saga/title/fandom: Adagio chapter 4 (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 FOUR

Kate sat on the steps of her house nervously chewing her thumbnail. 5 5. She hated the last five minutes while waiting for Chelsea to bring Katie over to her. It was okay when Brie drove Katie over because he always behaved decently: he and Kate actually spent some decent time together during the exchange. But Chelsea was not smart enough to hide her annoyance at having to drive Katie anywhere so Kate always came away from the encounter more pissed at Brieís second wife than usual.

Were Kate not so concerned with her upcoming mini-battle she might have noticed Vetterís truck parked a block away. He told himself he was on his way for a pizza but instead he ended up sitting in the vehicle waiting to see Kate meet up with her daughter. He did not permit himself to examine why he was here. He didnít even acknowledge to himself what he was doing. He just sat waiting to see the mother and daughter reunited, hiding his obsidian eyes behind the sanctuary of his dark glasses.

At 6:04 he saw a Mercedes slide up to the curb directly in front of Kateís house. A red-haired little girl emerged and immediately launched herself into Kateís arms. Kate hugged her and swung her around and covered her face with kisses, only stopping when a knockout blonde got out of the driverís side.

She wore blue jeans tight enough to be an invitation and a pale blue sweater two sizes too small. Behind her designer Italian sunglasses Vetter recognized the look of all the women heíd ever seen on the arm of big time drug dealers: shallow, arrogant, greedy. He didnít like her.

She walked over to Kate. Katie didnít look at her. The two women exchanged brief remarks, then Kate fished a couple of small suitcases out of the back of the car and placed them on the sidewalk by her feet. The blonde said something that annoyed her and disappeared back into the Mercedes.

Vetter saw Kate whisper to the little girl as the car pulled away. They both laughed. Kate set Katie down and they each took a suitcase to go back into the house. He watched the cut crystal door shut behind them and they were out of sight.

Vetter sat in his truck for another hour before leaving. He did not have to work again until Monday. The weekend was going to be too long, he decided.

When the knock came at the front door Katie rushed to answer it, only making it as far as the living room before Kate ordered her to stop. Reluctantly the little girl remained at the edge of the carpet. Kate dried her hands on a towel as she walked to the door to peer outside. When she realized Vetter stood there she opened the door.

"What brings you around?" she asked.

He expected some annoyance from her but all he perceived was pleasant surprise.

"You left your sunglasses in my truck Wednesday," he said, giving the shades to her. "I didnít realize until today that I had them."

"You could have waited until Monday but thanks," Kate said. She noticed him looking in the little girlís direction. "This is my daughter, Katie. Katie, say hello to Mr. Vetter. Heís my new partner at work."

The child moved next to her mother, scrutinizing him as if debating whether to bring him home or keep the floor model. "Are you a giant?" she finally asked.

Kate flushed with embarrassment but Vetter only laughed. "No, but I am a jungle gym. Want to see?"

Katie nodded eagerly. He looked at Kate.

"Is it okay if I scare you a little?" he asked.

"I guess," she allowed, slightly nervous.

Vetter extended his arm to Katie, instructing her to grab onto it with both hands. She did so. He lifted her high into the air, holding her suspended off the floor several feet while she giggled in delight.

"This is the scary part," he warned Kate.

He leaned close to whisper something to Katie. She listened diligently, nodded. Standing up, he counted to three and suddenly slid his other arm under the girlís knees. She released his arm but before she could fall he grabbed her hands and in one effortless motion brought her completely around so that she landed on her feet.

"That was fun, Mommy," she said. "You should try it."

"I think Mr. Vetter might have a little more trouble with me," Kate replied, managing to calm down quicker than she expected.

"Are you going to eat with us?" Katie asked.

"Sweetheart, Mr. Vetter just brought my sunglasses by. Iím sure he has other things to do."

"If you stay Mommy will make spaghetti," Katie said.

"Why is that?" Vetter asked.

"Because itís the only thing she can cook. If itís just us we order pizza."

Kate blushed. "Out of the mouths of babes," she muttered. "Really, Vetter, donít feel obligated just because she asked you."

"Dinner would be nice," he said.

She stared at him with a mixture of disbelief and pleasure. "Great. Go set another place at the table, Miss Katie."

The child ran eagerly to the china cabinet. After being reminded by her mother to remove only one item at a time she settled down enough that Kate felt her china was safe. She took Vetterís fatigue jacket and offered him a soda, explaining that she did not drink in front of Katie. He said a Coke would be good.

Vetter looked around the house. Kate kept a nice place. The dťcor ran to Celtic, with framed posters of Ireland on the walls and Celtic crosses and Irish symbols hanging from several spots. The furniture looked comfortable, made from slick emerald cotton pattered with flowers. The wood floors gleamed.

Kate let Katie bring the drink to Vetter. He accepted it and sat down on the sofa in the living room. After he did so the child climbed up beside him and began to chat.

"Are you a policeman?" she asked.

He nodded. "A special kind of policeman, like your mommy."

"The last man Mommy worked with was nice. He gave me a teddy bear once."

"Kathleen Rose, do not go fishing for presents. You know better," Kate ordered.

The little girlís voice moved closer to a whisper. "Are you married?"

Vetterís voice softened. "No."

"You could marry Mommy. That way you could both not live alone anymore."

For a long time Vetter did not know how to respond to the statement, finally settling for, "I like your Mommy a lot, but weíre just partners. Partners donít get married."

"Everybody gets married sometime. My Daddy says so," the child announced, ever the authority on whatever topic arose, adding, "He married somebody bad after Mommy."

"Whatís so bad about her?" Vetter asked.

"Sheís always mad about something. And she never plays with me, not even dolls."

"She doesnít hit you, does she?"

"Mommy says if she ever does something like that I get to punch her in the gut."

Vetter fought to keep the grin from his face. "So sheís just not fun then."

Katie nodded. "Mommyís really fun. She plays with me all the time, dolls and everything. Thatís why I always get to come over here when Daddy goes out of town, because Mommy takes better care of me than Chelsea does," she said.

"Your mommy is a very nice lady. Only donít tell her I said that."

"Why not?"

"Itís a grown-up thing. Donít worry about it."

The little girl shrugged. "You better know that Mommy makes her spaghetti sauce from a jar," she confided. "Itís not good like the stuff Daddy makes."

"It just so happens that spaghetti sauce is one the special things I cook. You want me to make some for you?" Vetter asked.

Katie nodded. Vetter led her back to the kitchen. He asked Kate if she had the ingredients on hand to make sauce. After looking back and forth between him and her daughter and muttering something about a conspiracy, she ceded Vetter the kitchen.

She sat down on the sofa where she could still see them. As she watched him with Katie she witnessed his hard facade melting into a soft, almost playful approachability. His patience with Katie amazed her. He let the child assist him as much as he could, gently giving her suggestions how to do whatever task he assigned, showing her how to do the chore when she could not quite manage on her own. Katie responded with undisguised enthusiasm. Usually the little girl kept a certain distance from people she did not know well Ė in that she was like her mother Ė but with Vetter all her caution disappeared and Kate felt as if he and her daughter had been friends for years. She etched a picture in her mind of Katie and the "giant" she knew she would always retain.

When Vetter called her into dinner Kate stared in amazement at the dining room table. She saw not only a steaming bowl of spaghetti and a tureen of sauce that smelled as if it came straight out of a Sicilian grandmotherís kitchen, but garlic bread and a huge salad made from vegetables she didnít even know she had on hand. She caught herself wondering if Vetter kept a small produce section in the pocket of his fatigue jacket.

"Mr. Vetter let me help him make dinner," Katie said proudly.

"You did a great job," Kate replied as she sat down. "This smells wonderful, Vetter. You really can cook."

"Thatís the advantage of being half Sicilian. You have a natural gift in the kitchen," he said.

He served both ladies before taking his own food. Katie began at once to wind a huge mass of spaghetti on her fork. Kate thought to caution her but let the gesture pass. Her daughter felt happy and that superseded manners.

Although the little girl monopolized the conversation Kate and Vetter did manage to learn some things about each other during dinner. She talked about her childhood growing up in Indianapolis, her vast amount of brothers and sisters, her parents, now living in Florida, who always told her she and Katie didnít visit enough. Vetter spoke, in as sanitized a way as possible, about his childhood on the streets of L.A. He had a good relationship with his parents once he met Stacey but over the past five years heíd let it lapse, he admitted. He said he would call them when he got home tonight, just to see how they were doing.

As soon as the meal was finished Katie leapt up from the table and began to clear the dishes.

"Pavlovís child," Kate explained. "Katie, honey, you have to excuse yourself when you get up from the table. Donít just pop up without a word like a kangaroo."

"Excuse me," Katie called, still working.

"After we get the dishes done we watch a video or read a book, so as soon as the last forkful of food enters her mouth sheís off to the kitchen. Go and have a seat in the living room, Vetter. You want some ice cream? Thatís the other big deal when she comes here," Kate said.

"What kind?"

"Rocky Road."

"Perfect. Only you go and sit down. Iíll help Katie with the dishes," he said, rising.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Take a rest."

Kate retired to the living room. Once again she watched Vetter as he washed the dishes with her daughter, and once again she smiled at how he was with the child.

Vetter brought her a bowl of ice cream. He sat down opposite her on the sofa with his own. Katie immediately sat between them.

"Do we watch a movie or read a book?" Kate asked as the three of them finished their dessert.

The child thought a moment. "Both."

"There isnít time for both, Sweetie, because youíre already late for bed."

Katie thought again, then got up and pulled a brightly colored book from the shelf by the far wall. She brought it back and gave it to her mother.

"I want this one," Katie announced as she resumed her place between the two adults.

"We just read this one last night."

"But itíll be more fun now because you can do the Mommy parts and Mr. Vetter can do the Daddy parts," Katie announced.

Kate felt her face redden slightly. "Do you mind?" she asked.

"Not at all," he answered.

The book concerned a little girl who gets lost in the woods and the adventures she has while trying to get home. The story alternated between the little girl and her parents as they searched the woods for her. Katie read the little girlís part easily. Whenever it came time for the words of the childís parents, Vetter and Kate filled in, also splitting up the male and female parts from the rest of the book. The two of them did voices for the other characters that made Katie giggle. A natural rhythm sprang up between them as they read.

After launching her standard protests at having to go to bed Katie reluctantly arose from the sofa. Before Kate could lead her back for her bath the little girl threw her arms around Vetter and gave him a huge hug. He stumbled at first but then he returned the affection. When Kate led the little girl off to her bath she made no attempt to hide her amazement that her daughter embraced someone sheíd only known for a few hours.

Kate emerged half an hour later, two bottles of Guinness in her hand. She gave one to Vetter and sat down on the sofa with him.

"So did Katie ask you to marry me?" she inquired.

"Yes."

"Iím sorry about that. She thinks being alone is the most terrible thing in the world so on those rare occasions when I actually have a man in my house she inevitably proposes to him for me. I hope she didnít embarrass you."

"Sheís just trying to take care of you," he replied.

"I know. She never ceases to amaze me. After everything sheís been through she still thinks the world is a nice place. I wish I could do that." She leaned back against the sofa and took a long pull on the Guinness as she caught him staring at her with a quizzical expression on his face. "What?"

"Youíre different here," he said quietly, still studying her.

She shrugged. "Not that different."

"Yeah, you are. Itís like you leave all your shit at the door and donít bring it in here."

"Only when Katie visits. Besides, everybody in this business does that to a certain extent. If we didnít weíd go nuts," she said. "You were great with Katie. I never would have thought you the type to like children."

"I used to hang with my partnerís daughter Rachel. Terrific kid. I taught her all kinds of things that embarrassed her parents. I used to act like I was a bad guy and let her take me down like she worked for the DEA. Made her mom Candace nuts," he recalled fondly.

"How long has it been since you saw her?"

"Over a year. When Demetrius left the department to go into private security his wife didnít want me to see Rachel but he brought her over anyway."

"Why didnít she want you to see her daughter?"

"I got shot once. When Rachel came to see me at the hospital she asked when Demetrius was going to get shot too. After that his wife didnít think too highly of me."

"That wasnít your fault."

"It wasnít just that. A bunch of other stuff happened, things I did that made her scared about what I would get Demetrius involved in. I canít blame her for resenting me," he said.

"Itís rough on kids when one of us gets hurt. When Byron was killed last year Katie was convinced that I was next. It took Brie and me a long time to get her over that, and Iím still not completely sure weíve done it," she said.

He took a sip on the beer. Kate saw another transformation come over him. He became softer as she watched, vulnerable. She instinctively turned toward him to listen to what he was about to say.

"Stacey used to love to watch me with Rachel," he recalled quietly. "She always told me Iíd be a great father. We were thinking about having kids when she died. I wish I could have given her that experience. She would have been the best mother in the world."

"If itís any comfort to you, I think she was right about the kind of father youíd be."

"Maybe. With her." He took another sip, surprised to find himself smiling. "Weíre having another nice conversation. We seem to be good at it."

"Yeah. Youíre human, Vetter. The guys at the department would never believe it."

"Thatís because Iím not."

"Yes you are. This is a whole new side to you thatís very sweet. I have to say that I like it."

He met her eyes. Something shifted inside him, a piece of the faÁade he maintained against the world crumbling slightly as he looked at her. He felt a jolt of electricity pass through him like a rocket.

"I should go," he said suddenly.

He was at the door almost before she could rise. He thanked her for the evening, handed her what remained of the beer. He said he would see her Monday and hurried to his truck.

Kate closed the door behind him. She drifted back to the sofa. She placed the nearly empty bottle of Guinness on the coffee table and took another long pull on hers. When she at last set her bottle beside the first she felt a mixture of fear and elation that made her exhale deeply to steady herself.

"My god," she whispered.


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