saga/title/fandom: Adagio chapter 16 (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 16

Vetter lay awake on the bed in his apartment. The Slavic couple had graduated from mere verbal arguments to the Olympic cookware throwing competition. Did these people ever sleep? He thought of playing cop and going downstairs to have a chat with them but quickly dismissed the idea. Not his problem.

His fitful sleep had been shattered by a dream of Stacey. She stood in the living room of their beach house where she died, smiling at him in her gentle way. She wore the oversized blue football jersey that looked so sexy on her, the one she liked because she said it smelled like him. She made this house of death seem welcoming somehow, peaceful, like a secret oasis that only the two of them knew, and as Vetter drew closer to the broken sliding glass door covered by yellow police tape he felt all the love he ever knew for her coming back to him like the tide out beyond the beach. But as moved to come inside the smile left her face and she pointed toward the horizon. He could not make himself look away from her and he awoke, breathless and drenched in sweat.

Porter gave him the next day off: all he had to do was cover the surveillance on Kateís dinner date with Kafelnikov. Vetter heard echoes of the sounds the Russian drew from her with his seduction. He thought how it felt to kiss her, how she would look if she were lying with him on the other side of this lonely bed. Red hair looked pretty against white pillows. He closed his eyes.

He should have talked to her after the surveillance ended but he felt too conflicted to see her right then. Edwards told him she stopped Kafelnikov from going too far when they were on the sofa, made him leave. The news both edified and terrified him. Maybe she stopped the Russian because she thought of him, Vetter. But maybe she shouldnít have because he had nothing to give her in Kafelnikovís place, and she deserved better than wasting away alone in a house that only came alive every other weekend when her daughter came to visit.

He punched his pillow down, tried to shut off the stream of thoughts invading his solitude. Maybe tomorrow heíd head up to Wisconsin. He could rent a fishing boat and go out on Lake Michigan to get his mind off the job. He hadnít fished for a couple of years and he missed it, the quiet serenity of floating into nothingness. People ate lake fish. Just because it didnít come from the Pacific didnít mean it wasnít good.

Out of reflex he checked his watch: 2:15. Maybe he should give Demetrius a call. What was it now, two months since they spoke? A lot must have happened in that time to a director of resort security. Then he realized that it was just past midnight in California. Rachel would be asleep and Candace would not appreciate Vetter waking up her little girl. Candace still couldnít look at him without seeing her own husband in a hospital bed full of tubes and unable to breathe on his own. She deserved the peace she strove for when she froze Vetter out of her life.

Vetter carried on his futile attempt at sleep for another few minutes before giving up and getting out of bed. He leaned against the window staring down at the trash-littered street below his apartment. Only one drunk lying passed out down there. Must be a slow night, he thought in amusement.

He started to get out a beer but blew the idea off and fell onto the sofa. He wasnít going to be sleeping tonight no matter what he did. Nights like this were hell. His mind crawled around the past like a snake, forcing images and memories on him that he did not want to recall. Blood. Bullets. A vow of vengeance from a drug dealer who played him like a harp so he could escape from prison, killing two transfer officers in the process. Stacey and their broken house and an oversized football jersey that ended up in a trash can in downtown L.A. No, sleep would not visit him tonight unless he could find a way to calm the churning in his soul, but there was no answer for him.

Not alone. *****

Kate dragged a cool washcloth over her chest. Three attempts to get completely clean but her skin still felt sticky from where Kafelnikov painted it with the mousse. She ran her fingers over the area. She must have imagined the traces of the dessert remained because she touched nothing but the smooth white surface of her breast. Still she scrubbed a fourth time.

She thought about letting Monaghan out of the van. Five hours would probably be an adequate amount of time for him to get it into his head Ė both of them Ė that she was not on earth to be his play toy. She retrieved the handcuff keys from her bag and crossed the street to the van. Climbing inside she saw Monaghan asleep with his hands cuffed over his head. She unlocked the cuffs, kicked him gently but firmly in the side and told him to get up.

When he opened his eyes and realized who stood over him he said, "I ought to kick your ass."

"You deserved that," she replied. "You were a jerk so I taught you a lesson. I could have left you in here until tomorrow, you know."

He pulled himself up, wincing a little at the settlement of his bones, and pulled on his shirt. "You and Vetter have a good laugh over this?" he demanded as he started to button up the shirt.

"Vetter doesnít know about our little jest. Not yet, anyway."

"I donít get you, Shea. Iíve been after you for years to have a go with me and nothing, even though I know youíve considered it, but Vetter comes along and in two weeks you two are in each otherís pants. Thatís a load of crap," he said.

"Who the hell told you that?" she demanded.

"I can see it. When that Russian was playing doctor with you tonight Vetter was about to eat the console from jealousy. Edwards finally had to tell him to take a walk so heíd calm down."

The news rocketed through her but she managed to appear unconcerned. "Heís my partner, Monaghan. Heís afraid Iím getting in over my head and heís worried about me. Thatís all there is to his reaction."

"Right. You might be able to run that bullshit past Porter and the rest of them but you arenít fooling me. Not exactly strictly to protocol, are you?" he said.

"Like you were when you thought I was going to chain you down and do you in here?"

"Iím not your partner."

"Be sure and park the van in the proper lot. You wouldnít want it to get towed."

She jumped out of the van before he could say anything else, slamming the door hard behind her. Back inside the house she muttered some Irish profanity and removed a Guinness from the refrigerator. If she slept tonight it would be a miracle right up there with the loaves and the fishes.

She fell onto the sofa, clicked on her television to a channel that showed old movies. Marlene Dietrich, bad girl with a heart of gold, was caught in a love triangle between John Wayne as a Navy officer and an immoral South Seas saloon owner. Kate admired Dietrich: she was a woman who set her own terms and made sure that men followed them, and men fell in love with her for it and stayed that way for the rest of their lives.

"You didnít take any crap, Marlene," she said, tipping her beer toward the screen in a salute. "You were a hell of a woman."

Dietrich would know what to do in Kateís situation: about Kafelnikov, about Vetter, about everything that confused Kate so thoroughly now. Maybe she was born at the wrong time. She would have done better in the 40ís, a film noir dame holding her own in the world. She liked that idea. Sheíd been losing her toughness lately, needed to get it back. Opening up to people Ė to men Ė made her life messy.

When the knock came she immediately assumed that Monaghan had returned to torment her and flew off the sofa, ready to rip open the door and let him have a full blast of her anger. She stared through the glass panel at Vetter, trying to comprehend that he really was on her porch. After a long moment she gently opened the door. He stood staring at her on the threshold. She thought he wanted to say something but the words choked in his throat, rendering him mute. She studied his eyes: dark, helpless, lost. She took his hand and brought him inside.

Kate led him back toward the bedroom, turning off the lights as she went. Once she drew him into the room she eased him onto the bed and started to remove his fatigue jacket but he stilled her hands.

"I canít," he said.

"Itís okay, Vetter," she replied, smiling gently at him. "Thatís not what this is about."

He let her pull off the jacket. She folded it carefully over the back of a chair, then stepped out briefly to return with a towel and the washcloth she used earlier. She pulled his shirt over his head. While he watched she ran the cloth over his chest and arms, mopping away the sweat that soaked his skin. Afterward she dried him carefully with the towel. When she finished she eased him back onto the mattress and pulled the sheet up over him. Fully clothed, she climbed in beside him and took his hand.

"Go to sleep," she said quietly, smiling at him as he stared numbly at her. "I told you before that sometimes itís just good to have someone on the other side of the bed."

She closed her eyes. Vetter lay gazing at her for a long time, but then he, too, closed his eyes and tried to sleep.


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