Casey was avoiding her.
Sylvie Brett frowned in the direction of his quarters, watching as the man who had been occupying her thoughts way too much as of late paced back and forth, talking to someone on his cell phone. His door was closed, as it had been far too often lately.
Foster had shrugged it off when Brett had first mentioned it, saying that it was just part of the new 51 since the loss of Otis earlier that year. Casey had taken the firefighter’s death hard, the first member of his team that he had lost since Andy Darden.
Brett could understand the desire for isolation and separation – she had, in her own way, run away to her hometown to grieve, using Kyle’s proposal as an excuse. But it had been six months since the fire, three since she had ended her engagement and returned home to Chicago. It had also been about two weeks since Stella and Foster had told her about what had happened at the CFD charity event and auction. Two weeks since Casey had implied that she jealous that Foster had kissed him. During that time, she had interacted with Casey a grand total of maybe ten times, on and off of shift.
There had been the warm hug he had given her, along with a smile that had made her heart flutter, just a little bit. She had lingered a bit longer in his arms than necessary, letting his familiar scent of smoke and forest and clean male fill her senses. This was home, and he was an important part of that.
That had been the last time they had touched though. Their other encounters had been all work related – two group conversations that also included Severride, Kidd, Foster, and Halstead – and short brief inquiries about the victim’s state when they had been out on calls. In fact, the last two calls hadn’t required any communication between them at all, since Casey had also developed a habit of calling for Foster for help with victims, letting Brett work on her own. The times before that when she had gotten there first, he had been curt and formal, with none of his usual warmth when speaking to her. He had been MIA most nights at Molly’s as well, or had used Mouch, Ritter, or Severride as a subtle shield, sitting between them and the wall so there was no chance for a casual one on one conversation.
Until that morning, and the weird passive aggressive reaction to her conversation that morning with Foster about Ryan and Isaac. She hadn’t meant to respond so defensively, but something about his studiously dubious and nonchalant tone had just rubbed her the wrong way, especially when he had since gone back to avoiding her like nothing had happened.
Quite frankly, she had had enough.
Casey was currently in his quarters, as was the new norm, with the door closed and hunched over his desk. Brett tensed, taking a few determined strides forward, intent on finally getting a straight answer out of him.
Ambulance 61, man down, 6524 South Broadside St… She groaned as the call came, still facing Casey’s office. She saw him glance up, and their eyes met across the room, before he looked away again. Her gaze narrowed.
“Fine, Casey.” She growled under her breath, swinging around and striding away. “You can hide, but you can’t run…”
A few hours later Casey looked up, startled, as Brett rapped sharply on his door and opened it without waiting for him to reply, stepping in and closing the door behind her.
“Are you avoiding me?” She demanded.
He blinked. “Of course not.”
“Really.” She deadpanned. “Because it’s certainly starting to feel that way. We haven’t had a single conversation together that wasn’t work related since I’ve been back. Even on calls, you tend to stick to the areas where Foster is working. So please, Casey, tell me what I did or said, so that we can go back to some semblance of the friendship that we had before.”
“You didn’t do anything,” he replied dismissively, turning back to his desk. “We’re fine.”
He needed her to leave before he blurted out the truth – he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her or that almost moment of -something- that they had experienced before the chaplain had proposed. That he had almost asked her to stay, instead of moving away. That he had missed her, like sunlight on his skin, a gentle steady warmth that you didn’t notice until a cloud covered the sun, but now that she was back he wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. He knew that he had pushed her too hard a couple of weeks ago, trying to get her to admit that she was jealous, but he hadn’t been able to resist.
She had pushed back though, as Emily had predicted, showing up at Molly’s the following night to have drinks with the social worker, and then this morning, bragging about how he had helped one of the kids that she had befriended obtain an early release from the detention center.
Casey gritted his teeth as she huffed, feeling her narrowed gaze on his back. He had partially resigned himself to the likely fact that he had missed his chance once again and had to settle for just being her friend, a peripheral part of her life. It was an easier pill to swallow when he wasn’t constantly in her presence, especially within hearing distance of her talking about the new guy she was not-dating; and really, it was only a matter of time, based on the besotted gaze the kid had sported the entire night they were at Molly’s.
Distracting himself with other women hadn’t worked either; Severride still gave him occasional shit over his brief encounter with ‘Smart Girl’ (Jessa), who had been cute but way too millennial for his tastes.
“No, we’re not.” She stated. “Something is going on with you, Casey. You’ve been acting different since I got back.”
She moved to lean against the wall to see his face when he didn’t respond.
“Leave it alone, Brett.” He warned, his voice suddenly hard.
She studied him for a long moment. “I’m sorry if I was a bit defensive about Ryan earlier. He’s really just a friend,” she said, changing tactics.
That got his attention. He could let a lot of things go, but not this particular subject. “Sure Brett. Whatever you say.” The scorn was palatable in his voice as he finally looked at her.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded, crossing her arms.
He stood up, needing the space, moving to lean against the wall opposite her so he could see her more clearly. “Well, you may consider him a friend, but there’s no way that he’s not interested in more.” He stated, shooting her a disbelieving look when she frowned. “C’mon Sylvie. How long have we known each other?”
“Six years,” she answered slowly.
“And during that time, I have watched you be hit on by victims, strangers, and friends alike. Not that I blame any of them, because you’re gorgeous, but if you honestly think that this guy won’t eventually make a move, then you’re oblivious.” He shrugged. “And you can’t really blame me for making an assumption.”
She blinked, still caught on the matter of fact way that he had called her gorgeous, but then the rest of his statement sank in. “You’re exaggerating,” she said weakly.
He snorted. “I bet you that the social worker will be back to ask you on an actual date before the end of the week.”
“You don’t even know him!”
“Don’t have to. If he’s straight and single, then he’s going to ask you out.”
She scoffed, shaking her head. “Fine. What are the terms? Because you’re wrong about this.”
Casey stared at her in utter disbelief, not knowing whether to kiss her or shake her. Was she seriously that unaware of her appeal?
“Your boy Pace will be back to ask you out.” He stated finally.
“Still not my anything,” she retorted, eyes narrowed.
“In fact,” he continued, ignoring her. “I will up the ante and say specifically that he will be back to ask you out before the end of this shift, and he’s going to ask for something completely innocent, like a lunch date, but make a move at some point.”
He hadn’t even met the guy, just caught a glimpse of him at Molly’s, but it was a typical move for a guy to make when he wasn’t one hundred percent confident of the woman’s interest. It was a safe bet to make.
“Casey – “
“If I’m right, then you owe me.”
She stared at him. “You’re really that confident about this.”
He stared right back at her. “Do we have a bet or not?”
She huffed, shaking her head. “This is ridiculous.” He watched silently as she nibbled on her lip, thinking, before she finally nodded. “Fine,” she said firmly, holding out her hand.
He pushed off of the wall to move in front of her, engulfing her hand in his larger one, his callouses slightly coarse against the softness of her palm as he smiled, the glint in his eyes intense. The bells rang and he dropped her hand, gesturing for her to proceed him out the door. “Time to get to work.”
The hostage situation lasted most of the day, so it was well into the afternoon when the rigs got back. Casey lingered on the app floor as the others headed inside, teasing Gallo and Ritter about sharing lunch duty and doubling up since they were both candidates for Truck and Engine. He heard Foster call something to Brett before she headed inside without the blonde. He hesitated, making sure they were alone before he walked over to the ambo.
Brett looked up, her face lighting up with her warm smile as she saw him. “Hey.”
“You were great earlier, with those kids. Using the sister to help keep them both calm,” he said admiringly.
She flushed slightly, inwardly cursing her fair skin. Would she ever get over being complimented by this man? She wondered in exasperation. “You’re the one who got their mom back to them safe,” she countered. “That’s all they really wanted.”