Severride and Cruz bypassed the bar in favor of their group’s table, knowing the others were waiting anxiously for an update.
“Typical Hurricane Dawson, crashing through our lives and leaving chaos in her wake,” Cruz grumbled, slouching in his chair and glaring over at the couple. “We shouldn’t have left him alone with her, Severride. You saw what happened last time.”
“Hey, Casey will be fine,” Severride replied grimly, though he too never took his eyes off of his friend. “And if he’s not and tries to spin out again, we’ll just knock him on his ass and have Tuesday sit on him until he gets his head on straight.” He glanced at Kidd and Foster, expecting them to smile or laugh, but both women had stiffened.
“She’s pregnant,” Emily announced grimly. “She just told him.” Her eyes narrowed as she studied Dawson with a critically professional eye. “She’s not showing yet, so it was recent.”
“Son of a BITCH!” Severride cursed, shoving his chair back.
Cruz, Ritter, and Stella were there instantly, blocking his path. “Do not make a scene,” Stella snapped. “You heard Casey. We are still representing 51 and Chief Boden, who will not be happy to hear about his Squad Lt. earning a conduct unbecoming at an event full of white shirts and meant to promote a positive image of the CFD.” She glanced over at Foster. “Could you – “
“On it,” she replied grimly, already weaving a path through the crowd towards the couple. Taking in the situation with a single glance, she stepped in between Casey and Dawson, deliberately using her body and superior height to force the other woman back a few steps. Draping her arms around Casey’s neck, she smiled into his eyes – before leaning in to kiss him lingeringly on the lips.
She felt his soft huff of amusement against her mouth as he relaxed under her hands, his own going to her waist to steady her as she pulled back to smirk at him.
“You looked like you could use a rescue,” she murmured, ignoring the sputtering going on behind her. “Usually Squad 3 does extractions, but I figured this particular situation needed a woman’s touch.” She tilted her head impishly, inviting him to share the humor. “Although, sending Severride over here would’ve definitely boosted publicity.” She wiggled her brows as he laughed softly.
“Excuse me!” Dawson snapped furiously, putting a hand on Foster’s shoulder to force her to turn around.
The taller woman reacted instantly, grabbing her hand and twirling them both in a defensive move that ended up with the shorter woman’s arm being pinned against the small of her back.
“You should know better than to put hands on someone like that, especially in a room of first responders,” she snapped, squeezing her wrist in warning before letting go. “You touch me again and I’m calling security and laying your ass out.”
Dawson stumbled a few steps before whirling back around furiously. “We were in the middle of a private conversation – “
“Which is now over,” Emily interrupted coolly. “I think that you have monopolized my date long enough, especially taking into consideration that you two are divorced and you just told him that you are pregnant with another man’s child. There’s really nothing else for you to say, is there?”
Dawson glared at Casey pointedly, waiting for him to come to her defense. He shrugged. “I stopped having a vote or opinion in those decisions – or any decisions in your life – well before you left, so I honestly have no idea why you thought that I might want anything to do with you now.” He looked curiously at Emily. “How did you know – ?“
“I took a signing and lip reading course during my undergrad. It has come in handy more during my time as a paramedic than when I was a resident.”
“Who are you?”
They glanced over at Dawson in surprise, having assumed that she would’ve given up and stomped off in a huff. Emily raised her brows at Casey, murmuring, “she really doesn’t know when to take a hint, does she?” under her breath, before turning her glare on the other woman. She deliberately leaned back into his chest, his hands covering his where they were sitting low on her waist and feeling his exasperated sigh ghost over the back of her neck.
“Gabriella Dawson, this is Emily Foster, Brett’s partner in crime and mayhem on Ambo 61. Emily, Dawson was the paramedic you replaced.”
Dawson’s gaze narrowed as he deliberately left everything else out that they had been to each other and didn’t bother to give her credit for her time as PIC, since she had lost that status when she became a firefighter instead. “On and off the job, apparently,” she scoffed.
Casey’s hands tightened as Emily’s brows shot up. “Yes well, 51 has received all sorts of personal and professional upgrades in the wake of your departure,” she drawled caustically, letting her gaze rake over the shorter, plumper woman.
The physical differences between them were obvious. Emily was tall, slim, toned, younger, and beautiful, her body showcased to perfection in her gold sequined cocktail dress.
By contrast, Dawson definitely hadn’t maintained the firefighter workout regime over the time that she had been gone. She had always been stocky and curvy, but now Casey could already see the changes pregnancy had brought upon her, despite her squeezing in to the little black dress with side cut outs that she had worn the first night that they had gotten together. His mouth curled bitterly. She had planned this whole thing – coming to the auction, bidding on him, telling him about the pregnancy. And for what? He still didn’t fully understand her motives, and quite frankly just didn’t give a damn anymore.
Foster felt him rest his forehead briefly on the back of her neck as a sound that might have been laughter or something else completely vibrated from him. She turned back around to face him and smiled reassuringly into his eyes. “You look like you’re ready to buy me a drink.”
That was one of their prearranged signals from when they went out somewhere and needed a rescue. He huffed, but she saw the relief in his eyes. “It’s an open bar, Em.”
“All the more reason then.” She winked, making him smile reluctantly as she pulled him away. “Nice to meet you, Dawson,” she called over her shoulder. “Have a safe trip back to Puerto Rico. I know that there are increased risks and precautions for someone of your age range in their first pregnancy.” She sauntered away, head high, as Casey followed her in wake.
They barely made it back to their friends before they collapsed into helpless laughter. Severride, Cruz, and Kidd exchanged a confused look as Chloe, Ritter and Eric watched in amusement. “Uh guys? What just happened?” Kidd finally ventured.
Casey sat up, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “What just happened is that Emily Foster is my hero, and I owe her about twenty rounds at Molly’s. And possibly a raise.” Standing, he shrugged on his coat before holding his hand out to his still snickering date. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Still bubbling over with mirth, she let him pull him back up out of her chair. “Works for me.”
They walked away, leaving their friends scrambling to catch up amid muffled curses.
The caravan to Molly’s took about twenty minutes, their phones blowing up with texts and calls the entire time.
Foster threw her head back and laughed joyously. “That was fun! You know we’re in so much trouble when we get to Molly’s, right?”
Casey grinned over at her. “Yeah, I know. Guess we’ll have to come clean.”
“It was only a matter of time, Casey. We agreed that it was a temporary thing, friends helping each other out.”
He nodded. “I know. But it doesn’t have to stop just because we’re going to tell our friends. You know I’ve got your back – however, whenever.” His gaze was earnest and warmly affectionate.
She smiled, running her fingers over his jaw. “I know.”
They walked the short distance up to the bar, pausing at the front door and exchanging a look before Casey pulled it open, gesturing for her to go first.
Cruz, Severride and Kidd were waiting impatiently for them at the back table, still dressed in their finery. Ties had been shed, along with jackets, collars loosened, and Stella’s heels were littering the floor underneath as the pair approached.
“Ritter and Eric went home, but they’re expecting an explanation tomorrow. Chloe has to work, so I dropped her off as well. Here.” Cruz thumped two glasses down on the table. “Drink, then you two have some explaining to do.”
Hiding their grins, they obediently took the glasses and clinked before throwing them back, grimacing as the alcohol hit their throats.
“It’s not what you think.” Casey said, settling into the stool across from Severride as Emily sat next to him, leaning against his shoulder with a yawn.
The others studied them doubtfully, noting the easy comfortable body language and closeness between them. He smirked at his best and oldest friend, his eyes sparkling with mischief as his shoulders shook with laughter. “Shay switch n bitch.”
Severride’s eyes widened, and a matching smirk slowly dawned. “No fucking way. How long?”
The ‘Shay switch n bitch’ was something that he, Shay, and Casey had come up with in their early days at 51, before Dawson had even transferred to the house. Shay and Severride had gotten frustrated with the moping Casey during one of his and Hallie’s ‘breaks’ and had dragged him out to a club. Since their tastes in women had rarely overlapped, that had made the trio excellent wingmen/woman for the other two in pointing out potentials and diverting attention to the actual interested party when needed.
“Since the ARNOW fire,” Foster answered for Casey without opening her eyes. “Between the idiot floaters on Ambo hitting on me off of shift, and all the sympathetic hose chasers coming out of the woodwork to comfort ole’ Blue Eyes here, it just seemed like the simplest solution for the both of us.” She raised her head to shoot him a disgruntled glare. “For the record, I still don’t like you like that, but you’re not a horrible kisser. And I’m a total upgrade. And you’re so much better off without her.”