Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes: I wrote this as ambiguous as possible so that the character of Peter Guillam could be both mini-series Peter or movie Peter. However, Smiley is definitely a book-canon Smiley or a mini-series Smiley. No offense to Gary Oldman, whose Smiley was incredible. Thanks to geoviki for the once over and tudorpot for the Brit picks.

Three weeks after Bill Haydon's neck is broken for him, Peter Guillam receives a phone call from George Smiley.

"Peter, are you free this afternoon? Would you mind motoring in?"

George's voice is understated, hesitant even, which means he needs Peter to do something Peter won't like. However, any excuse to get out of Brixton is always a blessing. Peter has spent the last three days clearing out his office. It is obvious that his days as Head of Scalp Hunters are over, but where they are going to put him remains unclear. George will fight for him, but with every day George's glow of victory is dimming. Although really the only worthy successor to Control, George's mere presence hammers home how inadequate they are. It's so much better to praise George in absentia than be reminded on a daily basis that he'd been right and they'd been wrong. These days Saul Enderby has a smug and officious strut as he roams the hallways, and that affected American slang he's adopted recently is even more pronounced. They will let George sweep up, force him into retirement again, this time under the guise of him having earned it, and then hand George's job to Saul Enderby without so much as a by-your-leave. Is it a positive or a negative that he can now predict these political machinations without any effort whatsoever? He's become unrelentingly cynical or suddenly wise. Perhaps both.

"Sure, do you want to have lunch?"

"That would be nice." The more understated, the more polite George is, the more outrageous the request (or the command), and since George's voice is the meekest of the meek, it's going to be a hellish assignment. Nothing short of a one-way ticket to Hades. "Let's meet at Victor's. I haven't eaten there in ages. Say 12:30? I've a favor to ask you."

Victor's is one of those old-fashioned restaurants whose heyday had been circa 1959. The sort of place lined with red leather banquets and a wine list ten pages long. Peter has only eaten there once before, and that had been with George as congratulations for his being taken on. At that time it was one of the few places in London where you could get a decent meal, even if the menu was rather heavy on slabs of meat. It hasn't weathered well in the interim. The carpet is worn in a few spots and it smells. Within a year this place will be replaced by a curry joint.

They both order the lamb and with a hint of irritation in his voice, George requests a nice bottle of French Bandol to accompany. George's taste in food and wine is unfailingly impeccable, and while Peter will be privately shocked if the meal is anything more than mediocre, without question the wine will be superb.

As always, George is courteous to a fault. He waits until the waiter has walked away before scanning the dining room with a critical and unforgiving eye."Another relic of my past clearly in its death throes. I hope that the food isn't on par with the shabbiness of the décor. This used to be one of the best places in London. It was one of our favorites."

Peter doesn't ask who the other half of "our" is, but realizes with a shock that it could be either Ann or Control. It's close enough to the Circus that he could see George and Control nipping out for a decent lunch now and then. Circus legend has it that they'd been friends before they'd become colleagues, but Peter isn't sure about that. That deference George had paid to Control bespoke of mentor/acolyte. Of course that could just be George's sense of enormous respect coming into play.

The food is execrable, so much so that George apologizes several times during the course of the meal, which is probably why George waits until they've ordered coffee before springing it on him. Peter actually hates him for a good five minutes. What's more, George knows that he hates him. Ignoring the admittedly truculent scowl on Peter's face, he rattles off all the reasons why it has to be Peter to retrieve Ricki Tarr from France for Tarr's debrief by the Inquisitors. Why Marseilles? Because that's where Tarr decamped to after Peter had phoned him and told him he could stop pointing a gun at the back of Macklevore's head. Why him? For a number of reasons, not the least of which his French is perfect.

"Plus, you have a working relationship—"

"If you could call supervising that devious bastard working. Why can't Macklevore do it?"

"You know why. Tarr respects you, and—"

"No, he bloody well doesn't. Macklevore can get stuffed."

Macklevore, still furious at being held hostage by Ricki Tarr on George's orders, has lodged a formal complaint. The fact that the plan worked seems to have been lost on him. If Ricki Tarr were on fire, Mackelvore wouldn't bother to spit on him.

As it's obvious that their negotiations aren't going to last as long as the coffee, George signals to the waiter for a couple of brandies.

"You are the only person I trust. We don't want him speaking out of turn." George lowers his chin until it's nearly resting on his chest and gives Peter a pointed look. "Now do we?"

Which is the crux of the matter. Just like it was Peter and only Peter who could retrieve the Testify file, it has to be Peter to round up Ricki Tarr and escort him to Sarratt for the debrief.

"You know he'll tell me to bugger off, George."

Deliberately ignoring him, George uses the silence between them to offer Peter a cigarette and then lights up one for himself. George's cigarette consumption has doubled over the course of the last few months.

"I have been successful in petitioning Lacon for some, how shall we say, remuneration for Ricki's role in unmasking the mole." Peter looks down at an envelope that has suddenly appeared on the table with the name "R. Tarr" typed on it. "There's his back pay to consider for all those months when he was incognito and—"

"Don't you mean skulking around the back alleys of Jakarta? Do you think that if I went rogue on the beaches of St. Tropez for six months that Oliver Lacon would write me a huge check as well?"

"Peter," George chides him gently. "And there's the tiresome paperwork that he needs to fill out for his retirement benefits. He doesn't have that many years in, but it's…something." With a weary smile George implies that beggars can't be choosers.

Without anything being said, they both know that Ricki Tarr is done for in the service. Washed up and out. He's proven to management that he can't be trusted (that they weren't to be trusted having been run by a mole for twenty years is immaterial), plus his field days are over. Although bright, Tarr's innate tendency toward violence first, and then more violence second, means he is picture-perfect scalp-hunter material. Unfortunately he is only scalp-hunter material. Every single Moscow Centre hood with a pulse will be gunning for him. Literally. Ricki Tarr has a bull's eye the size of a dinner plate on his back. Putting him back in the field would be little short of murder, and he really is only fit for field work.

"It's not enough, but it will do." George slides the envelope toward Peter, who puts it in his jacket pocket.

"So, I'm to hunt him down, and when he squawks, I bribe him with your letter so that he'll return, and then deposit him at Sarratt so that the Inquisitors can debrief him?"

"In a nutshell."

"He'll tell me to go to hell."

"Yes, I imagine he will. Cheers. Ring me up after you've delivered him to Sarratt, will you?

Armed with nothing more than the damn envelope and a full tank of petrol, Peter crosses over from Portsmouth to Le Havre on the car ferry. Getting Tarr on a plane is probably nigh impossible, but Peter figures that should Tarr give him a bad time, he'll bash him over the head with a chair and throw him into the boot. George only wants him back in England, he didn't say how Peter was supposed to magically transport him to England. Knowing Tarr, he'll tell the Circus to bloody well fuck themselves and damn the pension and the check. Regardless of the money, Tarr will land on his feet. There's a resiliency about Tarr and—even if Peter is loathe to admit it—a feral brilliance. Most agents would have assumed that Boris was nothing more than a boozing philanderer on a bender and flown home. Not Ricki. Knew within five minutes that Boris was Moscow Centre through and through. Bright boy, Ricki Tarr. If he takes the money, then he's more or less bound not to be too "mischievous" in his private life. Tarr is nothing if not "mischievous."

At the duty free Peter picks up a couple of bottles of gin and a carton of fags as a potential bribe, and then motors down to Marseilles. Like all port cities, there's an innate seediness about Marseilles that makes him check for his wallet about six times an hour. He slips into French with an ease that always surprises him. Despite his constant assurances to his English friends that when on holiday the French aren't sneering at them for their atrocious accents and mangled grammar, the truth is, they are. Based on the neutral reactions of those he's talking to, he still sounds like a native and not some tourist on holiday.

Peter feels the usual disconnect, the standard push and pull of the permanent exile; one who belongs to no country just by virtue of having an English mother and a French father. When he's in France he feels English and when he's in England he feels French. Maybe he should request a posting over here. He doesn't suppose it matters where they dump him. In many ways he's as done for as Tarr.

Did George know this would happen? That those who risked their lives to unmask Bill—a man who sacrificed British agents as easily as he discarded a pair of socks with a hole in the toe—would end up being the bad guys. Probably. Nothing got past George. When people run into Peter in the hallways first there are the congratulations on a job well done and the handshake and then the look of distrust. He suspects that after encountering him, most people high tail it to the loo to wash their hands. People had liked Bill, had liked him very much. Plus, Percy, whose astonishing arrogance was nearly as important in pulling this off as was Karla's brilliance, still has his supporters, as do Roy and Toby. Even casual acquaintances in Whitehall aren't speaking to him anymore. Not that anyone would say this out loud, but there's definite a sense that George Smiley has gone mucking about like a mad bull, and now we are up to our necks in cow shit, and what in the hell is the matter with the man? Bill may have shagged his wife, but lots of people have shagged his wife. And, yes, we're overjoyed that Karla has finally gotten a black eye after sticking it to us for so many years, but really!

Peter is waiting for the day some fool articulates this to his face so that he can beat them senseless. It hasn't happened yet, but he's hoping it's that Lauder Strickland, Enderby's lap dog, because Peter's been dying to pound that irritating little wanker into the ground for ages.

He waits until that meager light between dusk and night before rolling into the neighborhood where Tarr is supposed to be bunking and parks around the corner. Although this is fairly risky, if he has to hustle Tarr into the car, he doesn't want to fight him for more than a few feet. Peter's relatively certain he can overwhelm Tarr if push comes to shove—he's taller than Tarr by quite a bit—but Tarr's a street fighter and will undoubtedly land a few good punches or kicks.

George has spent much of his career cultivating an army of what the gossips call "Smiley's Baker Street Irregulars." Because Peter hasn't been in a city anywhere where George doesn't have at least a couple of people at the ready to do his bidding, Peter is certain that Tarr is staying where George says he is staying, and that this isn't a wild goose chase. The building is a graceless structure of grimy gray stone that has been pitted by the salt air; Tarr is supposedly kipping on the top floor. He pays by the week. According to George, he doesn't leave the flat unless it's to restock his penchant for cheap gin.

Peter debates whether to break in, barge in, or knock. Breaking in or barging in will give him the advantage physically, but George wouldn't approve. Peter will, no doubt, have plenty of opportunity to push Tarr into a corner (both figuratively and literally), so he might as well start off fairly polite and let it slide down hill of its own accord. If Peter gets out of that room with nothing more than a black eye, it will be a miracle. There is something between the two of them that Peter can never put his finger on. He should have brought Fawn because he doesn't quite trust himself not to go too far. Tarr always brings out the worst in him. He suspects that Tarr knows this and is amused by it.

At his knock, Tarr barks out a, "It's open," and Peter slides in.

Tarr is standing at the window smoking a fag. He's in his shorts, no shirt, and his back is slightly swayed. He's lost weight in the last few weeks, and his shorts are sitting low on his hips. Despite the booze bloat in his face, it hasn't reached his body yet, and he's all sinew and muscle. The tepid breeze coming in from the window does nothing to dissipate the afternoon heat, and Tarr's shoulders gleam with sweat. Peter stops breathing for a split second and his dick strains against the fabric of his underwear.

The room is small, hot, and ratty. There's a sink, a bed, a dresser, and nothing else. The gaudy wallpaper was probably put up fifty years ago and not been changed since. Peter doubts that Tarr has unpacked because his clothes are jumbled in a suitcase on the floor near the sink, the mac on top. This room is so depressing that Peter doesn't begrudge Tarr his boozing.

"Hullo, Mr. Guillam. Expected you last week. Shut the door, would you? I think it's going to get lively in here, and my landlady is a bit of a stickler about noise. Lock it too, if you don't mind."

Peter kicks the door shut as Tarr stubs out the dead cigarette and then strolls across the room to the dresser and fishes for a fresh pack of cigarettes in the top drawer. Maybe Tarr keeps the gin bottles in the other drawers because there are no bottles anywhere and yet the room reeks of gin. Tarr tamps down the packet on his open palm, opens it, stuffs a cigarette in his mouth, and then throws the pack to Peter. Peter catches it and can't help but think of George's recital of how Karla had refused to smoke when George had tried to turn him in New Delhi. Peter chucks the cigarettes back onto the top of the dresser.

"Suit yourself." Tarr sounds bored. "Been keeping well?" Tarr reaches for the lighter balanced on the window sill, which is next to Tarr's gun, which is next to an ashtray filled high with butts, and lights up. A glass half-filled with gin sits on the other side of the window sill, and a bottle of gin nestles in the basin of the sink in what looks like a pool of melted ice. Peter bets that this is what Tarr does all day. Stands by the window smoking and drinking. Tarr must have seen him walk up.

"Cut the crap, Tarr. You need to be debriefed." Peter reaches into his pocket and sees Tarr tense up, just slightly, and then relaxes when Peter throws the letter on the floor. Peter doesn't dare get any closer because the smell of Tarr—a mixture of gin, sweat, and something dark—is driving him absolutely mad.

Tarr gives the envelope a brief glance and then ignores Peter, going back to taking long drags on his cigarette, looking out the window, and taking a sip of gin every now and then.

"You could at least have the courtesy to see what they are offering you."

"Not interested," Tarr says in a dull voice and then yawns. "Whatever they are offering me, it's not enough. I don't fancy spending three weeks in Sarratt. Me and the boys at Sarratt don't get along. I told you and Mr. Smiley what happened, and that's what happened."

"You didn't tell us everything that happened," Peter hisses. "We had to beat it out of you."

Tarr shrugs.

Peter sees red.

He goes for Tarr, but Tarr is too fast for him. Later he realizes that Tarr had been purposefully goading him so that Tarr would have the advantage. The room is so small that as they fight for dominance they immediately end up against the wall near the door. Tarr is consistently a second ahead of him, blocking a punch here, a twist there, which isn't surprising. After all, they'd been taught by the same teachers. Even slightly drunk, Tarr is sneakier and stronger than Peter, whose realizes too late that despite his height, he is outmatched. With a kick to Peter's ankle, Peter falters for just a second, but that's all the opening Tarr needs. He grabs Peter's wrist and wrenches his arm behind his back with a vicious twist. Peter groans in protest as his arm throbs in agony.

Bringing Peter up against him tight so that the only thing between them is Peter's arm, Tarr growls in his ear, "Thought you'd come up here and I'd roll over. Not bloody likely. You thought you'd say, 'Ricki, Mr. Smiley wants you to come back so the Inquisitors can beat the holy hell out of you. Be a good little boy and trot off to Sarratt. Please?'" Tarr yanks Peter's arm higher. "Except we both know I'm not a good little boy, am I, Mr. Guillam?"

Peter goes slack against Tarr, trying to take whatever pressure he can off of his arm. Tarr eases up a bit so Peter's not in agony anymore, but he's still fairly immobile. He tries to curl a foot around Tarr's ankle to unbalance him, and in an instant Tarr brackets Peter's legs between his own legs accompanied by a warning.

"Naughty, naughty. If you don't want me to break your arm, then don't play silly buggers. No, I'm not a good little boy at all." Tarr's breath is hot and moist on his neck. "Nearly creamed in your pants when you saw me, you did." Peter shakes his head. "Oh yes you did." At that Tarr shoves his groin against Peter's backside. Tarr is hard and begins a slow, teasing round and round against Peter's arse. "Didn't take you for a cocksucker, Mr. Guillam. You hide it well. Is that what they teach you at those fancy schools you blokes go to?"

Tarr's voice has softened and suddenly Tarr lets go, spins him around, and shoves Peter up against the wall. Peter has a split second where he can knee Tarr in the balls, and then it's lost, because Tarr cups Peters groin and begins to work his dick through his clothes. Peter leans forward and hangs his hands on Tarr's shoulders, trying to keep upright, trying to fight the heat and pounding in his dick that is making it nearly impossible to stand. He can't help it. He bites Tarr's shoulder and Tarr groans in appreciation. Tarr tastes like gin.

At that Peter tightens his hands around Tarr's shoulders and throws him on the bed. Tarr lays there, his dick poking a tent in his shorts, his face flushed with arousal. Peter is now at a point where he can leave or he can stay. Tarr licks his lips.

He stays. He strips down to nothing in five seconds flat.

The sex is punishing. It's more like wrestling with sex as a chaser. They don't kiss each other so much as bite each other everywhere. Tarr is a noisy fucker, with lots of grunting and swearing. And when his neighbor take a broom handle to the ceiling to tell him to quiet down, Tarr bites down on his pillowcase in an attempt to keep quiet. Peter can't stop running his hands over Tarr's body. He likes his men like this; slim hipped with a tight torso that is powerful but not overly muscled. They fight for dominance, rolling this way and then that. At some point, Tarr sticks a moist thumb up his arse and Peter comes from just that. When Peter discovers that Tarr has very sensitive nipples, he worries them with his teeth while stripping Tarr's dick with one hand while he does himself. When Tarr comes, he rakes Peter's upperback with his nails, which sends Peter over a second time. By the end of two hours they are exhausted and bruised and totally fucked out.

When Peter wakes up it's somewhere around seven he guesses. Tarr's neighbor downstairs is having a fight with his wife. He eases out of bed and in the weak light from a street lamp he can just make out the packet of cigarettes on the dresser. Nabbing the lighter from the window sill, he lights one and then hears the bed springs wheeze.

"You awake?" he asks.

"Yeah," rasps out Tarr, his voice hoarse from sleep.

Peter hands Tarr the lit cigarette from his mouth and then lights his own. He climbs back into bed. He'll have a leisurely smoke and then will head off. He'll just have to tell George it was a bust.

"You're a bit of all right in sack, Mr. Guillam." The formal use of his last name is slightly obscene considering the circumstances. "Took me by surprise, let me tell you."

"Glad to have obliged," Peter says with no little irony.

Tarr laughs and they finish their cigarettes in silence. Peter debates on having another but then decides against it. He should hit the road and wonders if there is a safe house nearby where he can spend the night. If he's going to make it to Le Havre by eight, he needs to be on the road no later than five.

He gets out of bed and fumbles for the light switch. The sudden glare makes him blink, and Tarr swears at the brightness of the light. He has to step over the envelope to collect his clothes. The sight of it makes him think of George. How would he have handled it? He wouldn't have sucked Tarr's cock, that's for sure. How do you finesse a rebellious prick like Ricki Tarr?

Peter bends over, picks up the envelope, and throws it on the bed, but purposefully doesn't look at Tarr.

"You could read it you know. It's not a ton of money, but it's enough to make a new start."

Tarr doesn't reply with any of his usual smirking lip, and Peter considers this a mild victory. While threading his belt through his pants, he says casually, "You know, with that money you could move into a decent neighborhood. Get your daughter into a good school. Retrieve her from whatever hellhole you've stashed her and her mother in for now, and actually have her grow up someplace nice. Not like this."

He's tying his shoe laces when he hears the bright noise of the envelope being ripped open. With his back to Tarr, he sits there on the edge of the bed and waits.

Finally, Tarr says in an angry growl, "All right, Mr. Guillam, you've won. I'll go back and let them work me over, and then I'll walk out of there glad to be rid of the lot of you. We're just a bunch of liars. You can gussy it up in that Queen and country shit all you want, but that's what we are."

Peter doesn't rise to the bait. For one thing he's not sure that Tarr is wrong, but he's also starving and is close to passing out he's so hungry. "Is there a half-way decent place to eat around here?"

They get take away from the local Chinese place and eat and then fuck again. This time they are a lot less energetic but it's no less satisfying. Tarr's come tastes faintly of gin. Peter rouses Tarr out of bed at 4:30. As Tarr's possessions are meager, it doesn't take more than ten minutes for him to dress and snap his suitcase shut. They will eat breakfast on the ferry.

Once they are on the ferry, Peter hands Tarr a bottle of gin. They find a remote spot on the ship and trade the bottle back and forth for a bit, but then Peter tells Tarr that he should finish it up. By the time Peter drops Tarr off at Sarratt, Tarr's so drunk that he can barely stand.

Peter drives all the way into London before ringing George from a call box. He's convinced that his phone is tapped.

"George, it's Peter."

"Ah, Peter, good to hear your voice. Have you eaten? Shall we grab a bite?" Peter's natural paranoia ratchets up a few notches with the realization that George doesn't trust his own phone lines either.

"No, not yet. I'll swing by. Can you be ready in fifteen?"

In fact, Peter is parked just around the corner, but that fifteen minutes gives him time to have a fag and George time to get dressed.

When he comes around the corner, George is waiting, standing on the stoop under the porch light. Despite the warmth of the night, George is wrapped up in one of his gigantic wooly coats. With his black bowler and his thick glasses, he looks a little like a black bear with a vision problem. Peter notes with relief that George's step is as sure as ever as he hops down the stairs to the open car door.

"Thank you, Peter. I'm forgetting to eat these days. I could use a hot meal."

Peter puts the car in gear and drives off. "Where to?"

"You choose," George insists. "After that lunch at Victor's I was sick for two days. You're young. I imagine you know all the trendy places. Take me some place where the food is good, the wine is decent, and it's not too noisy. I can't eat to thumping music."

Peter takes them to a little French place named Chevaliers that he used to go with his parents when he went up to Cambridge and they were in town. Run by a French family, he hasn't been there in ages and isn't quite sure that they are still in business. Luck is with him. Not only does he find a parking place nearby, but as they approach the door, George smiles. "Ah, I haven't been here in years."

George is treated like visiting royalty. The ancient chef is called out of the kitchen to give George's hand a shake, and the waiter, who is the grandson of the chef, gives George a Gallic kiss on both cheeks before seating them at a prominent table. A complimentary bottle of champagne appears before they've even opened up the menu.

"I say, George, quite the welcome."

"Yes, a little over the top," he admits, "but under the circumstances… Ann and I used to come here after we were first married. Believe it or not, that young man," George nods his head in the direction of their waiter, "was in diapers. Yes, we had many a lovely dinner here. I had forgotten about this place."

As always when Ann is mentioned, the atmosphere shifts and George's face becomes a blank.

"Sorry, we don't have to stay."

George shakes himself a bit and then puts his hand on Peter's wrist. "No, these are happy memories, Peter. Very happy," he insists and smiles to show that everything was indeed all right.

"Really. We can go someplace else."

"No," George replies in a sharp voice, then realizing the tone of his voice, backpedals. "It's fine. This is wonderful champagne, Peter. Drink up." George raises a glass in the direction of the waiter and brings his fingertips to his pursed mouth in a mock kiss. Peter has never seen George do something that spontaneous and a little silly; Peter ducks his head to hide a grin. "People who should know better have conveniently forgotten that for many years we were very happy."

Before he can censor himself—because he's been dead curious for years—Peter blurts out, "Where did you two meet?"

"Like one does. At a party. Jebedee, my former tutor, was having a get together to celebrate the end of term, and she was one of his pupils. A friend of her father's as well, I believe. I was down at Oxford scouting for talent. What a party that was. My, I could drink this entire bottle. It's very fine. Bill was there, so was Jim, Connie Sachs—her father and brothers were dons—and a few old timers you wouldn't know. I'd stepped outside to have a cigarette and drink my Scotch in peace when this woman came through the French doors. She must have arrived late because although there was a bit of a crush, I hadn't noticed her. And you must admit, Ann is the sort of woman you notice." George looks at Peter for confirmation and he nods. "Anyway, she stepped out on to the patio through the curtains, a cloud of Chanel No. 5 in her wake. I will never forget this. She slammed the door shut and then demanded, 'I have never been so bored in my entire life. Say something that isn't boring.' Quite an entrance and, although I didn't know it then, pure Ann."

In the last few years George speaks of Ann in either a neutral voice or a manufactured politesse. Tonight he sounds fond and wistful, and Peter's sorry to hear the note of love around the edges, even after all that has happened.

"What did you say? Cheers."

George laughs.

"In those days I was quite dashing. Very sleek, in fact, believe it or not. Really," Georges emphasizes although Peter has done nothing to contradict him. Peter has seen photos of a young George Smiley and he had been quite handsome. Not even Peter, who has known George since Peter was a child, can find any trace of that young man in the older, portly gentleman sitting next to him. "Of course, in those days I was as arrogant as I was handsome, and my only excuse is that it was the fashion. I said, 'I'm sorry. I can't help you there. I'm a bit of a bore, you see.' She laughed. What a beautiful laugh she had. I fell in love with that laugh. I couldn't really see her, you see. It was too dim. She asked for a cigarette, and as I was leaning over to light it for her, she said in a low voice, 'I'm Ann. You are?' That was that. We were married three months later, and for years we were very happy." He finishes his champagne and pushes away the glass. "And then," he continues in a low voice, each word said as if it had its own period, "We. Were. Not."

The waiter rushes over to pour George another glass of champagne.

"Peter, if you don't keep up, you're going to have to haul me over your shoulder in order to deposit me at my doorstep. You know, I'm convinced that time is unspeakably cruel for beautiful women. Every day she is older than the day before." He blows out a huff of self-disgust. "No, it's not that. I'm making her sound shallow and narcissistic, and she is anything but. She could have had the face of a gorilla and I would have loved her no less. I think she believes that, which is why she never leaves for good, but as time went on my opinion didn't matter, which is why she always leaves. Or that's what I tell myself. That I finally became that bore is too dreadful to contemplate."

If Peter were to combine all the sentences George has uttered in all the years of their professional and personal relationship that have had to do with Ann, they still wouldn't come close to the number of revelations of the last ten minutes. And as if George has had the exact same thought, he murmurs, "How embarrassing," and shuts down, not coming out of his shell until after their after their entrées are served.

It takes most of the meal to coax George out of what Peter privately calls "George going turtle on him." As he ages, George is beginning to resemble a turtle, and what was formerly just a metaphor for when George shuts down emotionally now has a visual attached to it. First, the glasses are removed to be cleaned by his tie, then he blinks against the instant blindness, next he cleans his glasses by rote, and finally he blinks again when he puts them back on.

"Tarr says thank you, by the way." Peter fingers the hickey on his neck, hidden by his shirt collar.

"Our friend is settled?"

"Right as rain."

"Did you have any trouble?"

The scratch marks on Peter's back are still raw, but he doesn't suppose that's what George means.

"A bit, but in the end it didn't signify. It helped that he'd been on a bender the entire three weeks. The smell of gin off his breath was so powerful it cleaned my teeth."

George grimaces and takes a healthy slug of wine. "I've given instructions that there is to be no..." he pauses, searching for the right word, "roughhousing, if you get my drift. Whether or not that will be the case…" George lifts his hand in a gesture of futility. "Anyway, thank you. I appreciate it." As irritating as it is being George's errand boy, Peter can't help but privately bask in his approbation. "Now that Ricki is taken care of, more or less, I wanted to tell you that I've secured a position for you." George takes off his glasses and cleans them again, using those ten seconds to find decent way to tell him that his career is basically over. "Attaché with the Paris Embassy. It will probably be horribly boring, but then I wager you've had enough excitement to last you a life time."

It's something. At least they aren't going to trump up fake charges and sack him like they did Sam Collins. Before he can open his mouth, George says in an apologetic tone, "It's the best I could do."

"It's fine," Peter insists. "I was thinking as I motored down to Marseilles that it might be nice to have a tour in France. Thank you, George. Really. thank you.

It's that second "thank you" that sounds false, and Peter and George stare at each other over the table with a frightening honesty on both their faces. Peter is resigned and appropriately angry; he'd stuck his neck out on George's behalf and it had backfired on him. George is apologetic and concerned, his plump cheeks oddly flat.

Peter forces the anger to bleed out of him because what is the point. Even if they had known the outcome—the world as they had known it blown to bits—Peter doubts either of them would have done anything differently. Peter had needed to atone for the deaths of his agents in North Africa, and George had needed to restore Control's legacy from whatever malicious gossip that Bill had spread in those years before and after Control's death. Despite the perception that they had worked together to restore the Circus to rights, in reality it had been very personal. On both their parts.

"In addition, I've secured you three months leave. I pushed for six, but Saul gave me three. Which is precisely what I originally thought you might need."

So typical of George. First the stick, then the carrot.

"Thanks." This time his gratitude is more manifest. George had mentioned a leave a couple of months back, right after they'd grilled him about Tarr, but Peter hadn't taken him seriously. Three whole glorious months! He was going to get on a plane for somewhere warm with a beach and basically fuck and drink himself into a happy little coma. "Saul Enderby's looking like the cat who's just lapped up a saucer full of cream. How long do you have?"

George signals for coffee. "Four months if I'm lucky. That's why I'm clearing up as many loose ends as I can now."

Although none of this is unexpected, all of a sudden Peter is furious. He can barely keep his voice at a restrained snarl. "For God's sake, Enderby is—"

George cuts him off. "Quite capable in his own way. Bright enough, I will give him that, but…" George's voice trails off, even though the tables to the left and right of them are empty.

"Too cozy with the Americans?" It's one of George's sore points and Peter has no compunction in pressing the issue.

Throwing caution to the winds, George says in an emphatic voice, "Yes. The only satisfaction that I derive from this situation is that I'm sure Bill is turning over in his grave at the thought that Saul Bloody Enderby, as he used to affectionately call him, is going to be sitting in Control's chair."

They have a private little chuckle over that, because if anything would incite Bill Hayden to rise up from the dead, it is the promotion of someone like Enderby, a Whitehall lackey if ever there is one.

The coffee arrives and George chit-chats with the waiter. His grammar is impeccable, but his accent stiff, the product of academia. Once the waiter has left, Peter asks in a low voice, "Speaking of loose ends. Do you know how Jim Prideaux is doing?"

"Well, he is well. Do you want a brandy? I shall pass. I've had far too much champagne. I'll be up all night as it is. Where were we? Oh, Jim. I saw him yesterday as a matter of fact. He thinks he'll stay at the school. Likes the children." George is staring at his coffee but doesn't pick it up. "Such an odd business. We were friends for nearly thirty years, but at this point I don't think I knew Bill at all. He sends a man off to what is certain death and yet makes him his beneficiary. Jim plans to donate the money to charity. Boys' clubs. You know, I don't blame Jim, not at all. Some betrayals are unforgivable. Although I have to admit that the deals we could have made with Karla had Bill been shipped off to Moscow... Oh well." George shrugs and gives Peter a wan smile.

Peter can't hide his shock. He can't even say anything.

"Surely you knew, Peter," George says with a stern wraggle of his eyebrows.

Like Bill being the mole and Jim being Bill's murderer, yes, he knew. But after all they are liars. Tarr wasn't wrong. After a near lifetime of lying, sometimes the truth is very uncomfortable.

"Yes and no," he admits.

George raises his coffee cup. "To Jim Prideaux. The bravest man I have ever met."

Peter should pack up his flat and find a renter, given that he's suppose to be in France the week after he gets back, but decides to fuck it.

He calls the Circus desk in St. Bart's, gets permission to use one of their grotty safe houses for the next three months with the stipulation that if they need it, he'll decamp to a hotel. That's the extent of his planning. Not wanting to bother with a suitcase, he grabs a duffle bag, throws in a couple of shirts, a pair of shorts, a bathing suit, some zories, a box of condoms, and a tube of suntan lotion. He buys a comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste at the airport. Catching the first available flights, he's in St. Barts seventy-two hours from dropping George off at his flat after their dinner.

The next three months are an alcoholic blur. He fucks anything that moves. Considering the amount of booze he's putting away, it's amazing that he can actually get it up, but it doesn't seem to be a problem. Something is eating at him, driving him, and the booze only takes the edge off the crazy; it's the sex that stops him from going crazy. Male or female, it doesn't matter as long as they have a pulse and are willing. His desperation must be manifest, because it's a rare day when he's not pulling. There are a few instances early on when it gets a little rough, and that thin line between violent sex and sexual violence turns him on so much that it frightens the shit out of him. Thereafter he buys himself a couple of pairs of linen pants and a few decent shirts so that he can troll the hotel bars, which are filled with businessmen, women in their early thirties looking for anonymous vacation sex, and bored married couples; he enjoys the occasional threesome. The sex isn't as satisfying, but it also doesn't make him stare in the mirror at himself the next day and wonder who is staring back at him.

By the time he catches a flight home, he's as brown as a nut and has fucked more people in three months than his entire sexual career. And Peter Guillam isn't a choir boy. Now that the sand and sun are behind him, he fights back a sense of shame and only drinks orange juice the entire flight, ignoring the heavy-handed comes-on from the first-class flight steward. Peter no sooner sets the deadbolt of his flat than the phone rings. It's George, of course. He must have had watchers casing his flat.

"Peter, how was your holiday?"

"Grand. I was drunk the entire time."

There is a pause and George asks, "Are you joking?"


"You'll have to tell me all about it." He'd bet a thousand pounds that George has absolutely no interest in how he spent his vacation. "How about I pick you up in a taxi in, say, ten minutes?"

Like always, Peter says yes, even as he kicks at his duffle.

The taxi drops them off at St. James' park with instructions to come back in forty minutes. They sit on a park bench, and the smell of freshly-cut grass is overwhelming.

"I hate to bother you, but I have one more favor to ask of you and then we're done. Saul Enderby officially takes over next week, and this is the last loose end, I promise. The Inquisitors are finally done with Ricki Tarr, and he has asked that you take him to the airport. Would you mind?"

Ricki Tarr can't have been at Sarratt all this time.

"George, you're not telling me that Tarr has been at Sarratt for three goddamn months, are you?"

"I'm afraid so."

Peter lets this sink in.

"What in the hell—"

"Apparently, our Ricki had quite a bit of gold on him that he's been keeping mum about in case he was blown. Insurance, he calls it."

All right, Peter understands that. All agents keep a few morsels of information to themselves to be used in the event they need to bargain.

"Right. But three whole—"

"Quite a lot of insurance, as it turns out." George takes off his glasses and the ritualistic cleaning of his lenses commences. "I think I need new glasses. My eyesight seems to be deteriorating. It's a blessing that you're no longer head of Scalp Hunters because as his supervisor, you would have come in for a tremendous amount of criticism, possibly even a demotion."

"Tarr was holding back that much? Not on the Karla material?" Peter is so livid that he smacks the park bench with his fist. That anger that he thought had been scoured out of him by too much drink and far too much anonymous sex returns with a vengeance. God, that bastard. That lying fucking bastard.

"No, on the Karla material he was completely forthcoming. It's various odds and sods over the course of his career. I have been told that it's a considerable amount of material. Not that this is your fault, but it is the season for scapegoats." He doesn't look at Peter as he says this, just stares off in front of him. George makes a point of not being bitter, but the last year has taken its toll on him and only a deaf man wouldn't pick up on the sour tone in his voice. Then he turns to face Peter, scans Peter's face, and puts a hand on his shoulder in a gesture of affection. "My, you're brown. For someone who's been on holiday for three months, you look awfully tired. I'm sorry to ask this of you. He's on a 7:00 pm flight to Jakarta out of Heathrow and has specifically asked that you take him to the airport. I did offer, but he turned me down. I want to make sure he gets on that plane. Will you do that for me, Peter?"

The second they clear the gates of Sarratt, Peter plans to pull the car over and beat Tarr to a pulp. Lying worthless prick. Not that Peter's career could have been any farther in the toilet short of being sacked, but now all doors back into the promised land of the fifth floor will be closed forever. Once Saul Enderby takes over, Peter could be been blessed by Jesus Christ himself and he'd still be a pariah in Enderby's eyes—anyone associated with George Smiley will forever be anathema—but his anger at Tarr's betrayal is so great that he refuses to listen to the voice of reason.

He's so primed that he can't sit still, and like a caged panther he paces back and forth in the small anteroom as he waits for Tarr to appear. Like all of them, Sarratt has seen better days. Rumors have been rampant that Percy had plundered Sarratt of its antiques to stock the manor house he bought when he received his knighthood. Originally Peter had thought this was a load of rubbish until he notices that there seems to be a lot of cheap folding chairs lining the walls, with no evidence of the Georgian settees and wingback chairs that used to populate the place. There is a current rumor that Percy is going to be stripped of his knighthood because of his enormous stupidity and gullibility; one rumor that Peter hopes is true.

Hannity, a burly northern Irish Inquisitor that Peter's always hated, pushes Tarr into the room. All of Peter's rage at Tarr is instantly directed at Hannity. Because Tarr has that look of someone who has been worked over but good. There are old bruises on top of fresh bruises, and his nose is out of kilter. Peter considers himself to have a legitimate right to beat the shit out of Tarr if he so chooses, but no one else has that right. Well, George does and maybe Mendel, but that's it. Tarr may be a lying motherfucking bastard, but Peter finds to his chagrin that Tarr is their lying motherfucking bastard.

There is something about Ricki Tarr that makes other men want to throw a punch at him. Some of it is a defensive move because Tarr's very body language broadcasts an undercurrent of violence—throw the first punch before he does—and some of it is Tarr's colossal insolence. What a cocky son-of-a-bitch he is. Given Tarr's background, Peter suspects a child is either broken completely or forged into someone like Tarr. Someone who challenges authority at every opportunity, always willing to suffer the consequences just for the glory of giving the finger in return. Tarr and Hannity share a simmering aura of violence about them, and Peter figures that it became personal very quickly.

"Hullo, Mr. Guillam. Got my message, I see. Nice tan you've got. How was your holiday?" lisps Tarr around a badly split lip.

Peter ignores him. "What's this, Hannity? I understood that Tarr was off limits."

"Not the way it works at Sarratt, Mr. Guillam. Plus, old Seamus here is old school. Likes to use his fists," Tarr pipes up, trying to talk around that lip. "They sweated me but good, I must admit. Even had a go at me this morning. But I made them work for it, didn't I, Seamus? Still some gold left, mate. You didn't get it all." Tarr smiles, even though it must hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.

"I'm lodging a complaint with Enderby, Hannity. Let's go, Tarr. Where's your suitcase?"

"In the hallway. Ta, Seamus. Hope we don't meet up again, because if we do, I'm going to kill you."

Tarr shoves past Hannity and out the door, and doesn't see Peter rear back and let his fist fly into Hannity's stomach.

"Are you set for money? Cigarettes are in the glove box."

They are silent for most of the ride. When they reach the outskirts of Heathrow Peter realizes that Tarr might be short of funds and there aren't any banks open at this hour. He has a hundred quid in his wallet left over from his vacation. George would see that he got paid back.

"Thanks, Mr. Guillam. I'm set. Mr. Smiley saw to it that a bunch of traveler's checks were delivered this morning. Would have preferred cash, but then those Inquisitors would have pocketed it all and left me with nothing but the pence I have in my pocket."

A year ago Peter would have protested such a bleak assessment. Not anymore. The bare rooms of Sarratt were evidence enough of the new greed that dominated the Circus these days.

"Bet you're wondering why I asked for you." Tarr lit up two cigarettes and passed one to Peter.

"Thanks. Am a bit curious. Why?"

"I wanted to ask you a question. Did you know that Irina was dead when you and Mr. Smiley came to the safe house to grill me about those passports?"

What was the point of lying now?

"Yes. We knew." He could have elaborated, that George had demanded that he not let Tarr know. That it was vital to the mission that they keep Tarr in the dark. All of this is true, and all of it is so dirty.

Tarr sucks on the end of his cigarette and lets out all the smoke in one gigantic whoosh. "Thought so. Just checking. I asked Mr. Smiley. He said the same thing. Nice man, Mr. Smiley. Wouldn't want to go up against him in a knife fight, but a nice man."

"I'm sorry."

Initially, Peter thinks that Tarr misunderstands him, because he says, "It's all right, Mr. Guillam. That's what we are. Liars."

Peter originally meant that he is sorry that Irina was dead, but maybe it is more than that. He is sorry that Tarr's career is over, that his career is essentially over. He is sorry that he lied to Tarr. That Irina was executed by a bullet in the back of the head. That Tarr and Irina and Tarr's little girl, Danny, aren't ever going to Scotland to start a new life.

"Yes, we are," Peter admits and turns into the parking garage.

"I suppose you have to watch me board the plane," Tarr confirms.

The jetlag is beginning to catch up with Peter and he's too tired to do anything but nod. Tarr checks his bag, pockets his boarding pass, and they walk to the gate in silence. Just before they reach the gate, Tarr says out of the corner of his mouth, "Men's, Mr. Guillam."

They nip into the men's room, and Tarr pulls him into a stall, and pushes Peter back up against the door with his body and grabs Peter's wrists.

"We know they're watching," he whispers in Peter's ear. "Just wanted to say good-bye."

Peter braces himself for a quick clip to the jaw, but Tarr shocks him by letting go of his wrists and cupping his chin with two very gentle hands and then kisses him. It might be due to the split lip—but Peter doesn't think so because Tarr's hands are so caring, moving his fingers through Peter's hair, thumbing his ear lobes—but it's the type of kiss you give a new lover, someone you're not sure of. There are no tongues; it's nothing but a tentative, tender swipe of lips. Jesus, what is this world coming to? Even a thug like Ricki Tarr can dig deep and find his humanity and, more importantly, find Peter's humanity, which he didn't think was possible anymore. Peter returns the kisses in kind and finds himself interlacing his hands with Tarr's.

Then Tarr pulls away and whispers, "Can't miss my flight. Mr. Smiley will have your guts for garters. Good luck, Mr. Guillam. Good luck. Thank Mr. Smiley for me."

They exit the loo with no time to spare. His plane has begun boarding. Peter watches Tarr flirt with the stewardess as she checks his passport. What a cocksure bastard Tarr is. Tarr doesn't look back as he passes through the door to the gangway, but the odds are good that Tarr will finagle his way off that plane at the last minute. Peter hopes that the watchers are novices and assume that the second Tarr had walked through the doorway that their job was done. Peter doesn't want to be put in the position of either corralling Tarr to get him back on the plane or lying to George, so he walks for several minutes and then searches for the nearest call box.

"All set?" George sounds tired.

"Yes, I saw him get on the plane myself. Say, George, have you eaten?"