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Battle of Britain -- Chapter 4
ears, eyes
Title: Battle of Britain Chapter 4

Rating: R (language and sexual situations)

Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue

Summary: Dominic learns how difficult the task he’s set himself is likely to be while Topher learns nothing at all.

“Here are the files you asked for, Captain Dominic.” Judith tapped her pen against a stack to her right.

“I said I was sorry,” he replied, looking at the files rather than her.

“I believe men often say they’re sorry to simply extricate themselves from tight spots, rather than as a show of true remorse.”

Standing before Judith’s desk, Dominic said, “I mean it in the right way. I’m sorry I snapped at you yesterday.” He took a deep breath. “I also want to apologize if I offended you right before I left.”

“You play the honesty card very well.” She laughed and he tried to relax. “Don’t make that sour face, Laurence. It’s a gift.”

“What’s the occasion?” Adelle DeWitt asked, emerging from her office carrying her body weight in file folders.

“Occasion?” Dominic asked, rushing to relieve her of her burden.

“You were discussing gifts,” Adelle said as he handed Judith the files.

“As in talents,” he said.

“Laurence’s judicious and rather effective use of honesty,” Judith specified.

The edge in Adelle’s, “I see,” didn’t surprise Dominic.

Seeing little point in dancing around the subject, he said, “I’m writing a report on our recent activities. Operation Duckbill will be part of it.”

“I’d like to see the report before you deliver it,” Adelle said.

“No.” He didn’t allow Judith’s sharply indrawn breath or the tightening of Adelle’s jaw to erode his resolve. “You’re going to have to trust me.”

“Why a written report?” Adelle asked, tone nonchalant but Dominic knew the question wasn’t idle.

“I don’t want there to be room for interpretation. The document will speak for itself.”

“What will it say, I wonder?” Adelle said, hands on her hips.

“It’ll be accurate.”

Judith radiated unease but Adelle looked thoughtful. “Will you choose your words as carefully as you did just now in writing it?”

“Much more carefully.”

“It will make fascinating reading,” Adelle said, stepping closer to Dominic. After the night he’d had, her proximity was pleasant rather than distracting.

“I’m striving for boring,” he countered, risking a small smile.

“That would be better,” Adelle mused.

“I’m going to knock this thing out before lunch. Judith, could you see if we’ve received any messages from Madeline? Sometimes they get backed up downstairs and I don’t see anything for a couple of hours. We need to get the delay down to minutes.”

“Of course,” Judith said.

Dominic retreated into his office. He knew he had to do this the right way. Preferring to put a smile on Adelle DeWitt’s face shouldn’t enter into it.

* * *

She’d expected a reprise of yesterday’s argument, so Adelle was relieved Captain Dominic had regained his equanimity. Because of his care in answering her questions, she was confident his report he would find a way to satisfy both his masters.

For a moment she wondered how he would respond if she suggested he refer to her as his ‘mistress’ before turning her attention to finding an explanation for his change in mood. Different tactics aside, he was far less tense than he had been when he’d stalked away the previous evening.

Glancing in the direction of his small office, she recalled he hadn’t as much as blinked when she had stepped close to him. Yesterday, she’d been prepared to consider that she was the problem; that his professional and personal responses were confused. Today, he’d found a way to resolve the situation – with the professional ascendant.

That was for the best. All the same, she didn’t think it prudent to enquire too closely into where he had gone last night. Fortunately his close friendship with Judith was just that. If matters threatened to progress further, appropriate steps could and would be taken.

* * *

“I told you Dominic would be on time,” Colonel Harding said. “Punctuality is a particular strong suit of the Captain’s.”

Laurence Dominic stopped short upon entering Harding’s office and saluted General Crane first, then the Colonel. Having to hand over an extra copy of his report didn’t give Dominic pause; the astuteness of the additional reader did.

“How are things at the SOE?” Harding asked, sounding more dutiful than interested.

“We’re making progress, sir,” Dominic replied. “Four groups have been deployed since I arrived. Two more are scheduled to head to France next month.”

“We need to move faster?” Harding said, leaning back in his chair, a form of casual aggression. “Intelligence is key.”

“As we’ve discussed,” Dominic said, knowing speed was a drum Harding continuously beat, “these operations are very intricate and these men and women have to be given the wherewithal to slip into France as seamlessly as possible. The planning stage is crucial. Rushing will lead to failure.”

“Not as quickly as sending nutcases,” Harding said, glancing at Crane. “We’ll have no more of that nonsense, since we’re plucking agents from our ranks now.”

“Happened just before we came over, as I understand,” Crane said. Turning astute brown eyes on Dominic, he asked, “Has there been any word of the rogue operative?”

“We have no new information as to Alpha’s whereabouts.”

“What’s being done to locate him?” Harding demanded.

“Nothing.” Harding’s fists clenched and his face grew red; Crane looked expectant. “France is a sizeable country, assuming it remains Alpha’s base of operations. Our teams are scattered widely. It’s unlikely any of our people will spot him.” Adelle’s qualifier rang loud. “Unless Alpha wants to be found.”

“Will an operation been launched to find and neutralize Alpha?” General Crane asked.

Tap dancing in a mine field, Dominic said, “No, sir. We didn’t feel it prudent to spend manpower sniffing a cold trail.”

“You didn’t consult with me or the General, because ...?”

“Because we damn well assigned him to work with the DeWitt woman to sort out this sort of thing,” Crane said.

“We’ll have a look at your report and pass it along, if appropriate,” Harding said. Dominic actually relished being summarily dismissed.

“I have a few additional questions” Crane said, halting Dominic’s arm half way to a salute. “Are you satisfied your report is complete and can be routed to Washington?”

Heart pounding, Dominic said, “I am.”

“Have any significant problems arisen recently?”

The General’s tone raised the hairs on the back of Dominic’s neck. “An operation put in place to enable those in hiding or otherwise at risk of being taken prisoner by the Germans to leave France has been compromised. It’s in my report.”

“The so-called Operation Duckbill?” Wondering where in the hell Crane got his information, Dominic nodded. “How damaged is it?”

“We aren’t comfortable using the route the group had established.”

“They were nearly done?” Harding said, tone caught between impressed and aghast.

“They were done,” Dominic said. “Two influential French nationals had already been evacuated. A third was lost when the operation collapsed.”

“Did we suffer any casualties?” Crane asked.

“Two of five, sir.”

The General eyed Dominic with intense interest. “What’s the plan of action?”

“We’ll replace the team with a unit of Americans with the same objective and a new set of mission parameters.”

“Why?” Harding demanded.

“We believe behaviors attendant to achieving the original mission parameters attracted undue attention, so we changed them.”

“Strikes me as sound,” Crane said, making Dominic wonder if the other shoe was about to drop. “You’ve answered my questions. Harding, what about you?”

“Do we know who blew up the operation?”

Dominic couldn’t believe it was Harding who’d asked the question. “We believe so.”

“What’s being done about them?”

He shrugged. “I’m told an invasion of France is in the offing.” General Crane laughed. No one asked Dominic to explain how an invasion of France would eliminate the threat. Both men assumed, he hoped, that the SS were responsible for the demise of Operation Duckbill.

* * *

“Give this to Adelle thirty minutes after I’ve gone, Judith.” Laurence Dominic dropped a file folder on her desk. “It’s a copy of the report I’ve just given Colonel Harding and General Crane.” Her eyes widened. “They got it sight unseen by her and she didn’t get a copy from me.” He suspected his smile fell on the “not nice” side of the ledger. “Said with enough conviction no one will dare suggest that I indirectly passed it along.” His eyes slid toward Adelle’s office. “I hope she appreciates this.”

“She will,” Judith said. “How was the meeting?”

“It would’ve been easier without Crane; he’s too damn smart. He gave me enough rope to hang myself.” Wondering why hadn’t even produced a theory, but he couldn’t seem to stop. “Remains to be seen whether I have. I’ll head out in about fifteen minutes. I’m meeting some people for dinner.”

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic.”

“I’d rather hole up in my billet. I’m tired.”

“Late night?” she asked, but her tone lacked its customary mischievousness.

“Yes and no,” he said, thinking of the catnaps he’d managed between bouts of sex. He considered whether he should offer to repay Devon for the extra charge to reserve Liz for the entire night.

“May ... may I ask you something?” Judith’s uncharacteristic uncertainty snapped his attention back to her.

“Sure,” he said, dropping into the rickety chair next to her desk.

“You were angry at Adelle when you left yesterday.”

“That doesn’t sound like a question,” he said, embracing the wariness descending upon him.

“You weren’t angry with me.” She stood and clasped her hands together in front of her.

“I’m still waiting on the question, Judith.”

“Did you really not want my company?”

Dominic closed his eyes and counted to ten. “I told you. It’s complicated.”

She stomped her right foot and took a harsh breath. “I need to understand what I felt when you looked at me all wild eyed and when we touched.”

He wanted to close his eyes and count to three million, but Judith deserved far better. “What did you feel?”

“Warm,” she whispered, “and a little faint.” She sat back down as if the memory overwhelmed her. “I knew I should look away, but I thought it might be insulting if I did. Then your expression softened and I felt lost, which is silly because we were standing right there.” She gestured in the direction of his office. “The only thing I recognized was your face.”

Adelle DeWitt would grant him a slow and painful death if she found out what had happened.

“I ... I took your hand, because I wanted to touch you, Laurence. I’ve wanted to ever since you repaired Myrtle.” She blushed bright red. “I know it was wrong to stare, but I couldn’t help it. Will you forgive—?”

“Don’t you dare apologize,” he said, self-directed anger making him more curt than he’d intended. “There’s nothing to apologize for. Men and women look at each other all the time. It’s normal.”

“When you moved your thumb on my wrist, it tingled all the way down my spine. Is ... is that normal?”

What does a man say to that? “It’s not abnormal,” he ventured and felt he hadn’t earned her relieved sigh.

“I was so angry when you dismissed me.”

Taken aback, he said, “I didn’t—.”

“You told me to go home and kiss my Major and tried to make me believe you were the problem rather than admit you find me too immature—.”

“I did not then and do not now find you too immature.” Dominic refused to consider what would happen if Adelle DeWitt wandered out of her office. “I was the problem, Judith. I wanted to be with you. I wanted that too much last night.”

Judith’s jaw dropped comically. “You wanted ... me?”

“Yesterday, I just wanted.”

“So I could’ve been anyone?” She sniffed and her lower lip trembled.

“No!” Dominic unclenched fists he hadn’t realized he’d clenched and struggled for the right words. “I imagined you. No one else.” He leaned forward, placing his elbows on Judith’s desk. “But you’re engaged and I like you too much to jeopardize that.”

“That’s the problem,” she nearly wailed, pounding her fist on the desk, startling Dominic into a slight retreat. “I’m engaged, so I can’t do this. I’m engaged, so I can’t experience that. I’m bloody well sick of being engaged, Laurence.”

He shrugged. “End it.”

Judith looked at him as though he’d suggested cleaving off a limb. “I can’t hurt Harry like that.”

“Ah, the Major does have a name. I was wondering.”

“Don’t make fun!” she snarled.

“I’m sorry, Judith. I meant no disrespect.”

“I’ve never even kissed anyone else.”

Dominic amended his earlier wish that Adelle not venture forth until this conversation had ended, but her door remained closed.

“What if Harry isn’t good at it?” she asked. “What if I’m not?” Eyes pleading for understanding, she said, “I may be the worst kisser in the whole world and not even know it.”

“Someone out there is the worst kisser in the world, but I’m confident it’s not you.”

“Based on what?”

“The way you smile.”

“What does smiling have to do with kissing?”

Inspired by her skepticism, Dominic opined, “Any woman who draws the attention of every male within a half mile radius with her lips formed into a smile can kiss. No one will ever convince me otherwise.”

Voice and eyes lowered, Judith said, “Harry doesn’t make me feel like you did.”

“That’s because he’s a gentleman and he doesn’t want to push you into something you aren’t ready for or might not want.”

“You’re a gentleman, Laurence.”

“I wasn’t last night.”

The tension left her shoulders and she smiled. “You had a lapse in all things chivalrous, but you seem your old self today. “Did you get falling down drunk as you’d planned?”

“I didn’t get drunk at all.” Sensing Judith wanted more, he decided to attempt to steer the conversation rather than submit to an interrogation. “I talked with someone who understood.” Liz’s profession he deemed irrelevant.

“You came back and spoke with Adelle?”

“God, no,” he said, laughing. “That would’ve been a mistake.”

“Because she wouldn’t have understood?” Judith asked. He decided to nod and tried not to feel guilty about it. She tapped Dominic’s forearm. “Do you think Adelle’s experienced... with sex?”

His sister hated when he answered questions with questions, but Dominic couldn’t think of a safer way to proceed. “Do you think she’s not?”

She beckoned him closer. “There have been men. Not many. She’s discreet, even with regard to a quiet dinner out. A couple of them were persistent, but Adelle always held them at a distance. I thought perhaps she was saving herself. Many women do.”

He would never admit how intrigued he’d suddenly become. “Adelle isn’t a virgin. She can’t be.”

“Why ever not?”

Mulling over Liz’s declaration about experienced women, Dominic proceeded with care. “Her movements are inherently sensual. I don’t think it’s unconscious or an unexpected by product of excellent breeding; I think it’s confidence and that stems from experience. Regardless, she wouldn’t appreciate the two of us speculating about her personal life.”

“Were you planning on telling her?”

Laughing, he rose and tapped the file folder. “Remember to deliver the report a half hour after I leave,” he looked at his watch, “which will be as soon as I get my jacket.”

“You should do what you want tonight,” Judith said. “Just go home.”

“Maybe I will.” He bent over and kissed her on the cheek. “Thanks for the advice.”

* * *

“What a difference a day makes,” Judith observed some time later.

Adelle looked up to find her assistant bearing a cup of something she knew better than to describe as 'tea' and another report. She sighed at the additional paperwork.

“Captain Dominic seems much less,” her assistant shrugged, “tense than he was yesterday.”

“You didn't talk sense to him?” she asked, not examining the impulse prompting her question. When Judith's expression faltered, she wished she'd kept quiet.

“He was in an odd mood last night – he didn't want company.”

“Well, obviously he came to some resolution on his own.”

“I hope you still feel that way after reading this.” Judith held out the report. “He asked me to give it to you.”

Adelle hadn't entirely expected she would get to see this and hoped he understood that only because she trusted him had she not insisted he show it to her. She didn't need to ask why he hadn't delivered the report himself and wouldn't be surprised if he'd also asked Judith to wait before delivering it on his behalf. It’s what she would have done in his place.

* * *

“Shouldn't you be getting ready to leave?” Adelle asked, upon returning from a late meeting to find her assistant still at her desk.

“I had some things I needed to finish.” Judith's uncharacteristic pensiveness nearly drawing Adelle’s attention away from admiration, albeit silent, of Captain Dominic’s deft reporting of the demise of Operation Duckbill.

As she advised Judith not to spend the whole evening at her desk, Adelle considered how he’d neither betrayed the SOE to his superiors nor lied to them. More to the point, he hadn’t betrayed her or her trust in him. Unfortunately, the stack of files awaiting her was a dispiriting reminder that she would again be spending her whole evening here. One operation was at a critical stage and she had spent far too much time reading between the lines of Caroline's last message, unsure if she was over-analysing the contents or just all too cognizant that Caroline only disclosed what she wanted to. This line of work rewarded the suspicious and the paranoid, sometimes making it difficult to be anything else.

“Would you like some tea?” Her assistant was one of the most definite people she knew, so seeing her hesitant and irresolute convinced Adelle something was amiss.

“Actually I was going to have a glass of scotch. Why don't you join me and tell me what's wrong?”

“I couldn't; you're obviously busy and...”

“Sit down, Judith,” she ordered, pouring two small glasses of whiskey. “Has something happened to Harry?” Judith's shook her head wholly unconvincingly, but she cradled her drink and Adelle knew she’d talk.

“My sisters and I used to talk about boys all of the time – silly gooses that we were. When I was up at Oxford, there was our work and so many other things to do. Still, my friends and I talked about the men we met. Several of us were engaged; it all seemed so easy somehow.”

“Are you having doubts about your engagement?”

“No, not really. It’s just that Harry and I have known each other for years; he says he used to pull my pig tales. I didn’t really know any other men. Now I've learnt there are lots of different types of men and it's making me wonder if what Harry and I feel for each other is enough.”

Adelle wondered how much responsibility she bore for puncturing the younger woman's romantic dreams. Judith had been a typist when they’d first met; desperate to do more to support the war effort and routinely stifled by superiors who didn't appreciate her enthusiasm. She was efficient and insightful – everything Adelle most prized, but perhaps she would have been happier if Adelle had left her alone.

She had an idea who was at the bottom of this uncertainty and while another woman would have been annoyed, perhaps even jealous, Adelle was relieved. If a man had to come along to make Judith question her engagement, it was as well that it was one as careful and as sensible as Laurence Dominic. Even so, she would kill him if he didn't have the sense to nip this in the bud.

“I just wonder,” Judith continued, leaning forward, “does it matter that we don't look at each other the way you and Laurence do?”

“Excuse me?” The comment was as unexpected, as Judith’s expression was completely serious.

“You have to have noticed. He thinks you're the most fascinating woman in the world.”

“I think you have an overactive imagination.”

“I'm not exaggerating. Besides, you look at him as well, when he isn't looking.”

She had been watching Laurence lately, clearly not as discretely as she'd thought.

“Being around the two of you has made me wonder if I'm missing something," Judith continued, "something I don't understand, didn't even know existed. I want to experience that frisson of excitement, to know how it feels when someone can't take their eyes off of me.”

“Perhaps you should talk to Harry about this?”

“Do you think he'll understand?”

“If you try to make him see that being engaged doesn't mean the end of your courtship. Perhaps you've reached a stage all couples go through and you need to re-capture the excitement you had when you began.”

Judith nodded, brightening at the suggestion. “He is a dear and I do love him,” she bit her lip, “is it terrible of me to wonder what I might be missing?”

“It would be more terrible if you didn't do something about it.”

“Will you take your own advice?” Judith tilted her head and added, “After all, I'm only feeling dissatisfied because I'm around two people who yearn for each other.”

“I do not yearn for Captain Dominic.” She worried that her tone might have been too sharp, that she protested too much.

Judith smiled, a slow and thoughtful process. “If you aren't, you've made your mind up about what you want.” That level of insight was what had elevated Judith from her routine role as a typist, but Adelle had no intention of giving anything away.

“Go home, Judith,” she instructed with exasperated affection.

Her assistant didn't argue. Judith set her glass down and bid her a soft 'thank you' as she went on her way.

Adelle leant back in her chair and sipped the remains of her drink as she considered the question of Laurence Dominic. He did interest her; more than any man she’d come across for some time. Though she wasn't without admirers she remained alone out of choice. She didn't want to be placed on a pedestal – she was flesh and blood and wanted to be appreciated as such. Judith was wrong – she hadn't decided, or perhaps she had, but the decision did not rest solely in her hands. Lately she had got the distinct impression Captain Dominic had become rather more immune to her charms than she to his. She hoped Judith hadn’t inspired his newly found equanimity – that would be a very awkward complication.

* * *

“Prepare to be amazed, astounded and a tiny bit deafened,” Topher Brink announced, grinning and holding a remote detonator aloft. He dramatically gestured to a green brick of what looked like clay resting on a piece of plywood painted white. For reasons unknown to Laurence Dominic, Topher had placed his latest creation at the edge of the fifth fairway of a golf course located about twenty miles from the SOE’s research facility. As if he’d spoken a question aloud, Topher said, “We’re testing this beauty way out here, because the explosion could possibly start a chain reaction among other dazzling devices we’re perfecting. A shock wave issuing from here should dissipate well before reaching home base.”

“Should?” Dominic muttered, loud enough to be heard.

“Ever the pessimist, Captain America,” Topher countered, sighing exaggeratedly. “Just to please our American hero, we placed cinder blocks three deep and twelve high between the blast point and our happy home to serve as a break, making this demonstration worry free.” Topher looked to Adelle. “Am I free to proceed, my queen?”

“Do get on with it,” Adelle said.

Topher motioned Ivy forward. “My lovely assistant will depress the button of doom.” Ivy looked to be gritting her teeth, as she reached for the controller. Laughing, Topher snatched it back. “On second thoughts, I’ll do it.” Topher reversed the controller in his hand, so the audience could bear witness. With ridiculous melodrama, he brought his forefinger to rest on the red button. “Shall we do it on three?” he asked. After one look at Adelle’s stony expression, he pressed the button.

The green clay brick remained on its white wooden pedestal. Frowning, Topher pressed the button again.

“Should’ve let Ivy do it,” mumbled someone Dominic wouldn’t mind meeting.

“Maybe the wires got crossed,” offered a man in a green shirt who took it upon himself to have a look.

“Or it isn’t resting flat enough,” said a young woman, jogging on his heels.

Topher stabbed the red button repeatedly.

“The platform could be a bit out of range.”

Ivy said, “Use your thumb.”

Adelle said, “Wait,” but the “genius” didn’t. The ensuing blast reverberated down the fairway and knocked everyone down. The three theorists were propelled varying distances. After helping Adelle up, Dominic headed for the wounded. The man with the green shirt was dead, his neck bent at an impossible angle. The girl moaned about her eyes. Dominic knelt down next to platform out of range, who was still, and checked for a pulse.

Adelle arrived at his side. “This one’s alive,” Dominic said, gently turning the man over, taking great care with his head.

“Unlike Billings,” Adelle murmured, placing a hand on Dominic’s shoulder. “Dr. Gavin will take over here, Captain. We need to deal with Topher.”

“Sit him next to another of those green bricks and I’ll use my thumb.” Dominic growled, as he regained his feet. “That’ll solve the problem.”

“The explosive did far more damage than Topher anticipated, judging by his look of awed rapture when he picked himself up.” She raised a hand to her head, as if shielding her eyes from brightness, only it wasn’t sunny. “He broke his controller when he fell, so he’s pouting. Keep your temper, Captain. I don’t relish refereeing a shouting match on top of everything else.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Even as he made the promise, Dominic knew he might bite clean through his tongue in order to keep it.

Adelle took the scientist by the hand and led him away from the casualties. “What happened here today, Topher?”

“We got a bigger boom for our buck,” he said. “I don’t know why yet, but bigger is definitely better when it comes to booms.”

Dominic fell back a couple of steps to avoid saying something he shouldn’t.

“Why didn’t the controller work properly?” Adelle asked.

“I forgot we’d put an even pressurization preference for safety,” Topher said, finally looking over his shoulder. “Everyone’s ok, right?”

“Even pressurization preference?” Dominic asked to spare Adelle the lie.

“It wants to be pushed with the same pressure at every point.”

“Which is easier to do with your thumb, because it’s bigger,” Dominic said.

Topher beamed. “You are officially not just a pretty face, Captain A.”

“A device to be used in stressful situations shouldn’t be tricky to operate,” Adelle said.

“I’ll take the feature out,” Topher said, nodding vigorously.

“Do that,” Adelle said, “and have a better idea of the strength of the blast to come before you test any such device again, particularly before a large group.” She never looked back at the scene of Topher’s crime. “It would be embarrassing to put a few generals onto their posteriors.”

“It’d do them good,” Topher asserted, grinning at the prospect.

“Even so,” Adelle said.

Topher bowed with a flourish and Adelle remanded him to Ivy’s custody.

“He doesn’t realize his little toy just killed a man,” Dominic said.

“Such a fact cannot exist in Topher’s world.”

“Damn shame we don’t all live there.”

* * *

“Do either of you have any idea what time it is?” Judith asked as she entered Adelle’s office laden with several parcels that smelled absolutely fantastic.

Dominic realized he’d last eaten at lunchtime yesterday, not long before the Topher debacle. He hadn’t completely fasted, however. He’d had alcohol last night and coffee and tea today.

“It’s nearly 9:00 pm,” Judith said, looking very exasperated.

“What are you still doing here, Judith?” Adelle DeWitt inquired, undoubtedly grateful for an excuse to set aside the troubling communiqués.

“I left at a reasonable hour,” she explained, “but began to wonder if either of you had had the sense to call for a dinner break.”

“I was just about to,” Dominic said, smiling up at Judith.

“I love it when you blatantly lie,” Judith said, making Dominic laugh before she turned to Adelle. “Don’t you?”

“The habit has ... endearing qualities.”

“I’ll have you both know; I have many endearing qualities.”

“Your admirers are too effusive,” Judith said, sharing a complicated look with Adelle. “Have a care that your head doesn’t become so swollen that you can no longer enter your office.”

“I’d have to sit at your desk, then,” he said.

“Over my dead body.”

“What is the nature of the meal you so rightfully insist we break for?” Adelle asked, smile a trifle indulgent, making him wish he could inspire one of an entirely different sort.

Judith glanced dubiously at the only available corner of the desk, setting both Dominic and Adelle to tidying up. “Bread,” she said, offering a fine looking, albeit small specimen for their inspection. “You’ll have to pull it apart, I’m afraid.” Judith busily unpacked. “A wedge of cheese, a few olives and some pickled onions. I’m assuming at least one of you has a knife suitable for the cheese.”

“Pickled onions?” Dominic muttered, gazing at the jar dubiously as he reached into his pocket for his penknife.

“They’re good,” Judith said. She pulled a bottle of red wine and one of vodka from another bag. “I wasn’t sure what beverage would serve, but beer simply will not do for this meal.”

After thanking Judith for her thoughtfulness, Dominic reached for the wine as Adelle snatched the vodka. “Really?” he said.

“I thought you might prefer it,” Adelle said.

“In the same way, he thought you’d rather have the wine. How charming! Do open them both then, so everyone will be happy.”

Under Judith’s avid supervision, Adelle did just that. Puzzled by the younger woman’s scrutiny of the elder, Dominic asked, “What do I owe you for all of this?” With a winning smile, she handed him the bill and Dominic pulled out his wallet.

“I’m capable of paying for my own dinner, Captain,” Adelle commented.

“I know,” he said. “You can treat next time when she breaks out the really fancy stuff.”

“This is what passes for fancy these days, I’m afraid,” Adelle said.

“Ok, you can pay when she brings dessert too.”

Hands flying up to cover her mouth, Judith said, “I never thought of that.”

“I’m kidding, Judith,” Dominic said, gesturing to the spread she’d arranged. “Have you eaten?”

“I have, although I’ll take a pickled onion if you don’t mind.”

He handed her the jar. “Have at it.”

“Could you be a dear and open it for me?”

Not sure exactly what game it was but certain Judith was playing, he did as she asked. “Here you are.”

“My hero.”

“You can say that if I make Myrtle road worthy, but opening a jar isn’t much of an achievement.”

Judith focused on Adelle while ostensibly talking to him. “I do enjoy a man in uniform or half out of one.”

Putting more distance between him and Judith, he asked, “Did you have a fight with your Major?”


“A disagreement?”


“Did he forget your anniversary, birthday or other occasion?”

Laughing, Judith patted Dominic on the shoulder. “No, why do you ask?”

“No reason.”

“There it is again,” she said, pointing at Dominic but looking at Adelle. “The deliberate lie delivered with a shy smile this time.”

“The expression colors the entire performance,” Adelle said, raising her wine glass. Dominic copied her gesture with his vodka and they sipped, eyeing each other across her desk. He smiled, so did she. They touched the rims of their glasses and sipped again.

“Do remember to eat something, won’t you both?” Judith said, backing out of the office. “At least one pickled onion for you, Laurence.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

* * *

“Colonel Ambrose will see you both in a few minutes time,” said a homely woman somewhere in her thirties Laurence Dominic guessed. “Please have a seat.”

He squared his shoulders and followed Adelle DeWitt to a rather threadbare couch resting against the far wall of the anteroom. “Does a few minutes actually mean a few minutes or does it mean some indeterminate time later?” he asked.

“That depends on Clive’s mood,” Adelle said, smoothing her skirt as she sat. “Given that we’re here to report on Topher’s explosion and a potential threat to Caroline’s group achieving their first objective, I’d say we might be here a while.”

“What shall we talk about?” he asked, thinking of all the questions he’d never ask Adelle.

“Judith’s heard you run with a popular crowd. I admit to being curious about the sort of men you call friends.”

“Do you want me to fix you up with one of them?” he asked, mostly to see her reaction.

“Which would it be?” she countered, smiling like she was in on a secret.

“Not Devon, that’s for sure,” he said, baffled that Adelle hadn’t dismissed his frivolous question. “He’s not serious enough. You’d be bored within 48 hours.”

“Quite a bit can transpire in two days.” Her observation stoked his temper, but Dominic beat it back, because he suspected she’d deliberately baited him and had no idea why.

“Danny Bishop’s hands are awfully quick. The consensus over here is too quick. Hill is quiet, unless he’s insulting Bishop and you enjoy conversation, so he’s out.” Adelle had her poker face on, so he said, “That leaves Gardner. He’s steady, loyal and graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a degree in civil engineering. The Lieutenant has green eyes like yours and would tower over you even in the heels you wear.”

“I don’t like my men overly tall.”

“Then I guess I can’t improve your social life.”

“Gardner is a Lieutenant. Devon is ...?”

“My best friend,” Dominic answered, unable to imagine a world without John Devon in it. “He’s a Captain too. The others are non-commissioned—Sergeants—the glue that holds the whole damn army together. Before this is over, a lot of guys will owe their lives to Danny Bishop and Bruce Hill.”

“Lieutenant Gardner’s given name is ...?”

“Clarence and he hates it with a passion, so everyone calls him Gardner or C.”

“I see.” Adelle appeared to consider what he’d told her. “How is it that your band of five brothers has become so popular?”

“We spend money. Devon and Bishop are funny. Gardner quotes poetry and Hill is polite in a Southern boy way.”

“What of you?”

Dominic shrugged. “I’m the straight man, I guess, and retain enough small town in the Midwest to get by.”

He didn’t know why Adelle laughed. Apparently, Ambrose’s assistant didn’t either or simply didn’t approve, if the scowl she aimed in their direction meant anything. “I can imagine you succeeding with certain types of women with the self-deprecating approach but can’t believe it very satisfying for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he said, bristling without understanding why.

“You’d never settle for a woman you couldn’t talk to about matters of importance to you,” Adelle said.

He raced to shore up the barriers her observation undermined. “How much longer?” he asked, trying not to hear the edge in his voice.

“When I know, you’ll know, Captain,” the woman replied, probably thinking his discomfort fitting punishment for Adelle deigning to laugh in her domain.

“What’s wrong?” Adelle’s quiet concern threatened a different set of walls.

“Nothing,” he muttered. “Just tired of waiting.”

Thankfully, Clive Ambrose emerged from his office. “Type these letters, please,” he said to his assistant. “I’d like to get them out this day, if it isn’t too much trouble.” As he turned to go back to his office, he spotted his visitors. “Ah, yes, the two of you. Do come in, won’t you?” Stopping in mid-stride, he said, “Would you like something? Coffee? Tea? I believe we might even be able to scare up some scones that aren’t terribly stale.”

“Nothing for me,” Adelle said.

“Coffee and a scone would be nice,” Dominic said, smiling at the snotty assistant.

“Debra, please see to Captain Dominic’s breakfast, please.” When Debra stomped out of the anteroom, Ambrose said, “She lives to serve, only I’m not sure whom.”

As they crossed into Ambrose’s office, Adelle said, “She’s likely to spit in your coffee and put salt on your rock-like scone.”

“I don’t intend to eat or drink them,” he said, waiting for Adelle to choose a chair.

“I’m sorry, if I upset or offended you,” she murmured.

“You didn’t.” He knew she didn’t believe him. He wouldn’t have believed him either.

“What is this latest bit of nonsense from Dr. Brink?” Clive asked, once they were all seated. “One man is dead, another paralyzed and who knows the property damage to the links. What did the damn fool think he was doing?”

“His job,” Adelle stated, taking the wind out of Ambrose’s sails. “Once he realized the consequences of his ill-fated explosion, he withdrew into himself. No one could reach him for a time.”

“Not even that girl who works with him?”

“No.” Adelle took a measured breath. “Eventually, I was able to coax him back into his laboratory and Ivy then persuaded him to put his mind to the task at hand.”

“He wasn’t himself, though,” Dominic said. “He called me Captain Dominic.”

Ambrose looked something between bemused and stunned. “That’s your name. Well,” he said, gesturing vaguely, “your rank and your family name.”

“Topher calls me Captain America.”

Sighing, Ambrose said, “Of course he does.” Turning to Adelle, he asked, “How large of a setback do you believe this to be?”

“It depends on Topher’s mental state. I plan to visit the research facility a couple of times a week to keep an eye on him.”

“Ivy’s agreed to send daily reports on his status and their progress on correcting the problems with the incendiary,” Dominic added. To Adelle’s raised eyebrow, he said, “We talked while you were with Topher.”

“That’s as much as can be done, I’ll wager,” Ambrose muttered. “Keep me apprised of significant developments, as per usual. Now what of Caroline?” he asked. “I’m told there has been a setback.”

“Potentially,” Adelle said, tone calm and implacable. “One of her contacts with the French Resistance on a previous mission has been taken by the Germans. He doesn’t know she’s returned or any of the parameters of her new mission, but he could identify her.”

“The town where her team is based is twenty miles from the one where he was taken,” Dominic said. “The risk is small, but it does exist.”

“Nothing to do for it but pray, eh?” Ambrose said. The meeting broke up to murmurings of assent. Dominic wondered if Adelle’s were more sincere than his.

When they passed into the anteroom, Dominic said, “Thanks for the invisible coffee and scone. We don’t have those in America.”

“You’re welcome, Captain.”

* * *

“I didn’t expect to see you quite so early,” Judith said, standing just inside Laurence Dominic’s tiny office.

“Based on what?” he asked, frowning, rifling through a tall stack of file folders for a second time.

“The amount of alcohol served to your table and the number of women graciously helping the five of you to consume it.”

He looked up, startled to see that she didn’t appear to be guessing or fishing for information. “Adelle has you spying on me now?”

“No, I just happened to be meeting a certain British Major at the same bar.” She smiled. “He frowned upon the amount of noise you boys made, but the amount of female attention you received impressed him.”

“The guys do pretty well with the ladies.”

Deftly pulling the file Dominic had been searching for out of the stack, Judith said, “I meant you personally, Laurence, not all of you. You’re of sufficient rank to merit his notice and, even if you weren’t, working with Adelle would put you on his radar.”

“Is your Major one of her numerous admirers?”

“Perhaps, but unlike you,” she said, “he would rather die a bloody and painful death than confront her.”

“Coward,” he muttered under his breath, cursing silently. The information he wanted should be in this file.

“Something you are most decidedly not.”

“How would you know?” he demanded, harsh tone dictated by the pounding of his hung over head and his inability to find the damn document.

Judith raised an eyebrow, a perfect mimic of Adelle DeWitt’s trademark, “Surely you don’t need me to answer that question,” expression.

“Because I challenge her,” he mumbled. “Fine.” Looking past Judith toward her desk, wishing he didn’t like her so much, he said, “Some of us have work to do today.”

“You’re amusing when you want to change the subject.” Judith stepped into his office and closed the door. “I doubt a career in front line espionage is open to you, Laurence, you’re far too transparent on too many levels.”

“I’m transparent how?”

“Of all the women hovering around you last night, of which there were, if Harry’s count is accurate and he is most meticulous about such things, twelve, the one you couldn’t take your eyes or hands off of was a tall, slender woman with long dark hair and green eyes.”

“So?” He’d thought it was a sound idea. Liz had made it easier for him to be around Adelle, so he figured he could either pay through the nose or find someone willing to take the edge off from time to time.

Judith smiled and said, “Did you see her home?” Tuning back into the conversation, he nodded. “And?”

“That’s private.” Wanting Judith out of his office and sensing she would settle in to wait, Dominic said, “I kissed her goodnight ... a few times and then took a walk to clear my head. That’s the full story, so you can go now.”

“She asked you in.” It wasn’t a question, but Dominic nodded anyway. “Why didn’t you take what was on offer, Laurence?”

“I was drunk.” He looked away. “Not thinking clearly, I guess.”

“I suspect you weren’t drunk enough.”

Seeing what looked dangerously like sympathy in Judith’s eyes, Dominic took a deep breath. “I know what you’re thinking and it doesn’t matter. Drunk or stone cold sober, Adelle won’t give me the time of day.” He laughed. “Well, she might do that, but nothing more. I’m not sophisticated enough for her.”

“She’s sophisticated enough for both of you,” Judith asserted, taking the file from Dominic and producing the document he sought in seconds.

“How do you do that?”

“I’m psychic,” she said. “What are you going to do about Adelle?”

“If you’re psychic, you already know. Nothing.”

“That would be a huge and extremely unfortunate mistake.” Not put off by his refusal to meet her gaze, Judith said, “Don’t make it.”

“I’ve never met anyone like her. I don’t know how to act half the time.”

“You must understand. She’s not met anyone quite like you either.”

“Sure she has. You have small towns here in England. Hell, her family probably has an estate in one, like yours does.”

“You’re from a small American town.” Before he could argue for the sameness of small towns across the globe, Judith said, “Adelle had an unimportant job with the Government before the war, but she travelled every chance she had—for her work, on holiday, to meet family obligations, whatever excuse came to hand. And she met men. Influential men. They gravitated to her the same way you are now.”

“I’m not an influential man.”

“If you aren’t, you will be.”

Slumping into his uncomfortable chair, Dominic said, “Adelle wants someone who can help her make a difference.”

“She wants someone who can make her forget she needs to make a difference.” Judith tapped him on the shoulder. “You’re already serving in the other capacity.”

“Why are we having this conversation?” he asked, certain he’d never understand British women.

Judith clearly took his measure before deciding he merited further elucidation. “Adelle has been at this since ’39. She can’t fall apart when England still needs her.” Staring at the institutional gray wall, she said, “I don’t want to watch a woman who has worked so hard to achieve so much reduced to a cliché. No one should have to handle the pressure she’s been under. If she collapses, it isn’t because she’s a woman; it’s because she’s human and alone.”

“I don’t think you need to worry,” he said. “She’s strong.”

“So that’s your excuse? She’s strong, so you’re under no obligation to be there for her or to help her. She’s strong, so you can grope cheap imitations and tell yourself you’re living life to the fullest.” Judith leaned over his desk. “Isn’t that what men do in wartime? Live every day like it’s going to be their last.”

“She has no interest in me.”

“Adelle likes you, against her better judgment. She respects you, because you’re cleverer than most men she’s encountered lately. She’s intrigued by you for reasons that aren’t anywhere near apparent to me. Other than the obvious.”


Judith rolled her eyes. “Look in a mirror, Laurence, and for pity’s sake, notice how she looks at you.”

“She looks at me just like she looks at everyone else.”

“I know you’re more observant than that.”

“Hone those powers of observation, Captain Dominic,” Adelle DeWitt said, surging into his office without a hint of apology. “I have need of them.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

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I forgot to mention that I love that Topher calls Adelle 'my queen'. Is the poor scientist on the verge of losing it, though?

Oh Judith, you little matchmaker you! I honestly thought Adelle was going to go for the vodka, but maybe she only drinks that at the end of the world when she's really disillusioned.

Hm, I get the feeling Crane might cause some trouble for our pair..

Topher has his unstable moments, that's for sure, but he has his uses for comedic value.

Judith is wise beyond her years. Adelle should've gone for the vodka--I wasn't thinking. In my defense, I must've been thinking that maybe women drank lighter then, but it may be just the opposite. Sigh--a missed opportunity.

Crane is an astute man, which can be a good or bad thing.

Thanks so much for reading!

I love how this is unfolding. You've weaved everyone into it so beautifully, and the complexity you gave to Judith's character is so great. I'm really, really loving this one.

I'm so glad it's working for you! We tried very hard to fit these characters in this setting in a realistic way.

Judith is central to the entire thing in her own way, as is Topher in a bit more limited a way. Judith is the sounding board and Topher is the challenge.

The next bit is one of my favorites.

Edited at 2012-03-10 07:13 pm (UTC)

Judith! How I love her. I love how developed she is. Plus, her friendship with both Laurence and Adelle is wonderful.

I love how Adelle and Laurence’s relationship is beginning to unfold. I cannot wait for the next update.

I think, as things progressed, we both came to love Judith and the very pivotal role she plays--being friends with both Dom and Adelle. It was fun to have her be naive yet wise. The juxtaposition was interesting.

I loved that Dom doesn't think he's good enough for her and Judith just waves that away like it's nothing. He needs to do some listening, I think.

So glad things are progressing nicely for you. We were pleased and a bit stunned by this fic.

Topher being unstable works. I think I have always seen him as such. More unstable at the end with moments of clarity. Must be a genius thing.

Love Judith pointing out that Adelle looks loningly at Dominic and that Dom does not notice but should do something about it. I think I just love her relationship with both of them. So innocent in some aspects and wordly in others.

I can't wait to see where you go with all this and how Adelle and Dominic finial bridge their own issues so that they can finally connect.

Topher has such a God complex, he has to be kind of unstable (in my opinion).

Judith's interactions with both Dom and Adelle worked on so many levels (most of which were unintentional, I'm embarrassed to say). I'm so pleased others think so.

It was intersting to broker a connection between an intensely private woman and a guy's guy.

Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

I'm really pleased people are enjoying the fic. It's been a bit of a labour of love for both of us and it's great that people are convinced by the characters in this setting; which somehow manages to be different and yet similar. It's nice that Judith's character is getting such a positive response as well. I still say that Rogoblue did more to craft that mix of innocence and wisdom than I did.

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