Warnings: Sex, BDSM, spoilers up to the end of Series 3, reference to canon character death.
Authors notes: Written as a birthday gift for the lovely vanillafluffy
Concluding story in my Jools/Danny series.
1. Smooth Operator
A story of seduction.
2. The Cost Of Favours
Things get darker and kinkier.
Thanks again and again and again to Beta Goddess Carol, for using her own whips to keep me in line.
Summary: Jools always took care of his agents.
“Oliver, so good to see you again.”
“Jools, prompt and impeccable, as always.”
Weekly lunches with the Chairman of the JIC were a necessary, if odious, part of the job, although Mace’s porcine features and rancid breath were enough to put Jools off anything more substantial than consommé and a prawn cocktail. The charade of civility continued as a waitress took their drink orders. Oliver managed to wait until the girl was out of earshot before taking the first poisoned arrow out of his quiver.
“Bit of excitement at the PM’s event Friday night.” As if Jools hadn’t had reports of the incident within seconds of the suicide bomber being removed from the premises.
Jools lit a cigarette as much in self-defense as for pleasure, inhaling deeply as the waitress arrived with his whiskey and Oliver’s more abstemious libation. Nearby patrons could glare all the daggers they wished in his direction. It was still his legal right and they didn’t have to put up with the stench of the insufferable prig who was currently providing specifications more suitable to the construction of an estate than the preparation of a slab of meat that would disappear down his gullet whether it was seared to ashes or rare to the point of bloodiness.
All Jools required was that the broth be clear and the seafood fresh, not too much to expect from one of Mayfair’s oldest establishments.
“Yes, Harry’s boys certainly covered themselves in glory.”
So typically Oliver. He and Oliver had history together, several lifetimes it seemed, back to the days when Oliver had been an up and coming toady in the last Labour Government with a full head of hair and a talent for fulminating internecine warfare among his rivals.
Jools had an extensive dossier on Oliver, his family, friends, former friends, and dead friends. Thus Mace had had the sense to keep his grubby fingers far from Jools’ domain and focus his power-hungry vendetta on the hapless denizens of Thames House, who’d nearly played right into his hands.
“Odd. I could have sworn we were all the same side.”
“Of course, but this will be a feather in Five’s cap.”
Jools resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the transparency of Oliver’s attempted manipulation. He turned his attention to his soup, hoping to avoid the sight of the Chairman eating.
“Although the credit should actually redound to you. Adam Carter is still your boy, isn’t he?”
Not for years.
“What can I say? Clearly our service provides superior training and little sister needs to take advantage.”
“And the lovely Fiona seems to find the grass greener at Milbank as well.”
“Oh, Oliver. Now you’re just being cruel. Who am I to stand in the way of true love?”
He kept his voice light and ironic as he watched Oliver dab at a stream of juice running down his chin, staining the serviette but saving his school tie. What Oliver suspected was his own affair. Jools was in the business of knowing secrets about others, not disclosing them about himself.
Fiona had been a challenge; losing her rankled more than he cared to admit. She was far too valuable an agent to be sacrificed on the altar of domesticity, even refusing to accept any assignments that required her to compromise herself.
Jools had met this ultimatum by pointing out that the horse in question had long since left the barn. Fiona was too canny to attempt the slap she so clearly wanted to bestow, which might have led to a more convivial parting of the ways. Instead she advised him of the exact date her maternity leave would start, a date he found very interesting based on a pleasant memory and basic maths. The eventual request for a transfer was only a formality. Having won the battle for Harry’s affection, if only by default, Adam’s next move would no doubt be to carve out his own little fiefdom within the Grid. That would bear watching.
“It’s no wonder they have to keep poaching your people, the way Harry’s been losing his. Careless of him.”
It was hard to say which was giving Oliver more pleasure, his lunch or the opportunity to point out Harry’s failing in the expectation that Jools would wholeheartedly agree. However, Jools knew exactly where the poisonous cretin was heading and didn’t feel especially inclined to have a laugh at his old nemesis’ expense. Not today.
“The abduction of the officers? Ugly business, given that the terrorists aren’t supposed to be on our soil at all.”
The steak had been reduced to a bone and few morsels of gristle beyond even the capability of Oliver’s fangs.
“You’ve seen the report then?”
Jools used his fork to stab another morsel of seafood instead of putting it through one of Mace’s beady eyes.
Did the Chairman think he did nothing on Monday mornings except drink tea and peruse the weekend cricket scores? There was tea, of course, brewed to specifications and poured by his secretary exactly one minute before his arrival, heralded by a phone call as his limousine entered the car park, but there were also the morning papers of the major European capitals, summaries of a dozen others, and the latest intelligence from Kabul, Baghdad, Tel Aviv, Moscow and Washington.
When he’d broken the seal on this morning’s envelope he’d found the Security Service’s report regarding two officers taken hostage by Iraqi insurgents and the eventual execution of one. Danny Hunter.
Jools forced himself to look into Oliver’s Mace’s eyes, which were avidly waiting for any kind of response that could be filed away for future gain, and gave back nothing but a vaguely sympathetic sigh.
“Terrible shame about that. I’m sure Mr. Hunter upheld the honour of his service admirably.”
“Mrs. Carter’s statement was quite moving. One almost hates the necessity to keep the matter under wraps.”
He realised he was gripping the base of his empty glass rather tightly and made a quick adjustment. If it were up to Oliver, members of the intelligence services would be on the cover of the Sun with the more comely female officers taking their turns on Page 3. Not that Oliver gave a damn about the ship of state. The only glory he cared about was his own.
“Well, Oliver, until you can ram something through Parliament, it appears that Secret shall remain an intrinsic part of the job description and the Official State Secrets Act will remain in effect.”
Mace’s nostrils flared in irritation as he struggled to control his temper. Being Oliver, he couldn’t resist a final shot across the bow.
“I understand they’ve pulled another fellow from Vauxhall to fill the vacancy. A Mr. Younis. Has he been properly vetted?”
Jools had no intention of rewarding Oliver’s blatant racism with any kind of validation. He hadn’t been especially impressed by Zaffir Younis’ record in the field, but he had no doubt of the man’s loyalty to Britain, if not to the SIS. If Harry wanted him, Harry could have him, no doubt at Adam’s behest.
Lunch drew to a close with aperitifs and a sugary confection to sweeten Oliver’s palate from the bile that filled his mouth with every well-chosen word. The conversation turned to the war and the other war and even the upcoming Christmas holidays.
That Oliver Mace was a devoted husband and father, nattering about what to get Nancy for Christmas, meant nothing to Jools. He only knew that Oliver’s voice happened to be one of the loudest harmonizers with the siren song that came into the Prime Minister’s ear from the White House on a daily basis. And wouldn’t Oliver love to catch him out in a statement directly contradicting the Government’s official position that the war in Iraq could be won on the ground?
At the door of the restaurant, he shook Oliver’s clammy hand and wished him the best for the holidays. Lunches would recommence after the first of the year, unless a merciful hand of fate somehow removed Oliver from his position. The air was quite brisk, but he took the time to walk a few blocks, finding the crisp chill refreshing. The decorations in the shop windows added a festive touch to an otherwise bleak afternoon and he briefly considered what gifts would be bestowed on loyal employees and useful associates, as well as those of his more intimate acquaintances. His mind wandered just far enough to consider what Danny might like of the newest electronics, before a gust of reality hit him and he signalled for the driver who’d been creeping along the street at a discreet distance to stop so he could get inside for a cigar and a stiff shot.
He checked the text messages that had been accumulating while Oliver was providing his weekly dose of indigestion. New information from an agent in Kuala Lumpur, an impertinent inquiry from one of his press contacts, and a rather saucy note in broken English from Atsuko, which brought a smile to his lips as he puffed his cigar and thought about her skilful fingers. A massage was very much in order. He sent back a message advising her to be available after seven.
Three messages from Harry of increasing urgency since 1130 that morning. Not surprising, really. Perhaps he’d been the slightest bit careless in not having the chess game deactivated as soon as he saw the report of Danny’s demise, but Harry had grown complacent. Perhaps a painful shock was the best gift he could give to a man who might have once been a friend. If Harry couldn’t be taught a lesson, then Jools would at least enjoy his discomfiture at having his group penetrated yet again.
Jools sent back a terse reply offering to see Harry in his office at half past three. He could practically feel Harry bristle impatiently through the mobile as the letters appeared demanding an earlier appointment. Electronic negotiations continued until they settled on 215PM, giving Jools time to visit some of his officers in the field -- and let them know he appreciated the tedium of manning an observation post opposite the Icelandic embassy -- before returning to this office and reviewing the report yet again.
History is written, not necessarily by the victors, but always by the survivors. Re-reading the transcript of Fiona’s debriefing, Jools could guess at what had been left out. He knew Fiona. Once it was clear that someone was going to die, she would do whatever it took to make sure that she walked out alive, including manipulating Danny’s emotions to the point that he would do anything to protect her. He couldn’t fault her for that and wouldn’t expect anything less from one of his officers.
Now Jools had to find a new source inside MI5, a tricky proposition considering how many of them were now former employees with their own proverbial axes to grind. More than that, while he wouldn’t go so far as to claim that he cared greatly about Danny, he had reason to suspect Danny had grown fond of him.
How could Harry not have realised what would happen when Danny lost both Tom and Zoe in the space of mere months? Did he really think Danny was emotionally equipped for the brutality that an automaton like Adam Carter could carry out with nary a qualm? Deprived of both a mentor and his platonic infatuation, Danny had been left alone with his conscience. It wasn’t a comfortable association. Jools had noticed a change in the tenor of Danny’s reports from a duty performed under duress to the only outlet for sharing his increasing doubts about the greater good to be accomplished by the job itself. He’d been half-tempted to ask if he looked like a priest and remind Danny that he was in no position to offer absolution, even though Danny was most fetching on his knees.
Instead he took note of Danny’s concerns, whether it was the deteriorating morale of Section D or Danny’s reckoning that Ruth Evershed fancied Harry, of all people. Oh well, no accounting for taste. He also used Danny for his own enjoyment, which had apparently become Danny’s enjoyment as well. Sometimes a push over the sofa had been the only way to put a stop to more blather about the sad state of Ms. Evershed’s love life than a sane man could tolerate.
His secretary came in to announce Mr. Pearce’s arrival.
Having to wait more than three hours couldn’t have done much for Harry’s mood, which tended toward the choleric at the best of times.
“Ah, Harry. So good to see you. Drink?”
Harry wasn’t having any of the pleasantries today. He merely placed the chess game down on Jools’ desk with a ‘clunk’ heavy enough to make him fear for the finish. It must have been a struggle for Harry not to point his finger and announce J'accuse! Instead he sat himself opposite Jools with a great show of crossed arms and pursed lips.
“A Christmas gift? You shouldn’t have.”
“No, Jools. You shouldn’t have. I’ve lost an officer. A good man.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” Jools replied, more sincerely than Harry would ever understand or believe.
“And do you know where this was found?” Harry asked, indicating the device with such evident distaste that Jools had half a mind to inquire if it had been lodged firmly up Mr. Hunter’s bum.
He shrugged as though the matter were of no importance to him at all but his curiosity was piqued, so Harry might as well tell him.
“It was in a bedroom, specifically on top of a nightstand, in Danny Hunter’s apartment.”
Jools shook his head in a great show of disappointment and poured two drinks from the decanter on his desk, pushing one in Harry’s direction.
“Perhaps your Mr. Hunter was having unauthorised contact with one of our R&D girls. I can launch an internal inquiry, if you like.”
Harry picked up the glass and threw back a hearty slug without taking his eyes off Jools or indicating even a glint of amusement. Jools sipped at his drink and smoothed his hair, remembering the feeling of Danny’s scalp under his fingers, especially when it was slick with sweat.
“Shall I tell you something else?” Harry’s voice came out low and coiled. The question was clearly rhetorical. “At autopsy, it was discovered that Danny had a pattern of scarring on his back consistent with being whipped.”
“The terrorists?” Jools asked, allowing his face to display appropriate horror and outrage.
“Not according to Fiona’s report, and I believe she might have mentioned it at some point in the debriefing. The medical examiner’s opinion was that the marks were between two and three weeks old. There were also indications that he had been bound by the wrists and ankles in the same period of time.”
Leave it to Danny to get himself killed before the evidence could fade.
“I can’t say I’d ever really met the chap, but he hardly seemed the type.”
“No. He wasn’t.”
“Don’t you vet for that sort of thing?”
“Of course we do!” Harry bellowed.
Jools smiled into his drink. Harry needed to know something of his own culpability.
“Funny what the first go-round as a torturer will do to a man. I understand it took some rather extraordinary techniques to get Mr. Morgan to reveal the intentions of his employers.”
Harry’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. Perhaps he was imagining what might have happened after Danny’s “successful” stint as Adam’s partner in interrogation.
Danny had shown up to meet Jools at the Regency Club, but instead of the usual ritual of drinks, he’d insisted on going up to Jools’ rooms immediately. Jools had been amused enough to indulge the breach in protocol. He was less amused when Danny started his halting report of what Adam had done to Morgan, the words coming out slowly at first, as though he could barely stand to recount the details. In desperation, he had poured himself a stiff shot of Jools’ best single malt and downed it far too quickly. Liquor mixed with guilt and the next thing he knew Danny was pacing the room with expansive gestures but a choking voice.
“We broke about ten different international laws, even dragged a child into it. We were no better than what we’re supposed to be fighting.”
“And what exactly do you think you’ll accomplish here?” Jools asked cautiously. He had a fairly good idea of where this might be going and wanted to see exactly how bad a mental state Danny was in before proceeding.
“I want you to do what you said before…remember…when you tied me up?”
“I take it you’re looking for something a bit more disciplinary this time around.”
“Come on, Jools,” he said, using his first name almost offhandedly, with an edge of insolence, as if deliberately seeking to get Jools riled enough to strike him. “You were playing tricks then, but you promised me the real thing. Now it’s your turn to come through. You’ve probably got all sorts of stuff here, so you might as well use it.”
Jools shook his head reprovingly.
“Specifics, Danny. What do you want?”
“Tie me up. Whip me.” His voice suddenly lost its self-confidence, coming out in a desperate whisper. “I deserve it.”
It wasn’t an unpleasant prospect, but… “This is the job. If you need to be flayed every time you violate the Geneva Convention, you’ll have a very short career in the security services. Do you think Adam is home stewing about this or asking Fiona to attach a set of electrodes to his genitals?”
“I don’t care about Adam. And I’m serious. If you don’t do this, it’s over. No more information. No more…anything. You can tell Harry. Tell the DG. Tell the Mirror, for all I care.”
“That’s it then? Give back the presents? Cancel the church? Pity. I’d been looking forward to wearing the white gown.”
Danny looked utterly devastated as he turned around, making his forlorn way toward the door, betrayal evident in every step. By the time he got there, Jools had already covered the distance. He pushed Danny against the door, forcefully, letting Danny’s forehead bang slightly to make a point.
“Listen to me,” he said brusquely, bringing his mouth directly against Danny’s ear. “The arrangement ends when I say it does. You will continue to provide information and I will reward or punish you as I see fit. Do you understand?”
Danny nodded quickly. Jools could sense fear, but also relief.
“Go into the other room and remove all of your clothes. Then lie down on the bed, face down while I decide what to do with you.” He held Danny against the door with his weight for an extra moment, giving him something else to think about, before releasing him to follow his directions while Jools made his decision.
One could be a sensualist without being a sadist, and a man in Jools’ position had to be a pragmatist above all. Which would be crueller, giving Danny what he thought he wanted or withholding it? Harry, Adam and even Tom had created this situation, leaving Jools to make the best decision for Danny, for all of them. .
If he sent Danny away unpunished for his “sins,” he’d go looking for some other means of expiation. At least Jools knew how to do the job properly.
The things I do for you, Harry, he thought, shaking his head.
Danny had been correct in believing that the necessary apparatus was near at hand, from the silk ropes to a ball-gag. As for the instrument itself, there were whips of various hefts, as well as a riding crop neatly stored in a cedar chest that stood innocuously in a corner of the outer room. Jools was momentarily entranced by the prospect of administering a good old-fashioned caning, but settled on something he’d had made to order during his posting in Vienna. It had an ivory handle and a light leather lash, but when correctly handled produced a crack of bone-chilling proportions. A few practice strokes let Jools know he hadn’t lost his touch and probably gave Danny a preview of what was going to happen.
The whip would raise welts, blood would flow and Danny Hunter would be punished, but not nearly as badly as he might have been by an amateur. The sound would do wonders for Danny’s mental well-being, a treatment far more direct than anything sanctioned by the NHS.
Jools found Danny face down on the bed and naked as he had been instructed. He raised his head at the sound of Jools’ entrance, looking over his shoulder to assure himself that Jools had the instruments of penance in hand.
Without hesitation or discussion, Jools set about the task of affixing Danny’s wrists and ankles to the metal rings that were built inconspicuously into the bed and which Danny must have known were there from the beginning. There might be marks, but that was Danny’s problem and it was preferable to the damage he’d cause himself thrashing about. He inserted the gag without resistance and tightened it with a business-like tug of the leather straps. Soundproofing is hard to come by in a National Heritage building.
Jools observed the anticipatory gleam of perspiration on Danny’s muscular back. He leaned over to run his hand down the dark, unblemished skin, feeling his own breath catch slightly.
Whatever he’d planned for Danny the first day he approached him at the London Eye, it hadn’t included this, but now they were both committed. Jools always took care of his agents.
He stood up and steadied his stance on the right side of the bed, bringing the stiff leather down in a fast, fluid motion that created a most satisfying snap. Danny’s body jerked upwards as much as possible within his restraints. He tried to scream, but the gag reduced his sounds to a piteous yelp. Jools watched as the first mark rose up black and angry on Danny’s flesh. The next stroke brought the first trace of red, and with the third came actual droplets.
It had been his intention to approach the matter as professionally as possible, but it was impossible to keep a sigh of what must have been exertion from escaping his lips. He became slightly intoxicated with the aesthetic pleasure of creating a latticework on the canvas of Danny’s back. After ten lashes, he switched to the other side of the bed in the name of symmetry and sparing Danny more pain than he could handle, even though the actual attempts at screaming no longer reached his ears past the blood he could feel pounding in his head. After the twentieth stroke, he lowered his arm and beheld his work. It was good.
He dropped the whip and proceeded to untie Danny’s wrists and ankles. While helping him to sit up, Jools barely eluded an attempted embrace from Danny’s shaking hands. Once the gag had been removed, it was clear Danny had been weeping, from the pain or maybe relief. Before he could demand a declaration of gratitude, Danny produced it unbidden, repeating, “Thank you,” between tears and gulps of air as though he’d been given a great gift.
Jools knew that the trickles of blood would soon make their way onto his sheets and wanted to say something about it, but it was clear that Danny was desperate to cling to someone in his current state of pain-induced euphoria. Jools was no one’s cuddly toy, but did deign to undo his trousers, and press Danny’s face close to his silk boxers, allowing Danny the opportunity to relieve the tension that he’d built up delivering the blows.
Danny sought and found his hardness and Jools closed his eyes, giving in momentarily to the pleasures of being engulfed in the warmth and heat of Danny’s mouth. Yes, it would be a shame to lose him. If Danny grasped his legs and buttocks with something like affection, it could be overlooked as lips and tongue and accommodating throat brought him to a rather pleasant release, perhaps a bit more energetically than Danny expected. Jools opened his eyes in time to see drops of fluid dribble from Danny’s mouth, joining the sweat and tears already soaking his face.
His hand touched Danny’s head. He licked the sweat off his fingers before insisting that Danny stop bleeding on the bed immediately and get cleaned up.
Jools’ office was getting warm. It was either his memory of Danny or the hot air generated by Harry’s ranting as he got out of his seat and banged a fist on the much-abused antique desk.
“What exactly will it take to get you to stop shagging my employees?”
“Well, someone ought to do it. I hear your Miss Evershed is on the brink of …”
“And that’s your answer to everything, isn’t it, Jools? A hand in the knickers and a camera in the bedroom?”
Harry could be quite like a maiden aunt, shocked at the notion that people actually had it off with each other, although his outrage was just as hypocritical as the auntie’s would have been.
“Come on, Harry. You’ve never been averse to having your more attractive officers use their charms, as long as you don’t have to give the order yourself. You don’t seem to mind blood on your hands, but the more intimate materials give you pause.”
“You’re not going to bring up…”
“Well, I wasn’t going to, but it appears you can’t resist.”
Harry sat down, shaking his head. Jools lit a cigarette and blew a stream of smoke toward the ceiling. Here it was, out of the box after all these years, still bothering Harry, as well it should.
“It wasn’t my fault,” Harry protested, and this time Jools was happy to set the record straight.
“Don’t try to peddle that package of guilt at my door, Harry. If anyone’s responsible for poor Marilyn…”
“Madeline, Jools. Her name was Madeline.”
Actually, her name had been Emily, but she thought Madeline made her sound more “continental.” Just a girl from Stoke-on-Trent who’d gone to Paris and drastically over-stayed her work visa. The resulting attempts at deportation had come to an abrupt end when British Army Intelligence discovered that she’d caught the eye of a French cabinet minister who’d had his hand in the Chinese fortune cookie jar and needed to be removed quickly and quietly.
Jools had been brought in to facilitate the operation. A seduction seemed the obvious solution and Madeline was more than willing to give her all for the cause, but Harry had operational jurisdiction and wouldn’t authorise the plan. He insisted on sending Madeline to see Michel with a gun and a resignation statement.
To say things didn’t go well would be an understatement.
“She was nineteen,” Harry whispered fiercely, as though Jools hadn’t known that -- or as if it would have made a difference.
“It was twenty years ago,” he replied.
Harry would never let go and he’d never learn how to manage people. He should have seen the cracks in Tom Quinn long before Ed Joyce began his schemes, but his blind spot wouldn’t let him.
All he could do was grumble, “Stay away from my officers,” as he left Jools’ office.
“Absolutely,” Jools agreed jovially. “Always a pleasure to help out,” he reminded Harry’s retreating form.
Harry was hopeless. If he wasn’t careful, Oliver would win next time or the time after that and he’d never see it coming. Jools shook his head and hoped he was wrong, but he rarely was.
Nearly a day gone, but there were still emails to check and strings to be pulled across the pond.
His last task of the day involved pulling out his list of MI5 officers and considering his two best options for a new inside source. Ruth Evershed, a lonely woman of a certain age who’d already been proven somewhat flexible in her loyalties, and Samantha Buxton, ludicrously called “Sam,” young and naïve enough to have been taken in by one of Tessa’s more amusing stratagems. One of the ladies would be receiving something special in her Christmas stocking and possibly the other sort as well. It was a delicate decision given Harry’s current prickly state.
The report that had started his day was still sitting on his desk. He gave it a final glance before adding it to the pile destined for the shredder. Harry would probably mourn Danny as a fallen soldier and Oliver saw him only as a bludgeon to use against Harry, but Danny deserved something better. He didn't know what, exactly, but it was more than MI5, the JIC or even Jools could give at this point. It was too late for any of that.