In the end, Lorraine did what she did best, what MI - 6 had trained her for.
From the moment they asked, 'so you made contact with the French operative?' she diverted from the reality of it and gave them what they expected instead. That she'd thought she could exploit Agent LaSalle for the information she needed, get the list before the Soviets could get their hands on it. The cuts and bruises, the fading black eye, lent credence to the slog she'd just been through. Kurzfeld suggested she see a doctor, but she'd gotten into the car with him with a muttered 'let's get this over with.' Looking like hell seemed to make it go easier, grease the wheels so her superiors didn't question her too closely.
Though there was always the chance they didn't want to dig too deep. They'd dropped her into the middle of shark-infested waters with a bucket of chum tied around her ankle, and while she'd been fully aware of what she could be getting into, the decision that she should 'start the next decade well-rested' didn't escape her notice. Still. A rest wouldn't be terrible. Or a doctor's visit.
She was standing outside finishing a cigarette when Kurzfeld caught up to her, waiting for the car service the agency used to pick her up. The day was cool and overcast, not quite chilly. She'd missed English weather. Berlin had the same climate, but without the underlying tension beneath the surface. The swelling under her eye had just begun to subside.
"I'm glad you made it out. Things are going to change after this, for all of us, but you saved a lot of lives."
She didn't answer, looking out at the busy street as she smoked. She supposed she liked Kurzfeld well enough; he'd recruited her and put her in the field, and he looked like he'd lost weight, as if stress was taking a toll. Lorraine gave him an even look as she exhaled smoke in a grayish cloud.
"Was that an apology?"
"No. Just stating facts. You're a damn good agent, Broughton. I don't think any of our other actives could have managed to bring that list out of Germany without more casualties. This Percival thing will blow over while you...take a breather. You've earned it."
"As long as we're clear. Let's not confuse our roles at this late date."
He watched her get into the back of the black car when it pulled up to the curb, moving slow as her finished cigarette smoldered in the gutter. Finished putting it out with the toe of his dress shoe before going back inside. Lorraine finally allowed herself to relax against the imitation leather seat, registering and categorizing each ache. Wondering what the hell she was supposed to do with time off.
The heavy midday traffic meant it took forty-five minutes to reach her flat, and she waved the driver off when he offered to help her upstairs. Standing on the sidewalk, Lorraine looked up at the building, started the climb up the fourteen steps to the door. A bath. A hot one. She might still have some painkillers in the medicine cabinet.
Her hyper-awareness kicked in when she unlocked the door, even though nothing was out of place. Short hallway to the living room, curtains open to let in the sun while it lasted, the post where she'd left it before going on assignment. And the door had been locked. Lorraine closed it behind her, re-engaged the lock. Counted to three while she took off her shoes.
"I told you I'd meet you later."
"How did you find me? I'm not listed, even in the agency directory."
"I told you, you're not as invisible as you think."
She and Delphine looked at each other from where Lorraine stood and the other woman sat on the couch. Delphine got up, crossed the four steps' worth of distance. Touched Lorraine's bruised cheek with one careful hand. Cupped her jaw when she didn't flinch away.
"Are you angry?"
She'd held this to herself, out of range of the people she worked for. Underneath the gelid surface, beneath even the physical hurts she'd endured over the last week, there was a relief that made her teeth clench. Delphine was still wearing the light blue scarf to cover the bruises on her throat. Lorraine's hands came to rest on her upper arms, then her shoulders.
"I don't know what happens now. It feels as if I should, but I don't. I'm just so...fucking glad that you're alive.''
The kiss was a lot less careful than that first touch, and they were both broken around the edges. Uncertain, unsure, and possibly even unsanctioned. But also stronger for being together.
"We'll work something out. Doesn't have to be right this minute. If it didn't matter, I wouldn't be here."
If it didn't matter.
Lorraine shivered with the knowledge of it, that she'd found something worthwhile in the dungheap of her last job. Delphine's shoulders were small under her hands. For once, it was okay not to be six moves ahead of everyone else, to just let things happen. They'd already avoided the worst possible scenario.
"Stay. Stay until you can't."
"I thought you'd never ask."