Casey walked into the firehouse the next morning with the twins. It was early and they were tired. He couldn't blame them for not wanting to be there all day but he needed to know they were okay and they weren't doing something they weren't supposed to. They used to love coming to work with him when they were younger, but everything was more exciting when you were young.
Casey went to drop his stuff off in the locker room and the twins rounded the corner of the kitchen and walked into a room full of overly cheery firefighters. Grace immediately perked up when she saw Mills behind the counter cooking breakfast but Jake wasn't overly enthused. He was still sore from the accident and he just wanted to spend the last few days of summer vacation sleeping.
"Hey guys," Severide gave Grace a one armed hug before reaching over and squeezing Jake's shoulder. He could tell Jake wasn't happy and had an attitude. "How you doing slugger?"
Jake shrugged. "I'd be a whole lot better if I got to stay home."
"Jake," Casey warned as he walked into the room.
"It's not that bad here," he grinned before turning to Grace. "And you, I heard you said I was old."
Grace couldn't help the smile that spread across her face. "Well, if the shoe fits."
"Oh you think you're funny," Severide smirked before lunging at her and throwing her over his shoulder with ease. "Not so old now, am I?"
"Now you're just a bully!" She shrieked with laughter. "Put me down Kelly!"
"No way, I'm going to carry you around all day to prove how young and fit I am."
"Uncle Matt help!" She yelled.
Casey just laughed at her. "You got yourself in this mess sweetheart."
Grace shifted, trying to wiggle free of his hold when she hit her ribs on his shoulder and gasped. "No seriously Kelly, put me down."
He noticed her change of tone and quickly put her down. "You okay?" he asked with concern as she clutched her side.
"Yeah," she smiled through the dwindling pain. "Sore spot."
Casey was immediately by her side. "Are you sure?" He turned to Dawson. "Will you look at her?"
"I'm fine, Uncle Matt." Grace shook her head.
"Just let her look, for me okay?" he pleaded and Grace nodded.
"Come on," Dawson said and led her down the hall to the bathroom. Grace lifted his shirt and Dawson was a little surprised to see the amount of bruising that wrapped around her side. "How bad did that hurt?"
Grace shrugged. "It only hurt for a few seconds."
"This bruising," She paused, noting the colouring as she realized it was on the other side. "Is this from the accident?"
"What?" Grace frowned. "Of course."
"All of it?"
Grace hesitated as she looked at Dawson. "You can't tell Matt. He'll go crazy."
"Grace, what is this from?"
"It was an accident." She shook his head. "He was drunk and he didn't mean to push me that hard."
"Who pushed you?"
"My Dad," She mumbled.
"What did he push you into?"
"The counter in the kitchen. I was trying to get him to leave." Grace sighed. "You can't tell Matt."
"Grace, he should know."
"Gabby, please." Grace begged.
Dawson sighed and nodded. "Okay, but you need to let me know if it gets worse."
Grace nodded and they made their way back into kitchen for breakfast. Everyone was already seated and Grace was momentarily conflicted between the open seat beside Casey and the one beside Mills. Her hesitation went unnoticed as she slipped into the seat between Severide and Casey.
"You okay?" Casey asked as he put an arm over the back of her chair.
"Yes, I'm just fine, like I told you." She smiled.
He looked over to Dawson for confirmation and she nodded. Casey seemed to accept that answer but a red flag went up when he noticed an exchange between Dawson and Grace and then Grace and Jake. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was going on but he didn't have time to question it as a call came through.
"You two stay here," Casey said firmly, looking at each twin.
The twins nodded and continued to eat as everyone around them got up and rushed out the door. The Chief was coming out of his office and noticed the two sitting at the table. He paused for a moment in the doorway before speaking up. "What are you two doing?"
"Matt told us to stay here." Jake sighed.
"I don't think he'll have a problem if you ride with me," he nodded. "Come on."
Grace grinned at Jake and they got up to follow the Chief. "If he gets mad, it's on you."
Chief Boden smiled down at Grace. "I think I can handle him."
They climbed into the back of the vehicle and followed the trucks up to the apartment building on fire. It was only about five floors but it was burning pretty good and there were people trapped inside. They climbed out of the vehicle and Boden went to the scene, telling the twins to stay at the car. They leaned against it and watched everything.
Jake found it fascinating. Matt had told him many stories and shown him everything at the firehouse but it was nothing like watching it in person. He found it exciting and he was overwhelmed with this feeling of wanting to help. Grace found it nerve wracking. She didn't like watching Casey run into burning buildings, even if he was saving people. The thought of losing him made her scared each time he disappeared inside.
It took a lot longer than they expected but they both patiently waited by the car like they were told. Casey eventually made his way over with Severide and the Chief after the flames were under control and everyone was safe. Engine took over with the hoses and truck and squad's job was done.
"Chief Boden said we could watch." Jake blurted out. "It was awesome."
"Looks like we might have another Casey fighting fires soon." Severide said. "Hopefully this one has enough sense to join squad."
Casey smirked. "We'll see about that." He eyed Grace who was still leaning against the SUV with her arms wrapped around herself. "Grace, what'd you think?"
"It scared her." Jake answered for her. "But I thought it was so cool!"
"Fires are serious business Jake, it's not a game." Chief Boden explained. "You think it's all excitement and glory of saving people but it's hard work and you see a lot of stuff you can never erase. You want in on this job, you need to understand that."
"Yes sir," Jake said as Casey messed up his hair before throwing an arm around Grace.
"I'm okay," he clarified, knowing what she was thinking. "It's my job."
"I know." She smiled weakly. "It's just hard to watch you."
He squeezed her shoulder. "Let's get back to the firehouse."
"Hey Jake," Severide called. "Want to ride with squad?"
Jake turned to Casey, silently begging. "Go ahead," he grinned and watched Jake follow Severide like an excited puppy. "You want to come with me?"
"Sure," she smiled and followed him to the truck. He lifted her up and, to her delight, Mills helped her inside and get seated beside him. Casey tried to hide his smile as he watched her; it was good to see her smiling again.
"Grace has a crush on Mills, huh?" Herrmann said when Casey turned around.
"Oh yeah," Casey laughed. "Don't let her hear you talking about it though."
"I've got daughters of my own," he grinned. "I wouldn't dream of it."
Casey climbed in to hear Mills explaining some things to Grace. "Cruz drives and then Casey sits up front because he's the Lt. and the rest of us are back here."
"That hardly seems fair," She said. "Hey Uncle Matt, why do you always ride shotgun?"
"Because he's the boss," Cruz yelled, sharing a grin with Casey.
The ride back to the firehouse was anything but silent. It wasn't a long drive but Grace wished it would have been a bit longer so she could continue talking to Mills. He helped her out of the truck and they all went to the locker room to change. Grace and Jake followed Dawson and Shay back to the kitchen to wait for everyone else.
"How's your brother doing?" Casey asked Cruz when they were putting their gear away.
"He's really changed his life around," Cruz smiled. "I'm proud of him."
"That's good to hear." Casey nodded.
"Yeah, but raising a teenager isn't easy. I've found new respect for my parents." Cruz said with a laugh. "And I only have one to deal with."
"I figure I can handle Jake, it's Grace I'm worried about." Casey admitted. "There's going to be things I just can't help her with or talk to her about. That scares the hell out of me."
"Every father feels that way," Herrmann said. "It's nothing new."
"But there's no mother to balance it out."
"You'll figure it out," Herrmann reassured. "You've been around those kids their whole lives and you're more of a father to them than anyone."
Casey nodded and made his way back to the kitchen. Grace was sitting on the counter watching and helping Mills cook. Casey smiled to himself remembering how she used to do that when she was younger. Jake was sitting on the couch with a less than amused look on his face watching the t.v.
"Hey," Casey stood beside him. "Come with me."
Jake sighed but followed his uncle down the hall and into his office. Casey closed the door behind them and turned to Jake. "What's going on?"
Casey shook his head. "Jake, I know something is bothering you."
"I don't have to tell you every detail of my life." He said angrily. "You're not my Dad."
"No, I'm not." Casey said calmly. "But I am your uncle and your guardian. It's my responsibility to take care of you so if something is wrong and I can help – "
"You can't help."
"I don't want to talk about it." Jake crossed his arms.
Casey crossed his arms as well. "Well tough, we aren't going anywhere until you start talking. You've got one hell of an attitude today and I want to know why."
Jake took a step towards the door but Casey blocked him and raised his eyebrows. "Do you seriously think you can go through me? Or that I'll just let you walk away when there's something clearly upsetting you?"
Jake glared at him and sat down on the bed. "I can't play football."
Casey frowned as he pulled the desk chair out and sat down. "Because of your shoulder?"
Jake nodded. "When you met with the principal yesterday I ran into the football coach. He said I couldn't even try out. I was an all-state running back last year."
"Jake you're fifteen, you can play next year."
"I can't miss a year. I'll drop off the college scout lists. I'm not smart like Grace; I need football to get into college. My parents are alcoholics and drug addicts, there is no money, so we need scholarships."
"You don't have to worry about college money, if you want to go, I'll figure it out."
Jake stared at Casey blankly. "It's a lot of money."
"I know that." Casey grinned. "But education is important and you two are worth it."
"Thanks," he said softly. He wasn't used to having an adult in his life that cared so much. "I still want to play football though."
"And you will," Casey nodded. "Just maybe not this year."
"What if they say I can't play anymore?" Jake asked with a worried expression.
"Don't get ahead of yourself." Casey said. "It will take some time and you will have to do physiotherapy but your shoulder will be back to normal in a few months."
"And if it's not?"
"Then we'll deal with it as a family."
A/N: If you're reading this, let me know what you thought of the chapter and the story so far.
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