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Epitaph 1 and 1/2 Part 2
damien listening guitar
rogoblue
Rating: R (language and sexual situations)
Summary: The interrogation of the harem does not run completely smoothly.
Link to part 1--http://rogoblue.livejournal.com/28541.html



Bunker 17

“What do you think?” Laurence Dominic asked the small contingent of people he’d selected to observe. He rolled his shoulders in an effort to relieve the stiffness of sitting for too long and interrogating the twenty-eight members of the harem of Darian Cray, 8 of them under the age of 15. “Are we giving two back as consolation prizes for the loss of his territory?”

“It’s not lost yet,” said a sullen, pathological pessimist by the name of Robert Clarke.

“Yeah, it is,” Dominic said with grim satisfaction. “With our help, Esteban held all three pressure points, grinding Cray’s run at the inland food supply to a halt. Then we hit him hard and fast on both flanks and I don’t doubt for a minute that Drake mentioned the loss of consortium aspect to the whole thing when he overran the command post. He’s talking terms as we speak.”

“What deal have you cut with Esteban?” Clarke asked.

“He keeps his territory and becomes a node in the network.”

Adelle DeWitt’s sharp gaze speared him from Clarke’s left, distracting him. “Did you grant him Cray’s territory, Dom?” Clarke asked.

“Do I appear to have taken leave of my senses, Robert?”

The small, thin brainiac smiled in a way that would’ve suited Topher Brink. Dominic shuddered inwardly. “If you’re functioning on at least half of your cylinders, you gave it over to Lance to finally prove himself worthy.”

“I did.” Dominic basked in the approval of one of the cleverest men he’d ever known. “Back to the ladies, using the term loosely, I guess. Recycling two?”

“A matched set,” Devon Moore noted with a grin.

Amid general agreement, Adelle DeWitt said, “I’d send three on their way, if I were you.”

Dominic reviewed his notes, enjoying the stunned silence for a few moments before breaking it. “The twins and who else?”

Her neutral expression touched an odd chord and put him instantly on alert. “The one who flirted with you, Mr. Dominic.”

“They all did to one extent or another,” he said, not bragging, admittedly re-creeped out by the attention paid him by the true kids in the group and unfortunately harkening back to his and Adelle’s earlier conversation about how leadership is prized by those who want protection. “They’re scared.”

“More specifically, the one with whom you enjoyed flirting.”

He laughed. “You think that little blonde played me? Seriously?” Robert eyeing Adelle with interest filled Dominic with foreboding.

“She noted your distaste at the identification of the even more diminutive 12-year old as Cray’s current favorite and used it to deflect attention from herself.” She shrugged with only her right shoulder. “It was artfully done.”

“Our conversation did digress a bit,” he allowed magnanimously, “but I don’t see her as you obviously do.” Still and all, this was Adelle Dewitt and it would be foolish to dismiss her comments out of hand. “In deference to your legendary ability to read people, I’ll reevaluate the blonde, albeit on the fly. Fair enough?”

“You won’t be sorry you did,” she said with a crisp nod, bringing out the chilly smile she’d perfected, probably in front of a full length mirror at some point during high school or whatever they called it in England. He watched in disbelief as Robert sidled over and introduced himself to her.

“Darby and Shaw will escort whoever you see fit back to whatever passes for home or, if they prefer, to the medium security prison we’ve created for Cray,” Devon said. “His compound is way bigger than necessary to house him, so Lance will have all the room he likes to install his people, our people.” Likely in reaction to Adelle’s start of surprise, he added, “We try to leave the vanquished some pride, so long as they’re not actually a threat to what we’re trying to do.”

“You misunderstand me,” Adelle said, nodding in Devon’s direction. “I merely wondered who Darby and Shaw might be and whether they will be up to the task assigned.”

Not for the first time, Dominic appreciated Devon’s flair for staffing. “Sending a gay couple to deal with heterosexual temptations just about rises to the level of art in my opinion,” he said.

“And in mine,” she allowed.

“Let’s deliver the news to our lovely contestants.” Dominic looked over his shoulder and met Adelle’s eyes briefly, as he exited the small meeting room. Christ, she looks sure about the blonde. If she is, I’m either more tired than I thought or my meds aren’t packing their usual punch. Maybe both. Following Devon to the cafeteria of the bunker the younger man had selected in which to deal with the harem—one a respectable distance from the command post, Dominic considered how to play his hand.

Devon grinned widely, as they arrived. “Show time!”

Dominic strode into the midst of Cray’s harem. “We won’t forcibly send any of you back, other than the very few we suspect are covert operatives,” he announced. “Similarly, we won’t keep you here, if you wish to return. Know this, though. If you stay, there will be school and chores for those under 17 and gainful employment of some kind for the rest.” Risking a small smile, he said, “The days of waiting around for someone to want to fuck you are over. So, if you’d like to return, please step over to the left and Mr. Pierce will see to your transportation as soon as is practicable.”

Ten of the females opted to return, including the twin spies but not the blonde Adelle had identified or Marissa—the 12-year old favorite who smiled tremulously. Learning algebra has to be a step up for her, but why in the hell are both of the twins going back? That makes no sense—one should stay behind, unless I’ve read the situation completely wrong.
“Fuck me,” he muttered and scowled in Adelle’s general direction.

She raised an eyebrow and quirked her mouth in a way that he’d have interpreted as “Let’s get on with it, shall we?” once upon a time.

Watching the little blonde, he said, “Kaitlin will settle the rest of you in.” The flare of triumph was brief but telling. His jaw clenched. “Except for you,” he said, nodding to the young woman Adelle had made.

The blonde smiled big. “Do you have something special in mind for me?”

“Should I?” She put her hands on her hips and looked him over. “Is there anything … special about you?” he pressed. “Maybe something about yourself that you feel you ought to tell me? Or want to confess?”

Laughing, she said, “A naughty priest fantasy, huh? That’s a new one on me, I’ll admit, but I’m happy to play that way. Bless me, father, for I have sinned.”

While trying to recall which of his college roommates had decreed that there was nothing quite as fun as a Catholic girl gone bad, he knew his laughter stemmed from vastly disparate roots than the young woman’s.

“Are you finding this confrontation a touch awkward?” Adelle DeWitt asked, her blank expression somehow enhancing the amusement in her tone. “With the shoe being on the other foot, as it were.”

“We’ve certainly put the ‘it takes one to know one’ myth to rest, ma’am.” He noted confusion seeping into the blonde’s demeanor. She’s no longer sure who’s in charge. This might even be fun going forward. “Ok, you don’t seem to want to be straight with me and I can’t say that I blame you, because I’d be reluctant to tell if I were in your shoes.” Looking his opponent directly in the eye, he said, “I’ve made that same choice, in fact, and I can tell you from experience that it did not go well for me.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Her imploring looks back at the two groups of former colleagues garnered sympathy from nearly every one of them, as far as Dominic could tell. “I truly don’t.” She tried a slightly more sexualized version of that look on him. “Please don’t hurt me.”

“That’s damn good,” he said, glancing at his former boss. “C’mon, Adelle, you have to give her that. Look at that lip quiver and how she bites the lower to stop it. That’s fucking charming. Attention to detail is so important.”

“I won’t gainsay your professional opinion in that regard.”

“What the fuck, Dom?” Pierce asked. He didn’t trust what he didn’t understand and Dominic liked that about him.

“What we have here,” he said, gesturing to the blonde, “is a spy.”

“Cray rarely bothers with advance scouts. Can’t see him running spies, not even cute blonde ones.”

The accused beamed at Pierce. “I’m Hope.”

“Think on it before you decide to introduce yourself to a Rossum spy,” Dominic advised. On Pierce, shock looked kind of comical. “I wasn’t looking for that, so I missed it. And I superimposed how I do things on Cray, which compounded the error.” He took a deep breath. “Now we need to mitigate the damage.”

“I’m not following,” Devon said and Dominic knew what that admission cost him.

“If your leader were to have a harem, he would also have spies in place—to spy on the others and determine if all was as it seemed among the concubines. Someone smarter and looking for bigger fish to be fried would place an opportunist to monitor the situation and look for ways to improve her situation.” Everyone stared at Adelle. When Pierce realized his mouth was open, he shut it with an audible snap. “Shall I go on?” she asked.

“Please do,” Dominic suggested.

“The decision to kidnap Cray’s harem provided an unanticipated opportunity for a Rossum spy—an inroad into the command structure of the organized resistance.” A flip comment about dissing Caroline died in Dominic’s throat when Adelle turned away from Hope and inclined her head in his direction, as if giving him the floor once again, after one final observation. “No spy of any ambition or ability could resist.”

History flowed between the two and the rest of the people present faded into the background. Her words felt like … understanding.

“What happens now?” Devon’s question broke the spell.

“We figure out how to use her to our advantage,” he said.

“I’m not a spy,” Hope said, nearly dropping her lipstick twice as she fumbled to touch up the pale pink sheen.

“I could just watch her all day,” Dominic noted. “This is good stuff.”

“Please,” she said, visibly bucking up her courage and stepping forward. “I don’t know how to convince you or what to say to make you see that you’ve made a mistake.” Taking another step, she said, “I know men don’t like to admit that they’re wrong. I get that; I do, but I’m no spy. I am … well, you know what I am. I was a waitress.” She smiled through the tears brimming in her eyes. “Waiting to be discovered, you know, like half of the people who lived here Before.” A niggling doubt formed, but he pushed it away as she stepped into his personal space. “I swear,” she murmured.

“Ok,” Dominic said.

“Ok?” What should’ve been confused but hopeful looked more like stunned shock.

“Ok. You’re not a spy. Go back with the others.”

Her hand lifted to his cheek. “Thank you,” she barely breathed. “Thank you.” She stood on tiptoe to kiss him, ostensibly to reward him for his change of heart.

“Mr.—“

“One step ahead of you this time, ma’am,” he said, stepping behind the girl, deftly handcuffing her wrists together and holding out the lipstick he’d taken from her pocket to his left. “Analyze this, if you’re so inclined, Clarke. It won’t be a short acting poison and the antidote is probably something easily attainable, maybe even edible, because she needs to be able to get it for herself.”

“I’m on it.”

“I’m more curious about how long it’ll be before she asks us for whatever it is.” He crossed his arms in front of him, inadvertently, or maybe not so much, channeling Laurence Dominic, chief of security of the LA Dollhouse. “Put her in a screening room without letting her mouth anywhere near you and air the show on channel one.”

“That’s barbaric!” Hope said, fear at war with outrage in her sharp eyes.

“That’s rich, coming from the woman who tried to poison me.”

“I have information.”

Dominic shook his head slowly. “I know more than I ever wanted to know about Cray. Besides, I’m looking forward to seeing what you had in store for me happen to you. If what’s already transpired is any indication, the performance is bound to be good.”

“Information about Rossum.”

He kept his grudging admiration for the girl to himself. “The only thing I have more than a passing interest in is the identity of your contact. Who is it that got word of whatever you were up to with Cray to Rossum?”

Silence reigned, until Marissa said, “I bet it’s Neil Spade. I saw her speak to him more than once.” The blonde didn’t even twitch which, in and of itself, gave the entire game away.

“Thanks, Marissa,” Dominic said, gesturing to the defeated spy before him. “You should’ve begged me not to hurt the lover you kept on the side who has absolutely no connection to Rossum. Done well, that’d have created some doubt and I harbor no illusions that you wouldn’t have done it splendidly.”

Turning away from the fear in the woman’s eyes, he considered his next move in regard to her and how to juggle that with the million other things to do. “Oh wait, one more thing, Marissa. Was Hope at all close with any of them?” He lifted his hand in the general direction of the women who’d opted to go back.

“Ellen, I think,” she said and a girl around 16 looked alarmed. “She sort of looked out for the younger ones.”

He answered Hope’s defiant sneer with a shrug. “There’s nothing wrong with that. All the best covert operatives go a little native.”

“You were a spy,” Hope stated. He nodded, despite the lack of interrogative. “You were caught.”

“Yes.”

“What happened to you?”

“I survived the experience.” Leaving her to stew on that, he headed for the office he kept at this bunker.

* * *

“It is barbaric, Dom,” Danielle ventured fifteen minutes after Hope showed the first signs of distress.

“The harshness is extreme, man.” Devon rested a hand on Dominic’s shoulder. “Folks are starting to mumble about it in a negatory way.”

Looking at the screen, he took a few slow breaths and felt the weight of Adelle’s gaze. “There’s nothing I can do without the antidote.”

“You can stop broadcasting it.”

Shaking his head, he asked, “Have you ever wondered why I’ve not taken Rossum on more directly?” He nodded toward Adelle. “Or taken to blowing shit up like Caroline?”

Devon and Dani shared a look that screamed yes.

“Because I can’t.”

“What the fuck do you mean, you can’t?” Devon demanded. “We’ve got weapons and people who know how to use them.”

He and Adelle shared a glance of perfect understanding. “To hit Rossum hard now, I’d need an organization that’s lean and mobile. Pulling a lot people together and creating stability requires a different approach. If I do one iota more than I’m currently contemplating, Rossum will come down on us with all that they have. I’d give my life and everyone else’s here for nothing. I won’t do that. We’re not ready to take them on in that manner.”

“What does this have to do with broadcasting Hope?” Dani asked. He saw Adelle’s nod of approval of the question.

“She’s an object lesson.”

“Each person you take in to your community is a potential Rossum spy,” Adelle said, stepping to Dominic’s side. “This sort of public display of the consequences of such activity serves to protect you all. It’s prudent, if distasteful.”

“Is it all for nothing, Dom? Are we fighting for something unattainable?”

Devon’s questions demanded careful consideration. “No. The first step is being able to broadcast without the risk of imprint feedback and we’re nearly there. Once we can reach everybody safely, we can recruit in a bigger way, coordinate activities better and begin to make real inroads.” He smiled and fist bumped Devon. “Our prisoner has given us the ability to buy the time we need. I think.”

As if on cue, Hope said, “Milk. Please, give me some milk.”

“The antidote?” Adelle suggested.

“We’ll find out in a half an hour or so,” Dominic countered.

“What?” Dani demanded.

“She needs to be well and truly frightened for what I have in mind to work. By then, she ought to be.”

“By then, she could be dead.”

“That’s why we’ll monitor the situation and be sure she’s lucid enough to do what I want done, assuming she’s amenable,” he countered.

“Which is?” Adelle asked.

Dominic glanced around the office to make sure no one who he didn’t trust implicitly, plus Adelle, remained. “If all goes well, every Rossum assassin within a 500 mile radius will be eliminated.” He took a breath. “It’ll take them a while to shuffle personnel to make up that kind of manpower shortfall, allowing us more freedom than usual.”

“You’ll have Hope deliver a message to Neil saying what exactly?” Adelle asked.

He grinned. “That I’m going to oversee the transition of power in Cray’s territory personally, giving sufficient detail of timing and where I’ll hole up to tempt the most recalcitrant of Rossum faithful.”

“Delivered to him by the child Marissa pointed out, I presume.” Adelle frowned magnificently. “Thereby putting her at risk.”

“And to give Hope another reason to play straight with us.”

“If it’s true that she played big sister to those kids,” Dani muttered.

“It is,” Dominic said and felt the agreement vibe emanating from DeWitt. “I’ll have my best covert guy put ears on Neil and he’ll lead us to everyone else. Neil won’t have any reason to retaliate against our messenger until everything goes south and, by then, he’ll be more concerned with his fate than hers.”

“Will your operation be a concerted or piecemeal?”

God, he loved not having to explain everything. “Piecemeal, ma’am. If Neil knows his business, he’ll meet with the other talent one on one or in small groups at vastly disparate locations and only once to avoid drawing attention to himself or the others. I don’t have enough people to put on this to wait for the main event, so we’ll take most of them out sooner.”

Adelle considered a moment before she asked, “Will you actually serve as bait?”

Dominic laughed. “The people you see before you wouldn’t let me, but Neil has no way of knowing that.”

“Good.”

He disagreed. “I feel like Jean Luc Picard more and more as time goes by.”

“Who?”

Adelle’s confusion made him smile. “A leader who rarely sees any action.”

“That seems prudent, Mr. Dominic.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Turning to Devon, he ordered, “Escort Ms. DeWitt back to the command post. Put her in my office for now.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. “Bring the Rossum-linked laptop there too.”

“I will put your ducks in a row, boss man.”

Turning to Adelle, he said, “I’ll try to find out where they’re holding Topher when I get back. I’d appreciate it if you took a few minutes to come up with search terms. My information on him is dated.”

“I will, Mr. Dominic.”

* * *

Command Post

“I’ll be fine, Dani,” Laurence Dominic promised as he approached his office, anticipating the fire of alcohol sliding down his throat while he sat in the dark and thought about nothing for a time.

“You need some rest,” she pointed out. “You’ve been going non-stop for … I’m not even sure how long now.”

“There’s a lot to do.”

“There’s always a lot to do, Dom.”

“I’ll take a pill.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

Halting just outside his door, he said, “We’ve had this conversation.”

“I know and I don’t want to nag, but Dr. Evans says that prolonged use of those uppers of yours can lead to some serious health problems.”

“Invoking the doc is new.”

“Don’t make light of this,” she insisted, resting her hands on his hips.

“An irregular heartbeat or whatever is nothing in comparison to death by poisoning.”

She kissed him lightly on the mouth. “Let’s go upstairs.”

Sadly, solitude beckoned far more beguilingly. “Maybe after I have a look at what’s piled up on my desk while I’ve been gone.”

“Shall I be waiting for you?”

“That’s your call.”

“Naked and naughty or prim and proper?”

“Whatever, Dani. I don’t care.” Her sharp inhalation highlighted his error and demanded a response, but he couldn’t fathom what would be safe. “Maybe you should have a few drinks with Amy tonight. She’s way more articulate than I am.”

“You have a very clever tongue.”

Knowing they weren’t talking about conversation anymore drew a smile to his lips. “Who says she doesn’t?”

“Are you daring me to comparison shop, Dom?”

“It would pass the time.”

She rolled her eyes as she turned away. Looking over her shoulder, she said, “Think about getting some rest, anyway?” His crisp salute earned him a sad smile.

Dominic made a beeline for his stash of booze, poured and drank deeply. A shudder worked its way through him. Another, more pronounced tremor jettisoned the notion of a cold draft in favor of a delayed reaction to the events of the day. He brought his glass to his lips with trembling hands and somehow managed to sip without spillage. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. The proverbial fatal mistake was only heartbeats away. Fuck me into next month.

“Penny for your thoughts, Mr. Dominic.”

His gun appeared in his hands—the magic of training and muscle memory. Adrenaline flooded his system and his brain caught up with his body, as he squinted in the dimness of the light cast by the small lamp on the end table next to the couch. “Jesus fucking Christ, Adelle. Clear your throat or something. Jesus.”

“It appears a warning shot across the bow would’ve ended badly.”

The shakes returned with a vengeance and Dominic didn’t trust himself to holster the weapon with anything resembling competence, so he put it down on his desk.

Adelle arrived at his side with a towel. She ignored the hand he’d extended for it and began to wipe up the drink he’d spilled. “You don’t have to do that.”

“You are indeed a man capable of cleaning up his own messes,” Adelle said, “but I’d like to atone for startling you.”

“You just took at least six months off of my life expectancy, even using the most optimistic actuarial tables. I rate that higher than startling.”

“You’re trembling.”

“Thank you for noticing,” he muttered and retreated a half a step.

“My observation wasn’t made to unman you in any way. It was merely a prelude to my suggestion that you take a seat while I pour us both another drink.”

Her gesture toward his couch prompted Dominic to put one foot in front of the other in that direction. He sat at the end furthest from the light, the warmth he felt proving his assumption and vague memory that Adelle had been seated at the other to be erroneous. Keeping the thought that everyone seemed to want to take care of him tonight to himself, he accepted the beverage she offered as she sat next to him. “Thanks,” he mumbled. “Sorry I took your spot.”

“I wasn’t particularly partial to it.”

Finding himself smiling and not understanding why, he said, “That little spectacle didn’t do my ruthless rebel leader reputation any favors.”

“I have no plans to disclose what I witnessed and strongly doubt I’d be believed if I did, so your reputation will remain unblemished.” She shifted position slightly, bringing her shoulder into contact with his upper arm. With a small sigh, she leaned into him a little. “How did your negotiation with Hope proceed?”

Grateful for the subject change, he said, “As I expected it to. We talked about Neil, paying particular attention to his level of ambition and tolerance for risk. A lot and high is optimal for this. I’m not one hundred percent certain she wasn’t just telling me what she thought I wanted to hear, but we’ll know soon enough.” Sitting with Adelle DeWitt in near darkness with their heads close together like coconspirators struck him as strange yet not uncomfortable. “In exchange for the milk, she agreed to write the note I dictated, deviating just enough so that it might sound like she wrote it. She says she didn’t include any sort of distress code and I believe her.”

“Because you’ll have her killed if Neil runs?”

“I’ll do it myself but, yeah, that’s it in a nutshell.”

“Which also means she is reasonably sure he won’t get spooked by anything else.”

“I read it that way too.”

She smiled, as if pleased by the agreement. “I’m curious. You said something about being close to launching, for lack of a better description, a broadcast network. What do you aim to do with it?”

“Several things.” He smirked. “Why are we whispering?”

“Isn’t that how best to tell secrets in the dark?”

“Are we going to play truth or dare next?”

“If you like.”

They shared a laugh and, amazingly, he felt a major portion of his tension draining away. “First, the network will allow for better communication across the organization. Second, it’ll be useful to keep morale up. Finally and most importantly, we want to include as many public nodes as we can to alert people who are still themselves that there is some level of organization out there and available to them. It’s going to be broadcast only; that’s the only way to manage the imprint risk.” He shrugged, not hard enough to dislodge Adelle. “Or so my former gamers tell me.” Regarding her closely, he said, “I’m not trying anything, it’s just that my arm’s going to sleep.” She didn’t even blink when he draped his arm across her shoulders. “What are you thinking?” he asked.

“I’m trying to imagine the world with such a network in it.”

Sipping his drink, watching his companion, he marveled how young and vulnerable she looked at this light level wearing casual clothes. He shook his head at the odd turn his thoughts had taken. “I have a hard time believing that I’m nearly able to sort of mimic the original plan.”

“The original …? That of the National Security Agency?”

He nodded. “They’d dubbed me the public face of the takedown of Rossum. Not only the star witness for the prosecution, I’d also testify before Senate subcommittees and international tribunals, appear on CNN regularly and handle the rest of the press, even write the damn bestseller.”

“If the remnants of Rossum or their staunch allies didn’t succeed in assassinating you.”

“There was that monkey wrench in the works, yeah.”

“No, Laurence, I served that role quite ably.”

Not able to quite grasp how her statement was funny, he chuckled anyway because it most assuredly was. “You didn’t kill me, against my express wishes as I recall.”

“I was not going to send a man who’d made himself a hero in Echo, Anthony and Priya’s eyes to his death. I’d have lost them.” Tracing the nail of her right forefinger along the line of his throat, she murmured, “Do you disagree?” When he shook his head, she said, “You’d traded the black hat for the white and there was no going back.”

“I wonder sometimes what purpose the white hat serves when the guy wearing it does the next best thing to nothing.”

“Your pace has been quite break neck since I arrived,” Adelle said, “and I didn’t get the impression that the level of activity has been unusually high.”

Gritting his teeth, he snarled, “I used to lead by example. Now, I sit on the sidelines. Hell, that’s why I’m going to help you find Topher—for the chance to actually do something rather than send other people to do it for me.”

“You’re poised to paint an even larger target on your chest by broadcasting anti-Rossum rhetoric to give frightened people hope and direction. Questioning your dedication and motives under such circumstances strikes a self-indulgent chord.”

He bit back his first ten or fifteen responses and tried to analyze what she’d said. “Do you really think that being a talking head is enough for me?”

“No, nor will that ever serve to encapsulate the role you play in this endeavor.”

A jaw cracking yawn set him wondering where he’d put his pills. “Look, I don’t need to be remembered fondly by generations to come. I just …” He faltered, uncertain and uncharacteristically unwilling to forge ahead regardless.

“You were embarrassed earlier, when you showed signs of being human. Of reacting to the close call you’d had.”

“I forgot I told Devon to park you here.”

She kissed him on the cheek, as likely to recall Hope’s intentions to mind as anything else. “I trust we’ve learned from this that you will need to take care who you allow access to your human moments going forward.”

“Whoever can handle it?” he ventured, finally recovering the bottle of meds from one of the plethora of pockets in his jacket.

“Hope might do nicely, if she’s not made a mistake of the monumental variety and tried to somehow outmaneuver you.” Adelle snatched the pills and pocketed them somewhere Dominic didn’t care to search. “The spark between the two of you won’t hurt, but the understanding is everything and she possesses the experience and empathy to achieve it, if you make it worth her while.”

“Matchmaking instead of truth or dare,” he muttered. “I’m not sure I approve.”

“Do you imagine I need your approval?

“Give me my meds and we’ll look for Topher.”

“You need to sleep.” Adelle leaned in until their foreheads rested against one another. “Rest easy now,” she whispered. “Nothing can touch you here.”

Resting easy didn’t exist as a node in Dominic’s NSA-trained neural network. “Ma’am, my people expect—“

“Discerning as they undoubtedly are, they demand a leader dedicated to the cause who’s taking care of business and himself.” She scooted to the other end of the couch and patted her thigh. “Take what you need and that, as of right now, is rest.”

Slowly, yet less warily than he should, Dominic lay down and put his head in Adelle DeWitt’s lap. “Thought I needed to surrender.”

“When you’re awake enough to appreciate it.”

If she followed her observation up with a pithy remark, he didn’t hear it. Sleep overtook his best intentions.


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I was so excited to see a second chapter!

This was absolutely lovely. I loved all the discussions with Dom and Adelle, it just shows how well they work together and the level of trust and respect that still exists between them. Plus, the last scene was lovely!

For whatever reasons, the post-apocalyptic versions of these two really appeal to me--they are so different and yet enough vestiges remain to reflect back on what went before.

"Are we going to play truth or dare next?" is probably my favorite bit of that scene, but Adelle shines throughout. She has an amazing ability to read people and Dom is proving no exception in this context (and maybe if she'd been able to believe that he really didn't before either, things might've turned out differently).

Thanks, as always, for reading/commenting.

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