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Battle of Britain -- Chapter 5
longer, dominic
rogoblue
Title: Battle of Britain Part 5


Rating: R (language and sexual situations)


Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue


Summary: A decision of Adelle’s has all sorts of consequences for her and Dominic.






“What am I going to be observing?” Laurence Dominic asked, trailing Adelle DeWitt through the Baker Street headquarters.


“The interrogation of a German national who professes to have information detailing an impending, massive concerted effort to quash the French Resistance and the SOE. I ordered him brought in by a team of operatives.” She dodged pedestrians when they emerged from the building. Dominic climbed into her waiting car and regarded Adelle expectantly. “I weighed a number of factors in my decision,” she said.


“Including the mess Alpha made of Operation Duckbill?”


She wore an impressive glare well. “I’m not trying to save face by taking foolish risks.”


“If you say so.”


“Shall I return you to Baker Street?”


Tabling the issues of why she hadn’t asked his opinion or even mentioned this matter to him, he said, “Tell me why you sanctioned this and listen when I describe how it smells to me.”


“Mr. Kruger is not unknown to our intelligence services, Captain Dominic. He has previously passed along credible and useful information.”


“In exchange for?”


“Money.”


“Maybe he’ll take war bonds,” Dominic said.


A spark of anger flared in Adelle’s eyes. “Mr. Kruger has family in France, so he has valid reasons for travelling between there and Germany in addition to his duties as a courier. His legitimate and not so legitimate contacts make him well placed to have come by the information he claims to possess.”


“Couriered messages of that level of sensitivity are coded.”


“Indeed. He obtained a copy of the plan from the mistress of the man who devised it.”


Unaccustomed to Adelle doling out information a snippet at a time, Dominic fought impatience. “How?” he asked.


“She traded the document for certain sexual favors and a bottle of blended Scotch whiskey.”


Dominic shook his head. “More likely, she acted at her lover’s behest.”


“You simply can’t believe a woman would risk anything for a few orgasms and strong drink, can you?”


Imagining Liz in a more conventional occupation, he said, “I can believe it; but I don’t in this case.”


“Why ever not?”


The strain beneath her flippancy demanded eloquence. “Whoever’s in charge of reining in the Resistance is experienced, intelligent and ruthless. He can’t risk the indiscretions or mistakes of the woman he keeps for sex and maybe company coming back to him. If he didn’t tell her to do it, she’d have demanded more in compensation, knowing the value of what she had and exactly what she risked.”


“A woman most often allows herself to be kept by a man for financial security; satisfaction with the arrangement from a physical standpoint is rarer, I imagine.”


“That’s a fair point, but could we assume, just for a minute, that I’m right?” When she sighed and looked out the window, he said, “If I am, Kruger’s information is misleading or he’s here for another reason entirely. Either scenario is bad for us.”


In reply, she tossed a file folder into his lap. “Here’s some background on Kruger. Read it.”


Dominic found nothing in the material to change his mind. “This feels wrong, ma’am,” he said, as the car skidded to a halt in front of an impressive manor house. “Let me talk to Kruger first.”


“No, Captain Dominic.” She stepped from the car and Dominic followed out the same door.


“It might not be safe for you to—.”


She rounded on him, eyes blazing. “You will be present, as will my two operatives who, you might recall, have been trained to kill with their bare hands. We could add a soldier or two if it would ease your mind.”


“You’ve already declined to ease my mind, but I’ll take a couple of armed men nonetheless.”


Eyes darting everywhere, Dominic couldn’t help but notice the grandeur of the location. Adelle sped up when she spotted two civilians talking to the soldier stationed outside massive French doors. On final approach, Dominic revised his assessment—the attractive couple were Adelle’s operatives.


“Anthony, Priya, this is Captain Dominic,” Adelle said, sighing ruefully. “He doubts Mr. Kruger’s veracity.”


“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Anthony said, offering his hand.


“Kruger’s injured,” Priya said. “His right hand was badly burned. He’s sensitive about it and wears a glove to spare everyone the sight.”


“Really?” Dominic asked, crossing his arms, unprepared to believe even that.


“Yes,” Priya said, “he showed us.” Eyes sad, she said, “It’s quite horrible.”


“Satisfied, Captain?” Adelle asked, stepping next to Priya, clearly taking sides.


Tapping the soldier on the shoulder, Dominic said, “I want two steady men in the room, armed and prepared to use their weapons if the situation dictates.”


“Yes, sir.”


Adelle usually remarked when British soldiers obeyed him. Instead, she quizzed Anthony and Priya about their actual mission and worked out a cover story to explain their absence.


Two men that looked hard as nails returned with the soldier Dominic had dispatched. “We don’t know the prisoner’s intentions,” Dominic said, noting the varied reactions to his choice of word—Anthony nodded, Priya winced and Adelle merely blinked. “If anything strikes you as off, draw your weapon.”


“Are we now able to conduct this interview, Captain?”


“We’re as prepared as you’re willing to let us be,” he countered. Priya elbowed Anthony when he smiled. The familiarity of the gesture indicated they actually were a couple. Dominic wondered when that had developed and what Adelle thought of the situation.


One of the soldiers took up station in the far corner of the intimate room. Priya and Anthony sat down across from a sharp featured blonde man at a rectangular table that would comfortably accommodate six for dinner. Kruger looked relaxed, sleeves rolled up to the elbow, yet alert. Surely to torture Dominic, Adelle took the seat next to Kruger’s. The second soldier stayed near the door and Dominic leaned against a sideboard littered with liquor bottles and glassware, a pace and a half from coming between Adelle and Kruger.


“Who’s the yank?” Kruger asked.


“He works with me,” Adelle said, smiling at Kruger. “Can we get you anything?”


“Scotch,” he said, eyes sliding to Dominic. “The yank can pour.”


“Anyone else?” Dominic asked, complying without losing sight of Kruger.


“I’ll have scotch,” Adelle said. “No one should drink alone.” Kruger' smiled at her and Dominic’s blood pressure rose, although he thought it kind of sweet that Anthony and Priya both had vodka. He had nothing, earning an indulgent smile from Adelle.


“Are you the woman they’ve told me about?” Kruger asked, nodding to the operatives. “The one with Churchill’s ear?”


“I am.”


Focused solely on Adelle, Kruger said, “I’ve done business with your government before—straightforward information for money. This isn’t that. If I give you this intelligence, I can’t go back.”


“Why is that, Mr. Kruger?” she asked.


“It’s a boring and moderately trite story, but I will tell it if you insist, Miss ...”


“I do.”


Absurdly pleased that Adelle was being short with Kruger too, Dominic settled in to watch what he suspected would be a stellar performance.


“I met a woman.” He glanced across at Priya. “I do not refer to the woman from whom I obtained this information. I speak of a better woman, a woman who is to have my child in six months time. She is in Paris. I want you to bring her to England.” Eyes shifting to Dominic, he said, “I have the means to take her on to America. He smiled slightly. “The English government contributed mightily. That is the price of my information.”


“What is the nature of your information?” Adelle asked, slowly, deliberately crossing her legs.


“Will you bring my Sophie to me, madam?” Kruger asked, lifting his gaze from Adelle’s legs with theatrical reluctance while reaching into his pants pocket with his gloved hand.


“If your information is of use, we will look into bringing your lady to England,” Adelle said.


“Getting her out will be much more difficult after the SS’s plans have been foiled.” Kruger slumped with a small sigh. “My information will save you and the French Resistance but not my Sophie.”


The best lies have roots in truth, Dominic thought. There is a Sophie and he has to get her to the States before we find out the Germans have paid him to give us bogus information.


“If we can verify your information through secondary sources,” Adelle offered, “we will endeavour to extract Sophie before the SS strikes.”


Kruger scooted forward to sit on the edge of his chair. “Do I have your word?”


“You do.”


“Thank you, madam. Thank you.” Kruger drew his gloved hand from his pocket and reached for Adelle’s arm.


Dominic shot forward and forced Kruger’s gloved palm into contact with the prisoner’s exposed left forearm. “Stay behind me but leave me room to maneuver, Adelle!” he ordered. The hatred in the German’s eyes was all the confirmation Dominic needed. Stepping back quickly, he drew his weapon and a sharp breath. “You, by the door, go and get some heavy duty gloves and rope. We need to restrain this man and I’d rather do it safely.”


“Laurence?”


He felt Adelle at his back. “Look at his arm.”


“My word.” The skin was black, roughly in the shape of a hand.


“I’ll get Doctor Saunders,” Priya said, rushing from the room.


Kruger dropped his left arm to his side. “Move again and I’ll put a bullet in you,” Dominic snarled. “Maybe two.” Raising the barrel of his gun to aim between the man’s eyes, he asked, “Is your mission to assassinate Miss DeWitt?” Kruger glared, so Dominic switched tactics. “I actually believed there was a Sophie.”


“There is. You have no idea the amount of money she would have received had I succeeded.”


The blackness surged up Kruger’s arm to past the elbow as they waited for the doctor. Adelle DeWitt fired questions at him and Kruger seemed to delight in vague responses punctuated with grunts of what certainly sounded like great pain. After claiming he’d received his orders from Hitler himself, Kruger began to twitch.


“Where in hell is the guy with the rope?” Dominic asked, as a shiver worked its way down his spine.


“How are you feeling, Captain?” Kruger said. “You look unwell and I could not help but notice that you intervened with a bare hand.” Dominic switched his gun to his left hand and glanced down at his right.


He’d just closed it into a fist when Adelle murmured, “Let me see.” He allowed her to open his hand. Three of his fingers were black to the second knuckle. Dominic’s gun hand wavered.


“I have him covered, sir,” said the remaining soldier. “You can stand down.”


With profound relief, Dominic lowered his arm. The first soldier returned and trussed up the prisoner with Anthony’s assistance. Adelle pressed on Dominic’s shoulders just as his left knee buckled. He dropped into what had been her chair. She rested her hip on its arm and draped hers across Dominic’s shoulders, a gesture striking him as protective.


Kruger’s pain continued to increase or else he was a very fine actor. Dominic didn’t know if foaming at the mouth on demand was even possible. “No cyanide?” Dominic asked.


The man’s eyes gave him away. “Anyone with gloves, check his shirt pocket.”


Anthony drew forth a pill any intelligence agent would recognize.


“Stuck between your cheek and gum, like tobacco,” Dominic muttered.


Priya returned with an intense looking woman Dominic could only surmise was Dr. Saunders. She took one look at Kruger and shook her head. “Anyone else?”


Adelle said, “Captain Dominic,” sounding like she might be scared, but he couldn’t be sure. A strange brand of lassitude had come over him suddenly, making it difficult to focus.


“A much lower dose,” the doctor said. “Good.”


Dominic didn’t agree. His stomach had started to hurt and an annoying buzzing sound waxed and waned.


“The Captain’s symptoms won’t mirror his.” The doctor gestured to Kruger.


If she meant he wouldn’t foam at the mouth, that was good, so maybe she was right after all.


“It’s a Russian poison,” she added. “He needs liquids, as much as you can get down his throat. Coffee, water, hard liquor. Not milk or beer and definitely not wine. And get him talking if you can, or listening if you have interesting stories to tell. He needs to stay awake for the next few hours.”


“Tired,” Dominic protested, leaning back in the chair. A sharp slap in the face dynamited his eyes open.


“Stay with me, Captain Dominic.”



* * *


Watching Captain Dominic struggle with the effects of the poison, Adelle forgot that she had been annoyed by his obstinacy; she certainly wasn’t angry at him for being right. She simply refused to allow him to lose his life because she had been too arrogant to heed his warning.


Showing her fear would accomplish less than nothing. “Liquid.” Gesturing to the alcohol on the sideboard, she said, “That will do for now. Priya, go to the mess, fetch water and have them make coffee.” Anthony brought her the scotch and the vodka. “I doubt if this is the best moment to ask you what your poison is?” Adelle said, grimacing at the quip. “Captain!”


“What?” He blinked up at her and she forced the glass into his good hand. “Drink this.”


Claire Saunders unfastened the cuff of his uniform, rolling the sleeve up to reveal the black spreading past his wrist. Her worried glance was enough to force Adelle to refill the glass and help him raise it to his lips.


Bitter, raspy laughter recalled Kruger to mind. Marveling at how quickly she’d forgotten the man sent to kill her, she said, “Anthony, take him somewhere else. If you want to see to him go,” she told the Doctor. Claire didn’t even look in Kruger’s direction.


“Basic triage,” she replied, “concentrate on the people you can save.” Pointing at Dominic, she said, “Talk to him, not to me.”


As Anthony took charge of Kruger, Adelle said, “Now, Captain what could I possibly tell you that would hold your interest?” She refilled the glass, hoping the tales of holding his drink were true. “I played Titania in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was at Cambridge. It was only shortly after women had been allowed to act and a new club had been established for the purpose. I was terrified, but the production seemed to go well and as a result I was rather famous for a short period.”


The door opened to admit Priya, with a tray of coffee and water, “how is he?”


“It’s still spreading.” The black had reached his elbow.


“Water,” Dominic managed to say and she poured him a glass, guiding it to his lips and steadying his hand as it trembled. He drank the contents and then repeated the action. Shaking his head, as though trying to clear it he said, “What did you study?”


“Classics.”


“I thought it would be languages. How many do you speak?” She tended to avoid answering that question – it took her too close to describing her childhood, which led to sharing details she didn’t care to reveal.


“Why don’t you try to guess?” It was a good way of keeping him engaged., “Drink some coffee while you think about it.”


He nodded, drank the coffee – his wince occasioned by liquid temperature or pain he endeavoured to hide. “We’re talking real fluency, Adelle, not just being about to say good morning and order a beer.”


“I’m not sure I can order a beer in any language.”


“I’ll teach you,” he said, brow furrowed in thought. “So ... English and French are a given ... German?” She nodded, “Spanish or Italian?” Her raised eyebrow gave him his answer. “Both then. Hungarian?” he guessed, “you talked about Budapest.”


“I lived there for a while.”


“You talked about Cairo too. How’s your Arabic?”


“Probably a little rusty.”


“Is that it?”


“You tell me.”


“That means no.” He gazed at her; she didn’t flinch, though it felt as though he delved far beneath the surface, seeking out all of her secrets. “Russian?”


“Yes.”


“Eight languages? Who the hell speaks eight languages?”


“I’m sure some people do, but I don’t happen to be among them.”


“What’s left?”


“Dutch.”


He swore, making her smile and then blush as he whispered, “I don’t know anyone like you.”


“You might consider the classical languages she studied at Cambridge.” Adelle had forgotten the Doctor, stunned that she’d paid attention to their conversation. “Please drink some coffee or water while you think it over, Captain Dominic,” Dr. Saunders said. “The poison is almost at your shoulder, you need to keep taking liquid.”


“How did you come to speak so many languages?”


The question Adelle dreaded had been asked. “That’s a story for another occasion.”


“I’ll hold you to that.”


To shift the focus, she asked, “Is your sister bi-lingual?”


“Her accent is better than mine.” He frowned, but Adelle didn’t think it stemmed from a lost competition. “She’s a secretary for a company that trades with Canada, so she needs the French for work. You’d scare the hell out of her.”


“I wouldn’t dream of scaring your sister.” She pressed her hand to his forehead. “You’re feverish; I’m going to try to cool you down.”


“No ice baths.”


She dipped her handkerchief into the water and wiped it over his face. “How is that?”


“Feels good, thanks.”


“You’re very welcome.” She breathed a sigh of relief when he returned her smile. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.”


“Next time,” he murmured, taking and squeezing her hand. “Glad you make a mistake once in a while. I was beginning to think you weren’t human.”


“I make mistakes.” Before he could comment, Anthony stepped into the room.


“Kruger’s dead,” he said, “and this message arrived for you Miss DeWitt.” He handed her a sheet of paper.


“Damn,” she said, scanning it. “I thought we’d agreed to keep Kruger’s presence quiet until we’d established what he knew.”


“We didn’t tell anyone,” Priya said.


“Unfortunately not everyone shares your discretion. We’re expected at a meeting, Captain Dominic, a command performance.”


“He can’t go,” Dr Saunders said.


“I can.” Dominic pushed to his feet, swaying alarmingly. Adelle put her arm around his waist to steady him. “I might need a little help,” he conceded.


“Shall we try?”


“I’ve been walking for years. How hard can it be?”


* * *


When they reached the location at which US and British military and intelligence personnel awaited a report on Kruger, Laurence Dominic ceased to lean on Adelle DeWitt.


“Are you feeling better?” she asked, hand resting lightly on his non-discolored forearm.


“Not really,” he said, squaring his shoulders, “but I’d rather walk in there with a little dignity.”


“It’s hardly dignified to fall on your face.”


“Then I won’t.” He reached around her to open the door and murmured, “After you.”


Adelle strode purposefully into the room, nodding greetings as she made her way to Clive Ambrose. Only the two chairs between Harding and Ambrose and the one at the head of the table were vacant, so Dominic resigned himself to sitting next to Harding.


“I hope you have good news for us, Adelle,” Harding said, reaching for her hand as she passed. Frowning fiercely, Ambrose blocked the attempt, took her by the arm and led her off a few paces to the side. “What’s the scoop, Dominic?” Harding asked. “Will Herr Kruger shorten the war for us?”


“No.” Harding looked taken aback, but remaining upright required all of Dominic’s attention. Suddenly, everyone leapt to their feet. Adelle glided to the chair adjacent his and faced the door. With great care, Dominic pivoted and nearly came nose to nose with Winston Churchill.


“Dear lady,” Churchill said, “is it true what I’ve been hearing about this man Kruger?”


“That rather depends on what you have heard.” Adelle said.


“He’ll provide information enabling the SOE to outwit the SS and the French Resistance to continue their work.”


The others drew closer and Dominic felt hemmed in, too warm and unsteady on his feet.


“He will not,” Adelle said.


“Then why did he agree to come here?” Ambrose asked.


“What is Kruger’s purpose?” Churchill amended and Dominic silently applauded.


“He came bearing a Russian poison,” she said, her gaze encompassing her wider audience. “A few specks of it made a healthy adult male quite ill. A smattering killed a second painfully in the space of just over one half hour.” She looked Churchill directly in the eye.. “I would’ve succumbed sooner; I think.”


Ambrose asked, “Kruger tried to kill you?” at the same time as Churchill said, “Tell me of this Russian poison.”


“The doctor who identified the toxin said that it’s rapidly absorbed, travels freely through the blood supply and easily crosses the blood brain barrier.”


Dominic started. He didn’t recall Dr. Saunders explaining things so thoroughly.


“Skin turns black, you say?” Churchill said, expression frown-like but not quite a frown to Dominic’s eyes.


“Yes,” Adelle said, her hand coming to rest lightly on Dominic’s wrist, silently asking permission. He nodded and Adelle turned his hand over to expose his palm. “Like this.”


“Jesus Christ, Dominic, what in the blue blazes did you do?” Harding demanded, crowding Dominic, staring at the Captain’s hand as though he expected it to fall off.


Churchill speared Dominic with a sharp gaze. “How far does the discoloration extend?” he asked.


“I’m not sure, sir,” Dominic said. “It keeps changing.”


“Let’s have a look, then, shall we?”


He fumbled with the button at his cuff, cursing the adverse effect of the poison on his hand-eye coordination. Adelle took over, undoing the button and rolling his sleeve up to his bicep. “It’s retreating,” she murmured. “It had spread to his shoulder, Prime Minister.”


Churchill clapped Dominic on the shoulder under discussion, frowning when he winced. “Sit down before you fall down, Major and we’ll have the tale from you, Adelle.”


Correcting Winston Churchill as to his rank would never have crossed Dominic’s mind, if Harding hadn’t looked fit to be tied. However, he’d been given a direct order to sit and that was a tricky endeavor at the moment. By the time he’d situated himself, she’d begun and the moment had passed. When she told of his intervention, Harding glared down at him.


“I didn’t realize you were given to dramatic gestures, Captain Dominic,” he hissed, emphasizing the words dramatic and Captain. “Did you give a moment’s thought to wounding or disabling the man so he’d be available for questioning?”


Dominic felt awkward at being the only one seated, but he shunted the emotion aside. “There wasn’t time to act any differently. Kruger was too close to Miss DeWitt.” Seeing only derision and skepticism in the Colonel’s deportment, he located Adelle in his peripheral vision. “All he had to do was this.” Before he’d finished the sentence, he’d taken Adelle’s hand.


In the face of positive mutterings from those gathered, Harding asked, “If you were that concerned about Kruger and his motivations, why was your sidearm in its holster?”


“Coming armed to a negotiation is one thing, Colonel,” Adelle said, “waving a weapon around, quite another.”


“I drew my sidearm as soon as I deemed it prudent and held Kruger at gunpoint until he could be restrained without risk of further exposure to the poison,” Dominic said, belatedly releasing Adelle’s hand.


“How is it that you came to be close enough to prevent Kruger from carrying out his mission?” asked Churchill, getting Harding’s back up further.


“As Miss DeWitt said, I didn’t believe him and felt uncomfortable with her being in such proximity. I chose my position accordingly.”


Smile calculating, Churchill said, “You can generally trust suspicious people, because they so rarely trust anyone else.” Expression softening, he said, “Please continue, Adelle.”


Harding’s hostility threatened Dominic’s concentration, but Adelle’s accent prevailed. He considered her conclusion perfect, even if he hadn’t been able to help her formulate it. “Kruger had no document purporting to outline the SS’s strategy for subduing France on his person,” she said, “nor was any such paper found among his few possessions. He may have secreted the item somewhere along the route he and the SOE operatives took from France, but that scenario strikes us as unlikely. However, our operatives will make inquiries to the extent they can without arousing undue interest when they retrace their steps. What he might have committed to memory is anyone’s guess.” With a small shrug and lowered eyes, she said, “And that, as they say, is that. I wish we had better news.”


“Much ado about nothing,” muttered Clive Ambrose.


“On the contrary,” Churchill said, “we know the SOE is hurting the Germans. Why else would they send an assassin?”


“True, true,” Clive said, sycophant to the core.


“We also have discovered a quick thinking American in our midst.” Churchill nodded to Dominic. “Britain appreciates your act of courage, Major.”


Harding stepped forward. “Dominic is only a captain, Mr. Prime Minister.”


“He won’t be once I’ve spoken to Roosevelt.” Churchill offered his hand. “Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on your well deserved bump in rank.” Dominic braced both hands on the arms of his chair. “No need to stand, young man. No need at all.”


Somewhat sheepishly, Dominic once again displayed his discolored right hand. “Thank you, sir, but are you sure you want to ...?”


“It’s not catching, is it?” Churchill asked, chuckling. “I don’t imagine you’d have been allowed to wander about, if it was.”


“No, sir,” answered both questions. Dominic shook Churchill’s hand. With a nod to Adelle, the Prime Minister took his leave and the others followed his example. In just a minute or two, only Harding, Ambrose, Dominic and Adelle remained.


“All’s well that ends well, eh?” Ambrose ventured.


* * *

Adelle knew Harding was seething at Laurence receiving a promotion organised by no less a figure than Churchill and she decided to make an attempt to derail his anger. “Captain Dominic’s action brought him to the attention of the Prime Minister,” she murmured. “As his superior officer, you will take the credit for having an officer under your command who has inspired Churchill’s interest.”


Clive Ambrose raised his eyebrow – too good a politician not to realise she bolstered Harding’s ego while also issuing a warning. If Churchill took an interest in Dominic’s career, Harding would be wise not to interfere in it.


“She’s right,” Clive offered, shrugging. “The Prime Minister will do as he says. Dominic, the promotion is yours.”


Adelle thought Laurence looked rather dazed. She hoped the sudden promotion caused that reaction, rather than the poison.


“He’s very fond of Adelle. Saving her life is something he, we all, take very seriously.” Smiling disarmingly, he added, “How about a drink Harding, my club?”


“Why not? I could use a drink. Get some rest, Dominic. I’ll want to see you first thing.”


Adelle guessed Harding was keen to see inside one of the pillars of London clubland. She wished him joy of it; however, she barely managed to hide her annoyance when he waited for Dominic to struggle to his feet and expected a salute from him as well. That Clive steered him away almost made up for his indiscretion—she had little doubt that he had revealed Krugers’ arrival.


“I think I just got a promotion. We should celebrate. Liquor is medicinal. The doc said so.” He smiled at her in a way a woman had surely once told him was charming; unfortunately, she tended to agree. “Come on Adelle – a drink won’t kill you.”


Not ready to joke about his close shave, she froze before quickly looking away.


“Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean... Damn. Now you definitely won’t come with me.”


“Don’t be ridiculous,” she muttered, furious that she had revealed so much to him. “Where are we going for this medicinal non-celebration?”


They ended up at the pub where he had taken Judith. The one with the brothel he probably thought she didn’t know about. Even if he had still needed her assistance to walk, she doubted he would’ve availed himself of it. The waitresses greeted him by name, which he found embarrassing in an endearing sort of way. Dominic guided her to a small table, tucked into a corner and she watched him surreptitiously, while sipping the scotch he’d brought her. Desiring him had crept up on her and despite what Judith had claimed, she had yet to determine what, if anything, she should do about it.


“You promised to tell me how come you speak so many languages.”


Thinking promised a bit of an overstatement, she countered, “I believe I said that was a story for another occasion.”


“Which this is.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but this afternoon I bravely risked exposure to a deadly Russian poison.” He stopped when she showed no sign of being amused. “I’m not trying to push you, Adelle. I just think you’re interesting; I’ve never met anyone like you.”


He looked disappointed and somewhat shy. It was a glimpse of him as he must have been when younger – awkward, gangly, reserved but determined--the man of the family, yet still a boy.” Against that, her defences crumbled.


“My father had four brothers,” she began. “He was the youngest child in a very ancient and titled family. After the heir and the spare, the naval brother and the brother who joined the church, he couldn’t find a role. There was money, but not enough for him to enjoy a life of leisure, and that option wouldn’t have suited him. He had something of a gift for languages, so he travelled widely and used his gift to support himself by helping artists and scholars. My father lived in a score of different countries, but in a rare return to these shores he met and fell in love with the only daughter of a rather rich man. She had lived a very sheltered life in the country, yet she was something of an heiress and expected to make a good and advantageous match. Her family didn’t take her engagement to a fifth son very well, but she was old enough to decide for herself. Since she had a small income of her own, she wasn’t dissuaded by the threat of being disinherited.”


He was listening carefully, but Adelle wondered if her talk of people with money, who hadn’t needed to work, angered him, because his family had struggled for everything they had.


“They married against the wishes of her family and left England. I was born in Vienna and in my earliest years I also lived in Paris, Madrid and Rome. When war broke out in 1914, my father joined the army and my mother and I went to live with one of my uncles – he was Dean of Exeter cathedral at the time. My father survived, though his nerves were rather shaky and a dose of gas affected his lungs. He seldom talked about the war; but I believe him to have been in military intelligence. In 1919, he was attached to the conference at Versailles. His many languages proved useful and there he met a number of influential politicians. We joined him there and I didn’t return to England for over a decade.”


She sipped her drink and Dominic remained silent as if willing her to continue. “After Versailles, my father was more restless than ever and my mother took care of him. I thought it a great adventure. My childhood memories are of packing, unpacking and travelling.”


“What happened?” She didn’t know how he knew there was something; that her parents weren’t simply travelling still.


“I returned to England to go up to Cambridge. My father had wanted me to study in Paris or Leipzig, but I wanted to get to know my own country. At the end of my first year, I travelled to Cairo to meet my parents, but they weren’t there. I managed to trace them as far as Alexandria, but the trail vanished just as they had.”


“God, Adelle.” His eyes softened in sympathy. “No wonder you don’t talk about it.” He reached for her hand. “Did you find them?”


She shook her head. “The prevailing theory is that they went into the desert for some reason and got lost.”


“Do you believe that?”


“Most of the time. Occasionally, I wonder if they found a Bedouin tribe to join and simply left everything behind.”


“Including you?”


She shrugged. “My father needed to travel; my mother loved him. I was safe, with a cadre of over-protective uncles to assist me if I required it and a private income adequate for my modest needs. My uncles arranged for my parents to be declared dead after a suitable period of time.”


“What about your mother’s family?”


“I see my grandfather occasionally; he’s rather elderly and has quite old-fashioned opinions. He views me as hopelessly eccentric and far too much like my father.”


“You look like your mother, though and remind him of the daughter he lost.” He was guessing, but she blushed.


“Perhaps a little.”


“What a remarkable childhood – all those cities, all those people. No wonder Churchill put you to work.” Grateful for the change of subject, she hoped he would allow her to take it a step further.


“And now he’s noticed you as well.” She squeezed his hand. “Shall we toast your promotion?”


“How about my continued good health?”


* * *


“What are you thinking, Major Dominic?” Adelle DeWitt asked, watching him over the rim of her glass.


Unwilling to admit he’d just decided that Judith had been engaging in wishful thinking, unabashed romanticism or pure delusion in suggesting Adelle wouldn’t laugh away an advance of his, he shrugged. “I’m not a Major yet and I won’t be, if Churchill forgets all about me when he moves on to the next crisis.”


“As Clive correctly stated, he won’t. You’ll have your oak leaf before the week is out.”


“If you say so,” he mumbled, adrift in all Adelle had said until her sharp green eyes focussed him. “You wouldn’t have told me any of that, much less all of it, if it wasn’t for this,” he said, tapping his discoloured right arm. “Not about the Shakespeare play or the languages or your family.” Adelle went very still. Letting his statement stand seemed cowardly. “Why not?”


“You tell me,” she whispered.


He took his time and selected his words. “You don’t want me to think less of you, because you wanted for nothing as a kid and have money now.” Adelle refused the bait of his pause. “I don’t, Adelle. There’s nothing wrong with having money or the advantages that come with it, particularly if you don’t flaunt it or abuse the attendant privileges.”


“I don’t imagine you have much use for the idle rich.”


“The idle rich don’t run intricate covert operations or put in the kind of hours you do.” He smiled at her in the way she had responded to earlier. “I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone, but I don’t think our childhoods were all that different. I mean, sure, the specifics have the next best thing to nothing in common, but that’s not what I mean.” Not waiting for her to ask, he said, “I had to work and try to protect my family, but you had to grow up fast in your own way. There weren’t a bunch of kids gallivanting around the globe like you, so you had to be comfortable with adults and didn’t get a chance to play much.” He raised his glass to her. “I can relate to that.”


“Is that why you aren’t married with a houseful of children?” Dominic knew his confusion came through loud and clear, when Adelle added, “Because they would face life without their father should something happen to you over here.”


“Partly.” Leaning forward, voice tight, he said, “I’m a soldier. This is all I know, other than a thing or two about repairing cars. If there’s a conflict, I’m going to be in the thick of it. I never met a woman I was crazy enough about to risk having her and any little ones being informed by letter that I’d died in service to my country. I’m attached to the 5th Army. I might well be ordered to move out with them when they deploy.” He sighed and closed his eyes, thinking back to decisions he’d made knowing the risks he might face. “Over the years, I’ve put enough money aside for a reasonably sized family to carry on without me, but that isn’t nearly everything, is it?” He hated to refer to the loss of her parents but felt the comparison valid. Before Adelle could disagree, he said, ”At the risk of pushing my luck, I’m going to ask another question.” Adelle’s sigh made him smile, even as he cursed his sluggish memory because he couldn’t recall what had led him to this conclusion. “Did Churchill know you before the war?”


“He was an admirer of my father’s.” Dominic winced at having, yet again, touched upon a painful topic. “He approached me to help form the SOE.”


“Glad to see you back with the program, Dom,” John Devon said, appearing suddenly to Dominic’s right and inclining his head toward Adelle. “I told you you’d right your ship, so to speak, on the fourth floor.” Pointing to himself, he said, “John Devon.” He dropped his hand to his side. “And you are?”


“This is Adelle DeWitt, Devon.”


“I hereby issue a formal protest that I haven’t been assigned to work with a beautiful civilian,” Devon said, frowning exaggeratedly. “I’m going to write my Congressman.” Slapping Dominic on the shoulder, he said, “Why haven’t you been bragging about how pleasant it is to report for duty every day?”


“I’m not you.”


“Truer words have never been spoken.” Devon took a seat and turned his chair toward Adelle. Elbow on the table, Devon rested his chin in the palm of his hand. “You have beautiful eyes, Miss DeWitt. I’m sure you hear that all the time, but some things bear repeating.”


“Is he always like this?” Adelle asked, tone somewhat clipped, but Dominic thought she was amused.


“Pretty much,” he replied.


“You wound me, Dom. After all we’ve been through, I deserve better from you.” Devon waved a waitress over, ordered a round and leaned toward Adelle. “We were at West Point together. Manhattan met the UP and nothing’s ever been the same.”


“You’re Manhattan, I take it,” Adelle said, surprising Dominic by allowing herself to be drawn into the conversation.


“Obviously,” Devon said. “I took him under my wing and actually learned a thing or two along the way myself, as hard as that might be for you to believe.”


Derailing John Devon’s conversational train wasn’t easy under the best of circumstances, but Dominic felt it important to make the effort. “Don’t you have somewhere to be, Devon?”


All playfulness disappeared. “After I get a straight answer, I might recall where I was headed when I spotted a particularly attractive couple. What was the exact nature of the—I’m quoting—‘damn fool stunt’ you pulled that—I’m quoting again—‘should’ve gotten your sorry ass killed’ and did, in fact, bend Harding all out of shape?”


“Laurence saved my life,” Adelle said, matching, if not bettering, Devon in seriousness and intensity. “A feat I don’t consider to have been a damn fool stunt.”


Devon’s wide eyed shock amused Dominic. “Got poisoned in the process,” he said, jolting his friend making the residual nausea and pounding headache seem less severe. Going for the knockout, Dominic put his right hand on the table, palm up.


“Jesus H. Christ, Dom! Uh ... sorry, Miss DeWitt.” Adelle waved the apology away. Devon scrutinized Dominic while the waitress served the drinks. “I guess that explains why you look like you got shot at and hit,” Devon said. “What happened to the other guy?”


Dominic expected Adelle to have something to say about the assumption that the assailant had been male. Instead, she said, “He’s dead.”


“Good,” Devon muttered. He tapped the side of Dominic’s glass with a forefinger.. “Should you be drinking?”


He laughed at the irony of that question emanating from John Devon’s mouth. “According to the doc, yes.”


“You might consider eating as well,” Adelle suggested.


The waitress miraculously reappeared, pen poised to take their order, pad positioned to provide an unobstructed view of her breasts straining the material of her blouse. Stomach churning, Dominic said, “No, I ... I ... no.” To her credit, Adelle didn’t push.


Frowning, Devon split his attention between Dominic and the retreating waitress. Dominic stared at the table, fighting to keep down all the liquids he’d consumed. “I take it back,” Devon said. “You didn’t learn anything from your early birthday present.” Standing, draining his drink, Devon said, “You’re a great disappointment to me.”


“Always have been.”


“Take care, Dom.” Mischievous smile firmly in place, he said, “Good night, Miss DeWitt. It was a pleasure to finally meet you.” Hand landing on Dominic’s shoulder, he added, “Take care of this guy for me. I have no idea why, but I like him.”


“Consider it done, Captain Devon,” Adelle said, laughing when he saluted her. Tired beyond belief, Dominic didn’t break the blessed silence that fell upon Devon’s departure.


“You look exhausted,” Adelle murmured. Dominic didn’t have the energy to argue. “Fortunately, according to Dr. Saunders and my watch, it’s now safe and appropriate for you to sleep.”


He closed his eyes in relief. “Thank Christ.”


“My driver will drop you off at your billet.”


“Are you heading home?” he asked.


“I’m going to stop by Baker Street first,” she said, “in case anything has arisen during our time away.”


“I’ll come with you.”


“I’d rather you didn’t.” Dominic lowered his eyes. Adelle tapped him on the nose to raise them. “You were hurt protecting me. Do me the courtesy of allowing me to be concerned for your welfare.” Her smile took his breath away. “Get some sleep and I’ll see you in the morning.”


“Yes, ma’am.”



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Is that a legit poison? What is it?

Oh Dom, bein' the hero! I was a little worried in the lead up to the meeting that it was Alpha in disguise.. but I suppose he's being saved for a later chapter?

Adelle was basically being her equivalent of snuggly when she sat on his chair, go Dom!

So.. Harding was just shouting about top secret meetings gone bad in his office to subordinants? Quick, assasssinste him.

Made up poison. A good friend once told me that I didn't let reality adversely impact my fiction. I just changed it.

Dom makes a good hero. I thought the whole time in The Attic was kind of heroic.

Alpha will probably make an appearance (or else why mention him at all).:)

Adelle and snuggly have a passing acquaintance, I believe. Too bad Dom was kind of out of it.

Harding is as vile in this incarnation as he was in the last. I'm with you on the whole assassination thing.

The whole poisoning/impressing Churchill was one of my favorite bits. I've never written a real historical character actually speaking before. I was a little nervous.

Thanks so much for reading/commenting.

Awww, Dom was a hero! With a promotion from Churchill and stories from Adelle as a reward. Although, I do have to admit, I was a little worried for him. Poisons are nasty businesses.

I loved the Churchill cameo (and that Churchill knows a good guy when he sees him) and Devon finally meeting Adelle.

I also loved Adelle's backstory. That poor woman.

It was interesting to me that part of his reward was stories about Adelle's past--things she might never have divulged otherwise. Worth as much to him as the promotion and the attention, I think.

Glad the cameo worked. I tried to give Sir Winston a sense of humor.

Adelle has led an interesting life and certainly been through a lot. Unfortunately, she has a bit more to endure.:)

Thanks for reading!

I'm glad you are enjoying the story and yes poor Dom.
The idea with Adelle's backstory was to find a plausible reason for her loneliness - which was so strongly present in the original character that it had to be fitted into the AU.

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