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The Circle

Chapter Text

Jake Peralta stared intensely at the tiny corner clock of his computer, impatiently drumming his fingers on his desk. He thought, How long could the twenty-ninth minute of twelve o'clock possibly be? Finally, it ticked to display those magic numbers: 12:30. He perked up instantly and opened his mouth to announce—

“Bi-monthly Terrinajake Lunch!” the shout came from Gina instead. She was already clutching her purse, and wearing one of her many stylish coats.

Jake mirrored her toothy smile and replied, “Let’s go!” He dragged out the l for a while, you know, for flair.

From across the room, Terry whooped “Bi-monthly Terrinajake Lunch!” He managed to emphasize every syllable.

Gina stated flatly, “Yeah, that’s what I just said.”

Amy stood to receive a kiss from Jake, and offered a cheery “Have fun!” enthusiastically. The trio said their respective goodbyes’, see yas’, and peace out homies’ to the precinct and made their way to the elevator.

However, instead of heading to one of their cars, they arrived at the dustiest backdoor in the police station. Gina skipped ahead and twirled around to face her coworkers, guarding the door. She smirked, “I cannot wait until you guys see how I’ve transformed this dump.” She dramatically swung the door open to reveal their familiar alleyway, except, it was exponentially more inviting than normal. Jake first noticed that the abandoned couch against the wall sported fashionably patterned pillows now. Instead of cardboard boxes for a coffee table, they now had wooden boxes—with tablecloths! And the dumpster! Well, it was actually still there, protruding away from the wall, almost forming a cozy little room deep in the ally. At least Gina had added a trendy black tarp to cover that eyesore. Opposite the couch was a worn, but sturdy armchair, whose disgusting street stains were now covered up by a large piece of pleasant floral fabric.

Jake chose to sit in his trusty lawn chair, with his back against the dumpster. He had a look of pure elation, noticing the lights Gina had strung about. The colorful rug was a nice touch too, and is that—

“A space heater!” Terry exclaimed and rushed to the makeshift corner where the wall and dumpster met. He grimaced, overwhelmed with emotion “I love you, Gina!” He squinted as the tears started to well up.

“Her name is Stacy.” Gina grinned and plopped down next to Terry on the couch.

“I love you, Stacy!”

Jake issued a much deserved compliment, “This looks awesome, Gina.” He summoned a small ziploc bag, a lighter, and rolling papers from his coat pocket. He pulled a wooden box closer and laid out his supplies on it, adding, “Loooooove the twinkle lights, we gotta come out here at night sometime.”

She too admired her work, “I’ll admit, I somehow outdid myself, yet again.”

“So, what’s up with your new case this morning, Peralta?” Terry initiated the lunchtime banter.

“Oh, just another sloppy arsonist. I’m sure it’ll be an open and shut case,” Jake remarked casually.

“What makes you so sure?”

“This dude is just lighting leaves and trash on fire pretty much every weekend when he gets drunk.” He brought the joint-in-progress to his lips and sealed it off.

“He’s had witnesses every time, only problem is he wears a ski mask. Piece of caaaaake,” he sang the last word. “Ah!” his face lit up, “Speaking of blazing things!” he eagerly flicked the lighter.

“Wait!” Terry interrupted, “I think Gina deserves to kick off the first session in our new hangout. She’s earned it.”

Jake shrugged and handed the goods over to his long time friend, “Yeah, why not? You crushed it.”

She happily complied, “Well much obliged, gentlemen.” Flick. She inhaled, hailed “To the circle!” and exhaled gray smoke.

“To the circle!” the boys echoed in unison.

Gina passed the joint to Terry on her right, then leaned forward, staring intently into Jakes eyes. “So… cute little goodbye kisses, huh?” she squinted, “Jake and Amy really are,” she sang dully, “sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”

He shot back childishly, “Uh yeah, and it wasn’t the first time, where’ve you been?” Then he sang, clapping his hands with every beat “I-t-s-b-e-n-a-m-o-” as spelling in his head deemed harder than he thought, his chanting faltered then abruptly stopped. He pursed his lips and squinted back defensively, “It’s been a month already, okay?! Can you give it a rest?”

She ever so slightly shook her head, “Sorry, I just thought you two would’ve fallen apart by now, no offense.” Sure, Jake didn’t take offense. It was only the worst thing he’d heard all week. “Come on, you, falling in love with someone with that huge of a rod up her ass?” her shoulders shuddered with laughter.

Terry coughed and passed to Jake on his right, and interjected “Come on, the rod’s not that huge Gina.”

Jake inhaled sharply and gestured to his sergeant, “See?”

Terry stifled a giggle, “Yeah, once I saw her use a blue pen when she lost her black one,” he roared laughing at his own joke, along with Gina. “A real wildcard, that one!”

Jake was less than amused as he took a second hit. “Well, what’s wrong if I like an organized, punctual woman? Personally, I think we balance each other quite nicely,” he finished confidently, and passed back to Gina.

She seemed to be pondering what Jake said, taking a long drag from the joint that he rolled. Leaning back, her posture that of a regal queen, she eyed him closely. Her command of the space was apparent as they both patiently waited for her to finally release the smoke that was in her lungs. “By being opposites?” was all she said.

Oof. Leave it to Gina to make things painfully obvious. Despite the slight emotional blow, Jake sassily rolled his eyes and retorted, “For your information, I happen to be a bit of a rule stickler myself.” He crossed his arms then, having felt that his crown for the ultimate-goody-two-shoes was firmly intact. He always did the right thing and he knew it. That’s what makes him and Amy such a great fit.

Terry and Gina shared a knowing glance as she passed to him. It didn’t take long for them to instantaneously burst into laughter. “Jake, what are we doing now, then?” Terry loudly pointed out and took another hit. He let out a hearty laugh that transformed into a cough at the end. “We’re police officers, doing drugs in secret on our lunch break.” His smile vanished immediately, “Oh god, that sounds pretty bad,” he said with a wince.

Jake had succeeded, a little too well, in not thinking about all of… that. Relieved that it was his turn again, he received from his left. “I feel attacked.” He took a longer drag than normal and immediately coughed it out violently.

Gina tutted quietly, “Come on sarge. Drugs Schmugs,” she shrugged, “It’s just a plant, maaaan,” she did a Southern Californian accent.

After recovering quickly, Jake took another hit. He passed to Gina and challenged her “No, I think Terry has a point. We are breaking the law, and I actively decide to do so.” Something about that simple fact stung as it left his mouth, and it didn’t help that Gina was staring directly through him, smiling. He had to answer her silent gloat, “Okay so maybe Amy would never do that, we’re still, hella compatible, okay?”

She blew smoke in his direction, and said coyly, “Oh, absoluuutely I agree.”

Is she trying to make me feel insecure?

She wasn’t finished, “How’d she take it when you told her you’re a total stoner?” Jake’s stomach dropped. That was also something he had done a really good job of putting out of his mind. Gina cocked her head, feigning curiosity, as she exhaled in his direction for a second time. This is totally a game to her.

Their superior wanted to keep his circle peaceful, “Come on, guys,” he gingerly took the joint from her.

Jake was staring at the ground. He didn’t see the point in lying, “I haven’t told her,” he admitted sheepishly. What he wouldn’t admit, at least not yet, was that he had plans to pick Amy over the circle, one of these days. Soon. Sometime in the near future, for sure.

She exclaimed, “Ohohoho!” She was visibly very amused, and looked to Terry, who offered her no satisfaction as he took a hit. She clicked her tongue at him, “Fine, I’ll have all the fun myself.” She clasped her hands together and turned her whole body towards her friend, “Little Jakey is scared of his big mean girlfriend! Awwww!”

His cheeks felt hot as he thankfully took the joint from Terry. He took a sharp inhale and quickly expelled the smoke, “I’m just waiting for a good opportunity.” That was a straight up fib. He was never going to tell her.

Terry decided to defend him, “Well hey, I wouldn’t want to tell Amy about this either, that little woman has a rage inside her.” This did not comfort Jake at all.

Terry shook his head, “She needs to smoke some weed!”

That hit Jake in the giggles, and he found it hard to stay upset. It was the Bi-monthly Terrinajake Lunch after all; he should enjoy the moment—it won’t help him to worry now. “You say that about everyone!” he laughed harder and passed to Gina.

She chuckled as she exhaled another hit, and said, “God, I can’t even picture her smoking anything but a cigarette.”

“Beep borp,” Jake imitated a robot, “Marijuana is a schedule one narcotic, beep borp, drugs are baaaad.” He admitted to himself, yep, this is hilarious.

Gina kept it rolling, “Speaking of robots, you guys think Holt ever tried it back in the day?”

They shouted their answers at the same time.

“Absolutely!” affirmed Jake.

“Absolutely not!” objected Terry.

“Interesting,” Gina laughed.

“C’mon, Jake, really? Are we talking about the same Captain Holt?” Terry huffed. “He would never do anything to jeopardize his career, obviously.” He puffed the joint that Gina had just handed him. “Oh God. Shouldn’t I be doing that too?” He winced worriedly again and hastily passed to Jake.

“Sarge, you’re fine.” Jake assured him, inhaled, then challenged, “You guys don’t think he could have had a rebellious teenage phase?” He beamed at the thought of it and exhaled.

Gina and Terry were in agreement, “No,” they firmly answered together.

The trio laughed loudly. Gina continued with the questions, “Okay, what would you guys do if he walked through that door,” she pointed to her left at the dusty backdoor they came through earlier, “right now?”

The sergeant cried out “Gina! That is terrifying!” he fidgeted, “Why would you ask me that right now?”

She was clearly amused when she took another hit.

Jake offered his answer to her hypothetical, “I’d just be like,” he put his elbow on his knee and paused for dramatic effect, “You wanna hit it?” he asked quietly while gesturing with his pointer finger and thumb together.

Terry couldn’t help but chuckle along with them at that one, and carefully received from his left.

Jake continued, “I mean!” he laughed, “We’d be caught red handed, might as well throw that line out,” he shrugged, “see if he bites.”

Gina made fun, “That’s only if you could refrain from screaming like a little girl.”

He pulled his mouth to one side and murmured, “True dat, true dat.”

Terry passed to Jake, then proclaimed, “I don’t know, I just think everyone should take a moment, and stop, and reflect by trying it at least once.” Although this sentiment was a bit out-of-the-blue, Jake internally agreed with it.

Suddenly, the door was flung open by a powerful force. Jake exhaled smoke along with a high pitched scream.

“What a lovely ‘reflection’ circle you guys got here,” Rosa said sarcastically.

“It helps Terry meditate!” shouted Terry defensively.

Jake cautiously cracked open one eye, and upon seeing his close friend, released a loud sigh. He sat up straight and gasped, “Oh!” he proudly presented the half-spent joint they were sharing, “You wanna hit it?”

Rosa smirked in response to his wide grin, “Charmed, but I’m gonna pass.” She ignored his pouting and continued, “I actually just came down to tell Jake before I forget—there was a development in your case and Amy wants to talk to you about it, if you finish lunch early, or whatever.”

“Woooo!” he cheered, “A lead!” He shot up from his chair and put the joint in Gina’s hand as he walked past her quickly.

He was near the door when Rosa grabbed him by the arm, halting him, and forced a small white bottle into the palm of his other arm. He glanced down at the object and scanned the label: eye drops. He tapped his temple with one finger twice once she released him, “Smort.”

He loosely shook his head “Sober, sober, okay!” He rudely shot hot breath into Rosa’s face, “How’s my breath?” He smiled excitedly.

She cringed, then retrieved a metal tin from her leather jacket. She again pressed another object into his hand. This time it was a single altoid. Rosa was surprisingly well equipped for the situation.

He popped it into his mouth and made a short kissing noise, “Thaaaaanks, Rosa!” and off he went. The three who remained shared looks of skepticism.

“Well, bye,” Rosa said flatly, and turned around.

“Noooo!” Gina protested, “Stay and gossip! We ordered a pizza,” she whined and took another puff.

“Another time,” Rosa let her down gently, “I got plans for lunch already today.”

Gina sighed, “Okayyyyy.” She perked up and tried again, “Oh, did you know that Amy’s gonna rip Jake a new one when she finds out about the circle? It’s totally gonna be,” she paused briefly, “amazing,” she raised her perfect eyebrows expectantly.

“Interesting,” Rosa humored her, “Well, bye.”

“Wait! Wait,” Gina paused again then smiled, “Suuuuure you don’t wanna hit it?”

Rosa clicked her tongue, shifted her weight to one leg, and looked up. She sighed, “Okay.” Gina excitedly passed her the joint. “Just one.” She took a long drag from it, then a sharp inhale of air, “You know, Gina, I do like what you’ve done with the place,” she slowly expelled a plume of smoke. “But be careful you know,” she warned, “secrets like this at the workplace can be tricky sometimes.”

She handed it to Terry and walked back inside without another word. His eyes narrowed, “She is so wise,” he inhaled, “like a monk,” and exhaled.

Chapter Text

Amy Santiago was not expecting her boyfriend to come barreling out of the elevator so soon. He was snickering to himself about something as he approached her desk.

“What’s funny, babe?” she asked innocently and stood to greet him, “Oh, did Hitchcock get his tie stuck in the shredder again?” She perked up, wearing a warm grin.

The older detective overheard, and shouted from across the room, “Hey! That was just three times!”

“Pfft,” Jake half-scoffed, half-chuckled, “Classic Hitchcock,” he shook his head.

Amy waited a second or two before wondering, “Um…” she was expecting more of an elaboration, “So yes? I actually guessed correctly?”

“What?” he started, “Oh!” his face lit up, “No! I was laughing at this meme, there’s a pig, l-o-l, hold on,” She lightly cringed at how he spelled out the acronym, instead of simply laughing, or even saying “laugh out loud.” She complained to herself, if the abbreviation has the same number of syllables as the saying, there’s no point in saying it.

Despite this, she was indeed amused by the piglet Jake presented to her on his phone. It was wearing a tiny tie around its neck, and the caption read: bringing home the bacon.

He struggled to get the words out between shudders of laughter, “Can you imagine?” he wheezed, “A tiny pig, in an office? Earning bacon?!”

She did her best to humor him and put on a smile, “Yeah, what is he gonna feed his family?” She let out sheepish fake laughter.

“His family!” he let out a sharp laugh, and grinned at the screen once more before shoving the phone back into his pocket, “A baby pig, with a baby pig family…” he trailed off inexplicably and stared into nothing, just smiling.

Amy allowed a few seconds to go by before reluctantly calling to him, “Jake?”

His eyes burst wide open, and swiveled his head to look her in the eye. “Yep!” he chirped. “‘Suuuup?”

She responded to his attentive gaze, “I uh…” she studied him for a second, “We received a tip, and they gave us a name.”

“Wooooo!” he cheered, “a lead!”

She asked quickly, “What are you doing back so soon, by the way? You love Bi-monthly Terrinajake Lunch.”

She noticed his shoulders raise, and his eyes dart to the left, “Oh—that, um,” he recovered quickly, “Yeah—see, I ate really fast and ran up here when Rosa told me there was a lead,” he nervously spat out a laugh, “You know me! Starving for leads!” An unconvincing “Ha!” erupted from his suspiciously large grin as he crossed his arms. She thought she could hear a faint grumble of a stomach nearby, but elected to ignore it in favor of working the important case.

“Alright…” she said slowly, “an anonymous tipper claims to be friends with the perp, and told us his name was,” she sighed preemptively, “Richard Thrasher.”

“DICK THRASHER?!” Jake shouted in bewilderment, loud enough for the entire bullpen to hear. He doubled over and basically screamed laughing, “You gotta warn a guy, Amy!”

Captain Raymond Holt suddenly appeared in the doorway of his office. “What is the problem, Peralta?!” he barked.

Charles Boyle answered, “A suspect has a super funny name, sir.”

“Captain, with all due respect, it is extremely funny,” Jake panted.

“Well, let’s hear it,” The Captain said simply.

Jake looked to Charles with a pained expression. He was biting his tongue and shaking his head. Amy could tell that he was desperately trying to keep it together.

“Uh, Dick Thrasher, sir,” said Charles.

Holt blinked, then paused for an excruciating second. “Yes, that is quite amusing,” he stated in his usual monotonous tone, “As you were.”

With that, he disappeared back into his office. Jake released a heavy sigh, “Oh my god, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Finally allowing a laugh, Charles asked, “So, you got that name from a tip? He’s actually a real suspect?”

Amy sighed, “Yes, actually. I thought it was a prank at first too.”

Jake wiped the corner of his eye, “It’s not one?! You’re telling me,” he clasped his hands onto her shoulders and suddenly wore a serious expression, “I live in the same city as the Dick Thrasher?!”

Amy muttered in response, “I mean, we live a really huge city, but yeah…”

Jake collapsed into his chair. He put his head down and was shaking with giggles, “Go—” muffled laughter, “go on!” he waved her on.

“Well,” she cleared her throat and sat at her desk, “Richard’s friend only ratted him out because he owes him money, apparently,” she continued despite her boyfriend snickering over her, “and surprisingly, he actually exists and has a criminal record for a few minor things.” She purposefully left out the details of his prior arrests.

“Ooh!” Jake eagerly sat up, “What were his prior arrests for? Tell me it’s indecent exposure! Please please pleeeaase!” He begged, as if that would affect Amy’s answer.

He was lucky. “It was indecent exposure,” she admitted with a sigh.

“Woooo!” He obnoxiously cheered, and sang “Dick Thrasheeeer, thrashin’ dicks in the streeeeets!”

“Okay,” Amy put her hands up, “Weird thing to sing about,” her face scrunched up as she thought aloud, “and that doesn’t even make any sense.”

Jake managed to collect himself, “Okay, okay, so why is Dick Thrasher,” he whipped his head to face away from Amy and stifled another laugh. He quickly faced her again, “lighting stuff on fire for fun?”

“Well,” she corrected, “it’s more about where and when and how that will help us solve it, but that’s a good start.”

He looked distracted when he said, “Right, right, so where, when, and how do the fires start?”

She blinked, “We were briefed on all that this morning, Jake.”

“Right, cool cool cool cool,” he chattered. Amy recognized his mantra as an indication that things weren’t going his way. His eyes were slightly despondent, despite being accompanied by a forced grin. He recovered quickly again, “Dumpsters, piles of leaves, all within a few blocks, uhhh, only on the weekends, and gasoline, right?” He treated recalling details of his case assignment like a quiz.

“Kerosene, actually,” she mumbled.

“Aw, so close,” he lamented. “Well, where is,” he comedically whipped his head left, then right, then directly at Amy, “Dick Thrasher?” He deepened his voice dramatically.

She gave in and giggled, “That’s what we need to find out.”

“Schweeet, Jake and Amy, on the case!” He held a hand up, and she high-fived him softly. He stopped smiling inexplicably and said, “Actually, gimme a sec.”

Suddenly she was left alone, Jake haven run off to the break room for some reason. She shrugged, and looked through the case files once more.

About seven and a half minutes had passed; Amy knew because she was counting. No one takes seven and a half minutes to get coffee. She thought to herself—did he fall asleep back there? In the corner of her computer, the tiny clock ticked to display: 12:57. At the eight minute mark, she stood up and briskly walked to the break room.

Jake was sitting at the table, wolfing down a bag of chips. It appeared to be his fifth or sixth one, as a mass of wrappers lay before him.

“Jake?!” She shrugged with her entire torso, throwing her hands up, “I thought you ate!”

His eyes went wild once he heard her, and he abruptly stopped chewing. He stared at her momentarily then swallowed. “I have a fast metabolism.”

“Ugh!” she groaned. “I cannot believe how unhealthy you are sometimes!”

He cocked an eyebrow, “Because I’m so attractive, right?”

“UGH!” she groaned louder, “We have a perp to find!” She spun around and marched out of the break room.

Amy was relieved to enter Jake’s apartment after a long day of police work. Long days didn’t particularly bother her, but unsuccessful ones sure did. She was finally ready to put stupid Richard Thrasher out of her mind for the day. She had come to feel a twinge of comfort everytime she was greeted by the lights that were strung above Jake’s bed, which was the room’s centerpiece. They were always glowing warm across the room every time she walked in. She made a mental note to remind Jake that that’ll shoot up his electric bill. Her eyes scanned over the familiar decorations: the dartboard, the basketball hoop, the pilot’s cap, the incense burner. Huh, she thought about that last one, I’m surprised I haven’t noticed that before. Personally, she preferred candles any day of the week. Admittedly, she noticed he had a few of those too. She kicked off her shoes and collapsed onto her boyfriend’s old couch.

“Stupid Dick,” Jake angrily complained as he locked the door behind him, “and his stupid, dumb, alibi!

“Babe,” she pleaded, “let’s just relax. I’m tired of thinking about it.”

“Ugh,” he groaned, “but I can’t stop thinking about it.” He limply fell onto the couch right next to her, and laid his head on her lap. “I just can’t believe a dumpster was torched one block away from the corner we were staking out,” he snatched a pillow and shoved it into his face. He let out a muffled screech of frustration.

She too was incredibly irked by their misfortune. She remembered how, many hours ago, the two of them were so eager to deliver justice like they always do. Richard Thrasher was easily findable, and the couple had headed off to his apartment building to question him.

Upon his front door, they played the game they often did: guess the inhabitant. “

I bet he’s an intellectual type,” Amy guessed, pointing at the thick magazine placed in the mail bin on the wall. “Look, some quarterly scholarly journal I’m sure.”

“I’ll take that bet!” Jake beamed and knocked hard twice. “Police, open up!”

The door opened a brief moment later to reveal Richard Thrasher. The perp was described as a white male, about two-hundred pounds, and twenty-five to forty years old. He certainly matched this description. He also had long hair pulled back into a greasy ponytail, and wore a stained t-shirt and thin wire glasses. Behind him was a dark, cluttered apartment.

“Hello sir!” Jake said with a short laugh. “I’m Detective Perfect Detective, and this is my partner, Detective Can’t-Do-Anything-Right.”

Amy ignored him, “Detective Amy Santiago, sir,” she extended a hand and recoiled after the suspect took it, as his hand was slightly wet for God knows why. After awkwardly wiping her hand on her blazer, she informed him, “We’re here on account of a tip we received regarding the recent outbreak of fires in this area.”

“O-oh, yes I’ve been paying attention to that story, so terrible,” Thrasher replied.

Jake asked him if they could come inside and ask a few questions, to which their suspect happily complied. The detectives almost regretted stepping into the small apartment, because it reeked. The several computer monitors on the back wall were the only source of light until Thrasher flicked a switch, thus revealing a grimy studio, decorated with collectables and posters. Well, ‘decorated’ was putting it nicely, as the amount of clutter and trash reached hoarder-esc levels.

Amy resisted cringing as best as she could, “O-oh! Are you an artist?” she asked, pointing to his massive computer desk littered with art supplies.

“Oh, yes! I’m actually a comic artist-slash-writer, have you ever heard of The Thucroqian Invasion of Planet Xelneron?” asked Thrasher excitedly.

“Uhhhh…”

“Oh, absolutely!” Jake beamed. By his equally enthusiastic response, Amy knew Jake found this amusing and was merely playing along.

“Oh, oh my gosh! W-wonderful!” Thrasher stammered. “What’s your favorite part?”

“D’uhhhh….” Jake recovered, yet again, “When the Thucroqonians first land on planet Xelneron?”

“Always—wow! Always glad to meet a fan!” Thrasher eagerly snatched his hand to shake it.

When released, Jake jerked his hand to his side to wipe it on his leather jacket. “Y-yeah.” He flattened his mouth in place of a smile.

Amy took over, “Mr. Thrasher—”

“You can call me Dick.”

Amy spoke loudly to mask the sound of Jake snickering, “Where were you the night of November twelfth?”

“Well, that was last Saturday, right? I’m always at the pub down the street every Friday and Saturday. You can just ask the owner, we’re good friends.”

Amy asked for details, and squiggled the two names into her notepad. “Every Friday and Saturday? Those are the only two days that the three fires have occured on.”

“Yes ma’am, like I said, you can ask my friends over there.”

Amy evaluated Thrasher momentarily. From his attire to his environment, this guy seemed like, to put it nicely, a nobody. Lonely nobodies might spend their weekends in bars, so this seemed reasonable enough.

“Hey uh, I heard somewhere that the fire hasn’t actually caused much damage, just wondering, is that true?” Thrasher asked casually.

Amy hesitated, then answered, “Yes, that’s correct. We believe the perpetrator just enjoys the act of burning things.”

“A pyromaniac, if you will,” added Jake.

“Cool,” Thrasher said full of awe, “I meant—I mean I don’t think anyone should be lighting fires, that’s dangerous, I hope you catch him,” he paused awkwardly, “But it just gives me a cool idea for a villain in one of my webcomics.”

Jake laughed, “No man, I get you. I can’t tell you how often I want to make a movie out of the cases I see sometimes—ooh! Like one time—”

“Jake.” Amy brought him back to reality.

“Oh, yeah. Totes,” Jake forced a straight face. “Dick Thrasher,” the straight face didn’t last long. His voice shook trying to fight the giggles, “Do you know anyone who would have something against you? Like, just for example,” he flailed his wrist and rolled his eyes, “do you owe anybody money?”

“Well,” responded the suspect, “not anyone that I can think of, no, sorry.”

A few more questions were asked and answered before the detectives were ready to leave. Once they did, they visited the pub he claimed to be at every weekend. Several patrons, the bartender, and the owner, most importantly, affirmed that they knew him well. After hitting a dead end, the couple decided to keep an eye on one intersection that was in the vicinity of many previous fires. They immediately rushed a block away once they were informed one had started there, but amazingly, the perpetrator was nowhere to be found. By this time it was nearly midnight, so Amy and Jake went home, defeated.

“I know, it’s frustrating,” she agreed and spread her fingers through his short curls. “Hey,” she had a suggestion to get their minds off their bad day, “let’s just fall asleep to a movie.”

This cheered him up, “Die Hard?” he proposed with a gasp.

“What, is it your birthday or something?” she teased, “Not again.” She quelled his disappointment a bit, “We’ll do action though.”

“Woooo!” he cheered, but this time was the least enthusiastic.

They both changed into pajamas and settled into the bed that was a few paces away from the couch. Amy clicked on the television and chose the first tolerable action movie she came across.

Her eyelids were heavy as she paid attention to the movie. About a half-hour in, she felt the mattress shift behind her, and sensed that her boyfriend had left. She said nothing, not thinking it was necessary. He was probably just taking a bathroom break and would’ve asked her to pause the movie if he wanted her to, after all.

A few minutes passed and Amy had lost the battle against her droopy eyelids. She told herself she would at least listen to the movie, but was helplessly drifting off to sleep. The crashes and shouts emanating from the television faded to become white noise, and an unknown number of minutes passed before she heard the click of a door shutting and the flick of a lighter. She slowly pried her eyes open but was facing the opposite direction. She then felt the mattress dip gently beside her; it was like Jake was trying to be as quiet as possible. Amy’s curiosity was satisfied once she smelled the scent of garden rain, leading her to conclude that he lit a candle for some reason. She slowly turned over to face him.

“Jake?” she whispered.

He calmly extended his hand and brushed her hair back with his fingers. “I’m sorry, go back to sleep, Ames.”

“Okay,” she mumbled lazily and rolled back over. “Don’t forget to blow the candle out before you fall asleep,” she quietly reminded him.

She heard him swallow, “Yeah.”

She was too sleepy to say anything else, but her mind was racing all of a sudden. What is up with Jake today? She kept going over all their interactions that day, and everything seemed relatively normal. Except, she realized, he wasn’t in the bathroom just now, was he? Her mind wandered to other things, as sleep had a good grip on her. After a while, the explosions and voices coming from the screen turned into white noise again, and off she drifted.

Chapter Text

Amy and Jake found themselves tirelessly staking out another busy Brooklyn intersection late on Saturday night. They both were eager to catch the arsonist—something about being so close, yet so far, had lit a fire beneath them. No pun intended. It didn’t matter to them that the perpetrator had so far stuck to a single outburst a weekend, for this pair of determined detectives took things almost personally. So here they were, having date night in a dimly-lit parked car.

Amy had let her thoughts spiral into doubts and suspicions throughout the day. From when she awoke in Jake’s apartment, to her drive back home, to when she did her daily crosswords, through lunch, the afternoon, and all evening long, paranoia persisted in her mind. Is he hiding something from me? That was the most popular intrusive question of the day. Second place belonged to: Where did he sneak off to last night? She possessed an avid detective brain, which would not give her a second of peace. Admittedly, she was especially eager to come out on this stake out mission, because it provided a fantastic opportunity to watch Jake Peralta like a hawk.

“Welp, favorites game,” he yanked her out of deep thought. “Favorite celebrity, go,” he flashed an expectant grin after lowering his binoculars.

“Oh, um,” she said quietly, “if I had to pick one, I guess… Neil deGrasse Tyson?”

He scoffed, “A stuffy old scientist?”

“H-hey!” she huffed, “At least I picked the one with the most twitter followers, or whatever.” She then added, for educational purposes, “and he only happens to be the most influential astrophysicist of this century.”

“Astrophysishist….” he stared blankly for a second, then stammered proudly, “schmisifist.”

“Whatever,” she chuckled softly at him, “like your favorite celebrity is so great.”

“Duh, I only picked the best actor in the world—Bruce Willis.”

“The question isn’t asking what your favorite movie character is,” she made fun, “You don’t have to work Die Hard into your identity that much.”

“Oooouch!” pretending to be offended, the pitch of his voice went up, “But what if I told you, that Bruce Willis is actually awesome?”

“Then I’d say you were backpedaling.” Amy and Jake had grown accustomed to playfully calling each other out, and it became a healthy way to keep themselves on their toes, and more importantly, honest with each other.

Usually. There it was, another intrusive suspicion.

“Double ouch!” Jake exclaimed with a wide smile. “Santiago, you’re extra feisty today.”

If by feisty, he meant on-edge, then he was absolutely correct. She wasn’t even in the mood to make a jab about Taylor Swift, his actual favorite celebrity. “I am never,” she held up two fingers on both hands and bent them, “feisty.”

“Suuuure,” he smirked.

The interior of the car fell silent, especially so since the engine was off. The street they were on was a lonely one, so the ceaseless, distant bustle of New York was the only remaining sound. Amy swallowed, and Jake returned to looking through the binoculars. Internally, she was kicking herself. She had just let her distrust get the better of her, and killed the vibe as a result.

She stared at the man who she couldn’t quite figure out—the one that had been on her mind all day. Above all else, she adored him. Doubt seemed to be her biggest adversary lately, for frequently, she wondered about her and Jake’s compatibility. They were always telling themselves that their differences complimented, even completed each other.

But, in reality, we clash.

Her eyes darted to her lap when that thought raced through her head. If he’s keeping something from me, it’s because I won’t like it.

“Okay, what’s your favorite decade from the twentieth century?” Jake dragged her out of the darkness yet again.

She jumped, “A-are we talking aesthetics-wise, or realistically?”

“Hmmm…” he hummed, “I guess aesthetics are always more fun. Like, yay poodle skirts!” he beamed, then frowned, “Boo, segregation.”

Dammit, Peralta. She laughed. “The twenties, then.”

“Ooooh,” he cooed, “Old-school cool.” He clicked his tongue and extended his forefinger and thumb on one hand.

“You know, short hair don’t care, all that jazz,” she chuckled and tucked her hair behind her ear.

“Men’s fashion seems to be a bunch of suits up until a certain point. See me, I think the seventies and eighties are the fun ones.”

“You mean the dirty, drug-fueled ones?” she teased with a smile.

“Mehhh,” Jake considered it, “that is fun, no?”

Amy shook her head but couldn’t wipe away her smile.

“Come on, rock n’ roll!” He played the air guitar with passion.

They were interrupted when Amy spotted a small group of figures shuffle out of a nearby apartment building. She pointed, “Look, people over there.”

Jake dropped his imaginary guitar and pointed his binoculars in their direction. “Buncha teenagers, I think.”

They watched them closely for a few minutes before Jake told Amy, “Aaaand, they’re smoking something.”

“Awesome,” flatly said Amy.

Jake leaned back, staring at the car’s ceiling, and groaned, “Why can’t they be a gang of little arsonists?”

Amy was still staring at them, however. She grabbed the binoculars from Jake’s lap in order to gather more information.

“Jake, they’re passing it around.”

“So?”

“That means it’s not a cigarette, it’s pot.” She didn’t think she’d have to spell that out to him.

Jake laughed openly, “Pfft, what, was there was a line for the fire escape, kiddos?”

She whipped her head to glare at him.

“I mean, I’m just calling them stupid, Ames, I’m with ya.” His smile vanished once he met her intense stare. “You shouldn’t do drugs, but especially out in like, public. Tsk tsk.” He vigorously shook his head.

“We should go confiscate it,” Amy said seriously and returned the binoculars to her face.

“Eyyyy,” he jeered, “confiscate, if you know what I mean.” He jokingly jabbed the air with his elbow.

Again, she whipped her head to scowl at him, but this time with a half-annoyed, half-bewildered expression. He needs to take this more seriously. Her eyes were wide, and her lips parted slightly. “Wha…” was all that came out.

Another smile vanished. “Oh, you’re serious? Ames, they’re not uh…” he hesitated, “exactly hurting anybody.” He put rubbed the back of his neck with one hand.

“Except themselves,” she scoffed.

“W-well, hey,” Jake continued to argue, “we didn’t bother those stoners we met when we were tracking the ham-thief, remember?”

That was an easy one, “It’s different. Those were adults. We should step in—we should look out for our youth.”

“I guess,” Jake sighed quietly, “I’m not gonna stop you, I mean…”

Amy looked through the binoculars once more. “They’re gone!” she gasped.

“Ohhh…” Jake brought a hand to his cheek “Nooo… That’s terrible…” He couldn’t help being sarcastic, no matter how annoyed Amy was.

“Whatever, Jake.”

The couple continued to bounce from topic to topic, as normally as one would expect, until well after one in the morning. The mission proved unsuccessful since the arsonist didn’t strike, so they called it a night, returned the police vehicle to the precinct, and kissed each other goodbye, just like always.

Though, one thing was different. Amy Santiago was on the precipice of discovery. On the drive home, she lit a guilty cigarette. It’ll help me think straight, is what she told herself. Upon the first red light of several, she rolled her window down and turned off the radio. Closing her eyes, she took a puff, and recounted the past two days.

She knew Jake was acting shady. She was learning a lot about him—which was surprising. I thought I would’ve known everything by now. She figured that entering a relationship was all it took for her to be able to piece things together. Let’s see, she listed off in her head: sneaking off, looking distracted, lying about lunch—

A blaring horn sounded from behind at the same exact moment the stark realization hit Amy like a freight train. Her eyes burst open, and the green light before her was glaring right at her, as brightly and obviously as the solution to this mystery.

Despite it being uncourteous driver behavior, she ignored the loud horn demanding that she move forward to take a second to swiftly smack her own forehead.

“Marijuana!”

Chapter Text

Amy Santiago entered the bullpen with purpose at eight o-seven a.m. Save for Captain Holt, who was shut away in his office like always, she was the first to arrive. She was eager to get to work, finally. After a couple of sleepless nights thanks to Jake Peralta— specifically, the secrets of Jake Peralta—she was itching to take action and gather intel.

Always covering all bases, she had thoroughly compiled her observations and research into a neat little binder. It was unlabeled, of course, to avoid suspicion, but if she were to title it, it would be called: 100 Reasons Why Jake Peralta is a Conniving, Negligent Druggie of a Boyfriend.

Amy shook her head, having half a mind to laugh. Definitely too long.

Despite dwelling on it for two days straight, the thought still made her heart sink every time— My boyfriend is on drugs. She knew he was.

She argued with herself, Okay, but it’s the ‘nice’ drug, Amy. It’s not like he’s reckless, or addicted.

She was fidgety, so she decided to thumb through her findings once more. Gnawing the end of a cheap pen, she let the waves of anxiety wash over her. Confrontation of some sort felt eminent. Second-guessing herself for about the hundredth time that morning, she thought, an illegal substance is an illegal substance. She racked her brain for reasons why Jake would risk his reputation as a detective, Holt’s approval, his career, his relationship, just to get high. She came up with nothing. It didn’t make sense in her head.

Today, it was Charles Boyle who jolted her back to reality. “Hey, looks like we’re early buddies again!” He smiled warmly as he took off his coat and settled into his desk.

“H-hey, Boyle,” her eyes darted to view the time: 8:19. To Amy, time always flies the fastest when she’s deep in thought.

An idea struck her then. Talking things out with someone always helped her make an informed decision. She bit her lip nervously, considering it, I usually just talk to Jake about my problems. But what about when my problem is Jake? She glanced at Charles again; he was already dutifully filing paperwork. He’s Jake’s best friend, after all. He’s got to know something.

She rose and slowly approached the hardest-working detective in the precinct. Again, she said, “H-hey,” to get his attention, and sheepishly waved.

“Amy!” he looked up to beam at her, “How can I help you?” He is always so chipper, even on Monday mornings.

“Actually, do you think we could talk in the briefing room?”

She didn’t watch as his face turned to concern immediately, “Oh. Sure thing.”

Amy and Charles entered the empty briefing room, and thankfully the blinds were already shut. After gingerly clicking the door closed, she began pacing the front of the room.

“Is everything okay?” Charles wrung his hands awkwardly.

“Hoh—” huffed Amy. She folded her arms behind her back and paced even faster. How can I even begin to answer that? She stopped abruptly and locked eyes with her coworker. He looked frightened, so she loosened the intense scowl that she just realized she was wearing. She stood as straight as she could, closed her eyes, and sighed. “I have reason to believe that Jake is participating in illegal activity.”

Charles blinked in response. Electing denial over panic, he laughed softly, “Amy, that’s ridiculous,” his brow furrowed, “Our Jake would never—”

Amy’s fervent glare was terrifyingly persuasive.

“Oh my god—Jake is a criminal.” The words fell rapidly from his lips. He let his thoughts spiral out loud, “I-it’s the debt, isn’t it? It’s driven him to robbery—” he gasped dramatically, “He’s the arsonist! I knew it!” Rubbing his chin and staring at the floor, he began pacing much like Amy was moments ago. “I didn’t really see him as the angry type—but now that you mention it, it’s all starting to make—”

“Boyle!” snapped Amy. “It’s drugs! He’s doing drugs, Boyle!”

Charles froze. He lowered himself into the nearest chair, never breaking eye contact with her. His astonished expression slowly transformed into a tortured grimace. His breath hitched, but a raspy wail managed to escape, “My boy is a crackhead, isn’t he?”

Amy clamoured to his side and desperately tried to defuse his unnecessary breakdown. She spoke over his blubbering—“What- hic- are- hic- we gonna doo-oo-oo?” The last word was broken up by sobs.

“No! Charles—Charles! Look at me.” Squeezing his shoulders, she articulated clearly, “Marijuana, Charles.”

He took a sharp breath, “Huh?”

Amy just continued to stare deeply, “Yeah.” She nodded once.

Rapidly blinking tears away, Charles jerked his head in surprise. “Not uh…” he sniffled loudly, “Not what I was expecting from the way you phrased that.” He rubbed the back of his neck and squinted. “What makes you so sure?”

It’s moments like these that made Amy fall in love with the art of thorough documentation, “Twelve forty-five p.m., last Friday. Jake comes back suspiciously early from lunch, and is acting giggly and distracted,” she recited her findings from memory.

“Sounds like normal Jake to me,” he shrugged.

Mildly irked by his dismissiveness, she plowed on, “Okay, then. Approximately eleven thirty-five p.m., on Saturday, we identified a group of people consuming marijuana, and he refused to take any kind of action.”

“Well, I probably wouldn’t bother them either, if I had something else better to do.”

Amy shifted her weight to one side and administered a stern look of reproach. He stammered in response, “I-I’m just saying, I like to give the benefit of the doubt as much as I can. You know, it’s good detective work to gather substantial evidence before you go after someone.”

“He’s got an incense burner.”

“Ohhhh, okay yep—he’s a total stoner,” Charles remarked with a nod.

Pressing her lips flat, she shrugged, upturning her palms in a blasé manner.

“I mean, who wouldn’t just use a candle?”

“That’s what I’m sayin’!” She rolled her eyes and felt relieved that they were on the same page.

“Wow, that’s kinda…” he trailed off in thought for a second and briefly filled his cheeks with air, “weird, huh?”

“Try reckless!” she shouted, regrettably.

“I guess so,” Charles now wore an expression of pure confusion. “Ehhhh,” he croaked almost silently. His eyes narrowed, and he looked as if he was strenuously processing the situation.

“Boyle, we need to take this seriously.” She sat down next to him, “Look around, where do we work?”

“A… a police station?”

“Exactly! Which means…”

“We…eat donuts?” perhaps knowing his answer was ridiculous, he muttered quickly after, “I-I don’t know.”

“We enforce the law!” She closed her eyes and gathered herself, “We are supposed set an example for our community.”

She was taken aback when Charles chuckled nervously in response. Looking anywhere but at her, he said, “Amy, look, I get where you’re coming from—I do—it’s just,” he hesitated, “I—I think you’re taking this a little bit too hard.”

“Oho!” Shooting up from her chair, Amy mocked, “I should just, ‘take it easy, man’, huh?” She knew how to get under his skin, “If it’s ‘like, no big deal bro’,” she had both hands on her hips as she set her trap, “then I’m sure you knew all about it.”

Charles scoffed, “Well, I,” he blinked, then asked under his breath, “How… come I didn’t know about this?” His eyes fixated on the table before him as he drummed all ten of his fingers on it.

Smugly crossing her arms, Amy let him keep speaking his thought process aloud for her, “Jake doesn’t trust me?” He scoffed again and furrowed his brow, “Well—that’s just ridiculous, huh?” He faked a laugh as best he could, but his smile quickly reverted back to a frown.

She tutted with a smile, “Just plain crazy, right?”

Charles turned his head and stared blankly for a few seconds, now looking more despondent than anything. Without looking at her, he asked flatly, “Amy, am I lame?”

“What?” her arms dropped to her side.

“He doesn’t think I can handle a little weed.” He squinted as if he could see through the window he was staring at, “That’s it, isn’t it?”

“Excuse me?!”

“Who else do you think is in on this?” he finally turned to look at her, “You know, is there some sort of clique around here, you think? I mean, smoking and drinking are group activities, no? So, by that logic—”

“Boyle!” she hissed, “This is not high school!” She stormed to grab the door handle, and grumbled, “I cannot believe how useless you—” she interrupted herself, “and even if it was! Why would you want to be one of the delinquents?!”

She flung open the door and stormed off, but heard Charles call to her, “Wait, Amy!” She spun around to glare at him; he was clinging to the door frame. Several colleagues had arrived for the day by now, and a good few were paying attention. He hesitated, before announcing, “That’s exactly what a nerd would say!”

All she could do was flash a baffled expression before retreating to her desk.

Sulking at her desk as patiently as she could, Amy waited as the rest of her coworkers filed in one by one before work starting. Jake is almost always the last to arrive— because of course he is. It certainly didn’t help her nerves when today, he decided to show up with a minute to spare.

She nonchalantly shuffled her little unlabeled binder to the bottom of a stack of papers as her boyfriend ambled in for the day. He yawned as he tossed his bag under his desk and plopped into his seat, “Mornin’, Ames.” He smiled brightly.

The corner of her mouth twitched, “Good morning.”

Jake opened his mouth wide to undoubtedly say something witty, or more likely, something stupid, but he was cut off by Captain Raymond Holt exiting his office at precisely nine o’clock.

“Okay, team, there is much to accomplish this week,” he addressed everyone in his precinct, “I would like to have a brief meeting at the end of the day to make sure everyone is up to speed on our most pertinent cases.” He directed his attention to two of his top detectives, “Peralta, Santiago, how close are we to identifying the arsonist? Will we discover yet another of Brooklyn’s fine trash receptacles, tragically destroyed, this coming weekend?”

“No, sir!” answered Amy obediently.

“Good. Make sure of it,” Holt pointed at the two of them before returning to his office.

“Psssh,” Jake swiveled his chair to face Amy, “We gooot this,” he seemed so sure of himself, “I took the files home over the weekend, I’m telling you, this guy’s luck is running out.”

“You got a lead?”

“Well, no,” he admitted. “But! I feel like we’re thiiiiiis,” he pinched his forefinger and thumb together, “close!”

“I think you’re supposed to leave a gap between your fingers when you say that,” she corrected, fighting back a smile.

“Okay, maybe, but like, that’s how close I feel,” his eyes lit up, “like there’s just particle or two between me and the solution.”

She gave way to a grin and shook her head, “Try,” she held her hands about three feet apart, “about this close. We don’t have any worthwhile witnesses or suspects.”

“Aw, come on,” he whined, smiling, “Where’s that detective spirit, Santiago?”

It was focusing on a different case. “Well, did you find anything over the weekend?”

Jake sighed, “Nothing that’ll help us—but!” he looked excited, nonetheless, “I skimmed through Dick Thrasher-r-s-ss” the word fell apart into a laugh. He promptly covered his mouth, “Sorry, I always forget how much funnier it is out loud.” He cleared his throat, “I went through some of his comics—they are terrible.” Chuckling, he fished his phone out of his pocket.

She just let him continue, “Remember the one about Planet Xelnerd or whatever? Guess how the day is saved?” he only paused for about half a second, an expectant gleam in his eye, “It’s friendship, Amy!” He presented his phone, which displayed a page of the comic. It included not only a group hug full of strange looking aliens, but a rainbow as well.

Wearing a lopsided smile, she said, “He sounds like a real nut-job.”

“Oh, fo’ sho’. And that would just be a little weird, but what makes it absolutely hilarious,” Jake presented another page, although this one conversely displayed detailed, gory violence, complete with alien corpses and blood everywhere. “This is the ending of the previous chapter! Like whaaaaat?”

Despite having an overall irritated expression, a flash of intrigue swept across Amy’s face “Amazing artwork though, isn’t it? Huh.”

“You know, I was thinking the same.” Raising his eyebrows and nodding, he briefly studied the small screen, “Surprisingly high production value. He also has one about—funnily enough—a crooked detective.”

“Is that why we’re still talking about this?” she complained.

“Well, pfft,” he half scoffed, half laughed, “maybe, pfft,” his wide smile had stayed persistent, “The art style is great, and we’re detectives, pfft, that’s all.”

Immediately she knew he’d at least read a few chapters. She relieved him with her first open laugh of the day, “Right.” However, she decided to finally direct the conversation back to their job, “Well, I know a way we might get information, but you’re not going to like it.”

“Come on, don’t underestimate me.” He perked up suddenly, “I like doing absolutely everything and anything, as long as it’s” he finished breathily , “with you.” Supporting his head in one hand, he leaned forward and batted his eyelashes.

“Astounding.” Don’t give me that shit today, Peralta. “Then you’ll be excited to talk to every single resident of every single apartment building near every single fire,” wearing a cocky grin, she mirrored his breathy tone, “with me.” Admittedly, she was taking enjoyment out of this.

“Aughh!” he groaned. “Door duty?!” To Amy, it was satisfying to watch him clutch his head in agony as he swiveled his chair away from her.

Smiling brightly, she asked, “Oh, but I thought you said—”

“Aw! I know what I said!” Jake shot up from his chair and started to gather his things, “Let’s get this over with,” he couldn’t wipe off his exasperated expression, and attempted the breathy voice again, “togeth —nope! Not romantic anymore,” he looked straight at Amy, pursing his lips, “ya killed it.”

While Amy and Jake made their way out, Charles sauntered over to Gina’s desk. Leaning over, he placed an elbow on it as casually as he could. “‘Suuup?”

The civilian administrator slash Captain’s assistant did not look up from her phone or acknowledge Charles in any way.

He cleared his throat and stood straight up again, “Gina.”

“What do you need, Charles?” she asked without moving an inch.

“I said,” he tilted his chin up, “‘suuup?”

“‘Sup.”

Charles looked like he didn’t know what to do with his hands, or any part of his body, really, as he waited for her to add something.

“U-um,” he stammered after a few seconds.

“What?” she snarled and looked up at him, finally.

“I-I don’t know—I mean,” clearing his throat again, he dropped his shoulders and shoved his hands into his pockets, “Nothin’, ‘sup with you?”

She tilted her head and squinted at him, “What is wrong with you?”

“Gah!” Clenching his fists, he let out a frustrated sigh, “How do you act so cool all the time?”

She gave an amused laugh, “I just am cool, Charles. You think this is an act?”

“Dangit,” he released another short groan of frustration.

“Well, first of all, cool people don’t say ‘dangit,’” Gina had returned her gaze to the tiny screen by now.

“Fiddlesticks, then!”

“Ew, worse,” she remarked as he walked behind her desk to sit in the chair next to her. “Oh—okay, we’re having an entire conversation now, awesome.”

“Gina, I—” his hands fidgeted nervously, “I need advice, but I have to tell you something I probably shouldn’t first.”

Evidently this changed her mood pretty quickly, as it was enough to convince her to set the phone down completely. “Mmm, pray tell, young grasshopper.”

“It’s,” he sharply exhaled and glanced at his best friend’s desk across the room, “It’s about Jake.”

“I’m listening…”

“He—” biting his lip, Charles paused. He looked left, then right, then directly at Gina. He put both hands beside his mouth, creating a barrier in between his lips and the bullpen. “He smokes weed,” his voice was hushed despite being at normal volume.

Gina’s eyes snapped open wide, a rarity that indicated that she didn’t know what to say right away. She glanced at the floor on her left, and let out a sigh, “Okay, Charles, I didn’t want to have to be the one to tell you this… And you have to keep this between you and me, you got that?”

He nodded silently and gulped.

Looking him in the eye, she clasped a hand onto his shoulder, “Jake has always been the biggest pothead I have ever known.”

Charles instinctively clutched his chest and released a surprised gasp. “No!”

“Oh, absolutely,” nodding slowly, she added, “I have never seen somebody smoke that much. I mean, he must be addicted or something. I didn’t even think that was possible.”

“Gah!” he exclaimed under his breath and glanced down with a furrowed brow. “How could I not have noticed?”

She tutted and said simply, “Probably ‘cause you’ve never seen him sober. I mean, how else could he be so laid back, so cool all the time? He’s probably, definitely blazed right. Now.”

“You—you think?” Charles wouldn’t tear his eyes from Jake’s empty desk. “Oh my gosh, this is way worse than I imagined, Gina. Should we—I mean, should we be worried about him?” Running his hands over his lap nervously, he admitted, “This is new territory for me, I mean, wow.” He looked exhausted as he wiped his forehead.

“Well, you know me, Charles,” her mouth stretched into a frown, “Drugs are baaaad.” Shrugging and flashing a smile, she remarked, “But, like, I guess it just helps certain people function better.”

“If you say so….” his brow furrowed again, “Wait, Amy told me she thought he was acting funny after Bi-monthly Terrinajake Lunch, you wouldn’t know anything about that?”

Lightning actually can strike twice, as evidenced by Gina’s eyes snapping wide open once more. Jamming her tongue into her cheek, she murmured, “Uh-huh, alright, okay…”

Charles had a look of utmost anticipation, “What?”

“I cannot believe that’s why he left Bi-monthly Terrinajake Lunch early last time,” she clicked her tongue and shook her head. “That absolute scoundrel.”

“So uh, so nobody knows about this, huh?” Charles seemed at-ease for the first time in this conversation.

“Dunno. No more questions. Verrrrry busy.” She banged on the keyboard three times without looking at it, “N’yeaap.” She ordered in a sing-song voice, “Byeee!”

After immediately standing obediently, Charles said, “Oh, alright then,” and returned to his desk.

A short while after the awkward conversation, Gina nonchalantly made her way to Terry’s desk.

“What’s up, Gina?” asked the sergeant innocently, probably expecting something work-related, as she possessed a bit of paperwork.

“There’s been a breach in the circle, sir,” she answered casually, per usual.

“WHAT?!” Terry exclaimed, shooting up from his chair.

Gina answered several curious stares, “Sorry folks, just got some extra juicy gossip here, no worries.”

Scully was always one to complicate things, “Ooh, what is it today, Gina?”

“Heyyy!” she sang in a friendly tone. Through a wide grin, she gritted furiously, “Butt out you insufferable, hideous sack of meat.”

“Okie dokie, then,” he smiled before going back to minding his own business.

Now by her side, Terry gingerly placed a hand on her shoulder, and spoke softly, “What do you mean, ‘a breach’? Like, a tiny breach?” Gesturing with a small gap in between his fingers, the pitch of his voice raised at the end of his question. “Or, more of a life-altering, career-jeopardizing breach?” distress was evidenced by his heavy breathing.

“Mmm, yeap, prob’ly the second one,” the apathy in her voice only fueled the fire.

“Gina!” he looked her in the eye, then cried out as quietly as he could, “No!” His tone was a mixture of confusion and pain. He looked around the bullpen, then back to Gina, “Whisper it to me.”

He leaned in to listen to the verdict, “Amy found out and told Charles about it.” She pulled back, and revealed what the paperwork was, “This wasn’t that hard to find, it’s Amy’s cute little case file all about—” she stopped herself, “Jake’s secret affinity for botany.”

Charles suddenly chimed in from several yards away, “God! You think you know a guy!” In response to Gina and Terry’s angry stares, he stammered an apology, “Sorry! Just, first the—” he too had to stop himself, “And now—to think he could’ve helped me grow fresh vegetables and spices!” Despite Gina facepalming, he continued his rant, “How many betrayals will there be today, Jacob?”

“He isn’t here,” Terry spoke the statement more like a question. It was obvious that he was on-edge and didn’t appreciate the interruption.

“Stop listening to us, seriously,” commanded Gina, “Creepy.”

“Yep,” muttering under his breath, Charles returned to his stack of paperwork.

Terry snatched the flimsy binder from Gina’s hand, “Gimme that!” With wide eyes, he scanned the first page, then flipped to the middle. Knowing Amy, every page must have been as detailed as the few he glimpsed. “Okay,” the single word was spoken with acceptance and determination. He shoved the binder into Gina’s chest and marched off without warning.

“Sarge!” she caught up with him at the elevator, “What? Where are you going?”

He just flashed a pained expression in response. Pounding the elevator’s button, he stared at the floor and rapidly shook his head.

Terry was visibly very tense as Gina followed him inside after the doors opened. Once they shut, he refused to look anywhere but straight ahead, “Well, this should go without saying,” he announced, “I quit!”

“You quit… what? Biting your nails, right?” her insulting question had no punch, as for once, it was asked sincerely.

He sniffed loudly, and his eyes flickered to meet hers briefly, “Don’t make me say it, man.” His voice faltered slightly, like he was getting choked up. “Aw, what’s the use? It’s all over! I’m never smoking weed again, Gina!”

“Noooooo,” she whined, “Not all is lost, Sarge! So what if a couple losers found out?”

“So what?” he fumed, finally facing her, “Do you understand what consequences are?!”

“Uh, yeah. I’m upset too,” she crossed her arms. “I don’t need a bunch of by-the-book, buzz-killing nerds in my circle.”

“Nerds—” he was baffled, “What? That’s what this this about to you?!”

Again, she answered with, “Uh, yeah. We don’t tell Amy, Charles, and Holt, and certainly not Hitchcock and—”

“We don’t tell Captain Holt because he is our boss!” Terry bellowed. The elevator doors opened, and out he stormed.

“You—” she trotted to keep up with him, “you think I care what that dork thinks? Wow—you are really fast.”

He plowed forward, then turned down a corridor they both recognized. “Gina, I cannot be worried about failing no drug test,” his pace kept steady. “This is stupid,” he spat. Under his breath, he emphasized, “So stupid.”

“Uh, pshh!” was all Gina could say to that one. “Drug test—my god, slow down!” She had to jog to keep stride with him at this point, “Schmug test!” As they turned a familiar corner, she stated, her eyes snapping wide, “We’re going to the spot.”

“Yep,” he affirmed loudly.

“Terry! No!” She grabbed onto his suspenders and planted her feet into the floor. She was promptly sprung forward, as he was completely unaffected. Her next tactic was to cling to his arm, but again, her legs clamoured to keep herself upright, for Terry was an unstoppable force. For the rest of the short journey, he dragged Gina, who had latched onto him and went limp. They bickered fruitlessly the whole time.

Terry dramatically kicked open the dustiest door in the police station. He ignored his coworker’s—his fellow circle member’s—anguished pleas as he began destroying everything in sight. First, pillows were flung in every direction. Then, wooden crates were smashed to pieces. Furniture was flipped, fabric was ripped, rugs and tarps went flying into the dumpster, twinkle lights were torn from their place. If one thing was safe, it would be the beloved space heater.

“Not the space heater!” Gina begged as Terry finally neared it.

Heartbreakingly, he heaved the convenient heat source above his head. “This is gonna hurt me way more than it’s gonna hurt you!” With that intense proclamation, a cherished symbol of warmth, even peace perhaps, came tumbling down to meet its demise on the cold, unforgiving New York ground. Pieces scattered every which way, seemingly in slow motion.

“What?! No it doesn’t! I bought that!” Gina exclaimed, throwing her arms up.

“I was talkin’ to Stacy!” he screamed back.

“We could have plugged it in inside!”

The sargeant’s brow furrowed as he glanced at the destruction at his feet, then back at Gina, then back again. “Yeah,” he released a sharp sigh and placed his hands on his hips, “I’ll pay you back for that.”

Chapter Text

Amy and Jake trudged through the doors of another grimy apartment complex. Interacting with citizens—no matter how annoying or disorderly—is unfortunately, a big part of the job. Normally, Amy had no trouble staying optimistic when her agenda for the day was particularly irksome, but today, it was proving to be a challenge. Granted, she had a few other things on her mind besides the irritated grandma standing before them.

“Why, I said I didn’t order anything! Shoo!” The short woman glared at them from behind large rims. “Say, you want me to call the cops on you?”

“Ma’am that’s what we’ve been trying to tell you—” Amy gestured politely to the badge on her hip, “We’re the police, we just need to ask a few—”

“And I’ve been trying to tell you, I’m not interested in what you’re selling!”

“We aren’t salesmen!” Jake was a bit less patient. With having already questioned an entire building full of unhelpful civilians, she was sure all his enthusiasm had long exhausted by now.

“Good! ‘Cause I ain’t buyin’!” the dainty old lady slammed the door on them with an impressive amount of force.

Jake turned to Amy, “Welp, can’t say we didn’t try!” Without wasting a single second, he briskly walked away.

She caught up with him; he was already pounding on the next door, a few paces away. She thought it would be beneficial to lighten the mood. “So, you’re absolutely convinced that lady wasn’t our guy?” He smirked in response, “Because she was giving me some mad pyro vibes.” Her warn grin persisted despite her stomach turning, remembering she would have to initiate an uncomfortable, but vital conversation sometime soon. She couldn’t have him in a sour mood before she dropped the whole, I don’t approve of your lifestyle slash I’m crushed that you keep secrets, thing.

“Yeah, you know, I didn’t wanna say anything, but I think you’re right,” wearing a lopsided frown, he playfully pretended that his hands were tied. “We gotta go back and cuff the old bat.”

They shared a laugh, then about twenty awkward seconds went by—at least, Amy felt uneasy—with no reply from the resident. Jake struck the door again. Should I just, start talking about it? She bit her lip, struggling to think of an organic way to bring it up.

Suddenly, her mouth was moving. “So, I—I still feel a little weird about Saturday.” Not fully prepared for this, the words fell clumsily, and her stomach flipped again.

No turning back, now.

“Saturday? You mean, how we still can’t catch this guy in the act?” Jake didn’t look at her as he again pounded on the door, “Police! Open Up!” he seamlessly transitioned back to his inside voice, “Because I am with you, normally we’re like, way better than this,” he lamented relatably, “right?”

Although tempted by this out, Amy knew she had to remain firm if she was going to get any answers. “No, that’s not what I mean.” Her eyes were glued to her shoes. “Remember how we saw those kids smoking? We kind of had a mini-fight about it?”

Jake drew a sharp breath through his teeth. “Aw, yeah, we kind of did, huh?” He cringed, and slammed his fist into the door a few more times.

“Y-yes. We did,” she couldn’t help but trip over her words, “I looked it up—I mean, I was just curious—there are—did you know that, um,” she cleared her throat, “It’s not even the end of the month, and the nine-nine has already made twenty marijuana related arrests, and—I meant, those are just the minors.”

“Uh-huh,” he feigned interest as best he could, but his lips were still pursed tightly.

“My point—what I’m trying to say, is,” she stood up straighter and found her footing, “that’s a lot of kids, a lot of them first time offenders. I don’t see why they’d risk getting a record for silly stuff like that, that’s all.”

That wasn’t all. Her heart sank. Why’d I have to say that?

Jake glanced at her, his eyes offering nothing, and pounded the door for like the fifth time. He yelled, “God! Police!” then complained, “Why can’t you just open the—” he cut himself off to address Amy, “‘Kay great! We agree on one thing—” the upbeat cadence of his words was strangely foreboding, “it’s silly to arrest kids for weed.”

Aghast and offended, she scoffed, “You know that’s not what I—”

Suddenly, the door cracked ajar, and a woman’s gruff voice asked curtly, “What?”

“Yes, finally!” Jake beamed, “Police, ma’am. We’re just investigating an outbreak of destructive fires in your area,” he began, “you wouldn’t happen to have seen anything strange, or—”

“Oh—fantastic!” she interrupted to rejoice for some reason, and swung the door open, revealing herself to be a very tall woman in a bathrobe. “CURTIS!” The two detectives recoiled at her sudden intensity and volume, “COPS ARE HERE TO PICK YO ASS UP.”

Amy’s eyes snapped wide open, “No—uh, that’s not—”

Two figures, both visibly furious, now stood in the doorway. The woman’s mustachioed roommate, presumably her boyfriend, frantically protested, “Whatchu mean?! I ain’t done nothin!” He was clearly distressed.

Amy tried to quickly correct the situation, “Actually, we’re here to—”

“Don’t play dumb!” The skinny woman continued, “I called them here ‘cause of the shit you do on the daily!” Her arms tightly crossed, she tapped her foot rapidly. “Tell him he can’t keep his snakes and frogs in the same terrarium!” she demanded.

“Uhhhh…” was all Jake could muster in response to this ridiculousness.

“I wanna see who wins, Shawna!” the man in a wifebeater turned to Amy, supposedly for some kind of assistance, “Who do you think would win in an epic battle for territory, one green tree python, or three fire-bellied toads?”

“Ooh! Definitely the toads,” now enthralled in the ridiculousness, Jake flashed one of his famously large grins.

“No.” Per too often, Amy seemed to be the only real adult present. “Animal abuse, hello?”

“What’d I say?!” Shawna exclaimed and swung her palm to smack the back of Curtis’s head.

“Ma’am—” Amy tried to deescalate the now violent situation.

It was to no avail, as the two unruly apartment residents were suddenly in a full on brawl.

“Aww!” griped Jake, as his fun was over. His eyes met with Amy’s furious ones for a split second, “Crap! Okay, I know!”

As he dove to break up the fight, she phoned for another officer to come and relieve them. These detectives did not have time for petty domestic disputes.

Luckily backup arrived fairly quickly, just minutes after Jake handcuffed the belligerent couple. The detectives made their way to the nearest stairwell, and he now seemed suspiciously eager to interview another floor full of civilians. “Man! Shawna is a lot stronger than she looks,” he cradled his arm dramatically, even though he had escaped with only a few bruises.

Amy wasn’t going to let him get away so easy. “Hey, we’re still arguing, you know,” she huffed.

After climbing the first set of stairs, he spun around to face her. “Dang, do we have to?” A hand on his hip, he gave a snarky smile.

“I’d like you to hear me out respectfully, yeah,” she snarled. She met with him at the top of the stairs, and settled into a power pose—wide stance, chin up, gaze locked. “But first, explain yourself.” She figured it wouldn’t hurt to let him dig himself into a hole, giving her more ammunition in the process.

“Mmm,” he facetiously rubbed his chin, “Okay. You really wanna do this right now. Fine,” he snapped. “How about—kids are gonna do dumb stuff, especially kids on the street, right? It’s rough out there.” She was taken aback slightly by his sudden earnestness. “I guess I’d rather them be high than binge drinking.” He reverted back to the sarcasm, “Hmm, Santiago? Ya wanna bunch of drunk children?” Pretending to be disgusted with her, he spat a laugh, “Unbelievable.”

“Wow,” closing her eyes momentarily, Amy let a sharp breath escape. This was not ideal in the slightest. She wasn’t expecting this level of passion. “It’s obvious that I want the youth of today doing nothing illegal, Jake,” she huffed. “It’s a gateway drug, and you’re saying—what? It’s good? It protects them?”

He laughed insultingly, “Oho, gateway drug—good one! And also—not what I said!” Trying to escape, he started up the next set of stairs, adding, “Just saying, it’s not as bad as you make it out to be.”

She marched right after him, and finally decided to accuse him, “Oh, and you would know?” Having reached the top, Jake’s hand hastily reached for the door to the second floor, “Something I don’t know about you?”

His back to her, he gripped the handle and froze. I’ve got him.

After an agonizing second, he whirled around to stare her directly in the eye. “Uh yeah. Apparently, you didn’t know that I’d never arrest anybody for a dimebag of weed.”

She gasped. Damn, he’s quick.

Thrusting open the door, he disappeared without another word. Amy however, was right on his heels, “A law is a law, Jake!”

He rushed to the nearest door and raised a fist to it. His wild eyes made deliberate, antagonizing contact with hers, “Ever heard of an unjust law,” they narrowed, “Amy?!”

“Don’t you dare!” as he raised his fist higher, all she could do was shove a finger in his face, “We are not done here!”

He had the audacity to flash a cocky grin.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock!

Her fervent glare was powerless, especially so since the door cracked open almost immediately.

“Yes?” The word was pronounced with a J sound.

Double especially, she thought. She knew that voice.

“Yes!” Jake refused to hide his extreme delight, “Saved by the Mlepnos!”

“Ah, yes, is Mlepnos,” the sweater-clad man undid the chain lock.

Amy buried her face into her palm, “You move apartments way too much.”

“Hey—we’re friends, right Mlepnos?” asked Jake inexplicably.

“Ah,” he nodded sheepishly, “no.”

“Awesome!” Jake brandished his pen and paper, “So, what is your stance on the legalization of marijuana? The nine-nine is doing a community-wide survey—”

Amy cut him off, “Not true.”

“Oh, yes,” Mlepnos fed into his cockamamie story, “In my country, everything is legal.”

“Uh-huh, your made-up country,” Jake prodded with a large grin, “A’go on.”

“Mm-hmm. We have this drug called afdusakhladag—”

“Can you spell that?” Despite everything, Amy couldn’t help but take advantage of a learning opportunity.

“No,” said simply the strange man. “It’s very potent, makes you dance like the chicken.”

Jake sounded genuinely intrigued, “Ah.”

He continued, “And sometimes, it makes you eat your own skin.”

“Oh.”

“My god,” Amy winced in disgust, “that’s horrific.”

“Okay, see, Amy?” Jake chuckled, “That makes weed seem pretty tame, right Mlepnos?”

“Mmm, no,” he said blankly.

“Hey, see? He gets it.” Placing a hand on her hip, Amy smiled, “All drugs are bad, that’s what you meant, right?”

“Mmm, no.”

“Then what?!” she snapped.

“I’m not familiar with this, eh, weeds, as you say.”

Jake muttered in the foreigner’s direction, “Thanks for nothin’, man!”

“Okay, this was nice,” he mumbled as he began to close the door, “Bye-bye.”

“Wait, sir!” pleaded Amy. They hadn’t questioned him about anything that was actually important yet.

“Oh,” Mlepnos peered through the door crack, “No. We’ve been talking much too long now.”

With that, the door clicked shut, followed by the sound of several locks turning.

Amy glared at her boyfriend, “What the hell was that?”

“My friend, Mlepnos,” he played dumb, “How could you not remember him?” He walked down the hall, still thinking that fleeing was a valid strategy to avoid this conversation.

Amy didn’t move an inch. She was done playing. Shutting her eyes tightly, she called after him, “Jake, do you smoke?”

He paused, undoubtedly to wipe away a stunned expression. She wanted desperately to feel some sort of satisfaction, but now, she was just angry. Her heart thumped. Will I get a lie, or a confession? Oh, how badly she wanted that confession. Although being right was one of her favorite things, at this point, all she wanted was to get back that trust she used to rely on so much.

Turning to face his girlfriend, Jake dared to look amused, “Pfft, do you?”

She didn’t conceal her desires very well. “Confess,” she growled.

“Dang, well,” he placed a hand on his hip and deepened his voice, “See there’s your problem, ma’am.” Laughing nervously, he shrugged, “there’s uh, nothing to confess to.”

“Hoh—” she knew she should have brought her little binder. How nonchalantly he dared to lie in her face only made her rage boil more. Her fists shaking by her side, all that escaped through gritted teeth was, “Try. Again.”

Taking an obnoxiously deep breath, Jake held his mouth gaping open and stuck a finger in the air. His eyes popped wide, and he adamantly held this expression for brief moment before releasing a noisy sigh that transformed into a long, defeated moan. Dropping his shoulders, he exhaled sharply, “Whew… ‘Kay.” Staring off to the side, he clasped the back of his neck, “So, you’re really making me do this, huh?” His eyes flickered to meet hers, and he looked scared. Nonetheless, Amy refused to soften her intense scowl. He clapped once, “Okay,” and his tone was actually somber. He sat down on a conveniently placed bench nearby, and patted beside him, “Let’s get it over with, then.”

Amy had been thrown for so many loops that she completely blanked on all the things she wanted to say, and astonishingly, her rage had almost entirely subsided as soon as he dropped the attitude. Deep down, she knew her anger was misplaced, and only served as a crutch. It wasn’t the easiest thing to admit, but the only thing she truly hated was the lies.

She complied and sat beside him, and he scooted close so that they were touching. “Sooo,” he cooed softly, “ya got me, Santiago.” He held up his palms, “Excellent detective work, I can only assume.” To Amy, the compliment didn’t taste as sweet as it should have. Placing a hand on her knee, he said, “Yes, so perhaps, once upon a time,” he exhaled deeply, and she realized this can’t be easy for him. In fact, she noticed how his ears were pinkish in color, “I used to, as a wise philosopher once said, ‘smoke weed everyday.’” He quickly added in a panic, “But not anymore!”

Used to? Blinking, her stomach dropped. Am I being lied to, again?

Jake continued, “Like, I never bring it up because I’m proud to say I’ve changed.” He swiftly covered his face with both hands, then stared up at the ceiling, “God, I absolutely hate this, by the way, just so you know,” he flashed a comedic wince, “Torture.”

She was at a loss for words. Really, she should be livid, but the sincerity in his voice was jarring. The decision—to believe, or not to believe—was too difficult. There was no time. Charles’s voice rang in her ears—I like to give the benefit of the doubt.

“W-when?” she spewed, studying the patterned carpet.

“Well, no surprise here, I had a ton of unsupervised free time as a kid.” She remembered his sentiment about kids on the street, and everything snapped into focus. “So um, yeah, I guess. That’s what delinquent little me and my delinquent little friends did for fun. There.” He shrugged, “Course, it’s entirely in the past, but uh, like I said—really, it’s not so bad.”

Using both hands, Amy tucked her hair behind her ears. “I know.”

“And I’m sorry, you know,” he hesitated, almost like he wished she would finish the sentence for him, “for not telling you sooner.” He laughed a little too loud for it to be genuine, “Ahh!” he cried out, “Like! It’s stupid.”

Amy smirked half-heartedly, “Very stupid.”

“I know, right?!” He chuckled nervously, “But come on, is it really that surprising? Like,” he rolled his eyes and twirled his wrist, “have ya met me?”

She caved in, “I have seen you eat a fruit roll-up filled with gummy bears,” her face scrunched in thought, “more than once.”

“Alright, first of all,” there was a gleam in his eye, “that’s called a burrito. And you’d probably pass out if I showed you my teenage recipe book—when you’ve got the munchies, and your kitchen is a barren wasteland, you gotta get creative.”

Amy welcomed a much-needed laugh, “Yeah, spare me, please.”

Laughing with her, he shook his head, “So, don’t hate—I’m begging you, Mrs. Hall Monitor.” A strange twinge of discomfort surged through her upon hearing that nickname. “It was only a phase!” Jake pretended to plead desperately, and even gripped Amy’s shirt theatrically, “I’m a good detective, I swear!”

She restrained a flurry of self-doubt. “Well, I guess you’ve gotta prove it now,” rising to her feet, she reminded him, “We have an arsonist to find, Mr. ‘Good’ Detective,” she made air quotes with her fingers.

“Orrrr, we could just sit on this bench and talk about our feelings some more.”

“Wow,” she chuckled, “you really hate door duty that much?”

He blurted out, “Absolutely, more than anything.”

Chapter Text

Although begrudgingly, Jake helped Amy talk to every last resident in the building. Unfortunately, there were no leads to speak of, and time was inching closer and closer to that end-of-the-day meeting which their captain expected them to attend. So, the pair of detectives headed back to the police station.

Captain Holt and Sergeant Jeffords were looking very statuesque at the podium when the couple entered the briefing room. As they made their way to the only two remaining seats, Rosa and Charles, who were sitting together, greeted them like any other day.

“By the looks on your faces, door duty must’ve been a complete waste of time,” sassed Rosa.

”Well, joke’s on you, ‘cause it’s never not a waste of time,” Jake retorted as he plopped into his seat.

Charles adopted a venomous tone, “Actually, I’ve caught about forty criminals that way, I guess you never knew that.” Facing away, he stated matter-of-factly, “Guess there’s a ton we don’t know about each other.”

“What?” Jake looked pretty confused, meanwhile, Amy was trying to physically destroy Charles with the world’s deadliest glare.

“Okay, everybody,” announced Terry, “Now that we’re all here, we’re gonna go over the case files of the nine-nine’s most wanted criminals, so we can help each other out, if need be.”

Jake whispered to Amy, “Yawn. Wake me up if we talk about something important.”

Just as he laid back and closed his eyes, Holt bellowed, “Peralta! I’m sure you wouldn’t mind going first—come up and tell us every important detail of the arsonist case.”

Jake was unable to wipe away a disgruntled expression, and strolled to the front of the room, as instructed, muttering under his breath the whole time.

As he delivered his findings, Rosa leaned towards Charles, “So, care to explain that weird attitude just now?”

He said nothing and just stared through Jake, seemingly in an attempt to ignore her in favor of paying attention and keeping his mouth shut. Although, after a few seconds, Rosa noticed his nostrils flair, and that his forehead was perspiring. Now squinting, his eyes were glued to his best friend, and his lips quivered as if he were saying something, but no sound came out.

She tapped his leg with her boot, and muttered, “Come ooon.”

Charles jerked his head, wincing hard and flashing his teeth. “Dah! Fine!” he cried out in a hushed voice. He hunched over to scribble something in his notebook and slid it over to her. Whispering, he prefaced, “So, Apparently…”

It read: JAKE IS A COMPLETE STONER. JUST FOUND OUT. Several words were vigorously underlined.

Upon glancing at it, one of Rosa’s elusive smiles stretched across her face as her voice quavered in soft laughter.

“What?” asked Charles as he marked out the note, making it unreadable.

Discreetly, she replied, “So that’s why everyone was so on-edge today. And they say that stuff’s supposed to mellow you out,” sitting back in her chair, she added at normal volume, “Ha.”

Jake must have thought she was referring to him. “I know right? Come on, really? A ski mask? So last year.”

“Unoriginal, too,” she humored him.

He continued with his presentation, and Charles quickly turned Rosa’s attention back to him. “Wait, what?” he had a hard time concealing his dismay, and looked around the room before frantically whispering, “What do you know about this?”

“Eh, enough.”

“No, no!” he cried out under his breath, “Am I the only person in this whole precinct who doesn’t smoke?!”

She whispered back, “Well, there’s always Amy.” Smirking, her nose scrunched, and the faintest snort could be heard.

“Come on, not good enough!” his jaw was clenched, “Names, Rosa!” He allowed his volume control to slip a bit.

“Boyle, look. I’m not reeeally part of the circle, okay?” she said softly, “And I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to tell you anything,” she added, “like, you, specifically.”

Charles snatched his pen inexplicably, scrawled a single word into his notes, and cocked an eyebrow, “Circle, you say?”

Squeezing her eyes shut, Rosa pinched the bridge of her nose, “Boyle, no.”

He tapped her leg with his foot, “Come ooon.”

“No. Conversation terminated.”

Defeated, Charles scoffed quietly, “And they call Holt the robot.”

After concluding the brief overview of his case, Jake returned to his seat. As another officer took his turn speaking, Gina appeared lurking in the doorway. She beckoned for Terry to come closer, “Psst.” Standing a few feet from the podium, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t respond. She dared to go louder, “Psssst!”

Everyone in the precinct knew she wasn’t afraid of making a scene, so Terry had no choice but to take a few steps to the left in order to meet her. He grumbled, “What? This is an important meeting, Gina.”

“Sarge,” she spoke quietly, “we both know that’s bullshit. Even I already know half the stuff you guys are going over.”

She was right. “Fine,” he huffed, “What is it?”

“Oh, you know, nothin’, really,” she extended a hand to examine her manicure, “except one of my favorite social groups is collapsing all around me and my child was brutally murdered before my eyes.”

“I went out and bought you a new Stacy already, don’t be so dramatic.”

“Please,” she scoffed, “I could replace her in a heartbeat. I meant, my beautiful brain baby of creativity, manifested as the most magnificently decorated alleyway in Brooklyn” Crossing her arms, she leaned against the doorframe, “Which you had no trouble violently destroying, b-t-dubs.”

“Shh, no, Gina, trust me,” his gaze was distant, “Terry hated doing that.” Getting a little worked up, his brow furrowed, “I had no choice.”

She made her disdain clear, “Objection. Ya totally did. And getting me a space heater couldn’t’ve taken all day, where were you?”

Terry anxiously shuffled the paperwork he was holding, and muttered a one-word response, “Sauna.”

“The hell?” she asked, bemused, “You quit smoking for half a day and you’re already looking for new ways to relax?”

“Gina, come on, you know I’ve mastered a dozen different ways to chillax. Actually, I heard somewhere that,” he paused, shifted his weight towards her, and mumbled, “you can sweat out the THC—get it out of your system faster.”

“Ohoho,” she struggled to keep her laughter at a low volume, “That’s pretty ridiculous, Sarge.”

“No,” he spat vehemently, “what’s ridiculous is you not caring about losing your job.”

“Well if you were so worried, why’d you even smoke in the first place?”

He inhaled forcefully through his nostrils and stared straight ahead. “Peer pressure.”

“Oh, totally,” she laughed callously, “coming from the only person I know who owns a dab rig.”

His neck muscles tensing, Terry was almost inaudible now, “Sharon’s idea.”

“Uh-huh. Well, I hate to break it to you, but I’m pretty positive Holt only cares about stuff that’s actually, oh I don’t know, important?”

“Says you. I can’t take that chance,” he stared at Jake, “Which is why we have to keep this contained. I’m cluing in Peralta right after this meeting.”

“A’yikes,” Gina studied her nails again, and chuckled, “did I forget to mention I already threw him under the bus?” She returned to an abrasive tone, “Oh yeah, there was no time to tell you, ‘cause you were too busy goin’ hulk on m’dreams, and sweating out your own,” one word in a sea of sarcasm was said wistfully.

For the first time during the exchange, Terry looked her in the eye. “What did you do?”

“So, Boyle was bugging me, and I might’ve—you know, to save our skin, of course—overstated Jake’s, eh…habits,” flashing an apologetic grin, she gestured with a gap in between her fingers, “jus’ a li’l bit.”

“Gina…” At first, Terry hung his head, but shortly after, slowly raised it up and remarked, “Maybe, you know what, yeah. We—” he calmly nodded, “we can roll with this.”

“I mean, it’s pretty believable, I’d say—” she dropped to a murmur, “Peralta the pothead.”

A sinister smile crept onto his face, “Yeeaaah… We let him take the fall… No way Boyle could keep that to himself.” He glanced at her again, but now with a sudden worried look, “That’s kind of a dick move, though.”

“Yeeeh, sure,” she stated indifferently, “but like I said the other day, Jake and Amy were bound to have this little tiff, and it’ll be a marvelously cringe-worthy thing to witness, and then we’ll all get over it, and then we can have Bi-Monthly TerrinaJake Lunch again.”

“Never,” his whole body tensing up, he spat, “it’s dead. Never should have let you convince me that was okay.”

“You loved every minute of it, just like the rest of us.”

By the sergeant’s adamant silence, Gina knew she was right; but what else is new? Satisfied, she disappeared to whence she came. That is to say, she went back to her desk to play Kwazy Cupcakes.

It was time for another irrelevant detective to stand at the podium, and for Charles to try to elicit advice again. He turned to a new page in his notes, wrote down a new proposition, and slid it over to Rosa.

This time, it read: HELP ME GET IN THE, followed by an arrow pointing towards a drawing of a circle, as if the code name needed additional discretion.

Her arms crossed, she glanced at it without moving, then shot her gaze right back to the podium. All she did was shake her head ever so slightly.

Wordlessly tapping her leg, Charles edged the notebook closer and closer to her expectantly. She mouthed, “No,” so he nudged her again. Everyone in the precinct knew he was annoyingly persistent, so Rosa had no choice but to comply somehow.

She decided to write a note back, and abandoning all attempts for secrecy, it read: Seriously? You wanna get high?

His forehead crinkled as soon as he read her response. He vigorously scribbled over her words and blurted out defensively, “Pff, no.” His face scrunched in thought for a few seconds, then he whispered, “Wait… I… guess I do.” He put on his best rebellious smirk, “Yeahhh, actually.”

Rosa continued with the note passing. Well there’s your problem. It’s an image thing.

He immediately wrote back: What’s wrong with my image?

This time, when he slid the note over, she went back to ignoring him. No one—except for Gina, maybe—liked bursting Charles’s bubble. Although, it didn’t take long for him to get impatient. He whispered desperately, “Rosa, am I lame?”

“Ughhh,” she groaned, her head falling back and her eyes clenching shut. She whined, “Yesss!”

“Gah!” he failed to contain his frustration, “I knew it!”

“Shh.” No doubt wishing this unbearable interaction would end, Rosa wrote: Yeah so try and loosen up, I guess, if you’re trying to fit in with that crowd. For the love of god, do not ask me how. No more advice.

Reading it and sighing sharply, Charles resigned to paying attention to the meeting, “Fine.”

Pretty much every officer in the room was periodically glancing at the clock as the time inched closer and closer to five. Even Amy could hardly focus on the briefing of a high-profile strangling case; although admittedly, she already knew every detail. Her mind drifted off to other things, and unfortunately, landed on the confrontation from earlier.

The biggest part of her needed to take Jake’s explanation at face value, seeing that trust is the most important foundation to any relationship. After all, her evidence was all purely circumstantial, so it was easy to believe him; it felt painless. It reassured her faith in him, despite his admission requiring a fair amount of coaxing. Her love for him couldn’t be swayed by anything in his past. In actuality, there were few things that could accomplish that.

Then, her mind drifted somewhere she wanted desperately to be off-limits. The smaller part of her that saw through the deceit screamed for answers. Why does it have to be this big secret? Did he really think I’d hate him for it?

A wave of dread swallowed her up. There’s a reason they call you the Hall Monitor, Amy. You are way too high-strung. Honestly, do you even care if he smokes?

Logic adamantly tried to protect her. Well, it really shouldn’t be that hard to obey the law, especially as a police officer.

You’ve gotta know that everyone is against you on this, the skeptic voice hissed back. No wonder he didn’t want to come clean—you’d rip him to shreds.

Unable to hide her discomfort, she put her head in her hands and groaned.

Maybe her and Jake were too different.

“I know, right?” he whispered, jolting her alert, “Like kill me, is that clock broken?”

“Y-yes!” she blurted out a bit too loudly. A few colleagues turned to stare at her, so she sunk into her chair.

Jake asked quietly, “Wait, it is? That was just a joke, you know I don’t know how to read those round clocks.”

“I-it’s not actually broken,” she stuttered. A flash of confusion swept across her face, “You can’t read analog clocks?

“Uh, more like annoy-log clocks,” he corrected, “I mean, who’s got time for all that counting?”

Amy buried herself in her hands again, and for good measure, put her head down on the table as well. “Ughhhhh…”

He leaned over and whispered, “Hey, wanna come over to my place later?”

He can’t seriously think he’ll get lucky tonight.

“‘Cause I feel pretty bad still, I was thinking I’d buy you dinner for once.”

Oh.

“Okay,” her voice was muffled since she hadn’t picked her head up.

“Sweet, I’ll pick up some pierogies after I run a few errands, just give me an hour or so?”

Amy still didn’t move a muscle, “Sounds great.”

A few minutes passed, and at last, the meeting came to an end. Captain Holt and Sergeant Jeffords dismissed them, and everyone shuffled out the door to collect their things and go home. Jake kissed Amy goodbye at their desks, then hurried out of the building. Not long after, she made her way to the elevator, but before she could get there, Charles appeared blocking her path.

He had a knowing look on his face. “Talk to me,” he said simply.

“Ugh,” she pushed past him, and playing it safe, relayed to him, “It was a false alarm, Boyle. You can give your little crusade a rest.”

She went through the gate and pushed the elevator’s button. He called out tantalizingly, “Oh yeah? Well I’ve been doing a little sleuthing of my own, and I’ve got intel that begs to differ.”

She instantly twirled around, and was met with a smug expression. “Evidence room,” she barked.

On the short journey there, Amy looked forward to that cigarette she promised herself for later. At this point, she really deserved it. At last, she knew she must be right, and for once, absolutely hated it. She was sick of all the back and forth, and all the sneaking and whispering, but most of all, she was sick of thinking about that stupid drug. If it was just legal in New York, everything would be so simple right now. But no, she was forced to go through this asinine moral dilemma.

After passing through evidence room’s gate, Charles turned to Amy to deliver his findings. He looked a bit anxious, but overall was taking this very seriously. “Alright, so this is going to be way harder to infiltrate than I originally thought.”

Exasperated, she sighed, “What?”

“Sorry—probably should’ve started with—there is indeed a faction of smokers, who dub themselves:” he pause for dramatic affect, flashing a tiny smirk, “The circle,” the two words were pronounced with such grandiose enthusiasm.

“Ugh,” she pinched the bridge of her nose. She couldn’t tell if she was more fed up with the day she was having, or Charles.

“Get it?” he beamed, “‘Cause you…” he was making a lot of hand gestures, as if he wanted Amy to fill in the gaps, “pass the… joint in…” he paused again, still grinning expectantly, “a rotation?”

Monotonously, she replied, “Yes. Very creative.” She summoned her pad and pen, “Names?”

“Ahhh,” he snapped his fingers as his smile slowly faded, “See, that’s where we’re stuck, Amy.” He looked at the ground, then back at her with a truly pained look in his eyes, “Me and you—we are completely excluded,” he scoffed, despite it being clear he was feeling rejected, “It’s an image thing, apparently, can you believe that?”

“Yes,” Amy was a tad more self aware than her friend, “Who did you hear this from?”

“E-eh—okay, well uh, I talked to Gina and Rosa, but neither of them are a part of it,” he informed her. “Gina a-actually gave me some, uh,” wringing his hands, he refused to look at Amy, “interesting information.”

She perked up, feeling ready for that sweet, sweet confirmation. “Interesting how?”

“Jake uh,” he wore a troubled expression, “he smokes way too much, Amy.”

This verdict, the one she was half-expecting, still managed to shake Amy to her core. All at once, the fiery fury from earlier made a violent comeback, as if it demanded vengeance. The validation of being right all along and the realization that her boyfriend was even more negligent and conniving than she originally thought squashed any doubts she had for herself or her beliefs. There was a problem with Jake Peralta, not her.

A ferocious growl bubbled up from deep inside her, “Rrrrgh! I—ooooh!”

Charles thought elaborating would be a good idea, “All day, every day,” his voice trembled, “evidently.”

Amy was red in the face. She was dating a full blown stoner. She was a fool for being so clueless.

“I have to catch him in the act,” she snarled.

“M-maybe,” Charles stuttered, and tried to sound gentle and encouraging, “Or, maybe, you could just ask him about it?”

She snapped at him rudely, “What do you think I’ve been doing all day with him, Boyle?!” She escalated to yelling, “He’s a freakin’ liar!”

He flinched and stammered loudly, “W-well maybe you need to find out why he wouldn’t tell you!” His assertiveness seemed to take even himself off guard, “I figured out my reason, and I’m making some changes! Maybe you should think about doing the same.”

“Yeah?! And tell me, how did your conversation with him go?” she shot back, knowing full well that Jake was with her all day long.

“I-I—it’s delicate, okay?!” he defended, “I had to poke around first—there’s a lot of finesse involved!”

“Uh-huh,” she crossed her arms tightly, “to get into that prestigious ‘in-crowd,’ right?”

He released a heavy groan of relief, “Ughh! Yeesss! I’m so glad you understand!”

“Yeah. Okay. Well sincerely,” she spat sarcastically, “I hope it all works out for you. Really. Have my blessing to pursue doing illegal drugs with our coworkers.”

Like he finally heard what he was waiting for, Charles exclaimed, throwing his hands up, “Thank you!”

“God! I am so done with everyone, today!” she huffed, marching away. She had half a mind to march right into Captain Holt’s office—tattle on everyone—shut this whole stupid thing down. It also wouldn’t hurt to have just one person on her side.

She told herself that was a bad idea—but only because she lacked direct evidence, of course. She swore that would soon change, however. There was good reason everyone hid this from Amy—she was ready to prove that a professional police precinct can’t perform when half your detectives can’t follow the law.

Chapter Text

After speeding over as fast as his crappy car could carry him, Jake Peralta rushed through the door of his tiny apartment and hastily locked it behind him. Once alone, and being one to always wear his emotions on his sleeve, he panicked aloud, “Nooo-nonononono!” He chucked his keys onto the kitchen counter and dashed to the opposite side of his two-room dwelling. In the corner, left of the bed and right of the window, sat a large shelf which contained, in the cabinet at the tippy top, an old, loaf-sized chest, ornamentally decorated. He jumped up to obtain it, then fell back onto his lumpy mattress.

Putting off his dismal task, he flopped onto his back to stare up at the ceiling. This could very well be the end of him, so he should probably do a little self reflection to figure out what got him into this mess.

Well, besides smoking a bunch of weed.

Maybe… I should’ve just told her.

His stomach dropped. He was too deep in a lie to turn back now.

“Stupid!” he balled his hand into a fist and brought it to his forehead, “Stupid!”

Why’d I have to pick a fight about it?

Oh yeah, he thought. It was because they fundamentally disagree on something important to him. After all, he already knew Amy was a purist when it comes to rule following, so in the beginning there, he could have just acted like her preachings changed his mind, and maybe things would have turned out alright.

But you’re a terrible actor. Never woulda worked.

Logic popped into his mind for a pleasant visit. There was a significant chance that his stance wasn’t the only reason she accused him. He wondered what else would have given him away.

Dummy, for some reason, the word was in Gina’s voice. You thought you could come back to work high as a kite, for starters. Not your finest hour.

“Yeah…” he cringed. Honestly, he thought he would be good after just a few hits. Although, granted, it wasn’t his first time being a bit buzzed in the bullpen. So, therefore, it was Dick Thrasher’s fault for blowing his cover, obviously.

Despite everything, he chuckled. That name will never not be hilarious.

He wasn’t sure why, but, regardless of his confidence, the thought of certain people noticing made him feel beyond embarrassed. And there wasn’t a word strong enough to describe the notion of Captain Holt finding out.

He drew a sharp breath through his teeth. Actually, he could think of a couple—terrifying and terrifying. If he were to name this pit in his stomach, it would be Regret. Scratch that—that’s a gross understatement. Needless to say, Jake wasn’t the best at coming up with words.

It would be dangerous, probably even physically, for him to think about Holt, a truly daunting threat, for any much longer. He needed to retrace his steps—put himself in Amy’s shoes. He racked his brain, but it was running all over the place now.

What if Charles found out?

His eyes bore into the steel beams above him. “Ohh…” he croaked. God forbid Gina and her absurd stoner elitism get in between him and his best friend. Knowing Charles, he’d be heartbroken for a number of weird reasons. Jake refused to acknowledge, even in his own head, that he kept him in the dark purely because he needed Amy and Holt to be there too.

Why does it weirdly feel like I’m coming out?

He laughed, because it was funny.

Doy, ‘cause you and everyone you know works in law enforcement.

He chuckled softly, “Oh, yeah.”

Shooting straight up, his eyes snapped wide as saucers, “Oh, yeah!” They frantically scanned the room, looking for clues, and landed on a colorful sliver of wood, sat innocently on the window sill.

“Fuck!” Immediately, he jumped to his feet and clamored to snatch up the incense burner. Clutching it tightly, he screamed, “Curse my love of sandalwood!” Without a second thought, he chucked it into the trash, and for good measure, buried it under several layers of junk food wrappers.

Despite knowing it was probably futile, Jake began pacing his apartment, looking around for anything else incriminating; it was disheartening to realize that pretty much everything around him was, at least a little bit. This wasn’t news, but he genuinely did live like a messy college student. He picked up some stray laundry that was strewn about, and made his bed, making sure not to half-ass it. Deciding he had enough time, he put his newly purchased all-purpose cleaner to use in the kitchen, too. He looked around. Even though one of his new relationship resolutions included a rigorous cleaning routine—the bathroom even got wiped down every so often—it just wasn’t enough.

When will it be enough? What’s next, Jake, dusting?! Clearly, pleasing his girlfriend was a slippery slope into losing his identity.

However, Amy Santiago was a brilliantly gorgeous, formidable force that was not to be reckoned with. That’s why, Jake figured, he would have had to quit smoking for her eventually. Though, he was really, really wishing that eventually hadn’t snuck up on him so soon. He stopped in his tracks to gaze at the bejeweled wooden box on his bed.

“My love…” he cooed sadly and walked over to it. Sitting down, his hands were a bit shaky undoing the latch.

Just as he’d cracked the lid slightly, he forcefully clamped it shut with a loud clack. He proclaimed to himself, “Nope! Amy’s your one true love!” Everyone knows it’s impossible to love two things at once.

Which is why, today is the day that he swears it off for good. He stared longingly at the box in his lap, and strangely, it was as if he was saying goodbye to an old friend. Like one, it was comforting; Jake always had a sure-fire way to wash away the stresses of being a police officer, at least just for a little bit. Some days, it was so difficult to not bring work home. Especially the days he had to tell someone their loved one died, or the days he worked with victims going through the worst time of their life. He couldn’t afford to break down every time he was faced with something heartbreaking, so for all the times he was powerless against tragic happenstance, he had to forget as best he could in order to stay sane. It was surprisingly easy. However, the worst times were when he knew he could have done more. How many lives were ruined, just because he was too incompetent to catch the bad guy? Some nights, he really did need to be high if he was going to sleep properly.

Guess I’ll just be an alcoholic, then. He sighed. If only he’d known the last time was the last time, he wouldn’t have wasted it on a lousy action movie.

He released the tiniest gasp, “Ohhh, I really thought she was asleep.” He realized—no wonder she was suspicious of him, he’d been acting so suspicious! Clutching his face, he let a raspy groan of dread slowly escape, “Ehhhhh…” the low sound resembled some sort of dying animal. He really needed to gain more self control, but damn, was that a boring movie. And lighting up definitely fixed that.

A random voice in his brain shouted, and that’s valid!

“No, not valid!” He had stooped to yelling at himself. Why couldn’t he resist, even just when his girlfriend was over? He was such a dumbass. He was the least valid person on the planet.

Wishing this whole ordeal would just disappear, Jake cast the box out of sight, and flopped onto his back again. He hid his face in his hands. Just uh… quick—think about something else. Like work! You love work.

Jake Peralta was a horrible detective, bested by some drunk dude running around with a lighter every weekend. It’s not like the case was even that important—his life was a way bigger dumpster fire than any he’d had to investigate.

Welp, that backfired.

These wretched emotions—blegh, he recoiled at the thought—were punishment for thinking he could toe this fine line. He had led Gina on, letting her pour her heart into the circle. He had even suggested they come to the spot at night, knowing full well his days were numbered. He had led Amy on, letting her think she was dating someone who was way more put together than this. He had even led himself on, letting himself believe he could have the best of both worlds, even if it was only for a little while. He had told himself that once he and Amy grew closer—I don’t know, he thought, maybe when we moved in together—then he would quit. He was such a fool—they were already so close! And he had been so sloppy.

This really was the end. She knows.

Jake was a moronic, irresponsible, law-breaking son of a bitch, and now, he had to cover his tracks.

But he didn’t want to anymore. The revelation that he’d rather Amy see him as a stoner than a liar came too late. When he woke up this morning, he didn’t really consider himself to be either of those things.

He had to pick. Come clean over pierogies, or sweep it all under the rug.

She really did seem to believe me, though. After all, the only real lie was that I’d changed. And I am changing. I could still roll with this.

His unassailable moral compass pummeled some sense into him. That’s icky, though!

He shuddered and stood up. This was a pacing-worthy decision.

What was also icky, was the prospect of Amy ferociously coming down on him with the wrath of a thousand cops—and he deserved it, too.

A sneaky, vile little voice piped up without warning. She never would’ve gone out with you if she knew you were such a dumb lazy burnout.

“RAAAA!” Screaming over it, he sprinted to the bed, and, unable to stand putting it off any longer, swiped up the box once and for all. He marched to the bin again, and threw away his stash, in its entirety.

Except, his hands didn’t exactly… let go of it.

He threw away his stash, in its entirety, again.

And again, his hands adamantly clung on.

Jake reprimanded them through his teeth, “Come on, it’s not that hard…” Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply through his nose. “Okay, on three.”

Don’t think so hard about it.

“One…”

Just think about Amy. It’s all in the name of love.

“Two…”

You know, I bet Gina and Sarge would appreciate me giving them the couple g’s I have left. It’s the least I can do.

“Th…”

I could also probably make a quick buck selling the pipe, if I clean it.

He put the box on the kitchen counter.

It really is a nice little chest, too. Probably made by some artisan.

He collapsed onto the couch.

Gina and Sarge. That’s right. This isn’t just about me.

He covered his face with his arm and sighed deeply.

I have to keep this contained. For them. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep Amy in the dark.

He groaned. He had almost looked forward to coming clean over—

“Pierogies!” he clamoured to his feet and sprinted to the door. “Shit, wait!” he snatched up the box and returned it to it’s home in the tippy top cabinet of the corner shelf. His eyes darted to his alarm clock on the nightstand—5:43.

“Noooo-nononono!” he panicked as he rushed out the door.

Chapter Text

Jake was speed walking through his building with his arms full of European take out. When he finally turned down his corridor, his displeased girlfriend was standing at the end of it, tapping her foot.

He looked at his wrist. He didn’t have a watch.

“Heeey!” he called out to her.

She echoed his greeting, but with zero gusto, “Heeey.” Her scowl made him sweat.

“Sorry,” he said as he neared her, “I was trying to keep track of time, really, but see,” he clicked his tongue, “everywhere I went only had those stupid annoylog clocks, so,” he laughed nervously, and juggled the food to fish his keys out of his pocket, “you know.”

She didn’t laugh at his self-deprecating joke. “I see. Well, while you were gone, I was able to completely plan my schedule for December.”

“Ha ha,” he said flatly as he unlocked the door, “Now, I know that’s a joke—you have at least six months planned ahead at all times,” he led her inside.

“December of next year.”

“Oh,” he wasn’t so positive she was joking anymore. Amy is scary-meticulous, which is something Jake loved to make fun of, “How could you possibly know when everyone’s Christmas parties would be?” After locking the door behind them, he set the food down in the kitchen. Then, a brilliant idea struck him. “Anyway, I feel bad, it really should be a crime to make a lady wait like that.” He pulled a drawer open and began rummaging around.

Hardly loud enough to hear, she muttered, “Oh, so that should be a crime.” Ignoring a sinking feeling in his gut, he pretended he didn’t hear that. Walked right into that one. Thankfully, she added right afterwards, “It was only thirteen minutes.”

“Thirteen minutes too many, I say!” he declared, and luckily, had found the desired object among all the other junk in the drawer. He was so glad he had this card to play right now. “Which is why, I would like to cordially present to you,” he kneeled, lowered his head, and held it out it like a regal squire would present a fancy septor, or something, “this spare key, m’lady.”

Because he was staring at the floor, he couldn’t gauge her reaction, but there was definitely a pause.

Oh no. What kind of pause? I knew it was too early for this. Crap, it’s an awkward one!

He felt her lift the key from his palm. Phew.

He stood up straight to beam at her, but the relief melted away as soon as he met her blank expression. She was studying the key closely, as if she didn’t know what to say. She thinks I’m just trying to save face—and not just for making her wait.

He adamantly held onto a large grin. Aren’t you, though?

She cracked a small smile, and even expelled a faint laugh through her nose.

Oh, a hundred percent I am. And it totally worked!

“Thank God,” she jeered, “I finally have a place to practice mini-basketball whenever I want.”

Jake’s eyes flashed to the tiny hoop on the wall next to the couch. I mean, yeah, he thought. Mini-basketball is awesome. But that was clearly a jab.

“And darts!” he pointed out excitedly.

“I’ll be a pro in no time.” Usually a remark like that was accompanied by a laugh, or at least a smile. Wordlessly, she went through the bags of take out, and pulled open a cabinet that was stripped bare. “Are any of your plates clean?” she complained, continuing to search every cupboard.

“Er, they’re all in the dishwasher?” he guessed.

Amy pulled it open and gasped, “Why is there a shirt in here?”

He gulped. Wow. Completely spaced that. You are like, the worst. “Okay, so sometimes, you gotta be somewhere, and you don’t have a washing machine, right? So, like, actually, if you think about it,” he forced himself to finish proud, “I’m a genius.” He really needs to save up for a washing machine.

She let out a laugh. It wasn’t a playful one; it was more malicious in nature. “A genius.” Proceeding to crouch and search under the sink, she said, “I know you have paper ones somewhere around here.” She didn’t ask where they were. She was just… going through everything, like a detective would a crime scene.

A chill surged up his spine. Jake—we’re detectives!

“A-ah-ah, Amy,” he clumsily rushed to her side and caressed her back, coaxing her to stand upright. “Babe—who would keep plates down there?” He walked a few paces over to the fridge, and located them on top of it. It took some serious mental fortitude to refrain from glancing at the corner shelf across the room.

“Who would wash clothes in the dishwasher?” she mocked.

Damn, she’s quick. “Only people who have their lives figured out,” he started to make their plates, “It saves on water, too,” he was playfully snarky, “uh, for your information.”

“I seriously doubt that, especially if you’re washing by the article,” she posited, “Besides, how do you even dry it? You gotta lay off the life hacks.”

“In your dreams, there are like, four unique ways to use your dishwasher that I haven’t even tried yet,” Jake opened a cabinet to retrieve a couple of glasses, “Just wait ‘til you taste some gourmet salmon—you’ll never guess how it was cooked!”

“Uh, in the dishwasher,” she rolled her eyes. “Gonna have to pass.”

“Well, okay then, but when Boyle puts my recipe in his newsletter, you’ll be sorry,” he never actually considered it before this moment, but he started to daydream, everyone would be so impressed, like, who knew Jake could cook? “How many do you want?” he asked, referring to the pierogies. No, wait, that’s crazy… Right?

Perhaps a dinner date at his apartment wasn’t the best idea, since Jake didn’t own a dining table. He rarely ate at home, and when he did, the meal never required any cooking skills besides maybe knowing how to boil water or operate a microwave, and one of these days, run a dishwasher.

The couple settled into the couch to eat, and Jake prayed that Amy wouldn’t bring up… the thing. The best way to prevent this was to start all of the conversations himself, “So, wanna brainstorm about the case? ‘Cause I think we’ve been ignoring the whole, pyro-psycho angle way too much, and what about the ski-mask? Like, where did he—”

“Big chain department store,” she interrupted in between bites, “It’s the most popular brand in the city. Dead end.”

“We have a popular brand of… ski-masks?” he was amused and confused, “Wh—are they like, really good at marketing… to criminals?” He laughed.

“I guess everybody likes the feel of a nice cotton blend.” It was a troubling omen that Amy still hadn’t cracked a smile since he gave her the key.

“Great point,” add something, dummy! “D’ahhhhh…” he stammered. Not that! Recover, Peralta! “Did you know that pyromania is the close cousin of kleptomania?” He spit the fact out with the speed of an auctioneer.

Just staring straight through him, she took a couple seconds to finish chewing. “Some people…” she shook her head and poked her food around, “have such poor impulse control.”

Jake swallowed hard, and not because he was eating. A compulsive laugh clumsily bubbled up and out. She gave a weak laugh in return. He scoffed, “Some people,” he shook his head disapprovingly.

The air fell silent. New York’s undying hustle was the backdrop to a steady beating sound, coming from Amy’s fork repeatedly hitting the paper plate. Tension hung in the room like a thick mist. Jake’s mind felt the pressure; it had to come up with something to say—and fast. The tapping was so distracting. His eyes were glued to the fork. It just bobbed up and down, over and over, disturbingly, not allowing a single second of peace. She is sabotaging me with her incessant tapping. It’s the only logical explanation. He forcibly tore his eyes away, and they landed behind her shoulder, on the corner shelf.

No! His eyes darted the opposite direction. He needed to say something—anything.

“So, how are your other open cases going?”

“So, about earlier.”

They ended up speaking at the same time.

Fuuuuuuu—“Me! I spoke first!” he blurted out tactlessly, “Open cases—go!”

She narrowed her eyes at him, “Absolutely nothing noteworthy to speak of, actually.”

He squinted right back, “I know you’re working on a drive by shooting.”

“Solved it this morning.”

“Aha!” he shouted, “That’s not possible! I was with you all day. Busteeeed.”

“I was at work almost an hour before you,” she flailed her wrist.

Damn. That’s probably true. “Lies!”

Her eyelids concealed what was no doubt a pair of brown irises rolling back into her head. Jake should probably tread much lighter, given that he’s the actual liar. “It’s not interesting,” Amy insisted, “Gang related. So predictable.”

“You never know, like, uhhh—what if they were brothers?” he started pitching his idea with passion, “And one shot the other, on accident, so the murderer had to cover his tracks, mourning the death of his victim the entire time?”

“That’s very…” she smirked, “creative. But I think I’d rather take this time to get to know you better.”

Anything but that. “Buuut, we already know everything,” he chuckled nervously, “that’s what makes us such a great couple!” he was trying his hardest to sell it well, “Like, for example, I’m the only one who knows you play french horn.”

Her eyes bore into him. “Jake.”

“Aaaand, I know that one time, you gave yourself a parking ticket. Who does that?!”

She casually took another bite, and without glancing up from her plate, asked, “When was the last time you smoked pot?”

There it is. His heart threatened to flutter right out of his chest. His mouth was ahead of his brain, “D’ahhh—never!” Try again. “I mean, er, sorry, force of habit.” He shoved an entire pierogi into his mouth, “Mm! You know, so glad I went with the beef.”

“Jake, you’re not in trouble,” she was selling something of her own, sitting there, with her feet up, all casual-like, nonchalantly taking little bites of her food. Jake remembered a piece of trivia that said you could easily dominate a conversation if your target is eating. Or, was that if you wanted to catch someone off guard in a fight? Either way, he wasn’t buying it.

“You really gotta know? See if I care, pff, I don’t care if you know—two thousannnn…” he had neglected coming up with a backstory, “sehh-ix—O’six, yep. Ten whole years, drug free, right here.” His mouth flattened into a straight line.

Offering nothing that would indicate whether or not she was buying his story, Amy dove right into the questioning, “And who with?” This was a textbook interrogation.

“By myself,” he responded instantly. Wait, that’s what sad losers do. “I mean! I think it might’ve been with Gina?” Too honest, too honest! He refrained from cringing at himself.

“Ah-huh,” she took another bite. “And does she still smoke now?”

“Would you arrest her if she did?” he joked, and regretted it. Amy’s stern face wasn’t going to break, and made Jake nervous beyond belief, “T-that’s a joke! Ha! Okay, no, she doesn’t—I mean… actually, how would I know?” He was stumbling, “I only say that ‘cause she’s never offered, and if she did, I would definitely say, uh, nuh thanks? Loser? Drugs are for dweebs, alright?”

The corners of her lips pursed, “I concur.”

“Ha! Concur!” he has trouble controlling his volume, “Like a fancy lawyer type person!”

“Oh, you bet, old chap,” she flashed a grin before taking another bite.

He gulped, “Remember that one time I dated a lawyer?” He changed the subject, “She was the worst, am I right?”

“Oh, yeaaah,” her head bobbed back and forth, “How could I forget her, and the most awkward dinner of my entire life?”

Well, good to know she doesn’t think this is awkward as hell.

Amy wasn’t finished, “Also, come on, a defense attorney, Jake?” He was relieved exponentially once she broke into a laugh, “I can’t imagine sympathizing with someone who’d just blatantly break the law, then lie about it to try and get off scot-free.”

Once again, the relief melted away in an instant. Amy was really good at manipulating the conversation in her favor. “Me either! Ugh, we have so much in common, babe.”

“Like two peas in a pod,” she beamed, but her eyes were dead.

Feeling dangerously close to the edge of… something dangerous, Jake didn’t know what else to do besides take action. He shoved the last pierogi into his mouth and stood up. He spoke with his cheeks full of food, “Well, I’m full,” he gulped, “Want me to help you amp up your dart game? No doubt, I got the best techniques in the precinct, baby.”

“You know, I’m good, I think,” she said, nodding, “Do you want to watch a movie or something?”

Is this supposed to be a trap? Pretty pathetic trap, Amy. I expected more from you. “Only if I get to pick.”

So, Amy’s laughable attempt to catch Jake in the act turned into a great opportunity to watch Die Hard for the millionth time. He was surprised by how attentive she managed to be, and how unphased she was every time he recited certain lines verbatim. That usually annoyed the crap out of her.

Maybe… she’s conducting recon, silently… without moving her eyes from the screen... somehow.

Jake was beyond paranoid, and wasn’t going to object when she decided to leave right after the movie. Their goodbye kiss was more peckish than usual. Wait, peckish is like, British for hungry. The goodbye kiss was quite short and unfulfilling. They might as well have shook hands before parting ways.

The door clicked shut, and Jake emitted a long sigh of relief. He had actually gotten away with it. Although narrowly, he had managed to dodge Amy’s bullet.

However, with the relief came the guilt, and the horrible uneasiness of it. It was too early to sleep, but he wanted badly for this day to be done, so it could sink into the past and be forgotten as fast as possible. Silence meant being alone with his thoughts, so he clicked on the television for background noise before collapsing face-down into bed.

Apparently he had left it on an infomercial channel, as he could hear the faint sales pitch for some useless household product. There was a peculiar kind of solace found in these long advertisements—they were always so reliable late at night. And sometimes, they showcased amazing, life-altering pieces of plastic.

Turning his head so he could see, Jake attempted to pay attention to the screen, and nothing else, “Lemme tell ya, you don’t have a set of pro blades five-thousand in your kitchen? Then all you’ve got are suboptimal knives. And you know what that leads to? Suboptimal cooking.”

What’s so special about a really sharp knife? Isn’t that the point—to be sharp? All it has to do is chop stuff up. If I bought a knife, and it didn’t chop stuff up, I’d return it, he amused himself. His brain, however, knew he didn’t deserve that, and politely reminded him that he was a filthy liar, a worthless cop, and especially, a really crummy boyfriend. On top of all that, he wasn’t even allowed to smoke weed anymore.

His face returned to its hiding spot in the covers, and he released a loud, stifled groan. This was one of those nights. Jake knew he was in for some major self-hatred, and was desperate for something to keep it at bay. Slowly, he rose to his feet and trudged to the corner shelf, which also happened to house his liquor collection. He unscrewed the top of the first thing he grabbed; it was brown, so it wasn’t vodka or tequila. Not caring to find out what exactly it was, he immediately brought it to his lips and took a swig.

And he regretted it. As soon as the burning liquid hit the back of his throat, his stomach heaved in protest. He managed to refrain from gagging, but winced, stuck his tongue out far, and scanned the label—it was definitely more of a sippin’ whiskey.

“Augh,” he shuddered and put the bottle back. Becoming an alcoholic was going to involve a lot of foul tasting liquids, so Jake was going to have to learn to like it.

He glanced up. A simple, but forbidden solution was within reach. “Nope, nope, Jake, nope,” he scolded himself under his breath. It was dangerous for him to entertain that thought for even a second, for Amy had an excellent point about impulse control. If he had more of an affinity for fire or stealing rather than leisure and heroism, there would be literally no difference between him and the next lowly criminal. He was basically a monster.

He plopped back onto the bed and tried focusing on the boring infomercial again. He reached for the remote—there’s gotta be something more captivating than this—but as he leaned over, an uncontrollable thought raced through his head. You and Amy aren’t built to last. Going limp, his hand landed inches from the remote. He was gravitated by the urge to cry, but that would be a slippery slope into… more crying.

It wasn’t news that he and Amy were very different people. He never entertained the idea that that was a bad thing until recently. He couldn’t help but notice how every time they were opposites—tidy and sloppy, smart and stupid, reliable and irresponsible—he was the one with stuff to work on. Jake was always the one who had stuff to work on. He rarely actually did. He relied heavily on optimism, and suppressed the absolute hell out of anything that even resembled something bad. Though, no amount of that was going to rescue him right now—he was spiraling. Jake needed a distraction and he did not want to get drunk.

Don’t even think about.

His eyes were stuck on the corner shelf. He was thinking about it.

No, come on. That’s what got you here.

Or, was it perhaps, the inevitability of an indifferent universe, neither benign nor hostile, that was subjecting him to this agonizing quandary? After all, man is but a flawed creature, forced to roam a perilous, unrelenting society in abject ambiguity, unable to seek solace in any real promises of actualization. We are all but vulnerable cogs in an abhorrent, ever-twisting maze that is life, eternally incapacitated by the crippling potency of the everyday heartache.

Wait…he paused to think for a few seconds, mazes don’t have cogs.

I’m gonna get stoned.

Jake returned to the corner shelf, and stood on his toes to reach the top cabinet. For the entire time he was reaching for the box, to when he sat back down with it, to when he undid the latch, to when he lifted the lid, he was thinking about how he shouldn’t be doing this. Though, he never hesitated.

One last time isn’t going to hurt. It’s more ceremonial than anything, really.

Inside the wooden box was a small assortment of objects and tools, also known as, in the law enforcement biz, paraphernalia. He figured a joint was the way to go since it was a windy night, and conveniently, he had one that was pre-rolled. Thanks, past me.

One was plenty. Against his better judgement, Jake quickly rolled a second one. It was his last time after all; he figured maybe he’ll want it.

He donned a thick jacket, slipped his supplies into the pocket of it, and climbed out the window next to the couch, onto the fire escape.

He loved living on the ninth floor. Secluded high up in the air, he had an excellent view of the vibrant city below him. He settled onto his favorite step and got started before he could change his mind.

Flick.

The crisp, burning sting of smoke on his lungs was contrasted by the cold sting of wind on his face. He held it in until it hurt. He exhaled slowly, and the plume was instantly carried off, dissipating into the night air.

He took a moment of mindfulness to absorb his surroundings. Whatever happened in his life, that street far below him was going to be lively every day that this earth was still turning. If he was heartbroken, if he was ashamed, if he was drunk and trying to escape his troubles, that bustle was still going to be there, as inescapable as ever. Jake’s mind was always so busy, just like all tiny cars darting around and the hundreds of people walking briskly by every day. Maybe the hectic nature of his life was a product of New York. Maybe he was just messed up.

Taking another long drag, he ached for a fresh perspective. He is so caught up in his day to day life, so much so that any glimpse of the big picture is a fleeting one. He emptied his lungs, and a familiar wave of ease washed over him. He knew he liked Amy and he even knew that he loved her. He didn’t know what a future with her would be like. Being so disconnected from the person he wanted to be, his shortcomings were brutally illuminated now that he was standing next to the girl of his dreams.

The encouraging notion that he could change was overshadowed by how overwhelmed Jake felt. He brought the joint to his lips and welcomed another burning twinge in his chest. If he couldn’t kick this habit, how could he expect to break any of the others?

His eyes drifted over the skyline. Damn. There are so many people. Already feeling a tiny bit existential, he considered his problems against the unspeakable amount of turmoil out there. Jake witnessed a lot of it first hand. He went through some of it. He wondered what the hell was so wrong with him that he could be this carefree all the time.

I’m probably just a sociopath or something.

He pulled in another hit. His happiness was contingent on such petty things. A dream job, sure, but also things like movies and food and going out were what sustained him.

Thank god I know my purpose in life. That was always an easy one. Do good things, save the day, and look good doing it. He saved people for a career, and his career saved him in return, for he would be a husk of a loser without it. At least he was a loser with nice hair and a shiny badge.

And thank goodness he had Amy. She was the type of person—grounded, sensible, intelligent—that he needed as a partner. Maybe they hadn’t found their balance quite yet, Is it weird to see your girlfriend as a role model?

Jake took hit after hit, until he was assured that his ambivalence would not be the end of him. Dread faded and was replaced by apathy. All he can do is carry on, try to be better, and hope for the best, just like everybody else. He loves Amy, and for some reason, she loves him back. If they can get over this hurdle, they’ll be alright. Thinking about it is just a straight path to stress.

He gazed at the hurdle between his fingers; it was filing down to its end. Shutting his eyes, he rubbed his forehead. It was weird. Getting high granted moments of clarity sometimes.

This isn’t that big of a deal.

He extinguished it against the freezing railing and cast its remnants off the building.

It was cold, so he started for the window. Despite being a bit sluggish, his mind reminded him that he didn’t have to be done if he didn’t want to be. His fingers twitched in his coat pocket. He remained standing for a moment, and assessed himself.

Well, I’ll never be able to make this decision again…

He surrendered to the temptation and returned to his step.

Flick.

The fresh intake was abrasive surging into his lungs, and, just like all the others, he held it inside until it hurt. As he exhaled, his eyes were heavy, and wandered around the streets below him. The bustle was mesmerizing. He picked out patterns in the ways the crowds stirred and the cars sped past. Jake thought about how, at any given moment, dozens of people, each with unique stories and setbacks, were milling about right outside his home. There is just so much stuff in the world, it was a miracle that he had managed to carve himself a comfortable little slot in all the madness, especially given that he never had anyone to tell him everything was going to be okay. At least for this moment, he allowed himself peace. He messed up, but right now, he was going to be okay. He was feeling okay.

His head swiveled towards a clicking noise that came from the the window. His heart skipped a beat. It was being opened. Wide eyed, he clamoured to his feet, but tripped backwards over the steps. I don’t have my gun on me. Surely, this was a break in.

He would have much rather the figure that emerged be a robber, like he initially thought.

A deafening screech erupted from his lips, “AHHH!”

“Yes!” Amy cheered.

Jake scrambled to his feet again, “A-ah, Amy!” She shot him a devastating glare from a few steps below. He conspicuously glanced at what was in his hand then, hoping that her nose had mysteriously stopped working, ineptly tucked it behind his back, “Wha—uh, what brings you here?” Wearing a warm smile, he tried nonchalantly leaning against the railing, but misjudged how close it was and gracelessly fumbled for it.

All she had to do was shift her weight to one side and cross her arms.

This. This is how I die. He stood up straight, “Okay, this isn’t what it looks like!”

“Yeah?” she was actually… smirking. Granted, that was a comedically sorry excuse.

He was caught red handed with the smoking joint. He flicked off some ash that was clinging to the end of it. His mind was short circuiting. It felt like time had stopped. His mouth snapped open to say something, but nothing came out. He closed it, and kept switching his gaze between his girlfriend and the drugs in his hand. Idiocy took the reigns, and commanded him to deflect, deflect, deflect.

“Okay, umm, it’s medical?” he cringed. “Yeah,” he croaked sheepishly, “I got a real bad back, Amy.”

Shaking her head, she again only uttered a single word, “No.” She was still smirking, as if watching Jake crash and burn was entertaining to her.

Absentmindedly, he took a small hit and expelled it quickly. He plowed forward, despite Amy scoffing at him, “Okay, I’ll be real with you,” attempting to sell it well, he sighed deeply, “I have to… test the evidence.” He squinted into the distance. That’s what you came up with, really? “For some… reason.”

She uncrossed her arms, and even laughed, “Okay, that one was just pathetic.”

“Yep, a hundred percent.” He took another drag, and was more calm than maybe he should have been. He was struck by yet another golden idea, “Oh!” he paused, considering what he was about to say. It was worth a shot. He cracked a smile, “Wanna hit it?” Extending his hand, his eyebrows bobbed up and down repeatedly.

“Put it out!” she shouted, exasperated.

But I like, just started it. “Yep, okay, cool cool cool cool cool, just,” he stuffed it behind his back again and motioned as if he was “putting it out… now.”

Amy marched up the few steps that separated them, and, for someone shorter than him, was astonishingly intimidating. Knowing he had majorly mistepped, Jake flinced instinctively once her scowl got inches away from him. She had the gall to pluck the joint out of his hand and toss it right off the building.

He gasped dramatically, and peered over the edge to watch it tumble down and disappear into the night. He paused, dumbfounded. Bravely looking Amy in the eye, he muttered, “Rude.”

She was finally unhinged, “Me rude?! You rude!” and also quite flustered, “You the rudest!” She blinked and quickly shook her head once. “I could arrest you!”

Jake scoffed, “I could arrest you—for breaking and entering!”

Her arms were crossed again, “You gave me a key, stupid.”

Some random voice was singing. How could I forget that I had given her an extra key? He jerked his head back, “Pff, well, you threw the evidence off the building, so… checkmate.”

She angrily clicked her tongue in disbelief, “That’s not the point!” She lightly shoved him, “I knew you were lying to me!”

He exclaimed in return, “Well, I knew you knew I was lying!” He raised his voice even more, “That’s why dinner was so awkward!” His face suddenly went blank, “Oh, this right here?” he made a circling motion with both index fingers, “Easily avoidable,” he gave her an apologetic smile, “my b.”

“I’ll say! Like, what? Am I dating a teenager?”

He snorted, “Ew, no, then you’d totally be a gross sex offender.”

Amy was extremely agitated by this point; her brow crinkled like a mountain, “Don’t test me, Peralta!” Bowing her head, she dropped to a low hiss, “Smoking weed in secret? Really!?”

Jake made the mistake of chuckling right in her face.

She dropped her scowl, huffed, glanced him up and down, and cracked a tiny sneer, “It’s funny?”

His shoulders shuddered with laugher, “Sorry, no—I mean,” he struggled for an excuse, “kind of—well, no, it’s just a defense mechanism.” Woah. Reign it in, there. He clamped his eyes shut. Amy had a front row seat to this spectacular blunder, “Wow. No. I meant, you are so cute when you’re angry,” he winced, and cried out under his breath, “Gah! That’s worse! I am totally tanking this, aren’t I?”

She didn’t look angry anymore, just disappointed. She shook her head, “How high are you right now?”

His stomach dropped.

She continued, “I mean, it looked like you’d just started.”

He bit his tongue. His mouth was so dry. “Ah—” was all that came out at first. Jake was absolutely petrified, as the weight of the situation he was in had finally hit him with full force. “I might’ve been on,” bracing for impact, he cowered and sheepishly raised two fingers, “J numbah dos, mon.” He swiftly swung a hand up to hide his face in shame. Of course, he had to pick Jamaican, of all accents. He never learned his lesson.

She released a low sound, almost resembling a laugh, “Jamaicans don’t speak spanish.”

“Yep.” His mouth was a thin line.

“Clearly,” she paused, menacingly. “We need to talk about this, another time.”

The now staggering weight of the pit in his stomach caused Jake’s legs to buckle underneath him as she turned away. Before a single coherent thought could form, Amy was climbing back inside. His mouth popped open to try and stop her, but his brain was too stunned to make it happen. The sound of the window clicking shut was shortly followed by a belated plea, “I-I’m sorry!”

She was already gone, leaving Jake to process what had just happened. Mortified, he slouched into a sad slump, and couldn’t tear his eyes from the window, even though the sharp breeze made them struggle to stay open. His face wasn’t cold anymore because it was completely flushed. He was jittery from adrenaline, but his muscles were still numb and weightless. There was a hummingbird in his chest. Or was it an elephant?

The encounter replayed in his head. It was so preventable, in so many ways. He closed his eyes but that just made his head spin. He was so high.

She’s gonna dump me, huh?

It was a big deal. A dozen horrible scenarios started to run through his head.

Quick—think about something else. He was not in the mood to uncontrollably sob.

He let his thoughts fly like ping pong balls until one got snagged on something interesting.

His eyelids pried open. “Wait…”

Motionless, he laid there in the cold for about a minute, considering something he hadn’t before.

He sat up, and considered it for a minute more.

“Oh, man,” he shut his eyes and emitted a heavy sigh. At least he had a damn good distraction, now.

For he had just solved the case.

He climbed back inside, nuked some leftovers, and got set up to work on it, no matter how long it took.

Chapter Text

Jake Peralta was enjoying the temporary refuge of the station’s elevator, alone, since he had done his absolute best to arrive as late as possible this morning. It felt like he was ascending into hell. His bag was weighed down with the thick case file he had been working on all night long. He downed a mouthful of hot, bitter coffee. Not even catching an elusive criminal could shine light on the atrocious day he was surely in for.

The march of death was signaled by the elevator’s dull ding. He exited to trudged down the aisle towards his desk, clinging tightly to the strap of his heavy bag. He cleared his throat anxiously. Terry offered a perfunctory greeting, “Morning, Peralta,” to which Jake replied by pressing his lips flat and nodding once. All of his other friends, except for one, he noticed, were milling about like they normally would.

His stomach turned for the hundredth time that morning when his eyes met the top of Amy’s brunette head. She was bent over some paperwork, and did not acknowledge Jake when he settled into his chair.

He decided to open with something mundane, “So, uh, where’s Boyle at?”

Still carefully filling out a form, she simply shrugged and hummed that she didn’t know. Under his desk, Jake ran his right thumb over the top of his smooth fingernails repeatedly. He had procrastinated coming up with a good apology, up until, well, this moment.

Clearing his throat unnecessarily again, her eyes shot up to meet his, immediately sending a spike of fear straight through him. His eyes darted to his desk, and his mind had a hard time focusing on anything other than his keyboard. How long have I been missing my X key? He never replaced it because he hardly used that letter anyway, which was a shame since it was probably the coolest one of the bunch.

Dragging himself away from the distraction, he started moving his lips, “So, looks like we’re in for some crazy weather this week, like, snow, whaaaat?” Even Jake knew he was acting unbearably awkward.

“It’s the middle of November,” Amy stated dryly, still thumbing through paperwork.

“Man, it sure is, you’re always so perceptive,” he gave a weak laugh to which she did not respond. He knew it was time to bite the bullet, so he switched his tone to sound as sincere as possible, “Amy, you know I’m sorry.”

“Hmph.”

Fair enough, that was a pretty weak apology. “For uh… you know.” Really? You’re making her fill in all the blanks?

The truth was, Jake had a hard time filling them in himself.

A short, callous laugh erupted from her unsmiling lips as she flipped to a new sheet.

Maybe an explanation would be better. He glanced around, then leaned across with his elbows on the desk, whispering, “Hey, believe me, I’m trying to quit, honestly. Before you even came in, I’d already decided that was gonna be the last time.”

“Uh-huh,” the whole bullpen must have dropped twenty degrees due to her cold shoulder.

Jake cringed. This was probably the worst conversation he’d ever had. And yes, that is absolutely including every time he’s had to tell someone their husband just died. He sighed, “No, I’m with you, that sounds like total bullshit, huh?” He sunk back into his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Listen, I’m tired of bullshitting you, Amy.”

She still didn’t respond, not even with any kind of body language.

His thumb went back to fidgeting under the desk. “I’ll be the first to admit,” his eyes flew over the bullpen; it was filled with the chatter of friends and colleagues. After clearing his throat for a third time, he murmured in Amy’s direction, “I may have a problem.”

Another short, cruel laugh shot from her lips. Her glare was as deadly as before when she made eye contact again. Jake managed to maintain it for one horrible second, even holding on to a weak, lopsided smile, before her eyes returned to her paperwork. Although this time, she had something to say, “I just don’t know what to do with you, yet.” Her words had no emotion at all.

It kind of felt like when you break your mom’s vase, and she’s like, so disappointed that she won’t even yell at you, but you just wish that she would so bad, because then you know that definitively, it’s over, you got what was coming to you, and now you can go back to playing basketball inside, or whatever.

This was just another time where Jake felt like Amy’s underling. He was either her student, or her son, just like he was everybody else’s student or son too.

“M’kayyy… weeell,” Jake patted his desk awkwardly, “Let me know, babe.” She gave an exasperated sigh, probably at his persistent nonchalance. Remembering something, he leaned across the desk again, and said in a low hush, “You never did tell me why you came back last night, in the first place.”

Her pen halted its dance across the page. It was Amy who cleared her throat this time, “I had to come back to get my…” her hesitation was telltale, “charger that I left over there.”

Jake squinted at her until her eyes clicked with his own. She immediately closed her mouth which hung ajar and switched her gaze back to her desk. Slowly, he leaned back into his seat again, absorbing the information. Astonished, he closed his eyes and sharply exhaled through his nose, “You came back just to catch me—god, am I that predictable?” He firmly pressed a palm into the left side of his face.

Amy sharply exhaled through her nose too, although, Jake knew it was a micro-laugh, not a sigh. At first, all she did was shake her head. She went back to her paperwork, and remarked after a moment, “I gave you fifteen minutes to make the decision,” his eyes went wide, and she wore the faintest smirk, “apparently, you only needed about half that.” His stomach did a backflip. As his mouth snapped open, she whispered arrogantly, “that’s my b.”

She is inside of my brain.

Captain Holt abruptly emerged from his office, making Jake jump a considerable amount. The sight of his stoic superior sent a surge of a whole new kind of dread through him. Oh god, you wouldn’t rat me out, would you, Amy?! He asked her inside his head, since she had surely taken up residence there.

“Goodmorning, all,” Holt announced, then asked, “Have any of you seen detective Boyle?”

“Who?” Gina asked flatly, scrolling through her phone.

“No, sir,” answered Amy obediently. Several others murmured in agreement.

“Hmm… odd,” remarked the captain. He paused momentarily to examine the scene with his passive gaze, then turned to detectives Peralta and Santiago, “Have you two hit a wall in your investigation?”

Jake tucked his lips between his teeth. Amy answered again, pretty much immediately, “No, sir, we still have plenty of things to look into.”

“Is that so?” asked Holt, “I could happily reassign the case,” he suggested ominously.

And again, Amy was quick to respond, “Oh, that’s not necessary, Peralta and I—” she suddenly stopped and started again, “We have confidence that we’ll find the bastard,” she added sheepishly, “sir.”

“Peralta?”

Jake’s head rested in his arm propped on the desk. He was tiptoeing around the situation. “I’m confident too,” he said plainly without looking at either of them.

Holt remained before them for another baleful moment. Jake’s eyes were fixed on the elevator, and he couldn’t help but gulp.

“Well, that makes three of us,” said the captain, and with that, returned to his office, closing the door behind him.

Closing his eyes for a brief moment, Jake exhaled in relief.

“What?” Amy’s voice made him flinch for a second time.

“W-what… what?” he asked, and feared the answer.

“You were making a face.”

He knew just the one; he’d been wearing it almost all morning. The one where his lips disappeared and his nose flared and his eyes looked like death. His, I’m-super-uncomfortable-right-now, face. He absolutely knew he couldn’t keep this from her, but feared discussing the… implications.

As low and fast as he could pronounce the words, he admitted, “I solved it.”

“What?” she asked genuinely. Maybe that was a bit too quiet.

He went back to staring the opposite way, at the elevator doors, and repeated himself, but now so she could hear, “I uh… I solved it.”

“You did not,” her tone was laced with anger.

He swiveled his chair to sit properly at his desk so he could put his head down on it. Surely, his face wasn’t its usual ghostly white, and he wasn’t prepared for any curious stares. “I know who the arsonist is,” he spoke into his arms.

There was definitely a pause, probably one of disbelief this time.

“That’s… impossible,” her voice was riddled with skepticism.

He raised his head just enough to view her bewildered expression. It cheered him up a little, “I don’t know, I just had some crazy-weird laser focus last night, I guess,” he said with a smile. Although it was the truth, he felt a little guilty making light of it.

Amy scoffed, “If this is some kind of joke…” The elevator dinged, and her eyes darted to behind his shoulder, popping wide. Hardly loud enough to hear, she muttered, “Oh no.”

Jake sat up and mirrored her alarmed expression. “Oh no?” he was too afraid to turn around, “What oh no?”

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me!” Gina shouted in excitement, and stood up from her chair to record whatever was going on behind him. Jake saw that she was absolutely beaming. That was not a good sign. The entire bullpen was noisy with chatter all of a sudden, too.

With caution, he slowly peered over his shoulder, and what he saw out the corner of his eye, truly was a modern horror.

“Cowabunga, bitches!” yelled Charles Boyle, as he rode out of the elevator on a skateboard. Jake could only handle a glimpse before whipping back around, completely mortified. If his short-term photographic memory served him correctly, then Charles was definitely wearing one of his most ridiculous get-ups to date. A colorful flash of tie-dye and denim would forever be burned into Jake’s brain. A backwards baseball cap, a pair of sunglasses, and a couple of flip flops were already haunting his dreams.

His heart was racing. There was but one clear explanation for this. He slammed a palm into his desk, “You told Boyle?!” he hissed as quietly as he could.

Her shoulders shooting up and her eyes filled with pain, Amy cringed, flashing her bottom teeth and helplessly throwing her hands up apologetically. In a panic, Jake snatched up his thermos for a couple swigs of coffee.

A loud crashing noise made both of them wince. “Oho-nooo!” Gina laughed, and stood on her chair to get a better shot. There was a chorus of sympathetic groans from everyone in the room.

“He just slammed into the gate, right?” Jake frantically asked Amy.

She was frozen, wide-eyed. “Yeah,” she panted.

“Because he can’t see, because he’s wearing sunglasses indoors, right?”

“Uh-huh,” it seemed like she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the horrendous spectacle behind him.

“No worries, folks—I-I mean fellas!” Charles announced, “Probably just should’ve… taken these off, aaaand,” Jake heard the unmistakable sound of skateboard wheels rolling across a tiled floor, “Here we go!” followed by another deafening crash.

Jake drew in a sharp breath through his teeth, and distressingly whispered a fact this time, “He has no idea how to ride a skateboard.”

“You know, I think one of these wheels must be wobbly,” said Charles.

“Oh, absolutely he does not,” Amy was still in shock.

Hitchcock was the first to make a comment on the whole thing, “Lookin’ cool, Boyle!”

Jake released a deep sigh, and just stared at his girlfriend, who was just as horrified as he was.

“Pff, what, this?” his best friend’s voice was mere meters away now, “This is just me, man.”

Rosa chimed in, “No, it’s not.”

There was a thumping noise. Amy narrated for Jake, “He just put his feet up on the desk,” her words were afflicted by intense fear. There was nothing more terrifying to her than blatant rule-breaking in the workplace.

“Yeah, it is,” Charles retorted defensively. “I decided, I’m sick and tired of the man telling me how to dress, when to show up, how to sit,” he scoffed.

“Aren’t you like, freezing cold, though?” Rosa challenged him again.

“Small price to pay for freedom,” he put a lot of emphasis on the word, “Diaz.”

“Mm, yep, says here,” Gina referred to her phone, “the high is just thirty-seven today.”

“Yeah, okay!” Charles sounded pretty annoyed, “So maybe, my entire body is coated in goosebumps right now!” He let go of the anger in his voice, “Doesn’t matter to me, it’s my nature, I’m a chill dude, alright?”

Jake and Amy groaned in the same pitch at the same time.

“Chill, like that one time you sued that restaurant for getting your order wrong?” Gina taunted.

“Burn,” said Rosa.

Charles dropped the charade for a second, “You can’t list an item as veal on the menu, then try and serve me an adolescent cow!”

“Isn’t that what veal is?” asked Amy.

“You can taste how old it is?” Gina asked with a chuckle, “Poor cow, it was just trying living it’s little teenage life, Charles. S-m-h.”

It seemed like the sergeant had mustered up the courage to put his two cents in, as his voice bellowed from the other side of the room, “Come on, Boyle! I’m trying to run a professional precinct here, man! Terry would never do anything to clash with that sentiment! E-ever!” Jake started to gasp, but managed to turn it into an explosive cough.

Amy threw him another bewildered look.

Zeroing in on his target, Charles called out, “Hey, tell me about it, Jake! If I get phlegmy, it’s gonna be in the morning.”

Jake winced in disgust, but straight at Amy. He still wasn’t brave enough to face anywhere but directly at her. She dropped her confused expression and reluctantly whispered, “He does have a point.”

He lashed out at her all of a sudden, condescendingly asking her, “Hey, yeah, when do we get to talk about your bad habits?” He jammed an index finger onto the top of his desk, “I never complain when your kisses taste like tobacco, huh?”

She gritted through her teeth, “That was never illegal, or a secret, dumbass.”

As fast as you could flip a coin, his tone and expression completely changed, “You’re so right, please forgive me,” he pleaded rapidly, even snatching up one of her hands in both of his own, “You gotta help me, Amy.”

“Jaaake?” prodded Charles.

“Help you?! You did this to yourself!” she cried under her breath.

Jake took a risk and whipped his head to administer Charles a quick smile. It took serious self restraint for him to not make fun of him like everyone else was. He noticed he had holes in his jean shorts, for crying out loud. “Totally, Boyle,” he said before turning back to his girlfriend. He laid his torso on his desk so he could argue with her better, “This is your creation,” he shoved a finger in her face, “You did this.”

Amy hid her face in her hands, and when she emerged, her eyes popped open wide. She scooted her chair away from the aisle ever so slightly, and mouthed silently, “Oil, shelf, lock.”

“What?!” he desperately whispered. This was a terrible time for one of Amy’s pointless puzzles.

“How do you do, fellow detectives?” Charles’s voice was only a foot away now.

“DAH!” Jake’s entire body convulsed in surprise. OH—Boyle, twelve o’clock!

“Little jumpy this morning, are we?” he leaned his hip on Jake’s desk and crossed his arms, “I feel ya, sucks when you don’t have time to uh, get in the right headspace, before work, if you’re pickin’ up what im layin’ down,” Jake was being tortured by his smirk and bobbing eyebrows.

“Ohhh, my god what are you doing?” he muttered.

“So I watching Blue Planet last night—you guys see that yet? Oh man, crazy trippy sometimes, like, who knew all those colorful little dudes were swimmin’ around down there?”

Jake just shut his mouth, surrendering to whatever the hell Charles was subjecting him to.

He continued, “Anyway, I got to thinking—why can’t I be as free as the majestic mantis shrimp?”

Amy interjected, “That’s the animal you’re comparing yourself to?”

Charles turned his head to the side to address her, “Okay, side note, the mantis shrimp is awesome,” he looked back to Jake, “So I was like, I’m freakin’ sick of being a slave, you feel bro?”

Jake jumped on the opportunity to distance himself, “No,” he said loudly.

“What’s a dress code, but just another way to control the masses? Keep us compliant, huh?”

“We literally had a whole thing about the dress code already,” Jake pointed out, haunting memories involving a speedo flashing across his eyes.

“What, I can’t solve crimes and look fly at the same time?”

“Please stop talking,” Jake pleaded.

“Hey Jake, you got any hacky-sack pointers, by the way? My game is totally lacking, for reals, yo.”

A savior came in an unexpected form, “So what am I looking at, here?” said Captain Holt from the doorway of his office. A twinge of astonishment appeared on his face in the form of an ever so furrowed brow and slightly gaping mouth.

“You couldn’t have come out of your office like five minutes ago?!” asked Jake, in disbelief of his misfortune.

“There I was, on an important phone call,” Holt went on, “when I turn around to see that Detective Boyle has not only arrived unapologetically late, but also in an outfit I can only describe as… entirely repugnant.”

Charles hadn’t wavered from his casual stance, facing away from the Captain. He locked eyes with Jake, unbelievably, still smirking, and actually rolled his eyes.

The whole squad paused with bated breath as they waited for someone to speak. Charles was holding his ground, looking completely unphased.

“LOOK AT ME, BOYLE,” boomed the Captain without warning.

“Yip!” Charles flinched, his shoulders shooting up. He spun around to face the music.

“Where are your pants, man?!” Holt glanced him up in down in utter bewilderment. He closed his eyes and held up a palm, as if to stop himself, “I’m just not going to ask.”

Jake whispered under his breath, “Oh thank god.”

“Because I cannot even begin to imagine, and frankly, I have many more pressing matters to attend to, rather than attempting to delve into whatever compelled Detective Boyle, here,” his calm tone slowly escalated as the sentence went on, ending in a shout, “to waltz in to work today dressed like a buffoon!”

“I have a change of clothes in my locker,” Charles told his sandals, and immediately retreated before Holt could change his mind and obliterate him. He passed Rosa’s desk, and spun around to glare at his best friend, “Jake,” he cued him through his teeth, bowing his head.

“Yes! By all means!” the Captain bellowed, “Peralta, if you have something to do with this, please accompany him,” he fired a devastating glare at Jake, who was frozen in shock. That was the last thing he wanted to do. “Go on, then, talk some sense into him!”

He cringed, “‘Course, alright then,” and stood up.

Jake stared at his shoes during the short walk to the locker room. It was awkwardly silent, the only sound coming from Charles’s flip flops. He had a sick feeling in his gut, and he couldn’t decide if it was because of the impending display of emotions, or if it was leftover shock from this whole ordeal. It was like someone had pulled the rug from under him. Then ran him over with a pickup truck.

When they got there, Charles immediately sat on a bench in between two sets of lockers, and just stared at the ground with his hands clasped together. Jake had resigned to being in trouble with everyone today, and sighed, preparing to get one of many heart-to-hearts out of the way.

His best friend was so disappointed in him, that he didn’t even know what to say, yet.

Charles upturned his palms and lamented, “Well, I for one, can’t believe this didn’t work. I mean, I just figured since I’ve played so many characters undercover, this would be a sinch. But if I’m being completely honest… that was a bit less than ideal.”

Or… that. Jake chuckled, “Hello, we already know you, dude.” He approached him, “This obviously isn’t you, come on, when was the last time you wore a baseball cap, like at all? Let alone a backwards one,” he took the cap off Charles’s head, to reveal something surprising, “You dyed your hair for this?!”

“Well, I bleached it first, then dyed it,” he cracked a smile and tousled it. Jake was kind of mesmerized—it was the best his hair had probably ever looked. He wasn’t really sure what it had to do anything, or what he hoped to get out of it, but that seemed pretty irrelevant at this point. Charles winced slightly and asked, “Do you think I should’ve spent all that time learning how to skateboard, instead?”

Smiling, Jake furrowed his brow and let a sharp laugh escape, “I wanna say yes, but I’m kind of digging it, in a weird way?” He pinched onto short locke of his friend’s golden hair then sat next to him.

Charles rolled his eyes and clicked his tongue, “Oh, stop,” he swiped a hand at him dismissively, “Really? ‘Cause I was afraid it’d get all brittle, but actually—hey…” he stopped himself abruptly, “I am mad at you! Don’t think you can flatter your way out of this, buster!”

“Buster…?” Jake jerked his head, “No, I…I know.”

“Do you?” he wasn’t making this easy for him, “I want you to say it.”

Jake swallowed the lump in his throat and went back to staring at his shoes, “Okay, so perhaps, there are a couple things about me that you don’t know,” he muttered.

There was a pause. He glanced at Charles, who wore a stern look, adamantly waiting for him to add more. So, he was forced to continue, “Did you know that my favorite singer is Taylor Swift? Like whaaaaaat? Let’s talk about that, because—”

“Everyone knows that one, Jake.”

He bared his teeth and turned away, “Amy,” he whispered, narrowing his eyes.

Charles made him turn his attention back to the matter at hand, “Hey man, don’t make me ask again.”

Before turning back around, Jake shot his eyes to the ceiling. He knew he couldn’t put it off any longer. He looked his best friend in the eye, then, deciding that was too hard, looked over his shoulder, “Charles, I smoke weed more often than I drink.”

As if he didn’t already know, Charles clutched his chest and released a surprised gasp. Wearing an appalled expression, he looked him up and down, “How could you?!”

Jake gave him a puzzled look before his face went blank. That was certainly an… interesting question to process. After a moment, he said, “Weeellll… first of all, I don’t think it should be a schedule one drug, come on. And personally, I think it’s safer, more convenient, just more fun, hell, than drinking, t-b-h. So, yeeeaah,” he sucked in a breath through his teeth, “I just buy it from my neighbor—he’s a really nice guy, you know, for a drug dealer—and me and Gina and Terry get together sometimes, and—”

Charles finally cut him off, waving his hands, “No, no no no, that’s not what I—wait, back up.” He stared at the lockers with a furrowed brow and gaping mouth for a second. He closed it and raised an index finger. After another second, he pointed in no particular direction, “Gina and Terry?” A devious grin stretching across his face, he giggled, “Ohohoho—stop, wait!” he flailed an arm, “We’ll talk about that later! I meant—how could you keep it from me, Jake?! I thought we were closer than that.”

Jake was right—Charles was heartbroken, but for good reason. He sighed and glanced to the left, “You’re my best friend, come on. It’s just—”

“Just what?” he interrupted, “You think I’m just some nerd, don’t you?” This caught him off guard, but Charles was ranting, “You think I’d come in, ruin all the fun, and rat everybody out, huh?! Well I’ve got news for you, buddy! I am fun. In fact—”

He held a palm, “Charles. Stop,” he looked at him. He had come to expect the gimmicks, the drama, and the anger, but not this. “You want to smoke with me?”

Charles smacked his lips, crossed his arms, and slowly rolled his eyes up to the ceiling. Looking tense, he threw a hand up, “Yeah,” the word was choppy, “Obviously. I wanna do everything with you, Jake.”

Aw, shit. His stomach was swirling. Out of all the emotions, the absolute worst one of all—guilt—was wreaking havoc on Jake. Who knew keeping secrets could have this many consequences? He sighed noisily and leaned over to place his face in his hands. “I see the problem here,” he mumbled. Sitting back up, he rubbed the back of his neck, “It’s about me, okay? Not you.”

Charles scoffed, “Clearly.”

“No, I meant—” he sighed sharply, “Bad choice of words. Look, I have a problem with myself, not with you,” he locked his gaze on the set of lockers in front of him, “Straight up, man, this is super embarrassing for me.”

He half-scoffed, half-laughed, “Whaaaaat?” his voice went up a couple octaves, “You don’t get embarrassed, like, that’s my thing.”

Jake glanced at his friend’s sandals. They must have been newly purchased, even though winter was well under way, “I guess it’s both of our thing now.”

“No—I don’t accept that. You’re supposed to trust me more than that, like, what did you think would happen, exactly?”

Jake perked up and used his fingers to count, “Complete social ostracization, suspension, demotion, a horrible stain on my reputation as a detective, major relationship problems, and a total loss of respect from all of my closest friends?” He looked at his hands, pondered for a second, and, feeling confident he’d listed everything, looked Charles in the eye, holding up his six fingers and nodding.

His blonde friend stared blankly with a finger pressed onto his lips. He held his hand out and took a deep breath before saying quickly, “You have thought this out way more than I have.”

Cringing, Jake just smacked his lips awkwardly and chirped, “Yap.”

“You know you could never lose my respect though,” Charles reminded him, “like, ever?” He stared upwards in thought, then added, “Yeah, ever… probably.” He shrugged.

“Even if I like, robbed a bank, or something?” Deep down, Jake knew he didn’t deserve his friend’s constant reverence. “I mean, do you even know how much debt I’m in? I could snap, literally any day.”

Charles laughed, “I don’t wanna know—I’m sure it’s a number that could keep me awake at night,” he froze, staring at the lockers with another blank expression for a moment. He snapped out of it, “But come on, robbing a bank is robbing a bank, and smoking weed is… just smoking weed. What’s your point here, exactly?”

“Honestly? I have no idea.” He did know, actually. It was just hard to admit. He sighed and glanced away, “No, that’s a lie. I should really stop lying.”

“Probably.”

“To be honest, it’s got nothing to do with the law. Low-key,” to soften the blow, he beamed, “I hate myself.”

“Big mood,” Charles pulled his mouth to one side and rocked his head back and forth.

That was new. Jake laughed, “What?”

“Ignore me, I picked up a lot of new lingo online.”

He threw him another bewildered look paired with a smile. And you didn’t figure out no one says ‘cowabunga’ anymore? This wasn’t turning out nearly as nightmarish as he expected, “Anyway,” he chuckled, “I guess…” his eyes drifted over the set of lockers. He hadn’t put these thoughts into words before. “I can’t hide how disgusting and selfish I am, right? I figured I should hide all the other stuff, you know, to even it out?” It sounded a lot dumber out loud.

“That’s pretty dumb, Jake.”

“No, it is a perfectly crafted coping mechanism, Boyle,” his brow crinkled, “At least it was, ‘til—”

“Until your lies came crashing down to destroy you all at once in a spectacular display of stupidity?”

“Right…”

“That was harsh, sorry,” he rubbed the back of his neck, “I guess I’m still a little salty for being left out.”

That got another laugh out of Jake, “It’s not special. Seriously, you wanna be a cop who breaks laws on his lunch break?”

“Yes,” blurted Charles. His big eyes were glued to Jake, before they darted to the right, “Actually, that sounds… really bad, out loud, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, I’m really not sure how we got away with that.”

“Probably something to do with Gina.”

Jake nodded. “Right. And I’m supposed to do the right thing—I’m the one who always, a hundred percent of the time, without fail, does the right thing…” Charles looked skeptical, “Every single time—forever. But when it comes to this I just… can’t. Like, technically speaking, I’m a criminal, and that’s…” he cringed and rolled his shoulders back, “icky…?”

“Criminal…” Charles surprised him by laughing openly, “Good one!”

“God, this is really not going how I expected. I get it, it’s just a little weed,” he chuckled, “right?” His friend joined in as his laughter intensified, until they were both very loud, “WRONG!” Jake yelled abruptly, making him flinch. “A law is a law, Charles!”

“Wow, I… I didn’t realize this was this much of a dilemma…” he rubbed the back of his neck, “I was just kind of caught up in my own problems—you know, I’ve been having a bit of an internal struggle myself, lately.” He plunged into a tangent, “Like, at first, I felt like an outcast, right? Then, I just got so deep in research for my character, before I started to wonder… How much of myself am I willing to compromise in order to please other people? I just put so much emphasis on the approval of my peers—and for what? I mean, how much does my desire to fit in outweigh my respect for myself? Sometimes, I really think I’m selling myself short by continuing to play into the expectations that people have for me. And I wonder if I actually need to broaden my horizons, or if that’s just another byproduct of my intense need to be interesting. I almost feel as if two sides of me are caught in this terrible war, where I don’t know where the real me ends and the—”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Jake interrupted. “But this is clearly about me, and my internal struggle, Boyle. We can talk about all your stuff later.”

“Yep, my bad,” Charles pursed his lips and nodded. “Where were we?”

“We were talking about how much of a screw-up I am.”

“Right—I mean—Jake, you’re not a screw-up—I mean,” he squinted and tilted his head, “you are just a little bit—but, what I’m trying to say,” he waved a hand, “You might be making a bigger deal out of this than it is. Maybe, figure out what your priorities are, and just take it one step at a time. It’s not like you’re the only one around here with stuff to work on.”

Just a little bit of a screw-up, huh? Jake cracked a smile and blew air out of his nose. “You are so wise, Charles,” his eyes scanned over his friend’s ridiculously colorful outfit, “like a monk.” Although, it was going to take more than his friend’s reassurance to make him feel better, “Still, I can’t help having this sinking feeling about…it.”

“Come on, is it like, a new swear word?” he cupped his mouth with his hands to amplify his voice, “Jake Peralta blazes mad weed!” he boomed, as Jake scrambled to cover his mouth, shushing over him.

“Shhh-shh-sh! What are you doing, dude?!”

“Rippin’ off that band-aid, bro!” he slugged him lightly on the arm, “Come on, you’ll thank me later. And besides, I seriously don’t think anyone is judging you.”

Jake sent a pretty clear message with a dead-eyed stare and cocked eyebrow.

His brow furrowed, “Okay, maybe Amy is a little…”

All he had to do was wait another second or two.

“Okay, a lot,” Charles said distressingly, “It’s a lot—I talked to her,” he was shaking his head very quickly, “i-it’s not great,” he stammered.

Jake emitted a heavy sigh and rubbed his forehead, “Which is not the least bit surprising…” He realized something. He tore his hand from his face and stared at it with wide eyes, “And Holt!” He took a deep, raspy breath of air and looked to the fluorescent lighting above him, “Oh…” he groaned, “He’s gonna be disappoooiiiinted in meeeeee,” he sang it to make it sound friendlier.

Charles drew a breath through his teeth, “Yikes, yeah, I guess people totally are judging you, sorry.”

Jake threw him a sideways glare.

“M-maybe he doesn’t have to know!” he stammered.

He clicked his tongue, “Are you kidding me? You know, that’s the same as the entire precinct knowing.”

Charles stared off to the side as he emitted a noisy, relinquished sigh, “Yeah, I really suck at keeping secrets, huh?”

Jake laughed, “So bad.”

“Well, look at it this way,” he was always one to put a positive spin on things, “This’ll all die down soon, I’m sure, and then we can…” he raised his eyebrows, which didn’t match his hair, “hang out?”

A large smile stretched across Jake’s face. He laughed at his friend and put his arm around him, “Look, Charles, I cannot even describe how badly I want to get you high now, but,” he released him and looked him in the eye, “I am quitting. Forever. This whole mess has made me realize—I’ll just be a better person without it.”

His brow furrowed, and his eyes darted away, “Oh.” He took a deep breath, then said with a smile, “Well, you know what, good for you. And to be honest, I was pretty intimidated by the whole, doing-drugs thing, anyway.”

That was more like Charles. Jake chuckled, and, looking at the lockers, said, “So anyway, without further ado,” he held out his palms, “I’m sorry. Secrets bad—Charles good friend. Drinks Friday?” He beamed awkwardly.

His best friend wore a lopsided smile, “Drinks Friday.”

Chapter Text

Amy Santiago was relieved to see Charles Boyle return in his normal cream-colored attire. She wasn’t expecting—but wasn’t particularly surprised, either— his hair to be blonde. She tilted her head. Strangely, it didn’t look half-bad.

He was followed by Jake Peralta, who continued to drag his feet like he had been all morning. She couldn’t begin to imagine what kind of conversation could have conspired between the two of them. She decided to not care.

Avoiding eye contact, Jake settled into his chair. Amy had been telling the truth when she said she didn’t know what to do with him. A lecture didn’t seem completely appropriate. She was beyond sick of fighting, and the idea of some sort of compromise almost sounded too dreadfully difficult. So, against her better judgement, she asked, “Everything okay with Boyle? You two make up?”

She did care. Jake had been right—she knew she had a part in letting this situation spiral further than it needed to.

A choppy laugh shot from his lips, “Yeah. He has a hard time staying mad, I think—it’s pretty convenient, actually.”

Right, because Jake is all about convenience. She rolled her eyes, “Good for you.”

He whispered, “Did you know he wants to smoke with me?” he stifled a laugh, and jammed his thumb in Charles’s direction, “Hilarious.”

As she should be laying into him right about now, she felt a little guilty laughing along, “Yeah. It’s like, all he’s been talking about. Pretty unexpected, if I’m being honest.”

Charles’s ears must have been burning, “Hey everybody, I just wanted to make an announcement,” he said loudly from his desk. That was enough to send Amy’s insides into a tizzy, and Jake was looking pretty uneasy all of a sudden too, “From now on, I’m only gonna be my authentic self. I mean, besides on undercover missions, of course.”

Both Amy and Jake exhaled in relief.

“Is that why you bleached your hair?” Gina called, “Ohh, you’re totally having a mid-life crisis, huh?”

That didn’t phase him, “No—I’m not having a mid-life crisis, Gina.” He tilted his head, “Though, I’m pretty sure that’s like, on the horizon?” Waving an arm, he got back on track, “But anyway, first of all, people, no, I’m not a chill dude. I know, I know, huge surprise.” He paused to look around, but no one protested. “Uh, did you guys know I take anxiety medication? Like whaaaat? Just a fun li’l fact about me.”

Jake bobbed his head and whispered, “Maybe you should look into that, babe.”

Not thinking that deserved a proper response, Amy just rolled her eyes again.

“Is there a point here somewhere?” asked Rosa impatiently.

“The point, I’m making, is that I’m never gonna be ashamed of my true self, Rosa,” he clearly didn’t appreciate the sass, “God, can you get off my ass, today? Rosa? Please?”

“Whatever, weirdo.”

“Whatever,” he mocked her childishly, “And just by the way, everyone,” he looked around to make sure he had all of his friend’s eyes, “This whole thing,” he made a circling motion with his fingers extended, “is ridiculous.”

“What whole thing?” Hitchcock asked, with a signature clueless expression.

He wouldn’t, Amy thought. In her periferal, Jake was intensely staring at her, clearly as alarmed as she was. She couldn’t tear her gaze from Charles, though.

“Oh yeah,” he addressed the weakest pair of detectives, “I forget you guys are there half the time, sorry. So, the thing is—”

Amy’s head whipped to look at Terry, for he had just shot up from his chair, “We don’t get paid to chit-chat, Boyle!”

Wait… What does Sarge have to do with any of this? She was too busy being thankful for the interruption to care too much about the answer.

“And you don’t get paid to take yogurt breaks five times a day,” Charles retorted, “but okay.” He was certainly marching to a different beat this morning. Amy didn’t think anyone in the room could have expected that.

Without looking up from her phone, Gina commented monotonously, “Ooooh, insubordinatiooooon. You gonna take that, Sarge?”

“Boyle, I’mma need you to snap out of it!” Terry demanded, nostrils flaring, “And come on now, I don’t eat that much yogurt.”

Wearing a cheeky smile, he replied, “Yeah. Ya do.” Like nothing was amiss, he casually sorted through some papers, “So, li’l ol Charles found something out—and?” He shrugged, still not looking up from his desk, “What am I gonna do? I still think you guys are blowing this way out of proportion.”

Well, he’s one to talk.

Amy noticed that Jake was desperately trying to get Charles’s attention by glaring at him and throwing out an occasional “Psst.”

He got a response from the wrong person, “Something on your mind, Jake?” Rosa called, wearing a knowing smile.

What does Rosa have to do with this?! She was seriously doubting Charles’s shoddy intel from yesterday.

“Yep!” he exclaimed and stood up, “Bathroom! Real Bad!” He was fumbling, shouting his scrambled up words with that classic Peralta confidence, “Go! Have to!”

He’d only made it a few feet when Charles said casually, “Chill, chill. I get it, Jake, sensitive information—got it. I guess I better not say…” Dutifully working away on his computer, he went silent.

Amy let a long sigh escape.

“I’ll just email it.”

Jake halted in his tracks, just like everyone else in the room. Well, aside from all the officers, lawyers, and civilians in the proximity, all of whom were minding their business while this transpired. Amy could feel the heavy heartbeat in her chest as Charles’s rapid keystrokes filled the room with an unsettling clacking sound. He was an insanely fast typer—she received an email notification before anyone could properly react.

Jake sprinted back to his desk, and without sitting back down, frantically reached for the mouse.

It had been sent to the entire squad, except for—Amy was at least grateful that Charles wasn’t completely oblivious—Captain Holt.

It read: Bi-monthly Terrinajake Lunch? more like…….wow sry I really thought I could come up w a pun faster than that. they smoke weed on their lunch break lol. crazy. what’s up w that?

Terry was still standing when he bellowed, “I-I’m not gonna take this slander! That’s a demerit, Boyle!”

He waved his palms back and forth, “Ohhh, noooo, a demerit… For gossiping…”

A reflex compelled Amy to correct him, “Technically, it’s libel.”

“Took the words right out my mouth, Amy,” said Jake, unnecessarily loud. “Charles!” he shouted, then gritted though his teeth, “What the hell, man?!”

“Whaaat?!” Charles exclaimed in a high pitched voice, “Tell me, who here didn’t already know?!”

Hitchcock and Scully both raised a hand.

“Right—God—you guys might as well be furniture,” remarked Charles.

Scully spat a laugh, “We wish.”

Amy got a word in, “What about me?! I didn’t actually think there was a stupid little club,” she scoffed in disbelief, “Seriously, Sarge?!”

A laugh that resembled a cackle more than anything sounded off from Gina’s direction, “What a detective you are, Amy. I’m surprised you never put two and two together.”

From the opposite side of the room, Terry boomed, “Two and what together?! Ain’t no secrets here! Boyle, that’s another demerit!”

“I didn’t even do anything!” Charles threw his arms up.

“The hell you didn’t!”

Amy defended herself against Gina, “I just went with what Boyle told me you told him!” The realization was embarrassingly clear, “Oh.”

Another sinister laugh bubbled up out of her, “Oh honey, I totally threw your boyfriend under the bus.”

“What?!” Jake interjected.

She continued, “I mean, who here is dumb enough to trust me?”

“Ohhhhhh,” said Charles, his voice going down in pitch at the end. He smacked his lips and nodded fast, “I see what happened.”

Frantically surveying the scene, Amy saw Hitchcock throw Scully a confused look, receiving a shrug in return.

“What did you say about me?!” Jake demanded.

Gina stood up, making Amy’s stomach turn, “Okay, everybody! Jake is not a stoner!”

What the hell is happening right now?

Jake emitted a short, loud sigh, and whipped his whole arm out to gesture towards her, “See? Thank you, Gina.”

Her announcement wasn’t over, though, “He’s just a baby stoner, okay!”

What does that even mean?!

He cringed, “Okay, yep. Thanks,” and started for the bathroom again, “Gotta go for real for real. If you could excuse me,” he quickened his pace.

Clearly enjoying the show, Rosa asked loudly as he passed her desk, “Where you going, Peralta?”

“Anywhere but here,” he replied over his shoulder.

Gina said firmly, “Nah, son, I need some answers. My circle fell apart and I wanna know why.”

He’d only made it to a few paces from the briefing room when he twirled around to address her, “Pff, circle? What’s a circle? I’ve always been more of an oval guy, myself.”

Amy was almost astounded by his level of denial, “Jake, you realize we all have identical information, now?”

She could almost see his soul shatter. He filled the silence with, “Uhhhh,” and after a second, yelled idiotically, “YOU KNOW NOTHING!” while thrusting a finger in her direction.

No one was competing to talk over each other now, as everyone was just staring at Jake. He was breathing heavily, resembling a wild animal backed into a corner.

His eyes went wild, darting back and forth, “I—I don’t have to take this!”

Rosa chuckled, “Take what?”

“It’s not my fault!” he dramatically pointed again, but at just Gina, “I was a good boy, before she showed me your,” he dropped to a hiss, “devil’s lettuce.”

She didn’t skip a beat, “Yeah,” she laughed maniacally, “‘Cause I’m the one who showed up high every day senior year.”

Jake was clearly ready to dish, but not take, evidenced by his breath hitching. He clutched his hair with one hand, and couldn’t say anything besides, “Not cool! You pinkie swore that was between us!”

Rosa snorted loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Oh my god,” Amy was aghast, “That explains a lot!”

Charles stared at Jake with a look of pure intrigue, “Doesn’t it, though?”

“Hey!” he had the audacity to be mad, “I had art first period, thank you very much!”

“That doesn’t change anything!” Amy threw a hand up in disbelief.

“Okay! Yeah! I’m outta here! For reals!” he walked briskly down the short corridor, but Terry quickly pursued him, grabbing him by the back of his collar before he could escape. He marched Jake back to his desk and pointed at his chair, commanding him to sit back down.

“How did this happen, Peralta?” the sergeant was extremely intimidating, even to Amy, who was just barely out of his range. He dropped to a murmur that she could hardly make out, “We gon’ die.”

Jake looked around with wide eyes. Not only Terry, but Rosa and Gina as well were towering over his desk, blocking any possible escape route. He audibly swallowed, “Yep—right you are, pretty sure I’m already dead.”

What had Amy unleashed on the squad?

“God—you guys are acting weird,” said Rosa with crossed arms and a tiny smirk.

Gina piled onto the torment with yet another callous laugh, “Seriously Jake, what is your damage?”

Amy wouldn’t dare open her mouth. Jake’s eyes clicked with hers for a brief moment before they quickly retreated to his lap.

That didn’t go unnoticed, “Oho, man,” Rosa said with a faint chuckle, “Gina, when you’re right, you’re right.”

“What?” Jake asked.

Amy had a sinking feeling in her gut. She had an inkling as to what they meant.

Gina tutted and shook her head, “Sometimes, I wish my predictions didn’t come true. Too bad I’m a renowned fortune-telling master, cursed to never make a mistake as long as I live.”

Terry spelled it out for him since Gina was more concerned with bragging, “She knew you guys were gonna fight about this,” he murmured.

“We’re not fighting!” lied Jake. He crossed his arms, “Right, babe? How did it go again? I said, ‘hey, Ames, what up, I used to smoke a little weed, cool?’ Then she was like, ‘cool,’ and then we totally banged.”

Terry, Gina, Rosa, and Charles erupted into laughter.

Amy’s shoulders sank. She felt so small. “Something like that…”

Charles called obnoxiously from his desk, “C’mon, girl, you’re the woooorst! No way that’s what happened!”

Who knew Charles had the ability to bully people? Perhaps Amy had brought this on herself. Logic swooped in to rescue her, and anger assisted with the delivery, “So, it’s my fault that I’m the only one around her with some principals?!” Gina, Terry, and Rosa shared looks of concern. She plowed forward, the words just flying out of her mouth, “When I signed up to be a cop, I signed up to protect the law. I know it’s stupid, to you guys, or whatever, but to me, rules give life order, and—and structure! It gives me a purpose—I enforce them—that’s my job! So sorry, people, if this is all super hard for me!” Her mouth remained gaping for a moment after her little speech. She had just reinforced her role as the number one killjoy in the precinct. The bed she’d made for herself was at least a comfortable one, so she decided to lie in it. “Let me remind you, you’re the ones who thought it was acceptable to smoke, during work? That’s correct? And somehow… I’m still the odd one out, here? How is that the case?!”

She was met with abject silence. Jake eye’s wouldn’t surface from his lap.

So, she just kept going. Anger had swept her away, “Like, how in the world did you guys get away with that? Honestly, I’m curious,” the venom in her voice came without an invitation, “You guys ever hotbox a police vehicle, too?”

Not a single pair of eyes were on her. Not a single word was said.

“Somebody, come on, cough it up,” she desperately needed someone besides her to speak, “Where’d you toke up? Hm?”

Gina wasn’t afraid of her, “You know the back alley? With the old couch?”

Inexplicably, Jake vigorously shook his head.

“You guys have a clubhouse?!”

She understood Jake’s head-shaking now. He hid his face in one hand.

Charles shot up from his chair and joined the huddle, “Without me?!” he touched his fingertips to his chest, shouting, “Unbelievable!” His tone too was filled with seething rage.

“That’s the unbelievable part?!” Amy huffed.

He basically ignored her, “And the only reason I couldn’t come, was because it was being used for… illicit activities?!” The final two words were pronounced with absolute disgust.

“Charles, listen—”

“No, you listen to me, Jake.”

Seriously? That’s what set him over the edge?

“I bust my ass around here! I’m a team player, a’ight?!”

“Please don’t say that,” Terry requested.

“And this is what I get in return?! I’m shunned?!”

“Yep,” said Gina, not helping.

Charles jammed his tongue into his cheek and placed his hands on his hips, “Uh-huh, okay. You guys really are just a bunch of degenerates, huh?” He pursed his lips and swept his gaze over everyone, “Whatever, I wouldn’t wanna be in your stupid club even if it was the last one in Brooklyn.”

“Sure,” said Rosa.

“What did I say, Rosa?! Geez louise—you guys suck at naming groups, anyways. Don’t even get me started on how you mashed all your names together.” He scoffed and made a circling gesture, “Embarrassing.”

Terry was flustered, “I did the best with the material I had! It would’ve been easier if Rosa was part of it!”

“What, so it’d be,” Rosa pondered for a second, “Terrosinajake? Still terrible.”

For some reason unbeknownst to her, Amy chimed in, “I think it’s because you just tack Jake’s name onto the end of it.”

He was in agreement, “Yeeaaah, if you’re gonna do that, at least put it at the front.” He squinted into the distance, “Jake… terrosina.”

“Ooh! Put my name in!” said Charles excitedly, and too took a second to think, “Terrosinarlesjake?”

Jake protested, “You’re still just sticking my name on the end!”

Terry yelled, “Well it’s your fault for havin’ such a short, choppy name!”

“I have to agree with him there,” said Gina, “Ya name sucks. Get a new one, already.”

“Okay, just use last names then!” He didn’t take that necessary moment to think, “Peraltalinettijeffordsboyle...diaz.”

“God, you’re stupid,” said Rosa.

“This whole thing is stupid!” Amy had had enough, and stood from her chair. “I’m done with it! Everyone can relax, the she-demon. Is leaving.” She briskly headed for the stairs, but twirled around to deliver a final blow, “And by the way, there are only three of you—it’s so obviously a triangle, not a circle!”

With that, she disappeared. Everyone else was left to stew in whatever the hell had just happened.

Charles filled the silence, “Damn. She totally roasted you guys, huh?” He was the only one wearing a smile.

Terry clicked his tongue, “Shut up.”

“He’s right, though,” Jake sandwiched his face in his hands, “That was horrible.”

“You mean spectacular,” said Gina.

Rosa pointed at Gina to second her.

He clicked his tongue, “Oh, ha-ha—yeah. Go ahead, everyone, just laugh at Jake, instead of blondie over here.”

“Hey,” Charles ran his fingers through his hair, “I look amazing, thanks.”

“Yeah, Jake, I’m kind of at a loss here,” Gina lamented, sighing, “It does look amazing.”

Rosa suggested, “You know what’s way funnier, though?” Her lips pursed, fighting a smile, as she imitated Jake, wrought with fear, “You know nothing!” She pointed with her whole arm, too.

He made a visor with his hand held flat on his brow as everyone bursted into laughter.

“How—how about,” Terry gathered himself, forcing a serious expression, “Devil’s lettuce,” he hissed, just like Jake had.

There was another tortuous chorus of laughter. Jake shut it down, “Alright!” he winced, “Mistakes… have been made.”

“Oh, really now?” Gina laughed, “What was the first clue? Was it when Charles strutted in here lookin’ like a stoner from circa nineteen ninety six?”

Charles was actually the first one to chuckle at that one, “Okay, burn. That was ridiculous even for my standards.”

Everyone was having quite a field day, except for Jake. Rosa was covering her mouth, having a hard time keeping her staunch composure, “Right? What was that?”

He fought to get the words out in between laughs, “I don’t even know anymore!”

“Okay!” Jake shouted, “It’s not like any of it matters! I was gonna quit anyways. Gina, Terry,” he pointedly looked at them, “now seems like the best time.”

“Oh, now does?” Rosa asked, “As in, literally as soon as you were unable to keep up with your lie?”

“Shh! God! I had some issues to work through, Rosa!”

A choppy laugh shot from Gina’s lips, “I’ll say. What do you mean you quit?”

“Okay, I’m the stupid one?” Charles opened his mouth, so Jake quickly continued, “I quit the circle—I quit smoking weed—there.”

“You can’t quit,” Gina’s eyes narrowed, “You’re Jake.”

He scoffed, “Well I do. Couldn’t’ve come any sooner, too.” Crossing his arms, he stuck his nose in the air, “I feel like a new man already. Responsible. Focused.”

And again, everyone besides Jake was laughing.

“Dang—can you guys stop with that?! I can be serious!”

“Are you?” Rosa asked, “You’re actually quitting?”

He tried to fake a chuckle as best as he could as his eyes drifted over his friends one by one, “Yeah… Why is that so unbelievable… It’s not like… weed is part of my lifestyle… or whatevs…” His brow furrowed, “I stand by my lettuce statement,” he shot everyone a reproachful look, “Y’all need Jesus.”

“You’re Jewish?” Terry flailed a wrist.

“See, you guys don’t know me!” Jake huffed, “If you did, you’d know I’ve never stepped foot in a synagogue.”

“So, you’re Christian, now?” asked Charles.

“Wow, again, I’m the one who can’t focus?”

“You’re the one who brought Jesus into it,” Rosa pointed out.

“Screw Jesus!” Gina exclaimed, “You can’t quit on me, too! Who am I supposed to smoke with? Rosa?” she whipped an arm out to gesture at her, “She never takes more than three hits!”

“Gotta stay sharp,” she said simply.

A frustrated groan shot through Gina’s teeth, “This is the worst day of my life!”

“Worst day of your life?!” Jake protested.

“I don’t know,” Charles brought a fist to his chest, “I’m kind of having a rough time here, too, you guys.”

For the umpteenth time, Captain Holt abruptly appeared in the doorway of his office. “What seems to be so interesting about Peralta’s desk?”

Five pairs of eyes were on him, but he got no answer.

“Uh…” Charles felt the need to offer something up, “Did you see my hair?” He pointed up, wearing a weak smile.

“Yes…” his eyes narrowed, drinking in the sight, “Slay, queen,” he ordered in his deep voice.

Rosa lightly elbowed Gina’s side as they both struggled to keep composure.

“However,” Holt continued, “I fail to believe that’s the reason we’re all loitering around like a herd of capybara.”

“I was telling them about my case, sir,” Jake spoke up, “I think I solved it.”

“Oh, you think so?”

“I uh,” he swept his gaze over his friends, who were all suppressing confused expressions the best they could. He looked his boss in the eye, “I know so, sir.”

“Excellent, then,” he started for his office, beckoning with his hand, “bring the file.”

Jake stood, and before following him, tried to quell everyone’s concern with a simple gesture. His hands poised like a conductor, he jerked them downward, as if to say, “Chill—I got this.”

Then, he was gone, alone with Holt in his office.

“Did he really solve it?” asked Charles.

“The hell if I know,” Terry murmured.

“Better have,” said Rosa, “For his sake.” She walked towards the gate without explanation.

“Rosa?” Gina called after her.

“I’m checkin’ on Amy,” she called back over her shoulder.

“Good idea—make sure she isn’t thinking about bringing Holt into this,” Terry made his priority clear.

Rosa disappeared down the stairs without another word.

Terry spun around to shove a finger in Charles’s face, “You too, you keep that little mouth shut, so help me, God!”

“Actually,” Charles glanced to the side and clicked his tongue, “that’s the problem—I have a big mouth.”

“Why is he like this?” he looked directly at Gina.

“Why are you…” he looked Terry up and down, holding out a palm, “Like that? Huh?”

Seemingly for safety reasons, Terry locked his eyes onto Gina, “I’mma kill him.” His eyes hungered for blood.

She swung a fist into Charles’s shoulder.

“Ow!” He looked extremely offended as he cradled his arm. “Fine! I’ll do my best! Yeesh!”

Satisfied, Terry sternly pointed at Charles again before retiring to his desk.

“Ugh, today couldn’t get any lamer,” Gina complained as she headed for her own.

“Hey, Gina,” Charles made her twirl back around. He hesitated, before saying with a smirk, “I’ll smoke with you… if you want.”

She gave him a dead-eyed stare, “I spoke too soon.”

Chapter Text

Amy didn’t have a destination. She just needed to get out of there. The only sound in the lonely hallway she’d decided to wander down came from her heavy heels clacking against the tile.

Yesterday, she felt so sure of herself. When she feels sure of herself, she beats her beliefs into anyone who dare near her, and when that isn’t viable, she gets the point across anyway with passive aggression.

She doesn’t know what she does when she’s unsure of herself. Apparently, she blows up and runs away. Apparently, she gives the silent treatment, just because she doesn’t know what to say. That wasn’t fair.

There was another pair of shoes stomping down the corridor now, undoubtedly following the sound of her own. They were approaching quickly from behind, so she spun around to greet them, whoever they belonged to.

She thanked her stars that she was met with black boots and a head full of picture-perfect curls, rather than, God forbid, dress shoes and bottle blonde hair.

“‘Sup,” said Rosa.

Amy held out her palms by her side, “Just chillin’,” she flattened her mouth, “You know me.”

“Sure do,” she stood casually with her hands stuffed in her jacket pockets, “That’s how I know everything you said back there was bullshit.” Rosa wasn’t one to beat around the bush.

Amy let a choppy laugh escape, “Is that so?”

“Yep,” was all she said.

A flash of confusion disrupted her scowl, “You seriously think—me, Amy Santiago—student representative of the D.A.R.E. program—wouldn’t have any problem with all this?”

“Yeah.”

She scoffed, “You’d think I’d just be okay letting Jake smoke it up all the time?!”

Rosa just nodded.

Amy blinked.

“I smoke weed sometimes, you know.”

Amy’s eyes darted to the blank wall beside her. “Whaaaaat?” she said weakly with a forced smile.

“Now, you think less of me?”

She looked at the other blank wall.

“Come on—give it to me. I’m a dirty criminal—I deserve it, don’t I?”

She remained silent.

“How about Terry? Should we lock him up?”

“Rosa…”

“Amy,” she said sternly, cocking her head forward, “You don’t have to like, put up a front, or whatever. You can have exceptions, you know. Not gonna be the end of the world.”

It kind of did feel like it, though.

Rosa continued, “The real issue is that he kept it from you, right?”

How is she clocking me this hard? “It’s like he didn’t trust me.”

“And can you blame him?”

She had always known the answer to that. It had been a lot easier to shift blame to a clearer evil. “Trust is the founda—”

“It’s Jake we’re talking about,” Rosa shut her down. It was like she’d rehearsed this conversation, “Dude’s insecure as hell. Give him time, come on, you’ve only been together what, a month?”

“Yeah,” Amy told her heels.

“Okay—then, there. And if you ask me, he opens up to you more than anyone around here. You gotta stop giving him such a hard time, especially since he’s so oblivious. He’s been like, freaking the hell out over nothing.”

“It’s not nothing…”

“Yes,” she made intense eye contact, “It is. And I think you know that.”

“It’s not that simple, Rosa,” she returned the glare, “You know how entrenched my beliefs are? The law is…” she was having an increasingly harder time defending it, “is law! It’s black and white, it’s reliable, it’s—it’s—”

“Stupid sometimes.”

“You take that back,” she snarled.

“Amy,” Rosa paused, her giant, beautiful eyes boring into her, “It kind of sounds like a you problem.”

Amy tried to pass of a sigh as a scoff. She forced a furrowed brow. She needed an anchor, so she leaned against the wall and looked to the opposite one, crossing her arms. She wasn’t sure why it felt like everything was slipping away. Just one blow, one nick in her system, seemed to threaten her whole world.

But she knew it was stupid.

“It’s an us problem,” she finally admitted.

Rosa smiled, “No, shit.”

Amy pinched the bridge of her nose, “God, I just let it drive this giant wedge between us, didn’t I? Honestly, do rules matter to me more than he does? Than anything does? Like,” her eyes went a little wild, staring deep beyond the baseboards, “grow a personality, Amy!”

“Hey, stop—you can care about both,” she nudged her on the arm, “C’mon, has the idea of breaking up even crossed your mind, like at all?”

That was a realization that Amy needed. Her face screwed in thought, “No,” she said, in awe of how clear Rosa was making things.

“Then grow up and compromise, dummy. Get those priorities straight… all that crap.”

She exhaled sharply, “Maybe…” We’re well past the point for ‘maybes,’ she thought. Rosa was offering up a solution on a silver platter; she couldn’t stick her nose up at it, no matter how much she was compelled to. She glanced at her, “You’re right.”

“Hell yeah, I am,” her smirk was warm—another thing Amy really needed right now. “Everyone’s been acting like a bunch of babies. It needs to stop…” she shrugged with one shoulder and flicked her eyes to the ceiling, “as entertaining as it is.”

Amy cracked a tiny smile, and blew air out of her nose. “It was kind of entertaining, wasn’t it?” she said, allowing light on the situation. “But I need to fix this,” she pulled the corner of her mouth to the side.

“So does he, though. The boy is a helpless mess.”

Amy chuckled. He was a mess she was more than willing to embrace.

Suddenly, the sound of sneakers stepping down the hall could be heard around the corner.

“Speak of the devil,” Rosa whispered.

Amy turned around.

“Hey!” Jake chirped as he approached them, beaming brightly, “Two of my favorite people, alone together in a random hallway—looove it!” Squinting, he placed one hand on his hip and the other close to his face, pointing, “You guys talkin’ about me?” he asked lovingly, “Adorable. Totally not terrifying at all,” he laughed openly.

Amy opened her mouth, “I—”

His arm was slung around her shoulder all of a sudden, “Adorable, I say!” his tone was upbeat, “Ha! What a day, huh?”

“And it’s not even ten yet,” remarked Rosa.

“Great!” he forced a strong laugh, before swallowing and adding raspily, “Hon, sweetie,” he cleared his throat and glanced at Amy, “We have a perp to catch, isn’t that fun?”

“Wait, seriously?” she plucked at his sleeve, causing him to remove it.

“I’m as serious as…” he squinted again, “Santa Claus…”

“You’re gonna have to practice that,” Rosa said snarkily.

He was laughing again, but there was fire in his eyes, “Maybe you should practice being a little nicer, huh?” His smile vanished, “Nobody likes you.”

“Jake!” Amy called out his childish behavior.

He cringed at himself, “Okay, I guess Amy likes you a little—whatever, sorry—let’s go, babe,” his arm was around her waist now, “I’ll explain on the way.”

She let him briskly lead her away.

Rosa mumbled flatly, “Pothead.” Amy barely heard it, but still knew she must have been wearing a devastating smirk.

Jake ushered her around a corner and took a moment to shoot Rosa some sort of expression that she didn’t get to see. She pursed her lips, fighting off a smirk of her own, as imagery involving a tongue or a middle finger came to mind.

If only he’d known what a service she had just done for him.

Chapter Text

“So, I feel obligated to, uh,” Jake started, his hands gripping the steering wheel firmly, even though they were still safely nestled in the corner of the station’s parking garage, “Address… certain things, uh, before I dive into this file, here,” he lightly gestured to the manila folder resting on the dash, “Which quite honestly is a shame, ‘cause this case is like, bananas.” His eyes awkwardly darted around, first to Amy, then to the gear shift, then through the windshield, “That’s b-a…n-a-n—”

“Jake,” she nudged him back on track.

“Yep,” he shifted into reverse, “I’mma just drive, now—good?”

She called him out playfully, “So we don’t have to make eye contact, right?”

He reached his arm behind her seat, but his eyes made a stop on their way to the back window. Amy felt the same way she always did looking into them—comfortable. “Precisely,” he said with a smile.

As they puttered towards the garage’s exit, Jake went on, “So personally, I think I got pretty much everything off my chest already, you know, with Boyle’s help and all.”

“Gotta love ‘im,” Amy muttered.

He chuckled, “And I do…somehow. He sort of had a point when we were talking, about a band aid being ripped off? You know what I mean?”

“How it hurts now, but it’s the only way to get better?” she offered.

“Wow—that is incredibly deep—no,” a choppy laugh forced its way out, “I meant more along the lines of… feeling extremely exposed?” He noisily smacked his lips a couple times, like he was sampling a cheap wine. “Ha, gross,” he said, his nose scrunching up as he laughed it off.

She encouraged him, “Hey, look at you, that was deep, actually.”

“Yeah, how about that” he smirked, “I’m trying out this new thing called, transparency—”

“Honesty,” she corrected.

“Yes,” he pointed at her for emphasis, then pulled the wheel for a turn, “Makes me seem super mature, doesn’t it?”

“You’re ruining it.”

He fired back immediately, “Sure am. Another thing I’ll have to work on, I guess.” They passed through the gate and turned onto the busy road. “Well, that’s what I really wanna drive home here—I am working on it—no, better—I’m done,” he spoke rapidly, the words barreling out of his mouth out in small bursts, “That’s right—I know how it sounded earlier—I do—but honest to God,” taking a pause, his eyes widened as he scowled at the crowded city. “I’m not gonna touch the stuff again, Amy.” He motioned dismissively with his hand held flat.

She remembered how last night ended. It was weird. Now, she was convinced that she was the one who’d done damage there. It was like they had blindly passed each other, somehow.

Jake was still talking, “So, I’m more than happy to leave it there,” his mouth flattened into a straight line, “You don’t have to worry about it—look, I learned a lesson, huh?” He spat a weak laugh, “That’s great! And hey, you were right all along, so that’s a pretty cool bonus, right?” It wasn’t a jab. He actually seemed to be… congratulating her. It just planted a pit in her stomach, though.

Staring straight out at the street, “Yeah,” was all she managed to say. Leaving it there was tempting, but astonishingly, it wasn’t the solution she wanted anymore. It didn’t feel right. It was miles away from tasting sweet. Now embarrassed by the rampage she’d gone on, she didn’t quite yet know how to explain herself.

“Schweet, we’re on the same page, then,” he slowed the to a halt at a red light, and slapped his own wrist. “Bad Jake!” he proclaimed, laughing openly at himself. “Glad that’s outta the way, now,” he put the file on his lap, “Are you ready to hear something absolutely redonkulous?”

Is was going to take a lot to top Charles’s level of redonkulous that day. “Fire away,” she said flatly.

“Ha! Good one.”

Right. They were hunting an arsonist. Amy knew that. “Oh,” she blew air out of her nose, “yeah.” Awkward feelings tended to stunt her vocabulary.

“Okay, so, do not beat yourself up about this, because…” his brow furrowed, “Dang, maybe I wouldn’t’ve figured it out if—you know what, nevermind there—drumroll!” The steering wheel became a snare drum. He whipped a photograph out of the folder, revealing the arsonist’s identity, “You remember Mr. Thrasher,” he said sternly, his chin poised sophisticatedly.

The light turned green, so Jake passed the file over to Amy, “This loser? But we—”

“Totally did not investigate nearly hard enough, babe.”

“You just said—”

“Statement retracted,” he flashed a cocky grin, “I am the most talented detective of all time and you should feel bad,” he threw her a fake sneer, “‘Cause you’ll never reach my level of expertise, n’alright?”

Amy smirked. She decided to roll the dice. “‘Cause I don’t solve crimes stoned off my ass?”

“Ha!” he brought a hand to his mouth as he shook with laughter. She smiled with her teeth. “I was not expecting that—shh!” He swiped a hand at her, “Look—never happened, okay?” They both fought off a ferocious bout of laughter.

“Ohokay,” she answered, the word broken up by a chuckle.

“But no. This guy—crazy,” he pulled the wheel for a right turn, “Uh, how do I even explain this?”

“You usually have this pretty rehearsed,” she pointed out. Always prideful of solving cases, Jake had made a habit of presenting them as theatrically as possible.

“Wow, I must’ve been… preoccupied… by something else,” he whipped his head to glare at Amy briefly before looking back at the road. “Let me paint you a picture,” his show began, “Detective Brad Steel, hardened from years on the job, desperately hunts for his arch nemesis, an insane criminal mastermind known only to the public as… Professor Inferno,” Jake stared point blank through the windshield, his voice dropping low to sound more intense, “He’s terrorized the streets of New York City for years—no one feels safe anymore. His weapon of choice? Bazooka flamethrower.”

“The hell?” Lost was an understatement.

“Stay with me,” Jake insisted, “Despite tips coming in left and right, leads upon leads just keep going nowhere. It drives Detective Steel mad with rage! Until one day, his personality splits in two. One, a determined investigator that would do anything to protect his city. The other, get ready for this,” he paused for less than a second, “a diabolical pyromaniac slash evil genius, angered by a complacent society and powered by vengeance!” He beamed.

“Okay, I’m picking out discrepancies already,” Amy had to interrupt, “Steel turned into Inferno because of Inferno? How is that possible?”

“It is not a good webcomic, Amy,” he remarked, “And that’s just the main conflict—him coming to terms with the fact that he’s been chasing himself for years. Then there’s this stupid love triangle,” he threw a palm out, “which isn’t even a triangle because two of them are the same dude, so what’s up with that? Anyway, there’s also this—”

“Sorry, what’s this got to do with the case?”

“Oh,” he spat out a laugh, “Yes. Okay. Mr. Thrasher—”

“Mr. Dick Thrasher,” she grinned and shot her eyebrows up.

“Don’t test me,” he bit his tongue, but a short snort still escaped, “We wanna get through this, don’t we?”

“Get to the point then,” she teased.

He clicked his tongue, “A’ight, his comic has no readers, right? So what’s the most logical thing to do?”

“Light a bunch of fires to get the anger out?” her brow furrowed in thought.

“No, light a bunch of fires to get the word out,” he tilted his head, “ehhh?”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, Jake.”

“I already said the guy was insane,” he turned left through an intersection, “I don’t know what you want from me.”

“Evidence? Like, that’d just be nice, I suppose,” Amy cracked open the file, curious as ever. Jake was usually right about this kind of stuff, but it still sounded pretty far fetched.

“Take a look there, Professor Inferno debuted in issue eight, what date was that released?”

“Looks like…” she ran her index finger down the page until she found it, “October thirtieth.”

“And our first fire was on?”

“The twenty-eighth, but that—”

“Doesn’t mean anything? Well, why did he lie to us about being inspired by the fires? Wooooo!” Unfortunately for Amy’s eardrums, his cheer was extra loud since they were confined to the inside of a car. “Bet you forgot about that, Santiago!”

“He still could have been,” she quickly pointed out, “there’s a two day window.”

“We both saw the artwork, Amy,” he retorted, “way more than two days work.” A laugh erupted from his lips, “And that plot! That kind of genius doesn’t come overnight, you know.”

“Okay sure, I guess that is fishy,” she flipped further into the file, “But what kind of nutcase thinks crime makes for good publicity? Like, does he know how much crime there is in New York? And how many obscure webcomics there are?”

“Maybe it’s a multi-phase plan—look, don’t ask me! I’m not a crimina-aah!” Jake cut himself off with a shout and sternly pointed at Amy, “Say nothing.” Amidst strong feelings of intrigue came a twinge of guilt. He was beating himself up for something that was, in hindsight, so little. “Check it out, there,” he continued seamlessly, “I dug up the source of the tip—”

Spotting the answer, she exclaimed, “It came from the pub he goes to! But who—”

“Now, look at the creative team behind Detective Steel.”

She hastily flipped to the precise page she needed, “T-the owner! He’s an editor and a producer?!”

“Thrasher’s b-f-f,” Jake rolled his wrist, “if you will”

“He has stake in its success…” she thought aloud, “so he called in the tip as part of the plan, and corroborated his alibi!”

“Nutcase number two. They were so confident this would work that they led us right to them,” his brow furrowed, “thinking it’d make a buzz or something.”

“Why is today like, the stupidest day ever?” Amy brought a palm to her face.

“And it’s not even ten.”

“And it’s not even ten!” she echoed.

Together, they filled the car with laughter.

Silence came once it died. The two of them sat smiling blankly at the bustle stirring around them. Amy gazed passively at the dizzying crawl of skyscrapers and pedestrians passing her window.

Nothing had changed. An apology was tugging at her skirt, but it was too hard to disrupt the moment. She looked back at her boyfriend’s face; a grin lingered, and she could tell it apart from the ones that only served to protect him.

Her eyes studying a pair of tail lights ahead of them, she was helpless to a surge of retrospection. She knew a thing or two about protecting yourself. Always subscribed to following what’s written, Amy rarely had to step out of her comfort zone, or think for herself, for that matter.

So, she corralled everyone into the safe zone with her. No matter what. It was the right thing to do, after all. It says so, written down, filed in some document, under some article, in some section. Somewhere.

It was always somewhere.

Unlearning that wasn’t going to be easy.

Jake parallel parked as well as he could. A foot from the curb was acceptable enough.

“Hey,” he turned his torso towards her. “Serious time,” hovering his hand over his face, he loosely blew a puff of air. “I need you to know I’m sorry, like for reals.”

Her eyes fell from his face to her lap.

“Like I told Charles, ultimately, it’s a me problem, okay? I didn’t wanna tell you ‘cause I got some…” he emitted a relinquished sigh, “ish, with myself. Like sure,” chuckling lightly, his eyes flashed to the backseat, “you’re a little scary, but…” he hesitated, letting Amy’s inside’s fall into disarray. “That’s why I picked you.”

What?

“Pssh,” she said reflexively with a forced smile, “That’s…” her face screwed, “dumb, pssh.”

“No, see, I’m dumb,” he beamed warmly, “and that’s why you picked me, obviously. Uh, to make yourself feel smart in comparison, of course,” he joked.

His self deprecation only made her feel worse, “Not true,” but his attitude was contagious, “I feel smart regardless.”

“Love the confidence,” he turned off the engine. “We can use that. Ready to arrest the lamest arsonist in the city?”

No.

“I was born ready.”

Amy called from the grimy back bedroom of Thrasher’s apartment, “Found the kerosene!” Four whole gallons of it, actually, nestled amongst the clutter of his closet.

“Didja hear that, Professor Inferno?” she heard Jake mock him from the next room over, “Now tell us where the bazooka flamethrower is!”

“Ha!” the handcuffed arsonist screeched, “If I had the technology for that, you’d all be looooooooong dead!” The maniacal way he dragged out the word, paired with the guttural, eager tone of voice was enough to convince Amy he was one unhinged individual. She couldn’t decide which job was worse: hers, picking through his revolting apartment, or Jake’s, having to babysit him while she did.

“Hey, so I have a question,” she heard Jake say, “Did Lucy even know her evidence was misleading? Because I have this theory, that she was actually trying to help Inferno all along. But then, doesn’t she love them both? Er, him both?”

“My friend,” Thrasher replied, “you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t think that, deep down, she knows they’re the same person? Does Lucy come off as some sort of, conniving cheater to you? Or, is she simply a mediator for the dichotomy of man?”

“Duuuuuuude!”

Amy shook her head as she dug through an assortment of litter in the final corner of the bedroom. “Ask him where he keeps his bazooka so Detective Steel can’t find it! Does this guy have like, two apartments?”

“Come on, Ames,” Jake called back, “Obviously, there’s a tunnel in between his apartment and his evil lair that only the Professor has access to.”

While snapping her gloves off, she strolled out of the bedroom to join them in the living room, which was home to a city of cardboard boxes towering high above its residents—discarded wrappers and bottles, pencils, and papers, some crumpled, some stacked in piles here and there. “Oh, well duh, of course,” she said.

Jake nudged Thrasher with his foot, ordering him to rise from his knees to his feet, “Okay, time to roll. Now, you’re gonna take us directly to your accomplice, or should I say… your sidekick?” He threw Amy a charismatic grin, asking for a laugh.

She just went ahead and gave him one. It was paired with an eye roll, though. This wasn’t charity, after all.

The perpetrator threw his head back and proclaimed, “Dick Thrasher works alone! HAHAHAHA!” The deafening, disturbing cackle made the pair of detectives wince.

This time, Jake rolled his eyes, “M’kay, no—absolutely, dude.” He looked at Amy, “Is it just me, or do you totally not mind going on a wild goose chase for this guy right now?” Raising his eyebrows, he leaned forward with an expectant grin, “Sounds a little fuuuun?”

“When is that ever ideal?”

“Uh, when you wanna arrest someone and explore this fine city at the same time? Or, when you wanna play cops and robbers in real life? Come on Amy, at least try to use your imagination. The possibilities are literally endless.”

The real reason hit her. Without thinking, she said, “You just don’t want to go back to the precinct yet.”

One arm restraining Thrasher, and the other on his hip, Jake was still beaming widely, but his eyes whipped to the side, “Amy. C’mon. I love the precinct! It’s not completely awkward over there, that’s for sure.” His brow crinkled, “Pff, you’re… the one… who’s acting weird…” he finished with a weak chuckle.

Her face sank, her brow furrowing just like his. It was becoming too hard to watch. “You’re right, Jake,” she said instinctively. She bit her lip and winced lightly through her impromptu confession, “I am the weird one.”

”Uhh,” he started with a look of utmost confusion, “Yeah,” then just laughed again, going along with it, “you can say that again?”

“No—listen, I’m not kidding,” she huffed a sigh, and paced a few steps, “I seriously feel like… this is all my fault.” Jake and Thrasher were both gazing keenly at her, “You don’t deserve to—to feel so weird about something that isn’t,” she stopped, locking eyes with the arsonist through his tiny lenses, “weird at all.”

“Uhhh…” Jake’s eyes darted away from her as he rubbed his neck. She could tell he was assessing the situation and all of its associated risks. You shouldn’t have to do that when you talk to your girlfriend.

“It’s okay,” she gave an unconvincing chuckle, “it’s not a trap,” but went right back to rambling, “there shouldn’t be any traps! This is just so… so stupid! And it’s because I made it stupid in the first place.” With so much to say, the words seemed to clamor over themselves, trying to get out, “If I didn’t have this reputation, if I wasn’t so stubborn, if-if you could’ve just come to me, then—”

Suddenly, Jake wrapped his arms around her, making her eyes pop wide, “Hey, stop it,” he whispered. Pulling back with his hands on her shoulders, he said quietly, “I’ll tell you something you don’t deserve,” she could feel her heart pound in her chest as his eyes fervently gazed into her own, “a deadbeat liar of a boyfriend, alright? And I already told you—” he articulated clearly, “it is a me problem, okay? We can drop it. Really. You didn’t do anything, Ames.”

Her hands balled into fists at her side. She frowned at the buttons on his shirt. “I made you feel like shit.”

“You were just being yourself,” he said back, too quickly for her tastes.

“Uh—”

Jake cut Thrasher off before he could say anything, “Hey!” Amy recoiled since he basically shouted in her face, “We are clearly in the middle of something here, pal!”

“By all means…” he muttered. Amy met his deep scowl from behind Jake’s shoulder.

She couldn’t ignore it, no matter how much she needed an elaboration, “Sorry, maybe this isn’t a good time for this, Jake,” she slumped her shoulders to remove herself from his embrace.

“Nah, it’s definitely not,” he sighed and pursed his lips. After a brief moment, his eyes snapped to hers as he said quickly, “But you started it—so we’re doin’ it!” He abruptly leapt to the couch, haphazardly flung off a pile of laundry to clear a space for them, and fell backwards onto it, slinging his arm nonchalantly on the backrest and crossing his legs. He jerked his chin up at her, “Heart to heart. Right now. You and me, baby.”

She stood for a second with her mouth slightly ajar. Assessing the situation, her eyes switched from her boyfriend to her perpetrator a couple of times. If Thrasher made a run for it, she was confident he wouldn’t make it very far, him being handcuffed and out of shape and all.

It may be unprofessional, but she needed it, dammit. So she sat next to Jake on the dingy couch. With perfect posture, she stared straight ahead of her, and didn’t care if he noticed her tuck both sides of her hair back at the same time. Stray hairs just make it hard to think.

“I owe you an apology,” she said clearly.

“Dang, what did Rosa do to you?” he chuckled. She turned her head slightly to look back at him. His head rested comfortably in his palm, “I’ll humor you—what for?”

Does he seriously not see how bad I’ve been treating him?There was a sinking feeling inside her.

“For forcing my ideals on you—on everyone,” her brow furrowed as she just listed them off, “for being passive aggressive, for not talking to you from the start, for the cold shoulder, for being controlling and overbearing, and—”

“Woah, woah, woah,” he sat straight up, “Where’s this coming from? You know you don’t—”

“But I do!” lined up across her knees, her knuckles went pale, “I think we have this thing, where it’s always like, me helping you, me teaching you, me criticizing you—”

“And I’m sorry for that, look, I promise I’m working on—”

“Stop,” she begged exasperatedly and rubbed her forehead, “I’m sorry for that. I have so much to learn from you, but I’m just so stuck in my own little world that I—I push it all away, I’m not open to things, I—but I want to be, because,” her hands bursted open, her palms stretched over her pants, “that’s what I envy in you. That’s why I picked you.”

“What?” he asked quietly.

She opened her mouth to spill more of her guts to him, but she never got the chance. That is, because Dick Thrasher decided to whistle as loud as he physically could for no conceivable reason. The shrill sound rudely yanked Amy and Jake out of the moment.

“Hey!” Jake shouted, “I told you th—”

The window was suddenly shattered by a powerful force, sending shards of glass flying in every direction. Amy was on her feet in under a second, her gun drawn before you could say Mississippi. The sun eagerly crept in from behind a figure clinging to the window frame like an escaped zoo animal. Squinting, she shouted, “N-Y-P-D, get on the ground!”

She recognized the shadowy figure. Thrasher’s bff slash accomplish slash editor slash bar owner.

Without a word, he sent an object flying out of his hand. It narrowly missed the ceiling, soaring above all three of their heads. Orange flames flashed across Amy’s vision as her eyes trailed it. There was a gunshot before it hit the ground, instantly combusting a pile of boxes near the front door.

She locked eyes with her partner. “Molotov cocktail,” he panted, clutching his pistol tightly, “Sweet!” his whole face contorted in excitement.

Amy spoke concisely into her radio, requesting backup and notifying the fire department as she held her gun on Thrasher and quickly assessed the scene. The accomplice had already disappeared down the fire escape, and flames quickly chewed through box after box, climbing higher and higher at the front of the room. “You go after him,” she ordered Jake, pointing at the broken window, “I have to get the kerosene before the whole place blows.” She didn’t stop to think about how exactly she would go about that before sticking her gun in her holster and heading towards the back room.

“Amy, wait!” he called, so she spun around. One hand held his gun limply at his side, the other rested on the back of his head. Behind him, a wall of deadly, glowing fire danced as it grew. In front of him, stood a dangerous criminal, ready to bolt at any second. “Did you really mean all that stuff?” he asked, his shoulders floating up.

She sprinted to the cluttered closet, shouting, “NOT THE TIME!”

“Totes!” he called, followed by the sound of glass cracking under his shoes.

She couldn’t worry about him as she scanned the bedroom for a solution. There was no way she was getting out the front door; it was engulfed by now, and it’d be impossible for her to carry four whole gallons down the fire escape. She pried open the third story window—her last resort. Sticking her head out, she noticed a dumpster at the base of the building, straight down. To the left, Jake barreled down the last flight of stairs and bounded off into the alley.

With no time to think of something more practical, Amy heaved one gallon over the windowsill and watched it cascade down the side of the building. It landed square in the middle of the, luckily, nearly empty dumpster, and burst open on impact, filling the bottom of it with clear flammable liquid.

“Shit,” she exclaimed under her breath, and grabbed the next gallon. It, and the one after it, splashed open when it hit the bottom, just like the first one.

Jake emerged from deep in the alley, along with a handcuffed bar owner. She was astounded by how easy things tended to be for him. “Hey, Amy!” he boomed from three floors below her, “It kinda, super smells like gas down here!”

“Stand back!” she yelled, queuing up the next one for launch.

“Okay! Follow up observation!” She dropped the final gallon as he shouted up at her, “The fire escape is definitely on fire!”

Landing safely in a pool of kerosene, it didn’t burst, but created a tidal wave-like splash, sending deadly droplets all over the alley.

Jake was pretty far away, but still jumped backwards, “Agh! Okay that explains it!”

She whipped her head to the left. Her eyes went as wide as saucers as they met a brilliant gleam of orange and yellow billowing out of the broken window beside her.

Amy stood in the middle of a failed comic-artists bedroom, littered with dozens of snippets of trash—the perfect kindling. Heat was rising along with her heart rate. She never made the conscious decision that she wasn’t going to die in that decrepit apartment today. She never made decisions like that—they were always already made.

“Hey, Ames!” Jake’s distant voice came from the window.

He must have found another escape route for her. She popped her head out the window again, to see him using all of his strength to push the dumpster away from the flaming building. The bar owner was slumped against the neighboring building, safely handcuffed to a railing.

As he heaved the deadly vessel inch by inch, he called up at her, “H-hey! Just wondering!” He had to pause to catch his breath, “Oh, by the way, you find a way out yet?!”

“WHAT?!” she hollered.

“I’m sure you will, honey!” he thrusted his whole torso into the side of the dumpster, “You’re smart like that! Anyway!” He stood up straight and used his hand to block out the sun, “Wanted to know! Are you seriously gonna just let me smoke?!”

She didn’t spare any more time for his nonsense. She was more concerned with the smoke that was slowly filling the room she was trapped in. The fire alarm had finally gone off; the shrill beeping flooded her ears, making it harder to think. Clamping her eyes shut, she summoned the apartment layout to her mind. The living room may be where two conventional exits are, but Amy knew what was on the other side of that bedroom wall. She leapt for the nightstand and grabbed the lamp on top of it. Luckily, it was a heavy one. She hurled it into the wall opposite the window with all of her might, punching a baseball-sized hole in the weak drywall.

“Just askin’!” Jake’s voice made its way up to her, “‘Cause I sorta just went through this whole thing with the squad already!”

“SHUT UP!” she screamed, and swiftly sent the lamp crashing into the wall again. It was embedded in it, now. She stuck one foot on the wall for leverage and yanked on it.

“So that’s a yes?!” unbelievably, he was still on this. “You’re gonna have to back me up later then! They’re gonna call me a hypocrite and stuff!”

“Where is the fire department?!” Amy screeched in frustration before dislodging the lamp, sending her falling backwards. Filled with a good kind of rage, she jumped on her feet and snatched up the lamp again. She teed it up this time, swinging it twice for momentum and accuracy before heaving it through the wall. It clanked to the floor on the other side, this time.

“Yes!” She exclaimed, and started kicking at the edges of the hole she made. After a solid minute, it was wide enough to crawl through.

When she emerged she was met with a breath of fresh air and a hallway full of frantic citizens, either clamoring to get out, or to save their cat, or to loot any unlocked apartments. Flames had made a barricade between one half of the hallway and the other.

She stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled. Many pairs of eyes snapped to her as she shouted, “N-Y-P-D, everybody this way! Go! Go!” she motioned everyone towards the stairwell, patting many of them on the back as she made her way the opposite direction, intending to clear out any stragglers. Once she cleared the third floor, Amy ran to the stairwell herself, now able to concentrate on apprehending Thrasher, assuming he’d escaped the apartment somehow.

She crashed head-on into something solid in the doorway. There was only time for a short gasp before that something had his arms wrapped firmly around her.

“Oh my god, I thought you were gonna die,” Jake blubbered into her ear.

“No you didn’t,” she pushed him off of her, “You reek of kerosene! You shouldn't be here!” She snatched his hand in her own and quickly led him down the stairs.

“Well who else was gonna rescue you?!” he protested.

“Myself, the fire department,” she answered his rhetorical, “Hell, I’d trust Brad Steel to swoop in and save me.”

“And not me?” Amy glanced back at him. Of course he was smiling.

Squeezing his hand tightly, she went even faster down the stairs, “Not covered in kerosene, no!”

“You underestimate me, Santiago!”

She shook her head and surrendered to a hearty laugh, “You’re impossible!”

“Aaaand! That’s how you like your men, uh?!” he cackled, “I’m Impossible. Just out of control. Total loose cannon. You can’t get enough!”

Amy jumped the last two steps, planted her feet firmly at the base of the stairs, and twirled around. Jake’s face fell squarely in her palms. She jerked it down to hastily press her lips to his and deliver a short, passionate kiss. Just as he’d grabbed her hips, she tore his face from hers with her hands and locked eyes with him. “Behave,” she said sternly, and physically cocked his head sideways for emphasis before releasing him and pulling out her pistol.

He had one of those, kid-in-a-candy-store type looks on his face as he breathed, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Thrasher’s still gotta be somewhere in the building,” Amy took charge, “You take this exit, I’ll try to cut him off in the alley if he uses another fire escape.” She pushed open the heavy door, letting in a crack of sunlight and the sound of nearby sirens.

Jake grabbed her wrist. “Wait,” he said. She wanted to glare at him, but his soft expression made it near impossible. “Are you sure? I mean…” he bowed his head, and suggested sheepishly, “We probably got time. For all anyone knows, I’m still up there rescuing you.”

She fought against the instinct to ignore him and storm out the door. Admittedly, it wasn’t much of a fair fight. Jake has always had this annoying magnetic effect on Amy. She stuck her gun in her holster and hit a power pose, “See, and here I’d thought you couldn’t resist bringing in somebody named Dick Thrasher.”

The fourteen year old living inside him took over and laughed loudly. Her arms were propped on her hips, and Jake stuck his own in the gaps between them and her torso, pulling her into another close embrace, “And I will… He’s slow.”

She sighed and clasped her hands together on the back of his neck. “Or he’s being burnt to a crisp as we speak.”

A puff of air came from his nose, “Even better—poetic justice.”

The corners of her mouth twitched up, “You should really take things like this more seriously.”

He buried his face in her neck and whispered, “I take you seriously.”

The fire alarm’s muffled blare pulsed through the air. Amy brought a hand to the back of his head, spreading her fingers through his hair. “That is just like, sooo sweet,” she said softly before pulling away from him. She rolled her eyes, even though she meant it, “But later, Jake.”

Her hand was on the door, but she didn’t push it open, yet. They were still talking.

“Ugh—I know—sorry,” he shot his eyes upward, his eyelids twitching for emphasis, “I’m just all excited,” he bounced on his toes and loosely spun his hands near his face, “‘Cause like, all this time, I thought it was a me problem, but it turns out—it’s a you problem?!” An obnoxious laugh erupted from his mouth, “Plot twist! Right?!”

“It’s an us problem, dipshit,” she kept a smile at bay as she gave him a deadpan look, attempting to mitigate his hyperactivity.

“You mean was!” Jake threw a series of rapid air punches before one grand one straight upwards. “Woooo!” His cheer reverberated spectacularly through the empty stairwell. He snapped his head to hers, “Ooh! Kiss me again!”

Her hand was a mitt, catching his face like a baseball before he could plant one on her. “What is wrong with you?”

“So many things—it’s not even funny,” a grin stretched wide across his face, “But as of right this instant, mostly adrenaline—and love!” He spit the last word out ecstatically.

Amy smirked. “Love you, too.”

“Why?!” his shoulders shooting up, his palms bursting open at his sides, he couldn’t seem to stop laughing.

As the sirens became deafening, the nagging reminder that the building they were in was definitely, currently on fire made it hard for her to pick from dozens of reasons. “I don’t know!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms up.

The sound of a door swinging shut cut through the sirens and alarms. The couple whipped their guns out and looked up. Amy’s mind snapped into action, and focused solely on the approaching footsteps directly above them. They were slow and uneven coming down the stairs.

After one of the longest minutes of her life, Dick Thrasher peered down the last flight of stairs, directly into the detectives’ chrome barrels.

He sprinted back where he came from—up into the flaming apartment complex.

Amy and Jake shared a knowing glance before heading up the stairs after him.

They didn’t seem to be too far behind him until they entered the second story. They whipped their heads left, then right. Nothing but a deserted hallway and the sound of the blasting fire alarm.

Jake abruptly stood with his back on hers, lightly shoving her in the process, and gripped his gun tightly with both hands, “Okay, we’ll kick the doors in one by one,” he said sternly, his eyes rapidly whipping back and forth.

“What?” she turned around to face him, but he scurried around her, keen on keeping their backs glued together, “Stop—and wh—he’s not gonna pop out with a gun, Jake.”

“But maybe a bazooka,” he firmly looped his arm around her elbow and started stealthily sidestepping down the hall.

She emitted a noise that was a mixture between a laugh and an irked sigh, freed herself, and started briskly down the corridor without him.

He skipped to catch up with her, “So you do agree, Dick ain’t gonna do dick and his arrest is inevit-ha-ble—” the word was disrupted by an unstoppable chuckle— “damn! Don’t think I will ever pull that off.”

Amy turned a corner, keeping mental tabs on where they’ve been. She scanned all the doors to make sure none were cracked open. She figured their culprit was a hider, not a runner. “Where is your off switch?” she mumbled, and kicked open a nearby door that was slightly ajar. Her arms holding her gun stretched far in front of her, she quickly entered to make sure it was clear.

Jake hung in the doorway while she rushed through the small dwelling room by room, “Don’t got one,” he said loudly to make sure she could hear him over the alarm, “Now, with this new compromise, I feel like we’ll need some ground ruuules?” he dragged out the last word tantalizingly, “Ooooh,” he made his voice fluctuate up and down, trying to entice her.

She briskly walked past him, adamant on ignoring him. No matter how much fun that sounded.

Jake was on her heels, “Okay, you sure you’re okay with it? I thought we were done with the cold shoulder.”

About fifteen feet ahead of them, the ceiling caved in, letting a rain of fiery debris come crashing into the corridor.

Amy snatched his hand and ran the way they came from, “I got other things on my mind, Jake!” she screeched.

He clicked his tongue at her “Don’t be like that.” Tearing away from her, he took a slight detour to rip a nearby fire extinguisher off the wall. He took the time to toss it in the air before catching back up with her, “Look, Professor Inferno got nothin’ on me.”

“One spark and you are dead, Peralta,” she reminded him he was still highly flammable.

Down the hall, a large wave of firefighters emerged from the stairwell and headed straight for Amy and Jake. An unusual amount of them flooded the hallway and pushed their way in between the couple, towards where the fire was spreading.

Through a river of the NYFD, Jake commented casually, “If I burst into flames, I think I’ll be okay.”

Amy narrowed her eyes at him, the heads of countless firemen passing her line of sight. She sighed loudly so he could hear her over the clamor. “You really wanna do this right now?”

“Yes!” he beamed.

“Fine!” she hollered, and asked a burning question of her own, “How often?”

“What?!” he called, as the alarm and swarm of first responders had drowned out her voice.

“How much do you smoke weed?!” she screamed.

He made a point to laugh obnoxiously loud, “Oh!”

“Yeah! There have been rumors!”

“I know!” he shouted back through the crowd.

An empty void was left between them after the last firefighter rushed past them.

Jake blinked.

“Well?” Amy prodded.

“Just like,” he repositioned the heavy fire extinguisher in his arms awkwardly, “The first four weekends of the month. And y’know, special occasions.” He emitted a short laugh that was more of a scoff.

There was movement in corner of Amy’s eye. A large figure quickly disappeared down a distant corridor. She made eye contact with Jake before sprinting in that direction.

“So every weekend and whenever else you feel like it?” she called back over her shoulder.

He grunted, having to run and heave the extinguisher at the same time. “Well jeez when you put it like that—” he snapped to sounding quite stern, “you are absolutely correct though.” Jake was sounding like a broken record at this point when he yelled, “I’m workin’ on it!”

They turned the corner and spotted the arsonist gracelessly hobbling away at the very end of the hall. Amy squinted, and noticing that the ends of his clothes were charred, concluded he must’ve been using the fire as cover this whole time.

She barreled towards him, but was cut off by another downpour of concrete and fire falling from the ceiling. Jake’s arm was suddenly thrusted into her chest, “Get back!” he screamed, shoving her behind him as he fumbled with the fire extinguisher. They coughed as dark smoke flowed into the hall. “God! How does this thing—” his grumbled question was answered once the extinguisher started violently spewing its contents.

As he aimed the wave of white fog at the fire, Amy said loudly, “Oh, another thing—obviously, don’t do it around me.”

Keeping his gaze locked on his task, Jake responded, “Don’t smoke? Or don’t be high? Because—”

She spoke through her hand, “I just—” a violent cough interrupted her, “hate the smell.”

“Word up, word up,” he said, hovering the extinguisher over the smoldering heap of debris.

“It’s kinda cute, anyhow,” she said without much thought, the corrosive smoke making her eyes well up with tears.

“Whaaaaaa—,” he held the note for an absurd amount of time, until the foam sputtered and depleted, “—aaaaaaaaat?” He whipped his head down to glance at the empty extinguisher before shrugging and casting it aside.

They both leapt over the pile of rubble and ran towards the end of the hall. “You know how much I love that stupid smile of yours,” Amy said in between breaths.

“Ha! You liiike me!” he yelled maniacally, “Warts and all?! God, what a sucker you are!”

They skidded to a halt at the end of the corridor. Jake looked left. Amy looked right. She wasted no time to sprint the thirty feet between her and Thrasher, tackling him to the ground. Luckily, he was top-heavy.

Jake bit his bottom lip, his eyes lighting up, locked on his girlfriend. She knew what he was silently begging her for. “Looks like it’s time to,” she paused for dramatic effect, almost wishing she had a pair of sunglasses to whip off her face, “take out the trash,” Amy said smoothly with a fake smirk.

Jake let out an elated sigh, in awe of how suave she was.

She pressed her foot further into the criminal’s back, “And we’re gonna dispose of it properly, because dumpster fires are not only hazardous, they pollute the air with greenhouse gasses!”

Jake’s nose scrunched even though he was still grinning wide, “So close.”

Chapter Text

Several things awaited Jake from behind those elevator doors. First, a chorus of applause, maybe even a chant or two, for adding another record breaking arrest to his repertoire. Not only was Dick Thrasher a shoo in for the precinct’s Funniest Named Criminal award, he also had good odds in categories like Weirdest Motive or Least Likely to Succeed. Oh, he was also like, a serial arsonist, or whatever.

Second, would be a bombardment of questions and judgements. Snore. Sometimes, Jake wished he could just skip over certain conversations like the expositional dialogue in video games. Nobody cares about an ancient war or whatever, just let me start slaying goblins n’ shit. Except, everybody seems to care about whether or not he and Amy were fighting, and whether or not he was still smoking pot. Such is life. It’s not easy being the star detective in the precinct’s star relationship. Always under such scrutiny, he had to uphold his perfectly polished reputation pretty much constantly. Woe is Jake Peralta; so much attention was just one of many drawbacks to being the most popular—and therefore the most talented and interesting—cop in the precinct.

And lastly—he shuddered before the thought had fully formed—would be a confrontation most grievous. Damn Jake’s incessant need to do the right thing. For it was leading him straight into the lion's den on this dreary afternoon. Or a snake pit, if that’s more your speed. A shark tank, even. A large vat full of needles, of which you’re helplessly flung into as part of some sick gambit for a murderous puppet, if you will.

The elevator doors dinged.

And the applause was far more sporadic than what he’d envisioned. Mostly all Charles. Maybe they didn’t quite understand who the two men handcuffed between him and his girlfriend were. He opened his mouth to announce—

“Dick Thrasher, everybody!” the shout came from Amy instead. Completely enthralled in showing him off, she sounded like a commentator for the WWE, gesturing grandly at him with an arm high above her head.

Jake welcomed a much more acceptable round of applause, in addition to a few oohs and aahs, though they were mostly of clarity.

“Thrashin’ dicks in the streeeeets!” sang Charles, far too excitedly. As several people stopped to stare, Jake locked eyes with him and subtly shook his head, sending the message to knock it off. That wasn’t quite the chant he was hoping for.

“We heard about the fire!” Terry spoke for the small crowd of colleagues that had gathered near the gate. He gestured to the arsonist’s blackened clothes, “But damn! We didn’t think it was a real fire, you know,” his brow furrowed, “with his track record and all.”

“Yeah, Amy and I—the most solid couple to ever grace this precinct, a’by the way—totally almost died,” Jake boasted, “Like, multiple times.”

Amy started to correct him, no doubt, “It’s not like—”

He scolded her under his breath, “We went over this, come on.”

In place of an exasperated sigh, which would have surely given them away, she gave a prolonged stare, with one hard blink. As she swept her gaze over their friends, her voice dropped low and intense, “The whole building was crumbling around us. Jake was covered in kerosene, but that didn’t stop him from saving me from a giant rain of fire that would have surely killed any ordinary person,” she paused for dramatic effect—he had taught her well, “and I had to kick through a wall to escape a small room and avoid a painful, fiery death,” her tone flipped to sound downright cheery, as she at least feigned humility, “but that’s neither here nor there.”

Thrasher mumbled something, and Jake was sure he was the only one close enough to hear it, “You know not of the power I possess…”

“Whawazat?!” Jake dramatically twirled his hand before cupping his ear with it.

As every cop in the room stared at him with expectant grins, Thrasher just grumbled indistinctly, looking at the ground.

Amy taunted him loudly, “That’s what I thought.”

“Uh, ya burnt!” Jake added.

Before she ushered the two men into the holding cell, Amy gave Jake a high five. It was one of the ones that feels just right; their hands were like magnets, crashing together in midair with the most satisfying smack.

Usually, when one of them puts a criminal in the holding cell, everyone goes back to work pretty soon afterwards. Today however, the huddle of people near Terry’s desk thinned, but didn’t disappear.

The instant Amy joined them again, Rosa, with her arms tightly crossed, said curtly, “You guys kiss and make up yet?”

Jake felt his neck muscles tense up. His stomach didn’t drop though—that was good, at least. He held onto a dumb smile and cocked his head.

“Rosa!” Amy’s pupils dipped down and back up.

Charles refuted Jake before he even said anything, “You can’t not tell us, you two are just so perfect together—” he gasped, “I stan you guys,” his smile vanished, “Religiously.”

“We know,” said Amy, looking like she really wished he didn’t.

“Cough it up,” Gina sneered at the both of them, “pun very much intended.”

As the squad squabbled, Jake’s eyes wandered over to the blinds of Holt’s office. He could make out his boss’s dark outline between the slats, but that was about it. Nonetheless, this was the sight that succeeded in making his stomach contents swirl like a jacuzzi. He would be thankful for the wonderful stalling opportunity his friends were providing for him, if it weren’t for how annoying the conversation was. He kind of just wanted to get it over with.

Jake didn’t tune back in before unpromptedly announcing, “Amy loves me for me, and I, Jake Peralta,” he locked eyes with his blonde best friend, “blaze mad weed.”

Charles’s eyes lit up, his mouth fighting back a rebellious smirk.

There was a brief pause, during which Jake basked in the sweet acceptance of his friends. Not that he needed it. It came in the form of silence, anyway—Terry turning his palms up in befuddlement, Gina pinching her nose in exasperation, Rosa staring blankly in indifference to the whole thing. At least, it was probably indifference—he could never fully tell with that one.

Jake’s upper lip had been jutting out awkwardly before he made a loud smacking noise, “Welp, thanks for coming to my TED talk.” He spun on his heels and began trekking the treacherous track his conscious demanded he follow. Sometimes, the little voice was actually so loud that he got tunnel vision.

“Um?”

Amy’s voice was probably the only one that could compel him to turn back around. And he was almost there, too. “I just have like this, loose end to tie up, you guys get it,” to save time, he walked backwards as he spoke.

He passed his desk, and didn’t make out what Terry had grumbled before a deafening “No!” pulsed through the air.

The final two paces to Holt’s office door were more panicked strides than anything. There was no time for a knock, for the sargeant possessed the speed and dexterity of a young doe. After flinging the door open, rushing inside, and slamming it shut, thus sealing his fate, Jake hastily pressed his body against it and fumbled with the lock. As he slowly backed away, the handle jiggled violently, and shortly after, Terry’s wild scowl popped up behind the window, hollering incoherently. Jake simply twisted the blinds shut and twirled around to face his captain.

Behind large reading glasses, Holt wore a famously nuanced expression. Confusion, I think. Head, slightly tilted, no more than fifteen degrees—check. Mouth, ever so barely ajar—check. Eyes, filled with the searing disappointment that could only come from a revered father figure—check.

Jake’s voice reared slowly, growing louder from a near-silent rasp, as the inevitably of his situation forced the greeting out, “Heeeeeeeey!” His mouth stretched into the widest grin in order to compensate for how unnerved he was on the inside.

Holt indicated his displeasure with a long blink, before saying sternly, “I have a lot on my schedule today, Peralta—” he stopped himself to ask, “Why is Sergeant Jeffords locked out? Tell me he’s not going to destroy my window again.”

His boss’s piercing stare was almost debilitating. Jake forced a laugh, “Nah, we Gucci.” He added on as he lowered himself into the chair opposite Holt’s desk, “But I can’t predict the future so we should probably get this over with.”

“Well, what is it, then?” Holt’s tone was laced with discontent. He tore his glasses from his face, to reveal a brow furrowed in aggravation.

Jake started to swallow, but abandoned it in favor of a hitched exhale. He hadn’t rehearsed anything he wanted to say. Admittedly, he hadn’t even thought of it, yet. Often times, he resorted to trudging headfirst into unbearable conflicts at the very last minute, because winging it is a lot easier than dwelling on it beforehand. At least, it was supposed to be. His finger traced the edge of the wooden armrest as his mouth snapped open to fill the silence, “So, how’ve ya been, lately?” He nervously patted his lap, “I feel like we don’t talk enough, you know, just shoot the shit, goss it up, like a couple a—”

“What do you want, Peralta?” his deep-pitched demand cut through Jake’s pathetic stalling as if it were butter.

He gripped his neck with one hand and rolled it, “Yikes, gotta get to it eventually, don’t I?” He risked brief eye contact with the austere Captain Holt; his dark irises felt like lasers on his skin. “Shit,” he openly griped, again awkwardly smiling through the pain. “Alright, uh, do you want to go over the case again first? Some entertaining stuff right there—I don’t think you fully appreciated it all on our first run through—you know what, I’m just gonna go grab the file real quick,” he stood up, “I’ll be right ba—”

“Sit,” Holt barked.

Now, Jake gulped, “Yes, sir.” He complied.

“You are going to spit whatever it is out right now, or,” Holt nonchalantly threw out a hand as he conjured up a consequence, “no overtime for a week.”

“Wow, harsh,” he chuckled lightly as his eyes dipped to the side, “Good call, though, I was totally gonna stall for at least five more minutes.”

He raised an eyebrow—a final warning.

“Okay, words,” Jake stretched an arm across his chest and reinforced it with his other arm, as if he were gearing up for a work out. He adopted an upbeat cadence, “gotta say some words, let’s do this,” and loosely shook his head.

It’s just a sentence. Out with it.

He pretended like he was observing something interesting on the ceiling as he said slowly, “You ever smoke grass, Captain?” He abruptly snapped his head to Holt’s, holding on to a faux confused expression which cleverly hid a cringe. He squinted hard, his bottom lip tucked between his teeth.

“Excuse me?”

“Cause I do—” Jake spoke over him, “Whaaaaat?”

Holt tried to interrupt him back, “What?”

“Grass? Ganja?” Jake paused. “Dope? Uh, reefer? Sticky icky icky?”

Holt just stared blankly at him. He really wished he could read minds.

Jake’s lips made a loud noise as they snapped apart, and he held them briefly before saying, “Marijuana—Cap,” he bowed his head, shooting his boss a scornful look, “you really oughta know the street names by now.”

He noticed the corners of Holt’s lips purse.

Dear God, here it comes.

Jake braced for judgement’s hammer. Wait, a hammer isn’t near deadly enough. He tightly gripped the armrests, an equivalence to the feeling of the hard, uneven ground beneath one’s knees as you wait, vanquished and resigned—yet at the same time, anxious beyond belief—for the firing squad to release its swift and violent bombardment that will, at last, annihilate every sad little fiber of your contemptible existence. In an instant or two, sat across from the only man to see real potential in him—the only man in his short life that had had the willingness to look past his flaws—to nurture his talents—Jake descended into a disparaging kind of darkness that grips you by the core of your soul and screams—this is nobody’s fault but your own! The kind of darkness that painfully peels back every carefully crafted layer of confidence, optimism, and placidity that you’ve worked so hard to build. The kind where you’ve sped right past dread and onto harrowing anguish.

Holt laughed. Just a tiny puff of air and a faint smile.

Jake’s heart thumped.

“Is that what this is about?” he asked, his eyes filled with a suspicious gleam.

Holding his eyes wide, Jake didn’t allow any of Holt’s slight movements go unnoticed. “U-uh,” he breathed, his lips barely parting.

“Pshh,” Holt’s smile stretched far enough to show teeth as he leaned back in his chair, twiddling a pen. His brow furrowed, maybe in confusion, maybe in amusement, as he said, “Bro, chiiiiill,” one of his hands, held flat, skated over the space in front of him.

Jake scanned the room for hidden cameras, even glancing behind him, before cautiously leaning across the desk and whispering, “If you’re in some sort of danger, blink twice,” he gasped, “Are you even the real Captain Holt?” He shot him an accusatory glare and studied his face for inconsistencies.

Brow still furrowed, mouth still smirking, he replied, “It’s almost…” he frowned briefly, holding out the pen, “cute, how you all seem to think I don’t know what goes on in my own precinct.”

Jake’s teeth released his bottom lip from a death grip. “Oh,” he squeaked, almost sounding like he understood, before blurting, “Huh?”

“As the children say,” he raised a shoulder and said, “I have been knowing,” with a satisfactory smugness about him.

“You mean…” Jake cocked his head sideways, “ya been knew?”

“No,” Holt said sternly, his face sinking back into severe dissatisfaction, “To blatantly disregard several grammatical rules so irresponsibly would be an egregious affront to not only my husband’s, but to my own scholarly background.”

Jake unsuccessfully fought a bewildered look, “‘Course.” A muttered question fell from his mouth without conscious thought, “Uh, how… did you know?”

A chuckle came from Holt’s faint grin; this time, it was one of the ones that escaped sideways, making a quiet clicking noise on its way out. He talked like it was blatantly obvious, “Man, every now and then, you come to work and, let me just put it this way,” waving the pen near his face, his voice became hushed, “Your eyes get all puffy.”

As it turns out, it probably was blatantly obvious.

It was like all the blood had drained from Jake’s body. “Ah,” he croaked, mortified. “You learn something new… everyday…” he trailed off, feeling like he was trapped in some strange dream. His eyes hovered over the small number of knick knacks on Holt’s desk, to the neatly organized shelves behind him. Everything seemed to be in its place. He counted two rainbows—the proper amount. Nothing was out of the ordinary, except for the Captain.

“Listen, Peralta,” Holt said calmly, leaning forward to sit at his desk properly and address the confusion on Jake’s face, “You have to remember, when I was first breaking into the law enforcement scene, I was a young black male, and it was the late nineteen seventies.”

Oh lord, where is he going with this? Was the impossible… possible? Was Captain Raymond Holt about to unload the raddest backstory ever? Yesyesyesyesyes, chanted Jake’s subconscious.

“So, my track record had to be perfectly spotless to be even remotely considered for promotion,” his words had a bitter acidity to them; his white teeth flashed on certain words, “due to the rampant racism of the time.”

Oh.

“However,” he continued, “luckily, times have changed, society has somewhat improved, making strides in its ideologies about race, gender, sexuality, and yes, Jake, the medicinal properties of marijuana. It’s also worth noting that I’ve risen to a distinguished rank, so, to answer your original question, I must admit that—”

Now, where is he going?! Jake’s heart was fluttering uncontrollably as the deepest part of his brain screamed, YESYESYESYESYES!

“—I Still wouldn’t be caught dead with a blunt in my hand, Peralta, are you kidding me? The hippie drug with the odor of a damp skunk? Please.”

Jake felt pretty stupid for expecting anything less from Captain Holt. “I concur,” he blurted matter-of-factly.

“No, you don’t,” he replied instantly. “But I digress. My experiences as a black policeman have also made certain things quite clear. The force disproportionally charges men of color with marijuana related crimes, due not to any concrete trends of drug use, and certainly not to any dangers of the drug, but rather to serve institutionalized agendas that aim only to demonize minorities living in urban areas, hence the incarceration of said groups en masse. This is the root cause of the stigma still persisting today, furthering the prevention of legalization. But of course, there are also deep economic factors,” he chuckled, “We both know the textile industry couldn’t possibly survive if hemp was made commodifiable nationwide. Pathetic.”

“Wow—you can make anything super boring,” Jake thought aloud, “Ooh! What is your opinion on... pride parades?”

Holt paused shortly before answering, “While I have to admit I don’t care for attending them myself—too many colors—they serve as important demonstrations for legal rights, where the political stage is built on notions of celebration. Recently though, I’ve heard the argument that corporations seeping into the community, namely through large sponsored events and vapid advertising campaigns, have diluted the message of acceptance by turning the party into a profit opportunity.”

“Word,” Jake beamed, astounded by what he’d discovered, “Now, do dubstep.”

“I suppose music theory postulates that anything having measures, a time signature, and some sort of accompanying noise can be classified as ‘music.’”

Jake sucked in a breath through his teeth, “Ooh, I felt that one. Pizza?”

“You know it’s not really Italian, right?”

“Damn, you are consistent.” He decided to conduct another experiment, “How about… bird watching?”

Holt glowered at him for a menacing few seconds. “I can think of nothing more exhilarating than spotting a white breasted nuthatch, perched innocently on the branch of London planetree less than fifty feet away, just before dusk.”

Jake blinked.

“It happened to me just this weekend. Kevin had to talk me down from an utterly manic state.”

“And, have I ever witnessed this… manic state?” Jake asked reluctantly.

“Often. I am a highly emotional person, Peralta, and I don’t appreciate you poking fun at it.”

Jake turned a groan into a sentence, “Ahhh’m just gonna go ahead and slide right past that one. Why didn’t you tell us you were cool?!”

“You couldn’t tell for yourself, Detective?” Holt insulted, before emphasizing stringently, “I ooze swagger.” His intense, glaring eyes bore deeply into him.

He can’t be serious right now.

“With all due respect, you’re shitting me, Captain.”

A frown of consideration flashed across his face, “I am, yes. It’s actually rather simple. Clearly, it’s a sore subject,” his eyebrows raised a millimeter or two—a highly expressive punch to the gut.

“Oh, snap,” Jake patted his chest, then pulled a shoulder forward so he could glance down his backside, “is my adrenaline showing?” he asked coyly with a beamy grin.

“I figured, I was being courteous. Need I even mention Sergeant Jeffords?”

“Yeah—” he laughed, “we been stressin’, dawg.”

Holt blinked slowly.

“Ah—we have been stressin’” Jake corrected himself, “...dawg.”

“Well, in that case, time to fire off a refreshing spliff, am I right?” Holt’s face was stiller than a statue.

Jake didn’t dare clap back to that one. Nope. No flaccid rejoinder, here. He tried, and failed, to prevent his I’m-super-uncomfortable-right-now face from making an appearance.

“Nothing? Come on, surely, you must have been able to come up with a myriad of creative ways to ridicule me, during one of your many, ‘circle, seshes,’” he emphasized the words to an excruciating extent.

“Wow, you have excellent intel.” The raspy words barely made it out. Jake’s back was as stiff as a board.

“You act like you all were even remotely slick about it. Did you stoners honestly expect me to believe that your little lounge was just another one of Hitchcock and Scully’s napping nests?”

“Uh, yes?”

“The words ‘the’ and ‘circle’ were clearly embroidered on several of the pillows.”

Jake forced a smile, talking like they were merely discussing their plans for the weekend, “Oh, so you’ve been there recently.”

“You know, I would expect more from you, Peralta, but I’ve actually come to appreciate how you manage to cut corners in such an embarrassingly tactless way.”

“We could probably wrap this up soon,” he quietly begged.

“I mean, if I had a dime for every time you’ve sauntered into my bullpen as baked as a baguette,” Holt paused, “I would have many dimes.”

“Okay,” Jake chirped.

“Now, I’m talking at least a couple bags of chips worth.”

“I formally apologize—you can stop now.”

“You like chips, don’t you, Peralta?”

“Sir, you know that I do.”

“I do have one genuine question. How were you passing all my drug tests?” Jake’s eyes went wide. “I should mention, Gina has never bothered trying to pass.”

He narrowed his eyes at nothing in particular, “Oh, she’s a goddamn snake.”

“And of course, Jeffords is the one who schedules them, so that just leaves—”

With a hand over his mouth, Jake quickly muttered the answer, and hoped Holt would let him leave it at that.

“I’m sorry?”

His hand, pressed firmly into his face, made its way to his cheek, bringing the corner of his mouth with it, “Boyle’s pee.”

“What?”

“Huh?”

“You got Boyle to—”

“Give me his pee, yeah.”

“I can only assume that you told him—”

“It’s what friends are for? You bet.”

“And he didn’t ask any questions.”

“None whatsoever.”

“I see.”

Holt leaned back into his chair. After a moment, he said, “You really need to start using that magical mist of yours for good.”

“I can assure you that it only works on Charles.”

“And not Santiago?”

“Only on a good day, sir.”

Holt seemed to be considering things, his head rocking ever so subtly.

Jake filled the silence, “So, no overtime for a couple weeks sounds pretty reasonable.”

“Make it three.”

“Fair.”

Jake and Holt shared a gaze.

“Toking in the alley stops effective immediately.”

“I, for one, am absolutely floored you haven’t touched that yet,” Jake spoke candidly, before tossing in a white lie, “That’s all Terry, by the way.” He held his palms up.

Holt pointedly stared at him for a solid three seconds before saying bluntly, “I don’t believe you.”

“And you shouldn’t!” he grinned widely and held up an index finger.

“Jake,” he said firmly, along with a heavy pause, “Get it together.”

“So long if we never bring this up again,” he earnestly replied.

“I will seldom bring it up,” Holt closed his eyes and held up a palm, “Promise.”

Jake wasn’t a hundred percent sure what seldom meant. He just hoped it meant never.

Without a word, Holt stood from his chair and started for the door.

“Sir?”

He didn’t acknowledge him in any way as he stepped out of his office.

“I’d like everybody’s attention!” he boomed.

Suddenly, Jake’s legs didn’t seem to work anymore.

“Good. Now, I’ll be sending a memo out shortly, but I wanted to iterate a few things right off the bat,” he announced loudly to the bullpen. “As a Captain, I choose to trust the discretion of my officers. So, I will not, nor have I ever, looked too closely at things like requests for time off, and drug testing results.”

Jake heard Charles whoop loudly. It was followed by a short moment of silence.

Holt cleared his throat, “As I was saying… I know I’m not known for my leniency, but to put it plainly, if I were to enforce stricter, and often unnecessary, policies regarding substance use, many of my top men and women would be off the force. As well as Hitchcock and Scully.”

One of them interjected, “Hey! The eighties were a different time!”

“Hitchcock, you have never once passed,” Holt informed him. “But as I was saying, everyone can thank Detective Peralta for bringing this ever so important topic to light.”

Holt’s sarcasm was a special brand of humiliating. Jake sunk deep in his chair so that the back of his head was less visible to the bullpen.

“For what are you all looking at me like that?!” Holt asked loudly. Jake imagined everyone must’ve been gaping at him in shock. “Please, learn to relax, you guys.”

A loud, heavy thump came from far away. Jake’s avid detective brain concluded that it was Terry’s skull hitting his desk.

“What did I say, Sarge?!” Gina boasted.

Amy’s heels clacked against the tile; Jake could only hear indistinct muttering, but he knew her well enough to know she probably needed a cigarette break right about now.

He didn’t glance at the Caption when he re-entered his office and sat back down; the the buttons down the front of his shirt were really interesting all of a sudden.

“Well, get out,” Holt commanded in his deep voice, “I already said I have a lot to do today.”

“No,” Jake said adamantly, stuck to his chair, hoping he could eventually disappear into it.

“I suppose, we could ‘shoot the shit’, as you put it earlier,” he offered, “Are you more of a sativa, or an indica kind of guy?”

Jake was suddenly on his feet, “Good talk, chief.”