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Battle of Britain--Chapter 2
damien listening guitar
rogoblue
Title: Battle of Britain Chapter 2


Rating: R (language and sexual situations)


Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue


Summary: Captain Dominic gets more of a window into Miss DeWitt’s operations and methods as he endeavours to settle in at the SOE.






“How can all of my luck be bad?”


Laurence Dominic was trying to place the female voice when he heard glass shatter.


“Damn it all to Hell!”


Cautiously, he opened his office door. Judith knelt in front of her desk, picking up the pieces of a broken vase, cut flowers strewn around her as though they’d been tossed by admirers. “Are you all right?” he asked.


“Do I look all right to you, Captain Dominic?” she snarled.


Unsure why a few flowers mattered so much, he ducked into his office to retrieve the ugliest vase he’d ever seen. Dominic had found it in a desk drawer and displayed it on a small filing cabinet to admire the sheer awfulness. “Here,” he offered.


“That’s wretched.”


“But functional.” He crouched and gathered the flowers.


“Thank you,” she mumbled, wiping tears from her face. “I’m not weeping over a few stems, you know.” Judith sighed and faced him. “The tears are for my ruined weekend.”


“I’ll put some water in this for you,” Dominic said, gesturing to the flower filled vase. He wondered about her situation, as he went about the mundane task, but knew it was none of his business.


“Are you courting my assistant already, Captain?”


He met Adelle DeWitt’s eyes over the flowers. “If I was, I wouldn’t have chosen this vase.” He held the etched green glass monstrosity up as evidence.


“I should think not,” she said, her moue of distaste formidable. “I’ll be preparing for tomorrow’s meeting, Judith. Please see that I’m not disturbed.”


“Of course, ma’am.” Judith accepted the vase. “Thank you again.”


“I’m sorry about your weekend,” he said.


“Why did the damn thing have to choose today not to start?”


Judith seemed as though she expected an answer. “To spite you?” he ventured, trying a small smile that women seemed to like.


She laughed and looked surprised about it. “All I wanted to do was go out to the country and the damn car decides not to cooperate. I know it’s elderly and has earned the right to be temperamental from time to time, but I only wish ... ”


“I could take a look at it, if you want,” Dominic said.


“You?”


The opportunity outweighed the mild insult of her scepticism. “I worked at a mechanics all through high school and on all of my own cars since.”


“But why would you?”


“Because I want to fit in here, if I can, and this might help.”


“I’ll give you points for honesty, Captain, and gladly accept a lift home and an attempt to nurse Myrtle back to health.”


“Your car’s named Myrtle?”


Her expression and bearing were prim and proper, but Judith’s eyes were laughing. “That would be Miss Renault to you.”


“Obviously,” he said, turning back toward his office, “since we’ve not been formally introduced. Knock when you’re ready to leave.”


* * *


“I hope your weekend was enjoyable?” Adelle enquired as she emerged from her office first thing on Monday morning. She didn’t begrudge Judith a rare weekend away.


“Much better than I thought considering it was nearly de-railed; I was rescued though.”


“Sounds intriguing. What on earth happened?”


“Myrtle wouldn’t start – I had to enlist emergency mechanical assistance from our American ally.”


Startled, she asked, “Captain Dominic?”


“He was very kind, rather sweet and terribly good with his hands.” Judith smiled mischievously, “he had Myrtle purring happily away in no time. I rather wish the problem had been more serious so I could have spent longer observing the well developed upper chest muscles.”


“He took his shirt off?” She hoped her tone didn’t sound as sharp to Judith as it did to her.


“Myrtle can be messy.” Judith sighed happily and lowered her lashes, “He has an excellent physique and knows his way around an engine.”


“I hope you weren’t so effusive when talking to the good Major?” Adelle leant against the office door, indulging her curiosity.


“Of course not, he’s terribly possessive – poor lamb. But thanks to Captain Dominic I was able to get away as planned and we had a wonderful weekend with his mother and sister.”


“Separate rooms?” Adelle asked. She found the subject of Judith’s long and extremely proper courtship endlessly fascinating.


“Of course,” Judith examined her fingernails, “we did go for one or two drives though – since Myrtle was in such excellent condition.”


“It’s a good job Myrtle has such a comfortable back seat.” The two women shared a smile, but Judith’s blush told Adelle that her virginity remained intact – though not without a close call or two.


“Were you here all weekend?” Judith asked, her tone only mildly disapproving.


“I had lunch with my grandfather on Sunday.”


“I didn’t realise he was in town?”


“Neither did I,” Adelle’s smile was pained, “he isn’t in the best of health – I don’t know what possessed him to come up.”


“The chance to see his only granddaughter perhaps,” Judith suggested shyly and Adelle acknowledged her point, though the reminder of the difficult and uncomfortable meal was unpleasant.


“I suppose that could have been it,” she agreed. Though she couldn’t help but add silently that he was rather late in the day on that score.


Adelle seldom talked about herself to this extent, but Judith was one of the few people she trusted and she recognised that her assistant’s many confidences demanded reciprocation. Fortunately Judith knew when she had pushed far enough. She glanced at her desk and said, “Give me five minutes to try to rustle up some tea and then I’ll be ready to go through the diary.”


* * *

“I’m heading out to lunch, Captain.”


Dominic glared at the stack of files on the right side of his desk. “Eat something for me, Judith.”


“That won’t do,” she said, intuiting in the eerie way of hers that he’d finished with the files to his left. “Miss DeWitt insists that her staff eat and sleep and you look as though you’re a bit light on both counts, so I’m taking you away from your palatial office and fascinating reading material and buying you lunch to thank you for your help with Myrtle.” Judith lifted the stack of files she’d collected slightly, drawing his eyes to them. “I’ll put these back where they belong and return to collect you.”


Bemused by her assumption, however correct, that he’d go along with her plan, Dominic jotted down a few final notes. Only when they were meandering—there was no other word for Judith’s pace or frequent changes in direction—did he wonder, “Are we going to be in trouble when we get back? For fraternizing outside of the office.”


Judith waved away the concern. “Miss DeWitt already knows I’ve seen you half naked. I hardly think she’d consider observing you with your mouth full a further step on the road to perdition.”


“You told her about me fixing your car?”


“Of course,” Judith said, sounding as though she found him particularly dense. “How can your good deed ingratiate you, if people don’t know about it?”


Thinking he might just survive today’s embarrassing moment with his dignity intact, he muttered, “I’m surprised you told her the details of it, not the fact of it.”


“The details make the fact far more interesting.” Eyes sparkling, Judith said, “She asked clarifying questions.”


Not wanting to analyze why the thought pleased him, he asked, “I don’t want to know, do I?”


She shook her head and took his arm. “Let’s go here.”


Dominic stood in front of the establishment where he’d spent the last two evenings and had the uncomfortable realization that he didn’t know if the food was any good.


“You don’t like this place?” Judith said, clearly sensing his disquiet.


“This is fine,” he said, forcing a grin, “so long as your Major isn’t here waiting to call me out.”


“He’s as grateful as I am for what you did for Myrtle,” she said, allowing him to hold the door open for her. “He approved of my plan to feed you in recompense.”


“Did you tell him you saw me half naked too?”


Judith’s laughter, genuine and delighted, drew the attention of every male in the place. “Nothing good would have come of that, Captain.”


A heavy hand descended on Dominic’s shoulder. “We drank in this very bar for hours last night and you never once mentioned you had youth and beauty on tap for lunch today,” said a voice that boded somewhat ill. “What the hell, Dom?”


“Devon,” he said, looking over his likely bruised shoulder. “Judith’s invitation to lunch came as a surprise. She’s engaged to a Brit who outranks the both of us.”


“You invited this guy to lunch, sweetness?” Devon said, grinning at her. “You’ll ruin your fine reputation, if you make that mistake more than once.”


“Why is that?” she asked, aiming her lively blue eyes up at Devon.


“Get lost,” Dominic growled.


“Well, if you really don’t want me to tell her about Hailey, Gretchen and Carlotta and how they fight over you, I won’t, but you should know, Harding’s in the backroom.”


Wishing he’d ordered a beer rather than coffee, Dominic muttered, “Understood.”


“Nice to meet you, Miss Judith,” Devon said, saluting her smartly before wandering off.


“Hailey, Gretchen and Carlotta?”


“Let it go, please.”


“You’ve been in London just under a week and already have three women chasing you,” she mused. “I might be able to learn a few things from you that don’t involve Renault engines.” Judith leaned forward, earning sighs from several nearby tables, and said, “What’s in the backroom here?”


“A chapel.”


“Very funny.”


“Young lady, may I borrow your lunch date for a few minutes?”


“Of course, General,” Judith said, widened eyes impressed.


Dominic rose and saluted. “Sir.”


General Crane dropped his hand to Dominic’s chair and announced, “Anyone warming this seat who steps an inch out of line will answer to me—loudly and with unmanly pleading for mercy. Is that clear?”


The, “Yes, sirs,” resounded as Crane steered Dominic outside.


“Where’s Harding?”


“I don’t know, sir. I’ve been at the SOE all morning.”


Propelling Dominic along, Crane said, “This isn’t politics, son; it’s war. Where’s your CO?”


“What do you care if he’s getting his cock sucked by a cheap whore?” Dominic snarled.


“I don’t. I just need you to know where he is and what he’s doing, so he doesn’t fuck up one of my battalions.”


“With my duties at the SOE, I don’t always—.”


Crane stopped short and spun Dominic around by his shoulder. “Do you expect me to believe the men don’t come to you, if there’s an issue?”


“No, sir.”


“Good. Eval the SOE.”


Deliberately not considering Dr. Topher Brink, he said, “It’s sound top to bottom, sir.”


“That’s what Harding’s report said.”


Thinking of the edits he’d made, Dominic said, “Of course it did.”


The General headed back toward the pub. “See that those reports remain accurate, Captain. There’s nothing more vital than intelligence. When we invade, we need the most complete picture possible of what we’ll face.”


“Is there a timetable, sir?”


“Not yet, but there will be and I’m counting on you to help us meet it. Now, go and enjoy your lunch.”


Dominic shooed away the four young men hovering around Judith. “I’m sorry about that,” he said. “I didn’t like leaving you.”


“Do generals often consult you?” she asked, guileless eyes fooling no one.


“Occasionally.”


“We thought you might be fast tracked.” Watching him over her cup of tea, she said, “Miss DeWitt and me.”


Floored again, he mumbled, “You two seem to talk about me a lot.”


“But not too much.”


* * *


“We went to that pub everyone is saying the Americans have taken over,” Judith announced as she stepped into Adelle’s office and closed the door behind her. Setting her paperwork aside, Adelle intuited that ‘we’ included Captain Dominic.


“I didn’t ask you to report back,” she observed.


“It’s all right – I practically told Laurence I would – that doesn’t make it spying really.” It wasn’t much of a distinction, but Adelle didn’t pursue it – more interested to learn that her assistant and Captain Dominic were on first name terms now. “He seems to have spent time there, people certainly recognised him and there were tales of women.”


“I’m not sure I need to know how he spends his spare time Judith.” As she’d expected, the warning had absolutely no effect.


“There’s a room in the back he called a ‘chapel’ – he wouldn’t explain, does that mean...?”


“It’s a brothel of sorts,” Adelle confirmed – wondering how Judith’s father would respond if he knew where his daughter had been. “For a different type of worship.”


“One of Laurence’s companions said Colonel Harding was there, in the back room.” Adelle looked up sharply, aware she’d been given a useful piece of information. She tucked it safely away for later use. “And a General stopped by to talk to talk to him. They went outside, so I don’t know what they discussed.”


“Interesting company he keeps,” Adelle said.


“Does that mean he’s meant for great things?”


“Someone has their eye on him certainly; it could mean any number of things.” Including that his loyalties were divided – no matter what he had said to her.


“I like him,” Judith said quietly.


“I hope the Major has nothing to be worried about?”


“Not like that, he’s very easy to spend time with and he knows things – different things.”


“From what you’ve said, other women find him equally pleasant company.”


“Including you?” Judith asked, using the license Adelle sometimes allowed her.


“He’s impressed me so far,” Judith’s expression eloquently displayed her dissatisfaction with that answer, but Adelle wasn’t prepared to be drawn further.


The trill of the phone proved a welcome respite until the operator transferred the call and she heard the stentorian tones of the Prime Minister, demanding an update. Judith staged a quiet retreat as soon as she realised Churchill was calling.


* * *


Waiting for word from Madeline, having no room to pace, Laurence Dominic recalled Devon’s suggestion that he take the pretty little blonde with three roommates he’d met last night back to his office. The location of the HQ wasn’t common knowledge so he couldn’t, but that didn’t stop him from laughing at the thought of having sex in the tiny room. The desk was too small and narrow. Ditto for the chair. There wasn’t enough floor space in front or behind the desk for any kind of comfort. If the woman sat on top of the filing cabinet, she’d be at about the right height, he imagined. He’d just stood to test his hypothesis when someone burst into his office.


“Where is your girl?” demanded Colonel Harding.


“I’m waiting for confirmation that Madeline’s in place in France.”


“Adelle DeWitt,” Harding growled. “I was waiting for her outside. Time passed. People left. A lot of people, but not her and not you. I have reservations at the only restaurant still worthy of the name in this city and time’s a wasting.” He moved around Dominic’s desk, peering into the opening cut for the chair to slide beneath.


Dominic couldn’t help laughing, given the path his thoughts had taken earlier. “If you think she’s crawled under my desk to service me, you are one sorry son of a bitch.”


“Maybe you’ve hidden her in your closet,” Harding countered.


Shaking his head, still laughing, Dominic said, “Look around. This is a fucking closet. Jesus!”


“Then where is she?” The strident note to Harding’s voice issued a warning Dominic ignored.


“If she didn’t slip past your vigilant surveillance—not a bet I’m willing to take by the way—she’s in her office and certainly not waiting for you.”


“Show me.”


Something deep inside Dominic came unhinged. “No.”


Face red, knuckles white, Harding said, “What did you say?”


What’s that expression—in for a penny, in for a pound. Dominic settled back into his chair. “She won’t leave the building with you.”


“You forget yourself.”


“I’m only trying to keep you from making a fool of yourself. It’s part of my job description. I know. I checked.”


Harding leaned over Dominic’s chair. “It’s time you learned the difference between Captain and Colonel.”


“I earned Captain,” Dominic spat, giving voice to the rage suddenly welling welled within him. “You bought Colonel. That’s the difference.”


“Stand up,” Harding demanded.


“Why?” he asked, even as he failed to comply. “What are you going to do? Call me out? Pistols at dawn? Broadswords at noon? I like my chances with either.”


“Are you drunk?”


“Haven’t touched a drop today,” Dominic said, resisting the urge to add unlike you to his statement. “I’m concerned about my operative and have no interest in furthering your attempt to cheat on your wife with a lovely British lady.”


Harding cackled. “You want her.”


Shrugging, Dominic asked, “What red blooded man wouldn’t?”


The Colonel’s laugh echoed harshly. “A woman like that won’t succumb to your unpolished charm. How does it feel to fail?”


“I’ve changed my mind,” Dominic said, surging to his feet. “I’ll take you to her, so she can turn you down flat.”


“Lead the way,” Harding said and Dominic fervently hoped his belief in Adelle DeWitt was well founded.


Striding down the short hallway, Dominic fought to put a lid on his anger. After Adelle acknowledged his knock, he opened the door enough to accommodate his head and left shoulder. “Colonel Harding would like a word with you, if you can spare the time, ma’am.”


“I can give him ten minutes,” she said, glancing pointedly at her watch, inspiring Dominic to do the same. “After which, I’d like you to return. We may as well use our time constructively.”


“I assure you, Miss DeWitt,” Harding said, elbowing his way past Dominic, “the Captain is capable of handling any type of communication and solving all manner of problems. That being the case, you’re clearly free to enjoy your evening.”


Adelle sighed. “As you well know, Colonel Harding, with command comes responsibility. All of my operatives expect and deserve my interest and attention. What’s more, my staff will follow the example I set. Won’t they, Captain?”


“That they will,” he replied.


“Why are you still here?” Harding said, rounding on Dominic.


Adelle’s fleeting smile chased the worst of his anger away, leaving him drained and embarrassed by the lapse in self control.


* * *


Adelle knew she couldn’t allow the hostility between the two men to develop further. The SOE could ill afford to be associated with the breakdown of relations between Harding and Dominic. Her many enemies would see any negative impact on the chain of command as proof of the pitfalls of placing a woman in a position of power.


Leaning forward, watching the way his eyes focussed on her cleavage, she smiled brightly. “This is a pleasant surprise; I’ve been hoping to have the opportunity to talk to you in private.”


“I’d be happy to continue our conversation over dinner.”


“I couldn’t possibly impose on your time to that extent – I know how busy you are."


“It’s no imposition,” he breathed – a lascivious smile making her skin crawl.


“I can’t tell you how delighted I was to learn that you were going to be involved in our work.” Harding preened and in her head she called him very insulting names in French, Spanish and then Russian. “It’s so important that senior officers show moral leadership and the news that a sober, respectable representative of the US Army was going to work closely with us was a weight off my mind.” She lowered her eyes, hoping to give the impression of modesty. “It’s so easy for standards to slip during war time. Men are away from home and perhaps thinking that they can cut loose a little. What they really need is an example to follow –yours.”


His unctuous smile had faded and she imagined him trying to fashion a suitable response.


“It isn’t easy being a woman in this position,” she confided, “I know you’ll find this difficult to believe – but some of the men I encounter seem to think the war gives them license to make advances to me.”


“Shocking,” he murmured with fake sincerity. “I hope you’ll come to me if you have any difficulties like that, especially with Captain Dominic. I’d like you think of me as a favourite uncle.”


“Thank you for being so wonderfully understanding,” Certain that the ten minutes she had allotted to this conversation had elapsed, she rose and stepped towards the door – leaving him no alternative but to follow. “I hope your wife is well, that your family isn’t missing you too much?”


“Mrs. Harding understands that we all have to make sacrifices during the war.” The Colonel in a pompous, self-sacrificing mood was almost as unpleasant as the lecherous version.


Showing him out she was relieved that Dominic had the sense to stay out of sight. Moments later, he slipped into the office. “Harding’s gone?”


“Safely dispatched,” she confirmed, “apparently I’m to look on him as a favourite uncle.” Dominic looked vaguely nauseated, a sentiment she shared. “I didn’t tell him that my favourite uncles are the Third Sea Lord and the Bishop of Chichester, he’s really no competition.” She was rather disappointed when Dominic failed to ask how she had managed to rebuff Harding’s advances. “I’m relieved to say he seems to have decided that I am not a woman of interest. That safely out of the way, shall we go through your recruitment recommendations while we wait to hear from Madeline?”


* * *


“Sure, I’ll get my notes,” Dominic said, wishing he was entitled to know how Colonel Harding had undergone the about face Adelle described in the space of a few minutes. Dominic understood how to work around Harding in many contexts but what Miss DeWitt had just accomplished went well beyond that.


“Judith helped me put these in the right format,” he said, offering Adelle a file folder containing information on the first set of candidates he’d located.


“It’s good the two of you have developed a smooth working relationship.”


“She’s fun.” Something in the room changed and not for the better. “I meant that in an utterly professional sense,” he said, as he slumped into a chair.


“I”ll hold you to that, Captain. Proceed.”


Vowing to be more careful, he said, “I interviewed every fluent French speaker I could find. I’ve taken the liberty of grouping them into potentially suitable and probably not, but you’re welcome to look at everything.”


Adelle’s eyebrow arched in what Dominic believed to be surprise. “How many preliminary evaluations did you conduct?”


“Fifty-two.” He shrugged. “Don’t be too impressed. All I did was get word to the right people and spend the better part of the weekend tracking candidates down.”


“I appreciate that you took the assignment seriously and were willing to sacrifice significant personal time.”


“Is that my cue to say something trite about there being a war on and all I’ve done is my bit?”


“Only if you feel you must.” Adelle leafed through the evaluations and made notations in the margins. She tapped the file folder. “How many of these candidates you’ve flagged do you believe to be truly viable?”


“Ten at the most, probably closer to five or six. I interviewed everyone who met the fluency criteria to be sure I didn’t miss anyone.”


“Any sure things to your mind?”


“Isn’t it too early to tell, ma’am?” he countered, feeling like he was boxing rather than conversing.


“Answer the question, Captain Dominic.”


“There are two that I can’t imagine leaving off of the duty roster.”


“These?” she asked, sliding two evaluations across her desk.


“Yes. They seem well suited to clandestine activities.”


“And, yet, they’re disciplinary risks.”


“That’s partly why they’re so well suited,” he said. “You use ...” The memory came along with another of how Adelle had laughed over the wild flower he’s presented to her. “Unconventional operatives. Those men are more conventional than a lot of yours.”


“You’ve completed your reading assignments, then?” she asked, but Dominic got the impression she’d assumed the affirmative answer. “I want to evaluate the men you see potential in this week, after which we’ll see about recruiting the ones who can help us.”


“Their COs will order the men to go.”


“I won’t.”


“Fair enough.”


“You disapprove?”


Is everything a test with this woman? He handed the evals back. “I see pros and cons to both approaches, but it’s your show. I accepted that when I agreed to be posted here and I think I may have reaffirmed that a time or two since.”


Inclining her head so he couldn’t see her eyes, Adelle asked, “Why were you assigned to Harding?”


“Why did you get stuck with Ambrose?”


“Politics,” Adelle said, smiling, no doubt anticipating his response.


“That’s what the General who talked me into the posting led me to believe. I have my doubts, though. The brass might be testing my patience.”


“There you are, sir,” said a young man who looked as though he had to shave once a month. “Madeline is intact and in place, sir. Insertion went off with only a minor hitch.”


Accepting the offered paper, Dominic said, “Thank you. That will be all.” Turning to Adelle, he said, “Could I talk you into a drink to celebrate?”


“What was the minor hitch?”


He scanned the report, understanding he’d made a mistake by not doing so immediately. “A road closure forced a detour of about ten miles, making them miss curfew by two minutes. A bottle of drugged whiskey and a few stalling kisses solved the problem.”


“Damn, she’s been exposed.”


“Madeline didn’t do the kissing and they apparently got a lot of whiskey into someone who reeked of alcohol already. If he even remembers what he saw or why it might be significant, it’s possible no one will listen.”


“But they might.”


“They might, but there’s nothing you or I can do about that.”


“Are you lecturing me, Captain Dominic?”


“I wouldn’t dare.” Rising, acknowledging he wanted the advantage height afforded, he said, “Have a drink with me.”


“I should review your preliminary evaluations.”


“You can do that in about thirty minutes in the morning.” Gathering his folder and pencil, he said, “I guess you aren’t as curious about me as you seem.” He’d said it to get a reaction. A raised eyebrow disappointed.


“Would that bother you?”


“No, I just really want a drink.”


“So do I, Captain Dominic.”


In less time than he would’ve imagined, given the amount of waiting he generally did for other ladies of his acquaintance and the strolling speed at which most of them walked, he and Adelle DeWitt were seated at a small table in the rear of a poorly lit bar with drinks before them. “Here’s to you,” he said, raising his glass.


“Why?”


“Because.” Evidently satisfied, she drank, freeing him to follow suit.


“How do you manage to maintain a rather robust social life in the midst of everything?” she asked, her eyes bearing a hint of sadness. “I’ve not the knack.”


Not bothering to observe that Judith had been telling tales, he said, “I keep things uncomplicated. I figure out who’s safe to flirt with and avoid the rest.”


“The concept of safe flirting intrigues me.”


“Being intriguing doesn’t hurt, either.”


The smile Dominic coveted appeared again. “I rather imagine so.”


“You’re stunning when you smile like that.”


Her entire body shifted and he liked it. “You believe me to be someone safe?” Adelle asked.


Grateful for the dimness because he suspected he was blushing, he said, “No. That was stating a fact.”


“Who is safe, in your opinion?”


He knew the risk he ran, but his instincts insisted he continue. “Judith. She’s fun, charming, too young and taken. She’s perfect.” Upping the ante, he added, “And she likes it.”


“She certainly likes you.”


“What about you?” he asked, taking a sip of bitter. “Do you like me?”


“Would you suppose me safer if I did?”


“Safer, maybe, but not safe. So...?”


Adelle rested her hand atop his. “I haven’t decided yet. In some ways, you’re what I expect. In others ... quite the opposite.”


Chuckling, Dominic muttered, “Not even safer.”


“I suspected as much, which, I’m sure, completely explains my social situation.”


“Your social situation is inexplicable. Even Harding understands that and he’s pretty much as dense as they come.” He turned his hand over and took hers. “I’m probably out of line, but, I mean, you must know you’re beautiful. I’m sure you have standards and all, but someone must meet them. Someone, somewhere could beat the loneliness back, even if only for a little while.”


“Loneliness has little to do with being alone, Cap—.”


“Laurence. My name is Laurence. We’re away from Baker Street. You can use it.”


“I thought we came here, so I could assuage my curiosity about you?”


How can she make uncomfortable look gorgeous? “Reciprocity isn’t a bad thing.”


“Yes, it is.”


He looked to the heavens. “Yes, it is, Laurence.”


She laughed. “Yes, it is, Laurence.”


His name on her lips sent a shiver down his spine and he wondered what he was doing with this woman. He didn’t even have the excuse of being drunk. “I’ll walk you home when we’re through.”


“I can summon my car.”


“Are you really going to argue with me about this?”


Adelle gazed at him over her glass. “No, Laurence.”


* * *

“You don’t approve of my methods,” Adelle observed, sliding a glance towards the man standing beside her late in that same week.


“I don’t understand your methods,” Dominic responded drily. “But I’m getting used to that. You’ve had them here for over 6 hours and all they’ve done is fill in forms, undergone a medical and sit around.”


“Why would I take men trained for action and force them to spend the day waiting?”


“Should I assume it’s not because you enjoy torturing people?”


A smile almost escaped her as she said, “Let’s assume that – for now.”


“In that case, you’re testing how they react to being bored.”


She nodded approvingly, enjoying working with someone who followed her thought processes. “For those agents we accept there will, of course, be great danger. I need to test them for the ability to think on their feet, to make cool calculated decisions under fire. But there will also be periods of inactivity and we need to learn how they will respond. It is rather easier to replicate boredom than pursuit by the Gestapo.” His short nod was agreement of sorts. “Judith is sending candidate three home.” Earlier in the day four of the other men had been dismissed.


“Because he snapped at the woman who was overseeing him filling out that form?” Dominic’s eyes narrowed. “She was pretending to be picky over the details.”


“I’m afraid she really is tediously circumspect, but there are rather a lot of officials in Vichy France and his impatience could have got him killed. Men who don’t handle boredom well have a habit of finding trouble and we can’t afford that.”


“Does everything have to be a test?” he asked.


“Not everything.” Wanting him to realise how impressed she’d been by his performance, she offered, “I’ve never allowed anyone to participate in the final stages of recruitment before.”


He looked startled, but it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. There was little chance she’d entrust a task such as this to Clive.


“I guess I’m flattered, even if it’s another test.”


“For the men we’re interviewing, it’s a test. I want to ensure you understand what we do and why in order to further enhance your contribution.” This was her work and she didn’t relinquish control or share responsibility easily. “I’m paying you a compliment – are you deliberately failing to see that, or do you distrust everything I say?”


“I told you I wanted to be useful,” in actual fact he’d all but demanded to be allowed to be– but she didn’t quibble.


“You haven’t disappointed.”


“I don’t plan to start.” His earnestness and intensity drew her in, she felt as though he meant it with every fibre of his being, yet the real power of his assertion lay in what he had said before—that he was her man. It was a promise to her, not the SOE - had he even realised how he’d worded his statement?


Her smile and nod seemed paltry reward, but he appeared satisfied. “How about a bet,” he said – lightening the mood as if some of the weight of the previous moment had surprised him as well. “On who makes it through to the end? If I name more of the successful candidates, you have a drink with me.”


“And if I win?”


“That’s your call.” It was tempting, but she shook her head.


“This isn’t a suitable subject for gambling. Besides – I already know that all of the remaining men will be successful.”


“How can you, you haven’t even met them?” He shook his head and frowned. “If you know who you want, why are we interviewing them?”


““The purpose of this interview is to persuade them to volunteer.”


“What if they don’t?”


“They always do.”


* * *

Laurence Dominic had never witnessed anything like the interviews Adelle DeWitt conducted. She’d reduced men to tears, inspired others to soliloquies about their love of their country, listened to tales of everything from hope and idealism to vilification and shame. In response, she’d encouraged, scolded, smiled, frowned, nodded, shook her head, lowered her eyes, looked to the heavens, whatever was well nigh appropriate. It was a performance for the ages. Every single man she’d seen had volunteered to go to occupied France.


“Your thoughts on the process, Captain Dominic?”


“Aren’t coherent,” he said. “I don’t know whether I should be awed, very afraid or both.”


“Why should you be either?”


“You convinced them you completely understood their disparate individual situations and showed them how signing on for a vastly decreased life expectancy was the way forward for each of them.” He rubbed tired eyes. “If I hadn’t watched, I’d have said it couldn’t be done. Hell, I know I couldn’t duplicate it and I was paying attention.”


“My methods are hardly as impressive as you indicate.”


Uncharacteristically, her obvious discomfort spurred him on. “I’ll say this; I know what a silver tongue is now. You can talk anybody into anything and have them leave the room whistling. No wonder they gave Clive Ambrose to you.”


“You believe I can bring you around to whatever I fancy?”


“If you start a sentence with anything like, Can’t I persuade you, I’ll stick my fingers in my ears, hum loudly and run.”


Her smile made him feel a tiny bit calmer. “Not a very dignified picture.”


“Better undignified than ...” Dead was too blunt, cannon fodder too melodramatic, but Dominic suspected letting the sentence hang wasn’t optimal either. “Anything worse,” he said, wincing at Adelle’s impressive frown, not surprised to be a little stiff in rising after sitting for so long. “Look, I’m tired; you’re tired. Let’s get out of here. I’ll buy you a late dinner.”


“No, thank you, Captain,” Adelle said, briskly collecting her notes. “I find I don’t have much of an appetite.”


“Being persuasive isn’t a crime,” he ventured, daring to grasp her upper arm as she sought to move past him.


“You made it sound like one.”


“I know and I’m sorry,” he said, stunned by how much he meant it.


She looked pointedly at his hand on her arm. “If you don’t mind, I should like to see to my correspondence before leaving for the day.”


Not anxious to return to his tiny office, Dominic wandered the halls for a time, trying to fathom how to rescue things with Miss DeWitt. He’d offended her, because he was discomfited by her capacity for empathy and powers of persuasion. He stopped in the middle of a narrow hallway when he realized she’d used her femininity in subtle yet powerful ways in every interview. A man couldn’t have done what she had— persuaded a rough and ready cadre of men to do her bidding and made him jealous in the process. Dominic wanted to gain the relative safety of his office in order to think about this or, better yet, forget it. Fortunately, Adelle was nowhere in sight when he rounded the final corner and his destination hove in sight.


“Did something go wrong during the interviews?” Judith asked, passing her pen from one hand to the other—a nervous habit if Dominic had ever seen one.


“No,” he said. “What are you still doing here?”


“I always stay late when Miss DeWitt conducts interviews. She’s normally exhausted but she seemed upset tonight.”


Her earnestness demanded more from him than he wanted to give. “It happened after the interviews were over. I said something I shouldn’t have.” Judith dropped her pen onto her desk, crossed her arms in front of her and tapped her right foot. “I implied ... Well, I more or less came right out and said that she’d just persuaded each of those men to die for the cause and I wouldn’t give her the chance to do the same to me.”


“Do you seriously think she doesn’t know the risks, the chances of success and failure, you thoughtless idiot?”


“I know she does, but I’ll tell you, it was frightening to watch.”


Making a decidedly unfeminine noise of frustration, Judith picked up a stack of mail and threw it at him.


Dominic caught most of the letters. “What’s all this?”


“Mail from the States, mostly,” Judith muttered, helping him pick up the errant envelopes. “From no less than twelve different women. Fourteen, actually, but I assume the two with Dominic as a last name are related and not amorously inclined. Go and read about how wonderful you are,” she advised, pointing dramatically to his office door. “I need to address this somehow.”


“I have to fix this, not you.” He sighed and looked in the direction of Miss DeWitt’s office, proud that he didn’t flinch when she emerged at speed.


“Good luck,” Judith murmured before ostentatiously busying herself with filing.


Dominic stepped into Adelle’s path and matched her sidestep to the right with one to his left. “We need to talk,” he said.


“Your office, Captain Dominic. This needs to be brief.”


He faced her in the oddly appropriate claustrophobic surroundings. “What you did over the last ten hours was genius. Genius of a very necessary variety in times like these. I was thoughtless, idiotic and just plain wrong to say otherwise.” Risking a small smile, he said, “Thoughtless and idiotic came from Judith, wrong from me.”


Adelle regarded him for what felt like a very long time. Posture ramrod straight, Dominic awaited her verdict. “You do know your way around an apology,” she murmured. Her smile was rueful, but Dominic couldn’t complain.


“When you make as many mistakes as I do, you get good at them.”


Her shoulders stiffened. “Don’t try to charm me.”


“I wouldn’t presume.”


Eyebrow raised, hand on the doorknob, Adelle said, “Really? How dreadful to be the only woman in Britain to be excluded.”


“You do know your way around an exit,” he whispered as the door slammed behind her.



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I am loving it!!

I love how Dom and Dewitt’s relationship is beginning to develop, Dom’s comradery with Judith, Adelle’s amazing powers of persuasion and the general awesomeness with everything.

I can't wait for the next update.

It seemed that Dom needed an ally at the SOE and Judith seems to fit the bill. She can be his ally without betraying Adelle.

I liked that their relationship progressed but it was nice (maybe that's not the best word) to have Dom put his foot in his mouth and have to apologize too. He's smart and charming in his way but he makes mistakes.

Yes, Adelle being her persuasive self! Had to slip that in.

Glad you are enjoying it. Thanks for the kind words. They encourage the editing process.

We're only in the second chapter and I'm already so in love with this fic. How I have missed these two, especially in this form. You two are geniuses! The dialogue is so captivating, as as your characterizations. I can't wait for more!

Oh and I really must mention how much I love Judith! She's a favorite already!

Judith was really really fun to write. Kind of a younger, more naive Adelle who isn't quite as devious.

It's fun to write dialogue between two intelligent people and to think up disgusting stuff for someone like Harding to say and do. Glad you are enjoying.

I'm also glad the characterizations are holding in the AU setting. That is very pleasing to me.

Back to editing.:)

“Really? How dreadful to be the only woman in Britain to be excluded.”

Heh! Oh, ouch! That was a wonderful door-slamming line!

Also, I super loved:

“That would be Miss Renault to you.”


“Obviously,” he said, turning back toward his office, “since we’ve not been formally introduced..."


Pahahahaha! Oh, Dominic, you charm even lady cars! :P

Also, I heart Judith. I also heart the fact that she's not blind and spent her time appropriately enjoying the view....that was presumably handsomely coated in grease stains at some point....and sweaty biceps...

Ahem, moving along. The line about Adelle's grandfather intrigues me... who is he? I am teh curious...

Also, I love how Dominic has a tendency to collect larger-than-life friends. (I feel like the last epic of yours I read he had a massive friend there too... Also, who do you know who is a Hailey?)

Bring on the explosions! I am READY! :D

I'm wracking my brain, but I don't think I actually know a Hailey. We used to call my daughter Hailey Mills when she was younger and had the whole cute little blonde haircut going and reminded us of Parent Trap. But ... I guess I just enjoy that name. Sort of.:)

Adelle has the exit lines down. I like that about her. Miss Renault just seemed like fun and, apparently, it was.

Grease and sweat and fixing cars. It's all good and well appreciated by Judith and ... others.

Adelle's grandfather has had certain influences upon her that have helped (for better or worse) to shape her into the woman she is.

I don't know what it is about this character that has me investing in his male friends. But, yes, Devon is this fic's Bill in many ways.

There will be at least one explosion. I promise.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, as always.

Eeeeeeeeee! You keep making me exciting promises! :D :D :D :D I can't wait!

Wow, an update so soon! Oh, the benefits of a completed 'fic 'fore posting..

Adelle and her persuasive interviews :) It's total canon that she can convince you to give up your soul, love that Dominic was intimidated by that.

Innocent Judith is cracking me up..

That is sort of where the whole idea for the fic came from. Another scenario where I felt Adelle's persuasiveness would work and also have a certain moral ambiguity attached to it.

I'm glad you are enjoying the fic, all credit for Judith should really go to Rogoblue - she made her such a great character.

What? You're crediting Judith to me???? Me thinks that was shared.

Completed, all but for the editing, yes. Thank goodness. This one was long.

I think Both Doms were intimidated a bit by Adelle's persuasiveness (this 1942 version and the 2009 version as well). It had to bother an NSA agent that this woman was as convincing as she way.

I love innocent Judith too.

Thanks for reading.

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