This story takes place somewhere mid season 3 but doesn't impact on any of the long running story arcs.
"You were up early."
Henry glances up at his wife's words and a small smile plays across his lips. "That's normally my line," he remarks, as he lifts the percolator. "Coffee?"
"Absolutely." Elizabeth waggles her fingers at him. "Gimme." Her hand brushes his arm as she leans into him, kissing his cheek as she claims her mug. "I was disappointed to find your side of the bed empty," she tells him. "Neither one of us has early morning meetings, so I'd hoped that we could have had some time together. We've not had much of that recently, what with national crisis after national crisis."
His smile widens as he presses a kiss to her hair. "What kind of time did you have in mind?"
Catching sight of the knowing smirk on her husband's face, Elizabeth pokes her finger into his side. "You know full well what I mean, I'm not spelling it out for you."
"Really? Because I'd like to hear exactly what you were thinking about."
His mouth trails down her neck, his smile widening against her skin as he feels her pulse quicken and hears her breath hitch, a small giggle escapes her. He abandons his coffee mug on the counter so that he can slide his arms around her waist. "I suppose I could share a few snippets tonight," she teases as she leans further back into his embrace.
Henry ministrations still. "I uh, I'm going to be late tonight." He picks up his mug again and gives a somewhat guilty shrug. "I need to work."
"Which is normally my line." She points between them as she remarks, "I'm beginning to feel like we're trading places." When he doesn't respond to her joke – she knows its not a good one, but still she normally at least gets an attempt at a smile – she studies his face carefully and asks, "Everything ok at work?"
"Yeah, just busy," he answers, his tone nonchalant.
"Is that code for I can't talk about it?"
"Nope, that's me just saying that I'm busy."
"And Dmitri?" she asked nervously. If there was one person who could make her husband act out with his normal character, then it was Dmitri Petrov. He was under Henry's skin and she often feels as though she were still on eggshells whenever they spoke about him. Henry hasn't even mentioned him since he was reunited with his sister, but Elizabeth sometimes still felt that he hung over their marriage like a spectre.
"Nothing new." His eyes meet hers, the corners crinkling with his smile as he adds, "I'm just busy at work. You don't need to read anything into this."
She feels slightly reassured by the words, but still she tells him, "Ok, But I'm here if you need me."
Any reply Henry might have made was disturbed by the thundering of feet from above them, accompanied by the slamming of a door and a shout of, "Ali get out the bathroom! I need to brush my teeth!"
"I think the kids are up," Elizabeth remarks dryly.
"Whatever gives you that idea?" Henry replies on a laugh.
The thundering extends to the stairs, where Stevie appears, blonde hair flying out behind her as she jumps the last three steps in her haste. Elizabeth winces at the sight. "I hate when you all do that, one day one of you is going to fall and really hurt yourselves."
Stevie rolls her eyes. "Out of all the risks this family might face, I don't think the stairs feature on the list."
"They're on my list. Walk," Elizabeth tells her daughter.
A screech emanates from upstairs, stopping any further debate. "Jason! Give it back! Mom! Dad! Tell Jason to give me back my calculator!"
"Calculator?" Elizabeth sighs, rubbing her temples. "They're fighting over a calculator?"
"Apparently," Henry acknowledges dryly, he's sipping his coffee now and has turned his attention back to the newspaper.
They both wince as Jason bellows back, "I need it, I have a maths test today!"
"We're expected to have one for class, if I need to ask for one of the spares, I'll get a demerit. Tell him to use his own!"
"I'm not having this conversation between floors," Elizabeth shouts back. "Downstairs please." She turns to her husband, perplexed. "They get demerits for not having calculators?"
Stevie looks up from her bowl of cereal, telling her parents through a half-chewed mouthful. "Yeah, it's to do with exhibiting personal responsibility for both your belongings and your education." She gives a shrug as her parents turn to stare at her in surprise. "What? Alison told me."
Elizabeth shakes her head and grumbles, "I feel like we didn't quite pick up on the measure of the Quakers when we picked that school. They're much more rigid than I expected."
Henry snorts into his coffee, his smile fading into a mildly pained frown as their two younger children descend into the kitchen, arguing as they go, gesticulating wildly.
"It's not yours!" Alison screeches. "You can't just take it because you've decided that you need it more!"
"It's for the greater good," Jason argues back. "If I fail this test it could set me down a dark and terrible path, it could completely wreck my future career."
"Overdoing it there, buddy," Henry remarks, his attention drifting back to the paper.
"Ok then. Since our government frequently eschews doing the right thing for doing the thing that provides the greatest good, then we should apply the same principle here. Me passing my maths test will provide a better long-term outcome than the negative outcome of Alison getting a demerit." He directs a triumphant smirk at his sister. "So, I should have the calculator."
"So, let's get this right, you're trying to argue that who gets this calculator should be a utilitarian decision?" Elizabeth asks, folding her arms across herself as she stares at her son.
"Hmmm, interesting concept." Elizabeth shoots a smile across at Henry, before telling their youngest, "Unfortunately this really is more of an autocratic household than a democratic one, and we all know that autocrats frequently don't make decisions based on the greater good, never mind a skewed version of it. So, you still need to give that back to your sister. Take the one I keep in the drawer."
Alison snatches the calculator back from her brother. "Haha."
Jason scowls. "The one you keep in the drawer isn't scientific. I need a scientific one for my test. I don't have time to get one for today."
"What happened to your one?" Henry asks.
"I lost it," Jason admits grudgingly.
"Then you have to take the consequences of that," Henry tells him. "Take some personal responsibility, your sister shouldn't get a demerit because you can't look after your belongings."
"Exactly," Elizabeth agrees. "So, what I would suggest is that you get to school and start trying find out if you can borrow one."
Jason gives a snort of disgust, rolling his eyes at his parents' argument. "So, it's ok for you to apply whatever rules you feel like, when you feel like it? Yeah, that's really fair."
"Life isn't fair and this is our house. Your mother and I pay the bills, so yeah, you do what we say. Go to school," Henry finishes firmly, folding over the newspaper and placing it to the side.
"Fine!" Jason snaps as he ducks out of the way of his Mom's attempt at a hug, stomping to the front door and standing there sulkily, staring at his shoes.
Stevie tips the remnants of her milk down the sink and tells her parents, "I'll take him to school." She glances towards her younger sister. "Ali, you ready? I can drop you on the way as well."
"Yeah." Alison leans forward and grabs a slice of toast off her Mom's plate, flashing a grin and kissing her cheek. "See you later."
"Have a good day Noodle." Elizabeth looks over and smiles at her eldest, who is digging her hands into her pockets, trying to locate her car keys. "Thank you, I hope he doesn't give you too much of a headache on the way in."
Stevie glances up and gives a wry smile. "It won't be anything I can't handle."
"Good luck on your test," Elizabeth calls through to Jason. The reply she gets is a grunt and the heavy slam of the front door. Sighing, she turns to her husband and tells him, "It was vaguely creepy to see you channel Dean Ward, do I need to arrange an exorcism?"
He gives a soft laugh. "No, but I kind of wish Jason had picked up a little bit more of that particular lesson, during the brief time he spent at that school."
"He's being a teenager," Elizabeth shrugs. "He's just a bit more vocal than the girls were. And let's face it, they can be much sneakier than he is."
"So, we should be glad that he's flaunting authority and ignoring personal responsibility because he's doing it to our faces?" He raises an eyebrow at her. "Ever think we're setting the bar too low?"
Elizabeth laughs "Sometimes we need to pick out small positives. Parenting and politics have taught me that." She sips her coffee, tilts her head and asks Henry, "You free for lunch today?"
"I should be, don't know if I'll have time to get to your office and back though."
"How about the park then? It's halfway between us," she suggests.
"That sounds good." He leans forward and kisses her, the briefest of touches across her lips. "I'll see you then." He glances at his watch and grimaces. "I better go. First class is at 9am and I need to set up."
He rushes off, and Elizabeth who has opened her mouth to say I love you, closes it as she sees that he's already halfway out the front door. She glances around her empty kitchen, shakes her head and remarks aloud to herself, "Wow, I'm actually last to leave, who thought that would ever happen?"
Elizabeth can feel the eyes of her details burning into her back as she drops onto the bench she and Henry meet at. She knows how her security feels about her park walks, but they are a hint of normality in her life, so she consistently ignores their protests. She checks her watch, Henry's late, and it seems that he's quickly becoming the new her in their relationship. It makes her smile, she can tease him about that and his poor timekeeping when he finally gets here.
Her mobile rings, Henry's name flashing on the screen. Her smile widens as she answers, greeting him with, "And here was me beginning to worry that I was being stood up."
There's an awkward silence and then his slightly sheepish voice. "Yeah…about that."
"You're standing me up."
"I'm sorry, I really am. I started marking papers and then I lost track of the time. If I left now, I wouldn't make it back in time for my afternoon classes. I'll make it up to you, I promise," he tells her in a rush.
"It's ok, I can let it slide this time. But I will hold you to that promise."
His tone is warm as he told her, "I'm counting on it."
"Any idea what time you'll get home tonight?"
"I'm not sure," Henry admits.
"The perils of having two jobs."
He gives a soft, mirthless laugh. "Yeah. Look I'll let you go and grab something for your lunch, try and salvage what you can of your time out the office. I'll see you soon, alright?"
"Alright. I –"
The phone line goes dead and Elizabeth rolls her eyes when she looks at the screen to see that he's already hung up. That was the second time today that she hasn't been able to get those words in. Third time lucky, she supposes. She twirls her mobile in her hand for a moment, thinking, before she slides it back into her pocket. Henry was just distracted, she reminds herself, it has been a stressful few months for them all, and she tells herself that she's reading too much into this. She knows what her husband is like when he becomes immersed in work, and this was exactly it, another day or two and he would tell her exactly what was on his mind; she can wait until then. Sighing, she stands up and begins to walk, wanting to clear her head before she goes back to the office and she hears her security fall into step behind her.
The path curves ahead, a long swoop into a blind corner, a corner she knows her security hate. They only ever cleared this park because the road runs alongside this part, meaning that they can leave the car along the edge of the park, giving them advance notice of any potential threats. At that thought there is a crackle on her security's radio, and she hears Matt tell her, "Crowd of runners coming from ahead. Move to the right please Ma'am."
The mass of runners appears as they say the words and without any real thought, Elizabeth automatically dodges to her left, separating herself from her detail, placing them at the park edge and her on the main expanse of grass. "Ma'am!" She hears one of them protest her move, sees them start to try and push their way through the crowd. Almost simultaneously she feels someone approach her from her opposite side.
She hears his words before she sees him. "I tried to reach out to you, Elizabeth, you shouldn't have ignored me."
Elizabeth begins to turn, a frown on her features as she takes in that eerily familiar voice. The arch of his baseball cap means that his features are hidden in shadow and a shiver of unease creeps across her as she tilts her face to see just who is addressing her.
She doesn't manage it before there's a loud bang and she feels the oddest sensation of pain and pressure to her chest. The shock causes her to stumble, stepping back awkwardly, she staggers on her feet for a second, her hands pressing automatically against her chest before her shoes slide in the mud and her legs give out beneath her as she falls onto the grass.
Her detail is shouting, and she can hear screaming.
She feels odd, her chest is tight and she coughs, trying to clear the sensation, her lips oddly wet, slick, as she blinks up at the grey sky. She can't catch her breath, she feels it hitch in her lungs as she turns her head to the side, feeling as though hours have passed but realistically, she knows it's only been a matter of seconds.
She sees someone drop to their knees next to her, and finally she can see his face. Her thoughts are almost sluggish, and it takes a moment for her to register that she's looking at Ray Merchant. His hands are up in the air and she watches as something tumbles from one, landing on the grass next to her head. As Elizabeth stares at the glinting metal of the gun, she feels the cold sensation of terror sink into her bones as she realises exactly what's just happened.