“So, were you going to tell me that you’re looking for a new place before or after the fact?” Severride said the next morning, walking into the living room where Casey was relaxing, watching the morning news.
He shrugged, still watching the tv. “Timing is better this time around. Don’t want to be a third wheel.”
“Casey. Nothing’s changed.”
“Yet.” The other man corrected wryly, finally looking up at him. “I’ve lived in that studio apartment when there has been plumbing problems, Kelly. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I couldn’t fix it when I was there, and Herrmann is too cheap to shell out money for an expert, especially when he knows that Kidd won’t really complain and hurt his feelings. Besides, I am actually capable of living on my own, you overbearing mother hen.” He scowled when Severride started laughing. “Why doesn’t anyone believe me when I say that? Brett said yesterday that I apparently might have a slight tendency to get into trouble when I’m by myself.” The scowl faded into a reluctantly sheepish smirk. “Paraphrasing, of course.”
“Brett has a talent for understatement,” Severride scoffed, wiping tears from his eyes.
The past three years had been one thing after another for Casey, beginning with Dawson leaving, his apartment burning, and ending with his being shot at, the loss of Otis, and Brett’s engagement and her brief departure as well. Not to mention all of the other close calls and threats on his life over the years.
Despite all their ups and downs, Casey was probably the most steady and consistent person in Severride’s life, and it had taken him way too long to recognize that for the gift that it was. So yeah, he had been somewhat more protective of the idiot lately, but really, Brett was right – Casey needed someone to protect him from himself on occasion.
“That’s beside the point,” Casey retorted wryly. “The actual point is that I’m just looking today. Even if I find a new place, I’m still waiting for final payment from my insurance company, so it will still be another month or so. That doesn’t mean that you have to delay on asking Kidd to move back in with you, by the way—” His eyes narrowed suddenly as Severride tried to look innocent. “Unless you’re either already planning to or have done so…”
They stared at each other, waiting for the other man to break.
“Planning to ask her after my birthday.” Severride admitted.
“I knew it!” Casey chortled, his eyes sparkling with sudden mischief. Unable to go more than five minutes of serious conversation without taking a jab at his friend, he teased, “Amazing what being in a solid relationship has done for your maturity level. Keep this up and you might actually mature past 14.”
“Hey, better 14 than 94, old man.” Severride retorted. “And I’d say 24, rather than 14.” He smirked suggestively as the other man rolled his eyes. “Besides, we’re talking about you. House hunting with Brett?”
“She’s a friend and I trust her judgement.” Casey said, immediately back on the defensive.
He ignored the familiar warning tone. “Look, you know you’re welcome to stay as long as you need. But if you are determined to spread your wings and fly, butterfly, then I might have a lead on a place.”
“Did you just quote Mariah Carey lyrics at me?”
“Do you want to hear this or not?”
“Fine. Go on,” Casey snickered, sitting up. “Where is this apartment?”
“Next door, actually. Katherine Fielding.”
“The snickerdoodle lady?” Casey said in surprise. “But she loves it here, especially living across from you.”
Katherine Fielding was a spry 76-year-old black woman who had lived alone since her husband had died ten years ago, despite her daughter’s insistence that she move to Florida to be closer to her grand and great grandbabies.
Severride had struck up an immediate friendship with her when he had moved in, taking care of or enlisting Casey to help with any household issues or repairs. In return, she made sure that they always had food in their fridge, kept them supplied with the best snickerdoodles in the city, and bragged to anyone who would listen how she lived in ‘the hottest building in Chicago, with two young strapping firefighters across the hall from her’.
Severride rolled his eyes. “She loves living across from us, especially after you answered the door without your shirt.”
“But we got a triple batch of snickerdoodles. Extra cinnamon.”
“Not the point.”
Casey’s shit eating grin widened. Sometimes it was just too easy. “I would love to move into her place, but doesn’t she have a three bedroom? That’s more space than I need by myself.”
“So see if Brett will split it with you.” Severride shrugged.
“Did you not hear me when I said that she’s a friend?”
“Then there shouldn’t be a problem,” he countered smoothly. “Not like you both haven’t lived co-ed before, right? And if you’re just friends, then there’s no other issues.”
Casey opened his mouth, then shut it with a snap. Technically, he was right – at least about Brett. She had lived with Cruz and Otis for nearly two years without any major issues, and their three bedroom was only slightly larger than Severride’s current two bedroom.
Casey, on the other hand, had only lived with the women that he was actively involved with – Hallie, and later Dawson.
“Shay moved in with me before I’d known her for a week. You’ve known Brett for nearly six years.”
“Shay was a loud and proud lesbian, and I was also with Gabby for the entire time that Brett and I have known each other,” he retorted. “Besides, I’ve done that already, remember? We couldn’t keep things separated. It’s also the reason why Kidd moved out in the first place.”
They had moved way too fast, doing things all out of order, as Severride was suggesting that he do with Brett now. So no. Not that he didn’t appreciate the suggestion and the possible plethora of opportunities that spending time one on one with the woman that he was seriously interested in would provide, but he also didn’t want to rush this time.
He paused. On the other hand…
Gotcha. Severride hid his grin. “Brett is not Dawson, Casey, and it’s not like you two are dating. You just said that you’re just friends.” He pointed out logically. “Kidd and I lived together off and on for nearly a year before we actually got together, and she went on plenty of dates.”
“And yet somehow, here we are,” Casey muttered.
“Would that really be so bad? You and Brett?”
The other man shot him an incredulous glare, but there was no heat behind it, which meant that either he was seriously considering Severride’s suggestion, or he had already thought of it and was mostly using this conversation to talk himself out of or into actually doing it.
“Brett is incredibly sweet and is as opposite of Dawson on nearly every level as it is possible to get, which may be exactly what you need right now – as a friend or otherwise.” Severride continued bluntly after a moment. “That’s all I’m saying. Just don’t completely shut down the possibility…or the opportunity.”
Casey was silent for a moment. “Who the hell are you and what did you do with Kelly Severride?” He said wryly. “At this rate, next I’m going to actually be asking for exercise tips from Mouch.”
And just like that, they were back to normal, as if the entire conversation had never happened. His phone buzzed. “And that’s Brett, letting me know that she’s downstairs. I’ll see you later.”
Severride waved him away, already focused on the morning football game. He had said what he wanted to say, so his job was done. No matter which way the other man went, he would support it however he could.
Casey rolled his eyes and left, automatically heading for the stairs instead of the elevator out of habit. Stairs were always an inevitable necessity in his line of work, and the brief time descending from the fifth floor would give him a few minutes to think.
Was he really willing to ask Brett to move in with him – as friends, or otherwise? Now that the moment was there in front of him, he found that he was hesitating, though he really didn’t know why. She had always been in a weird grey area for him; peripherally aware of her beauty and sweetness; not quite an adopted younger sister, but still off limits as his wi—ex-wife’s best friend and partner. Even with the grey area starting to become a bit more defined lately as their relationship shifted to a more genuine friendship and trust, he still found himself questioning whether it would truly be worth it to blur the lines between them and put the friendship that he was coming to depend on at risk.
Physically, that answer was an unequivocal yes. She was stunning, with her cornflower blue eyes and curvy little body that made his palms itch to touch and caress. He knew she would be responsive, too; he had watched her soften towards him, had heard the breathy exhale that had left her lips the last time they had been close enough to touch. He had known then, down to his soul, that if he had leaned down and kissed her that everything would’ve changed.
But he hadn’t, and a few days later she was engaged to the chaplain, and he had lost a year of time. Just like with Dawson. She had made the first move and he had pulled away, so she had moved on – to Mills.
There was no Mills equivalent in this situation, but that wasn’t from lack of outside interest. Brett was gorgeous, and shined with an inner light and warmth that drew men to her like a moth to a flame.
In some ways, he mused as he hit the third floor landing, Brett reminded him of Hallie, although Hallie had always been more focused on her career than their relationship – as he had been, to a lesser extent. Still, she had also kept him grounded and steady, and had been his best friend long before they had started dating. Even during their ‘breaks’, they had remained friends, still depending on each other for the moments when the job got to be overwhelming.