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off the clock

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"Oh, my God." Casey came to a dead halt two steps into the diner. "Seriously?"

Beaumont snickered and nodded, and the two of them just stood there and took it all in, Walsh shuffling around behind the counter, a long white apron tied crookedly over the most hideous yellow-and-brown striped sweater Casey had ever seen, even before she got to how badly it clashed with the red and blue plaid flannel sleep pants.

“Wait, is he wearing slippers?” Casey goggled. “Holy shit, he is, like, grandpa-slippers.” She fumbled for her phone. “Oh, I need proof-- Just for partner purposes,” she assured Beaumont. “Pinkie swear nobody but you and me ever sees this--” she tapped on the screen and let burst-mode take care of it. “But I seriously need something for the next time he’s all up in my business.

“So, like tomorrow?” Beaumont deadpanned, and Casey rolled her eyes. Not that she didn’t love (PLATONIC, PLATONIC) the guy, and not that he wasn’t one of the best cops she’d ever met, and not that she couldn’t think of at least a half-dozen times he’d gone to bat for her, but god love the man, he wasn’t subtle about his opinions.

It definitely said something about how out of it Walsh was that he didn’t even notice her immortalizing his sick-with-the-flu fashion disaster, just kept right on like it was any other morning and he was making some kind of breakfast horror. Well, you had to ignore the fever-bright eyes, the flushed cheeks, and especially how he kept having to lean against the counter in between cracking eggs, but he kept right on pretending nothing was wrong.

“You know, there are many times I admire his stubbornness,” Casey said. Walsh dropped a metal bowl and then kicked it across the floor when he went to pick it up. She exchanged a look with Beaumont as he mumbled pathetically, and added, “This wouldn’t be one of them.”

Beaumont shook her head.

“Yeah, so, I have to go into the station and the Galloping Gourmet over there won’t stay out of the kitchen,” she said. “I can’t leave him like this--I already had to put out a grease fire last night, and that was before he started on the narcotic cough meds. God knows what he’ll get up to now that he’s high on that shit.”

“Cuff him to something?” Casey suggested.

“I thought you didn’t want details about my sex life,” Walsh croaked, because of course, that got his attention.

“Ugh, I really, really do not.” Casey winced and deliberately did not look at Beaumont, because, yeah, some things you were just better off not knowing for sure, and your partner’s sexual proclivities were definitely on that list.

Judging from the really creative threats Beaumont was muttering in Spanish, she felt the same way.

“Right,” Casey said. “Moving on--”

“I won’t be long, can you just--” Beaumont waved her hands.

“Make sure he doesn’t burn the place down?”

“Yeah, that would be good,” Beaumont sighed. “If you can keep him from cutting off any fingers, I’d appreciate that, too.”

“She likes what I can do with my fingers,” Walsh said, in this serious, smug tone that was just too damn disturbing.

“Details!” Casey snapped.

“Not helping, baby,” Beaumont said, shaking her head at him. Walsh just grinned, and waggled his eyebrows at her, and okay, Casey decided, they were a little bit cute together. They never let so much as a hint of their relationship show at the station or on the job, even though everyone knew they were together; seeing them like this was as good of an admission of trust as Casey could think of.

Also, whatever Walsh was on at the moment, Casey really wanted some.

“Okay.” Casey shrugged. “No fires, no blood, no burns.” She pulled her notebook out of her pocket and settled into one of the high stools at the counter. “But you,” she pointed to her idiotic partner, “are gonna owe me for this.” Walsh opened his mouth to bitch about that, but Casey already knew what was coming. “No, Beaumont does not owe me. If you weren’t such a moron, she wouldn’t need to set you up with a babysitter, so you. Owe. Me.”

“Whatever,” Walsh grumbled. Casey smiled her best saccharine-sweet smile at him, looking away only when Beaumont leaned over the counter to give him a kiss.

“Be good,” she told him, and smacked her hand over his mouth before he could say whatever cheap double entendre Casey could see was dying to get out. “Seriously, Jason,” Beaumont said, and was out the door.

“I don’t want to hear it either,” Casey warned him. “And if I do, I will double your payback.”

Walsh hesitated, and Casey leveled her best Do-Not-Fuck-With-Me glare at him, just in case he decided she might be kidding about him paying for her mental scarring. He definitely wasn’t feeling great because he backed down without her having to make any more threats, just sighed and turned back to the counter next to the grill where he could bang shit around and sulk. Casey was pretty sure she heard something about nobody letting him have any fun, but she took the high road and ignored him.

They were in the middle of three different cases, one of which they’d given up on months ago (well, Walsh never let anything go, he was famous for that, and Casey was finding that she had those tendencies, too) but had suddenly started hearing things that made other things make a lot more sense, so Casey spread her notes out across the counter and started making some calls.

Walsh muttered and clattered and staggered back and forth between the cooler and the grill, but nothing caught on fire and Casey didn’t see any blood, so she let him be. Because--as noted previously--he was incapable of letting things go, he was listening in on her calls and had a couple of suggestions that were not entirely crazy, so she made a few calls along that line, too. It was all pretty companionable, even if Casey was spending her day as a glorified nanny. She was pretty sure Walsh would do the same for her.

“Here,” Walsh grunted, dropping a plate on the counter with a thud. Casey snatched at her notes before he could pour coffee all over them while he was refilling her Starbucks cup. He shoved the last few pieces of paper at her and climbed up to lay himself down on the counter. “I feel like shit.”

“Oh, ew,” Casey said. “Does the health inspector even come in here? How is this good?”

“Quit bitching, I’ll scrub it down,” he groaned, dragging one arm up to cover his eyes. “Bleach. Bleach is good.”

“Remember how I said you were gonna owe me?” Casey muttered. “My price is skyrocketing.”

“Enough with the whining,” Walsh begged. “Eat your breakfast.”

Casey finally looked at the plate he’d dropped on the counter. It looked harmless, poached eggs and toast and what might have been hollandaise, but it was Walsh, so there was no guarantee. She reached over the counter and got a fork and knife and then pointedly picked the plate up and moved to one of the little wall tables.

“Princess,” Walsh muttered.

“I am not eating on the same surface where your disease-ridden carcass is trying to die,” Casey countered.

“Germs do not work like that; however much money your parents spent on those fancy schools was clearly wasted.”

“No argument here, but I’m pretty sure not for the same reason,” Casey answered. She dipped the tines of the fork into the supposed-hollandaise and tasted it cautiously. No disgusting flavors greeted her, and the texture didn’t show any signs of bizarre additions, so she mentally braced herself and cut a proper bite. The eggs had the intense yellow-orange yolk that Davis was always going on about meaning they came from heirloom chickens or whatever, and the ham had a perfect sear on it, just enough to caramelize the outside of the slice. It was delicious.

“You ass,” Casey said, talking through the second bite that she crammed into her mouth almost before she swallowed the first. “You have been feeding me eggs scrambled with, with kombucha, and, oh, god, that meatloaf you made with coffee-chocolate-chip ice cream, and all along you could actually cook.” She finished the first egg in another two bites and discovered some nicely steamed asparagus hiding under the English muffin. “You’re such a jerk.”

“‘s boring,” Walsh said with his arm still over his face. “Cooking normal stuff.”

“And now is different, how?”

“Can’t think enough to try anything,” Walsh mumbled. “Can’t think enough for anything right now.”

“Why don’t you just go to bed?”

“Tried that. First I couldn’t sleep ‘cause I was trying to hack up a lung, ‘n then the morphine in the meds makes me dream.”

“Oh,” Casey said. “Yeah, I’ve heard that about morphine.”

“Had one where the ambulance never got here,” Walsh slurred. “I kept putting stuff on where Allison was bleeding but it wouldn’t stop. I was pulling the sheets off the bed and everything was turning red and nobody came, it was just me and her and all her blood.” He was quiet for a bit. “Decided I really fucking didn’t need that.”

“Okay,” Casey said slowly. “I can see your point. But you still need to sleep, okay?” He was shaking his head, and Casey knew he was two seconds from hauling his stupid ass off the counter to prove how he didn’t. “Look, just stay there, and I’ll stay here, and I’ll wake you up as soon as you so much as twitch.” He was still shaking his head. “Seriously. You don’t sleep, you don’t get better, and I swear to god I’ll shoot Banks right through that damn vest he wears if I have to go out with him. And yeah, I know you don’t care about that, but when they cart me away, I’m telling Brown it was all your fault and then you know he’ll assign Alvarez to you.” She smiled. “So, yeah, you go to sleep now and you don’t end up with Eddie Alvarez in the third person sitting next to you at the station. And in the car. And you’ll have to talk to him at dinner. And grabbing a beer. And--”

“All right, all right, shut up,” Walsh grumbled. “I’ll sleep, jesus, you’re a bitch sometimes.”

“Thank you,” Casey said. “Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.”

Walsh found the energy to flip her off, but his arm flopped back down next to him almost immediately. Casey held her breath, and he stayed still, his breathing evening out. She almost blew it when she absentmindedly took a sip of the coffee he’d poured for her and realized it, too, was actually good.

“You are so not getting away with that battery acid any more,” she muttered, but not loud enough to disturb him. He wasn’t kidding about the dreams, though. By the time Beaumont came through the door an hour later, Casey had shaken him out of three different dreams. He never really woke up so he was still flat on his back on the counter, which got a raised eyebrow from Beaumont.

“His idea, not mine, but I figured sleep was good, however he got it,” Casey said. She waggled her coffee cup (which she’d refilled twice from the vacuum pump bottle next to the coffeemaker that created the typical accursed house brew. Clearly, there was something else making the good stuff and she intended to find it.) “Also, thanks for letting him try to poison me for a year. That ends now.”

“He swore me to secrecy.” Beaumont shrugged. “There might have also been some bribery of the tostones variety.”

“Oh,” Casey said. “Excellent. He’s open to bribery. I’ll start on a list of my own.” She gathered up her notes and the rest of her stuff and dragged her coat on.

“Thanks,” Beaumont said, crossing over to put her hand on Walsh’s shoulder and nudge him awake. “I owe you one.”

“Oh, no, no,” Casey answered. “I have the pictures and the food and he’s already admitted that he’s the one who owes me. It’s been a very profitable day. But you’re welcome.”

“C’mon, Sleeping Beauty,” Beaumont said to Walsh. “There’s a bed with both our names on it.”

Casey thought about mentioning the dreams, but then Walsh jolted awake and came up swinging and Beaumont ducked away from him without any surprise, so she didn’t guess it was necessary. Beaumont seemed to have everything under control, chivvying Walsh toward the back with a pretty determined attitude and Walsh wasn’t even trying to object.

“I’ll lock up,” Casey called, and got a wave from Beaumont as they disappeared around the corner. Casey made a loop to make sure the grill and ovens were off (and to finish off the last of the coffee; Walsh was never not keeping her supplied now, she hoped he understood that.) She flicked the lights off and fished the key ring out of her bag, and her good deed for the day was done.

She thought about her options for a minute, but seeing Walsh and Beaumont as an actual couple had apparently punched a button or two of her own. She headed out toward the cross-street and a cab with a purpose. Davis was always awake at the crack of dawn to go play squash or whatever moneyed exercise he was having fun with at the moment, but Casey was pretty sure she could talk him back into bed without much trouble at all.