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The Shadow Man
07-10-2011, 07:38 PM
Post: #1
The Shadow Man
Spoilers up to episode 10.3.

This won't make much sense if you haven't seen season 10.

I know no spoilers or the rest of season 10, so this is just a bit of wishful thinking.

- * -

He came for the first time on a blustery Thursday in October. The bell above the door tinkled and Meg looked up to see a man in a crumpled beige raincoat enter. His eyes swept around the empty little tea shop before settling on her.
“Table for one?” she asked brightly.
The man nodded, and though his expression didn’t change his shoulders hunched a little. He ignored her attempts to shepherd him to a table by the front window, instead heading for the one in the corner at the back.
She placed a menu in front of him, chatting about the weather, but he didn’t respond. As soon as he was seated, his eyes moved to the promenade outside and stayed there. He placed that day’s paper next to his fork carefully, before finally speaking.
“Just a pot of English Breakfast, please.”
He had a nice voice.

Meg surreptitiously observed him whilst she brewed the tea. He sat quietly, the paper unopened, his eyes following every person that walked by outside. She often sat where he was now when the shop was empty, because she could watch life pass by without being seen herself from outside. Today there wasn’t much to see, though. The promenade was deserted. His gaze suddenly turned to her and she looked away hurriedly, but she knew that he had noticed her staring. She kept her back to him until the tea was done, embarrassed, and when she brought it over he was seemingly engrossed in the paper. But he missed nothing, she was certain. At the slightest movement outside his eyes would flick over the paper momentarily before going back to the words in front of him. LONDON: RUSSIAN MINISTER DIES OF HEART ATTACK, the headline proclaimed. There was a picture of the deceased and his red-headed wife. Meg put down the tea and left him in peace; he was clearly not one of those customers looking for company. He stayed for two hours, then left as unobtrusively as he had arrived. He left a generous tip.

* * *

After that, he came every Thursday. Always at the same time, and always staying precisely two hours. He always sat at the same table, apart from the one time when her shop was busy and the table already occupied. That day he was forced to sit close to the front window, and she could tell he did not like it. Normally he sat almost abnormally still, observing the promenade with fierce intensity. But that day, sitting by the window, he was fidgety and uneasy.

Meg found him fascinating. Even though she knew nothing about him, she liked him. On his third visit he unexpectedly smiled at her when she brought his tea, and it transformed his face. But not the eyes; they were always so watchful and sad. He seemed, to her fanciful imagination, to be hopelessly waiting for something. In some ways he reminded her of her brother, who had suffered from a terminal illness, and who in his last days had sat like this man, waiting for death. His body had been there, with them, but his spirit had not. It had already melted away into the shadows of death. She sensed that the man’s spirit was also somewhere else, and wondered whether he was dying as well. Until one day, when a petite, dark-haired woman walked by, and his face lit up for a second, before it fell in disappointment moments later, and she understood that he was not waiting for something, but for someone.

* * *

Four weeks after the Shadow Man started coming to her shop, the Police came. It was on a Friday, and later she would be thankful that it had not been a Thursday. She saw the local constable standing on the pavement outside, talking to two men in nondescript suits. Meg did not like the look of them. The constable was an old customer, and he came in alone.
“How are you, Meg?” he asked in a friendly voice, and took one of her freshly baked scones.
“Still the best in town,” he said admiringly, before pulling a photo out of a manila envelope and showing it to her.
It was the Shadow Man, but different somehow. He stared straight into the camera, shoulders squared in an immaculate suit, and looked commanding, powerful, forbidding. He was an enemy of the state, the policeman informed her in a serious voice. Meg’s gaze went back to the two men out on the pavement as her mind conjured up the Shadow Man’s sad eyes, and without hesitation she lied. No, she said, she’d never seen him before. Yes, of course she would inform the Police immediately if she did.

She could not explain why she lied.

* * *

He came back the next Thursday, right on time. She put the tea in front of him, and told him about the Police.
“They said you were an enemy of the state,” she stated boldly.
He smiled, a bitter, tight smile, and for a moment the forbidding, ruthless expression of the photo was back. Meg realised, then, that they were alone in the shop, and for a moment she was afraid. But then he looked at her.
“I’m not,” he said softly. “I’ve defended it all my life. I still do.”
She believed him, and placed a scone in front of him. On the house, she told him, and was touched by the gratitude in his eyes.

The paper was lying on the table.
HOME OFFICE EMPLOYEE BLOWS WHISTLE ON GOVT DEALS WITH RUSSIAN MAFIA, the headline read, and she shook her head, wishing that there were more people like the Shadow Man and this whistle-blower to defend the country.

* * *

The next Thursday, she was discussing the resignation of the Home Secretary the day before with her friend Betty when the Shadow Man walked in. He took his usual table, ordered his usual pot of tea. But something was different. There was a current of anticipation running through him, and this time he didn’t even pretend to read the paper. His eyes never left the promenade.
“He’s a bit of an odd duck, isn’t he?” Betty said, shaking her head.
Before Meg could reply, her attention was caught by a dark-haired woman walking down the promenade, anxiously looking around her. She turned to the Shadow Man to see him staring at the woman with the softest expression, the teacup shaking in his hand. And she knew, this was the woman for whom he had been waiting.

And then he was moving; shoving money into her hands and kissing her on the cheek before moving out the door with long strides, his eyes never leaving the dark-haired woman. He reached her, and they stood for long seconds, drinking each other in. The Shadow Man said something and lifted a hesitant hand to stroke her cheek, and she laughed, and cried, and stepped into his arms.

Meg became aware that Betty was staring at her.
“Why are you crying?”
She wiped at her cheeks and laughed.
“Just being an old, romantic fool,” she said, and watched as the Shadow Man cradled the woman’s face in his hands and kissed her.


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07-10-2011, 07:51 PM
Post: #2
RE: The Shadow Man
An amazing piece of writing. Harry doing his trade craft, waiting and then the reunion - wonderfully done. And I like Meg too.

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Thanks to TygerBright for the wonderful sig.
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08-10-2011, 11:27 AM (This post was last modified: 08-10-2011 11:28 AM by Tea Lady.)
Post: #3
RE: The Shadow Man
An unexpected treat Silktie. I thought you had "gone dark" during S10 (fanfic wise) so thank you.

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08-10-2011, 02:17 PM
Post: #4
RE: The Shadow Man
Awwww, Silktie. You old romantic fool you. Wink If that were to happen, I'll be bawling just like Meg.

That was indeed a very pleasant surprise. I love the elliptical POV. Thank you. Big Grin

Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet [Spooks];
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

~Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet
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09-10-2011, 06:25 AM
Post: #5
RE: The Shadow Man
Loved this, didn't think we'd be getting any new stories while s10 is on and this one shot was a very nice surprise!
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09-10-2011, 09:49 AM
Post: #6
RE: The Shadow Man
This is great, Silktie. I really liked that you didn't name the Shadow Man at all, and how you built the story to the resolution. I could easily picture him waiting in that cafe, and empathised with him. Thanks Smile
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09-10-2011, 10:45 AM
Post: #7
RE: The Shadow Man
Love it! Well done. Nice to see Harry (and then Ruth) through a stranger's eyes.

Harry: "My God, Ruth. Is any institution safe from you?"
Ruth: "I like to think not."
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09-10-2011, 01:53 PM
Post: #8
RE: The Shadow Man
Wonderful story. Left a tear in my eye, too. Harry and Ruth. Regnum Defende forever.
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