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Battle of Britain -- Chapter 13
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rogoblue
Title: Battle of Britain Chapter 13


Rating: R (language and sexual situations)


Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue


Summary: The war is over, but what does that mean exactly?




October 1945—Nuremburg, Germany.

“Walk with me, Dom,” said the unfortunately named William Williams, a tall, lanky red haired man from Georgia.

“What’s on your mind, Sergeant?” Lt. Colonel Laurence Dominic asked, falling into step beside one of his best men, glad to be outside after his fourth consecutive briefing. His young, yet incredibly competent aide followed a few steps behind.

“Couple things I reckon you ought to know. Bobbin transmitted this message to the Seventh Army command.”

Dominic stared in disbelief at the off color limerick. “Was he drunk?”

“As a skunk, sir, but it was Dickens’ fault.”

Dominic’s jaw tightened at the mention of Roger Dickens. “Go on.”

“Dickens brought the bottle they shared and promised Bobbin he’d introduce him to some very willing German girls, if he played this prank on the Seventh.” Dominic and Williams dodged around three young women who might fit the bill—the tall blonde in the middle smiled at them and nudged the girl to her right. “The transmission got passed along to someone without a sense of humor. Major Farlow has been getting hell all afternoon.”

“Send a message from me to Colonel Tibbet at the Seventh. Lighten up, Tibbs. This isn’t about you. Append a copy of the communiqué with the limerick.”
-
“How’s that going to help?” asked Corporal Vandermeer, Dominic’s inquisitive and talkative aide, as he caught up to his superior officer.

“Tibbet will smooth things over. He owes me a couple.” Meeting Williams’ eyes, Dominic said, “Tell Bobbin he’s lived eight of his nine lives. He’ll go home with a dishonorable discharge, if he puts another toe out of line.”

“What about Dickens?” Williams asked.

“Put him on whatever shit details you can find for a month.” He shrugged his shoulders, frowning at the stiffness in the left. “Too bad we aren’t digging latrines anymore.” Dominic laughed and his men exchanged shocked looks. “I never thought I’d say that,” he muttered to explain the uncharacteristic levity.

“Do you want to speak to him, Dom?” Williams asked.

“That would just give him a chance to disrespect authority. Keep him busy enough not to cause trouble, Sergeant.”

“Wonder if that would work on the scary English lady,” Williams mused.”

“You’re scared of a skirt?” Vandermeer asked, disbelief blatant.

“I’m leery of anyone wanting to talk to a bunch of German prisoners that we think are former SS.”

“How’d you pull that duty, Williams?” Dominic asked, unable to recall those orders crossing his desk and uncomfortably aware of how such details never used to elude him.

“Some Brit officer asked for help and Captain Esteban thinks the experience will broaden my horizons, but this farm boy from the deep South wouldn’t mind keeping his horizons narrow-like.” Glancing over Dominic’s shoulder, Williams’ eyes widened. “Jesus Christ, she’s tracked me down like a dog.”

“Who?” Vandermeer asked, sparing Dominic the effort.

“The English lady,” he hissed, ducking behind Vandermeeer. “In the blue coat with the fancy collar.”

“Three against one strikes me as good odds,” Dominic said.

“Best not to engage, Dom,” Williams said, risking a peek. “Thank you, Jesus! She didn’t see me! Let’s clear out.”

Dominic glanced over his shoulder, even as he joined Williams’ strategic retreat. Scanning out of habit, he spotted Williams’ English lady. Tall, slender, excellent posture, definitely headed somewhere. As if to give him a hint of what Williams feared, she stopped and cocked her head slightly. Dominic halted—startled by the sense of familiarity. He’d taken three steps in the opposite direction, before he registered his men’s dismay. “I’ll catch up with you,” he muttered, as he shouldered his way through the pedestrian traffic, slowly closing the distance, sure his eyes deceived him but needing to be sure. “Adelle?” he called, far too softly to be heard. “Adelle DeWitt?” he managed, slightly louder, as he used his elbows to make a hole. She froze and his heart leapt to his throat. Reaching her side, he gripped her arm lightly. “Ma’am, forgive me for bothering you, but you remind me—.” She looked up.

“Hello, Laurence.”

“It is you,” he said, feeling like his smile might crack his face.

Time stopped to allow them to stare. People must’ve flowed around them, but Dominic didn’t notice anyone other than the woman before him. He’d thought about what he’d say, if ever given the opportunity but recalled none of the words he’d imagined. Pragmatism of a strange sort fought to the fore. “If you have any major objection to me hugging you, state it now.” She remained silent, so he pulled her close and held on for dear life. Adelle gripped his shoulder blades hard enough to bruise. She wore the same perfume.

“God, I can’t believe you’re here,” he said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “How are you? How’s Judith?” He couldn’t bring himself to ask about Harry, Judith’s Major.

“My flat was destroyed by a Doodlebug, but I wasn’t at home when it happened, so I consider myself quite fortunate,” she said.

Dominic put his hands on her shoulders. “One of the benefits of working late, ma’am?”

“One of the very few, Colonel.”

Sergeant Williams appeared at Dominic’s right elbow, Vandermeer at the other. “Colonel Dominic is far more influential than me, Miss DeWitt,” Williams said. “He’s much better positioned to assist you.”

“Didn’t you receive orders—?” Dominic began.

“That you can override, sir,” Vandermeer said. “I’d be happy to do it for you. I’ve gotten really good at your signature.” He turned to Adelle. “If you’d give me a list of the prisoners you’d like to see, ma’am, I’ll make inquiries in the Colonel’s name on your behalf.” Without hesitation, Adelle offered a sheet of paper to the young man.

“Corporal Vandermeer, we have things to do today and—.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Vandermeer interjected, “Major Farlow has been chomping at the bit to conduct an inspection, so you and your friend can catch up this evening without impacting the Fifth.”

“I want to see the disciplinary recommendations before any are carried out. Farlow’s too fastidious for a victorious army.”

“Of course, sir.” He half bowed to Adelle. “Ma’am. Enjoy the sunshine.” Williams was long gone when Vandermeer rushed away to leave him alone with Adelle DeWitt.

“Are you hungry?” he asked.

* * *

For the last two and a half years, Adelle had tried hard not to think of Laurence Dominic. Coming face to face with him had been shocking. She’d been grateful for the split second of preparation hearing his voice had allowed. It hadn’t been enough, just as her efforts to drive him out of her mind had largely been in vain.

She had followed the progress of the 5th Army as they fought their way across Italy and then through France from the south. Adelle assumed Judith had done the same. She didn’t know for sure, because Judith had learnt quickly to avoid mentioning Laurence’s name in her presence.

When he’d hugged her, holding onto her so tightly, something had changed. In that moment, she realised she’d harboured more than fear over his fate all these months. But he hadn’t reacted as though still angry with her.

So many thoughts bubbled to the surface. She had so much she wanted to say, but all Adelle did was drink him in, noting the extra lines and thinking they made him look more distinguished and handsome.

“Adelle?”

Too old to be embarrassed at being caught staring, she instead raised her eyebrow, daring him to comment. He didn’t. “Yes, I am hungry.” Travelling for most of the last week, regular meals had not been a priority. “But aren’t you concerned by the way your men manoeuvred you?”

“I like them to demonstrate initiative every now and again. It’s important to stay sharp.”

“Your leadership strategy includes allowing them to forge your signature?”

“The amount of paperwork is unbelievable, even now. Without Vandermeer, I’d have been drowned in it. He’s a bureaucratic genius and far more facile with a pen than any kind of weapon.”

Few buildings in Nuremberg had survived the war unscathed. Everywhere Adelle looked, she saw signs of the destruction. Only one building had electric lighting, the Grand Hotel, which seemed to be undergoing considerable repairs.

“Hitler built the Guest House next door in 1938,” Laurence said. With more than a trace of irony, he added, “Apparently, the Grand was full of Americans. We’re combining the two buildings. There’s a nightclub and a gymnasium too.”

“Of course there is.” He shrugged and guided her into the hotel. Recovering a measure of her composure, Adelle recalled his earlier question. “Judith is busy preparing for a winter wedding.”

“Harry’s been demobbed. Good.” Dominic selected an out of the way table and held out her chair as she sat down. Interestingly, he seemed unaware of smiles a group of young women at the bar sent in his direction.

“Harry was injured at Anzio.” Strong emotion flickered across Laurence’s face and she didn’t need to ask whether he had seen action there as well. “It was touch and go for a while. His recovery has been protracted and at times very frustrating. At one stage he offered to call off the engagement, but you know Judith.”

His smile was a relic of their shared past and, though the reminder of what she had lost should have been painful, Adelle relished it. He looked as though he needed to smile more often. “I seem to remember persistence in the face of overwhelming odds and enough curiosity for ten cats. Did she wear him down in the end?”

“I wouldn’t say that, exactly.” She paused to convince their waiter that although English, she did not want to drink pink gin. “Judith simply refused to accept his ‘honourable’ offer and called him an idiot for making it. He loves her and, at the moment, he needs her. At least he knows she isn’t a child anymore.”

“I remember telling him to take her somewhere and make her feel like a woman.”

Discussing the past felt strange. Adelle didn’t believe she’d progressed to the point where she could view the failure of their relationship with equanimity. She hadn’t recovered and doubted she ever would. Now the agonising uncertainty of not knowing whether he’d survived was lifted, she believed she could reconcile herself to discussing a mutual friend and her fiancé. The ongoing pain served as proof that she could feel deeply, a point on which there had been doubt - including from her. “Harry didn’t take your advice,” she said, “or not then at least.”

“Before the wedding?”

“I think they decided it would be as well to take some pressure off their wedding night and they needed time together. Judith wanted him to understand that his injuries didn’t concern her, so I supplied an early wedding present in the form of a weekend away.” They sipped their drinks and she told him of a few more mutual acquaintances, including that Neville had retired.

“Should I ask about your resident genius?” He asked, his tone taking on a familiar irritation.

“I don’t have the answer. In fact, you’re more likely than I to discover his fate.” He looked frankly disbelieving. “He was spirited away to America as soon as the war ended. I could hazard a guess what your comrades want from him, but I’d rather not know for sure.” Topher’s fate troubled her. All alone in a different country, perhaps with no one to impose limits, she didn’t know how he’d cope, one of the many things she could not control.

At least she had kept her promise to Ivy. Before leaving England, she had driven that most intelligent and patient young women to Cambridge, where various colleges had fallen over themselves to offer her a place.

When Dominic failed to respond to her news of Topher’s Transatlantic relocation, Adelle concluded his attention lay elsewhere. She’d never known him to fidget and, with a sinking heart, she said, “I’m keeping you from something important.” Proud to have kept the disappointment out of her tone, Adelle accepted she had no right to expect things to be as they once were, even if he wasn’t angry anymore. For all she knew, he had acquired a wife or a fiancé.

“You’re not. Really.” She raised an eyebrow and he shook his head. “I’m not used to ... to just sitting and talking. I’m used to fighting and trying to get used to rebuilding. I’m not accustomed to not being in the thick of things and issuing or receiving orders.”

“Is that why your aide wanted to send you off for a few hours?”

“Maybe. I’m not great company these days, sorry.” He signalled for another drink. Adelle thought the alcohol tasted cheap and unpleasant. In no hurry for a refill, she brightened at the prospect of the food he ordered. “Why do you want to speak to German prisoners, Adelle? Is it SOE business?”

“In part,” she conceded, deciding honesty would serve her best. “My presence is barely official, nothing more than a courtesy. The SOE is being wound up, my job along with it. History is being re-written already. We are telling agents and others who worked for us not to mention what they did during the war. No one wants to admit we sent civilians, particularly women, into occupied France.”

“It’s hard to imagine you at loose ends.”

“Well, I’m a little like my country, tired, with depleted resources and grateful for whatever favours I can beg from richer allies.”

“I don’t believe that,” he said firmly. He leaned towards her. “I don’t know anyone as strong as you.” He retreated as quickly as he’d advanced, appearing concerned he had said too much.

“Laurence, I sent just over 400 agents into France and 104 of them did not return. In most cases, I know what happened to them and have been able to inform their families However, some agents’ fates remain a mystery. The Nazi’s decreed that enemy agents would, if caught, vanish into night and fog, without a trace. They might have been as good as their word in these cases. I couldn’t sit in London and push papers around when I have a chance to discover the truth. I may have abandoned those agents out of necessity, but I won’t leave their families without the answers they need.”

* * *

“Ruth Morrell?” Laurence Dominic made himself ask.

“Alive and well,” Adelle DeWitt countered. “Did you know she gave me a letter for you in case things went badly?”

Stunned didn’t begin to cover it. “For … for me?”

“She didn’t want you to think it was your fault.” Adelle patted his hand. “It wasn’t, you know. She made her choice and performed splendidly, replacing our burnt out radio operator without a missed beat. I collected her from Paris myself. She’s at home now.”

He closed his eyes against the emotion welling up inside him. “I’m glad,” he muttered.

“Not as glad as I to be able to give you that news.” Adelle took his hand, frowning slightly when his drink arrived. “You inspired Ruth, as you obviously have done with the men under your command.” When he shook his head, she asked, “Do you disagree?”

“Adelle, I’m as burnt out as any radio operator you’ve ever had.” He looked to the roof of the hotel restaurant for inspiration. “The men you saw … They’ve heard what people say about me and know what they call me, but they weren’t in the field with me in Sicily and Italy, when I did things no man should ever have to do to survive. Christ, I didn’t know I had that level of brutality in me, but that isn’t what I want … no, what I need to say to you. Adelle, I’m sorry, you were right about the Madeline situation. Well, mostly right.”

“Go on,” she encouraged.

“A window of opportunity existed—a damn small one. My operation would’ve had to have been perfect and no op ever is.” He leaned closer and Adelle looked amused, but he didn’t take the time to wonder why. “It was right to leave Madeline to her fate. I understand that now. Hell, I understood it then, but I didn’t want to.” Taking her other hand too, he said, “I said hurtful things and I’m sorry. As penance, I’ve stood in your shoes too damn often. I’ve made those decisions and written the letters home attendant to them.” He squeezed her hands in his. “I was naïve. I understand war and the atrocities that accompany it now and I’m ashamed I treated you as I did.”

“If you knew how many nights I’ve stayed awake wondering if you might have saved Madeline, you’d know there is no certainty. We simply do the best we can.”

“Are all of your aunts and uncles well?” he asked, smiling slightly at his obvious conversational gambit, draining his second drink.

“Don’t order another,” Adelle said, taking his empty glass from him. “Am I hoping in vain that you’ve acquired higher quality beverages during your occupation?”

“You aren’t.”

“Might I have a taste before I return to my hotel, confront my benefactor and endure his complaints about my prolonged absence?”

“The British officer who petitioned on your behalf?” he guessed.

“I may have mentioned that an American Major whose fate I didn’t know stood in the way of his conquest.” She laughed and brought his hand to her lips. “He won’t be pleased by a living Lt. Colonel.”

Shaking his head, yet pleased, Dominic asked for their food to be wrapped up to take away and paid. Adelle walked by his side toward his headquarters and slipped her hand into his. Emotions he couldn’t name flooded him, yet her hand felt right in his. The smile she aimed at him over her left shoulder made him grin. He couldn’t recall looking forward to dinner so much.

Blessedly, both of his aides, Vandermeer and Nelson—the latter sporting a Rita Hayworth lookalike fiancée and due to head stateside shortly for his wedding—were elsewhere when he steered Adelle through his office to his living quarters. He set the dinner on the small table and Adelle attended to it, once he’d handed her plates and silverware, freeing him get their drinks.

He’d had this on tap for Nelson’s bachelor party, but he opened the champagne Adelle had given him when Winston Churchill made him a Major. “I don’t have the right kind of glasses, but we’ll make do,” he said. Her widened eyes and ready smile pleased him. Dominic poured and sat next to Adelle. She raised her glass. He dropped the piece of bread he’d selected to follow suit.

“To a night off,” she murmured. They drank to that.

He raised his glass again, smiling. “To a night off with you.” They drank again. “I couldn’t believe it when I thought I saw you. It felt like a miracle.”

“You’ve missed me, then?”

“Not nearly as much as I should’ve.” He met her eyes, taking a forkful of he knew not what, because he didn’t remember what he’d ordered. “I didn’t want to tempt fate.” He bit his lip and berated himself for showing his unease. “Did you miss me?”

“Every day.”

“Uh huh.”

“You can choose to believe, or not,” Adelle said, smiling. The weight of other memories plummeted down upon him and Dominic shuddered. “Laurence, are you all right?”

He’d never talked of this. “Devon’s dead. The others too. I lost them all, Adelle.” She rose from her chair and hugged him briefly. Only when she resumed her seat could he continue. “I was with Devon when he passed and still in the field when Gardner bought it. Hill and Bishop died when I was moving pushpins on a map. I … I wrote all four of those letters myself and the unofficial ones the guys had asked me to if they didn’t make it. A piece of my soul went with each one of them.” He stabbed his fork into something resembling meat. “I don’t have much of one left.”

“Sir, I’ve prepared the reports you asked for in anticipation of Colonel Harding’s arrival.” Nelson held an impressive stack of paper. “Is there anything else … oh, I’m sorry, Colonel, ma’am.”

“No, Private, that will be all,” Dominic muttered. “I’m sorry, Adelle. They’re used to just barging in.”

“Harding is coming here?”

“He’s finally hauling his ass out of London to take over here when I head to Berlin.” Only then did he realize Adelle had been steadily and methodically eating and pushed a few more rolls in her direction.

“Berlin is the prime posting, I imagine,” she said.

“Maybe, but it’s shaping up to be more politics than anything else. Not exactly my cup of tea.”

She cocked her head, an expression he’d once have interpreted as puzzled. “You’re intelligent, personable and quick on your feet. You see patterns easily and have empathy for all sorts of people. I’d say the posting suits you splendidly.”

“Dom, you have to do something about the liquor Simms is sitting on. He’s bringing the end of prohibition to a chosen few and even the officers are starting to defer to him.” The Lieutenant gaped at his superior officer. “Begging your pardon. I didn’t know you were … eating.”

“Simms found the stash and hauled it all this way,” Dominic said. “I’m not going to confiscate it, but I’ll speak to him about how he’s making use of it.”

The door hadn’t even closed when Sergeant Williams hauled two battered and bruised young men through. “Tell him,” Williams commanded.

“This piece of shit—.”

“The piece of shit has a name,” Dominic snapped.

“Dickens insulted my girl, so I kicked his ass.”

“Your girl is a fat cow and you didn’t kick my ass, you son of a whore,” Dickens asserted, his lunge toward Carver intercepted by Williams.

Dominic rose and threw down his napkin. “I am having dinner with a lady and you will act accordingly. Am I making myself clear?” After a round of mumbled, “Yes, sirs,” Dominic said, “Williams, do you really need me for this?”

“Not if you don’t mind me taking them both into a dark alley and adjusting their attitudes.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“But I didn’t do anything, other than defend my girl,” Carver asserted. “You’d do the same for yours, wouldn’t you, sir?” he asked, gesturing to Adelle.

“He was poisoned on my behalf once,” Adelle said, neatly drawing everyone’s attention.

“And I took all of the repercussions for that action,” Dominic said, smirking at Adelle.

“Colonel Harding called it showboating,” Adelle said and smiled at the unanimous derisive reactions to her statement. “Prime Minister Churchill deemed it quick thinking.”

“Churchill’s a genius,” Dickens said. “Harding’s a …” He smiled at Adelle. “Well, the Colonel’s said I’m supposed to be a gentleman, so … Harding’s not is all I can rightfully say.”

“You shouldn’t call anyone a fat cow,” Adelle said, “and, if you have had the ill grace to do so, an apology wouldn’t go amiss.”

Dickens actually looked abashed and Dominic shared a glance with Williams. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Sorry, Carver.”

“All right,” Dominic said, “Get yourselves cleaned up and don’t darken my doorstep again.” Smiling at Adelle as he bent down, he murmured, “You haven’t lost your touch,” in her ear. Louder, he said, “Excuse me for just a moment.”

“Certainly,” she said.

He entered his office. “Vandermeer,” he called to the young man bent over a filing cabinet.

“Sir?”

“I’d like to have dinner with Adelle in peace, please.”

“Adelle?” Vandermeer asked, looking comically puzzled.

“Miss DeWitt. You met her earlier.”

Vandermeer shot to his feet and snapped off a salute. “Right, sure. You got it, sir.”

Returning to his living quarters, he said, “Things should be quieter now.”

“I rather enjoyed seeing you in action,” Adelle said. “I’ve missed it.”

* * *

“If your idea of entertainment is an insight into the disciplinary issues of the 5th Army, things must have been pretty quiet back in London.” In a split second, his flippancy vanished. “Aside from the Luftwaffe bombing your home, obviously.”

“The building was destroyed; I lost everything, other than some family papers and my mother's jewellery, stored elsewhere, fortunately.”

“That's terrible.”

She shrugged, having come to terms with it. “Other people have lost far more than a flat and some possessions. I can count myself fortunate that everyone I care most about survived, now that I’ve had word of you.”

“Harding would have told you if I'd bought it,” he said, voice flat and hard.

“Perhaps.” She'd thought about the possibility of Dominic’s death on the many nights when she'd been alone and tormented by ghosts and regrets. She wouldn't have been officially notified, not a wife or fiancé, merely a former lover. Perhaps one of his friends would have thought to write, but since they didn't know they had been anything more than colleagues, so she had no real expectations on that score. Harding would have announced the news, maliciously, without knowing what Laurence meant to her and her response would have been professionally distant. She would have mourned him in private, in secret even, which would have been fitting. "I'm not sure how I would have faced learning of your death.”

“You would’ve carried on,” he pointed out, tone not even slightly condemnatory. “You had a job to do.”

After his departure from her life, she'd kept people at arm's length. The need to recruit and train more agents and the complexity of their missions had given her an excuse to close ranks. Weary of the isolation, she recognized the person who could assuage it sat before her, his own burdens apparently threatening to overwhelm him.

“I'm very sorry for your loss,” she said, returning to the subject of his friends.

“Thank you.” She watched him shut down, as he picked at his meal, perhaps regretting giving so much away. He epitomized the efficient and professional senior officer, balancing discipline and pragmatism, respected by his men and by his superiors. He didn't seem to trust himself to be more. He'd begun his career with no patrons or advantages and now stood to assume an undoubtedly pivotal role. If that mattered to him, he didn’t show it.

Refilling their champagne glasses, she considered her options. His response in a few unguarded moments gave her confidence and he had clearly not acquired a wife or a fiancé.

Adelle knew she was flawed, that she had made catastrophic errors, but she was seldom guilty of making the same mistake twice. “You haven't talked about them at all, have you?” she asked.

“I wrote the letters. What else is there?”

“Don't lie to me,” she said calmly. “You and I don't lie to each other, Laurence. We might dissemble, omit information or say nothing when we should speak, but we don't lie.”

“Christ, Adelle, only a spy would make those distinctions.”

“I am a spy,” she said, “for at least a few months longer. You told me about Devon and the others, because you need to talk about them, to mourn, but you don't know what will happen if you do. Even if you’ve stopped caring about yourself, you can’t preclude others from doing so.”

“I don't know why you'd...”

“Because I love you. I always loved you and I'm sorry I couldn't tell you when you needed me to. I wanted to, I hoped I showed you, but I know that isn't the same as saying the words.” He looked surprised. The words had escaped her so easily, it was hard to remember why she had once fought to keep them at bay. She wasn't sorry to have told him without knowing whether he felt the same way; she owed him that much. “It took living through my greatest fear to realise how cruel and selfish I had been.”

“I abandoned you like your parents did,” he murmured.

“Well – I think I probably drove you away. Let's split the difference, shall we?” Putting her glass down, she leant towards him. She ran her fingertips gently over the furrows in his brow, before caressing his cheek. His eyes fluttered closed, but then blinked open again, as though he didn't want to let his guard down. He looked so wary; she couldn't stand it.

“Adelle,” he began, but fell silent as she pressed her fingertips to his lips.

“It's all right,” she breathed. “I know it hurts. Let me help, please.” He froze. Sensing his indecision, she waited for him to pull away. After a very long moment he shifted closer and brushed his lips to her palm with the most hesitant of touches.

* * *

“I’m not sure how to begin,” Laurence Dominic murmured, willing Adelle DeWitt to understand and maybe let him off of the hook. He’d forgotten how well she played the waiting game, however. “Devon went first. We’d only been in Italy for nine days. I ordered him to hold his position and he damn well did, allowing us to get a firmer foothold. By the time I got to him with reinforcements, he’d nearly bled out.” One aspect of the memory drew a small smile. “He got to call me an idiot one last time, though. I think he appreciated that.”

“I’m sure he did.”

Not sure he wanted to go further, he took a bite of lukewarm food and chewed slowly. When he risked a look at Adelle, she smiled encouragement. “I told Devon about us shortly before he died. He was the only one I told.” Shaking his head, he said, “Come to think of it, my coming clean about you pretty much dominated our last non-professional conversation.” Dominic took a deep breath. “He called me an idiot for leaving the way I did, for screwing up what we had, for hurting you. I told him I hadn’t hurt you, because you didn’t care about me in the same way, because I thought … well, it doesn’t matter what I thought back then.”

“I think it might,” Adelle said, rubbing his left shoulder gently.

“I thought you’d have let me try to help Madeline, if … if you cared.” Her laughter stung a little.

“I hope Devon thought the converse far more likely—that I prevented you from possibly throwing your life away because I did care.”

“He did,” Dominic mumbled. “Look, I know we agreed to keep the whole thing under wraps, but it was over between us, so when Devon asked again about my mystery woman, I didn’t see the harm in telling him the truth.” Another smile tugged at Dominic’s lips. “He was impressed. You intimidated the hell out of Devon.”

“His putative little brother did well by himself, did he?”

“Something like that, yes.” Putting his hand atop the one of hers on his shoulder, he said, “I might’ve hinted that the sex was pretty amazing.” Unable to interpret her expression, he said, “Devon was in one of his talkative moods and I wanted to shut him up.”

“Did you?”

“Oh, yeah. It was …” He could see Devon pointing at him with his cigarette in his mind’s eye. “It was a moment of fun in the bloodbath of the Italian campaign. I’m sorry if I breached our agreement.”

“By then our agreement was void, so you have nothing to apologise for.”

“Did you ever tell anyone?” he asked, pushing his plate toward Adelle. “Have some of mine if you’re still hungry.”

“I told my uncle Edgar that you had meant more to me than any other man,” she murmured before taking a taste of his dinner. “Are you sure you don’t want it?”

He took another forkful. “I’ll share. What did the naval uncle say?”

Her smile formed slowly and Dominic found the process fascinating. “That my taste in men had inexplicably yet remarkably improved and he applauded the change.”

“I’m trying to remember exactly who I’m a cut above,” he said. “A regrettable Frenchman, a Spanish artist. No, wait, the Spaniard was a bull fighter. The artist was Italian, I think.”

Adelle blushed and he thought it looked good on her. “I see that I need to have a stern word with my uncle. You should eat a bit more, Laurence.” He took a small hard roll in compliance. “What about Gardner?”

The brutal bloody scene replayed in his mind. “He … God, Adelle, he was in pieces. They all were. We couldn’t reassemble them, so we buried all of the parts together. I couldn’t tell his family, any of their families really.” He stared at his hands. “Sometimes, I can see all the blood on these. Adelle, there’s so much.”

“When you were in the field, did you lead from the front?”

“When I could. Sometimes, I had to stay with the main group, to keep up morale and maintain focus. I hated sending others forward.” Seeing it all again, he whispered, “There’s nothing like fighting for every inch of ground at close quarters with bayonets affixed, stepping on a man you’ve just sliced open to get to the next one. That was the worst thing I could imagine, until I saw those camps the Nazis had scattered around.” He didn’t want to discuss this either, but he couldn’t seem to stop. “They were just following orders, they said, and people in nearby towns just looked the other way. Those things disgust me, but I understand why they did what they did.” He lifted his champagne flute to his lips and concentrated on the alcohol sliding down his throat. “Late at night, I sometimes think back on the worst days in Italy and wonder if we’re all that different.”

“Conflicts between two groups of armed combatants are a far cry from imprisonment, starvation and mass extermination of civilians, Laurence.”

“It’s all about power. The Italian battalion that shredded Gardner’s group were the heroes that night. They’d prevailed.”

“Four quite attractive young women at the bar in the Grand Hotel earlier clearly believed you to be a hero.” Adelle faced him with a wry smile. “I didn’t feel safe with the daggers they were staring at me.”

“What?”

“I suppose I should be grateful you’ve lost your uncanny ability to effortlessly exploit female interest.” Obviously amused, she said, “You surely must be aware that an American Colonel is a prize worth fighting over.”

“Will you see to it that I don’t fall into the evil clutches of … anyone other than you?”

“I welcome the challenge.” He laughed and mimed throwing the remains of his roll at Adelle. She mimed ducking but regarded him with a sobering intensity immediately thereafter.

* * *

“I went to Natzweiler,” she told him,; the memory both vivid and painful. It was the only concentration camp on French soil, though it had been German at the time, located in the much disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine. “The camp housed the Nacht ubd Nebel prisoners, members of the resistance mostly. There’s a crematorium there and a sort of gas chamber outside the main camp. I’d received a report of three, possibly four women seen by a survivor, before their hasty executions. Their bodies were burned, but the eyewitness descriptions match some of my missing agents.”

“Christ, Adelle.”

“I’m here to search hell to see what became of the people I dispatched there. I won’t abandon them, even if they are dead. To find them all, I need to talk to the Russians about Ravensbruck. Himmler built a concentration camp for women, did you know that?” Horror in his eyes, Dominic shook his head. I didn’t either. The Germans handed over some female prisoners to the Red Cross, when the Soviet army got too close. That’s when we started to hear rumours about it. Polish women who’d been part of the Warsaw uprising, Jewish women, Roma women and their children. It’s unimaginable and all too real. One of my agents survived incarceration there. She’d been arrested as a member of the French resistance and never spoke a word of English until I met her at Euston station. Driving her home to her parent's house in Tunbridge Wells felt miraculous.”

“Had she seen other agents in the camp?”

“Yes, but they didn’t acknowledge her. I hope they knew they did their part to save her. All of the other SOE prisoners were taken away. She didn’t know where.”

She didn’t resist when he pulled her into his embrace, burying her head in his chest as though she could block everything out, allowing him a turn to reassure and give comfort. Starved of physical contact since his departure, her tension eased as he ran a hand up and down her spine.

“It’s been so difficult,” she whispered. “I’ve had to fight to be allowed to try and trace the women. The only reason I’ve got this far is because we’re looking for war crimes. No one wants to admit we sent female agents into occupied France. Imagine the uproar if it became know that some died outright or were captured and sent to concentration camps or executed. Families contacting their MPs furthered my cause, but I don’t think anyone would mind too much if I failed.”

“You’re the most persuasive woman I know. You speak German and Russian and the US Army owes you a few favours. I doubt anyone will stand in your way.” She raised her head and he stroked her cheek, looking thoughtful. “You’re different you know, more open.” Frowning he added, “You held my hand in the street on the way here.” Hardly the worst accusation she had faced.

“We aren’t in London, Laurence and you aren’t working with the SOE. Holding your hand in the street felt right. I suppose I am as susceptible to the charms of a dashing Colonel as any other woman and I happen to know this particular Colonel very well – or I used to.”

“You still do,” he lifted his hands from her body. “There’s no one else in the world I would have told all that to.”

“And that makes you uncomfortable?”

He shrugged. “I haven't been feeling much of anything for the last couple of years. It helped, but now you’re here and all that’s out the window.”

“Are you angry with me?” She could see why he might be. He’d buried those feelings for a reason and she had walked blithely back into his life and forced him to face his losses.

“I should be; I want to be. But it’s you. There are no rules for you.” Even though he still seemed uncertain, his dark and intense eyes drew her in. His words didn’t require a verbal response. Raising herself up to be level with him, she touched his face and, when he stilled, pressed her lips to his. The kiss lasted only for a moment, but he didn’t pull away. Dominic’s mouth relaxed against hers and when she backed off, their lips clung together, as if reluctant to part.

* * *

“I need something stronger than champagne,” Laurence Dominic murmured, retreating slightly and swallowing hard against a feeling very much akin to panic. “How about you?”

“Champagne is fine,” she said. Adelle’s eyes on him as he procured another drink sent his heart thudding into high gear. “Laurence, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed.”

“You didn’t push. I just … I don’t know … I’m not … I wasn’t …” He sighed as he returned to her side. “I only get tongue tied around you, you know.” Trying not to let her small smile derail him, he said, “What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t anticipate facing my past today and it’s a little overwhelming. I’d lost everyone who really mattered to me and I guess I sort of shut down on a personal level.”

“Everyone?” Adelle asked, slipping her hand into his. “Surely that isn’t the case.”

“You through my own stubbornness, the guys to the Germans, my family due to the war changing me.” He guessed at the source of her puzzlement. “I can’t go back home, Adelle. Not after what I’ve seen and done. I couldn’t face my mom and I’d say awful things to my sister once she jumpstarted her matchmaking campaign. I’m not the son or brother I was and I sure as hell can’t tell them what I told you. They wouldn’t understand that leadership can be an impossible burden. They’d offer me a piece of cherry pie to put the world to rights.” He leaned forward. “The time when it would’ve is well and truly passed.” He cupped her chin in his hand. “I’m good at it, Adelle—the business of war, all of it. From close quarter fighting to holding a line under heavy fire to planning advances to moving a large number of men long distances without stretching supply lines to breaking. I’m proud of those abilities.”

“As you should be.”

“I’m not proud that I thrived on everything involved in winning. Killing a man with a bayonet is an intimate act. Bullets aren’t nearly as personal, but I always knew where mine lodged. I know it was them or me, but it seems wrong to have felt like my victories, large and small, somehow proved we were better than the Germans. Not taking the moral high ground, I mean in a physical or visceral way.” He punched his thigh in frustration. “I’m not saying this very well.”

“Did you enjoy killing, Laurence?”

Her quiet question helped him find words. “No,” he said. “I mostly felt tired, sore and dirty, but in quiet moments those feelings of superiority would surface. We won. You lost. We’re better. That’s exactly the kind of thinking behind those concentration camps, Adelle. When I consider what we did to Japan to end the war, I wonder—did the right side win?”

“We won,” she said with a shrug. “Whether the world is better off remains to be seen.”

Silence fell and Dominic steered her to the small sofa. Sitting side by side, they sipped their drinks. “You’re really here,” he finally said.

“I am.”

“You kissed me.”

She smiled up at him. “I did.”

“I should get to kiss you.” To her raised eyebrow, he said, “It’s only fair.”

“So it would appear,” Adelle allowed, placing her champagne on the small table to her left.

He mimicked her to his right. “Then we’ll be even.”

“Until I kiss you again,” she said, taking his hand and placing it on her shoulder.

Silk beneath his fingertips felt both foreign and familiar. “I’m sorry for boring you with my crisis of character.”

Tilting her head to press her cheek to his hand briefly, she said, “I’m pleased you shared it with me.”

“I miss sharing things with you.”

“An easily rectifiable situation.”

His hand migrated from her shoulder to the back of her neck. “We both have blood on our hands,” he whispered. “I’m glad, because I don’t think I could allow myself to touch you, if we didn’t. How twisted is that?”

“Twisted or not, do get on with the touching, won’t you?”

Laughing, he kissed her. When Adelle opened her mouth to him, he cupped a breast with his free hand and squeezed gently. Without breaking the kiss, she wrapped her arms around his neck and shifted onto his lap. Inadvertently, his grip tightened and she hissed in pleasure. “Adelle, how far are we going with this?” he panted, not confident of Vandermeer’s ability to keep everyone at bay.

“Haven’t we lost enough time?” she asked, expression serious rather than sultry.

“To be honest, we’d have been apart for much of the time, anyway. I’d have gone.”

“You’d have written. We all would have—you, me and Judith. We’d have known your fate and that of your friends.”

He ran the fingers of both hands through her hair. “I think I’ve apologized for that, but I’ll do it again if you want.”

“An apology isn’t what I want.” She kissed him hard on the mouth, as she shifted enticingly in his lap.

He took the kiss he was now owed and they half-reclined on the sofa by the time he raised his head. Adelle smiled sinfully and reached for him, frowning magnificently when he leapt to his feet. Bending down, he scooped her into his arms. “I want you naked in my bed,” he said.

“You read my mind, Colonel,” she replied.

“Now I can focus on your body.”

* * *

The bedroom looked barely used, making Adelle suspect that Dominic slept on the settee next door, if at all. As he laid her down gently on the sheets, his pensive expression provoked a wave of tenderness. She drew him in to kiss, caress and gradually remove their clothing.

He smelt the same. The skin she traced with her fingertips felt the same and the spot on his hip remained delightfully sensitive. The neat, well-healed scar on his shoulder was a new addition. She brushed her lips to it in acknowledgment of an experience leaving indelible marks.

She sighed with pleasure, as he carefully undid the buttons of her blouse. His hands slid over her stomach to her breasts, while she shrugged the garment from her shoulders. When his lips travelled along her collar bone, she moaned quietly and dug her fingertips into his shoulders. Adelle whispered his name, as he caressed her knee and along her thigh. Her skirt yielded to him, her stockings slowly peeled away and her underwear deftly removed. Finally she lay beneath him, wearing nothing but a blush from the heat of his gaze.

Her body opened to his touch with indecent haste. She had been celibate for over two years without any inclination to take a lover. Now she understood she’d been waiting for him. Their deeds set them apart from others but also made them equals. The hands that cupped her breasts had fought and killed and as she slid her hands down his back, she thought briefly of the agents she’d sent to their deaths. They both did have blood on their hands. Only by stopping that darkness from engulfing them could they make their victory mean something.

His breathing laboured, his touch heated and her body clamoured for a more intimate joining than skin on skin. He pulled away to strip off the remainder of his uniform before hurriedly returning to her embrace, as though even that absence had been too long.

In a brief moment of clarity, she thought about contraception. “Do you have something?” He lifted his mouth from her body, obviously disconcerted.

“God knows, maybe at the bottom of my pack.” He started to sit up, but the errand would take time and be without much chance of success.

“We could risk it,” she whispered, as though suggesting something illicit.

“You sure?” When she nodded he kissed her and promised, "I’ll be careful,”

Naked, they tussled for dominance. Pinned beneath him and not minding one bit, she asked, “What do you want Laurence?”

* * *

“I don’t know,” Laurence Dominic whispered, framing Adelle DeWitt’s face with his hands. “I never imagined I’d get a second chance, not with how things ended for us. I thought I’d burned my bridges.” He kissed her, slowly and thoroughly. “I’m glad I didn’t. You have no idea how glad.”

“I think I do, actually,” she said, pulling him into another deep, tongue tangling kiss. “Because I feel exactly the same way.”

He chuckled, rocking his hips against hers, proving his desire as he slipped a hand between her legs. “It’s been a long time since I’ve thought much about sex.” Working her urgently, he said, “My men assumed I had someone back home and I let them. That’s better than owning up to the fact that I’d fallen for an amazing woman and screwed it the hell up before I’d ever seen combat.”

Adelle clung to him as though her life depended upon it. Watching this woman lose control stoked him like nothing else. “Don’t you dare stop,” she groaned. He didn’t and she whimpered and shuddered against him as she came.

He held her close as she caught her breath, ignoring the urgency building between his legs. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to please you.” Chest heaving, she looked at him as though he’d lost his mind which made him laugh. “The last time I gave sex a try wasn’t what anyone would call stellar.”

“This time,” she murmured, hand curving around his hip, “you’re with me.” Smiling, Adelle wrapped her hand around him and stroked. “I want to please you, Laurence,” she whispered. “I want to wash away the time we were apart. I want to make pretty blonde German women pale in comparison.” When he groaned helplessly, she guided him inside her.


“Why can’t I resist you?” he asked, pumping his hips in earnest, not surprised that she moved with him fluidly.

“You don’t want to,” she panted. “We match on so many levels.” Working for her orgasm as hard as he was, she said, “We’re in this together as we were meant to be and I love you.” On that either ominous or fortuitous note, they flew over the edge of a spectacular orgasm.

“Sorry,” Dominic muttered the moment he could form words. “I … I meant to pull out before … Christ, but you felt so good, I just … I’m sorry.”

“I told you we’d risk it, but I fully expect you to acquire some protection before tomorrow night.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, laughing until her lips silenced him. When she let up, he yawned and his eyes drifted closed. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then?” he murmured.

Adelle’s hands worked the tense muscles at the back of his neck cleverly. Dominic’s eyes wouldn’t open and yawns kept on coming. Sleep overtook him before he could put up much of a fight.

“You can count on that, Laurence.”


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You wrote them getting back together beautifully. I love that Dominic is so obviously a changed character in this chapter. His voice just sounds completely different so that was amazing to read. Adelle sounds different too actually, but it's more subtle.

This was just a great chapter you guys. Just great!

Is this the end or is there more?

I wanted the war to change Dominic profoundly (kind of like the Attic had to change the character in Jossverse) and I'm glad that came through.

Adelle did change less but I think it's her priorities that have shifted somewhat. She's allowing the personal to matter more, I think.

Thanks so much for reading and the kind words.

More. 25 chapters plus an epilogue in total. Almost done editing, thank goodness.

Yes! I did see the parallels between his character change here and the character change that went on in the show while he was in the Attic.

Agreed. I saw Adelle's change in priorities. You guys both did great in making those changes obvious I think.

Ooh awesome! There's still tons to come! :D

They're back together!! I love how their reconciliation was written, it was very realistic and I love the shift in character. It was so well done and character appropriate.

I think, so far, this is my favourite of all the chapters.

(and Hurray for Harry surviving for Judith)

I liked the idea that they'd spent enough time apart and it was extremely fortunate that they ran into each other again, so why delay at this stage. Nothing good would come of that.

We pondered over Harry's fate for a while but decided to let him live.:)

I'm glad you liked this chapter. In retrospect, it could've ended here, but we both felt that there was more to say in this context. Hope it continues to work.

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