"The Choices We Make"
Characters: Harry (ish), Ros, Adam, Jo, Ruth, Zaf
Spoilers: up to and including 7.01
The sea turns its pages, speaking in tongues.
The stories are yours, and you are the story.
- ‘First Words’ by Gillian Clarke
The lid is closed on the last of the service-issue boxes. It has been checked, and checked again, and everything potentially compromising has been systematically removed from the clutter. All that remains are the ‘personal items’, the shards and fragments that, when collected together, fail to make up yet another lost colleague.
With a single click of the mouse he deletes another personnel file. He wonders, not for the first time, why the boxes have to be red.
It’s all he can do not to break when she takes his hand. He’s seen her vulnerable before – her petrified screaming as the water engulfed them, her involuntary wince as he forced the needle against her neck, her body, still, as it hung limp in the chair – but never like this. She doesn’t even speak, but he hears her plea louder than any desperate cry. Action always did speak louder than words, and he reads her language better that anyone now.
But he knows the danger even more.
“If I went with you, they'd know. If they know, they'll come after you,” he manages to say. They’ll kill you, he doesn’t.
They’ll kill me too, he thinks as an afterthought. It is only for Wes’ sake that he remembers at all. Maybe Fiona had been right. Perhaps it had been selfish – stupid – of them to have a child.
“There's never any time, is there? There's never enough time.”
“Not for us.”
Less than a year later and Wes sees not Adam, but Harry, on the sidelines of the rugby pitch. No words are spoken – no words are needed – for him to know he has lost his father too. Adam is gone, and Ros, the woman who had told him “Don’t go missing my funeral” is back from the dead.
The bells toll and the ashes are scattered. But it’s not Adam’s funeral Ros Myers can see in the smoke.
It is his death.
If she had known what would come of opening the door to ‘Roger Thornhill’, she never would have done it. But, like Ben, she fell into the net of MI-5, and couldn’t – or wouldn’t – break free. It was a hook she was caught on, and every time she tried to pull away the line just grew tighter and tighter, reeling her in. When her ordeal with Boscard and the Redbacks threatened to break it – to break her – Adam’s death came along to drag her back. Her sense of duty – not to her country, but to him, to Zaf – brought her tumbling back.
“It’s the only way I have to pay my respects.”
It should have sent her running, a siren warning her of the dangers, but what could she go back to? She no longer fitted into the world of school reunions and parties for high-flying City-employee flatmates.
“This is MI-5, not nine-to-five,” they had said in training. “Can you think of a funkier way to earn a living?” Adam had asked her.
She wished she had listened to the former.
For all the emphasis that is places on leading as uninteresting and inconspicuous lives as possible, none of them have managed to juggle the life of espionage they have chosen with the life of normality the once craved to break free from.
“Tom, I so much wanted to join MI-5. To be a real spy.”
She can hardly recognise the woman she was then, so eager to get into MI-5 that she was willing to report back to Downing Street on the section’s activities.
“Horrible thing is, it’s rather exciting.”
She’s not going to deny that the prospect of being a double-agent appealed to her.
Once she was thrilled at the thought of being a double-agent. There was trepidation there too, no doubt, but the prospect did appeal to her in ways. Now though, ready to take the fall that she hadn’t earned and claim to be ‘Fox’, she can’t understand why anymore.
“I’m not naive.”
Oh, but she had been.
They are ghosts, nothing more. Even when they are alive they slip by unnoticed, floating past silently. Perhaps a stranger might pause for a second, attention captured by the person who suddenly changed direction and walked the other way, or stooped to tie a shoelace that was never undone, but then they blink and the moment is gone, and the person has vanished.
They have chosen this life, this world of secrecy and anonymity. It is a non-story of their own making and they must see its chapters through, right up until it concluding page.
The final words are predictable; he has learnt that much by now. Two words which mark the emptying of another desk, the relinquishing of the scarlet boxes to another grieving parent, another funeral at which to pay respects to a colleague held dear.
They chose to begin this tale. Now they must finish it. It takes only two words, and they have signed their death warrant.