Author's note: I'm sorry I haven't updated in a while, I hit some kind of writer's block :3 But I hope I'm over it now ... xD Enjoy 3

"I want us to be more than friends."

It was almost surprising how such a simple sentence could evoke so many emotions in Dawson. Her eyes were fixated on Casey's, because there was once again this incredible tension between them that made it impossible to look away. She didn't know where it came from, it hadn't always been like this. Years ago, their friendship had been innocent, but that innocence had faded away at some point. Feelings had changed and while they had both wittingly or unwittingly fought it at first, it had always been clear that eventually, there would be a turning point. They had reached that point the second their lips interlocked at New Year's Eve and they'd both known that whether or not they wanted to accept it, the year wasn't the only thing that was new. In fact, the year had only changed its last number, 2012 had turned into 2013, while their relationship had changed so much more.

There was no going back to the exact friendship they'd had before. Sure, they could pretend that nothing ever happened between them, they could silently die down any chemistry that dared to show up, act as if there was no attraction between them whatsoever, but in the end it wasn't that simple. Even if they went back to being just friends, that kind of friendship would never be the same. It didn't necessarily have to be worse, but it would be different.

"Dawson?" He looked at her, a hint of nervousness and insecurity in his eyes. She hadn't said anything in response to his words and he was beginning to get a little uncomfortable. Maybe she didn't want this. Maybe he had interpreted it all wrong, maybe she didn't want to risk taking the next step in their relationship. If you thought about it, there was a lot to lose. On the other hand, there was also so much to gain.

They weren't aware of how similar their thoughts and fears were at that very moment, but they both knew that these doubts and worries were very real. A lot could go wrong and if it did, it would be even harder to go back to what they had been before. But Dawson also knew that she couldn't 'play safe' here. She was attracted to Matthew Casey and she'd waited long enough to know that it wasn't going away. It just seemed to keep growing stronger. She wasn't the kind of person that was good at trying to smother her own feelings. It didn't work like that. She was impulsive and she always took risks. Sometimes, it got her in the worst situations, but she couldn't help it. And while the rational part of her brain was afraid that their relationship would result in a complete, mind-blowing chaos, the emotional part believed that it could be the best thing in her life.

"I want the same," she quietly said, searching his eyes. Her lips curved into a smile when his did and she closed the small distance between them again, wrapping her arms tighter around him. Casey held her close and buried his neck in her shoulder as everything began to settle in. The step they had taken was a huge one and while both of them had silent doubts about whether this was the right thing and the right time, they were also looking forward to what it meant. And that outweighed any doubts by far.

"Do you want to come over to my place for a cup of coffee?" Dawson asked with a small smile on her face, finally ending the tight embrace. She wanted to be with him a little longer, maybe talk with him about his mother and what had happened. He'd just told her that she'd been in prison for 15 years and there was no doubt that it was something huge. Dawson could sense that whatever she'd done put a strain on Casey and even if she knew she couldn't make the past undone, she still wanted to help him get through it. Listening to him if he decided to open up to her was the first step. Whatever there was in his past, she'd be right by his side whenever he needed her.

"Yeah." He smiled back at her, glad that she'd asked. Just like her, he felt the same need to be with her after shift. It was hard to stay away from a woman who radiated so much positive energy and strength.

Casey waited until she stuffed her things into her locker, then they headed outside into the cool evening air. "I'll see you in ten minutes."

He nodded at her words and watched her as she turned her back on him and walked away to her car. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and for a brief moment remained right where he was, the small smile from before never fading from his face. Then, he turned around, heading to his own car.

She felt his breath behind her as she poured the coffee into two cups. A second later, he gently put his head on her shoulder from behind, watching the dark, hot beverage filling up the cups. A smile appeared on her face and as soon as she was done, she tilted her head against his, taking in the scent of his perfume that she loved so much. "You almost made me spill," she said, her voice brimming with fake reproach. Instead of pulling back, he buried his chin deeper in her shoulder and smiled. "I'm sorry." There was clearly not a single hint of regret in his voice. Dawson turned around and faced him. "Do you want to sit at the table or couch?"

"Uh, table is fine."

It didn't matter to him where they sat and neither did it to Dawson. She carried the coffee cups over to the wooden table and sat down while Casey took place opposite her. As he took a sip of the hot beverage, her gaze shifted through the room and over to the window he'd put in for her. It had been only about three weeks ago, but it felt like so much more time had passed since then. It was funny how time often managed to play tricks on you, sometimes she felt as if she'd been friends with Casey her whole life.

He noticed where her eyes went and followed them. Seeing the window immediately reminded him about their almost – kiss back then. It was one of the first times he'd seen Dawson in a completely different light than before. If it wasn't for that phone call from Severide, he would have kissed her right then. Maybe things between them would have changed sooner or maybe they wouldn't have. In the end, it was probably good that nothing happened yet. He needed to get time between this and his break-up with Hallie. Eight years of history didn't just vanish in the matter of days and it wouldn't have been fair to Dawson to make her feel like the rebound. She deserved so much more.

There was a small, awkward silence between the two of them and the longer it lasted, the harder it seemed to be to break. Dawson took a few sips of her coffee, then her eyes came to rest on Casey again. He seemed to be lost in thought and she was unsure if she should say something and pull him out of it or remain quiet. She studied his face for a while and suddenly he seemed to snap out of wherever his mind had taken him and focused on her again.

"So, uhm," she quickly said, eager to break the silence, "About your mother … are you okay?" Her fingers wrapped around her cup as she looked up at him, knowing that he would let her know if he didn't want to talk about it. She wasn't going to urge him if he wasn't ready to share his story with her.

"Yeah, I'm fine..." The smile slowly faded from his face and he fell silent again. Dawson took it as a hint not to keep poking around in his past, but just as she was thinking about another topic to talk about, he sighed and spoke up. "She shot my father when I was in high school." There was a pause in which Casey searched Dawson's eyes, noticing the tiny hints of shock in them. She was good at hiding her surprise though. "They weren't living together anymore, but … he still came by a lot to pester her." He paused, looking to the side. "I think … I'm finally ready to forgive her." It was as much a statement as it was a question. His sister didn't agree with him on that. Sometimes he found himself wondering if it was fair to his father to forgive her. On the other hand, his mother had been a very forgiving woman. She'd made one big mistake. Wasn't it his turn to be forgiving now, after all this time? Or was murder too severe of a crime to ever forgive?

He looked at Dawson and she knew without having to ask, that he needed to know her opinion on it. He'd desperately sought her opinion on the Voight case and right now, he needed her to tell him what she thought was right.

Dawson put her cup down and averted her eyes for a moment, thinking about it. His gaze remained on her, studying her closely as he waited almost desperately to hear what she had to say on this matter. "I don't know your mother, " her eyes met his as she began to speak calmly, " but I think that everyone deserves a second chance."

Casey quietly looked into her eyes, saying nothing. Then, he leaned back in his chair, nodding slowly. There had been no one to talk to about this. His sister shut him out of her life a long time ago and he didn't let any of his coworkers in on his past. Sharing this bit of his family story that he wasn't proud of with Dawson was more of a relief than he could have imagined. It felt like the weight on his shoulders was being reduced to a much more bearable amount.

"The reason this has been on my mind lately is because her parole hearing is in a week," he said, "And my sister will probably speak against her, like she has in the past years." A small sigh escaped his lips. His older sister shared a different opinion, she wasn't ready to forgive their mother for what she'd done and it had slowly destroyed their relationship. He barely saw his niece anymore. Their past stood between them like an iron wall, the sister he'd once been so close to, one of the few people he had always been able to count on was out of his reach.

Dawson leaned forward, the expression on her face was filled with sympathy and understanding. She understood how hard the situation must be for him. He looked almost lost now, the shadow of his past hovering above him. It wasn't like he usually was, at the firehouse. When on shift, nothing of this had showed. No one would have expected that he was dealing with stuff like this. A broken family.

She reached out and put her hand on his, tracing her fingers over the back of it and squeezing it gently. "I'm here for you, " she said quietly and he knew that she meant it. He knew the kind of person she was, always fighting for everyone's happiness, always striving to do the right thing. In all the time they had been friends she'd never let him down, not once. He knew how lucky he was to have her by his side.