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The Domster Projects
damien listening guitar
rogoblue
Number 14 of the Let's Pretend Series

Title: The Domster Projects
Rating: R (violence, language and sex)
Author: rogoblue
Summary: Dominic prepares to go into breaking and entering mode on sixty-six Rossum facilities, but a few things must be dealt with first.
A/N: The title is, sadly, a Topherism.
Fourteenth in the Let’s Pretend series (thirteenth is Arizona, twelfth is Thief, Saboteur, Assassin, eleventh is The Harding Factor, tenth is Powder Keg, ninth is Cutting it Close, 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 thirteenth 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.

Why do you assume it’s me?

Words: 6,800
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 everybody who encouraged me with this, you all got me through the rough patches.



Laurence Dominic knocked on Dr. Saunders’ door.

“Who’s there?” Adelle DeWitt asked from within the office.

“It’s me, Adelle,” he said, talking slowly, cautiously, annunciation perfect. “I need to speak with you.”

“You may come in,” Adelle said.

Taking a single deep breath, Dominic opened the door, stepped inside and closed it behind him, all in one continuous motion. Adelle sat in Saunders’ desk chair. Saunders stood behind her, one hand gripping Adelle’s hair, the other holding a scalpel against the base of her throat. “I have Harding’s wedge,” Dominic said.

“Excellent,” Adelle said, calm tone at odds with the tension of her body.

Dominic’s eyes darted to the gash across Adelle’s right shoulder as he stepped further into the room. It looked as though Saunders had ripped the fabric of the dress surrounding it to display it prominently. For the slice along Adelle’s left cheek, there had been no need for any action to draw the eye to it. “We can access the Tucson network remotely now and I obtained the codes to open up every other Rossum facility in the same way.”

“I see everything went according to plan,” Adelle said.

“Not quite,” Dominic muttered, halting as he reached the far side of the desk. Only now redirecting his attention to Saunders, he said, “Let her go. I killed Boyd. Not her.”

“I loved him.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Dominic said, “but he was a threat to this House.”

“You care for her,” Saunders said, breaking Adelle’s skin with the scalpel.

Instinct kicking in, Dominic laughed. “Where’d you come up with that?”

Saunders looked confused for a moment, but the empty emotionless expression returned quickly. “That’s what everyone says,” Saunders said.

“Everyone around here says Topher’s a genius too.” Sitting on the edge of Saunders’ desk, Dominic added, “Doesn’t make it true.”

“You call her by her first name now,” Saunders said.

Wondering if he was overplaying this card and what Adelle was thinking at the moment, Dominic said, “I call Topher by his nickname. Please tell me you don’t draw the same conclusion about him.”

The confusion stayed this time. “Killing her won’t hurt you?”

Dominic shrugged. “Another promotion wouldn’t suck.”

Confusion gave way to anger. “I want to hurt you.”

“I’m right here,” Dominic said.

She was on him faster than he’d have believed possible. Dominic was stronger and larger, but he was injured and Saunders was enraged in a cold way and utterly focused. The scalpel was poised just above his right eye when Saunders’ body went limp. Shoving the unconscious doctor from on top of him, Dominic rose to confront Adelle DeWitt and a spent syringe.

They said, “Are you all right?” nearly in unison. He smiled slightly and Adelle looked away.

Dominic cupped Adelle’s chin in his hand and perused the cuts on her cheek and throat. Taking a closer look at the one on her shoulder, he murmured, “The one to the throat’s nothing. You’ll need to have some work done on your face to avoid a scar. The shoulder worries me. Can you lift your arm?” She tried and made it to about shoulder level before the pain became too much. “When did it start to hurt?” he asked.

“The moment I moved it,” she admitted.

Slowly, gently, Dominic pulled her into his arms, unable to suppress a smile when she hugged him back despite the shoulder pain the maneuver likely caused. “You need to see a doctor,” he whispered.

“Not just yet.”

“You’re not bleeding on my good clothes are you?” he asked, hoping she heard the smile she couldn’t see.

Adelle leaned back slightly, dismay becoming amusement instantaneously. “You come to my rescue in a jeans and a T-shirt?” she asked.

“Don’t forget the jacket. The jacket is integral to the rescue ensemble.” Tightening his hold on Adelle as she laughed, running a hand along the line of her back, Laurence said, “I should let everyone know the crisis is over.”

“You should.”

Something in her voice called to him. “Adelle, are you all right?” he asked, tilting her head up slightly. “Other than the cuts, I mean.”

“Dr. Saunders never expressed emotion until she got angry with you,” Adelle said. A series of shudders wracked her body. Dominic held her. “I thought I was going to die at the hand of someone who had no interest in me as an individual at all. To die so … so impersonally … the thought of dying that way … I can’t even describe it properly.”

“You’re alive and you’re going to be as gorgeous as ever once we get you to a doc who knows his way around a woman’s face. Focus on that,” he advised. “You’re alive.”

“As are you,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what to think when the plane arrived without you.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Dominic murmured. Smiling slightly, he said, “I won’t let it happen again, ma’am.”

“See that you don’t.”

* * *

When Adelle DeWitt returned to the LA Dollhouse nearly twenty hours later, it seemed as though everything had changed. Topher was busy with The Domster Projects, as the neuroscientist referred to them. Sierra and Ivy were in Laurence Dominic’s office, one on either side of the man in question clad in a more customary, extremely well cut suit once more. Their three heads huddled together over his computer. Sierra’s hand rested possessively on Laurence’s thigh. Ivy gestured at the computer, no doubt pointing out an issue of some sort.

“Is everything proceeding to your satisfaction, Mr. Dominic?” Adelle asked, hating the slightly off tone of her voice due to the pain killers she’d been given. The smile on his face when his eyes found hers made up for Sierra’s forwardness and called to mind that Laurence’s face was the first thing she remembered seeing after coming out of surgery.

“Perfectly, as of this moment,” he said.

“We can take it from here, Mr. Dominic,” Ivy said, focus on the screen, likely so that everyone could pretend not to see her smile. “You should update Ms. DeWitt.”

“That sounds splendid,” Adelle said, “I feel a bit out of touch. Gratified that Dominic moved from between the two young women without an ounce of hesitation, Adelle frowned at Sierra’s eyes tracking him but smiled at the active’s rolled eyes when Laurence took Adelle’s hand.

Neither spoke as they passed through the bedroom separating their offices. When they emerged in her office, Dominic smiled and pressed his lips to hers. “You’re tougher than you look,” he said.

“I’ve had to be,” Adelle said, wincing at the harshness in her tone.

Expression thoughtful, he held her at arms length. “Things are moving quickly here, Adelle. I should be good to head out on my grand tour of Rossum’s facilities later today.”

Bracing for rebellion, Adelle said, “That won’t be possible, Laurence.”

“Sure it will.”

Adelle shook her head, leading him to the couch. “We can’t ignore what happened in Tucson.” Watching him closely, she said, “Whatever that was exactly.”

“What happens in Tucson stays in Tucson,” he quipped, remembering their last Rossum corporate function at headquarters where they’d gotten comfortably drunk together in Adelle’s suite after an incredibly boring party. Expression turning serious as he followed her example by sitting down, he said, “Generally, but not this time. They’re getting ready to conscript an army in Tucson, Adelle.”

“What?”

Laurence described everything he’d seen in Arizona and what he, Topher, Sierra and Ivy had been able to ascertain since. As he moved on to the tale of his driver wrecking his car, the desert sprint culminating in his abduction by the NSA, it struck Adelle as odd for him to be holding her close while discussing such matters, but she couldn’t bring herself to care or comment. “Makes you wonder what else Rossum has going on, doesn’t it?” Dominic concluded.

“Or not,” Adelle murmured, snuggling into his side. “Is it too late to decide to sit back and see how things play out?” In reply, Laurence kissed her, deepening the effort at the first hint of receptiveness on her part.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“Sore.”

“That’s physically. How’s your spirit?”

“Uncertain.” Adelle gripped his hand with bruising force. “Perhaps we should—.” Adelle’s phone rang. “That’s Judith’s tone,” Adelle said, rising and moving to her desk.

“Angelika Jepsom to see Mr. Dominic,” Judith announced.

“Who in the hell is Angelika Jepsom?” Dominic asked, no doubt ascertaining Adelle had activated the speakerphone feature by her return to the couch.

“Media relations out of Tucson,” Judith said, tone more than slightly dubious.

Dominic made a rude noise. “Screw media relations out of Tucson.”

“On the contrary, Laurence,” Adelle said, stroking his cheek lightly, “you must allow Ms. Jepsom to convince you that nothing untoward happened to you in her fair city.”

“What?” Dominic said, smiling as Adelle leaned in for an extremely pleasant, decidedly unhurried kiss.

“You clearly couldn’t have seen what you thought you saw in the wedge room. And, obviously, Laurence, really, you completely misinterpreted what happened after. The driver was a psychotic and the men following you in the SUV were trying to help you.”

“It was all a misunderstanding?” he asked. Adelle watched him follow the logic noting, not for the first time, that Laurence had an expressive face when he didn’t school it to stoicism. “They didn’t succeed in killing me outright, so they have to manage me?” he mused. Nodding to Adelle, Dominic squared his shoulders and took a deep breath.

“Send her in, please, Judith,” Adelle said, not intending to rise and keeping a firm hand on Laurence’s thigh to be sure he didn’t either.

A young, quite pretty woman wearing a ridiculously short skirt and having far too many buttons of her blouse undone entered the office. Adelle nearly laughed at the “He’s male so he’ll believe anything anyone with large breasts says” expectation.

“Mr. Dominic, I am so sorry for what happened to you in Tucson,” Jepsom said in what struck Adelle as only a passable phone sex voice. “Rest assured, we’re investigating the matter rigorously and those responsible will be dealt with appropriately.” She smiled big at Laurence who, bless his heart, remained a picture of skepticism. “I regret to inform you that your substitute driver was discovered to be highly unstable and easily manipulated by those with agendas in opposition to Rossum’s.”

“His issues didn’t arise with Rossum,” Dominic said. “They were specific to me.”

“Oh, no, Mr. Dominic,” Jepsom said, sitting on Dominic’s other side, smiling up at Laurence, breathing deeply, impressive chest rising and falling. “That’s not what his suicide note said.” She offered a piece of paper to Laurence, hand lingering over his when he took it from her. Adelle shifted to see the message.

To whom it may concern:

I can’t take it anymore. Life isn’t worth living without my wife and kid. The next big shot they ask me to drive around is going to regret it. I’m kind of sorry about that, but not really. At least one of them will get what they deserve.


The signature was illegible.

“To whom it may concern?” Dominic asked. “Sorry, Ms. Jepsom, it doesn’t play.”

Adelle almost laughed when Jepsom leaned forward to expose more of her breasts, imploring brown eyes focused on Dominic. “The psychiatrists believe it does, Mr. Dominic. The driver was sociopathic to an extraordinary degree.”

Forced to bite her lip by Laurence’s eyes lingering over Jepsom’s chest and the very slight hitch in his voice when he said, “Are they sure? In … um … in my experience, this situation is highly irregular.”

Jepsom crossed her legs. Not disappointing either woman, Laurence’s eyes tracked the motion, bringing a self-satisfied expression to Jepsom’s face. “There’s little doubt, Mr. Dominic. If you like, I could email you a copy of the psychiatrist’s report.”

“I would like,” Laurence said, looking Jepsom up and down with more subtlety than Adelle imagined the young woman was accustomed to, earning him yet another big toothed smile. “I would definitely like.”

“Is there anything else I can do to put your mind at ease, Mr. Dominic?” Jepsom said. “Anything at all?”

“Explain all the wedges to me, Ms. Jepsom.”

“What wedges, Laurence?” she asked, puzzled expression brightened by a blush. “May … may I call you Laurence?”

“Sure.”

Fascinated, Adelle closely observed Dominic’s proficiency at playing a role without any preparation whatsoever.

“I’m Angelika,” Jepsom said, placing a hand lightly on his forearm.

“Pretty name,” Dominic replied, glance shifting from Jepsom’s face to her hand. Refocusing on her face, voice low, vibrant and perfectly reasonable, Dominic said, “Tell me about the room full of wedges, Angelika.”

“There is no room full of wedges, Laurence,” Jepsom said. Eyes wide, expression the height of earnest, she added, “I don’t know what you were led to believe or what you thought you saw, but I assure you, the total number of wedges in Tucson is fourteen.”

Dominic leaned back, conveniently slightly into Adelle. “So the room on the level where Bennett Halverson used to be with the glass door houses what exactly?”

“Oh!” Jepsom exclaimed, face transforming from confused to understanding. “Those aren’t wedges, Laurence. They’re blips.”

Adelle felt a slight tension infiltrating Dominic’s person. He demanded, “What the hell is a blip, Angelika?”

“Captured impressions,” Jepsom said. “Isolated memories. Maybe someone as talented as your Mr. Brink could make a wedge out of a couple of thousand of them if he had the time and the patience.”

“Why store impressions or isolated memories?” Laurence asked, voice softening, eyes drifting to Jepsom’s legs and then, as if he just realized what he was doing, abruptly back to her face. “Why bother?”

Jepsom licked her lips. Dominic shifted in what appeared to be not entirely unpleasant discomfort. “Mr. Rossum believes that different people’s impressions of the same experience have elements that can be isolated and exploited,” Jepsom said, smiling an invitation to Dominic who leaned forward slightly before appearing to catch himself. “He’s interested to know if a Group Think imprint is possible.”

“What’s with the codes, Angelika?”

“Keyed to experience, Laurence.” Jepsom blushed again. “Mr. Rossum decided to start with … sexual experiences.”

“INF means what?”

“The acronym is based on the Latin … or is it Greek?” She frowned. “Maybe French, I can’t recall. Essentially, it means plain vanilla, missionary position sex.” Smiling at Dominic, Jepsom said, “Man on top.”

“SS?” Dominic said.

“Same sex intercourse.”

“So … Rossum wants a Group Think deal for sex. For what? The mother of all orgies?”

Hand sliding to Dominic’s thigh, Jepsom leaned in close and said, “Mr. Rossum believes there is more science to physical attraction than is currently believed and he intends to prove it with the blips.”

“Do you believe there’s science to physical attraction, Angelika?” Dominic asked.

“In a primal way, yes.”

Amazed, Adelle felt the sexual tension flying between Dominic and Jepsom, but she’d bet everything she owned Laurence wasn’t really attracted to Angelika. There was something in the way he held himself, some annoyance she sensed roiling just beneath the surface. How does he do it? How is something like that even possible?

“Those appeared to be military designations,” Laurence murmured, eyes now focused on Angelika’s pouty lips.

“An unfortunate coincidence,” Jepsom said.

“The guys in the SUV chased me across the desert, Angelika.” Something that sounded impossibly like a pout crept into his voice. “It was really hot.”

“Unfortunately, we had to muster who we had available because of the emergency nature of the situation.” Smiling sadly, Jepsom said, “That group wasn’t representative of our best men, Laurence.”

Dominic glanced at Adelle. “What do you think?” he asked.

Adelle patted Laurence on the shoulder. “I know how it looked to you, Laurence, but Ms. Jepsom’s explanation seems eminently plausible.”

“I could go over it in exquisite detail over dinner, Laurence,” Jepsom offered.

“I have plans,” Dominic replied with no hesitation. “Maybe next time.”

“Certainly. May I report to my superiors that your mind has been put at ease?”

“If you tell me who your superiors are,” Dominic said, slow, sexy smile clearly distracting Jepsom from his demand.

“I report through media relations to Mr. Rossum himself.”

“How’d you pull that duty, Angelika?”

The huge smile made a return performance. “I’m very persuasive, Laurence.”

“That you are,” he said, standing, offering Jepsom a hand up. “I’m sorry you had to make a trip all the way up here, Angelika, but I’m sure you understand the basis for my concern with what happened.”

“Of course.”

Adelle barely resisted the impulse to slap Jepsom’s hand from Dominic’s. Instead, she leaned back and watched Laurence escort Jepsom out of her office. Unless I’m very much mistaken, I’ve just been given a glimpse of Agent Dominic at work. My word, Laurence, how effortless is playacting for you? Your gift for improvisation is too impressive to ever be completely discounted. What am I to do to defend myself from you?

Dominic returned and met her eyes. “What kind of idiot does Rossum take me for?”

“A male one,” Adelle said.

“I guess I should ask Topher if he’s ever heard of a blip, but I know a fucking wedge when I see one or several thousand. Christ.” Running a hand through his hair in an unconscious gesture of irritation, he said, “They looked like wedges. That Emerson woman I met said they were some kind of advanced wedges. Craig flat out told me they were wedges housing military imprints and he’s off the radar. I wonder if Topher’s fangirl is too.”

“Craig Carstairs is … missing?” Adelle asked.

“My gut says so. Recent interoffice emails can be interpreted to verify it.” Uncharacteristically fidgety, he said, “I think they got to him before I was even out of the building and the only way that happened is if Rossum-Tucson is really really paranoid about visitors.”

“Meaning they have something to hide,” Adelle said.

“Exactly.” A flash of what might have been unease flew across Dominic’s face. “No one would house something as tiny as a blip in something as sophisticated as a wedge. Not even with the resources Rossum can bring to bear.”

“Agreed,” Adelle said, patting the couch cushion next to her. Annoyance radiating from him, Laurence stomped over and sat. “Do you think you managed to convince Ms. Jepsom you believed her?” Adelle asked.

“I almost fell into her cleavage out there, Adelle. Judith’s disgusted with me.”

“She’ll forgive you once I tell her how you played Ms. Jepsom to perfection.” Smiling, Adelle dragged her fingertips along Laurence’s chest. “That performance was both inspiring and devastating.”

“Devastating?” he asked, putting his arm around her to pull her close, taking great care with her injured shoulder.

“Having seen that, I’m forced to wonder how well you might play me.”

“Not half as well as you play me,” Dominic replied, kissing her lightly.

“Flattery is a useful tool, Laurence,” Adelle said, kissing him in a like manner. “How well do you employ it?”

“As well as I employ any other, if I’m so inclined.” Staring into her eyes, he said, “I’m not, Adelle.” He shrugged. “I can’t make you believe me. I wouldn’t even know how to begin to try. You’ll have to decide for yourself.”

“Would you like me to share my current beliefs with you, Laurence?” Adelle noted the wariness in his eyes as he nodded. “I believe you weren’t attracted to the overt Ms. Jepsom, despite her rather obvious charms or, more likely, because of them. I further believe you aren’t as indifferent toward me as you appeared in Dr. Saunder’s office. I also believe you are committed to stopping abuses of the imprint technology.”

“That’s a start,” he murmured, looking at Adelle as though trying to see beneath the surface or ascertain a deeper meaning in her words. Adelle decided to wait to see what his facile mind devised. “I had to shift Saunders’ focus from you to me. That’s why I acted the way I did.”

“Her focus was never on me, Laurence.”

“You were the target. The means to my pain in her view. I wanted to merge the means with the end.”

Adelle smiled. “What an appealing concept.”

He shrugged. “It worked.”

“I wasn’t referring to your tactics in regard to Dr. Saunders.” Adelle answered Laurence’s questioning eyes with a challenging half smile. She’d always appreciated the way his mind worked, but the discovery of so many different facets to Laurence Dominic had raised her level of interest considerably.

“Is your shoulder up to a … merger?” he asked, smiling in the open, utterly genuine way Adelle considered a treat that was becoming less rare by the day but now wondered if it was a real as it seemed.

“I feel quite a bit better than when you greeted me after my surgery.” Speaking slowly, carefully, Adelle said, “Why did you leave the House?”

“Why do you think?” he asked, obviously annoyed.

“I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter, Laurence.” She laughed. “I can’t believe you let that nearly underage tart call you Laurence.”

“She expected me to, Adelle.” He laughed with her. “If I’m good at nothing else, it’s meeting expectations.”

“I am beginning to suspect we have merely scratched the surface with regard to things at which you excel,” Adelle said, taking his hand.

“You’re no slouch with the flattery,” he commented, raising their clasped hands to kiss hers. “Maybe I should be more careful around you too.” To her wince, he said, “What’s the matter?”

His concern touched a chord in her. “I thought you were making an oblique reference to the Sword of Damocles that is The Attic hanging over your head,” Adelle whispered.

“I wasn’t.” No doubt anxious to abandon that topic, Dominic returned to her earlier question. “You’d headed to the hospital with Grayson in the ambulance and a security detail close behind. I carried Saunders to the chair and watched while Topher did his thing. I wanted no repeats of her attack on you.”

“Yet things here were still in flux,” Adelle said.

“I know. I explained what I need from Topher and told him I wanted to set up a command post in my office to receive the information from the Rossum facilities I infiltrate and feed it into my intelligence program. He told Ivy to help me and sent Sierra up shortly thereafter. Once I’d explained what I wanted, the two of them seemed to have things well in hand, so I went to the hospital to give Grayson some down time.” He stroked along the edge of the bandage on her cheek lightly, reverently. “I wanted to see for myself that you were going to be all right.”

“Did you doubt it?” Adelle said, proud of the light tone she’d managed.

“Not really, but I had to be sure.”

“Your plans would be more difficult to bring to fruition without me,” Adelle said, staring into blue eyes that evinced the dawning of understanding.

“You think I checked on you to be sure we were on plan?” He sighed at her calm, calculating expression. “I could have done that with a phone call, Adelle, rather than drive like a maniac through the streets of LA. Once I’d seen with my own eyes that you were going to be ok, I was able to come back and check on how things were progressing with a clearer head.”

“A clearer head?”

“I told you before,” he said, leaning closer to bring them nearly nose to nose. “I need for you to be safe.”

Tabling the question she really wanted to ask, Adelle said, “And how were things progressing, Laurence?”

“Sierra and Ivy had the system up and running. It’s just waiting for input, which is why I need to get this show on the road.” He kissed her briefly. “The plane’s ready to go. I should leave tonight.”

“Sierra seems taken with you.” Pride didn’t permit Adelle to show a reaction to the edge in her tone.

“Topher’s idea of a joke, no doubt.”

“She’s quite lovely,” Adelle noted, pleased by the milder, amused sound of her voice.

“And she spends most of her time gazing into space, painting depressing pictures and contemplating the relative merits of Romaine versus iceberg lettuce.” He grinned. “She’s not exactly my type.”

A sharp rap on the door demanded a small sigh. “Yes, Judith,” Adelle said.

“Topher says he’s ready to reintroduce Mr. Harding into polite society whenever you are, Ms. Dewitt.” Expression serious, Judith added, “You aren’t taxing her strength are you, Mr. Dominic?”

“No more than usual, Judith,” Laurence replied. Glancing to Adelle the instant her eyes shifted to him, he said, “We should get Harding out of here.”

“Agreed,” Adelle said. Before she could blink, Dominic was on his feet, offering her his hand. “Thank you, Laurence.”

* * *

The moment Adelle DeWitt and Laurence Dominic arrived, Topher bowed and gestured grandly to the chair and the unconscious man currently in it. “Behold the monster who shall be transformed into a good little spy.” If Topher saw the inadvertent look exchanged between him and Adelle, he didn’t acknowledge it. “Igor, prepare the chair.” Hunching over, Topher made snuffling noises and puttered between the chair and his console. “The chair is ready, master,” he said in a sniveling tone.

“Can we get on with this sometime this week?” Dominic demanded, glancing at his watch, eager to be on his way.

“Never can the small minded appreciate true genius,” Topher intoned. Miming pulling a huge lever on a Frankenstein-like contraption, Topher activated the chair.

Harding stiffened in pain. Eyes never leaving the new active, Dominic asked, “He’s not going to wake up here, right?”

“Negatory, my far too anal colleague,” Topher said, trying a few more shuffling steps, stopping when Dominic scowled. “He’ll open his eyes in the lovely environs, or so I’m told, of Chatterley Consulting.”

“And his memories of the last few days?” Adelle asked, staring down at Harding, not bothering to mask her distaste.

“Locked and loaded as per the information Judith gave me,” Topher said. “She greased enough palms at the escort service for them to verify his extensive, yet somewhat intermittent sexual agenda.” Grinning, Topher added, “Sucks to get old.”

“How will you know if anything goes wrong when he wakes?” Dominic asked. Rolling his eyes at the stare of blank incomprehension that anything could possibly go wrong, Dominic hit speed dial 4. “Lisa, you need to have whoever is taking Harding to Chatterley stay there until he wakes up and observe him to be sure his imprint took.”

“Baxter knows the score, Dom. I’ll send him.”

“Sounds good. Have him in contact with Topher just in case we need to perform some sort of intervention. Chatterley’s being cooperative on this. I’d rather we didn’t repay them with some kind of incident in their facility.”

“We’ll do our best.”

“Thanks.”

“We found Higgins and Hendricks,” Grayson said. Her strained voice had already answered the question, but Dominic posed it anyway.

“Where?”

“Cincinnati and Miami, respectively.” Grayson sighed. “Neither one still breathing.”

“Not surprising,” Dominic muttered. “Cause of death?”

“Drowning in a lake having a maximum depth of four feet and electrocution in a hotel shower, also respectively.”

“Do the cops have any leads, Grayson?”

“Not a one.” When Dominic offered no further questions, Grayson asked, “When are you headed out?”

“I’m leaving tonight,” Dominic said.

“Tomorrow morning,” Adelle corrected.

Sure Grayson had heard, he amended, “Either tonight or tomorrow morning.”

“Good luck.”

“How is the imprint proceeding, Topher?” Adelle asked, probably to avoid a discussion of Dominic’s departure time but maybe to forestall a Topher comment regarding their disagreement in that reagard.

“Right on schedule,” Topher said, pronouncing the last word as Adelle would.

“Scheduled to be completed when?” Dominic prompted, stepping closer to Adelle, trying to show support with his proximity.

“Now,” Topher said, fingers flying over his console. “Baxter can have him unless either of you want to give him something to remember you by.”

“We could give you some privacy if you do,” Dominic offered, resting a hand on the small of Adelle’s back.

“I like my partners more sarcastic,” Topher said, smiling at Dominic, getting a fine scowl for his trouble.

Adelle sighed and said, “With me, Mr. Dominic.” He fell in step beside her as the moved to the elevator. “Judith has undoubtedly served our dinner by now.

“Adelle, I should go. The sooner I start—.”

“The more quickly you will finish. The obvious hasn’t escaped my notice, Laurence.” Stepping into the elevator, she said, “I would feel more comfortable with you on the premises this night.”

“I’d rather be here, but—.”

“Then stay.”

They stared at each other for several charged moments. The elevator door opening to dimmed lights, candles and soft jazz music broke the spell.

“What the hell is this?” Dominic muttered.

“Dinner and a rather clear vote in favor of you staying the night,” Adelle said, taking Laurence’s arm and walking with him toward the waiting meal.

He barely dragged his feet because Adelle felt good next to him, she seemed to like the atmosphere Judith had created and something under one of the lids on the coffee table smelled amazing. “I have sixty six facilities to break into, Adelle, and who knows how much time we have before the abuses of the technology become more widespread.”

“I’ll take the risk that the next eight to twelve hours won’t make or break our effort.”

Dominic stared at the plate Adelle had uncovered. “That’s a steak. Honest to God red meat. More than a sliver or two on top of a salad.” He sat on the couch. “Ok, I’ll stay.”

Smiling, Adelle said, “For … a grilled piece of cow flesh?”

“You bet.” Chuckling, Dominic turned Adelle’s very recently averted face back toward him. “If you want me to admit out loud to staying for you, you’ll have to let me unbutton your blouse a bit.”

Spearing him with a gaze too intense to ignore, Adelle unbuttoned her own blouse to the same extent Ms. Jepsom had. “So?” she prompted.

“If your shoulder is ok with it, I want to make love to you tonight.”

“That is not my shoulder’s decision.”

Grinning down at his steak, picking up his knife and fork and digging in, Dominic said, “Of course not, ma’am.” He laughed when she smacked him lightly on the back.

“I want you, Laurence.”

Her low, vibrant, sexy, yet non-phone sex voice flowed through him. “Suddenly, this steak has far less appeal.”

“You need to eat, Laurence. And if you clean your plate, there’s dessert.” Faced with his blatant skepticism, Adelle uncovered another plate.

“Is … is that cheesecake?”

“It is indeed.”

“Ok, wait a minute.” Dominic leaned back and regarded Adelle for a long moment. “You knew there was cheesecake under that lid, so you set this up, not Judith.”

“You’ve unmasked me.” Adelle framed his face with her hands and gave him a kiss that felt like it might go on forever. They both relaxed into the endeavor. Tongues lazily toying with each other, hands exploring a bit, they communicated at a level far more basic than speech.

“Hold that thought,” Dominic whispered when he lifted his head without releasing her. “Until after cheesecake.”

Nodding, Adelle asked, “What shall we talk about then?”

Mind searching for a topic, Dominic tried to reject the first one that came to mind. But it nagged at him. “Adelle,” he ventured, voice tentative to his ears. “I think we should talk about what it’ll mean if we have to bring the NSA into this in a large way.”

“We’ll be shut down,” Adelle said, bringing a mouthful of broccoli-parmesan cheesy goodness to her lips. “All of the Dollhouses. The chairs will be dismantled or …” Her raised eyebrow demanded an opinion.

“If we play our cards right, no chair will be put into government service,” Dominic said. “But we have to be careful to get that outcome. That’s why Clyde had me brought in after the NSA picked me up in Arizona.”

“Who’s Clyde?”

“My boss.”

“I thought Clarice was your superior.”

“In your parlance, Clarice is my handler. Clyde is …,” he laughed, deciding to use the toddler phraseology that came to mind, “the boss of both of us.”

“What is Clyde’s issue?”

“Losing control of the Rossum operation,” Dominic said, closing his eyes to enjoy a bite of steak that was grilled to absolute perfection. “He said there’s interest from above, below and on par. That’s a bad situation. Everyone wants in. Probably from the Oval office to the CIA. Our job—Clyde’s and mine—is to keep them out.”

“How will … either of you accomplish that feat?”

“Topher’s working on it,” Dominic said, trying his salad. Registering Adelle’s surprise, Dominic muttered, “It was my idea; he’s just executing it.”

“I’m not sure what to think of the unholy alliance you seem to have formed with Topher Brink, Laurence.”

Dominic grinned and kissed Adelle soundly. “It’s purely a marriage of convenience, Adelle,” he whispered.

“I’m abundantly grateful you didn’t share that thought while I was sipping my wine. I favor this blouse.”

Leaning over to get a better view of what the unbuttoned buttons revealed, Dominic said, “Me too.”

“Somehow I find it difficult to believe it’s the blouse that’s drawn your interest.”

Steak forgotten, eyes burning into Adelle’s, he said, “Do you want to save the cheesecake for later?” Her ready nod made him smile as he took her hands in his and drew her to her feet. Smiling somewhat sadly, he said, “I’ll be away for months.”

“I suppose I need to provide you with a reason to return in one piece.”

“That’d be nice.”

Arms wrapped around each other, they strolled into the bedroom. Dominic shrugged out of his suit jacket as Adelle sat on the edge of the bed and kicked off her heels. Watching her watch him, he nearly tore off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt, yanking it out of his pants as he did so. Adelle parted her lips and leaned back slightly as though she were offering her chest to him. “Damn,” Dominic whispered and sat next to Adelle on the bed, untucking her blouse, making short work of the rest of the buttons and sliding it off of her shoulders. Reminding himself to lower her gently, he deftly unclasped her bra before her back hit the bed. Smiling he removed it and paid her breasts all the attention they were due, not stopping until he had a writhing Adelle DeWitt beneath him.

After removing the rest of her clothing while diminishing the stimulation somewhat so she didn’t injure her shoulder due to restless motion, Dominic shucked what he needed to of his own attire and entered her as gently as he could. Staring into her eyes, he moved slowly, each thrust careful and sure. “Are you ok?” he whispered. “I don’t want to hurt you.” An expression laden with anticipation and the tightening of her good arm around his neck seemed to be positive feedback, so he continued with the same measured, almost metronomic rhythm. Adelle moaned his name as she went over the edge. She rewarded him the second time with more of a scream. Dominic felt so good; he knew he lacked the words to describe the sensations. Adelle’s nails raked his shoulders for the third or fourth time. He viewed her losing control as as good of a sign as his losing count.

“Now, Laurence.”

Her whisper demanded he pick up the pace. He did and the two of them climaxed together. Dominic rolled onto his back, drawing Adelle close. Molding herself to his side, she rested her head on his shoulder.

“How early are you planning to leave?”

This time, her whisper sent a stab of pain his way. “Early.”

“I loathe saying goodbye with sex.” Lifting her head to look at him, she said, “It seems so immature.”

Smiling as he slid away from her, Dominic picked up his pants and pulled them on. “Where are you going?” Adelle asked, dismay evident in her tone.

Reaching for his shirt, Dominic said, “We aren’t saying goodbye with sex. We’re saying goodbye with cheesecake.” Grinning at the laughter he’d surprised out of her, Dominic donned his shirt and buttoned two buttons in the middle of the row and went back to her office. Working quickly, he put both pieces of dessert on a single plate, grabbed two small forks and returned to the bedroom. Plopping down on the bed next to a gloriously naked Adelle DeWitt, he offered her a fork. She took it and the plate and the second fork. “Get undressed,” she commanded, taking a small bite of cheesecake, “or I will be forced to confiscate your dessert.”

“I wouldn’t want to cause you to take such drastic action,” he said, standing to take off his pants once more.

“I thought not.”

Naked, he slipped beneath the sheet beside her and accepted the fork she offered. “How is it?” he asked. Adelle speared a piece of his slice with her fork and served it to him with a smile. Laughing, he allowed her to feed him the morsel. “Wow,” he muttered. “That’s good.”

“Not nearly as good as what came before.”

“Tell me that pun was unintended.”

“I’d rather have no more lies between us, Laurence.” Their eyes met and held.

“All right,” he whispered, looking away first, feeling the weight of all the lies he’d told since Adelle told him to pack a bag for Paris, over the last three years, throughout his adult life. Pensive, he focused on his dessert.

“I didn’t intend to inspire you to brood,” Adelle said, tapping his right hand lightly with her fork.

He shifted his fork to his left hand and put his right arm around Adelle. “I’m not brooding,” he said. “I’m just … um … wondering whether I’ve wasted my life.” Does that count as brooding?

Sighing, Adelle said, “There shall be no thoughts of wasted decades while consuming this exquisite cheesecake. Is that clear, Laurence.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I am going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”

The slight smirk on her face drew a full fledged one to his. Expression tempered somewhat by the gastronomical pleasure of another bite of cheesecake, he said, “Smart woman.”

“A fact it would behoove you to remember as you traverse the globe on my behalf.”

Expression now perfectly neutral, Dominic said, “A lone knight on a quest for his extremely sage and stunningly beautiful queen.”

“There couldn’t be more than one knight with such warped a view of me.”

“Not anymore,” he said, enjoying another bite of cheesecake. To her artfully raised eyebrow, he said, “I fought my way to the front of the line and slit the throats or threw burning oil on the others.” He grinned. “Some things are better when done the old fashioned way.”

“I see.”

“That’s what’s so special and decidedly British about you,” he said, laughing. “The understated reaction to mass murder perpetrated to get exclusive access to you.”

She opened her mouth but closed it without saying anything. Dominic watched her take a breath, close her eyes, open them and bite her lip. “Be careful,” she murmured.

“I’m always careful.”

Adelle shook her head. “I think Clarice and I know you better than that.” She sighed. “Casey as well.”

“How about, ‘Your wish is my command,’ then?’” he asked, grinning.

“That will do, Laurence.”

* * *

Adelle DeWitt sat at her desk facing her computer screen but not really seeing it. She’d awoken alone. Dominic had already gone. He’d not done anything so trite as leaving her a note. His statement didn’t lend itself to words captured on paper. On her pillow, Adelle had found Laurence’s NSA identification. The stark reality of the truth she’d asked for between them had brought tears to her eyes.

We’ve just begun to know each other and we face months apart. What am I to do besides smile and nod at clients in whom I have no real interest? That and ponder the man depicted on this identification—a several years younger version of the Laurence Dominic in my life. He’s not smiling, but there’s a hint of amusement behind those eyes. There’s a light in them in this small photograph—a light I’ve glimpsed only a few times. A light I’d do just about anything to see routinely. Is that possible? Is there a way out of this morass … for either of us? For … for us both?


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This was a great installment.

I loved Dominic being awesome in regards to completely playing Angelika (and getting Judith mad at him) and pawning Claire Saunders with manipulation. I love Dominic being amazing (plus hin leaving Adelle his NSA Idenificiation is wonderful and touching). Why are they so wonderful together?

I loved it!

Dominic came off very well in this episode, I think. I was pleased to be able to show him have an understanding of Claire Saunders (and, not incidentally, more or less complying with how Adelle seemed to want that situation handled) and a quick grasp of what was required to deal with the woman from Tucson (channeling the secret agent aspect of his persona). I also wanted him to make some sort of statement in response to Adelle's desire for truth between them but anything I could come up with for him to say sounded off. So ... I had to come up with something for him to do. Glad leaving his NSA ID worked for you.

I think Adelle and Laurence are good together because they understand each other at a somewhat fundamental level. They recognize the differences and accept them, but I think there's an awareness of how and often what the other person thinks and feels. My 2 cents, anyway.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

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Thanks for sticking with me through all fourteen. I was pleased with how this bit came out. It resonated with me.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Poor Dom, off to do heaven knows what and with his secret mission named by Topher.

The end of this just made me go, "oh Adelle," and the symbolism of his leaving the id behind, with her, was so touching and at the same time so complicated.

When he gets back they might try having sex without one of them being injured, maybe?

I love the way the role playing came in again - how Adelle can almost tell now, but still she doubts. I think it's clever the way they have swapped over in that respect - he seems far clearer about what he feels for her - and not afraid to show it either. I think she has to sort herself out to some extent while he is away. But I doubt it will be that simple.
Do I have to wait a week for the next part? Really?

I think Dominic would rather be off (even on a secret mission named by Topher) and doing something rather than sitting home waiting for something to be done, however dangerous and potentially life threatening his mission is.

I'm very proud of the end of this b/c I wanted emotional resonance with open acknowledgement that their have been lies between them in the past and mutual agreement to at least try to put that behind them. And it is complicated b/c these two people are so complicated, any effort to pair them up is bound to be even more complex and multi-faceted. Here's the most obvious piece of tangible proof that I've lied to you and I've given it into your possession. This says so many things, I'm sure I haven't thought of them all yet.

Sex w/o prior injuries? Hmmmmm. I suppose that might possibly be arranged.:)

I like when Dom slips into a role. My various Doms tend to do that b/c I think it's a cool trait for a spy to have. This one was fun b/c I really wanted it to be funny. When I wrote it, I didn't realize that Adelle was sort of getting the hang of telling when he's him and when he's acting. I noticed it when editing and tried to play it up some.

I suspect Adelle, deep down, knows full well where she stands but she's not about to declare anything when she isn't truly sure about him. I further suspect that Dom gets that at some level. Hence the leaving of the ID (or one of the many reasons for doing it). Kind of an "And I mean it!" thing.

Dominic is seeing things somewhat more clearly at the moment. Seems like there should be a "but ..." following that statement, doesn't it?

Adelle will have a lot of time to think when Dominic is away. But simplicity and Adelle do not seem to mix.

A week? Maybe not. Depends on how my other editing goes. I'm trying to be disciplined and it's working ... sort of ok so far. But I discovered the second season of Merlin playing on SyFy, so that will eat up a little time.

Thanks so much for continuing to read and comment! I am having fun reworking this in my head and am sure to have more questions for you soon.

I look forward to some more twists and turns for both of them. I don't know that Adelle's sojurn will be dull - she's still in a somewhat vulnerable position and presumably she will have to explain Dom's absence - or make it appear he is still there.

I am sure lone knights facing danger and trials far from the reason for their quest experience doubts - or are forced to question what they are doing.

I'm still happy to hear about the re-working and to help with any research /opinions.

I think with Dominic being promoted out of day-to-day Dollhouse activities, it will be relatively straightforward to deal with his absence. At least for a while.

As to Dominic, I'm thinking he might be fortunate to be busy enough to avoid to much introspection. And that might be a good thing.

Thanks re the reworking. Ditto re the little sib AU of yours.

I love this title! I fell over laughing because it's totally something Topher would come up with as a designation.

I'm with Morgan in the, poor Dom, sympathy boat. He's been through a lot, and now has to be chucked back into the great unknown. That coupled with the fact that the most important person in the world to him was held at knife point and he had to play nonchalance. Right in front of her too. I can't imagine the type of stress an act like that would elicit.

It was interesting to get Adelle's POV on the 'Agent Dominic' matter. It's understandable that she'd have her doubts. She'd be crazy not too. But I'm glad that they're slowly working through them. Must say it was a nice touch for him to leave his NSA card with her, it's sort of like saying 'I trust you with 7 years of my life. I don't have to hide no more.'

I second (or is it third) the motion for injury free sex. :)

Great installment as always! Can't wait to read more. Hopefully we wont have to wait a week, but I know the enigmatic power of Merlin.


I'm glad I got at least one title right. Titles are far too difficult for me. If I'd known the beast would get so long, I'd have stuck with my original title and just numbered the various chapters.

Dom has been through alot, but the phase he's entering now is one he's familiar and comfortable with. He's doing his job, relying on himself alone and the flight crew of the private plane and likely several helicopters to travel between locations. I sense he prefers things this way.

I think 'Agent Dominic' was important for Adelle to see in a context like this. She'd listened to him play a role when he last spoke to Clarice on the phone, but actually seeing it had to be both amazing and disturbing. On the one hand, this lightens the blow of having been taken in for so long, but on the other she has to wonder if things have really changed. Leaving the NSA ID was a step toward addressing this, I think.

The demands for injury free sex are being carefully considered.:)

Thanks for reading and commenting. As to Merlin, I go to thinking about it when we discussed it the other day and went looking for it. SYFY is on episode 5 but they showed a marathon the other day, allowing me to get 1-4 on my TIVO. Am trying to catch up before 5 airs on Friday. I've seen the first two so far and have enjoyed them.

All of your titles have been spot on. Seriously. I'm sure many people on this board share my view on that. I just thought "Domster" was hilariously consistent with Topher's slang.

I'm glad you're enjoying Merlin. Let me know what you think of episode 5 if you get to it. Sarah Parish was an awesome guest star in that episode.

Maybe I'm fretting over titles b/c I can't think of one for the next bit. Something (I hope) will emerge upon another reading/editing pass.

Thanks for the kind words.

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