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Casey was so worried about Severide that he never saw it coming. One minute he was answering the door, the next he was lying on something hard: check aching slightly and stomach hollowing out. Then darkness. He woke to a tingling in his hands and feet; head throbbing and guts churning. Running his tongue over his teeth to try and combat the stale dryness in his mouth, he shifted and jerked fully awake. He couldn’t move. Twisting his head as much as he could to look behind him, he caught a glimpse of what looked like rope. Mind whirling, he worked out that his hands and feet were tied together. He felt the beginnings of a panic attack so swallowed and tried to calm his breathing. Blinking in the low light, he squinted.

As far as he could tell, he was alone in a warehouse of some sort – obviously abandoned for some time judging by the small, discarded objects and other signs of squatting. He was tempted to call out but pushed down the impulse. Whilst possible, it was still highly unlikely that his abductor had abandoned him and someone else was within hearing range. First he had to see if he couldn’t cut himself free somehow. With grim determination, he rolled himself over onto his other side and almost stopped breathing.

There was a tripod not three feet away from him: holding a cup of something suspended over a pile of white powder. He’d bet his bugles that he was looking at another time-delay fire starter. Body so tense that it was painful, he fought to stave off another panic attack. His mind raced. Was he the only one or were there more people tied up here? Was there another target area? Had the maniac Hadley already left? Or would he come by to gloat?

From his position, he was pretty sure that the cup wasn’t already dripping, but it was hard to tell in the low light. Looking around, he couldn’t immediately see anything that he could cut the ropes on so he struggled against them for a few minutes. Eventually, he gave up and cursed the expert job. All he’d managed to do was make the knots tighter. A noise from far away startled him and he decided to take his chances. If it was Hadley then it wasn’t like pretending he was still unconscious would help him any.

“Help!” He rasped, throat drier than he’d expected. “Help! I’m in here!” Straining his ears, he held his breath. There! Footsteps. He couldn’t tell where they were coming from so he called out again. “Hey! I’m in here!” Suddenly, his body jacknifed with panic and dread flooded his gut. There was someone behind him. Every instinct he had was telling him to run. He knew without turning over who it was.

“Well, well, well.” The cruel voice rang out in the large, draughty room. “What do we have here?” The footsteps came closer and Casey closed his eyes briefly before drawing on all of his anger. This sick bastard would not see his fear. “A poor little fly, caught in the spider’s web.” A boot came down hard on his hip, flipping him over to lie awkwardly on his bound hands and feet. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he injected as much authority as he could into his voice as he ordered.

“Let me go.” Hadley just smirked, eyes glowing with sick pleasure.

“The Great Lieutenant Casey: so gallant, so stoic and strong,” he mock-simpered, “but so nice!” His face contorted and he spat angrily. “You look down on everyone else when you’re the one bending over for Boden: eating up his family trash and crapping it back out again. I thought I was family!”

“You attacked Mills-” Features hardening, Hadley put his foot on Casey’s throat and pushed down.

“Precious, perfect Mills! Just because he’s the son of one of Boden’s dead friends, he gets special treatment? I worked on squad for years before that mutt waltzed in and started messing everything up!” Casey wanted to retort but it was getting hard to breathe. His body twitched and his breaths became short and laboured. The panic was threatening to take over when the sadist lifted his foot. Head feeing heavy and lungs burning, Casey could only gasp desperately. He must have lost some time because the next thing he knew he was being dragged by one of his elbows. Exhausted from his struggles and the choking, he could only wriggle pathetically. The dragging stopped and Casey froze as he found himself staring at the white powder. It was beside him, under him, all-fucking-around him. Heart pounding, he barely heard the psycho’s speech about luring Severide into a trap. All that was in his head was the image of the whole pile exploding into flames and the cold, logical side of his brain wondering if he’d even have time to realise what was happening when it went off. Something wet hit his cheek. He jerked, whole body straining against the ropes which were starting to feel like knives against his skin. Blinking, he realised that the cup was now dripping. The countdown had begun.

He tried to calculate roughly how long he had but found he’d forgotten all of the metrics. His insides felt hollow even as a numbness began to descend. Feeling the grit of the powder under his cheek, Casey coughed and took the only course of action left to him – pleading with a madman.

“Hadley.” He wheezed. “Hadley, please! Don’t do this!” There was a dark chuckle from somewhere above him.

“Oh, I knew that you’d beg, but so soon? No Lieutenant, there’s nothing you can do to save yourself, but maybe if you ask him not to, Severide won’t come running into a burning building for you.” Squinting, Casey looked up and could just make out the figure of Hadley holding something. It was Casey’s phone. The asshole was filming him! There was a little voice inside him that told him it would be pointless, that he’d only be playing into Hadley’s plan, but he couldn’t help it.

“Kelly!” He rasped through his rapidly swelling throat. “Don’t do it! Don’t be an idiot!” He broke off, coughing wetly and distantly thinking that bleeding from his mouth wasn’t good.

“Oh how the mighty have fallen. I wonder if Boden will gear up and come in too…” Almost delirious from pain and fatigue, Casey couldn’t reply; fear and rage beginning to succumb to the growing despair. He’d forgotten how it felt to be completely helpless and cursed Arson Investigations, the police, himself, for all failing to stop this crazy revenge plan. Starting to choke on the blood in his throat, he thrashed, rearing his head and wiggling to try and change position. He managed to roll onto his other side, ignoring the chuckle from behind him. Gritting his teeth, he heaved and rolled again, this time bumping into something…one of the tripod’s legs. He glanced up at Hadley; he had walked away and was talking on the phone.  

Now was his chance. Trying to move as little as possible, Casey shifted until he managed to grip the pole with both hands. His mind kicked into gear as he thought desperately; if he rolled and lifted the pole with him, he could tip the tripod over. There was no guarantee that the fallen cup would ignite the powder, or that he’d even have the strength or coordination to pull it up at all, but what choice did he have? In his mind’s eye he saw all of his team, squad, the chief, the paramedics, Severide, all running into the warehouse only to be caught in the massive explosion. Dying in a ball of fire. Just like Andy. Sparing a sad thought for how Kelly would cope – or not cope – Matt tightened his grip and pulled.

7:45 am. Otis wandered into the break room.

“Has anyone seen Casey? I need to ask him something.” Mouch, already parked on the couch, looked up from his programme.

“I think he’s in with Boden.” Glancing in the direction of the chief’s office, Otis nodded and went over to the counter to chat with Sylvie at the coffee machine. In the locker room, Severide was just finishing getting changed. Hiding a yawn behind his hand, he ambled over to the break room, greeting people as he went. Boden intercepted him.

“Have you filed your quarterly reports yet?”

“Just gotta dot the ‘i’s and then I’m done.” Boden nodded and indicated with the folder he was holding.

“Before lunch.” Severide nodded back before going to the coffee machine. Mills was hovering over Cruz’s shoulder behind the counter, obviously wanting to take over preparing breakfast but not wanting to on principal. Severide flipped through the paper until roll call and was as surprised and worried as everyone else when Casey didn’t show. He’d never been late a day in his life – not without calling ahead at least. Something was wrong. Exchanging a look with Boden, he dug out his phone and rang Casey. It went to voicemail and Severide struggled to keep his voice steady.

Unable to do anything more for the moment and hoping that Casey had just gotten a flat tire or something, everyone got back to their duties even as they discussed what could have happened. Severide all but stared at his phone, ignoring the speculation which only became wilder and wilder as the minutes ticked by. Suddenly, his phone pinged and he grabbed it up lightning quick. A message from Casey:

Don’t worry about me. I’m in safe hands.

Blood running cold, Severide heard Otis reading over his shoulder when a video message popped up. As if on its own accord, his thumb tapped it and he heard someone gasp.

There was a tripod holding a Styrofoam cup suspended over a huge pile of white powder, enough to take out an entire block, but what made Severide’s guts dissolve was the figure lying in the middle – bound hand to foot and flinching as drops splashed on his face.

“Matt.” He breathed.

“Kelly!” Matt rasped from his phone, begging him not to fall into Hadley’s trap before his voice was lost to blood trickling from his lips and down his chin. The video began shaking. No, Kelly realised distantly, it was his hand which was trembling. As abruptly as it had started, the video cut off. Frozen in his seat, Severide caught snatches of the urgent conversations above him.

“-tonio now, get him to-”

“Boden! Come quick-”

“Son of a -”

“-gotta do something-”

“-where is he? Can you see-”

Then there was a hand on his shoulder.

“Severide.” Chief’s voice spoke to him, quivering with barely controlled rage. “Antonio and Voight are en route. I’m going to take us out of service-” Severide started at that, half-rising from his chair.

“What? But what if-”

“Exactly. I can’t have you charging in and-” The bells rang. Everyone froze as dispatch called out details about a house fire. Severide leapt up as Hermann commented.

“Hey, isn’t that…?” Knowing that he’d never be able to contain them now, Boden confirmed.

“Casey’s apartment building – let’s move!” They raced to the rigs and loaded up in double time, the atmosphere tense and worried. As they pulled away, Tony muttered to Severide.

“The traitor’s going down.”

“Just get us there.” Severide barked, clasping his helmet tightly. He couldn’t afford to be distracted, not even by revenge; Matt needed him to be at the top of his game. He would never forgive himself if he messed up now, if he lost Matt too.

Pulling up to the apartment building, Severide frowned: where was the smoke? He squinted. If there was any, it was very thin. All but throwing himself out of the rig, he slammed his helmet on and slung out orders. Someone might have called his name but he didn’t stop, sprinting up the steps and into the building.

“Everyone evacuate!” He yelled at people he saw on the stairs, sensing Capp right behind him. As he reached Matt’s floor, Mill’s voice came bouncing up the stairwell.

“Severide! He’s not in there!” Torn, he hesitated, exchanging a look with Capp who then called down.

“How’d you know?” Getting impatient, Severide glanced down the corridor anxiously. Just because no smoke was seeping out from under the door didn’t mean that a fire wasn’t raging, that his best friend in the world wasn’t tied up and suffocating.

“The background in the video – the floor – it wasn’t from Casey’s apartment!” Growling at the flimsy argument, Severide stalked to Casey’s door. Capp voiced his doubts.

“I thought you couldn’t see where he was on the video.” By this time, Mills had reached them, holding the thermal imaging camera.

“Otis figured it out. At least check before you go in!” He hurried forward and Severide’s terror over Matt’s fate warred with his logical side, pointing out it would be just like Hadley to try and trick him. He was wasting time. Coming to a decision, he nodded and let Mills scan through the door. There wasn’t any heat in the immediate area. No fire, no people.

“Could be deeper in.” Severide reached for the door handle but then their radios crackled.

“I got eyes inside!” It was Otis. Frowning, Severide realised that he must be on the aerial at the window. “Don’t open the door! It’s rigged!” Mills and Severide took an automatic step back. “I think I could disconnect it if I-” Boden cut in.

“Negative Otis, we’re gonna wait for bomb squad. Evacuate the building and pull back!” Frustration pumping through him, Severide wavered at the door. What if they were wrong? What if Matt was in there? Tied up and stuffed in a closet, bleeding, thinking that no would was coming?

“Severide.” Mills prompted him. Reluctantly, he turned away and went to thump on the other doors; one question haunting him: where was Matt?

For a split second, Casey thought that he hadn’t got enough momentum; he was balanced on his hip bone, pole clutched in his hands and tripod beginning to tip. Desperately, he tightened every muscle he had and pushed his feet up and the whole thing fell to the ground with a loud crash. He scrunched his eyes tight, barely feeling the grind of powder against his face and neck as he waited for the explosion. Instead there was silence. No. No!

“I can’t decide if that was stupidly heroic or heroically stupid.” Hadley commented as he walked around the pile. Casey didn’t have any energy left to answer. There was no chance that he’d have another opportunity. This was it. His friends would die trying to save him and that was on him. Suddenly, his feet fell to the ground. Groaning as his aching muscles protested, he realised that the rope between his hands and feet had been cut. Then he was being rolled over onto his side and dragged off the powder. Water was splashed on his face, a soft cloth cleaning the blood and powder away. “I thought I’d taken enough precautions against attempts at heroism, but trust Lieutenant Casey to find a way.” Casey blinked, brain feeling sluggish as he struggled to grasp what was happening. His captor’s voice was hovering just above him and it sounded…fond? “You know you have a lot of great qualities: grit, determination, inventiveness,” it continued conversationally, "Severide has relatively good taste." He mock-sighed. “If only you hadn’t been brainwashed by Boden…” He trailed off as he leant over to clean a trickle of blood down Casey’s neck.

Skin crawling at the contact and closeness of Hadley’s body, Casey jerked his head back, grimacing at the pain but unable to regret doing it. Tutting and cleaning the cloth with the bottled water, Hadley didn’t seem surprised or offended by the gesture.

His phone pinged and he looked at it. “Good.” He muttered after a moment. “Looks like we’re onto Phase 2.” Eyes finally focusing, Casey could make out Hadley’s face. The manic glee shone in his beady eyes as he explained. “He should be well and truly fuming, and so, so worried.” Casey was unable to move, he was so drained, so paralyzed by guilt and fear that he didn’t even react until Hadley leant down and whispered. “He'll do whatever I ask him to now.”

Shivering automatically, Casey groaned as he was hauled into a sitting position. Braced against Hadley’s chest, breath uncomfortably hot against his ear, a bottle was pressed against his lips. Now more alert, he tried to struggle but Hadley reassured him. “It’s not poisoned, I promise. You’ve lost a lot of fluid; this’ll make you feel better.” Closing his eyes in defeat, Casey began taking sips. It was some kind of energy drink, the artificial taste thick on his tongue. Not realising how thirsty he’d been, he drank greedily, gasping as the bottle was taken away again. Now rehydrated, his mind began to go into overdrive, trying to work out what Hadley was planning next.

As much as the implication that there were further plans for himself horrified him, he decided to use that to his advantage.

“What are you going to do?” Hadley chuckled, the sound vibrating through their connected torsos, making Casey cringe.

“Don’t you worry about that.” He pointed to the spilled liquid and freezing, Casey realised that some of it had already reached the powder. “It’s just water. You were never in any danger, well,” he sounded like he was smiling, “except from yourself.” Even more disturbed by his captor’s mood swings and kind of wishing he’d go back to bitter aggression, Casey ventured cautiously.

“You know that’s not why I’m asking.” Shifting around a little, swinging one leg over Casey’s outstretched ones and placing a gentle hand on his cheek, Hadley looked him in the eyes as he agreed.

“I know.” Pushing down the urge to turn his head and bite down viciously on the hand, Casey licked his lips and tried.

“You could run. It’s not too late.” Although momentarily distracted by the sight of Casey’s tongue, Hadley countered.

“I’m not going to let that son of a bitch run me out of town.” Encouraged by the fact that Hadley was engaging, Casey argued.

“If you stay and do your plan, you’ll either die or go to jail. Don’t they say the best revenge is a life well lived?” Throat bothering him again, he started coughing. Hadley shushed him.

“Stop talking now, you’ll only make it worse. And nice try but I’m a psychopath, not crazy. I’ve made up my mind and one way or another: Severide will die today.”

“No, please!” Casey croaked. Hadley shushed him again, this time pressing his thumb against Casey’s lips. He made to speak but then paused, staring into those big, pleading eyes. After a long moment he said softly.

“There was only one thing that I could do to do him that was worse than killing him.” He brought his other hand up to caress the side of Casey’s face. Swallowing down nausea, he could only tremble as Hadley whispered.

“Did you know that he’s in love with you?”

Chapter Text

Only the threat of suspension got Severide out of the building. He was currently being questioned by Antonio – again – as he kept half an eye on Casey’s apartment where the bomb squad was working. They couldn’t be sure of the exact set up as Hadley had departed from his usual MO, so they were being cautious.

“Severide.” From his tone, it was evident that he’d already called a few times. Ripping his gaze away from the building, he saw Antonio, Voight and Boden gathered around a duplicate of the dangerous buildings map. “We’re dispatching units to each of the remaining locations, see if we can’t get the jump on him.” Voight confirmed, eyeing Severide with a knowing expression. Antonio jumped in.

“We’re tracking Matt’s phone now. Assuming Hadley hasn’t ditched it, we’ll find them. Has he sent you any more messages?” Severide shook his head even as he dug out his phone to double check. Nothing. He resisted the urge to call it, having been strongly advised against it. Just then the bomb squad gave the all-clear and Voight received a call. He turned away from the group slightly.

“Where?” Everyone tensed as he listened to the other side. “We’re on our way.” He hung up. “They’ve got a lead, found something at Hadley’s home address.” Voight looked at Severide who was following the conversation closely. “I highly recommend that you sit this one out.”

“What? No! I’m the one Hadley’s after!”

“Exactly.” Antonio cut in. “It could lead to another trap.”

“Or it could be a distraction.” Voight offered. “Best place for you right now is the station. There’s nothing to say that he hasn’t any more surprises in store.” Severide felt like screaming and barely managed to keep his voice level.

“More than holding my best friend hostage? What the hell could be worse than that? We don’t know what the hell he’s doing-”

“Kelly!” Boden warned but Severide barely glanced his way. Voight opened his mouth to argue but Antonio offered.

“You could help us look over the evidence we have so far, see if you can’t spot something we missed.” Glancing at Boden’s still and solemn face, Severide conceded. He mostly tuned out the conversation on the drive. Instead he turned over every conversation, every exchange he could ever remember having with Hadley. Was there a clue to Matt’s current whereabouts in there? A mention of an aunt’s summer home or a friend who had an extra apartment or office space they rented. Anything. Fists clenching and unclenching unconsciously, he cursed himself for missing his former man’s true nature even as he struggled to identify where he could have seen it. A part from a few dubious comments and stories, there had been no warning. He tried to push away Benny’s incredulous and disappointed voice. That wouldn’t help him now. Though it seemed like nothing would help.

He combed through all the gathered evidence but couldn’t find anything indicative of where they might be now, because Hadley would keep Matt close – Severide knew that much. One piece of good news was that they had conclusive proof that Hadley had been at Matt’s apartment and had handled the tripod they’d found there. When they found him, he’d be going away for a long time. Though the sliver of satisfaction Severide felt at that hardly made a dent in the wall of barbed wire squeezing and slicing his insides. It only got worse the longer they went without any news. They'd even taken his phone so he couldn't even call Matt's number, to either hear his voicemail again or scream down the phone at the twisted bastard who'd taken his man away.

Voight reported that the lead at Hadley’s home had been a dead end and Severide kicked a few chairs in frustration. Antonio had given him a swift and brutal talking-to, sympathetic but not about to tolerate any more damaging of police property.

“We’re doing everything we can to find him.” Severide knew that, he knew that Matt was well-liked by the detectives and even if he wasn’t, they would be dedicating all their efforts to help find him. He was also aware of Matt's inner strength; the fight and fire and uncanny ability to walk unscathed out of impossible situations. He knew all that. But every second Matt was trapped with that monster was like a dagger twisting and carving his heart into tiny pieces. He kept thinking that things might have been different if he’d insisted Matt stay with him and Shay after Hallie had died; if he’d been brave enough to tell his best friend his deepest secret.

At noon, just at the point that he was about to leave and start searching the whole damn city himself, Severide received another video. Hadley was in this one, though only his torso and hands were visible. He was holding a gun to Matt’s head, other hand gripping the short blond hair and seemingly keeping him upright on his knees. Although he wasn’t tied up this time, Matt had clearly been drugged. He was swaying a little, eyes half-lidded and neck limp, obviously not aware of what was going on. His chin and neck were covered in an orange liquid; his chest was bare and littered with bruises. Prison was too good for Hadley; he had no idea what he had coming to him.

When the monster spoke, his voice was low and writhing with spite.

“This message is for Severide and Severide only. Come to this address, alone. If I see one siren, one uniform or even a guy I don’t like the look of,” he dug the barrel into the side of Mat’s head, “he gets a bullet. I find a weapon on you, he gets a bullet. If you even smell off to me,” he ground the barrel so hard that Matt, even in his drugged state began to react, arms twitching feebly, “you guessed it.” There as a beat and then he concluded. “You’ve got 2 hours. Don’t be late.” The video ended and the phone buzzed again with a text containing the address. Severide looked up at Voight. He didn’t recognise his own voice as he said.

“He’s serious.” Grim, the detective agreed.

“I know, but there’s no way we’re letting you go in alone.”

“Let me?” He snapped, leaping to his feet. Antonio held his hands out.

“Woah! Cool it!” He glanced at Voight. “Why don’t we try a delayed-swat entry? Severide goes in alone and distracts Hadley so swat can sneak in and take him out.” Whilst no one was happy with the idea, it was the only one they had which had a shot at working.

Fashioned with a bugged coat with a microphone in the collar – so he could signal to the team – Severide was dropped off a block away from the warehouse. It was abandoned but not on the dangerous buildings list so they’d missed it in the sweep earlier. Whilst there were likely some shady characters in the area, Severide didn’t meet anyone as he hurried from the drop-off point to the location. His insides were jangling, limbs fizzing with nerves. He tried not to think about what might have been happening to his best friend. Everything was hinging on his ability to keep a cool head. They had a plan: he just needed to stick to it.

As he walked up to the building, he saw a door which had been left ajar. He paused, considering finding another entrance but then someone whistled loudly from above him. He looked up and flinched. Hadley’s expression was unreadable from the distance but he waved obnoxiously and Severide gritted his teeth, stalking into the building. In a low voice, he told his collar which window Hadley had been at. He tried not to think about what state Matt would be in when he saw him next, tried not to think of anything at all. Almost numb, he climbed the stairs.

He lost time. Sometimes he’d managed to blink and focus, often realising that something had changed. The light had shifted; he hurt less, or hurt more, his captor was somewhere else or he himself was in a different position. He wasn’t even sure if it was because he was in shock or because of the drug; probably both. No matter what he was sensing though, that smug, scathing voice kept on ringing in his head, the cruel laughter echoing.

You arrogant prick! You really thought just because you bat your eyelids at me that I'd change my plans? This was just the final touch. This, this will break him.

Lying on the cold, hard ground, unbound but too weak to move, he fought against the tidal wave of memories. Ghostly fingers pawed at him, making him twitch and writhe by turns; hot breath tickled his neck and ears and pain flared randomly through his body. He didn't want to remember, but his mind just wouldn't stop.

After some amount of time, he managed to catch up with was happening in the present. Hadley had threatened his life if Kelly didn’t show up alone. He had a gun. Matt couldn’t let him kill Kelly, but what could he do? He could barely move, let alone get up and wrestle a maniac. Concentrating from where he was lying on his side, he twitched his fingers and managed to lift his hand a few centimetres off the floor. It was an effort, but he could hold it for a few seconds. Letting it fall again, he closed his eyes – partly to listen out for Hadley and partly to try and deal with the nausea. He had enough brain power left to know that he had to hide any strength he did have. If he could shake off the drug just enough at a crucial moment, he might not have to do very much.

“He’s here!” Hadley called from…somewhere. Suddenly, Matt was being hauled into an old chair, stomach rebelling at the movement even as he doubted he’d have anything left to throw up. Cruel fingers fisted in his hair, holding his head upright as the gun pressed against his temple. A grunt escaped his lips but he forced himself pliant and still. His vague plan would be shot if he was injected with another dose.

Blinking, the image became a little clearer and he could just make out a figure coming up the stairs. They arrived at the top and Matt’s heart leapt. Kelly. He felt a surge of energy in his limbs and his mind focused. His saviour came closer and it didn’t even matter anymore what happened next because he was there. Vision still fuzzy, he couldn’t make out Kelly’s expression, couldn’t figure out how to communicate his relief, let alone his intentions.

Breathing through the pain and fear, he tried to decipher what the voices above him were saying. It was impossible to understand more than a handful of words so Matt gave up on that. Instead he concentrated on the hands, those hateful, disgusting hands that ruined everything they touched. The one in his hair was migrating down his face, lightly caressing his cheek. He was unable to stop himself from shivering at the touch and he heard Kelly shouting.

On the edge of his perception, he felt the gun leave his skin and without even thinking he reacted, turning and biting down hard on those gross fingers as his arm flailed against the gun hand. Then he was being flung off the chair and there was a furious struggle next to him. Stars bursting in front of his eyes, he struggled to stay conscious. Something big and heavy fell on top of him and he tensed before a new scent reached his nose through the grime. It smelled like safety and warmth; cigars on the roof and a friendly face always just a few rooms away. Kelly.

The last thing Matt heard before the darkness took him was a loud bang.

Chapter Text

People were speaking somewhere. Then it was quiet. He was lying in jello, or jello was in his brain…or his brain was jello. It was hard to think. Time passed…maybe. When he woke, the lights were bright but he adjusted quicker this time, blinking and squinting weakly. He knew where he was more through experience than actually recognising the place. And by the fact that he felt like utter crap. More than ‘too many drinks the night before’ crap, or ‘just spent 8 hours digging through rubble’ crap. Pain flared under his right shoulder as he shifted, his grown hoarse but loud enough to wake his visitor. After a moment, he recognised them.

“Matt?” Smiling gently, Matt sat up in the seat and squeezed Kelly’s hand. Kelly took a moment to process the fact that they were both alive. They’d done it. They’d survived. Matt was alive!

Then the moment passed and he took in his friend’s condition. He looked awful: like he really should be in a hospital bed himself. In fact, he was in a patient’s gown, with bandages on his wrists and neck; he was even hooked up to an IV which was standing innocuously beside him. Skin pale and dark bruises under his eyes, he also looked smaller than normal. Looking at him, everything that had happened hit Kelly in one big, terrible smash cut.

Getting the threatening video, the trap at Matt’s apartment; the long, agonising wait at the police station until the ultimatum and showdown. He still could still keenly remember the horror at Matt not even recognising him, so beat down and weak and abused; the rage at the monster’s taunts and nauseating claims. The way he’d laughingly explained how he’s used Kelly’s feelings against him, how he’d hurt Matt because of them, it was almost too terrible to think about.

Then Matt had fought back out of nowhere and Kelly had joined him – leaping for the gun and grappling with Hadley. He’d shouted out for help, hoping that the swat team would burst in and help him out. But with a twist in his gut, he realised that Hadley was going to overpower him and when the Hell his ex-squad member had gotten so good at fighting? Kelly was thrown down, falling on top of Matt who groaned lowly but didn’t move. Very aware that he wouldn’t have time to get up and wrestle the gun from Hadley, Kelly did the next best thing. He spread himself over Matt and closed his eyes; trying to be grateful that at least they’d die together.

There was a bang and fire lanced through his right side. He hugged Matt tighter with his left hand and braced for the killing shot. But it never came. Instead there were people flooding the room, speaking loudly, boots pounding. Weakly, Kelly turned his head to see Hadley lying face down on the floor, a pool of blood and brain matter spreading slowly. Disgusted but exhausted all of a sudden, Kelly just closed his eyes. Vaguely, he was aware of people talking to him and then he was being pulled off Matt. No, he thought, but he was too weak to move. Orders were being shouted out and he caught sight of a paramedic jumper before he passed out. His last thought had been of Matt.

Now, seeing the most important person in his life, still bruised and battered but not beaten; he was lost for words, didn’t even know how to feel. Looking like he understood, Matt squeezed his hand again.

“You okay?” Kelly managed to croak. Then he realised what a stupid question that was, especially to Mr Don’t-Mind-Me-As-I-Bleed-Quietly-In-The-Corner. As expected, Matt just nodded, lips twitching upwards. Before Kelly could ask any follow up questions, a doctor came in and started asking him questions. A little surprised that Matt didn’t move away but deciding not to question it, Kelly tried to concentrate on the conversation.

He managed to get the basics: the bullet had torn through some muscle but thankfully hadn’t hit anything vital and there were no signs of infection. It meant a lot of rehab was in his future but the doctors didn’t think that the damage would end his career.

Matt, on the other hand, had a fever and had a high white blood count. He was on antibiotics and should be in bed, resting. Some sheepishness peaked through the obvious fatigue on his face and with only a meaningful look at Kelly, he allowed himself to be ushered back to his room. Alone, Kelly realised that Matt hadn’t said a word. Because he couldn’t or because he didn’t want to? Either was equally likely with that silent pillar of strength. Now he had one more demon to haunt him; thanks to Kelly and his stupid heart. Tiredness won over Kelly’s dark thoughts and he slept.

Over the next few days, Kelly learned the full extent of what had happened. The swat team had come in just as Hadley was lining up his shot. They hadn’t managed to stop him, but they did mess up his aim as they took him down. Kelly didn’t want to think about what could have happened if they’d been a second later.

Aside from the rope burns on his wrists and ankles, Matt had bruises seemingly all over his body. The worst was his neck, which was so badly damaged that he’d been advised not to try speaking until it had healed. An order which had been pretty easy for him to follow. Kelly was sure that there were other injuries but neither Matt nor his doctor would talk about them.

As much as he itched to know, he forced himself to stow his morbid curiosity. It was probably for the best: knowing might tip him over the edge and push him to invent a time machine just so he could go back and kill the psycho himself. He was struggling with rage and guilt enough as it was. Matt seemingly had a sixth sense for when Kelly was blaming himself for everything, and had developed a devastatingly scathing look to snap the flagellator out of his guilt. That look said: it’s not on you and you couldn’t have known and don’t be an idiot. It was then always followed with the I’m fine look. The more he healed, the more convincing it became.

The first few hours after they’d been admitted, the doctors had been concerned about the long term effects of the drug Matt had been dosed with; but after it had been flushed out his vitals had stabilised. He was also responding well to the antibiotics so they were confident that he’d make a full physical recovery. Whilst he’d managed to sneak back to Kelly’s room a few times – usually after visiting hours – neither of them had been in a fit state for a meaningful conversation. By the time Kelly had felt well enough for some talking – even though he wanted to do nothing less in the whole world – Matt was having his scheduled check-up to assess whether he could be discharged.

After Kelly had hobbled to the bathroom and had breakfast, he flipped through the TV channels, passing the time until the assessment was finished. The morning was lost to re-runs of old TV soaps and an odd nature documentary about shrews. When the porters came round with lunch, Kelly began to worry. The assessment should have been over and done with hours before – had something gone wrong?

The nurses were rushed off their feet and 51 was on shift so he had to wait until the paramedics dropped off a call and swung by to say hi before he could ask someone what had happened. Dawson went to check and Shay fused some over Kelly. After a while Dr Charles, the Head of Psychology, came in to update them about Matt.

According to his attending, Matt’s neck was healing well: the swelling had almost all gone and everything seemed to be in perfect working order. For some reason, however, Matt was unable to speak. He would open his mouth but no sound would come out, despite him obviously wanting to say something. Dr Charles reported that Matt had asked him to tell Kelly that he would visit later, after he’d had time to think. Frustrated that he wasn’t able to get up by himself and visit, Kelly asked for a pen and paper. It was a bitch to write with his left hand, but better than doing nothing. Shay offered to take a message for him, but he wanted Matt to have a physical reminder.

Dawson returned after the doctor had taken Kelly’s note, looking shaken and worried. She commented to Shay that she’d never seen Matt like that. Kelly frowned a little, holding back the urge to ask how the hell she’d expected him to be after what he’d been through. They had to leave then and he said goodbye wearily. He lay back down and despite his worry, slept.

Chapter Text

Were you crazy if you knew that you were crazy? The doctors had explained very clearly to him that his vocal chords, tongue and jaw were all working perfectly. He understood that, he believed it. So why was it that every time he opened his mouth, no sound came out? Their eyes had softened and they’d patted his arm, voice knowing.

Try not to worry. This kind of trauma can have unexpected effects.

Yeah, no fucking shit. Also, he couldn’t help it. What was wrong with him? Had…he done something else to him that Matt couldn’t remember? Maybe he was still…lying on his back, staring at the ceiling, he felt sick. Was this just an elaborate and extremely detailed hallucination? He shuddered and curled onto his side, pulling his legs up and hugging his knees. He was still sore and aching but horror numbed most of his pain. Eyes burning, he made no attempt to stem the tears. His captor had already seen him at his lowest and he was so tired of trying to be strong.

He just wanted Kelly, needed him; but he couldn’t move, couldn’t even wipe his cheeks. Someone time later, after the tears had run dry, he heard someone calling his name. Blinking, Dawson’s perfectly made-up face came into view.

“Casey? Are you okay?” He just stared at her. He couldn’t speak and even if he could, he wouldn’t know how to respond to that. “Casey?” She laid a gentle hand on his arm and he shrunk back reflexively. Brow furrowing, she watched him closely. “You can talk to me.”

The pressure of her eyes on him made his skin tingle and his face blush. His breathing sped up and he avoided her gaze. Realising that she was making him uncomfortable, she swallowed and glanced around. “I guess I’ll let you rest.” She flashed him a brief smile and then left. Alone again, he wondered whether she’d really been there.

He blinked and then Dr Charles was standing in front of him. Without thinking he opened his mouth to ask if the man was real and felt his stomach twist as no sound came out. Embarrassed, he closed his mouth again and burrowed deeper beneath the covers. Calmly, as if he hadn’t noticed anything, Dr Charles told him that Kelly had sent him a message back. Instantly interested, Matt sat up, turning so he could lean his back against the pillows. Dr Charles handed him the note and watched quietly as Matt read it.

Saving you a seat, as long as you want.

Although it was legible, it had obviously been written with his left hand. Matt wondered how long it had taken Kelly – if there had been previous versions which had ended up in the trash or if he’d been extra careful the first time. Kelly Severide wasn’t the most patient person in the world but instead of just telling the doctor what he wanted to say, he’d taken the time to painstakingly etch it out onto a physical piece of paper. Without knowing it, he’d provided Matt with evidence that he wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating. This was real and Kelly was somewhere in that hospital, waiting for him.

Looking back up at Dr Charles, he saw that the psychiatrist was holding out a pen questioningly. Breathing in deeply, he shook his head and pulled the covers back. Dr Charles got out of his way, smiling a little.

“I need to go back that way, if you don’t mind company.” Barely registering the implicit question; Matt shrugged and made his way to Kelly’s room. He was still walking slower than normal due to his lingering stiffness and fatigue but the route was so familiar to him that he got there on autopilot. Suddenly he was looking down at Kelly sleeping.

It didn’t look like a peaceful sleep. Matt automatically sat on the edge of the beg and put a gentle hand on Kelly’s brow. His other hand clasped one of Kelly’s and he squeezed reassuringly. After a moment, the sleeping man relaxed and Matt found the tension in his own shoulders ease a little.

Lately all he’d had was time to think. Though it had been dangerous – as it could easily lead him back to horrifying memories – he’d found himself going over what he’d learned about his best friend. Over and over in his mind, the words resounding louder and louder.

Did you know that he’s in love with you?

Kelly was in love with him. At first he hadn’t believed it but after…after, when he’d been lying in his hospital bed, alone and ill and beginning to feel anxious, he’s started to analyse his memories. It was true that he and Kelly were close. They’d been like brothers once, back when there’d been three of them. Then their micro-family had been ripped apart and to his continuing dismay, the two remaining members had never fully recovered. Too many ghosts, too many hurtful words in the way. Pushing down the grief, he tried to remember any clues of Kelly’s feelings towards him.

He used to touch Matt more, but friendly touches: backslaps, light punches to the shoulder, flicking his face to wake him up or mussing his hair in a big-brotherly way. He hadn’t noticed any lingering looks or overly affectionate tones…although…there had been that night have Kelly had called off his wedding.

Drinks may have been consumed and Andy was leaving, going back to his own fiancée. No one had brought up that what had been a source of great happiness (two pending weddings) had ended awkwardly. Andy’s wedding was scheduled for the following month and Matt predicted some uncomfortable situations before then. With that in mind, Andy had given Matt a look and only left after he’d been reassured that his oldest friend was in safe hands. Knowing that nothing he could say would make things better, Matt just put a hand on Kelly’s shoulder, trying to smile sympathetically and not ask what the hell had happened. If Kelly didn’t want to tell then it wasn’t any of Matt’s business.

In a rare moment of vulnerability, Kelly turned in and rested his head on Matt’s chest. Blinking, but with enough brain power left to respond, Matt hugged him closer.

“Shoulda seen it comin’.” Kelly murmured, the fragility in his voice pulling at Matt’s heart strings. He was searching for something non-cliché to say when his destitute friend went on, even quieter. “She wasn’t the one.” He snuggled closer and Matt rubbed his back soothingly.

“You’ll find someone good enough for you. They’re out there.” A beat of silence and then he heard a half-whisper, half-sigh.

“Already have.” Matt frowned, and slowly looked down at the man nestled against him. He hummed enquiringly but didn’t receive an answer – Kelly had passed out. With great difficulty, he manoeuvred a thoroughly unconscious Kelly to lie on the couch and pulled the afghan over him. Staring down at his friend, he had an intense urge to snuggle up to him but then the moment passed and he made a nest of blankets on the floor instead.

Matt had never discovered who Kelly had been talking about – if that had really been what he’d said. The next morning, he hadn’t had the courage to bring it up and Kelly had acted like he hadn’t made any confessions. Though Matt watched him closely for a while after that, he couldn’t see that Kelly had any interest in anyone they knew so he chalked it up to mishearing or Kelly just making noises as he fell asleep.

Now, he wondered if Kelly had been talking about the person comforting him. Looking down at his friend in the hospital bed, Matt found himself buying into the idea – though of course he wouldn’t truly believe it until Kelly confirmed it himself. Which just left the question: how did he feel about it?

A few hours later when Kelly woke, he still didn’t have his answer and he felt absurdly grateful that he had an excuse not to talk. As Kelly opened his eyes, he smiled at him as best he could under the circumstances. Kelly saw him and smiled back.

“Hey.” Remembering just in time, Matt waved in lieu of trying to speak. “You get my note?” He nodded, the memory prompting his lips to twitch further upwards. “Good.” Was all that Kelly had to say about that. The warmth in Matt’s belly intensified as he realised that he wasn’t going to get a worried stream of awkward talking or cautious probing or meaningless platitudes. Once again, Kelly was just taking him as he was.

People often had certain expectations of Matt, even people he’d worked with for years had this image, this idea of who he was. It was generally a good picture, but sometimes he felt like everyone expected him to be perfect. Certainly he had to be strong for his team, calm and in control but understanding and fun (when appropriate), but he wasn’t a machine. He got angry and tired and frustrated like everyone else. Only a very few people understood that.

With a jolt, he realised that Kelly was the last one left who did. The thought made him squeeze his hand reflexively.

“What’s wrong?” Lucky that Kelly knew him so well, it only took his glance at Kelly’s bandaged shoulder for him to understand. “Hey, I’m gonna be fine and I’m gonna be here, as long as I can.” That was the problem though, wasn’t it? Their job, heck life in general, didn’t allow them to promise forever. Kelly ran his thumb over the top of Matt’s hand. “You scared me too.”

Shivering, Matt shifted closer to Kelly on the bed. Glancing at the door, Kelly smiled. “Get in.” His friend just stared at him. “Come on, I’m tired enough to sleep some more and no offence but you look like you need it too.” Biting his lip, Matt considered for a moment before agreeing, climbing in and lying on Kelly’s good side. It took a bit of arranging with their various wires, but finally they were comfortable and surrounded by his scent, warm and safe, Matt slipped right into sleep.

Over the next few days, the two only parted for treatments, Matt pretty much taking up residence in Kelly’s room (read: bed). Dr Charles had liaised with their attending doctors, expressing his recommendation that the pair not be kept apart any more than necessary. It was important for Matt’s recovery that he have as much normalcy as possible – the more stressed he became about his continuing muteness, the longer it would take to recover. So even when Matt was discharged and became an out-patient, he still spent most of his time with Kelly: hanging out in his room or accompanying him to physio.

Whilst they hadn’t discussed any feelings yet – Kelly suggesting they wait until they were both 100% - they were being a lot more affectionate. Their touches became so regular, almost possessive, that they were almost always touching when they were together. Shay was the only one to bring it up, even though everyone had noticed.

Speculation was rife back at the station, with a lucrative pool going on how long they’d been seeing each other. Despite this, no one got an answer as Kelly refused to divulge anything. All he said to Shay was that they were still working things out and for her to put money on 4 years previous. No one would let her bet, as she was most likely to actually know the answer, but her punt would throw everyone off and get them to re-analyse the past few years in fine detail.

While neither Kelly nor Matt relished being the subject of House gossip, it was inevitable and Kelly thought that Mat would appreciate turning the tables, especially as it also served as a marker of normalcy. Sure enough, when he casually brought it up, Matt’s eyes danced and he snorted. Bubbles of joy popping in his chest, Kelly laughed as well.

Chapter Text

Matt’s first therapy session didn’t go very well. Dr Charles was a first-class psychiatrist but Matt had years of neglect, stress and loss, all tangled up in his head. Add to that all of the recent trauma and it was no wonder that he wasn’t saying anything. Whilst Mat had gotten used to scrawling out requests and answers to simple questions on his little whiteboard, delving into his psyche to cure his muteness would take a lot longer to write. Dr Charles pre-empted that concern by explaining they had a longer session to compensate for writing time. Matt knew his medical leave was generous and Boden had stated firmly that he should not worry about anything, just focus on getting better. He couldn’t help but worry though. Every shift his team was going out without him. Hermann was stepping up in his absence, which Matt was pleased about, even as the guilt of not being there himself gnawed at him. He knew that Kelly felt the same, even though he actually had a good reason to be on sick leave.

Dr Charles started the session bluntly: they could do all the relaxation techniques and breathing exercises in the world, but it was certain that Matt’s muteness was related to his recent trauma. At some point, he was going to have to face it; either by learning how to deal with reminders or by processing the event itself. Deep down, Matt knew that he was right but the fear and pain were too overwhelming. Gritting his teeth and blinking fiercely to dispel the shadows of those memories, he avoided that shrewd gaze, instead staring at the desk. The psychiatrist didn’t say anything else, just observing him.

Frustration building and twisting into something darker, Matt’s fists began to shake.

“Breathe.” Dr Charles’s voice came from far away. He followed the advice instinctively, the black wave lowering to a disquiet bubbling. When he was finally able to look the doctor in the eye, he was met with sympathy. “It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy; but I know that you can get through this. Taking your circumstances into account, I’d recommend you see my colleague, Dr Grant. She’s an expert in Cognitive Process Therapy and she can help you without you needing to speak.” Reluctantly, Matt nodded but gestured to his head and then made a rolling motion with his fingers. Dr Charles gathered his meaning from his expression, added knowingly. “Alright, you let me know when you want to schedule an appointment.” He leaned forward. “You survived a terrible ordeal, there is no shame in needing help to comes to term with it.” Matt knew that, but knowing was different from believing.

In their remaining time, they went through some breathing exercises. By the time he was let out, he felt frustrated, feeling like it had been a waste of time. The exercises were calming, but as he hadn’t been actively panicking, he’d mostly just felt restless and impatient for it to be over so he could get back to Kelly. Clutching the notebook Dr Charles had given him, in case he wanted to write any thoughts or feelings down, he went up to Kelly’s room.

It was empty. He stood at the door for a long moment. One of the nurses saw him and reassured him that he was just at the physio – possibly his last one as in in-patient if all went well. For a second he thought about going along but then reconsidered. Though he’d been discharged two days before, he hadn’t actually been back to his apartment. Shay had grabbed him some clothes and told him that crime scene clean up had taken care of the mess; but he’d stayed at the hospital with the help of some sympathetic nurses who turned a blind eye to his presence.

Now, standing in Kelly’s room, he considered the idea of going back to his apartment and staying there overnight. His heart lurched and he started sweating as anxiety flooded his chest. He couldn’t do it. It wasn’t safe. He wouldn’t be safe. Swallowing, he perched on the bed and Dr Charles’ voice floating into his head. He latched on and made use of those breathing exercises. Okay, he thought once he could breathe easily again, maybe I could use that doctor’s help. Squaring his jaw, he turned around and marched back to Dr Charles’ office. Luckily the man was still there and didn’t make any comment as Matt wrote on his notepad. He just read and nodded.

“Consider it done.”

Tired but happy, Kelly returned to his room. The physio had been pleased with his progress and everyone was hopeful that he’d be cleared to be discharged. When he opened the door, he was even happier to see Matt there, writing on his pad. They exchanged greetings (both aural and silent) and Kelly asked how Matt’s session had gone. His answering expression was complicated and he pointed to his notepad. After helping Kelly into bed, he handed it over, a certain nervous energy buzzing under his skin.

Intrigued, Kelly began to read and soon had to fight to keep his emotions under control. The apologetic and cautiously hopeful tone of Matt’s explanation of his inability to go back to his own apartment and request he ‘crash’ and Kelly’s for ‘a few days’ pulled at his heartstrings even as it frustrated him. He looked up where Matt was fidgeting – something Kelly hadn’t seen him do in years – and said firmly:

“Yes, of course you can stay with us, as long as you need.” Smiling sheepishly, Matt took the pad back and wrote out ‘thank you’. Kelly saw it and this wave of emotion washed over him. Without thinking, he leaned over and kissed him. Matt stiffened in surprise but soon melted into it, bringing a hand up to cup Kelly’s face. Humming a little, Kelly pulled back slowly and looked deep into his friend’s eyes. Matt stared back calmly but with a spark. Well, so far so good.

Then Kelly had to put his foot in it. “Doc says no strenuous activity for another couple of weeks.” Matt frowned as he tried to parse his meaning. When he realised, he pulled back and Kelly stuttered, about to do some damage control until he registered Matt’s expression. It was mild amusement. Raising an eyebrow, Matt slowly mouthed ‘dream on’. Kelly laughed, relieved that he hadn’t spooked his man.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re a classy kind of guy. I’ll wine and dine you first, don’t you worry.” Grinning, Matt retrieved his pad from where it had fallen to the floor. Kelly’s doctor came in to give him the good news and soon he was packing up and being discharged. Shay came to pick them up, not even batting an eye at the news of their new flatmate.

There was a short stand-off over sleeping arrangements: “there’s no reason to sleep on the couch when I have a double bed. I’m not going to steal all the covers because I’m a decent person.” Kelly exclaimed, addressing the last part to an amused Shay, who shrugged at his veiled accusations and left them to it. Refusing to see whatever Matt was scribbling on his little whiteboard, Kelly took his bags and put them in his room. He hesitated when he turned to see Matt staring at the bed; considering for the first time that maybe his new fella wouldn't be comfortable being that intimate so soon. However, he needn't have worried. After a moment, Matt began to blush and he threw up his arms in mock-surrender. He wrote something new and Kelly leaned over his shoulder to read: it's not like I don't know you snore.

Gasping in affected-offence, Kelly pushed his shoulder playfully and they grinned at each other. Even so, Kelly vowed to keep an eye on Matt's reactions; he didn't want to spook him or trigger any flashbacks. After they were mostly unpacked and settled, Kelly dispelled any potential awkwardness by putting on a game. They watched for a while, though it was clear that they were more aware of each other’s presences than what was happening on screen. During the commercial break, Matt took out the whiteboard and after a moment’s hesitation, wrote something and showed it to Kelly.

Stay together?

Drinking in all the micro-expressions flitting across Matt’s face and the tension vibrating through his whole body, Kelly reached over and took the board. He wiped off the question mark and then sat back. Matt leaned into him and they watched the rest of the game.

Chapter Text

Almost two months later and Kelly was back at work. His injuries had healed nicely and he hit the ground running, thanks in no small part to his unofficial physio (i.e. slave driver) Matt. Though they often joked that Kelly pushed himself harder than his supposed trainers. Still attending therapy, Matt had made progress himself. Through exposure therapy, he’d managed to go back his old apartment and the warehouse where he’d been held. He no longer froze up or panicked when thinking about what had happened. The nightmares came and went; but Kelly was able to soothe him with just a few touches. Matt was also back at work, though in the bullpen as he still couldn’t speak, Well, he could physically speak, ‘just got nothing to say to you schmucks’ as he’d jokingly written in a memo his first day back at the House.

It was frustrating – even as everyone from his therapist to Boden reassured him that he could take his time. His team had adjusted so no longer dealt with the situation awkwardly and he himself had adapted ways to get his meaning across fairly quickly without speech. Though of course there had been a few misunderstandings, one or two retold at Molly’s to their greater circle of friends. Matt had also adapted to life as Kelly’s…partner? They hadn’t figured out terminology, Matt joking that he only had to use crude hand signals and point at Kelly for people to get the idea.

Their friends had accepted their relationship with their usual annoying curiosity and lewd jokes – both irritating and comforting at the same time. As they were on different rigs, conflict of interest would only come into play if one of them was in charge of the scene and would need to direct the other. Boden knuckled down with the legal team and District Chief’s people to hammer out some contingency plans and new protocols. It could all be moot if Matt couldn’t get his voice back. He lay awake and imagined a depressing future of ageing behind a desk as his team, his friends died. Added to that was his fear that his new relationship with Kelly wasn’t going to last. He’d ruin it, do something stupid. Some days it felt inevitable.

In the current moment, however, Matt was just annoyed at his partner’s inability to do any domestic chore. Was it so much to ask that Kelly buy some groceries or vacuum once and a while? About the only thing he did reliably was fill the dishwasher in a timely manner – small mercies indeed. It was a quiet afternoon; Kelly had gone on a few errands after shift had ended. Matt had made a point of reminding him to get milk before they’d left the house. He’d had to eat dry cereal the day before – again – and Shay had her own almond stuff, so it was never her turn. Matt was reviewing some construction quotes he’d managed to do for regulars who understood about his new challenges when Kelly came in.

Looking up, Matt ignored Kelly’s greeting, immediately incensed to see no shopping bags. He leapt up and pointed at the empty space.

“What the Hell?” Kelly froze, staring at him mutely, which irritated Matt even more. “How hard is it to remember to buy milk? Why are you smiling-?” Matt trailed off, swallowing around his dry throat before stilling. “I talked!” Kelly walked around the kitchen island and took Matt’s face in his hands. He kissed him deeply before pulling back.

“I am never buying milk again.” Matt laughed, broke free to whack him on the arm and then leaned in to kiss him back.

“I love you.” He said, blinking back tears. Eyes watering himself, Kelly swallowed.

“I love you too.” Whatever happened next, Matt couldn’t be worried, because they were in it together.