Shay watched with interest as Casey looked up from his place at the table, a greeting on his lips for Dawson—and for her too, she supposed, by default—only to have the words and his easy smile darken to a puzzled frown as Dawson continued past him without a word, straight to where Peter Mills was busy prepping food for the next meal. The blonde watched as her friend hesitated, catching Casey’s eye and motioning subtly and earning a confused look in return, which cleared up when Dawson slid into the seat next to him.
Hastily grabbing a magazine to hide her smugly triumphant grin, Shay listened to her friend’s rambling invitation. Her grin widened at Casey’s matter-of-fact reply. It was a struggle to go back to a completely straight face as she joined a dazed Dawson in walking back out to the ambulance. Luckily, the alert call sounded, forcing them to focus back on the work at hand and not giving them a chance to talk. Shay had another conversation to get out of the way before she could relax enough to gush over Dawson’s impending date with Casey. She was looking forward to it.
That conversation didn’t happen until a couple of days later, after Dawson had already left for the night. Shay had begged off of drinks after work, claiming that she had to finish up some incident reports for the Chief before she left for the night. Which was true, but it was only a couple of forms, and they really just needed a signature from the Lieutenants on duty before she could turn them into the Chief. She had already gotten Severide’s, and Henderson’s, who was the Lieutenant for Engine 51. The only one left that she needed was Casey’s, as the Lieutenant for Truck 81.
She found the Lieutenant in his bunk room, which was just off of the main area. It was tiny, sporting a rough cot and small desk, but at least it had a door, which gave him some privacy. Casey was on his phone when she knocked twice on the door and entered at his acknowledging wave.
“Look, Christie…I’ll see you at the parole hearing. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens there,” he said, frustration lacing his tone as he hung up without a goodbye.
Running a hand through his short sandy blonde hair, he smiled ruefully at Shay. “Sorry about that. What’s up?”
“Is everything okay?” Shay asked instead, perching on the edge of his cot. “This has been a hell of a week anyway, but I noticed that you’ve been a bit distracted. Well, distracted for you, anyway,” she teased lightly. “Which just means doing the work of ten men, instead of twenty.”
“Come on, Shay.” He scoffed. “You make me sound like a martyr.”
“No, I know better. You are definitely a mere mortal,” she grinned. “I’ve got the pictures to prove it.”
“As do I,” he shot back. “Halloween 2010 ring a bell?”
Her eyes widened. “Okay, okay!” She said hastily. “Truce! Seriously though, what is up with you?”
He studied her for a long moment, assessing, but she had been a friend and confidante to him before Dawson or Severide had come along, and although their relationship wasn’t as openly affectionate as with the others, he trusted her.
“My mom is up for parole. Fifteen years ago, she went over to my father’s house at three o’clock in the morning, with a gun in her hand, and shot him, point blank.” He said quietly. “But she’s still my parent, and family. I’m thinking about speaking up for her at the hearing, and my sister is pissed because she always speaks up against granting Mom parole.”
“Oh.” Shay was silent as she digested this surprising avalanche of information. After a moment she got up to put a hand on his shoulder, forcing him to look up at her. “You’re a good man, Matthew Casey. Trust your instincts. If you truly believe that your mother is remorseful for what she did, then speak up. The worst they can do is deny her parole again.”
“Thanks, Shay.” He said quietly.
She sat down again, and they regarded each other for a moment.
“So,” he said briskly. “What did you really want? Surely not insight into my family drama and personal life?”
“Actually…” she shrugged. “Kind of. Dawson is my best friend, and I would protect her with my life, even from herself.” She decided that bluntness was her best policy. “So. What are your intentions towards her?”
“It’s one date, Shay.” He said coolly.
“Date being the key word, Casey.” She retorted. “Look, Dawson has been starry-eyed over you since before you and Hallie got together the first time. If you aren’t serious about this—about her—then bow out before someone gets hurt.” She started to stand, adding over her shoulder, “I’m sure Mills would be willing—“
“I’m not bowing out, Shay.”
She met his gaze, seeing the resolute stubbornness and banked intensity that made up the core of the man. “Then you need to get your head in the game, Lieutenant, even with the distractions of your family. This is too important to mess up.”
His eyes narrowed, and she elaborated. “Dawson’s cousin is a snobby little twit, and the rest of her family, bar her brother and his wife, are just as bad. They are all of the opinion that Dawson is wasting her life away working a man’s job when she should be settled down and popping out kids by now.” She snorted. “The cousin is the worst—she enjoys lording it over Dawson and flaunting her wealth and possessions like a good little trophy wife. Dawson bringing a date is only going to add fuel to the fire.”
Case stared at her for a long moment, and she could see the wheels turning behind those vivid blue eyes. A slow, very male, conspiring smirk bloomed. “Well, if there’s one thing I know about, it’s fires.”
Shay returned the smirk, pulling the papers out for him to sign. “So glad we understand each other. Good night, Lieutenant.”
“Good night, Shay.”
They parted ways, each secure in the knowledge of what hadn’t been said—that while Casey knew very well—better than most—how to put out fires, he was also perversely adept at stoking them into a consuming blaze—or a slow burn.
Shay also knew, both by observation and personal experience, that once Matthew Casey was intent on something—or someone—there wasn’t much that could deter him from his goal, whatever it might be. Hallie was out of the picture. Voigt was in prison. His mother’s parole hearing was a nagging concern, but still something to deal with in the future. Any personal doubts about Dawson’s feelings towards him were no longer an issue after his enlightening conversation with Shay. The way was clear. All he had to was initiate the first spark…