saga/title/fandom: Adagio chapter 3 (A Man Apart)

author: Rae/Celtia/Celtiareborn

rating/genre: (NC-17) - Romance/Crime Drama

warnings: het, language, violence, and graphic sexual content

summary: Officer Sean Vetter, formerly of the DEA, tries to rebuild his life in Chicago after losing his wife in a botched assassination attempt on his own life. Joining the Chicago Special Tactics Unit, Vetterís bitterness toward life and sullen determination not to care for anyone makes him a nightmare of potential partners, until a stubborn Irish woman named Kate Shea decides she isnít going to let Vetter chase her away Ė from his career or his life. (Sean/OFC)

comments/disclaimers: My summary and first chapter pretty well give away the plot of the movie, so if you haven't seen it yet you might want to wait to read this until you have. FEEDBACK: Two conditions: Please talk to me, not at me; Please do not rewrite my stuff and send it to me the way you would do it. Otherwise have at it. Thanks. ARCHIVE: A qualified yes Ė I would not like the story to appear anywhere else without the person discussing it with me first. NOTES: The story does involve a stalker. Also, there is some violence stemming from Vetter and Kateís jobs as undercover officers. NOTE II: There is some Russian used in the story but I try to explain it unless it explains itself.

CHAPTER THREE

For the next three nights the pattern of the first continued. Vetter arrived, Kate met him in front of the precinct, they moved silently to her car or his truck and spent the next eight hours exchanging the bare minimum of conversation. She thought she detected a slight softening in his manner as their assignment continued but did not feel bold enough to try to engage him in conversation. At least it hadnít rained again.

Kafelnikov did not change his behavior, either. By the time Kate and Vetter arrived each night he was meeting with the same two men and sleeping at his office after the Russians departed in the early hours of the morning. The check on the license plates of the menís cars revealed them to be Sergei Mokolov and Andres Chiuk, two well known supposedly legitimate businessmen from Chicagoís Russian community. Neither man had so much as a traffic ticket on their record. Kate considered that an indication that they might possibly be working with Kafelnikov without knowing he dealt in arms. Vetter considered it solid proof that they were in the trade with the Russian.

Kate sat behind the wheel of the Hyundai. Vetter kept to himself on his side of the car, still dressed in the obligatory fatigue jacket and dark glasses. An hour passed. At 1:15 Kateís cell phone rang. She picked it up. At the voice on the other end Vetter saw out of the corner of his eye that she grew alarmed.

"Is something wrong with Katie?" he heard her ask anxiously. She calmed after a moment, then continued, "Please donít call me at this time of the morning if it isnít an emergencyÖOf course Iíll take her, you know that. Bring her by the apartment at six oíclock FridayÖYou bring her by, BrieÖShit. All right, but she is not coming in. Iíll be out front waiting for themÖYeah, I know. Goodbye."

She flipped the cell closed and, lost in thought, sat with it poised against her lips. Although he did not want to be drawn into whatever problem she just faced Vetter found himself unable to look away from the expression of discomfort on her face.

"My ex," she suddenly said, putting the phone away. "Heís going out of town on business and wants me to take our daughter for the weekend."

"You have a kid," Vetter said.

She could not keep the smile from her face. "Kathleen Rose Quinn," she announced proudly. "Katie. Sheís seven and smart as a fox. Brie would rather leave her with me than Chelsea."

"Chelsea?"

"The twenty-two year-old he screwed around with during our marriage and dumped me for. She may be a good fuck but sheís a lousy mother," Kate stated.

"Shitty way to behave," Vetter allowed.

"Yeah, well, I think Brie missed the "thou shalt not commit adultery" lesson in Sunday school. At least heís a good father. He loves Katie. Heís not a total waste of flesh. Close, but not quite."

Vetter looked forward. "Stupid to get married and sleep around," he remarked. "Thereís no point in it."

"Thatís an unusual attitude for a man."

"Donít judge every man by your ex. Weíre not all shits."

"Pardon me if I donít jump on the bandwagon here, Vetter, but I have a little trouble believing in the idea that the Y-chromosome isnít a built-in recipe for unfaithful husbands. It happened to me and too many of my friends for me to believe otherwise," she said.

"I never would have slept around on Stacey," he said, in a voice so quiet Kate barely heard it.

She started to make a smart-assed remark, remembered his situation, caught herself. "Iím sorry," she said. "Youíre right. Not all men canít be trusted. The woundís still fresh: I let it bleed sometimes. Just ignore me when I start to feel sorry for myself. Iíll get over it soon enough." She paused for a moment before continuing, "Sometimes I think Brie actually did me a favor by cheating on me."

"How so?"

"Things were wrong between us a long time before he started sleeping with Chelsea. Itís a pretty stereotyped scenario: wealthy, successful 40-some year-old man gets worried about dying, has an affair with his social-climber secretary with a perky young body, leaves the wife behind. After Katie was born I could see him starting to feel like his life was going by him. I knew then we werenít going to make it, but until I actually caught him with her I didnít have the guts to leave him. So in the end I think it worked out for the best," she said.

"Youíre a lot more forgiving than I would be," Vetter said.

She shrugged. "I had two choices: move on or let that silicon-implanted bitch ruin my life. I chose to move on. Havenít pulled it off completely yet but I will. And she hates me because she thinks I have, which frankly thrills the hell out of me."

"What about your ex? What does he think about you getting over him?"

"Heís worried that I will."

"So you arenít."

She shrugged again. "Not that it matters. Anyway, I like being a free woman. I had to sublimate myself a lot when I was married. Brie has a very strong personality and it was hard to hold out for what I wanted."

"That doesnít seem like you," he allowed.

"I know. Thatís the damnedest part of all of it. When I married him I was the same person I am now: nobody fucked with me. Okay, maybe I was a little less cynical, but I was just as determined to be myself. The longer I stayed married to him the less capable of that I became. It was like he just took me over and rearranged me to suit himself," she said. "Hell, maybe Iím not being fair to him. God knows Iím not the easiest person in the world to live with."

"Okay, that I believe," he said.

She caught a hint of a smile on his face. She didnít mind.

"Brieís really not a bad guy. Iím angry with him for screwing around on me and breaking our vows but overall heís a good person. Sometimes I even think he regrets letting Chelsea get her hooks in him. If he wasnít so damned proud I think heíd divorce her but he canít admit he was wrong to marry her," she said.

"She wants his money," Vetter guessed.

"As much as she can get. He was at least smart enough to insist she sign a pre-nup. If not for that sheíd have cleaned him out and gone after somebody as beautiful and shallow as she is." She sighed quietly. "Itís really hard for a woman to get old. We look around and see all these beautiful young women with the kind of bodies that we used to have and it stings."

"You look pretty good," he said. "How old are you? Thirty-two?"

"Thirty-two? Man, I have to keep you on my Christmas card list. Iíll be forty in a month, Vetter."

For the first time since losing his temper on their first shift he did not keep a reign on his emotions. "You gotta be kidding me."

"Not at all. June 9th I cross the Great Divide to old age. But thanks for giving me another eight years. I appreciate it," she said.

"I never would have guessed youíre that old."

"So how old are you?"

"Thirty-six in July."

"Pup."

"I donít feel like a pup," he confessed. "When I wake up Iíd swear parts of me belong in a retirement home."

She laughed. "I know. Sometimes when weíre playing outside Katie gives me what she calls "old lady breaks". The sad part is, I need them."

He turned his head to look at her. "So whatís your daughter like?" he asked.

"Sheís a spectacular kid. I know every parent says that but she really is special. All the school tests indicate that sheís well in the gifted range and only going to get smarter. I seriously believe that someday sheíll rule the world," Kate remarked. "From a video monitor, of course."

"The divorce must have been hard on her," he said.

"Brie and I were always very careful to be honest with her about what was going on in the marriage, so when it finally came time to tell her we were splitting up she took it surprisingly well. We both told her it didnít mean we didnít love her or that we hated each other; you know, all the stuff youíre supposed to say. At the end all she did was ask how far we would be living from Brie. When I told her just a couple of miles, she said, ĎWell, it isnít a very big divorce.í Five years old and thatís what she told us. Some kid I have," she said fondly. She sat silently looking at him, as if expecting him to say something particular. When he didnít she said, "Youíre not going to ask why I donít have custody?"

He shrugged. "Not my business."

"Youíre certainly different from the rest of the world. Usually as soon as somebody learns I donít have custody of Katie they automatically assume I must be some kind of terrible mother, a child beater or a junkie or something. It never occurs to anyone that I gave my daughter up because it was better for her," she said.

"You seem like youíd be a good mother," Vetter remarked.

"Thanks. I am; Iím a damn good mother. But you know how this job goes. Thursday youíre pulling an all night surveillance on some Russian arms dealer and Friday afternoon youíre going in as part of a SWAT team on a hostage situation. Shift work is so unfair to kids. I decided it would be better for Katie to live with Brie than spend half her time with a sitter so I signed her over to him. Hardest thing I ever did but it was right," she said.

"Maybe youíll be able to work out a different situation someday," he said.

"The only reason Iíd consider trying to regain at least partial custody would be if I had a man in my life I could rely on to take care of Katie when I wasnít around. So sheíll always be with Brie. But heís great about making sure that I see her so thatíll be all right."

"Stacey always hated my shift work too, but she never said anything. She wasnít the type to complain. God, the things she put up with because of me. Sometimes I think about that and Iím amazed that she didnít kick my ass out the door six months after we met," he said.

"How did you meet her?" Kate asked.

She held her breath after the question because she did not know how Vetter would respond to it. People in the CSTU said he never talked about his wife and it would be courting disaster to ask about her. But for some reason Kate couldnít keep from wanting to know about Vetterís wife once he mentioned her.

"I was fifteen," he said, so suddenly that it startled Kate. "I was into some pretty heavy shit: drugs, gangbanging, street fights. A real bad ass, or so I thought. Then one night Iím walking past St. Aidanís when a group of girls comes out. They take one look at me and boom, they run back inside the church because theyíre afraid of me. Except for one, this little brunette with the most beautiful eyes. She sees my colors, knows what I am, but it doesnít matter to her. She walks right up to me and asks me my name. I think I ought to make some smart-ass reply but I see those eyes and I canít do it, so I just tell her: ĎSeaní. She says itís a nice name and asks me if Iím Catholic. And I canít remember. Honest to God, I couldnít remember anything once I looked at her. Finally I nod, like an utter moron, and she smiles and asks me to Mass on Sunday. And even as Iím telling myself to blow off the invitation I know Iíll be there because sheíll be there. From then on I gave myself over to her completely. As soon as I could I married her."

"Thatís a great story," Kate said softly. "She sounds like a remarkable person."

"Everybody loved Stacey. She never saw the bad in anyone. Iíd come home after some day of carnage on a job thinking the world was a horrible place and after five minutes sheíd have me as much in love with life as she was. And with her," he said quietly.

Kate sensed that Vetter had gone as far into his memories of Stacey as he could so she said quickly, "Itís funny how much this job chips away at your belief in humanity and just before you go completely over the edge into total cynicism someone comes along and reminds you that life is what you make it. I donít know. Maybe St. Jude really is the patron saint of policemen." When she saw his confused expression she added, "Irish Catholic."

"Roman. My mother is Sicilian," he said.

"So what nationality is Vetter?"

"German."

"Youíre half-Sicilian and half-German and you end up with a good Irish name like Sean. Howíd that happen?"

He managed a smile. "My mom had a serious thing for Sean Connery. She saw "Dr. No" and decided if she ever had a son he was going to be named Sean. So Iím actually named after a Scotsman."

"God, "Dr. No" is the one with the spider in it," Kate said. "I hate that movie. Any movie where the spider gets its own music is a bad idea."

"Thatís a pretty stereotyped girl fear," he told her. "I thought youíd be afraid of something like not being able to drive 140 down the middle of Lake Shore Drive."

"Well, that too," she replied, grinning.

He laughed. The sound rang through the car with a joyousness that surprised her. Nice laugh, she thought. I wonder if Iíll ever get to hear it again.

A realization suddenly crept over her. She considered it as possibly a delusion but no, it was true. She looked at Vetter quizzically, the way a puppy might when it hears something it doesnít understand.

"Hey, Vetter, did we just have a civilized conversation?" she asked.

He paused, nodded. "I think we did."

"Howíd that happen?"

"I donít know. Iím surprised too."

"Itís okay. I mean, I liked it," she said. "Did you?"

"It was all right."

"So maybe Ė so maybe we should try having some more."

He turned to look at her. "We donít want to ruin our reputations," he said.

"We donít have to tell anybody."

"I guess not. Yeah, okay. If either of us want to talk about something we can do that," he allowed

They parted at the station after exchanging goodbyes for the first time. Kate watched Vetter walk to his truck, dark glasses in place, fatigue jacket making him seem bigger than he really was. When he passed her as he drove off he gave a brief wave.

She drove home through the early rush hour traffic humming to herself. She owned a house off a quiet street on the north side, one of the long, narrow houses so common to Chicago, the kind with a gate and a garden out front that looked slightly incongruous in the city. She checked the mailbox without realizing that she did so as she left the night before. Four steps up to the porch Ė it needed sweeping Ė and inside the etched glass door with its Celtic knot work design. Sunlight cut a pattern into the small table by the living room window. She started some eggs and toast. She wouldnít be back at work until Monday and tonight Katie would come to stay with her. Maybe she could sleep until then.

Vetter climbed the three flights of stairs to his small apartment. He lived in an old building in a bad neighborhood but he liked the solitude the place offered. The fights of the couple directly below him were muffled enough by the thick floor that he rarely even paid attention to them. Every now and then he listened long enough to try and determine their ethnicity but so far he hadnít managed to place the thick Slavic accents. No one in the building kept a name on his mailbox so that avenue was useless. He opened a beer and sat down on the ragged sofa. When he worked nights he tried to hold out as long as possible before going to bed so his chances of sleeping were better. He dreamed less often of Stacey now but still if he wasnít exhausted when he fell asleep he sometimes woke up after a few hours because of a nightmare. Usually Stacey reached out to him begging her to help her but just before he reached her the bullet shattered her temple and she fell into an abyss. Sometimes he got close enough to touch her before she died but he never saved her. He suddenly thought of Kate. Maybe she was all right after all. Bitter, yes, but then she had reason given what her husband did to her. He realized for the first time talking to her during their shift that all those hard edges of hers hid a woman who experienced tremendous passions. The job was tough and to do it a person needed to keep a tight lid on what went on inside or heíd end up dead before the day was out. Vetter understood that better than anyone. Kate was different off the job; she had to be. He envied her.


home          prior chapter          next chapter          fiction gateway