Gabby, on the other hand, had been high drive and ambition, mixed with a level of ruthlessness that was almost disconcerting at times. She was also incredibly intense, and headstrong, and independent, and almost arrogantly confident – all qualities that Casey had both loved and hated, mainly because he recognized and acknowledged those same qualities in himself—and in Severride. It was a large part of what made her a fantastic paramedic and a good firefighter, but it hadn’t always helped in their relationship or marriage. Even before they had gotten together, there had always been a certain tension and awkwardness between them, partially fueled by unresolved sexual tension, but also because of the difference in their authority at work. She hadn’t liked yielding to anyone, even him – on or off the job. He hadn’t confided in her as easily as he had Hallie, or even Brett either, Casey was realizing. Not about his thoughts or feelings anyway. Situations, like his mother being up on parole, yeah, but he had never confided his personal uncertainties and doubts that he was doing the right thing to her.
Yet he hadn’t hesitated with Brett, once she had admitted that she had been going out of her way to follow up with the status of the victims they saved on calls. Casey had been so floored and incredibly touched by her insightfulness, as well as stunned that she had actually noticed what he was doing, that it had taken a minute for him to respond to her quiet confession.
It had also alleviated some of the lingering hurt and betrayal that he still felt over Severride and Dawson’s casual assumption that he wouldn’t have been interested in helping Bria because they believed that he ‘didn’t like getting close to victims’. He hadn’t bothered to try to correct their perception; if the two people who were supposed to know him better than anyone had so completely missed the mark, then what was the point?
He shook his head, brushing away the troubling thoughts and returning back to the subject of his current fascination and inadvertent dilemma. Brett had a quiet intensity to her, yet somehow she exuded a warmth and calm confidence that drew people to her, professionally and personally. She was also incredibly competent at her job, which he appreciated and had come to depend on a bit. She was truly a breath of fresh air, he thought fondly, pushing the last door open and stepping out into the lobby. Friends – female friends – like her were rare enough in his life that he honestly wasn’t absolutely positive that he wanted to jeopardize that for a relationship that could burn hot and flame out fast, leaving them both stuck with the aftermath and in a living situation that would be incredibly awkward for the both of them.
“Dammit Severride,” he muttered as he hit the ground floor and entered the lobby. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Casey jogged the last few steps to hold the door open for Mrs. Fielding, who was struggling with an armful of cardboard boxes.
“Here – let me help you with those,” he offered, even as he gently relieved her completely of her burden.
Behind her, Brett couldn’t help the fond smile as she took over holding the door. Leave it to Casey to find a little old lady to help on his day off…
“Oh, thank you Matthew. I got myself into a bit of a pickle – the automatic door button is broken again.” She huffed as they moved slowly across the lobby and down the hallway to the elevator.
“I don’t mind,” he replied with a smile, glancing up over her head at Brett, who jerked her head, motioning at the stairs. “Everything alright, Katherine? These look like moving boxes.”
He had literally just had a conversation with Severride about her moving, but he pretended ignorance, pressing the button for their floor and setting the boxes down for a moment.
“Oh, everything is just fine,” she assured him, patting him on the arm as they moved into the elevator. “But yes, I’m moving. My daughter has finally harassed me into moving in with her, even though I told her that I live in the safest – and hottest – building in the city, what with two strapping young firefighters just across the hall from me.” She twinkled up at him as he helped her out of the elevator onto their floor.
Casey just grinned as he carried the boxes to her door. “Well, we’ll be sad to see you go, Katherine,” he told her, moving aside so she could unlock her door. “You have fun spoiling those grandbabies of yours though. Especially Janiah. She’s already a little heartbreaker.”
“She’s a menace,” she grinned proudly. “Started fourth grade, and is on the school soccer team. Says she wants to be a medic, like your Gabriella. How is she doing?”
His smile faltered slightly, but Brett was the only one to see it as she stepped out of the stairwell. “Not mine anymore, but still a superhero. Saving lives and heading the relief effort in Puerto Rico.”
“I’m not surprised.” Mrs. Fielding studied him with assessing dark eyes as he fought to not squirm. “Sometimes we encounter people who were meant for a greater purpose. They change our lives while they are in it, then move on to a different path and purpose. Gabriella was always going to travel out of your orbit, Matthew. You were her love, but not her purpose.”
He sucked in a sharp breath at her insightfulness, delivered with the gentle loving bluntness and tact that only a mother of eight could portray, and nodded slowly.
“Let me or Severride know when your moving day is, and we’ll help haul your boxes out if we’re not on shift. No need to waste money on a moving company when you have a couple of firefighters willing to pitch in.” He managed a genuine smile. “And we’ll work for snickerdoodles.”
“Having tasted those coveted cookies, I can attest to that.” Brett interjected, smiling as she moved forward.
“Katherine Fielding, this is Sylvie Brett, our lead paramedic at 51 and also a good friend of mine. ” Casey responded smoothly. “Brett, Mrs. Fielding’s cookies are always the ones that are first gone at the holiday potluck every year at the house.”
“That’s because we only bring a quarter of the batch,” Severride said, poking Brett in the side in greeting and silent thanks for the text heads up. She scowled, swatting him away. “And no sharing the secrets of the cookie dealer, man. That’s a violation of the officer’s handbook. Coffee and cookies are sacred, and shall not be shared, even with pretty paramedics.”
Brett snorted and turned to face off with him. “Technically, I am an officer of nearly equal rank to you, Lieutenant. But your secret’s safe with me – as long as you share.”
“Half a dozen.”
“Nine cookies, and I’ll show you where my stash is of that Columbian dark roast breakfast blend that you guzzle down all the time without knowing. I know you’ve been on a secret hunt to find out who the source is for weeks now.”
Severride eyed her. “Deal.”
They shook hands as Casey and Mrs. Fielding watched in amusement.
“I guess I should pack my baking sheets last then.”
Severride immediately winced. “Sorry Mrs. Fielding, I didn’t – “
“Relax Kelly, you know I’m only teasing.” She soothed, patting him on the arm. “You boys have always gone out of your way to look after me. The least I can do is indulge in your sweet tooth one more time,” she said fondly.
While they were talking, Brett had moved curiously closer to the doorway. “Mrs. Fielding, if you don’t mind my asking, when is your lease up?”
“Not until next March,” she said mournfully. “I would just stay until then, but my daughter wants me down to Florida with her for the holidays.”
Brett shot Casey a pointed look. It was only June, so he would have plenty of time to save if he needed to. He shook his head at her ruefully. “This is a three bedroom unit,” he told her. “That’s more space than I need, rattling around by myself.” He met Severride’s knowing smirk with a warning glare, shaking his head slightly. As tempting as it was, he had decided that he was not going to push whatever was building between him and Brett by asking her to move in with him before they had even gone out on an actual date.
“Matthew Casey, you are moving in here and that’s the end of it,” Mrs. Fielding admonished. “It will comfort this old woman’s heart, knowing that you’re in a good place and still near family.” She winked at Severride, who grinned. “I always pay my rent out months ahead – that was something my Gerald taught me before he died – so we wouldn’t have to worry about it. We can transfer the unit into your name, and no, I will not hear a single word about any kind of repayment, so don’t even try it. But you are moving in here, and that’s final.” She pointed a stern finger at him when he tried to protest anyway. “Nonsense! Don’t argue with me young man.” She touched his arm gently, smiling up at him, and then over to Severride. “You and Kelly are the closest thing that I have to sons since my Damian and Jordan were killed in the line of duty.”
Casey sobered as she caught and held his worried blue gaze. “You two are so much like my boys were, brothers, always looking out for each other on calls and at home.” She said fiercely. “Same as my boys always did, followed each other straight into the military so that they could watch each other’s backs. It will do this old woman’s heart a world of good and allow me to sleep at night, knowing that you have a place to come home to that you don’t have to worry about.” Severride shifted, and she glanced at him, sudden mischief in her gaze. “Not that you didn’t already, but I know you two troublemakers need your own space too.” That waggling finger now waved between the two as she smirked, winking at a giggling Brett. “And this way, when one of you does something dumb and male to piss off your long suffering ladies, then you have a place to go to sulk and commiserate, and they have a place to go drink wine and complain about you two charmers until you finally admit that you were wrong and come home to apologize.”