Matthew had been working relentlessly on trying to figure out the reason behind the trailer burnings. He had been digging deeper and deeper into the case. Looking into everything he could, from the company that owned the trailer park to the people who could be connected to the trailers in any way, shape, or form. Some of the crew at Firehouse 51 thought that their captain was looking too much into the fires. That accidents happen and sometimes buildings aren’t always up to code. But Casey knew that something was up. Trailers just don’t catch on fire randomly, with no proof of how the fire started. Especially multiple trailers in the same park and in such a short amount of time. It was suspicious and nothing was adding up. Casey felt like he was on the verge of figuring it all out and piecing the story together. He just needed more time. Though with his already heavy workload as a captain and having to go out on calls, he didn’t exactly have a lot of time. He had to stop taking care of himself so he could give himself the time to look into the case.
Casey didn’t see this as a big deal. He was used to sleepless nights and missing a few meals. He’s done it before and he told himself he could handle it. Getting this solved is more important, he reminded himself. Lives were at stake and people should not be able to get away with this. Casey not worrying about himself didn’t stop his crew from worrying about him, however. It made them worry about him even more. The second shift of Firehouse 51 knew Casey and they knew he could be a reckless man. Being reckless wasn’t always awful, but when it came to a person’s health, it could be. They could tell instantly when Casey was neglecting to do certain things. But he was also stubborn and wouldn’t listen to a word anyone said. He had his mind set on getting his solved. So everyone decided keeping an eye on him was the next best thing they could do until he was finished. The next few days consisted of Casey keeping up with his paperwork and gathering more proof for his case.
Currently, the young blonde was hunched over his laptop. The rest of the crew asleep in their bunks. The day had been busy with calls. People sliding on the icy roads and having trouble with their heating (resulting in a few too many fires). The only two up at such a late hour being Casey and the Squad Lieutenant whose office was right next door. The two often butted heads. Constantly arguing and disagreeing with each other about almost everything. Regardless, they were still best friends. Kelly had been worried about Matthew more than anyone. Forcing meals down his throat and making sure he was drinking water. Both men were bullheaded, and there was only so much Kelly could get Matt to do. He tried to make him take a nap earlier and that ordeal ended horribly. The captain not taking kindly to the suggestion, as he was already upset with Kelly “babying” him. It wasn’t babying, as Matt had called it, but looking out for his crewmates. Kelly knew no one else would be able to get him to eat.
Severide laid in his bed, watching Casey through the window. The only light coming from his laptop. Severide was positive Casey didn’t know he was being watched. If he knew, he wouldn’t be so slouched in his chair with his elbow on his desk. He didn’t know why he was watching him. Part of him telling himself he was doing it to make sure he was okay. That he didn’t pass out at his desk. He let out a breath, rubbing his eyes. Of course, he was worried about Casey, but another part of him enjoyed watching him. Casey was always tense, making sure he always had good posture and looked professional. But right now, he was letting himself relax. Not worrying about how he looked. Though, it showed how exhausted the blonde really was.
Kelly had thought about ways to get Casey to lay down or give his research a break, but he fell asleep before he was able to come up with a plan. Casey, on the other hand, stayed awake for several more hours. Feeling too close to figuring out the cause of the fires to sleep. If the bells were to go off, signaling an emergency, Casey might not have noticed. Too deep in concentration. By the time he finished, sending an email to the Chicago Police Department to schedule a meeting in the morning, it was already the end of the second shift. Matthew stood up and stretched, cracking his back and moving around his sore neck. He could hardly believe he got a solid case together. It was almost over, all that was left was talking with the CPD about it. He felt like he could finally sleep now. He packed up his laptop and his few things, getting ready to head out with the rest of the crew.
Casey didn’t know how he managed to get home. He felt half asleep by the time he got to his car. But he was home now, heading up the stairs and into his apartment. He knew driving while that exhausted was never the best idea, but he made it and he didn’t want to think about what could have happened. Besides, he wasn’t about to ask another firefighter for a ride home. His pride couldn’t handle that. All that mattered to him was getting into some sweatpants and laying down. His laptop on his nightstand. Severide had watched Casey stumble to his truck, wanting more than anything to stop him and ask him if he wanted a ride to his place. He kicked himself as he watched the grey car drive away. He was worried that Casey wouldn’t make it back to his place, but he also knew Casey. Casey wasn’t dumb enough to drive when he knew he couldn’t. Kelly got to his place, changing into comfortable clothes and sitting on his couch as he watched TV. A beer in one hand and the remote in the other. He was tempted to text Casey, make sure the man was okay. He stopped himself, knowing he was probably already asleep or very cranky.
“If he didn’t make it home, I would have heard about it by now,” he muttered to himself, taking a drink of his beer. “And everyone worries about each other like this. Nothing new or strange.” He turned up the volume of the show he was watching. His mind still on Casey.
Matthew was out the moment his head hit his pillow. His body curling up into his blankets as he slept. He was too exhausted to wake up and notice the sound of someone getting his front door open. And he stayed asleep through the sound of someone slamming closed the same door five minutes later. When he finally did wake up, it was because he had to use the bathroom. He got out of bed, moving to open his bedroom door. As soon as his hand grabbed the doorknob, he flinched back. The hot metal burning his skin. His heart started to race, grabbing hold of the knob once again and jerking the door open. His heart speeding up even more at the sight of his kitchen and living room in flames. He shut the door, backing away and trying to calm down enough to think.
“Fuck.” He grabbed a shirt, getting it on before moving one of the bedroom walls.
Matt knocked down his bookshelf, not even bothering with any of the windows. None of them would open, nor would any of them break. And it would be impossible to get out through his front door. He grabbed a metal rod that held his clothes, breaking it off his wall and letting the hangers fall to the floor. He moved back to the wall, starting to knock on it to find the most hollow and thin part of it. Once he found it, he started to break the wall with the rod. Ramming it until the wood until he made a hole big enough for him to fit out of. He climbed through it and wasted no time banging on his neighbor’s doors.
“Fire! Come on, let’s go. This is not a drill.” He yelled, moving through the hallway.
Disoriented and groggy people filed out of their apartments. Some were angry at first until they saw the smoke and realized that Casey wasn’t messing around. People helped each other out of the building quickly, coughing as they supported one another. Casey guiding them and making sure everyone was evacuated from the floor. He was about to head out behind the others until he remembered all of the evidence he spent the last few days collecting was still in his apartment. Without it, he wouldn’t be able to prove anything about the fires. He knew it was a dumb move, but he ran back to his apartment. He crawled back through the hole, coughing heavily as he got closer to the smoke. The fire had made its way into his bedroom, the room almost completely engulfed in the flames. It hurt Casey to know that all of his things would be destroyed, and it was too late to try to save anything. Except for his laptop that sat on the nightstand still. One could say that it was already too late. With the fire burning everything around it. Casey ran to his bed, grabbing the laptop and holding it close. Besides some singeing on the device, it seemed fine enough. But Casey was surrounded by the fire now. He looked around for a way out, the wall he had crawled through inflames. He knew one of his neighbors had called the Fire Department by now, though he wouldn’t have time to wait for them.
Matt looked around before grabbing one of his jackets from the ground. He wrapped it around his laptop to try to keep it safe. By now, he was having trouble breathing. Coughing constantly from the smoke that was filling his lungs, and the heat was unbearable. If he could just get out of the room, he would be okay. Matthew tried to ready himself, holding his breath and running through the fire. He dived through the hole, landing on the hard carpeting. He laid on the floor for a moment to collect himself before he pushed himself up. He made his way out of the building, keeping his focus on walking down the stairs. When he got outside, he let out a few long, nasty coughs. His lungs trying to get as much fresh air as possible. The residents of the apartment building were across the street, talking with each other. Families making sure they had everyone. A moment later, a firetruck came speeding up to the building. The firemen jumping out. Casey moved to them as quickly as his body would let him.
“Parker! Fire’s in 1 C.” He called out.
The older fireman was surprised to see him. “Casey?” He furrowed his eyebrows together before ordering his men to get inside and deal with the fire.
Parker moved to Casey, taking in how rough he was looking. He was covered in ash and burns. His skin beat red from the heat.
“Casey, what the hell happened?”
“Someone set my apartment on fire.” He held his laptop still, coughing against it to cover his mouth.
“Let’s get you over to the ambulance and get you checked out.”
“That can wait. I need to talk to a detective.”
Parker wanted to argue that his health was more important and that he could talk to one after he was helped. But he knew he wouldn’t be able to talk Casey into doing anything. He knew the captain had his mindset. Parker shook his head, moving to check in with his men and help them. Casey had found the detective he’s been talking with over the past few days. Quickly explaining his theory of arson. “How are you sure about that?”
“Last time I checked, my apartment didn’t normally smell like gasoline.” Casey shifts his laptop. The adrenaline was leaving his system. His body left feeling exhausted and in pain.
The detective was about to argue with Casey that it could be anything still. But that’s when Parker came back over to Casey. Chief Boden walking over as well. The chief had just arrived, hearing that it was his captain’s apartment that had caught on fire. He was too worried not to show up and check on him.
“We found a gas can in the living room. And someone had jimmied the lock to the apartment.” Parker took off his helmet, looking between the three men.
“You’ll need to come in for questioning. Casey.” Was all the detective said before turning and heading to his car. Parker patted Casey on the back gently, leaving his hand on his shoulder for a moment.
“I’m sorry, captain. But the apartment’s destroyed. There’s nothing left. We managed to get the fire out, but that’s about it.”
Casey shook his head, a mixture of numbness and exhaustion making it impossible to speak for a couple of moments.
“He saved a lot of lives on his way out. Still in his pajamas none the less.” Parker looked over to Boden, who couldn’t help but smile proudly.
“I would have been surprised if he didn’t. Thank you, Parker.” With that, Boden nodded his head at Parker, hinting that he needed to speak to Casey alone for a moment. Parker wanted to apologize to Casey and offer him help. As well as making sure he got his injuries checked out. But he respected Boden’s wishes. He turned around, going back to his truck. Everyone was already packing the gear away, talking softly amongst each other. The paramedics stayed put, keeping the stretcher out as they waited for Casey.
“You didn’t have to come, Chief.” He managed to say.
“I wanted to. Make sure you’re okay, Casey.”
“I’m fine. Just pissed off.”
“You look a little more than just pissed off. Our paramedics seem eager to take a look at you.” Boden put an arm around Casey.
“It’s just some minor burns, Chief. I can check them out myself later.” He says.
“I’m not asking you to get help. I’m telling you, Casey. Whatever you need to talk to the police about can wait.” Boden didn’t want to be too stern with him after what happened to him tonight, but he wanted to get the message across that Casey’s health wasn’t optional. He knew the case he had been tracking had something to do with the fire and Casey was ready to finish it. But he wasn’t about to let Casey go anywhere until he was helped.
Boden led Matthew over to the waiting ambulance, helping him onto the stretcher. The fact that the young man didn’t try to argue or push everyone away was a clear indicated of how much pain he was in. Boden carefully took his laptop away, laying it inside the ambulance. The two paramedics instantly starting to check out the burns and cuts that covered his body. Casey muttered about how they were minor and that he was fine. Trying to keep up the act that everything was perfectly okay. Boden had stayed by Casey’s side, rubbing his shoulder as the paramedic slipped an oxygen mask over Casey’s mouth and nose.
It wasn’t long until Casey passed out from pain and the paramedics worked on getting his burns wrapped up. None of the burns were that serious, only needing some cleaning, burn cream, and bandages. But with how many there were, it was no doubt excruciating to even sit down. Plus with how much smoke Casey he breathed in, no one was surprised to see him knocked out so quickly. The paramedics were able to check his lungs, make sure there was no lasting damage to them, before Casey had woken up. He wasn’t out long, though long enough to cause concern to everyone. They were ready to load him up into the ambulance and head to Med.
“No hospital.” He muttered out, his eyes cracking open.
“Casey, you suffered some pretty nasty burns and the amount of smoke you took in is no joke. You-” Boden was ready to convince him that going to the hospital was the best option, but Casey interrupted him.
“I know, Chief. Trust me. But I know I’m fine.” He took off the oxygen mask, his movements sluggish. “I just need to get some fresh air. I don’t need to go to the hospital. Besides, I have enough I need to do right now.” He moved off of the stretcher. A paramedic quickly helping him to sit up.
“You’ve been through a lot tonight already. At least take a shower and get some rest somewhere. Let me know if you need anything.” He knew arguing with the captain would do no good.
“Thank you.” Casey forced a small smile. He was grateful for the concern, but he just wanted to get his research turned into the police and finish up.
Boden was reluctant to leave him, but there was nothing else he could do for Casey right now. He gave the man a nod before heading to his car and driving away. Matt thanked the two paramedics before moving to see if he could get into his apartment. The police stopping him, telling him it was too dangerous and it was a crime scene. He put up a fight for a bit, giving up to go to the police station and talk with his detective.