Pairing: implied Harry/Ruth, Ruth/OMC
Spoilers: Through Season 8
Warnings: Semi-graphic sex, consent issues
Summary: Ruth has never been a field agent, but when a case involving a seductive Russian mogul demands her particular talents, she's forced to play a role she never imagined. Luckily, Harry has her back - if he can keep his own jealousy in check.
Notes: This is the last of the stories for the fic drive - this one's for Moray, in thanks for his very generous donation! Moray's request was a "story of Harry overseeing operation involving Ruth seducing someone for info! All the way!!" Hope you feel that this one goes the distance. :) The original title of this piece was "Love for Sale"; the new title comes from Philippians 4:8, which Harry quotes in the second-season episode "I Spy Apocalypse".
Harry could just make out the sound of the flat door closing softly, the rustle of coats being shed. Muffled, strangely intimate sounds; it was bizarre to hear them transmitted from halfway across London.
Ruth’s voice was in his ear now, murmuring some pleasant social nothing.
She had met the target a few hours earlier at Rules – a stolidly traditional London restaurant, unchanged in over a century, and therefore perfect for the up-and-coming Russian billionaire. The target believed that Ruth was a fashion designer for the Country Life set.
Harry preferred to think of him simply as “the target”.
He’d listened in on the dinner, just for safety’s sake. The comm. link was two-way, but he hadn’t said anything, not wanting to throw Ruth off. He knew she wasn’t used to being the centre of attention like this. But she’d coped well, making flattering conversation, steering the talk skilfully around to the target’s business interests.
And then he’d invited her to continue the discussion over a nightcap.
Close to Harry’s ear – close to Ruth – there came the low rumble of a male voice. Harry rested his fingers on the earpiece, ready to yank it out. He really shouldn’t hear what was about to follow. Listening to Ruth’s “date” had been uncomfortable enough; the thought of keeping the comm. link on now that the two of them had gone back to the man’s flat made him squirm.
And yet – Ruth was no field agent. She showed a startling talent, it was true, but he could hear how nervous she was tonight, the tension like a quivering bass note, almost too low to detect, under her cool, soothing voice. Ruth might need him, and –
The train of thought came to an abrupt end as Ruth’s polite commentary broke off with a tiny gasp. The sound that followed was soft and wet, and very, very close. Ruth sighed into the kiss, and Harry’s free hand tightened on the arm of his chair.
Because this – if he were honest – this was why he couldn’t stop listening. Some dark part of him, the man rather than the spymaster, had to know.
His name was Nicolai Gretzky. KGB roots, back when it had still been the KGB. After the end of the Cold War, he’d traded on his extensive connections to make a fortune, becoming one of the first of the Russian billionaires now buying up Mayfair like they were playing an extended game of Monopoly. Heavy investments in Siberian natural gas; tenuous, but all too likely, connections to certain insurgency movements in central Asia that would hand him control of a gas pipeline route all the way to the Adriatic.
These were the facts Ruth recited to herself while he kissed her.
Nicolai’s lips were dry and firm on hers, his warm fingers barely tracing the curve of her hip, raking up to rest at her waist. Ruth let out a soft sound of surprise, and Nicolai broke off, giving her a smile that showed only a faint flicker of uncertainty.
“A drink, perhaps,” he murmured. Ruth had realised by now that he never actually asked questions. From the first few minutes of their conversation over dinner, when he’d declared in his slightly odd, jumbled-Rubick’s-Cube English, You must be, I think, not from London, Nicolai had shown a tendency to make decisions – about situations, about people – and, unless someone started jumping up and down and waving their arms in protest, he would steamroll straight ahead with the decision.
It was, of course, a bonus. It meant that Nicolai himself was practically co-writing Ruth’s cover story. She focused on that, forcing a smile as he turned back to her, a glass of cognac in either hand. It would have been more reassuring, if it weren’t so very clear that the story Nicolai was writing was meant to end up in his bed.
Breathe, Ruth. That’s what you wanted to happen. That’s the game.
Nicolai took a brief sip, watching Ruth. When she was only halfway through her glass, he drew close, taking it out of her hand and setting it down on the table with a decisive clink.
As he trailed his mouth down the line of her throat, Ruth felt the comm. link – the tiny one implanted beneath her skin – buzz to life. She started, covering for it by closing her eyes and tipping her head back, as if in pleasure.
“You’re doing fine, Ruth.” Harry’s voice was so sudden and clear and utterly incongruous that Ruth wondered for a second whether she was dreaming. “Just relax.”
Ruth exhaled, reaching up to run her fingers through Nicolai’s silver hair as he lapped eagerly at her neck. Some distant part of her wondered what Harry must be hearing – Nicolai’s hot breath was only an inch or two from where the comm. link lay under her left ear – but that whisper was so wonderfully, achingly familiar that she didn’t care.
“This is exactly where you want him,” Harry continued. “You’ve done so well tonight.”
With her eyes closed, she could almost imagine that it was Harry’s weight pressed against her. That was, until Nicolai cradled her chin in his hand and stroked his thumb along her jaw, startling her into opening her eyes.
“Upstairs, my darling. We shall go, yes.”
Harry felt his jaw clench. He couldn’t stand the man’s voice, the flat, heavy syllables like concrete blocks. He focused on that, the ugly sound of it, as if he could choose not to understand the words.
But the invitation had been made, and the pause that followed it was stretching out far too long. He could make out Ruth’s quickened breathing over the comm. link.
Without really thinking, he switched the microphone to transmit once again. “Ruth.”
Breath slowing, stilling. She was listening.
“Ruth.” Harry licked his lips nervously. “Look away from him – down and to the side, as if you’re being shy. Then back up, and stare him full in the face.”
It was a gesture he knew well, ever since the moment she’d first caught him off guard with it, the very first day he’d met her. The skittish glance aside, while she twisted her hands in her lap – and then, just as he’d been about to write her off as another hopelessly bookish analyst, too petrified by the unexpected to be of any use in real intelligence work, those shocking blue eyes were abruptly boring a hole in him. He’d be hard-pressed to think of another agent who had surprised him so much within such a short span of time, even Adam – and Adam had initially lurched into Harry’s life, pretending to be a drunken homeless man, in order to warn him about a globe-spanning conspiracy. But Adam had needed a ludicrous act and a string of explosions to achieve what Ruth had managed with a look.
As soon as Harry said it, he regretted the suggestion. His mouth tasted sour. That was his expression, and to think of her looking at – at the target like that – knowing she could switch it on and off, even if it was at his direction…
But through the link, he heard the man murmur, “Oh…” and then the soft, liquid sounds that made him squirm were starting again. And then Ruth’s voice, as cool and commanding as if she’d been on the floor of the Grid:
“Yes. Let’s go upstairs.”
Ruth glanced around the bedroom – the four-poster bed with its ostentatious drapes, the antique furniture in every imaginable style – and hesitated in the doorway. Unconsciously, she drew her small, careful fingertips down the line of her throat, not realising that it sent static crackling into Harry’s ear, miles away.
“You have a beautiful place,” she murmured, unsure whether that was also what she had said when she first entered the flat.
Nicolai didn’t answer. Smiling softly, he took her hand and drew her forward, sitting on the bed and pulling her so that she stood between his knees. Ruth’s breath caught as he tilted his head back to look at her. In the dim light, Nicolai’s eyes were huge and dark, giving them a kind of innocence she knew better than to trust.
“Um…” Her hands went to the zip at the back of her trimly cut blue dress.
And then Harry’s voice was there once more. “Just a suggestion, Ruth.” The casualness of his tone brought her dangerously close to laughing for a moment – it was as if he were telling her how to structure a new database. Then he continued, and she sobered. “He seems like the controlling sort. Try letting him undress you.”
She brought her hands down, reaching to stroke Nicolai’s forearms instead. In response, he slid one broad hand up the back of her dress, cupping her thigh possessively, while the other slowly undid the zip and pushed the fabric aside, so that the dress slipped off to pool at her feet.
Nicolai’s smile turned wolfish. Ruth glanced down and bit her lip.
Harry’s voice again, this time anything but casual. “You’re beautiful, Ruth,” he whispered, almost harshly.
She froze for a second, and prayed that Nicolai hadn’t noticed.
“You’re beautiful. Let him know that you know that.”
All right. She could do this. Ruth drew herself up, subtly turning her body so that the faint moonlight through the window caught the line of her shoulders, the pale, almost translucent softness of her skin. Giving Nicolai a coy smile, she pressed closer to him, and was rewarded when he purred deep in his throat and pulled her down.
Harry could hear all of it: every moan, every choked breath. He could even make out the creak of the antique bedsprings, and the damp slide of skin.
To save his own sanity, he kept talking. If he was the one whispering in her ear, directing her, then it was almost as if he could be there. Could shield her from this.
Could shove it right in the bastard’s smug face that Ruth was his.
After all, he told himself, she was only there at all, only deigning to pretend that she tolerated a man like that, on Harry’s orders…
… and let’s not parse too closely what it means that that thought gives me comfort, he reflected, feeling a little sick. Swallowing hard, he kept talking.
“Tip your head back, like you’re overwhelmed by the way it feels.”
“Run your nails down his spine.”
“Cradle his head when you kiss him, the way you did to me when we said goodbye, before you went into hiding. When we thought we’d never see each other again. Do you remember?” Because that was Harry’s, too, and if he was the one who decided to give it away, then it couldn’t be taken from him.
The sounds were more insistent now, harder to drown out. Harry heard the sharp slap of flesh against flesh, once, loudly, and Ruth’s hiss of breath. Against any professional instinct, he lunged towards the panic button that would cancel the whole operation, faking a fire alarm so that an extraction team (dressed as firefighters) could whisk Ruth out of there.
He never found out whether he would have actually pushed it. Because then Ruth giggled, and Harry’s hand pulled back, clenching so hard that his fingernails left painful crescent moons on his palm.
And then it grew quiet. Deathly quiet. For an unbearable minute, then two, four… until he heard a purely animal whimper deep in Ruth’s throat.
Harry blurted, “Ruth, are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m –”
She broke off with a gasp, too late. A languid voice asked, “You are what, darling?”
Harry couldn’t breathe.
“You are what, darling?”
So he can ask questions.
Oh. Oh, God.
Ruth had been clinging to Harry’s voice like a lifeline. It had been so much easier to pretend with that silken, dangerous whisper in her ear, reassuring her… exciting her. All too easy to pretend.
Nicolai was propped above her, those dark eyes watching her hungrily. There was no suspicion in them – not now, not yet, but any second now he would realise she wasn’t answering –
Ruth curved a hand around Nicolai’s cheek. She flashed him a tight, pleading smile and murmured, “I didn’t mean to say it. I know that it’s far too soon. But Nicolai –” She licked her lips for good measure. “Yes, I’m yours.”
Harry said nothing, as Nicolai grinned and kissed her.
And for the rest of the night, the comm. link was silent, and Ruth was bereft.
Harry sat with his head in his hands, the microphone forgotten.
It wasn’t the fact that she’d said it. He knew she was lying; he’d have to be a considerably less secure man to have any doubts on that score. But it was the way she’d lied, so smoothly, so sincerely. He could even picture that smile – quick and troubled, almost as if she were in pain, the smile she always gave before she confessed something intimate. Harry knew it all too well.
Strange, really. Dating spies had never bothered Harry before. It was just that Ruth had always been something different, something outside the most sordid parts of that world. Something cleaner.
And he wondered whether he was the one who’d changed her.
All in all, Ruth is undercover for three weeks. Harry has a smile for her when she gets back, because Harry always has a smile for his people.
“Well done, Ruth. We picked up Gretzsky this morning – he’ll be charged with conspiring to commit terrorism.”
She looks haunted, and Harry suddenly feels as though he’s watching her from far away. He fights the urge to throw his arms around her, to leave scratches on her hips and bitemarks on her shoulders and claim her.
But then she smiles tiredly, and murmurs, “It’s good to be home,” and he knows he doesn’t need to. She’s his Ruth again.
Harry glances past her to make sure the door of his office is closed. Then, very gently, he puts his forehead against hers, just for a second.
“We missed you,” is all he says.