He chuckled as she plopped her head back down, lowering his shoulder slightly so she could get more comfortable. “Such as ringing endorsement as always, Em. I would be insulted if I didn’t feel the same way.”
“Wait wait wait!” Stella waved her hands wildly as Cruz ducked. “That whole thing back there was fake? You two aren’t secretly dating?”
“He’s hot, but not my type.” Foster reached up and patted Casey’s cheek as he rolled his eyes.
“So then how…why…”
Casey shrugged the shoulder that Emily wasn’t leaning on. “After the fire, we all were grieving in different ways. You and Chloe, and you two,” he nodded at Stella and Severride. “Had found comfort in each other, and we weren’t about to begrudge you that. Made for a lot of solo nights here though. During one of those nights, some frat boys wandered over from GameDay and started harassing Emily. So I stepped in.”
“It became a thing,” she continued, sitting up again with a groan. “Never anything too deep, but it was nice having someone watch my back. I just returned the favor tonight.”
Casey grinned at her. “Some of your finest work, I have to say.”
“My pleasure. Seriously. That was so much more fun than fending off the Fenton twins.”
“They had a very compelling argument though. One for each of us.”
They smirked at each other before looking up to see their friends staring at them. “What?”
“This is just an unexpected development, that’s all,” Stella offered, shooting a look at Severride. How had they missed all of this going on right in front of them? “What did you say to Dawson, anyway? She looked ready to spit nails!”
“Oh, you know, just implied that 51 -and Casey- had upgraded all around when I came in.” Emily shrugged, taking a sip of her wine. “Actually, less implication and more just straight up said it.”
They burst into laughter at her unrepentant smirk.
“So she really is pregnant?” Severride said, finally asking the question on everyone’s minds.
Casey nodded grimly. “Peter Mills is the father.” He ignored the shocked gasps from the others. “Apparently Mills was the second person that Chief Hatcher called, since he has experience from Truck, Squad, and as an EMT. He’s been in Puerto Rico for about a year and a half.” He met Severride’s grimly knowing gaze and shook his head, knowing his friend could count as well as he could. The timing of Dawson sending the divorce papers was suddenly at lot more interesting. She may not have technically cheated on him, but she definitely had known about Mills before she had sent the papers. No matter. Not his problem anymore, ever.
“So she wanted to tell you in person?” Stella said hopefully, wanting to give her old friend the benefit of doubt.
“Maybe originally.” Casey allowed with a shrug. “Mills wasn’t instantly happy for her, so they had a huge fight. He went home on leave to North Carolina, and she came here.” He grimaced, shaking his head. “She was looking for – I don’t know. Emotional comfort, maybe, someone to validate and justify her decision to go through with the pregnancy.” Severride snorted, the sound sardonic and bitter. “Apparently even Antonio is pissed at her now, since she hadn’t actually ever told her family the full truth of why we separated. So she was desperate, and lonely, and looking for a friend.” He made an aborted motion. “Maybe I should – “
“Not a chance.” Severride clamped a firm hand on his arm. “Dawson is not your responsibility anymore, Case. Hasn’t been for over two years. She is a grown ass woman who made her choices and her bed and now has to live with them, for better or for worse. Let her get on and do it, so you can get back to living your life.”
Casey slumped a bit despondently, jostling Emily, who had fallen asleep again on his shoulder. Or not.
He jumped with a yelp as she reached over and pinched his side without opening her eyes. “Matthew Casey, do not cheapen all of my exquisite work tonight by crawling back to that little shrew!” She scolded. “Do you not appreciate the sacrifice that I made? That kiss was like mouth kissing my brother.” Her eyes opened to slits. “My hot, occasionally annoying, and always incredibly bossy older brother, but still. Sacrifice.”
“Now that was a speech that Shay would’ve approved of,” Severride teased as Casey rolled his eyes. “Better you than me, this time around.”
He definitely approved of the easy affection and platonic relationship that had developed between his friend and the young paramedic. Casey was his best friend and brother in all but blood, but they worked so well together because they deliberately kept a certain amount of space between them. Over a decade of friendship meant that they could say what others wouldn’t or couldn’t, but it was usually just enough to get them back on track as needed.
Some things were just easier to confide to a woman, who could be empathetic and gently blunt without sounding condescending or raising defensive hackles. Severride had had that outlet with Shay, and now was learning to confide in Stella, but Casey hadn’t ever had that truly platonic female friend, someone who wanted nothing from him romantically or sexually. Foster was good for him; they were good for each other, from what he could see.
“Well, as entertaining as this night has been, I’m calling it guys,” Cruz yawned, speaking up for the first time. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning at work.”
The others agreed, standing up and slowly beginning to gather shoes and other accessories in preparation to leave.
“This was fun tonight, despite the Dawson drama,” Stella said. “We’ll have to actually use the vouchers from the auction and plan a group thing like we originally planned; maybe go kidnap Brett for the weekend too.”
Casey noted with interest that she didn’t include the chaplain. Did she know something about their relationship? He hadn’t heard from Brett since she had left, which he was disappointed by but not surprised. They had left things on a somewhat unresolved note, at least on his part, and he had no idea how to reestablish the slow friendship that they had been easing into before the chaplain had proposed. Text seemed so impersonal, and phone calls too intrusive; they hadn’t really gotten to that point. He was determined to change that if she ever came back to Chicago, though right now that seemed like a pipe dream.
“Yeah – maybe this summer, when it warms up?” Cruz responded to Stella, breaking into Casey’s thoughts. “There’s usually a lot of festivals and fairs going on down by the waterfront. I’ll keep an eye out for something interesting and let you guys know.”
There were general murmurs of agreement as the friends parted for the night. Casey pulled Emily aside to give her a hug, smiling into her hair. “You went above and beyond tonight, Em.”
“Hey. It’s what we do,” she replied lightly, leaning into his strength before lightly pushing him away. “Text me when you get home.”
He grinned; she reminded him every time they parted ways. “Good night, Emily.”