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Cutting It Close
damien listening guitar
Title: Cutting It Close
Rating: R (violence, language and sex)
Author: rogoblue
Summary: Dominic has dodged the Spy in the House of Love bullet, but how can he and Adelle begin to move forward with events whirling out of control? Ninth in the Let’s Pretend series (eighth is NSA, seventh is Return, sixth is Flight, fifth is Tactical Maneuvers, fourth is Strategic Planning, third is Parisian Complications, second is Pretending to Pretend. Link to the eighth is below this summary. You can get to the others from there or via my live journal. Link to this one is below the dedication.

Shall we discuss the field assessment made in a hotel elevator?

Spoilers: Season 1 a tiny bit and 2 a little bit through episode 12.
Disclaimers: The toys are Joss Whedon’s. The idea is mine.
Dedication: To Julie for making me think about what I actually do when I write and for making me RP as Adelle which is more difficult for me.

Laurence Dominic opened his eyes and wondered where in the hell he was. The room was unfamiliar and the amount of sunlight streaming in was clearly unusual. His eyes landed on a digital clock on a bedside table that read 1:27. Shit! The spark of adrenaline recalled the events of the previous day, including the less than grand finale of falling asleep with a gorgeous Adelle DeWitt in his arms without having satisfied her sexually beforehand. Sitting up, he noticed one of his suits hung up on the closet door. Unless he was very much mistaken, a shirt hung behind it with a tie draped on the hanger also. My carefully cultivated badass reputation would take a hit if I wandered the House in the early afternoon in clothes I’ve slept in.

Deciding the situation was already as bad as it was likely to get, Dominic went into the bathroom and regarded his reflection in the mirror. He still looked a bit tired to his eyes but accepted that it couldn’t be helped. The lack of a shaving kit doomed him to another bearded hour or two. Stepping into hot water drove those minor cares away. It felt good and being clean would feel even better. Hoping the shampoo and body wash weren’t scented in a manner he’d regret, Dominic poured a little of each onto his hand. The shampoo had a light scent of citrus, the wash smelled like freshly ground ginger. Not bad. Relishing the surreal aspects of the experience, Dominic took a longer shower than normal. Only when he toweled off did he allow himself to think of what he might face when he opened he door to Adelle’s office. Best case, no one’s there or just Adelle. That’s also probably the most likely.

Returning to the bedroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, Dominic thought he heard Topher’s voice. Christ! Anyone but Topher. He’s feeling grateful about Ivy, but I doubt he’s feeling grateful enough to keep his mouth shut about me emerging from here at this hour. Resting on top of the dresser were socks, boxers and a belt. Dominic dressed quickly, efficiently and with rising alarm. He heard Dr. Saunders, Langton, Grayson, Jenkins and a few others. Is she having a fucking staff meeting out there? He took far more time than was required to tie his tie. Dominic wasn’t a coward, but he didn’t want to deal with the reception he was likely to get. His eyes landed on a door on the opposite side of the bedroom from the one to Adelle’s office. Where does that door lead? A surge of hope welling within him as he strove to remember, Dominic crossed the room and tried the door. Finding it locked didn’t daunt him. He picked it in under thirty seconds. Opening it slowly, Dominic breathed a sigh of relief and his memory caught up with his eyes. No wonder I’d forgotten about this. No one ever uses it. The other office was spartanly furnished, décor, to the extent there was any, decidedly masculine. There was a troubling feeling of recently disturbed disuse to the room, but it was blessedly empty. Making sure the door would lock when he pulled it shut behind him, Dominic made his escape into the office next door, silently vowing to check on who had been using it. Seconds later, he stood in front of Adelle’s ‘client’ door, wondering if it was unlocked. A careful turn of the knob revealed it to be.

He took a deep breath and entered DeWitt’s office, stopping three paces inside the door. Grayson’s startled glance served as the only indication his arrival had been noticed.

“We must put these trying events behind us and put our House in order, so that this sad chapter in our history is not repeated,” Adelle said. “Are there any questions?”

Topher grinned. “Where’d you hide Dominic?”

“Not nearly far enough away to save you,” Laurence said, full on stoicism not permitting a hint of a smile at Topher’s wide eyed awkward spin of fear.

“Thank you for joining us, Mr. Dominic,” Adelle said, amused eyes softening a rather stern expression.

“I miss anything?” he inquired.

“Nothing of which you were unaware,” Adelle replied. “Moving on to the next item, for which I have need of you, Laurence, so your timing is impeccable, as always.”

Every eye in the room turned to him and Dominic strove to show none of his discomfort. Since when do I have impeccable timing?

Adelle glided toward him in that sexy way she often did. She held out a piece of paper. Perversely, he decided not to accept it. Then she smiled at him and his hand reached out of its own accord. Standing just a tad too close, Adelle said, “I must ask you to name your successor.”

“What?” he muttered.

Adelle tapped the paper she’d handed him. “I’d be pleased if you accepted this promotion, Mr. Dominic. The special project we discussed in Paris will require much of your time to see to an appropriate conclusion. Thus, I suggest you take on the project while continuing to see to my personal security and delegate the day to day security of the House to whomever you see fit.” Dominic smelled the shampoo he’d just used in her hair. “Security will continue to report through you, since I sense you’re not quite ready to let go.”

Dominic looked down, blinked and his eyes widened. “That number has to be wrong.”

“Rest assured, Mr. Dominic, Judith and typographical errors do not mix.”

“Jesus,” he muttered, staring at a tripling of his salary.

“Is the compensation package unsatisfactory?” Adelle asked.

“No, but—.”

Adelle moved slightly closer and Dominic marveled, convinced as he’d been of the impossibility of such a maneuver in a professional context. “Am I safe in assuming your choice is in this room?” Adelle asked.

He turned to Grayson. Monica Elm murmured, “Yes.”

“Ms. Grayson, would you consider taking over for me?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

Dominic laughed. “When was the last time you called me that?”

“My interview.”

“Don’t let it happen again.”

“Absolutely not.” The smile on Grayson’s face demanded one from Dominic.

“Don’t embarrass me, Lisa,” he said, enjoying the slight blush his use of her first name had garnered.

“Do you like your new office, Mr. Dominic?” Adelle said, pleased, somewhat smug expression firmly in place.

New office? What? Oh, the empty one I went through to get here. I guess that explains the look of recent activity. “It’s a bit sparse, but I’ll enjoy the windows.”

“Don’t concern yourself on the sparse account. Judith has many ideas to transform that sterile space into yours.”

“Maybe it should stay sterile,” Topher offered, grinning.

Slowly turning to Topher, Dominic said, “And maybe your intestines should be tied into knots and fed to starving rats.”

“At least I have more going on than a ‘Special Project.’” Topher countered, “to justify my seriously not modest salary.”

“There’s no justification—,” Dominic began.

“Laurence,” Adelle said, stepping between Topher and Dominic as she’d done so often in the past. “What do we know about Mr. Higgins and Mr. Hendricks?”

Grayson stepped forward before Dominic even thought about admitting he didn’t know. “They left the building through the east door at street level,” Grayson said, “apparently under their own power. We can account for all of our vehicles, so they either had their own transportation or continued on foot.”

“Was there any indication they weren’t alone?” Dominic asked, uncomfortably aware of Langton hovering to his right at the edge of his peripheral vision.

“The blank in the video feeds could’ve accommodated two or three others,” she admitted.

“Anyone else notably missing during the relevant timeframe?” he asked.

She met his eyes fearlessly but with a hint of apology. “We’ll check, Dominic, but we’ve been monitoring airports and marinas to intercept them if they attempt to leave the city as well as hospitals, hotels, extended stay residences, apartment rentals and the like in case they don’t.”

“If they end up in the system at all, it’ll be in one morgue or another.”

“That’s uplifting,” Topher muttered.

Seeing the request on Adelle’s face, Dominic ignored the neuroscientist. “Keep me apprised, Ms. Grayson,” he said.

“Updates as events warrant, Dominic,” she replied.

Adelle said, “I want to return to business as usual as soon as possible. I’ve cleared a number of engagements for later today and expect us to return to a full slate over the next few days.” Making eye contact with each of the handlers in turn, Adelle said, “Keep a close eye on your actives. Report anything unusual, however trivial it may seem. We simply cannot afford problems that can be avoided through the use of due diligence.” After evaluating her audience for a moment, Adelle said, “That will be all.” Hand grasping Dominic’s bicep, she said, “One more moment of your time, Laurence.”

“Sure,” he said, sorely tempted to flip off Topher’s I-know-what’s-really-going-on-between-the-two-of-you smirk. The others arrayed themselves before the elevator to take it down in two groups of seven. When the elevator returned from its first trip, Judith emerged, carrying a small bag and a laptop computer that looked suspiciously like his own to Dominic.

“Here you are, Ms. DeWitt,” Judith said, offering Adelle the bag.

“Thank you, Judith.”

“I’ll be next door if you need me.” Judith aimed a bright smile at Laurence. “When you’re ready, Mr. Dominic, we’ll see about making your office your own.” Dominic nodded. When the client door closed behind Judith, he and Adelle were alone.

Adelle held out the bag Judith had given her. “I believe you wish to shave.”

Accepting the shaving kit, Dominic muttered, “Yeah.”

Smiling, Adelle suggested, “Go on, Laurence. You’ve fulfilled the agreement you made on Evander’s plane to go unshaven. I cannot recommend you endure the grueling process of selection of office furniture, art and accents that Judith is about to put you through in any sort of discomfort, however minor.”

“Thanks,” he muttered, retreating to the sizable bathroom off of the bedroom. Draping his suit jacket over the edge of the tub, Dominic removed his tie and undid several of the buttons on his shirt. He put the shaving cream on the counter and opened the case containing the razor. A straight razor?

“Do you know how to use one?” Adelle asked from the door of the bathroom.

“In theory,” Dominic muttered, examining the blade as though evaluating a weapon.

“Allow me.” Adelle took the razor from his hand.


“You did say you could imagine baring your throat and handing me a knife.” Holding the razor like she knew what she was doing, Adelle added, “A golden opportunity to do just that has presented itself. Do you wish to see if the actual experience eclipses that of your imagination?”

Eyes slipping from her to the razor, he said, “I was speaking figuratively, Adelle. I never imagined it literally, not even after the disclosure of your dominatrix side.”

“I suppose it’s simply a matter of how badly you wish to shave, then.” Eyes laughing, she said, “Or what your hesitance says about you… or me … or what you think of me or what you want me to think of you.”

“Ok, fine. Let’s do this.”

Adelle held out her hand. “May I have the shaving foam, Laurence,” she said.

Was it only a week ago, less, when everything seemed normal, maybe even a bit boring? Dutifully, Dominic handed over the requested item. Adelle gently applied the foam to his face, massaging his skin lightly with her fingertips. Turning him toward the mirror, Adelle lifted the razor, smiling at his deep steadying breath. With slow, sure, incredibly sensual movements, Adelle removed the stubble from his right cheek. Turning his head, she examined her handiwork, stroking his smooth cheek lightly. Eyes locked on his in the mirror when he faced it again, she repeated the process on the left cheek. When she wet her slightly parted lips with her tongue, Dominic gripped the edge of the counter tightly. It took a supreme effort for him to keep still as the blade moved over and beneath his chin. She’s too fucking close. Too damn sure of what she’s doing with that thing. Too aware of how fucking erotic this is. God, Dom, blame your reaction on supreme stress and a woman who knows her knives and move on. Adelle bit his earlobe lightly as she drew the blade with care along the line of his throat. The slightly painful nip focused Dominic’s attention to the feel of her body pressed against his. He bit his lip to keep his reaction nonverbal. Her knowing eyes almost undid his effort, but Dominic managed to hold on to a few shreds of dignity.

“There we are then,” Adelle said, rinsing off the blade in hot water, handing Dominic a small towel for his face. Gratefully, he hid his face in the towel for a moment. “I enjoyed that, Laurence,” Adelle whispered, sending a shudder through his body. “Shaving you could become habit forming.”

Not knowing what to do with that statement, Dominic moved around Adelle to retrieve his jacket. Tugging it on quickly, he grabbed his tie and draped it around his neck. Adelle stood before him as he buttoned his shirt and lifted his collar. With perfect timing, she swooped in and pushed his hands away from his tie. Smiling in a way that made Dominic nervous, Adelle took the ends of his tie in hand and tied it with the same unhurried confident competence and aplomb with which she’d shaved him. As Adelle tightened the knot, Laurence realized this woman could well put the equivalent of a noose around his neck someday soon. The image was disturbing on a number of levels, yet oddly compelling. I’ve never been a sub and I don’t intend to start now but, damn, this was hot.

They faced each other in the palatial bathroom, both breathing a bit rapidly. “It’s been forever since a woman’s tied my tie for me,” Dominic murmured.

“I’m pleased to be of service.”

Dominic’s gaze narrowed in focus to Adelle’s lips. She murmured his name. He caught her chin in his hand and tilted her head up. “What in the hell are you doing to me, Adelle?” he said.

“Arousing you?” she ventured, placing both hands on his chest.

“Don’t pretend that’s a question.”

She laughed and he pulled her into his arms. “Ms. DeWitt,” Judith called from the office. “You asked me to collect Mr. Dominic just before your slate of late afternoon appointments. Have your plans changed?”

“Don’t tempt me to christen my new office by taking Judith on the desk,” Dominic muttered, tightening his hold.

Adelle pushed against his chest, smiling when he didn’t release her. “You won’t,” she said.

“What makes you so sure?” he asked.

“Judith knows better.”

He breathed a deep heavy sigh. “That’s undoubtedly true. How long will you be in meetings?”

“Until 6:30 pm or a bit later.”



Smirking at her mild annoyance, he said, “I might actually be able to get a little work done today.”

* * *

Having parked his car several blocks from the bar he was heading toward, Dominic strode along the sidewalk, thinking of everything and nothing at all. The unmistakable sense of pursuit washed over him. Dominic looked over his shoulder. He glanced in shop windows to see if he could glimpse a reflection. The late afternoon sunlight made the strategy unworkable. Relax, Dom. It’s probably nothing. No one saw you go. Only Judith knew you were intending to leave the building. Langton can’t be everywhere at once. Echo is so much in demand; he probably wasn’t even on the premises. The feeling persisted. Sighing, Dominic pulled out his phone.

“You’re late, Dominic,” Clarice said.

“I’m not coming,” he countered.

“Why not?”

“I’m a block away and I think I’m being followed. I can’t make a tail but it’s there. I know it is.”

“Trust your instincts,” she advised, “but walk past the bar. I’m sitting outside. I need to be able to honestly say I saw you.”


Her voice lowered, concern clear in every syllable. “How are you, Dominic?”

“I’ve been far far better.”

“Specifics, please.”

“I nearly got a one way express ticket to the Attic yesterday, so I suggest this, Clarice. I’ll call you every day to discuss your flowers—the geraniums are lovely by the way. I’m partial to the red ones. Tomorrow is daffodils. If I miss a day or talk about the wrong flower, assume I’m fucked and don’t believe another word you hear from my mouth. Understood?” The silence lengthened to an extent that Dominic wondered if they’d lost their connection. “Clarice?” he said.

“How many years have we worked together, Dominic?”

“Too many.”

“I’ve never heard panic in your voice before just now.”

“You’d panic too if you were facing having your identity downloaded from your brain to something with a convenient handle for ease of transport and storage.”

“I want you out.”

Dominic took a deep breath, looking over his shoulder once again, seeing a movement that looked furtive but not able to pinpoint it. “Do we really have to go through this dance, Clarice? You want me out, but Clyde doesn’t give a shit, because he wants to use DeWitt to bring Rossum down, with or without her cooperation. Clyde’s the boss and the Rossum operation is his raison d’etre.”

“He won’t look the other way if you’re backed into a corner. You know that. He respects us both.”

“Because we move like the dutiful chess pieces we are, Clarice. The moment we stop moving along the diagonal or castling or whatever he wants, we’re expendable.”

“Dominic, no one with as much field experience as you have is expendable.”

Walking faster in an effort to dissipate his agitation, Dominic said, “I am if I get made.”

“No, you aren’t,” she murmured. “Not to me.”

“Then be ready, Clarice,” he said. “For anything. An extraction. To back me in LA. To throw your weight around for me in DC. To use Clyde’s precious international cooperation to move quickly.”

“Clyde and I are at your disposal.” Tension obvious in her voice, she said, “He told me to say that.”

“I’ll bet.”

Clarice sighed. “I don’t hang my agents out to dry. Remember that.”

As he walked past the bar where he’d intended to meet Clarice, Laurence pondered the code phrasing they’d set up so long ago it seemed like another lifetime. So I’d know if she was lying to me under orders. She hasn’t used it yet. Is she about to?

“God, Dominic, you look exhausted.”

“Not as much as I did yesterday,” he countered. “I think I slept fourteen hours straight.”

“You’re still behind.”

“I get that, Clarice.”

“I miss the beard.”

Dominic’s step faltered. “How do you know about that?”

“LAX security cameras.” Clarice paused and Dominic sensed she was smiling. “Scruffy suits you.”

Shaking his head, Dominic chastised himself for speaking without thinking. “Don’t talk to me about the fucking beard.”

“Why not?”

What’s the point of reminding yourself never to speak without thinking when you do just that in the next fucking breath? “Because I haven’t decided whether I prefer a trip to the Attic or death by straight razor yet.”

“You shave with a straight razor?” Clarice said, tone thoughtful. “I never knew that.”

“Did you just want to see me ambulatory and more or less intact or did you have something to tell me, Clarice?”

“Clyde wants to know how FUBAR played.”

“Like I told you it would.” Taking the opportunity of a break in the foot traffic moving in the opposite direction, Dominic passed three teenage girls, ostensibly together, all talking on their cell phones.

“You’ve always said Ivy was one of the few people who didn’t make sense,” Clarice said.

“I have and I said the same damn thing yesterday too. Convincingly enough that Adelle might be persuaded to play ball, even if we can’t name our team with any precision, and Topher owes me one.” Thinking of Hendricks, Dominic amended, “Make that two.”

“That could be … interesting.”

“Or not, Clarice. Anything else?”

“You actually said Ivy couldn’t be the spy despite the evidence the active obtained?”

“I did.”


A satisfied smile found its way onto Dominic’s face. “I outdid myself.”

“That’s saying a lot.”

Her careful annunciation interested him. “It’s the truth, Clarice.”

“Watch your back, Dominic.”

“Roger that.”

* * *

Laurence Dominic took the street elevator to his new office, thinking about all the things Clarice had and hadn’t said. He stopped short as he stepped inside. Judith sat before his computer, typing like a madwoman, phone tucked between her shoulder and ear, “I’m sure he’s fine, Ms. DeWitt. Mr. Dominic said he wanted to get out for a while, much as you want to do with regard to dinner.” Judith met his eyes, sighing in what looked to be relief. “And here he is now. Safe and sound. I’ll send him along.” Judith hung up the phone. “I’m transferring your intelligence program, Mr. Dominic, not surfing porn on your machine.”

“As Adelle would say, ‘My relief is profound.’”

“Your British accent is good.”

He shrugged, realizing the pain in his left shoulder had lessened considerably. “It’s all right. I’m sorry I’m late, Judith. I didn’t realize Adelle wanted to go out for dinner. I thought she was having something sent up and I could get here thirty seconds in advance and be on time. I’ll make sure she knows it’s my fault.”

“As my mother, God rest her soul, would have said, ‘Make it snappy.’”

Dominic opted to approach Adelle’s office from the client door, sensing the choice might evince an appropriate amount of contrition. On a whim, he knocked.

Boyd Langton opened the door, smiling gently. “We were about to imprint Echo, Sierra and Victor as bloodhounds,” Langton said, “to search for you.”

“Echo as bloodhound you might get me to pay to see,” Dominic muttered, stepping around the handler.

“You can afford it,” Boyd said.

Dominic shrugged. That’s getting easier and easier. “Once I get a paycheck or two at the new salary under my belt.”

“Thank you, Mr. Langton,” Adelle said. “That will be all for now.” Dominic’s eyes didn’t leave Langton until the doors of the elevator to the House had closed on the larger man. “You did give me a turn, Laurence, when no one knew where you were. I can’t hiccup without security monitoring the volume and you wander the streets of Los Angeles at will. This is a double standard that needs addressing.”

“You were here alone with Langton,” Dominic growled. “You put any recklessness I might have to shame, Adelle. What were you up to?”

“Convincing him I view him as essential to my operation,” Adelle said, stalking Laurence much as she had Ivy when she thought the young neuroscientist was an NSA agent. “Leading him to believe I’d purposefully marginalized you in this House by assigning you a corporate-level security project, because I share his concerns regarding your actions in Paris. Intimating I’d decided to pacify you with money and an office with a window in order to have you more conveniently to hand while I use you up sexually. Wondering all the while what he’d done with you.”

“Topher is going to run with your ‘Special Project’ euphemism,” Dominic grumbled, mustering a reasonable glare. “You owe me for that, Adelle.”

“Name your price.”

“I’ll get back to you on that.” Giving up on maintaining the glare, he said, “I’m sorry I screwed up our dinner reservations.”

“Not to worry, Mr. Dominic. Judith has smoothed over any and all ruffled feathers. I would like to go now, though. I’m famished and the car has been waiting for some time.”

“Sure,” he said, wondering when he’d last eaten. Realizing he couldn’t remember but knowing it had been in Europe, Dominic wondered at his chances of grabbing a bag of peanuts—the only thing worth having from the sickeningly healthy vending machine. Deciding they were closer to none on the slim to none scale didn’t improve his mood. “Where are we going?”

“It’s new, trendy, intimate and extremely highly recommended with respect to both beverages and cuisine.”

“What’s it called, Adelle,” he asked, swiping his card through the reader to call the elevator, not allowing his eyes to drop to her breasts or her hips or her ass or her legs.

She laughed. “I don’t remember.”

He chuckled. “Maybe you’re human after all.”

* * *

The ride in the car had been comfortably silent. Adelle had stared pensively out of the window. Dominic had almost dozed. Their driver handed Adelle out when they arrived at the restaurant—Belleruche. Dominic rounded the rear of the car and offered her his arm in a deliberately old fashioned gesture. As he hoped, Adelle accepted. Receiving immediate attention upon entering the restaurant, they followed the fawning young man who wove a serpentine path toward their table.

“Laurence?” Dominic turned. Adelle moved gracefully with him. The woman who’d called his name stood, smiling. “It is you,” she said.

Dominic blinked a few times to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating. “Casey,” he murmured. “It’s … been a long time.”

“You look … edible, as usual,” said the young woman in pale blue silk.

“You look … how you always look.” Awesome. A charged silence fell as the two regarded each other. Laurence recovered first. “Um … Adelle, this is Casey. I … ah … told you about her.”

“Seriously?” Casey said, regarding Dominic with what could only be viewed as a combination of respect and skepticism.

“Hood of a sports car, seriously,” Adelle said, stepping smoothly forward. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Laughing, Casey shook the hand Adelle offered. “How did you get him to talk about the women in his past?” she asked. “I never had any luck with that.”

“Coercion,” Adelle replied. The women shared a laugh.

“This is Andrea,” Casey said, gesturing to the other woman at her table. “We’re here trolling for men and you walk in on the arm of one of my favorites.” Casey raised her glass. “I salute you, Adelle.”

“Casey, can I ask you something?” Dominic ventured.

Grinning, she stepped closer and whispered, “Anything, baby.”

“Why’d you come here tonight?”

“This is the place to be.”

“Sure, but why tonight? Why now?”

“Andrea suggested it,” Casey replied, slowly, carefully, eyes watchful.

“Any particular reason, Andrea?” Dominic asked.

“A client recommended it,” she said, shrugging dismissively. “Adam touted this place and got me the reservation earlier today.”


“Adam Adair,” Andrea said. “He’s in aerospace … or something about space.”

Dominic asked, “What’s he look like?”

“Laurence,” Casey interjected. “What’s going on?”

“I’m not sure, Casey.”

Andrea and Casey exchanged looks. At Casey’s slight nod, Andrea said, “He’s shorter than you by a couple of inches, blonde, sort of gentle looking. I’m not sure how else to describe him.”

“Thanks, Andrea,” Dominic muttered, not sure whether to be grateful Boyd Langton and Adam Adair weren’t one and the same. Turning his attention back to Casey, Dominic’s breath caught in his throat. She’s even more gorgeous now than she was when we were together. Somehow he forced the words, “It’s really nice to see you,” past the blockage.

“Right back at you, Laurence.” She smiled ruefully. “I wish it wasn’t.”

“Me too.”

The smile those two words engendered was nearly blinding.

“Oh my God, Casey, is this him?” Andrea asked, suddenly eyeing Dominic with avid interest. “The guy you were … um … that you almost … you know.” Casey’s slow nod drew his attention to the line of her throat and memories Dominic thought long buried surged to the fore.

Feeling he needed to say something, anything, to get this situation under a modicum of control, Dominic said, “Casey, I—,” at the same time she began, “Laurence, we—.” The pleasure and sadness lurking in Casey’s eyes stirred something deep within him.

Squeezing his arm gently, Adelle said, “I believe that young man is most desirous of seating us, Laurence.”

Casey slipped a business card into his jacket pocket. “Call me. I’d love a chance to catch up.” Holding her hands up as though Adelle was pointing a gun at her, Casey added, “Just to talk, Adelle. No touching.”

“Well, then,” Adelle said, urging Laurence to follow, “under those conditions, I imagine something might be arranged.”

Dominic chose his seat at their table to place his back to Casey. Unwilling to acknowledge how rapidly his heart was beating, how unsettled he felt, Dominic concentrated very hard on what sort of cocktail he wanted.

“You think this was a set up,” Adelle stated. “That you were meant to encounter Casey here tonight.”

“I do.” Laurence took Adelle’s hand. “I don’t believe in coincidences, Adelle. Los Angeles is a big city. I don’t care how trendy this place is. Casey being here on the same week night we are at the same time. Even if we’re a little late, it still tracks. It looked like they’d been here a while. Who knew where you wanted to go?”

“Judith, my driver, Grayson, the members of our security detail, whoever else they or Grayson told.” DeWitt considered for a few moments. “I believe that’s all.”

“Hmmmm,” Dominic muttered as their chipper waiter appeared.

Adelle ordered a vodka martini. On a whim, Dominic opted to join her, shrugging at Adelle’s raised eyebrow. “If Adam Adair or whoever set this up knows about Casey,” he mused, “what else do they know about me?”

“How many secrets are you still keeping from me, Laurence?”

The hard edge in Adelle’s tone sent another spike of adrenaline though his system. Do they know I’m NSA? That’s the big question. “I just meant we might not have the tactical advantage we thought we would with respect to my black ops past.” He met Adelle’s eyes squarely, submitting to her prolonged intense scrutiny without flinching.

The arrival of their drinks broke the tension. Adelle raised hers. “To old flames,” she said, smiling indulgently at him.

“Seems risky to readily agree to drink to that,” he said.

“Reluctance could be viewed as prudence or guilt.” Smiling at him, Adelle placed a hand on his thigh as she sipped her drink. “It’s difficult to say which.”

Dominic drank. The burn of the alcohol settled him a bit. Casey’s infectious laugh had him looking over his shoulder without giving the implications an instant of thought. Her happy smile and wink upped the ante. Combining returning his attention to their table with leaning back in his chair in an effort to draw less attention to the head turning bit, he asked, “Does this place have a specialty?”

“Kobe beef,” Adelle said. “According to Judith, they grill magnificently here. She mentioned crab and lobster cakes and the pasta of the day as well. Her advice was, ‘If the pasta is ravioli of any kind, have it.’”

Trying to focus his thoughts on food, Laurence took another taste of his drink. He had a third as he opened the menu to the appetizers page. Staring down at the menu without really seeing it, he systematically consumed his martini. “Any appetizers look good to you?” he asked, closing his eyes, allowing the alcohol to drain some of his tension away.

“Baked brie with sesame crackers appeals to me, as does sashimi grade ahi tuna.”

“Whatever,” Dominic muttered, nodding to their waiter’s unspoken question of whether he wanted another drink.

“How do men survive on their own?” Adelle murmured, pushing the bread basket in Laurence’s direction.

“Surprisingly well,” he said.

“Emphasis on surprisingly.” Adelle tapped the basket with a perfectly manicured nail. “You haven’t eaten today, unless you stopped for food during your tour of Los Angeles.”

Dominic froze. Fuck! No wonder I’m feeling pretty damn good right now. Willing himself to concentrate, he said, “I’m not much for bread as filler.”

“Then I strongly suggest you slow down.” Adelle smiled, stroking his thigh with the tips of her fingers, seemingly content to garner his attention rather than striving to tease. “I wouldn’t want Casey to think I routinely get you drunk and take advantage of you.”

“What do you want Casey to think?” Dominic closed his eyes the moment he uttered the question, wondering why he would even consider calling Adelle DeWitt out even remotely sexually, refusing to lay the blame on an excellent vodka martini.

“That you are … completely satisfied with the status quo. That you hearken back to the days of nubile, all too wealthy and mature blondes with fondness very intermittently.” Adelle smiled her scary smile again. “Perhaps, when I discipline you, but only if you justly deserve it.”

“How often might that be?”

They laughed together and Dominic relaxed more than was strictly healthy. The genuine smile on Adelle’s lips when she ordered their appetizers worked for him. Leaning close, whispering in his ear, Adelle asked, “How often would you like it to be?”

“I’m not a sub.”

“I know,” she said, kissing him gently on the cheek. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate a bit of bold assertiveness from a woman from time to time.”

“True enough,” Dominic said, eyes locking onto Adelle’s lips of their own accord. Put the fucking martini glass down, Dom. You can’t afford to relax that way. “God, you’re beautiful,” he whispered. “Even wielding a straight razor which, if you think about it and I try not to, is seriously intense.”

Adelle laughed. Dominic grinned as she noticed with apparent pleasure his appreciation of her reaction. Casey most definitely doesn’t have the monopoly on that, Adelle. I like the sound of a woman’s laughter.

“I’m looking forward to wielding the straight razor tomorrow morning, Laurence. If you’ll permit it.”

“If you don’t have hours of meetings scheduled right after, because I might need to release some of the tension you generate with your technique.”

“My morning is clear until 10:45 am.”

“I think we have a deal, Adelle.”

Leaning close, she whispered in his ear. “Seal it with a kiss?”

Dominic slid his hand behind Adelle’s neck, feeling her arms come around his. The kiss began tentative, as though neither were convinced the ground hadn’t somehow shifted between them. It ended far more assertively, confidently, devastatingly. As they stared at each other, enjoying the pleasant tension humming between them, Dominic imagined their car heading for the McDonalds drive through after such a promising culinary start to their evening. The visual image of Adelle DeWitt with a Big Mac made him smile. That could work out fine, Dom. The queasy feeling of too much fat and too little real protein would probably fade once we fell into bed together and began some healthy aerobic activity. The arrival of the appetizers drew Dominic’s attention, but the light kiss Adelle gave him heightened his enthusiasm for them.

“I’m not much for public displays of affection,” he murmured, watching Adelle slather baked brie on a fantastic looking cracker. “What is it about you that shatters that particular barrier?” Before she replied, Dominic’s tired brain came to a disturbing realization. “Fuck me,” he murmured. “How do you do it? How in the hell do you make me forget we have a security detail of people who until earlier today reported to me watching us? What kind of hold do you have over me? I’m never going to live this down. Topher will get wind of it and I’ll have to kill him.”

“The moment,” she began, smile tugging at her lips, “the very moment you take me on the hood of a car or in the bathroom of our office suite; we can calmly discuss my erosion of your control in a meaningful fashion. Otherwise, you have only yourself to blame.”

“I don’t think so, Adelle. I’ve never gotten hard shaving before.” The instantaneous delight in her expression made him smile and tempted him to drape his arm around her shoulders. “Maybe that’s because I’ve always shaved myself, so the normal situation is a check mark in the good mental health column.” She laughed and he couldn’t resist kissing the base of her throat. “I will have to kill Topher, if he gets too crazy with this.”

“I forbid you to kill Topher, Laurence.”

“Intimidate?” he asked. She nodded. “Injure mildly?” Adelle frowned. “Maim … just a little?” He laughed at her stern shake of the head. “Topher wouldn’t even miss his little toes, Adelle.”

“Ignore him.”

“That’s your suggestion?”

“It is.”

Dominic sighed. “This is uncharted territory for me. Mixing business and pleasure isn’t what I do,” Dominic said. “Wanting a woman I desperately feel the need to protect feels … strange.” Adelle offered the cracker she’d prepared to him. The flavors exploded in his mouth and he caught her wrist in a light grip to prevent her from taking the morsel away. “Thanks,” he murmured. “That’s awesome.” Sensing her skepticism, he said, “Seriously.”

Adelle smiled and asked, “Shall we end this after appetizers and order in at my house? There are a number of restaurants that deliver.”

Inadvertently, Dominic looked over his shoulder. Casey and Andrea were in intense discussion with their waiter. Their inattention somehow freed him to do what he wanted. “I’ll be fine with what we’ve ordered so far, Adelle. Let’s just go when we’re done. I don’t care where. The House. Your house. Where ever you’re most comfortable.”

“If I’m going to be confined to the House for the foreseeable future, or the bulk of it, I need more clothes, so we must stop briefly at my house at least.” Adelle smiled, sighed and closed her eyes in eating nirvana after tasting the ahi. “I’d enjoy being there with you.” She smiled. “For a night. For a fortnight. I’m very flexible.”

“Did …?” Dominic took a deep breath. “You were with Victor there.” He shook his head at her nod. “Dare I compete with Topher’s imprint of the grand passion of your life?”

“You can’t compete with someone who isn’t real.”

“Roger, version 1.0 is real, though.” Dominic dipped a piece of ahi into the mixture of soy sauce and wasabi. “That’s fantastic,” he murmured, taking another and repeating the procedure. Gripping a piece of pickled ginger in his chopsticks, he dropped it in his mouth. “You can choose appetizers for me anytime.”

“What else might I do for you, Laurence?”

He opened his mouth and abruptly closed it. Staring at his brie covered cracker, Dominic fought for control.

“What were you going to say?”


“Please, Laurence.”

“Stop saying that!” Dominic insisted. Her gentle touch of his cheek did him in. “You’ll either make sense of my life or be the death of me.”

“I hope I make the right choice,” Adelle said.

“So do I.”

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This is delicious! It just keeps getting better and better.

Thanks. Delicious is an interesting word to use. But I suppose they were eating again. Hah. I needed for this to be lighter after last time out. And I changed the title at the last minute to something tongue in cheek too.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

I hate it when you go light, because it usually means something terrible is about to happen. But I also love it because you write it so adorably.

Ah, yeah. Bad things in the offing. Um ... probably. The next bit is harsher and somewhat more traumatic, but not too bad (I don't think).

As to writing lighter, I'm finding it much easier now to write lighter moments for these characters. I'm thinking it's because they are bound to appreciate those moments more because of all of the other things whirling on around them.

Also, you've clearly done a good job establishing the relationship between Laurence and Casey, because I want to hit her for not being Adelle.

I've become rather fond of Casey myself. I might have to import her into some original fic I'm working on. She arrived on the scene somewhat fully formed in my mind. But I, too, have the urge to damage her in some way in the context in which she currently exists.

Oooh - the use of the shaving was perfectly judged, erotic, dangerous, charged - very them.

I liked the sudden appearance of the old flame (though I half suspect it was engineered by Adelle). I thought Adelle's response was interesting, though it was Dominic's point of view. She didn't seem as unsettled as I would have expected; more confident in him perhaps - though maybe she was just playing her hand well.

I also thought the sense of what Dominic's mission really is, was interesting. His boss sent him to use Adelle to overthrow Rossum; that's very specific - makes me wonder why her.

Can't wait for the next part!

Once I realized I'd had Dominic not shave when getting off the plane, I decided I had to remember to mention it, but then I thought ... why just mention it? Why not make it count, so to speak? Glad it worked.

We figure out the appearance of the old flame in the next bit. Part of Adelle's reaction/lack of reaction is, as you say, it's written from Dominic's pov. He's kind of stunned and perhaps not as observant as he might be. I think Adelle is reasonably confident in him and, even if she wasn't, it simply wouldn't do for this younger woman to see any hint of discomfort. So I guess it's a combination of everything you suggest (which I could have just agreed had I realized this at the beginning--sigh).

As to Dom's real mission, I just decided that the NSA had an operation running against Rossum and Dominic was the senior guy (b/c the NSA didn't exactly do much of anything once Dominic left the picture in Spy). Once I got that far, I had to wonder why they put their senior/best guy in LA. Part of the answer is Adelle (makes one wonder what exactly the NSA knows about her) and the other is Topher--he's the key to the whole tech going global business. I couldn't simply hinge it on Topher, though, b/c Dominic was there first.

And this is really a rambling response. Sorry but thanks for sticking with me.

Not that rambling, since it answered all my comments and left me with more questions for the future.

Of course Topher needs to be a part of it but I am now curious about Adelle and the NSA. Could she be keeping secrets from Laurence? I'm aghast at the thought.

Surely they can't be drugged, or find a dead body on the bed! Are they actually going to have sex - or will something else interrupt them?

Nope. No drugs. No dead body on the bed. However, the possibilities are nearly endless. What else might get in the way? Or who?

The NSA may have some sort of psychological profile of Adelle that led Laurence's boss (the NSA intelligence equivalent of Topher named after the Clyde character from The Attic) to believe that Adelle wouldn't participate in certain abuses of the technology ... or she may be keeping secrets from Laurence ... or both!

Can't wait. Mind you this morning when I was thinking about fic as a way of not thinking about work, it occurred to me that you've created a handler who cares about him, a former lover who still has strong emotions where he is concerned and even a boss who might ask questions /come looking if he disappeared.
He has back up - which is good for him, but Adelle's back up is Laurence and he isn't quite who she thinks he is. I sort of had a 'poor Adelle' moment when the realisation hit.

I think, in a way, I've made it more even. Dominic has people who would wonder, look, make inquiries should he be exposed as an NSA agent and placed in the Attic. But, if they aren't ready to move on the LA Dollhouse in particular or Rossum in general, that's about it. So, in that sense, he is very much a man alone and Adelle has the entire apparatus of her organization behind her fully capable of putting Dominic in the Attic (as we've seen).

As to Adelle, it is now true (as to the bigger picture threats vis a vis the abuse of the technology), she is currently alone with only Dominic as backup. She could, as she eventually does, drag Topher and the actives into the fray as backup, but she's not at that point. Now, the guy she has is Dominic and he's not who she thinks he is. Perhaps what is required is that he prove himself in some way?

In this way, they are both kind of isolated and somewhat dependent on each other.

That's interesting and I see what you mean about making things more even between them. Mind you, maybe Adelle needs to prove that she is worthy of what he is risking - just as much as he needs to prove that he prove where he stands.

I guess that would be the other side of the coin and also in balance. Dominic proving where he stands and Adelle proving she's deserving of it (presuming he stands with her).

I was writing a conversation last night that touches on many of the themes I've toyed with in writing this--trust, control, what is identity--and I just realized this morning that it simply cannot go as I planned it. These characters (at this point in time) simply will not let it.

Sigh. I almost don't want this to be over. I'll miss the back and forth when I go back to original fiction. Unless, of course, someone might be willing to read some of that.

A fascinating chapter! It surely lights the mood of their current situation, while at the same time escalating the stakes.

Oh, Clarice, my angel of hope. How did Laurence Dominic break your heart? Or is he in the process of doing so? I'm with Morgan on this one, there's the hint of a relationship here.

I found it interesting how you inter weaved Adelle's fondness of knives, with Laurence's earlier confession about exposing his throat. The trust is growing! But at the same time there's doubt as to its complete existence. Dominic's still the man on a very active mission, or two, his loyalties are split. I can't wait to see which side he's on in the end, that is if he's still standing.

Casey, I'm not calling you a ghost...just stop haunting him. Of all the restaurants in L.A? Seriously, her presence was a surprise but I didn't think for a second it was coincidence. I also have a growing suspicion that Andrea knows more than she's letting on. Or maybe Dom's paranoia is rubbing off on me.

Lol, agreed again, Morgan! They can't be drugged, or troubled with dead bodies. You'd think the two most powerful people of the L.A dollhouse would get to secure some alone time. But of course the slow and torturous, interruptions have been amusing.

Great work, Rogo. I can't wait to read more!

Light comes before dark (or at least darker). And the stakes are constantly getting higher. Pesky stakes!

Clarice and Dominic have been paired together forever. She's seen him at his best and worst and still likes/cares for him. That speaks to the man that is Laurence Dominic (or whatever his real name might be).

I wouldn't let anyone near me with a straight razor if I didn't trust them at some level! No where near me. Although she did kind of intimate he'd be a coward if he didn't cooperate with the shaving.

As to trust, it is growing, but the secret(s?) in the way make things a bit more dicey. Dominic needs to decide where he stands. He's working on it. Really! I promise. I've finished a first draft of episode 12 today, so I'm fairly confident of this. And I won't finish in 13 unless a miracle occurs. Which I don't anticipate.

Casey was very real to Laurence. An unanticipated real thing in a life of pretending. She's bound to mean something. It's not a coincidence, but Andrea? "He's into areospace or something about space." I'm thinking she's a dupe.

As I said, no drugging, no trouble with dead bodies, but trouble? Oh yeah. From a very troubling source. I LOVE interruptions. They are fun, so long as they flow and are believable. I think these have been so far.

Ah! How did I miss this!! (going on to read the next bit now :) )

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