“Good morning.” Matt paused as he walked past Sylvie’s car as she climbed out of the front seat. “Is that your cat in the backseat?”
“Yes.” Sylvie sighed. “It is.”
“Why are you bringing her to work?”
“Because honestly, she’s wrecking my apartment when I leave her alone, even though I’ve bought her an automatic feeder and just about every toy the pet store sells, and I obviously can’t bring her to shift every time.” Sylvie groaned. “Besides, I’ve been trying, and I can’t get this cat to like me. I’m thinking she’s better off with someone else.”
“So you thought you’d try to find someone else at the yard sale?”
“Does that make me a terrible person?” She sighed. “It does, doesn’t it?”
“No, it doesn’t.” Matt shook his head; Sylvie and terrible were two words that could never go together in any context in his mind. “Animals have personalities, just like humans. Just because this cat and you don’t get along doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.”
Sylvie pulled the carrier from the back seat and they walked up to the house, shoulder to shoulder, stopping in their tracks at the sight of Boden watching them, eyes narrowed at the carrier.
“Why are you bringing a cat into my firehouse?”
“Um, I’m thinking about trying to find her a new home, and with the yard sale today...”
“She can stay in my office when we’re out on calls, Chief.” Matt offered.
“Fine.” Boden sighed. “Just as long as it doesn’t tear up my firehouse, fine.”
“Thank you, Chief.” Sylvie smiled as Boden walked away. “Thanks for offering your office. She’ll stay in the carrier so she won’t ruin anything.”
He shrugged. “No problem.”
As soon as the bells rang with a call for 61, Matt hurried out of his quarters; he knew Sylvie out front with the cat. By the time he walked out of the bunk room, Sylvie was hurrying across the common room with the carrier in hand.
“Go ahead, I’ll put her in my office.”
“Thank you! Watch your hands so you don’t get scratched and sorry about the hissing!” Sylvie bolted from the room as he watched her with an amused smile.
Kelly was leaning against the counter, watching them. “Babysitting the cat for her?”
“Something like that.” Matt lifted the carrier higher to look inside, expecting the cat to hiss; instead he found the cat staring at him quietly.
“If what Stella says is true, that thing is half demon.” Kelly laughed. “So have fun with that.”
Matt ignored Kelly’s comment, taking the carrier into his office and setting it down on the bed.
He planned to ignore the cat and focus on his paperwork; it worked for a few minutes until he heard the meowing.
Matt turned his desk chair around, watching the cat brush up against the side of her carrier; he sighed, scooting his chair towards the bed.
“You must be sick of being stuck in that cage.” Matt hesitated before reaching his hand towards the front of the carrier; she’d easily be able to reach her paw out and swipe him if she wanted to. “Huh. You don’t seem so bad to me, Veroni-Cat. Even if that is the worst name I’ve ever heard.”
Making sure the door to his office was closed first, he unlocked the carrier door; it was a decision he knew he might quickly regret.
The cat walked out of the carrier, jumping off the bed to sniff out her new surroundings.
He watched her for a few seconds before turning his attention back to his paperwork.
A few minutes later, another meow got his attention, this time at his feet; he looked down just in time to see her jump up onto his lap, and then onto his desk.
“You’re a weird cat.” Matt mused as she head-butted his hand for attention.
Matt was still watching the cat, even after she laid down on his desk, curling up into a ball to sleep, when his door opened; Sylvie’s eyes immediately went to the open carrier and widened.
“You let her out? Where is she? Is she hiding under your bunk? She likes to hide under my bed.”
“Uh, nope.” Matt pointed his pen towards the spot at the back of his desk where Veroni-Cat had made herself comfortable.
“What? How? And she’s not clawing you?” Sylvie crossed her arms over her chest. “She’s never been that calm with me that close.”
“I have no clue.” He shrugged. “She was meowing and brushing against the side of her cage, so I figured she wanted out. I let her out and ignored her until she climbed up here.”
“Are you like, secretly a cat whisperer or something?”
“Like I said, no clue.”
“I can’t believe it.” Sylvie crossed the small space to sit on his bunk. “You don’t want a cat, do you?”
“Uh, no, sorry.” He laughed. “If I lived alone, I’d say yes, but you might remember Severide’s endless complaints about sneezing when Dusty was here.”
“Right.” Sylvie nodded, watching the sleeping cat. “I’m just so shocked she hasn’t clawed the hell out of you.”
“Maybe she prefers to be ignored.” Matt shrugged. “She was in a shelter. They probably don’t get a lot of socialization with humans in there. Not to mention, god only knows where she was before that.”
“Maybe.” She mumbled. “So you’re basically suggesting I stop trying so hard?”
“Well, if you’re finding her a new home, I guess it doesn’t matter.”
“Yeah, guess so.”
The inside of the firehouse was almost empty; 51’s Annual Yard Sale was fully underway and almost everybody was outside.
Stella was one of the few people inside, obsessively checking her email for the results of her exam. “If you’re looking for Brett, she’s outside with the demon cat.”
“Thanks.” Matt squeezed her shoulder as he walked by. “Relax, Kidd. You’re going to pass.”
Matt walked onto the apparatus floor, his eyes landing on Sylvie, sitting at the Squad table, the carrier on the table in front of her as she scrolled through her phone.
“I thought you were taking her out front?” Matt pulled the chair out next to hers and sat down.
“I was going to.” She sighed, setting her phone down. “And now I don’t want to.”
“I know I didn’t exactly plan to get a cat, but if I can get her to like me, I’d be happy to keep her.” Sylvie explained. “And now that I know she doesn’t hate all humans, I want to keep trying. Even if it means ignoring her for the time being, which is why I’m sitting here on my phone.”
“She’s not hissing at you from the carrier anymore.” Matt laughed. “That’s gotta be a start.”
“Yeah, probably because I haven’t tried to talk to her or pet her in an hour.” She laughed. “Whatever works, I guess. If I can just get her to where she doesn’t claw me whenever I walk too close to her, I’ll be happy.”
He smiled. “I’m sure you’ll win her over.”
Truck 81, Squad 3, Ambulance 61 .
“Hey Herrmann.” Sylvie jumped up as Herrmann walked by. “Do you mind taking the cat and putting it in Casey’s office?”
After a long call, Matt opened his office door, expecting to see the cat carrier on his bunk, but it was nowhere to be seen.
“Herrmann!” Matt walked back into the bunk room as Herrmann sat up on his bunk.
“What’s up, Captain?”
“Where’s the cat?” Matt questioned as Sylvie walked in the bunk room, pausing at the question and looking to Herrmann.
“Oh, I found it a new home!” Herrmann replied. “Real nice guy. Wife’s a vet, so he said she knows all about animal behavior.”
“You gave Veroni-Cat away?” Sylvie stepped closer to Matt, who reached his arm out and put his hand on her back.
“Wasn’t that what you wanted?” Herrmann glanced between the two of them. “You said you wanted to find her a new home, that’s why you brought her here, isn’t it?”
“She also changed her mind.” Matt snapped. “That’s why she asked you to put her in my office.”
“Oh, man. I’m so sorry, Brett.” Herrmann stood up. “I thought that was what you wanted.”
“It’s fine.” Sylvie shook her head. “I mean, she’s with a vet, she’s probably better off. She didn’t even like me.”
“I’m sorry, kiddo.”
“I know, it’s fine. I’m fine.” Sylvie hurried out of the room, and Matt watched her until she disappeared into the locker room, then shot Herrmann a disappointed look.
“You really didn’t think that even if she was going to give the cat away, she might want a say in to who?”
Matt didn’t wait for a response before heading in the direction Sylvie had rushed off; she was sitting on the bench, looking unsurprised to see him.
“I’m fine, Matt. Really.”
“No, you’re not.” Matt sat down next to her. “And that’s okay.”
Sylvie sighed, dropping her head onto his shoulder. “It’s silly. I was ready to find her a new home a few hours ago.”
“Hey, Herrmann told me what -” Stella stopped as she rounded the corner, her eyes dropping to the arm Matt had wrapped around her waist. “Happened. Are you okay?”
“I’m okay.” Sylvie nodded, lifting her head off his shoulder. “I was just thinking there was hope for us yet, but it’s okay.”
Ambulance 61, man down, unknown causes.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me.” Sylvie squeezed his shoulder as she stood up. “That goes for both of you.”
“Find me when you come back.” Stella remarked as Sylvie walked past her; once she knew Sylvie was out of earshot, her attention focused back on Matt. “You’re planning something, aren’t you? I can practically see your brain working.”
“Maybe, but I don’t know if it’ll work.” Matt stood up with a sigh. “So don’t say anything to her.”
“Okay.” Stella nodded. “Go do the Matt Casey thing.”
Matt raised an eyebrow. “‘The Matt Casey thing’?”
“Yeah, going ridiculously out of your way for someone. It’s sort of your thing.” Stella pointed out. “Sylvie’s too. You’re both that way.”
“You make that sound like a bad thing.”
“Not at all. It’s just sometimes I wish you’d both put as much energy into making yourselves happy as you do into others.” She shook her head. “Well, good luck with whatever you’re planning. If you need help, let me know.”
Before he could overthink her words, Matt brushed past Stella to find Herrmann.
“Herrmann.” Matt motioned him towards his office, waiting until they were both inside before pushing the door closed behind them.
“How’s Brett? I really feel terrible.”
“More upset than she’ll ever let on. She won’t want to make you feel bad.” Matt crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned against his desk. “But maybe there’s something we can do.”
“You said the guy’s wife is a vet. Do you know anything else about him?”
“Uh, his name was Owen. He mentioned owning a plant shop.”
“Did he mention the name?”
“No.” He shook his head. “Wait, he said he was on his lunch break while he was here, so it’s probably nearby.”
Matt sighed, raking his hand over his face. “There’s probably about a dozen nurseries within five miles of here.”
“You want to track him down and try to get her back.”
“Yes. And you’re going to help me after shift.”
“It seems like a long shot.” Herrmann replied. “But of course I’ll try.”
“I’ll go online and find a list of nurseries nearby.” Matt stated. “Don’t mention anything to Sylvie in case this doesn’t work.”
“Got it, Captain.”
“Well, that’s two down.” Herrmann remarked as they got into Matt’s truck. “Where’s the next one?”
“About a half a mile from here.”
“It’s real nice of you to spend your day off after a shift of calls all night long doing this for Brett.”
Matt took his eyes off the road for a second to glance at Herrmann before focusing his attention back. “Well, she’s my friend.”
“You two seem a lot tighter than you used to be.”
Matt could practically hear the unspoken ‘before Gabby left’. “We are.”
Before Herrmann could say anything, they pulled into the parking lot of the next nursery on the list.
“That’s him.” He unbuckled his seatbelt, nodding towards a man in the parking lot. “It was my mistake. I’ll talk to him.”
Matt nodded as he climbed out of his truck, anyway; from experience, things would not go as smoothly as Herrmann assumes they will. They never do; it was best to be prepared for that.
“Oh, it’s Herrmann, right? What are you doing here?”
“So, I messed up big time.” Herrmann started. “I thought my friend wanted to find a new home for the cat, but it turns out she had changed her mind about that. She’s pretty upset about the situation.”
“Oh.” He scratched the back of his neck, shifting uncomfortably, and Matt sighed. “Look, I’d happily give her back to you, that cat is mean, but my wife has already convinced herself that she’s going to get the cat to love her. She’s already bought her new toys and everything.”
“Well, so has our friend.” Herrmann replied. “And she shouldn’t have to lose her cat because I made a mistake.”
“Owen, is everything okay?” A woman walked out the front of the store, eyeing Matt and Herrmann curiously.
“Yeah, everything’s fine.”
“Is this your wife?” Herrmann asked.
“What’s going on?”
“These are the firefighters I got the cat from.” He explained. “And they want it back.”
“Let me get this straight.” She crossed her arms over her chest, drawing Matt’s eyes to a bandage across her arm; he knew where that injury came from, having seen bandages on the same spot on Sylvie for weeks. “You got a cat, then decided you didn’t want her, gave her away, changed your mind, and came back to get her now?”
“No.” Matt spoke up for the first time since he’d gotten out of his truck. “That’s not what happened.”
“Well, please explain.” She replied. “I’m not just going to hand her back to someone that gave her away once already.”
“Completely understandable, I wouldn’t either.” Matt nodded. “It’s our friend, Sylvie’s, cat, not either of ours. She didn’t plan to get a cat, she basically fell into her lap, and she was trying to make the best of it, even though, as you probably have already figured out, she’s not the easiest cat to deal with.”
The woman glanced down at the bandage on her hand. “She’s scared. It’s not her fault.”
“I know. And Sylvie’s been dealing with her for weeks now. She’s been clawing her up and wrecking her apartment when she’s left alone, and Sylvie’s a paramedic, so she has to leave her alone for 24 hours at a time, so yes, she was considering finding her a new home.” He explained. “But then she had a small breakthrough with her and changed her mind.”
“And I didn’t know that.” Herrmann added. “So when your husband said him and his wife had been planning on getting a cat and you were a vet, well, it seemed perfect.”
“So I get why you’re hesitant to just hand her back to us, but I promise you, there’s no better place for her to be than with Sylvie. I spend every shift with the best first responders in the city, and she’s the very best of us. She’s the most patient, caring, loving person I’ve ever met.” Matt could feel Herrmann’s eyes on him, but he refused to look over at him. “Sylvie will love Veroni-Cat, and she’ll be the most well taken care of cat in the city.”
The woman nodded. “Okay.”
“What?” Owen looked at his wife. “Abby, are you sure?”
“I’m sure. I believe him. And we can adopt from the shelter, like we originally planned.”
“Thank you.” Matt smiled. “She’s going to be thrilled to have her back.”
“She’s in our apartment upstairs. I’ll go get her in her carrier. It might take a few minutes.”
“I’m going to go help some customers. Feel free to have a look around the shop.” Owen remarked.
They followed the couple into the shop; Matt deliberately refused to look at Herrmann, glancing around at the plants instead.
Matt paused by a vase of flowers, the same flowers Sylvie had given him to put in his office nearly two years before.
“Hydrangeas.” Owen stated. “They’re my wife’s favorite.”
“My friend likes them.”
He heard the cat hissing before he saw Abby round the corner with the carrier. “Your friend has great taste in flowers then.”
Matt glanced towards Herrmann, but he looking at a different display.
“You know, I think I’ll get a bouquet of these.” Matt smiled. “Here, let me take the cat before she can scratch your hands up even more through that cage.”
She handed him the carrier, an amused look on her face as soon as Veroni-Cat stopped hissing once Matt was holding it.
“Interesting.” She laughed. “Here, I’ll ring those flowers up for you.”
“Here.” Matt tossed Herrmann his keys, earning the second surprised look from him in five minutes; the first had been when he saw Matt buying flowers, although to his surprise, he hadn’t commented on it.
“You want me to drive?”
“Unless you want to hold the carrier, but I’m guessing she’ll claw the hell out of you.”
“I’m good with driving.” He laughed. “At least until we get back to 51 and my car. I just didn’t think you liked people driving your truck.”
“I don’t.” Matt grumbled as he put his seatbelt on. “So drive carefully.”
As soon as they were on the road, Matt saw Herrmann glance at him out of the corner of his eye and braced himself for an awkward conversation.
“Can I say something about you and Brett?”
“If I say no, will it stop you?”
Herrmann laughed. “Probably not.”
“Then you might as well go ahead.”
“You should talk to her. Tell her how you feel. That’s my advice after a couple decades of marriage. Most problems in a relationship can be solved with honestly.”
Whatever Matt had expected him to say, it hadn’t been that. “What makes you so sure I haven’t?”
“Because I’ve known you for almost fifteen years.” He laughed. “And I’ve seen you staring at her at Molly’s damn near every night for months.”
“I was expecting judgement.” Matt admitted.
“Because of Gabby?” Herrmann shrugged. “She left, and she’s happy where she’s at. You should be able to be happy too.”
“I’m working on it.”
He was; he knew how he felt, he knew what he wanted.
He just didn’t know how to go about telling her how he felt; his track record of trying to have conversations with Sylvie about his feelings wasn’t great.
Matt hadn’t been back to Sylvie’s apartment in over six months, not since the night of their kiss; he hesitated for a second, wondering if he should’ve called first, before setting the carrier on the ground to knock on the door, keeping the flowers in his other hand.
After a minute passed, he knocked again; she had told him her plans for the day were to rest and head to Molly’s, but it was far too early for Molly’s.
As soon as the door opened, he decided he really should have called first; partly because Sylvie’s tousled hair and barely opened eyes were a giveaway he had woken her up, and partly because she undoubtedly would’ve changed out of the satin shorts and tank top, which would’ve made having a conversation a lot easier on his brain.
“Matt?” She rubbed her eyes with one hand as she leaned against the door with the other. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, uh.” Matt tore his eyes away from her, down to the carrier at his feet.
“Veroni-Cat!” Sylvie gasped as her eyes followed his. “How did you get her back?”
“Herrmann and I tracked the guy down. Herrmann felt terrible about the whole thing.”
Sylvie grabbed his arm with one hand, pulling him inside as she grabbed the carrier, and closed the door behind them; he sat the flowers down on the coffee table as she cooed over the cat.
Matt watched as Sylvie sat down on the ground and opened the cat carrier door; the cat darted out and dashed towards the cat tower in the corner.
“She didn’t scratch me!” Sylvie beamed. “I think she’s even happy to be back.”
“I’m sure she is.” He couldn’t help but return her smile as she jumped up off the floor.
“Thank you, Matt.” Her arms went around his neck, and he wrapped his arms around her instinctively, the thin fabric of her pajamas bunching up under his arms. “I can’t believe you went through all that trouble.”
He tightened his grip on her waist. “It was nothing.”
“It’s not nothing.” Sylvie unwrapped her arms from his neck, but didn’t step backwards out of his grip; the same urge to kiss her he’d felt in the doctor’s office was back and even more overwhelming.
Matt sighed, stepping back and dropping his hands from her waist. “Sylvie, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. Spending a few hours tracking down your cat is nothing.”
“I, uh, well, thank you again.” Sylvie stepped backwards as she ran a hand through her hair; her eyes darted around the room rather than look at him until they landed on the flowers. “You… bought me flowers?”
“Well, the guy worked at a nursery and I remembered you liked that kind of flowers, so…”
“I can’t believe you remember that.”
“Of course I do.” He watched her step towards the couch then pause as if she was reconsidering, then turn back around. “I should go.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Sylvie, I want to talk. I think we’ve been dancing around, trying to avoid making each other uncomfortable for too long. But…” He sighed, glancing towards the couch. “I really don’t think here and now is the time or place.”
“Oh.” She nodded. “Okay.”
“Can we get lunch tomorrow?”
“Sure.” Sylvie smiled. “I’ll still see you at Molly’s tonight, though, right?”
“Yeah, I promised Stella and Sev I’d be there.” Matt laughed. “She’s nervous, waiting for her results. She wants to get drunk.”
“I know. I promised too.” Sylvie laughed. “I’ll see you tonight. And I’m looking forward to talking tomorrow.”
“Case!” Kelly laughed, waving his hand in front of Matt’s face to get his attention. “Stop staring at the door and drink.”
Matt glanced away from the patio door to Kelly and Stella. “I’m not trying to keep up with either of you.”
“Buzzkill!” Stella laughed. “She’ll be here soon. Drink!”
He considered trying to deny he was staring at the door, waiting for Sylvie, but it would’ve been a waste of energy; they’d have both seen through the lie. “I have lunch plans, I don’t want to be hungover.”
Kelly raised an eyebrow. “Lunch plans?”
“With Sylvie.” Stella laughed, pushing a shot glass towards him. “Oh, you can’t think she wouldn’t tell me that.”
“Did she tell you what time she was going to be here tonight? It’s getting kind of late.”
“Nope.” Stella replied. “You two act an awful lot like an old married couple for two people who have never even slept together.”
Kelly tried to mask his laugh as a cough as he stood up. “I’ll get another round.”
“I haven’t finished this one.” Matt lifted his beer bottle and motioned towards the full shot glass in front of him. “I’m good.”
Matt went back to watching the door, and a few seconds later, it opened and Sylvie stepped out onto the patio; her eyes immediately found his, and she smiled.
“Hi.” Sylvie sat down on the bench next to him, her knee bumping into his. “I know it’s later than I planned to get here, but I was playing with Veroni-Cat! She actually let me touch her, look.”
Sylvie pulled her phone out of her pocket and opened the photos app, leaning closer to show him a photo of her with the cat on her lap.
“How’d you manage that?”
Sylvie looked towards the sound of Stella’s voice in surprise, as if she hadn’t realized she was there. “I took Matt’s advice. I ignored her and let her come to me.”
Matt inhaled sharply as she rested her hand on his shoulder, leaning in front of him to show the photo on her phone to Stella.
“You’ve got to change her name since you’re keeping her.” Stella laughed. “I can’t say Veroni-Cat with a straight face.”
“I know it’s ridiculous, but so is how I got her and everything else about it.” Sylvie laughed. “It’s grown on me. Just like she has.”
She pulled back and Matt let out a sigh; he wasn’t sure if it was relief or disappointment that she was no longer touching him.
“Hey Brett.” Herrmann walked up to the table, a glass of Rosé in hand. “On the house. I’m really sorry again about the whole thing.”
“It all worked out.” Sylvie smiled. “Thanks for helping get her back.”
“Oh, I really didn’t do much.” Herrmann laughed. “It was the Captain here that made a list of nurseries for us to find him, and he was the one that gave the speech that convinced them to give her back.”
Sylvie turned her head towards him, and everything else disappeared; a feeling he’d only experienced a handful of times in his life, and every single one of them involved Sylvie Brett.
“Well, that doesn’t surprise me.” Sylvie smiled.
Herrmann said something but Matt wasn’t paying attention; it earned a laugh from Sylvie, who leaned forward, resting her forehead against his shoulder as her body shook with laughter.
“Matt Casey doing the Matt Casey thing?” Stella laughed. “Shocker.”
He had to get out of this bar; if he didn’t, he was going to kiss Sylvie Brett in front of all their friends.
Kissing Sylvie before they had the chance to talk things out was not a mistake he was going to make a second time.
“I, uh, I’ve gotta go.” He finished his beer quickly before standing up. “I have some paperwork I forgot about.”
He almost winced at his own terrible lie as Kelly raised an eyebrow at him.
Sylvie looked up at him in surprise. “What?”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Matt didn’t have to look back at the table as he walked away to know he was earning some confused looks; he could feel the eyes on him until he was out in front of Molly’s.
Matt paused by his truck long enough to take a deep breath; he was desperately ready to talk to Sylvie.
Matt wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting on the couch, staring at the screen without seeing whatever the local news was covering; based on the beer he’d opened when he got home, which was barely touched and now warm, he’d guess over an hour.
The knock on the door snapped him out of his trance, reaching for the remote to click the TV off before he stood up and crossed the distance towards the door, pulling it open; Sylvie was standing on the other side, arms crossed over her chest.
“Sylvie, what are you doing here?”
“I know you wanted to talk tomorrow.” Sylvie brushed past him into the apartment. “But you’ve been acting so weird today. You practically ran out of my apartment, then you use some obviously nonsense excuse to rush out of Molly’s.”
Matt sighed. “I feel like we’ve just reversed the roles from months ago.”
“If you want to talk, talk to me, Matt, please.” She sighed. “I could go home and spend the entire night staring at the ceiling, wondering how the conversation is going to go, which I imagine you’d be doing the same, or we can just talk right now.”
“Okay.” Matt motioned towards the couch. “Do you want to sit?”
Sylvie sat down on the couch and looked towards where he was still standing. “Are you going to sit down?”
Matt sat down in the chair across from the couch, ignoring the surprised look on her face.
“You want to start by explaining why my apartment this afternoon wasn’t the right time or place to talk?”
“Honestly, I have enough trouble thinking straight around you anywhere.” He admitted. “And being back in your apartment, thinking about that night, especially considering what you were wearing, felt like a recipe for saying or doing something stupid.”
“Oh.” Even in the dim light of the apartment, the flush on Sylvie’s cheeks was obvious. “And you rushed out of Molly’s because?”
“Again, to stop myself from saying or doing something stupid.”
“I’m guessing that’s why you aren’t sitting on the couch with me.”
He nodded. “Self control.”
“Well, let’s talk then.” Sylvie sighed. “It’s obvious neither of us have quite put those feelings behind us.”
“I haven’t and I don’t want to.” Matt took a deep breath and exhaled. “And that’s a first for me, really. I told myself it was best for you if I stepped back and let you move on, and I figured I’d be able to do the same. I tried.”
Sylvie nodded. “The redhead.”
“It just made it worse. It just amplified how much I didn’t want to be with anyone else.” Matt stated. “And I do mean anyone else. It’s just you, Sylvie. It’s only been you for a long time.”
Sylvie bit her lower lip, then sighed. “And Gabby?”
“She’s in my past. Has been. I don’t want to be with her.” He hesitated before standing up, moving to sit on the couch. “I want to be with you.”
“I…” Sylvie started, then stopped.
Overwhelmed and at a loss for words were feelings Matt was all too familiar with; he scooted over on the couch to put some space between them.
“If you need time to think about it, and want to go, I get it. Or if you want to talk more, I’ll sit here and talk all night if you want. I’m an open book. What comes next is up to you, I understand either way.”
“Well, if that offer extends to another night, I’ll take you up on that one day, but I don’t need time to think, and I don’t need to talk.” Sylvie reached over and linked her fingers through his as she smiled at him. “You’ve said everything I needed to hear.”
“I’m sorry it took me so long.”
“Don’t be.” Sylvie reached up and put her hand on his cheek as she scooted closer. “It’s better this way, having taken the time to know exactly what we both want, than having jumped in before we were both completely ready.”
“You’re incredible, you really are the most understanding person I’ve ever met, and I love you.” Matt smiled, pulling her closer; Sylvie’s sharp intake of air and suddenly watering eyes made him pause. “Should I have not said that yet?”
“No, no, it’s not that at all. I’m so happy to hear you say them. It’s just, for a long time, I didn’t even let myself imagine you ever saying those words to me.” Sylvie leaned forward, pressing her lips against his in a soft kiss that ended too quickly for either of them. “I love you too.”
Matt watched her stand up with a curious smile on his face. “Where are you going?”
“If I kiss you again, I’m going to get carried away, and well, you have roommates that could come home any time, so I’m going to your bedroom.” She was walking away, but she turned her head to smirk at him. “Are you coming with me?”
Matt grinned, jumping up off the couch and closing the distance between them in a few seconds, slipping his arms around her waist to pull her flush against him, earning a surprised giggle as she relaxed, leaning into him.
“Stopping me from walking away doesn’t exactly answer my question, you know.”
He turned her around and her arms immediately went around his neck; he lifted her feet off the ground so she’d wrap her legs around him as he walked them towards his room.
“Does that answer your question?”
Sylvie grinned, kissing him again. “I think so.”
In the morning, Matt woke up tangled up with Sylvie; her head on his chest, her arm around his torso, her leg over his.
This, he decided, was the best way to wake up as he smiled at her sleeping form, his arm around her shoulder pulling her closer.
Matt would’ve been perfectly happy to spend the rest of the day in that exact spot, but Sylvie started stirring a few minutes later; the arm that was over his torso moved until her fingers found his, lacing them together.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
Her head was still on his chest, but he could feel her body shake with a silent laugh. “Oh, please. I’m sure I look like a train wreck.”
Matt smiled, kissing the top of her head. “That’s not even possible.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere.” Sylvie teased as she sat up in the bed, stretching her arms out. “Goodness, is it really already after ten?”
“It’s only flattery if it’s insincere; I was being very genuine, which means it’s a compliment.” He retorted with a grin. “And yeah, it’s after ten. Why? Got plans?”
She looked back towards him with a smile. “Nope.”
“Good.” Matt wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her back down on top of him. “Then let’s stay right here.”
A few seconds later, shouting from the other side of the apartment got both of their attention; Kelly and Stella were obviously both in the kitchen.
“I can’t believe they’re awake already. They didn’t stumble in until after three.” Matt chuckled. “And by the noise they made, I assume they literally stumbled in.”
“Did that sound like a happy shout or an upset shout?” Sylvie sat back up. “Maybe she -”
The banging on the door cut her off.
“Casey!” Stella shouted. “I passed my exam! Get your ass up, we’re going out to breakfast to celebrate! Casey!”
“Yeah, I’m awake. Congratulations!” Matt grinned. “Be out in a few minutes.”
“Well, my being here won’t be the biggest news of the morning now.” Sylvie whispered with a grin.
Across the room, Sylvie’s phone rang in her jacket pocket, the sound filling the room.
Sylvie bit her lip as the ringing stopped after a few seconds, long before her voicemail would have picked up.
“Yeah, hi.” Sylvie leaned against Matt’s chest as she laughed. “Congratulations!”
“Uh, thank you. You too? I’ll, uh, see you in the kitchen.”
Stella’s footsteps retreated and Sylvie laughed again as she climbed off the bed. “Well, that wasn’t awkward at all.”
Matt watched with a grin as Sylvie found her discarded jeans on the floor and pulled them on; she’d put on one of his Truck 81 shirts when she’d gotten up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water. It was too big, but it didn’t seem to bother her.
“There are extra toothbrushes in the bathroom, drawer to the left of the sink.”
“Thank you, but get up.” She laughed, picking up his sweater from the night before and tossing it at him. “Stella passed her exam. We have to go celebrate!”
“I’m getting up.” He laughed as he sat up.
“Great. I’ll be ready in two minutes.”
Sylvie walked into her bathroom as he climbed off the bed to get dressed.
By the time he’d thrown his clothes on, Sylvie was ready to go.
“Ready?” She asked, grabbing her jacket.
Matt reached for her hand. “Yeah, let’s go.”
They rounded the corner into the kitchen hand in hand, unsurprised to see Stella and Kelly both at the counter grinning at them.
Kelly raised his coffee mug in greeting, a smirk on his face. “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” Sylvie smiled, dropping Matt’s hand to rush over to Stella and hug her. “Congratulations, Lieutenant Kidd.”
“Well, I’m not a Lieutenant until I have a position but thank you.” Stella grinned, pulling Sylvie into the living room, out of earshot of Matt and Kelly.
Matt poured himself a cup of coffee, leaning against the counter. “So, no witty quip?”
“Nah.” He shook his head. “It’s just good to see you happy again, man.”
“Don’t get sappy on me now.” He laughed.
“Fine. It’ll be nice to not have to watch you stare at her across the bar anymore.” Kelly smirked.
Matt shoved Kelly’s shoulder. “Okay, shut up.”
Kelly looked over to the living room where Stella and Sylvie were talking in hushed voices. “We both landed women so far out of our leagues.”
Matt smiled as Sylvie glanced over at him. “Totally out of our leagues.”
“God, were we this nauseatingly lovesick in the beginning?” Stella quipped as they walked out of the diner.
Matt had his arm around Sylvie’s shoulder, their hands linked as she leaned into his side, but she still turned her head towards her best friend with a laugh. “You’re kidding, right?”
“You two never kept your hands to yourself. Ever. ” Matt laughed. “I’m still working on getting the mental image out of my head of walking in on you in the laundry room in the middle of the night.”
“Okay, fair.” Stella grinned. “That’s still true.”
When they reached the parking lot, Sylvie eyed his truck. “Hey, can I drive?”
He pulled the keys from his pocket and handed them to her. “Sure.”
“Seriously?” Kelly exclaimed. “You won’t even let me drive that damn truck.”
“I’ll have you know I learned to drive in a Ram, which is bigger than his truck.” Sylvie replied. “I am very much capable of driving it, thank you very much.”
Matt pressed his lips together to hide a smirk. “We’ll see you guys later.”
Sylvie untangled herself from Matt’s arms to hug Stella again, congratulating her again.
“You two may be nauseatingly cute to be around.” Stella remarked. “But I am happy you two finally worked your shit out.”
They parted ways in the parking lot, Kelly and Stella heading for her Jeep as Matt and Sylvie reached his truck.
“Is there a reason you wanted to drive?” Matt asked once they were in the truck.
Sylvie grinned. “I just haven’t driven a truck in a long time.”
“So, you like trucks. I definitely didn’t know that.”
“I’m full of surprises.” Sylvie laughed. “No, this is just what I grew up with. Trucks and football and farm animals, typical rural small town life.”
Matt took advantage of the fact he wasn’t driving to ask her questions about Fowlerton and her family, and watch her.
She glanced over at him as they were stopped at a light a few blocks from her apartment. “You know I can feel you staring at me, right?”
“I wasn’t trying to hide it. I don’t have to be subtle anymore.” He laughed. “Although apparently I wasn’t very subtle before. At the very least, Sev and Herrmann noticed.”
“Herrmann said something? I was worried he’d be… disapproving.”
“He wasn’t. He even tried to give me advice.”
“Really?” Sylvie chuckled. “What’d he say?”
“Just that I should talk to you, which I already knew, of course.”
“Well, he was right.” Sylvie parallel parked the truck in front of her building before turning towards him with a bright smile. “See? I said I could handle it.”
“I never doubted that you could.” Matt remarked. “I know better than to doubt you.”
“You’re a bit of a suck up, but I kind of like it.” Sylvie leaned over to kiss him. “Come on, let’s go inside and see what my cat destroyed because I left her alone.”
Matt tried to remember the last time he’d felt as happy and relaxed as he did sitting on Sylvie’s couch, her legs sprawled across his lap as she watched an episode of House Hunters; he wasn’t sure he ever had been.
If this was how his days off were going to go in the future, that was perfectly fine with him.
“This show is totally boring you, isn’t it?”
Matt turned his head towards her. “No.”
It wasn’t, really; it was just more fun to watch her reactions and listen to her commentary.
“You haven’t looked at the screen in at least ten minutes.”
“I’m not bored.” He promised. “And I think it’s cute how into it you get.”
“I know it’s ridiculous.”
“It’s really not. And at least you aren’t watching The Bachelor and yelling at the TV.”
“Which Stella does every week.” Sylvie laughed. “She loves her trashy reality TV.”
“I’m not sure why it’s called reality. There’s nothing real about it.”
“Fair point.” She smiled as Veroni-Cat finally came down out of the cat tower and walked over to the couch, jumping up and curling up at Matt’s side. “She likes you better.”
“I doubt that.”
Sylvie raised an eyebrow. “You’re the first person she got anywhere near without clawing. You should’ve seen the scratch she left on Greg’s leg.”
Matt pressed his lips together to keep himself from laughing. “I know it’s petty, but that makes me a little happy. That she likes me and not him.”
“It’s not a competition. It never was. He was great, but he wasn’t you.” Sylvie leaned up to press her lips against his. “And it’s you I love.”
“I love you too.”
Sylvie smiled as she leaned back against the couch again; Veroni-Cat stood up and climbed over his lap to lie on her stomach.
“Oh, wow. This is definitely a first.”
“See? I told you she didn’t like me better.”
“She’s chosen to lie on me, which means I’m stuck here until she moves.” She laughed. “Which by extension means you can’t move either, since my legs are on you.”
“Fine by me.” Matt smiled. “I’m perfectly happy right here. I could stay here forever.”
Sylvie met his eyes with a smile on her face as she pet Veroni-Cat. “So could I.”