For the 100_tales prompt 043 "years"
Notes: set pre-series
DISCLAIMER: Not for profit, no copyright infringement intended.
DeWitt had been in her office all afternoon. Alone.
Dominic knew, because he'd been eavesdropping, it was because she'd had a phone call that morning from an old friend. Rosalind Knowles had attended the same public school that Adelle had back in England, and had called to let Adelle know that their old Mathematics teacher had died.
It wasn't the death that bothered her, Dominic knew. From what he'd gleaned as he'd signed off on paperwork while Adelle chatted on the phone, it was something else. The longer Rosalind talked, the more she and Adelle reminisced, the more despondent Adelle had become. Rosalind was still in England and her stories had all involved things that were apparently quintessentially English.
"We don't even have proper jam doughnuts here," Adelle complained, one hand holding the receiver to her ear as she lounged in her chair, the other wrapped in the cord. "It's mostly iced doughnuts – sorry, glazed - with sprinkles. Even the 'jelly' doughnuts aren't the same. Not that I eat them all the time, Ros, I have a figure to watch, but sometimes a girl has cravings. Do you remember when we'd sneak out of hockey practice and go and buy sausage rolls or doughnuts from the local bakers? Those were the days."
That was the problem, Dominic thought suddenly. Not the doughnuts per se, but the lack of something familiar. Adelle wasn't grief stricken. She was homesick.
When she hung up, she'd turned to him.
"Have you finished the paperwork?"
"Yes," he'd replied, handing her the sheaf of files.
"Good. I have some work to do." Adelle had turned back to her computer, though she didn't move to touch the keyboard, just stared out of the window. "I don't want any interruptions for the rest of the day."
He took that to mean "unnecessary" interruptions and felt pride that she trusted him to make the distinction.
He'd passed word around and so far everyone had promised obedience. Topher however made an impassioned list of scenarios that would require him breaching Adelle's privacy and Dominic finally snapped, "You call me first!"
Topher nodded fervently even as he countered, "Even if a war breaks out?"
"Yes!" Dominic leant in close. "Or a war will start in here."
Sulking, Topher went to his lab and banged away at his keyboard.
Dominic leant on the railing and watched the actives practise yoga. He wasn't keen on it himself, but they looked so calm and at peace doing it, that he felt some small benefit from spectating.
Suddenly, he had an idea. Much to Topher's chagrin, it meant he had to leave the premises.
"If a war starts, I'll wait for you to come back then shall I?" Topher demanded.
Dominc spun on his heel and glared until Topher backed up.
"Yes, I'll wait quietly." Topher pointed to his lab and disappeared off again, most likely to play video games. So long as he was out of the way, Dominic didn't really care.
He'd never been to the store before, but a few phone calls and a false start getting the GPS to recognise the address soon fixed that problem.
An hour and a half later, he returned, both arms wrapped around a large brown cardboard box, thankfully devoid of any labels, text or logos. He was on his way to Adelle's office when he ran into Topher. The man was on the walkway right by her office, and if he'd disturbed her, Dominic thought, there would be trouble.
"What's in the box?" Topher asked, trying to look as if he hadn't been pacing about near the office ever since Dominic had left the building.
"The dismembered body of the last person to ask what was in the box," Dominic snarled.
Toper took a step backwards and studied the security chief's face as if deciding he was serious. Knowing Topher, he was probably also wondering if it was worth pushing his luck and asking what was in the box before that.
"Did you want something, Topher?"
The younger man hovered a moment, dancing about on the balls on his feet. It was a source of both fascination and annoyance to Dominic that Topher seemed incapable of standing still, probably even if his life depended on it.
Cautiously, Topher asked, rather than stated, "Nothing that can't wait?"
Dominic nodded. "Good."
He pushed past Topher and reached Adelle's office door. Dominic considered the logistics. Knocking would be hard enough with his burden, let alone gaining entrance. He could put the box down and open the door and then retrieve the precious package, or he could struggle to pull down the handle while juggling the box and enter the room. Neither would convey the confident impression and gallant gesture he was hoping for.
"Topher," he hissed.
Topher, who'd been dejectedly heading back towards his lab, turned quickly. Dominic half expected him to throw up his hands in surrender.
"Get the door," Dominic said, nodding his head towards the offending item.
Topher beamed and wandered forwards. Honestly, the kid must have been starved of affection in his formative years, Dominic mused. He loved being useful; hell, he'd rather be yelled at than ignored.
Topher sidled up to Dominic and reached round the box, knocking twice.
"Come in." Adelle's voice held just a hint of annoyance.
"Open it, then close it behind me, and get lost," Dominic said.
Topher pulled the handle down and pushed the door open. Dominic entered. He heard the door close behind him, strained to hear Topher's footsteps scurry away.
Adelle was still facing the window and spun her chair slowly to face him. Her eyebrows lifted when she saw the box.
"I know you didn't want to be disturbed but I'm bringing you supplies," Dominic said, placing the box on the glass coffee table.
"Notepads and paperclips?" Adelle offered, but clearly intrigued. She got to her feet and picked up her letter opener. She crossed the room, her high heels sounding with each step.
Adelle looked at him quizzically. "Am I going to like what is in here?"
"I hope so."
His superior tipped her head and looked again at the box, taking in the size, guessing at the contents. She crouched down, adjusting her skirt about her knees. She slid the letter opener under the brown parcel tape and sliced through it. The opener discarded, she pulled the two flaps apart.
Her mouth opened for a moment before she clamped it shut. She looked up at him, as if unsure whether she was pleased or annoyed. She looked at the contents again. He hoped she wasn't disappointed. He hadn't known exactly what to buy. The young British woman in the store had helped him pick some things out, the sort of things she herself was hankering after, but that didn't mean to say they were the things Adelle was longing for.
"Oh, dear God," Adelle said softly. She reached in and rummaged around. "Heinz baked beans. Cadbury's Dairy Milk."
She examined the label critically and smiled in satisfaction at what she read. "Actual Cadbury's, mind! None of that Hershey's crap." She looked up at him, then back to the groceries. "HP sauce. Devon custard. My God, I haven't had some of this stuff in years!"
Dominic crouched down too. "I overheard you saying how much you missed jam doughnuts," he confided. "I know there must be other things you miss about Britain."
Adelle nodded. "Well I'm glad you decided on buying junk food rather than soaking me to the skin in an imitation of the weather," she said. She lifted up a jar of something called Marmite, and replaced it in the box. "How much?"
His employer eased herself to a sitting position on the floor. "How much do I owe you? I know this stuff is expensive. Shipping fees and so on."
He shook his head. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. "I didn't intend to bill you."
Adelle considered this for a moment. "Is this a gift?"
He shrugged. "I just wanted to cheer you up." He'd never known anything get Adelle down, and the sudden gloom that had kept her locked away all day worried him more than he'd ever let on.
"Are you looking for a raise?"
She must have seen the hurt look he couldn't stop crossing his face, because she spoke quickly, regretfully, in order to undo the damage.
"I'm sorry. That was uncalled for." She reached into the box. "This was a very thoughtful gift. Oh, Walker's crisps. God, I could kiss you."
His heart quickened but he kept his expression neutral. Adelle disapproved of office relationships but that didn't stop him hoping. He told himself he only wanted to be close to her to further his own agenda, but he knew that was a lie.
"I'm glad you like it," he said, and got to his feet.
"Where are you going?" Adelle asked in amazement.
He gestured vaguely to the door and she shook her head, making her elegantly styled curls bounce about her shoulders.
"No. We're going to have a cup of actual tea; Tetley tea, yes, with real full fat milk." She closed her eyes in a moment of blissful anticipation. Her hand reached into the box and pulled out a packet. "With McVitie's Chocolate Digestives. Proper biscuits, not cookies or those things you put gravy on."
He was careful not to show how overjoyed he was that Adelle had brightened up. She was sociable, chatty even, as she made a pot of tea. He knew she didn't take off her professional mask for just anybody and he knew it was a sign that their professional relationship was moving into more personal territory.
Soon they sat on the matching sofas, the box put to one side to make room for the teapot, milk jug, cups and saucers, and a delicate china plate piled with the digestive biscuits.
"Tell anyone about this and I'll have you killed," Adelle warned, dunking her biscuit briefly into her tea. "It's horribly uncouth."
Nothing Adelle did could ever be uncouth, he thought. He wasn't sure what all the fuss was about, but he sipped at his tea politely and ate one of the biscuits. That he'd made her happy was all the reward he wanted and to watch the joy on her face as she licked a tiny sliver of chocolate from the tip of one manicured nail was heavenly.
An hour or so later, when he made to leave, Adelle put one hand on his arm.
"Thank you, Laurence," she said. He prayed for a kiss, just a fleeting press of her lips to his cheek, but none came.
Still, as he went about his business, his arm burned where she had squeezed it in gratitude, and his mouth would keep insist on lifting at the corners.
It was enough, for now.