Disclaimer: Spooks belongs to Kudos and the BBC. I'm done playing with them for now but I'll come up with something else for them to do eventually.
A/N: Thank you for your support and your wonderful reviews. They make the writing process all worthwhile.
Sunday morning, 2 September 2006
James slowly picked his way across the rocks before spying his daughter sitting on a large flat section of rock near the sandy beach. She must have heard him approach because she didn't jump when he spoke.
"I wondered if I would find you here," he said before sitting down next to her. It was a clear but cool morning and James shrugged out of the backpack he was wearing. Opening it, he pulled a large thermos and two tin mugs from inside. "Would you like some coffee?" he asked. "I added the milk and sugar back at my room," he added.
"Thanks," Ruth said as he handed her the warm mug which quickly heated her chilled hands. The two sat next to one another simply watching the water crash to the shore before retreating back out once again.
"I used to come here quite a lot and think about how it was you drowned. I wondered what would have happened to me had I been with you that day; if I'd have been able to save you or would I have had to leave you behind in the water while I tried to save myself?" Ruth wiped a tear away as she spoke.
"Oh Ruth, the things I would change if I could. I would've never agreed to work with Six if I'd had any idea what would happen. The pain I caused you and your mother is something I can never forgive myself for and I'll understand if you can never forgive me for what happened," James said and Ruth began to cry in earnest. Setting the mug down next to her, she leaned over to embrace her father, who gladly returned the gesture. Holding his sobbing daughter was enough to make him begin to cry as well. It was a few minutes before their tears subsided and they pulled apart, both wiping their cheeks.
"Dad, it wasn't your fault. You did what you did to protect us. Working at Five, I've seen officers faced with the same choices and it's never easy for any of them. What's done is done and you're here now. We can't change the past but we can move forward." Ruth noticed her father was grinning widely and she tilted her head, trying to figure out why. "Why are you smiling like that?"
"You called me Dad," James said. "I never thought I'd hear that again and it's the most wonderful sound I've ever heard in my life."
Ruth smiled in return. "It feels good to say it," she replied. Glancing back out over the water she continued, "I think it went well with Mum yesterday, all things considered. She'll need time, much like I did." She took a sip of her nearly cold coffee. "I spoke with her last night, before I went to bed. She still has a lot of questions but I assured her again that you were telling the truth about what happened. She did ask if her marriage to David was legal, but I don't know the answer."
James shrugged. "I've no either but I'll ask Gabriel. And if I need to give her a divorce so that she and David can be legally married, I'll take care of having it done. Does she have my contact information? I don't want you to feel the need to mediate everything between us," he added.
Ruth nodded. "Yes, I wrote it all down and gave it to David." She sipped her coffee once again. "Did you really never date in all that time you were away? No one would have blamed you," Ruth added.
"After five years there, I'd finally given up hope that I could be reunited with you and your mum. I tried dating; a few friends set me up with some nice women that I probably could have been happy with but I just couldn't do it. As I said, it always felt like I was cheating on Betsy and even if I could have gotten serious with someone, they didn't deserve to play second fiddle to my 'dead' wife." He pulled the thermos from his backpack and poured them each a refill. "David seems like a nice guy; I'm glad she has him to help her through all of this."
"He's been good for her and he's treated her well. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't like him initially and treated him poorly for a few years because he wasn't you. Eventually I came to realize that I was acting like a spoiled brat. It wasn't David's fault that you were gone and he'd taken all the grief I'd given him and never once called me on my childish behaviour. I apologized to him and mum the next time I was home on break."
"Your mum made a comment about how it was David's second marriage as well."
"Yeah, his first wife passed away from cancer at a young age. It's how they met actually; in a support group for widows and widowers. I think it was one reason they initially became friends; both of them had lost their spouse and had a young child to raise."
"David has a child? Your mother and I talked about having a second child but we never were able to get pregnant again."
Ruth took a deep breath. "David's son, my step-brother Peter, committed suicide a little over a year ago. He worked in Royal Protection but had been fired because he was an alcoholic. We got along but we weren't that close. It was really hard on David to have to bury Peter next to his mother. He seems like he's doing better but Mum says he still has some rough days, which is understandable," Ruth explained.
"I'm sorry to hear that. No parent should have to bury a child," James said.
They went back to watching the water and enjoying the peace and quiet of the Sunday morning. It was another few minutes before James broke the silence.
"I talked with Gabriel again this week. I asked him to try and find out whose body was used and buried in my grave. I went to see it yesterday after seeing your mum and it was a surreal experience but it gave me goosebumps. I'd like to have the stone redone to name the man who's actually buried there, as a way to thank him for helping me."
"That's a nice idea," Ruth commented. "Have you decided where you're going to live?" she asked.
"I'm still looking. I can stay in the flat from Six for another eight months but I'd like to be settled before that. I'm thinking of leasing a flat somewhere in London and then buy a small house near Exeter. I love this area but I'm not sure I'm ready to give up city life quite yet. I enjoyed living near Brisbane and being near the multitude of things to do and see so I'd like to do the same with London. Eventually I'll be ready to retire from city life, though who knows, maybe by then I'll have grandkids to see," he added as he watched Ruth for her reaction.
The blush across her face spread quickly. "I don't think you should hold your breath for that, Dad."
"Too early for you and Harry to be thinking about those things?"
Ruth nodded. "Yes, and he has children from his first marriage. He may very well not wish to repeat the experience," she cautioned.
"Fair enough. But just so you know, I've seen the way he looks at you. He loves you and if you asked for it, he would give you the world." The blush on Ruth's face renewed itself at her father's observation. "Has your mum and David met him yet?"
"No. Driving out to Cheltenham for a visit hasn't really been high on our priority list. They usually come to the city for a long weekend near Mum's birthday; I figured I could bring Harry to dinner and he could meet them then."
James nodded in understanding and then stood up. "I don't know about you, but I'm getting cold and the coffee's all gone. Care to head back to town and warm up with a Full English and a pot of tea?" He extended his hand in offering.
Ruth grasped the hand and pulled herself upright, shivering as she stood. "I'd love to, Dad," she said before the two set out back to their hotel.