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We can learn to love again

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Kelly Severide could feel the sweat covering him in a thin, sticky sheen, dripping into his eyes, and sliding to pool in the dips of his collarbones.  His breath rasped out of him in harsh pants, with the occasional groan thrown in for good measure, and his heartbeat thudded uncomfortably in his ears.  There was an oddly pleasant ache in his muscles, evident even as he laid flat on his back.

Taking stock of all this, he decided that there were many more appealing situations, ones where both he and his boyfriend were much less clothed, that would have lead to the exact same symptoms.

“We could be having sex right now,” Severide felt the need to point out.

Casey stood a mere foot away, arms crossed, and smiling serenely as though he was enjoying a leisurely afternoon walk.  Of course, he hadn’t been the one put through drill after drill all afternoon so he most likely was enjoying himself.

This had been Severide’s life for the past month, ever since he’d been cleared for excericse after his surgery and Casey had appointed himself his personal slave driver.  Running drills neither of them had seen since their academy days, Severide felt like a cadet all over again, which hadn’t been helped by the academy gym and equipment they’d been using.  All of that might of been tolerable if there had been a few more naked romps on the gym floor.

Casey glanced around out of habit, blue eyes sweeping for any lingering cadets, but the large, sunlit room was empty bar them.  The blonde smirked and stepped closer.

“Nice to know where your head is at, Kelly.  But I don’t think watching us fuck would convince the department that you’re ready to come back to work.”

Severide shuddered at buttoned down Lieutenant Matthew Casey swearing and with a lascivious grin, hooked a foot around Casey’s ankle to drag him closer.  With another glance around, Casey dropped to his knees between Severide’s spread legs and leant over him, hands on either side of Severide’s head. The man in question slipped his fingers under the waistband of Casey’s basketball shorts and yanked him closer.

“Do you like the idea of that?” Severide murmured into Casey’s ear and bit at the lobe just to hear the sigh it elicited.  His hands slid down from Casey’s back to cup his ass and urge him to grind their growing erections together. “People watching as I spread my legs and moan your name?”

Casey inhaled sharply before groaning, “Fuck, Kel.”  A hand slipped for purchase along Severide’s leg and used the grip to pull him even closer.

Severide moaned at the friction, letting his head fall back, and exposing his throat to Casey’s eager mouth.  He grinned wickedly to the ceiling before surprising Casey by flipping them over.

“Or maybe,” Severide teased, catching Casey wrists and pulling them above his head.  Casey didn’t put up a fight and only blinked up at him with pretty blue eyes, lust making them a few shades darker than normal.  “Maybe you like the idea of people watching you get pinned down and having to… Just.  Take. It .”  

He punctuated the words with a sharp thrust of his hips and that combined with Severide’s words had Casey arching sharply and gasping on a moan.

“So beautiful,” Severide murmured, ducking his head to kiss at his lips, his jaw, his throat.  “So beautiful like this, Matt.”

All Casey could do was moan back his name, and loop his legs around Severide’s hips and draw him closer, overwhelmed by the feeling of him everywhere, his hands, his lips, the heat of his body pressed so tightly against his it felt like nothing in the world could separate them.

But then there was a clatter at the doorway, the babble of approaching voices, and they both pulled back, sighing before Severide rolled away.

 

With all the metal and the stone, the doctor’s office was freezing as well as unforgiving against Severide’s bare skin, as unforgiving as the doctor’s blank face.

“Fold your arms behind your back,” she instructed, watching him carefully as he complied.  “Now lift your hands as high as they’ll go,” she continued, making a mark on her clipboard as he did so.  “And extend your arms forward. And bend your elbows.” The doctor pursued her lips before setting aside her clipboard and placing two cold hands on his elbows.  “Press up against my hands.” After doing so, the doctor nodded cryptically and stepped back. “Thank you, Lieutenant. I’ll be right back.”

She left without another word, taking her clipboard with her, leaving Severide alone to pull his shirt back on and fight down the churning feeling in his stomach.  He and Casey had had conversations, real conversations about what they - because they were a ‘they’ now - were going to do if he wasn’t cleared for active duty, but the knowledge that they had options didn’t stop the fear from gripping him, knowing that the doctor was seconds away from making her decision.  Only a few feet of stone, metal, and space separated him from Casey and Shay, but Severide had never felt so alone before.

Casey had decided long ago that almost nothing was worse than waiting.  Waiting that infinite age to hear what the police officers had to say when they showed up at his door when he was 15, waiting for the judge’s hammer to fall and for the sentence to be decided, waiting for that letter that told him whether he’d gotten into the academy or not, waiting to see if his relationship with Severide would last longer than a night or whether it would be brushed off as a heat of the moment mistake.

But sitting in the lobby, waiting to hear Severide’s results, Casey could honestly say he’d never been more nervous in his life.  His leg bounced uncontrollably, and he couldn’t sit still for longer than a minute at a time. When he shifted for the umpteenth time that minute, he earned himself a sharp look from the receptionist and a sympathetic one from Shay.

Shay reached over with a hand to settle his bouncing knee.  “He’ll be okay, you know,” she said quietly, squeezing his knee comfortingly.  “You’ve been running him through drills like a madman,” she finished, sitting back.

“Yeah, and he’s been doing great, but it would just be so easy to flick him to disability.”

Shay looked like she was going to cajole him into some more positivity but her eyes caught sight of something over Casey’s shoulder, cutting herself off and catching his attention.  Walking towards them, there was absolutely nothing about the look on Severide’s face that hinted one way or another what the news was.

They stood to greet him, Casey catching Severide’s hand for a second before pulling away with a wary look at the receptionist and her beady eyes.  They’d never had anyone from the department have a problem with their relationship but still, they didn’t like to push it.

“Well?” Casey said finally, when Severide didn’t say anything.

Severide huffed a breath and a slow smile finally spread across his face.  Something tight in Casey’s chest eased slightly. “Full duty, starting next shift.”

Casey caught Shay clapping her hands to her face excitedly out of the corner of his eye but after that he was too preoccupied throwing himself at Severide with a laugh of disbelief to notice anything else.

“Congratulations,” he breathed into Severide’s ear.  He could tell from the shuddering sigh he felt in return that his boyfriend had been more worried for today than he’d let on.

After a long minute they released each other with only a brief, chaste kiss, and Casey moved aside so Shay could have her turn to jump at him.  He met Severide’s eyes over her shoulder, eyes that promised him the real celebrating would begin when they got back to the privacy of the apartment.

 

Hours later, after Severide had finally gotten the naked roll around in the sheets with Casey that he’d wanted back at the academy, the pair lay entwined, not talking and listening to the comforting sounds around them, the distant noise of Chicago traffic and the clattering of Clarice and Shay downstairs.  Head pillowed on Severide’s chest, Casey sleepily listened to his heart beating while enjoying the sweep of Severide’s hand trailing idly up and down his back.

“Kelly,” Casey said carefully.  “Just a heads-up, Eric Whaley’s still there.”

Severide tensed minutely beneath him and Casey kissed comfortingly at his chest.  Severide sighed deeply.

“I’ve got no beef with him,” he finally said.

“I know,” Casey murmured.  “But he might still be holding a grudge.”  He paused for a moment, considering his words.  “You know if you just told him-”

“No,” Severide said not unkindly.  “I’m not- no.”

“Okay,” Casey agreed easily, sensing it wasn’t the time to push it and they lapsed back into a comfortable silence.

“Your mum’s getting out soon, yeah?” Severide said after a moment.

“Tomorrow,” Casey sighed, voice laden with hidden meaning.

“Guess you’ll be staying at your place more often then?” Severide said.  There was an odd note in his voice but when Casey glanced up, his boyfriend’s face was carefully blank.

“Yeah,” Casey said, equally carefully.  “It is a condition of her parole.”

Severide blinked and the blank look melted off his face revealing a healthy dose of mischief underneath.  “But how will we have loud sex all over the house?”

“I’m sure you’ll survive,” Casey deadpanned.  “There’s always here,” he added.

“Yeah, I’m sure all Clarice wants is to walk in on us again.”

Casey chuckled in Severide’s chest, shaking his head.  “She looks so traumatised. I swear Shay does it on purpose sometimes.”

Severide’s laughter rumbled beneath him.  “She is kinky like that. You want me to go with you, tomorrow?” he added after a moment.

Casey considered it.  Out of everyone, Severide and Darden had been the only people he’d ever felt comfortable enough with to bring to the prison to meet his mum but that didn’t mean he wanted to drag Severide all the way out to there again.  “Nah, I don’t want to overwhelm her. But thank you.”

Just as Casey had before, Severide too seemed to sense not to push the subject any further and the room lapsed into silence, broken up only by the distant sounds of the city.


 

The grey building just about blended into the grey clouds behind it and Casey couldn’t help but wonder if it was an omen for what was to come.  There was quite a few of them waiting outside the prison, but it was eerily quiet, the soft patter of rain and the wind slithering between them louder than the whispers of conversation.  They all stared at the gates, many searching hungrily as they waited for a glimpse of their loved ones.

His mother’s ‘friend’ Rick stood a few feet away, having inched away after several failed attempts of conversation when he’d first arrived.  Casey hadn’t felt much like forgiving him after their last encounter.

“I asked Nancy what was on her bucket list once she got out - she didn’t get the reference.”  Casey gritted his teeth in irritation but didn’t show any other sign that Rick’s chatter bothered him.  “We forget how closed off these prisoners are in terms of movies and popular culture. Little things that we take for granted…” he trailed off, lost in thought before apparently catching Casey’s irritation.  “I’m just gonna give my congratulations,” he said, holding up the bouquet of flowers he’d brought. “And then I’ll let you two have your time together.”

“Sounds good,” Casey said bluntly, not caring if he sounded rude or not.

A clatter across the street thankfully halted any further conversation and Casey looked straight ahead again to see a small group, no more than half a dozen, of former inmates each holding a nondescript black bag walking through the gates of the prison.  

Casey pushed away from the kerb and crossed the street in a few strides to reach his mother where she stood just outside the gates, staring around in wonder.  She more fell into his arms than hugged him, squeezing him tightly as little hitching gasps left her throat, making Casey wonder how disorientating it must be to leave the only environment she’d known for fifteen years.

“I can’t believe this is really happening,” she mumbled into his jacket.

They pulled away after a long minute clutching each other - the first real hug they’d shared in years - and Nancy patted at her son’s cheek affectionately.  She glanced around and her eyes fell on Rick who was hovering nearby.

“Oh, Rick,” she said, still sounding faint.  They shared a quick hug before he handed over the flowers with a smile.  “Thank you.”

Rick glanced at Casey before backing away.  “I’ll drop by once you get settled in.”

Casey slipped an arm around his mum’s shoulders, waiting patiently while she stood there trembling and tried to gain her bearings.

“Ready?” he asked after a moment.  She nodded and he guided her away to his waiting truck, neither of them looking back once.


“So, how is she?  Your mum?”

Severide and Casey were sitting out the front of the house, just like they used to before, playing for as much time as they could before their shift started and they had to be professional again.

“She’s alright, adjusting well, I think.  I think it was a bit overwhelming for her at first but she seemed better this morning.”

Severide played idly with Casey’s fingers, interlocking them with his own, as he said, “That’s good.  I’ll have to stop by and see her after shift.”

“Ready to get in there?” Casey asked, smiling softly at the look on Severide’s face as he gazed up at the house.

Severide shot him a grin.  “I was ready a month ago. Let’s do this.”

Walking into the place had never felt so good for Severide, like he was finally coming home.  It wasn’t that he’d avoided the house during his month of recovery, but he hadn’t spent every moment there, knowing, despite Casey’s protests, that his presence was an uncomfortable reminder about what could happen to all of them.  His squad was the first to catch sight of him and Casey ducking under the partially raised doors, and were out of their desk chairs and hurrying towards him faster than Severide had ever seen them. The rest of the house weren’t far behind him.

The first few minutes were a mix of familiar faces, and buzz of conversation as he was passed around, shaking hands and hugging his colleagues, but rather than being overwhelming it felt just right, like the last month had been too quiet without them.  Finally he stopped in front of the Chief.

“Welcome back,” Boden said, stoic as ever, but Severide could detect a glimmer of affection beneath it as he was swept into a hug.  “About damn time.” He clapped Severide on the shoulder and stepped back so the whole house could get a look at him.

“The neck’s 100%, right?” Herrmann asked.

He sounded concerned, not suspicious, which was why Severide fought down the still instinctual flair of defensiveness and instead grinned.  “Yeah, you wanna spar a few rounds after shift and find out?”

Herrmann held his hands up in surrender and grinned.  “Nah, I’m good. I like staying in one piece.”

A piteous whine interrupted the laughter that followed and Severide stepped up to Pouch before she squirmed right out of Otis’ arms.  He’d only met the puppy a couple of times but she’d already grown attached to the Squad Lieutenant and was particularly excited to see him again.

“Otis is transferring,” Mouch piped up as Severide scratched behind Pouch’s ears.  Severide’s eyebrows jumped in surprise. That was news to him, and he shot a look at Casey, wondering why his boyfriend hadn’t mentioned it, but Casey’s face was perfectly blank.  Severide filed that away to think on later.

“What?” Otis asked defensively.  “Come on, it’s not like I’m being rocketed into space.  I’m going over to Morningside.”

Severide bit back a remark about Morningside being the quietest house in the city, and simply nodded.

Boden, sensing the tension changed the subject.  “Kelly, your relief Lieutenant, Eric Whaley.” Boden gestured to a familiar figure, hovering at the edge of the group.  It’d been over ten years since Severide had seen Eric but he had barely aged a day, a little less boyish in the face perhaps, a few more grey hairs.  There was no warmth in his expression, but Severide offered him his hand regardless.

“It’s been a while,” Severide offered.

“Yeah.”

“You two know each other?” Boden asked.

“Yeah,” Severide said slowly, trying to find the right words.  “I was engaged to Eric’s sister.”

“Ah,” Mouch said, realisation sparking and Severide winced.  “The original Renee?”

Eric looked at him sharply, looking arrogantly unsurprised, as if he expected no better from Severide.  “There was a second one?” he asked, spite colouring his words.

Again, picking up on the tension Boden stepped in before Severide had to figure out how to answer that .  “Now that you’re back, Whaley will move over to engine and relieve Jeff Turner for the next few shifts.  Now, everyone listen up. Some of you may know Gabby’s brother Antonio Dawson. He has some information from C.P.D. for us.”

Severide hadn’t noticed him before but Dawson’s brother was also there.  Remembering that Casey and Shay had been talking about the plethora of overdoses they’d been dealing with lately, Severide tore his gaze away from Eric and tried to focus on Antonio.

“Thanks Chief.  Last few weeks, we’ve seen a spike in fatal overdoses.  M.E.’s office has connected at least a dozen deaths to a toxic batch of heroin.  Now be aware, it’s laced with fentanyl and in most cases does not respond to the normal protocol of naloxone.  We are now approaching each overdose as a potential homicide.”

The bells going off cut Antonio off and the cool voice of the dispatch officer interrupted the expectant quiet.  “ Truck 81, Squad 3, Engine 51, Ambulance 61.  Structure fire…”

The house burst into action, diving for their gear and sliding into the trucks.

Boden’s hand latched onto Severide’s shoulder.  “Get changed out and I’ll give you a ride over.”  Casey had worn his work pants on the ride over, but Severide was stuck in his jeans which weren’t exactly regulation.  Otis handed over a surprisingly compliant Pouch and Casey appeared at his elbow, handing over his bag with an apologetic look.

“Could you…?”

“Yeah, sure,” Severide said, juggling his and Casey’s bags as well as Pouch.

“See you in a bit,” Casey said and darted off to join his company.

Severide hurried inside, dumping Pouch in the rec room, where the well trained dog instantly went scampering to her bed and thumped down obediently.  Severide moved off quickly to the locker room for the quickest change-out of his life.

 

All four companies pulled up in quick succession at the scene, a quaint bar situated on a quiet corner.  Boden and Severide were not far behind them in the SUV. Jumping down from the rig, Casey took a quick stock of the fire, eyeing the smoke billowing out from the back of the building.

“Looks like the fire’s in the back, probably where the kitchen is.  Truck, get inside, open up the windows and the exits,” Boden told Casey.  “Give me a primary,” he continued to Severide. “Engine, get an attack line in the front.”  All three Lieutenants nodded and separated, barking orders at their companies.

“Herrmann, Mills, open up the back,” Casey ordered.  “Otis secure the utilities. Mouch, Cruz- where’s Cruz?”  Casey glanced around in confusion when Mouch was left alone as the others hurried off to do their tasks.  The older firefighter shrugged, lips in a flat line, before nodding at the front door to the bar, which Cruz was already attacking with his halligan.  “Cruz!” he bellowed, practically spitting with rage. “Mask on!”

Cruz either didn’t hear him or ignored him, but regardless ducked into the smoky depths of the bar sans mask.  A second later the front windows shattered as Cruz knocked them down. Fighting the urge to curse, Casey held his ground outside and watched as Cruz made good time on the windows, and Severide and his squad headed inside.

“There’s somebody in here!” Severide heard Cruz yell as he crossed the threshold.

“All right,” he yelled back.  “We’ll find him.” The Lieutenant and his squad made their way through the bar right back to the kitchen which was bright with fire.  “Fire department! Is there anybody in here?”

They were forced back suddenly by a large fireball that was visible even from outside.

“Fire’s in the exhaust system,” Whaley realised.  “We gotta get that aerial up to the roof.”

“Herrmann, Mills,” Casey said into his radio, moving off to find them.  “Get that ladder set.”

“Severide, give me a progress report,” Boden demanded, watching the firefighters work from the pavement out front.

Severide’s voice came crackling through the radio in response.  “Primary search of the kitchen is a negative!”

Boden breathed a sigh before turning his eyes to Herrmann, Mills, and Casey who were scaling the aerial to the roof.

“Let’s cut a vent,” Casey ordered when they arrived and immediately they got to work.

Meanwhile beneath them the squad company had finally put eyes on the victim, and were busy trying to determine the best route to him around the burning debris.  Hadley and Capp used a cord to loop around a burning section of roof and pull it out of the way so Severide could hurry through to the back section of the kitchen and pull the victim to safety.

A few moments later he heard Casey over the radio, “Vent’s open.”

Knowing that Whaley would be in moment’s later with the water, Severide and his men kicked into high gear, wanting to be well out of the way before the water came.  They heard the telltale groan of the hose expanding, and the hiss of water a second later just as they cleared the front door and heaved the victim onto the stretcher Shay and Dawson had waiting.

All in all, Severide didn’t think he looked too bad, covered in soot and looking a little pale, but otherwise untouched.  Severide gladly left his care to Shay and Dawson and went to join Casey and the Truck company where they were cooling off by their rig.

“Good to be back at it?” Casey asked, even as his eyes scanned Severide carefully for injuries.

“You know it,” Severide grinned in return.

“Board up crews,” Otis announced, interrupting them and gesturing with a nod to the black SUV that had just pulled up near the bar.

A group of four men dismounted from the car, looking vaguely ominous as they eyed the burnt out bar with greedy eyes.

“Why do they always look like gangsters?” Mills asked sarcastically from atop the rig.

“Because they are,” Otis returned, keeping a careful eye on the crew.  “Do you have any idea what these contracts are worth? Vultures.”

“Otis,” Casey barked, making him jump.  “You get paid to sit around and gossip? Get back to work.”  Looking like a scolded child, Otis got moving.

“Love when you get all authoritative,” Severide joked in an undertone, sending his boyfriend a smouldering look.  But before Casey could reply, he caught sight of something over the blonde’s shoulder and the fire in his eyes started to die a little.  “Hey, I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”

Casey glanced over his shoulder and caught sight of Whaley exiting the bar now that the fire was out.  “Sure,” he said easily, even as his eyes asked if he was going to be alright.” Severide left without a further reply.

“Eric,” Severide said, falling into step beside the man.  “Look, man, when the whole thing went down, you and I weren’t talking, obviously.  And I never got a chance to apologise. I really am sorry for what happened.” When Whaley refused to so much as look at Severide, let alone say anything in response, Severide added, “We used to friends once, right?”

Whaley cut Severide a look so full of venom that he faltered on his next step.  “I’m only here a couple more shifts.” Whaley strode away without another word, leaving Severide to stare after him.

 

Boden was waiting for Severide, still dressed in his turnout gear, as Tony backed the squad truck into the house.

“So how is your neck?” he asked, after rounding the front of the rig to stand beneath Severide’s window.

“100%.”

“And you’d tell me if it wasn’t, right?”

“Wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t,” Severide grinned, and thumped Boden on the shoulder.

“Uh-huh,” Boden said, not sounding completely convinced even as he grinned back at his lieutenant.  Boden’s eyes fell on the truck company, all in various states of undress. “Otis, Casey, my office,” he called, and the pair immediately fell into line behind him as he lead them into the house.

“Otis, your transfer just came through,” Boden said without preamble as they entered his office, gesturing for the two men to take a seat.  “You report to Morningside shift after next,” he added, taking his own seat.

Otis, however paused, obviously thrown by the news before half falling into the chair.  “Oh, wow,” was all he said for a moment. “So, it’s official?”

Boden and Casey traded a glance, both trying to read the emotion in Otis’ voice.

“Only if you want it to be.  Look,” Boden continued after a moment.  “We know you made this decision off of one shift there, but you have had a month to think about it.  We want to give you an opportunity to-”

“I’m ready to go, Chief,” Otis said with more resolve than a few seconds ago.

“Otis,” Casey said, speaking up for the first time.  “We do a lot of ball-breaking in this house. It’s not that we don’t appreciate you, but if anybody ever crossed the line…”

“It’s not personal, Lieutenant,” Otis assured him.  “Morningside’s a smaller house, and I’ll have a better chance of getting off elevators sonner.  Plus,” Otis said with a slight shrug, “they let me drive.”

“They’ll be lucky to have you,” Boden said and stood, the other two mirroring him.  Boden offered Otis his hand and the pair shook warmly.

“Thanks, Chief.”

“Good luck, Brian,” Casey said, shaking Otis’ hand.

Otis nodded his head.  “Lieutenant.”

Boden and Casey watched him, leave before turning to each other with matching unhappy expressions.

“How are you doing with all this?”

Casey shrugged.  He’d been mulling over it since getting word of it a few weeks ago; he wanted his firefighter’s to be happy, but it hurt that meant for Otis being out from under his command.  “If he wants to go…”

“Yeah,” Boden sighed, and Casey let himself out of the office, escaping back into the chaos of the rec room.

 

Severide took the chance after the call to lead his company through their daily check of the rig, refamiliarising himself with his equipment, and reordering the things that had managed to migrate to new spots during his furlough.  He was just checking his oxygen mask and tank, making sure everything was in order, when Whaley went wandering past, slow enough that Severide looked up at him in question. He noticed a few of his squad members look over curiously, but they were too far away to hear any of the exchange about to go down.

“So, who was this new Renee?”  The question could have been innocent, an olive branch or attempt at cordiality, if it wasn’t for the sneer on his face.  “I’m curious.”

Severide knew this was just Whaley looking for something else to punish him over but Severide wasn’t going to play ball.  “I apologised. I offered to put it past us. If that’s not something that you’re up for, and you’d rather keep it frosty until you leave…” Severide shrugged.  “I can do that too.”

“What are you apologising for?” Whaley all but spat, his voice rising, catching the attention of the others again.  “For dumping her two days before the wedding or for what happened after that?”

Severide bit back the instinctive retort and forced himself to take a calming breath.  “You’re not in full possession of all the facts here, Eric.”

“Then enlighten me, Kelly.”

And he almost did; it was on the tip of Severide’s tongue, ready to spill the secret he’d held back from Eric for close to a decade.  But he’d made up his mind about this a long time ago, and he wasn’t about to undo ten year’s worth of work just because he was a little mad.

“That’s what I thought,” Whaley scoffed, when Severide simply shook his head and turned back to his mask.  “You were a coward then, and you’re a coward now.”

Severide was on his feet and less than a foot away from Whaley before he could think it through, and over the blood rushing in his ears he heard his men scramble to their feet, no doubt to intervene.  Severide’s hand curled into a fist but he didn’t move.

“Before this goes any further south, why don’t you walk away?”

Whaley took a daring step closer.  “Or what?”

Severide didn’t think he would have punched Whaley, he had just gotten back on duty, and he understood where the man was coming from after all.  But he was glad to hear a quiet voice from behind him regardless.

“Excuse me?”

Severide turned away from Whaley just as his men reached them, seeing out of the corner of his eye Hadley push Whaley back with a hand and tell him to walk away.  But Severide was too caught up staring at the short woman, clutching a plate of cookies, who had spoken, not having expected to see Casey’s mother so soon, nor in this context.

Is Matthew Casey-” she began before blinking at Severide, recognition slowly filling her eyes.  “Kelly?”

“Uh, yes, Ma’am,” Severide said, smiling slightly.  “It’s nice to see you again.”

He crossed the few feet that separated them and allowed himself to be pulled into a hug by Nancy.

“Uh, just wait here, I’ll go find Matt.”  He stuck his head inside the doors, and immediately caught sight of his boyfriend, calling for him to come outside.  Matt frowned at him in confusion but obeyed.

“Mum?” he asked, surprise flooding his features as he stepped outside and caught sight of his mother.  “How did you get here?”

“Oh, I took the bus,” she said pleasantly.

“What’s going on?  Is there something wrong?”

Nancy lifted an eyebrow at him.  “Just wanted to see where my son works.”  

The fact that she had never gotten the chance to before escaped none of them, nor did the reason why.  Casey didn’t speak for a long moment and Severide wanted to nudge him and tell him to stop gaping at his mother like she was crazy.

“How about we give you a tour?” Kelly offered just to break the silence.

“Right.”  Casey blinked and seem to come back to herself.  “Right, well this is the truck,” he said, nodding vaguely at the rig.

“This is your truck?” she asked, eyes roving over the behemoth vehicle in obvious amazement.

“Yep,” Casey said with a grin, starting to relax a little.

“And this is my one,” Severide added, gesturing to the stouter truck beside it.

“It’s smaller,” Nancy noted with a teasing grin.

Severide spluttered in response and was saved trying up with an answer to that by the appearance of Mills.

“This is our candidate, Peter Mills.  Mills, this is my mum.”

“Oh.”  Being the puppy he was, Mills immediately swept Nancy into a hug, much to her surprise.  “You’ve got a great son,” he told her, as they seperated.

“That’s very kind of you to say.”

Mills eyes fell on the plate in Nancy’s hands.  “May I?”

“Of course, help yourself.”  Nancy handed the plate over. “Share them around,” she continued, ushering him inside.

“Thank you.  It was a pleasure meeting you, Ma’am,” Mills called before disappearing inside.

“He’s so young,” Nancy sighed, staring after him.  “And you were that young too.” She turned her eyes on her son, patting his cheek lightly, not seeming to notice how he stiffened slightly.  Nancy had been well into her prison sentence by the time Casey had graduated from the academy, and Severide had heard her say it was one of her biggest regrets that she hadn’t been there.  He shifted uncertainty, feeling like he was intruding on a private moment and wondered if he should leave them to it. Thankfully, Casey cleared his throat after a moment and suggested they go inside and get out of the cold.

 

“Why don’t you tell Whaley what happened?” Casey asked quietly some time later, as they sat in the rec room and watched Nancy listen with rapt attention to the stories being told by the others.

Severide glanced over at him, wondering where the thought had come from.  “What difference would it make?”

“He’d get off your ass, for one.”

“If I was going to say anything, it would have been then.  There’s no use dredging it all up again.”

Casey shrugged minutely.  “Maybe he needs to know.”

“It’s over, he can say what he wants.  I’ve moved on.” The ‘with you’ went unsaid, but was obvious nevertheless.  Casey’s lips twitched with a slight smile and he slid his hand into Severide’s, squeezing for a second, and Severide knew the subject was dropped.  “Since we’re bringing up uncomfortable topics, why didn’t you tell me about Otis?”

Casey’s lips twisted and he scrunched up his nose.  “I dunno, you were so busy with your rehab-”

“Matt…”

“And I didn’t even know how I felt about it.  I would have told you…”

A burst of laughter stole away their attention before Severide could push any further, and when the room settled again the moment was gone and Severide resigned himself to letting it go with a silent sigh.

Mouch appeared at Casey’s side, looking oddly intense despite the jovial atmosphere of the room.

“Lieutenant, can I talk to you a second?  It’s about Cruz.”

Casey didn’t look too surprised about that and Severide added that to the ever growing list of things to talk to his boyfriend about as he watched the pair disappear into the corridor.

“What’s this about, Mouch,” Casey asked, leaning back against the wall.

“He’s been acting a little off, don’t you think,” the older man said, obviously thinking of the call from earlier.

“I figured it was a private matter,” Casey hedged.  He knew what was up with Cruz but he was keeping an eye on the situation.

“Yeah, and I keep asking him to tell me what it is, but he won’t open up.”

“The maybe it’s a sign you should stop asking him about it.”  Casey lifted his eyebrows slightly, waiting for a response, but Mouch had apparently been struck dumb by the comment and only looked at him.  Casey nodded a sharp dismissal and headed back into the rec room. He hated being short with his men, but this wasn’t a situation that was going to get any better by sharing it around, and having Mouch sniffing around was only going to make both him and Cruz feel worse.


Casey hadn’t planned to spend his day off watching some stranger snoop through his house and poke through his things.  But that was how it ended up, he and his mum watching as her parole officer carefully checked the newly finished kitchen, looking for who knew what.

“I would have put on a pot of coffee if I’d known you were coming,” Nancy said cheerfully, not seeming at all put off by her presence.

The parole officer’s voice was flat when she responded, “If you knew I was coming this wouldn’t be an unannounced visit.”

The officer moved briskly through the house and went uninvited into the guest room that Nancy was frequenting, rifling through her things.  

“Those are personal letters,” Nancy said, voice growing colder, when the officer took a box off the chest of drawers and started going through it.

The officer didn’t even look up.  “As long as you’re on parole nothing is personal.”

“We understand, Officer,” Casey said, jumping in before his mother could retort.  “Thank you.”

“It’s all pretty straightforward, Nancy,” the officer said, moving from the room and heading into the dining room where she started looking through the cutlery and crockery.  “You’re to be in this house from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m everyday. You’re not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs. You are not to associate with any known criminals. And we have an appointment on the 23rd in my office, with as many unannounced visits between now and then as I see fit.”  She leveled Nancy with a hard look. “It’s yours to screw up.”

“Well, then you have nothing to worry about,” Nancy said with a tight smile.

The parole officer merely flicked her a look, eyebrows raised, as if to say she heard that all the time, before seeing herself out.

Nancy and Casey turned to each other once they heard the door close but Nancy’s phone rang before either of them could say anything.

“Hey,” she said brightly into the phone.  “Can I call you right back? Great!” She hung up again and still smiling, walked into the kitchen.

Casey was feeling a lot less happy as he followed her.  He’d known when he agreed to let his mother live with him that the unannounced visits would be part of it, but knowing something as going to happen and actually seeing it were entirely separate things, and the encounter with his mother’s parole officer had left him feeling a little off-kilter.

“Was that Rick?” he asked, trying to make conversation.

Nancy’s smile wavered.  “Eh, no. I called that off.”

“Why?  He seemed nice.”  A little creepy and definitely annoying, but nice.

Nancy shrugged, and poured herself a glass of water.  “He was too nice.”

“So who was that on the phone?”

“A friend,” Nancy answered vaguely.

“Another pen pal?”  Casey hadn’t meant to sound so accusatory, or ask so many questions but he considered himself responsible for his mother’s actions, and he’d rather step on her toes and know what she was up to now, then be surprised later.

Unfortunately, Nancy seemed to pick up on the tone in his voice.  “Wow,” she said, voice abruptly hard. “You make it sound so tawdry, but yeah.  He was someone kind enough to visit me in prison.”

Casey jerked as if he’d been struck, and saw a flash of regret cross his mother’s eyes.  But she didn’t say anything, and for a long moment neither did he.

“Well,” he said finally.  “Have fun with your… friend.  I’m heading over to Kelly’s.”

“Give him my best,” Nancy said, somehow managing to still sound annoyed as she did.

 

“And then she says, ‘ he was someone kind enough to visit me in prison’ like I wasn’t the only person who consistently went to visit her in prison.”  Casey threw himself down onto the lounge beside Severide and swung his feet into his boyfriend’s lap in one smooth motion.  “At least once a month, usually more, for fifteen years, and she acts like that was nothing.”

“I know, babe,” Severide said soothingly, one hand dropping to rest reassuringly on Casey’s bare foot, the other reaching for the beer the blonde was offering him.  “You know how your mum can be. She’s all smiles until you start disagreeing with her.”

Casey pulled the top off his own beer and took a swig.  “I just don’t know if this was such a good idea. Her living with me.”

“What else were you supposed to do?  She’s your mother and the only way she was getting out was if she moved in with you.”

“I know.”

“Besides you can always come over here when you need to escape for a bit.  You know Shay wishes you still lived here.”

“Just Shay?” Casey asked teasingly.

Severide felt himself grin.  “Oh you know, maybe I wish you did too… a little bit.”

“Just a little bit?” Casey challenged, dropping the heel of his foot so it pressed the barest trace of pressure to Severide’s crotch.

Severide sucked in a quick breath, eyes darkening.  “That’s cruel,” he said when the pressure disappeared.  Casey just smiled smugly and settled further into the cushions.  “So what was the deal with Mouch yesterday?” he asked, changing the subject when it was clear Casey wasn’t going to initiate anything further.  “He was pretty determined to talk to you.”

Some of the tension returned to Casey’s shoulders and Severide wished he hadn’t asked.

“It was about Cruz.  You remember before your surgery, we talked about someone making a mistake, and having to decide whether to keep it a secret for them or not.”

Severide vaguely remembered the conversation, remembering the feeling of Casey’s hand in his own more.

“Yeah, well you remember the fire where that banger, Flaco, turned up dead?”

“Oh, shit,” Severide said, catching on.

“Yeah.”

“And Mouch knows.”

“He knows something’s up.  But I don’t think he knows what yet.  Cruz has kept his mouth shut so far.” A beat of silence, both not having much to say more on the subject, then, “Do you think I made a mistake?”

“No,” Severide said instantly.  It would have been a hard decision for Casey, for anyone really, to make.  But at the end of the day, these men were their family, and as far as Severide was concerned, you didn’t turn your back on family unless you had a damn good reason to.  

His fingers slid over Casey’s foot before pressing firmly against a pressure point in his arch, wanting some of that tension to disappear again.  To his delight, Casey let out a low moan, melting back against the arm of the lounge and tipping his head back until he was looking up at the roof.

“So, what do you want to do today?” Casey asked languidly.  “Go for a workout?” He let out a little mewl as Severide moved onto the other foot.  “See a movie? Have lunch somewhere nice?”

“I have a better idea,” Severide all but purred, sitting up on his knees to lean over Casey.  He looped his hands under his boyfriend’s thighs and yanked until he was lying flat on the lounge.  

Casey smirked up at him.  “We can’t just have sex all the time,” he protested even as his legs came around Severide’s hips, heels digging into his ass to encourage him to press closer.  “We should go out and be functioning members of society.”

“Later,” Severide murmured, head dipping so he could mouth at the pale expanse of Casey’s throat.  “We wasted months being apart, sue me if I can’t keep my hands off you now.” True to his words, Severide supported himself on one hand while the other palm ran along Casey’s thigh before slipping under his t-shirt to trace his abs.

Beneath him Casey gasped, his eyes hazy with lust.  “Shay and Clarice?” he managed to get out around a moan as Severide rocked against him.

“Out.  Won’t be back for hours .”  The words were an enticing promise, murmured directly into his ear and Casey groaned in defeat, hands already reaching for the button of Severide’s jeans.


When Severide caught sight of Otis sitting alone in the locker room at the start of the next shift, Otis’ final shift with them, the plan came together so quickly and so perfectly in his head that he couldn’t help himself.

“Morningside, huh?” he asked, the enthusiasm a little too much even to his own ears as he clapped a hand on Otis’ shoulder on his way past.

“Yeah,” Otis sighed, resigned.  “And I’ve heard all the speeches so, thanks all the same, but you can save it.”

Severide quirked an eyebrow.  “Speeches?”

“‘It’s a dead house’, ‘you’re throwing your career away’, all you’re gonna do is sell t-shirts’,” Otis remarked dryly, obviously parroting the lectures he’d been getting since he put in for the transfer.

Severide shrugged.  “I don’t have a speech.”  Otis’ eyebrows rose in obvious disbelief so Severide added, “I made a hundred bucks off this.”

“What?!”  The outrage in Otis’ voice was golden, as was the look on his face, but Severide didn’t dare give himself away by laughing just yet.  “What do you mean?”

Severide glanced around the deserted locker room, before taking a step back towards Otis.  “Oh, well, when you first started, there was a little side action on if you had what it took to make it at 51.  I took the under, so to speak.”

Otis looked affronted.  “Who else bet against me?”

“Confidential pool,” Severide lied easily.  “Hey, you made it four years, man,” he continued.  “I’ll give you that much.” Leaving his magic to work on Otis, Severide headed for the door but stopped short at the man’s next words.

“Okay, I get it.  It’s like a reverse psychology ploy to get me fired up and make me want to stay, right?”

Severide shook his head with a grin and withdrew his wallet, hoping he was remembering correctly.  Sure enough, there was a hundred dollar bill sitting right where he’d left it, and he pulled it out, showing it to Otis with a smirk.

“Son of a bitch!”

Severide snickered and left, figuring his work was well and truly done there.

 

The shift wore on, and it was a monotonous one with few calls, so Casey alleviated the evening boredom by heading to his quarters and checking in on his mother.

“How are things over there,” he asked, once they’d exchanged pleasantries.

“I’m actually about to head out dinner,” she chirped back, oblivious to the discomfort it inspired in her son.

“With this pen pal guy?”

“Yep.”

“You remember what your parole officer said-”

“I’ll be back before my curfew,” Nancy cut in quickly, her voice taking on a hard edge.  “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m going to worry about it, mum.  You haven’t even been out a week and you’re-”

“I am not going out to sell crack,” Nancy shouted back through the phone.  “Jesus Christ, Matthew !”

Casey flinched at the use of his full name, the tone in which she’d said it bringing up too many bad memories - Just catch the damn football, Matthew!   Why’d you drop that plate, Matthew?!  Matthew, why can’t you just be better? - but Nancy seemed oblivious.

“I thought you invited me into your home so I could live my life, but if your intention was to parent me or, or get back at me for what happened, then you shouldn’t have bothered.”

“You don’t get to talk to me like that!”  Casey was surprised to find he was almost yelling and hastily lowered his voice.  “After everything, after I stood by you, and let my life get turned upside down so you could get parole?  You don’t get to throw that back at me.”

He could hear Nancy breathing shakily over the phone, but when she finally spoke again her voice sounded more composed.

“I’m going out to have dinner, Matthew.  I’ll be back before my curfew.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She hung up without another word, not giving him a chance to object even if he wanted to.


“As you can see from the prospectus, the offer on the table fluctuates based upon how many of us get on board with the actual offer.”

Casey leant against the back wall of the briefing room, fighting the urge to close his eyes and nod off.  Herrmann had dragged them all - bar Boden, Severide, and Whaley who’d all been smart enough to find something else to do - into the room that morning barely an hour before they were set to get off shift and begun to lecture them about the positives of investments.

“Now, it also entails that the owner be carrying the loan himself.”

$70 000?” Mouch asked, sounding skeptical.  “He’ll never take it.”

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Herrmann said, sounding way too excited in Casey’s opinion considering the early hour.  “If he turns us down, he turns us down. I’m just looking for the 7k in cash to get the 10% down. Who’s in?”

Silence met Herrmann’s question for a long moment before finally, “I’m in.”

More than a few eyes turned to Otis at his proclamation while Herrmann was looking like a child on Christmas morning.

“Otis, buddy!” he crowed.  “We’ll keep you apprised while you’re over at Morningside.”

“Oh, no,” Otis said, sounding smug as he himself stood and addressed the room.  Herrmann looked a little put out at having his spotlight stolen. “I’m actually ecstatic to announce to all you people who bet that I wouldn’t make it here that I’ve withdrawn my transfer request.”

The occupants of the room exchanged baffled glances.  Casey could only smile, practically smelling Severide all over this.

“What the hell are you babbling about?” Herrmann barked.

Otis, for his part, also looked baffled.  “But, the bet… that I wouldn’t make it… Severide said…” he trailed off, looking at his lieutenant with wounded eyes, confirming Casey’s suspicions.

“Anyway look,” Herrmann continued quickly, regaining control of his meeting while Otis sunk back down into his chair.  “It’s a neighbourhood bar in Bucktown. We’re looking to bring in the new families that have moved in and have thus far been neglected.  You’re gonna pass up a deal like this? Mouch?” He looked at his old friend with imploring eyes.

“Too volatile,” Mouch said decisively.

“Alright, Mouch is out,” Herrmann said with a roll of his eyes.  “He think the bar is built on a volcano. Anybody else? I’m just looking for one more person to put in 2, 300 and we’re there.”

Dawson finished flipping through the information Herrmann had given them and shrugged.  “I’m in.”

Shay shot her an incredulous look and Herrmann sunk to his knees, grinning like a mad man.

“I’ve got to make money to pay for med school.  Plus, it sounds like fun.”

Which was the exact opposite of what was happening in the rec room if the sudden shouting coming from that direction was any indication.

“So then just tell me what happened!” A male voice shouted.

“We’ve already been through this!” A second voice, unmistakable as Severide’s returned.

Bad feeling starting to creep into his stomach, Casey pushed away from the wall and lead the group out of the briefing room and into the rec room where sure enough it looked like Severide and Whaley were seconds away from exchanging blows.

“How is this your business?” Severide spat, oblivious to the sudden crowd.

“How is this my business?” Whaley shot back, stepping further into Severide’s space.  “It wasn’t just Renee’s life you screwed up! It was our whole family’s!”

“Look, I’ve moved on with my life, okay?!”  Severide glanced around, finally noticing their arrival, and his voice lowered slightly.  “Maybe you should too.” He turned around and made to leave.

“Tell me, how do you move on from seeing your sister’s car wrapped around a telegraph pole?”

Severide stopped short, and Casey heard more than a few of the crowd suck in shocked gasps at the dramatic turn in the conversation.  He knew they’d all been itching to know the history between Severide and Whaley since that first confrontation, and it seemed they were about to get it.

“Come on,” Severide said, pleading for both their sakes as he turned back to Whaley.  He didn’t want his history being dredged up for the whole house to see, and he didn’t want Whaley to have to hear the truth he knew Shay or Casey was going to tell if this went on for much longer.

But Whaley misunderstood the plea, thinking Severide just wanted to save face, and his expression turned cruel as he addressed the crowd.  “Yeah, your boy, the great Kelly Severide, dumps my sister two days before their wedding. So she goes out drinking, ends up in a coma for three months.  And where was Kelly? Never heard from him.”

“Your sister hooked up with an ex-boyfriend before the wedding.”

“Matt,” Severide bit out warningly, never looking away from Whaley.

“No,” Shay said, suddenly speaking up.  “Casey’s right, he needs to hear this.”

“Kelly walked in on her with him, so he called off the wedding.  And he didn’t say anything because your entire family was at the hospital after Renee and he didn’t want to dump any more grief on you guys.  So he took the hit. That’s what happened, so back off.”

Whaley was looking at Severide like he’d never seen him before and the room was completely silent around him.  And as much as Severide had always wanted to save Whaley from this truth, he couldn’t deny that it felt good to have his name cleared a bit.

“Shay,” Boden said suddenly and absently Severide found himself wondering when the chief had gotten there.  “Hospital just called. Clarice’s water broke.”

“Thanks,” Shay murmured and slipped away.

“Severide, Whaley, my office.  Now.”

The group of firefighter’s slowly started to disperse, now that it was obvious the show was over, while Severide and Whaley followed Boden out of the rec room.  Casey raised an eyebrow at Severide as he passed, wordlessly asking if he wanted back up. But Severide merely waved him off and walked past.

“Is there anything else that needs to be said, beyond what’s already been screamed or yelled?” Boden asked, peering at the pair from behind his desk.

Severide and Whaley both shook their heads, and Boden looked at Whaley directly.

“You’ve only got three more shifts here, you going to make it?  Or do I need to find someone else?”

Whaley pursed his lips.  “I’d like to stay.”

Boden glanced at Severide.  “You got a problem with that, Kelly?”

“I don’t.”

“Eric, I have been on vacation for the past few weeks,” Boden began, obviously referring to his mandated leave after Ernie’s death.  “So you probably haven’t got a chance to know how I operate. I say things once, and once only.”

“Copy that,” Whaley responded, with a brisk nod.

“Alright, both of you, get back to work.”

Severide and Whaley filed out of the office in silence, Whaley speaking only once they’d reached the hallway.

“I think most of my frustration comes from the face that I don’t know where she is half the time.  She doesn’t really talk to the family anymore.” It wasn’t an apology, not even close, but it was an explanation, and Severide got it, he really did.  He gave Whaley a sad smile, and a nod before heading to the locker room.

 

Casey and Severide went straight from the firehouse to the hospital, where they were shown to the waiting room in the maternity ward, which was full of other nervously waiting family members.  Shay darted out for long enough to tell them that the baby was well on it’s way but other than that they were on their own. Casey dozed on Severide’s shoulder for a while, half watching a basketball game between heavy blinks, while Severide toyed with his phone.

“You’ve been staring at her number for five minutes now,” Casey finally said drowsily.  Severide’s shoulder jolted beneath his cheek, having though his boyfriend had finally drifted off.  “I think you should call her,” Casey added, sitting up.

“I don’t even know what I would say,” Severide said, locking the phone and shoving it deep into his pocket.

“In times like these, I think it’s less about what you say, and more that you called at all.”  Casey unwound himself from the chair, and stood, brushing a hand over Severide’s shoulder. “I’m going to get some coffee.”

Severide watched him until he disappeared from sight and reluctantly pulled out his phone again, pulling up his contacts list.  Again he stared at her name, Renee Whaley for a long minute. He didn’t even know why he still had her number; they’d been kids when they were together, just nineteen, when he was still a candidate, so young, and so in love.  Maybe that was why he’d kept it, because as long as it had been, and as much as he’d hated her, she’d been his first love, and he would always remember his first love. And maybe that was why he clicked on her name and pressed call, bringing the phone up to his ear.

Not that it mattered much why he’d finally decided to call, the phone didn’t even ring, sending him straight to an automated message that informed him, “ The number you have reached is no longer in service.”

Severide didn’t know how Casey knew, but when his boyfriend returned he seemed to sense that Severide didn’t want to talk about the call and didn’t ask.  Instead he just handed Severide a coffee, made just how he liked it - thought the quality of the hospital brew left a lot to be desired - and sat back down next to him, sliding an arm around his shoulders as they waited.

They didn’t have to wait much longer after that anyway, and soon enough Shay was reappearing in the waiting room, looking much more subdued with a dreamy smile on her face.

“Hey,” she breathlessly, still smiling like a sap.  They looked at her expectantly. “It’s a boy.”

“Alright!” Severide grinned and the pair got to their feet, pulling Shay into a group hug.

“You want to meet him?”

“Lead the way.”

“So, how is he?” Casey asked, as Shay lead them through the maze of corridors and rooms.

“Oh, God, healthy, and so beautiful.  He can’t wait to meet you guys.”

“He told you that, did he?” Severide teased.

Shay grinned but didn’t answer, gesturing instead at an open doorway.  “Here we go.”

Severide and Casey exchanged glances before walking into the room, catching a look of Clarice sitting up in bed, cradling a small bundle.  She grinned up at them, and they were struck; the usually put together Clarice was completely devoid of makeup, and still sweating a bit, and her hair was bundled up in a messy knot.  But despite this she looked like the was glowing in the morning light that filtered in through the windows behind her.

They approached her bed from one side, while Shay took the other, reaching in to press a kiss to her girlfriend’s damp temple, and together they all peered down at the little bundle in her arms.

“Oh my god,” Casey breathed, eyes wide, reaching out with a gentle finger to stroke one round cheek.

“He’s amazing,” Severide agreed, drinking in the baby with his scrunched up eyes, and little mouth forming an ‘o’ as he slumbered.

“Daniel,” Clarice said suddenly, drawing all their attention away from the baby and to the doorway where a man stood.

All the adults in the room seemed to tense as one.  Severide and Casey had never met Clarice’s ex-husband but they’d heard enough about him to be on their guard.

“Do you want to hold him?” Clarice asked, as Daniel took a few halting steps towards them, all without saying a word.  

He seemed to waver for a moment, before heading over to the bed reaching out wordlessly so Clarice could place the baby in his arms.  The baby gurgled a little at the movement but a quiet shush from Daniel and he settled back down again. Daniel’s expression softened and a slight smile appeared as he gazed down at his son.

“Look, I don’t know what your plans are, but of course, I’d love for you to be part of our lives as much as you can.”

Something flashed across Daniel’s face, too quick to be identifiable, and his eyes roved over his child’s face a final time before he handed him back to Clarice silently.  He looked as though he was finally going to say something but changed his mind before anything came out, and simply walked out.

“Wow,” Severide said, shaking his head in disbelief as they all watched him leave.  “Father of the year, right there.”

Casey made a quiet noise of agreement, while Clarice blinked away tears, and Shay turned her attention back on her girlfriend and the baby.  Casey slipped an arm Severide’s waist and pulled him closer, both looking back down at the baby. Which was why none of them noticed for a moment that someone elsehad entered the room.

“Excuse me,” a voice said apologetically, and they all looked back around.  “Clarice Carthage and Leslie Shay?”

“Yes?”

“You’ve been served in the case of Daniel Schwartz vs. Clarice Carthage.”

He handed them identical manila envelopes that in their shock they took without a word.  The man nodded at them before taking his leave.

“What is it?” Severide asked.

Shay ripped open the envelope and withdrew the document from within, eyes scanning the words feverishly.  Whatever she read, she apparently didn’t like because she closed her eyes, looking devastated.

“It’s a petition for full custody.”

Clarice’s face crumpled, and both Severide and Casey’s stomachs lurched in sympathy.  Shay shoved the envelopes away and perched on the edge of the bed, wrapping her arms around Clarice while she cried.

“It’s going to be okay,” she murmured in Clarice’s dark hair.

Severide and Casey exchanged glances, both wondering if it really would be.