Sudden tears welled up, the stress of the last week finally catching up to her. “Casey, I don’t –“
“Shh,” he soothed, pulling her into his arms with a sigh. “Easy. Let it go, Sylvie. I got you.”
She melted into him, hot tears soaking his shirt as her body shook and trembled with exhaustion, the paper fluttering to the floor as she burrowed into him. He stood there quietly, solid as an oak in a storm, feeling helpless and racking his brain for a way to comfort or do something, when she finally lifted her head.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, her voice hoarse as she tried to pull away. “I should – “
“Stay exactly as you are,” Casey interrupted firmly, tightening his arms. “Or actually – c’mere.” In one solid move he scooped her up, frowning at how fragile and light she felt. “No more of Foster’s spin classes for you for a while,” he murmured. “You’ve lost weight, Sylvie.”
She grumbled a reply, tucking her face in the crook of his neck and shoulder and breathing in his smoke and cedar scent as he carried her to the couch. “Not a firefighter. Can’t order me around.”
“It was a strongly worded suggestion,” he countered lightly. “Go to sleep, Sunshine. You can yell at me tomorrow.” He felt more than heard her sleepy sound of agreement as she succumbed to her exhaustion.
It took a bit of maneuvering, especially with an arm and lapful of boneless, sleepy, and warm Sylvie Brett curled up against him like a kitten, but somehow he managed, more less reclining on the couch and grabbing his phone in the process. Sylvie moved restlessly in her sleep and he soothed her, waiting until she quieted before picking up his phone.
He winced at the sudden glaring brightness of his screen, quickly turning it down before it could wake the woman in his arms, before texting Jay Halstead, asking if he could stop by 51 sometime the next day. From there he shot off two more messages, one to Severride (and to Emily, since she was working at Molly’s), and the other to Cruz, before setting the alarm and closing his eyes. 6am was going to come soon enough, whether he wanted it to or not.
Brett woke slowly the next morning, more comfortable and warm than she had ever been in her life. Except…she moved her head restlessly, trying to find a better spot. Had Cruz replaced her pillow with a rock? What was this?
“You know, no matter how much you try to fluff my shoulder, it’s not going to get any more comfortable,” a familiar amused deep voice said from above her head.
Her eyes flew open and she scrambled to sit up as Casey laughed, finally able to move from his reclined position as well. “Casey! What – how – when,” she babbled, running a hand through her hair, frantically trying to catch up.
“Breathe, Sylvie.” He chuckled. “You talked yourself into changing your mind – again- and came over to actually open the envelope instead of yelling at me again.”
She sighed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Because of course you went back and got it,” she nodded, the events of the night before flooding back. “Which…thank you for doing that.” She shook her head, offering him a wry smile. “Always the hero, Casey, even protecting me from myself when I need it.”
Surprise and gratitude flashed in his eyes before he returned the smile. “I know what it’s like to be too close to something to see things clearly,” he replied. “You just needed a little time to resolve the situation between your heart and your head.”
She stifled an inward sigh; typical Casey, brushing off the compliment as always. “Well, thank you for not listening to me, even though I yelled at you.” She frowned. “How did we end up on the couch?”
“You still haven’t told Kidd or Foster about your birth mom yet, have you?” he countered, nodding when she shook her head guiltily. “Pretty sure the stress of you actually keeping a secret from them, plus the general anxiety of the entire situation, just overwhelmed you last night. Let’s not do that again, hmm?”
She grimaced. “Yeah, that sounds about right. Copy that.”
“I was going to carry you to your room, but you were so exhausted that it was just easier to stay here,” he continued, fudging a bit of the truth. Technically, he could have continued to her room in the first place when he had initially picked her up instead of just moving to the couch, but she had held on to him tighter when he had tried to put her down and he hadn’t had the heart or strength to resist the opportunity to have her in his arms for a while.
Brett shot him a sidelong glance, but didn’t question it, especially since she had enjoyed waking up next to him. It was an experience that she could easily get used to. Fast. Except that they were friends, and she didn’t want to ruin that, especially with how close they were quickly becoming.
“So. Julie lives in Rockford?” She said instead, returning the subject back to her birth mom.
Casey nodded, standing and stretching and rolling his neck a bit to get the kinks out of it. “I contacted Jay Halstead and asked him if he could meet us at 51 sometime today if he gets a chance. Thought he might be willing to run a background check on her, see if there’s anything that might be a red flag or would give us more insight on why she’s trying to contact you now after all these years. That is, if you’re comfortable with telling him about what’s going on.”
She nodded, touched by his protectiveness and forthrightness. “That’s a really good idea, actually. Thanks, Casey.”
He smiled, relieved. “Of course. I also texted Cruz and asked him to bring your gear to the station early so you didn’t have to run home. Just let me jump in the shower really quick, and we can go.”
“Wait. What time is it?” She frowned, glancing around for a clock. “And remind me to add a wall clock to the list of stuff to buy when I officially move in.”
“It’s only 6:30,” he answered. “I’ll be fast.”
“Roll call is at 8,” she reminded him with a smile. “I can run home and shower and change.”
Disappointment flashed through him, but he nodded. “Might be an idea to leave a spare set of gear here anyway though,” he suggested. “Just in case.” He offered a quick smile before turning away to head for his room. “I’ll see you at the firehouse then.”
She nodded, a slight frown in her eyes as she watched him leave. “Matt.” He was nearly to the hallway when he turned. “Thank you. You’ve been incredible lately, letting me vent, helping me with Mister Larson and Dusty last month, all of it. I just…thank you.”
“Anytime,” he answered quietly. “Whatever you need, Sylvie. You only have to ask.”