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Something More Than Instinct

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The first thing that he saw were worried eyes through a mask covered in dust. The eyes stared at him and looking him over. The room was dark and demolished, broken bits of everything, the groan of a barely stable structure, and the smell of destruction waiting to be cataclysmic.

He closed his eyes and flexed, feeling a body that was heavy, but not broken. His mind was a different matter.

“You okay?” the man in front of him rasped.

He hesitated, the answer was most definitely no, but he nodded. This was about the body, not the mind. If he needed to he could move. His head could wait.

“We need to find the rest,” the man said. “They were behind us. I heard Dawson and Shay come in just before it blew. Let’s get them out.”

He moved and found that nothing was pinned. The man helped move some of the rubble that was around and then reached a hand out and pulled him up.

“Stay close,” the man said and then turned around. “Call out!”

They made their way slowly through the hazy room. They heard weak noises coming from just down a hallway. For a second he worried that he would have no idea what to do. Then he saw a body, buried under the rubble and instinct kicked in. He shut off his head and just did. People yelled out and he worked with the man, they uncovered bodies and applied emergency medical attention.

It was all instinct; he knew what he was doing. He found himself yelling to people, shouting orders. He didn’t even have to look to know that it was being done. He pushed himself to do, not think.

More people came in and he found himself being told to walk away. That went against every fiber of his being. He stayed side by side with the original man, working to find people in the rubble. His body ached and his head throbbed, but he kept going. He knew that he was what he was meant to do, this is who he was.

He also knew that the moment he stopped he was going to have to deal with what ever was missing between his ears.

Finally he felt the man puling him out, telling him that it was time to go. This time he believed it. He believed that the other man had the same drive that he did. If he said it was okay to let up, it was okay to let up.

They walked out amidst the chaos of ambulances and people. He did as he did before and followed the other man to one of the ambulances.

A tall dark skinned man came up to them, looking stern and relieved at the same time. He carried with him an air of command.

“Everyone got out,” the commander said. “Dawson and Shay are at the hospital, they are making sure that they don’t have internal injuries. Casey, she’s going to be okay.”

He blinked.

Casey.

It didn’t mean a thing.

He tried to smile and nod as the paramedics took off his jacket. The man and the commander rattled off names and statuses and he just let himself be looked over.

Lights shined in his eyes, pulse taken, checking ribs and bones.

Finally the men stopped talking and the command left leaving him with the original man.

The man looked hard at him.

“You okay?” he asked as paramedics began to look him over. “You didn’t react when Boden said that Dawson was going to be okay. She say no to your proposal? That’s low, man.”

He, Casey, swallowed and opened his mouth.

The mean leaned forward to hear in the bustle of the dregs of the explosion.

“I don’t know who Dawson is,” Casey said. “I don’t know who you are and I have no idea who I am.”

**

He stopped thinking about it.

For two weeks there were tests and questions and faces. He met Dawson. She was a serious woman with worried eyes, and he was going to marry her. Every time she looked at him she seemed full of concern. She held his hand through the tests.

They talked about past head trauma, a blow that created memory loss. He understood it all, but he was just looking for solutions. There was a surgery and they were doubtful that he’d ever get back his lost memories.

The past was effectively gone.

They were worried about him making new memories, but everyday he remembered the day before. He just didn’t remember a single thing before waking up in the rubble. He only had the present.

It was good not to be alone, but every time Dawson looked at him he steadied himself so that he wouldn’t cringe. She made him feel like there was something wrong with him, that there was something missing. Dawson would start to talk and then realize half way through that he couldn’t know what she was talking about so she would apologize profusely.

He appreciated her, but the apologies were getting to be too much.

When the guys came it was a relief. They never apologized. They seemed to revel in telling stories that they all seemed to know and have heard a million times.

Even his sister was great. She was hesitant, but she had a smile on her face. She seemed to just want to talk to him. He had the feeling that without memories of their past, their present was easier.

He kept waiting for the bottom to fall out.

Strangely he found that he was still standing on solid ground.

**

“Are you sure?”

Casey looked at the course and then rolled his eyes.

“I passed every single one of the tests you put in front of me,” Casey replied. “Perfectly and in record time. I am a firefighter. It is the only thing that makes sense.”

“I have no idea how you sat down and knew all of the answers, got a 100% with barely studying, yet you can’t even remember my name,” the man said.

“Well Kelly Patrick Severide,” Casey said with a grin. “I remember how to tie my shoes, I just don’t remember who taught me.”

“I’ve sat with you for studying and I’m doing your certification, so I’m taking credit from you here on out,” Severide said with a matching grin.

Casey made a dismissive noise. “I’m better than you ever put into it. What was your time on the course? I can beat it.”

Severide raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to try to race my time from fifteen years ago? Don’t push yourself old man, you’re a little bit broken.”

“I seem to remember the record for this course being under another name, who is this Matthew Casey?” Casey asked innocently.

“By four seconds,” Severide said.

“Still this Mathew Casey’s set all the records,” Casey laughed. “Are you going to time me? I’m going to kill it, better than you can do.”

Severide held up the stopwatch. “Those are big words.”

“I can back it up,” Casey replied. “Can you?”

“Nobody is questioning if I belong in the firehouse,” Severide replied.

“Scared of being shown up by the guy with a screw loose?” Casey asked. “From my point of view you’re the one who will always be four seconds behind.”

“Oh, you’re so on,” Severide said. “Loser buys beers.”

“Fuck that, this is bragging rights,” Casey said. “Loser buys top shelf bourbon.”

**

Casey took a long drink and a deep swallow and then smacked his lips. “Tastes like victory.”

Severide was hunched over the counter, but he was smiling. “You’re still no Matthew Casey at eighteen.”

“Yeah, but neither are you and you are still behind me,” Casey said with a smirk.

Severide took a look swallow and rolled his eyes.

“But only by two and half seconds,” Severide replied.

“Two and a half seconds is still too much time to waste,” Casey said with a look of superiority.

“So you lose your mind and you’re still decent,” Severide said.

“Decent?” Casey said with mock outrage.

Severide shrugged innocently.

“You’re one for understatement,” Casey said. “Don’t hurt yourself patting me on the back.”

“Yeah, you’ll do,” Severide said. “I told them you were good enough for Truck.”

“They’re still debating me being lieutenant though,” Casey said finishing his drink. “I passed the test, but they want to see me in the field for awhile.”

Severide motioned for another round. “So Herman and you share duties for awhile until they figure everything out.”

Casey made a frustrated noise. “I want things to get back to normal. I just want a routine, I just want to be doing something that does not involve being a freak.”

Severide nodded. “That sounds like a good goal.”

Casey just seethed and watched the waitress pour them new drinks.

“What’s it like?” Severide asked, playing with the edge of his glass.

“What is what like?” Casey said.

“Not remembering?” Severide said. Casey shot him a surprised look and Severide continued. “I mean there is plenty in my life that I’d love to not remember, but I’m sure that it sucks.”

Casey shook his head slowly. “Nobody has asked me that.”

“Not even Dawson?” Severide asked.

“She’s trying too hard to not talk about it,” Casey said. “It doesn’t feel like anything. I’m not missing me; I am just missing the rest of the world. I’m fine, I just don’t know how I got here.”

“Like you’re lost?” Severide said.

“Yeah,” Casey said slowly. “But not really. It’s like I’m in a new place and I just have to figure out how to get where I want to go. I have everything I need, but sometimes it just takes longer.”

“You’re okay with it?” Severide said.

“I might be lost, but I’m not gone.”” Casey said. “I’m fine, the house seems fine with it. My sister is fine. It’s all something we can deal with.

“And Dawson isn’t?” Severide asked.

“I like the stories,” Casey replied. “Everyone tells me stories and it is great to hear, she tells me what I like and what I don’t like. I know that I don’t like chocolate and that I love oregano on everything. I don’t need to be told who I am.”

Casey sighed and then looked straight at Severide. “She looks at me like I’m supposed to remember, like I’m going to remember. I’m not. This is who I am and I am okay with that, but she isn’t. She’s used someone and I’m him, but she can’t see it.”

Severide tilted his head his blue eyes a little piercing. “You’re him. You may even be more him than before.”

Casey gave him a small smile and leaned in. “I feel like me, just without the baggage. I feel like I can do anything.”

“Don’t get cocky,” Severide said.

Casey bit his lip and shrugged. “So what would I do? What would the me of a month ago do with her?”

Severide gave him a once over. “You don’t need me to tell you. What do you want to do?”

“I want to tell her the truth,” Casey said. “I want to tell her it isn’t working.”

Severide nodded. “You’re always honest, but fair. You’ve never been one to bullshit or hide away from what was going on. I’ve never known you to pull your punches.”

Casey just looked at him, his eyes studying something and then he shrugged.

“Another round?” Casey asked.

“The first round was for today and we can stretch and say the second was for fifteen years ago, what would I pay for a third for?” Severide asked. “I’m not your sugar daddy.”

Casey raised an eyebrow. “The third one is for tomorrow.”

**

Casey was sitting on her front steps when Dawson came home. She stopped and just looked at him.

“Wanna go inside?” Casey asked.

Dawson slowly shook her head. “I don’t think that this conversation will be very long.”

Casey nodded and composed himself and then looked her full in the eye. “You don’t want to leave me because I got hurt and only a jerk would leave a guy who was going through what I am. The thing is, this isn’t working.”

Dawson sat down next to him and looked at the leaves in the street blowing.

“There isn’t about you, this is just us,” Casey said. “There was a change and it just doesn’t feel right.”

There was a couple moments of silence.

Dawson let out a long breath. “We never could get the timing right. I love you so much, but we were always out of sync. You are the strongest person that I know, with this unshakable sense of right and wrong. I love you, but the two of us together is like forcing an elephant through a mail slot.”

Casey let out a dry laugh.

Dawson turned to him. “Never doubt you are a good guy.”

Casey patted her knee and looked at her with a small smile. “I don’t remember the story of us, but I do like you.”

She looked at him, tears forming at the edge of her eyes. “This is hard because you are you, but you aren’t. We just never could be right. We always just forced it because it looked like it could be good.”

“I’m sorry,” Casey said. “I really am sorry.”

Dawson looked at him and nodded.

“We okay?” Casey asked, hand lightly touching her arm.

Dawson let out a choked noise. “We aren’t okay, but we can be okay, we just have to give it time. I need time and space not to see you.”

Casey nodded and stood up. “I’ll see you around, Dawson.”

“Take care of yourself, Matt,” she said softly.

**

Casey slammed his locker and looked over at Severide.

“Beers?” he asked.

Severide laughed. “I haven’t hung out with you this much since the academy.”

“I know that it is painful for you,” Casey replied. “Think of it as your public service.”

“I’m a humanitarian,” Severide replied.

“You’re having fun,” Casey said. “I think that thing you were doing Saturday was even dancing.”

Severide made a dismissive noise. “You know I can think of a way that you can repay me.”

Casey raised his eyebrows. “I buy you beer.”

“Shay is seeing this photographer,” Severide said. “Which you don’t remember, but is a type that hasn’t worked well for her, but this girl, Fiona, she seems decent. She’s taking these artsy pictures and needs another guy. It’s painless and she’s giving us a thousand each for like two hours of work.”

“No,” Casey replied.

“I’ll give you my thousand. Shay is making me do this, please don’t make me do this alone,” Severide said giving Casey his most charming smile.

“No,” Casey said.

“If you don’t come you are going to have to find someone to hang out with who isn’t me,” Severide said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Casey gave that a thought.

“No more bar trips, no more games at my place, no more boxing,” Severide continued seriously.

Casey gave him a long look. “You wouldn’t.”

Severide shrugged. “Test me.”

“I’m not a some male model,” Casey told him. “And you most defiantly aren’t.”

“Scared I’ll be better at something than you?” Severide asked.

“Like that is possible,” Casey said.

“I’ll pick you up at eight, be prepared to be shown up,” Severide said, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

“I don’t think that being better at this is something you should brag about,” Casey called after him.

**

“I’m going to bang my head against the wall after this, hoping that I forget this ever happened,” Casey muttered into Severide’s ear, which, fortunately, was mere inches from his lips.

Unfortunately Severide started laughing.

“Blue Steel give it a rest,” Fiona said. “Blondie, you are loosing the light tilt your head up, don’t make me tell you again.”

Casey tilted his head, what he wanted to do was give Severide a glare, but they were half naked and covered in baby oil and carefully posed with another guy and four girls, all carefully posed limbs askew, lights beaming down. Moving would make this whole thing last a lot longer, and he had already been here forever.

And to be honest he was a little scared of Fiona.

Severide was standing on a block, his arms outstretched like a Christ figure. Casey was against his side, his head angled up in adoration. The other were all woven together. Fiona called this a ‘sacrilegious pg-13 rated orgy’ with Severide as the center focal point

“Seriously Blondie tilt your head ten degrees more towards Blue Steel,” Fiona barked.

Casey shifted against Severide, the baby oil slipping skin against skin.

“Perfect,” Fiona said, hurriedly taking pictures.

Casey felt Severide flex next to him, their hips knocking together. There was a rub and a moment of friction and then the slick of oil.

“Stop moving,” Fiona said.

They stilled, a few square inches of skin pressed against each other. Each inhale of breath created a little movement, a tiny hitch that they both were acutely aware of. Casey’s entire world centered on that little bit of skin that was pressing against Severide.

“Blondie, look up at Blue Steel like a goddamned fucking deity,” Fiona instructed.

Casey couldn’t even breathe. He didn’t want to look up.

“Blondie, I’m not paying you to look stupid,” Fiona said. “Look up so we all can get this over with.”

Casey looked up so slowly that he thought that everyone could hear the creak of his neck as he looked up an inch that would bring him in eye line with Severide. He figured that he would see laughter and mockery of a conceited god. That is what they were playing, that was what Severide was.

Casey looked up and was confronted with Severide’s eyes. They weren’t mocking. Not in the slightest. They were wide and a little lost; his lips were slightly apart. His eyes were staring into Casey’s and this whole thing wasn’t funny any more, it wasn’t ridiculous.

Severide looked down at Casey’s lips and Casey could feel all of his blood rush towards him. Severide’s eyes flicked back to his and the world stopped.

“Holy fuck that is it,” Fiona clicked away.

Casey couldn’t stop looking at Severide. This was like waking up in a whole new world all over again.

“That’s a wrap kiddos,” Fiona finally said.

Casey didn’t even realize that he hadn’t been breathing. Severide put his arms down and pulled away. He looked at Casey and then ran a hand over his face. Then suddenly he walked towards the door at the back of the studio.

Casey looked around the room. The other models were standing around, trying to get Fiona’s attention. She was looking at the viewfinder Shay was next to her. She shot a glance at him over her shoulder. He just smiled and turned on his heel to the back of the studio towards the door that Severide had gone through.

It was a cold fall night and they fairly well on their way to being naked, it was a bad combination. For a second they looked at each other. The light texturized the goosbumps on their skin.

And then they didn’t have to worry about the cold. Casey found himself being pushed into the wall. Severide’s body was sliding against him, warm and slick mouth was warm and inviting. Casey’s hands were all over Severide’s body, along the lines of his back, pulling him closer. There was a clumsy knocking of teeth and then click of the right angle, stealing breath, merging them. For minutes that was all there was, their hungry movements and little whimpers into the cold night air.

There was a honk, far in the distance and they broke the kiss, panting a little bit. Their faces were a few inches apart, bodies still intertwined. Casey’s eyes were wide. Severide’s were guarded. Casey’s hands couldn’t unclench from Severide’s body. Severide made no move to give Casey room to breathe.

“Is that new?” Casey said, breath coming in little pants.

Severide pulled himself away, putting the cold fall air between them.

“We are spending too much time together,” Severide said in a rush, not looking at Casey. “We just were in a situation and…”

Casey pushed off the wall and grabbed Severide by both arms, stilling the bubble of panic attack that Severide seemed to be starting.

Severide looked up at him.

“That was pretty alright,” Casey said, he wasn’t confused, not a bit, by this. It seemed to be something building for weeks, something brewing beneath the surface.

Severide looked confused.

Casey shrugged. “It’ll happen again or it won’t and I’m okay with either. There is no point in forcing it right now.”

He let go of Severide and turned to go back inside.

He could feel Severide watching long after the door was closed.

**

Severide was sitting at the counter drinking coffee when Shay came in yawning.

“You’re up early,” she said, grabbing a cup of coffee.

“Couldn’t sleep,” Severide said, still staring off into space.

“Fiona said you guys did good, she decided to spent the last night at the studio she was so inspired,” Shay said, watching Severide.

“Never again,” Severide said standing up. “Never. I was not expecting that and if those pictures ever get out then I will never hear the end of it.”

“You know that she does all that mixed media stuff to the photos, nobody will ever know it is you,” Shay said.

“Never again,” Severide vehemently said to her.

“Whoa buddy,” Shay said. “It is way to early for that tone of voice.”

Severide turned and cleaned his coffee mug.

“Does this have anything to do with you rubbing up against your bestie Matty?” Shay said cautiously.

Severide stilled.

“What happened in the alley way?” Shay asked softly.

“I have no idea,” Severide said and walked out of the room.

**

“Second floor clear,” Casey heard over the radio, when he saw it.

There was a door at the end of the hallway with a white towel hanging from it.

“I think that there is someone up here,” Casey said, moving towards the door.

“Third floor clear,” Severide said.

He cautiously opened the door to see a family passed out on the floor.

“Need some help up here,” he yelled.

“On my way up,” he heard Severide say.

There was cracking and splintering in the hallway as Severide came bursting in.

“The floor is giving,” Severide said. “We’ve got to get them out the window.”

He looked down at the bodies between them and then at the small window.

“We’re gonna need a bigger window,” Casey replied.

Severide was spitting instructions on his radio as Casey moved the furniture to block the door and checking the bodies.

“They’re still breathing,” Casey said.

He looked at the pane. “I can break it out a little.”

Casey nodded. “We don’t have much time.”

“Cover,” Severide said as he lifted his flashlight to break out the window.

Casey nodded and sheltered the bodies as Severide worked on the hole. He was watching the door as the flames pushed the bookcase that he had used to block it.

“ETA on that ladder,” Casey barked.

“We’re almost there, Casey,” Otis said.

“Casey, get your contractor ass over here and help me open this up,” Severide said.

Casey was up and moving.

“Count of three,” Severide said.

The two of them opened up the window hole as the ladder came to meet them. They exchanged a look and moved to pick up the bodies. They worked and lifted together to lift the family to safety. They wordlessly managed it all in a matter of minutes, lifting in unison and passing the bodies.

They climbed out the window and down the ladder just as the flames came bursting into the room.

Minutes later they were watching the fire burning the house as the hoses tried to contain the inferno. They stood side by side and watched before going back to their trucks.

After a fire it was always there, adrenaline and the charge from a job.

They got back to the house and showered and changed. It was the end of the shift and they got into their cars and went home.

Casey was peering into the fridge when there was a knock at the door. He closed the fridge and walked to his front door. When he opened it Severide was on the other side.

“Hey,” Casey said.

“Is being here forcing it?” Severide asked.

Casey smiled. “Not at all.”

He pulled Severide in the house, edging him against the wall. They were still thrumming from adrenaline and action.

Severide mouthed along Casey’s neck, Casey let out a little moan. Severide pulled back, looking pleased.

“Is this going to be something that falls under the things you instinctively know? Or are you like a virgin?” Severide teased.

Casey shrugged. “I have a feeling we’re going to find out.”

**

Winter came and Casey was warm in the morning.

It was a secret only in the sense that nobody knew. It was easy and effortless and they didn’t have to lie because nobody every asked.

Shay was the only one who had an inkling, but only because Severide was rarely home.

She saddled up to him one shift. He was reading about new techniques to rescue people trapped in cars. For a bit he ignored her.

Finally she pushed the paper aside and looked at him in the face. For a second she just looked.

“You seem happy, Kelly,” she finally said.

He couldn’t fight back the grin that pretty much was plastered on his face these days.

“You can sleep at home some nights,” she said softly. “I would never judge.”

“It isn’t you,” Kelly said, speaking low and leaning in. “You’re not the skittish one.”

Shay snorted and leaned in. “I don’t think he’s the skittish one either.”

Severide leaned back and gave her a cocky smile. “It’s just good you know, don’t want to rock the boat.”

“It’s that delicate?” Shay said. “Might not be worth it.”

“Severide, Shay, grub.”

They looked up and Casey was leaning half out the door. At their startled expression he raised his eyebrows and sighed before going back into the house.

“Do you think that he knew what we were talking about?” Shay giggled.

Severide got up and rolled his eyes. “You think? Keep your mouth shut and we’ll stay at the apartment sometimes.”

Shay clapped. “I win!”

**

The early morning light was coming into the room. Severide lay on his stomach, face buried in the pillow, blankets pooling around his waist. Casey was next to him, sitting against the headboard. The heat in the house was old, but it was warm enough.

“Sometimes I forget that I don’t remember,” Casey said into the still room. “I don’t remember my dad or the anger over my mother. I can’t remember Halley and loving her or losing her. I don’t remember Andy or the decades of friendship. All the things I don’t know take up so much space, but sometimes I forget that there is anything beyond now.”

Severide let out a small noise and then turned his face to look at Casey through slits. “Its amazing that the things that don’t exist for you are the things that wake me up on a morning when I can actually sleep in.”

Casey moved to his side and looked at Severide, fingers tracing over the muscles of his back.

“I don’t even know if you’re the first guy, I don’t even remember being with anyone else at all,” Casey said, his voice taking on a far away tone.

Severide closed his eyes and waved his hand around. “Go find a hooker getting off work, get your experimental rocks off. My wallet is on the table downstairs, it’s on me.”

Casey leaned over and ran his nose along the column of Severide’s neck.

“But it is cold out there,” Casey said in a low voice against Severide’s skin. “And you’re warm and here.”

Severide made a frustrated noise. Casey’s hand moved to Severide’s hip and moved underneath his body and then the noises turned into sighs.

Suddenly not sleepy at all, Severide flipped them and pushed Casey into the mattress. Their bodies rubbed together, getting alignment, feeling the very concrete fact that they were together. Casey was still relaxed from the night before and Severide pushed in without much effort. Casey hissed at the burn.

“You okay,” Severide said into Casey’s ear, stilling.

“So much better than a hooker,” Casey said, moving his hips in appreciation. “So much better than anything I can think of.”

Severide began to move, his body molding itself to Casey.

“Why would I ever want anything else?” Casey whispered, his back arching and low moans coming from his chest.

**

Sometimes Severide would forget that he knew Casey’s body as well, or better, than his own these days. Sometimes he forgot that Casey knew how he liked his eggs. Sometimes he forgot that finishing Casey’s sentences or reacting to a need before it was voiced wasn’t something that came from working together under extreme circumstances any more.

Then Casey would catch his eye from across the room, a room full of people who were not in on it and he’d smile and look down. Severide’s would miss a breath and his first instinct was to run, run away from this situation, run away from someone who knew him inside and out, someone he was in this situation with.

Then he would watch for a second more.

And he would close his eyes and be absolutely terrified that it was going to end, that one day he would be on the receiving end of Casey walking away. Those nights he would hold Casey a little tighter, something that could be construed as cuddling.

He would hold onto it, because there was one thing that he knew about life.

Anything bad could happen, and it always happened to someone.

He was ready to accept that one day it could be him.

**

Shay was eating yogurt when Severide came to the kitchen.

“Solo?” Shay asked. “When is the company for breakfast.”

Severide went to the fridge. “He stayed at home last night.”

“Are you fighting?” Shay asked. Severide knew if he were to look up her face would be full of worry.

“Nope,” Severide said, trying to remember what he was looking for in the depths of their fridge.

“Then why?” Shay asked.

Severide closed his eyes and stood up.

“Because one day I’m probably going to go back to sleeping alone,” Severide said, opening his eyes and looking at Shay.

She looked horrified.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Severide answered. “But there isn’t anyway that this can work, right? It can’t always be like this. All relationships end.”

“Except those that don’t,” Shay replied, putting down her breakfast.

“What are the chances that I’m going to find one of those,” Severide asked.

“I thought it worked,” Shay said, looking confused. “It seems to fit.”

“But how can it for real?” Severide asked.

Shay shrugged. “Who knows, probably not asking that question is a really good first step.”

“What if this thing isn’t me, it’s pretty much outside of everything that I have ever done,” Severide said in frustration.

“Kelly,” Shay said, her eyebrow arching. “The first time I met you, you were seventeen at a rave, rolling with glitter and angel wings, some girl on your lap and your tongue down the throat of some guy.”

“You stole the girl,” Severide remembered.

“And you didn’t even notice, just moved over to do guy things with that guy,” Shay pointed out. “This isn’t a surprise.”

Severide closed his eyes and looked up at the ceiling.

“But that isn’t really the problem,” Shay said slowly.

“No,” Severide said, refusing to make eye contact.

Shay poked him.

Severide rolled his head to look at Shay. “What if it is just brain damage? What if he gets his mind back and is disgusted by what I’ve done to him?”

“I can see how you think that liking you can be mistaken for brain damage,” Shay said. “But if something is working, maybe you should keep doing instead of trying to figure out how to break it.”

Severide didn’t say anything.

“You’re happy, Kelly,” Shay said. “This is going better than anything I have ever seen you in, better than most relationships I’ve seen. Don’t think of all the things wrong with it. You are happy, you have something, if you don’t try you’re an idiot and if you leave for no reason, I will never let you forget it.”

Kelly gave her a small smile. “Thank you.”

Shay squared her chin. “And if he breaks your heart or if anyone has anything to say about it, they’re going to face off against me.”

Severide walked to her and kissed her forehead. “I’m so glad that I have you.”

“You better be,” Shay said, leaning into him. “He better be glad that he has you too.”

**

Casey was getting out of his truck when Severide jogged up to him.

“So I’m in love with you,” Severide said, looking everywhere all at once. “Hope that works.”

He left just as quickly as he showed up, but not before noticing the grin that nearly split Casey’s face in two.

The shift was quiet; they didn’t have a single call.

Casey spent most of his time on the couch between Mouch and Otis.

They kept looking at him and then at each other.

He was trying not to grin and failing the whole time.

“What is going on with you Casey?” Otis asked. “Aliens isn’t really that funny.”

Casey shrugged and watched the movie.

A twenty-four hour shift seemed to last about a week; Casey avoided Severide as much as he could. When shift was over he didn’t even bother going home. He drove to Severide’s house like his ass was on fire.

Casey pounded on the door. Shay opened the door and walked back into the house.

“You beat him home,” Shay said.

Casey nodded. “I’m just going to go wait for him.”

Shay raised her eyes brows. “He’s got the biggest heart of anyone I know, you hurt him I’ll kill you.”

Casey grinned and Severide walked in. He looked at Casey with surprise and then looked like he might bolt at any second.

“You asshole,” Casey said, moving towards him preventing him from leaving.

Casey looked at the open door and when he looked back Casey pounced on him, lips and tongue and hands everywhere.

“You couldn’t wait two seconds so I could say it back,” Casey said against Severide’s lips.

Severide let out a long breath. “Who is the one two seconds behind now?”

“Give him a key, Kelly,” Shay said, still standing in the entryway.

They looked at her, having forgotten that she was there.

She gave them a smile and picked up her keys and walked out the door.

“Carry on boys,” she said, walking out.

**

Laundry was not something that Casey had to do very often in the house, but they were having guests soon and every hand had to clean. He’d rather do laundry than scrub toilets.

Dawson came in as he was putting the detergent into the load.

“Hey,” he said with a smile. “Stop by for a visit?”

She was biting her lip.

“What’s up?” he asked, suddenly concerned.

She looked towards the empty door and then back at him.

“I’m seeing this guy,” she began slowly.

“I’m happy for you,” he tried, not knowing what was going on.

“No, that isn’t the thing,” she said as she began to pace. “I wanted to impress him so I called Fiona for tickets to her latest showing.”

Casey was hit with the understanding of where this was going.

“The faces are a little obscure, it’s a cut and paste, but I saw it,” she continued. “You were familiar and he’s a little more clear. I know that you and he probably just did a favor or got paid or something, but it looks…”

“Like what it really is,” Casey finished, looking at her straight in the eye.

Dawson’s eyes got wide with shock.

Casey crossed his arms and waited.

She blinked and seemed to think about it for a minute then she nodded.

“You guys look good together,” she said slowly, her face looking a little pained, but she was trying. “Does it fit? Does it work?”

“Like a Swiss clock,” Casey answered.

She nodded. “Well that’s it I guess.”

She said, leaving the room.

Casey looked at the laundry, suddenly at a loss about how to do it. He closed his eyes and didn’t think about it. He just did it.

**

“Call out,” Casey yelled, walking through the basement of a blazing building with Severide. It was all fairly mundane. Just a blaze that was about to go up, in a few minutes they would clear the building and the water would flow.

Severide wanted nothing more than a shower and if there was anything good in the universe he would get a blowjob afterward. There was nothing better in this world than Casey’s mouth around him.

He was so distracted that he wasn’t fully observing his surroundings as he walked into the storeroom in the basement. He heard a click and then looked down and around. For a second he didn’t believe that he was seeing what he was seeing.

Then he looked up at Casey. The look on Casey’s face was absolute horror.

**

“There is a goddamned arsenal down here,” Casey’s voice was saying, it was out of control in a way that he usually wasn’t.

Boden looked at the blaze.

“Severide stepped on a land mine,” Casey continued, his voice panicked.

“Is it active?” Boden barked.

Casey didn’t say anything for a minute.

“Yes, Chief,” Severide answered carefully. “I activated a landmine and we’re standing in what looks like a storage of grenades and bullets. I’m assuming all this firepower is live.”

**

Casey was on the floor looking at the landmine as they stood into a room that would turn into a battlefield as soon as the fire hit it.

“Tell me I know how to diffuse bombs,” Casey said, he could feel frantic; he could feel a panic that he had no reference for.

“No,” Severide said, he was standing perfectly still, not even wanting to move his lips.

“How long until the bomb techs get here,” Casey said over the radio.

“They’re twenty minutes out,” Boden replied.

“Keep the fire away from this room,” Casey said.

“We’re working on it,” Mills replied, but he didn’t sound positive.

“Mills,” Casey growled.

“It’s coming Lieutenant,” Mills replied. “We don’t know how long we can keep it at bay.

Casey looked up at Severide, his eyes the size of saucers. He hadn’t felt fear like this since he had woken up. Everything had been instinct; it had no past.

Looking at Severide, perfectly still and barely breathing, he couldn’t find the instinct to fix this. Nothing in this was rote. He felt a past, one that was fairly brief, but a history none the less. He saw a future, he saw hope. He saw something that he could lose.

“Chief,” Severide said carefully. “Call Casey back.”

Casey looked at him and shook his head. He knew that he was trying to be rescued, but he was not this. He was not broken; he was not a damsel in distress. He didn’t need saving.

“Chief,” Casey said. “Find me someone to talk me through this.”

“Matt,” Severide said in a whisper.

“Casey, it’s your call,” Boden said.

“Patch someone through,” Casey said, ignoring Severide as he began to rattle off what he could see of the mine.

Casey looked at the landmine while he waited, each second an eternity.

“There’s a plate at the bottom,” Boden finally came through. “The wires need to be disconnected.”

“I see it,” Casey said.

“Let me make it perfectly clear,” Boden said. “If you make a mistake you are going to blow both of you up.”

“I won’t leave a man behind,” Casey said, still refusing to look up at Severide. “”Call the men out. I’m going to disconnect and we’re going to run like hell. In less than a minute there is going to be a fireball in this room with either outcome.”

“We’re all betting on you out here,” Boden said.

Casey took a deep breath and looked up at Severide. Severide was looking down, his eyes filling. It was the lip being bitten that made something clench in Casey’s throat.

“No last words,” Casey said gruffly. “Cause there is no need. If you go I go and there is no point.”

Severide almost imperceptibly nodded.

“It’s been great,” Casey said, leaning in. “It will be greater. Kelly, we’re going to get better and better.”

He took a deep breath and reached in to move the wires.

**

Casey knew even before he opened his eyes that he was in another hospital.

There had been too many of these places in the last few months.

Last time he had woken up he had known nothing, this time it was all still there. The last six months of his life was still in his head.

He opened his eyes and Severide was sitting in the chair next to the bed. He was wearing a tank top, a bandage around his upper arm. He noticed that Casey was awake and his face became guarded.

“You’re Kelly Patrick Severide,” Casey said watching him. “Always two and a half to four seconds behind. Weight of an elephant when an artillery blast blows us out of a building.”

Relief passed over Severide’s face and he stood up. He linked a finger around one of Casey’s.

“You remember,” Severide said, sounding like a prayer of thanksgiving.

“I remember,” Casey said, giving him an answering squeeze.

“Blast knocked us clear,” Severide said moving to stand next to him. “You make a great landing pad.”

“This is why two seconds behind is bad,” Casey laughed and then groaned.

“For you. You okay?” Severide said, looking him over.

“You are heavy,” Casey groaned.

“You have two broken ribs and a ton of bruises,” Severide said. “I’m so sorry.”

Casey looked up at him. “You’re alive. I’m alive. There is nothing to be sorry about. Although you are going to go on a serious diet.”

“Move in with me,” Severide said without thinking. “Move in and cook for me.”

“Okay,” Casey said. “Your funeral. Cooking is not something I’ve found I have a skill for.”

Severide blinked.

“What?” Casey asked. “You can take it back. If you have to ask Shay or if this was just a we just a momentary insanity due to almost dying.”

“No, Shay suggested it,” Severide said. “I didn’t expect you to agree, hell I half expected you to wake up and not remember me.”

Casey looked at the ceiling. “I half expected not to remember too. Sometimes I think that maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and I won’t remember or I’ll remember everything.”

“Yeah,” Severide said quietly.

“Standing in that house I realized something though,” Casey continued, wrapping his hand around Severide’s wrist.

Severide looked up at him. “What?”

“I was empty when I woke up the first time, I had nothing to tie me down, to tether me,” Casey said, gently tugging at Severide. “I was just a vacuum like space. Then these little pieces of you came flying at me and some of it stuck and I’m not empty any more, I have something that brings me back to earth.”

Severide just looked at him.

“You’re part of my life now, you helped give me life,” Casey said softly. “Even if it goes away tomorrow I’m gonna end up back here, if I remember tomorrow, I won’t want to be anywhere else.”

Severide leaned in and cupped his face and put his lips on Casey’s forehead. He stayed like that. Casey reached up to rest his hand at the nape of Severide’s neck. They didn’t move, long enough to let it all settle in.

“We’re a thing,” Severide said quietly.

“We’re most definitely a thing,” Casey replied.

Then Severide gently pulled away and cleared his throat.

“So moving in,” he said, his voice cracking a little. “We have an extra room for your stuff.”

Casey laughed. “I don’t have much stuff. “It will probably take about two truckloads to bring over and about one to the dump. The two of us can probably do it in a day.”

Severide took a deep breath and looked at Casey.

This was it.

This was really it.

**

Severide was playing with zipper; Casey was drumming his finger on the wall.

“We doing this?” Severide asked.

Casey straightened. “No time like the present.”

Severide looked at him and smile and shrugged and they both turned and squared their shoulders and walked into Boden’s office.

Boden looked up. They both stood tall. Boden leaned back and looked at the two of them.

“Casey, Severide,” he said.

Casey put down a piece of paper on Boden’s desk.

“I’m putting in a change of address,” Casey said.

Boden looked down at the paper. “I don’t do the administrative things. You can just pass this along to Connie.”

Then Boden looked closer at the paper and then leaned back and took off his glasses. He assessed the two of them and took off his glasses. They just looked at him.

“You’re moving in with Shay and Severide?” Boden asked Casey.

Casey didn’t move a muscle. “I’m moving in with Kelly.”

Boden’s face remained impassive.

They stood with their hands behind their backs.

“This going to be a problem?” Casey asked.

Boden shook his head. “Its not a problem in this office, it will never be a problem in this office.”

They both let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding.

“Thank you, sir,” Severide said.

Casey nodded in agreement.

“You boys are among the best that I have seen,” Boden said. “This is your house, you have made this your house. If there ever is a problem outside this office, let me know. I will personally make sure that an understanding is reached. There will never be a problem in this house.”

Casey nudged Severide with his shoulder.

“Is there anything else?” Boden asked.

“No,” Severide said.

Boden held up the paper for them.

“Then I think Mills has brisket ready for us,” Boden said. “Take this to someone who knows what to do with it.

They walked out of the room and looked at each other.

“Did we expect anything else,” Casey tried to rally.

“No,” Severide answered, sounding anything but sure.

“Eat?” Casey asked.

“Sure,” Severide said, a little bit dazed.

Casey moved to go, but Casey reached out a hand and grabbed his arm. “That was the first time we told anyone.”

Severide grinned.

“You guys coming to eat?” Otis yelled.

Casey and Severide pushed through the door into the dining room.

“Planning your next night out?” Cruz asked, settling at the table.

“I know you don’t remember this,” Herman said, taking some food at the counter and looking at Casey. “But you and Severide have very different lifestyles.”

Casey exchanged a glance with Severide both of them tried to bite down on hysterical laugher.

“I mean everyone wants to live like Severide,” Herman continued. “But it is a path that many men have failed.”

Severide took great care in picking up a plate; case could see that his hands were shaking a little in an attempt not to laugh.

“Casey’s doing just fine,” Severide said in a strangled voice.

“Casey is an adult who can speak for himself,” Casey replied.

“I’m just warning you,” Herman said. “You’re going down a dark path.”

“I don’t know, Herman,” Cruz interjected. “Severide has gotten a little tamer. Maybe Casey is bringing down Severide.”

“Do we even need to be here for this conversation,” Severide asked Casey.

Casey munched on a tomato from the salad and just watched them. “No, I’m interested which gets more insulting my brain damage or your reputation.”

Severide laughed.

“It seems kind of healthy that they spend time together,” Mouch said, gesturing with his knife almost sending the beef on the end into Cruz’s eye. “A balance.”

“Yeah, like good and evil,” Otis agreed.

“Let’s just go make out in the Ambo,” Severide said. “This is ridiculous.”

“Would that fall under brain damage or corruption?” Otis asked. “It seems like the perfect storm of both.”

Severide bit his lip in an attempt not to laugh.

The guys at the table seemed to give it serious thought and another volley of conversation started. Casey motioned for Severide and they went out and sat on the bumper of the fire engine.

They just sat there eating their food, shoulder to shoulder.

“One day they’re going to have a heart attack when they find us in there,” Severide said.

Casey smiled. “I can’t wait for that day.”

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