. With the right techniques, Tommy could be a useful informant within the Republican Army; if only we can separate him from his brother's influence."
"Right." Harry agreed, trying to think of a way of reaching Tommy. Although the eighteen year-old was slowing down, he was still ahead, and after running such a long distance, even Harry had to admit that he was tiring. A few paces away he saw a small boy kicking a miserably muddy football around in the dirt, and he suddenly had an idea. He jogged towards the boy, tackled the football away from the child who immediately began to protest and cry, and aiming carefully, he kicked it in he direction of Tommy O'Callaghan. A few seconds later, the football landed with a thump on top of Tommy's head; the youngster fell to the ground, unconscious, but alive.
Miles gave a small chuckle amongst his panting breaths, "Good work." He praised his young colleague.
Harry shrugged, only a little bit proud of himself, but knowing that the job was not over yet, "University football captain."
With that, the two of them ran over to where Tommy was now stirring on the ground, attempting to sit up.
"If I were you, I'd remain quite still." Miles said authoritatively, but gently, seeing that the youngster's eyes were not yet focusing properly.
As the older man bent below him, and checked the now large lump on the boy's head, Tommy muttered in his thick Dublin accent, "I've got no choice have I? You've come to arrest me."
"Wrong authorities." Miles said, smiling kindly. "We're the intelligence services, not the police."
"Same thing." Tommy hissed back viciously. Apparently, his older brother had made quite an impression on his opinions of the English.
"Afraid not," Miles said gently. "We can cause far more damage; that is why I'm suggesting – only suggesting, not ordering – that you keep still. At least until you can sit up properly."
Harry surveyed Miles carefully, as he bent over the younger man, who looked both bewildered and suspicious at the older man's kindness. This was what Harry admired so much about his senior mentor; the older man was absolutely dedicated and serious to what he did, and he always treated everyone, even the most dangerous of terrorists or criminals with fair, kind, respect. In effect, it was killing them with kindness, but Harry had begun to realise that a lot of the time, it really worked. Of course, this same technique would not work on someone as fixated on the freedom of their republic as Jimmy O'Callaghan, but already, Tommy was looking fit for grooming. So in a way, Harry could describe Miles as gentle, but deadly.
"Do you think you can stand up now?" Miles asked young Tommy calmly.
The eighteen year old looked back at him cautiously, with more fear than he ever would have done had Miles been yelling abuse at him. That would only create determined defiance. "Why aren't you shouting? Why are you being nice? Stop being nice." He almost ordered the older man, who stared back at him levelly. "What are you going to do to me?" he asked desperately.
"Nothing." Miles promised the youngster.
"If you help us." Harry added.
"I won't do anything to help you English scum." Tommy refused, spitting on the ground to emphasise his point.
"Is that what your brother says Tommy?" Miles asked him carefully, and the young man's eyes widened in shock and fear, telling them just how close to the truth they were.
"You leave my brother alone." He muttered angrily.
"Why do you still protect your brother Tommy, even when he's abandoned you?" Harry asked, joining in the interrogation, although still following Miles' lead.
"He's not abandoned me!" Tommy shouted aggressively, coughing slightly. From the way he was panting and from the amount of phlegm in his cough, Harry could tell that the young man was a chain smoker – cigarettes, not cigars. A family as poor as the O'Callaghan's could not afford the luxury of proper cigars. Harry had never indulged in the habit; he had heard some doctors say it cleared the air passages and helped you breathe, but he rather thought the opposite. Miles also agreed with him, and did not smoke either, but both always carried around a packet of cigarettes just in case. Harry knew that this would prove useful now; with the state that Tommy was in, he would do anything for a cigarette; he would give his allegiance to anyone. He noted the twitching of Tommy's forefinger and middle finger, as if they were itching for a cigarette, but the youngster did not reach for one, clearly because he did not have any left.
"Would you like a cigarette Miles?" Harry asked his mentor casually, reaching into his blazer pocket and withdrawing a large pack of cigarettes. At the mere mention of the word, he saw Tommy's eyes revert to his hand; his lips twitching longingly.
"Not at the moment Harry," he shook his head, carefully, knowing what his younger colleague was doing. "But Tommy might like one. Tommy, would you like a cigarette?"
Both men could see that the youth so desperately wanted one, but found his loyalty torn between his own compulsive needs, and his brother's extremist opinions. "N… no!" He eventually said, although the desperation in his voice was clearly audible. "No, I can't… I mean… I don't… not from you."
Harry shrugged, taking his time in taking a cigarette out of the box, and lighting it with a match, before replacing the pack back into his pocket. This seemed to be too much for Tommy, who stammered: "W… wait… w… what do I have to give you in return?"
"What do you mean?" Harry asked innocently, the cigarette halfway to his mouth.
"The cig." Tommy muttered, his voice rising in pitch as he grew more frustrated. "What do I have to do for a cig?"
"Nothing." Miles told him calmly. "Have a cigarette if you want one. Harry doesn't mind, do you Harry?"
"Not at all." Harry replied gallantly, reaching out to give Tommy the cigarette.
Tommy's hand reached forwards automatically to snatch the precious thing, but before he could, Harry withdrew his hand slightly, and Miles added: "Although, we would like to know where that intelligence is… you know… the information on the latest addition to the British Armed Forces that you and your brother stole from service records."
"I… I knew there was something I'd have to do in return." Tommy growled, frustrated, thumping the ground with his hand like a little child having a tantrum.
"Is that a no then?" Harry asked, withdrawing his hand entirely, and bringing the cigarette up towards his mouth again.
Tommy watched the smoking comfort go again and debated with himself what to do, his fingers and lips twitching all at once this time. "Wait." He said desperately. "I… I didn't say that. I mean… Jimmy has the papers… he said he'd go on ahead and come back for me."
"Except he hasn't has he?" Harry noted grimly.
"He will." Tommy told them desperately. "I know he will. He wouldn't leave me. He said."
"Then you won't mind us searching you then?" Harry asked scathingly.
"What?" Tommy asked, alarmed. "W… What for?"
"Just to check that you haven't got any papers on you Tommy," Miles said gently. "Even if you have, you get the cigarette – it's a win-win situation, isn't it?"
Not looking as if he entirely agreed with this, Tommy O'Callaghan stood up slowly and allowed himself to be searched thoroughly; much to Miles and Harry's disappointment however, they found no trace of the missing documents, and they realised that Tommy must have been telling the truth after all. Following this though, Harry handed over the cigarette fairly, and Tommy took a long drag of it, his face finally relaxing.
They stood there, keeping a reassuring hold on Tommy for good measure, but the young man made no attempt to run. After he finished one cigarette, to the keep him calm and placated, Harry handed him another, and slowly young Tommy became a little more comfortable, informing them how he and his brother got into the document room back at the base in the first place – through a small tunnel, informed to them by a Republican army technician, leading underground and into the records room via the ventilation system. It was a frighteningly simple security measure that had been overlooked and Miles made a note to question Frank about this as soon as possible.
They had been standing there for a whole until they saw a figure creep forward from the shadows of the back alley, a shape remarkably similar Jimmy O'Callaghan. Both Harry and Miles prepared themselves for another chase or shootout, but instead Jimmy directed his shouts towards Tommy. Seeing him smoking a cigarette with the other two men obviously led Jimmy to putting two and two together.
"You little treacherous bastard!" he yelled furiously, cocking his gun. "You lying, deceitful little-"
At that moment however, a T-Ford came screeching around a bend, jittering down a little side road, leading towards the alley. A few seconds later, the car came to a halt and out jumped the absent James, who started towards the two O'Callaghan brothers, his revolver raised in readiness.
Tommy looked so frightened now that he jerked his arm out of Miles' hold and began to run the opposite way, away from both James and Jimmy. "You said…" He accused Miles and Harry, dropping his cigarette and turning to run. "You said you wouldn't let anything happen to me… you…"
With that, he turned to run, however James' trigger finger was too quick, and without assessing the situation carefully as either Miles or Harry might have done, he impulsively fired a shot at Tommy, just as Miles bellowed at him: "James NO!"
There was a split second of shocked silence before all hell broke loose, in which young Tommy fell to the ground, a bullet in his back, eyes wide open; this time, unmistakably dead. Jimmy let out a scream of agony in reaction to the murder of his brother, as if it had been he who had been shot, and he raised his gun towards James. This time, the young intelligence officer was not quick enough and he looked round just in time to see a bullet flying towards his head. Miles and Harry looked on in devastation as their colleague fell, almost in slow motion to the ground, yet it was so quick they barely knew what was happening. And suddenly they were surrounded by two bodies within the space of a few seconds, and they were now being fired at by a particularly angry Irishman, but first and foremost, a grieving brother. He howled like a wounded dog as Miles and Harry scrambled for cover behind the T-Ford, occasionally letting out what remaining rounds they had left. Eventually, Miles got lucky and he fired a round which sank into Jimmy's ankle, causing the younger man to fall to the ground in pain, his gun sliding helplessly from his hand. Miles and Harry hastily clambered out from behind the car and ran towards Jimmy, disarming him thoroughly, and recovering the missing documents which were still hidden within his blazer pocket.
But they felt numb; Harry in particular. He had never seen a man die before; he had never witnessed the light and life leave someone's eyes and suddenly, he had just seen two potentially very good men die, all in a mere few seconds. Miles handed him the recovered documents and busied himself with restraining a very angry Jimmy, who was hurling insults vehemently at the older man all the while, tears streaming down his pale face.
"The bastard – it served him right! The murderer! The BASTARD!" his eyes turned on Miles, who tied his wrists together with thick metal cuffs, police custom, but often necessary. "YOU! You were in charge! I'm blaming you for this! I'm blaming you! It's all your fault Tommy's dead! You're going to never forget this, I promise you! You'll pay! I'll get out and I'll come after you and your family, I swear!"
The man was absolutely furious and perhaps rightfully so. What had James been thinking as he raised that gun? Had he really misjudged the situation so badly? But then, Harry turned to stare in shock at the body of the colleague whom he had worked with for only six months. Unlike Tommy whose eyes were still open and wide in shock as his body lay pale and still in the muck and dirt, James' eyes were closed; he looked like he was sleeping and that at least, was something. James had made a mistake and had paid for it with his life. Tommy too, a young man, just a child really, had died because of the screwed-up world they lived in; extremist political beliefs. And Harry could now see why Frank and Miles always looked so weary; they had been in the job far longer than he had; they had clearly seen people die, and as he looked to Miles to see how he should be reacting, he saw only closed off emotions. Harry could read nothing in his mentors face; only impassiveness as he held a flailing, furious, swearing Jimmy down. Suddenly the older man said quietly to Harry:
"Go back to base; tell Frank what's happened and tell him to bring a prisoner van, and an ambulance."
Harry stared back numbly, wanting to ask why they needed an ambulance when no one was hurt; only dead, but he did not have the energy.
"And tell someone to contact James' parents and girlfriend. Make sure the ambulance staff treat Tommy and James with care and respect."
Harry registered how Miles continued to use the names of the deceased rather than refer to them as bodies. Had he not been feeling so numb in that moment then he might have felt increased respect for the older man, but instead he just turned on his heel, avoiding the still form of James as best he could, and climbed into the Ford. As he started up the engine, and pulled out of the alley, Harry felt a tear trickling down his cheek, but remembering the impassive, unreadable expression on Miles' face, he swiped it away angrily, forcing his expression to be more neutral.
Harry sat at his station back at the office, staring at the desk next to his; the desk which until a few hours ago, had belonged to James Davies, a twenty-six year old man from Birmingham; a man who had loved courting his girlfriend, Anne-Marie, and liked three sugar cubes in his tea. And now he was just another statistic on an apparently very long death list belonging to MI5. Both Harry's parents were dead; they had died one after the other when he was nineteen, but he had never seen their bodies. His uncle had only deigned to contact him about the funeral three days after it had happened, but Harry had returned from university anyway to pay his respects. But he had never seen a dead person before, let alone a dead colleague. James had been only three years older than himself but had teased him about being the 'baby' of the office. Harry had barely known the man, and yet his death seemed to be having such a numbing, profound effect on him. He just kept seeing his body fall down to the ground in slow motion, his eyes lolling before they closed entirely.
He had returned to base and carried out Miles' orders, but he had been shaking so badly that Frank had told him to stay and take the documents back to the records office, followed by writing a report on the security breach the building had. But Harry had barely written eight lines and he just sat there, his hand brushing absently up and down the typewriter in front of him. He looked up suddenly as he saw Miles come through the heavy oak door, looking more tired and weary than he had ever seen him. At first, he thought the older man was going to disregard him completely, as he seemed to be heading the direction of Frank's office, which was more a sort of alcove in the wall. However, once he reached Harry's desk, Miles stopped and turned to look at his young colleague.
"You did well today." Miles appraised him, his eyes full of respect. He had seen how Harry had reacted after Tommy and James had been shot, and knew how the first reaction to death felt. He had experienced the same numbing sensation after he had first watched a man die. Unfortunately, you seemed unable to get through this job without seeing at least one man die before your eyes. It was just the way the dice rolled. It also seemed to effect those who had been fast-tracked through university and the army and into a job as high-powered as this, the worst.
Harry shrugged, "I suppose I should say thank you but…" his voice trailed off, and Miles nodded in agreement.
"I know. Believe me." He said firmly, and surprisingly, he clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "You will do well Harry." He said wisely. "If you can get through today and still be able to get up in the morning and do this job, then you are already past the hard part."
Harry nodded gratefully in reply. Miles was about to brush past him towards Frank's 'office', when the man himself emerged from the alcove, starting towards them. Frank Longford was known throughout the service as one of the longest serving intelligence officers of their day. He had been around when the department had first been built, and when MI5 had first been formed. He was in his late fifties, strong-willed, grey-haired, spectacled and weary; spoke very much like one of the aristocracy and yet it was debateable whether he belonged to that generation. His morals often clashed with the wishes of the armed forces and many within the government, however he seemed simply too good and popular to remove from position. It was undisputable that the work he and his department had done since the end of the last war had been remarkable. The fairness with which he worked made he and Miles very good friends, and so suddenly, Harry felt like he was intruding on a private conversation.
"Has Jimmy O'Callaghan been dealt with?" he asked Miles quietly, coming over to stand next to Harry's desk.
Miles sighed, "He did not go down without a fight. He yelled that he holds me personally responsible for his brother's death and he swore blind that he was going to come after me and my family."
"There's nothing in it." Frank replied instantly, a grave expression on his face, also sorry for the death of James. "He's just trying to make a lot of fuss as he goes down. Once we've got all we can out of him, he'll either go to a high security holding centre, or be hung."
"Isn't hanging a bit drastic?" Miles asked, as fair as ever.
"He killed James." Harry said mechanically, quite forgetting he had not been invited to participate in the conversation. "An eye for eye."
Both Frank and Miles looked down at him in surprise, especially Frank, who had never heard such strong opinions from a junior officer. Miles replied patiently, "The way Jimmy O'Callaghan sees it, James murdered Tommy so that was an eye for an eye."
"So James deserved to die?" Harry questioned, frowning. "Is it all just a balance sheet?"
"No of course not," Miles answered, still patient with his protégé, whilst Frank looked on, baffled. "James was a good man, and we will not forget him."
"But we move on." Frank continued, wondering since when it was his job to mentor questioning employees. "When there are no longer things to do, and information to sort, and chaos to apprehend, then there is a time to grieve." He turned towards Miles. "You need to be debriefed, but that can wait until tomorrow. I think you're late?"
Miles suddenly cursed and consulted his watch, before nodding in thanks at Frank and turning back towards the large, heavy oak door. Frank returned to his alcove, and Harry frowned. Everyday weekday at around four o'clock, Miles left work in a hurry and Harry could never work out why.
"Miles!" Harry said, deciding to ask him, and Miles briefly returned to where Harry sat, his eyebrows raised in a question, but telling him to hurry up with it. "Why do you always leave at this time… so early I mean?"
"I have a daughter," Miles replied, almost as if it was obvious, smiling at the mere thought of his precious little child. "I have to collect her from school," he sighed as he checked his watch. "Or rather, I'm late to collect her from school."
"I didn't know you were married." Harry said, looking automatically towards Miles' ring finger, seeing that there was no ring present.
Miles smiled sadly, "I'm… I'm not. My wife, Alice… she died a few years ago."
Harry opened his mouth but no sound came out. He wanted to ask him how this came to be so, and how he had only just realised Miles had a family, but felt this might be insensitive. Besides, with one final smile to announce his departure, Miles Evershed turned around and left through the door, Harry staring behind him in wonder.
Miles hurried through the school gates, passing Joe, the old school caretaker, sweeping the yard with a battered, balding wooden broom. Old Joe did not even bother to look up as the younger man overtook him, apparently having witnessed this process many times. Aside from the old caretaker however, the school building seemed completely deserted. This was not surprising as school hours ended at a half past three, and it was now twenty-three minutes past four. As he approached the classroom in which his daughter always sat in to wait for him, he realised again that this would have to stop. Ever since his little Ruth had started school, he could not recall a time he had been on time to collect her. This never really seemed to bother Ruth herself, as she would simply sit there happily reading, but it often caused dispute with her large, over-strict teacher, Mrs Andrea Hampton. Miles could work of the security services all he liked, and face dangerous criminals on a daily basis, but it did not prepare him for the wrath each weekday of Mrs Hampton. He could see that today was going to be no different as he entered the classroom.
As usual, Ruth sat at the back of the classroom in her little black coat and hat, her head in her hands as her eyes followed the lines of her latest reading book. She looked up hopefully as she heard the wooden door creak open and as per routine, she jumped up joyfully from her seat and ran into her father's arms: "Daddy!
Especially after today's tragedy, Miles had never been so glad to scoop his daughter up into his arms and hold her close, pressing a light kiss to the top of her head. Everyday, Ruth looked increasingly like her mother, from her shoulder-length mousy brown hair, to her stunningly bright blue eyes, to her gentle, kindly face. Like Alice, Ruth rarely had a bad word to say about anybody, and perhaps that and her quiet intelligence were the most beautiful features of all. After a minute or so, Miles released her slightly, looking back into her bright, smiling face. It only made him feel all the more guilty. Ruth absolutely adored him, and he knew it. Yet all he ever seemed to do was let her down; he was always late to deliver her and collect her from school, he always forgot to make her a lunch to take with her – she always ended up doing this task herself, and once he had accidentally left her alone in a bookshop, quite forgetting that she had been there. It was only when he had almost reached home that he remembered she had come along with him, and he had run all the way back to the shop, only to discover her curled up in a chair, reading the same book as she had been when he left. For some reason, Mrs Hampton always seemed to notice and play on his guilt, and he could tell she was going to do the same today. She approached them slowly, her low heels clicking against the dull stone floor, and she sucked her teeth in disapproval.
"Is there something you would like to say Mrs Hampton?" Miles questioned her mild-manneredly, but a hint of a reproach in his voice.
"There are many things I would like to say Mr Evershed," Mrs Hampton replied, folding her arms across her chest to emphasise her self-importance. "But none of them in front of the student."
Miles sighed, knowing he was going to hear some more about his appalling abilities as a parent, and so he set Ruth down gently.
"Go and pack up your books, my love. Mrs Hampton and I are just going to have a talk over here." He told her, nodding towards the far corner of the room. Ruth looked perhaps a little cautiously at Mrs Hampton, as if suspecting she was getting at her father again, before nodding obediently and returning to her desk to pack her books back into her satchel. Mrs Hampton followed Miles over to the far corner and once she was sure Ruth was out of earshot she said sternly:
"I need to talk to you about Ruth."
"Don't you always?" Miles asked, raising his eyebrows. "I'd be a little concerned if you started talking to me about another child."
"Mr Evershed!" Mrs Hampton hissed, apparently shocked. "I do not take kindly to your complacent, mocking behaviour. This is a very serious situation."
Miles, who had been entirely straight-faced the entire time, straightened it further. He was not really in the mood after today to listen to this pompous, self-indulgent woman, but as he did at work, he told himself to be fair and patient. So he nodded politely, "I'm sorry Mrs Hampton. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?"
Once the teacher looked suitably satisfied by his apology, she said frostily, "Today we had a class discussion on what the children's parents do for a living, and what the children in turn would like to be when they are older."
Miles was beginning to see where this conversation was going but he prompted her anyway, "And?"
"All the other girls were quite sensible – they said things like: their mother is housewife, their father works at the bank and they would like to have children and start a family." She fixed her beady stare on him, sucking her teeth again in disapproval. "Ruth said quite bluntly that her mother is dead, she does not know what you do for a living and that she would like to work somewhere to make a difference."
Miles opened his mouth, not in shock, but in overwhelming pride. He looked towards his little girl who was now fastening the straining buckles on her overloaded satchel, completely oblivious to the current conversation. Apparently Mrs Hampton had other opinions of this and she stared at him, expecting a verbal reaction. She got it.
"And?" he asked her.
Mrs Hampton looked most put out. "Mr Evershed, perhaps you do not realise the seriousness of this matter. Your daughter does not know what you do for a living… now clearly there is an extreme lack in communication between father and daughter here."
"On the contrary Mrs Hampton," Miles said, beginning to lose his patience now, something which was very rarely seen. Only if someone insulted his family life would he become defensive. "Ruth and I are extremely close. She is my little girl, and I am her father. What more is there to say?"
Mrs Hampton now looked equally angry, hissing, "Mr Evershed, I do not know what it is you exactly do for a living, but I suspect it is some pompous work for the government. That is fine by me sir, but I am concerned that you are giving your daughter delusions of grandeur."
"How so?" Miles questioned in a deadly quiet tone. By now, even Ruth had finished her task and was observing the quiet argument between her teacher and her father with cautious eyes.
"As a man yourself, I would have thought you of all people would be the one to tell Ruth that it is just not a woman's world," Mrs Hampton replied, shaking her head annoyingly. "The men get the important jobs – the women get the secondary jobs, if any at all. For her to 'work and make a difference' would, as you must realise, be quite impossible." She started laughing to emphasise her point. Neither of the two adults noticed a sad look flit across Ruth's face, and she looked down at her feet in disappointment.
Miles however simply inflicted a rare glare on the teacher before him. Pompous 'concern' for a child was one thing, but sheer cruelty was another, "And what do you suggest I do Mrs Hampton?" he asked her coldly. "Tell my six-year-old daughter to stop reading because all she can hope for is the life of a housewife. That is quite hypocritical isn't it, coming from you being a teacher? A teacher of all professions? An academic?" Mrs Hampton's face contorted sourly, as if she were sucking a sherbet lemon. She clearly did not take kindly to being spoken to in this way, but Miles Evershed had always seemed to be a man ahead of his time, full of exaggerated ideas of fairness and equality, and Andrea Hampton was quite sure that one day it would kill him. "Surely you should be encouraging the girl, not putting her down."
"Mr Evershed," Mrs Hampton said, backtracking. "I am not saying that Ruth should stop studying. Even I must admit that she is the brightest pupil, girl or not, I have ever taught. I am simply saying that she should be told the cold truth of life now rather than later."
"I know she's bright." Miles nodded, determined to defend his daughter's rights to the end, just as Alice would have done. "So therefore Mrs Hampton, I will not be doing anything to discourage her."
"But surely you realise that with Ruth having her head in a book all day means that she is just not associating with the other children. She will be bullied." Mrs Hampton said, desperate now to justify herself in the face of an angry Miles Evershed.
However, Miles had now had enough, and turned away from her, saying curtly, "Excuse me Mrs Hampton, it's getting late and I must take Ruth home now. I'll see you tomorrow, same time I'm sure."
Ruth looked up and took that as her cue to leave, and she hurried towards her father, who took her by the hand and led her out of the room. They were stopped short at the corridor as Mrs Hampton called, "No you won't Mr Evershed. The trade unions are using the school as a meeting place tomorrow."
"What?" Miles asked, quite forgetting his anger in his surprise.
Mrs Hampton only shrugged, "If you and Ruth communicated as well as you claim to, then you'd have known that." With that last infuriating comment, she floated, witch-like back into the classroom.
Miles might have said something he would have regretted later when he felt a tug on his arm and he looked down into his daughter's face. "Leave it daddy," she smiled softly, squeezing his hand gently. "Can we go home?"
Miles looked down at his beautiful daughter and felt his heart fill with love for her. "Yes, we can." They turned to walk back down the corridor, stopping briefly so that Miles could take Ruth's overflowing satchel of books before he said quietly to his daughter, "Sweetheart, do you really want to know what I do?"
"I know what you do." Ruth said softly, making Miles look down at her in surprise. "You work for the govern… ment… don't you?" she asked, looking up at him for assurance. Miles looked at his daughter and wondered just when she got so clever; he was surer than anyone that if Ruth wanted to make a difference, then she would.
"Yes," he nodded, smiling down at her. "But why didn't you say that to the class to avoid getting into trouble?"
Ruth looked up at him as if it was obvious, "Because I thought it was supposed to be a secret. And a secret means you don't tell."
Miles smiled in wonder at her, and could not help but think that she would make a perfect candidate for the intelligence services. Should the world change, and they allowed women to work properly in MI5, he would perhaps have suggested she joined. She would certainly make a difference then. But as her father, Miles knew that for as long as he lived, he would always protect her and that meant keeping her as far away from his work as possible. He sighed; having just thought that, if he could not get old Mrs McDonald next door to look after Ruth tomorrow, then she would simply have to come to the office with him, or as it was commonly called, 'the grid', because of its windowless, square shape. He knew Frank would not be happy about that, especially since he still had to be debriefed. However after today, Miles was quite sure that he could trust Harry implicitly. If there was no other option, perhaps he would look after Ruth for a small amount of time tomorrow…
The meeting is aligned. What do you think? Like it? Hate it? If the general consensus is that people hate it then I'll take the story down. I am aware it's a bit different. Anyway, next chapter of All We Were and All We Are will be up very soon. Please tell me what you think and review. Thank you :)