A/N: Moooooore! Please ignore the parents if they're out of character. I don't really remember them well enough. .
Casey's phone jerked her awake. Walsh had pulled her closer at some point, hugging her against his sculpted form. Her head was tucked under his chin, and his breathing was even and steady. She was warm and comfy and still felt groggy, although that probably had more to do with their day of sleep and less of her actually being tired.
Still, she had no intention of moving. She let out a breath and closed her eyes.
And then her mother's voice drifted from the living room.
"Casey Shraeger, you answer your phone when I call, young lady. Your father and I are getting ready for the gala, and I won't tolerate you skipping again. You had better be there tonight."
The machine beeped—message over. But now Casey was wide awake.
"Shit," she whispered.
"Gala, huh?" Walsh muttered into her ear. His chest rumbled with the words, and his bandage rubbed her skin where her shirt had bunched. "Fancy."
"Not just a gala," she said, pulling away from him. He let her go, watched as she sat in bed and ran a hand through her hair. "My dad's gala. Shit, I completely forgot about it." She slid off the mattress and glanced at the clock. 1710. They'd stayed in bed all fucking day, and now she was running late.
"Shit," she said again, darting from the room.
He followed her into her bedroom, leaning on the doorframe as she tore her closet apart. He folded his arms and said, "So you'll be a bit late. What's the problem?"
"The company is unveiling new software tonight, and it's kind of a family appearance," she replied, grabbing a dress worth more than a month's paycheck. She studied it for a moment, squinted at the sequins, and shook her head. Too restricting. It went on the floor, and she dove back into her clothes.
Walsh frowned, "When's the unveiling?"
"1800 hours. Downtown."
Walsh grinned, "Too bad you don't know anyone with sirens on their car."
"You should have stayed at my place," she said, glaring at him from the passenger seat. Just last night he'd been white with pain while infection ravaged his body. Now he was swerving through Manhattan's streets like he'd never left the job.
In her car, she might add.
He didn't spare her a glance, "Your place is stuffy."
"Excuse me?" she gasped, highly offended. "I'll have you know it's—"
"Expensive? Professionally decorated? Picked by your mother and funded by your father, right?" he asked, sending her a wry look. She stared at him, shocked and a little hurt, and his expression softened. "It's not you, Casey."
She looked back at the road. She'd tried so damn hard to disconnect herself from that life. To forge her own way, make her path, never look back. But she couldn't change who she was, not really, and sometimes she didn't know which life was the façade.
"It's my home."
"No, it's not," he replied. "If it were, you wouldn't be at my place every time you have a day off."
She didn't speak to him again. He dropped her off in front of the building, and she made it to the gala with minutes to spare. Her mother watched her disapprovingly as she tugged at her dress and stumbled in her heels.
"You're late," she said curtly. "And your hair looks positively awful. What were you doing?"
"Work, Mother," Casey lied, gritting her teeth.
Her father approached and his smile faltered as he regarded her, "Casey. Glad you could make it. What a… lovely… dress."
She'd chosen a deep blue gown that flared at her hips and tapered off at the knee. It wasn't black tie, but it was the only dress she actually liked. Still, her father's forced words made her wish she'd gone with something fancier, mobility be damned.
She shifted her purse, and her mother gasped.
"Oh my God, Casey, did you bring your gun?"
Casey clenched her fists. Despite the blood ties and the blatant invitation, she didn't belong here, and it didn't take an idiot to figure that out. She drew an uneven breath and opened her mouth, and then someone put a hand on her shoulder.
"Mr. and Mrs. Shraeger," Walsh said with a nod. "Pleasure."
The reveal went smoothly, and Mr. Shraeger was promptly distracted with the shareholders' questions. Mrs. Shraeger smiled and nodded along with her husband, but Casey grabbed Walsh's arm and towed him off stage.
Once they were somewhat secluded, she hissed, "You were supposed to go back to your place! What the hell are you doing here?"
"Came to check up on you," he replied, folding his arms. He'd found a dress jacket somewhere, had changed into slacks and black shoes before she'd noticed. Staring at him, she realized he fit right in, blended in a way she never could.
She missed his jeans and tee.
"I didn't need to be checked on," she retorted. "In case you didn't notice, I'm kind of pissed at you right now."
Walsh smirked, "Only because you know I was right."
Casey considered punching him. Really, her hand was already in a fist.
"How did you get in? It's a private party."
"Police, remember?" he replied, rolling his eyes and lifting his jacket. His badge was clipped to his belt, looking damn official next to his Glock. She wasn't the only one to come armed. Somehow, that made her feel stupidly proud, but she rolled her eyes.
"Put that away before someone thinks you're arresting me."
"Want me to get my handcuffs too?" he asked, reaching under the back of his jacket. His grin was smug, taunting.
She grabbed his arm and shot him a glare and said, "You only stay if you behave. Now shut up and smile."
"So, you're a—"
"Detective, sir," Walsh said, all poise and professionalism.
Mrs. Shraeger peered over her husband's shoulder, "And you're here as added security? Honey, I didn't think we hired any detectives for this."
Walsh grinned. He was damn charming when he wanted to be, and Casey loathed him just a little for fitting in so well. "Actually, ma'am, tonight I'm off duty. I'm Casey's date."
"What?" her mother exclaimed.
Casey elbowed him and said, "He's joking. He does that sometimes. Thinks it's funny." She glared at her partner, wishing her look could kill. He winked at her. Arrogant bastard.
Luckily, her parents didn't seem to notice that, too busy exchanging glances with each other.
"What precinct?" Mr. Shraeger sounded suspicious, like Casey's "date" would rob them any minute. Walsh didn't rise to the bait.
"2nd, sir," he said. "Homicide."
Mr. Shraeger appraised him with narrowed his eyes, "Dangerous work."
"No worse than Vice," Walsh replied.
Casey tensed, but her father just forced another smile. "No, I suppose not."
Walsh found Casey by the hors d'oeuvres. She turned away when he approached, walking towards the high-rise balcony and fresh air. He followed silently, a mere shadow, and when she got outside, he leaned against the railing next to her.
"And you're a jackass."
Walsh was startled into a laugh, "Nothing new there, Shraeger."
She whirled on him, glaring so she didn't cry. "What the hell, bringing up Vice? What the hell, Jason? I've spent years trying to convince them that my job wasn't dangerous."
"Your job is dangerous," he replied, folding his arms. His words were sharp, undeniable, and Casey bristled.
"He could have me fired, you know. All he has to do is make a call, and Brown will tell me not to come back. Everything I've worked towards, everything, and you might have convinced him to take it all away."
"Maybe that's not such a bad thing," Walsh said.
"What?" Casey snapped.
He held her gaze with sharp, intelligent eyes. "You were shot a few months ago. You were nearly sliced open last week. I'm trying my damndest, Casey, but your parents have a right to know that one day, I might not be able to stop someone from killing you."
His words felt like a punch to the gut. She actually had to remind herself to breathe, to steady her voice and keep him ignorant of how much those words hurt. She met his gaze and said, "Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, I can take care of myself?"
"History hasn't proved it," Walsh replied.
Casey slapped him.
Then she left, storming away so he wouldn't see her tears.
She spent the next two days alone, waiting. Waiting for Brown to call and fire her. Waiting for her parents call and say it was just for her own good. Waiting for Walsh to call and apologize, or to laugh and tell her, "It's been fun."
No one called. She waited for two days, and the phone never rang.
Casey worked out. She sorted the mail and paid the bills. She watched TV. She finished Walsh's cookies and made his bed and put his stuff in a plastic bag by the door. And finally, two days later, she looked at the classy furniture and the expensive paintings and the million dollar view and realized Walsh was right about one thing.
She definitely didn't feel at home in her own apartment.
The diner was open, one of the few times ever, and a bell jangled when she stepped inside. She waited only a moment before Walsh ambled around the corner. He was wearing jeans and a loose tee, but he moved stiffly, gripped his side as he stopped.
She held his gaze, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he replied, rolling his eyes. "Good to see you again," he added dryly.
"Walsh," she said, catching his arm and spinning him around before he could stalk towards his bedroom. "Answer me. Don't lie. You owe me that, at least."
He regarded her. Finally, he walked behind the counter and pulled open the fridge, retrieving two beers. "Infection came back. And before you call that damn doctor, don't. I already went to Urgent Care."
Casey felt cold, queasy. She'd left Walsh at the gala. He'd seemed fine, but honestly, she didn't stop to check, furious as she was. And this whole time he'd been sitting here alone, hurting, sick, and she'd just left him like that.
She numbly took a seat and said, "Should you be drinking alcohol?"
"It helps," he replied simply.
Casey sunk lower into her seat and stared at the beer bottle he slid before her. "I'm sorry," she said finally, breaking the silence. She wasn't sure for what, exactly—she'd done so many things she regretted lately.
"Not your fault," he said. Lied. She felt him watching her, and she glanced towards the front window instead. There, sitting on display, was his milk-drinking trophy. Her trophy. Guilt stabbed her, and suddenly she was crying.
It was the job. Not the stress of it, but the stress of losing it. She'd made a family for herself, and they didn't care what dress she wore or whether she carried concealed. They worked with her, called her, relied on her.
She'd never had anyone relying on her. Growing up, everything had been provided and everything else could be attained. No one needed her then. No one needed her now, not in that world of expensive cars and fake personalities.
But the NYPD was different. Her precinct was different. Her partner was different.
Walsh trusted her. She had his back and he had hers, and their symbiotic relationship was tried and true. No matter how her mother looked at her or how her father shook his head, Walsh relied on her.
Except now, after failing him completely, she wasn't so sure.
So she cried.
And he rubbed her back and whispered against her hair until she fell silent.
He scrambled some eggs and let her stir the pancake batter, and even though it was nearing sunset, they had a breakfast feast. Walsh didn't eat much, washed everything down with beer, and popped a few pills at the end. Casey kept her eyes glued to her plate.
When he stood to clean the dishes, she took them from him and said, "No, sit down." When he didn't, she glared until he did. It felt good to keep her hands busy, and she scrubbed until the diner sparkled.
Walsh flipped the sign to "closed"—not that they had people breaking down the door for his food anyway. Then he watched her. She felt his gaze on the back of her head, and she hummed to convince him she was fine.
It didn't work. He finally said, "Did you come over for a reason?"
"I brought your stuff," she replied uselessly. He'd seen the bag, seen her drop it by the door. That wasn't the answer he wanted. He waited, drumming his fingers on the counter. She washed out the dishrag. "Wanted to check up too, I guess. Make sure you haven't died."
The moment she said it, she cringed. He'd been in the hospital having surgery a week ago. A few nights ago, he'd been shivering in her living room. Today, he was mixing meds with alcohol to numb the pain. He wasn't okay, and he had almost died.
And that was her fault.
"Well, I'm still here," he said, a hint of humor in his voice. Trying to lighten the situation.
Her hands trembled anyway.
She rewrapped his bandages. His wound did seem to be healing; it wasn't an angry red, but a bright pink, the stitches starting to fall out. His infection must have flared right after the gala, and she was sure that damn party was at fault. He should have just gone home to rest.
That was her fault too. She stayed silent, cleaning the wound and patching it up again. He watched her the whole time, gaze calculating. He'd tried to start a few conversations, but she didn't respond, and eventually, he stopped trying.
She kept hearing their words at the gala.
I can take care of myself.
History hasn't proved it.
He didn't trust her to cover him anymore. Didn't trust her to cover herself. And because of it, accidents like this happened. Maybe he would be better off without her. He could have a new partner easily, someone more competent and less petty.
But was she strong enough to walk out of his life?
Maybe she'd have to be.
Normally, they'd sit at the diner and talk. He'd brew coffee, she'd get the mugs, and they'd discuss office gossip and childhood pets and the latest idiot criminal. She'd laugh, he'd smirk, and when even the coffee couldn't keep her eyes open, she'd crash on his bed.
Today, she headed for the door.
She couldn't sleep, so she actually heard when someone started picking the lock on her front door. Casey slipped out of bed and grabbed her gun and drew a breath to slow her racing heart. She edged behind the kitchen counter and thought, wrong night, buddy.
Then Walsh swung open the door, and she flicked on the safety as he flipped on the lights. She holstered the weapon and said, "What the hell are you doing here? It's past midnight, Jason!"
"I'm aware," he replied, closing the door behind him. He slid a lock pick into its leather case and tucked the whole thing into his back pocket. "Why are you up?"
"Because someone just broke into my apartment," she said angrily.
"Left my key at home," he replied. He was trying to be funny, but his tone didn't match the sarcastic words. He stared hard at her and said, "What's going on with you, Shraeger?"
"Nothing," she echoed his favorite phrase, keeping the kitchen island between them. He narrowed his eyes, and she pushed her hair behind an ear. "Look, I get it, okay? I'm not good enough, so I'll leave. Vice still wants me back, and they—"
"Vice? What the hell does Vice have to do with anything?" Walsh exclaimed, strolling to the island. He looked annoyed. "Vice put you on the street as a fucking hooker, Casey. They don't deserve you back."
Her resolve faltered. She didn't want to leave Homicide. She didn't like the dead bodies, but she loved the people. She loved Walsh. Life without him seemed awful, a prospect she cringed to consider.
"You—you don't think I'm good enough," she repeated, brows furrowing.
For a moment, he just stared at her, fixed like she was a puzzle he couldn't solve, a case he couldn't crack. Then realization spread across his features.
And he started to laugh.
Casey drained half a water bottle before he stopped. He was gripping his side, eyes tight with pain even as a grin split his lips. Finally, as she fiddled with the cap and glared furiously at him, he gasped, "Shraeger, you got that from the fucking gala?"
"You got hurt, Walsh. You've done it before too, taken a hit meant for me. Another partner could watch your back. It makes sense," but she trailed off at the look on his face. He seemed astounded, amazed at her train of thought.
"I don't want to break in a new partner," he replied. "Jesus, I just got done with the old one."
"Don't lie to me."
"I'm not. Shit, Casey, there's a reason I was a jackass at your party. Last week scared the hell out of me, and not because of internal bleeding or an infection. I was pissed because you ran off without me, and I almost didn't catch up in time."
Casey stared at him, utterly confused.
He stalked around the island, narrowing his eyes at her, "I trust you. But you're trying so damn hard to prove that you're your own person that you don't think. You see a kid with a gun and you run towards him."
He stepped closer. Her cheeks were warm with anger, her body warm with anticipation. She looked up at him, red hair falling over her shoulders, and he reached for her.
"You wait for backup. You wait for me, Shraeger, and next time we can avoid this."
They sat on the couch in a different kind of silence. Casey was pressed against his chest, drifting off on his lap, and he played with a strand of her hair. They watched the muted TV, and his chest vibrated when he chuckled at the inaccuracies of the police drama.
During the commercial, she looked past the TV. Her eyes drifted to an impressive statue, some white marble piece. It was supposed to be beautiful and tasteful, but she just thought it seemed cold. But then again, so were the hardwood floors, the granite countertops, the hand-carved furniture. The whole place was impersonal.
The only thing she'd picked for the apartment was a dartboard.
Her mother had promptly hid it in her bedroom.
Walsh tugged her hair and she looked up at him. He raised an eyebrow. She considered him, then said, "Want to go apartment hunting with me tomorrow?"
"We have to go back to work tomorrow," he replied, even though it was technically already tomorrow.
She shrugged, "I have some vacation days, and I think you're still recovering."
"And the best way to finish recovering is to scour the city for an apartment?"
She felt guilty again. She looked away, back at the TV, tucking her hair over her shoulder. "Right. Never mind. I'll go alone."
"Not the point, Casey," he rolled his eyes. "I'm just saying that getting a new place seems idiotic when you're practically living with me already. I'm just waiting for you to commit."
Casey pulled away from him, squinted to see if he was serious, if he knew what he'd just implied. He didn't flinch. Behind him, she could see an original Monet decorating the wall. She hated Monet.
"Fine, I'll commit. But don't think this means we're a couple."
"Course not. Just sex buddies, right?" he replied.
Casey rolled her eyes and cuffed his head.
"Partners, Walsh. Partners."
A/N: I was so tempted to have some kind of hold-up at the gala, but I decided to go for the emotional action instead. Lame, I know. .
Thank you guys for your comments and support! I really love writing for this fandom, even if I didn't really enjoy the show. Keep an eye out, because I'm sure this won't be the last fic I write here. :)