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We can learn to love again

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A brief moment of weirdness flashed through Casey as he walked up the driveway towards the fire house.  Taking time off to help support Hallie’s family through the funeral and everything that came after had always felt like the right decision; working out when to come back to work had been harder to decide on. But the feeling quickly faded as a rush of familiarity and comfort overtook him. It felt good to be back where he belonged.

Less good was the sympathy he could see on his coworkers face as he headed for the locker room to get changed out.

“How are you doing, Casey?” Dawson asked, falling into step beside him.

He shrugged.  “I’m fine.  The funeral was hard, you know?  But I’m doing alright.”

Dawson’s expression was full of pity as he reached out and squeezed his shoulder.  “If you need anything…”

“I’m fine,” he said again, and stepped out from underneath her hand.

Dawson bit her lip but seemed to get what Casey’s wasn’t saying, that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

“How’s Shay doing?”

The tension eased out of Casey and he felt himself grin at the nervous excitement Shay had been feeling in the three weeks since the insemination and the way she was constantly flitting around her and Severide’s apartment.

“She’s good.  Got her blood drawn this morning.”

Dawson gasped in surprise and delight.  “Wow!  How soon until they know?”

“It should be pretty quick.  I think she said they’ll call her later today with the results.”

Dawson clapped her hands together and hurried off to find Shay, Casey watching her go, smile still on his face.  He liked the idea that in less than a year there could be a little bundle of joy in the apartment.

“Hey.  You good?” Severide asked, appearing beside him.  Casey had stayed at his own place last night so he could get his stuff for the shift at the firehouse.  But more and more they were both thinking that the two living situations weren't working out for them.  Severide made a mental note to mention it to Casey later.

“Yeah, I’m good,” the blonde said, glancing around the apparatus floor.  “Just weird how nice everyone is being.  Feels like I should be over it by now.”

Severide frowned at him.  “You lost someone close to you barely a month ago, Matt.  It takes time to be ‘over’ something like that.”

Casey made a non-committal noise, and Severide opened his mouth to push the point further, before catching sight of Mills over his boyfriend’s shoulder.

“We’re talking more about this later, okay?” he said, grinning when Casey only grumbled an assent in reply.  He touched Casey’s shoulder briefly before jogging over to the candidate.

“Mills,” he called.  Mills glanced up from where he was checking the Truck rig’s inventory to make sure they were set for the shift.  “Wanted to give you a heads up.  Boden just got word; squad decisions are being made today.”

“For real?”

“Yep.  This could be your last shift on Truck.”

“Wicked,” Mills breathed, eyes alight with excitement.

Before either of them could say anything further the bells were going off and the dispatch officer’s voice was echoing from the PA system.  “Squad 3, Truck 81, Engine 51, Ambulance 61, Battalion 25.  Structure fire, 2700 South California Avenue.”

“Damn,” Severide cursed under his breath.  He saw Mills throw him a confused look his way but he was too busy jogging off to his turnout gear to explain.  “Come on,” he barked at his men, as they filed outside, knowing looks on their faces.  “Let’s go.”

Mills got his answer however as their convoy roared towards their destination.

“Don’t worry, Mills,” Casey was telling him from the front seat.  “These kinds of calls usually aren’t too serious.”

“What kind of calls?”  The question was redundant however because, as Mills saw when he glanced out the window, they had arrived at their destination: Cook County Jail.  Correctional officers were waiting by the gate to guide them in and direct them on where to park, and soon enough they were all jumping out of their respective rigs.

Severide and Casey immediately joined Boden as they tried to determine what exactly was happening.

“You in charge?” Boden asked a man coming towards them.

“Facility director, Rick Esposito,” the man said, offering his hand for Boden to shake, before nodding at Casey and Severide.

“What are we looking at?”

“We’ve got smoke in Pod 4, a dorm area we set up due to overcrowding.”

Boden frowned.  “You’re not evacuating.”

Esposito frowned right back.  “I pulled most of my staff, but I think it’s best if we don’t move the inmates.  We have vents that will draw away the smoke.”

“Sprinklers?”

Esposito sighed.  “The inmates were turning them on to cause trouble so we deactivated them.”

Boden ignored the breach of fire code and said, “You need to get those turned back on right now.”

Esposito turned to one of the correctional officers flanking him, and said, “Find Roy and have him turn the sprinklers back on.”

Boden meanwhile turned to his own men.  “Casey, put a small team together and get ready to go inside.  Severide I want Squad standing by for RIT rescue.”

“RIT rescue?” they heard Esposito ask Boden.

RIT rescue stood for Rapid Intervention Team, and meant that Casey would go in ahead with his Truck company to scope out the situation, relaying the information back to Boden so he could best direct Squad on where to go.

“Alright 81,” Casey called, and they gathered around him.  “Cruz, Herrmann, Mills you’re with me.  Leave your irons, I want a pry axe, pike pole, two silver bullets, a 1¾ hose.  Otis and Mouch, you’re out here with Boden.”  

His men nodded and hurried to get the equipment ready, and soon enough they were following a correctional officer named Lucci through thick doors that had to be unlocked electronically before they would open.  They went through door after door, and Casey was just grateful they had Lucci with them otherwise they would have no doubt gotten lost.  Finally they reached the cells and Lucci led them along, mostly ignoring the inmates standing at the glass panels in the doors except to occasionally bang his fist on the doors a couple times to drive them back.

“What the hell you looking at?” one inmate sneered at Mills as he and a few other chained inmates were led past by another correctional officer, presumably being relocated away from the smoke.

“Keep your eyes open and back to the wall,” Casey said to the candidate once they were gone.  “Don’t take any lip from them either, okay?”

They walked past another door and Mills shuddered a little as the inmates inside banged on the glass and yelled.  Then, clenching his jaw and squaring his shoulders the kid walked on.  Casey nodded approvingly and, ignoring the yells that followed him, walked on as well.

They were coming up a flight of stairs into a different part of the facility when their radios crackled with a message from Boden.

Herrmann, can you read me?”

“What’s up, Chief?”

“Cindy just went into labour.  Your folks are bringing her to Lakeshore right now.”

Herrmann let out a chuckle of disbelief as Cruz, Casey, and Mills all slapped him on the back.  “How about that,” he said, rolling his eyes a bit.  “For once in her life the woman’s early.”

“I’ll send someone in to relieve you.”

“Nah,” Herrmann said easily.  “That’ll take too long.  We’re almost there, I can smell the smoke.”

Casey marvelled at how calm he was, but then he supposed when you’ve done this song and dance four times before you feel like an old pro by the fifth time.

Lucci brought his radio to his mouth.  “Mast control, what do you see in pod four overflow?”

“Can’t see anything, too much smoke.”

The yelling, which had faded into background noise, had become louder and more distressed, and after exchanging a worried glance with Lucci, Casey pressed on faster towards pod four.  They reached yet another door and after a short buzz, Lucci wrenched it open and gestured for them to move through it into the hallway beyond.  The change was instantaneous, the air becoming thick and choked with smoke, as well as the distressed yelling growing even louder.

“We gotta get into pod four overflow now!” Lucci barked into his radio, when they reached the end of the corridor.

While they waited for the door to unlock, Casey peered through the glass panel in the door, where he could see an active fire inside the room on what looked to be a bunk bed.  Inmates were crowded around the door like in all the other cells, but these men looked slower and more lethargic, no doubt feeling the effect of the thick smoke.

“Mills,” Casey called.  “Locate a standpipe and get that hose hooked up.”

“You got it, Lieutenant,” Mills said and hurried away.

“What happened to the exhaust?” Casey asked Lucci while he, Cruz, and Herrmann, dropped to their knees to get their masks on.

“I don’t know.”  Banging on the door from the inmates tore Lucci’s attention away again and he yelled for them to back away and get on the ground.

Finally the pod door buzzed and Lucci got it open.  He went in first pushing back against the inmates who surged forward.  “Back up!” he bellowed at them, while Casey led his company past.  “Get low!  Let these guys work!  On the floor!  Stay low!”

Lucci yanked the door closed again to keep the inmates contained while Casey and his men got to work.  Mills hadn’t yet returned with the hose so they went in with the silver bullets first in an attempt to douse them.

“We’ve gotta get these guys out of here,” Casey yelled to Lucci, looking at the inmates stumbling around.

“I gotta clear that with master control.”

“Then clear it!”

Out of the corner of his eye, Casey saw Herrmann whack his axe against the metal frame of a set of bunks to keep inmates away from Cruz who was wiedling the silver bullet.  He wasn’t just worried about the inmates, but his own men.

“Lieutenant,” Herrmann called to him.  “This guy’s hurt.”  In driving the inmates back from Cruz he’d uncovered an inmate lying on the ground, half covered by one of the bunk beds.  When Casey ran over and they slid him out they saw the front of his yellow jumpsuit was soaked with blood.

“We’ve gotta get this guy out,” Casey called.  “Screw waiting for permission.”  

Herrmann nodded, and Casey got to work slipping his webbing under the guy’s shoulders.  Meanwhile Herrmann watched his back swinging his axe carefully to make sure the other inmates didn’t get any ideas about coming closer.  Casey dragged the inmate towards Lucci who relayed into his radio that they were coming out and needed ambulance assistance.

“Cruz!”

The firefighter in question tossed away the empty silver bullet and hurried over.

“Clear off that vent.”

“Got it, Lieutenant.”  Cruz immediately went over with his pike pole to clear the vent set high up on the wall of the debris that was blocking it.

Meanwhile Lucci had gotten the door open again and Casey wasted no time in dragging him clear.  However, Casey didn’t like the look of the wet smear of blood that the action had left behind; the inmate had lost too much blood already and the ambo girls hadn’t even arrived yet.  Mills arrived back and dropped to his knees beside Casey.

“He’s all yours, candidate,” the blonde said to him and wasted no time in getting back to Herrmann and Cruz who were alone inside the cell.  He heard Mills call for Lucci’s help and a moment later heard the heavy door close once more.

Inside, Herrmann was dousing the fire with the second silver bullet while Cruz guarded his back.  Casey hurried over and started to clear the area around it of what looked like half-burned mattresses, wondering how the hell this fire was still going.  He got his answer a moment later when an inmate chucked another mattress on the fire.

“What’s wrong with you, huh?” Herrmann bellowed at the inmate in question.  “You wanna die?  Knock it off.”

Cruz shoved the inmate away while Casey wasted no time in dragging the mattress out of the fire and stamping out the embers on it, while Herrmann went back to dousing the fire.  Finally both silver bullets were empty and while the fire had died a bit, it was still smouldering.  Casey glanced between it and the inmates surrounding them, thinking that he’d never before been so caught between a rock and a hard place.

Cruz and Herrmann started stomping out the remains of the fire as best they could, and not a second too soon the sound of the door unlocking filled the room.  Lucci dashed back in, but there was no sign of Mills.

“Where’s my guy?”

“Had to stay out there with your paramedic.  The other paramedic went back outside with the guard to get a backboard.”

Casey nodded.  He didn’t like the idea of being a man down when they were so out-numbered by inmates, but he liked the idea of either Shay or Dawson alone with an inmate even less.

Finally they got the last of the fire out, and now that it was, Casey could see that it had been caused by an electrical outlet being tampered with.  He filed away that information for his report and gestured for his men to move towards the door.

“Okay, we’re done here.  Let’s go.”

“Amen to that,” Herrmann grumbled.

As soon as the words left his mouth, an alarm blared and the lights went out.  Casey hand jumped to the torch on his turnout jacket and he wasted no time clicking it on, Herrmann and Cruz doing the same.  A moment later dim, secondary lights came on, only illuminating the fact that they were surrounded by inmates.  And now that the fire was out, those inmates no longer had a need for them.

“Oh, this ain’t good,” Lucci muttered, hand drifting slowly to the baton strapped to his belt.  “Come on,” he said to Casey and his men.  “To the door.”  While they slowly shuffled that way, never turning their backs on the inmates, Lucci tried to get through to the director outside.  “Hey guys, what’s going on with the power here?  Fire’s out and we’d really like to get out of here now.”

We have no way to open that door.  I advise you to let yourself further into the pod and wait for a power reset.”

Lucci shook his head but didn’t argue.  They didn’t have a lot of options.  “Out of the way,” he barked at the inmates before making his way to a door on the other side of the cell.

“Deeper into this hellhole?” Herrmann grumbled as they followed.

 

Severide stood outside, staring up at the vast, depressing, grey building repressing the urge to pace.  As Lieutenant and one of the ranking officers on scene, he knew he had to put up a good face for his men, but damn did it make him nervous to know that Casey and his men were in there with only one correctional officer to protect them.  That feeling didn’t go away when they got word of the power outage.  He was just thankful that at least Shay had been outside fetching a backboard when it happened.

“Okay, let’s go,” she said, coming back over with the board.

“It’s gonna be a minute now,” Boden explained to her.  “We’ve got a power outage, Shay.  Standby.”

“Mills and Dawson are alone in there, Chief.  We’ve gotta get back inside.”

“You can’t,” Esposito broke in.  “The perimeter doors fail-safe to a lock position.”

“Don’t you have a back-up generator?” Severide demanded.

Esposito was annoyingly blaise as he said, “It’s not a problem with the grid, the system just shut itself down.  It’ll reset soon, hold tight.”  Severide was sure that if it was Esposito’s partner stuck in that prison he wouldn’t be so calm about it all.

Boden looked like it was taking all that he had to not yell when he said, “Get me the blueprints to this prison.  We need to find a way out for my guys.  Now,” he added, voice hard, when Esposito didn’t immediately move.  The facility director held his hands up in surrender and left to do as the Chief asked.

“They’ll be okay, Kelly,” Shay said to him in an undertone.  Apparently his front didn’t work on his best friend.

“I know,” he said stoically.

“Matt will be fine,” she said, and this time he said nothing.

Esposito arrived back with the plans and Boden and Severide wasted no time laying them out on the hood of Boden’s SUV.

“Alright, they’re here,” he said, pointing them out on the plans.  “Now they can move about within the pod, but every point of exit is remotely operated which requires power.”

“Is anyone trying to get the power back?”

“Well, Roy, my facilities guy, he went down to the basement to deal with the sprinklers and now he’s trapped.  We’re trying to reach our other guy, but he’s off site today.”

“Do you have an emergency plan to get my firefighters out of there?”

Esposito made an impatient noise in the back of his throat and gestured to the correctional officers who were currently suiting up in heavy duty gear.  “My emergency response team’s ready to go.  The problem is they can’t get in until the power’s back up.”  He gave a useless shrug, and Severide, fighting the urge to curse, had to step away for a moment or he knew he was going to say something he’d regret.  Across the driveway he could see Shay leaning up against the back of the ambulance, which was why he noticed when her phone rang and she lifted it up to answer it.

 

“Lovely clientele you have here,” Herrmann said to Lucci once he got the door open and they were free to move into the outer pod.  It was the area that all the cells in the pod opened out into, a kind of supervised common area, that the inmates sometimes had access to.

“Oh yeah,” Lucci said back sarcastically.  “Smoke up the place just to conceal a shivving.”

“They did it by tampering with an outlet,” Casey said, remembering the sparking powerpoint.  “Probably what messed with the system.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll reset itself,” Lucci said, keeping a close eye on the inmates as they shuffled out of the cell.  “Any minute now.”

 

Severide didn’t need to be told twice when Boden gave him the go ahead to do whatever needed to be done to get Dawson and Mills out of there.  He knew once they were out he would be able to start working his way to Casey.  He’d had the Squad already standing by with the saws and wasted no time in swinging his up onto his shoulder and directing his men towards the building.

“You guys get started, I’ll be there in a second,” he called to them, stopping beside Shay.

She was staring up at the prison but he could tell from her expression that she wasn’t really seeing it.

“Was that the doctor?” he asked unnecessarily.  He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Yeah.”  Shay sniffed, and glanced at him before her gaze dropped to her feet.  “It didn’t take.”

“Damn,” Severide said softly, touching her shoulder.  “Shay, I…”

She sniffed again and tried for a smile but fell short.  “Go.  I’m okay.”

She wasn’t, and they both knew it.  But she had to be, and they both knew that as well.  He squeezed her shoulder before jogging off to join his men.  Severide took one look at the door and knew that he might be taking ‘whatever it takes’ seriously on this call because in his twelve year career he didn’t think he’d ever seen such heavy duty doors.

“They don’t make this easy, do they?”

The correctional officer didn’t so much as crack a smile.  “That’s kind of the idea.”

“Well, the bolt’s pretty hard to get to.  I’m gonna take the hinges instead.”  

Capp handed him the protective gear for his face while the others backed up.  Severide ripped the starting cord for the saw back, it obediently roared to life, and he lifted it to the door.  It was time to get his people out of there.

 

The outer pod that Lucci had led them into was definitely better than the cell, but that didn’t stop the smoke from spilling into the room.  Add in the heat, the heavy gear on their backs, and the constant threat of the inmates hovering close by, it made sense that they were all on edge as they sat, waiting for news.

Herrmann had the added strain of knowing that his wife was out there somewhere giving birth to his baby.

“Hey, Chief,” he said into the radio.  “You got any updates on Cindy?”

I’ll have Shay call the hospital right now.  Hang in there, Herrmann.”

“Thanks, Chief.”

Casey looked around the room and frowned, noticing that the smoke was even thicker than it had been a few minutes ago.  “This isn’t good.”

The sound of a door opening interrupted his train of thought, and they all looked around to see more inmates emerging from cells.

“What the hell is this?” Lucci demanded.

“We’ve gotta check upstairs,” Casey said to him and the guard waved him off, too concerned with the extra inmates.

Casey left Cruz with Lucci and went to check upstairs with Herrmann.

“We were getting smoked out,” one of the inmates was saying to Lucci.  “Corbett opened the cells.”

“Well, we’re the hell is he?  He just opened the cells and left?”

Casey swore as he checked in the open cells upstairs.  The smoke was even thicker here, pouring from one of the vents, confirming what Casey was worried about: there was another fire burning somewhere.

“Chief, we got a second fire smouldering somewhere in the HVAC system.  Probably an electrical fire caused by the inmates tampering with the outlet.”

Copy that, 81.  See what you can do about locating it.”

Casey turned to Herrmann, mirror expressions of worry on their faces.

 

If Severide hadn’t already been working as fast as humanly possible, the news of a second fire would have kicked his ass into gear.  From what he was hearing, the place was a rabbit warren in there, and he didn’t want Casey or his men trapped any longer with a fire they couldn’t even see.

“Severide,” Boden’s voice said over the radio.  “ You making any progress?”

The question came just as Severide made it through the last hinge, and he took a break to relay the news to his chief.  “Just finishing the first door now, but we’re going through a lot of blades.”  

As Severide had suspected, this was one tough door, and he wasn’t sure if they had the equipment necessary to get through much more of them.  He glanced back at the door, narrowing his eyes at what he saw.

“Security studs?!” he demanded, rounding on the officer.  “You watched my cut through all these hinges and didn’t tell me that they got security studs?”

The officer looked affronted.  “I didn’t build the place.”

Severide scowled at him but he had bigger worries now.  “Capp, prep the torch.  We gotta cut through this bolt after all.”

“You got it.”

 

“Chief,” Casey said, still looking at where the smoke was coming through the vent.  “If the fire’s electrical, it might be keeping the power from resetting.  We should try shutting down the cell block circuit.”

Good thinking, Casey.  We’re on it.  You keep looking for that fire.  If it gets out of control, we will not be able to evacuate.”

“Hey Chief,” Herrmann said onto the radio.  “Any news about Cindy.”

“Standby, Herrmann.”  A pause, then, “ No news yet.”

“Don’t worry, Herrmann,” Casey said, clapping him on the shoulder.  “We’re gonna get out of here soon.  Hey Lucci,” he continued, calling over the railing to the guard below.  “Is this some kind of maintenance access?”

“Yeah.”  The guard turned away only long enough to toss his keys up to Casey before turning his gaze back on the inmates.

If he needed keys to get in, Casey doubted the fire had started there, but fire could also be tricky and besides, if he was trapped in the prison, he wanted to check every place possible.  So Casey unlocked the door, jumping out of the way when he pulled it open and a guard’s lifeless body tumbled out.

“Shit,” he swore and went to the railing to look down but none of the inmates seemed to realise what they’d found.

“He’s cold, Lieutenant,” Herrmann said quietly behind him.

Equally quietly, Casey spoke into his radio, flicking the button so the channel stayed open.  “Chief, we got a real bad situation here.  We’ve got an officer down, looks like his throat’s been cut.  He’s gone, bled out.”

“Corbett.”  None of them had heard Lucci come up the stairs, but suddenly he was standing there, staring down at the dead body of his coworker.  “Where are his keys?”

Herrmann helped Lucci search the man’s pockets, but they came up empty.  Casey saw Lucci turn and look at the inmates milling around below, realising a second too late what the guard was going to do.

“Hey!” Lucci bellowed down at them.  “Hey!  They got his keys!”

The guard went thundering back down the stairs, Casey and Herrmann swearing and following, Casey yanking his halligan free as he went, thinking he was going to need it.

“Who did it?!” Lucci yelled, jumping down from the last stair and walking amongst the inmates, pushing and shoving them.  “Which one of you scumbags did it?”  The next minute, Lucci had his baton in his hand and was striking out at random.  “On the floor!  On the floor now!  Get down!  All of you!”

Casey stayed huddled with Cruz and Herrmann, wary but not taking part.  Casey would have been more than happy leaving this mystery to be solved once the fire was out and they were out of this place, but this wasn’t a bell they could unring.  So instead he and his men stood waiting and watching, ready to defend themselves.

Luckily, most of the inmates didn’t seem interested in fighting back against Lucci’s rage, and complied with his orders, dropping to the floor and lying still.  One group however, didn’t look like they were going to go so easily.

 

Severide’s blood ran cold when he heard Casey relay the news about the dead guard, and he was sure that wherever his boyfriend was, shit was about to go down, if it wasn’t already.  He made it through the first door with the torch and sat back on his heels, wiping the sweat away from his forehead.  Capp and Tony moved in with halligans to take the door out while Severide wrenched off his mask and flung it to the side when he saw that there was only a short corridor before another door blocked their path.

“Hey, Chief, we’re through the first door.  Maybe we should turn back and start cutting our way to Casey instead.”

Boden’s voice was firm.  “ Negative, that would take too long.  You keep going.  Find Mills and Dawson.”

Severide ground his teeth together but didn’t defy the order from his Chief.  Sighing, he reached for his mask, and kept going.

 

“You,” Lucci spat, pointing to one of the inmates with his baton.  “Acevedo, you did it?”

“No!” Acevedo protested, holding up his hands and backing away.

“Then tell me who did it or you’re going down.  You’re all going down for this.”

“Hey,” Casey barked, knowing that threats like that would only make things worse; there was nothing worse than a wild animal who thought they were cornered.  “Everybody just take it easy.”

Lucci ignored him and struck out at Acevedo, hitting him hard in the shins with his baton.  The inmate dropped hard and stayed curled up on the ground.

“Lucci!” Casey yelled, and the moment was just distraction enough for one of the inmates to sneak up behind Herrmann and hold a shiv to his throat.

“Whoa!  Whoa!” Herrmann protested as he was yanked backwards.

“Nobody move!” the inmate warned, pressing the shiv even tighter.  “Nobody move, everyone back off.”  Members of the inmate’s gang made themselves obvious by pressing in tight around him, preventing anyone from rushing at their leader.  Other inmates backed off, not wanting to be associated with them.

“You’re going down, Rios!” Lucci yelled at the inmate.

“Everybody just take it easy!” Casey shouted over them both.

“You think you’re gonna get away with this ‘cause the cameras are down?” Lucci asked Rios.  “No way.”

“Back off,” Rios spat.  “And you,” he said, nodding at Casey.  “Get us out of this smoke.”

“Lucci,” Casey hissed, and the guard stepped closer.  “Is there some place we can move these guys.”

“You wanna move these lowlifes?” Lucci asked, looking at Casey like he was crazy.

“Yes.  Let’s get them out of the smoke, get ‘em some place they can calm down.”  Because lowlifes or not, those men had his guy, and Casey was going to do whatever he had to to get Herrmann out of there unscathed.

“Okay,” Lucci said, thinking.  “We can move ‘em to the chapel.”

“Okay,” Casey said, and again a little louder.  “Everybody just take it easy.  We’re gonna move to the chapel where there’s less smoke, okay?”

“You lot don’t move or there’ll be hell to pay,” Lucci growled at the inmates on the ground.  “Alright, Rios?  Start moving towards the chapel.”

 

“Severide-”

“I heard, I heard.  The victim’s on his way out to you.”

Tony and Capp finally got that final door yanked free and Dawson and Mills went rushing past with the injured inmate, who looked like he was barely hanging on.  Severide’s thoughts however were too caught up on the knowledge that somewhere his boyfriend was negotiating a hostage situation with a crazed inmate.

“We’re going to start cutting our way to Casey.”

No.”

“Chief,” Severide said, the word coming out pained.

It’ll take too long.  I need you in the basement getting that facilities guy out of there.  Apparently he’s the only guy who can get the power back up.”

Severide didn’t answer, wondering how long he’d be suspended if he ignored Boden’s orders.

You’ll never make it in time.  I need you to trust me, Kelly.”

Severide swore viciously and kicked the wall.  “Come on,” he barked at the correctional officer.  “We need to get to the basement.”

 

Casey kicked the door to the chapel open and pushed Lucci in first, while dragging Cruz in after him, backing them all up quickly.  Herrmann, Rios, and his gang came next, and Casey didn’t want to let himself or Cruz or Lucci too near them.  Cruz kept them at a distance with his pike pole.

“Okay?  The smoke’s not so bad in here.  Let’s talk.  Let my man go.”

“Nuh-uh,” Rios said.  Throughout it all he’d kept the knife pressing against Herrmann’s skin, the firefighter’s face red and strained as he tried to not get cut.

“Rios.  My guy there, he’s got a baby on the way.  And he’s got four more kids at home.  Let him go.”  Rios wasn’t swayed, so Casey gritted his teeth.  “Fine.  You want a hostage?  I’ll be your hostage.”

He tossed his halligan to Cruz and started to walk towards Rios with his hands up.

“Casey, don’t,” Herrmann gritted out.

“Let my man go,” Casey said, ignoring Herrmann.

“I don’t want you.”

“Then what do you want?”

There was a manic look in Rios’ eyes as he grinned wider and nodded at Lucci.  “I want him.  I’m going down anyway, might as well finish what I started.”

Casey scowled at him.  “I am not handing someone over so you can kill them.”

Rios bared his teeth at him.  “Then you aren’t getting your man.”

Matt?” Casey closed his eyes briefly at the sound of his boyfriend’s voice, not realising until now how much he needed to hear it.

“Yeah, I’m here Kelly,” he said quietly.

The power reset’s gonna take a minute, but Otis and Mouch have their instructions.”

“Thanks.”

There was a pause as if there was more they both wanted to say, but Casey refused to say what was on his mind.  He refused to say goodbye to his boyfriend over the radio while half a dozen inmates listened in and held his guy hostage.  He had to believe that he was going to make it out of there and go home that night and lie in Severide’s arms.

“Hey,” he said instead, thinking of how he could make that happen.  “If you’re still in the basement, see if you can locate the supply duct for pod four.  I might need it soon.”

You got it.”

“Yo!” Rios yelled.  “What are you talking to them about, huh?”

Casey scoffed at him.  “We still have a fire burning in the vent system somewhere.  “I’m trying to put it out before the smoke kills all of us.”

Casey,” a voice said again, this time Boden.  “Can Herrmann hear me?”

Casey glanced at Herrmann who managed a slight nod despite the knife to his throat.

“Yeah, what’s up, Chief?”

I’ve got Shay here at Lakeshore.  She’s got news on Cindy.”

Boden must have been holding his phone to the radio, because Shay’s voice came next.  “ Christopher, they performed an emergency c-section on Cindy.  It’s a baby boy.  There were some complications and they took the baby to the NICU.”

Casey tugged his radio free and took a step closer, ignoring Rios when he yelled at him to stop.

“Are they okay?” Herrmann yelled to Shay.  “Is everyone okay?”

“I’m trying to get more details.”

“Back away,” Rios spat again.

Herrmann took the chance when he saw it, and as soon as Rios was distracted by Casey again, he wrenched free of the inmates grip and ducked out of the way.  Casey caught the halligan Cruz tossed back to him and together with Cruz’s pike pole they kept the group of inmates at bay long enough for Lucci to get the door to the chaplain’s office open.  They raced inside and tried to slam the door, but Rios and the others were too quick and it became a shoving match.

“You’re dead, Lucci!” Rios spat, throwing his body against the door.  “You ain’t coming out of there alive.”

“Kelly, did you find that supply duct?”

Yeah, good call, Casey, we got the fire.  We’ll put it out now.”

No!” Casey said quickly, and it was a testament to Severide’s trust in Casey that he didn’t argue and only listened.  “Not yet.  We need the smoke.  There should be a smoke damper.  It should have closed when fire alarms went off.  I need you to find it.”

Casey’s brain was working fast as he tried to formulate a plan that got them all out of there alive.  His men and Lucci were still in a shoving match with Rios and his gang, the latter cursing and yelling threats.

“I’m gonna kill you, Lucci!”

We got it, Matt.”

Okay, break the linkage on the damper and open it manually, quick.  Otis, Mouch, get that power up, we need the fan to start blowing.”

Damper’s open.”

“Power’s coming…. momentarily.  Alright, the fans are blowing, Casey.”

Casey leaned in close to his men under the guise of helping them push against the door and quickly relayed his plan, tugging his helmet off as he did.

“Rios!” he called, once they were ready.  As the fans started to blow again, more smoke from the second fire spilled into the chapel, choking Rios and his guys.  “Rios!  Let me and my firefighters go.  You can have Lucci, we’re not dying for him.  Just let us go.”

“Deal,” Rios hissed.  They backed away from the door, many dropping to the ground from the smoke.  It was filling the air fast when Casey opened the door and started to lead his men out, and Rios was so distracted coughing and spluttering that he didn’t notice there was an extra firefighter hurrying past.

 

“Thank you,” Lucci said to Casey once they were back outside.  He handed Cruz his turnout jacket back, and Casey his helmet.  “You really saved my ass.”

“It’s what we do,” Casey replied, shaking his hand.

Herrmann hurried past them all, straight to Boden who handed him his cell phone to talk to the hospital.

“Yeah, this is Christopher Herrmann.  What’s happening with them?  Okay.  Okay yeah.  No, I’m on my way.  I- I’ll be right there.”

He got off the phone and looked around at the three companies clustered around him, nervously waiting for news.

“They said the baby’s not getting enough oxygen.”

“Go,” Boden said immediately, gesturing to the Sheriff’s cruiser that was waiting to whisk him away to Lakeshore.  Mills quickly helped Herrmann out of his oxygen tank before the firefighter climbed into the car and it zoomed off, lights and sirens going.

Casey watched him go, heart sinking to his stomach as he worried about Cindy and baby Herrmann.

“‘You want a hostage?’” a voice said from behind him, and he turned to see Severide coming towards him.  “‘I’ll be your hostage’.”  Severide raised his eyebrow while Casey ducked his head sheepishly.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Severide just shook his head and removed his helmet so he could lean in and kiss Casey sweetly.  “You’re lucky I’m glad you’re alright,” he said, pulling back.  “Otherwise I’d be so mad at you.”

“Thanks babe.”

“Come on,” Boden called to them all.  “Let’s do a final sweep so we can get to the hospital.”

Finally they got all the fires contained and put out, and more companies arrived to take care of the smoke and relieve them, and they were able to pull out of the prison complex and head over to Lakeshore where they crowded in the waiting room of the maternity wing.

“Shay heard from the doctor,” Severide murmured to Casey, as they sat there waiting for Herrmann to come back out with news.

Casey glanced at him and read the answer in his face.  “Damn,” he muttered, squeezing Severide’s hand, the other man just nodding glumly.

On instinct they both glanced across the waiting room where Shay was sitting with Dawson, the former looking withdrawn and barely paying attention as the latter talked to her.

Before Casey could say anything else, or go over to talk to Shay, Herrmann, wearing a proud smile, emerged from a hallway, a bundle of blue blankets nestled in his arms with a pink face peering out.

“Hey,” he said softly, as everyone got to their feet and clustered around.

“Oh my god,” Boden said, clapping Herrmann on the shoulder gently.

“What do you think, Chief?”  And Boden just grinned in response.

Shay cooed nonsensically to the baby, smile widening when she touched a finger to his tiny hand and he held onto it reflexively.

“What’s his name?”

“Kenny James.”

They stayed out with him a little longer, passing the baby around and exclaiming over how cute he was until finally Boden started making noise about getting them back to the firehouse and Herrmann got ready to take Kenny back to Cindy.

“Hey, you guys,” Herrmann said, motioning for Casey, Severide, and Shay’s attention discreetly.  “Cindy wants to see you for a minute, okay?”

Exchanging surprised looks, they followed Herrmann back up the corridor where they immediately knew which was Cindy’s for the loud noise of the other Herrmann children coming from it.  They found Cindy inside, looking tired but pleased with herself as she watched her kids chase each other around the hospital room.

“Hey there,” Shay said to Cindy, sidestepping little Annabelle so he could go over and give Ciny a hug and a kiss.  Severide and Casey followed to do the same, offering their congratulations.

Herrmann barked a few orders at the kids before coming over and settling Kenny back into Cindy’s waiting arms.

“So,” he began, scratching the back of his neck. “Cindy and I wanted you to know, if you’re…. well… we were hoping that-”

“We want you three to be Kenny’s godparents,” Cindy broke in.

Shay’s mouth dropped open but Casey and Severide felt identical grins cross their faces.

“You don’t have to answer right now,” Herrmann said quickly, looking worriedly at Shay.

“I’d be honoured,” she said immediately, hugging Cindy again, mindful of Kenny between them.

“Yeah.  Hell yeah, man,” Severide said as well.

“Of course,” Casey said.

They grinned at each other before shaking hands with Herrmann and leaning in to get another look at their new godson’s little face.


It was cold out but Casey didn’t feel it.  Or maybe he’d been standing there long enough that everything had gone numb already.  He wasn’t sure.  All he was sure of was that he couldn’t stop himself from tracing the freshly carved words over and over.

Hallie Rose Thomas

Beloved daughter, sister, and friend

The sun shined brighter because she was here

Casey didn’t realise the tears had gathered until the first one spilled down his cheek, leaving a warm trail on his otherwise cold skin.  He closed his eyes, trying futilely to keep any more from forming, but didn’t flinch when the quiet voice spoke from behind him.

“Matt?  Are you okay?”

Maybe he was too cold to be surprised, or maybe he and Severide were so in tune now that on a deep subconscious level Casey had sensed his approach.  Whichever the reason, he was glad Severide was here, especially as his boyfriend wrapped his arms around him and took some of Casey’s weight.

“Not really,” he said honestly.

There were moments where he thought he was.  Moments where he thought he’d truly come to terms with Hallie’s death, or he’d at least put it from his mind temporarily.  But then he’d remember all over again and it felt like the day had grown that much darker.

“I miss her,” he mumbled into Severide’s shoulder.

“I know, baby,” Severide murmured, kissing his forehead gently.  “I know.”

They stayed there for a long time after that, just standing intertwined, not talking, Severide never suggesting they get out of the cold air, until finally Casey was ready.  He wasn’t done grieving, not by a long shot, but for today he could walk away and take comfort in his boyfriend’s presence.

Shay was waiting in the back seat of Severide’s camaro when they got back to it, and Casey shared a commiserating look with her, neither having to say anything.

“Okay,” Severide said firmly as they pulled out into the road.  “We’re going to go back to the apartment and order all the chinese food we could possibly eat.”

Neither Casey nor Shay argued, both smiling at the clear determination to make them feel better, and before long they were pulling up outside their place and climbing out of the car.

“You okay?” he asked them, looping an arm around each of their shoulders, and together the three of them walked towards the front door of their complex.

“Yeah,” Casey said, while Shay just hummed.

“You sure?”  Severide asked Shay, nudging her with his hip, but she didn’t answer.  She was too busy staring straight ahead, a bewildered expression on her face.

Severide and Casey both followed her gaze to see a pretty, dark-haired woman waiting by the door.

“Renee,” Severide breathed, stepping away from Shay and Casey.  Casey instinctively stiffened at her name, putting together that this was the Renee Severide had been dating.

“Hey Kelly.”

“You didn’t tell me you were going to be in town.”  Severide absently kissed her cheek.

“Yes, well, there’s something we need to talk about and I wanted to do it in person,” Renee explained, and brought a hand up to rest on her obviously rounded stomach.

Casey looked at Shay, who looked about as shocked as he felt, before looking back at Severide and his ex-girlfriend.  He didn’t fully know what was happening but he had a feeling things were about to change.