Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Battle of Britain -- Chapter 6
matching clothing
I'm sorry all for the delay in posting. RL has kicked me in the teeth this week. Will try to do better. Really.

Title: Battle of Britain Chapter 6

Rating: R (language and sexual situations)

Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue

Summary: Churchill comes through and Adelle and Dominic grow closer, but matchmakers and potential recruits erect barriers between them.

Adelle was determined to savour this moment, as it promised to be one of the very few tasks that she undertook devoid of the potential for danger.

“Is Captain Dominic receiving visitors?” she asked as Judith looked up

“I believe he is," Judith echoed her formality to add, "shall I announce you?”

“That won't be necessary.” She tapped on the door to the tiny room and waited for the slightly muffled 'come in'.

“Am I disturbing you?” Something flickered behind Laurence’s eyes at her quite deliberate choice of words.

“Of course not.” Gesturing to the papers arrayed before him, he said, “I read the reports. Caroline and her team did well.”

“They did indeed,” she agreed. The news of the successful destruction of an ammunition dump had come in a few hours earlier, but that wasn't why she was here.

She placed a bottle of champagne on his desk. “I asked that I be the one to give you the news,” she said. He looked confused and she decided to put him out of his misery. “The promised trans-Atlantic communication has taken place. Congratulations, Major Dominic.”

If she hadn't known Judith was eavesdropping, the cry of delight would have given the game away. However, Adelle had thought this through very carefully and didn't allow herself to be distracted. Maneuvering in the tight space of his office, she pressed her lips to his cheek, lingering just a moment too long before she whispered in his ear, “In case I didn't tell you at the time, thank you for saving my life.”

“You're welcome.” He sounded breathless and she didn't imagine the way his gaze dropped to her lips. They watched each other for a moment that felt charged to her.

“I’ve been saving this for a special occasion,” she said, gesturing towards the champagne. “I think this qualifies.”

He looked as though he wanted to respond, but Judith marched in, hugged him and animatedly declared, “We have to celebrate. It isn't every day you're promoted through the direct intervention of the Prime Minister.”

“Perhaps Major Dominic has his own ideas about how to celebrate his promotion,” Adelle said, finding that she rather liked the new title. “I'm sure his friends will come up with an inventive way of marking the occasion.”

“They will,” he said, with a slight grimace. “But they can do it some other time.” Before she could offer an alternative excuse, he said, “We also have Caroline’s victory to celebrate. That makes this an SOE occasion.”

“I'm sure Caroline would be delighted to know that we're drinking a toast to her,” Adelle replied dryly. She hadn't intended to celebrate with him and doing so was a tempting prospect, even with other people along. “I have some things to finish here first. Why don't you two see who else you can round up and I'll join you as soon as I can?”

As Judith started to list who was still here and where they should go, Adelle turned back to her office. Laurence catching her arm surprised her. “Don't make me come back and get you,” he said, expression decidedly earnest.

“Not even if I want you to?”

* * *

“If you want me to drag you out to celebrate blowing stuff up and pissing off Colonel Harding, I will.” Laurence Dominic strove for nonchalant, not wanting to betray what hearing the words “I want you” from Adelle DeWitt’s lips did to his heart rate.

“I don’t mind forceful men,” she said, tapping his hand with her forefinger, “most of the time.”

“I’ll bear that in mind.” He released her arm and watched her rear sway all the way back to her office.

He didn’t have time to dwell on what had gotten into Adelle today, however. Judith dragged him through the main building to see who else might join the party. Neville Peabody, a mildly cantankerous older gentleman, Katherine Ellies, a chubby mother of five and Corporal Trey Evans from communications made up the rest of their motley party. Dominic knew Devon would laugh at the odd collection of souls, but he didn’t care. He wanted to be with Adelle tonight, to share his promotion with her and raise a glass to Caroline, Madeline and the guys.

When they gathered around Judith’s desk, he said, “I’ll get Adelle.” His announcement set Judith to beaming. He saluted her, making her giggle. Katherine leaned in to whisper something that drew a faint blush to Judith’s cheeks. Wondering at the mysterious workings of the female mind, Dominic strode to Adelle’s office and knocked smartly.

“Come in, Major.”

Dominic took a breath before turning the knob. Adelle sat at her desk, partially hidden behind a mountain of documents. “Are you ready?” he asked.

“Are you quite prepared to drag me?” she countered, leaning back, gazing up at him with the faintest of smiles.

“If you insist,” he said, “by the arm or the hair?”

Her more highly evolved smile held amusement and something more interesting that Dominic couldn’t label. “The hair would be more dramatic, don’t you think?”

Imagining his hand tangled in her hair led nowhere appropriate. Clearing his throat, he said, “I didn’t think you’d go for the dramatic option.”

“You are the one doing the dragging, Major.”

“How about I steer?” he suggested, taking her coat down from the hook behind her door and holding it out for her. Watching him over her shoulder, she slipped into it with consummate grace. Taking her silence for acquiescence, Dominic placed his hand on the small of her back and urged her toward the door with very slight pressure. “I’m glad you decided to join us,” he said. “Neville will be impressed.”

“Neville Peabody is participating?” Adelle stopped in her tracks. “My word, Laurence, do you realize the significance of this?”

“Of Neville coming along?” he asked, hoping he’d mask his elation that she’d used his first name within the confines of Baker Street.

“Mr. Peabody goes nowhere but home after his workday, as per the instructions of Mrs. Peabody,” she said, leaning into Dominic’s hand. “He must respect you.” She smiled in a carefree way he couldn’t recall seeing before.

“You’re in a good mood this evening,” he observed, opening the office door for her.

“I convinced a surly Colonel to allow me to do something I thoroughly enjoyed—giving you well deserved good news.”

“And champagne,” he said, smiling over at her, pressing his hand into her back more firmly. “I’ll keep that on ice for another auspicious occasion, because Judith’s already selected our destination and, thank Christ, it isn’t anywhere where the waitresses know my name. Besides, Trey doesn’t like champagne.”

“The timid but ever so earnest boy from communications?” Adelle laughed. “You have collected an eclectic group of admirers, Major.”

“So long as you and Judith are counted in their number, that’s fine with me.” Dominic leaned closer and said, “I think the guest list had more to do with who works late than anything else.”

“The lovely and celebrated Adelle DeWitt slumming with the likes of me,” Neville said, bending over her hand to kiss it. “Such a day this has turned out to be.”

“Congratulations, Major,” Katherine said.

“Well deserved, well deserved,” Trey added.

“The boy saved Miss DeWitt’s life,” Neville said, frowning at Trey. “Of course he deserved the bump. Churchill himself said so and I won’t gainsay him.”

“Rest assured, I have thanked Cap—.” Adelle ducked her head. “Sorry, Major Dominic for his timely intervention.”

Taking a chance, Dominic said, “She kissed me on the cheek and everything.”

“My goodness,” Neville said, looking to the heavens. “A man saves your life; you kiss him full on the mouth, my dear. Nothing else will do.”

Dominic refused to look at Adelle, although he wasn’t above watching Judith watch Adelle. When Judith’s eyes widened, he glanced to his right. Adelle framed his face with both hands. Her eyes bored into his before she winked and slid one hand behind his neck. “You don’t have to—.”

Adelle’s forefinger across his lips silenced him. “Laurence, do bend down a bit.”

When he did, her pliant, mobile and utterly alluring lips found his. He’d intended to keep his hands at his sides, but one migrated to her hip, the other to her cheek. When they parted, Dominic’s heart pounded in his chest and Adelle’s flushed face wore a smile he’d kill to see on a routine basis.

“Thank you,” Adelle whispered.

“You’re welcome,” he murmured, leaning toward her like a plant to the sun.

“Nicely done, both of you,” Neville said. “Now, Judith, lovely child, where are we going?”

* * *

Neville, voluble due to his rare evening out, monopolised her time at first and when he’d at last turned his irascible charm on Katherine, Adelle found herself attracting the attention of a Polish fighter pilot seated at the bar.

Darkly handsome, patriotic and heartbroken over the fate of his country, it’d been no chore to speak to him; even though she felt Laurence’s scrutiny throughout. It would be gratifying if the attention of another man made him a little jealous, he didn’t know she was listening to him talk of the wife and child he’d left behind. She doubted Laurence would begrudge the man a few minutes of her time when he had already lost so much.

Taking her seat, she realised she might have miscalculated. Laurence looked decidedly surly, actively avoiding her gaze. Guiltily, she remembered he’d wanted to celebrate with her and Judith.

“I’m sorry,” she said, voice pitched low to draw him nearer. “I didn’t mean to desert you, but he needed to talk about home, his wife and his daughter.”

“Even Polish flying aces need to talk on occasion.”

“I didn’t intend to neglect you on your special evening. I enjoy spending time with you away from Baker Street, Laurence.”

“I enjoy spending time with you too,” he said, almost shyly – an admission she rewarded with a smile.

Touching the hand that had been affected by the poison, she asked, “Why didn’t you want to celebrate with your friends?”

“I haven’t told them yet.” He reached for his drink. “Only Devon knows about the poisoning and I didn’t want to come across as boasting, because Churchill intervened directly.” His slight embarrassment absurdly tempted her to kiss him again.

“Are you worried this will separate you further from your friends?” His expression told her she’d guessed correctly. “Laurence, we both know command leads to isolation. The path you’re now on will place barriers between you. There is nothing to be gained by pretending differently.”

“You understand.” He sounded surprised. “Is it like that for you?”

“I understand how it feels to be isolated. But I don’t have a close knit group of friends who I’ve had to leave behind. Perhaps that makes me the right person for my task; someone without close relationships or a family of her own.”

When she met his gaze, they watched each other; neither of them feeling the need to speak.

Judith kept Neville, Katherine and Trey occupied. The thought of her assistant opened up another line of inquiry. Unfortunately, the way Laurence made her feel demanded the question. “So, tell me,” she said at last, “what has been going on between you and my assistant?” It wasn’t an accusation, but he looked alarmed and guilty. “I know there’s something, Laurence.”

“Did she tell you?”

“Judith is nothing if not completely loyal. However, she brought up how she felt about Harry, which she never does. It occurred to me that her dissatisfaction with the poor boy might be due to the realisation of how many options she truly has.”

“And you traced that realisation back to me?”

“I’m not suggesting you’re deliberately unsettling her, but she doesn’t have a great deal of experience with men. Sometimes, I think she might be happier if she’d never come to work for me.”

“You staved off the inevitable, I think, by giving her something else to put her busy mind to. She’d have questioned her relationship with Harry sooner or later.”

“Is that what you told her?”

“More or less,” Adelle knew he’d never divulge what had transpired. While she might not require the details, a measure of reassurance would not go amiss.

“Can I assume the issue was dealt with – one way or another?”

“What does that mean?”

She sighed, wishing she could make light. “Judith’s quite lovely. I can imagine the two of you falling in love. It might even be good for her.”

“I don’t know anyone like you,” he said, shaking his head in apparent bewilderment. “We’re not in love, though I agree she’s very special. Harry’s lucky to have her, but he needs to stop treating her like a kid.”

“They’re quite beautiful together,” she said, refusing to dwell on her relief, “but he’s trying so hard to be a gentleman, to behave as their parents would have behaved, that he’s in danger of pushing her into doing something reckless to meet her need for experience. The world is very different today and the things he seeks to maintain matter little in the face of all that we’re going through.”

“Is that why you aren’t married or engaged?”

* * *

“A woman as beautiful, intelligent and sophisticated as you would be with someone, if you wanted to be,” Laurence Dominic asserted when Adelle DeWitt remained silent.

“You flatter me,” she murmured, but didn’t look away and he liked that.

“No one’s ever swept you off your feet?” Their eyes locked again and he relished the way time seemed to slow as his focus narrowed to the woman before him.

“Oh, yes,” she said, glancing down and smiling, remembering he assumed. “Neither the timing nor the situation dictated marriage.”

He weighed the risk, but curiosity won out. “Are you looking for an adventurer to take you away from all this?” Dominic gestured expansively to include the hotel bar and all of Europe. “Like your mother?”

Adelle shifted her legs, ostensibly to settle in more comfortably. Dominic enjoyed the view more than he should. “I’d like a man who would allow me my own interests, who didn’t begrudge me my own income or try to dictate what I did with it.”

“Those can’t be that hard to come by,” he said.

“In America, perhaps. I understand the self-made man is all the rage there.” Adelle raised her glass to her lips and Dominic was just as jealous of it as he’d been of the Polish airman. “In Europe, particularly here in Britain, things are different. ”

“What else?” he asked, smiling when she shrugged. “There have to be other reasons, Adelle.” She stiffened and he instinctively reached for her hand. “I’m sorry if I offended you,” he muttered, mentally kicking himself for doing his damnedest to ruin a fine evening.

“Men have wanted me on their arm,” she said, signalling their waitress with a deft wave of her hand. “As a trophy of sorts, a benediction to their manhood, proof of their prowess.”

Rage flowed through him. “How could any man with half a brain relegate a woman like you to ... to that?”

“A few have tried.”

“I’m glad they failed.”

“Something else we have in common,” Adelle said, treating him to a fantastic smile. “Another round, please,” she said. The waitress beamed at the prospect of a larger bill than anticipated.

Dominic liked the idea of he and Adelle sharing traits. “We like Judith, have become isolated from our peers, to the extent you have any, enjoy each other’s company and hold our liquor?” he enumerated.


Sobering as the topic demanded, he said, “I didn’t take advantage of Judith.”

“What did you do?”

He leaned halfway across the table and Adelle met him there. Nearly nose to nose, he murmured, “I told her Harry didn’t excite her, because he was trying to be a gentleman and I really hope that’s true. From what you’ve said, I think it’s possible. She’s looking for satisfaction and, if Harry doesn’t give it to her, someone else will.”

“But not you,” Adelle said.

“I have enough problems without adding a duel I’m unlikely to win to the mix.” He hadn’t intended to talk about this, but Adelle seemed to understand and he needed an ear. “I ... I’m worried about Devon. He’s always viewed us as brothers, with him as the elder. He is older than me by a few months, but what does that really mean in the grand scheme of things?” Sliding his chair toward hers, Dominic said, “I’ve never called him on it, but he’s the middle of five and I’m the eldest. Some differences are profound.” He entwined their fingers, pleased that Adelle allowed it. “I let him put me under his wing at West Point, because he needed it and I loved visiting his family.” He aimed his most innocent smile at Adelle. “I’d never been to a big city or anywhere like Times Square or Broadway and he has a younger sister who can kiss like there’s no tomorrow.” He looked from one side of the bar to the other, his performance exaggerated on purpose. “Devon doesn’t know about me and Marilyn and, even now, he’d blow a gasket, so I’d appreciate it if you’d keep my secret.”

“Of course.”

“I tested better all through school. I finished higher in every competition since and now this? How can I look him in the eye after he finds out Churchill called Roosevelt concerning me?”

Adelle lowered her other hand atop their clasped ones. “You’re making this harder than it is, Laurence.”


“You’re ambitious,” she ventured, smiling probably to soften the negative connotations and succeeding in warming him through and through. “You want to be a general, I suspect, and believe that within the realm of possibility.” He nodded. “I’ve only met Devon once, but I don’t see matching commitment or drive. He seems devoted to fun, liquor and women.”

“I like fun, liquor and women too,” Dominic protested.

“You wouldn’t trade a star for them.”

“Depends on the woman.” Time slowed again or maybe Adelle’s smile just took a while to form and his heart migrated to his throat while it did.

“How astute of you, Major,” she said, smiling, but her eyes were serious. “Devon doesn’t want what you want. I suspect he’s risen as far as he’s going to rise and doubt he loses sleep at night over it. Nor should you. What of the others?”

“They’ll be happy for me, but there’ll be even more I can’t discuss with them. Secrecy strains friendships.”

“I know,” she sighed. “Laurence, the best advice I can give is to keep the conversation focused on topics you can discuss. Your friends will help you before long.” She stroked his cheek with the back of her hand, even more sensuously than Liz had. His groin stirred accordingly. “They won’t want your interactions to be uncomfortable.”

“I hope you’re right.”

Adelle sipped her drink and recrossed her legs. He stared, realized he was staring and looked away. “Laurence?”

“You have great legs, ok. I’m sorry. I know it’s inappropriate to stare, so I ... I’m sorry.”

“I don’t mind.” Probably reacting to stunning him, she said, “Why would I shy away from an attractive man admiring me? ”

She thinks I’m attractive? No, she just said that to make it ok that I was practically drooling over her legs. Feeling reckless, he said, “I don’t mind looking at your legs, either. That’s partly why I like spending time with you outside the office.”

“I’m sorry I upset you earlier,” she said, throwing him for a loop again. “I wasn’t trying to make you jealous, although it would’ve been a balm to my ego if you were a little. I wouldn’t abandon you, not tonight of all nights.”

The emotion of the day coalesced in one perfectly simple and extraordinarily complicated question. “What would you do to me, Adelle?”

* * *

Adelle trusted her instinct not to answer his question with anything other than a hopefully mysterious smile. It was too soon. Their conversation this evening had certainly bordered on the intimate but the hesitancy and slight air of disbelief she detected had to be taken seriously.

They gazed at each other. The absence of a challenge over her lack of a response surprised her. On second thought, her silence might have given him an answer

“I’m afraid it’s time for me to say good night, dear lady.” Neville Peabody had circumnavigated Judith and his voice drew her away from Laurence.

“I should get home as well,” Katherine said.

Checking her watch revealed how late it was. “I’ll drive you both,” Adelle suggested. “The car is at Baker Street. Laurence, will you make sure Judith and Trey get home safely?”

He might have been disappointed briefly, but there was definitely a twinkle in his eye as he replied, “yes ma’am.”

* * *

“Excuse me,” Laurence Dominic murmured to a pretty blonde waitress, as he stepped into Devon’s new favorite bar braced for anything.

“You’re Dominic,” she said, smiling and twirling an empty serving tray on the tip of her forefinger.

“Have we met?” he asked, wracking his brain for a name.

“No,” she said, laughing softly. “Captain Devon said that if I spotted a serious guy about his age with blue eyes I’d want to stare into and lips I’d consider kissing, I should direct you to his table.” She pointed. “They’re in the back corner by the windows. What can I get you?”

“What are they drinking?” he asked.

“It’s all over the map,” she said. “Devon’s having Scotch. The tall one is trying Irish whiskey for the first time, or so he says. I don’t believe him.”

“Nor should you,” Dominic said, finding her smile infectious, despite his nervousness. He hadn’t seen the guys since his promotion, mostly because Adelle had given him more and more SOE responsibility. He hadn’t mentioned it when speaking to any of them on the telephone either.

“The quiet one with lovely brown eyes is having beer and the chatterbox is downing brandy like there’s no tomorrow. He’s going to have a hangover he won’t forget anytime soon, if he doesn’t slow down.”

“I’ll have single malt Scotch.”

“Any preference in distillery or age?”

“Ten years in the barrel. Nothing too peaty, though, all right?”

“That will be my pleasure, Major.” Glancing back at him over her shoulder she said, “My name is Gwen and I’ll be looking for someone to walk me home at midnight.” Dominic watched the sway of her hips, delaying the inevitable.

His Scotch arrived at the table before he’d sat down, interrupting the ribbing about making himself scarce, working too hard and keeping too many secrets.

“Was my description painfully accurate, Miss Gwen?” Devon said, rising to take Dominic’s Scotch from her tray.

“You told me he was a Captain.”

“He is,” Devon said, tone incredulous.

“Those are oak leaves, if I’m not very much mistaken,” Gardner said, rising to pull Dominic into a hug. “Congratulations, you son of a bitch! When did those arrive?”

“A few days ago,” he said, thinking a white lie necessary given how stunned Devon appeared.

“Then this Scotch is on me,” Gwen said, taking it from Devon and handing it to Dominic. “Am I the first woman to buy you a celebratory drink?”

“No,” he admitted, “but you’re definitely in the top five.”

“That’s something,” she said. His plan to watch her sashay away again got derailed by backslaps and general uproar from Gardner, Bishop and Hill. Devon participated but not with his customary energy and enthusiasm, making Dominic sick to his stomach.

Eyes on Devon, Dominic said, “I wanted to tell you in person.”

“I understand.”

“Then why are you pissed off?” Dominic said, finally just wanting this conversation in the past, however it went.

“We found out from a waitress, Dom. One who’s probably already propositioned you. Jesus. How the hell do you expect us to feel?”

Bishop’s gaze ping-ponged between Dominic and Devon as he said, . “Ready to pound down a few and get laid. Who’s with me?”

“As much as it pains me to say this,” Hill said. “I am.”

“I’m in,” Gardner said, stepping between Dominic and his best friend. “Ease off the throttle, Devon. Let’s toast this promotion.” Gardner shouldered Dominic nearer to Devon and murmured, “Sort this out, Dom.”

Hill sighed and raised his glass. The others followed suit. Everyone looked to Devon.

“To Major Dominic,” Devon began, staring at his drink, “forever putting out to pasture the nickname of Captain America.” Laughing, they all drank. “Congrats, Dom,” he continued, finally meeting the Major’s eyes. “You deserve it. Not everybody turns their hand black for the cause.”

Devon’s version of the poisoning story held far more humor and action than the reality, but the guys loved it and accuracy paled in comparison to Devon’s enthusiasm which flagged noticeably when he asked, “We all know Harding didn’t put you in for it, so how did you ascend to your current lofty rank, Dom?”

“The Brits kind of insisted,” he offered, knowing it wasn’t enough. “It turns out Miss DeWitt’s father did knew Winston Churchill years ago. He’s fond of her and—.”

“Well of course he is,” Bishop interjected, draining his brandy. “What sort of dad would he be if he wasn’t?”

“Chuchill’s fond of her, you simpleton,” Hill said, rolling his eyes. “So the PM chatted with the President and oak leaves arrived for you. Must’ve killed Harding to hand them over. I would’ve paid to see that.”

“He didn’t.”

“But your CO is supposed to ...” Hill trailed off in the face of Devon’s laughter.

“Dom has a master and a mistress,” Devon said, grinning and gesturing at Dominic with his glass.

Gardner looked stunned. “Harding actually let the skirt break the news?”

“Not before slipping his hand underneath it,” Bishop said, lifting a hand to catch an impressive belch.

Devon caught Dominic’s fist three inches from Bishop’s right temple. “Stand down, Dom. Jesus,” he muttered as he failed to pin Dominic’s arm behind his back. “Don’t hand Harding a charge of conduct unbefitting your rank.”

“No one in this bar would give Dom up to Harding for the likes of Bishop,” Hill said, concern at war with affection in his tone.

Gardner ordered another round. When Gwen sauntered out of earshot, Bishop said, “Sorry, Dom. I meant no disrespect to Miss DeWitt.”

“Adelle put Harding in his place,” Dominic said, raising his Scotch to his lips, surprised to find it empty. “I don’t know how, but he changed his tune from wanting to bed her to seeing that no one else does.”

“No way Harding could stop—.” Gardner elbowed Bishop in the gut, doubling the smaller man over. “Ow. What was that for?”

“Just keeping your foot out of your mouth, Sergeant.”

“I just promised the owner you boys aren’t going to cause any trouble,” Gwen announced as she served their drinks. “Don’t make a liar out of me.”

They each dutifully swore on their alcohol that they would neither cause trouble nor make a liar out of Gwen. Dominic thought promising both was overkill, but Devon led the way and everyone else fell in line.

“God, she’s pretty,” Hill said, as they all watched Gwen serve the men at a nearby table.

“She said you had lovely brown eyes,” Dominic said.

The self same brown eyes widened. “She did?” Dominic nodded. “Really?” Another nod brought a broad smile.

“She’ll want someone to walk her home around midnight,” Dominic said, smiling when Hill looked at his watch.

“I’ll remove the competition by 11:30 pm, if not before,” Devon offered, winking at Dominic. “The good Major and I will take the party elsewhere, leaving the field wide open.”

“Now look what you’ve gone and done,” Bishop muttered. “You’ve given him hope.

While Bishop and Hill squabbled, Devon whispered, “How about a reprise of your fourth floor experience? Your treat, this time.” He elbowed Dominic’s arm lightly. “You have to spend your pay increase on something.”

“No, Devon,” Dominic replied. “I ... I’ve met someone. She’s special and I don’t want to risk whatever possibilities there are with her to have fun with a prostitute.”

Devon regarded Dominic for a time. “It’s been a long time since you’ve described a woman as special,” he observed. “Is she respectable too?”

More to throw Devon off the scent than anything else, he replied, “Hideously respectable.”

“And you still want to bed her?”

“God, yes.”

* * *

Adelle looked up from the map spread out before her and Major Dominic, wondering the cause of the disturbance outside her office door. She winced at the familiar strident tones and wasn’t at all surprised when the door to her office flew open and a determined figure, in a khaki suit with a militarist cut, strode through.

“Adelle, the infuriating girl who guards your door claims you’re busy.”

“I asked Judith to see I wasn’t disturbed.”

“But you didn’t mean me.”

“If I’d known you were planning to visit I would, of course, have made sure Judith understood you were an exception.” Stepping out from behind her desk, Adelle kissed the older woman’s powered cheek and said quietly, “Do you feel better now that you’ve terrorised poor Judith?”

“Poor Judith is more than capable of holding her own. Her father spoils her rotten. What’s more, she’s far cleverer and prettier than all of her sisters. I did her the service of reminding her she doesn’t have licence to be rude to her elders and betters.”

“Unless they cause me to disobey a direct order,” Judith observed tartly from the doorway.

Adelle smiled in what she hoped was a conciliatory manner. “Why don’t you stay for lunch? I’m sure Judith can find us something vaguely edible.”

“With or without arsenic?” Judith muttered. Thankfully, their unexpected guest didn’t appear to have heard and Judith made her escape.

Adelle sighed and turned to face her visitor just as she noticed the other person in the room. “Who the devil are you?”

“Margaret, this is Major Dominic; Major Dominic – meet my friend Lady Bashford.”

“Ma’am,” he greeted her warily, no doubt taking his cue from Judith, a flicker of irritation crossed his features when Margaret dismissed him after a single look.

“Lady Bashford is part of the Ministry of Information,” Adelle said, ignoring Margaret’s deliberate snub. “Major Dominic is our liaison with our new allies.” Her expression softened as she added, “He’s proven to be a great help.”

“He’s certainly easier on the eye than the rest of the help.”

“He’s also incredibly busy. In fact, he was just on his way to a very important meeting.” She lied, of course, but she doubted anything good would come from Laurence and Margaret being in the same room for much longer. “Thank you, Major; we’ll resume later.”

His nod stiff and disapproving, he gathered up the papers, maps included, and left the office. When the door was safely closed, Adelle sighed again before attempting to address a woman who, while difficult, was also a good and implacable friend, despite eye-watering bluntness. “Have you finished, Margaret?”

“For now. Don’t be tiresome, Addie. I don’t get to have very much fun.”

“You’re a holy terror,” Adelle said, settling into her chair and waiting for Margaret to do the same. “Surely you haven’t run out of minions of your own to scare witless?”

“Of course not – the supply is practically endless, but your minions don’t scare easily and I so enjoy the challenge. I have posters I want you to look over. I’d like your expert opinion. The insufferable girl might also help, I suppose, since the subject matter is brassieres.”

“You’re producing propaganda about underwear?” Adelle said, incredulous.

“Material is in short supply. Our campaign is make do and mend, including with bras and knickers. Look,” she said as she lifted some papers from her attaché case and set them out on Adelle’s desk. “What do you think?”

The information was comprehensive and probably well meaning, yet Adelle found it difficult not to laugh. “You might want to test these on someone who has a different figure,” she suggested diplomatically.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t require much support from my undergarments, Margaret.” She couldn’t quite believe this conversation. “A woman who does might have greater difficulty making do and mending.”

“I suppose you aren’t terribly well endowed in the breast department. An excellent point, I’m most grateful.” Turning away from the documents, she added, “You look tired Adelle. Has the limpid Clive been forcing you to do his work as well as your own?”

“There’s a lot to do,” she said, though Margaret gave no sign of actually hearing her.

“We must have you over for dinner soon. Nicholas is insisting that we entertain constantly.” Adelle smiled and didn’t suggest that Lord Bashford might be enjoying having his wife busy at the Ministry. Judith wheeled a trolley bearing lunch into the office and started to unload it onto the sideboard. “I was talking to Jack Erskine about you just the other day,” Margaret said. “It’s astonishing that the two of you have never met. You have so much in common.”

“We have hardly anything in common,” Adelle commented, frowning at Margaret’s choice of topic in front of an inquisitive witness.

“Nonsense! He speaks French and is well travelled. He’s already sorted out the mess the estates were in when his father died and The Times reported his speech in the House of Lords last week. Plus, he’s terribly handsome and he asked me if I thought you’d have dinner with him sometime.”

The thud of plates onto the sideboard indicated Judith’s disapproval of the notion. “Thank you Judith.” Adelle waited for her assistant to leave before she said, “I don’t think that would be a good idea.” She thought of the man sitting in a tiny office not so far away, as she sought a way to explain to Margaret that she had no interest in Lord Erskine, however charming he might be.

“You’re so fastidious, Addie, I can’t believe you enjoy being alone.”

“It’s not a question of what I enjoy,” she said carefully. She had been too busy to feel lonely, or perhaps it was easier to see it in those terms. Her mind crossed the hallway once more and she remembered the way her stomach had clenched when she and Laurence had gazed at each other in the hotel bar. “There is nothing wrong with being fastidious, but that’s beside the point, because I met someone recently. Nothing has happened, but I do have, I don’t know how you’d describe it, an interest, perhaps?”

“What sort of someone?”

“The sort I have no intention of discussing with you, especially when there’s nothing to tell.”

“As of yet.” Margaret said with an arch smile. “I know you, Adelle. You generally get what you want.”

“Eat your lunch,” Adelle said, refusing to be drawn further, though she smiled at the thought of Margaret being right.

* * *

“I’m headed out to a very important meeting with my lunch,” said Laurence Dominic, glaring in the direction of Adelle DeWitt’s office. “Will you join me, Judith?”

Her eyes darted to the same closed office door. “Nothing could please me more.”

He fought off the tension surging within in him until they exited the building. “Who in the hell is that woman?” he demanded. “She treated you like you were beneath her notice and, in terms of peerage or whatever it’s called, I’m pretty sure you’re at her level or close enough. She treated me like a ... a groom or maybe worse. How badly do the titled treat their grooms?”

“Better she treat you like dirt than expect you to sleep with her,” Judith said, clearly enjoying his snarl of distaste. “Grooms are sometimes put upon in that manner.”

“You’re making fun of me.”

Smiling up at him, likely to lessen the blow, Judith said, “Maybe a little.”

“Stop it,” he said, pace quickening until he realized she couldn’t keep up. “I know the bitch had no business talking to you that way.”

“Margaret Bashford is a force of nature,” Judith said, sighing softly. “She’s already forgotten what she said to us. You really shouldn’t let her bother you, Laurence, but I know how difficult it is to let her nonsense wash over me.”

“Are you prettier and cleverer than your sisters?” He frowned. “How many sisters do you have, anyway? I thought you only had one.” Shaking his head, he muttered, “No, Harry has the one sister who I’m to avoid at all costs.”

Judith’s laughter made him feel much better, although it changed nothing relevant. “I have three sisters,” she said, “two older and one younger. The youngest, Janet, is the prettiest, but I do believe I’m the cleverest.”

“I pity your mother, if that isn’t the case,” he murmured, mind still on the woman who’d dismissed him out of hand. “Why does Adelle put up with Lady Bashford?”

“They’ve known each other forever and Margaret is far more tolerant than most ... Do stop laughing, Laurence. Margaret is tolerant of women like Adelle, who don’t fit comfortably within societal norms. Many women of her rank aren’t. Believe it or not, friendship with Margaret Bashford keeps criticism and or condemnation to a minimum.”

“I’d think the patronage of Winston Churchill would do more for Adelle.”

“If she was a man, perhaps.”

Dominic mulled that over for a few moments. “England is a complicated place,” he concluded.

“I’m more worried about Jack Erskine than Margaret Bashford,” Judith said.

Not understanding the conversational segue, he said, “Who in Christ’s name is Jack Erskine?

“The man Margaret wants Adelle to take up with,” Judith said.

“Where are we going?” he asked, realizing Judith had been steering as they talked.

“Somewhere nice. You’ll be paying.”

“Fine,” he said. Dominic saluted the GIs who saluted him and wondered if they were attached to the Fifth Army or just overzealous. “Tell me about this Erskine guy.”

“I don’t know him. Margaret said he speaks French, but she didn’t say fluent French and she would have, if he did. Allegedly, he’s also well travelled, handsome, intelligent and titled.”

“My accent’s lousy.”

“Your accent is different,” Judith said. “I refuse to believe Adelle will agree to have dinner with him.”

“Why shouldn’t she?” He wanted to pick up a rock and hurl it through a window. “Hell, he’s everything she should want.”

“We have had this conversation, Laurence,” Judith said, whirling on heels rivalling Adelle’s, impressive in her vehemence. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed how the two of you have been eyeing each other, how she monopolized your attention during the celebration of your promotion or how hard she’s been working you recently. Some might conclude she doesn’t want you out of her sight.”

“Judith, I like you and respect your observations, but that’s crazy. There’s just a lot to be done right now.”

“Are you really unprepared to acknowledge how much she’s entrusted you with just because some titled know it all bustled in and made it clear she thinks Adelle should look higher than the intelligent, handsome, American Major who’s caught Churchill’s eye?” Huffing her disapproval loudly, she said, “I thought better of you, Laurence.”

“She trusts me with regard to our work at the SOE and I’m glad for that. As to the rest, she spent as much time with the Polish airman as she did with me at the party and we do not eye each other.” Not recognizing his surroundings, he said, “Where in the hell are we going?”

“Just here,” Judith said, taking his hand to pull him into a tiny, dimly lit cafe. “I discovered it last week. The soup is divine.”

“So when’s Adelle’s date with Erskine?”

“I doubt she’s agreed to one,” Judith admitted. “She’s too much her own woman to allow herself to be directed in that way.”

“Maybe she’s lonely.”

“Then you should put forth more of an effort to make yourself available, shouldn’t you?” Judith said, smiling in a way that ought to make her Major do backflips.

“Yes, ma’am.”

* * *

“Major Dominic?”

He looked up from a report on munitions, rueing that the space he’d been allocated by the 5th Army, while larger than his broom closet at SOE, wasn’t private. The office was occupied by three others, one of whom shared his desk. Not the way to impress anyone, much less the pretty redhead standing at his threshold. He was alone at the moment, though, so it could’ve been worse. “I’m Dominic.”

“My name is Ruth Morrell.” In perfect French, she added, “I was told to find you.”

“Were you told why?” he asked, though he already knew the answer.

“No, sir.”

She called to something deep within him nothing like the primal response Adelle DeWitt effortlessly drew from him—something softer, gentler and more comfortable, but far less exciting. “Where are you from, Miss Morrell?”

“Hampton, Ohio.” She smiled in what struck him as a charming way. “Don’t pretend you’ve heard of it. It’s a bitty place in the middle of nowhere.”

“Then where did you learn French?”

“My grandfather taught me. He insisted it would help me get out of Hampton. Grandpa Glen wanted me to make something of myself.”

Dominic heard the affection and respect for her teacher and identified with the desire to move on to bigger things. “Has he passed?” he asked.

“No, sir. I got a letter from him yesterday. He said he’s proud of me doing my bit and that my dog Stan is hale and healthy.” She rolled her eyes. “As trivial as my bit actually is.”

“Nothing is trivial, Ruth.”

“Forgive me, Major, but driving a supply truck around England seems like it when folks are dying all over the place.” Ruth shuddered and looked embarrassed about it. “The Newsreels are downright scary.”

“You should go back to hauling supplies,” he said, rising from his chair and offering her his hand. “What I have to offer is just as frightening as what’ve you’ve been seeing, if not more so.”

“Why do you want fluent French speakers?”

Suddenly, the secrecy seemed needless. “To go into occupied France and spy on the Germans.”

Her jaw dropped and Dominic nearly laughed. “Are women allowed to do that?” she asked, bright blue eyes wary.

“It’s technically not combat and we’re doing our best to cooperate with our British allies, so, yes.”

Her eyes narrowed and Dominic instinctively sat up straighter. “If I was a man, would you be sending me back to making supply runs?”

He considered lying. “I’d be asking you a long list of increasingly personal questions.”

“Ask them,” she demanded.

“Would your grandfather advise you to follow this path?” he asked, ready for yet regretting her flinch.

“He’d expect me to be willing to do what it takes to win this war and he’s always said women can do most things men can and often a damn sight better.” Her smile defied description, but he thought he’d been treated to the most pleasant face ever put on defiance. “He’d be thrilled that his French lessons allowed me to make a real difference.”

“I suspect he’d prefer to get his granddaughter back in one piece.”

“Are you trying to scare me, Major?”

“I’m trying to caution you before you meet Adelle DeWitt,” he said, unable to hold back a grimace. Of all the things that unsettled him about Adelle, her uncanny ability to engage with people and convince them to volunteer to be deployed as she saw fit was the most difficult to ignore. Not for the first time, he wondered what she might be able to convince him to do, if she put her mind to it.

“Who’s she?”

“The resident spymaster.” Reluctantly, Dominic pulled Adelle’s questionnaire from his desk drawer. His instincts screamed for him to avert this disaster, but he couldn’t see how. Adelle would want to see Ruth, she believed pretty young women made excellent operatives. Hoping his trepidation stemmed solely from Ruth being a product of a small town too, Dominic worked his way through the questions.

“Did I pass?” Ruth asked, breathing as though she’d run ten miles in full combat gear.

“You didn’t fail,” he said. “I’ll be in touch.”

“I’ll be the one driving the brown truck with matching dented front fenders.” To his soft chuckle, she replied, “Those were there before I arrived, Major.”

“Duly noted.” He sat for a long time, staring at the completed form without seeing it and wondering if he’d just taken the first step in sending Ruth Morrell to an early grave.

* * *

“Miss Morrell?” As the young woman with blazing red hair rose, Adelle reflected on what she already knew about Ruth Morrell. In the last week, the State Department had looked into her background and established that she had no involvement in any activity that would make her unsuitable for SOE operations. Miss Morrell’s superiors thought her willing, gregarious and perhaps too ready to trust, a detail that might make her unfit for Adelle’s purposes. She knew about Ruth’s family, her friends in England and that Major Dominic had passed on her paperwork without a single comment, the last being an unprecedented event.

“My name is Adelle DeWitt. Won’t you come in?”

They met in a quiet flat close to Baker Street. While Adelle tested the discipline and patience of men in the armed forces, with civilians, particularly women, she preferred a different and less official approach.

Now she thought she understood Laurence’s response. Ruth Morell had a ready and quite pleasant openness. Her curious eyes took everything in and her lips seemed ever ready to quirk into a bright smile. She looked exactly what she was, an intelligent representation of the girl next door – confident but a trifle unsophisticated. In any world, Adelle knew she could make something of this young woman. Unfortunately, in this world, what she would likely make of her was an agent operating in the most perilous of circumstances.

“Can I offer you some tea?”

“Yes, please. It’s a taste I’m trying to acquire.” As she prepared them both a drink Adelle talked about tea, trying to deflect the nervousness she detected behind Ruth’s curiosity.

When they faced each other across the desk with a cup of tea before them, she said carefully, “Recently you met with a colleague of mine, Major Dominic.”

“Yes, he was very nice, though he tried to be stern.” Adelle didn’t know how she felt about this being another of the women he had charmed and been charmed by in return.

“He asked you some questions and probably told you that we are looking for people who speak French fluently to assist us in the war effort.”

“He said you were sending French speakers into occupied France.” Adelle raised an eyebrow and suppressed both surprise and anger at Laurence’s departure from the agreed script.

“That is one possible outcome. If you decide to assist us, you will undergo training and further assessments of your abilities will be made. We may decide you aren’t suitable, or you may decide that you don’t wish to continue. There is no shame in either.”

“I want to do more.” The girl said, clearly earnest and trying her best to look brave. “But I don’t know if I can do this.”

“There’s no hurry.” Adelle said, “I can arrange for you to be transferred to my department and you can start the training. We can see how you get on and go from there.”

Adelle knew, as Laurence probably did, that Ruth would do well in most aspects of the training. She was young with a thirst for adventure and a need to feel she meaningfully contributed to the war effort. The issues would be her openness and that she looked more English than French.

The training assessments would express concern over fragility and naivety. Seeing past the gender of the subject had been a struggle in the past. Caroline had been a better shot than any of the men she had trained with, and faster and stronger than several of them as well. Still, she had been judged as ‘almost too pretty for this work’. There would be opportunities for Ruth to back out, but she wouldn’t take them. Adelle would wager that she would be too stubborn to quit.

Despite this, Adelle refused to hurry, taking the time to get to know Ruth. They discussed her family and friends and Adelle carefully planted the idea that she would need to distance herself from them. When she could, Adelle preferred to recruit agents who had few ties, but she’d found that people who spoke flawless French and didn’t have families weren’t all that plentiful. Last week, she had recruited a woman with a young daughter, who had been working in a hotel. Arranging a place at a boarding school in the country for her daughter had secured the mother’s co-operation. Adelle wasn’t proud of that achievement, but it had been necessary.

“Miss Morrell will begin her training in a few days,” she announced from the doorway of Laurence’s office. Returning to Baker Street, her irritation with him had grown. “She was rather better informed than I expected. I didn’t tell you how to approach people for my own entertainment or yours, Major Dominic. The script is based on lengthy experience.”

“I just wanted to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into.”

“Should we tell everyone the whole truth? Or just the pretty girls who you flirt with?”

* * *

“What?” Laurence Dominic said, rising and coming around his desk at speed. “I didn’t flirt with her. I talked to her. As you occasionally observe, there is a distinction.” Crossing his arms in front of him, he added, “I admit, if we had met under other circumstances, I might’ve been tempted to flirt with her. But we didn’t.” Adelle DeWitt regarded him with something approaching distaste. “Yes, I told her the likely end of the rainbow for her would be a one way ticket to France and I’d do it again if I thought it would change her mind.”

“It is not for you to decide to make exceptions according to whim or your libido.”

He beat back his anger and kept his voice even. “What about based upon a gut feeling, instinct if you will? Haven’t I earned the right to deviate from your script at all?”

“For the right reasons, yes, you have.”

“She’s innocent, Adelle. Ruth is Judith times ten in the innocence category. I ... I just ... I hate to take that from her, which is exactly what we’re going to do.” Looking Adelle straight in the eye at this juncture was one of the hardest things he’d ever done. “It’d be more humane to brutally rape her and send her back to the States. That way, she could still cry on her grandfather’s shoulder.”

“Do you have so little faith in me, in what we do at SOE?”

“The deck is stacked against us, Adelle, and even more so against someone like Ruth.”

“You call her innocent, but she gave me the impression she’d welcome your advances.”

“I don’t know about that,” he muttered. “Ruth is like Judith, my little sister’s friends and a lot of other women I’ve known. I wouldn’t ask any of them what I’d expect from Caroline.”

“Caroline is exceptional.”

“She is, undisputedly, but only in a different way from the others. Priya’s found her match in her partner in spying,” Dominic said. “Madeline’s lost so significantly as to be humbling. Ruth has none of that. She doesn’t have the strength of character for this. She’s stubborn, determined to do her grandfather proud and not to show she’s scared. That’s not the best combination for our purposes.”

“Ruth is a pretty American girl who calls to your protective instincts.”

“That she is doesn’t diminish anything else I’ve said.” He closed his eyes for a moment, marshalling his forces. “I don’t want Ruth deployed in France.”

“That isn’t up to you.”

“Please, don’t send her over there. She can be plenty useful in England, doing more interesting things than driving a supply truck.”

“Why is this so important to you?”

“I don’t know.” He hated uncertainty or anything he couldn’t explain. “It just is, Adelle. This girl, this woman needs to return to Hampton, Ohio, to her grandfather—Glenn, I think.”

“You know full well you’re correct. Why the need to perform?”

That he didn’t want Adelle to know how much he’d studied Ruth’s file seemed unimportant. “I want to save someone. I want to spare one family pain and suffering. I think I need to.”

“Why do you suppose that is, Major?”

“Because I suspect a lot of men will die carrying out my orders before this is all over.” Adelle opened her mouth but reconsidered. “I’ll have to live with whatever happens as best I can and it might be easier knowing I’d done something to assure Ruth went back home.”

“Why her?”

“Why are you asking so many questions?”

Adelle looked away for a moment. Dominic thought he’d seen embarrassment, but that couldn’t be. He couldn’t recall seeing her look anything remotely like embarrassed. “I need to know I can trust you not to deviate from the script again,” she said.

“I will, if I feel the situation dictates.”

“This situation didn’t dictate,” she said, meeting his eyes again. “Your conscience did.”

“At least you had the decency to leave my libido out of it this time.”

“Because I believe you, Laurence.”

The rarity of her using his first name at Baker Street took him aback. “That’s an improvement,” he muttered.

“We can’t afford your conscience,” she said. “You know that as well as I.”

“What about your conscience, Adelle? Doesn’t it plague you now and then?”

“Until this war is over, I don’t have one.”

  • 1
Oh my god! I don't even have any words for this chapter. It's spectacular! Ugh.

Thank you so much! Having just reread it before reading your comment, I was thinking--that went rather well. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

You're welcome! I wish I could've been more articulate, but really every time I finish a chapter my mind is all over the place they're that good.

All comments are welcome, level of perceived articulateness (is that a word?) irrelevant.

This idea sort of took hold of both of us for months. I'm really amazed and humbled and very glad that it works for others. Seriously.

I think this chapter is one of my favourites!

Adelle and Laurence get to kiss (and celebrate), they get to argue, Margaret arrives (I think she's one of my favourite one-off characters in all of Dollhouse, I love her so much) and Laurence gets to spend time with Devon and co.

I loved it all.

There was a lot going on in this chapter. I think we moved Adelle and Laurence along, both individually and together.

I'm not sure why, but I've always thought these two (in whatever incarnation) would have spectacular arguments.

There's a line in this one that I can actually hear Reed Diamond say in my head--in his incarnation of Laurence Dominic.

“If you insist,” he said, “by the arm or the hair?”

I think my brain may be broken (or at least sprained).:)

  • 1