Disclaimer: Spooks is owned by BBC and Kudos.
A/N: This idea came to me Friday morning - Valentine's Day - and I thought I'd have a nice quiet afternoon at work in which I could write it all down, but of course that didn't happen. My apologies for delivering this late, but I didn't feel like saving it for next year.
My thanks to HR always live on and theoofoof for helping me get the details right.
Ruth remained oblivious to the day until the voice on the radio announced that love songs were the theme for the day in honour of Valentine's Day. She sighed at the reminder before finishing her tea and toast. Brushing a few crumbs from her sweater, she noted that she was dressed appropriately, in her mind at least. A black dress and gray cardigan were perfect for Valentine's Day as far as she was concerned.
After a thankfully uneventful trip to work, she arrived at Thames House at her normal early hour. Somehow Ruth always felt her day went better if she could get settled in before everyone else arrived. She didn't like to start her day rushed and being able to enjoy a cup of tea while it was still quiet often went a long way towards helping her feel calm during the day. She made her way through the pods to her desk and deposited her bag. After hanging her coat in the closet she filled the kettle and switched it on. Then it was back to her desk to log on to her computer and start sorting emails before the kettle finished heating.
Within 15 minutes she was sipping her still-hot tea while working her way through the more urgent of the email requests. She knew when the clock approached 8.00 as the pods started turning frequently, admitting her coworkers to the Grid. Ruth was so focused on her tasks that she didn't immediately register the presence of Jo standing in front of her desk.
"I'm sorry, Jo. Have you been standing there long?"
Jo shook her head. "Not too long. I just didn't want to disturb you."
"It's fine. Is there something you need?" Ruth asked in response to the grin currently residing on her friend's face.
"No, I just wanted to give you this," Jo replied as she moved her hand from behind her back and placed the clear cello bag on Ruth's desk. "Happy Valentine's Day, Ruth."
Ruth was surprised at the gesture. "Jo, you didn't need to do this. How sweet! Did you make these yourself?"
"I did. It's toffee with chocolate and almonds. Just a little something I made to share with everyone."
"Thank you, Jo. This was very kind of you." Ruth set the little bag of sweets next to her monitor and watched as Jo dropped a bag off on all the desks, including Harry's. Jo's act of kindness didn't change her mind about Valentine's Day but she had to admit that it was nice to receive a gift, however small, on this supposed day of love.
The day continued on like any other, though thankfully it was quiet. Ruth was engrossed in searches, translations, and research for on-going operations. It wasn't until Adam returned with sandwiches from the nearby deli that she took a break. Zaf and Jo rolled their chairs over and the four of them gathered around her desk.
"Anyone have plans for this evening?" Zaf asked between bites.
Jo shook her head. "None for me. My flatmate has a date, so just a quiet night at home for me."
"I'm spending the night with Wes, he wanted to do something special," Adam added quietly. It had only been a few weeks since Fiona's death. Once he'd finally told Wes about Fiona's death, Wes had wanted to spend extra time with his father. Adam admitted this to Ruth one day so she and several others decided to take on what tasks they could for a few weeks to give Adam that extra time to spend with his son.
"Ruth, how about you?" Zaf asked.
"I have a date. It's with the one male in my life that happily greets me each night when I get home from work, I can say anything to him and he won't tell me how ridiculous I am, and at night he loves to snuggle with me." At Zaf's blank look she clarified. "That was my cat I was describing. Of course I don't have a date. Do you want to know what happened the last time I went on a date? He tied me to the banister in his house – no, not like that, Zaf – and then when he tried to blackmail the British government, he ended up dead at my feet with a bag full of poisoned diamonds." At Zaf and Jo's incredulous looks, she pointed at Adam. "Ask him, he saw it all."
Both looked to Adam for confirmation, who gave it with a nod of his head.
"I think it's best if I stay far away from the dating pool. Not just for my own safety, but for the welfare of the general population as well." She shrugged slightly and smiled. "How about you, Zaf? Do you have a girl or two waiting to fall for your charms this evening?"
Zaf smiled. "I'm glad you think so highly of me, but no. No date for tonight. Its not the best night for a casual date anyway. Better to get some take away and stay home."
Adam finished his food and excused himself. Once he was out of sight, Zaf leaned in closer to Jo and Ruth. "Can I ask you ladies a question?" At their positive responses, he said, "Is giving flowers and chocolates for Valentine's Day really important to a woman? Are they disappointed if they don't get those things from their partner?"
Jo shrugged. "Depends on the woman. I'm sure there are some women who will insist on everything; flowers, chocolates, dinner at a fancy restaurant. There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't think every woman wants or needs it."
Ruth nodded in agreement. "I would much rather have my partner do little things for me throughout the year than to only have the grand gesture of love one day because a calendar dictates it. Fresh flowers from the market just because is much more romantic to me than roses on Valentine's Day. I do have to admit though..." Ruth trailed off.
"What? What do you have to admit?" Zaf prodded.
"Despite my general dislike of the holiday, I wish that just once I could receive flowers on Valentine's Day. It's silly, I know, but it would be nice to have happen once in my lifetime."
"What do you want to have happen once in your lifetime?" Harry asked as he approached the group.
Jo filled him in. "Receive flowers for Valentine's Day."
"Hmm, yes. I hate to break up this coffee talk but I need reports from two of you and a status update from Ruth on the situation in Croydon."
They each responded in the affirmative and moved back to their desks and to work.
Several hours later, Ruth stood and stretched. She'd been in the registry for the past hour cross checking information and checking for connections that may or may not exist. Glancing at her watch and noting the late hour, she picked up the files she needed and walked out of the registry and back towards her desk while reading the file on top. Coming around the corner, she glanced up to see who was still on the Grid. Not seeing anyone in her sweep of the office, something different about her desk caught her eye.
It was a bouquet of flowers. As she got nearer to her desk she could see that the bouquet wasn't roses but daisies, tulips, and crocuses in pinks, purples, and white. She looked around the Grid once again, but she didn't see anyone. She set the files on the corner of her desk and picked up the bouquet. The colours of the flowers were vibrant and she noticed a card tucked down on the side. She hesitantly opened the card, wondering what the chances were that the flowers were meant for someone else but left on her desk by mistake. She didn't recognize the handwriting but the card simply said, "For Ruth, who deserves so much more than flowers on Valentine's Day."
Ruth dropped into her chair, the shock momentarily paralysing her. Her mind was perplexed at who could have sent the flowers. There wasn't anyone special in her life and despite her decent relationship with her mother, this wasn't something she was likely to do either. It was a moment later that she remembered the lunch conversation with Adam, Jo, and Zaf. She looked at the flowers again and sighed. That had to be the answer. Zaf most likely picked them up while he was out that afternoon. She had to admit it was a sweet gesture and while she was touched that he made the effort it still didn't feel right.
Deciding that she'd done enough for the day she locked the files in her desk and powered down her computer. She debated taking the flowers home; given it was after 7.00 on a Tuesday night and Valentine's Day to boot the bus likely wouldn't be very busy, but Ruth had encountered enough weirdos on the bus to know that sitting with a bouquet of flowers would attract attention that she didn't want. Then again, leaving them here was going to attract attention tomorrow but if she couldn't get Zaf to admit to giving them to her, she could just lie and say they were from her mother. She found a vase in the kitchen and arranged the flowers before she tucked the card into her copy of 'Persuasion' and leaving the Grid.
The following morning Ruth arrived early as usual. She smiled as she approached her desk, the flowers brightening up the sterile space. She was distracted with her renewed mental debate of whether or not Zaf had purchased the flowers and didn't notice Harry approach her desk.
"Nice flowers," he said as Ruth jumped in surprise. He reached out his hand and gently touched her lower back to steady her. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he added.
"It's all right, I just didn't think anyone else was here yet. Um, yes, nice flowers."
"Weren't you just saying yesterday you wanted to receive flowers for Valentine's Day? So who sent them? Should I be expecting paperwork on my desk from you?" he asked with a slight smile.
"No paperwork necessary. Honestly I have no idea who they are from, though I have my money on Zaf. He may be an outrageous flirt but he's also quite sweet."
"So there wasn't a card?" Harry asked as he rubbed a daisy petal between his thumb and finger.
"There was, but..." Ruth's voice faded away.
"But I'm sure it was just Zaf trying to make me feel better," Ruth said.
"Can I see it?" he asked.
Ruth shook her head. "I took it home with me." Technically this was true, but she wasn't about to admit that she'd looked at it the entire ride home and that it was still tucked inside her copy of 'Persuasion,' in her bag in the bottom drawer of her desk.
"What did it say?"
"It's, it's not important. The flowers were a nice gesture and I'm going to thank Zaf when he arrives." Ruth settled into her seat and powered up her computer. "Anything going on this early I need to know about?"
Harry watched her for a few moments and Ruth had a feeling he wanted to say something else. Before either of them could say anything Adam came through the pods, breaking the moment. "No, nothing new with any of our operations," he replied.
It was almost another hour before Zaf arrived and Ruth caught his attention immediately.
"Pretty flowers, Ruth," he noted as he stood in front of her desk.
"Yeah, about those. Anything you want to tell me?"
A look of confusion settled on Zaf's face. "No. Should there be?"
Ruth sighed. "Well after our little lunch discussion yesterday about Valentine's Day these flowers magically appeared on my desk late yesterday. I found them when I finally made it out of the Registry. I assumed it was you trying to be sweet."
"Trying to be sweet? No need to try, I am a sweet guy," he started and Ruth smiled. "As much as I might like to take credit for buying you flowers, I didn't do it. What did the card say?"
"So you didn't give me the flowers?"
Zaf shook his head no.
"Well now I feel ridiculous."
"Ruth, was there a card? What did it say?"
"Yes there was, but never mind. It's not important."
"Did you ask Adam or Jo?"
"Adam's not likely to be doing anything with Valentine's Day so soon after Fiona's death and Jo didn't do this. I know it."
"Why would Harry send me flowers?" She tried to drop her voice but she couldn't help the squeak that came out.
Zaf noticed but didn't say anything. "Harry heard the conversation about you and flowers on Valentine's Day. He could have just as easily given you the flowers."
Ruth shook her head. "Harry saw the flowers this morning and didn't know anything about them."
"You sure about that? He's a spook, Ruth, and one who's been at it a lot longer than you and I put together." He took in Ruth's look of confusion. "Look, I wish I could take credit but honestly, I didn't buy them. And if Jo or Adam didn't buy them, then the only choice left is Harry."
Ruth was about to try and refute Zaf's logic – though how she was going to do so she wasn't sure – when Adam called out and requested that she and Zaf join him in the Briefing Room.
It was hours later and Ruth once again found herself one of the last on the Grid. The source behind the flowers had been on her mind all day. She had to admit that Zaf had a point about the likelihood of Harry being the source of the flowers, but every time she came around to that conclusion her first question was "Why?"
Harry demanded high standards from his officers and in return they knew he would do whatever possible to protect and defend them. Ruth doubted, however, that Harry's care and concern for his officers went so far as to sending his lonely analyst flowers on Valentine's Day and then pretending to know nothing about it. But if not Harry, who?
Standing at her desk she repeated her nightly ritual of locking up any files she had on her desk, returning the pens and notepads to the drawer, and powering down her computer. As she slipped into her coat Harry materialized from somewhere.
"Did you ever find out who sent you the flowers?" he asked.
Ruth shook her head as she pulled her hair free from her collar. "No. Zaf swears it wasn't him so I'm clueless. I guess I just need to enjoy them and hope that whomever sent them knows how much I appreciate the gesture."
Harry smiled and after a pause opened his mouth to say something when his mobile rang. Glancing at the number, he apologized for the intrusion. "Sorry, it's the Home Secretary. I have to take this." He turned towards his office as he answered the phone.
Ruth heard the beginnings of his conversation as she buttoned her coat and picked up her bag. She'd decided to take the flowers home with her this evening and hope that the bus ride home was uneventful. As she approached the pods, she heard Harry calling her name. Turning to see what he needed, she noticed that he was hovering in the doorway to his office.
"He knows," he said cryptically before giving her a small smile and walking in to his office and closing the door behind him.
Ruth stood for a moment in confusion at Harry's cryptic remark, before turning and walking through the pods. Once open on the other side, she continued through, her brain still trying to make sense of Harry's comment. It wasn't until she reached the main corridor that the pieces fell into place. Without thinking, she turned back and walked quickly to the pods. Before she stepped into one she caught sight of Harry pacing in his office, meaning the conversation with Blake wasn't going well. She stayed at the glass and watched him, this mysterious man who sent her flowers with a note that said she deserved so much more on Valentine's Day. What did he mean by that?
Before she could start analyzing his message Harry looked up from his pacing and noticed her standing at the window. He tilted his head in question and she mouthed the words "Thank you" and graced him with a smile. He replied with a smile of his own. They held each other's gaze briefly until Harry had to return his attention to the demands of the politician on the phone.
Ruth turned and headed once again to the exit, the smile still on her face. Maybe this Valentine's Day hadn't been so bad after all.