saga/title/fandom: Adagio chapter 23 (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.


Vetter sat nervously listening to the phone ringing at the other end of the line. Demetrius picked up on the fifth ring, answering the call with a professionalism that made Vetter grin.

"Wha’s up, dawg?" he asked, laughing. "You think you have a real job or something now?"

"Sean!" Demetrius’ familiar voice echoed across the miles. "Man, how are you?"

"Pretty good. I’m on an operation tonight so I thought I’d call while I had a minute, try to keep the nerves down."

"What kind of shit?"

"Arms dealer, Russian guy. The CSTU has been trying to nail him for two years, and tonight we know his big deal’s going down so we’re hitting him. It’ll be huge if we can pull it off," Vetter said.

"Of course you can, man, you’re the best," Demetrius assured him. "You find anybody to work with yet out there?"

"Yeah. Her name’s Kate and she’s a hell of a cop."

"A woman? Are you serious?"

"I know, I know, I said I’d never do it but Kate is different. She was forced on me but it turns out she’s the perfect partner for me, now that you’re gone, anyway. We’re a great team," Vetter said.

"I’m glad to hear it. I was starting to worry you’d never nail a partner in Chicago," Demetrius said, adding when he heard Vetter’s laugh, "What the hell did I say now?"

"Nothing. How’s Rachel?"

"Getting taller than me. She misses you, Sean. She asks about you all the time. When are you going to come and visit us?"

"Maybe when Candace goes to Florida to visit her mother."

"That’s cool now. Candace and I had a big session about you the last time you and I talked, and she’s over that resentment she felt because of how you brought me in to go after Lucero. She wants to see you too, though you know she’ll never bring herself to tell you that," Demetrius said. "You ought to visit. You’re California all the way."

Vetter sat silently a moment, then said quietly, "Could I bring somebody with me?"

"Somebody with you…Damn, Sean, do you have a woman?"

" – Yeah, I do. She’s never been to California; I think she’d like it for a week or ten days. Maybe after we’re done tonight we’ll talk about it."

"Fuck it, man, don’t tell me you’ve hooked up with your partner."

"Okay, I won’t tell you."

"Well, when you go you go big. Tell me about her. I want to know about the magic woman who finally got through to you," Demetrius said.

"Magic’s actually a pretty good word for it," Vetter confessed. "I’ve never met anybody like Kate. I thought she was the bitch from hell when we first had to work together, but then I started seeing that all her anger was a front and that inside she’s so honest – she can’t hide anything from me, man, it’s amazing. She’s accepted everything about me: Stacey, the vigilante shit I pulled in L.A. to get Lucero, all my scars. And she loves me anyway. I never thought two women could do that. Hell, I never thought one would."

Demetrius sat listening to his ex-partner’s silence. "You’re afraid she’s not going to come back tonight," he said.

" – She’s on the inside with the dealer. This guy’s a cokehead, a fuckin’ psycho, and he’s obsessed with her. He saw her picture in the paper and ever since he won’t let her breathe. He’s throwing this party tonight to cover his ass about the shipment but also to announce their engagement. Their engagement…Jesus, D., he’s decided they’re getting married, he hasn’t even asked her how she feels about it. And she has to go along with him to keep us on the inside," Vetter explained.

"That’s rough. But she’s strong, right?"

"Stronger than me."

"Then it’s cool. She’ll handle this asshole and then you two can be together. I’m glad for you, man. You need somebody to look after you," Demetrius said.

"I have somebody to look after too. I may be something of a father soon."

"You got her knocked up?"

"Not like that. Kate has a terrific kid, a daughter. I’m as crazy about her as I am about her mother. She’s a lot like Rachel was at her age: seven going on thirty-five. Maybe I shouldn’t let the two of them meet: they’ll probably take over the world."

"Probably." Demetrius paused, then asked quietly, "How are those dreams about Stacey?"

"Gone. She told me to go on with my life in the last one. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true: Stacey gave me Kate. She knows I’ll never stop loving her. Kate does too, and it’s all right with her. She’s her own person. I have room for her too," Vetter said.

"Damn, dawg, you go and get your head on straight again and I won’t have anything to feel superior to you about. Tell you what. You take this Russian down tonight, you and your lady, and tomorrow we’ll make plans for you to come west, her daughter included. Sound good?"

Vetter agreed. Hearing the same undertone of dread in his voice, Demetrius asked him what still concerned him.

"Tomorrow’s Kate’s fortieth birthday, same day as her daughter’s. She’s Irish, and she has these things all over her house called Celtic knots. I asked her what they mean, and she said one of the things is the circle of life. I guess that’s a big thing with Celts: they believe that when you come back to the starting point of your circle, you die," Vetter explained.

"And a birthday is a good starting point, right?"

Vetter couldn’t make himself answer.

"Listen, Sean. You’re there for her, and you’ll be there for her tonight. She knows that and it will help her to get through whatever happens. She wouldn’t have gotten to her position if she couldn’t take care of herself, right? So now she has you too, and she couldn’t be safer. Rest easy, man. The darkness is over," Demetrius assured.

Vetter managed a smile. Demetrius always knew how to talk to him, from the time they were thirteen year-old gangbangers right through to this moment when Vetter feared he might once more lose everything important to him to a crime lord’s bullet. They were still partners.

"So are you gonna marry this woman?" Demetrius asked.

"We’ll see."

"Same old Sean, keepin’ it to himself. But you can’t fool me, dawg. I can hear that love in your voice when you talk about her. You already have it in your head that she belongs with you," Demetrius said.

"Shut up," Vetter said good-naturedly. "Last time I ever tell you anything important."

Demetrius laughed. He needed to break off the call to go to a meeting with his resort security staff, so he quickly caught Vetter up on what was happening with him and his family. Before hanging up he asked Vetter to think about one more thing before going on the raid against Kafelnikov.

"This all has to be happening for a reason, Sean," he said. "That conference last year where the Captain met Porter and got you in at the CSTU, meeting the one woman who could make you feel something again… it isn’t being given to you just so it can all be taken away. I know it’s probably hard for you, but believe that."

Vetter remained silent a long time. "Thanks, Father Hicks," he said with a smile before he hung up.

Kate watched Vetter cross the living room to her. He placed his arm around her waist, drew her near as the music started. As Peter Gabriel began to sing "In Your Eyes" the two became lost in each other.

Love, I get so lost sometimes
Days pass, and this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go I come back to the place you are
All my instincts, they return
And the grand façade so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside…

Kate gazed steadily up at Vetter. She felt the heat of his body enveloping her, wrapping her in its quiet shelter. She felt peace begin to descend on her.

In your eyes, the light the heat
In your eyes, I am complete
In your eyes, I see the doorways to a thousand churches
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
Oh, I see the light and the heat
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light, the heat I see in your eyes…

Kate dropped her head to Vetter’s shoulder. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply of him. He kissed her hair, tried to hold her as close as he could.

Love, I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted, and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive
And all my instincts, they return
And the grand façade so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside…

Vetter lifted Kate into his arms. Still dancing with her, swaying back and forth with her body on his, he kissed her. They remained like this for the rest of the song, their mouths locked together against the world.

In your eyes, the light the heat
In your eyes, I am complete
In your eyes, I see the doorways to a thousand churches
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
Oh, I see the light and the heat
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light, the heat I see in your eyes…

When Vetter could finally bring himself to let go of Kate he walked over to the sofa. He put his bulletproof vest on over his black t-shirt and pulled his boots on over jeans. After lacing up the boots he placed his gun in his shoulder holster and left the house. They decided earlier that their goodbye would be the dance: the thought of saying the word made them both superstitious.

"Watch Alexei: he’s the key," Kate told Vetter that morning. The probable plan of the arms delivery crystallized for her the night before when she heard Kafelnikov and Alexei talking in Russian about Narodin having snatched the shipment as expected. Kate suddenly understood Kafelnikov’s plan to trap Narodin with an obvious delivery on the lake – he knew the feds and the CSTU were expecting the transfer to go down this way – and the best means of catching his enemy would be to set the authorities on him on Ovsyannikov’s yacht while Alexei made the actual delivery to Fetisov.

She put the connection between Kafelnikov’s late father and the three Russian businessmen together as well. She knew from the Russian that all four men were born and raised in Moscow; childhood friends who carried their relationship over to their adult lives. Ovsyannikov, Chiuk, and Mokolov all came to the United States within a few months of each other, while Kafelnikov’s father remained behind for another year. Kate felt certain that the three men got into the country because Kafelnikov’s father dealt in forged citizenship papers. "What I did so long ago is nothing compared to your sins"…Ovsyannikov’s words at the ice cream shop made sense now. He, Mokolov and Chiuk were law abiding citizens, but Kafelnikov could force them to help with his arms deal by threatening to expose their illegal actions of almost fifty years before to the feds. All he needed to do was trot out copies of their forged papers and the men would lose everything they’d worked so hard for in America.

The man Kafelnikov was sickened her now to the point where she could barely stand to think about him. The CSTU had to bust him tonight. So far she managed to dodge having sex with him and keep Katie’s existence secret, but she couldn’t see that remaining the case much longer. A man delusional enough to announce his engagement party to everyone but his intended bride would not remain a "gentleman" with her much longer.

She rode through the night in Kafelnikov’s limousine with the tinted partition raised so his driver, Vassily, would not see her nervousness. She ran a quick professional review through her head. Kafelnikov would not be alarmed at the fact that she kept her gun with her because he knew she always carried it: tonight need be no different merely because of the occasion. All she needed to do was listen for Kafelnikov and Alexei to exchange talk about the plan for the delivery, then get word to Vetter and the assault team through the wire and arrest Kafelnikov when her colleagues burst through the door. Cakewalk.

Kate ran her hand over the gun in her purse. Normally she dreaded the thought of having to kill someone but tonight all her fear about taking life vanished. She would kill Kafelnikov or anybody else she had to in order to keep Katie safe. The hell with being a cop. She was a mother first.

"Katya!" Kafelnikov’s voice boomed across the living room as soon as Kate entered his house. He rushed over to her, kissing her so passionately that the guests around them stared in discomfort. "I’ve missed you so, my darling. Come and have a drink."

For the first time she saw a piercing glitter in his dark eyes. She knew at once that he was high on coke. The thought added to her anxiety enough that she almost begged off and ran to the bathroom to vomit.

He led her through the crowd to the bar set up in the dining room. He ordered champagne for her, insisting that she pick the one she wanted from the dozen or so he had on hand. To appease him she took sips from two different types and chose the second so enthusiastically he didn’t question her.

"I have a wonderful announcement to make," he told her, kissing her again. "I’ll have the guests come in here for dinner so I can tell them."

"What kind of announcement?" she asked.

"One that will delight you. Stand at the head of the table and wait for me."

All day Kate rehearsed her response to Kafelnikov’s announcement of their marriage. She recalled her delight at Brie’s proposal so many years ago, called on that same emotion to make Kafelnikov think she longed to marry him as much as he longed to marry her. She could make herself into what the Russian wanted if in the end doing so would send him to slam.

He sent a steward to ring a bell to summon his guests to the dining room. Once the huge crowd gathered, Kafelnikov walked to Kate’s side and, beaming, addressed his visitors.

"My wonderful friends," he began, while Alexei prepared to translate for those who only spoke Russian, "tonight I have the pleasure of announcing that this beautiful woman beside me, my Katya, is going to be my wife. Please, raise your glasses and drink with me to a long and happy life together!"

The enthusiasm of the response hurt Kate’s ears. She felt Kafelnikov’s eyes on her and those of the crowd and all at once she did something she never expected to do at this moment: cried. The tears burst forth from her in an unrestrained flood, spasms shaking her body. Kafelnikov’s gaze softened. He put his arms around her, whispering to her how much he adored her.

"It seems my bride is overcome with happiness," he told the guests. "Excuse us while she gathers her emotions."

He led her out through the kitchen, up the back stairs to the second floor of the house. Alexei followed, and though Kate could not see his face she felt his presence like a gathering storm. Kafelnikov led her into the suite he reserved for his most intimate friends. He eased her onto a sofa and brought her a box of tissues. Alexei called him over.

"What a fine performance," Alexei said in Russian. "Perhaps you should get out of our business and become a theatrical agent."

"I will tolerate no more of your disparaging comments about Katya," Kafelnikov retorted. "Just because you are a man who cannot feel love doesn’t mean Katya is the same kind of woman. She weeps because she wants so much to be my wife. If you had a soul you could see that."

Alexei bit his lip: he knew when not to challenge his employer. "Forgive me, Grigori," he said. "Perhaps I have been too hard on the lady. I will do my best to get along with her out of respect for our long friendship."

Kafelnikov eyed him distrustfully, but his features gradually became less severe and he walked to the door. "I am going to get Katya’s engagement ring from my room," he announced. "Stay here with her and be kind to her."

He told Kate, in English, that he would only be gone for a moment. She continued to cry after he left. She knew what Alexei said about her "performance" and she also knew that he lied when he said he would try to accept her. She clutched her purse as he came toward her.

"May I get you anything?" he asked gently.

"No, thank you," she answered. "I’ll just wait for Grigori to get back."

"As you wish."

Alexei walked behind her. She realized what he intended a split second too late; he scanned her for a microphone before she could get away from him. At the high-pitched signal of the instrument indicating her wire she tried to open her bag but Alexei struck her viciously, knocking the purse out of her hand and sending her crashing to the floor. He immediately leapt on her and ripped the front of her dress. Kate struggled to still his hand but he found the wire.

"Madman!" Kafelnikov rushed Alexei, pulling him off Kate. "Get away from my Katya!"

"Here," Alexei said victoriously, holding up the severed wire. "That’s what your precious Katya really is, a spy sent to destroy you!"

Kafelnikov stared between Kate and the wire. She held her torn dress against her, stared back at him defiantly. She prepared to take a blow from him but instead he walked calmly to the desk in the corner of the room and extracted a manila folder.

"I had hoped this would be unnecessary, Katya, but you’ve left me no choice." He threw the file at her. "Look inside."

Kate tried to keep her hand from trembling as she picked up the folder. She flipped it open. Inside lay several pictures of Katie and Brie: some as he picked her up from school, others as they stepped from a restaurant or Brie unlocked their house. Kate saw them and closed her eyes.

"You fucking bastard," she whispered.

"I thought that your acceptance of our joint fate might need a little spur," Kafelnikov replied. "Here is what is going to happen, Katya: you are leaving with me tonight. We are going to Russia, where you will spend the rest of your life with me. If you make any attempt to get away from me or alert the authorities to your situation, I will have your daughter killed. Do you understand?"

"She’s my child," Kate said, fighting her tears. "You can’t expect me never to see her again."

"Better you don’t see her than that she dies." Kafelnikov knelt by her. "In time, when we’ve had our own children, this night will not seem so terrible to you. You love me, Katya, I know that, but you won’t let yourself be honest. All I’m doing is helping you."

"You should kill the bitch," Alexei spat.

"Be quiet, Alexei. Katya is a smart woman. She knows when the odds can’t be overcome," Kafelnikov said. He touched her face with an incongruous gentleness. "Come with me now, my darling. Let me take care of you."

He stood and offered his hand to her. Kate accepted it mutely. When Kafelnikov put his arm around her waist he spoke to Alexei in Russian once again.

"Go and complete the job," he ordered. "Call me when you finish."

"Do you think that wire was connected to a television set?" Alexei demanded. "For God’s sake, Grigori, she’s a cop! Her team will be here any moment to arrest all of us. Let me shoot her and we’ll both get out of here."

"I am leaving with Katya now," Kafelnikov replied. "Do as I told you."

Alexei kicked the wall but left as instructed. Kafelnikov told Kate to come with him. He led her down the hall toward his blue and gold bedroom. Once inside he locked the gold-trimmed doors behind them and stared intently at her.

"Alexei’s right," she said. "My partner is on his way here. You’re beaten, Grigori, admit it."

The Russian shook his head. "No one defeats a czar," he replied. "Not even a czarina."

He ripped the rest of her dress away. Kate struck him but he only smiled, reminded her of Katie. She dropped her hand. He threw her roughly on the bed. Stretching across her he pinned her wrists over her head.

"Keep your rage, darling Katya," he whispered.

"Dammit!" Vetter leaned out of the car and screamed at the traffic ahead of him to get out of the way.

"We’ll be there in a minute," Edwards said. "The other half of the team is already inside."

"I should have been at the fucking house!"

"Porter kept you on the delivery detail for a reason. Look, Vetter, when we get there you can’t lose your head. Say what you want about Monaghan, he’s the best raid leader the CSTU has. He’ll get Shea out of there safely. You concentrate on your job helping arrest Kafelnikov and Alexei," Edwards cautioned.

"She can’t die. Jesus, she can’t die too," Vetter whispered.

Edwards wanted to say something, anything, to alleviate the other man’s fears but he knew no words would be of use. Instead he crossed himself after saying a prayer for Kate.

Vetter leapt out of the car before it came to a halt. He pushed his way through the hysterical crowd in Kafelnikov’s house to Porter.

"Where’s Kate?" he demanded.

The Captain held his gun on the strangely calm Ovsyannikov. "Nobody can find her," he said.

"Upstairs," Ovsyannikov said. "Kafelnikov has taken her."

"Shut up, you idiot, or I’ll tell them all about you!" Alexei snarled. Monaghan pushed his gun into the younger Russian’s forehead.

"Tell them whatever you like," Ovsyannikov replied. "She deserves better than what he intends for her."

Vetter tore up the stairs. He ran through the upper hall yelling for Kate, kicking in doors as he did so. When he kicked in the doors of the blue and gold bedroom he found Kafelnikov propped up against the headboard with his arm around Kate’s neck and a gun at her temple. Vetter saw Kate’s face. She sat calmly against the Russian, wanting Vetter to understand that she meant her next words and thought them out clearly.

"He’s going to kill Katie, Sean," she said. "Ghost him."

"I’ll kill her," Kafelnikov warned.

"Don’t listen to him. Katie’s all that matters, and the only way she’s going to be safe is if this bastard’s dead. Ghost him like I said."

Kafelnikov sent a bullet into her thigh. She kept from crying out by concentrating on Vetter’s eyes.

"Let her go, mother fucker," Vetter ordered, steadying his gun on the Russian. "I’ll blow your goddamned head off if you don’t."

"Katya and I are leaving," Kafelnikov announced, wrenching Kate to her feet. She could not stand: he supported her with his arm wrapped tightly around her. "Toss your gun away and lie down on the floor with your hands on your neck. If you don’t I will kill her, and then I will kill her daughter."

"Don’t do it, Sean," Kate said.

Kafelnikov forced his gun harder against her temple. Vetter gripped his service revolver with both hands now, trying to black out the familiar fear he sensed beginning to squirm inside him. He caught Kate’s eyes. The lovers shared a moment of silent communication that told Vetter what she intended, and though he wanted to protest he knew she had the right to make the decision. He blinked back tears.

"I love you," he said.

Kate breathed deeply of the words. Summoning all the strength she still possessed she launched her elbow into Kafelnikov’s stomach. The blow caught him off guard enough that he temporarily pitched forward, and in that brief span Vetter fired.

It seemed to him that for a long time after he discharged the weapon he could not see anything before him. Then his vision came back to him and he focused his eyes on the patch of floor where both Kate and Kafelnikov lay. He heard a shot after he fired, but he did not know if it came from Kafelnikov’s gun or his own.

Vetter stood trembling by the doors. Slowly he walked toward Kate’s body. He knelt and lifted her into his arms, brushing back her hair from her face. A barrel imprint of blood shone at her temple.

"You did it, baby," she said, smiling faintly at him. "You protected me."

Vetter wept. He buried his face against her hair and she raised her hand to comfort him, though she could reach no higher than the arm that gently circled her waist.

"Mommy!" Katie ran to the bed, throwing her arms around Kate.

Kate held the child close, barely managing not to let her tears fall. "I’m so glad to see you, Katie," she said, kissing the girl repeatedly. "I’ve thought of nothing else."

"How are you, Kate?" Brie asked softly beside the hospital room doorway.

Kate stared across the floor warily, but once she noted the concern in his eyes she smiled. "I’m fine," she answered. "Outside of a nasty ache when it’s cold and rainy the doctors tell me I’m going to be good as new once I’ve rehabbed."

"Then your surgery went well?"

"Very well. You know me: constitution of a packhorse," Kate said.

"Daddy says you’re a hero," Katie beamed.

"He does?"

"Yes. He even told Chelsea that and it made her really mad."

"I faxed the divorce papers to her parents’ house and couldn’t help sending along a photocopy of the Trib’s story about how you took down Kafelnikov," Brie explained. He permitted himself a small grin. "Architects, always embellishing."

Kate smiled. At that moment Vetter came into the room, his arms full of plastic bags.

"I got everything you wanted," he announced. When he saw Brie he froze, staring mutely at the other man.

"Mr. Vetter!" Katie cried, leaping out of Kate’s embrace and running to him.

Vetter started to reach out for her but stopped himself.

"Go ahead, Vetter," Brie said. "She’s a terrific hugger."

Vetter hesitated, then smiled and picked Katie up. He carried her over to the bed.

"Daddy says you’re a hero too," the little girl announced.

"Your mommy’s the hero," Vetter corrected gently.

"Katie and I know the truth," Brie said, drawing up beside the bed. "You both have a great deal to be proud of. You did tremendous work last night. The people of Chicago are lucky you’re protecting them."

Vetter did not know how to respond to the honesty of the comment. Kate took Katie’s hand.

"I’m afraid I’m going to have to miss your birthday concert, Sweetie," she said. "The doctor won’t let me go home for a while. But Daddy can take you, and tomorrow you can come visit and tell me all about it."

"I’m glad you mentioned that." Brie fished a ticket out of his wallet, held it forth to Vetter. "I thought you might enjoy accompanying us to Ravinia this evening. If you don’t mind leaving Kate on her birthday for a while."

Vetter looked at Kate, who nodded.

"I think I can do that," he said, accepting the ticket.

"We brought you your birthday present, Mommy," Katie said.

"My goodness, that’s a nice surprise," Kate replied. "You’re going to spoil me."

"It’s something I picked up in Dublin last summer when I took Katie," Brie explained. He fished a small wrapped box out of his pocket and gave it to Katie, who happily handed it on to Kate. After carefully pulling away the rose-colored paper that covered it, Kate fished out an exquisite medallion of Celtic knot work etched from sterling.

"For some reason when I saw that I thought of you," Brie explained.

"It’s absolutely beautiful," Kate said, putting on the medallion. She kissed Katie as Vetter held her toward the bed, then put her hand out to Brie. "Thank you. I’ll treasure it."

The Irishman clutched her hand. "All right, Kathleen Rose, you have a birthday breakfast to get to," he announced. "We’ll come back and see your mommy again this afternoon."

"Are you coming to my party?" Katie asked Vetter.

The big man nodded, smiling. "Wouldn’t miss it."

The little girl kissed his cheek. Vetter told Brie he would meet the pair at the gates of Ravinia at 6:00 p.m.

"You don’t imagine you get to drive by yourself while my daughter has anything to say about it, do you?" Brie said. "Let us pick you up. Five o’clock. That way we can have Katie’s picnic before the concert."

Vetter nodded. He scratched his address on a piece of paper, but Kate said he would be staying at her house while she recuperated and Brie could fetch him there. The Irishman gave her a quick kiss on her cheek before escorting Katie from the room.

"I told you he’s a good guy," Kate said.

Vetter perched on the edge of the bed. Kissing her fingers he informed her that Porter told him Geffen had backed off his demand that Vetter turn in his badge.

"I guess the press is finally good for something," she said.

"The CSTU is going to recommend to immigration that Ovsyannikov, Mokolov, and Chiuk be permitted to retain their citizenship. Porter seems to think they’ll go for it," he told her.

"I’m glad. Ovsyannikov is a good man. I owe him a great deal."

"I have to tell you that Alexei made an attempt to get Monaghan’s gun away from him while about to be transported to jail and Monaghan had to kill him," he informed her. Adding when Kate studied him intently, "I wasn’t even there."

Kate asked him to kiss her, saying once he finished, "This is turning out to be the best birthday I ever had."

"Okay, it could be a little difficult to top the shootout next year, but I’ll try," he replied.

She laughed. Vetter reached into the pocket of his fatigue jacket.

"I was intending to give you these over a romantic dinner, but since that would take a long time I’m going to go ahead and let you have them now," he said, extracting three tickets and handing them to her. He kissed her softly. "Happy birthday, baby."

"California?" she said.

"I want you to meet Demetrius and his family. We’ll go when you feel up to it. Katie too."

She nodded. Looking deeply into his eyes, she took in what she saw there and said quietly, "I’d like to meet Stacey."

"Yeah," Vetter said, smiling. "I think she’d like to meet you too."


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