saga/title/fandom: Adagio chapter 7 (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, Vetter’s 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 isn’t going to let Vetter chase her away – 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 – 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 Kate’s jobs as undercover officers. NOTE II: There is some Russian used in the story but I try to explain it unless it explains itself.


Oh, god, yes…Do that, I remember that…Somebody I loved used to do that to me…

Kate sat up, breathing heavily. She just experienced the most incredible wet dream of her life and it left her sweating and trembling as she fought to determine what was reality and what fancy she created in her fevered mind. Vetter. He was real but not the way she’d dreamed about him. No one was like that.

She rubbed her eyes and checked her watch. Four o’clock. She managed five hours of sleep; better than she expected, she had to admit. The Polish fight downstairs continued but in a softer tone. Probably out of respect for the neighbors, she thought in amusement.

The ringing of her cell phone startled her. She fished it out of her purse, checked the number on the display screen.

"What is it, Brie?"

The voice on the other end provided as refined an Irish accent as ever. "Did I wake you?" he asked.

"No. Tell me what’s up."

"Who is this Mr. Vetter I keep hearing so much about? Katie hasn’t stopped talking about him since she came home."

"He’s my new partner. Surely you didn’t call me just to find that out."

"I want to talk about Katie’s birthday with you. If we’re going to book anything special we probably need to do it now to make sure we don’t lose the date," he explained.

"What do you mean ‘we’?" she asked.

"I thought this year we could share the party."


"Because we’re her parents, Kate."

"I don’t mean that. I mean what’s the sudden desire to have me around at the celebration you give her? Did Chelsea get her Voodoo doll of me finished?"

"Don’t talk like that. She’s really very fond of you," he insisted.

"Right. I’m way up there on her list of favorite things, like the clap."

"Kate, please listen to me. I really would like to work out something with you for Katie’s birthday this year. It isn’t good that she has to bounce back and forth between us on special days. Let’s come up with something the three of us can do together."

She zeroed in on the implications of the comment. "Where’s Chelsea going to be?"

"Los Angeles, visiting her parents. That’s their anniversary weekend. Any ideas for Katie?"

"…Give me a day or so to think about it. And thanks for asking. It will mean a lot to Katie to have us both there," she said.

"She’s pretty crazy about this new partner of yours. He must be quite the charmer around children," he said.

"He’s great with kids. You should have seen him with Katie. They’re going to be friends for life. Don’t tell her, but he’s taking us out to dinner on Friday night. She’ll be bouncing off the walls when she finds out," Kate predicted happily.

"Are you seeing this man?" he asked.

Her first response was to inform him that was no concern of his but she blew off the resentment she felt and answered, "We’re trying to get into the partner groove so we’re spending time together off shift. Saturday night he showed up here to drop off a pair of sunglasses I’d left in his truck and Katie lassoed him into staying for dinner."

"Well, he certainly sounds like a nice fellow," Brie said. "How are you doing, Kate? Are you well?"

He usually reserved his inquiries about her health for the times they exchanged Katie; the fact that he was asking her personal questions now disconcerted her a little. "Great," she finally said.

"I heard your name on the news today, something about stopping a liquor store robbery. I have to admit it scared me a little to hear the details. That was a very dangerous thing to do," he said.

"Knowing reporters they probably got everything about it wrong. It was no big deal. Vetter and I were coming out of breakfast and noticed the robbery going on. We took care of it. Nothing Byron and I wouldn’t have done," she contended. "Shit, has Katie heard about it?"

"I don’t know. I wanted to talk to you about it in case she asks me, so I can promise her that you’re all right."

"We’d better make sure she knows when you pick her up from school. Have her call me. If I talk to her she’ll be okay with this," Kate said.

"I will. Think about the party. I’ll call you tomorrow to see if you’ve come up with anything." He added, "Take care of yourself."

As she flipped the phone closed she felt a strange emotion overtake her. Brie spoke to her as if they were friends. Real friends, not the kind who behaved in a civil fashion solely for the sake of their child. She could not quite decide how she felt about this. Perhaps it was merely the unexpectedness of it that unsettled her about his familiarity, but she did not feel comfortable with it.

She walked back toward the bathroom. Vetter must still be asleep. As she reached for the bathroom doorknob she noticed that the door to his room was ajar, just enough that she could see inside. Enough that she could stick her head in if she wanted.

She absolutely could not permit herself to look in this room. She would violate Vetter’s privacy by doing so, and what if he saw her? The embarrassment would be overwhelming. It could ruin the budding partnership they were trying to nurture. He’d feel like he couldn’t trust her, like she did not respect him.

Her dream came crashing in on her. Vetter’s body…did it look like the one she dreamed of? One huge mass of smooth, serpentine muscle, the strands endlessly coiling into each other like some living Celtic knot? She closed her eyes to recall it more clearly. Oh god, he could not possibly be this superb. Evolution had yet to achieve such a level of perfection in the design of the human male.

Kate turned once more toward the bathroom. She felt herself being drawn back to the door of Vetter’s room. You can’t… the words drifted away in a mist of curiosity fueled by desire. She pressed her face to the door. She heard the even, shallow rhythm of his breathing. He still slept.

What she saw before her was so exquisitely beautiful that it left her breathless. She let her eyes drift down the expanse of his chest, greedily drinking in the sensual bulge of his pectoral muscles, floating over to his biceps – they looked like giant Greek columns to her – dropping then to the perfect flatness of his stomach and the tight tapered trimness of his waist. Trembling slightly despite her order to herself to stay in control, she let her gaze fall to the top of the sheet that rested on his thighs.

This was her favorite part on a man, the deep crevices that flowed smoothly from his stomach to separate the joints of his thighs from his crotch. She stared helplessly at the sculpted perfection of these parts of Vetter’s body. She knew what lay beneath the edge of that sheet and the realization caused an electric jolt to knot her stomach into a ball. She forced herself from the room back into the apartment.

She fell onto a chair at the small kitchen table. Why in the hell did I do that to myself? she wondered. She could not possibly look at Vetter in a civilized fashion now. Seeing his body unleashed something inside her she thought long dead. She did not want to feel this damnable, overwhelming desire for a man again. Brie had controlled her through that, made her stay with him longer than she should have because she could not leave the man he became in her bed. Once again Kate Shea led herself straight into disaster with a Y chromosome.

She ran to get her purse and jacket. She would go home, take a shower, forget about what she saw in Vetter’s room. She was a cop, and a damn good one at that. All she needed was to get back on the street and do her job, to be in control once again.


Vetter’s voice echoed from the bedroom. She paused, purse in hand, then let it fall back to the floor and turned toward the sound.

He emerged as he adjusted his T-shirt over his chest. He smiled, stretching and yawning as he walked over to her.

"Get any sleep?" he asked.

"A little." She felt like an idiot.

"I slept great. It must be the company." He went over to the small refrigerator in the corner of the kitchen. "What do you want to do about dinner?" he asked.

"I should go home and change," she answered.

"There’s plenty of time for that. C’mon, I’ll make you my special pasta."

She drifted into the kitchen despite telling herself to get the hell out of his apartment. He offered her a beer that she declined, asking for a Coke instead. He gave her a cold can from the refrigerator and began fishing pots from the cabinets.

"I can cook things beside pasta," he announced as he filled a pan with water. "With a little more notice I’ll really impress you."

"I feel like a kid who’s stayed too long at a friend’s house," she said.

"I want you here. Sit down."

She did as he asked, keeping as much of a rein on her inner combustion as possible. Surely the moment he looked at her for more than five seconds he would know she spied on him. She could feel her confession written in the lines of her face: Okay, Vetter, I admit that I want you like my first bike. I’m a complete moron. Have mercy on me.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Brie heard about this morning on the news and I’m a little worried that Katie might hear something at school. I don’t want her to be scared," she answered, grateful to have an honest reason to explain her shaken state.

"I hate to make the news. Bastards never get anything right. Why don’t you call Katie?"

"Brie’s going to have her get in touch with me when he picks her up. Should be any time now."

Could he really not know the desire she felt for him? He was not acting any differently toward her. In fact, he seemed to be more approachable than ever before. Maybe she would get out of this situation with her dignity in tact.

She watched him as he labored at the stove. Tight jeans. Very tight jeans. She suddenly excused herself and went into the bathroom.

"All right, this has got to stop," she told herself quietly as she stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. "I am going to be forty years old. I can control my Id. This is ridiculous."

She thought the reason she could not get her mind off Vetter’s body was because since her divorce she had denied her sexuality. What could she expect after that but to become so pathologically hormonal once she spent some time with an attractive man? It wasn’t Vetter that got to her as she peered into his bedroom, she told herself, but rather the fact that he was a well-built man and she had not made love in over two years. She felt better about that somehow, as if it rendered her submission to lust less humiliating. She was only human, after all.

Maybe she should give in and go on a date. Monaghan was always after her to let him take her out. He was pretty hot, if she could overlook the fact that he had achieved the emotional development of an eight year-old. He might be all right for an evening or two until this silly Vetter addiction vanished.

When she emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later she was noticeably calmer. She returned to her seat at the small kitchen table and took a long sip on the soda. She made it a point not to look at Vetter.

Katie’s call came just after 4:45. When Kate saw the number on the display panel of her cell phone she answered immediately.

"Hi, baby," she said, all her embarrassment temporarily forgotten. "I asked Daddy to tell you…I’m fine. Yes, so is Mr. Vetter…We got the bad guy and put him in jail so he can’t hurt anybody…Not a real police officer? Who told you that?…Well, Henry Reynolds needs to realize that women can be police officers as much as men. You tell him that tomorrow…Of course you are. Six o’clock Friday just like always…Mr. Vetter? No, honey, he has his own things to do." She winked at him. "I know. You’ll see him again someday. Bring your good dress when you come and I’ll do your hair so we can get ready for your birthday party…I love you too, Sweetheart. Be good and do your homework so Daddy doesn’t have to nag you. Goodbye."

She flipped the phone shut. "She’s okay now. Thankfully her biggest concern today was putting Henry Reynolds on notice that her mother is indeed a police officer even though only boys are supposed to be able to do things like that."

Vetter smiled. "I’m glad she’s okay. Do you like marinara or Alfredo better?"

"Marinara. Look, Vetter, are you sure we should be doing this?"

"Partners always hang together. And we’re partners." He paused in mid-stir. "Are you not cool with us spending time off work together?"

"It’s not that. I’m just thinking how we started out a week ago, essentially hating each other’s guts, and now we’re acting like we’ve known each other for years. It’s weird," she admitted.

"You could look at it that way. Or maybe we just fit," he said.

"How long did it take you and Hicks to gel?"

"Demetrius and I knew each other from the time we were thirteen so we’re not a good yardstick for determining how long it should take partners to get into a groove," Vetter said. "What about you and Byron?"

"We managed it pretty quickly. We got to the point early on where we could finish each other’s sentences, like some old married couple. Brie was actually jealous of him. Not because there was a chance of anything romantic going on with Byron, but because I talked to him in a way I could never quite manage with Brie. He was the first person after Brie to see Katie when she was born, the only person beside Katie that I’ve never held back with. Not even my parents could completely get behind my walls," she said.

"That’s how it should be with partners," he decided.

"Byron. God, we were solid. He was always there for me, no matter what happened in my life. I don’t think I could have made it through my divorce if he hadn’t been there to help me keep believing in myself," she said. Her voice softened. "I have these dreams that I see the shot coming and try to get him out of the way, but I never manage it. I never save him. I hate those. They’re too much like what really happened."

Vetter set a couple of plates on the table. "You want to talk about it?" he asked.

"…We were on a raid on a meth warehouse. We should have waited for backup but we saw the workers scatter just as we walked up, so they must have known something was going on. We went in. One guy was left, crawling along the tops of these big wooden crates marked ‘fragile’. I still can see those bright red letters on the side: ‘fragile’…I took out the shooter but not before he got a shot off. The bullet caught Byron just below the heart: blood was everywhere. He knew he was dying so he asked me not to call it in. He said he didn’t want to spend his last few minutes with a bunch of strangers and paramedics pawing at him. I lay down beside him and took his hand. And that’s how he died, with me holding his hand and telling him I’d never stop fighting the bad guys. Overall not a bad way to go out," she said.

"You were there for him," Vetter said softly. "We can’t ask for more than that of a partner."

"In the CSTU if you lose a partner they go one of two ways with you: back out on the street with a new partner right away if you’re doing okay, on desk duty if you’re not. I went on desk duty. After about three months I started getting antsy so Porter put me out on the street with Fraser – you haven’t met him yet – which was okay, but not forever. It was good for me, though, because he needed some help getting over having to off some seventeen year-old. I’m good at stuff like that, I guess because I’m a mom. Then Fraser paired up with Quick and went off to narcotics and I was back on a desk until Porter asked me to partner with you," she said.

He managed a smile. "How much did you hate it?"

"As much as anybody can. I didn’t want anything to do with you, Vetter. You have a bad rep and what seemed to me to be a bad attitude. I wasn’t in the mood to play babysitter for a misfit cop with a chip on his shoulder," she admitted.

"I kind of picked up on that. I gotta hand it to you: you knew how to deal with me. It’s better if you start out not taking any shit with me because if you let me get away with that once I’ll do it to you the rest of your life. So far Demetrius and Stacey have been the only people to understand that beside you," he confessed. "Consequently I’ve pissed a lot of people off."

"I can’t imagine." Kate drifted over to the counter to stand by him as he cooked. "So do you like Chicago?"

"I don’t know yet. It’s less hectic than L.A., but then hectic has always been my thing. And it sure as hell is colder."

"You’ll be surprised how fast you get used to that. Wait a couple of months. You’ll be convinced you’re back in California and complaining about the heat. Do you mind if I put some music on?"

He told her to go ahead. She drifted over to the small case by the stereo where Vetter kept his CD’s. She noticed one hidden behind a stack of others and pulled it out. Peter Gabriel. She placed the CD in the player and forwarded to her favorite song: "In Your Eyes." As the vocal began to fill the apartment she smiled and turned toward Vetter.

He stood bracing himself against the stove, his eyes closed, swaying slightly as if it took all his strength to keep from collapsing. She stared in shock at him, then quickly stopped the player.

"Too slow," she said, pretending not to have seen his reaction to the song. She quickly moved the CD forward. "Sledgehammer". This will be much better."

Vetter recovered his composure almost at once. Had she not caught a stray glimpse of his reaction to the ballad she would never have guessed the song tore something out of him and smashed it to dust.

Dinner kept them occupied for an hour. As they finished up the meal and a single glass of wine apiece Kate’s cell rang again. She pulled it off the table and checked the number: Porter.

"What’s up, Cap?" she asked as she took the call.

"Change in plans for tonight for you and Vetter," Porter informed her, sounding more than vaguely unhappy about the news.

"How so?"

"It seems the Mayor wants to turn you into a couple of superheroes at his speech in for the Chamber of Commerce gala this evening. Seven O’clock at the Palmer House," Porter said.

"Shit, do we have to?"

"Believe me, I wouldn’t be sending you if the order didn’t come from City Hall."

"Who’s going to cover our shift?"

"That’s maybe the only good thing coming out of this: I told the Mayor you couldn’t make it unless I got our boys back from narcotics to cover so Fraser and Quick are working for you tonight. Remember, seven o’clock, black tie," Porter said.

"What’s wrong?" Vetter asked as she hung up the phone.

"We’re being honored tonight," she answered glumly.


"The Mayor’s running a dog and pony show over at the Palmer House this evening. I’m the dog and you’re the pony."

"I hate shit like that."

"It gets better. We have to be there in an hour-and-a-half in our monkey suits."

"Fuck." Vetter banged his fist on the table.

"I need to get home and rush into my one evening dress. The Palmer House is at 17 East Monroe in the Loop. Think you can find it?" she asked.

"Is that enough of an excuse not to show up?"

"Sorry. Look, how fast can you get dressed?"

"If I leave my makeup off, five minutes," he said.

"Let’s just go together. Go put on your suit. Then we’ll drive over to my place and I’ll try to salvage something of a civilized appearance," she said. "Life’s a never-ending party for those of us in the CSTU!"

Vetter growled and went to change.

Vetter had trouble adjusting to the one suit he owned. He hadn’t worn it since the first year anniversary of Stacey’s death when Demetrius arranged a small remembrance ceremony for him, since Vetter was still unconscious when she was buried. Demetrius told him he needed a final chance to tell Stacey goodbye. Vetter felt the cemetery tugging at him as he rode toward the Palmer House in Kate’s Hyundai.

He thought she looked very beautiful. She wore a dark blue dress, cocktail length, the neck coming down in a V shape that revealed more cleavage than he expected a woman like her to show. A pair of diamond earrings and a matching necklace glittered on her like little suns. She wore her hair swept up and fastened by a blue enamel pin. Somehow in fifteen minutes she transformed herself from a cop into a woman and the results impressed him.

"It’s only one night," she said as the car turned onto Monroe.

"We’re not going to have to talk to anyone, are we?" he asked.

"Take the stage from a Daley? Hardly. After we get commended and have our pictures taken we can probably fade into the woodwork with a mayoral blessing."

"I’ve never been good at this society shit. Usually if I’m going to a party it’s being run by a drug dealer and I have a nicely sized gun in my hand," he said.

"I’ve been to a couple of these things. Free eats and a free bar, and we don’t have to work tonight. Things could be worse," she said. "Do you dance?"

"Only when I’m wasted."

"C’mon, Vetter, I can tell that you do not have straight white guy’s disease. I’ll bet you’re a good dancer."

"Sorry, but you’re wrong. And I am a straight white guy, by the way."

"Brie and I used to go dancing a lot. I think that’s what I miss most about my ex-social life. For all his sins Gabriel Quinn is a hell of a good dancer," she said.

"How’d you meet him anyway?"

"In college. He was everything I was looking for in my life at that time: handsome, intelligent, funny, Irish. Throw in a pair of killer blue eyes and I was hooked the moment we met. As it turns out, falling in love was the easy part between us," she reflected.

"But you think he isn’t happy with this bimbo he married, right?"

"I know he isn’t."


"Feedback. A lot of our mutual friends went to the wedding when he and Chelsea got married and they all said the same thing: that Brie didn’t want to marry her. Hell, even Katie picked up on it. The first time I saw her after the ceremony she told me ‘Daddy doesn’t like Chelsea, Mommy.’ If your six year-old daughter sees it you have to give the idea some credence," she said.

"Seems pretty stupid to marry somebody you don’t even like," Vetter said. "He must not be too bright."

"It was pride. Once I caught him screwing Chelsea he was too embarrassed to admit he was nothing more than a middle-aged stereotype, so he had to pretend that she was the true love of his life and that he was destined to be with her. All I have to do is wait until she cheats on him and he’ll kick her shapely little ass right out the door," she predicted.

"If he knows about it."

"He’ll know. That’s what private detectives are for."

"So he’s having the new missus tailed," he said with a shrill whistle. "That puts a little spin on things. She’s too dumb to figure it out but you have."

"I personally think if the woman you marry cheats on you after you cheat on your wife with her you should be forbidden by law to get divorced. At least she’ll go away with little more than a car and a couple of dresses," she said. She smiled. "I’m going to enjoy that."

"It will good for Katie when she’s gone. She told me Chelsea isn’t fun," he said.

"My poor baby. She just doesn’t understand why Chelsea won’t play with her or take her for ice cream. Of course, they are practically the same age so why wouldn’t she expect that?"

He cast a glance in her direction. "You have a pretty sharp tongue. I like it."

"It comes from the Celtic blood. Words are our thing. You’ll never meet a Celt who can’t wield them like a broad sword," she said.

They reached the Palmer House just as she finished talking. She pulled the car up to the curb as a doorman approached.


"As long as I don’t have to pretend that I’m happy to be here for longer than an hour," he said.

The Chamber of Commerce gala was in Conference Center 7. Kate and Vetter followed the signs that led to a huge banquet room, with almost intimidating chandeliers scattered across the ceiling and furnishings in a mix of red and gold that spoke of the Palmer House’s Victorian birth. The room swam with people and neither of them wanted to go into it.

"Jesus," Vetter whispered. "How many people are in the Chamber of Commerce, anyway?"

"You know bigwigs. They never miss a shot at a free bar," Kate answered.

Before Vetter could reply a nervous woman in a light gray suit descended upon the two of them. Her dyed blonde hair sat upon her head as if uncertain about whether it should be there and her makeup would have made any Rush Street hooker proud.

"Are you the police officers?" she asked anxiously.

Kate nodded.

"I’m Sharon Lauderdale, on the Mayor’s staff. The Mayor will be beginning his speech in a few minutes. He’d like you to sit up on the platform so he can honor you with your citations," the aide explained.

"Is that absolutely necessary?" Kate asked.

"Quite. Now, which organization are you with?"

"The Chicago Special Tactics Unit."

"Right." Lauderdale marked something on a clipboard she held. "If you stick to the side of the room you should be able to make your way to the speaker’s platform fairly easily."

"Thanks," Kate said, clearly not meaning the word.

As Lauderdale turned to go back into the conference room Vetter said, "I like your fort."

The woman turned, stared at him in utter confusion, and disappeared.

Kate led the way toward the platform as if taking the two of them to their execution. She and Vetter felt the eyes of the crowd on them, detecting whispers as they passed. What the whispers concerned was of no consequence to them. They both felt like complete morons and wished they could be anywhere but this damned conference room.

They met the Mayor prior to the speech. He was an affable Irishman, someone who could have just as easily led a St. Patrick’s Day parade as an assault on a mass of Republicans. A creature of the Chicago political machine of his father, the original Mayor Daley, Kate advised Vetter as they sat down on the stage, "Never piss this little man off."

The Mayor’s speech seemed interminable to them though in fact it lasted only twenty minutes. Kate and Vetter chafed under the restraints of the civilized society in which they found themselves. Photographers kept snapping pictures of them. Vetter only remembered to smile when Kate whispered to him. When they were finally released from their prison they practically darted from the stage.

"How long do we have to stay?" Vetter asked.

"Tradition dictates an hour. Let’s get some champagne. We might as well bleed these people as much as we can," Kate answered.

They stood off to the side of the room with their glasses. They watched dinner winding down, plates withdrawn silently from tables by the well-trained hotel staff as soon as a diner lay down his fork. A Latin samba tune started up. Kate quickly downed her champagne.

"Dance with me, Vetter," she said.

He shook his head.

"Come on, loosen up. We’re here. Let’s embarrass ourselves."

"I’m fully capable of doing that by standing here," he contended.

"What kind of a partner are you? You’ll back me up in a liquor store robbery but not on a dance floor? Shame, shame."

He started to tell her no again but her good-natured teasing chipped away at his resistance. At last he let her drag him onto the floor. She began to dance a very good samba. After about thirty seconds of feeling like a complete idiot the music started to get to him and Vetter began to dance too.

She was right about him: he had talent on the dance floor. He put a hand on her hip and with his other arm encircled her waist. She watched the way he moved his pelvis. The rhythm of the music became a part of him, flowing forth from his body in an almost erotic rite. What can he do with that thing…

Until this moment Kate had managed to put her sexual thoughts of Vetter aside, but the more she felt him move against her the more excited she became. She wished she could tell him dancing had been a mistake but after nagging him to come out with her she could hardly stop now. He seemed to be enjoying himself tremendously. His smile could light a thousand candles in any cathedral. As nervous as she suddenly was, she could not deny that she loved to see that incandescent smile.

The song seemed to take forever to play itself out – why did Latin tunes have to go on so damn long? – and when the end finally came Kate felt a tremendous rush of relief. She turned to exit the dance floor but Vetter wouldn’t let her go.

"One more," he said.

A soft, sweet song began. Kate let him draw her back toward him. Again his arm encircled her waist. He raised her opposite hand in his and began a slow dance with her. She felt the heat rising from his body like a personal assault. All the desire she felt staring at him as he slept came rushing back to her in merciless fury. She remembered the muscular chest that was now so close to her own, and the bulging arms that held her as gently as if she were made of spun glass. He smelled of soap and a trace of something earthy that caused her to shift uncomfortably in his embrace. Sex.

Vetter seemed oblivious to her disquiet. He danced with her easily, talking as he did so and laughing at the responses she managed to make. The more disconcerted she became the more relaxed he appeared. That’s the way it works, she noted glumly.

At the conclusion of the dance he asked her to remain for another song. She tried to protest but somehow the words would not come. A singer stepped up to a microphone and began to sing "In Your Eyes".

The change in Vetter’s demeanor was as starling as at his apartment when he heard the song. He dropped his arms. He began to sweat, and Kate was certain she could hear his heart pounding above the music. She felt his pain as clearly as she saw it in his eyes.

"You know, I think we could get out of here now without pissing anybody off," she said quickly. "I don’t know about you but all of a sudden I’m very tired. Let’s go."

He followed her mutely from the conference room. Once they crossed the ornate lobby she called for the valet to bring the car. While they waited for the vehicle Vetter stood staring at the floor. Kate had to nudge him to get him out the door.

The cool night air did little to revive him. He sat staring out the passenger window. His body seemed smaller to her, as if the memory he encountered in the words of the song drew his strength from him. She felt she should say something to help him but knew that acknowledging his pain would only worsen it.

When she pulled up in front of his apartment he immediately reached for the door handle. "Thanks for driving," he said, getting out. "I’ll see you at the assignment meeting tomorrow."

"Sure," she called helplessly.

She watched him disappear into the building. It seemed to swallow him whole.

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