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Thicker Than Blood

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It honestly shouldn’t have surprised Jake that his father was leaving again. After all, the only constant in Jake and his father’s relationship was that his father came back when he needed something and then left as soon as those needs were met.

His quick departure once the case was solved and he was in the clear should have been no surprise, and really, it wasn’t. In the back of Jake’s mind, he’d known that this was coming ever since he’d read the text his dad had sent him, letting Jake know he was in town.

But Jake had let himself get his hopes up. He’d let himself think that this time was different, that Jake was low maintenance enough now as an adult that his father could handle being around him, and they could build the relationship that they’d never really had. Jake could have a real father figure in his life, even if it was happening a little late.

Of course, he was wrong. Roger Peralta made his exit, sending Jake no more than a quick text as an excuse, and once again, Jake was pretty much fatherless.

Jake walked to the bar — following an uncomfortably long hug from Charles — and slumped down in a seat.  He ordered a whiskey, and as soon as it arrived he tipped it back with hardly a wince and ordered another.

Jake was used to this, he assured himself. He could handle it, just like he handled it all the other times that his father left. He would get over it and carry on; he’d lived without his dad since he was seven years old. It didn’t matter that his father didn’t want him and never had, because he was an adult and it’d be stupid to get upset over something so trivial. So his father didn’t love him enough to want to be in his life, so what, everyone had problems.

He was fine, really. He was. The burn behind his eyes was from the heat of the second whiskey he gulped down, the tremble in his hands was from exhaustion, and the catch in his breath was because he was coming down with a cold. His father was a shitty guy and that was that. There was no reason to get all worked up over it and there was no way Jake would shed tears over his piece-of-shit father.

A hand on his shoulder caused Jake to jump, and he furiously wiped his eyes as Captain Holt took a seat next to him.

“Oh, hey, Cap’n. Didn’t see you there,” he said, adding false cheer to his voice and using the nickname he knew Captain Holt hated to try to act at least somewhat in the range of normal. He stared down at the water rings on the bar, willing his ridiculous emotions under control.

“Peralta,” Holt started, seeming to consider his next words very carefully. “I noticed that your father… didn’t stay for drinks.”

“Yeah, he, um. He had to go, busy guy and all. It’s fine,” Jake replied. If Captain Holt heard the way his voice slightly cracked on the last word, he didn’t comment. Almost without meaning to, Jake added, “I mean, it’s not like I’m surprised.”

“He’s done this before?” Holt asked.

Jake let out a humorless snort. “If by ‘before’ you mean ‘every time he’s come to visit since he left me and my mom’, then yeah, he’s definitely done it before.”

Running his fingernail along the swirling pattern of the wood grain on the countertop, Jake furrowed his brows against the sudden surge of emotion that hit him, a physical pain in his chest that nearly pushed the air out of him. “I just—” he started, voice cracking. He took a deep breath and tried again. “I just don’t understand.”

Holt waited patiently for Jake to finish his thought. Jake appreciated the gesture, because he needed to wait a few seconds for the lump in his throat to shrink a little before he continued.

“I don’t understand why he never wanted me,” Jake eventually continued, and as soon as the words left his mouth and he realized that what he’d said couldn’t be closer to the truth, his eyes began to fill with tears, blurring the surface of the bar under his fingertip. Fuck , he was crying, and there was no way to stop the tears from falling fast enough to cover it up. Seconds later, an arm fell across his back, and the simple gesture was enough to cause Jake to gasp with the force of his despair, tears forming again as quickly as they fell, breaths beginning to become hard and fast and uneven. “I don’t— Why I’m— Why I’ve,” Jake’s breath hitched, throat impossibly tight and voice strangled, “Why I’ve never been good enough for him.”

Before he could stop himself, he was letting out a sob between the fingers he’d pressed against his mouth, face crumpling. Once he’d let out the first sob, more followed, and he was powerless to stop it from happening. He felt the pain of every missed birthday, every father-and-son event he couldn’t participate in, every text he’d sent that never got a response.

Holt’s hand on his back quickly turned into a full embrace, his arms both wrapping tightly around Jake’s shoulders and pulling him in. Jake crumpled against his Captain, too worked up to even be embarrassed at this point. He tucked his head into Captain Holt’s shoulder and let himself grieve the relationship he’d never gotten to have with his father, finally let himself cry for all the times he’d refused to cry as a kid. It was a culmination of pain, and the power of it was nearly unbearable.

After what felt like an eternity of Jake sobbing and Holt rubbing his back in slow circles, Holt spoke. “Peralta.”

When Jake didn’t respond, he tried again, “Jake.”

Jake opened his mouth in an attempt to reply but instead let out a wet hiccup. It was honestly a little gross, and he was sure that he’d gotten some of his face fluids on the Captain’s suit at this point, but he just couldn’t stop.

“I understand that you’re upset, and you are allowed these emotions, but you need to take deep breaths before you begin to hyperventilate,” Captain Holt said. Jake nodded against his shoulder, trying his very best to slow his breathing. He listened to the Captain’s calm and steady breaths under his instruction and tried to match them. Eventually, he managed to get his breathing under control and he slowly pulled back from the Captain’s shoulder, rubbing at his swollen eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Jake said, embarrassment finally setting in over what just happened. God, he was nearly thirty-five years old and he’d just sobbed on his boss’ shoulder in the middle of a bar.

“Don’t apologize, Peralta. That was a reasonable response to the emotional trauma your father has caused you over the years,” Holt replied. One of his hands was still gently resting against Jake’s back, and Jake couldn’t help but be thankful for its presence.

Holt continued, his voice softening, “I’m sorry that you were never allowed the father that you deserved, Jake. You’re a fine detective and you’ve grown into a much better man than your father.”

“Aw, Captain, you don’t have to—“ Jake began, a protest to the words of comfort on his lips. He didn't need for his Captain to say the things he'd desperately wanted to hear from his dad his whole life out of pity. He didn't have the chance to voice these thoughts, though, as Holt barreled on, stopping any sort of protest from Jake's mouth with a raised hand.

“And,” he continued, his voice gaining a serious edge, “I must assert that you did nothing to deserve the horrible treatment your father has given you. It’s not your fault that the man who helped conceive you was not suited for fatherhood, and it is no fault of your own that caused any of his actions.”

Jake smiled softly down at his hands, blinking back the new spring of tears in his eyes. “Thank you, Captain.”

“No thanks is necessary, Jake,” Holt replied, standing from the bar stool. Jake followed his lead. “Now, I think it’s time that you go home. I expect you at work tomorrow morning, on time.

“Aye, aye, Cap’n,” Jake said with a lopsided smile and a salute. The fact that Captain Holt didn't correct his second use of 'Cap'n' spoke to how concerned he was for Jake. Which was definitely warranted, Jake conceded; he had just cried on the man's shoulder for close to twenty minutes.

But now, Jake felt like he was gonna be okay. He felt completely emotionally drained and the sting of his father leaving again wouldn’t go away any time soon, but it was back to a normal ache and nothing like the sharp, piercing pain it had been at the beginning of the night. And Captain Holt's surprising-but-somehow-not-at-all comfort made Jake realize that he didn't really need his father in his life.

Jake had the Nine-Nine, and when it came down to it, that was the only family he needed.

Jake began to walk towards the exit, but paused when he heard Captain Holt’s voice again.

“And Peralta?”

Jake turned around.

“I’m very proud of you, son.”

Jake gave Captain Holt another smile, soft and small but entirely genuine. “Thanks, Captain.”