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Battle of Britain -- Chapter 8
matching clothing
Title: Battle of Britain Chapter 8

Rating: R (language and sexual situations)

Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue

Summary: Topher, Alpha and an ill conceived wager complicate matters.

“It isn't like you to allow tardiness, Adelle,” Clive Ambrose observed.

“I’m not aware that I am,” she replied, her gaze fixed on the aerial photographs Clive had brought with him.

“Shouldn't Captain, er, Major Dominic be here by now?”

“Normally he would be, but he waited until very late last night, in case a message came through. Under the circumstances, I think we can allow him a little latitude.”

“Dependable sort, isn't he?”

“He's proven to be, yes.” Determinedly, Adelle didn't think of waking that morning. At first she'd been aware of how well she had slept and how relaxed she felt, but those feelings faded when she realised she was alone.

She was annoyed with Laurence for creeping away without waking her and with herself for caring. She’d been stunned to find herself fearing she had been used and discarded. Even though Laurence hadn't talked or acted like a man who only wanted sex. She trusted her judgment and what she knew of the man. If she erred, she refused to allow him to know she cared.

“They are sure these are armaments?” she asked, turning her attention back to the photographs,

“They say they are; are you disagreeing?”

“I'm wondering what they are doing there. Intelligence suggests this isn't a priority sector, which makes me wonder what's changed, or whether we’re supposed to see the photographs and draw the obvious conclusion.”

“Which, of course, we aren't. I miss obvious conclusions,” he added plaintively.

A slight tap on the door interrupted. When she said, “Come in,” Laurence, rather Major Dominic, strode into the room.

“Ma'am, the overnight messages are in.” She ignored the fluttering of her stomach and didn't react when his eyes lingered, just for a moment, on the high neck blouse she wore to conceal the marks he had left at her throat. He placed a sheaf of papers on the edge of the table, nodding to Clive and turning, as if to leave.

“I hear Adelle's had you working all night,” Clive said. It took a fair amount of effort for her to maintain a neutral expression. Laurence's eyes slid towards her and she detected mirth in their depths.

“It was a late night, but I didn't mind.”

“All part of the war effort.” Clive nodded. “I'll leave the mystery armaments to you then, Adelle?”

“I'll have something for you later in the week. We'll need to send someone to take a look, but this might simply be a way to smoke out our operatives.”

“Of course, of course,” Clive said, “you'll take precautions; you always do. People are excited, though. This could be a breakthrough.”

Clive meandered on his way, saying something to Judith which made her laugh. Sooner or later Adelle had to look at Laurence. She decided to get it over with and act as though nothing had changed. He examined the photographs, curious, intelligent – she'd be a fool not to ask his opinion.

“What sector is this?” he said, leaning over the table.

“The wrong one.”

* * *

“Wrong in what sense?” Laurence Dominic asked, lifting one of the reconnaissance stills.

“No intelligence to date suggests that the Germans planned to fortify that area.” Adelle DeWitt replied.

“What’s there?”

“Vineyards, a small hamlet and a 15th century cathedral.”

“And a whole lot of tanks,” he muttered, tossing aside the picture and selecting another.

“So it would seem.”

The sharpness in her tone drew his eyes. “Do we have a count?” he asked.

“Thirty two.”

Dominic laughed. “Seriously, Adelle, how many?” Her gaze didn’t waver. He tapped the corner of the photo he held on her desk. “That’s too many.”

She put her hands on her hips. “The report speculates that the Germans are using the sector as a staging area, which would explain the increased numbers.”

“Looks more like a stage.” Rifling through all of the photographs, Dominic selected four that overlapped slightly and arranged them to provide a bigger picture. “Look,” he invited, surprised by the reluctance he sensed from her. Adelle’s comfort with proximity had been well and truly proven. “They aren’t parked in rows waiting to be deployed. They’re arrayed in defensive positions and, unless grapes have become vital to the Third Reich, there’s nothing to defend.”

“What would be important enough to be guarded in such a way?”

As usual, Adelle challenged him to think differently—not defending but guarding. “One of those rockets they’re supposed to be working on? Hitler? I don’t know, but we’re probably supposed to wonder.”

“Topher could likely construct something that looked like a tank from the air,” she observed. Adelle shrugged as his eyes met hers. “A stage has sets, Major.”

“Adelle, we’re alone.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “I know we agreed that what happened last night shouldn’t spill over to Baker Street, but I don’t think calling me Laurence is a huge breach of protocol.”

“While we’re on the topic of protocol and breaches thereof,” Adelle said, backing up her words with an impressive glare that lifted his hand from her body. “When I’ve taken a man into my bed and had intercourse with him several times, I do not wish to wake alone and draw unfortunate conclusions as to how the absent party views both me and what we did together.”

“Duly noted,” he whispered and decided to risk the smile she liked.

“Do not endeavor to charm me.”

He shook his head. “I’m just trying to make it out of this room alive.”

“I do not wish to laugh, either,” she insisted, although her lips twitched in the direction of a smile and her shoulders relaxed somewhat.

“You have a nice laugh,” he said, thinking of the unguarded way she had, seemingly with her whole body, when he’d insisted he wouldn’t have the energy for sex for a week after their third and particularly prolonged bout. “I’m sorry about this morning.” He aborted a reach for her, mindful of their agreement. “I woke up and you were still out and I didn’t want to be really late or to change and shave here to give Judith any ideas.” Her face gave away nothing, but she hadn’t tensed up again. “I was so focused on logistics; I didn’t stop to think of how you might interpret me being gone. I didn’t intend to upset you.”

“You didn’t.” Her perfunctory tone fell hard on Dominic’s ears.

“Right,” he said, fingers itching to tilt her chin, so she looked at him rather than the damn reconnaissance photographs. “A woman of the world like you wouldn’t let anything so inconsequential bother her. Not when you’d just endured sex with a guy from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan of all places.” He turned on his heel. “I’ll be in my office.”

“Laurence?” He allowed her to ruin his exit, because he flat out loved how she said his name. “They are common fears.”


“That of being used just for sex and of disappointing a partner.”

He crossed the room and gripped both of her shoulders, gamely resisting the urge to shake her. “How could you think I’d use you that way, even for a minute? Some of our conversations have been as intimate as sex, if not more.” Dominic took a breath and pitched his voice low. “This isn’t just about sex.”

Her smile sad, Adelle said, “It doesn’t hurt to hear you say it.” She sighed and leaned a hip on the edge of her desk. “Something I would do well to bear in mind.” With uncanny fluidity, Adelle regained her feet and stepped nearly into him. “I enjoyed everything we did together and look forward to future occasions to please you and to be pleased by you. I wasn’t comparing you to anyone and, if I had been, you wouldn’t have been found lacking.”

Relief profound, he muttered, “Ok, good. No one needs to be upset, mad, worried or anything. Right?”

“Other than about our operatives, their objectives and these tanks or tank lookalikes, no.”

“We should take more pictures,” he said, steeling himself, “and have Topher look at them. He’ll think it’s a game—him versus crazy German geniuses.

“A most dangerous game,” she said, but Dominic could tell she liked this idea better than sending in a team, particularly since Anthony and Priya would have been the logical choices had they not vanished into thin air.

“Play that up when you talk to Topher.”

“I thought you might broach the topic, Major America. It was your idea, after all.”

“Don’t push your luck, Miss DeWitt.” Judith looked up as the sound of Adelle’s laughter followed him out of her office.

* * *

“These arrived for you,” Judith announced, plopping a vase of flowers down with an audible thump. The frown clouding her assistant’s pretty face announcing where the flowers had originated.

“How lovely,” she said pointedly. She held her hand out for the card Judith hadn’t offered. “They’re from Jack,” Adelle said, “cut from his mother’s garden. Isn’t that thoughtful?”

“It would have been more thoughtful if he’d brought them rather than sending a boy,” Judith said, expression edging towards mutinous.

“He is very busy,” Adelle responded, risking an explosion to play devil’s advocate.

Judith folded her arms across her chest, radiating disapproval. “You had a good time at the party; I take it?”

“I had a very enjoyable evening.” The carefully worded reply was entirely truthful. Judith didn’t need to know that the last part of the evening and several hours of the early morning had been particularly enjoyable and had nothing at all to do with Jack Erskine.

“I didn’t think you’d like him,” Judith said, frowning.

“Margaret was right; he is charming and well travelled.” She didn’t mention those were his only good qualities. She’d told Laurence she couldn’t abide him, but she hadn’t mentioned that Jack Erskine had pressed hard for her to accept his dinner invitation. Apparently, he wasn’t willing to take no for an answer. “Why did you think I wouldn’t like him?”

“He’s never worked a day in his life for one thing; I know he’s knuckling down now there’s a war on, but he doesn’t know the meaning of hard work really. I thought you’d see him as a charming playboy – all appearance but no substance.” Judith really meant for Adelle to accept a certain American Major. . Adelle had to the tune of making herself quite vulnerable to him by letting him see how his early morning departure had affected her.

Diversion had its uses and Adelle didn’t mind using Jack Erskine, especially if she didn’t have to spend any time alone with him. “You encouraged me to develop a more active and appropriate social life.”

“Erskine isn’t appropriate for your social life. He isn’t good enough for you.”

Touched by Judith’s determination that she find someone worthy of her, Adelle remained aware of the distinctly stubborn element to her assistant’s character and knew better than to attempt to remonstrate with her. “Perhaps we could concentrate on our work for a while?”

She had only just taken her own suggestion when Laurence tapped softly on her door. “Nice flowers,” he commented. “Judith is beside herself. Should I assess them for threats to your security?”

“Jack Erskine sent them,” she said, hoping the flowers wouldn’t be a problem. “Judith would worship you even more than she already does, if you discovered they were poisoned.”

“The guy’s an idiot,” he said with surprising nonchalance. To her raised eyebrow, he replied, “The best thing about giving you flowers is to see you smile.”

* * *

“Flowers are particularly difficult to come by these days,” Adelle said, setting yet another test before him.

“Not when your mom grows them and allows you to take whatever you think you need to convince a woman to reconsider your dinner invitation.”

“I see Judith has fully apprised you of the situation.”

He smiled at the hint of disappointment. “Even if she hadn’t, you made your position on Jack Erskine clear last night. I don’t see flowers changing your tune.” Holding up a file folder, he said, “I’ve collected every recon photo showing what may or may not be tanks and wrote up a memorandum for Topher summarizing our thoughts on the matter. Shall I wrap it up in a pretty bow for you to deliver in person, rather than lending a distinct impersonal touch by sending a messenger, however high ranking?”

“Do I detect sarcasm, Major?”

“I hope so. It wasn’t exactly subtle.”

“I’ll head out before lunch,” Adelle said, accepting the materials. “I’d like to be back in London before dark.”

“Why would that be?” he asked, resisting the smile twitching at his lips.

“I deplore being on the road at night and would enjoy a quiet relaxing dinner at home.”

He nodded. “Makes sense. I’ve also pulled together everything I could find about Anthony and Priya’s situation, the sectors they’ve worked and other operatives with ties to those areas or with similar objectives.” Dominic took a breath. “I found an overlap you won’t like.”

“Go on.”

“They crossed paths with a Dr. Rene Dubois when Anthony took a bullet three months ago.” He paused to regard Adelle. “Weeks before they brought Kruger here. Fortunate for Anthony, because Dr. Dubois is surgeon enough to make repairs having a solid chance of healing well. Less fortunately Dr. Dubois also stitched up your man Alpha twice. Both incidents occurred before he went rogue, but he might keep tabs on a reliable medic. I would.”

“How ever did you make that connection, Laurence?”

“I thought I recognized the doc’s name and had plenty of time yesterday evening to chase it down.” Her raised eyebrow drew a small smile. “It beat wondering how your friend’s matchmaking was going.”

“Indeed,” she said. “I take it from the absence of a second file folder that you have not yet had the time to organize your findings.”

“Correct, as usual. Enjoy your day trip.” After the briefest of pauses, he said, “If you decide you want company later, I’ll be here or at The Earl.”

“Duly noted.”

He inclined his head in recognition of her use of his phrase of earlier and returned to his office to prepare the report Adelle had obliquely yet clearly requested, but an important piece of documentary evidence eluded him.

“What is wrong with that woman?” Judith demanded, bursting into his office.

“Has Adelle accepted flowers from someone else?” he asked, endeavouring to keep his expression neutral in the face of her ire.

“No, she’s gone to soothe Topher’s ruffled feathers, if she can.”

Wondering what Topher was up in arms about now, he asked, “What about the woman who works with him?” His brain supplied the name. “Ivy seemed competent and used to dealing with Topher’s eccentricities.”

Judith’s eyes widened and she sat in his rickety guest chair. “You haven’t heard?” To his cautiously shaken head, she said, “She’s lost three brothers in two weeks time and the fourth, the baby, is begging to go and avenge them. Her mum is beside herself, so Ivy’s gone home.”

The thought of Dr. Topher Brink without the calm young woman severely threatened Dominic’s good mood. “Well, I guess that puts anything that might be wrong with Adelle into perspective.”

Judith sighed. “Jack Erskine is not for her. He pursued two of my cousins and they both married boring men. What does that tell you, Laurence?”

“Erskine was too exciting for their taste?”

Judith threw a pen at him, narrowly missing his head. “It’s a wager, you know, but it isn’t as though I can tell her that.”

Anger surged within him, but he hoped to keep it out of his voice. “What?”

“Harry’s commanding officer, Colonel Danton, drinks at the same club as Erskine. He overheard Erskine make a bet with that toad of yours, Harding, who was only there because Ambrose foolishly brought him. He bet he’d have Adelle in his bed before the month is out. Apparently, it became the wager de jour. It’s crass and humiliating. Men are ... awful!”

“Did Ambrose bet?”

“Danton said Ambrose was mortified and tried to put a stop to it but was roundly shouted down.”

“It won’t happen, Judith.”

“It doesn’t matter, don’t you see?” She frowned. “They’ve objectified Adelle. They don’t respect her.”

“They respect her,” he said, remembering meeting rooms full of men hanging on her every word. “Pretending they don’t is easy enough when she isn’t there.”

“It disgusts me to think of her being discussed like that.”

“Why?” he asked. “You are.”

“I am not.”

“I’ve been challenged to steal you from Harry.” He watched her struggle to take in that information. “I stood to make a small fortune. Men gamble, Judith, particularly when they’re waiting to dice with their lives.” He held up his hands in a pacifying gesture. “I’m not condoning it. I’m just telling you it’s normal, as appalling as that is.” He picked up the pen she’d thrown and offered it to her. “You should tell Adelle, though. It’ll make you feel better.”

“You should tell her.”

He sighed. “She won’t think better of me for it.”

Clearly relieved, Judith stood. “I’m glad that’s settled. Do get back to whatever you were doing.”

* * *

Adelle encountered evidence of Topher-related chaos long before reaching what she privately referred to as his ‘lair’.

Her arrival engendered profound relief in the other staff where he was based. She didn’t need to be told that her protégé had been more problematic than usual.

She had done her best to locate Topher where he could do the least amount of damage; realising from the outset that it would be a disaster to have him near many other scientists.
Normally, the team responsible for clothing and papers for their agents tolerated the SOE’s very own enfant terrible. However, without Ivy’s moderating presence, he had driven them almost to distraction.

“Halt, who goes there?” Topher’s disembodied voice demanded, as she stepped through the doors of his laboratory, making her suspect he’d rigged a device to detect visitors.

“The person you answer to,” she stated calmly. She heard a scurrying sound before a somewhat dishevelled head popped out from under a table.

“I’m sorry my Queen. I didn’t know you would honour me with your presence today.” He looked tired as well as unkempt and as he crawled out to greet her she wondered when he had last eaten or slept.

“I hear you’ve been rather testy,” she said. “We haven’t got time to squabble, Topher.”

“They have no idea how to sustain genius,” he said, “and they’re boring. I need Ivy to feed and entertain me. Make her come back.”

“Ivy’s needed at home at the moment,” Adelle said, frowning at the overgrown petulant child.

“She can’t make any difference there,” he said.

“As she does here, because she forages for your food?”

He shrugged. His fidgeting under her gaze reminded her of when she’d found him. His scholarship had been withdrawn following multiple violations of ethics and rules. Quite unable to keep a job, his family hadn’t known how to cope with him. He might have been thin, ill and miserable but she had needed his genius and his willingness to bend rules. He hadn’t disappointed, though managing his impact on the people around him consumed a lot of time. “Stop moping,” she said briskly, “I have a problem for you to solve.”

“Tell me,” he said, perking up a little.

“I need you to think of how you might go about developing fake tanks convincing enough to fool aerial photography and then work out how you would determine whether those armaments were fake.”

He cocked his head and turned on his heel, “that’s a real three pipe problem.”

“I have information to assist you,” she said, holding out the dossier Laurence had prepared. He took it, his expression slightly distant, possibly already running through scenarios in his mind.

When she took a step towards the door, he surprised her and said, “Will you stay with me while I work?” He plucked at his trousers, avoiding her eyes. “Sometimes, I don’t like being on my own with my thoughts.”

She couldn’t refuse. Incredibly damaged and dangerously close to being amoral, Topher’s occasionally lapses into humanity terrified him. Adelle believed their connection, if that’s what it was, managed to keep him in line. Whether that helped his mental state, she couldn’t say.

Journeying back to London later that evening she was more convinced than ever of Ivy’s value. It had taken time and effort to calm Topher, smooth the ruffled feathers of those who had to deal with him and acquire some of the answers she sought.

Settling into the car, she remembered telling Laurence that she’d return before nightfall. After several draining hours with Topher, did she want a quiet evening to herself, or did she want Laurence’s company? Her body craved his touch, while her mind wanted peace. Adelle didn’t know if he could reconcile the two or if she should even ask him to try.

As Baker Street drew near, she decided to leave the decision in his hands.

* * *

“Another round,” Bishop asked, already raising his hand to flag down their waitress.

“Absolutely,” Devon said, clapping Laurence Dominic on the shoulder. “Why so quiet tonight, Major?”

“I was supposed to hear from someone before dark and ...” He gestured toward the bar window.

“Someone being?” Devon prompted, regarding Dominic as a doctor might an interesting patient.

“None of your business.”

“I’m guessing you broke through the barriers separating you from your mystery lady,” Devon said, loudly enough to get attention from several neighboring tables.

“She did, actually.”

Devon sat up straight. “You’re sitting on a gold mine. The world needs more women who speak up when a shy man won’t. Does she have a sister?” Dominic shook his head. “You need to share this treasure, Dom.”


Devon’s knowing smile annoyed Dominic. “You’re so rarely possessive; I’m forced to conclude this is serious.”

“We had sex for the first time last night. That’s hardly serious.”

“Claiming ownership screams otherwise.”

“He has a point, Dom,” Bishop offered.

“Did you have sex for the second time last night too?” Gardner weighed in with characteristic thoughtfulness.


“Third?” Bishop said, picking up the ball.

Their drinks came, allowing Dominic to avoid admitting that their third time had been early this morning, and the subject changed to the deployment of the Fifth Army. The smart money was on Italy and Dominic didn’t like it. He wanted Hitler not Mussolini.

“Better weather in Italy,” Hill observed, his rare comment not targeting Bishop garnered everyone’s attention. “Gets cold in Germany. I hate the cold.”

“Dom,” said their waitress, proffering a small envelope, “this came for you.”

“Let’s see, let’s see, let us fucking see,” said Bishop, heading to another beastly hangover.

Dominic opened it, unfolded the stationary and smiled. Adelle had written in French.


I have had a day with Topher that I sincerely hope will not be equalled or surpassed. Or even approached. Toward that end, I plan to offer Ivy’s remaining brother a post at the SOE to enable Ivy to return to hers.

I’m torn between the desire for solitude and that for your company. I submit the choice to you, with the caveat that I might be a poor companion.

See you soon or tomorrow.

“C’mon, Dom,” Devon whined, “the suspense is killing me.”

Dominic handed the note over Devon. “French?” he spat, tossing it back at Dominic.

Grateful the waitress had hovered, Dominic said, “Can I buy a bottle of decent Scotch?”

“Of course.”

Dominic threw bills on the table to more than cover his tab and paid the waitress for the Scotch. “Good night, guys,” he said.

“Liz will be disappointed.”

Ignoring Devon, Dominic made his way to Adelle’s flat, hoping he wasn’t making a mistake. Deciding against caution, he knocked firmly. A worn out and forlorn looking Adelle opened it.

“You look like you could use some Scotch,” he said, lifting the bottle he’d brought.

“A splash wouldn’t go amiss,” she admitted, stepping aside so he could enter.

“Do you want to talk about Topher?” he asked, as he headed to her kitchen for glasses.

“I’m not sure I want to talk about anything just yet.”

“How about I talk and you listen?” A token nod later, he said, “The guys grumbled about your note being in French, but no one came close to putting it together. They see my British CO as I did—unattainable.” He handed her a glass with a nice sized slug of Scotch. She accepted it clumsily. He frowned. “God, Adelle, are you ok?”

“What point would there be to being otherwise?” she asked.

“Let’s sit down,” he suggested, steering her toward her couch, concerned that Adelle allowed it with unprecedented passivity. “Would it be inappropriate to kiss you? I’ve been thinking about doing that for what feels like days but is probably closer to eleven hours and change.” He bumped his shoulder into hers, smiling to have inspired a ghost of one on her lips. Gently gripping her chin, he said, “May I?”

She didn’t say no or yes, so Dominic remained alert for any signal to stop as he brought his lips toward hers. He kissed her, but waited for her to deepen it. Adelle flung an arm around his neck when they parted and a tear leaked from her left eye. “Again,” she whispered.

Instead, he gathered her in his arms and rose from the couch, smiling when he realized Adelle clutched her drink with both hands and his were full. “I want to make love to you,” he said. “If you don’t agree, I’ll sit with you until you fall asleep.”

Adelle shook her head. “I doubt I’ll sleep, Laurence.”

“Let me try and tire you out.” .”

“I want to forget,” she whispered as he settled her in her bed, once again leaving the choice to him. Aware of her stare, Dominic divested himself of his boots, socks and belt. He undressed Adelle with exquisite slowness, touching her everywhere, mouthing her breasts until she insisted she needed him that instant. Unfastening his pants, putting a condom on himself, he took her, bringing her to more than one orgasm before he could hold back no longer. Surprised that she’d remained passive, he wrapped himself around her, still mostly dressed.

“I missed you today,” he whispered. “Thanks for giving me the option of seeing you tonight.”

* * *

He didn't seem to expect her to reply, or not with words at least. She curled deeper into his embrace, her fingertips tracing random patterns on his forearm where it draped around her shoulder. Her body relaxed, but the dark thoughts hadn't been banished. She didn't expect that of him, it would’ve been unrealistic. She did appreciate that he didn’t force her to talk; that his solicitude didn't make her feel uncomfortable or suffocated and that he didn't need to fill the silence.

He might not have been speaking, but he communicated quite well. At first, his heart had raced from their exertions. Afterwards, he'd experienced the typical male energy slump—his voice suffused with lethargy when he'd made his quiet confession about her absence. Now more awake, his body spoke to hers. His face was buried in her hair, one hand curved over her hip, his thumb moving slowly back and forth. His skin dragging against hers, the slow, methodical motion reminiscent of how he'd made love to her.

She breathed in the pungent scent of sex, thought about suggesting he undress, but when she opened her mouth, different words emerged. “I found Topher in a tiny makeshift laboratory where he conducted experiments that were almost certainly illegal and highly amoral. I persuaded him to join the SOE.” She waited three repetitions of the back and forth of his thumb before she continued, “I knew he he'd had at least one breakdown, but I also knew he was a genius who wasn't overly concerned with ethics or rules. The odds were against us and I had at my disposal a man who could find ever more effective and subtle ways to kill the enemy. His unstable mental state seemed very nearly irrelevant. Most of the time, he thinks of us human beings as toys and sees himself as a God-like figure controlling our fates. Occasionally, he is confronted by the reality of his contributions and then it’s my job to calm him down and put him back to work. I’m very good at it, but I sometimes wish I wasn’t.”

“You aren't responsible for the way Topher is,” Laurence said. She sensed his wariness and didn't blame him for treading carefully.

“No,” she agreed, “but I am responsible for ignoring his fragility and using his lack of restraint. I hate that I'll make use of anyone I must, take advantage of their personal circumstances, if that's required. I try to see it as harnessing my skills for the war effort.”

“Do you succeed?”

“Some of the time. You helped tonight; thank you for that.” He pressed his lips to her shoulder in response and for what felt like the first time that day, she smiled. “I would prefer you to be entirely undressed. I enjoy the feel of your body against mine, particularly when both of the bodies in question are naked.”

“Yes ma'am.” She turned over to lie on her stomach, unashamedly watching him undress and letting her eyes drink in his long, lean form. He took a sip of her scotch before crawling back into bed and stretching out on top of her. She craned her neck so she could kiss him and when they parted he rolled off her onto his back and drew her with him, so her cheek rested against his shoulder.

“Topher looked at the information you put together, made models of German tanks and shone lights on them. Apparently, the shadows are in the wrong place. He would like some real tanks to verify his findings. She kissed the hollow of his collarbone. “There's still no word from Priya and Anthony and your discovery of the connection between Alpha and the Doctor Anthony used worries me.”

“Alpha might have locked onto them via the visit to the Doctor.”

“In a manner of speaking. Alpha is a chameleon and the most dangerous and devious agent I ever recruited. He absorbs a persona, an ability that made him so valuable an asset.” Her companion’s troubled expression indicated he sensed the potential danger. “So now I am wondering, what if the Doctor who treated Anthony's bullet wound was Alpha?”

* * *

“He can … assume a role?”

“And play it to perfection, yes.”

Laurence Dominic sat up abruptly, dislodging Adelle DeWitt from her repose on his chest. “Jesus, Adelle, if you’re right, who knows what he might know? When you’re hurt, when someone you care for is hurt, you might divulge more than you realize, particularly to someone who knows how to ask questions.”

“That Alpha might know our plans for that sector has crossed my mind,” Adelle said. She tugged Dominic’s hand. “Come back here.”

He complied, endeavoring to manage his anxiety absent the usual outlet of motion.

“Consequently, I’m considering sending Caroline on a solo mission to see what she can discover of Anthony and Priya and to arrange to observe, or perhaps even to meet, Dr. Dubois. She could have a look at the tanks as well, if warranted.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Can she face Alpha and keep her head?” He ran his fingers through Adelle’s tangled hair. “Maintaining a low profile isn’t exactly her strong suit, either. Isn’t there someone else who could check out the tanks?”

“If it didn’t mean disrupting communications with the rest of Caroline’s group, I’d have Madeline answer the question of the tanks. She’d do splendidly.”

“Maybe.” Dominic didn’t want to think about Madeline taking on more risk. Adelle kissed the shoulder beneath her head and attempted to rub the tension from the other. “Will you order Caroline to kill Alpha?” Hands on her hips, he shifted Adelle to bring their heads level and rest on the same pillow. “Will it matter if you don’t?”

Adelle spoke slowly, her annunciation extra precise. “If anyone is Alpha’s match, it’s her.”

“Caroline’s tough, but the man you describe is … diabolical.” Adelle didn’t argue his characterization. “I’d hate to send anyone up against him without being able to order up an air strike in support.”

“We don’t have that option.”

“We could assume Alpha has done whatever he’s going to do to Anthony and Priya and probably Dr. Rene Dubois and put him back on the back burner.”

“If he’s killed them, they’re beyond our help,” Adelle allowed, sighing softly. “But if he’s using them in some form or fashion to serve his own ends, Caroline might be able to intervene.”

Wondering what Alpha’s ends might be, he asked, “Are their limits to what you would do for the war effort?” Once the words were out, the clarification cost nothing. “To who or what you would sacrifice?”

“Ivy’s youngest brother is apparently to be spared,” she said, looking away.

He turned her head back toward him and kissed her lightly. “Because you need Ivy to deal with Topher or because you feel for their mom?”

“What of you, Laurence?” she said. “Wouldn’t you give me up to the Nazis, if doing so could end the war in thirty days and seal your future as a hero?”

He noted the evasion but decided to move forward. “No.”

“I envy your certitude.”

“I wouldn’t, because there’s no certainty I’d get the outcome advertized.”

“You’re looking for a sure thing, then.”

“If I’m being asked to deliver someone I care about to the enemy, yes.”

“We’ll have this conversation again after a few weeks,” she said, opening her arms to him, murmuring his name when he embraced her. “Once the blush has worn off our affair, you’ll realize your folly.”

“Is that what this is?” he said, unexpectedly stung, but his arms tightened around Adelle as though not in agreement with his harsh tone. “An affair we can expect will turn tawdry any day now?”

She slid her thigh between his legs and pressed against him. “This is wonderful sex between two intelligent people who respect each other and work together surprisingly well.” Smiling slightly, she asked, “Do you agree we should set Caroline on Alpha’s trail?” He planted several kisses along her collar bone. “Laurence?”

“I’m thinking.”

“Don’t let me interrupt.” Chuckling, he released her. Adelle’s rumble of disapproval turned into a gasp when he cupped her breasts in his hands.

“We should have meetings in bed more often,” he said. “The sounds you make are inspiring.” He induced her to make more inspiring sounds by replacing his left hand with his mouth, teasing her nipple erect and then toying with it with his tongue and teeth. When she shuddered in surrender, he lifted his head and stared into excited and amazingly alert green eyes. “We can’t let Alpha hurt our operations anymore and Caroline has the motivation to succeed. If you couched the tank question as a challenge to her ability to act clandestinely, she might surprise us by dusting off some subtlety and using it.”

Adelle rolled on top of him, dislodging his hands from her body. “Your mind works far too well when you’re touching me.”

Smirking at the odd compliment, he asked, “Does that mean this meeting is over?”

“I believe we’ve covered the entire agenda and can properly adjourn.” She rocked against him sensuously. “Do you care to wager on how long I can make you wait to climax?” Judith’s information flew back into Dominic’s head. “Does the concept of gambling on sex offend you?” she asked.

“Not with you,” he muttered, knowing Adelle would pick up on his emphasis of the middle word.

“What is it, Laurence?”

“Just stupid men acting like idiots.”

“Not an uncommon occurrence in my experience.” Smiling, she dragged her fingernails down his right side to his hip. “Shall I bring my powers of persuasion to bear or will you simply tell me?” He shrugged and she kissed him at the base of his breast bone. Her lips meandered lower in a relative straight line. When she reached his bellybutton, she raised her head and murmured, “What’s troubling you?”

“Other than how slow you’re going?” he panted.

“I can go slower.”

“Tell me that’s an idle threat, Adelle.”

“It isn’t, unless you give me the information I want.”

“All right, all right,” he said, “but stop so I can form the words to explain.” Relenting, she reclined on her right side, regarding him through heavy lidded eyes. “Looking at me as though you’re going to pounce the moment my guard is down isn’t helping.”

“I’m disinclined to pounce at the moment,” she chided. “I don’t approve of my lovers keeping things from me.”

Dominic risked taking her hand. “Erskine bet Harding he’d have you more than once before this month is out.”

“Where did this wager take place?” she asked, tone perfectly neutral.

“Some private club Ambrose took Harding to.”

“Clive participated—?”

He was glad to be able to remove the nauseated look from Adelle’s face. “No. He tried to talk sense into the two of them and everyone else who wanted in on the action.”

Adelle’s eyes widened. “Not you?” she asked.

“How could you even think that?” he demanded. “I’ve never been to one of those private clubs and I avoid Harding as much as possible.” Dominic raised her hand to his lips.

“My proposing a wager brought this absurd matter to your mind.” Adelle kissed him hard on the mouth, her rapid advance overrunning his defenses and leaving him breathless and a bit dazed. “I’m going to have to take steps with regard to Colonel Harding. I won’t involve you or make your situation more precarious, but I will deal with him.”

“What about Erskine?”

Adelle’s smile almost made him consider warning the man. “I’ll send a note to Margaret expressing my disappointment that anyone she introduced me to would behave in so base a manner. She’ll cut him mercilessly and so will all of her friends, acquaintances and anyone who aspires to either.” She nipped sharply at his earlobe. “Erskine’s reputation may never recover.”

“Do you even need to bother?” he asked, genuinely curious. “Neither of them is worth your time.”

“I will not tolerate being trifled with,” she snarled, repeatedly twisting his left nipple hard while stroking his inner thigh.

“I’m not trifling with you,” he moaned as confusing pain-pleasure sensations flowed through him.

As if waking from a nightmare, Adelle blinked at him. “I never meant to suggest you were or treat you as if you had. Forgive me.”

“Nothing to forgive, Adelle,” he gasped. “Just let me touch you.”

“That will be my pleasure.”

“Only yours?”

“Shall I tell you to bite your tongue or do it for you?”

* * *

“Adelle, there you are,” Clive smiled wanly at her, pretending that she’d kept him waiting rather than been kept at bay by the dragon guarding his door. “Do you have news for me, about those tanks?”

“An update, not a definitive answer. I’ve dispatched Caroline to the area. In the meantime, Dr. Brink will recreate the scene, if he can borrow one or two tanks.”

“Tanks?” Clive repeated, checking he’d heard her properly. “You want to let that lunatic loose with tanks?”

“Major Dominic will supervise.”

“Which of them is being punished?” Clive asked with a glimmer of a smile. Adelle didn’t react, but the idea of punishing her American Major in a way that gave them both pleasure demanded further consideration. She would likely have to persuade him to sample the experience, but that didn’t mean he’d be adverse to the idea if presented properly.

“Neither. Major Dominic has proved to be a dampening influence on Topher.”

“Does that mean he threatens Brink with bodily harm if he misbehaves?” Clive chuckled. “We certainly could’ve been saddled with a worse American ally.” Sobering slightly, Clive said, “I note you’re telling, rather than asking. Does that mean you have already persuaded someone to provide the tanks?”

“Two someone’s, actually – Topher asked for British and American tanks.”

“Of course he did.” Clive sighed and rubbed his forehead. “No more explosions, please, Adelle. That’s all I ask.”

“I’ll do my best. Caroline’s mission parameters regarding the tanks will be set by Topher’s conclusions.”

“Anyone else would simply send the operative to establish whether the tanks were real.”

“We aren’t anyone else.” She had decided to make no mention that Alpha might’ve resurfaced, that Anthony and Priya had still not reported in or that Caroline would investigate those matters as well.

“So you often tell me.” He gave her the look that reminded her he was more intelligent than he appeared. “Is there something else?”

“I was going to ask you about that,” she said, choosing her words with care. “Something about a wager, perhaps?”

“I should have known you’d find out about that. It isn’t likely that Harry would keep what Danton observed from Judith.”

Adelle refused to show surprise that Laurence had obtained his information from Judith via Harry and his commanding officer. “I know you tried to stop them and I appreciate it. Erskine has been handled, but I need to attend to Harding.”

Clive looked scared. “You aren’t going to have him killed, are you?” She shrugged, “Adelle, I don’t want to have to explain a serious injury or mysterious disappearance.”

“I wasn’t planning to implicate you, Clive.”

“For which I am extremely grateful, but I mean it. No deaths.” He rarely issued so direct an order.

“Nothing so dramatic. I know and plan to use Colonel Harding’s weaknesses in due time.” She’d already set her plan in motion, telling Clive was a small way of tormenting him. He’d worry about what she planned and making sure no blame could possibly attach to him would keep him occupied for a while.

“The man’s nothing but weaknesses, as far as I can see. However, you’re a beautiful woman, Adelle and unobtainable is a red rag to a bull.”

“To some bulls,” she corrected. “You’re suggesting it’s my fault?”

“Of course not. All men are idiots when it comes to women. Couldn’t you just get married? That would solve the problem nicely?”

“Clive,” she began, but he didn’t hear the warning in her voice.

“You could find a quiet sort of fellow, someone who’d stay out of your way and wouldn’t mind you carrying on with this. Plenty of the chaps do it.”

“I am not one of the chaps,” she told him, her disapproval apparent.

“No,” he agreed, “I suppose you’re not.”

* * *

Adelle pondered what to do about Judith, as she made her way back to Baker Street. She took loyalty very seriously and although her assistant had found a way to convey the information to her, Adelle did not appreciate that she had delegated the task to Laurence.

She didn’t say anything straight away, retreating first to her office and then to a meeting, biding her time and collecting her thoughts. When she returned, a message required an immediate response and only after it had been dispatched did she feel prepared.

Judith brought her more messages and Adelle waited until she had turned to leave, before she said, “If you have information about my private life, I’d prefer you to come directly to me, rather than involving a third party.”

Judith went white and then pink. Stammering she said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know how to tell you.”

“Yet you managed to discuss the matter with Major Dominic?”

Gaze fixed firmly on her feet Judith said, “I thought he’d make you listen. I didn’t want Jack Erskine to upset you.”

“Judith, I’m grateful that you’re so protective of my honour. However, I didn’t need your assistance to deal with Jack Erskine and I dislike being gossiped about. While Major Dominic told me about the wager with great tact there was no need for him to do so. Your decision to involve him has only added to the people who know about this, which is more humiliating, not less.”

“He would never...”

“We’re talking about how I feel, not what Major Dominic would or would not do with the information. Do you understand that there is a difference?”


Judith looked unaccountably close to tears and Adelle couldn’t bear it. “You can go,” she said and her assistant didn’t argue over the dismissal, hurrying from the room. Watching her retreat, Adelle admitted she was humiliated by what Harding and Erskine had done and even the revenge she planned couldn’t change that. It was worse that they’d done it so publicly, she doubted that Harry’s Commanding Officer had been the only one to overhear. She felt uncomfortably exposed and tired of all of it. She needed some distance, so it was just as well that her task for the afternoon was a visit to Ivy and her mother.

* * *

“What’d you do to Judith?” Laurence Dominic asked, leaning against the frame of Adelle DeWitt’s office door.

“Why do you suppose I’ve done anything at all?”

He glanced down the hall to where Judith sat, typing like there was no tomorrow. “She flew out of here as if demons were chasing her, wiping away tears, and wouldn’t tell me why she was fleeing or crying while glaring at me as though it’s my fault.” It had shocked him how much he disliked these two women being at odds, all the more so if he’d been the cause of the rift.

Adelle studied the papers on her desk. “It is your fault, after a fashion. You told me of the wager and you had to have heard it from Judith.”

Dominic entered the office and closed the door behind him. “I heard it from Harding less than an hour after Judith told me,” he said. “He was crowing about the killing he was going to make, so she didn’t really betray anything.”

“What are you leaving out to spare my feelings?” she demanded.

Wondering how in the hell she knew, he countered, “Why do you care what Colonel Harding thinks about anything, least of all you?”

Adelle rose majestically, eyes alight with emotion. “Damn it, Laurence, don’t you realize how humiliating it is for my sexual activities to be speculated upon, for men I barely know and undoubtedly some I’ve never met to discuss me as a sexual object?”

“Honestly,” he said, “I thought you’d laugh it off.” Crossing the room to show support with proximity, he risked putting a hand on her shoulder and the tension humming through her stunned him. “So little seems to faze you, I never imagined this would. It seems so trivial, particularly since we’ve started—. Christ, it’s because of us that you’re so upset.” Throwing caution into the wind, he kissed her and let her push him away.

“We have discussed this, Major Dominic. There is to be none of that here.”

“No one can trivialize what we have, Adelle.” He kissed her again, harder, deeper, more demanding than he’d ever been. That it ended in a strangled sob from Adelle enraged him. “More importantly,” he snarled, “no one can trivialize you, no matter how much they objectify you. You’re intelligent, quick witted and stunning. Your femininity enhances everything; it doesn’t detract from it.”

She listened at least. “I’m afraid I don’t see your point, Laurence.”

Dominic decided to come completely clean. “I checked into the matter discretely this morning,” he said. “Erskine made the bet before the party where you wore the dress I wanted to rip off of you and was drunk off his ass when he did. He’s regretting it now.”

“How on earth can you know that?”

“He’s already offered to pay up and this month has almost two full weeks remaining.” He sighed. “I don’t know if that earns him any lenience. Harding, in stark contrast, wants to drag the thing out to the bitter end, so I guess it’s probably a go for whatever you have in mind for him.”

“I didn’t ask you to look into this for me.”

“I do a lot of things you don’t ask me to do.”


“No.” She looked gorgeous in her defiance, so he kissed her again, yelping and backing off when she bit his lower lip. “I care about you, Adelle,” he said, defiant in his own right. “It’s killing me that I can’t openly show that. I understand why our relationship has to be this way, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and ignore things that adversely impact you, because you’re too proud to ask for help.”

Adelle looked at him as though she’d never seen him before. “I don’t need help, Laurence.”

“Not in dealing with either guy,” Dominic agreed. “Coping with what they did is another story.” He looked at Adelle’s office door. “Judith realized that much.” Closing his eyes, he followed his train of thought and couldn’t keep the chuckle at bay. Adelle’s glare turned it into a laugh and Dominic prepared to be struck.

Restraining herself with what looked to be an effort, she asked, “What amuses you about this, Major Dominic?”

He recognized that any delay could result in pain. “Judith probably thinks you’re upset, because you feel betrayed by Erskine.”

“Why would she—oh, for heaven’s sake. She thinks I’m enamored of him.”

“That would explain the severity of your reaction.” He slid his arm around her waist. “I’d feel ill used if you and Judith had made a bet on when you’d take me to bed.”

“I must disabuse her of that notion, Major,” Adelle muttered.

“Laurence,” he corrected.

“Behave with Topher and the tanks and I’ll reassess my mode of address.”

He rolled his eyes. “You’re going to have to do better, if you want to properly motivate me.”

Adelle stepped close. “I’ll make it very worth your while, if Topher isn’t unduly traumatized by your visit,” she purred.

“Define very.”

“I will make you beg me to bring you to climax.”

Dominic took a step back. “Topher is going to have some sense knocked into him.”

“Maintain an open mind, Major,” she said, resting her hands on his chest. “The goal is ever building pleasure, not humiliation.”

“I want you right now,” he murmured.

“I know, but we both have tasks to be done this day.”

“Let Judith off the hook, Adelle,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable when you’re at odds.”

“For you, I’ll see what I can do about Judith’s state of mind.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Have I mentioned I despise that form of address?”

“For you, I’ll see what I can do about breaking that habit.”

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You are too kind. Thanks so much. Adelle and Dom turned out to be reasonably well matched in this context, as we hoped.

Thank you - that's very kind of you.

I love it!!

I love Adelle and Dominic having some insecurities about their relationship, I love Judith trying to protect Adelle, I loved Adelle and Dom discussing work in bed and I love Ambrose ordering Adelle not to kill Harding.

So good!!

I'm so glad the story is continuing to work for you.

It struck me after we wrote this that both Dom and Adelle were kind of lonely people (despite Dom's social life). Reaching out to each other like this (for lonely people) would lead to insecurities, I imagine.

Judith came out very well in this part. Thanks for noticing!

Discussing work in bed was too good of an idea to pass up. Kudos to morgan72uk for that one. And for putting Ambrose in the "Let's not kill the American Colonel today" camp. I hated Ambrose in the show but I like him in WWII London. Go figure.

I'm having the same feeling. I really didn't like Ambrose in the show but I am loving this Ambrose (Hurray for WWII Ambrose). It's messing with my mind a bit, it's all "I really like you. You are allies with Adelle but I'm not suppose to like you because in the show, you're a tool."

I think that because we made Harding so awful then Ambrose needed to be weak, but not evil in order for the contrast to work. Also, Adelle's had longer to get Ambrose into shape and because he is weak he's sort of malleable.
I'm glad you're enjoying the fic.

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