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NSA
damien listening guitar
rogoblue
Title: NSA
Rating: R (violence, language and sex)
Author: rogoblue
Summary: NSA tech has been found in Topher’s chair and stuff is going to seriously hit the fan.
Eighth in the Let’s Pretend series (seventh is Return, sixth is Flight, fifth is Tactical Maneuvers, fourth is Strategic Planning, third is Parisian Complications, second is Pretending to Pretend. Link to the seventh is below this summary. You can get to the others from there or via my live journal. Link to this one is below the dedication.

I must admit, Laurence, you clean up remarkably well.

Words: 6,800
Spoilers: Season 1 a tiny bit and 2 a little bit through episode 12.
Disclaimers: The toys are Joss Whedon’s. The idea is mine.
Dedication: To all the faithful comment writers. It's been nice sharing this with you.



“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Laurence Dominic nearly screamed into his cellular phone the instant the elevator door closed behind him. “I am so fucking close to getting cooperation for our agenda at the highest level I can access and you’re fucking with the goddamn chair. I’ve given three years of my life to get to this point and several before that to set up this phase of the operation and you’re screwing with me. I’m giving serious thought to walking out the front door and into the sunset. I’ve laid all of the groundwork. Christ knows, I’ve paid my dues. I deserve better than this, Clarice.”

“Are you through, Dominic?”

“Not even close,” Laurence said, pulling one of Topher’s sight and sound blockers out of his suit coat pocket, checking for the third time that it was on.

“Are you interested in the answer to your question?”

“Go.”

“That’s my guy.”

“Fuck you, Clarice.”

Her laughter sounded loud over the cellular phone. “I’ve been forced to accept that you have your eye on someone else. Is the British accent that much of a turn on, Dom?”

Time to end this line of inquiry. “It’s the other things she does with her mouth that interest me.”

“This part of our conversation isn’t over, but I’d like to take your question, if I may.”

I’m not going to discuss Adelle with you. There was a time when I might’ve. Not anymore. “Tell me who put the tech in the chair and why.”

“We don’t know.”

Dominic stared at his phone for an instant before he asked, “What?”

“Dom, slow down.” Clarice’s vocal cadence followed her advice. “There’s no parallel operation vis a vis Rossum. You know there isn’t. If you take a second to think, you’ll recall we work for the single most paranoid man on the planet. He has mole programs running around the world and his information domestically is completely accurate. No other intelligence agency has an operation running against Rossum. Other than the lone wolf activities of the obsessive Mr. Ballard, it’s us and the global network we’ve created to infiltrate the Dollhouses and Rossum corporate.” She took a breath, as likely giving him a moment to digest her words as to take time to collect her thoughts. “We don’t know who or why, so our advice is to do whatever you have to do to protect yourself.”

“What?” Dominic wondered at the different inflection he’d given the same word—the first demanding the second a tentative question.

“Turtle, Dom.” He almost didn’t hear her addition. “Please.”

“I can’t,” he said. “I’m in the middle of everything.”

“Hide behind DeWitt and keep your head down,” Clarice suggested.

“That’s not exactly in character for Laurence Dominic.”

“Laurence Dominic has never been at so great a risk. You’ve gone against mission parameters and developed more than a professional relationship with Adelle DeWitt. You need to use it.”

Heart pounding, mind frantically assessing, Dominic muttered, “I haven’t developed—.”

“Don’t try to bullshit me, Dom. I know what smitten looks and sounds like.”

Dominic froze. “Smitten?”

“We obtained a recording of a very interesting conversation conducted in a lovely little Parisian restaurant and a set of telling photographs from an impressive opera house.”

“I don’t care what you thought you saw or heard. I’m telling you, I—.”

“Shall we discuss the field assessment made in a hotel elevator?”

Collapsing into Adelle’s chair, Dominic asked, “Those two American girls were ours?”

“Yes.” He heard the sound of papers being shuffled. “I’m quoting. Mr. Dominic and Ms. DeWitt were comfortable together. Holding hands. Making and maintaining eye contact. In lying about three years of marriage, Mr. Dominic said, ‘I remember the I-need-you-right-now days, don’t you, sweetheart?’ to which Ms. DeWitt replied, ‘Vividly.’ We believe these statements accurately reflected the current state of affairs. End of quotation. Care to comment, Dominic?”

“I’m trying to inspire Adelle to trust me, Clarice.”

“She already trusts you.” A soft chuckle sounded over the line. “I think I actually heard you wince, Dom. Don’t think I didn’t notice her first name slip easily off of your tongue. Now I’d like you to hear it in your own words.”

“Clarice, this is hardly the time for—.”

“Listen to the recording. I think you’ll be impressed with the sound quality.”

“Giselle is fun.” Laurence closed his eyes at the sound of his voice. “She’s a snack. You … you’re everything else. The multi-course gourmet meal. And that is not some sort of slam on your weight. It speaks to your depth. There’s so much more to you than there is to Giselle. Layers and facets and … plots within plots. She’s instant gratification. You’re something to savor over a long time. I can’t believe I just said that.”

“Why ever not?”
Adelle’s voice spoke to him the second time much as it had the first.

“I’m not supposed to think of you that way.”

“I thought we agreed to pretend to pretend.”


“Pretending to pretend,” Clarice said. “I find the concept interesting. Moving on to the interview one of our attractive young male agents very recently conducted with Monique Zeiss on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles. I’m quoting again. Just business associates? Hardly. They were totally into each other on the plane. Freaked Lisa—she works for Dominic—the hell out. End quote.”

“Are you labeling me rogue based on the active imagination of a teenager, an elevator ride and my successful effort to compare Adelle to another woman and not piss her off too much?” Dominic asked. “That seems harsh, even for you.”

“I’m making sure you’re facing facts, Dom. It isn’t like I haven’t seen you in this state before. Distracted agents make mistakes. You can’t afford any. Not now.”

“I know the stakes, Clarice. Better than you do.”

“Know this, Dominic. There was talk of pulling you when we received the information out of Paris.”

“On the basis of my alleged relationship with Ms. DeWitt?”

“Based upon your developing relationship with Adelle and the number of shots you fired in the Paris Dollhouse which, fortunately for you, no one other than me realized how intimately related those two issues are. Also fortunately for you, I was available to advocate in favor of someone of your experience and record being permitted to play the hand he’s been dealt.”

“Thanks, Clarice.”

“Don’t fuck up and get yourself killed, Dom. Don’t make me sorry I didn’t let them pull you. Don’t you fucking dare.”

“I’m not caught in the trap yet,” Dominic said, spinning restlessly in Adelle’s chair.

“You think this is a trap set for you?”

“It’s the most disturbing possibility, so it’s probably true.”

Clarice was silent for so long; Dominic wondered if she’d hung up on him. “I don’t like it. I’m ordering an extraction for you.”

“If you do, it’ll be years before we get this close again, if at all.”

“If I don’t, we risk you.”

“We’ve been risking me for years. I’m used to it.” Taking a breath, feeling it catch in his throat, Dominic said, “Can you give me anything, Clarice.”

“Our orders are to initiate operation ‘FUBAR.’”

“No.”

“Dom, don’t be an ass. It’s what we have in place. It’ll work.”

“It doesn’t track, as I’ve said at every fucking opportunity.”

He heard Clarice sigh. “This isn’t a request.”

“Put that on my tombstone, Clarice.”

“Dominic, don’t—.”

“If I survive the next 24 hours, I’ll call you to discuss your geraniums.”

“Understood. Be careful, Dom.”

“Extremely reckless might be better,” he murmured.

“Your call. Good luck.”

* * *

Several Hours Later

Dominic stood next to Adelle as Echo interviewed Topher, Ivy, Langton and Dr. Saunders. He was disappointed in her interrogation of Langton and Whiskey’s had been difficult to hear. Dan Jenkins, the communications expert on his security team, was on the hot seat at the moment.

“What’s troubling you, Laurence?” Adelle said, voice low.

“The timing of this incident for one thing.”

“Strikes you as a bit too convenient that this crisis arose just as we returned from our exciting European vacation?”

“It does.” He glanced over to Jenkins and made inadvertent eye contact with Echo. “I wonder if we have Langton to thank for this. He could easily procure NSA technology through his contacts.”

“Echo trusts him with her life,” Adelle observed, clasping her hands in front of her. “One wonders what influence he could exert over this spy hunter imprint.”

“I’m trying not to think about that.”

“If we’re right and Langton wants you out, he might have made suggestions aimed toward effectuating just that to Echo.”

Heart pounding, Dominic hid behind his scowl. “Is it too late to state a preference for being red flag waving cannon fodder as opposed to a human sacrifice?”

“I believe so.”

“Damn.”

“Tread carefully, Laurence.”

Looking into her eyes, amazed by how perfectly her tone matched Clarice’s when she’d expressed the same sentiment, Dominic forced a slight smile. “I will, Adelle.” Wishing for a physical outlet for the pressure building within him, he muttered, “The other thing is the time this is taking. We have a lot of questions to answer about what Renee and company are doing and who’s involved, what happened to Ambrose, who Damian is, what his stupid poem means and at least a hundred others. Not to mention the need to get back to analyzing the threat to you. My gut tells me we don’t have time for this.”

“Just as we don’t have a choice.”

Dominic’s cellular phone rang. “Dominic,” he muttered, eyes on Adelle as she prowled her office, displaced as she was from her desk by Echo. Instinctually, Dominic moved as well, not to accompany her, but to keep his body between Adelle and Echo.

“Sierra’s back,” Grayson said.

“Thank Christ,” Laurence said, moving to the elevator, halting after three steps. He looked from Adelle to Echo and wondered where Langton was, where everyone under Langton’s influence was, whoever they were. Shit! “Have a look at the intelligence, Lisa, and bring whoever is implicated up here.”

“You don’t want to handle this yourself?” Grayson asked.

Eyes on Adelle, Dominic muttered, “My wants take a back seat to a lot of things, Grayson.” He sighed. “Being the boss has its drawbacks too.”

Turning to Echo, he said, “You lose. Sierra’s back and she has the mole’s identity.” Her dismissive shrug barely registered. His relief was profound until he recalled everything he and Adelle still faced, together and separately. That nothing much had changed elevated his heart rate once more.

Adelle met his eyes only briefly as they waited. Tense, Laurence unsnapped his holster. Eyes flickering between Adelle and the elevator doors, Dominic took a deep breath in an effort settle himself.

“Planning for the worst?” Echo said, expression calm, assessing. Dominic’s puzzled frown drew a nonchalant gesture toward his back. “Twenty seconds ago, you unsnapped your holster.”

Excellent ears makes sense for someone who reads people and vocal inflection. “The boys scouts got the being prepared thing right,” Dominic muttered.

“You were a boy scout?” Echo asked, tone evincing mild curiosity. The hint of amusement in her eyes betrayed her skepticism.

“Until I got kicked out for insubordination.” Dominic’s eyes tracked Adelle’s stroll across the office to look out the window.

Skepticism unveiled, Echo said, “Insubordination?”

Trying to determine what Adelle was thinking, Dominic replied, “I wouldn’t salute a prick of an eagle scout.”

“Shouldn’t you get a merit badge for that?”

Startled into a chuckle, Dominic turned his attention to Echo.

“Does she know?’ Echo asked, chin shifting slightly in Adelle’s direction.

“Why would Ms. DeWitt care if I was a boy scout?”

Echo shook her head. “Does she know you’re aware of her every movement?”

“I’m paid to ensure her security. I damn well better know where she is.”

Almost smiling, Echo said, “You and I both know it’s more than that.” She stepped closer. “You fear for her.” Echo rested a hand on Dominic’s elbow. “It might interest you to know it’s mutual. She knows where you are at all times and is afraid. Not for you, though. Right at this moment, she’s deathly afraid that my hand on your body is declarative of an interest which might be reciprocated.”

“She knows better than that, particularly with respect to you.”

Echo’s shrug was eloquent. “What she knows intellectually doesn’t necessarily match what she feels emotionally. Logic gets lost in the translation.”

“Not with Adelle,” Dominic asserted, wondering at the purpose of this conversation and what Echo expected him to say or not say. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean she’s not out to get you, Dom.

“Especially with people like her,” Echo said. “Controlled people are uncomfortable with emotions, because they defy control.”

“Adelle isn’t like that,” Dominic said, wondering if defending DeWitt was the right course of action.

“Really? Then humor me.”

“How?”

“I’m going to turn you toward her as I step closer and touch your chest.” Echo’s expressionless face irritated Dominic. “Watch her reaction and tell me I’m wrong.”

“She’s stressed, waiting for the spy. She’s not at her best.”

“And you’re not stressed. Why is that?”

He took a deep breath and let it out all in a rush. “I’m grateful to have an answer to this question at least, because I have so many others about what’s really going on in this House. The spy isn’t really all that high on my priority list.”

Nodding slowly, Echo said, “I see.” Regarding him far too closely, Echo asked, “Are you ready?”

“Sure,” Dominic said, more curious than he’d ever admit. Echo turned him back to the room at large in time to see Adelle’s flash of anger before the elevator door opened. Grayson and a junior security person, Kyle something or another, dragged Ivy into the room. Topher trailed along. Dominic stepped forward, readying his questions for Ivy. DeWitt waved him back.

“You are so sleeping on the couch,” Echo whispered, taking his arm. “You shouldn’t have been flirting with the spy hunter.”

Watching Adelle stalk Ivy mesmerized Dominic for a moment. “I wasn’t,” he eventually said, pleased he’d managed a respectable grumble.

“Truth isn’t always a defense,” Echo asserted, squeezing his arm for emphasis.

“Not with you trying to make sure it isn’t.”

A low amused sound drew his eyes. A tight smile made its way on to Echo’s face. “I have confidence you can beat the rap.” Staring into his eyes, she said, “I sense you have a gift for improvisation you rarely use and hope you can dial it up at will.”

“Why?”

Expression suddenly serious, Echo said, “To convince DeWitt that Ivy isn’t the spy.”

“The file Sierra took from the NSA says it’s her.”

“It’s not.”

“How in the hell do you know?” Dominic demanded, tiring of the spy hunter’s snide form of superiority.

“The same way you do.”

I doubt that very much. Impressed, unnerved and oddly inspired, he whispered, “Because it makes no sense.”

“Precisely.” She narrowed her eyes at Ivy. “And her fear is real.”

“Mine would be too, if Adelle DeWitt thought I was telling tales about her operation to the US government.” Very, very real.

The active inclined her head slightly. “What’s the play?”

“Huh?”

Echo gestured to Ivy. “She isn’t the spy. We both know it. What happens now?”

“Other than me sleeping on the couch or maybe outside someplace because of you?” he muttered, frowning at Echo’s soft chuckle.

“With respect to Ivy,” Echo said.

“Adelle will figure it out.”

“How psychologically damaged will Ivy be by the time she does.”

Dominic sighed. “I was thinking of this as an object lesson for Topher, letting him watch how the real world works, but I see your point.” Taking a breath, Dominic approached Adelle DeWitt, who was already intimidating Ivy ruthlessly, if the young woman’s expression was any indicator. Adelle’s voice was soft, almost gentle, but Dominic knew, even without hearing them, her words were neither. “Ma’am, a moment?’ Dominic asked. His request was granted a curt nod and Adelle rose with her customary grace. Laurence walked a few paces away from Ivy, Topher and the two security people, his relief profound when Adelle followed. Pitching his voice for Adelle’s ears only, he said, “Echo is convinced Ivy isn’t the spy and, as much as this pains me to say, I agree.” Adelle’s stunned expression transformed immediately into cool calculation, evaluating Dominic and Echo silently.

“Why?” Adelle demanded.

“Shouldn’t we go—?”

“Do you hesitate to present your theory as to Ivy’s innocence in her presence, Mr. Dominic?” Adelle asked, raising her voice to be heard by all in the room.

“No,” he said, matching her volume precisely. “I thought you might like to hear it first.”

“See,” Topher squealed, eyes on Grayson, both hands gesturing expansively toward Dominic. “Let her go. If Dominic and I agree for the second time within a few hours, when we’ve never agreed on anything before, Ivy is totally innocent.” He frowned. “Or the apocalypse is nigh.”

“That is quite enough, Topher,” Adelle said, putting a hand to her head, turning annoyed and incredibly weary attention to her Chief of Security. “Proceed, Mr. Dominic.”

Meeting her gaze, focusing his attention fully on Adelle, Dominic said, “I’m not sure there’s a spy at all, but if there is an NSA agent on the premises, it isn’t her.”

Adelle speared him with the sharpest of gazes. “What do you mean you’re not sure if we have a spy at all?”

“How many people have been through Topher’s lab in the last three to six months? Hell, in the last three to six days? Any time frame you look at, the answer is ‘Too many.’” Throwing a hand out in the neuroscientist’s direction, Dominic said, “It could’ve been someone from another House taking a tour. A replacement for one day on the janitorial staff. Anyone bringing him a juice box because Ivy was busy. You or me.” Dominic risked a step closer to Adelle. “NSA tech is available on the open market if you know where to shop. This could have been anyone.”

“Then why send Sierra into the NSA’s Los Angeles field office?” Adelle’s tone was thoughtful, her gaze wandering past Dominic.

“When I was securing your office, I called my contacts in the intelligence community.” Dominic was aware of Echo reacting in some way, but she was behind him and out of his field of vision. “The woman I know at the NSA indicated there might be relevant information in their system. Even though we were in ‘the unlikely event of a water landing’ quadrant, I couldn’t afford to ignore the information. And, obviously, the NSA is involved to some degree, because the file implicating Ivy was there, planted by an NSA employee or by someone who hacked the system from within like we did. Hell, maybe somebody better than Topher did it from the outside.” Dominic ignored Topher’s outraged noise.

“Why are you convinced our spy, assuming we have one, isn’t Ivy, Mr. Dominic?”

“She’s too obvious.”

“I beg your pardon.” Adelle’s eyes darted past him again.

“I admit, if just about anyone else had been ushered in here, I’d likely have been swayed. But not her.” Seeing Adelle’s exhaustion in her strained expression, Laurence sought to explain. “If I’m running this operation for the NSA or whoever, I’d point the finger at someone who could put the tech in the chair in such a way that no one would ever suspect them. As candidates go, Topher’s replacement on the succession plan isn’t in the top fifty.” Dominic focused on Topher. “How difficult would it have been to install the tech?”

“I could do it in fifteen seconds. Ivy thirty two. You a minute and a half.”

Returning his attention to Adelle, Laurence said, “It could have been anyone and if I’d been picking—and someone like me was—I wouldn’t have picked her. Not when there are so many less likely candidates to choose from.”

“Why did the NSA choose her as the scapegoat, then?” Echo asked.

Dominic pivoted so he could keep both women in view. “How should I know?” he replied. “Maybe the NSA or whoever’s using the NSA to screw with us thought Topher was more careful about the security of the chair, so they picked someone with guaranteed access. Maybe they thought it didn’t matter who they chose, because we’d be so relieved to discover the identity of the spy we’d accept the conclusion without question.”

“Not one of your particular strengths, Mr. Dominic,” Adelle observed, no doubt thinking of his routine challenges to her decision making and thought processes.

“No,” he agreed, feeling Echo’s implacable eyes on him. “As I mentioned before, from my perspective at least, if they’d chosen differently, they’d have gotten away with it.”

“I’m willing to allow that you might be correct, Mr. Dominic,” Adelle said. “Ms. Grayson, please confine Ivy to her quarters until we can—.”

Dominic said, “No, Adelle,” at the same time Echo said, “That’s not a good idea.” Spy and spy hunter faced each other before turning back to DeWitt.

“Mr. Dominic?” Adelle prompted.

“If I’m right and we don’t have a spy, your suggestion is fine. Ivy will have a pleasant time reading novels, watching TV, playing interactive games, whatever it is she does for entertainment. If I’m wrong, you’ll have made her a target. A stationary target.”

“Sitting duck is bad,” Topher barely breathed.

“More or less, yes,” Dominic said¸ thoughts falling in line like dominos. “Fuck.” Dominic reached for his cell phone and dialed rapidly. Repeating, “Damn,” under his breath, Dominic ended that call and dialed another number. “Baxter,” he said, “Higgins isn’t picking up his cell. Head to wherever Hendricks is confined and see what’s going on.”

“Sitting duck number two is worse,” Topher said.

After a brief glare at Topher, Dominic returned his attention to Adelle. “If I’m the spy and you’ve incarcerated Ivy for being the spy, I’m not going to want to give her a chance to change your mind. So I’d kill her and make it look like suicide. If the person you think is the spy kills herself while in custody, I’m clear.”

“How would Ivy manage to kill herself?” Adelle asked.

“Any number of ways. I could force her to swallow cyanide or some other poison she might have had on hand in case she got caught.” He drew his sidearm, holding up a pacifying hand to Grayson and Kyle. “Put something like this in her hand, jam the business end in her mouth and pull trigger with her finger. Her hands are small enough for that to actually work.” Shrugging, Dominic said, “The question of how she obtained the firearm would be on the table, but no one would worry too much about that with everything else going on.” Stepping toward DeWitt, willing her to recall the history he’d described, he said, “You know I know what I’m talking about.”

“He’s right,” Echo offered, but her voice sounded oddly non-supportive to Dominic.

Adelle stared at him as though he had gone insane. “Are you seriously suggesting we send Ivy back downstairs and conduct business as usual?”

Eyes tracking to the bundle of fear and outrage that was Ivy, Dominic said, “I’d send her home early today with a small security detail, but otherwise, yeah.”

“And our explanation for today’s events will be?” Adelle prompted.

“It was a mistake, overkill based on what happened in France. Or call it a goddamn drill. Whatever lie we want to tell today, Ms. DeWitt. It doesn’t matter.” Dominic approached Kyle. “I want you to make sure nothing like this happens again. You’re in charge of watching over the chair and Ivy. If rumors circulate about you having a soft spot for her, all the better.”

“Sir?” Kyle asked.

“You heard me.”

“Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself, Mr. Dominic?” Adelle asked.

“Am I?” he asked, voice low yet determined. “If you have an alternative other than sending Ivy to the Attic, I’m interested.”

Adelle turned her back to Dominic. “Ms. Grayson and Mr. …”

“Beale, ma’am.”

Nodding, Adelle said, “Please proceed as Mr. Dominic has indicated vis a vis Ivy and spread the tale that this was a drill. I’ll speak personally to everyone Echo interviewed who is not currently in this room.”

“There’s a promotion in this for you if you carry this off Beale,” Dominic said.

“Thank you, sir.”

When Grayson and Beale escorted Ivy out of the office, Dominic breathed a huge sigh of relief. Alert the fucking Academy; that was the performance of my career.

“Glad that’s over?” Echo asked.

“Aren’t you?” he countered, pivoting slowly, body under as much control as he could muster given his fatigue and stress level.

“I liked you for the spy,” she said, watching him closely.

“Me?” he asked, smiling slightly. “Why me?”

“Think about it,” Echo challenged. “You made a call to the NSA. You relaxed the moment Sierra got back. You unsnapped your holster. Think how that might’ve been interpreted had the situation been a bit different—if your boss hadn’t been here to explain away one telltale or if you hadn’t eloquently exonerated Ivy. If you were the spy, why would you have done the latter?”

“Maybe I’m a stupid spy,” Dominic said. “Or an extremely reckless one.”

“Maybe,” Echo said, eyes questioning, clearly evaluative.

“As I said, I made a call to my contact in the NSA.”

“In plenty of time for the agency to plant the information Sierra retrieved.”

Shaking his head, he said, “Why would there be a timing element to this? Once the NSA or whoever was behind this decided Ivy was the scapegoat, they planted the evidence or arranged for it to be planted and forgot about it until needed. Why would they wait for a crisis to occur to put the wheels in motion? That makes no sense.” Maintaining eye contact with Echo, he said, “I already told you why I relaxed. I got an answer to at least one question I had. That it turned out to be the wrong answer changes nothing. And you know exactly why I unsnapped my holster.”

“In case you needed to protect your boss.”

“Yes.”

“To what lengths would you go to protect her?

“It’s time for your treatment, Echo,” Topher said, sparing Dominic the effort of a reply. Echo looked back over her shoulder at Dominic as she entered the elevator. Hands on his hips, he nodded to her. She glared back as the elevator doors shut.

In the moments of silence that followed, Dominic experienced the war waging within him between exhaustion and raw adrenaline. The desire to close his eyes was as great as his fear of doing so. He started when his cell phone rang. “Dominic.”

“Higgins and Hendricks are gone, Dominic,” Baxter said. “No sign of a struggle. No one I’ve talked to so far saw anything and Lester says there’s a gap in the security footage between thirteen and fourteen hundred hours.”

“Damn it,” Dominic snarled. “Check the footage at every exit. I want to know where they left the building at least.” Staring at the elevator, rubbing the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, he muttered, “Higgens and Hendricks are missing, Adelle. Can this train wreck get any worse?”

“I think the only safe assumption is ‘Yes,’ Laurence.”

“No, no, no, no,” Dominic said. “This is the point in the melodrama when you cross the room, concern etched on your face, take my hand and tell me, ‘Everything’s going to be all right, because we’ll figure this thing out together,’ or some similarly trite bullshit.”

Adelle glided toward him the predatory way she often did. Dominic couldn’t generate the will to move. She slid her arms around his neck and pressed close, making an encouraging sound when he hugged her tightly. They stood together for several minutes, sharing body heat, the comfort of touch, the soothing effect of physical proximity. Pulling back slightly to look him in the eye, Adelle said, “We both need to get some rest or we won’t have a prayer of surviving, much less prevailing.”

“I’ll send a team up here to watch over you,” he murmured.

“And you?”

“I have some things I need to do downstairs.” He ran a hand along the length of her back. “It’s not as big or nicely appointed as yours, but I do have a bedroom off of my office too.”

“Do you plan to have someone watch over you while you sleep as well?”

“No.”

“I’ll give the order myself, then.”

“Adelle, I don’t—.”

“This was a trap, Laurence. A potentially lethal one.” When he shifted in her embrace uncomfortably, she said, “You think I didn’t notice how closely Echo observed you. How she touched you and no one else. How she challenged you but wasn’t ever quite satisfied with what were perfectly reasonable responses.”

“So that’s why you were angry.”

“Why did you think I was angry?”

“I had no theory. Echo thought it was because you thought I was flirting with her.”

“That will be the day Hell officially freezes over.”

“That’s essentially what I told her.” Dominic sighed. “She didn’t believe that either.”

“I’ve been considering the text of Damian’s poem.”

The subject change challenged Dominic’s tired mind. Rallying a bit, he asked, “Was that apropos of nothing?”

“The knight—a man alone searching for a solution amidst a group indifferent to the effort at the behest of his queen. Who does that call to mind?”

“No one,” Dominic muttered. “Ok, maybe Luke Skywalker in an attenuated way.”

“It’s you.” Adelle exerted gentle pressure on his neck, bringing his lips to hers. “Damian told me to beware of my enemies in this House, because they want to take something I need, thereby dooming me to failure.” Fingers gently running through his hair, Adelle said, “They’re trying to take you from me. Laurence, it’s time we consider that none of this has been about me or any sort of threat to me. It’s about you and the danger to you, because our enemies want to remove you by whatever means necessary.” She glared into his eyes. “I have no intention of allowing that to happen.”

Dominic smiled. “I think they’ll find me harder to remove than they anticipate.” He kissed her forehead. “That’s what you think Damian’s cryptic verse means?”

“Yes.”

“What if Echo had won?” Laurence asked, spotting the flinch he’d hoped not to see in Adelle. “What if you thought I was an NSA agent? What would you have done?”

“Sent you to the Attic.”

Releasing her, Dominic stepped back. “The queen of using people would just store me next to the Christmas decorations without asking why I’m here? After everything we’ve been through together over the last three years and, more particularly, the last few days.”

“Why would why matter?” she asked.

“A spy could have been sent here to disrupt the entire operation.” He laughed. “A task for which I’m clearly unsuited, because I’ve been here a while and no significant disruption has taken place.” Looking out the window as if for inspiration, he said, “The mission parameter might be to hijack the technology or even to prevent the same abuses you and I want to prevent. Why wouldn’t your decision be situational, Adelle?” She shook her head. He backed up another step.

She closed the distance. “If I discovered you to be a spy, whether for the NSA or for Rossum corporate or some other organization, if you’ve lied to me for years, how could I ever trust you?”

“Using the same foundations most people build on, Adelle. We have a common goal, aligned interests. Diverse skill sets. We’ve worked together extremely well for years. We’re suited to the task at hand and we need each other to get it done.”

“Why are you pushing this hypothetical, Laurence”

“Because it’s symptomatic of how you operate, Adelle. You talk an excellent ‘Let’s trust each other’ game, but when push comes to shove it’s you and your agenda. I can’t function effectively under those conditions. You’ll have my resignation on your desk in the morning.”

“No! That isn’t acceptable, Laurence. Langton or whoever is pulling his stings wins if you simply leave.” Taking a moment, likely to assess his reaction, Adelle added, “I never thought you were a man who would admit and accept defeat.”

“This isn’t admitting defeat. It’s a strategic retreat.” Faced with her blatant skepticism, he said, “You say in one breath that you need me. You say in the next that you’ll put me in the attic whenever you decide my intentions aren’t pure.” He turned his back on her. “Hell, Adelle, just put the fucking spy hunter back in Echo and end this. Let Langton have his way. Let him think you’re completely taken in. You’re already half way to making that decision. Do me the courtesy of admitting it.”

Adelle came around Laurence to face him. “I have no intention of sacrificing you to lull Mr. Langton into a false sense of security.” She urged his lips to meet hers with force, but the kiss was gentle and far too compelling. Emitting the combination of a groan and a grumble, he responded. One kiss led to another, then a third.

“When you’re done downstairs, come up here to rest,” Adelle whispered.

Dominic shook his head. “I assign a security detail to you and waltz into your bedroom? Isn’t that a little overt?”

“I think I can sleep if you’re holding me.”

“Consider that before you send me to the attic.”

Shaking him by the shoulders briefly, eyes widening at his low grunt of pain, she declared, “I am not going to send you to the attic.”

“Ok,” he said, watching her closely, “so I can admit to being an NSA agent then.”

“That isn’t funny, Laurence.”

“You’re right,” he said, looking away briefly. “I’m sorry, Adelle. I’m tired.”

“Hold me tonight,” she murmured, capturing his eyes with hers, letting him see the uncertainty and something that looked dangerously like fear in them. “Please, Laurence.”

“I …” He surrendered. Dominic had no defense to her vulnerability. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”

“Promise?”

“Yes.”

* * *

Laurence Dominic closed the door to his office, checked Topher’s blocker and sighed. Leaning against the north wall, Dominic’s hands shook and his legs felt weak. Slowly, he slid along the wall to a seated position on the floor with his legs splayed. Shudders wracked his body, both chills and something far more primal. The urge to shout obscenities was strong as was the impulse to run and not look back. What the hell am I going to do? What’s the fucking way forward? Is there one? After what seemed like forever, he tucked his legs in, lowered his head and wrapped his arms around his legs, trying to use the near fetal position as the anchor he lacked. Fear, despair and desperate rage overwhelmed him. Completely losing track of time, Dominic rode out the waves of panic as best as he could. That was too damn fucking close, Dom. The attic was a couple of heartbeats away on several occasions. What’s that Clyde always says? Everybody gets theirs. I almost did today. Fuck! Just when he feared nothing would stem the tide and he’d be unable to continue the charade in remotely believable fashion, the familiar, strangely comforting, predictable and understandable demands of work roused him.

I need to update my intelligence program and read the reports filed by my people while Adelle and I were gone. Three and a half hours later, Dominic groaned. He was utterly exhausted and he knew it, but he had one item to follow up on before he could call it quits for the night. Uncharacteristic meandering gait reflective of his current level of anxiety and fatigue, he made his way to Topher’s lab. “Topher,” he said, leaning against the glass just inside the door.

“Yes, sire.”

Regarding Topher through eyes that nearly refused to focus, Dominic said, “Tell me about the power fluctuations over the past few days.”

“They’re intermittent but there’s a possibility they’re precisely timed.”

“What suggests that?” Dominic prompted.

“The pulse is sharp, beginning to end. There’s no play in it.”

Having no idea what that meant, Dominic pivoted to Ivy. “What are the implications, if any?”

“If we assume the pulses track something, we can further assume they neutralize whatever that is,” Ivy said.

“Did these pulses match the timing of Echo’s imprints?”

Ivy’s eyes widened and Topher stared at Dominic in an accusatory manner. Kyle Beale looked on with interest. “Yeah, but that means nothing,” Topher said. “By itself, I mean. Not a flippin’ thing.”

“What are the odds of it being coincidental, Topher?” Dominic stopped after three determined strides in the neuroscientist’s direction. Adelle hates when I threaten him. And I really don’t have the energy for it.

“Long,” Topher admitted.

“So someone’s interfering with Echo’s imprints?” Dominic asked.

“We think so,” Ivy murmured.

“What are you still doing here?” Dominic demanded, recollection of all that had transpired coming in a rush. “After the day you’ve had, you should be home in a bubble bath or something.”

Ivy approached Dominic. “You look like you could sleep for a week.”

“A week and a half,” Laurence murmured.

“Thank you,” Ivy said, big brown eyes staring up at him.

Topher jostled them both. “I’m sorry I called you a security guard in a lovely suit.”

Dominic looked from Ivy to Topher, alarm growing. The smirk on Kyle’s face did nothing to calm him. Dominic said, “As long as we can avoid the group hug, I think we’re ok.”

In blatant disregard of his request, Ivy hugged Laurence hard. Dominic glared at Topher over her head to be sure they avoided that which must be avoided. “How do you stop whoever from influencing Echo’s imprints?” Laurence asked.

Topher and Ivy exchanged a look. Ivy took Dominic’s arm and steered him away from Topher. “It’ll take time, but we’ll get it done, Mr. Dominic.” To his puzzled frown, she said, “Topher’s sensitive about the integrity of his imprints. I didn’t want to set him off again. I’ve heard the ‘Nobody messes with the glory of my work’ harangue too many times already.”

“This has gone from bad to worse, Ivy,” Dominic said. “Let’s avoid worse than worse.”

“Consider it done,” she said.

“Thank you,” Dominic said, heading for the door.

“Get some sleep,” Ivy advised.

Dominic looked over his shoulder. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, smiling slightly at her laughter as he mentally crossed this item off of his list.

* * *

“How is she?” Dominic demanded as he exited the executive elevator, stepping into DeWitt’s office.

“She went to bed an hour or so ago,” Grayson said.

Dominic crossed the room, nodding to Monica Elm, thinking she was an interesting choice for Grayson’s partner in this detail. Knocking lightly on the door between the office and the bedroom, Dominic said, “Ms. DeWitt,” in a low tone.

The door opened almost immediately. Dominic looked over his shoulder at Grayson and raised an eyebrow, silently questioning the information she’d just given him. Grayson shrugged. Adelle took his hand and pulled him inside her bedroom.

“How can you be so beautiful on so little sleep?” he whispered, eying her deep blue silk nightgown appreciatively.

“The same way you look eminently what Judith would call doable on even less.”

They came together seamlessly, effortlessly, easily. The kiss was slow, languorous, sensual. Adelle slipped Laurence’s jacket over his shoulders. As she draped it over the chair of her cosmetic table, he untied his tie, removed his belt and kicked off his shoes. Adelle encouraged him to sit on the bed and knelt before him to remove his socks, smile likely inspired by his obvious discomfort at having her in such a subservient position. Taking his hands in hers after she’d unbuttoned his shirt to the center of his chest, Adelle reclined on the bed, displaying what was on offer in an irresistibly saleable manner. “Come to bed, Laurence.”

“I’ll only disappoint you, Adelle. I’ve left exhausted behind for whatever’s more tired than that.”

“Hold me,” she whispered. “That’s all I ask, Laurence. This night, that will satisfy me completely.” She smiled. “Tomorrow is, after all, another day.”

Settling in beside her, Dominic pulled Adelle into his arms. Her immediate relaxation was a reward and an example he couldn’t help but follow. Deliberately not thinking about Grayson and Elm, Dominic closed his eyes. He didn’t open them for quite a while.


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Wow....

I'm sorry, I need a moment, just wow......

Here I was, at the beginning of this chapter completely freaking out when I realized what imprint Echo had and what episode we were on. I was so not looking forward to dealing with the spy thing, but there you go, pulling a brilliant writing move on us in a style that's practically a thing of beauty.

Hearing the voice of Dominic's handler was re-assuring. Here, they didn't just throw Dom to the wolves, someone's actually gonna miss him; That's so good to see. I almost cried in that scene in the spy episode where he's like "they'll come looking for me", and his voice betrayed his fear. I can't imagine how that would feel like, knowing you're dead and no cavalry is coming for you.

You handled the Echo situation perfectly. I love how she was still suspicious but Dom still performed like a seasoned vet and lived to tell the tale. That's what should've happened on tv!!!!

His conversation with Echo about Adelle was adorable/amusing/deadly serious, I didn't realize it was possible to write awesomeness like this. It was adorable how it's not just him watching out for Adelle, it's vice-versa. It's amusing that Echo thinks Adelle will believe that he's coming onto her, Hahaahahah!!!. It was deadly serious because I couldn't tell if Echo was just sniffing around, or if she had caught on and was just biding her time. I got the feeling that she was heading towards the latter.

And you didn't sugar coat his situation, kudo's to you, Rogo! The mixture of internal dialogue nicely complemented the gravity of his current situation. Poor, Dom. I can't imagine what it's like to have Adelle/NSA/Dollhouse Tech/Paris threats/ and a whole lot more running through his mind while he's holding the woman he loves, but knows he's betraying. That's intense.

The hypothetical questions, paid nice homage to what we know happened. I like her first response, "I'd put you in the attic" just like it's nothing, when we all know it was sooooooooo much more. Love it!

Great update, thank you for putting a smile on my face. I do a little happy dance whenever I see your updates.





I have to say, "Wow," too. What a comment to something I spent too much time on it seemed like. I'll try to go point by point. Thank you for "Wow" by the way.

I knew with how I was writing this--I either had to ignore Spy or deal with it. And I found I had more to say on the "That made no sense" aspects of Spy than I thought. I thought I'd gotten it out of my system in The Unabridged Laurence Dominic. But I found more to whine about/correct here.

I wanted to give Dom a handler that cared. In the aforementioned previous fic, I had him truly a man alone who could expect no rescue. That made me sad. So I changed it.

I tried to imply that Langton had influenced Echo and I think that in this case (w/Dom hating operation FUBAR, it made his acadamy award level performance ring more true). Echo had kind of decided it was Dom and having him exonerate Ivy b/c he thought it was stupid to choose her threw Echo for a loop.

I thought it was fun that Echo was right and wrong. Dominic and Adelle are both aware of each other and fear for each other, just not for the reasons she (Echo) thinks. I really thought it was important that Adelle was watching out for him as well and kind of calls him on it later. (There will be more on this theme). Echo had decided it was him but couldn't put the bits together.

I took all the "evidence" against Dominic in Spy--the call to the NSA--Why on EARTH would he use Adelle's phone and why in this GALAXY wouldn't he say, I called my contacts in the intelligence community. The relaxation once Sierra got back--WHY wouldn't the Chief of Security relax when he got the solution to his problem? He's not Joe Public. He's paid to guarantee security. Of course, he'd relax. Unsnapping his holster--Why? B/c you are clearly glitching again, my dear. It was all so freaking explainable. Made me sad. And mad all over again--can you tell?

I felt it important that Dominic kind of had a mini-breakdown in his office. There's only so much a man can take. He's in a very stressed out space at the moment and rightfully so. I feel kind of guilty for putting him here.

We aren't quite through with the topic of the Attic (which I forgot to capitalize in this chapter--sigh) but things are on the way.

Thanks for the kind words. Seriously. Makes it worth the effort to know someone out there is still reading and seems to care what happens next.

I can tell :) and I share your disbelief at how all those reasons were not dismissed.

There's nothing to feel guilty about. The breakdown was not only fitting, but very realistic. At the end of the day he is only human.

Good work deserves recognition. And if reviews make it worth the effort then I'm glad I've answered the call to arms. Can't wait to read more! :)

My question was--how should Dominic breakdown. Then I thought of the image of him sitting on the floor in the van with Echo near the part of Spy I won't watch (except in fanvids) and I thought--sitting on the floor could work. Strange. Thanks again!

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I must admit--I really didn't like Echo the spyhunter in the show. Arrogant. I'm too smart for the room. That didn't appeal at all. That's why I tried to take all of the components and mix and match them to suit me. Taking all the evidence against Dom.

1-Call to the NSA. Why would he use Adelle's phone? Why not explain it away as calling his contacts in the intelligence community. Maybe more importantly, why did there even need to be a call. Why wasn't that "evidence" already there? Wait for the crisis to plant false evidence? I wouldn't. Would you?

2-Relaxing when Sierra got back. She's just given the Chief of Security the answer to his problem. Why wouldn't he relax? In this story, it's because he realizes that nothing much has changed. He still faces what he faces.

3-Unsnapping his holster. Adelle being there gives him the excuse, but he had one in Spy too (Echo glitching would be the rationale).

Off my soapbox now. Sorry. I'll stop. Really.

The group hug thing came out of no where. And I've never (before now) forgiven Topher for calling Dominic a security guard in a lovely suit.

Thanks so much for staying the somewhat convoluted course.

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Biases are good--the basis of subsets of fandom really. I've been thinking how different the story would have been had Dominic dodged that bullet (as amazingly as Echo dodged all of his--but that's another can of worms we won't open too far).

And, obviously, we cannot be blamed for such appropriate biases!

Wow!

Well, first I should say I've been reading this from the beginning and only just got around to making an LJ account so I can actually leave a comment.
The whole concept of pretending to pretend is so subtle and clever, and totally believable. And the characters are so in-character, it's actually hard to admit that this wasn't the way things actually happened :P

I was feeling really scared about this chapter because I saw Echo was the spy-hunter and I couldn't see a way of Dominic getting out of it. Especially when you put all the signs in there (relaxing, unsnapping holster etc) for us to notice! I also love how Echo with her reading-people skills immediately noticed his and Adelle's relationship (although at this point who could not? xD)

The bit about Dominic havning a rarely-used talent for improvising, right before he launches into why Ivy isn't the spy... Brilliant. In fact, the entire conversation between Echo and Dominic and the way they interact was fantastic and realistic, as well as making Dominic and therefore us think about who he is really and what he wants.

The conversation between him and Adelle after that killed me. Amazingly written and Dominic's thoughts and feelings were made clear but not explicitly stated, which is brilliant.

'“I am not going to send you to the attic.”
“Ok,” he said, watching her closely, “so I can admit to being an NSA agent then.”
“That isn’t funny, Laurence.”
“You’re right,” he said, looking away briefly.'

:( Poor Dominic! And when she's just "I'd send you to the attic" and his reaction is all "woah what? but I care about you!"

I can't possibly mention all the awesome in this. It was awesome. You're a genius. :) x

Thanks for reading (all the while-yay!) and commenting. I should say that I'm relatively new to lj and I realized about 2 days ago that I'd set my account up that no one w/o an lj account could comment. I didn't mean to do that. I think I changed it so it will work.

Once I started with pretending, the idea of pretending to pretend took hold. And I was encouraged to continue and see where this led. Must admit, I did NOT foresee this round about episode 3 or so.

I'm glad the characters are still reading as in character. So much has happened that it's difficult to know sometimes.

When I thought back on Spy, I thought about the "evidence" against Dominic and recalled the three things I put in here. I thought--that can't have been all. I went back and checked. Then I decided to address this and mess with it to suit myself. I think at this point there may be people who don't want to see their relationship but they've kind of put it out there for various reasons.

I thought it was important that Dominic didn't believe in the NSA's choice for "the spy," b/c it helped put some realism in his academy award worthy performance in exonerating Ivy. I kind of liked that Dominic was preoccupied with protecting Adelle at the beginning of his conversation with Echo and then clues in to 'Why is she talking to me?' with an 'Uh oh' backbeat. It flowed better than I thought it would.

I thought Adelle's reaction would still be 'I'd put you in the Attic b/c I couldn't trust you,' even though I've been in the Adelle should've put her tame NSA agent to use camp forever. And I felt bad for Dominic because he was hoping for the latter as well. That has to be a lousy feeling to hope that you're useful enough to survive. Still, it was pretty gutsy (or just the product of stress/fatigue) for him to say 'so I can admit to being an NSA agent then' and see what response he got.

I think it's interesting how you describe Dominic's reaction to her intial, 'I'd put you in the attic.' Because that is what he's saying but he's couching it in sort of professional terms.

Thank you so much for the kind words and taking the time to type them.


The re-imaginging of the whole Spy storyline was really well done and I love that Dominic is now possibly the only person who doesn't believe he is 'smitten' by Adelle - or maybe he knows he is, I can't tell any more. Does he even know at this point? I think what's really telling is the roles he has been playing and how they all seem to be coalescing - or maybe they weren't that separate after all.
I love that after everything Adelle would still put him in the attic if he was a spy, of course she would. I wonder what it would take to change that decision and whether anything would?

I can't tell if that was the end or not...? I'm hoping the lack of The End means you aren't finished?

I think Dominic is under a great deal of stress and he's reacting rather than thinking. You're smitten. Knee jerk reaction--No, I'm not. And he knows he isn't supposed to be. So that's his story (at least for Clarice) and he's sticking with it. As to knowing at this point, I don't think he does, but maybe only b/c he hasn't had a moment to reflect/breathe for a while.

Dominic's "life" is starting to unravel a bit and I think the roles he's been playing are starting to coalesce into a unified whole (and whether he can deal with that or not remains to be seen). I thought it was important that he have kind of a mini-breakdown at the point he did in this episode. So much has happened and so much is at stake for him personally, he has to just let go, sort of, and get some of the negative emotions out.

Spy=Attic to Adelle. At least to this point. And you pose the question--what would it take, if anything, to change that decision? I wonder ...

Is this the end? No. The end will have THE END in it's proper place. I thought of ending it at the end of number 7 and letting the events of Spy unfold in my little world. But that made me sad, so I had to go on. I'm in the draft stage of part 11 (I think of 13--I think), so more stuff is going to happen. Quite a bit more.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing your views.

I hope something does make her change her mind, or at least make the same decision for a completely different reason - lots more parts to look forward to makes me very happy.

At the beginning of this, a couple of people said they wanted it to go on forever. It probably could in a way b/c it's a different story now, but I'm trying to work toward a conclusion. We'll see if I make it in 13.

I think it's really interesting how this has evolved from what was essentially something amusing and lighthearted into a multi-faceted, plot and character driven story; I think you've managed to maintain the spirit you started with (probably because Adelle is so determined about what she wants and has yet to get it) you've just set it in a much more complex landscape.

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