Disclaimer: Spooks belongs to Kudos and the BBC. I'm merely playing 'what if' with the characters.
A/N: This story involves the death of a character, but not in the way you think. It is set between 5.4 and 5.5.
Ruth wasn't being nosy but when the messenger handed her the piece of paper he'd forgotten to leave on Harry's desk, she glanced at it before setting it on his phone. Walking back to her desk she quickly searched for Dr. Belle, finding that she was a veterinarian at a practice located near Harry's home. Ruth wondered if something was wrong with Scarlet but given the unease between them after her refusal of a second date she wasn't sure Harry would welcome the inquisition. She decided to wait and see if he gave any indication of a problem.
On Saturday, Ruth arrived on the Grid later than normal which she knew wasn't going to be a problem since she wasn't on the rota for the weekend, a fact that Jo commented on as Ruth exited the pods.
"Ruth, why are you here? Shouldn't you be having a lie in, enjoying a cup of tea and a good book?"
"I should but I wanted to finalize the reports from Havensworth before they start the Registry update next week. It shouldn't take too long; I just need to cross-reference the various reports. Anything of interest I should know about or is it blessedly slow so far?" she asked as she settled at her desk.
"Quiet thus far, which is good. Zaf is coming in later today to help cover the Grid," she noted as she clicked around on her computer.
Ruth frowned. "I thought Harry was working this morning?" she said before she could stop herself.
Jo was thankful her face was hidden from Ruth's view by her monitor as it allowed her a slight smile before schooling her face into a neutral mask.
"He was supposed to be here but some emergency came up at home. Said everything was fine but that he wouldn't be in today," Jo added.
"Oh, alright then. Well, if I'm going to get home at a decent hour to salvage my weekend, I'd best get this work done."
The following week, Harry seemed more subdued than normal. Ruth didn't want to raise the issue with anyone else on the Grid because she knew it would only lead to more gossip about their relationship. She debated calling him or even showing up on his doorstep but she wasn't sure he would be receptive to her intrusion.
Late Friday morning she decided to try a fishing expedition. She delivered a stack of files to his office and then tried to engage him in small talk. He responded with one word answers when possible so she played her trump card.
"Harry, my vet just retired and closed his practice and I need to take Fidget in for a check-up. Can you tell me who you use for Scarlet?" She watched him closely as she asked the question.
Ruth knew Harry well enough to know that he was working at maintaining a neutral expression on his face and she was convinced that something was going on with Scarlet.
"Elizabeth Street Vet Clinic, just north of Ebury Street. Ask for Dr. Belle, she's very good," he said with little emotion.
"Thank you, Harry. I appreciate that. Well, I'll let you get back to work," she said, gracing him with a soft smile, even though he wasn't looking. After a moment of no response she turned and left his office.
Ruth settled on the sofa with a glass of wine after finishing her dinner and Fidget jumped up to join her. As she stroked the cat's head and back, she thought about Harry and she couldn't get rid of the feeling that something was wrong with Scarlet. Harry wasn't likely to confide in anyone on the Grid but Ruth had to know. If she was wrong then Harry could be mad at her; maybe it would make it easier for him to accept her decision about not continuing their personal relationship.
She stood at his door after ringing the bell, waiting for Harry to come to the door. It was a nice evening but she was glad she'd grabbed her cardigan to counter the slight breeze. She was looking out over Harry's neighbourhood when the door opened quietly behind her.
"Ruth? What are you doing here?" he asked, certainly not looking pleased to see her.
"Hello, Harry. Sorry to stop by unannounced but I was hoping I could talk with you for a few minutes, unless you're busy of course."
Harry still seemed confused as to why she was there but stepped aside to let her in. Ruth waited in the foyer as Harry closed and locked the door and then motioned her to walk into the sitting room. She noted that he took a seat in a comfortable-looking armchair and a glass with a trace of whisky sat before it on the table. Ruth opted for the sofa to his right and glanced around the room, taking in the empty dog bed in the corner.
"What did you want to talk about, Ruth?" Harry asked. He didn't look at her as he spoke, his attention straight ahead on something else.
Ruth took a deep breath and hoped for the best. "I'm concerned about you, Harry. You haven't seemed yourself this week and I wondered if there was anything I could do to help."
He shifted his eyes to look at her from under his brow. "I'm fine, Ruth. Sorry that you seem to have wasted your Friday night," he stated before shifting his eyes back to the doorway through which they'd recently walked through.
"Nice try. Tell me what's wrong," she said.
"Ruth, thank you for your concern but I'm fine. Please feel free to leave," he said as he lifted himself out of the chair and went through into the kitchen.
Ruth heard him opening the bottle of scotch as she entered the kitchen, then saw him pour a healthy measure that he knocked back in two drinks.
"Harry, despite what I said about having dinner with you again I still care about, still consider you to be one of my closest friends. Please tell me what's wrong," she implored.
He slammed the glass down on the counter next to him so hard Ruth was afraid it would break. "Just leave me alone! I don't need you nosing around in my life!" he proclaimed. He stepped forward and rested his forearms on the kitchen table and bent over to set his head on his hands. Ruth could hear his deep breaths, as though trying to calm himself. His outburst confirmed for her that all was not right with Harry and that it went beyond the abrupt end of their romantic relationship. Her eyes swept across the kitchen and she noticed the empty dog food dish and dry water bowl.
Taking a few steps forward, she placed her hand lightly on Harry's upper back. He flinched but didn't move from his position so she began to rub his back gently.
Speaking softly she asked, "Harry, is this about Scarlet? Has something happened to her?"
At the mention of his dog's name, a sob escaped and his shoulders began to shake. Ruth knew then that something was terribly wrong with Scarlet and that Harry needed a friend.
"Harry, come here," she said. She grasped his arms and pulled him towards her. He seemed to understand what she was trying to do and he moved himself such that she could wrap her arms around his neck and pull him close. He dropped his head to her shoulder, wrapped his arms around her waist, and cried. Ruth leaned back against the kitchen table to stable herself as she comforted Harry.
They stood together for five minutes or so until his tears subsided. He released his hold on her and took a step back, rubbing his hands over his face.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that," he said as he looked down, his arms now crossed over his chest.
Ruth laid a hand on his forearm. "You've nothing to be sorry for, Harry. Will you tell me what's wrong?" she asked. After a moment he nodded, though he was still looking down. "Go and sit on the sofa. I'll make some tea for us and bring it in."
Harry nodded again before turning and leaving the room. Ruth filled the kettle and turned it on. She pulled two large mugs from the shelf and added milk and sugar to each of their tastes. Once the kettle was heated she added the water and then dropped a tea bag in each mug. She carried them to the sitting room and was glad to see Harry sitting on the sofa, allowing her to sit next to him. She had a feeling the upcoming story was not a happy one and she wanted to be close enough to hold his hand. She moved around the other side of the sofa and handed Harry his mug when he looked up at her approach.
"Thank you," he whispered before sipping the steaming liquid.
Ruth settled next to him, close enough to be supportive but not so close as to crowd him. She sipped her tea as well before setting it on the table in front of them, to which Harry followed suit.
"I'm sorry I've been so rude while you've been here, Ruth," he said to which she smiled in response to show she wasn't angry.
"As you surmised, I've been troubled these past few weeks and it has to do with Scarlet. She… she's gone, Ruth."
Ruth allowed the confusion to show on her face. "I don't understand, Harry. Did she run away or do you mean…" She trailed off, not wanting to voice the terrible possibility.
Harry attempted a smile. "No, she didn't run away. She died, a week ago today."
Ruth reached over and clasped Harry's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I'm so very sorry, Harry. No wonder you haven't been yourself. May I ask how it happened?"
Harry sniffled before starting. "It all started a couple of months ago. She wasn't eating very much, having accidents in the house, losing weight, etc. I took her in to be seen and they tried some medication which worked briefly. After another visit and several tests, they suspected she had bowel cancer. There were a few things they could have done but there was no guarantee it would give me any answers plus it would have been hard on her. Given her condition, I opted to treat her with medication and make her as comfortable as possible. My dog walker Gina started coming to the house every day to ensure she had plenty of opportunity to get outside and I even came home some days over lunch to spend time with Scarlet, though I always had it on my calendar as a meeting." He smiled slightly at that admission, and Ruth returned the gesture.
"Scarlet stopped losing weight, but she didn't gain any either. She would eat a food for a few days and then would have nothing to do with it. About a week and half ago the medication stopped working so the incontinence started again plus she stopped eating. I took her back in to the vet but they said there wasn't anything they could do. They gave me some pain pills for her but they confirmed her condition and authorized euthanasia if that's what I wanted." Harry's breath was ragged as he tried to control his emotions.
"A little over a week ago she stopped eating all together and she could barely stand. I knew I had to take her in; I couldn't continue to watch her suffer. That's why I left early last Friday, so I could take her in."
Ruth reached over and grasped his hand. "I'm so sorry, Harry. I know how much you loved Scarlet."
"I felt a little ridiculous, crying over my dog," he added in a quiet voice.
Ruth shook her head. "You aren't being ridiculous, Harry. You loved Scarlet. She was a companion and a friend. I'm sure she listened whenever you wanted to talk and never once betrayed your secrets." That elicited a half laugh, half sob from Harry and Ruth squeezed his hand. The tears continued down Harry's face so Ruth turned to the left to face him. She released his hand and moved hers to his shoulder while her right hand reached over to grasp his hand.
"You made the right decision, Harry, and it was made out of love for Scarlet. You put her needs ahead of your own. I may have to make the same decision some day for Fidget and I hope that I will be strong enough to do the same. You need to grieve, Harry," she said.
At her words his head lifted. "I don't even know how to grieve properly for my officers, Ruth, how am I meant to do so for a dog?"
Ruth's left arm moved to wrap around Harry's shoulders. "You do grieve for your officers, Harry, in your own way. You just don't have the luxury of showing that grief to the rest of us. Scarlet was a personal relationship and she was very important to you. Don't think that because she was a dog that she's not worth grieving. She was a friend to you, Harry, in the truest sense of the word."
She paused to give Harry a chance to take in what she'd said and to consider her next words. "I have a suggestion, if I haven't already overstepped."
Harry shook his head. "You're not even close to overstepping," he said, gracing her with a slight smile. "What do you suggest?"
"Since you aren't on call this weekend, tell Adam that unless it's absolutely necessary, you aren't to be contacted. Then spend time with your memories of Scarlet. Follow the routes you used to take her on walks. If you've got any pictures of her bring them out and think about the times with her and let yourself laugh and cry. Come Monday morning, I think you'll feel better if you've given yourself that time."
Harry nodded in acknowledgement of her words. Feeling that he needed some time alone, she picked up their cool cups of tea and walked to the kitchen. She washed the mugs and put everything away before moving back to sit next to Harry.
Once again, she reached over and grasped his hand. "Harry, I'm going to go home now but if there's anything I can do for you, please let me know. I'm happy to help."
He finally looked up to her and nodded. Ruth noticed that the tears were gone but that the sadness was still etched on his face. "Thank you, Ruth, for coming over and not letting me push you away. I needed to tell someone about Scarlet, I just didn't know that I needed to tell someone." Another smile graced his face as he took a deep breath. "What you said about taking the weekend for myself, that sounds like a good idea but I'd like to modify it slightly."
"Harry, do what you need to do; there's not a right or wrong way to grieve for Scarlet," she replied.
Harry nodded. "Yes but what I meant was, will you join me for lunch on Sunday? I'd like to talk about her but I think I'll feel a bit less silly if I can talk about her to you. Otherwise I might end up talking to myself and that might depress me even more," he said, looking a bit sheepish.
Ruth smiled at his request. "I'd be happy to come over and listen to stories about Scarlet. Shall I bring takeaway?" she offered.
Harry shook his head. "No, I'll take care of everything. I'll call or text you with the time."
"Sounds good, Harry," she said before standing with Harry following her lead. He walked with her to the front door, unlocking it and opening it for her. Before she could leave however, Harry placed his hand on her shoulder.
"Ruth, again, thank you for everything. Given our relationship, or lack thereof..."
"Harry," Ruth interrupted. "I know what I said about our second date and I'm sorry. I... I just panicked. While I hate the thought of being talked about by the others, I should have been willing to talk about it with you."
Harry nodded. "Maybe on Sunday we can talk about it?" he asked, his voice hopeful.
Ruth smiled. "I'd like that," she replied. She reached up and quickly kissed his cheek before she walked out the door, leaving a smiling Harry standing on the threshold.
A/N: Please don't hate me for killing Scarlet; it was inspired by the recent death of my family's beloved Yellow Lab, Belle. Her death was nearly two weeks ago and I wrote much of this story with tears running down my face. Hopefully you can all forgive me for putting Harry through such misery.