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Incentives Part 1/2
damien listening guitar
rogoblue
Title: Incentives Part 1/2
Rating: NC-17 (language, sexual situations)
Author: rogoblue and morgan72uk
Summary: At Safe Haven, Adelle has made something of a life for herself, but Alpha feels she’s made too many compromises. Adding Laurence Dominic to the mix could be just what the doctor ordered … or not.
Author’s note: Parts from Adelle DeWitt’s point of view were written by morgan72uk and parts from Alpha’s and Laurence Dominic’s pov were written by rogoblue. This idea arrived during the writing of Road Trip, was forgotten and then recollected. It wouldn’t let go.
Spoilers: Minor throughout.
Words: 16,300.
Disclaimers: The toys are Joss Whedon’s. The idea is ours.
Dedication: To everyone who’s still out there reading this sort of thing.



Jenn, Elaine and Priya are right,” Alpha said, grinning at a very recently shaven Laurence Dominic . “You do clean up reasonably well.” Dominic’s non-committal grunt failed to deter Alpha, but he wasn’t surprised—nothing much did these days. “What you need, freshly bathed sir, is strong drink and a sympathetic ear.”


“I don’t have anything to talk about,” Dominic said, eyes lowered, brushing past Alpha.


Catching Dominic’s bicep in a strong, yet somehow non-threatening grip, Alpha said, “You can be the sympathetic ear then. I’m flexible.”


“You have alcohol worth drinking?” Dominic knew his posture, expression and tone screamed skepticism, but he wasn’t in the mood to be subtle.


“Single malt Scotch, aged ten years in the barrel.” Alpha stood in what looked to be amused attention. “Scout’s honor.” No doubt seeing Dominic’s indecision, Alpha smiled and shifted his hand to Dominic’s shoulder. “C’mon, Dom, I’ll go insane again if I don’t get a decent conversation out of someone. I swear I will. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?”


“So talk to DeWitt.” Thinking of the rumors that had reached his ears, Dominic added, “Or don’t the two of you bother with that anymore?”


Glancing around furtively as though fearing being overheard, Alpha said, “We do, but I can’t talk with her about this.”


Something raw in Alpha’s voice struck a chord with Dominic. “Fine,” he said, “but you better not have put week old ethanol into an empty Scotch bottle.”


“Some things simply aren’t done,” Alpha asserted. The two men fell into step and stalked in silence to a small cabin Alpha had claimed. Settling in wasn’t too complicated. Alpha only had three chairs—two wooden ones flanking a small table and some sort of plush reclining throwback to Dominic couldn’t quite remember when. They faced each other across the table while Alpha poured light brown liquid into mismatched tumblers. “Cheers,” Alpha murmured, watching Dominic dubiously sniff the contents of his glass.


His nose identified the genuine article, enabling Dominic to gratefully tap the rim of his glass to Alpha’s and take a sip of what Dominic always thought of as Before. “Cheers,” he belatedly murmured.


“I’ll come straight to the point,” Alpha said, fingertips of the hand not wrapped around the glass drumming a complicated rhythm on the table. “I’m worried about Adelle.”


“Ok,” Dominic replied carefully. “Why?”


“She’s on the verge of giving up, Dom. Of handing over all of her responsibilities to Caroline, who doesn’t have the organizational skills or the patience to take them on.” Leaning forward, elbows on the table, Alpha said, “Adelle was like this before we reached an understanding.” Rolling his eyes at Dominic’s smirk, Alpha said, “Yes, that is what they’re calling it now—reaching an understanding. She was better for a time but now it’s as though the cycle is repeating itself.”


“Maybe you should just spend a couple of days in bed and get her right with God.”


“You think I haven’t tried that?” Dominic wasn’t sure what to do with that information. “Did you forget who you’re talking to, here? I have more sex oriented bells and whistles programmed into me than Caroline and that’s saying something.”


“Didn’t you lose anything when you composited the second time?” Dominic asked, natural curiosity surging to the fore.


“The voices went away and things became a lot clearer to me.”


“So you could finally see that Caroline has faults just like all of the rest of us?”


Alpha smiled in what Dominic supposed Priya would call a boyish manner. “You could say I learned to appreciate the finer things in life and now I’m faced with the fact that I can’t give Adelle what she needs, because it’s not mine to give.”


“What needs of hers can’t be met by your myriad sexual techniques?”


“I can’t give her hope.”


“Adelle DeWitt needs hope to carry on?” Dominic heard surprise in his skepticism but did his best to keep the shock that revelation engendered to himself.


“Doesn’t everybody in some form or fashion?” Alpha asked, sipping his Scotch, watching Dominic like the predator he’d been and may yet be.


“I don’t,” Dominic said, meeting Alpha’s wise and rational appearing eyes. “I just do the job. That’s all that’s left.”


“God, you two are so alike it’s scary. Adelle said something similar to me the other day. Only difference is, she’s bored beyond tears with the current configuration of her job.” Alpha frowned. “I think you can see yours as a version of what you did before, so it doesn’t bore you, but I’m not picking up an ‘I’ve been deeply gratified by reconnoitering three potential targets and determining the best way to neutralize each of them’ vibe from you either.”


“I do the job, Alpha,” Dominic said, suddenly weary and wanting to strip off his T-shirt and jeans and slip into bed to sleep for at least 48 hours. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it or get anything out of it. I do it because someone has to. It’s no more complicated than that.” Dominic thought about protesting when Alpha refilled his tumbler but didn’t. “If I don’t do what I can to try to make things right, what point would there be to my being here?”


“Aren’t there other ways of making things right, Dom?”


“Are you seriously suggesting that I hook up with someone and start making babies like Caroline is always preaching?” Almost under his breath, Dominic added, “As if even the most unobservant among us might fail to notice she isn’t taking her own advice?”


“I’m not suggesting anything,” Alpha said, holding up both hands in a request for peace. “I was just wondering out loud whether there isn’t something more meaningful than being an administrator for Adelle or being a selfless hero for you.”


“I’m not a hero,” Dominic muttered.


“Of course not,” Alpha said, grinning agreeably. “I don’t know what got into me. I guess I just lost my head there for a second to think that you might be able to see yourself the way other people see you. Don’t get me wrong—women go for the pretty blue eyes and tight ass. I understand that completely, believe me. But do you really think Jenn and Elaine, who strike me as intelligent women, would be so eager to settle down with you if there wasn’t a bit more to recommend you?”


“You a matchmaker now?”


“I’m trying to understand Adelle and I think you can help me.”


“I think you’ve already gone insane again,” Dominic said, raising his cup to his lips.


“What are you two discussing so intently?” Alpha and Dominic exchanged a fleeting, utterly masculine look that would have been at home on the beaches of Normandy before turning to Adelle DeWitt.


* * *


“Nothing,” Alpha said – his innocent expression not as incongruous as it ought to be but also not fooling her for a second.


“If you’re planning a coup – leave me out of it,” she said sinking tiredly onto the only remaining seat in the room.


“Why would you think that?” Alpha enquired, shooting a look she couldn’t summon the energy to decipher in Dominic’s direction.


“Why indeed?” The two men weren’t regular drinking companions, which made Dominic’s presence in the shack noteworthy. He was looking somewhat better than when he had turned up earlier; but even though the grime and beard had gone he still looked tired. Even the scotch Alpha had been saving for a special occasion couldn’t hide the grim burdens he seemed to feel the need to carry.


When everything had gone to hell around them there was little point in holding onto rancour and revisiting old betrayals. She and Dominic had come to some accommodation regarding the past and while not friends exactly, they certainly weren’t enemies. But he kept himself apart from almost everyone, showing no interest in forming ties, or anything that could be seen as putting down roots. He spent a great deal of time away and when he was here he communicated in sparse detail, keeping everyone at arms length and not arguing at whatever Caroline threw his way. Adelle believed his behaviour was a tick shy of self-destructive, but given all the dangers that lurked beyond the gates of Safe Haven that distinction might not matter too much.


Alpha found a third tumbler and poured her a share of the scotch, sliding it in her direction. Leaning forward to take it she raised an eyebrow at him, asking what he thought he was playing at and his eyes twinkled slightly in amusement. She wasn’t surprised by the lack of a response, she didn’t claim much in the way of expertise when it came to interpreting how Alpha’s mind worked. He’d gained control over his personalities, though she knew he feared it would abandon him once more, but he was still brilliant, creative and sardonic.


When they had first come here she had tried to keep out of his way but her housekeeping responsibilities had precluded that. Apart from anything else he was one of the few people who didn’t seem to mind being around Topher. Over time he had developed a disconcerting habit of seeking her out. His pursuit had been assiduous and while she didn’t understand his motives, to her surprise, she’d found that she certainly trusted him enough to let him seduce her. She’d made him do enough of the work to satisfy his pride, which was monumental, and having surrendered had found herself engaged in a ‘relationship’ that was both sexually satisfying and surprisingly honest. It was an added bonus that their liaison had scandalised the denizens of Safe Haven.


She had learnt there was no point hiding things from Alpha and there was a certain freedom in not even making the attempt. In the world she’d helped to create a warm body to take comfort in, inventive sex and someone she could talk to made her rather fortunate and if that wasn’t everything it was probably more than she deserved.


Alpha was certainly the only lover she’d ever had who had drawn from her a confession that she was attracted to another man and then admitted that he shared that interest. The man in question was currently sitting across from her, tiredness, curiosity and a sense of defeat radiating from his posture and body language.


According to her lover, Dominic needed to get laid – or else he was going to go off and get himself killed. She didn’t dispute the analysis and assumed that this was a way of satisfying all of their needs. Watching him watch his guest over the rim of his tumbler she recognised that his interest in the other man was genuine – though he likely understood that his seduction would stand a better chance of success if she was an active participant.


She shivered at the thought of taking both men to bed; it would be a daring and wanton move – rife with potential complications. But what else in this desperate world could give her a comparable thrill?


* * *


“I should get going,” Laurence Dominic said, rising tiredly yet with a masculine form of grace.


Matching the maneuver, Alpha stepped just into Dominic’s personal space, hand preventing Dom from raising and draining his glass. “That’s the good stuff,” Alpha said, sliding his thumb along a tense muscle in Dominic’s forearm. “We sip. We don’t chug.” Releasing Dominic’s arm, smiling at the other man’s eyes dropping down to his own arm for just a heartbeat, Alpha said, “Besides, you have to stay. I have something I want to show you.” Gesturing with one hand toward a closed door, Alpha put the other on Dominic’s shoulder, deftly aiming him in the correct direction. Glancing over at Adelle DeWitt, Alpha said, “It’s kind of a guy thing, sweetness. You don’t need to participate.” He almost laughed at Adelle’s exasperated expression. She obviously thought he was overplaying his hand to take Dominic into their bedroom. Encouraging Dominic to precede him, Alpha caught Adelle’s eye. He splayed the hand Dominic couldn’t see and mouthed, “Five minutes,” trusting her to understand what he wanted.


Dominic halted just inside the bedroom door. Alpha opted for a friendly shove to clear a path for him to enter and stepped around Dominic . Striding across the room, Alpha beckoned for Dominic to follow. Reluctance obvious, Dominic complied. Reaching an easel that had been turned toward the wall, Alpha reversed it, revealing a painting in progress. “This is how Adelle sees the world,” he said, pointing damningly at the stark, spare and quite dark picture. “She paints devastation.” Intrigued, Alpha watched Dominic’s eyes narrow and a frown form, thinking back on Adelle’s raised nipple reaction to having Laurence Dominic within reach. Her eyes hadn’t strayed from the torso with a disgustingly low percentage of body fat—less than the last time Dominic had been back—displayed by a snug T-shirt. He hadn’t missed her eyes slipping lower either, but he didn’t begrudge her the long look at Dom’s crotch. He’d snuck enough of his own over the last little while. Alpha watched Dominic evaluate Adelle’s painting and hoped that the longing Adelle displayed was mutual.


“That’s not devastation,” Dominic said, approaching the painting, expression both fascinated and wary. “That’s nothingness. Some kind of void.” Dominic touched the edge of the canvas with his forefinger. “Something that’s missing maybe.”


“You think?” Alpha said, trying to draw Dominic out even though the other man’s analysis mirrored his own. “So she’s pining over a pair of heels she had back in the day. That’s your theory?”


Dominic shrugged. “I don’t know what she might miss from her former life, but it seems like there’s a piece or two missing from the one she’s living now, if that painting has any real meaning at all.”


“The Adelle DeWitt you and I both knew would relish the idea of a coup.” Alpha dared Dominic not to look away. “You heard her, Dom. She wants left out of it.”


“Things have changed, Alpha,” Dominic said. “All of us have changed. You can’t blame her if she wants something different. Something simpler. Something better.”


“Does that exist, Dom?”


“It does if you both decide it does.”


Alpha wallowed in his fulfilled expectations at Dominic’s insights and Adelle joined them, doubtlessly as punctual as always. “What in the hell are you doing?” she demanded. “This is a work in progress. You shouldn’t be looking at it, much less showing it to someone else.”


Alpha met Dominic’s eyes over the canvas Adelle moved out of view. Dominic nodded. “I thought it was Alpha’s,” Dominic said. “He showed it to me and I admired it. He never said it was yours.” Looking down, Dominic said, “I’m sorry if I invaded your privacy or something.”


“You … admired it?” Adelle asked, blushing slightly, bringing a grin to Alpha’s face. Dominic lied to cover him and Adelle drew Dominic further into the trap he’d laid.


“Yeah. It pretty much captures how I feel about things most of the time.”


Adelle approached, clearly curious. “How so?”


* * *


“That there’s something huge missing,” Laurence Dominic said, not meeting Adelle’s eyes. “That life is empty, a waste of time mostly.”


Fingertips flowing along Dominic’s cheek, Adelle said, “I understand.”


“Am I the only one here with a modicum of optimism?” Alpha asked, positioning himself to Dominic’s right. “You two are the most capable people I know and you’re both ready to throw in the towel. Why?” Alpha shifted, forcing Dominic closer to Adelle. “Is it because of the unresolved issues between the two of you?”


Adelle and Dominic said, “No,” in near unison. Startled, they regarded each other for a long moment.


“Do you have any idea how much speculation there is here about you?” Adelle asked, tracing the line of Dominic’s jaw with her fingertips. “Many people, most of them women, want to know what’s behind the stoic taciturn facade.”


“Well, you can break the story—there’s nothing.”


Evidently choosing to ignore the bitterness in his tone, Adelle said, “To be more precise, they wonder what you’re like in bed and what it would take to get you into bed and keep you there.”


Dominic laughed and the sound of it surprised even him. It had been a long time. “There’s way more gossip about you and Alpha than there will ever be about me.”


“No way,” Alpha said. “You’ve spoken to Caroline and maybe a couple of random people since you’ve been back. How could you have heard about us?”


“I didn’t hear about you here,” Dominic said. “I heard about you from a bunch of people I normally do business with along my route. Apparently, word spread rapidly.”


“Jealous?” Alpha asked.


“What?” Dominic said, heart pounding.


Alpha wrapped his arms around Adelle, smirking. “I asked if you’re jealous, Dom. Are you?”


Something curled up tight inside Dominic. “Yes,” he said. The smile that lit Adelle’s face made the admission worth it.


“You needn’t be,” Adelle whispered, fingers trailing along the line of Dominic’s throat.


Sensations sent alarm bells clanging in Dominic’s mind and a jolt of desire throughout his body. “I don’t want to intrude,” he said. “I’ll go.”


Adelle stepped forward and Dominic lost himself in expressive green eyes. “I’d rather you didn’t,” Adelle said. The specter of the last time she’d said those words to him rose sharply between them before slowly and completely fading.


“You’re not intruding,” Alpha murmured in Dominic’s ear, disconcerting him further but calling him back from wherever Adelle had taken him.


“What the hell am I doing then?” Dominic demanded, instinctively of Alpha.


“Avoiding what you should avoid,” Alpha said. “Seriously, are you really in that much of a hurry rush off to do Caroline’s bidding? Are you ready to let the women who want you to have you on their terms? Are you ready for Ballard to lecture you on what’s expected? Again. C’mon, Dom. Think.”


“Why shouldn’t I just take my next mission and be done?” Dominic asked.


“Because Adelle and I would prefer you didn’t come home in a body bag if you came home at all.”


Burying his surprise that anyone, other than maybe Priya who cared about everybody, gave a shit about whether they ever saw him again, Dominic said, “I’ve been out many times and—.”


“Honesty, Dom,” Alpha snarled. “You go out again; are you coming back?”


“Sure.”


“Bullshit.”


“Bull fucking shit yourself, Alpha.” Dominic inclined his head to Adelle. “I can’t believe you bought into this ration of crap. Is he that good in bed?’


“Yes.”


There was really nothing to say to that. “Ok. I’m gone. You two have a nice evening.”


“We’ll have a nicer evening if you stay,” Alpha said, stepping between Dominic and the door to the bedroom. Pointing with his signature drama to the sofa across the room from the bed, Alpha said, “Can’t we all sit down and talk this through?”


“You’re not serious,” Dominic said, torn between bafflement and disbelief. Faced with nearly matching implacable expressions, he muttered,” Do you both actually think I’m suicidal?”


“Not suicidal,” Adelle said, taking Dominic’s hand, heading toward the couch.


Lifting her other hand to his lips, Alpha said, “Absolutely not.” Alpha directed his full attention to Dominic. “You don’t care enough about yourself to plan how you’re going to go out.


Wondering if he was being led with words as well, Dominic said, “You don’t know anything about me.”


“Oh, but I do,” Alpha said. “I know all about you. I was you, Dom, right after the second composite, when I came face to face with who I was before the Dollhouse, what I’d become, the things I’d done in the name of obsession. I didn’t care if I lived or died, but I thought dying would be a lot simpler. If I hadn’t found something to live for, I would’ve made a quick clean break of it.”


“I’m sure you have a bit of shrink in your complicated psyche,” Dominic said, halting in front of the couch, resisting the gentle downward pressure of Adelle’s hand on his as she sat, “but you don’t have a window into my situation. You’ve been a lot of nasty places, I’ll grant you that.” Dominic glanced at Adelle before he continued, “And you’re excellent at reading people. You always have been, so you probably think you know what I want or need.” Deciding he felt more comfortable glaring at Alpha, Dominic shifted his gaze back. “But here’s the thing. You’ve never been to the Attic. Either of you. So you don’t know where I’m coming from. At all.” Putting his tumbler on the small table next to the couch, Dominic said, “Thanks for the Scotch,” and turned to leave.


As he reached the bedroom door, Adelle said, “Be careful, Laurence.” Despite his best intentions, Dominic looked back over his shoulder. Adelle’s eyes caught his.


“Please,” added Alpha.


Whatever had tightened within him earlier loosened just a tiny bit. “Ok,” he said, uncertain exactly what he’d just agreed to do.


* * *


“He’s fine.” The low, intent voice drew Adelle’s attention away from the tomato plants that she had been tending. As a displacement activity the garden was excellent. No one argued when she retreated here, since her ability to coax things to grow here was one of the main reasons they had fresh vegetables. This particular patch had the benefit of being a reasonable distance from the house and since the results of Caroline’s latest ill conceived mission had just returned; battered, bloody and with two fewer people than when they had departed, being away from the main house had seemed an excellent plan. Even if removing herself had meant she couldn’t establish how badly Laurence had been injured.


“Are you sure?”


“Of course, I was channelling the good Doctor at the time – the one who never got over his brother’s death and buried himself in his work. Dom has a few cuts and bruises but it would have been unprofessional of me not to check he wasn’t seriously injured.” Lowering his hands to her shoulders he added, “I checked very carefully – just for you.”


“Not just for me,” she pointed out; looking up to see the arch smile he didn’t bother to hide. Getting to her feet she brushed dirt from her hands – pulling a face at the state of her nails and at the jeans she wore, which had definitely seen better days.


Alpha stepped close again, as though reluctant to let her evade his grasp and she leant back against him – even though they were normally careful about physical contact when there were others there to see them. “What’s Caroline saying?”


“That it wasn’t an inherently bad idea and is worth another try.”


“Oh for heaven’s sake!” She struggled against his hold, angry and frustrated since two people were dead and Caroline clearly thought they were disposable in the grand scheme of things. “Someone needs to say something.”


“The floor is yours, sweetness.”


“I don’t think so,” she said, before adding speculatively, “but she’d listen to you.”


“She wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t follow through and take on the added responsibility and Caroline knows that. You on the other hand...”


“No,” she told him flatly, slumping back against him; the argument an old one.


“Would you do it if Dom backed you up?” When she hesitated his fingers dipped underneath her shirt and traced a complicated pattern on her skin. “Tell me the truth Addie.”


“It’s irrelevant since despite our warning, or perhaps because of it, he had a close shave out there. You know it’s only a matter of time until he gets himself killed on one of Caroline’s fool’s errands.”


“That’s why he’s begging for there to be something else in his life. He needs a reason to be more careful, to tell her that she’s out of her mind instead of being a good little soldier. He needs a reason to live.”


“Don’t we all?”


“No,” his quick smile belied the seriousness of his response and she conceded that of everyone here he seemed content with his life – as long as he maintained his hard won control over his multiple personalities. He was one of the few people who didn’t seem to think that pleasure was something they ought to forego because of the state of the world. His sensuousness was, she suspected, a large part of what had drawn her to his bed. “It’s worth another try,” he mused, “poor Dom must be desperate for good scotch and intelligent conversation.”


“And how do you suggest we progress beyond that?” She enquired, interested despite herself and aware that their last attempt had not been successful.


“All the best strategies adapt to fit the circumstances.” It was something Caroline would do well to remember. “He wanted you and he’s curious about my response to that desire. He’ll be drawn in by your touch and unsettled by mine – but he’ll like the slight edge, perhaps need it this time. Like you – he’ll want control and relish surrender. He might even enjoy watching.”


“And will you? Enjoy watching I mean?”


“Why wouldn’t I?”


“Not everyone is like you and I.”


“Which is a pity. Fortunately I know exactly how persuasive you can be – and so does Dom.” He pressed his lips to the place her neck met her shoulder – which incidentally made her tremble. “Tell me what you want Addie?”


Turning to face him she touched her fingertips to his cheek, “I want you,” his smile was confident – because he knew that already, “and I want Laurence.”


“You’re so naughty,” he said happily, “it’s a revelation. I knew you couldn’t be as uptight as you let everyone think.” He rarely mentioned ‘before’ – not one for dwelling one the past and given what the past involved she didn’t blame him. Sometimes when he touched her she could hardly believe what those dexterous, sensitive hands had done. But she wasn’t innocent and her own hands were scarcely clean. “Your wish is my command.”


His eyes were taunting and mocking, but somehow soft as well and she slipped her arms around his waist as she gave her last condition. “I don’t want to do more damage – to him, or to you.” What little self-respect she had left wouldn’t countenance that.


“It’s about pleasure,” he said, smoothing away her frown with his fingertip. “I know all about pleasure – and I know how to give people what they need.” The reminder of her sales pitch had her stiffening in his arms, “let me,” he murmured, pulling her close. “Let me give you both that.”


* * *


“Is this seat taken?”


Laurence Dominic blinked up at a stunning young woman he’d never seen before. She obviously didn’t know a damn thing about him or she wouldn’t have bothered to ask the question. Admitting he sought something, anything really, to take his mind off of a mission gone horribly wrong, he shook his head and the woman’s blazing smile kept him from lowering it immediately.


“I’m Candy.” Though tempted, Dominic offered no comment as to the appropriateness of her name with regard to a man’s eyes. “I’m new here,” she said. “I just arrived two weeks ago. A little over two weeks to be exact. A group of us were traveling together, camp site to camp site, you know? Mandy and Eli developed kind of a thing along the way which really torqued Liz, so …”


Candy’s words flowed through Dominic as he methodically ate a stew that had undoubted been improved by the herbs from Adelle’s garden, musing that Eli had to have been either brave or stupid to travel in a party including both a Candy and a Mandy.


“You don’t talk much, do you?”


Unavoidably, Dominic looked up. Stubborn almost to the point of perversity, he chose to shake his head in reply. Another blazing smile, he’d not expected. Most people were put off by the silent treatment.


“My dad was like that.” His wince had no deterrent effect. “Wouldn’t say word one to mom or me most of the time. Until he answered his cell phone that … that day.” Tears welled up in Candy’s eyes. Dominic scanned the room for help. He had no intention of dealing with a crying woman on top of everything else. The only people he knew reasonably well were Paul Ballard and Jenn Kincaid. The thought of appealing to Ballard’s knight in shining armor streak turned Dominic’s stomach and Jenn looked pleased as could be that Candy was on the verge of spilling tears.


Sighing, he said, “No one had a good day that day.”


“What happened to you?”


Sparing a thought as to how complicated that question actually was and how simple, Dominic said, “Absolutely nothing.”


“That … that’s good, right?”


“I didn’t think so at the time.” Candy blinked back her tears, wiping the corners of both eyes where one or two had leaked. Seeing no way around trying to help her recover her equanimity and having no intention of openly discussing the Attic, he said, “My name’s Laurence Dominic.”


Attractive gray eyes widened. “You’re Laurence Dominic?” Candy whispered. Not wanting to know what she’d heard, he nodded and returned his attention to his stew. “You’re the guy who …”


He found her awed recitation of certain exploits of his fascinating in an odd way. For the first time in a while, Dominic did what Alpha had more or less challenged him to do the last time he’d been back to Safe Haven. He saw himself through someone else’s eyes. The realization that the things he’d done had mattered to this woman before they’d even met halted his spoon half way to his mouth. He put it down carefully and tried to work out what that meant, if anything.


“I’m sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Dominic,” Candy concluded.


“You hadn’t bothered me until you called me Mr. Dominic.” His white lie froze her in the act of preparing to stand. “Most people call me Dom.”


Candy smirked. “I’m not most people,” she murmured.


“More ebullient than most,” Dominic observed, not quite believing he’d been drawn into a conversation by a woman young enough to be his daughter or that he was pleased to have made her smile.


“I talk too much,” Candy said, rueful smile striking Dominic as charming. “I get that. I do. I just can’t help it, particularly when I’m nervous.”


“I make you nervous?” he asked.


“Not exactly.”


Intrigued despite himself, Dominic asked, “What does that mean?” She blushed and looked away. He waited. Biting her lip, Candy snuck a peek back at him, smiled tentatively and shot a look that might’ve been quickly masked fear over his right shoulder just as a small hand dropped onto it.


“I’m told you’ve returned more or less in one piece, Mr. Dominic,” Adelle DeWitt said, keen green eyes undoubtedly catching the look Candy flashed at Dominic.


“She’s an exception when she’s in a mood,” Dominic said.


“An exception?” Adelle asked, her fingers flexing slightly on his shoulder. “In what way and what precisely do you mean by ‘in a mood?’”


“You’re an exception to the no one calls me Mr. Dominic rule when you’re emotional but don’t want to show it.”


“I worried.”


“That’s what Alpha said.”


“Really?” Adelle said. The expression flitting across Adelle’s face made Dominic glad he wasn’t Alpha.


Unable to resist stirring the pot a little, Dominic said, “He went on at length about it, actually. I felt kind of guilty.” He didn’t feel the need to add that he’d also felt awkward at the possibility of having come between them in some way and jealous of Alpha because Adelle shared so much with him.


“Have you finished?” Adelle asked, her hand migrating to the back of his neck. Seeing his confusion, she said, “Your somewhat late lunch.”


He looked down at his nearly empty bowl and realized he’d lost his appetite. “Yeah, why?”


“I’d like a word.”


Something in Adelle’s expression suggested caution. “Sure,” he said, rising to his feet, wincing at the need to straighten his left knee.


“Nice to have met you, Dom,” Candy said, smiling up at him.


“Likewise,” he said. Dominic felt the weight of Adelle’s gaze but didn’t understand her expression. Pondering the matter, he followed her out of the main house and across the compound. “What’s up?”


“Are you aware that Caroline intends to repeat her latest foray?” She sighed, clasping her hands in front of her in a gesture of tension he recognized from Before. “And soon.”


Dominic shrugged. “No one’s said anything to me about that.” Adelle’s eloquent look of disbelief drew a small smile. “Caroline’s not that sensitive. Must’ve been Ballard who warned her off.”


“I don’t understand, Laurence.”


He would never tell her how much he liked hearing his first name spoken in her accent. “This one was rough for me.”


When he didn’t go on, Adelle observed, “Alpha said you weren’t injured badly.”


“I’m not.” Sighing, he said, “What do you know about the two people who didn’t make it back?”


“Only that they’re dead.”


“Yeah and Caroline is content to let everyone assume that there was a confrontation with Rossum and Rossum’s people killed them.” Adelle no doubt recognized the tightness in his tone for what it was—rising anger. “Clay and Danny were in my group. We were in the forward position—Clay, Danny, Rivers and me. We were waiting for the go code when Clay put a hand to his head and cried out in pain. Danny turned to ask what was wrong. Clay shot him in the face. He made the mistake of going for Rivers next and I returned the favor.”


“Ed Clay was a good man.”


“I know,” Dominic said. “I think he was imprinted remotely, but I don’t know why it was him and not any of the rest of us. Maybe some people are more susceptible to a pulse delivered in an undirected way. Caroline thinks it was a fluke—an aneurysm or something. I don’t.” Eyes finding Adelle’s as they stopped in front of the place she shared with Alpha these days. “It doesn’t change the fact that I killed a good man. I just wish I’d been hurt more. The pain would distract me.”


Opening the door, Adelle said, “Other things can serve that purpose, Laurence.”


“Such as?”


“Single malt Scotch.”


Thinking back to what Alpha had offered him recently, Dominic said, “I’m in.”


* * *


It took her a moment to locate the latest place that Alpha had hidden the scotch. It was a game they played, but she didn’t feel the need to share that information with her current companion. She was aware of Laurence watching her from just inside the doorway, his silent scrutiny was a pressure all of its own. Turning to find the tumblers she could see how irresolute he was – as though he wanted to be there, but was wary of being too drawn in. She considered what that might mean for the direction of this conversation.


“Are you sorry I took you away from Candy?” she asked, sliding the tumbler across the table towards him, using it to lure him further into the room in order to get the drink she’d promised.,


“I’m trying not to think about what happened today, I’ll take whatever distraction’s available,” he took a swallow of the scotch, “including this.”


“She’s quite lovely,” she observed neutrally – watching his reaction. The bitter twist of his lips wasn’t as reassuring as she’d like and not because she was concerned about the competition.


“She’s a kid, a frightened one at that.”


“Some men wouldn’t see her youth as an insurmountable barrier; they’d want to offer her a sense of security.”


“Apparently I’m not ‘some men’”. He sounded angry as he added, “If this is the conversation about making babies you can save it. I’m not in the mood.”


“Hardly,” she said – managing a small smile. “I’m just trying to establish that you want to be here and that I wasn’t interrupting a budding romance. I’d hate to deprive you of an opportunity to take comfort.”


“I’m not interested in Candy, Adelle. Or anyone else who hasn’t figured out who they are yet.”


“What about someone who knows who she is and what she wants?” She asked carefully, watching his response.


“She, isn’t available,” he ducked her gaze, looking into the depths of his tumbler as though some answer lay within it. “Someone else got there first,” he mumbled.


“That’s not exactly true.” Her words had him looking back up at her.


“What does that mean?” He growled.


“Not to be too literal perhaps, in this world nothing should be considered quite what it seems.”


“Damn it Adelle, don’t play games – you’re with Alpha. End of story.”


“Not necessarily,” he slammed his tumbler down onto the table and absurdly she considered the anger a promising sign. “What do you want Laurence?”


His expression hardened and she waited, half expecting him to storm out. Instead he closed the distance between them, grabbing her by the shoulders as he ground out, “You chose him!”


His kiss was hard and demanding and she didn’t even attempt to fight him, letting him take what he needed from her. She tasted his despair and understood only too well what prompted it; her hands clutched his shoulders, urging him on as the heat flickered through her. He took her hint, pressing her firmly back against the wall, grinding himself against her until she groaned. He pulled his mouth from hers to grab harsh breaths, before returning to the task with a little more control and finesse.


So engrossed were they in each other that neither of them heard the door open. She only became aware that someone else was present when familiar ironic tones observed. “I see you’ve started without me.”


* * *


“Fuck,” Laurence Dominic muttered, stepping away from Adelle DeWitt, no doubt cursing himself for losing control.


“I forgive you,” Alpha said. “Perfectly understandable if you ask me. A bit of tonsil hockey can improve the toughest of days … with the right partner, of course.” Alpha’s eyes bored into Dominic’s. “Or partners.”


“Look, sorry,” Dominic said, backing up another step, making it easier to for him to keep both Adelle and Alpha in view. “I’m out of line here. What happened wasn’t Adelle’s fault.”


“Really?” Alpha said, chuckling, invading Dominic’s personal space, handing the man the Scotch he’d abandoned in order to lip lock Adelle. “Funny, when Adelle doesn’t want someone, she never grabs their shoulders like she’s drowning and they’re the handy-dandy life preserver. I never once had her backed up against a wall when she didn’t want to be in just that position, particularly when she was shoving her hips into mine just as much as I was into hers. She’s not subtle in that way.”


Dominic managed only a mumbled, “Oh.” Alpha wasn’t disappointed. He was enchanted. A stereotypical tough guy reduced to monosyllables was a serious rush.


“I know Adelle wants you and I know how long that condition has persisted,” Alpha said, enjoying the way Dominic’s eyes shifted to Adelle, clearly against his will. Never disappointing, Adelle nodded, blushing becomingly and lowering her eyes, trusting Alpha to take this forward. “We had a very interesting conversation about you in a post-coital haze a couple of months back. It’s fascinating to discover that your lover has the same taste in men as you do and potentially very satisfying.”


“You?” Dominic said. “Um … me?” Alpha gave the T-shirt and jeans clad former chief of security a very obvious once over. “I … I’m not attracted to guys.”


“You have no idea how many times I’ve heard that,” Alpha said, waving a hand dismissively. “In my days as an active and after, I heard that sentiment expressed in every way from the bald faced lie to the conviction of deeply held religious beliefs. And every time, I brought the guy to climax, most often more than once, giving the liars far less than the ones who simply had no clue what I could do for them. That seemed fitting.”


Dominic shook his head, backing up another pace, draining his Scotch in one swallow. “Seriously, I’m sorry. I gave in to an impulse I had no business giving in to. I meant no disrespect. See you around.”


“No one would fault you for giving into an impulse after what you’ve just been through, Laurence,” Adelle said, “particularly, I hope, one of somewhat long standing. I’d hate to think I was the only one holding back when we worked together.”


“How can the both of you be so matter of fact about this?” Dominic demanded. Looking from one to the other, he said, “Everyone’s talking about the two of you as this serious established couple and I just tried to fuck with that. Why is that ok?”


Alpha grasped Dominic’s chin in his hand. “Because we both want you so badly we can’t stand the suspense. Because Adelle is eyeing that T-shirt as though it has committed grievous offences against her by concealing your upper body from her gaze. Because I’m tempted to drop to my knees and make you see God.” Grinning, Alpha kissed Dominic on the tip of his nose. “I could go on but I think you’re getting the point.”


“I’m the outsider looking in, why would you be so … accepting?”


Adelle wrapped her arms around Dominic from behind. “Because you’re not an outsider, Laurence. Not if you don’t want to be. We’d rather you joined us.” She slid her hand beneath his T-shirt and stroked Dominic’s abdomen. “Lord knows I’ve fantasized about having you for long enough. I’d like to enjoy the reality.” Pressing an open mouthed kiss just below his ear, she murmured, “If you’ll let me.”


Dominic looked frightened and Alpha found it charming. “Adelle,” Dominic said, “I don’t know.” Alpha endeavored to appear innocent as Dominic’s eyes darted to him. “I think it’s better to just … keep a distance … with the world as it is.”


“Why?” Alpha and Adelle challenged simultaneously. After exchanging a brief glance with Adelle, Alpha said, “Why begrudge yourself pleasure just because the world has gone to hell in that proverbial hand basket? Why shouldn’t you seek what solace you can find? Why martyr yourself to the fight against Rossum?”


“What else is left?” Dominic muttered.


“This,” Alpha said, turning Dominic toward Adelle. Eyes bright and avid, Adelle’s chest rose and fell rapidly, her hands clutching Dominic’s T-shirt. “How long have you wanted her?” Alpha whispered.


“Too long,” Dominic said, blue gaze locked on Adelle. “Far too fucking long.”


“Does she look like she’s going to deny you what you want?” Alpha asked, refraining from laughing at the wide eyed realization Dominic had as Adelle sold the unbridled lust option to the fullest as she opened the first few buttons of her shirt.


“Yeah, well, what about you?” Dominic asked.


Alpha shrugged. “I’ll get mine. I always do.”


“I’m not attracted to guys.”


“Tell me that after I’ve had my mouth on you.”


Dominic frowned impressively. “That’s not going to happen.”


“There’s no telling what’s going to happen once Adelle lowers those defenses of yours,” Alpha said, relishing the look of unease stealing across Dominic’s face, regretting and knowing he’d pay for the dismayed expression on Adelle’s that somewhat diminishing the impact of her having finished unbuttoning her shirt. “I might just surprise you.”


“I hate surprises.”


Laughing, Alpha said, “Of course you do. You wouldn’t be … well … you if you didn’t, but you might just appreciate what an open mind will get you.”


“I doubt that.”


Gesturing dramatically at Adelle, Alpha said, “While we can agree to disagree with regard to you and me, can we agree to agree that this fine woman shouldn’t be left sexually unattended any longer?” Grinning, Alpha’s leaned in to whisper in Dominic’s ear. “If I’m not mistaken, and I rarely am about these things, she’s been dreaming about being brought off by the two of us working together. Four hands, two mouths, one goal—what do you say, Dom?”


As if orchestrated in advance, which it hadn’t been just for the record, Adelle stepped within a hair’s breadth of full frontal contact with Dominic. Breathing ragged, hands clenched into fists, bloodshot blue eyes held Adelle’s green gaze before they dropped to her parted lips, Dominic undoubtedly stood on the verge. Alpha stepped into Dominic’s back, urging him forward where Adelle welcomed him with open arms, erect nipples and an agile tongue. The desire to take advantage of the distraction Adelle presented to Dominic nearly overwhelmed Alpha, his body primed and ready to bring the other man what he guessed would be the first non-self-induced orgasm in a long time. He’d known patience would be required; Alpha just hadn’t counted on how quickly his would be tested by the sight of Laurence Dominic worshiping Adelle DeWitt’s breasts.


* * *


Adelle’s knees almost buckled at the sensory overload of Laurence Dominic’s mouth at her breast. “I’ve got you,” a soft voice murmured in her ear and she believed it, leaning back into Alpha’s embrace before stretching her mouth towards his, demanding a kiss. He complied – taking her mouth roughly, the edge of frustrated arousal she could taste from him sending her spiraling higher.


The graze of teeth on her nipple had her breaking their kiss with a startled whimper. Laurence looked up, eyes dark and incredibly focussed. She remembered that expression from when he had been her Head of Security and nothing in those three years had prepared her for what it felt like to be centre of that intensity.


His gaze drifted over her shoulder and some complicated form of communication passed between the two men, the result of which was Alpha lifting her into his arms and striding towards the bedroom. Craning her neck, she made sure that Laurence was following but it seemed as though he’d shed his inhibitions – at least in regard to her.


Reaching for Laurence as soon as he joined her on the bed she gave into temptation and pulled the t-shirt up and off; hoping that Alpha shared her appreciation for what her actions had revealed. Sighing happily she kissed Laurence, running her hands over his chest and shifting to allow him to remove her shirt. She glanced over her shoulder to where Alpha lounged on the bed, watching them with interest.


“Having fun?” he inquired as she scanned his body, perfectly aware of the effect this was having on him. “Isn’t this better than bringing you flowers?”


She didn’t have an opportunity to respond – because as though he was irritated by her shift in focus, Laurence pressed her down onto the bed, kissing her harder and harder as his hands traversed her body and eventually found the button of her jeans.


“I thought you were going to help?” he said, throwing Alpha a look that was unmistakable in its challenge.


She didn’t understand the hint of anger in his tone, wasn’t even sure he understood it himself, though she didn’t doubt that Alpha would find a way to exploit it. But the sound she made was full of lust and anticipation as her current lover pulled his t-shirt off and moved towards her.


She drew him to her for a kiss and as soon as they parted she reached for Laurence – repeating the action, keeping the two men close. “It’s good to share,” Alpha quipped, before putting his tongue to better use; one that had her writhing as Laurence speedily undressed her. Of all the things she had done that she would never have believed herself capable of – this was the one she didn’t want to regret.


* * *


Laurence Dominic targeted Adelle DeWitt’s upper body, leaving her most sensitive bits to Alpha’s expertise, not wanting to compete directly with the genius former active. His lips took Adelle’s. His hands stroked her, starting at her lower abdomen and working his way, slowly, surely, sensuously to her breasts. Adelle clutched at his back, nails raking him. The sight of this woman completely out of control twisted something deep within Dominic. Her moans and other non-verbal pleas went to his head and his crotch. Her eyes locked on his when she came, arching her back, pressing into him. Heart pounding, Dominic held her close. Alpha shifted to do the same, smiling at Dominic.


“I think it’s safe to say Adelle enjoyed herself,” Alpha said. “Mission accomplished, Dom.”


“Yeah,” Dominic said, gazing down at the obviously pleased woman. Adelle’s hands came to rest on each of Dominic’s and Alpha’s breastbones. She caressed both men, arriving at respective nipples at exactly the same time. “You’re so beautiful,” Dominic murmured, leaning in to kiss her tenderly.


“So are you,” Adelle whispered, smiling. Eyes darting briefly to Alpha, she said, “You both are.”


“I’m a lot of things, Adelle,” Dominic said, “but beautiful isn’t one of them.”


“Eye of the beholder, Dom,” Alpha said, gaze delivering a challenge that Dominic didn’t understand. “We’re the beholders, not you. And I’m liking what I’m seeing. What about you, Adelle?” She purred. There was no other word for it and the sound trembled through Dominic. “Tell me, Adelle,” Alpha said. “What would you like to do next?”


Smiling, Adelle’s fingertips trailed down Dominic’s chest, her hand coming to rest on the button of his jeans. She pressed her lips to Dominic’s as she unbuttoned and unzipped him. Dominic fondled Adelle’s ass, breaths rapid and shallow, control slipping. Their kiss deepened and Adelle’s small hands pushed his jeans and boxers over his hips. Dominic tried not to think about the hands that finished divesting him of his clothes and the way the larger fingers stroked the backs of his thighs and calves.


“What else, Adelle?” Alpha asked, tone low and vibrant, something far more intriguing than a mere whisper. “Anything at all you’d be interested in observing?”


Adelle pulled Dominic in for a long, languorous kiss. “The two of you,” she said afterward, “kissing.”


“No way,” Dominic said. “I don’t … well, I mean, I have as part of a mission, but I wouldn’t choose to kiss him when you’re available.”


“Pretend I’m not,” Adelle said, hand encircling him, stroking once, twice, a third time.


“It’s … ah … difficult to pretend you’re not here when you’re touching me like that.”


Adelle released him and leaned back, obviously expecting a show to enjoy. Dominic turned toward Alpha, heart racing, body demanding release. “I don’t …” His words died in his throat when Alpha smiled slowly and moved close enough for Dominic to feel the heat radiating from his body.


“I know,” Alpha said, running a hand along Dominic’s spine. Touch light and sure, he stroked up and down Dominic’s back. “One kiss,” Alpha murmured, tongue teasing Dominic’s earlobe, “for Adelle?”


Rolling over, Dominic allowed, “One.”


Alpha framed Dominic’s face with his hands and leaned in for his one kiss.


It felt good, too good, in fact. Dominic tried to pull away and Alpha let him, but the former active’s lips slid to his cheek, chin, throat, shoulder, chest, abdomen, setting nerve endings alight all along the way. Adelle moved in at one point, Dominic wasn’t sure when, and kissed him senseless, fingertips torturing his nipples. Then Alpha had what he seemed to want—his mouth on Dominic’s erection. Alpha built the tension unbearably, taking his time. Dominic couldn’t concentrate on extricating himself from this situation because Adelle kept kissing him and whispering encouragement in his ear, telling him to let go, to let it happen, to give in.


“No,” he groaned, hissing in pleasure as Alpha did something fucking amazing with his tongue. “Christ, no,” Dominic said.


“Protesting too much, Laurence,” Adelle said, dynamiting Dominic’s eyes open. “I understand. He can give you so much if you let him.”


Alpha didn’t give Dominic a choice, abandoning the slow build up and moving his mouth over him relentlessly. The orgasm welled up inside, the pressure built to an unbearable level. A sharp slap to his cheek drew Dominic’s attention. “Tell me you want it from me,” Alpha demanded, hand having replaced his mouth. Breathing harshly, on the cusp, Dominic shook his head. “Stubborn totally does it for me,” Alpha said, expertly taking Dominic higher and further and higher and further.


Helpless moans were all Dominic could manage but he’d be damned if he was going to ask to get off. No way would he give Alpha that satisfaction. “Dom,” Alpha whispered. Dominic’s eyes shifted to the other man, whereupon Alpha kissed him and brought him off like a rocket.


When Dominic’s breathing and heart rate returned to something approaching normal, Adelle straddled Alpha, eyes bright, motions quick and sure but losing some coordination as she neared another climax. She looked like a dark goddess of lust, abandoning herself to sensation. Against his will, Dominic’s eyes shifted to Alpha who stared right back. Dazed uncertainty regarded frantic vulnerability. When Adelle took Alpha over the edge, he mouthed “Laurence,” sending a wave of panic through Dominic. He couldn’t be a part of what Adelle and Alpha had. He couldn’t match either of them, let alone both. Disappointment gave way to weariness and repletion and Dominic drifted off to sleep.


* * *


Adelle didn’t necessarily sleep well these days – she was too often disturbed by Topher’s nightmares and other nocturnal terrors. Being with Alpha had given her a respite, he understood that sometimes what she needed was oblivion and he always obliged. But she woke when someone beside her stirred and, opening her eyes she found Alpha trying to extricate himself from the bed. She remembered falling asleep tangled in both man’s arms, Laurence hadn’t stirred from his position curled into her back; his hand resting possessively on her hip.


“Where are you going?” She asked, keen to either play some more or else go back to sleep.


“You look beautiful together,” he told her, his tone wistful as he looked beyond her to the rumpled sheets and the exhausted looking man who still slept wrapped up in them.


“The two of you looked beautiful as well,” she said as she sat up and reached for him; trailing her hands over his chest and shoulders. “I saw his face when we made him come; saw the way you looked to him when we orgasmed.”


“He wants you,” Alpha told her, cupping her face in his hands and tilting it back. “I can’t blame him for that.”


“I want both of you,” she offered in response, unwilling to allow him to separate himself from this, “and I want you both to want each other as well.” She was taking a risk, knowing how persuasive Alpha could be. She didn’t believe Laurence was as immune to the other man’s touch as he wanted to be. She could so easily be the one to lose out, the one who didn’t belong. Or else this was only ever going to happen once and she should stop worrying and concentrate on the pleasure. “He needs us both,” she told him, turning her head to press a kiss to his palm. “Come back to bed.”


“Don’t argue with her,” a third voice said, as fingertips trailed up and down her spine, followed by lips. She glanced back at Laurence as he sat up, but his gaze was fixed on Alpha. “You aren’t chickening out, are you?” he taunted, pulled her back into his embrace as his lips trailed over her neck and shoulders and his hands moulded themselves to her breasts. She sighed and pressed her hips back into his, kneeling with him on the bed – equally aware of the way his hands moved over her and the way Alpha’s eyes watched their every movement. “I want to be inside you when you come this time,” Laurence said – his breath hot in her ear. “I want you to scratch my back and scream for me.”


“And what about me?” Alpha asked, “what do you want from me?”



Part 2