The Long Way Home
Summary: Ruth is in exile, living in Cyprus, when she crosses paths with someone from her past who needs her help. Set October 2007, several weeks after 6.2, though in this version Ros was not taken and Yalta does not exist. Rated T.
A/N: Its been a few years since I've posted anything but I hated the idea of this story not being finished. My thanks to Wolfdrum and r4ven3 for their sharp eyes and feedback and to my fellow Spooks writers rahleeya, Sparky75, and SigmaCreations for their encouragement to finally get this story finished.
Monday, 1 October
'What should we do today? The weather is perfect and Nico won't be home from school until late this afternoon.'
Ruth turned to look at George as she sat at the table sipping her tea. George had fixed himself a cup of strong Cypriot-style coffee for which Ruth hadn't yet developed a taste. He'd started keeping her favorite tea at his home as a way to make her feel welcome. He'd also dropped a few hints over the past weeks about Ruth moving into his home when the lease on her flat was up in a few months, but she had pointedly ignored the hints for now. She was comfortable with their relationship as it was and she wasn't yet ready to give up her own place.
'I thought I'd visit the market and pick up something for dinner, maybe fish and a salad, that we can enjoy by the pool. Care to join me?'
George shook his head. 'Not today. I'll do a few things around the house this morning, but perhaps we can explore that private beach I was telling you about this afternoon.' He smiled that smile at her and she knew exactly what he had in mind.
Not wanting to say no just yet, Ruth smiled in return. 'That might be nice. Why don't we see what we're in the mood for later,' she said before finishing her tea. She stood up from the table and placed her cup in the sink. Before she left the kitchen, she moved to stand next to George as he sat at the table, bending down to place a kiss on his cheek. He smiled at her action and watched her leave the room.
Once in the privacy of the bathroom, Ruth opened her dressing gown and dressed in the clothes she'd brought from home. One of the hints George dropped was about leaving more of her clothing at his house, but other than a spare swimming costume and t-shirt, she kept nothing there and instead chose to pack a bag each time. More than once she'd considered the reasons she was holding herself back from fully committing to a relationship with George. Despite the fact that he was a good man who treated her well, she told herself that she still looked over her shoulder regularly and was concerned that someone would disrupt this new life she had. While this was partly true, she knew that the real reason she couldn't commit was that she was afraid that once she did, Harry would track her down and tell her she could come back to London, and back to him. She'd dreamt of it more than once but as time went on, she knew that it was less and less likely to come true. Now dressed, she brushed her hair out before pulling it back in a holder to keep it off her neck. She decided not to worry about her situation and to just enjoy the life she was living, at least for today.
Zaf tried to steel himself against the bumpiness of the dirt road, but it was a futile effort. Though it would be easier to allow himself to slip into unconsciousness, he needed to know where he was being taken and what was going to happen next.
The four men transporting him were seated in the cab of the truck while he had been tossed into the bed of the truck. There was a cover on the bed but the rear window was broken which allowed dust to drift in every time the vehicle slowed down. The dust caused him to cough uncontrollably which was painful in his condition.
It had been several weeks since he was infected with the virus and shot in the stomach. It was a testament to how valuable they thought him to be that he was treated for his injuries. They'd whisked him out of the country quickly with only a medic tasked with keeping him alive. Thankfully he lost consciousness within a few hours and the next thing he knew he was in an old farmhouse in rural Albania. What little information he got out of his captors was that he'd been operated on in rural France by a doctor who was part of their network before being moved in the back of a van to his current location. This group also had access to the antidote for the virus, though he wondered if the antidote was old or if the virus had mutated because he hadn't fully recovered. He was still weak, had difficulty breathing, and was in constant pain, though whether that was from the after effects of the virus and gun shot or the torture they had put him through he didn't know.
What really concerned him was whether he'd given up any information. He'd been delirious from the effects of his injuries. It had been several weeks since he was taken and yet he only had solid memory of the past few days. He had no way of knowing if he'd compromised any of his fellow agents, either from Five or Six. He tried asking one of the more sympathetic group members, but they'd not given him any answers.
The truck slowed down and Zaf could see through the side windows that they were in a town or some type of settlement. The truck came to a stop and the men in the cab exited the vehicle. Zaf closed his eyes to feign sleep and listened to the men speak, hoping to gain a clue as to his location. He and the men had been traveling for several days by truck, boat, and truck again so he had no idea where he was other than the climate was warmer and drier.
He heard the men talk about finding something to eat and then debating what to do with him. One of the voices noted that Zaf wasn't even conscious. He heard some rustling as the man opened the back of the truck and laid a blanket over Zaf to cover him. The back of the truck closed again and the men's voices slowly faded.
Zaf lay still, continuing to feign sleep, until several minutes had passed. Slowly he moved the blanket off his upper body and weakly lifted himself to look cautiously out the window. The truck was parked on a narrow street with buildings on both sides. An occasional car passed by but otherwise everything was quiet. Zaf continued to observe the area for a few minutes before he decided that trying to escape and probably dying in that attempt was preferable to the fate that likely awaited him.
He reached through the broken window to open the back of the truck. He moved a few of the items that were lying in the back of the truck to make it seem that he was still lying under the blanket before slipping out of the back. It took a minute for him to adjust to being upright and Zaf knew that he wouldn't be able to go far without finding help. He slowly moved down the street in the opposite direction of his captors. He stayed close to the buildings which allowed him to rest as he needed. A few people passed him, most giving him a look of concern but none stopped to ask if he needed assistance.
As he moved, the noise level started to increase until he came to the next intersection. Across the street was a public square hosting an open market bustling with people. Zaf stood at the corner and watched the crowd, trying to determine whether his captors were among them. He didn't see them but decided to take the risk and hope that he could find someone to help him before his captors found him.
Ruth parked her car just outside her flat before running into the unit to drop off her overnight bag. The slip of paper that served as her security system was still in place yet she entered the unit cautiously, relaxing after a quick check revealed that nothing was out of place. She left the bag in her bedroom and grabbed an empty canvas shopping bag before leaving her flat and replacing the paper slip.
As George had noted, it was a beautiful day, though she had to admit the weather in Polis was rarely bad. With her sunglasses on she strolled towards the market, enjoying the sun on her face. As much as she missed London, weather like this made it a little easier to be away from home. Continuing towards the market she made a mental list of what she would like to purchase. George's favorite was sea bass, so she hoped it would be available. That along with some fresh vegetables for a salad would make for a refreshing dinner after a hot day.
Turning the corner, the public square was ahead of her with people already milling about. She spotted her favorite seafood vender and walked to his stall first. Kostas greeted her warmly and wrapped an order of sea bass for her. Handing over the euros, she asked him to keep the fish on ice while she did her other shopping. She thanked him and smiled warmly before moving on.
Not being in a rush she stopped at a few vendors selling jewelry and other crafts. She fingered a necklace that reminded her of the one she was wearing when she left London the year before but had been lost during her travels. She let memories of bus rides and dinners, rooftops and docks float through her mind before walking away. Pining for something lost wouldn't do her any good, she reminded herself, before moving towards a vegetable stall on the edge of the square.
Zaf slowly made his way across the street to the square. The number of people who passed him grew but still no one offered their help. He couldn't really blame them as he knew he looked terrible. It had been several weeks since he'd bathed, his hair was long and matted in places, and his clothes were dirty and tattered. His appearance was the least of his concerns at the moment, however. He needed medical attention and he hoped he could find someone who would help him before his captors discovered his escape. He was feeling very lightheaded and his vision was blurring, and Zaf worried that he would pass out before he found someone who would help him.
'Just 10 more steps,' he told himself. That would get him to the first stall, where hopefully someone would be willing to help. He tried to scan the crowd for any sign of his captors, but the moments of clear vision were becoming less frequent. He took the last step to the stall and placed his hand at the edge of the table to steady him. He turned his head and took in the piles of vegetables on the table before looking up at the woman behind the table. She opened her mouth to speak, no doubt to tell him to move away, but before she could say anything he whispered, 'Help me,' and promptly passed out.
Several people nearby yelled in surprise while the woman behind the table rushed around to help. Another man crouched down and they rolled Zaf onto his back before the man yelled into the crowd for a doctor and for someone to call for help.
Ruth was looking at tomatoes when she heard a commotion several stalls over. When a man called for a doctor, Ruth rushed over to help. She wasn't a medical professional but she did know how to keep calm during an emergency and could maybe help. Another woman also responded and was checking the man's vital signs when Ruth crouched across from her.
The woman asked her to make sure that an ambulance had been called. Ruth did so and responded that they would be there in three minutes. The man who'd collapsed started moaning and showing signs of consciousness, so Ruth finally looked at him properly. It took her a moment for her brain to look past the matted hair, the dirty clothes, and the facial hair, but as soon as the man opened his eyes, Ruth knew exactly who he was.
'Hello, pretty woman,' he said and smiled before losing consciousness again.