Shift the following day was one of those days that you look forward to before you’re there, but once in the thick of things you can’t wait for it to just be done. The day had started with a house fire and gas leak and explosion, of which Casey and Gallo had narrowly avoided getting caught in. The fire itself was dealt with relatively quickly, but the rookie had ended up with a scalded wrist and a dimming of the usual bright optimism in his puppy dog brown eyes as he had carried the eight year old girl over to 61 to be checked out. Kidd and Casey were both keeping a close eye on him, but it was Kidd who saw the burns and was more instrumental in urging her dazed teammate back to the rig so that they could swing by Med and get him checked out. Casey had left her to it, knowing that she was a million times better than he would be at offering comfort and advice.
Back at 51, he had spent some time in the common room with Herrmann, Ritter, Mouch and the Engine guys, shooting the breeze and helping Ritter to wind the older firefighter up about something or another; he wasn’t even sure what the actual topic of contention was, just knew that riling his friend up was a common pastime and entertainment for nearly all of 51’s second shift. Leaving Herrmann sputtering and vowing revenge as the rest of the guys burst into laughter, Casey grinned at Mouch, winked at Ritter, and left them to it. He had just settled back into his office when there was a polite knock on his open door.
He frowned slightly; Brett was nearly vibrating with tension, clutching a white envelope in one hand so tightly that her knuckles were nearly the same color as the paper.
“Not at all,” he replied, putting his pen down to give her his full attention as she stepped into his quarters, closing the door behind her.
“So the adoption intermissionary that I’ve been avoiding?” She began, leaning against the foot of his bed. “He’s persistent.” She held up the envelope as proof, waiting expectantly.
Casey eyed it; it was a plain, standard envelope with her name written on it in swirling, pretty script. “What is that?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted, slumping slightly. “But it’s from my birth mother.” She turned the front back over, staring at her name. “That’s her handwriting.”
She sounded so forlorn and lost for a moment that Casey had to fight the urge to stay in his seat instead of standing to offer her physical comfort.
She shook her head, hard, and thrust the envelope at him. “You have to throw this away for me.”
He blinked. “What?”
“Yeah. I tried and I can’t do it, so I need you to,” she insisted, shaking it slightly. Her eyes were wide and anxious, and stress lines marred her forehead.
He eyed her warily for a moment before reluctantly accepting it. “Are you sure?”
“Hundred percent.” She answered with a firm nod, ignoring the slight tremble in her voice. “I just want it gone.”
“Okay,” he agreed, still watching her closely. “Consider it done.”
She relaxed slightly as soon as it was out of her hands, breathing a visible sigh of relief. He didn’t move until after she had left, tucking the envelope in his folio instead of the trash as she had requested. He had a feeling that once she got over the shock and panic that she would be back for it…
Casey puttered around his apartment the next evening, shutting off most of the lights and double checking the thermostat and other little things, delaying his departure. He wasn’t particularly in the mood for Molly’s but Emily and Severride had both threatened to physically drag his ass out (Em via text, Severride in person) if he didn’t at least make an appearance, so that had pretty much decided that. He really shouldn’t have given Severride a spare key to his new apartment…
Done with his checks, he reluctantly grabbed his coat, wallet, keys. He got two steps before he thought about his phone, but the impatient rapping on the door caught his attention first. Frowning, since only a couple of people knew he had moved out, he opened the door, quickly stepping out of the way as Sylvie came blowing in, all rosy cheeks and determined blue eyes and talking a mile a minute.
It took a second for him to catch up, but once he did Casey sighed and relaxed slightly, listening to her impassioned, rambling speech and waiting patiently for her to wind down.
“So I guess what I’m saying is, can I have that envelope back?”
He widened his eyes, adopting his most innocent expression and tone. “You saw me get rid of it,” he said.
Her nervous energy fled as she slowed to stare at him, eyes narrowed skeptically. “So you’re telling me,” she said slowly. “That you didn’t go back as soon as I was gone to retrieve it out of the trash?”
Off the floor, actually; he had let it slip behind the trash can after noticing the remnants of someone’s greasy lunch on top of the trash. The envelope was a bit dingy, but the paper inside was protected.
She relaxed as he did, the corners of his eyes crinkling into a fond smile. “Are you going to yell at me again if I did?” he teased, even as he went over to where he had tossed his bag on the couch, retrieving the envelope from the protected side pocket and handing it to her. He lingered for a minute but her attention was all for the paper in her hands so he turned away, intending to text Severride about the delay and give her some privacy.
“Wait. Will you stay with me while I open it?”
Casey turned back to see her watching him, pleading in her tired eyes. She offered a wan smile. “Please?”
That one small word, and vulnerability behind it, punched him in the gut like nothing else could.
“Of course,” he responded instantly.
Brett relaxed slightly as he moved closer, comforted by his presence and silent strength. She took a deep breath, glancing up at him for reassurance, before tearing the envelope open and unfolding the paper.
He watched a myriad of emotions fly across her expressive face as she scanned the contents, her forehead creasing into a frown as she made a small sound of disappointment. “It’s just a name and an address,” she said, her eyes flickering up to him before returning to the page. “My mother’s name is Julie…and she lives here in Illinois.” Casey moved to peer over her shoulder as she turned the page so he could see. “Rockford. That’s not far from here.”