"We have to tell her," Beckett said, as he and Ed waited outside Roland's hospital room for Ros.
Ed frowned. The last thing they'd been discussing was Roland and there was nothing Ros didn't know about what had happened to him. She'd been there when Cyberax made him commit suicide, and when they found him in Technopolis Tower and arranged for him to be brought home to sleep out his coma in comfort. She also had the full story about Cyberax and how he and Beckett had really been protecting her, as much as it looked otherwise. So there was nothing Ed could think of that Beckett was referring to. "Tell her what?"
Beckett glanced back behind them, at the closed door that Roland's hospital room lay beyond. He still looked worried when he turned round again, but that was an expression Ed had got used to seeing the past few days, both on his friend and in the mirror. Beckett lowered his voice. "About her old tutor."
"Oh, that." He hadn't meant to make it sound like he was dismissing it out of hand, but that didn't stop Beckett from giving him a look. They'd been working together for long enough that Ed could easily interpret it as telling him he'd said something stupid. Again. But they had both been there when Talbot had put his own life in danger to save Ros and Ed didn't forget anyone's sacrifices in a hurry.
"Sorry, mate," he said in a whisper. "How are you going to tell her?"
"Me?" Beckett said, in a voice he'd clearly not meant to be that loud.
He couldn't follow that statement up, though, because they heard footsteps from the room behind them that told them Ros was on her way. They'd already spent enough time recently whispering between themselves and stopping whenever she came near that they didn't want to carry it on now. Ed wondered if they couldn't have found a better way of ensuring Ros didn't find out the truth about the Cyberax virus in her brain, but hindsight was a wonderful thing. For now, they settled for pointing at each other and stopping very quickly when the door opened.
"Ready to go, guys?" Ros asked, and Ed could see her smile was put on for their benefit. While Beckett answered for them, Ed gave her a concerned look, which she ignored, heading for the exit.
Beckett didn't immediately follow, though, and instead leaned towards Ed and whispered, "You know, she's still upset about Roland. Perhaps she's better off not knowing yet."
Ed was just relieved at having a get-out clause and whispered back, "Good call," and narrowly missed getting caught by Ros turning round to check they were following. He put on a smile for her benefit, jogged up to her and joked easily with her as if nothing had happened. It was enough to make her smile properly, so he'd keep doing it if he had to.
Just like that, everything went back to normal. Or rather something approaching it - it wasn't as if the job they all did was that normal to begin with. In the days that passed since Ros's death and recovery, Beckett worried over the accounts, Ros obsessed about Cyberax and Ed failed to put Ros's death out of his mind, as temporary as it had been.
What they really needed was another job, but the best they'd managed so far was when Ed managed to distract them both by unearthing an old gizmo of Ros's. She demonstrated it to both of them on the local pub's fruit machines and it looked like she'd temporarily solved Beckett's accounting problem before it turned out she had a deal with the landlord and gave all the money back. And fixed his machines so no one else with a similar gadget would be able to do the same thing in the future.
Despite all this activity, Beckett and Ed had so far failed to solve the more pressing problem of how to tell Ros her friend was dead. Every scenario Ed thought of just made the situation worse, although it was hard to see how it was possible to make it better. It just left him feeling more of a coward as the days went on and if he could be accused of anything it certainly wasn't cowardice. By the time the morning of the funeral came around she still didn't know and he couldn't let it go on any longer. He was just surprised she hadn't found out any other way, but she probably hadn't thought to look and perhaps no one else had thought to tell her either. So Ed sat gingerly on a computer chair next to Ros and tried not to look like she was going to bite him.
"Ros," he began, and then nearly backed out when she smiled at him. He knew she was going to be upset and she had been doing so well recently he hated to do this to her. But not telling her would only make things worse - for all of them. "Ros," he repeated, "I don't quite know how to tell you this."
On the other side of the room, Beckett's head moved just enough that Ed could tell he wasn't quite so absorbed in reading his emails any more, even if he didn't look up from the screen. Only Ros had no idea of what he was intending to tell her.
She gave him a quizzical look, but no looked no less unhappy for it. "Just spit it out, Ed. It can't be anything that bad."
Oh, if only she knew. But he took a deep breath and did as she said. "Your old tutor, he used a Cyberax headset." He could tell she still didn't get it, so he softened his voice and added, "I'm sorry Ros." Just like the others that had got Cyberax in their heads, Talbot died once he knew its secrets. But unlike Roland and Ros, he hadn't been revived in time.
Her immediate reaction was to turn to the computer and check the details for herself. Ed tried not to feel stung by that as she established that his funeral was in a few hours. He knew he hadn't given her much reason to trust him lately, but he thought she knew him better than that.
"Why didn't you tell me?" She didn't look up, but Ed could see her hand shaking as it rested on the computer mouse.
"We wanted to protect you." Now was absolutely not to the time to lie to her and besides, Ed couldn't think of any good ways of explaining it, other than the truth. Beckett might have done, but he wasn't the one telling Ros a good friend of hers was dead. Ed reached out a hand to her, but she must have been looking at him out of the corner of her eye and she shrank away from it. Ed closed his eyes for a moment, but Beckett was already on his feet and on his way over to them, so he decide to let him talk to her.
Crouched down on the other side of her, Beckett gave it his best shot. "Ros, you were already upset. We just wanted everything to go back to normal again."
Some chance of that. Ed still woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of night, telling himself not to call Ros to check she really was still alive and he hadn't really killed her.
Ros shook her head, but at least looked down at Beckett. Ed tried not to feel jealous about that. "I can forgive you for going behind my back to save my life, but not this."
Ed wondered whether she blamed Beckett for all that they'd done, but just as Ros didn't always do as he said, neither did Ed. He was his own man.
"But I thought I could trust you guys." She didn't give them a chance to explain, just stood up, sending her chair flying backwards and smacking into the wall behind. They were both speechless as she gave them each a look that told them exactly what she thought of them before she stormed out of the room.
Beckett sighed, but Ed was more practical and made to follow her. He didn't know what he was going to say, but that wasn't going to stop him. Beckett was, though, with a hand on his arm.
"Leave her," he said. He looked almost as upset as Ros had been, Ed thought, and decided to do as Beckett suggested.
"What do we do to fix this?" he asked, but Beckett had no answers.
Ed was sure Ros would return once she calmed down, so he and Beckett quietly stayed out of the way, working. Well, Beckett was working, although Ed didn't really know exactly what he was doing the moment. He was bringing down the government for all Ed cared. Well, perhaps not, but then he didn't really think Beckett would do that, much as he wasn't always terribly fond of authority.
Ed, on the other hand, was trying to beat Ros's Tetris high score. Two months into their bet and he had worked his way into second place. The trouble was that Ros always played when he wasn't looking and always managed to have a score that was an unreachable distance beyond him. He wasn't planning to give up, however, but his heart just wasn't in it today and he didn't even make the top ten. Even Beckett could manage that and he didn't practise nearly as often.
They did eventually see Ros again, but only when she was on her way out of the front door, during which time she refused to acknowledge either of them, even though they called out to her. Given the time and the fact that she was wearing black it wasn't hard to guess where she was going. The information about the funeral was still up on her computer screen.
When Beckett nodded at him, Ed knew exactly what he was thinking because they were of the same mind when it came to Ros. She might want some time to herself and they'd give her that, if it was what she really needed. It didn't mean they were going to leave her on her own, though. Especially given the mood she was in was more than likely to lead to her car ending up wrapped round a lamppost.
A short while later and they were both in black, Ed tugging at his uncomfortable suit. He could manage to wear a tie when he was undercover, but then he had more important things on his mind, like their survival. Now he was just struggling to see why he had to.
They didn't go too close, since they'd only met the man once after all. They kept Ros in their sights, though, as they hung back just too far away to hear any of the words. It felt like hours they'd stood there waiting, while Ed ran through every possible thing he could say to Ros, but he knew a simple apology wouldn't be enough. He just hoped she had calmed down a little.
Even after the rest of the mourners had left and there was a cold chill in the air, Ros didn't move. Without needing to discuss it, Beckett and Ed took up positions on either side of her, not saying anything until she spoke first. But she didn't even acknowledge them and just kept staring down at the casket beneath, with its handfuls of dirt barely covering it.
As much as he tired of waiting, Ed was prepared to put the time in on this one. In the end Beckett was the one to break the silence when he put a hand on her shoulder and said, softly, "He did it for you, you know. He found out what Cyberax really was so we could use that knowledge to save you."
Ros nodded, but didn't lift her head.
It was a good sign, so Ed put his hand carefully on her other shoulder and relaxed when she allowed it. "We honestly thought we were protecting you." Was it his imagination or was there a smile there, just for a moment? Given her skills in getting herself out of danger Ros often didn't seem to need them. It was just situations like this that none of her gizmos or computer programs could help her with that Ed realised how good a team they were.
"You were so worried about Roland we didn't want to add to your burdens," Beckett continued.
When Beckett paused and Ros still said nothing Ed took up the slack. If they couldn't get to her between them, then they had no hope. "It can't have been easy thinking you'd lost all your friends."
At last, she looked up and Ed knew she wasn't angry at them any more. Her tear-stained face turned to him and he wished she'd let him be there to comfort her.
"You don't get rid of us that easily," Beckett joked. He even managed a quick smile, although Ed was sure Beckett was thinking the same thing as he was.
"We're your friends. We're not going anywhere."
"I know," Ros said, so quietly Ed almost didn't hear it. "I'm just glad I have you guys." With her arms round the shoulders of each of them, she pulled them closer into a hug.
"We're a team," Beckett said, and that was something Ed could agree with, wholeheartedly.