Title: Don’t Fight It
Characters: Peter Mills, Matt Casey, Gabby Dawson
Pairing: Casey/Dawson, Mills/Dawson friendship
Rating: T, for a few swear words.
Spoilers: For the ending scenes of 1x11 and the beginning of 1x12.
Summary: Peter Mills overhears a conversation between Dawson and Casey he never thought he’d hear.
Author’s Note: A reviewer from my other Chicago Fire story named blackberry959 called Dawson and Mills’ hook-up the “Peter Mills experiment,” and I just really loved that. So, I’m borrowing that phrase—this one-shot is my Peter Mills experiment.
Please Note: This story was not written to bash Mills in the least. I hope it doesn’t come across that way at all. I just thought I would try and see things through his eyes for a little while. This is what I ended up with.
Peter was headed towards the kitchen when he saw them. He’d been busy in the supply closet for the last half-hour, checking the crew’s gear for tears, frays, and breaks in the lining. It was tedious and mind numbing work, but it was nonetheless necessary. He knew when he came in as a candidate that he’d be on the lowest rung of the ladder, but he didn’t exactly envision himself locked in a stuffy supply room, checking through other people’s gear for the smallest perforations. He’d kind of been expecting to do push-ups or run laps, but he was quickly realizing that such expectations had been stupid and their motives unfounded. How would it help the house if he were exhausted right before a call?
Luckily, he’d run into Gabby on the way to the supply room and she’d promised to bring him a drink. She’d laughed at the slightly bewildered look on his face when she’d said it—he hadn’t been prepared for just how hot and stuffy it could get in that little room while one spent all his energy rifling through pound and pounds of all that heavy gear. He checked his watch. It had been almost twenty minutes since he’d entered the room; certainly that was long enough for her to get him a glass of water? No alarms had gone off, so he knew she wasn’t on a call. Maybe she just forgot. Peter frowned. That thought didn’t make him feel better, but at least it was an answer of sorts.
A few minutes later, he took a break, deciding he’d just get his own water to cool his parched throat. As he walked across the floor and headed towards the kitchen, he could hear laughter echoing from the building. He smiled to himself, immediately recognizing Gabby’s soft voice. The other, lower tone didn’t even register in Peter’s ears until he stepped through the door.
He couldn’t help himself from freezing in the doorway. He didn’t even know why he did it. It wasn’t like he’d walked in on them making out or going at it. They were just talking. And laughing. And touching. He swallowed and blinked, but he wasn’t able to stop staring at them.
He was glad they hadn’t noticed him yet. Thankfully, Mouch had left the Bears game on full volume before he’d hit the showers and no one had turned it off, so they hadn’t heard him come in, either. And seeing as their eyes both seemed to be locked on one another’s, it was a safe bet that they hadn’t spotted him—and probably wouldn’t any time soon.
Peter was about to walk away and shake it off when he heard something that ensured he stayed in the room.
“So, are you doing anything Friday night?”
The words came out of Matthew Casey’s mouth sounding both a little hurried—nervous—but also somehow confident. Or maybe Peter was making up that confident air. Lieutenant Casey always sounded confident to him. That was why he was lieutenant. However, Peter knew for a fact that his mind hadn’t warped the speed those words had flown when they’d come out of Casey’s mouth.
If Peter Mills were a betting man, he wouldn’t know who to put money on. Who looked more nervous, Casey upon asking or Dawson upon hearing?
“I’m working,” Gabby replied after a second’s hesitation. Peter could see a smile playing on her lips and he could’ve sworn he saw her dusky cheeks turn rosy. Even from this distance, he could see her eyes light up when she wondered, “Aren’t you on the night shift, too?”
All three knew the answer.
“Well, yeah…” Casey smirked, tilting his head to the side. “I meant after the shift.” He paused, and Peter felt as frozen in place by the look Casey was giving Gabby as the woman herself must feel on the receiving end. Casey took a small step closer to her, and Peter saw Gabby’s breasts rise momentarily as she sucked in a breath at his close proximity. “I’ve been thinking about what happened at your cousin’s Christmas party…” He hesitated when Dawson looked down. “About, about what I said… About the…” Casey closed his eyes, contrite lines etching themselves into his forehead. “The kiss…” Even a hundred feet away, Peter Mills could hear the lieutenant inhale a shaky breath all the way across the room. He hoped it hid his own shocked intake of air. The kiss? What kiss? Were they— “I have some things to explain to you, Gabby. About why I’ve been so messed-up lately…” He trailed off, shaking his head, apparently lost for words at the moment.
To Peter’s surprise, Gabby shook her head right back at him. “You haven’t been messed-up,” she replied, her eye forehead creasing faintly with that familiar determination she usually exhibited as she spoke. “You’ve been perfect on shift these last couple days.”
The lieutenant let out a bleak chuckle; it was a stark contrast to his easy laugh from just minutes ago. “You don’t know me very well,” he replied, “if you think how I handle work is how I handle the rest of my life.”
And Peter expected that to be it. That had been a pretty rude thing for the lieutenant to say, especially since Mills always thought he and Gabby went way back. So when he said that—essentially calling the depth of their friendship into question—he expected Gabby to walk away in a huff. He expected her to brush past him and head to the locker rooms, or maybe the supply closet to seek him out.
But she didn’t do any of that.
He’d known from the very beginning of his time at 51 that Gabriela Dawson was different from the other girl’s he’d spent time with. She was unpredictable in a completely organic way—he literally had no idea what she would do next. And even now, he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.
“I’d like to.” Her voice was a quiet whisper, but Peter could hear it even over the cheers and announcer’s commentary blasting from the television just a few feet away. Gabby reached up with one hand, resting it lightly on the lieutenant’s bicep. She tilted her head back, looking up into his eyes. “I’d like to know you better, Casey.” She paused, and for a few short seconds, her fingers seemed to be caressing his arm as she touched him. Neither broke eye contact all the while. “Especially if you think I don’t already,” she added, in her patented warning tone.
And just like that, the spell seemed to be broken. Casey smiled, looking into her eyes for a moment before dropping his gaze, and Gabby looked to her feet, withdrawing her hand—very slowly, Peter noticed—before glancing back up.
“So Friday?” Casey broke the silence, sounding both eager and expectant.
Gabby nodded, smiling. “Sounds good. Should I go home and get changed first?”
Casey smirked, chuckling. He’d just been thinking they’d head to the nearest bar right after shift. “What, do you want to make it dinner or something?”
Gabby barely hesitated. “Yeah,” she nodded, “I do.”
Casey stopped short for a second, as if he hadn’t been expecting that answer, but when his eyes found hers, he was grinning. “Yeah?” He wondered, checking. She nodded again, and his smile widened a bit. “Well, okay, then. It’s a date.” He paused, struggling to suppress that big smile before wondering, “So, you, uh, you want me to pick you up, then? Does eight-thirty work?”
Peter wasn’t exactly sure why it hurt so much when he heard her answer in the affirmative. Maybe it was the smile on her face. Maybe it was the color on her cheeks. Maybe it was the look in her eyes—the look she’d never given him and had, apparently, kept secret for use only on Matthew Casey. Or maybe, Peter realized as he watched them share an awkward but cheerful goodbye, it was because he’d expected her to say no to Casey.
They’d slept together last night; hadn’t that meant anything? He’d made her breakfast. He’d told her not to worry about people at work. And then he’d left to give her time alone. He’d done everything right, hadn’t he? His mind raced, but he couldn’t think of a single misstep that would’ve pushed her away from him and into Lieutenant Casey’s suddenly open arms.
Peter turned on his heel so he wouldn’t have to watch those two glance over their shoulders as they left, swapping excited smiles with one another. He quickly made his way back to the supply closet, fuming but still keeping himself in check. He couldn’t understand it. Gabby and Casey. What was he doing being interested in her? Didn’t he have a fiancé’s teary departure to mourn? Didn’t he have a life to get back on track? A job and an office to uphold? What did Gabby Dawson have to do with any of that?
In annoyance, unhappiness, and anger, he went so far as to desecrate firehouse property. The sharp thunk of his boot smashing against the reinforced plastic of a firefighter’s helmet sitting on the floor of the supply closet echoed in the cramped, tight space. It rang in his ears along with the more upsetting lines from Casey and Gabby’s conversation that he couldn’t erase from his mind.
About the… the kiss…
I’d like to know you better, Casey. Especially if you think I don’t already.
Well, okay, then. It’s a date.
Peter picked up the helmet, his hands feelings along the interior and exterior for damage as he mentally berated himself. Stupid, irresponsible dumbass. If someone had seen— His internal tirade broke off when he realized there was no harm done. He knew he’d gotten away easy this time. There had been no witnesses and no harm to house property. If either of those statements had been untrue, the candidate knew he’d be having a quick word with the Chief in the man’s office before packing up his things in a cardboard box.
Peter stepped back into the light and studied the front of the helmet in the dim room to see where he had to hang it back up. He hoped it wasn’t Severide’s. He couldn’t imagine getting away with even handling that man’s gear wrong, let alone taking a boot to one of the lieutenant’s most important accessories on the job.
When the light hit the front of the helmet, Peter Mills couldn’t help but smirk to himself when he saw the label affixed there. Lieutenant. Truck 81. Chicago. He turned it around, rolling his eyes with a tired exhale. Of course I’d end up smashing Casey’s helmet, he thought bitterly, the irony of the situation not slipping by unnoticed by the disgruntled candidate.
He took a few slow breaths after replacing Casey’s helmet back on his peg, pausing a moment to think things over.
He supposed he should’ve known from the beginning that it wouldn’t work out between him and Dawson. Gabriela was out of his league—she was older, a professional… She had a career here. Her life was here. She’d had her own entire thing going on before he’d shown up, fresh-faced and eager for so many things he didn’t even know he didn’t understand.
Peter shook his head, smiling mockingly at the metal floor beneath him as he realized what had most likely been going on before he’d walked into the house. Yes, she’d had a thing going on before I showed up, hadn’t she? If you can call pining for another woman’s fiancé a “thing.”
He clapped his hands together loudly so he wouldn’t hit anything else.
So that was it.
She had humored him for one night because she’d been beaten by Hallie and then shot down by Casey himself when she’d finally gotten a chance.
Peter wondered why he was wasting so much time thinking about this; about her. He wasn’t her boyfriend. He wasn’t in love with her. Their night together hadn’t been much more than a booze-fueled one-night-stand, if he was being brutally honest with himself.
He sighed, letting the air escape his lungs slowly as he leaned his head against the supply room’s door. Upon reflection, he knew now why he cared. She had been his best friend—his only friend—since coming to Firehouse 51. And last night with her had just been one of the best “friendship” bonuses of his life.
He pressed his forehead more firmly against the cool metal of the door. And now what? He was losing both his one-night girlfriend and his closest (though apparently not close enough) friend because she was interested in another guy? His boss, nonetheless?
Why was he letting it all unravel before him? Was it really because he knew he didn’t stand a chance against Casey? He shut his eyes, taking a slow breath. Is that really it? He wondered, quietly shocked to have come to that conclusion so quickly. He hadn’t thought of it before, but once the thought flickered through his mind, he wasn’t able to let it go.
That’s what it was.
He was too chicken to go up against Casey for Gabby because he knew he’d be the one walking away alone. There was no way she’d choose him, the new guy and part-time friend, over the man she’d probably been interested in since the day she’d been assigned to Firehouse 51. Peter took a slow breath. Well, he supposed there wasn’t much he could do about it. Maybe this morning—before he’d walked in on them—he would’ve put up a fight. But after hearing them talk together and seeing how happy and easygoing they were in one another’s presence?
He shook his head, pushing off from the door. There was no point. What was done was done, and he would not let himself be a jackass just so he could get the last word in. No matter where they stood now, he still considered himself Gabriela Dawson’s friend, and he wouldn’t ruin this for her if she really wanted it. Gabby didn’t appear to be fighting her attraction to Casey—and the lieutenant seemed to be succumbing as well—so Peter saw no reason why he should pull on the gloves when the other two had no intention of starting a fight.
Peter Mills realized that it should’ve been clear to him the moment he stepped into the firehouse that Gabby was already taken—in spirit if not yet in actuality—but he’d ignored all the signs. He’d written it off as a friendship—much like the one he’d had with her, he had told himself—and apparently forgotten that friendships between men and women usually only led to one thing. His friendship with her had led to it. Why wouldn’t hers with Casey go down the same road?
Somehow, he knew, Casey and Dawson’s road together was longer. It was straight and well paved, and after those first few speed bumps, it appeared to be relatively unencumbered.
Peter sat down, returning to Capp’s gear where he’d left off. He was just making a mental note of a tear in one of the seams on the right side when he heard the door open.
Despite what he’d just spent the last twenty minutes hearing and then replaying over and over inside his head, Peter couldn’t help but smile at the sound of her voice. “Yeah?” He called back, craning his neck to get a good look at her.
Gabby had something better than water in her hand when she approached—she carried two glasses of lemonade. She passed one to him before sitting down on the bench beside him. Peter sipped his overloaded glass carefully, wondering how she was going to say what needed to say. It was clear from her silence that she was trying to figure out the right way to broach the subject. He briefly toyed with the idea of telling her he already knew, but he wanted to hear it from her too badly to let her off so easy. He wanted to hear what she had to say. And, if he was being honest, he did want an apology to go along with her explanation.
It took her a few minutes to begin speaking. In the meantime, Peter sipped at his lemonade. He couldn’t keep his lips from puckering a bit at the taste. He glanced over at her, wondering, “Is this from scratch?” He could taste real lemon in the drink, not that fake sugary-powder crap from the store.
Gabby nodded, running a few of her fingers against the condensation on the exterior of her glass. She hadn’t taken a sip yet. “Yeah, I made a pitcher.”
Peter blinked. She’d made lemonade for him? Immediately, he knew it was a gesture of friendship, not a consolation prize for what she was no doubt about to say. If she’d wanted to console him, she’d make him some of her famous dinners or take him out for a beer. No, she’d made the lemonade just to be nice—and because she was his friend.
He couldn’t help but throw a smile in her direction. If she was being so nice to him even when she was probably about to break up with him, then who said she couldn’t—maybe—continue being his friend afterwards? He suddenly felt a hundred times lighter, a thousand times happier. He could be put on supply room duty for the next five shifts, and he’d be fine—as long as Gabby was still his friend.
And because she was his friend, he decided to help her out a little bit. Taking a sip of his lemonade, he glanced over to her. “You got something you want to say to me, Dawson? No one stays in the supply room longer than thirty seconds if they can help it.” He pinched his nose, indicating the smell in the room that he’d—unfortunately—become desensitized to due to excessive exposure over the better part of the last hour.
She smiled faintly back. “Yeah…” They stared at each other for a long minute as Peter waited for Gabby to settle on what she wanted to say. But then that one minute stretched into two, and then three, four, five, six…
Peter sighed, his lip twitching a bit. “Look,” he began, deciding to let her off what he now knew to be a very sharp and jagged hook, “I was in the room, okay? I heard you and Casey talking in the kitchen.”
Gabby looked like someone had just punched her in the gut and knocked the wind right out of her. Peter grimaced at his delivery; there was probably a better way to do that, right?
“You don’t need to explain anything to me,” he continued, even though he would appreciate an explanation. “I can tell you’ve been into him for a while, and he’s available now. It’s your shot, your golden opportunity.” Without even meaning to, he smiled over at her. He’d been in her shoes not even twelve hours ago. “I get it, Dawson.”
“You were there?” Gabby blurted finally, unable to believe it. She was trying desperately to search her memory, but it was all filled with Matt Casey. She couldn’t remember anyone else being there. She felt her cheeks heat up. The whole firehouse could’ve been there, and she probably would’ve still felt like they were alone in a darkened corner instead of exposed in a public common room. She shut her eyes. “Pete, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…” She trailed off, sighing softly as she met his eyes. “Can I be honest with you for a minute?” She whispered.
Peter nodded at once, strangely eager to hear it right from her mouth.
“Last night…” She licked her lips nervously. “Pete, I don’t mean to be a bitch, after everything, but I honestly didn’t mean for what happened between us last night to… happen. This morning, when I saw the empty wine bottle, my first thought was, No, not again.” She grimaced, eyeing him apologetically as she seemed to hear what she’d just said for the first time. “That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Worse than I meant it to.” She shook her head sadly. “Aw, shit, Pete, I’m sorry. I really am. I just…” She shrugged helplessly. “I didn’t mean for last night to happen, okay? I don’t want you to get hurt, but I, well, I can’t help…” She ran a hand through her ponytail. “To be horribly honest, Peter Mills, you’re not who I want to be with right now.” She sighed quietly. “I am so fucking sorry about how this is all coming across, how it sounds and what I’m saying, but I just want to be frank with you.”
Peter nodded. “You have been.” He paused a second. “And I appreciate it, I do.”
Gabby looked at him, tired and sad, for a few seconds before getting to her feet. “Okay, then,” she whispered, dismissing herself and heading towards the door.
Peter called out to her just as she was about to reach for the handle. “Dawson.” He watched her pause and turn around. He met her eyes for a few silent seconds before speaking. “I’m okay with this,” he told her. “I’m completely fine with this thing between you and Casey… as long as we can still be friends, you and me.”
Practically immediately, a smile bloomed on Gaby’s face. He could tell from the relief on her face that she’d been worried their friendship would suffer due to the change in their relationship. “Of course,” she replied at once, “of course we can still be friends, Pete.” Her eyes danced, seeming to ask Really? He was all too happy to be able to honestly answer in the affirmative.
He took a second to grin back at her before calling out, “You have a good time with Casey on Friday then, okay?”
Gabby nodded solemnly, as if not wanting to look too happy for Peter’s sake. He rolled his eyes. “You can smile, you know that?” He spread out his arms. “Come on, I’m not an idiot and I’m not a wounded puppy. I know you’re excited about the date; you’re allowed to show me. I won’t fall to pieces. And we’re friends,” he added, “remember? This is the kind of stuff friends talk about.”
Though she tried to suppress it, he knew, Gabby’s lips split in a pretty white smile as she looked over at him. “Okay,” she replied, unable to keep back the bubbliness in her voice. “I am excited.”
Peter couldn’t help but smile. Her happiness was infectious, even when he knew exactly who the source was. “You know where you’re going yet?”
Gabby shook her head. “You have any suggestions, Mr. Chicago?”
Peter thought for a second. “What about Giovani’s? On the corner of Third and Locust?”
Gabby nodded with approval, her smile widening. It was one of the first restaurants she and Mills had gone to after shift when they’d started hanging out. The place made the best plate of fettuccine alfredo in the entire city. “Yeah. That’s a good one. I’ll tell him.” She stared back at Mills for a few long seconds before turning back to the door. She had pulled it halfway open before she dropped the handle and let it fall closed.
Before Peter could even put his lemonade glass down, Gabby had crossed the length of the supply closet and was reaching out and pulling the candidate into a fierce hug as she spoke quickly into his ear. “You are a fantastic friend, you know that?”
Peter couldn’t help but laugh. He patted her back a couple times with a free hand. “Sure.” He paused a second. “Yeah, I guess I am,” he smirked, joking, as she pulled back.
Gabby barely acknowledged the sarcasm in his voice. She just smiled at him, shaking her head as if she was staring at someone she couldn’t quite believe. “You really are a good person, Mills. One of the best around.”
Peter smiled faintly, not sure what she was going on about. He accepted the praise with a slow nod, but only because she was waiting expectantly for him to do so. He didn’t really understand how she’d come to that conclusion. He’d just spent the last ten minutes eavesdropping on an extremely private conversation of hers. And then he’d practically vandalized Lieutenant Casey’s helmet because he’d been in a fit of stupid and misplaced jealousy. How did that make him fantastic? How did that make him a good person?
“I don’t know about being a fantastic friend or the best guy around,” he began, looking up at her as she straightened up, “but I do hope to be a good friend to you.” He stared into her dark eyes. “I mean that, Dawson. You’re the best friend I’ve had in… a long time.” He closed his eyes for a moment, shaking his head. The best friend I’ve had ever. “And I’m sorry I went and screwed things up last night. I just… I thought we might be headed in that direction…” He trailed off, and Dawson bit her lip, not sure what to say to him. “I’m just so happy,” he continued with a warm smile, “that you still want to be my friend.” He grinned up at her. “You really don’t know what that means to me—that, after everything, you still want me around.”
Gabby grinned, punching him playfully in the shoulder. “Come on, Mills. Of course I want you around.” Her dark eyes glinted happily in the dim room. “Who else would show me all the best dives in town? I gotta keep you around for that, at least,” she teased.
Peter couldn’t help but grin. “I can’t believe you call yourself a native,” he shook his head, “and yet you don’t know about Sandy’s. I mean, come on. That’s like Chicago 101. I bet even the tourists know about it.”
“Not all of us are such restaurant connoisseurs,” Gabby shot back with a grin.
“Oh, right,” Peter nodded knowingly. “Because I’m such a hoity-toity restaurant critic.”
“You’re better than me.”
Peter snorted. “Please. You’re not hard to top. Your idea of a good restaurant is one that has your favorite beer on tap.”
Gabby crossed her arms, lifting her eyebrows. “Oh, and is that a problem, Peter Mills? Are you criticizing my taste, buddy boy?”
He shook his head with a smile. “Not at all,” he smirked.
She grinned, taking a moment to meet his eye. “I’m glad we talked.” She spoke quietly, and Peter knew she meant it. “I’d hate it if we started avoiding each other over this.”
Peter nodded with an understanding smile. “I wouldn’t want that, either.” He nodded towards the door. “Go on. Get out of here before the stench burrows its way into your pores.”
Gabby chuckled softly, making her way to the door. “If you insist,” were her parting words, her voice coming out nasally as her thumb and forefinger were clamped tight over her nostrils.
Peter smiled to himself, watching her go and staring at the door for a few seconds after she’d left before returning to work. It had been an insane day, to say the least. It had started out perfect—better than he could’ve believed—then took a plummet for the worst, and then—somehow—ended up turning out better than Peter Mills would’ve ever guessed.
He’d miss the Gabby he’d known last night. He’d miss her touch and her kisses and the way their bodies had fit together… But he also knew that she wouldn’t, and knowing that she didn’t think of that night the way he did soured the desire quite a little bit. She was his friend for now—and hopefully for years to come—and that was enough, more than enough, for a kid like Peter Mills.
Author’s Note: Well, that turned out a lot longer and a lot different than I expected. I had this whole angry confrontation written between Gabby and Mills, but as I was writing, I realized he wouldn’t act like that. Gabby is his friend first and foremost, and that’s what’s most important to him, and to her.
Anyway, I hope you all liked this. It was actually rather fun to write, from someone else’s perspective. I think I might be writing some more in Peter Mills’ POV in the future. Thank you for reading and please be so kind as to leave me a review! I would greatly appreciate it. :D
- I'm feeling:accomplished