Title: Just Building Houses In The Trees
Author: The Artful Dodger / dodger_sister
Fandom: Chicago Fire
Category: Angst, Episode Coda (‘A Coffin That Small’)
Characters/Pairing: Kelly/Matt, Heather Darden & a wee bit of Shay.
Warnings: Mild language.
Spoilers: The Pilot, Fireworks & A Coffin That Small.
Summary: Kelly never hears anything the first time around but maybe this time he’ll actually listen.
Word Count: 2,259 words.
Date Written: 03/28/2013
Disclaimer: Chicago Fire does not belong to me. I did write this story but it makes me no money, cuz it’s just for the love of my show.
Feedback: Bring it. dodger_sister / TheArtofDodger@comcast.net
Author's Notes: I saw the preview for episode 1.19, ‘A Coffin That Small’, and thought for sure some angry up-against-a-wall “I loved you, you left me,” fic was going to come out of it once the episode aired. But, when I actually did watch 1.19, I suddenly felt the urge for something a little different. I was convinced, even as I was writing it, that I could squeeze some sex in there, but alas, Casey & Severide had other ideas. I don’t even know, maybe I am more into their obvious angst over their obvious breakup than I thought? Don’t tell me it’s not real! Anyways, I actually really liked how this fic ended, after everything.
Kelly couldn’t let it go.
He couldn’t ever let anything go, really. It had led to more fights with Matt during the time they’d been together than anything else. Making up had always been fun though, if nothing else.
There would be no making up anymore, but Kelly still couldn’t seem to let it go.
Matt was at his locker, throwing some odds and ends into his bag at the end of the shift, when he came around the corner. Something in him immediately flared up and he felt that rush of anger rush through his body like a waterfall, a roaring push over the edge.
Matt didn’t even look over at him.
“So this is how it’s going to be?” Kelly asked, the itch under his skin growing.
“I told you, we are done talking about this,” Matt said, head still bent down and away.
Kelly just snorted through his nose. “After everything Andy did for us,” he said and Matt’s head whipped up, eyes blazing at him with a clear signal to shut his mouth.
Kelly never did know when to stop.
“And I don’t mean this firehouse either,” he spit out.
“I know what you mean,” Matt told him through a tight jaw.
“He kept our secret,” Kelly pushed on. “He brought us back from our own stupidity so many times, and you spit on all of that, on his support of our relationship,” and the word was like fire on his tongue, “by sleeping with his wife.”
Matt slammed his locker shut. “You and I, we’re over, Kelly. So who I sleep with is none of your damn business.”
Kelly’s palm slapped against the locker next to him, the sound echoing out and around them. “I’m making it my business,” he growled, low in his throat.
Matt just pushed past him. “You have fun with that then. I’m going home.”
Kelly turned on him just as Matt’s phone rang out. He pulled it from his pocket and glanced down at the screen.
Matt’s face said everything Kelly needed to know about who was on the other end.
Kelly was mixing up the stir fry - and giving Shay judgmental glances about the bowl of ice cream she was scarfing down when he was clearly making her a much healthier meal if she could just wait two fucking minutes for it to be done - when there was a knock on the door.
“You gonna get that?” he asked her and she just smiled around the spoon in her mouth.
“Am eating ice cream,” she said, as if that were the only explanation he needed.
Kelly sighed out and pointed at the stove. “Watch that,” he said and made his way to the door.
He slid it open to see Heather Darden standing on the other side, looking like she was about to bolt.
“Uh, hi,” he managed and then stood there staring stupidly.
“Can I come in?” she asked and Kelly actually had to shake himself, the weight pressing down on him clearing off only momentarily.
“Yeah, yeah, come on in,” he said and stepped aside, gestured for her to enter.
“Hey, Heather,” Shay said and came across the room, one arm extended for a hug, the other still clutching her ice cream.
“Shay,” Heather said and leaned into her for a brief moment.
“Okay then,” and Shay was looking from Kelly to Heather and back again. “I’m just gonna take this upstairs,” and she clutched the ice cream bowl to her chest and turned away, bounding up the steps two at a time.
“Traitor,” Kelly mumbled at her retreating back and then turned to Heather. “I was just making dinner. Would you like to eat or...” and he trailed off, unable to think of a second option, or really any option that explained why she was standing in his apartment.
“I can’t stay that long,” Heather said. “The neighbor girl is watching the kids for me for a quick second, but I have to get back.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Kelly told her. “So, uh...”
“Can we sit?” she asked and gestured to the couch.
He nodded. “Sure, yeah, just let me turn off the stove.”
He moved towards the kitchen, tried to stop the shallow breaths that were gripping his chest. He’d been wanting this moment, a real conversation between them, for so long now and yet he couldn’t think straight, couldn’t make his words come, make his hands stop clenching against his side. Kelly turned the stove off and went to the couch, sat awkwardly at the opposite end from Heather and tried to make himself look her in the eyes.
She waited a second, a minute, an agonizing amount of time for him, before she started speaking.
“Look, I know, on some logical level, that me blaming you for what happened with Andy is ridiculous.”
“You don’t have to…” Kelly told her and held up a hand.
“Yes, I do,” she said. “I needed someone to be mad at and you, Severide, you’re such a heated mess all the time, it was just so easy to put it on you. I couldn’t be mad at Andy, not in death, and just...it’s not fair but that’s the way it is, was.”
“Okay,” Kelly told her and looked down at his hands, curled together in his lap, knuckles white against the push.
“I was falling apart and frankly, I get first grieving rights, I am the widow,” and she reached out, took Kelly’s hands in her own, uncurled his fists and laid her own fingers over his. “But I know I am not the only one who was losing it over Andy. I know you and Matt, you didn’t come through this intact.”
Kelly shook his head, tried to swallow around the hard rock that was forming in his throat.
“I am so sorry this ended you,” she said softly and Kelly finally managed to meet her eyes.
“What do you mean?” he asked and his voice sounded raw and burned.
“Oh honey, I was Andy’s wife. Did you really think I didn’t know?”
It felt like someone had punched him in the chest, the air forced back, down inside his body where it settled. He couldn’t breathe, everything felt small and far away.
“It’s okay, Kelly,” she said and brought a hand up to his face, thumb tracing over his cheekbones. “Andy always kept your secret and so did I. It wasn’t that big of a shock, you know.”
Kelly nodded, pushed the air back out of his lungs in one go. Heather’s hand came back down and settled on his knee.
“I know Andy had a lot to do with you two idiots making it through as many things as you did,” and her smile was soft and sad. “I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that his death would break you apart.”
Kelly coughed, trying to clear his throat as much as his racing mind, and rubbed a hand across the back of his neck.
“We always had this running joke, Andy and I,” Heather told him, “about how you and Matt and he were in this bizarre threesome only he always came home to me at the end of the day.”
Kelly smiled, one corner of his mouth turned upwards. “He wasn’t welcome to come home with me and Matt,” he said, something laced in there that felt like nostalgia.
“I would think not,” she said and there was a hint of laughter in her voice.
Kelly let out a deep breath and met her eyes. “I want you to be happy, I really do but, Heather, this thing with Matt, this is too much. It’s feels like such a disservice; from Matt, from you. I’m sorry, I don’t...”
“You’re an idiot.”
“What?” and he pulled back, eyes squinted at her in confusion.
“Kelly, seriously, this is why ‘dumbass’ was my husband’s favorite word for you. Yes, I was vaguely interested in Matt. I don’t know if I’m ready to get back out there, but someone like Matt, safe and comfortable, seemed like a good place to start.”
Kelly tried to reign it in, the jealousy that always threatened to overtake him.
“But he wouldn’t have it. After everything Andy meant to him, to the two of you, Matt still holds onto that. And that’s good. Because it turns out what I really needed was a friend. I mean, in Matt. I could also maybe use a date, like a trial and run thing, but that’s not the point,” she said, the last bit rushed out of her like a confession.
“You seriously aren’t sleeping with him?” Kelly asked.
“No,” she said and then, “But he told you that the first time and you wouldn’t listen to him. Being a hothead, as per usual,” but it didn’t come out accusatory and something in Kelly deflated a little.
“He send you over here to fix this?”
Heather laughed, a little bubble pushing out of her. “Not even a chance. He’ll probably be pissed when he finds out, but dammit, this is what I do now. Pick up the slack where my husband used to be.”
Kelly shook his head. “The way you tell it, Matt and I wouldn’t have lasted a day without Andy watching out for us.”
“My husband always did have a bit of an ego,” she said with a smile.
“So, I’m an ass,” Kelly admitted. “Now what?”
“That,” Heather said and pulled him towards her, pressed her lips to his forehead, “is up to you.”
Matt was in his backyard, a small space but still big enough for him to spread out whatever project he was working on, when Kelly came around the corner.
He hadn’t even bothered with the front door, knowing full well that Matt would be laboring away on one project or another, like he always did after they’d had a fight.
Kelly undid the latch on the gate and let himself in. Matt was crouched down over various pieces of wood, some instruction booklet spread out on the ground and a screwdriver wedged between his lips.
“What are you doing?” Kelly asked and Matt looked up, the screwdriver falling from his mouth.
“Trying to build Griffin and Ben a treehouse,” and Matt scowled down at the boards by his feet. “Thought I’d get the small pieces put together and then take it over to the house and finish it there.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Kelly told him.
“Would be,” Matt said in a huff, “if I could get the fucking pieces to stay together long enough to attach them,” and he kicked at the boards, bits of dirt flying up around him.
“Alright, calm down,” Kelly said with a chuckle. “Don’t take it out on the treehouse,” and he crouched down, reached over to secure the pieces in place. “I’ll hold, you hammer.”
“Thanks,” Matt mumbled and reached for the bag of nails.
“Man, you and treehouses,” Kelly said and shook his head.
“What’s that?” Matt asked and set to work hammering the bits in place.
“You always wanted one of these. Biggest regret of your early life,” and Kelly smiled with the thought. “More than not getting that BMX trick bike you wanted so desperately.”
“Hey,” Matt said, “that bike was awesome, alright?” He paused and then, “I told you that, huh? About the treehouse?”
Kelly nodded. “Many, many times, in fact.”
There was a quiet that settled over them then, while Matt brought out the next pieces of what would be the floor.
“It’s gonna look good,” Kelly told him.
“What are you really doing here, Severide?” Matt asked suddenly, the words tumbling out.
Kelly shrugged. “I don’t know. Heather came to see me.”
Matt’s head jerked up, his eyes cutting through Kelly in an instant. “She shouldn’t have done that,” he said and it was angry and hard.
“Yeah, she should have,” Kelly told him. “Her and I, it was a long time coming for us.”
There was silence again, this time heavier than the last, and Kelly let it settle while they worked. But Matt was avoiding his eyes and that hurt worse than anything that had happened, since they’d ended it all.
“I should have listened to you,” he said at last.
“Yeah, you should have,” Matt answered without looking up.
“I’m an ass.”
“Agreed,” Matt said, eyes intent on the how-to-guide at his feet.
“Look, man, I’m trying to apologize here,” he said and slammed his hand down on the instructions, Matt flinching back and then snapping his head up to glare at Kelly.
It was a hard look but it was better than nothing.
“Then apologize,” Matt spit out.
“I’m sorry, okay? Damn. I have issues,” Kelly told him, arms thrown up into the air and then curling back against his chest. “I haven’t worked through Andy’s death. I haven’t worked though us breaking up. We just...stopped one day and it was...look, I’m sorry. I should have believed you the first time.”
“Okay,” Matt said.
“Wait...” and Kelly squinted at Matt, “Okay?”
“Not okay like all those problems are just going to go away, but yeah, okay.”
Kelly’s tongue came out to wet his lips and then he looked up to meet Matt’s eyes. “So...what now?”
“Now,” Matt told him and handed Kelly the hammer, “we build a treehouse.”
It wasn’t everything, Kelly knew that. But it was something. It was a start.
“Okay,” he said at last. “Yeah, let’s build a treehouse.”