“In my defense,” Jake says, “I was expecting him to be slightly less armed.” He pauses, either for thought or effect or, more likely, both. “And dangerous.”
Amy, seething, heart now sharpened at the edges and repeatedly stabbing her in the throat, struggles against the industrial packing tape holding her and Jake together at the wrists and hisses, “Then why did you call for backup?!”
A dozen different things creep up on her senses: the smell of Jake's leather jacket, the way it squeaks against the exposed skin of her shoulders, moth balls and old books and dust and rat poison, the distant rattle of a train, the strained and nervous mass starting to form at the back of her tongue and block off her breathing. She tries not to think about where she is or how close together the walls are or how low the ceiling is or how dark it is—
“Cuz I wanted some company?” Jake tries with what Amy knows is a guileless grin on his stupid face. Sensing the lie, she makes an impressive job of trying to elbow him. “Ow! Okay, you got me, it's because I wanted a witness I could trust to write a perfect and detailed report about how awesome I was making this big collar.”
“Big collar, my ass!” Amy whisper-yells. “You were just chasing him down for exposure!”
“Right, so how was I supposed to know he was carrying when both of his hands were full of schlong?” Jake is clearly making an effort to gesticulate and shrug accordingly, but is hindered by the fact that his hands and feet are bound. “For all I knew, okay, he was just minding his own business, innocently jerking off in a movie theatre to—”
“Ugh, spare me the details!” Amy pulls a face. “I don't even know why Captain Holt called me,” she laments, rearing her head back to adequately stare at the ceiling with the eyes of a martyr. “I was going to go out to dinner. It was going to be such a nice dinner, with origami napkins.” She sighs. “And Teddy.”
“Well, I'm sure he understood perfectly, being Mr. Perfect Teddy, the perfectest,” Jake mutters.
Amy doesn't know what part of him thinks that she can't hear him. She chooses not to call him out on it, though, based on the fact that this is about the first time she's ever heard him say a bad word about Teddy, which, considering the circumstances, deserves some praise.
And she does understand why Captain Holt called her. Sort of. He had explained it over the phone in a tone of voice she has identified as either regretful or mildly amused: She is one of his finest detectives, and she works best with Peralta (a sentiment she sorely resents), and he would feel the most at ease if he knew that she was accompanying Peralta for this arrest. That had sure flattered her into an obedient stupor. She'd felt great.
Now, though, the only thing she can keep bitterly thinking is this: She is a fool, and it is significantly hard to make herself look intimidating to gun-toting perps when she's in the nice new dress she bought for this occasion, fumbling a little because her heels are half an inch higher than what she's used to. Maybe that's why she's—
“A hostage,” she growls. “I'm a hostage now because of you. You unparalleled dumbass.”
“I'm glad you still managed to squeeze some eloquence into that little insult at the end there,” Jake tells her brightly. “That makes me feel all warm inside, knowing I haven't lost the real Amy Santiago to the affair she's apparently having with some of Brooklyn's finest napkins.” He shifts a little, broad back pressing against hers. “Okay, let's think about this. From the top. How did w—”
“Oh, no. No way,” Amy cuts him off dangerously. “If anybody's conducting the situational review session here, it's going to be me; don't you dare rob me of that after what you just put me through.”
Jake sighs like it's a big deal (Amy feels the whole thing, sagging against her), but she knows that it most definitely is not. He probably didn't even memorize the questions by writing them on a bright piece of paper and taping it next to his bedside table—not like certain dedicated and diligent detectives in the (very small) room. Hmph.
“So,” Jake prompts her, “You start.”
Amy breathes in deeply for strength (the strength not to rip her way out of the tape and strangle him with whatever's left of it). “How did we get here?”
“Easy. I followed a public masturbator who just happened to turn out to be a mob courier into this bookstore where he was going to make his information drop but instead chose to have a violent mental breakdown and hold us hostage and demand the release of several incarcerated mobsters in exchange for our freedom and livelihood.” Jake breezes through it so quickly that it may as well be the nutrition facts on the back of the Special K box she reads to calm herself down. “Zing. A-plus for Jake.”
“You forgot the part where you deliberately sabotaged my date with Teddy just to get me taken hostage with you,” Amy snaps. “I never asked to be a part of this; I wasn't even assigned. Boyle was the partner on your beat today.”
“Yes, well, he got distracted by the Latvian pastries being sold at the back of an only mildly suspicious-looking alleyway, so all hope was kinda lost there and I'm blameless,” Jake says, shrugging (sort of). “And I was not trying to sabotage your date with Teddy. I didn't even know you were on one. I figured you were sitting at home watching Lord Peter Wimsey and making doilies and feeling proud of yourself for having a wardrobe you can get away with until you're ninety.”
“You are unbelievable.” Amy actually does shout that one. She's sorry. Her discretion went out the window the minute Jake—existed. “We're in the middle of a hostage situation, genius. A hostage situation where we are the hostages.”
“Well, at least it has that nerdy book smell you probably love because you're a nerd,” Jake provides as some lame attempt at comfort.
Amy mentally indexes all of the foul expletives clamoring on her tongue in that exact second. There are too many. Her brain collapses. She bluescreens. Whatever. The point is that she is one million percent done.
“Question number two!” Jake takes over for her. Admirable heroism under duress, so impressive. Amy hopes that the italics convey her scathing sarcasm. “Who may have contributed to putting us here?”
“Jake Peralta, Idiot at Law,” Amy fills in with a sneer.
“Whoa, let's leave the cool nicknames to the pros here, Santiago; don't go too nuts over there,” he admonishes her in a slightly deeper voice to emphasize how much he's mocking her for mocking him. “Let's try Harry 'Harold' Kowalski, better known as the Pigeon; part-time club owner, full-time mob courier. Rumored to have had past dealings with the Iannuccis, the Savellis, and a particularly well-lit sex scene featuring—”
“OhGodstop!” Amy roars before he can even get out another syllable. “I'm serious! I have the opposite of any interest whatsoever in any of that!”
“Your loss.” Jake sighs, trying and failing to sound erudite. “I, being a film scholar myself, was especially impressed by the presence of the boobs, which I think symbolically represent—”
Amy manages to maneuver her hand a little and dig her fingernails straight and true into the small of his back, making him yowl and jerk away. He makes about the same noise as he did that time she stepped on both of his feet while in disguise as Rhonda Shawarma.
Amy: 1. Jake: 0.
“Okay, I'm sorry,” he manages to grind out. If Amy's mind wasn't preoccupied with other things, she'd keel over from shock right there. Abruptly, he leans against her, tilting her slightly forward, and when she instinctively exerts some resistive force because what if his plan has just been to crush her this entire time, he scoffs gently at her. “Chill out; I'm trying to see if I can hear him out there.”
Amy flushes at the ears for thinking it was anything else, but especially for the thought that prods at the base of her skull about how warm he is and how solid his spine feels against hers. Crimeny. She has a boyfriend.
She figures she may as well take up the same task that he is. She strains her ears, eyebrows furrowing tightly together with focus, and thinks she can hear some pacing and high-pitched muttering from the other side of the locked door a few feet in front of her.
“Well, somebody clearly did not think this through,” Jake quips, and Amy knows that if she was even remotely able to turn and see his face, he'd be giving her one of those open-mouthed grins of his. “Either that, or his favorite team is losing.”
Amy remembers that there's a small television over the cash register. A football game had been blaring on it when she had come in after her idiot partner, gun drawn. And before you ask, yes, she does carry a small firearm with her at all times, especially if she's going to be riding the subway home; shut up, she has a license, it's legal. At least she's not packing an ax and three pairs of brass knuckles like Rosa is.
“I say we try to get him to come back in here and talk,” Jake says. “There aren't any civilian hostages—”
“How can you know that?” Amy demands. “He herded us in here before we could do a full sweep of the premises.”
“Well, obviously we can't know for sure,” Jake concedes with a stiff lift of his shoulders, “But I don't think he's that stupid.”
“Oh, right, because taking two NYPD officers hostage is a really brilliant idea!” Amy remarks acidly. “Come on. You've gotta have something better than that.”
Jake turns his head slightly, and it winds up closer than she had anticipated, although barely visible in her peripheral even with her neck twisted as far to the side as she can get it. She can smell lingering Altoids, and the cheap anti-dandruff shampoo he buys from CVS that's ocean breeze-scented.
What is an ocean breeze even supposed to smell like? Persistent seagulls and salt spray in your face? Now she'll just associate that mystery scent with Jake, which bugs her. If she and Teddy ever take an ocean vacation, she'll be thinking of Jake, and that's not appropriate. Jake should smell like low tide if he's going to smell like a maritime environment, for God's sake; he shouldn't smell nice. It shouldn't fill a room and fill her and make her shoulders loosen and—
“Hey, Kowalski!” Jake hollers, yanking her out of her aggressive thinking with a start. “What's the score?!”
“Jake!” Amy hisses, writhing indignantly. “What the hell are you—”
“Shut the fuck up, Peralta!” Kowalski roars back, muffled, and at least that is most certainly a sentiment that Amy can get behind.
Oh, God, she is way too early in this business to already be sympathizing with criminals.
“That's so rude!” Jake calls, feigning offense. “And hurtful! I can't believe you would say that to me!”
“I can't believe it took him this long,” Amy retorts under her breath, and then, at a normal volume, “Focus, will you? We need to get out of here. Has he made any demands?”
“I have no clue,” Jake whispers, giving his head a tiny shake for emphasis before rearing it back and yelling, “Hey, Kowalski, buddy, have you made any demaaaa-aands?”
“Don't make me come in there!” Kowalski bellows. “You don't want me coming in there, Peralta!”
“Oh, but I do!” (Amy doesn't even have the chance to try to stop him because her ears are still ringing from his last outburst.) “See, I have a guest in here, and she's like really bored with being tied up, and stuff, so maybe you could try being a nice host for once and bringing us some refreshments! Or amusing stories about your childhood!”
“What are you doing?” Amy hisses, aiming her furious and slightly petrified glare in his general direction.
“It's called negotiating, A-my.” He bobs his head to and fro on each syllable. “Establishing some trust with the hostage-holder. Textbook. You wanna get out of here in time to still have that date with Teddy, right?”
“You can't do that!” Amy whispers frantically, voice jumping up an octave or two. “We need a game plan! We need back-up! We need to make an ordered list of the steps we'll take and the approaches we'll use and—”
“Okay, maybe not as textbook as I thought,” Jake interjects a little mutinously. “That might've been what we learned at the academy, or whatever, but civilians aren't the hostages here. We're the hostages. Procedure and protocol are gonna be kind of hard to follow.”
Something cold and clammy trickles to the bottom of Amy's stomach and stays there, growing. Procedure and protocol are all she has when her wrists are bound and the walls around her keep looking tighter and tighter; the presence of them, sure and unchanging, is practically the only thing strong enough to push the air into her lungs. A memory slices through her, unbidden, of being trapped in the crawlspace underneath the house when she was seven and had been chasing a salamander, feeling like she was suffocating under the smell of the musk and the frantic, searching footsteps thundering over her head, crying and wailing for twenty-seven whole minutes before her brothers finally figured out where she was.
She can't breathe. The air feels like it's getting thinner, like Jake is gulping it all down for himself. The storage closet into which Kowalski had thrown them has an ancient and cramped stench to it, and it's the only thing she can sense anymore, eyes watering, lungs shrinking. She clenches her hands into fists until her fingernails dig into the wrist against which they're pinned. There is a roaring in the deepest parts of her ears like the whoosh and rumble of a passing subway train, and it won't stop or let up and she'll be deaf as soon as it does.
She's about to scream. She doesn't know what she's going to do if she can't scream, make something out of the sharp and awful fear, festering and swollen, about to burst out of every part of her. She could die in here. She could die in a place with no windows and no natural air.
She chokes on a hoarse feeling in her throat, dropping her head limply back without thinking on it. It bumps into Jake's and stays there and she is going to scream—
“Oh, God, that's right,” Jake murmurs, every word and sound vibrating against her ribs. “Oh, crap. I'm so sorry. Okay. Okay. Um, um… don't freak out. It's okay. You're okay.”
Amy's skeptical and terrified laugh comes out a lot more like a strangled sob. And he'd normally been so good at talking down tense suspects. The room they're in switches from itself to under the house to a cold little hole at the bottom of the ocean and she can't do it—
“Amy! Amy,” Jake, again, abruptly loosens the taut thread in her head that's about to snap in two. “Listen. Are you listening?”
She doesn't know how she manages a nod.
“Amy, hey,” he says—and her stomach lightens and clenches up all at once, hearing him say her name, recognizing that voice, the soft one he uses with crying, shaking teenagers who are about to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. “I know you can't look at me, but pretend you can. Pretend you are. Pretend I'm right in front of you, okay? Me and my incredibly handsome face.”
“Jake,” Amy gasps, but her breathing does slow a little.
“Details. Right,” he concedes. “Amy. It's fine. We're in the bullpen, okay? No walls for miles. That's how space works, right? Okay, whatever; breathe with me. You wanna do that? Here, I'll start. In,” and he breathes, and it fills his whole body; “Out,” and the closet feels a little bigger. Amy trembles when she starts to follow him, off-rhythm and clumsy, but she keeps going, and keeps going. “That's it. You're doing great. Wow, you're even better at breathing than I am; doesn't that just figure? Let's keep it up. In… out. In… out. Think of, um… Captain Holt wearing a perfectly pressed shirt.”
“And nothing else?” Amy manages to wheeze.
“No, God, plenty else—don't give me a panic attack,” Jake yells in a disgusted voice, accentuated further by his undoubtedly wrinkled nose. “I'm trying to list things that make you happy, all right, chill out. Uh—you're doing some filing. Sorting case files by year, then month, then date. Then color coding them with those weird sticky notes you always buy. It's taking hours. It's just you, the wide open evidence room, and all the poorly managed paperwork you can imagine.”
Amy could sob. It is making her feel better. Her breathing is starting to hiccup back into something she can actually follow. The cold sweat at her temples and the back of her neck isn't seeping out anymore. She can swallow, sort of. Her shoulders and abdomen, though, won't stop quivering.
She hates this. She hates that she has to look this vulnerable in general, but she especially hates that she has to do it in front of Jake. She's tough. She can handle anything. This shouldn't be happening to her; she's a cop.
“Don't feel bad,” Jake murmurs immediately, like he knows (sometimes she wonders if he does, if there's some invisible ebb and swell of her thoughts that disturbs the space around his head until he can read it). “We're sworn to protect and serve, but they never really made a big deal out of teaching us to protect and serve ourselves. Everybody has something that freaks them out, Amy. It doesn't mean you're bad at your job. I, for example, am mortally terrified of the fact that Bruce Willis will one day be placed into a cryogenic coma until the world needs him again.”
“Jake,” Amy snaps without breath, incredulous that he's still joking, even if it is just to make her feel better. Teddy would be taking this seriously. Teddy would make her tea. (Teddy wouldn't be free until Sunday and she wouldn't know that until Saturday afternoon.)
That's when Jake starts humming something, quiet and rhythmic and surprisingly in tune.
Amy closes her eyes. It's the intro to “America“ by Simon and Garfunkel.
“I think I got that right,” Jake inserts between refrains. “I hope so.”
Amy feels a little dizzy, but it's looser, now, like how it would feel riding on a rollercoaster made of clouds, or something. Shut up. She's not really good at similes. The room is back to how it had looked before: dim and cluttered, but not nearly as likely to close in on her and swallow her whole.
She thinks she hears Jake murmur something like, “Gotta get you out of here,” and it's spoken in that solemn tone that doesn't suit him, the one that had kept his words from stumbling in a cold parking lot all those months ago, so much wiser and more wistful than she had ever though him capable of sounding.
The only thing she wants to feel, anymore, is the tiny movements of his body and how subtly it lives, even here, even where there's nothing to indicate that there's a sky outside, because if it can be there, then she can, too. She can be fine. She can be just fine.
She takes her fingertips away from the bruises they'd been crushing into the inside of her wrist and curls them, once, twice, softly, against Jake's knuckles.
“Thanks,” she croaks.
The second that follows it is overwhelmed by a thousand things Amy can't place, but they all seem to negotiate themselves quickly enough into Jake’s tentative grip and release on her thumb.
“You're welcome,” he replies, like his whole life has been leading up to saying those simple words. Amy guesses that that's what sincerity sounds like. It makes something inside of her start to float and bob like a buoy. “And you’re gonna hate me for this, so I’m sorry.”
Amy frowns instantly. “Hate you fo—”
“Hey Kowalski!” Jake blares at the top of his lungs. “Come in here a sec, I’ve got some constructive feedback for your hostage-holding technique!”
The door is flung open within seconds, banging against a filing cabinet. Kowalski storms in, eyes wild. He looks significantly more like a Tim Burton villain than Amy remembers from a couple of hours ago. He aims the pistol in his hand at Jake’s head, advancing on him, and Amy instinctively squirms to try to get in its way.
“Peralta,” Kowalski growls, straw-colored hair tousled, eyebrows mashing together, “One more word outta you, and I swear to God, you’re dead. Getting some of the boys out ain’t worth this crap.”
“I’m sure they’d be touched to hear that,” Jake quips, smiling toothily. “Nah, but hey, listen, can I give you some friendly advice? I promise that it will actually be helpful.”
“That’s real funny,” Kowalski snaps without the slightest hint of amusement, brandishing the gun. “That you think I’d fall for that, I mean. How dumb do you think I am? You’re the best cop in the goddamn 99th; you seriously think I’m gonna listen to you?”
“Second best,” Amy interjects, stout and firm and a little exasperated that anyone would even make the mistake.
Kowalski shoots her a dirty look. She bristles, squinting pettishly back at him. Criminals are so rude nowadays. (God, Rosa was right; she is the team grandma.)
“Man, come on, do your research,” Jake scoffs with a roll of his eyes. “Yeah, I may be super incredible and also an employee of the NYPD, but that’s just something to make me look good in case the Iannuccis ever need a mole.”
Kowalski falters, but his skeptical expression doesn’t. “You… you’re one of the Iannuccis’ guys?”
“So am,” Jake boasts. “You might say that I had a hand in making sure Freddy made it out of the country.”
Kowalski looks like he’s actually buying it, which shocks Amy, but maybe that’s just because several years’ worth of being pranked by Jake have enabled her to see through his poker face. Maybe he is a good liar.
“All those other guys, though,” Kowalski mutters, baring his teeth a little. “That RICO sting swept ’em right up, and next thing you know, you’re back on the force. Seems a little convenient.”
“Hazard of the job,” Jake dismisses. “Not my fault the bastards decided to start breathing down my neck, but I’m back in their good graces now.”
Kowalski starts, astonishingly, to lower his gun.
“What’ve you got to say to me, then?” he demands.
Jake jerks his head indicatively at Amy, accidentally knocking it into hers in the process. She winces and glares at him.
“Lose Santiago,” he says, never once losing the conversational tone. “You’ve got no leverage with her.”
Amy manages, miraculously, to keep her indignance silent and dignified.
Kowalski narrows his eyes. “What the hell does that—”
Jake lets out a bark of laughter. “I'm serious; she's the worst detective in the precinct. She’s terrible. In fact, she has several sex tape titles that confirm this, all in various ways, of course. NYPD wouldn't give a crap that she's here. She doesn’t even like Die Hard! It’s like, what?”
He shakes his head and lets out an audible pffft.
“I, on the other hand, am amazing. The MVP, if you will. Keep me, you’ve got leverage; keep both of us, you’ve just got one more cop chewing you out, one more cop who could give you trouble. So just throw her out. Up the stakes a little. We can party on our own, can’t we? She’s a buzzkill, man. And also a giant idiot; she’s like never solved a case. Totally worthless to the department.”
“I—” Amy starts to say, unsure of what could conceivably follow it, but something stops her. Two of Jake’s fingers—his trigger ones, going by the calluses—curl against hers and press there, scissoring around her pinkie and squeezing it.
Her voice hiccups into silence, barely audible, and she turns her bowed head just barely toward him, protests multiplying on her tongue. He can’t seriously expect her to go along with this; he can’t seriously be expecting to get her out and stay in here with this guy alone—
“Admit it, Amy,” Jake goads her convincingly, still holding her finger, and before Amy can even register what she’s doing, she’s bent it to link with his, an agreement. “Admit you're the worst!”
“I…” Amy swallows, and then, with all of the nerve in her, wrenches her eyes up to lock with Kowalski’s, forcing steeliness into them and into the way she sets her jaw. “He’s right. I suck. Last week, they assigned me to a case involving missing pies. Pies, Kowalski. And I couldn’t even find them!” She draws up from her wellspring of fake tears and makes the ugliest face she can muster. “I couldn't even find the piii-iies!”
Kowalski recoils with a look of horror on his face. And Amy is a little offended that someone would react in such a way to her pain, however fake and overwrought it may be, but she keeps it up, wailing and sniffling, until Kowalski bears his teeth and screws his eyes shut and barks, “All right, fine, you can go. Jesus.”
Some expert part of Amy manages to keep the crying charade up even in the wake of vague shock and fright and confusion, and of the conviction that there’s got to be more to this, there’s got to be a catch; moreover, there’s got to be a way to solve this conundrum that doesn’t involve leaving Jake by himself with a psychopath and known murderer, and it’s as she’s frantically thinking about this without having the presence of mind to look behind her that she realizes she’s already outside and Sergeant Jeffords is gripping her shoulders to steady her and it just turns into a hug and the crying isn’t fake anymore.
“You were so dumb,” she says, years later. “You remember this, right? You were so dumb.”
“I resent that,” Jake argues. His hair is a little bit shorter and his jacket makes him look like a lumberjack, which is probably appropriate, considering he’s making pancakes and sucking at it. “I was super cool and brave and you totally broke our deal, you know, that you weren’t allowed to fall in love with me.”
“Oh, God, whatever,” she scoffs, closing a hand around her coffee and propping her chin up on one hand. “You could have died literally ten different ways.”
“Right? It was touching.” He beams toothily at her over his shoulder.
She shakes her head at him with a scathing roll of her eyes. “No, no, it wasn’t; it was stupid, and I was so pissed off at you I could’ve—”
“Killed me?” Jake fills in, ending it with his joke point, leaning slightly back as he aims his finger at her.
Amy stares at him for just the extra second she knows it will take for him to actually understand how serious she is.
“Grow up, Jake,” she mutters, more coldly than she should.
It’s the first fight that they’ve had in a while, but it lasts longer than usual.
Jake’s in the bookstore with Kowalski for another five hours. It’s dark, and the whole precinct is staking the place out with flashing lights and urgent expressions and megaphones whose messages all go completely unheard.
“I’ll break all of his fingers,” Rosa is saying through gritted teeth, arms folded at her chest and fingers digging into one side of her bulletproof vest. “But just in one place. Then I’ll go back and break them all at the second joint and make him use them to spell out words when he begs me for mercy.”
“Jake,” Boyle keeps wailing, further back, near one of the squad cars, face in his hands. “Oh, Jake, I’ll go in without a vest for you! I’ll go in disguised as a medic! It should have been meeeee!”
“Let’s keep our heads here, everybody,” Jeffords says in his trademark placating voice, but even that shakes a little. “Jake knows what he’s doing.”
Amy remembers hearing from some source or another that Jeffords had taken on Jake as kind of a protégé in hostage negotiation tactics, which she had once been jealous of, because Jeffords is so good that other precincts have been known to call him in for help, and she’s always had trouble coming to grips with the idea that Jake is better at things than she is.
What’s his deal, anyway? He’s well past his textbook juvenile years and he still has to make everything into some big show, trying to pull the macho hero card, deciding that she can’t handle herself—no, that’s not fair; she couldn’t handle herself, not in there. But she could have if they’d been held hostage in an open space with visible natural light sources. So what’s he trying to prove? That he’s better than she is because he’s not claustrophobic? No—that’s not fair, either; he wouldn’t do that, not anymore…
Her mind catches up to the fact that she’s practically tearing her fingernails off with her teeth. Crap. She was supposed to have sworn off that habit years ago.
A hand grips her wrist and yanks it firmly down. She looks sharply over to see that it belongs to Rosa, who’s still staring unyieldingly at the dim windows, but doesn’t let go of Amy right away.
“Stop,” she mutters. “You’re making me nervous.”
Amy makes a face. “I’m making you—”
“He’ll be fine,” Rosa says. Amy breaks off into silence. She sounds equal parts like she does and doesn’t believe it. “He will. It’s Jake. He’s stupid. But he’s good at this stuff. He’ll be fine.”
“Um, yeah, he’d better be,” Gina chimes in. She’s been sitting cross-legged on the hood of a patrol car with her phone in its default position in her hands, but Amy has offhandedly noticed an absence of the glow from the screen. “I am taking all of his massage chairs if he isn’t. Utmost betrayal.”
Amy steals a lingering glance at Captain Holt, who’s standing in front of all of them with his feet planted apart and his arms crossed, and who hasn’t looked away from the quiet building for the past couple of hours, except to crane his neck around and give everyone a look that Amy has calculated is either reassuring or bored.
“I have faith in Detective Peralta,” he monotones after a time. “He may be reckless and juvenile and crass and occasionally disrespectful and have poor hygiene—”
“Really going to pieces over there, aren’t you, Captain,” Rosa deadpans.
“But,” Holt continues, and Amy thinks she sees the slightest bit of tension leave his shoulders, “There’s much more to him than that. He has a good sense of empathy, and he keeps a clear head. We just need to be patient.”
“That’s right,” Jeffords agrees. Amy’s wrist tenses for want of lifting her hand back to her mouth, but Rosa is still clenching it, unwavering. “And as long as we don’t hear any gunshots, we should be—”
He is promptly interrupted by the sound of three gunshots.
Amy kicks into autopilot, double-checking that her vest is fastened before drawing her gun and joining the blur of urgent motion that’s become of everyone in front of her. Noise echoes distantly in her ears—”Go, go, go!” Rosa and Holt are both shouting; Boyle might have just shrieked Jake’s name at a decible too high for humans to register properly; Jeffords is letting out a furious string of words too unsavory to mention—and Amy’s heart is roaring, burning, slamming into her from every possible direction. She’s somehow fallen behind everyone else, but she’s still moving, even though every part of her feels heavy.
Her breath is streaming out in a cloud in front of her and they’re almost at the door and Gina is yelling at them to save him, save the only real friend she ever had, sorry Rosa but it’s true, and then, instead of the door, there’s Jake.
He’s got his hands up in an instant, eyes wide. There’s a silence so thick that Amy swears she could shoot it.
“Whoa,” he yelps, voice cracking. “Find your chill, guys, jeez!”
“What happened?” Holt finally demands. His gun is still drawn, aimed right at Jake’s chest. Instinct, Amy supposes—they’re all doing the same thing.
Jake’s gaze swivels briefly over all of them, taking in what must be harrowing expressions and pale faces and glistening eyes, or something telling, because realization dawns on him and his jocular demeanor falls away immediately to make way for something more sincere.
“I told him I had to go to the bathroom,” he says. “In very, very graphic detail. Kowalski’s kind of into the whole cleanliness thing, so he fell for it, and when he untied me so I could wipe my butt properly—like, in theory; I wasn’t doing any of this in front of him, ew—I went for his gun.”
“And the shots?” Holt barks. Amy sees something cold spike in Jake’s eyes at being on the receiving end of what might as well be an interrogation.
“Just a couple strays that got fired in the struggle,” he explains with a bit of an edge. “He’s still in there; I knocked him out. You’d better hurry up; he’s surprisingly resilient for a perv.”
Holt evaluates him for a couple more seconds that feel like they stretch into tense minutes, and then he lowers his gun, holstering it again. Rosa and Jeffords both move into the bookstore to cuff Kowalski—Rosa knocks her knuckles into the back of Jake’s head on the way.
Amy steps back. She still has her gun out, just in case, but there’s something in the air between Jake and Holt’s eyes that she’s kind of afraid to touch, a kind of silent familial concern, apology and worry and relief.
“Well done, Peralta,” Holt finally says quietly. “On behalf of the squad, we’re happy to have you back safe and sound.”
Jake bows his head, clearly trying to fight a soft and bashful smile off of it. “Yeah, well, I knew how much you guys would suck without me, so—”
Jeffords and Rosa come back out hauling a half-conscious, handcuffed Kowalski and practically toss him into one of the squad cars, Rosa breezing through his rights with audible spite. Amy hangs back for all of it, distantly watching the proceedings, trying to will her hands to stop shaking.
“You can put that away, you know.”
She jerks her head up to see Jake smiling crookedly at her, hands in his pockets.
“Put what—oh.” She fumbles her gun back into its holster, unable to shake the frown that’s making her head start to ache. “Right. Of course.”
“You doing okay?” he asks. “Like, better, I mean?”
“Yeah.” Amy nods at his feet. “Absolutely. Thanks.”
“Hey, listen…” Those very feet start to shuffle, and Amy looks up again, exhausted, to see that Jake is looking at the ground now. “All that stuff I said in there—about you being the worst detective, and all that junk… that wasn’t true. I didn’t mean that. Not even a tiny little bit.”
“I know,” Amy says quietly, automatically.
“No, you don’t.” He’s still smiling, but it seems harsher now. “Ames, you don’t. I know it might be crazy for you to try acknowledging that there’s something you don’t know, because you’re a Smarty McSmart-Pants—”
“Right. Anyway, um, look… I’m sorry. I couldn’t think of any other way to get him to let you out, and I was just making it up as I went along, but I didn’t mean any of it, okay? Like, I was so far from meaning it. You’re an amaz—a great detective. I’d say you’re the best but I feel like we’re tied.”
“You can’t have two superlatives, Jake; a superlative exists to—”
“Okay, Smarty McSmart-Pants, dial it back,” Jake interrupts in that braying, amused voice of his, raising his eyebrows, but still not meeting her gaze. “You’re not the worst. Not even close. And I’m not the MVP; all I do is stupid stuff like what I did today, the thing that got us stuck in there in the first place. That was my fault. And I’m sorry I made you miss your date with Teddy. I’ll make it up to you; I promise.”
That hits Amy like a left hook to the cheek. After all of this, he’s worried that she’ll be upset about missing her date with Teddy? Is he serious?
She stares—gawks, really—at the earnest look in his eyes when he lifts them unsurely to hers, one that she recognizes from another dark parking lot in another time, and wants to say a thousand things, all of them angry and adamant and heartfelt and embarrassing and unnecessary.
Something inside of her tips over and spills and she’s thrown her arms around him.
“Whoa there,” he says, staggering a little. The flippancy in his voice is flimsy—he sounds a little strangled, and he isn’t hugging her back. “Amy, um—”
“Be quiet,” she grits out into the side of his neck. “Just stop talking, Jake; I don’t need any more proof that you’re a fucking idiot.”
He stiffens appropriately at the uncharacteristic profanity, and it seems to inform him of something she can’t say, because his arms are loose around her middle in a few seconds, clearly self-restrained, but there.
“Sorry,” he mumbles into her hair.
“I said shut up, didn’t I?”
So he does. Amy’s arms start to twinge uncomfortably a little from the awkward hugging position, but she does nothing to step away, wrenching her eyes shut, hating Jake Peralta more than anything in the world in that moment, never wanting to let go of him.
“Okay, you guys’ve been hugging for forty-six seconds; this is getting weird,” Rosa finally deadpans.
“I know how to make this un-awkward,” Boyle announces, spreading his arms wide and nodding suggestively around at everyone. “Cuddle puddle!”
Judging by the chorus of disgusted noises (including, albeit distractedly, from Jake and Amy), his idea is not well received.
“Perhaps we should simply call it a… group hug and get on with it,” Holt monotones.
“Yeah, cool, I’m gonna stand over here and watch,” Rosa grunts.
Jeffords’s arms engulf Amy first, strong and kind of suffocating? Then a pair of slender ones—that must be Boyle. Then she can smell baby powder and printer ink, so Scully and Hitchcock are in on it, too. Then a slight double impact from the right and the scent of Dina Lohan’s face lotion—Gina, grousing about how Jake’s near-sacrifice completely ruined her on-point winged eyeliner—and a short string of grumbled expletives that is distinctly Rosa. Then, a hand comes to rest on the crown of her head, and when she peeks, she sees one on Jake’s, too.
“There, there,” Holt tells them both, punctuated by a single, gentle pat. “There, there.”
Amy scrunches her face up and feels her whole body coil with it, and to compensate for the sheer emotion threatening to burst out of her in every direction, she crushes Jake closer to her, hands still firmly linked at his spine, and doesn’t even care how much it hurts her nose when she buries it in his chest, overwhelmed by the growing presence of her precinct, her friends, everything about them and the way they breathe and hold her going against the thing she had told herself on her first day out of the police academy—you know, that thing about always having to fight for a seat at the table, how nothing ever really changes, even when you grow up.
She’s so grateful. This is so ridiculous.
“Okay, everybody, stop crushing Jake to death now, please!” Jake squawks, patting people’s backs if he can reach them like he’s trying to tap out. When he’s freed, he gasps for air, doubling over, wheezing out a feeble, “Oh, God, that took at least sixteen years off my life, like, I love you guys, but seriously—”
“All right, everyone, back to the precinct,” Holt announces, motioning toward the squad cars. “Get the paperwork done quickly and efficiently, and drinks are on me.”
In the commotion, Amy winds up getting crowded into Boyle’s car, watching Rosa and Gina clamber with Jake into Holt’s and Jeffords volunteer to drive the one with Kowalski in the back seat. She ignores the sinking feeling in her stomach at the sight of Jake closing the passenger side door and talking animatedly to a generously smirking Rosa, and turns to Boyle.
“You’ve still got the movie soundtrack for West Side Story, right?” she asks.
Boyle’s whole demeanor illuminates as he reaches swiftly for his iPod. “Uh, should Hello, Dolly have won the Oscar for Best Costume Design?”
Amy shoots him a flat look. “I’m assuming that means yes.”
Her hope is that listening to Rita Moreno will help to dispel all of the soft and unsaid things shifting around the lump in her throat until she forgets they were ever there. It works, a little, and Charles doesn’t ask her about the fact that she keeps gulping and swiping at her eyes, which she appreciates for a long, long time afterwards.
"Nobody ever said this job was easy," she hears some imaginary Hollywood cop in her head say in a voice that sounds suspiciously like one of Jake's exaggerated ones, and she kind of wants to laugh.