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Battle of Britain -- Chapter 12
matching clothing
Title: Battle of Britain Chapter 12

Rating: R (language and sexual situations)

Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue

Summary: Ruth Morrell heading to France strains relations between Adelle and Laurence but Madeline drives a deeper wedge between them.

“What’s this I’ve read about a radio operator acting erratically?” Colonel Harding said, leaning forward to challenge Clive Ambrose. Dominic marveled that the man had actually read a report.

Adelle said, “Mercutio has had some problems of late, but he’s been in Paris for seven months. That’s bound to wear on a person.” Her circumspection raised the hairs on the back of Dominic’s neck.

“What sort of problems?”

“All small things,” Clive said, rallying slightly at Adelle’s support.

“Never the same thing twice,” Dominic observed.

Harding glared at him. “What’s the significance of that?”

“He could be cracking under the pressure or just getting sloppy,” Dominic said, wondering why he’d waded into the conversation. “Although, I suppose he might be trying to tell us something.”

“We train them to make errors in a specified order, differing for each operative, if taken by the Nazis,” Ambrose said. “Mercutio’s mistakes don’t match his distress sequence, so chances are, he’s fine.”

“The Parisian cell is the largest and most established,” Adelle said, tone calm and firm. “We need to be sure it’s stable and our communications uncorrupted.”

“One of the pairs that is ready for deployment includes a radio operator,” Ambrose said, correctly taking the pulse of the room. “Send them in to relieve Mercutio.”

Dominic’s heart pounded in his chest. Ruth Morell had been teamed up with a Canadian mechanic. If the worst had happened, they would parachute into a trap. At best, they would encounter a firmly entrenched, highly stressed, possibly actively paranoid man. He and Adelle had spent several tense hours every day that week trying to determine how to convince such a man to stand down.

“And if Mercutio doesn’t wish to be relieved?” Not for the first time, Dominic wondered if Adelle could read his mind.

“Why wouldn’t the man want to return to England?” Harding demanded, but his expression softened sickeningly when he faced Adelle.

“He’s been in France for a long while,” she said, outwardly patient, but Dominic heard her irritation. “He’s dug in, much like your ground troops will be. Mercutio might be loathe to move from his place of safety.”

“We’re not asking the man to advance,” Harding said. “We’re bringing him home.”

“Either way, it’s traversing enemy territory,” Dominic said, stomach clenching when he thought of earnest, all too honest Ruth Morell confronting the likely damaged man she’d come to replace.

Harding picked at the problem of Mercutio. Dominic fixated on Ruth, on how he’d failed to convince her to withdraw her name from the list of operatives heading to France, on how he’d been unsuccessful in persuading those who evaluated her to do the same, on how he’d gotten her into this mess in the first place. The American woman he’d recruited would meet the enemy before he did. She didn’t have a prayer of retaining her innocence, her open and carefree outlook. Dominic had taken them from her, as sure as Hearn would’ve when he’d tired of Louisa. The Germans would take her life, but he’d given them the opportunity. Not having spent a single day in harm’s way, Dominic struggled with the necessity for Ruth to live there. Bile rose in his throat. His head pounded and shallow breaths came far too rapidly.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled, rising a bit clumsily.

“Of course,” said Clive Ambrose.

“What the hell are you doing, Dominic?” Harding asked.

Adelle said nothing, but he felt her concern as he fled the room. Violently ill in the men’s room, he discovered that his body wished to expel more than what little he’d eaten in the last 24 hours. Dry heaves settled into a bad case of the shakes. When he felt able, he rose and splashed water on his face. Rinsing out his mouth nearly had him doubled over again. Drained and embarrassed, he held on to the edge of the sink. Doubts crept in from every direction. Was it right to send Ruth? What good had he really done at the SOE? Could he lead men into battle? Could he protect his men from Harding, from the enemy or from themselves? Would they win this war? Would he be torn apart by artillery fire and never know the outcome?

From his dark thoughts arose an image—Adelle laughing when he couldn’t find his left boot this morning. And another—how she caught the boot he’d tossed toward her to make her stop. He heard her telling him the lost boot was fate sending him a message and felt her pulling him back onto the bed. Memories of the scent of her perfume and the gentleness of their post-coital kisses brought him back to himself. Straightening his uniform, Dominic walked slowly back to the meeting room. His mind curiously blank, he stepped inside.

“It’s about time,” Harding noted.

“Everything all right?” Ambrose asked.

“Yes, sir,” he said. “I didn’t think this meeting would run so long and I arranged to take a call.”

“What call?” Harding asked, eyes narrowing.

“Some supplies slated for us have been commandeered, sir.” The situation existed, even if the phone conversation was fictitious. “I’m getting them back.”

“Why in the hell have I heard nothing of this? Pardon me, Miss DeWitt.”

“You were … ah … unavailable when the problem was discovered.” Not surprising—the man spent 95% of his time eating, drinking or fucking his mistress.

“I see,” Harding said, without meeting Dominic’s eyes. “Keep me apprised.”

“We’ve finished here, if you have nothing to add, Major,” Clive said, rising to his feet, no doubt to discourage any off agenda discussion.

“No, sir.” Ambrose and Harding left to have a drink at one private club or another. Dominic closed his eyes for a moment and breathed deeply.

“Are you all right, Laurence?”

“I don’t know,” he said, forcing a small smile. “I think I had a crisis of confidence. Didn’t much care for it.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“You already did.” Her puzzled look broadened his smile and he wondered whether wisdom or wariness led her not to ask for an explanation.

* * *

Laurence Dominic yawned, waiting for Adelle to be done with whatever the hell she was doing and starting to wonder if he should just return to his billet and sleep.

“Sir,” muttered a young man he’d never before seen. “Some communiqués for you.”

Surprised by the sheer number, Dominic said, “Thank you, private.”

“I’ve arranged them in the order received. Good night, sir.”

“Thank you and good night.” He read with dawning horror a series of messages Madeline had put herself at great risk of discovery to send within the space of one hour.

“Are you ready to go, Laurence?” Adelle DeWitt stood silhouetted in his doorway and Dominic took a steadying breath.

“We have a situation, ma’am.” He hated to shatter her illusion of a quiet evening following a quiet day, but he offered her the pile of communiqués nonetheless.

Ignoring the documents, she said, “Tell me.”

“Caroline is exceeding your authority,” he said, even as one part of his mind recognized the trust implicit in her order. “She’s taken out the targets specified and several more, each further east than the last. She’s spreading the cell very thin. Madeline’s concerned.”

“Closer to Berlin, damn that girl! I thought she’d understand reason.”

“What do we tell Madeline?”

“You claim to understand Caroline, based on your shared experiences. Can you offer nothing?”

Dominic had never seen Adelle this agitated and decided she didn’t tolerate misjudging people well. “We need to find her something undeniably necessary to do in France.”

“Something grander than sabotage, I suppose.”

Reflecting on how far he’d come that he could even think this, much less suggest it, he said, “She might be mollified by an assassination.”

Adelle’s slow smile hit Dominic hard. “You certainly do have a window into Caroline’s psyche. Quite fortuitously, I am aware of a German Major headquartered in Lille who ought to be measured for a pine box. I’ll craft the messages.”

“All communiqués to Madeline go through me.”

“Your superiors might not approve of what I have in mind.”

He needed to be a part of this. “If it goes to Madeline, I’m putting it together.”

“Very well.” She smiled in a manner that had him leaning toward her. “Let’s proceed.”

* * *

They saw Ruth Morrell off to France on a bitterly cold day in mid February. Winter had arrived late but with a vengeance and the car slid on the roads they travelled from London, making Adelle question whether the plane would be able to leave. Though freezing, they had cloud coverage and their liaison at bomber command decided not to delay the departure.

Adelle always carried out the final check with her agents; she felt it her personal responsibility to make sure they didn’t take anything incriminating with them. It also provided an opportunity for them to relay final messages to be passed to their families if the worse happened. In Ruth Morrell's case, to her grandfather and Laurence Dominic.

The letter lay on the table between them, a single sheet of paper folded into an envelope labeled with his name in a neat cursive script. Adelle worried about being in possession of such a communication and jealous of the connection that had resulted in such a message. Still, she gestured to the letter and said, “Tell him now.” They looked across the aircraft hanger. Laurence stood, back to them, body language taut and tense.

“If something happens to me, I want him to know it isn't his fault,” Ruth said. “If I tell him now, he'll forget.”

“He will blame himself anyway,” Adelle told her gravely, “he's doing it already.”

“You understand why I couldn't give up – don't you?”

So many things factored into her answer, but Adelle did understand in a way. “You're rather like him,” she said, gaze lingering on Laurence once more. “He doesn't see it, but I do.”

Ruth smiled. “I'm ready.”

“I know.” Adelle stood and Ruth followed her example. The women shook hands and, at the last moment, Adelle unfastened the hummingbird brooch from the lapel of her jacket and pressed it into Ruth's hands. It had been purchased in Paris, so it would do no harm for it to return there. “To bring you luck,” she said.

Laurence remained quiet and subdued as they drove back and she didn't disrupt his concentration on navigating the icy roads. She hadn’t expected ready agreement to coming home with her. The heating in her flat was temperamental and they could see their breath when they stepped inside, but he needed and she enjoyed being needed.

They made love slowly and carefully. Adelle breathed his name over and over, loving the cadence of it and hoping he understood that she'd given herself to him as much as she could, as much as she knew how and that she prayed it was enough.

She fell asleep tucked into his chest and awoke hours later, cold and alone. Unlike their first morning, he hadn't gone far. Padding out into the living room, she found him sitting in front of the gas fire. Still naked, Laurence had wrapped one of her blankets around him. He smiled when she approached, opening his arms so she could slip into his embrace. Since she hadn't dressed either, he tucked the blanket around them both. Adelle sat with him, content to be close.

“I love you,” he said at last, “and I love that you aren't afraid of silence.”

She knew his thoughts had returned to Ruth; that he'd woken wondering what she faced and calculating how soon they would hear from her. “Sometimes there isn't anything to say.”

The ensuing silence was disturbed when his stomach rumbled. Tilting her head back, she asked, “When did you last eat?”

“I don't know; did we have lunch?”

“I ate something, but you weren’t there.” He shrugged and she felt an overwhelming wave of affection for him. “Let me up,” she said, “I'll see what there is to eat.”

She tapped his nose and stole the blanket, tugging it close as she rummaged in her kitchen cupboards. “Is that a weapon?” he inquired upon her return.

“It's a toasting fork,” she said, “and this is fruit loaf made by my aunt Elinor's cook.” When he looked confused, she added, “The spare's wife.” She had brought her ration of butter as well and, setting her supplies down in front of the fire, she explained, “Aunt Elinor and Uncle Charles provide food and alcohol, because they never really know what to say to me.”

As she retrieved the brandy her uncle supplied, she reflected that the exchange lacked substance, but at the moment, it worked in her favour. “We're going to toast it?” Laurence said, sounding dubious but joining her on the floor in front of the fire, although that might have been because she had the blanket.

“That's the idea.” Leaning back against his chest, she said, “It's probably worth recognising that this is the extent of my domestic skill.”

* * *

“We won’t starve, Adelle,” Laurence Dominic said. “There’re plenty of things that don’t require much in the way of cooking.” Grinning, as he pulled the smoking piece of toast from her fork and buttered it with a vengeance. “Here,” he said, offering it to Adelle.

“Go ahead,” she said.

“Ladies first,” he replied, even as the saliva filled his mouth. He wondered how long had it been since he’d eaten, while Adelle slowly and undoubtedly deliberately sensually consumed her toast. “Give me that,” he muttered, snatching the toasting fork and another piece of bread. Camping had fully prepared him for this moment, lightly browning his bread on both sides and slathering butter on the slightly darker one. A single bite convinced him he could eat half the loaf. “This is outstanding,” he declared.

“Sometimes, it’s the simple things, Laurence.”

He kissed her cheek. “Simple food, complicated women.” The simpler woman they’d sent to France yesterday stormed back into Dominic’s thoughts. He hadn’t realized he’d pulled away from Adelle until his right side got cold because the blanket could not accommodate the position change. She simply watched him. “Sorry,” he mumbled, moving closer again. “Just thinking.”

“About Miss Morrell?”

He nodded and ran his hands down Adelle’s back. She shivered and slapped his right one away. “Either let that one warm up or use it to make another piece of toast,” she said.

Dominic took the latter suggestion. “I feel like I’ve known Ruth all my life. Where she’s from influences who she is and I understand, I think, why you didn’t have to trot out your vaunted powers of persuasion at the eleventh hour.” He hugged Adelle with one arm.

“But,” she prompted.

“He sighed and closed his eyes briefly. “I hate that she went. Ruth has somehow made this war more personal for me and I feel …” Uncertainty ground his statement to a halt.

“You’ve failed to protect her?” she ventured.

“She didn’t want my protection,” he said, glaring at the darkening toast.

“She accepted your friendship, listened to your advice and made her own decision, as you’ve said you prefer the women in your life to do.”

“It must be impolite to use a person’s own words against them when making toast while naked.” Despite his assertion and because he loved when she laughed, he gave Adelle a second piece of toast.

“I vastly prefer effective to polite.” A darkly amused expression flitted across Adelle’s face.

“What are you thinking?” he asked, suddenly inexplicably wary.

“Merely that a certain American Colonel could easily come to be viewed as a liability due to effectiveness trumping politeness.”

“Harding is a liability in a lot of ways. Everyone who’s had any contact with him knows that.” He reached for the bread but stopped short. “May I have some more?”

“Your ration exceeds a single piece. Have as much as you like.”

“Thanks. Harding’s connections ensure the Fifth gets at least its fair share of just about everything. I’ll put up with a lot to make sure my men have appropriate gear, enough food and ammunition.”

“You may be approaching your limits,” Adelle said, lightly stroking along his spine. “Laurence, you’ve been increasingly tense and frustrated, when returning from sojourns with the Fifth Army,” she murmured. “Judith and Neville have commented upon it.”

“You’re the cure for that, Adelle.” Dominic kissed her, long and deep, until the smell of burning bread became too prevalent to ignore.

“Don’t feel you have to eat that one,” she said, offering him another slice.

“I burnt it; I’ll eat it. I won’t waste food this good.” He took a huge bite and thoroughly enjoyed the taste of butter on his tongue. “Harding is a necessary evil.”

“He’s a mean drunk and an irresponsible braggart.”

Dominic froze, assessing whether he could afford to know how Adelle knew. “He … is those things too.”

“As well as a poor card player and even worse correspondent with his wife and children.”

“Adelle, why are you telling me this?”

Eyes boring into his, she said, “He’s a barely adequate lover with an amazingly inflated opinion of his sexual prowess.”

“I’m not surprised to hear that, but I still don’t understand this conversation.” Adelle smiled and rattled off numerous details she had no business knowing about the Fifth.

“You got all of that from Harding?” he asked, dumfounded until he put his mind to it. “His fawning mistress is yours. I should’ve guessed. No one that pretty would take up with him of her own accord.”

“You find Margot attractive, Major?”

He gestured almost too dramatically with the fork, but the toast clung stubbornly rather than flying into the flame. “Too attractive to be interested in Harding.” Tension flowed through him. “Now what?” he mumbled. “I should speak to Crane; Hhe’s an American Colonel, Adelle, not a Nazi.”

“I planned to let you decide how to proceed,” she murmured, nestling closer.

“You are the most tempting of temptresses, Miss DeWitt.” The thought of Harding under his thumb intoxicated Dominic. “Has anyone ever resisted you?”

“You,” she said, “for far too long.”

“How do you feel about making love on this carpet again?”

“If we each have another piece of toast first,” she said. “Perhaps two for you.”


* * *

Caroline’s assassination of a particularly odious target appealed, but Adelle knew the risk of a face to face kill to be considerable. Caroline wouldn’t use something simple like a car bomb.

Caroline’s penchant for the dramatic matched how she lived—as if she didn’t much care what happened to her. Since she hadn’t been permitted to pursue Alpha; Adelle knew her mind set had become more entrenched.

When Madeline missed her check in, Adelle hoped a successful assassination had suggested the caution regarding use of the wireless. Madeline would use her next window to transmit, but news came from the wireless operator of a neighbouring cell via courier.

“What’s going on?” Laurence arrived in the midst of her issued orders, once again looking tense from his sojourn with the Fifth. Her news would improve nothing.

“Caroline and her team carried out the assassination yesterday,” she said. “But were intercepted as they attempted an escape.” Laurence’s expression hardened and she knew he thought of Madeline. “They succeeded, but only because Madeline broke cover to create a diversion. A member of the resistance made enquiries. Madeline was detained and hasn’t been seen since.”

“Where is she being held? If Caroline has that information, she’ll launch a rescue operation.”

“That isn’t how this works.” She took his arm and steered him into her office. “Caroline has been ordered to disperse the cell. Even if Madeline withstood interrogation, the SS would investigate anyone who had been seen in her company. Caroline’s priority is to protect the rest of her operation.”

“It’s a little late for that.”

“This isn’t Caroline’s fault, Laurence. She didn’t order Madeline to break cover – if anything Madeline acted contrary to standing orders. She shouldn’t have intervened.”

“So that’s what you tell your agents? If your team is at risk of capture, keep your head down and stay safe?”

“It is, when there are more lives at stake if they are caught.”

“You don’t abandon people.”

She didn’t need this, imagining Madeline’s fate was horrible but she could do nothing to change it. “We must,” she insisted, desperate for him to understand.

He paced,angry, upset and unwilling to hear her out. “I’ll go after her.” He announced and she wondered why it had taken him this long to make a stand.

“That’s impossible.”

“Why?” He switched into impeccable French. “My accent is fine now.” That development she hadn’t expected, realizing he’d given himself this option. She felt slightly betrayed, even if a moment later she rebuked herself for making this personal.

“Laurence, you know far too much about our operations, about our future plans and all of our agents. If you were caught, all of those would be at risk.”

“Your confidence in me is inspiring. Don’t you think I would withstand interrogation, Adelle?”

“The SS aren’t Sunday School teachers, Laurence, for heaven’s sake try and think like the soldier you are.”

“We don’t leave our people behind.”

“Understand this – Madeline’s loss is a blow. It’s possible Caroline will ignore me and try to rescue her or that Madeline will succeed in escaping , but you will not head to France on her account. This organisation doesn’t exist to indulge your desire for heroics and we don’t apply one rule for the agents you feel responsible for and another for everyone else. In the time you’ve been here, over a dozen agents have been captured.– You haven’t demanded to mount a rescue mission before.”

* * *

“Those situations were different and you damn well know it,” Laurence Dominic snarled, focusing on Adelle despite an overwhelming need to act. “The SS had had those operatives under surveillance and planned and executed those captures. This is a fluid situation—an unexpected development as far as they’re concerned, which gives us a chance if we take it quickly.”

“I know you feel responsible for Madeline, but—.”

“For her, Ruth and every man under my command. Feeling responsible isn’t a weakness, Adelle, as much as you seem to think it is, and it isn’t wrong to care what happens to people.” The need to explain warred with the necessity to implement and he nearly growled with frustration. “No one could stop me from doing whatever I thought necessary if something happened to you or Judith. Not even you, Adelle.”

“Colonel Harding would.”

“Not unless he wanted to risk Crane finding out how much you know about the Fifth.”

She pointed a finger at him sternly. “You will not use my information to further this insane plan to—.”

Wishing he’d interjected before she’d labeled his intention, he said, “You told me to do just that a few days ago.”

“I may have suggested that you … encourage Harding to behave in a manner more to your liking. I certainly didn’t sanction out and out blackmail in furtherance of an operation that is clearly not in the best interest of the SOE or the United States Army.”

“What about Madeline’s interest?”

“She knew what might happen, Laurence. She understood the risks.”

Dominic crowded Adelle against her desk. “No one mentioned she’d be cut loose for saving the rest of her cell. I don’t recall any briefing on acts of bravery being rewarded by neglect.”

“Madeline shouldn’t have done what she did.”

“Oh, yes, I forgot.” He picked up a paperweight and contemplated tossing it through a window. “She should’ve sat back and watched the rest of them get taken, just like you’re asking me to sit here and wait for confirmation that she’s dead.” Tossing the paperweight aside, he gripped Adelle’s upper arms. “I’m qualified to go into France by any standard you’ve set. Let me.”

“You aren’t thinking rationally, Laurence. You’re letting your emotions hold sway and that, in and of itself, disqualifies you.” She looked pointedly at his right hand. “You’re hurting me.”

“What?” Only then did he become aware of how tight his grip had become. “I’m sorry,” he said, releasing her and stepping back. “Time’s wasting, Adelle.”

“There is no hero of this piece,” she murmured. “This isn’t your time, Laurence.”

“That’s twice you’ve insinuated that this is about me, rather than the opportunity to extract Madeline.” Cupping Adelle’s chin in his hand to make sure she looked him in the eye, he said, “I want to do more. That’s true. I’ve said it too often to deny it now, but I’m not some kid who thinks he’s going to singlehandedly take on Hitler or someone who wants his face on the cover of Life Magazine..” Her frown inspired him to continue. “I know what’s at stake and despite what I said before, I’d take the cyanide, if it came to an interrogation.” Adelle looked at him much in the way doctors regarded people about to lose loved ones. “Sometimes bait has to be cut and losses accepted. I understand that, but I don’t agree that this is one of those times.”

“I will note your disagreement in my report.”

He reached for his cheek as if she’d slapped him. “That’s it?”

“Laurence, what else is there? The decision is mine to make and I’ve made it.”

Feeling the adrenaline rush slipping away, he said, “I’m asking you to reconsider. Hell, I’ll beg, if I have to. I can’t stand back and watch this one unfold, Adelle.”

“Have we arrived at let me go or else, Laurence?”

A profound weariness settled over him.

“Miss DeWitt, we’ve received another communication regarding Madeline.”

They turned to Judith and reached for the single communiqué she held. For the briefest of instants, both of them tugged, threatening to tear the document. Dominic let go and stepped to Adelle’s side to read over her shoulder. “That’s it,” he said, rising up on the balls of his feet, riding a second wave of adrenaline. “When they move her, I can get her out.”

“There are far too many ifs for the scenario to be viable,” Adelle said, enumerating on the fingers of her right hand. “If the timing is correct, if they are, in fact, going overland, if the route is close to correct, if the men guarding her are few and inexperienced, if—.”

“If we don’t decide in the next four to six hours, she’s dead.”

“I’ve decided, Laurence.”

“Right,” he said. “What was I thinking?” Stepping around Judith, ignoring her obvious concern, he said, “I’m going to see Crane.”

“He won’t let you go.”

“We’ll see about that.” Dominic turned away from the sympathy in Adelle’s eyes.

“General Crane will not allow the man he’s relying upon to keep Harding in check and to be instrumental in taking Sicily and Italy to parachute into France in an attempt to rescue a lone SOE operative who reminds him of his younger sister.”

His shoulders slumped. “I need to see him, anyway, to clear up a few things regarding the Fifth.”

“What’s amiss?” she asked as Judith backed out of the room.

“An hour ago, I’d have gladly answered that question.” He laughed and, if he heard the bitterness in it, Adelle surely did. “I guess that makes me no better than Harding.”

* * *

During the rest of the day, Adelle heard nothing from Laurence, which didn't surprise her. Their argument had cut deep and the wounds festered. She was still angry, with him and with herself, because she had no alternative.

Madeline preyed on her mind and Adelle tried to imagine what she must be thinking and feeling. She remembered recruiting her, talking to her about the husband and daughter she had loved and buried. Madeline had chosen to go to France, because she sought death but wanted to make it meaningful. Adelle had given her that opportunity, but doing so had a cost.

She took a moment to compose herself outside the meeting room, preparing to face what came. When she slipped into the room, everyone else was seated. She nodded to the murmured greetings, Laurence's notable by its absence. He stared at blotter before him and, for the first time in months, had positioned himself beside Harding, making her very aware of the distance between them.

“Adelle,” Clive smiled wanly at her as she crossed the room to his side, “we were just about to begin.”

“I hear you've assassinated a Major,” Harding said just asshe sat down. “Bet the Nazi's are in a flap about that?”

“We hope so,” she replied carefully, wishing she needed to avoid Laurence's gaze. “However, the team was intercepted as they made their escape.”

“Fortunately, only one agent was captured.” Clive continued, “Madeline, the radio operator, created a disturbance which allowed the rest of the team to get away. We understand the SS now have her in custody. Most unfortunate, yet far less of a blow than losing the whole team, especially such a successful one.”

“Brave of her to take the fall,” Harding muttered. “She’s the girl Major Galahad over here wanted to swoop in and rescue?” Laurence tightened his grip on his pen. Adelle made herself look away.

“Madeline didn't have to sacrifice herself,” Clive said quietly. Braver than Adelle, or perhaps not so emotionally connected to the issue, he addressed Laurence. “Our agents understand that if they are detained, rescue is not an option.”

Closing her eyes, Adelle took a breath. Upon opening them, she found Laurence finally looking at her. Their eyes met for a moment before he wrenched his gaze away. She shivered, feeling the weight of his anger and his pain and knowing the worst was to come.

“I've received an update,” she said, “passed along by the Resistance. According to their information, Madeline died a night ago. It seems she took a cyanide capsule.”

“How did she come by one of those?” Harding asked, apparently seriously.

“We supply our agents with them,” Clive said, managing a greater degree of patience than Adelle knew herself capable at the moment.

“She took it to avoid giving away vital information during interrogation.” Adelle hesitated before adding, “It was an Agent's death.”

“You're making a habit of losing agents,” Harding said, his priority embarrassing the SOE rather than any concern about Madeline or her demise. “Two more are missing. Have they been caught too?”

“We're assuming so,” Clive said with a sidelong glance in her direction. “Though there may well be extenuating circumstances in their case.”

“Losing agents is, unfortunately, an occupational hazard,” Adelle said, her voice low, so she could control it, forcing the others had to lean forward to hear, though she only spoke to one person. “We send them out with the remit to set occupied Europe ablaze. That doesn't equate to a peaceful existence and the people we recruit know not to expect one. When we invade France, they will seek to delay the enemy forces, sabotage train-lines, cut communications and perhaps help to incite the French people to rise up against the occupying force.”

She hoped Madeline had found some measure of peace at last. Raising her head, her voice strong now and certain, Adelle continued, “until we have another way of achieving those ends, we must bear the losses. When this is over, we must remember exactly what our liberty cost us.”

* * *

“Are there any additions to the agenda?” Clive Ambrose asked, rising as he always did to discourage further discussion.

“Yes, sir,” Laurence Dominic said. Surprise radiated throughout the room. He voice felt raw, scratchy, as if he had a sore throat. Strangely detached, he rose. “I believe I’ve accomplished all I can at the Special Operations Executive. The time has come to devote my full attention to the Fifth Army.”

Clive glanced at Adelle who merely shrugged. Dominic bit the inside of his cheek and Harding peered up at him. “What’s this about, Major?”

“We’ve reached the stage in planning the invasion where my time and efforts are needed in service of the Fifth, sir.”

“Have you spoken to Crane about this?” Harding asked.

“Briefly and he concurs.”

“Effective when?”


Harding chuckled. “This is because no one would sanction your solo mission to France, isn’t it?” Dominic shook his head and Harding laughed harder, tempting Dominic to say a few choice words about his alleged mistress.

“We’re sorry to lose you, Major Dominic,” Clive Ambrose interjected, circumnavigating the table and offering his hand. “You’ve done excellent work with us and are a credit to the United States Armed Forces.”

“Thank you, sir,” Dominic said, shaking hands. “I’ve already sent for my things and Miss DeWitt’s assistant organized my files, so there should be no trouble finding anything that might be needed.”

“Of course,” Clive said, “splendid. We wish you an excellent campaign, Major.”

“Best of luck to you, too, sir.” He forced a small smile as Harding approached Adelle.

“You must be relieved to have Dominic out from underfoot,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Quite the contrary, Colonel,” she said. “We’ll miss him.”

“Not for long,” Harding said, “I’ll send over another man within the week.”

“I wouldn’t bother,” Dominic said, splitting his attention between Ambrose and Harding. “The written reports and minutes of the joint intelligence meetings will paint a clear enough picture of what we face without the need to strain our manpower resources.”

Ambrose raised an eyebrow at Dominic as Harding pondered. Dominic smiled slightly and Ambrose inclined his head in acknowledgement. The Brit had never wanted an American presence in the SOE and Dominic couldn’t imagine him copacetic with adding an unknown element into the mix at this juncture.

“I’ll speak with Crane about it,” Harding said.

“I wouldn’t have suggested it, if the General hadn’t approved.” He briefly wondered what Adelle would think of the flat out lie, until he recalled that he’d decided not to think about her right now.

“Of course, you wouldn’t.” Harding nodded to Adelle and then to Ambrose. “Keep those reports coming and I’ll see you at our next meeting.” As usual, Ambrose and Harding headed off to some private club for drinks, leaving him with Adelle DeWitt and an awkwardness that hadn’t existed between them in a long time.

Facing him across the conference table, she said, “For the record, you haven’t outlived your usefulness to the SOE.”

“Yes, I have. You don’t trust me anymore. You think I’m weak, emotional and irrational.”

She took a deep breath. “You have your weak spots, as do we all.”

“Even you, Adelle?”

“Oh, yes.”

He wanted to ask if he was one of them, but he couldn’t. “I need to focus on my men and the upcoming invasion.”

“I understand.”

Formal civility didn’t strike him as particularly preferable to a shouting match, but he lacked the energy for the latter. “I need to fight this war in a more direct way.”

“There will come a time when you’ll do exactly as we’ve been,” she said. “You’ll send men into battle to die.”

“That’s very different from decreasing civilians’ life spans.”

Her green eyes looked sad. “I think you’ll find it isn’t, Laurence.”

Tired of philosophical discourse, he said, “Say goodbye to Judith for me.”

“I should refuse, but it would devastate her.”

Adelle’s rebuke stoked his temper and he fought to keep it in check. “We don’t want that.”

“Is this truly about Madeline?”

“In part,” he admitted. Meeting her eyes, he said, “They would’ve let me go, had you approved sending me into France.”

“I don’t believe that.”

Even now, he admired her skepticism. “I sold it as a way to increase support for the war back home—an American going into occupied France to extract a woman who had suffered so much personal loss.”

“I thought you didn’t want your face on the cover of Life Magazine.”

“I’d have put up with it to get the job done.”

“They’d have sent you home to tour the country and sell war bonds. I hardly think that’s what you want.”

“Crane wouldn’t allow that to happen.” He offered the papers he’d brought to the meeting to her. “Besides, it makes a better story, if the guy is part of the invasion force afterwards.”

“Not if he dies.”

“The story would’ve been old news by then.”

Putting the papers in her satchel, Adelle asked, “So this goodbye?”

He nodded. “I’m headed to the middle of nowhere to train tomorrow morning.”

“So soon?”

The slight flicker of what might have been hurt crossing her face hit him in the gut. “It’s better that way,” he said.

“You’re undoubtedly correct, Laurence. Take care of yourself and your men.”

“You do likewise.” He swallowed hard. “Find Anthony and Priya. They’re out there. I feel it.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Couldn’t ask for more.”

“Goodbye, Laurence.”

The knowledge that that may well be the last time he heard his name from her lips tightened his throat. Nodding, she turned away. When she reached the door, he said, “I did love you, Adelle. I wasn’t just saying the words.”

Without turning around, she murmured, “I never doubted it,” and left him alone in the conference room.

* * *

Adelle walked back to Baker Street, without really being aware of the journey. Once inside the building, she called into several rooms, asking questions and giving instructions as required. She refused to term the stops stalling. Why would she delay her return to her office?

She felt cold but couldn't tell if the condition was physical or mental. Perhaps she would feel like this from now on. God, she really needed a drink.

“What's going on?” Judith's uncharacteristically plaintive voice didn't stop Adelle from entering her office, heading to the cupboard where she stored her alcohol and pouring herself a drink. “Some men from the 5th came and cleared out Laurence's office.” Downing her drink in a single swallow, she poured herself a refill. “Adelle, please tell me what’s happening.”

“Major Dominic has decided he has accomplished all he can here. From now on, he will devote his full attention to the 5th Army.” She knew she couldn't get blind drunk, no matter how much she might want to, so she sipped her second drink and stepped away from the bottle.

“Does that mean he isn't coming back?” The waver in Judith's voice reminded Adelle painfully of that final conversation with Laurence and the message he had asked her to convey.

“He's leaving London in the morning for an unknown destination. He asked me to say goodbye to you for him.”

“Why didn't he come and see me himself?”

“I don't think he wants anything to do with the SOE. He doesn't approve of our methods.” To Judith’s look of rank scepticism, she amended, “Of my methods.”

“Did you talk to him? Try to persuade him to stay? He'd listen to you; I know he would.”

“I'm the last person he'd listen to and it's his decision, Judith. We must respect that.”

“This is because of Madeline, isn't it?” She shrugged. “If he hasn't left, you could go and see him. You could explain.”

“There's nothing I can say that he wants to hear. The truth is; I'd make the same decision again and he knows it. That’s why he’s leaving.”

“So it's over between the two of you, just like that?” Apparently her shrug failed to sufficiently respond. “I know you love him,” Judith insisted.

“Because he was my lover?” Adelle asked, raising an eyebrow. “This might come as a surprise, Judith, but I've taken several men I didn’t love to bed.” She’d hoped the harsh revelation would embarrass Judith into dropping the subject.

“I won’t believe he meant nothing to you; I’ve watched you together for months.”

She knew Judith didn’t understand or approve of her cold and unemotional demeanour, but Adelle needed to hold onto her control and push everyone away before they could see how he’d devastated her.

“You know you can admit that you've lost something.” Judith spoke so gently Adelle had to stamp down the impulse to respond savagely that the other woman had no idea the enormity of what she had lost.

“Nothing of great importance,” she said, cadence measured, pitch and volume controlled, “and certainly nothing I can't live without.” She lied and Judith's stricken expression told her just how well. “Could you go back to work now, please; we have a great deal to do.” Such a dismissal, even Judith couldn't ignore.

When the door closed behind Judith leaving Adelle alone, she stared out of the windows at the ruined city. The encroaching darkness had a visceral feel—a living creature calling out to her. Raising her glass to the shadows she sent her enemies a message—only the Allies eventual victory mattered to her now. She had already sacrificed her cleverness, conscience and her happiness to the cause.

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GAH! That was so heartbreaking but so lovely (I love the angst so much).

This pairing is all about the angst and the suffering (spoken or not). It made me sad to write Dominic in this state, but this is where he needed to be.

They both kind of throw away everything (kind of like they did in the show). Neither trusted enough.

Thanks for reading.

Ahhhh! You've just captured their relationship perfectly (built on angst!). Love it!
-amzzzziohi (LJ won't let me log on and it's making me want to throw my iphone- I'm on the train, I'll get looks lol)

Hoping LJ will be kinder to you in the future.

Thanks for letting us know that the characters rang true for you in this AU setting. It's kind of nervewracking trying to make that work sometimes.

This played to me as a reflection of their final "confrontation" in Spy in the House of Love. Angst, arrogance and pride all rolled into one.

Fun times (sort of)!

Edited at 2012-04-17 01:06 pm (UTC)

“You know you can admit that you've lost something.” Judith spoke so gently Adelle had to stamp down the impulse to respond savagely that the other woman had no idea the enormity of what she had lost.

This is about when I lost it and the tears fell.

“Nothing of great importance,” she said, cadence measured, pitch and volume controlled, “and certainly nothing I can't live without.” She lied and Judith's stricken expression told her just how well. “Could you go back to work now, please; we have a great deal to do.” Such a dismissal, even Judith couldn't ignore.

This is when I let out a strangled cry and couldn't see because of the tears.

You guys just completely messed me up with this. Guh. I can't even. I don't know what's going to happen now.

I'm sorry to have made you cry but I'm kind of glad you did. This was an emotional scene and I always hope for an emotional reaction to scenes like this.

Well, as to what happens now ... it was supposed to be kind of an epilogue. I guess you could call it the little epilogue that grew and grew and grew.

Will most more soon.

Edited at 2012-04-17 01:06 pm (UTC)

As to what's next - I'm pretty sure it's the attic and the end of the world... Or something like that.

I can't believe that was supposed to be the epilogue. That ending would've killed me.

I meant what comes after was supposed to be a mere epilogue. Didn't exactly turn out that way.:)

Ah ok. I so misunderstood there. LOL.

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