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Battle of Britain--Chapter 25
ears, eyes
rogoblue
Rating: R (language and sexual situations)


Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue


Summary: Laurence and Adelle return to Berlin with Kate.






Adelle adjusted the silk scarf she wore at her throat, enjoying the way Laurence swallowed and looked away. Last night, she had used this very scarf to bind one of his wrists to the headboard of the sturdy Claridges’ bed. He’d allowed her to take control and in the early hours of the morning he’d woken her to make love again, sans restraints. She suspected he had fantasies he hadn’t yet admitted to himself, let alone to her and wanted their marriage to be an adventure in the sensual realm as well as the intellectual.

The car drew up outside her uncle’s house and she sighed, saddened to be saying goodbye. As a traveller, embarking on a journey excited her, but she would miss several people in England.

“We’ll come and visit,” Aunt Juliet promised. Looking towards her husband, she added, “Your uncle is meant to be slowing down, now that the war is over. There has been talk of retirement.”

“You’ll both always be welcome,” Laurence said. “You too, James. Head to Berlin when you get some leave.”

James smirked. “Your attitude’s improved from the first time we met. I thought you might rip my head off.”

“A misunderstanding,” Adelle supplied, when her uncle looked alarmed. “Laurence believed James to be a suitor.”

“I quickly convinced him otherwise.” Mischievous as ever, James said, “Addie, you are my favourite cousin, so don’t take this as a slight, but I prefer women who aren’t two or three times cleverer than I am.”

“That’s not true,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You like clever women, but they have to be red heads.”

James pointed at his cousin. “If you worked that out, you will know what mischief that poor child is getting into before she does.”

“Mother’s always know,” Juliet said. “Adelle is right about your preferences by the way.”

Sebastian’s arrival spared James further indignity. Smiling a greeting to Sebastian, Adelle caught Edgar’s arm and drew him to his study. “Are you all right, Addie?” he asked when they were alone.

“I am,” she smiled, “for the first time in long while.” She bore little resemblance to the bewildered young woman he had brought home from Egypt all those years ago. Adelle had determinedly not admitted how deeply the loss of her parents had affected her. She thought Edgar had known, but she hadn’t been able to tell him or allow him to help. That inability had shaped her life, until one grey March morning when an American soldier had walked into a meeting. “Uncle Edgar, I owe you a great debt.” He shook his head and she followed suit. “If you hadn’t come to Egypt, I think I would have gone into the desert after them and I’m not sure I would have returned.”

“They didn’t mean to leave you.”

“I think perhaps they did, but I’ve long since forgiven them. I wanted to tell you how grateful I am, for all you did and tried to do. I’m sorry I wouldn’t allow you to help me. I know very well what I turned aside and I love you very much.”

“Adelle, come here.” There were tears in his eyes, as she stepped into his embrace. “Your father would be very proud of you.”

“Are you?” She asked, fighting back tears of her own.

“I’ve always been proud of you and I always will be.”

* * *


“Adelle was a solitary and, perhaps, a lonely child as, I suspect, were you.”


Laurence Dominic blinked confusedly at Sebastian DeWitt and took refuge behind a glass of excellent single malt Scotch. A man couldn’t tell his wife’s uncle, a Bishop for Christ’s sake, that his niece showed no mercy in bed. Unable to resist, barely able to speak, he’d surrendered everything to her and the pleasure had been more intense than he’d ever experienced. They’d played at bondage before, but something had been different this time. Regardless of the embarrassment of his swearing turning into pleading, he wanted to have sex like that again. “Sorry, Sebastian. I was just … um … thinking.”


“The thoughts of the newly-wed often stray to the carnal.” Sebastian smiled and raised his glass to Dominic. “It’s only natural.”


“Kate will be an only child,” he said to prove he’d heard the Bishop. “Adelle doesn’t want to bear children.”


“Surely, you could adopt again.”


Dominic lowered his eyes and mumbled, “I guess.”


“You’d rather have a child of your own, I take it.”


He nodded. “I’ve already chosen Adelle over a child of mine and won’t change my mind.” He chuckled nervously. “I didn’t know it was possible to love someone this much.”


“My niece is an extraordinary woman and you are her match, pure and simple.”


Touched, Dominic said, “You’re very kind.”


Sebastian held out his glass to a passing server who promptly filled it. Dominic did the same. “I would not be kind, if I thought differently and I certainly wouldn’t have presided over your wedding.”


“You honor me.”


“Give Adelle the time to consider young Kate’s life,” Sebastian said, draping an arm across Dominic’s shoulders to steer him into a quiet corner of the drawing room. “She may well come around to the idea of her having a sibling.”


Dominic shrugged. “As you said, we’ll adopt again.”


“Not if she understands how much a child of your own means to you.”


“I don’t want to force her into—.”


Sebastian interrupted, “Are you actually suggesting Adelle could be coerced into bringing a new life into the world, such as it is?”


“No, sir.”


“Well, you haven’t completely taken leave of your senses, then.” Obviously feigning a stern expression, the Bishop said, “I’m relieved to discover that less than 48 hours of marriage hasn’t unhinged you utterly.”


Thinking back on some of the things Adelle had done to him last night, Dominic mumbled, “Not utterly, no.”


“How are you, my son?” he asked. “You carry heavy burdens.”


“Adelle lightens them,” he said. An image of a blue eyed girl with one small and one extra large bear leapt to mind. “Kate could obliterate them entirely.”


“Your eyes soften, when you speak of the child.”


“Isn’t that as it should be?”


“Of course,” Sebastian said, patting him lightly on the shoulder. “I’m gladdened to see you capable of it. Many men who survived this terrible conflict find it difficult to feel love in their hearts, much less show it in the windows to their souls.”


“A lot of guys have it harder than me,” Dominic said, a large lump of humility forming in his throat. “I’m lucky to have Adelle, Kate and all of you in my life.” He aimed a small smile at Sebastian. “That I can say those things out loud is progress, I think.”


“I’d term it healing and am heartened by how far you’ve come in the short time I’ve known you.” He lowered his voice. “Addie could commit to a damaged man, if she loved him, but it would’ve broken my heart to see her do so.”


“You must think me weak to have taken so long to put my losses into perspective.”


“No, Laurence, not at all.” Sebastian hugged him briefly and Dominic surprised himself by returning the gesture. “I commend your strength of will and am grateful you trusted enough to accept help.”


“The wreath was your idea?” Sebastian nodded. “I’d cried for Devon but not the others, until my wedding day.” Tears welled up again but Dominic refused to shed them.


Sadly, men feel that tears diminish them. They don’t understand the healing they provide.”


“That’s because it doesn’t happen right away.”


“Perhaps. You will be tested in raising a daughter.” Sebastian grinned wryly. “Being married to Addie will not be without challenges.” Expression compassionate, he said, “Always remember you have cleared the seemingly insurmountable hurdle of living when good friends and comrades haven’t, thereby proving you possess the strength to face your future and to give my niece a joyful life. For that, I will praise God each day.”


“Thank you.” Dominic could think of nothing else to say.


“Goodbye, Laurence,” Sebastian said, offering his hand, “until I find occasion to travel to Berlin or you return here with your family.”


“May … may I write to you from time to time, Sebastian?”


“I’d be delighted, if you did.”


* * *

The closer they came to their destination, the more nervous Adelle grew. Nothing in her experience prepared her to become the parent of a two year old. Visions of the many things that could go wrong assailed her and she struggled to overcome a wave of panic. “Is it acceptable to be scared?” she asked Laurence in a low voice, reaching for his hand to steady her nerves.

“I hope so, since I am,” he admitted, staring pointedly at the back of Driscoll's head, as though willing the bodyguard not to have overheard. She tightened her fingers around his.

“My trepidation makes me worry how Kate must be feeling. She won't understand any of this.”

“Kids adapt, right? That’s what everyone keeps saying.” He nodded as if coming to a decision. “If she's happy at Mrs P's, despite everything she’s been through, she can be happy with us.” He appeared to be trying to convince himself, as well as her, but Adelle let it go.

Verity had obviously been watching for them, because she opened the front door before they got out of the car. “Kate was grizzly last night and she's been crying on and off all morning. She won't let mother out of her sight.” They followed her into the morning room where Frances poured over a book. Verity sighed. “You can't have any prep, Frances; we haven't gone back to school yet.”

“The subject’s interesting,” Frances protested, but she put her book down. “Adelle, Mrs. P is upstairs, trying to pack. I'm sure she wouldn't mind, if you went up.”

“Do you want to come?” Adelle asked Laurence and, after the briefest of hesitations, he shook his head. She trusted that he wanted to give her a chance to care for Kate rather than to avoid a miserable toddler.

In Kate's room, a flustered Mrs. P endeavored to pack clothes into a battered case, with Kate perched on her hip.

“Oh thank goodness,” Mrs.P said, when she spotted her. “Will you go to Adelle?” Kate shook her head and clutched Mr Buttons tighter. “Don't be silly.” Mrs. P passed Kate to Adelle. She wriggled halfheartedly, flopped back into Adelle's chest and made a noise sounding suspiciously like a sniffle.

“I brought a warm coat and some thick underwear,” Adelle said, rocking Kate a little. “So you aren't cold when we get to Berlin,” she added, when the little girl turned mournful eyes up at her. “Are you shy today?”

“Sad.” Kate informed her. “Stay here?”

“No, darling, I'm sorry but you can't stay here.” At Adelle's words, Kate's face crumpled and two fat tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Of course, she’s upset about leaving,” Mrs P said, “but she would have been just as upset about leaving in a few weeks and there wouldn't have been new parents to comfort her and buy her warm clothes. Keep talking to her,” she advised, “and she might decide she's curious enough about where she is going to forget to grizzle. If she has a tantrum, try to ignore her.”

Adelle had said she would approach a tantrum that way when Miss Hartridge had questioned her, but the prospect dealing with a real tantrum, perhaps imminently, was more than a little daunting. “To make sure she is safe and loved, she’ll test you out. When she does, be firm.”

“Anything else?” Adelle said, stroking Kate's hair, humming and breathing a sigh of relief as she settled down.

“Well, she is normally very good about asking to use the potty or even the lavatory, but she does have accidents. She'll hop from one foot to the next when she needs to go. There's a potty downstairs for you to take. ” Closing the case, she said, “All packed. Shall we go and say hello to Laurence, Kate?” Picking up the case and Gustav, she forced a smile, even though on the verge of tears.

* * *


“Hello, Kate,” Dominic murmured, resting his hand briefly on the child’s back before taking the suitcase and bear from Mrs. P. Kate sniffled.


“I’ll take these out to the car, sir,” Driscoll said, neatly relieving his superior officer of the items. While Kate peeked over Adelle’s shoulder, Driscoll paused and cocked his head. He regarded Gustav as though shocked. “You’re afraid to go to Germany?” he asked, tone incredulous. “How can such a large and handsome bear be afraid of moving?” Driscoll tilted his head again. Glancing toward the heavens, he said, “Who told you they hunt new big bears there?” Gustav’s head hung low. “No, don’t tell me, let me guess. The ramshackle little bear.”


“Mr. Buttons naughty,” Kate said, a hint of a smile forming, as she shook the culprit. Eyes serious, she said, “He scare me too.”


Dominic glared at Mr. Buttons. “Neither Germans nor any other people who currently reside in Germany hunt stuffed bears of any size or blonde girls with pretty blue eyes. Is that clear?”


Kate made the bear nod and extended her arms. “Law-rents make Mr. Buttons behave.”


Adelle didn’t appear to mind, so he scooped Kate into the crook of his left arm. “Someone has to,” he commented, valiantly trying not to smile. “I thought that was your job, though, Kate.”
She sighed and rested her head against his shoulder. “Law-rents do it. Kate tired.”


“That comes as a surprise to no one, young lady, what with the fussy morning you’ve had,” Mrs. P observed, seemingly unable to decide what to do with her empty hands.


Murmuring directly into his ear, Adelle said, “Best do this quickly.”


“Right,” he said. “Goodbye, everyone. Thank you for taking such good care of Kate and having her ready to go on her adventure.” Mrs. P hugged Adelle and patted Dominic on the back.


“Kate go ven-tour,” she mumbled around an impressive yawn.


“Indeed,” Adelle said, mouthing, “now,” at Dominic. They left amid a chorus of well wishes. Gustav sat behind the driver, so Dominic entered from the passenger side and slid awkwardly to the center of the rear seat. Adelle settled next to him with a small sigh. “That went reasonably well.”


Dominic grinned at Adelle and hugged Kate a little tighter. “Good job, Driscoll. I didn’t realize you spoke stuffed bear.”


“One of my hidden talents, Dom.”


“Of which we intend to take advantage of from time to time.”


Driscoll’s, “Yes, ma’am,” sounded pleased.


“Car big.” Kate turned worried blue eyes on Dominic. “We go fast?”


“Our driver is very reliable,” Adelle said, gesturing to Driscoll. “He’s specially trained to get us places safely by proceeding at an appropriate speed.”


Dominic didn’t know how to interpret Kate’s soft snuffle, but she relaxed against his chest. Suddenly, it felt like Kate had gained half again her body weight and the small fist clutching his shirt loosened. “Is she asleep?” he whispered.


“She is,” Adelle said, “which might make it possible to leave England without a tantrum.”


Smirking, he said, “I’m sure there’s nothing like a tantrum in the air.”


“Her ears will hurt from the cabin pressure,” Driscoll said, meeting Dominic’s eyes in the rearview mirror. “The pain could wake her up and she won’t know to swallow to clear them.”


“OK,” Dominic said, grateful for the insight. “Thanks.”


“My motives aren’t pure, Dom,” Driscoll admitted. “I’m making my case to fly back.”


“I see.” Adelle poked Dominic lightly in the side, eyes questioning. “With Kate and all of her things, plus luggage, there won’t be room for everyone. Mason has to come, because I won’t have you going who knows where without him.” He didn’t give her a chance to protest. “By my reckoning, that leaves one seat open.” Tapping Driscoll on the shoulder, he said, “It’s yours.”


“Thank you, sir!”


“You’ll be down to one bodyguard from a complement of four for how long, precisely?”


Adelle could make pissed off sound amazingly civilized. “A week, maybe less. Williams can fill in, if that would make you feel better.”


“You would reassign your resident spy?”


“Temporarily, to make my wife happy.”


She smiled. “I would worry less.”


“I prefer to think of it as making you happier, if it’s all the same to you.”


Shifting a lock of Kate’s hair from across her face to behind her ear, she said, “We’ve married and adopted a child.”


Dominic pulled Adelle close, enjoying the warmth of the females in his life snuggled against him. “I could get used to this,” he said and kissed Adelle on the forehead and then softly on the lips.


“Plan on it, Colonel Dominic.” Adelle’s smile promised so many things. He looked forward to savoring them all during the days ahead.


* * *

Adelle leant against Laurence, as the car journeyed through the countryside and felt her eyes grow heavy. After a moment’s thought, she reasoned it made sense to rest when Kate did.

She opened her eyes some time later at the sound of her name. “Some companion you are,” Dominic said. “Sleeping in the middle of the day.”

“I can’t imagine why I’m tired,” she said pointedly, glaring at his smile.

Kate remained asleep, curled up on his chest with Mr. Buttons tucked under her chin. “Are we there?” Adelle asked, stroking some of Kate’s curls.

“We will be in a few minutes. Should we wake her?”

“I think so,” Adelle said, trusting her instincts as well as Driscoll’s observations about what might happen if Kate woke on the plane. Rubbing her back, Adelle repeated Kate’s name until blue eyes opened to meet her own. “It’s all right,” Adelle said, before she started to fret. “Gustav and Mr Buttons are along on our adventure.”

Kate’s bottom lip trembled ominously and Laurence asked, “Do you want to see the airplanes?”

“Air-planes?” she repeated.

“Look over there.” He pointed out the window at the rows of hangers and, beyond them, the planes waiting on the airfield like ungainly insects.

For a moment, other airfields intruded, along with the scores of agents dispatched to occupied France on her orders and those who had not returned.

She pushed the memories away as Driscoll spoke to the sentry at the gate. The young man snapped off a smart salute to Laurence before waving them through.

“Mason and the others arrived about half an hour ago,” Driscoll said, following a rutted path towards the hangers and parked beside the car the other bodyguards had taken.

“Are you certain of your plan for the journey home?” Adelle asked, not entirely in agreement.

“Someone has to drive both cars back,” he observed, as though that settled matters. It definitely did not.

“They’ll need to inform Vandermeer of the arrangements to ensure adequate security at the airfield in Berlin.” She felt well within her rights to be equally stubborn about his security.

“Air-planes?” Kate asked, wide eyes drawing attention from the stalemate.

“Let’s go see,” Laurence said. Kate cast a wary look towards Gustav.

“Mr. Driscoll,” Adelle said, “since you and Gustav get along so well, could you keep an eye on him for Kate?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Turning to Kate, he smiled. “Don’t worry, miss. I’ll make sure he behaves.”

“Thank you,” Kate said quietly before burying her head in Laurence’s shoulder.

When Dominic lowered Kate to the ground as they left the car together, Adelle took a moment to watch them, standing hand in hand, Kate listening carefully to him speak.

“She's doing him a world of good,” Driscoll observed. “You both are.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Adelle said before catching up with her family and taking Laurence’s other hand.

A group of servicemen regarded them with interest, which only increased when a jeep careered around a bend and came to an abrupt halt alongside them. “Colonel Dominic!” The officer who jumped out was in his late twenties, but his eyes looked older. He saluted Laurence, nodded to the bodyguards and regarded Adelle and Kate with obvious surprise.

“This is my wife, Adelle,” Laurence said, “and our daughter, Kate.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Captain …?”

“Hunter, ma’am.”

“Captain Hunter,” Adelle said, habitually committing the name to memory. “Thank you so much for helping us to get back to Berlin.”

He slowly turned to face Laurence. “I was told I was doing a favour for you, sir.”

“You are,” Laurence agreed. “You’re flying the three of us, plus these two,” he pointed at Driscoll and Mason, “to Berlin.” Adelle thought it wise of him not to mention the bears, though she couldn’t fathom how they might go unnoticed.

“I’m not authorized to transport civilians.”

“Captain, I have to be back in Berlin today and I’m not leaving my family to travel overland on their own.”


* * *


“With all due respect, sir, I’ll need to confer—.”


“I knew I should’ve dealt with the Navy,” Dominic hissed. Captain Hunter recoiled. “They honor their commitments and aren’t afraid to bend rules that should no longer apply.” Crowding the younger man, he said, “We’re no longer at war, Captain. Civilians will need transport from time to time.” He gestured grandly toward the plethora of planes on the ground. “You’re not exactly booked to capacity.”


Realizing Kate no longer held his hand, he spun in a slow circle and scanned at Kate and adult level. Dominic closed his eyes briefly and took a breath when he spotted Kate, tucked within a crouching Adelle’s arms—the elder speaking and gesturing toward him. Lowering his voice, he growled, “The tone I took with you frightened my daughter. We picked her up from her foster home less than an hour ago and I’d rather not have her upset and confused when we fly out.”


“Assuming you do.”


“Don’t push me, son,” Dominic said. “I’m guessing you’ve logged an extraordinary number of combat hours, but I’ve fought hand to hand through hell and am decorated out the ass. Going toe to toe with me, I don’t like your chances.”


“You never mentioned a wife and daughter to the Major.”


“I didn’t have a wife or a daughter when I spoke to him. I do now and they’re coming with me. Is. That. Clear?”


“I’m sorry, sir, but—.”


“To hell with this!” Dominic motioned to Mason. “Find a phone in this excuse for an air field and get me Jared Pinkney.”


“You …” Captain Hunter noticeably gulped. “You know Pinkney?”


“He went down over Italy.” On one of the worst days of the Italian campaign. Air support had been valiant but ineffective. “Ask him who pulled him out of his burning plane, saw that he got medical attention and evacuated before things got worse. Quickly, Captain, because I’m running out of time and patience.” Adelle, Kate and Mr. Buttons huddled in conference. “I have to save some for the important people in my life.”


Hunter gulped again. “If you all would follow me, Colonel Dominic, we’ll have you underway in no time.”


“Ladies,” Dominic said, nodding slightly to Adelle’s inquiring glance, “we’ve secured air transport to Germany from no less an organization than the Untied States Air Force.”


“No RAF?” Kate asked with a sharp frown.


“The RAF doesn’t owe daddy nearly so many favors as the USAF,” Adelle said, accepting Dominic’s hand up. “That’s the Royal Air Force, dear. Our boys from Great Britain.”


“What Gate Bitten?”


“Where you were born, sweetheart. Here, in England.”


“Law-rents from Untied States but us from Gate Bitten?” Adelle’s nod brought a distraught expression to Kate’s face. “Why Law-rents not leaf us here?” She ran up to Dominic. “Not leaf us, Law-rents! Goose-tav eat you. Mr. Buttons make sure.”


“Having no desire to be eaten for dinner,” he laughed, “or breakfast or lunch, I guess I’ll take the two of you along.” Kate smiled but offered her hand to Adelle, undoubtedly punishing him.


“Kirkland.” Captain Hunter addressed a pilot closer to Dominic’s age, as they stopped alongside a decrepit aircraft. “Transport Colonel Dominic and his family to Germany.”


Kirkland spit out a wad of tobacco. “Sure thing, Cap.”


“Can this piece of sh—ah, garbage make it to Berlin,” Dominic demanded.


“I wouldn’t take these two lovely ladies along, if it wouldn’t,” Kirkland replied. Gaze sharpening, he asked, “Are you the guy they called Relentless?”


“Yes.”


Kirkland saluted and said, “Pleasure to serve with you, even after the fact, sir.”


Shaking the offered hand, he said, “Dom. Sir makes me feel old.”


Kirkland stroked his gray stubble. “I hear you, Dom. Watch your step, little lady and ma’am. They made ‘em uneven. Go figure.”


Adelle settled Kate in and Kirkland offered her a piece of gum. “Chew it as we climb, little one,” he advised, “so your ears won’t hurt.” Kate took the proffered item, and looked to Adelle. “I’m sorry, ma’am.” Kirkland said. “I should’ve asked if you allow gum.”


“We’re in your debt, Lieutenant Kirkland. It’s important to both of us that Kate enjoy this flight.” Adelle took the chewing gum. “You can have it when we start to fly.” She added to Kirkland, “We’re very new at parenting.”


“I’ll do my level best to make the flight smooth, ma’am.”


“Stop charming everyone,” Dominic muttered. Adelle kissed him and all seemed right with the world.


* * *

Before the plane’s engines started, Adelle recalled some of Mrs. P’s advice. Mason and Driscoll joined them, the latter bearing Gustav. While Laurence presided over their luggage, she drew Kate to her and whispered a question. Big blue eyes met hers and Kate’s silence somehow answered. “Ask Lieutenant Kirkland to wait just a few minutes, please,” she said, tapping Laurence on the arm. “Kate and I need to make sure there aren’t any accidents.”

“Damn, I should have thought of that.” His expression resembled Kate’s of earlier, when she had been concerned Laurence might leave them behind.

“There’s no harm done. In time, we’ll all adjust.” She rummaged in their luggage for a moment, finding what she needed and then reaching for Kate’s hand. “They won’t go without us,” she told the little girl when she looked worried.

“Ma’am?” Mason followed, offering assistance with disembarking.

“We aren’t going far,” Adelle assured her bodyguard.

Kate didn’t fuss about using her potty in the middle of an airfield, though her gaze never left the plane. Mason turned his back, shielding them from view. No one who had worked with her at the SOE would recognize her now. Adelle hardly recognized herself, but her heart stuttered when, following disposal of the contents of the potty, Kate lifted her arms and said, “Up.”

She picked Kate up and asked, “Shall we begin your adventure?”

As they settled in, the steps were pulled away and the entry hatch slammed shut. Kate jumped. She reached blindly for Laurence when the engines came to life with a bone-rattling roar. “It’s OK,” he murmured, “we’re just ready to go.”

Adelle moved closer, smiling reassuringly. “You’re being very brave,” she said, “but I think Mr Buttons might be scared.”

“We fly,” Kate informed her bear as she hugged him. She peeked up at Adelle and smiled, though her expression turned to alarm as the plane gathered speed. She whimpered and looked to be attempting to wiggle into Laurence’s chest, reaching for Adelle’s hand and clutching it tightly.

“Chew,” Adelle said, popping the stick of chewing gum into Kate’s mouth. “Like this – look.” Kate imitated her, as the aircraft rose from the ground.

“We’re flying now,” Laurence told her, “with the birds.”

“Birds?”

“We’ll fly with them all the way to Berlin.” Their transport had been designed to drop bombs rather than carry passengers. Loud, draughty and windowless didn’t make for luxury. However, that Kate couldn’t see how far off the ground they were struck Adelle as a good thing.

She still looked anxious, but there were no tears. When Laurence lifted his knees up and down, Kate giggled and said, “You my horsey, Law-rents.”

Playing horsey, complete with sound effects, kept her entertained for a while and if Driscoll and Mason had anything to say about seeing the Colonel entertaining a two year old, they restrained themselves. When she grew tired of that game, Adelle started another instalment of the tale of Sir Gustav the teddy bear knight. Kate snuggled up with Mr Buttons and listened intently. When her eyes grew heavy, Laurence tried to persuade her to rest, but Kate clearly didn’t want to miss anything.

“There’s some milk for her,” Adelle said, “in the bag Mrs. P gave us.” She found a small beaker and a flask which had kept the milk warm. The drink settled Kate and she played with her bears, chattering away and singing nursery rhymes to them.

They all felt the plane start its descent.

* * *


“Up.” Smiling slightly, Laurence Dominic glanced around at adult eye level. A sharp tug at his pant leg changed that. “Up!” Kate demanded, smacking Dominic’s other leg with Mr. Buttons.


“Bossy little thing, aren’t you?” he asked. Obviously unimpressed, Kate lifted her arms and glared at him. “What do you say?”


“Up Law-rents. Please?” Satisfied, he scooped her up and followed Adelle toward the hatch. Mason slipped past and shadowed his wife off the plane.


“Wait, Dom,” Driscoll said. “You and the little one should make an entrance after your lady makes hers.”


He saw no harm in executing that strategy. While they waited Kate quietly called various things to Mr. Buttons’ attention. Vandermeer and Williams’ relief at Adelle’s presence struck Dominic as a tad too profound. They made such a fuss over her return that neither of them spotted Dominic on approach.


“With your help, we’ll get the Colonel back in the—.” Vandermeer’s jaw dropped so far that Dominic wondered if it had become unhinged.


“Back in the what?” Williams asked.


Vandermeer pointed. Williams did a double take. Adelle appeared serenely amused. “Which car is ours, Vandermeer?” Dominic asked, slipping his free arm around Adelle’s waist. This time, Vandermeer pointed out a large black Mercedes Benz parked between spit polished Jeeps about 100 yards away.


Williams saluted, his eyes darting between Dominic and Kate. “Eventful trip?” he drawled.


“It had its moments,” Dominic replied, endeavoring to keep a straight face.


“I can see that.” Williams’ focus shifted. “Whoa! That’s a big bear.”


“That Goose-tav,” Kate said, smiling at Williams. “He mine.”


“That’s a relief,” Vandermeer muttered.


Taking pity on his men, Adelle said, “Kate, this is Kevin and his comrade is William.”


“Bill,” Williams interjected.


“They work for Laurence.”


Kate promptly asked, “Law-rents tell lots of people what to do?”


“Not that many anymore,” he admitted. Not seeing any point in delaying the inevitable, Dominic said, “Kate is our daughter. Adelle and I adopted her.”


“I didn’t know they let—,” Vandermeer began.


“They don’t,” Williams said.


Eyes dropping to Adelle’s left hand, Vandermeer said, “My God. That’s … um … that’s quite a ring.”


“I’ve become rather fond of both of them,” Adelle said, adjusting her engagement and wedding rings, smiling in obvious satisfaction. Dominic watched, fascinated. He’d not noticed her paying particular attention to the piece of jewelry he’d agonized over, other than when he’d first given it to her.


“Shiny,” Kate observed. She turned wide blue eyes on Dominic. “Me get one?”


“Not for a very long time,” he said. Kate’s shoulders slumped. When her lower lip trembled, Dominic said, “Wouldn’t you rather have a stone with some color?”


“A nice blue, maybe,” Williams ventured, “to match your eyes.”


“Blue pretty,” Kate allowed, although still fixated on Adelle’s diamond.


“It needn’t be an actual sapphire, Laurence,” Adelle murmured, as she took his arm. “Shall we?”


“Where we go?” Kate asked, tightening her hold on Dominic’s collar and Mr. Buttons.


“Home,” he said. Kate shook her head. “Your new home,” Dominic amended. “Our home,” he glanced from Kate to Adelle and back, “the place we’ll live in, so long as I’m stationed in Berlin.”


“Not always?” the girl asked, clearly displeased by the notion.


“That’s right,” Adelle said. “Wherever Laurence is sent by the Army will be our home.” Leaning closer to Kate, she asked, “You don’t think we should let him go off by himself, do you?”


“Mrs. P say men no good by self.”


“Does she really?” Dominic asked, bristling at the thought.


Williams grinned. “Well, now, in your case, Dom, I’d say Mrs. P, whoever she is, speaks God’s own truth.” He inclined his head in Adelle’s direction. “You’re much improved with the missus, begging your pardon, ma’am, that’s how we say things where I come from.”


“When in Rome, Bill,” Dominic said, belatedly doubting that Adelle would prefer Fraulein.


Ignoring his interjection, Williams said, “I think the little bit,” he tapped Kate on the nose, “might just show us what sort of man you truly are.”


Adelle shivered. “Let’s take this somewhere warmer,” Dominic said and smiled when Kate returned every salute he did.


* * *

The encroaching darkness gave the angles and turrets of the house a foreboding appearance. Not at all surprised when Kate shrank away slightly, Adelle asked, “How about a piggy back ride up on Laurence’s back?” Before Kate could reply, he swooped her up into his arms, making her cry out in delight. She scrambled eagerly onto his shoulders, although her determination to hold onto Mrs Buttons worried Adelle. “Why don’t I look after Mr Buttons?” Adelle shared a smile with Laurence at Kate’s hesitation before handing over the bear.

“Ready, set, go!”

Williams held the door open as he strode through at speed with Kate perched safely on his back. “Little bit had a growth spurt in the car,” he said.

“I’m tallest,” Kate agreed happily, “I see everything.”

Trusting to Vandermeer’s powers of organisation, Adelle asked, “Kevin, I’d appreciate your assistance in preparing a room for Kate. I’m sure you need to brief the Colonel, but I’d like to get her settled as quickly as possible.”

“Of course Miss, er, Mrs. Dominic.”

“I can brief him,” Williams offered. “You want to get started, Dom?”

Her husband looked gloriously uncertain, as though he had only just remembered his job. “If your men bring you up to date now, you will be able to have tea with us and spend some time with Kate before bed.”

“You’re right,” he sighed, “as usual. Vandermeer, make sure Adelle gets whatever she needs for Kate.” Lifting the little girl from his shoulders, he spun her around before setting her back on her feet. “You and Adelle are going to explore,” he said.

“We’ll find your bedroom,” Adelle added, bending down to return Mr. Buttons, “with room for Mr. Buttons and Gustav.”

Spying Brigitte watching, she addressed her in German. “I will need a bedroom for Miss Kate.” Kate drew back at the unfamiliar sound. “That’s German, the language the people who live here speak. I asked Brigitte to help us find a bedroom for you; she works here.”

“What we speak?” Kate asked, ignoring the maid.

“We speak English,” Adelle said, enjoying her curiosity.

“What speak in Un-tied States?” Adelle heard stifled laughter from, she suspected, Williams.

“They speak English as well.”

Kate looked comically confused at this and Laurence laughed. “That requires a lot more explanation,” he said, as he ruffled Kate’s hair. “It’s a good question though.” He sighed. “Good luck on the bedroom hunt. I’ll see you both soon.”

Although concerned by Laurence’s departure, Kate looked reassured when Adelle showed no sign of leaving her. “We’ll bring our luggage up and unpack once we’ve decided where Kate will sleep.” Remembering the shopping they had done the previous day, Adelle added, “There’s one bag I’m sure the Colonel will want to show her himself."

With Kate’s hand in hers, they followed Vandermeer and Brigitte upstairs. “Are there any children’s bedrooms in the house?” she asked.

“Yes, madam, there is a nursery on the floor above the Colonel’s rooms.”

“Well, that won’t do.” If Aunt Juliet found them a suitable nurse, her role would be to help Adelle, especially when they travelled. She had no intention of paying someone else to bring up her daughter.

“There is a small room on the same floor,” Brigitte offered.

“Let’s look at that.” Located across the hallway from the master bedroom and away from the main staircase, Adelle felt there would be little risk of Kate falling down it if she came looking for them in the middle of the night. Braced for fussy and garish decor, the plainly decorated room, stripped of furniture pleasantly surprised Adelle. The window seat would do nicely as a spot for Kate to arrange her bears. “This will do very well,” she said. “We’ll need a single bed, preferably one that isn’t too high off the ground and doesn’t have any hangings. A chair would be nice, by the bed. And could you light a fire to warm the room?”

“Yes, madam.”

As Vandermeer departed in search of furniture, Adelle asked, “Shall we go and see where Laurence and I sleep?”

“Not here?”

“There wouldn’t be room.”She led Kate across the hallway. “We’re here, nice and close. Now, what else can we find?”

“Law-rents?”

“He’s working just now, but he’ll come and see us later.” She half expected Kate to complain, but she put her hand in Adelle’s and leaned back against her legs. “Are you tired, Kate? You’ve had a very big day.”

“Tired,” Kate agreed, snuggling close when Adelle picked her up. “More s’plore?”

“For a little while.” Adelle showed her the rest of the floor before returning to Kate’s room where they discovered a small bathroom through an adjoining doorway. “Now, where do Laurence and I sleep?” She wanted to see if Kate remembered and pleased when she pointed to the right door. “Clever girl,” she praised.

Carefully making her way downstairs, she headed to the kitchen where their German cook clucked happily at the new addition to the household before telling Adelle she looked too thin.

* * *


Laurence Dominic halted just inside the kitchen, taking in the cheerful domestic scene. Adelle and Kate sat at the small table where they often took informal meals and had clearly been taste testing dinner.


“May I get you something, Colonel?” asked the cook.


“Law-rents!” Kate launched herself at him. “We’re having dumplings. They’re yummy!”


“Did any actually make it into your mouth?” he asked. The girl looked at him as though he’d gone insane. He brushed her cheek gently with his fingertips. “You’ve got a lot of food on your face.”


“I sorry.”


He couldn’t stand to see her sad. Recognizing the danger in allowing Kate to manipulate him, he murmured, “Don’t be sorry. Just try to be a little neater, ok?”


Brightening instantly, she agreed. “You eat wif us?” Kate asked. Unable to turn down that invitation, Dominic sat and listened to Kate chatter about her room and ask Adelle questions about the story she’d been telling her. He felt odd but couldn’t determine why.


“Laurence?”


“I’m sorry, what?” he said, sluggishly coming out of his reverie, realizing he’d eaten next to nothing and that Adelle and the cook regarded him worriedly.


Kate listed precariously in her chair. “We should take her up now,” Adelle said.


“Right,” he muttered, rising and lifting Kate into his arms. Something lurched deep within him, when she wrapped her tiny arms around his neck and sighed contentedly. Such blind trust gratified and terrified him, eclipsing the detached, he decided, feeling from the kitchen. Kate let them wash and change her into nightclothes. She sleepily protested when Laurence put her down in the bed. Her eyes blinked open, as Adelle tucked her in.


“Good night, sweetheart,” Adelle murmured. Kate smiled up at her and snuffled.


“Night, Kate,” he said, resting his hand on the crown of her head for a moment. “Pleasant dreams,” he added, just as his mother always had.


“Good night, daddy.”


Clearly oblivious to the bombshell she’d just dropped, Kate fell asleep. Dominic stood, rooted to the spot.


“Do you plan to watch her all night, daddy?” Adelle asked, as she slipped her arms around him from behind.


He looked over his shoulder. “I didn’t imagine that?” She shook her head and kissed him lightly on the lips. Dominic grinned. He knew he probably looked like an idiot, but he didn’t care.


“Let’s leave her to rest,” she suggested.


As Adelle steered him across the hall, Dominic marveled at how much one word changed things. It shouldn’t matter. Hell, it didn’t. He was responsible for Kate, regardless of how she referred to him and yet, that word from her lips meant the world to him.


“It’s all right to be happy, you know,” Adelle said, stepping into his arms. “You’ve earned a measure of it.”


“Not this much, Adelle.” He cupped her chin in his hand, tilted her head up slightly and kissed her. “I feel like this is all too good to be true. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning and find out that the last week or so has been a very pleasant dream.”


“The very kind you wished for Kate.”


The memory of the light going out of John Devon’s eyes surfaced suddenly. “If anything happened to Kate or to you, I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t think I could endure that kind of pain.” Adelle hugged him and rested her head on his shoulder. The warmth of her body should’ve soothed him, as she no doubt intended, but it reinforced how cold he’d be without her. How cold he’d been without her—first for years and then for mere days. “I’ll have to dismiss the staff.”


“What?”


He rarely surprised Adelle, but he took no pleasure in it this time. “I can’t justify running the risk of having a household full of German nationals with Kate here.”


“Laurence, take a breath.”


The surprised shoe now on the other foot, he echoed, “What?”


“You’ve just been called daddy for the first time. I imagine that is a very emotional experience and understand how it might engender intense feelings of protectiveness. However, I believe dismissing the staff is unwarranted.”


He looked pointedly down at the forearm that had turned black when he’d been poisoned instead of Adelle. “They’re the enemy.”


“As you’ve said yourself, the war is over,” she said, tone level and nonjudgmental.


“They’re spying on us, Adelle.”


“Perhaps, but it is a long way from passing along a comment one has overheard to harming a child.” He shifted his weight, but Adelle didn’t allow him to pull away. “It wouldn’t behoove the Germans to assault the family of the ranking American officer in Berlin. They want to know what you’re thinking, not give you an excuse to flex America’s muscles.”


“Are you willing to risk Kate’s life on that analysis?”


“Yes,” she said. Her certainty spoke to him, because he trusted her instincts implicitly. Dominic relaxed with a heavy sigh. “That’s more like it,” Adelle whispered.


“You want me to sigh again?” he asked, hugging her tightly.


“I simply want you.”


“Have at me.” Adelle untucked his shirt. “She called me daddy.” Considering how he’d been acting, Dominic caught Adelle’s hands in his. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad. She remembers her mom and never really knew her dad, so it’s easier for her to think of me that way. It’s just … I’m just …” Inarticulate didn’t sit well. Never had. But Adelle and now Kate rendered him tongue tied anyway. “I like it. That’s all.”


“I know.” She kissed him, slow and languorous, making him smile and forget his discomfort. “Must I refer to you in that manner in private, Laurence?”


The thought of his wife calling him what Kate had was at once vastly complicated and gloriously simple. “No,” he mumbled. “One day, I don’t know when; you won’t be able to make me blush anymore.”


“I hope it isn’t soon,” she said, teasing his right nipple with her fingernails through his shirt. “I rather enjoy corrupting the morals of an American Colonel.”


“Yeah, I get that,” he said, breaths coming faster.


“Are you feeling particularly naughty?” She punctuated her question with a sharp flick of her nail on his erect nipple.


He groaned and pulled her in for a heated kiss, hoping she didn’t mind the decided lack of finesse. He needed to feel her lips yield. Trying for casual and cursing his curiosity, he asked, “What do you have in mind, Adelle?”


* * *

What indeed? Adelle liked the idea of keeping him guessing. Taking his hand, she drew him across the room and asked, “Will anyone object to our having an early night?”

“We’re on our honeymoon. They’re surprised we’re not in bed.”

She slipped out of his grasp and began to slowly unfasten her blouse. “You can love both of us, can’t you Laurence?” A little ashamed for even asking the question, she said, “Forget I asked; I’m being foolish.”

“You’re being human,” he corrected, kissing her lightly. “Things have changed; you’re bound to be uncertain. You’ve given me everything I wanted and while I was immersed in being happy, I didn’t stop to think that your life is the one that’s being turned upside down.”

“Your life will change as well; I’ll make sure of it.”

He chuckled. “Clearly. But tomorrow Kate will be in your care while I have inspections, reports, paperwork and whatever Vandermeer has saved up. I know you have your work, but until Kate has settled...”

“I’ll stay with her. I don’t mind. Actually, it will do me good to focus on something else for a while.”

He sat on the bed and pulled her onto his lap. “You’ve taken this all in stride and I never thought to ask. Are you happy, Adelle?”

“I have been very remiss, if I haven’t told you that I am, that you and Kate complete me in a way I had no right to expect. Being parents will change some elements of our relationship, certainly, but I need to know you’ll love me, for me. That you can be the Colonel, Kate’s father and my lover and confidante.”

“I’ll happily spend the rest of my life convincing you of that.”

She smiled, stroking the nape of his neck with her fingertips. “I don’t think I’ll require that much convincing, although I have no objection to a demonstration now.”

His demonstration impressed, ending with her wrapped up in his embrace, naked, sweaty and very content. She purred when he stroked the curve of her hip with his fingertips. It seemed a shame to move, except that she knew she would be able to return, that she had a home.

“Where are you going?” Laurence asked as she quickly dressed, shivering in the cold air.

“To check on Kate.” He grinned at her, suggesting she was as smitten by their daughter as he, a fact she wouldn’t deny.

Creeping quietly across the hallway, she pushed Kate’s bedroom door open. Fast asleep, Kate clasped one teddy bear in her arms and another stood sentinel at the end of the bed. Her chest rose and fell in steady, even breaths. Adelle didn’t think she had ever seen anything so beautiful.

“Is she OK?” Laurence whispered, slipping his arms around his waist.

“She seems to be dreaming pleasantly,” she said, leaning back against him.

They stood together in silence, content to watch Kate sleep. “I’ve been thinking,” Adelle began.

“About?”

“Kate’s used to having other children around. I don’t want her to grow up the way I did, spending all of her time with adults. Laurence, I don’t want her to be an only child.”

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Oh my goodness. I just can't with this story. It's so perfect. <3

It was nice to give them a happy ending (but for an epilogue). This version of Dom and Adelle had a lot to overcome.

Oh yes they did. I loved this version of Dom and Adelle exactly for that. I really do hope they get a happy ending. ;)

Awww, Adelle wants another child for Kate! Plus Kate calling Dom 'daddy' was precious and wonderful.

Driscoll is adorable, speaking stuffed bear.

I can't wait for the epilogue.

As Sebastian predicted might happen, Adelle doesn't want the sort of lonely life she had for Kate. I HAD to write Dom being called daddy for the first time. HAD to.

Driscoll speaking stuffed bear and Williams give Dom a hard time were two of my other favorite bits in this piece.

Kind of sad there's only the epilogue left, but what a long road it has been. Alot happened between here and there.

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