The death of Andrew ‘Andy’ Darden hit everyone he knew hard. But other than his wife and children it didn’t hit anyone harder than his two best friends, Kelly Severide and Matthew Casey. Torn apart by an Andy shaped hole, those two lost more than just a friend that day. They lost each other.
For the longest time neither could remember much more of that day than brief snatches, a moment here, a word there.
Casey remembered the lightheartedness of the fire truck. The way he lounged in the front seat. Joking with Darden, twisting in his seat to call him a clown. The laughter of his company.
He never could remember what Darden had done to make him laugh so hard.
Severide remembered the lightness of his boyfriend’s voice over the radio. The giddy smile that had torn across his face that he hadn’t bothered to hide. He remembered the tinny replica of Darden’s laughter echoing over the radio at his chest.
He never could remember what Matt had said to make him chuckle like that.
Casey remembered vaulting from the truck. Taking charge easily, in a way that only a man not dragged down by the death of his best friend could.
He never quite got that feeling back.
Severide remembered offering a bet and a smirk to his boyfriend. A smirk that softened into a gentle smile that begged the blonde to be careful and was quickly reciprocated.
He never could remember what the bet had been.
Casey remembered joking with Darden as they climbed the aerial. The startle of panic as he realised there was no vent but Andy was still moving! He always had been the ‘jump first ask questions later’ kind of guy. It was supposed to be Casey’s job to make sure those questions were answered.
He never could remember what the joke with Darden had been about. Something about Severide he thought. But he couldn’t be sure.
Severide remembered busting through the back of the house, mind half on the job and half on the engagement band he and Darden had picked out last weekend. A ring that had ended up on the bottom of the Chicago River in an alcohol fuelled fit of rage.
He couldn’t quite remember which one he had ended up buying: the white gold ring set with a single diamond or the silver inlaid with a band of gunmetal grey. He supposed it didn’t really matter now.
Casey remembered the feeling of his boots slipping on the rungs on the ladder as he scrambled after Darden. The apology he cried as he flattened himself like a coward, against the ladder. The feeling of the flames licking at the back of his neck.
He never could remember if he had said that apology out loud or not.
Severide couldn’t remember the final cries of his best friend. That he couldn’t remember, even years later when the details of that day slowly became clearer and clearer. Those cries had been overshadowed by the pain that years later still made him clench his hands into fists. The jolt of his body slamming to the floorboards. The pain of his body breaking, a feeling so intense that he swore he could feel the bone splitting in half. The sensation of bone cracking had overpowered all else until two of his men had dragged him from the burning house and he could finally breathe again.
Severide may not remember the final words of Darden but Casey sure as hell did. And he wished above all else that he couldn’t. He remembered the agonising wail of a man being burned alive. He remembered the fear in Andy’s eyes, as they met his the second before he was overcome by the flames.
Casey often wished he couldn’t remember anything from that day at all.
Severide remembered the pain in Boden’s eyes. The sympathetic glances. The tears on tough-as-guts Shay’s face. Nobody needed to tell him that they were gone. The ‘they’ that hadn’t been identified at that point. For all Severide knew, he had lost both his boyfriend and his best friend in that fire.
He couldn’t quite remember whose hand had a grasped his shoulder and drew his attention to the aerial where a familiar slight form was crouching.
Casey remembered being frozen on the aerial for a long time. Long enough that by the time he finally began his descent, his legs and arms were stiff from being in the same position. He remembered the soft voice in his ear, gently coaxing him down from the ladder, a voice he recognised later as Herrmann’s, speaking to him in the exact same tone as when he’d been a fresh-faced 19 year old candidate seeing his first burn victim.
He couldn’t remember just how long he’d been on that aerial. It could have been minutes or days. Either would make just as much sense to Casey.
Severide remembered the anger that coursed through him as he caught sight of Casey staring blankly into space, Dawson behind him tending to his burns. He remembered everyone letting him pass, probably expecting him to embrace the other Lieutenant. He remembered perfectly the feeling of his fist slamming into Casey’s face. The harsh words like “killed him” and “it should have been you” that he’d spat at his then boyfriend. He remembered Casey, ever the reasonable, calm one, who would also never sit down and take anything returning the punch. Both angry enough to beat each other senseless rather than deal with the grief of losing Andy. All Severide remembered was anger. Anger so complete and blinding that it took him months to realise that it wasn’t directed at Casey at all.
He couldn’t remember who had finally ripped the pair apart. Knew that Casey didn’t know either. Both too ashamed by their actions that day to ever ask.
Casey and Severide remembered days spent withdrawing from each other so completely until it was like they had never been a couple, let alone friends. They remembered a funeral spent in tense silence, determined that Darden have the respectful send-off that he deserved. Both men remembered a wake spent on opposite sides of the room, purposefully keeping the day from getting any harder than it needed to be. They remembered going to visit Darden’s badge on the wall on their own, hours spent crying over a friend who had been stolen too young. They remembered pain so absolute that it felt like it would never heal. Not completely, anyway.