Summary: Ruth's happy, running a second hand bookshop in Devon. Harry, however, is bored.
Notes: Remix of Castle in the Clouds by lost_spook
Ruth's worst fear had come to pass: Harry was bored.
When he'd asked her to leave the service with him, part of her reason for agreeing - just a small part - was the knowledge that without her he wouldn't know what to do with himself. She'd kept him busy moving to Devon, setting up the second hand bookshop and building their new lives together. They'd made new friends, who had no idea they were anything other than what they appeared. They'd been here two months now and she'd thought he was happy. He assured her he was - and she believed him - but he could still be happy and bored at the same time.
It was the Russian customer that reminded her Harry was still a spook - in his own mind if no one else's.
"Do you have War and Peace?" the young man had asked her, waiting until an older couple had paid for their books and left. He spoke very good English, with only a slight accent.
"The Russian section is just along there." She pointed around to her left. "I think we have a couple of copies." She knew he'd already looked there - she didn't miss anything that went on in their shop any more than Harry did. But, like Harry, she pretended not to know all of the customers movements.
"Ah, yes, but they are in English. I was looking for one in original Russian."
Ruth ignored the sounds from the back that told her Harry was not making any progress with the coffee machine. She was sure they needed to get someone in to fix it; Harry was sure he could do it himself. In the end she'd agreed to let him try. "I'm afraid we don't have any copies in Russian, but I can order one for you." She enjoyed the book hunt. And she'd been successful often enough that she could always assure customers she'd find what they were looking for. Assuming what they were looking for existed. This one, though, would be easy.
He smiled at her offer. "Thank you, that would be kind. It's for my niece - she's studying Russian at university and I think this would be good for her."
Ruth smiled too. "I'm sure she'll enjoy it."
While she was taking the Russian's details Harry came through, with his coat on. "We've run out of coffee," he said. "I'm going out for more."
Sure that was code for 'I've broken the coffee machine', she said nothing. Until he returned and poked around in the Russian section.
"He's not a spy," she said, from the end of the aisle.
Harry straightened up and smiled at her. "You never know."
"If we could tell Russian agents by their tendency to buy copes of War and Peace in the original language, we'd have had a lot less trouble all these years." She took a few steps closer. "If you're bored..."
"I'm not." He sighed. "I'm not. I'm just getting used to a slower pace of life." He caught hold of her hand. "As long as you're here, I'll be all right."
He always did know how to get round her. In retrospect she should have seen that for what it was - an attempt to put her off the scent. At the time she put it down to boredom and left him to it. He wasn't doing any real harm and he never actually posted any of the letters he wrote to the Home Secretary. It was a week before she learnt that he wasn't the only person who still thought he was a spook.
It was a Sunday and the shop was closed. Harry had gone to London for the day to take Catherine to lunch. He'd invited her too, but he didn't see enough of his daughter already and she didn't want to be a fifth wheel. With most of the day to herself she'd taken the opportunity to give the shop a good clean. She was dusting the history section - across the shelf from the Russian section - when she saw the corner of a piece of paper sticking up out of a book. Intrigued, she pulled it out, taking care to remember the page it had come from. She'd been expecting a scrap left there by accident, but it wasn't that. It was written in code. She abandoned the cleaning to take the book and paper to their flat above the shop.
Harry was in a cheerful mood when he arrived home that evening. She almost hated to break it.
"What's this?" he asked, seeing her expression, and the book on the coffee table between them.
She placed her mug down gently on the coaster. "What does it say?"
He followed her gaze and unfolded the piece of paper she'd left lying on the book. After studying it for a moment he shook his head. "I don't know. It's not a code I recognise."
She stood up to face him and waited until he met her eyes. "Don't lie to me." There was an undercurrent of steel in her voice that told him she was not in the mood for his games. "Don't you owe me the truth?"
"I'm not." He looked hurt, but that didn't mean anything when he was used to concealing his real feelings. The piece of paper fluttered out of his hand and landed on the coffee table next to her tea. "But we'll find out who's been leaving secret messages in our bookshop."
She took a deep breath. "You're a good liar, Harry, but not to me. I can tell."
For a moment they stood still, eyes locked on each other, as the newsreader on the radio told them the news in less detail than Ruth and Harry were used to hearing it. Outside a lone seagull cried.
It was Harry who backed down first. "It's unofficial," he admitted. "I'm just a contact. It's nothing more than passing messages."
Despite her assertion, Ruth wasn't sure whether to believe that. "What do the messages say?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I just pass them on."
She picked up the piece of paper and held it in front of his face so he could see the writing on it. "What does it say?"
He didn't move. "I don't want you involved."
That she could believe, but she wanted the whole truth. She brandished the paper at him. "It's a list of dates and places."
He closed his eyes for a moment. "I should have known you'd work it out."
"What does it mean?" she asked, but he remained silent. "Harry, who are you working for?" she asked, in a softer tone; worried now. But they could play this game all day and she'd be no closer to an answer. "Harry, either you tell me or it stops."
He considered that for a moment before he answered, his gaze fixed on the wall behind her. "Five believe there are Russian spies in Britain. They're being monitored in case they try anything. I'm just the go between."
"Thank you for telling me." She came around the table to put a hand on his arm. "But I don't need you to protect me."
He smiled. "I should have known that, of course."
"If you get involved in anything else I will find out about it. You know I will."
He nodded. "If anyone else asks, I promise to tell you."
As he kissed her she realised he hadn't promised not to get involved in anything else. But perhaps she couldn't ask for that. You could take Harry out of the service, but you couldn't take the service out of Harry.