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Command Space

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Jake always made little refusals.

He didn’t take the offered seat when he reported to his old Captain in the office. Lagged around to avoid walking through a door being opened for him. Did his paperwork stack from the bottom up instead of the other way around. Refused to lend people pens. Didn’t do errands for others - even coffee runs.

Jake had found that saying lots of little ‘no’s made it easier to hold his ground when he had to refuse something important.

Like right now.

His back was to the wall, grip on his gun tight, eyes never wavering from the perp - Dylan Millhound - in front of him.

“I said, NYPD, get on the ground!” Jake repeated. Amy was supposed to be coming around from the back of the house, blocking off the exit in case the guy tried to make a run for it.

The perp had a gun, but he wasn’t raising it, so Jake didn’t shoot. Not yet.

Millhound was eyeing Jake strangely, before a light seemed to go off, his demeanor changing from one of tension to one at ease.

“Drop your gun.” He said firmly, tone that of an absolute command.

Jake didn’t blink. His grip tightened. “You first.”

Millhound took a step towards him, gun still limp in his own hand. But not dropping it.

“Do it. Now.”

Jake frowned. “That doesn’t work on me. Now. Drop. The. Gun!”

Amy still hadn’t shown up. He could seriously, seriously use her backup right about now.

Millhound was on the approach, almost swaggering towards Jake, who would have rolled his eyes if it didn’t mean taking his eyes off the target.

Jake knew what Millhound was doing. Hoping that proximity to him would make him drop his gun, maybe drop to his knees too while he was at it.

That wasn’t going to happen.

“Last warning. I will shoot if you do not halt, now.” Jake’s finger pressed down on the trigger, about to fire a non-lethal shot into the perp’s shoulder, as Millhound’s grin faltered.

Then, his grip on the gun tightened, and he began to raise it towards Jake, before freezing and dropping it.

Amy had the barrel of her gun to the back of the perp’s head.

“Get on the ground, NYPD.” She panted, clearly out of breath.

Millhound sank to his knees, and Amy cuffed him, reading him his rights, before speaking to Jake.

“Sorry about the delay. Turns out this perp’s a hoarder, too - stuff was covering the backyard, nearly lost a shoe trying to get through it all. Looks like I got here just in time though, huh?”

“Of course. The sub cop needs help taking down a perp. Couldn’t do it on my own - I bet you think you could have done it by yourself?” Jake spat, clicking the safety back onto his gun and shoving it into his holster. He was picking a fight and he knew it, the nerves from refusing Millhound frustrating him - he shouldn’t have to have nerves from refusing to drop his weapon in the first place! - even more than the nerves themselves were.

Amy turned her head to face him, expression a mix of anger and frustration. “Seriously, Jake? That’s not what this is about! We’re partners, we’re supposed to work together.”

“Sure.” Jake knew she was right, but he was pissed off. He hated it when perps made him as a sub. It always made the situation worse. Plus, then they’d have to put it in the report. Just another tick mark against every other sub who wanted to be a cop from entering the field.

Amy, of course, knew what it was really about. She always did.

“It’s alright, Jake.” She said comfortingly, “You’re a good cop. Second best in the precinct, in fact,” She grinned cheekily, then added, softly, “You did good.” The words were innocent in themselves, but the tone was on the wrong end of encouraging, a little too close to praising.

“I don’t want your praise.” Jake bristled immediately at the words, crushing down any of the warm feeling he got whenever someone - especially Amy - praised him. He refused to be manipulated.

Amy nodded hurriedly, smile melting into mild worry. “Of course. I’m sorry.”

Jake could have chewed her out over it. But Amy wasn’t the one he was really mad at. It was himself more than anyone else - although if someone asked, he’d blame Millhound. So, instead, he just shrugged, and plastered a grin to his face. “It’s fine. Let’s just go.” As they walked to the squad car, he paused, swiveling on the spot to face her.

“Wait, did you say second best cop?” He asked, in mock horror.

Amy’s smile reappeared.

And, just like that, they were back to their usual banter, the dispute vanishing into irrelevance.

No matter what happened, Jake could never hold anything against Amy. Their orientations never stopped her from bantering, and working with him, and just… all around treating him like an equal.

Which he was.

It’s just that not everyone seemed to share that same opinion.

His old precinct certainly hadn’t - even after he finally managed to claw his way to detective status, he got stuck doing desk duty more than any other detective in the place. Investigations, sure, that was fine - but being placed in the field? Whenever those assignments were going out, Jake’s name, strangely, never came up.

He was the only sub detective in the 125. When he had submitted his transfer papers, they had asked him if it was due to a dom in his life.

Jake had nearly laid into them, before realizing that it would only hurt the next sub who applied, and forcing himself to say that no, he just wanted to be in a precinct with more ‘upward mobility’. Code for: fuck you, this place sucks. But in a professional tone!

He hated that every single - well, negative - thing he did was suddenly a reflection on every sub cop in the entirety of the NYPD. But, it was the hand he was dealt, so… here he was. Part of the 99.

Amy was driving, and wouldn’t let him change the music - who listens to Bach while driving? Even Holt chose to drive in silence instead - so Jake stared aimlessly out the window instead, watching the billboards sweep by.

L’Oreal Paris: Because he’s worth it. A picture of a female sub posed, collar on display and eyes looking differentially upwards, next to a perfume bottle.

Oxi-Clean: it gets the tough stains out! A classically handsome dom grins, finger pointing to the detergent in question.

Tiffany Jewelry: “Beautiful design makes a beautiful life”, with wedding rings and collars appearing to be “falling” down past the billboard itself.

Abusive dom? Cellino & Barnes specialty! Call: 8! 800-8-.

Jake looked away.

Amy’s boring music was suddenly much more interesting.

Millhound was, thankfully, silently sitting in the backseat - he had wisely decided not to say anything without an attorney present.

And with Amy being a responsible driver all the time - eyes on the road, attentive, like a boring person - she wasn’t saying much either.

It left Jake with nothing but his thoughts to occupy himself.

Always a dangerous pastime.

His fingers drummed on his legs, nervous energy beginning to boil over. He hated being in enclosed spaces for longer than necessary - one of the many reasons why he loved the bullpen so much. Jake didn’t mention this sentiment to Amy, however - she was intensely claustrophobic - so he kept it to himself, instead just continuing his agonizing, slow spiral of manic energy.

When they arrived at the department, Jake was eager to leave the car.

“You drive like a grandma!” He complained, closing the car door behind him as Amy clambered out of the driver’s seat.

“I’m a cautious driver, Jake!”

“Cautious?” Millhound asked with a leer, “I’d expect that out of the priss, not you.”

Jake’s eyebrow twitched, but before he could respond, Amy butted in.

“Well, if you were more ‘cautious’, you wouldn’t have been caught, huh, Dylan?” She said hotly, pulling him out of the squad car and signaling for a couple cops to take him to booking.

Jake waited until Millhound was out of earshot before saying, “I didn’t need you to defend me.”

Amy blinked, before frowning. “Seriously, Jake? He… that language isn’t appropriate, no matter who it’s being directed to!”

“Oh, so you’re upset because he compared you to me? A great wonderful dom being debased to my clearly inferio-”

“Jake, stop!” Amy yelled, voice hitting him like a brick.

Jake drew back, struck silent. His mouth was slightly open, eyes wide. His breath caught in his throat, body going absolutely stiff. The words on his tongue were shoved back into his mind. Stop.

Amy clapped her hand over her mouth, horrified. “Oh my god, Jake, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to-” She made as if to reach out to touch him, but instead let her hand fall to her side. She had already violated him once.

Jake used her hesitation in motion as time to force a reboot, clicking his mouth shut and crossing his arms to try to hide the snap of obey that had flashed through his brain. Apparently short circuiting everything around it while it had done so, considering his mind went completely blank for half a second, before he forced it back into motion, trying to recover quickly. He didn’t want Amy to realize it had hit him that hard.

“It’s alright. Just, forget it. Not my job to tell you what to do.” Jake shrugged, feigning nonchalance, although his words were still slightly bitter - even though he didn’t mean to. Bitterness meant it had worked on him, after all.

“It’s not mine, either.” Amy said quickly, and she looked so apologetic that Jake just felt his anger melt away. “I’m so sorry, Jake.”

“It’s okay. Seriously. Now, come on. You’re the arresting officer, so you have to do most of the paperwork.”

Her eyes lit up, although it seemed like a conscious choice on her part. “Ooh, paperwork.”

He took the change in conversation and ran with it, letting a trademark grin flash across his face. “If you’re that excited, I have some you can do sitting on my desk-”

“In your dreams.” Amy replied, rolling her eyes as the pair headed inside.

Jake kept smiling, but was internally berating himself. He had done fine during the confrontation with the perp, but when Amy had given him a command… It must have been because he was already on edge from Millhound, Jake reasoned, That’s why he’d… listened… to her. Jake refused to use the word ‘obey’ to describe himself - he wasn’t a dog, he was a person.

Jake refused to believe that, when Amy had commanded him, he had wanted to follow it. No, that was just the leftover stress from Millhound. He was still on his nerves.

That was why.

It had to be.

Chapter Text

Jake was working on his report when Holt walked past, attempting to get to the coffee machine without interruption.

Jake knew for a fact they were out of coffee - he had thought about making another cup, but didn’t want to have them assume he would just do that now.

He was being ridiculous, he knew. Jake always was, when it came to this sort of thing. Something that everyone on the team did more or less evenly - except Hitchcock and Scully, no one trusted them with the machine - set Jake on edge every time he did it, as if his entire history with all of them would just fly out the window, and he’d lose their respect, if he did something as simple as stick in some fresh grounds.

So, when Holt went to pour coffee, he discovered that the pot was empty, which did little for his already poor mood. Kevin had gotten a case of the flu, probably from a college student, as they were "always teeming with diseases of various kinds", according to Holt. And now, the two had agreed to spend a period of quarantine in order to prevent the spread of it to Holt, and, subsequently, the precinct.

Quite simply, Holt had noticed, and then later noted, that the lack of Kevin’s company had been distressing to him. So now, with the coffee pot empty, and exactly 4.62 more hours left in the work day, he was… disgruntled.

Jake watched as Holt made a fresh pot - the Captain meticulously measured it, and had once mentioned that, in their home, he and Kevin used a weight scale so as to have the exact proper amount - and then re-enter the bullpen.

“Squad!” Holt spoke loudly enough to get their attention, “I will be sending a memo about replenishing the pot of coffee when you are the one to finish it.”

He walked into his office, and, a few minutes later, Jake looked up at his computer as it dinged, said memo popping up.

Jake took a sip of his cooling coffee, deciding it was best not to say anything. He probably should have just made a new pot. But it was hard to do something everyone else did, when he would be the one 'giving in' by doing it.

He glanced at Holt through the window of his office. He was… well, as enigmatic as always, but definitely annoyed, at least a bit.

Jake respected Holt, in a way he rarely did most authority figures. His Captain in the 125 had been an absolute prick, making sure to let his opinions on sub-integration into precincts a known fact, and his disapproval of Jake all the more so. His previous Captain in the 99, McGintley, who Holt replaced, had been better about it.

He was old-fashioned, which was normally code for anti-sub, except the guy was too lazy to be “anti” anything. So long as Jake did his job, he quote, “Didn’t care about orientation, color, none of it.” Jake didn’t mind - well, didn’t mind as much - the occasional surprised, slightly prejudicial comment, because it was all passive, and it didn’t effect his case quality or anything meaningful like that. Jake knew it wasn’t ideal, and was actually quite frustrating - not that he could ever admit it got under his skin, lest he get punished career-wise for it -, but it was miles better than before.

So, he had settled into his Captain’s presence with only token resistance.

When McGintley had retired, and command said they were bringing in a new Captain, Jake had braced for the worst. He had transferred to the 99 specifically because he knew another sub - who turned out to be Charles - worked there, and he figured that if the Captain sucked, at least they could complain about it together. Not that he didn't trust his team to back them up if the new guy was shit - just that what if they didn't?

Jake had been ready to encounter another 125-type Captain. A condescending, patronizing old white dom man, who would make jokes about how much he hated his wife and how Jake belonged in HR with the others ‘like him’.

Needless to say, Holt had been… not what Jake expected.

He had come in all sharp edges and harsh, and Jake had rebelled. Hard.

It took Jake far too long to notice that, despite Holt’s strict practices of running the precinct, he never once gave a command. Orders, yes. It was his job, after all. And he hadn’t so much as blinked at Jake’s orientation - Jake mistook his being denied cases because of his lack of tie-wearing being a more subtle way of anti-sub sentiment.

Jake hated ties - they reminded him too much of a collar. But Jake would rather quit than admit that. In the end, he had understood that it was a uniform, and donned it with only slight discomfort.

The fact that Holt had said he overdid it on the manscaping was a sign in and of itself - most doms liked having subs seem diminutive, and Jake being a male sub was enough to draw skepticism already - and his comment should have told off on the fact that Holt wasn't necessarily going to be another 125 Captain.

Granted, it still made him feel weird, having it around his neck. Made him feel vulnerable. But he adjusted to it well enough - easy to ignore vulnerability when you're a cop, after all.

But still, Holt - once Jake had gotten over the whole tie thing - had been surprising for a Captain. He was black, gay, and a switch. From the ‘80s.

Jake was surprised Holt had ever managed to even get hired to begin with, let alone make Captain - but would never say as much.

People would say the same thing about him and Boyle, after all.

Switches had been allowed into the Academy in the '70s. And sub-integration only started in New York in the ‘90s - Charles had actually been one of the first to be let into the Academy for cop training, something that Jake hadn’t realized until Charles had been excitedly talking about how he was one of the older trainees - 20 instead of the usual 18.

“Yeah, it was the first time I was allowed to apply!” Charles had explained, “It was the same year I first had a souffle made out of cow entrails for my birthday.”

“Ew, Charles!” Then, “Wait, you were in the first class? Like, ever?”

“Yep! It was me and one other sub in the whole class of 84 cadets - and in the entire Academy, heh. I still send him Christmas cards, and he’s on the Boyle weekly email blast, you know.”

Jake had gained a newfound respect for Charles after that. He had applied to the Academy and, while it was definitely a steep hill to climb, Jake at least knew it was possible.

His class had had 8 total, that he knew of, out of 70-something. Better than when Charles applied, but nowhere near equal to one another.

The demographics weren't exact, but the census approximated the numbers. Doms made up about 45% of the population, subs 40%, and the other 15% were switches. It used to be, male switches were lumped into doms, and females to subs. The census only started taking count of switches - even admitting they existed, as oppose to subs faking it for men, or subs pretending to be equal for women - in the '40s, during WWII. Even now, it was rumored that a lot of switch males chose to "pass" as doms, just for the sake of convenience, or family pressure.

But, despite the wonky numbers, it was undeniable that there were discrepancies. It was more likely to see a switch in a position of authority than it was to see a sub, while the amount of doms absolutely swamped them both when it came to pay, promotions, and positions.

The jobs that were sub-dominated - a term that a lot of doms liked to joke about in a less-than-ideal way - tended to have worse pay, and, despite being necessary, weren’t really given the same level of value. Nearly all nurses and doctors were subs, but heads of wards and surgeons were doms. Teachers were subs, generally, but principals were doms or switches. Even the precinct’s own HR department was comprised entirely of subs, except for one dom - who just so happened to be the manager.

One of the reasons Jake was grateful for the NYPD’s equal pay regulation, under regulation of being a government-funded organization - he was getting paid the exact same per hour as everyone else at his level in the NYPD. Or, at least, he was supposed to be.

Despite the rules, it wasn’t like they ever got to see the breakdowns.

Maybe he could ask Rosa how much she made.

And maybe he could go ahead and call 911 beforehand, so they could be ready with the ambulance when she punched him into next week for asking a “personal” question.

Jake had once asked her if she wanted pepperoni or cheese pizza, and she had threatened to eviscerate him if he ever asked her something about her life again.

Jake had gotten her pepperoni, since he did know she wasn’t Jewish. A fact that he was only kinda mostly sure of, anyway - he had once seen her with a mark on her forehead for Ash Wednesday.

Rosa was currently cleaning under her nails with one of her knives, staring at the open file in front of her.

Jake didn’t know her orientation, and everyone was too scared to ask. Even though the NYPD wasn’t allowed to discriminate based on orientations, they always required it to be listed on forms. Holt knew, but Jake was sure he would be chewed out on the spot for asking - or, worse, subjected to Rosa’s wrath.

She didn’t follow commands like a sub, and she could give a command really well - part of why Charles was so taken with her for so long - so she was probably a dom, but he couldn’t really rule out switch. They had gone to the Academy together, after all, and she had always had his back. Without expecting sex in return - not a trait most doms were capable of having.

Once, she had memorably threatened to cut a guy’s fingers off and shove them up his ass after he had been putting his hands on Jake’s wrists and trying to command him to his knees.

Not many doms were that considerate.

Jake wished he was enigmatic like her - no one would know his orientation, he could just blend in with all the other detectives and do his job without all the extra fuss over his supposedly questionable qualifications. Yet, here he was being an, apparently, incredibly obvious sub, since a fucking perp managed to figure it out with a gun pointed at his head.

Rosa looked up, fixing Jake with a glare. He quickly swiveled back in his chair to face his desk.

Right. Paperwork. Responsibilities.

Fun.

Even though Jake would die of boredom if he tried it, he did envy Hitchcock and Scully a little. They did almost no paperwork, ever. Mostly because they never managed to complete cases, but still.

They were both old-school doms, still kicking around because the economy meant they couldn’t afford to retire. They didn’t treat him or Charles any differently from anyone else, mainly because they just kept forgetting that subs were allowed to be detectives in the first place.

When one of his exes had dropped by to drop off some of Jake’s stuff, Hitchcock had said to him, “Oh, yeah, relationships between two doms rarely works out. You should find a sub instead, it’ll be easier.”

“I am a sub.” Jake had replied. It wasn’t something to be ashamed of - just a part of him, same as being Jewish, or being a detective - but it always felt embarrassing to admit, as if he was letting the person he was talking to down. And then he hated himself for that feeling of anxiety, of shame, the fear of being judged. Let them judge me he wanted to think, but instead it was only the don't have them get mad, don't have them get mean, don't have them make a stupid joke. He hated himself a little more every time he felt that rush of... tension... he always gave himself whenever he had to say his orientation aloud.

Hitchcock had just blinked, then shrugged, mumbled something incoherent about Jake’s supposed, suddenly-existing cooking skills and wandered off.

Jake wasn't sure if he should be complimented or insulted. So, he settled on a vague feeling of relief that there hadn't been a scene - not that anyone cared what Hitchcock thought anyway - and moved on.

Terry was a whole other story.

He looked like a classic dom: hard face and even harder abs, and a stern voice to match. He was actually a total softie, which was great for the most part, but when he did get upset he tended to imbue his voice with commands. He didn’t mean to, and he was noticeably making an effort, but there were a few times he had started yelling. Once, Charles had started crying, and Jake had yelled back, even as his voice shook and he fought the urge to fix it, apologize to the angry dom, stop being bad and fix it, to not just drop to his knees and try to make him stop being angry.

So Jake had kicked over a file case, broken a couple toes, and managed to get Terry to stop - he pretended it was because he made a good statement or something, but really it was just because Jake was obviously in pain after said kick, and Terry’s dad instincts - Jake refused to say "protective" instincts, that was a lie doms said to make themselves feel better about forcing touch on a sub after hurting them - had overridden his anger.

Holt had had a closed-door conversation with Terry after that, and then Terry was going to the precinct’s therapist. Apparently Jake's name came up a lot in those meetings, although for different reasons than his 'outburst'.

Terry still gave commands by accident, but he was more careful not to yell - he was loud, sure, but it didn’t trigger the sub instinct to appease the way he had done before. Which Jake was glad about, and Charles was absolutely over-the-moon about. Boyle's attitude around the Sarge had changed nearly overnight, and Jake found himself wondering how anyone could have ever let it slide for that long.

Of course, expecting doms to willingly change their own behavior to not traumatize a sub was a test in futility. Jake had learned that the hard way. Over, and over, and over again.

But, Terry had gained Jake’s respect because he was actually trying. At the 125, the excuse had always been “That’s just how we talk - if you can’t handle it, you’re not cut out for this type of job”, and other bullshit excuses so they wouldn’t have to change their behavior. And, of course, some doms in his precinct liked to try to make Jake kneel for them - only one of them had ever succeeded, and it wasn’t because Jake had wanted to.

Remembering that now made him sick. Jake pushed those thoughts away quickly - he was already high-strung enough from Amy's accidental command, he didn't need to start spiraling.

Still, the 125's shitty behavior did help him get better at refusing, so it had ended up helping him in the long run - in a fucked up way-, much as he was loathe to admit it.

Charles was still a bit sensitive to commands from people he knew, and Jake’s ability to resist them was part of what had made them such fast friends: Jake made sure to have his back if anything ever went sideways. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust doms - for going out on patrol, investigations, working with his team? Sure, no problem. But when it came to commands? Not a chance. In Jake’s experience, doms didn’t always notice - or chose not to notice - when other doms started getting a little too heavy-handed. Only a sub could really relate to all the subtle little nudging from a dom, because they felt it, too.

And then, of course, Gina. She was a switch, and an absolute heathen of one at that. She crushed on Terry and Beyonce, scorned the whole biological system, and suggested creating an anarchist movement, all in the same breath.

Jake loved her. She was the best sister - "ha, you wish you shared my genes, Jacob" - he could ever hope to have.

She was also fiercely loyal to Jake - and Charles to a lesser extent, mainly just because Jake was - and had protected him when they were growing up. First, from his dad, who was furious that his son had tested out as a sub, and then in high school, once orientation tendencies begin to develop, and everyone else started to realize that Jake Peralta was commandable. Those were a rough few weeks, and Jake probably would've ended up in serious trouble if Gina hadn't had his back.

She had been the one to first suggest making little commands, after his dad had left him and his mom, but before he started presenting, to help him build up his ability to say no. He had agreed, and from that day on, they started this little game. She would make some stupid little “command”, every day - something which got progressively more ridiculous over the years. Nowadays, it was an inside joke, and they didn’t do it all the time - no need, anymore - but, whenever they did, it would always crack him up.

Sometimes he would indulge them afterwards - that’s where she got her wolf blanket from, Wolfie, - because he knew she actually wanted it. Not because she told him to, but because he wanted to.

Sometimes the line got blurred, a strong enough command making him feel the need to do something so desperately it’s almost indistinguishable from a want - but Jake was usually pretty good at sorting them out, and it was rarely an issue. Amy was the first time he'd had that lined blurred since... hm. Not gonna think about that, Jake reminded himself. Geez, it was like his brain was trying to give itself a sub drop.

Sometimes Jake would purposefully disobey an order that he genuinely wanted to follow, even when it was something he was planning to do, because it was phrased just a little too much like a command.

That had gotten him into some trouble over the years. But lately, he noticed he was beginning to let his wants and doms’ orders - at least when it was someone from the team, and an order not a command - overlap, without feeling like he was giving in quite as much.

Jake wasn’t sure if it was progress, or if he was just slowly becoming indoctrinated.

Either way, he was wary of it.

But sometimes... Jake just got so tired of fighting. Of trying to keep not just his body his own, but to stop some dom from stealing his mind away and forcing him to get on his knees and be quiet and Stop.

Amy's command still rang in his head, like a persistent white noise that wasn't disruptive per se, but just enough to be continuous. Stop.

Jake shuddered instinctually, before zipping up his hoodie, trying to play it off as from the cold. He was seriously gunning for a drop if he kept this up.

Time to focus on the paperwork, and think of nothing else.

The coffee pot was now half-empty. It was almost 5 o’clock. Jake had finished his report, and had made a sizable indent in his stack of files, when he heard a loud bang! in the bullpen.

He turned before he even registered what was happening, pulling his gun.

Terry was standing, about two-thirds of the way to his desk, hands holding a now-empty bin. The bottom of it flapped aimlessly, and a - thankfully already broken - printer lay in pieces on the ground, scattered around his feet.

Everyone was in some state of alertness, save a still-sleeping Scully - eyes were on the source of the commotion.

But no one’s hands had even gone near their weapons.

Jake put his gun away hurriedly, red flush of embarrassment creeping up his neck. There weren’t any perps in holding right now, it was just them.

He was too on edge.

He was tempted to blame it on Millhound, or paperwork, or whatever other excuse he could think of, but his reaction to Amy kept coming unbidden to his mind.

She had given him a command, and he’d followed it. Immediately. Hadn’t even considered refusing. But that wasn’t all of it - no, his mind had gone fucking blank. Sure, maybe it was nothing.

But it was eerily reminiscent of subspace.

And Jake refused to go there again.

Ever.

He needed to go to Shaw’s, get wasted, take a cab home - because driving drunk is dangerous - and sleep.

He’d wake up in the morning with a hangover, but none of this stupid, lingering paranoia about commands.

Maybe Charles could come with.

Actually, he’d gotten all-aboard the Amy and Jake train, so talking about this with him was probably a bad idea. Charles was a hopeless romantic - he believed in true love and how trust creates the power in commands and all this other sappy stuff - and Jake didn’t have the heart to disagree.

Hell, the guy read those romance books with the pictures of the diminutive sub and the smoking hot dom on the cover all the time.

So, maybe he wouldn’t talk to Charles about it.

Terry had a pregnant wife back home, Gina had dance practice, and he obviously couldn’t talk to Amy about his feelings about… well, Amy. Rosa it was. Nonjudgemental, cool as hell, tells it straight. She always skipped the “What you felt wasn’t what they meant” gaslighting doms liked to use, and just goes directly to laying down the facts.

She was great for when Jake wanted to break shit, or when he wanted a breakdown of the data. Less so for venting.

But Jake was hopeful to avoid that - not in front of someone from the team, at least - and deal with his feelings at never o’clock in the year no thanks.

Jake got up and walked past Terry, who was squatting down to pick up various little bits of printer, to Rosa’s desk.

“Hey, Rosa. Drinks after work?” He asked, jaunty grin in place.

“Can’t. I have… a thing.”

Jake’s smile faltered. “Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“What is it?”

Rosa looked up to fix Jake with a glare, and he put his hands up placatingly.

“Right, right, no personal stuff. Got it.”

“Sorry, Jake.” She sounded genuinely apologetic. “How about another time?”

“Yeah, sure.” Jake nodded, before trudging back to his desk, his forced attempt to regain his high spirits gone.

“Hey, Peralta, could you grab me some paper towels?” Terry asked, “The ink is going to stain the floor.”

Jake felt a flash of anger. It wasn’t a command - it wasn’t even an order, hell, it was a fucking request - but it felt like the entire day had just been comprised of people telling him what to do. Amy’s command still itched under his skin, and Jake fluctuated wildly between wanting to rip off his own skin until it was gone, and needing to sink to his knees and wait for her to tell him what to do - to give him a command.

A lot of subs did drugs for this very reason - it hurt to be pulled in different directions like this, to feel that craving need to obey - but Jake was not 'just' a sub. He was Jake. Fucking. Peralta.

“I’m busy doing my job.” Jake shot back, nails digging into his palms to bite back the words he wanted to say next. That he wasn’t some fucking maid, that he was a detective, same as everyone else. They wouldn’t do anyone any good, and he’d just feel bad and have to apologize for them later - or, alternatively, bottle them up and have them ‘help’ with his low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

Oh, sure, he might have problems go unaddressed, but at least he knew what to call them.

Terry sat back, hands dripping neon blue and neon yellow, respectively. “Woah, Peralta, chill out. I’m just asking-”

“And I said no!” Jake cut him off, storming to his chair and throwing himself into it, pointedly swiveling it to face his desk, so he could avoid making eye contact with anyone in the bullpen. He knew he was being irrational - but to an extent, he wasn’t, either.

Every time anyone asked him to do anything, it felt like a subtle jab at his defenses. How much could they push, how hard, how subtly, to make him obey. Even when it wasn’t, it still was. Wearing him down, chipping away until he was more vulnerable than he cared to be. Normally these little things weren’t even noticeable, flying under the radar entirely, except when Jake was either 1) having a bad day, or 2) had to resist legitimate commands already.

Today was both of those things.

Jake felt his skin itching. He wondered if he should take up shame cigarettes like Amy did, just to push through.

Speaking of Amy, she quietly got up, walked to the break room and grabbed the roll of paper towels, handing them to the Sarge. As she sat back down she gave Jake a Look, and he immediately felt guilty.

Terry had only asked him because he was the one standing. Not because of his orientation.

He already knew that, of course.

But Jake was on edge, had been teetering on it for a while. It was all he could do to keep himself in place.

Getting drunk would help.

Hypothetically.

Chapter Text

In hindsight, Jake thought as he walked into the crowded, dimly lit bar, maybe it would have been better for him to get wasted in the privacy of his own home. Sure, he probably would spiral and end up on the wrong end of sub drop, but at least no one would be around to see it. He needed a distraction.

Jake had barely sat down before a dom slid down next to him - tall and handsome enough, certainly. Dark hair and dark eyes - a brilliant combination. Jake felt his mood lift hopefully - maybe tonight wouldn’t end up so bad after all.

“Buy you a drink?” He asked, voice deep and an edge rough. It was hot, and he clearly knew it.

Jake went along with it. “Sure. A beer.” It looked like maybe he had found his distraction, after all.

“Two beers,” The dom held up a couple fingers to the bartender, before turning back to Jake. One arm rested on the bar, leaning in a bit, but not so much he was lower than Jake was. Heaven forbid a dom be lower than a sub, after all.

“Name’s Matt. And you are?”

He had an air of confidence that was definitely a bit much, but Jake decided to overlook it. His night was quickly shifting from one of depression and the terrifying risk of drop into something exciting. Jake decided in that moment, he was going to get laid, and, frankly, he didn’t give a fuck who did the fucking, so long as it was good.

“Jake.” He let his head drop slightly, looking up through his eyelashes to Matt - a clear message of submission, but not as demeaning or disempowering as sliding to the sticky, dirty floor. Even though he was signalling to the dom he was interested, he still had the power to get up quickly and go. Jake didn't like kneeling, much.

Matt was distinctly into his action. The smile on his face turned a touch smug.

“What say you and I head back to my place? I’ve got something a little stronger than this.” Matt gestured with his beer towards Jake, offer hanging in the air.

Jake had two options laid out in front of him.

If he said no, right now, Matt would - probably - back off. Or Jake would have to fight him off, endure some snide commentary, whatever - the usual shit that happened when a sub said no. But if he said yes… Jake could have a nice hookup and put an end to the needling desire to get railed.

Jake needed to be able to take commands from the mercy of a stranger, someone who he wouldn’t see again. It would help him relax, he knew - not reach subspace, never that - but it would let him dissolve slightly, following commands and letting that itch to obey go away.

Jake had done this before - mainly only when the need became so great Jake could rationalize to himself that he actually wanted this - but with Amy, with today… it felt less like a want, or even a need, and more of just an… all-encompassing sort of low-level pain, radiating through his body. Not enough to impact his life, but just enough that it was a constant reminder in his mind that he was a sub.

That he had a command to follow.

That he had disobeyed.

Well. Fuck that.

Jake slammed back the rest of his drink, and then placed it onto the table, hard.

“Let’s go.”

Matt grinned, finished off his beer, threw some money onto the bar for their drinks, and stood up.

Jake followed behind Matt eagerly as the pair headed outside to Matt’s car, not bothering to even glance at the bar.

One beer in, Jake knew that they were well within the legal alcohol limit, so he didn’t hesitate to get into the passenger side of the car, strapping on his seatbelt as Matt turned the key in the ignition and pulled out of the parking lot.

The drive to the guy’s apartment was fast, and without much conversation between the pair except for some token flirting. It was clear this was just a mode of transportation to get to the fun stuff, so Jake didn’t make much of an effort.

The moment they were inside the apartment - nice place, actually - Matt pinned Jake against the wall, going in for a kiss.

Jake pushed back against Matt’s body - not enough to actually push him off. He could if he had to, but he generally kept that to himself unless he needed to use it.

“I don’t do subspace.” He said quickly.

Matt drew back a bit, looking surprised, and a little offended.

That was one of two standard responses. A mix of surprise and offended was the most common one, people not understanding how just following orders or having sex could possibly be enjoyable for either party if there wasn’t subspace involved. The second response was pity - usually with a not-so-subtle attempt to unlock the tragic backstory.

Jake frankly preferred the offense. It was easier to get mad at and storm off if that was the case. Or get kicked out. Whatever.

But, after a moment, Matt shrugged. “If that’s what you want. Safeword?”

“Yippee-kay-yay.”

Matt’s look of begrudging acceptance turned into amusement. “Oh, you’re a Die Hard guy, huh? Nice.”

“That goes both ways, you know.” Jake added carefully, “In case you want to stop.”

Matt chuckled, leaning in and kissing Jake again, hands coming up to start undoing his shirt buttons.

“I can assure you that won’t be a problem,” He said, a touch condescending.

Jake held in a sigh. Every dom he’d ever said that to had been similarly amused. There was always an assumption that the subs were the only ones ‘at risk’ in these situations. Which was generally true, actually, but that didn’t mean Jake was going to assume this was one of those ‘generally’s.

He also didn’t particularly like the implication, either, that doms would just keep going until a sub said to stop. That the burden of stopping rested solely on the sub.

One of Jake’s many, many problems with subspace, actually - it was almost, if not completely, impossible to say no. It was absolute trust in someone - why partners expected it, let alone strangers, was beyond him.

But Matt’s lips were on his, and his hands were skating across his waist, so Jake let himself slip that little bit. He let Matt guide him to the bedroom, falling against the closing door as Matt tugged off their shirts, both of them kicking off their shoes and socks.

Jake reached for Matt’s belt, but Matt shook his head.

“Stop.”

Jake felt the command wash over him, let it into his mind. His hands stilled, and he looked up at Matt, waiting for the next one eagerly, feeling his heart rate pick up in anticipation. He wanted this. He needed this.

“Kneel for me.” Matt commanded.

Oh. Okay.

Jake sank to his knees with as much grace as he could muster. He hated the fact that he liked kneeling so much - it felt like a failure on his part, some kind of acceptance of his supposed inferiority - but it was nice. Matt could judge him, Jake didn't care. He'd never see him after tonight.

“Good.”

That one affirmation. It wasn’t like Jake was even in subspace or anything close to that - far from it. But it felt good - really, really good. Jake's breath hitched at the word, and Matt evidently picked up on that, and he raised his eyebrows.

“Wow, got a bit of a praise kink, huh?" He asked.

Jake felt himself flush from the comment, a bit embarrassed he was able to be marked out so effectively.

“I only give praise when subs do a good job, though.” Matt added cheekily, reaching down to ruffle Jake’s hair. “So make sure you do.” A pause, “Now you can take it off.”

Jake’s fingers came alive again, quickly shucking off Matt’s pants and boxers. His hands twitched towards his own, but didn’t move them. He hadn’t been told to, yet.

Matt’s hand was still in his hair, and it nudged him towards his dick. It was decently sized, nothing special but certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Jake could feel his own responding to the sight.

He looked up at Matt. “Could you,” He licked his lips, “Could you command me to?”

Matt’s eyebrows raised even higher. Jake knew it was weird - that he was weird - needing to hear the orders, and wanting to be praised for following them? He was a needy fuck, that was for sure. Just another reason to avoid subbing until he actually needed to. Or wanted to - although that was always a hard pill to swallow. He could never sub without feeling like he was giving in.

That was part of why it was so important for this to be happening with a stranger. They could judge if they wanted, but he’d never have to hear about it - or worse, have anyone he knows hear about it.

Matt patted Jake’s head lightly, condescension in his tone. “Make it a request I’d want to indulge.”

“Please command me to, sir.” Jake didn’t particularly care for begging - it reminded him of how he didn’t deserve whatever it was happening to him, that he didn’t really have a say in what Matt chose to do to him. It felt a little too much like he was debasing himself.

That being said, Matt was indulging Jake in his own needs, so he couldn’t really throw stones or get upset. If he did, this night was as good as over, and Jake needed to hear those commands, that praise. To be offered that physical comfort.

Matt smiled. “Good job.”

Jake felt another shot of pleasure course through him at that praise.

Then the hand was back in his hair, and the voice hard with a command.

“Suck.”

And Jake was very, very happy to obey.

He leaned forward, trailing sloppy kisses up Matt’s inner thigh, then the other, each time stopping just before making contact. Then, he ran those same kisses up his cock, going painstakingly slow.

Let it be known that Jake Peralta is a goddamn tease.

Finally, he licked his lips one more time, before wrapping them around the tip. He ran his tongue over it, trying not to grin as he heard Matt moan somewhere above him. His hand tightened in Jake’s hair, and was definitely trying to get him to hurry.

Jake rolled his eyes. Doms - they were always in such a rush. He slid his mouth down Matt’s cock, inch by inch, making sure that his gag reflex wasn’t going to go off on him. Some doms thought it was hot - like a compliment on their size or whatever - but Jake didn’t like the whole ‘involuntary reaction’ thing very much - not to mention it was uncomfortable as hell -, and took pains not to cause a reflex.

Matt, for his part, didn’t thrust into Jake’s mouth. His hand on Jake’s head was more of a reminder, less of an actual restraining force.

Some doms liked the power of having a sub do everything - fuck themselves on the dom’s cock for them, that sort of thing - and others liked subs being absolutely helpless - restrained, completely at mercy.

Jake always had a bit of a conundrum on that front. On the one hand, being restrained and helpless was hot as hell, and he was a big fan. On the other, he hated the idea of having to trust someone else that much, to have that much belief that they wouldn’t hurt him - with the first option, he could always escape. He didn't have to trust the other person, didn't have to give up control of himself.

So Jake was simultaneously disappointed and relieved at the realization that Matt was one of the former. He wanted to have a sub service him, stare up at him in wonderment and beg for sex.

Well, Jake could live with that. Not like he was going to put a stop to this, just because of something so insignificant.

Jake reached up with one hand hesitantly, not wanting to be scolded for using more than just his mouth, but Matt moaned again when his hand came up to fondle his balls, so Jake considered that a win. Gaining confidence now that he had his bearings, Jake really started to get to work. He kept his lips around the shaft while moving up and down it, letting his tongue roam around aimlessly as he did so, hand still pressing feather-light touches along his balls and down his thighs.

“God, fuck, you’re…” Matt’s next words turned into another moan, and then he was pulling back on Jake’s hair, away from his body.

Jake pulled back tantalizingly slowly, lips coming off of Matt’s cock with a pop.

“Yes, Sir?” He asked sweetly, licking his lips, the salty taste of precum spreading across his tongue.

“Take off your clothes, and get on the bed.” Matt panted, “You were gonna end me right there and then.”

Finally, they were getting somewhere. Jake wanted some nice sex to forget about… Jake could vaguely remember he was trying to get over something, but he would have to concentrate thinking to recall it - and he didn’t want to lose the moment. Jake banished it from his mind, instead focusing on the command.

Jake quickly peeled out of his clothes, practically jumping into the bed in his haste.

Seeing his eagerness, the dom grinned, striding to the bedside table and pulling out some basic supplies.

“You’re an excited one, huh?” He asked, voice amused as he held out the condom to Jake.

“Put it on me.”

Jake opened the package, pulling it out and positioning it over the tip of his dick. Then, he slowly unrolled it, following his fingers with his mouth, tracing over the area newly covered with latex with every motion. When he got to the base, he pulled back, tossing the now-empty wrapper onto the top of the table.

“We gonna get this party started, or what?” Jake asked, sliding back across the bed.

“Cheeky sub.” Matt replied, getting onto the bed and straddling Jake’s thighs. He lifted up the rope from his drawer. “Are you going to be okay with this?” He asked casually, even as he already took up Jake’s hands.

Jake, in response, crossed his wrists in front of him, not so much permission to proceed as an acceptance of the action that was already occurring. He did really enjoy bondage, but it irked him that Matt had assumed - Jake pushed that aside. He wanted to have a good night, not get all worked up and lose the pleasant buzzing in his head.

Matt did a quick tie around Jake’s wrists, and then another one to the bedboard above his head. Jake tugged experimentally on it. Definitely enough to keep him in place, but he knew the knot in question - he could undo it if he had to in about 12 seconds - in case anything went sideways. It burned pleasantly on his skin as he pulled, and Jake wrapped his hands around the ropes, giving him something to hold onto as Matt spread open his legs, nestling between them with a now lube-coated, condom-covered cock.

Safety first, after all.

Matt slid one finger in, and Jake took a breath, then forced himself to relax. It wasn’t hard - heh, hard - per se, since he was already in that pleasant buzzing zone when he followed commands, but it wasn’t automatic.

Matt added a second, then a third. It was quite businesslike, and Jake craved more. But he’d already asked him to hurry once, and Matt hadn’t exactly done so. He didn’t want to cause Matt to become upset with him, so he remained silent, gritting his teeth at the painful-pleasant burn as a fourth finger was added.

Then they were gone, and Jake breathed a sigh of relief because that meant that finally, finally he could get railed.

Sure enough, the burning sensation returned, as Matt pushed his cock in, Jake’s hands clenching tighter around the bindings as he reminded himself to relax.

Once Matt was fully sheathed, he started moving, thrusting with a clear purpose - to find the spot that would make Jake-

“Hgh!” Jake felt himself jolt as Matt brushed against his prostate. The dom’s look of concentration split into a self-satisfied grin, and then he shifted, setting a new rhythm that hit Jake in the perfect spot each time. The pain-pleasure quickly faded into nothing but pleasure, and it was really pleasurable.

Jake moaned, hips bucking. His own cock was pulsing with need, and the ropes dug into Jake’s wrists as he pushed himself down onto the cock inside him as best he could, craving more.

One of Matt’s hands, the one not supporting his weight, came up to push down on Jake’s hip, fingers purposefully splayed exactly around so that they were almost brushing his cock, but not quite..

Jake practically keened at that, throwing his head back to avoid looking at what was going on and getting even hornier.

He pushed himself down further, Matt clearly enjoying how needy - how desperate - Jake was being. If Jake hadn't had his head full of pleasant buzzing, he would have been embarrassed about it. Or even tried to make himself stop doing it.

Not that he wanted this to stop.

He could feel Matt’s rhythm start to speed up a bit, his moaning getting louder, then stutter, and then, eventually, stop entirely.

He let his cock sit inside Jake for a moment, before pulling out, ignoring the whining cry from the uncompleted sub.

Matt pulled off and tied the end of the condom, putting it into a bin by the bed with that same businesslike air. Jake was bursting with the need to get off, hands twitching in the ropes holding them still, wanting nothing more than to have the dom finish the job.

The dom, who was currently still perched between Jake’s legs. Not done, but waiting.

Oh. Right. Begging. Jake grimaced, then steeled himself to do it.

“Please,” Jake begged, squeezing his legs together slightly to offer touch to the dom, “Please finish me, Sir.”

Matt moved his hand on Jake’s hip to trace down his inner thigh, touch firm. Jake could feel his muscles jumping, hypersensitive, at the contact.

“I don’t know,” Matt wheedled, “I’m not sure you’ve earned it.”

Jake pulled on his restraints. “Please, Sir.” The edge of desperation to his tone overshadowed Matt’s ‘reservations’, which were more for a power play than anything else, Jake knew, and swayed the dom.

“I suppose, you have been a very good sub.”

Jake felt himself flush - spreading across his chest and up his neck - from the praise. A recurring trait of his, he knew.

“Thank you, Sir.” Jake said quickly, as Matt brought his hand, which had been tracing circles on Jake’s inner thigh, down to press back inside, feeling for that same spot as before. The other hand came up to encircle Jake’s cock, beginning a slow pumping motion as he searched for Jake’s prostate with wandering fingers.

When he did find it, Jake bucked up into his hand, another moan bursting from somewhere in his throat. Matt began stroking it in tandem with Jake’s cock, watching as Jake slowly came undone beneath him.

Jake gasped for breath as the pleasure kept building inside him, feeling himself get closer and closer to the edge.

Then, Matt’s thumb stroked over his tip as his fingers pushed against his prostate, and Jake came with a breathy moan, thrusting into Matt’s hand.

While Jake was coming down from the high, Matt pulled his fingers out, stepping out from between his legs and next to him instead, untying his wrists and letting them down. Jake flexed his fingers, relishing in the redness that was sure to become bruising later looping its way around his wrists.

Matt tossed a hand towel onto Jake’s chest, and Jake gratefully cleaned off the quickly-drying cum from his stomach. Matt laid down beside him, pulling him against his body. One hand rubbed Jake’s shoulder, the other one wrapped around his chest to pull him back into a spooning cuddle. It was the classic drop-prevention pose.

Number one prevention of sub drop was to make sure there’s physical contact after sex, or a scene, or heavy commands, all that good stuff. It was considered a crime to purposefully let a sub drop - it’s an incredibly traumatic experience, and some doms would use it, or threats of it, as punishment. Once it was possible to get a divorce on the basis of malignant sub drop, the rates of divorce by subs nearly doubled. Of course, the rates of hospitalization for sub drop dropped by 70%, a major win for sub rights everywhere.

And a rather depressing factoid, too, about how some doms treated their supposedly loved subs. Most doms didn't even consider sub drop to be all that bad - just a standard punishment for things. Or even a game to play. Public perception had really only been changing on it over the past few years or so, mainly due to a lot of campaigning and celebrity pushback. But still, a lot of subs were getting hurt, and there was no reason for it.

Matt went through the motions of aftercare - contact, in the form of touch on his upper body, which had been largely ignored during sex, some murmured “Good, you did good, god job, good sub,” intermittently muttered into his ear, the blanket underneath them for in case Jake got cold - a strange, but extremely common occurence for subs, in which their temperature can drop suddenly.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, Jake felt himself begin to shiver, and Matt leaned over, pulling the blanket up to cover Jake’s body.

Jake was still on that buzzing high, relishing the way he could feel every single loose fiber of the blanket, how the raw skin at his wrists gently throbbed in tandem with his heartbeat.

It felt good.

He really should do this more often.

Jake knew that was the sub in him talking, wanting to stay in this fuzzy space forever. But he knew better - this was a dalliance, he wasn’t going to do this again until he was going to crash. Stave it off, because if he enjoyed it too much he might begin to slide further and further down into subspace, until one day he just… was.

Jake shivered again, but this time it wasn’t from the cold.

He wasn’t going to think about anything except warmth, and how good his body felt, and the praise that Matt was offering.

Those were all that mattered right now.

The rest could wait.

Chapter Text

Jake strolled into the precinct the next morning, trademark grin in place, cups of coffee in hand for the team. His body had that vaguely euphoric feeling that tended to come after following commands, and he placed drinks down on each team members’ desk, humming the Speed score as he did.

Charles was, of course, the first - and hopefully only - one to pick up on it. He practically cornered Jake in the kitchen, saying that he could, quote “see the glow, Jakey!”

Jake had smiled despite himself - normally he wouldn’t be caught dead enjoying subbing, but with Charles, he couldn’t hide it. Pretend not to like it, or not need it. They both knew how it felt, and, with Charles looking so excited, Jake obligingly glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and then raised the edge of his sleeve enough to show the light purple bruising encircling his wrist, biting his bottom lip to try to hide the sheepish, self-satisfied grin spreading over his face.

Charles had whooped, then high-fived Jake, unabashed in his own happiness. Happiness for Jake.

Jake understood why, of course - subbing was fun, was exciting. But it was also not something he wanted to have to admit to having fun, or being excited about.

Still, it was nice, having Charles so pumped up for him. It made Jake feel better. Just being around another sub, knowing, made it feel… good. Jake wasn’t a voyeur in any sense, so he didn’t know why it worked like that when it came to sub-sub interactions, but it just... did. Just, in general, subs were drawn to each other, liked to share with one another. Not that Jake would ever admit to liking that, either. Supposedly doms were the same, but Jake wasn't sure if their bragging was borne out of the same need, or just plain arrogance.

Amy probably knew whatever science or biology there was behind subs having that response, and whether or not doms were the same, but he didn’t want to ask her - he’d have to explain why, and the fact that Jake Peralta likes to get tied up wasn’t something he wanted on his reputation.

Part of the appeal of strangers, after all.

Jake continued humming to himself as he sat down at his own desk, swiveling to flash a grin at Amy, who looked up, surprised.

“You’re on time.” She said, slight confusion coloring her tone.

“No need to act so shocked, Santiago. I do know how to be an adult.” Jake grinned back, voice light and full of banter - yesterday’s tensions absolutely gone. He felt completely, absolutely stress-free. All with a lingering hint of that pleasant buzzing, inviting him to relax a little. Breathe a little easier. It was wonderful.

Jake knew there were plenty of drugs that could recreate the feeling - including a new one just hitting the streets - and he was forever grateful that he had never tried it. This sort of joy could be addicting.

“First time for everything.” She replied, that edge of confusion still buried in her voice, but being mostly overshadowed by her smug banter.

Mostly.

Jake’s smile didn’t twitch. He was in too good of a mood to react poorly to her odd emotions, taking them in stride.

“Who knows? Maybe next I’ll start laminating.”

“Don’t you dare touch my laminator!” Amy gasped in horror, reaching out and placing one hand protectively over the machine, which sat next to her computer.

“Why is it on your desk?” Jake’s eyebrows furrowed. “You’re that attached to it?”

“I’m the only one who uses it!” Amy replied defensively, before looking a bit embarrassed, adding, after a moment of silence, “Everyone else was using it wrong, anyway.”

“Uh huh.” Jake’s grin spread even further, and Amy rolled her eyes at him, opening her mouth to speak, but then Terry interrupted.

“Briefing room, five minutes.”

“Ooh, new cases!” Jake perked up, "I’ve already finished all of mine. Help, Amy, I’m dying of boredom. The only cure… is letting me have the next fun murder case.”

“No, Jake. It’s my turn to be assigned to the murders; assuming there even is one, for the record, which there might not even be!”

“New York.”

“Okay, fine," She acquiesced, "But I still get the case. That’s the rule.”

“You can’t break it? For me?” Jake jokingly tilted his head down slightly and looked up at her, batting his eyelashes.

Amy swallowed hard, breaking eye contact with him. “Break rules? I wouldn’t do that for my own parents, let alone you, Peralta.”

Jake sat back in his chair, crossing his arms in mock hurt. “Wow, I feel betrayed. Absolutely betrayed."

Amy opened her mouth, about to say… something, before cutting herself off, and instead just saying, generically, “Too bad.”

Jake frowned slightly. That wasn’t what she had been going to say, he knew - her eyes had twitched the way it always did when she was she was backtracking, or trying not to say something she wanted to.

It was interesting, because she normally would just end up saying whatever it was she wanted to. She was Amy Santiago, after all. But this time, she let the silence hang in the air, reverting her gaze away from Jake’s and to the computer, saving a few files before standing up, the cup of coffee Jake had gotten for her in her hand.

She took a sip, and nodded appreciatively. "Damn, that's good." She muttered, practically chugging from it. Jake felt a swell of pride, which he didn't shove back down immediately, for once - it was just leftovers from his subbing the night before, after all.

“Briefing room?” She asked, oblivious to his reaction.

“Yep.” Jake stood up as well, cutting in front of her so he wasn’t walking behind her, taking a seat at his normal place once inside.

The others trailed in a few moments later, followed by Terry, and, finally, Holt.

“There are two new major cases.” Holt began without preamble, “A suspected homicide, and an vandalism case. Peralta, you and Boyle take the homicide. Santiago, Diaz, you’re on the assault.”

“What?” Amy shot out, before covering her mouth, looking up at Holt with wide eyes.

Holt raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry, sir, but… well,” Amy looked like she was bolstering courage, “I was supposed to be assigned to the next homicide.”

“Interesting. I failed to read about that regulation in the precinct handbook. Perhaps you could point it out to me?”

Amy deflated, sitting back in her chair. “No, Captain. I’ll take the vandalism case.”

“Good. It’s your job.”

Jake turned to Amy, eyebrows raised. “Wow, he’s really pissed at you today. What happened? I thought you two were… bonding or whatever.”

Amy looked away, pointedly not responding. Probably because of how he got the case. Jake did, actually, feel bad about that - it was technically Amy’s turn.

But Holt wasn’t budging, and Jake was happy enough to take the murder case that he didn’t complain. Not in front of Amy, anyway.

About ten minutes into work, Jake sauntered into the Captain’s office, knocking on the door as he entered, and closing it behind him.

Holt looked up from some papers on his desk. “Peralta.”

“Hey, Captain, I just wanted to ask you something.” Jake said, glancing out the window. Amy was looking at him, and he closed the blinds - she could read lips, after all.

“Is there a reason you are renovating my office?” Holt asked dryly, even as he sat back in his chair to pay attention.

“Yeah, actually.” Jake switched from foot to foot, hesitating, before saying, “Look, why’d you give me the case? We both know it belongs to Amy.”

“Nothing belongs to anyone, here.” Holt said brusquely. "Everything is owned by the state."

“Well, yeah, I guess, but… you know what I mean.”

“I do.”

“Then why’d you give me the case?”

“I read your reports on Millhound. Santiago was the arresting officer, correct?”

“Yeah,” Jake replied slowly. “Why?”

“I read your report - it said that Millhound attempted to command you?”

“Yep.” Jake nodded stiffly, still not sure where this was going but not entirely liking it. Even though Holt had never questioned his capabilities on the basis of his orientation, Jake could never quite shake that itching concern in the back of his head. That maybe this time, this time it would be different. That this time it would matter.

“However," Holt continued, "I then read Santiago’s report. I came across, interestingly, a section in her report that indicated she had in fact also commanded you after his arrest, which I found lacking in your own file.”

“Oh, um, well, it wasn’t a big deal-” Jake began, thrown off by the questioning.

“Yes, it is." Holt cut in. "Santiago recommended that I suspend her without pay for abusing her influence as a dom on a police officer.”

“Oh.” Jake’s eyebrows furrowed. “That’s unreasonable-”

“Yes, it is. Since your file didn’t mention it, I wouldn’t be able to. She was somewhat surprised when I said that she would not be suspended, which led me to believe you chose to omit that information of your own accord. Did you?”

Jake grinned tightly, “Yeah, well, it wasn’t like she did it on purpose. I was annoying her, so she just reacted. It’s-”

“Unacceptable, yes.” Holt interrupted once more, “Regardless, she has been suspended from all felony cases pending the same amount of time she would have been suspended instead.”

“Then why was she so upset not to get the murder case?”

“I believe she wanted to avoid drawing suspicion. In fact, I am surprised she was able to fool you at all.” Holt's tone was mildly incredulous.

“Right…” Jake glanced towards where Amy would be sitting through the closed blinds, then back at Holt. “So I’m guessing you won’t just let me give her the murder case?”

“Why would you do that? You have the arrest competition. Felonies only. It would not make sense for you to sabotage yourself.”

“Yeah, well,” Jake felt his fingers tapping on his thigh, “I don’t want her to hold it against me. I’m in a sort of… unsteady situation. One recommendation from a team member about it being hard to work with me ‘cause I’m a sub would have me transferred out to… Ridgedale or whatever it was Rosa was complaining about, in a heartbeat. I can’t risk that.” Not that Jake thought Amy would do something like that. Just that he could never be 100% certain. Despite everything they've done and all their friendship, at the end of the day, she was still a dom. And most doms didn't exactly like to be outdone by a sub, especially not ones as competitive as she was.

Holt’s mouth twitched minutely towards a frown. “I do not believe Santiago would report you for taking one case.”

“I’ve already had one freak-out this week, with the printer. I can’t afford a second one. Please, Captain, just give the case to Santiago. I don’t want to cause waves.” Jake asked, feeling the optimism from the previous night slowly ebb away, the pleasant buzzing fading away into the normal Jake-Peralta-thoughts.

“My entire existence as Captain ‘made waves’. My becoming a detective ‘made waves’. Everything I’ve ever done has ‘made waves’, Peralta, and you need to learn how to deal with that." Holt paused, before adding, "Otherwise, I fail to see how you managed to make detective in the first place.”

Jake swallowed, the criticism hitting him harder than he cared to admit. “Yeah, yeah, got it. I’ll… do the case. Find a murderer. Cool, cool cool, cool. Cool. No doubt. No doubt.”

Jake left the office, walking back to his desk and sitting down, keeping his eyes anywhere except on Amy.

“What was that about?” Amy asked, sipping from the coffee - that he had gotten for her - confusion on her face.

“Amy, did you put… that you had, you know,” Jake made a face, “In your report on Millhound?”

Amy nodded immediately, placing down the cup as her face morphed immediately into a mix of professionalism and apology. “Of course. I made a critical mistake, it’s unacceptable of me to-”

“Why?" It was Jake's turn to interrupt, now. "I mean, you could’ve just… not. It’s not like you would’ve gotten in trouble for it. Besides, people throw commands around all the time. It’s not like you’d be the first partner to do it.”

Oops, too real. Jake wanted to backtrack, but Amy spoke before he had the chance.

“I don’t care. Just because I can get away with abusing my command doesn’t mean I should. And you shouldn’t accept it from anyone… that you don’t want to, of course.” She added after a beat.

“Holt’s taking you off of felonies for a bit, he said.” Jake frowned.

“Yeah. I know.” Amy shrugged, flipping open her file. “I’m actually surprised he let me stay at all. I expected him to be a lot harsher.”

“He couldn’t.” Jake said. Amy looked up at him, eyebrows furrowing.

“What do you mean?” She asked quickly. He could practically see her running through the regulations in her head, trying to puzzle it out.

“I didn’t put it in my report, so there was no actual complaint filed.”

“What?” Amy asked loudly, a couple of beat cops glancing their way. She lowered her voice, leaning forward over her desk with an edge of urgency. “Why didn’t you? God, Jake, I commanded you! And you…” She trailed off, but he understood the implication.

She had commanded him, sure, but he had obeyed. That made it a whole other level of wrongness. Of violation.

“Don’t worry about it, Amy. It wasn’t important.” The I’ve had worse hung in the air, unspoken but fully understood just the same.

Amy looked sad. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Jake.” Then she turned back to her case file. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find the absolute madman who’s graffiti-ing boobs all over suburban houses.

“What? You get boobs? Oh, so not fair.” Jake grumbled, opening his own file to the sight of a dude who definitely didn’t shoot himself in the back of the head four times.

Back to work it was.

Chapter Text

Time went on, and the urge to submit faded away into the back of Jake’s mind - it wasn’t something that ever truly went away, but it was as irrelevant as it really could be - and perps hadn’t made him so far.

They only tended to catch on when he was a mess, anyway.

Jake was bored out of his mind, tapping away at his desk.

So when the phone rang, Jake was eager to snatch it up, answering on the second ring. “Hello, Detective Peralta here.”

After a brief conversation, Jake put the phone back down onto the receiver. His boredom had vanished - instead, a heavy weight settled on his chest.

“Charles, with me.” Jake said, standing up.

Charles got up as well, “Jake, what’s going on?”

“Sal’s burned down. That place is an institution, and the best pizza place in Brooklyn!”

“Actually, it’s eighth-” Charles began talking animatedly about mouth-feel, while Jake grabbed his jacket, heading for the elevator.

When they pulled up to Sal’s, Jake cursed.

“The firefighters are here.”

“Well, it was a fire,” Charles reasoned, even as his face fell at the sight of the firetrucks parked haphazardly across the street.

As the two approached, Fire Marshall Boone strode towards them, arrogance oozing out of his body.

Jake felt Boyle tense near him, and took a half-step forward, putting on the swagger.

“Hey, Boone, what are you doing here, ya nimrod?” Jake asked.

“Uh, there was a fire.” Boone replied, ‘The better question is what are you doing here? Did someone call in a missing donut?”

“Uh, actually, someone called us and said they couldn’t find your head. But, looks like we did - it was up your ass. You’re a firefigher, you should know how to take care of that burn.”

Jake held up his hand, and Chalres high-fived it eagerly, taking up the confidence cues from Jake.

“Well, joke’s on you. Because this was a fire, so it’s fire department jurisdiction. So why don’t you back off, and let New York’s Bravest handle it.”

“They only call you that because New York’s Best at spraying stuf with water was too wordy.”

“Well, it’s too bad we can’t all be New York’s Finest.” Boone replied back, “After all, we don’t have such a… diverse stock like you all do. It’s too bad firefighters still aren’t letting in subs.”

Jake raised his eyebrows. “Seriously, dude? You’re bringing-”

“Hey, Joke Peralta, I told you, it’s too bad we don’t. Tragic, really.” Boone smiled smugly. “I’m always saying we could use some subs in our department, but, well, we just can’t seem to convince the guys up top that they’d serve a function other than a distraction. Clearly not a problem for the NYPD, though. ‘Cause neither of you would qualify for that.”

Jake’s jaw set. Boone’s voice was falsely kind, taking on the passive-aggressive edge that he was so very skilled at.

Boone was a staunch opposer of sub-integration into fire departments. His campaigning and political schmoozing was one of the key reasons why there weren’t any subs in most of New York.

“Well, look, we heard this might be arson, so we need to investigate.” Jake said, electing to ignore the exchange of barbs, and get to the point.

“No, no, I’m not letting you onto my crime scene.” Boone made a gesturing motion with his hand, and then strode away.

Jake turned to Charles. “C’mon, let’s go.”

Charles was quiet, until they got into the car - when he got uncomfrotable, he tended to talk a lot. When he got upset, he went quiet.

“Boone doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You’d make a great distraction, Jake.” Charles said, clearly trying to lighten the mood.

“Thanks, Charles.” Jake said, forcing a smile.

They both knew it was fake - but what could they possibly say to each other that would be new? It was the same shit different day, after all. Boone was just one of the many. And everything he’d said, they’d heard already.

It was beyond even getting upset at it anymore. Now, it was just moving on, and pretending that, even though the words have been said a million times, they don’t still burrow in, just a bit.

After a brief stint of standing around aimlessly, listening to Charles describe “mouth-feel”, Charles cut himself off.

“Uh-oh, Jake. Firemen.” He said, excited grin fading.

Jake turned around. “What are you two doing here?”

“You’re a detective. You detect it out.” One of them said.

“Good one bro.” “Thanks bro.” “No problem, bro.”

“Boone reconsidered. He wants you to take a look at the files.” The firefighter handed Jake a file.

“Well, that’s unexpected, Jake said, turning to Charles. “Allright, fine, I’ll-” Jake opened the file, looked down, and froze.

His slightly confused expression turned hard, his uncomfortable smile turning into a twisted frown. His hands clenched around the file’s edges, and he couldn’t bring himself to blink. He saw Charles look over the edge of the file, and could tell he was thrown as well - more offended than feeling the sudden crushing weight of a gavel on his shoulders.

Inside the file folder was a collar.

It was a cheap collar - couldn’t have cost more than a few bucks. One of those cute pink ones that they sell at the dollar store like friendship bracelets and stuff like that.

Jake hated collars.

Charles had worn one, for a while, when he was still with his now-ex-wife Eleanor. Jake had been genuinely happy for him - Charles was so excited, he practically swooned every time he felt it, or noticed it - but then when they had broken it off, Charles had to give it back.

Then, he had dropped.

So badly, in fact, that Terry had to intervene - Jake had tried to help, but it had almost triggered a drop for him, and he’d run off, gotten way to drunk, and let some stranger ride him just so that they’d hold him afterwards.

It was terrible - Jake felt disgusting, afterwards, and found himself picking at his skin for hours, but it had stopped a drop so it was worth it, it was worth it. Dropping hurt. It was disorienting, could even be dangerous - subs could forget what they were doing, some would accidentally hurt themselves, and some doms… well, some got a kick out of making subs miserable.

It was a crime, to purposefully cause a sub drop. Number one method of spousal abuse was sub drop, but it was also a power method. Have a sub in drop, they’d do anything to please a dom. It was a bit like subspace, except instead of trust it’s based on fear, and instead of the warm fuzzies it’s just rocking, bone-deep terror that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere and build up on itself into a spiraling panic.

Jake knew that collars themselves weren’t a bad thing - the vast majority of subs liked wearing them, liked to feel it and have it on them. It’s also an effective tool at stopping assault - doms don’t respect the sub, but they’ll respect some unknown dom’s property.

And that was one of the many reasons why Jake hated collars. It’s great when he wants to be left alone, because it means off-limits to others. It’s a form of protection, sure. But it’s also a sign that he’s property - that he’s owned. Not to mention, it sends the signal that he is a sub, something he’s gotten pretty good at not showing - at least, he’d like to believe that to be the case.

When he did wear a collar… man, he couldn’t believe he’d ever agreed to that. Thinking about it know sent a shudder up his spine. When he did, people would talk to his dom instead of him, talked about him rather than to him… it made him feel like he was less than. Like he was a pet, or an object that was owned, rather than a person who willingly entered a relationship.

People seemed to forget that subs choose to put on the collar, sometimes. Or, more accurately, that once it’s on, that the sub still has the power to leave the relationship.

Jake was proof that that was the case.

But now here he was, staring at this collar in a file folder, beyond floored.

He didn’t think Boone would do something this egregious.

But, no matter how many times it was shown to him, beaten into him over and over and over, Jake always seemed to forget the cruelty of doms.

“Ha! It’s not a file, bro, it’s a collar! ‘Cause you’re prisses!” The firefighter chuckled.

“Yeah, you sure about that?” Jake stumbled out a comeback, fully aware that it made no sense but unable to think of a response. The sight of the collar had gotten under his skin in a way that was a bit too visceral to be shrugged off.

The firefighters just chortled, and left.

“I don’t care if it’s not our jursidiction. We’re solving that case!” Jake said, turning to Charles and forcing his hand to snap the case closed.

Scully stood up. “Hey, Jake, I’ll file that case for you.”

Jake frowned, and went to speak, but Scully just shook his head.

“Kelly’d love it. She likes pink.”

Dog or wife? Charles mouthed over Scully’s shoulder, and Jake handed over the file eagerly.

Jake shrugged, then crossed his arms, letting out a sigh.

Charles was looking at Jake with an uncomfortable amount of concern.

He didn’t know exactly why collars bothered Jake so much, but it didn’t take a detective to figure it out. Most battered subs had triggers with aspects of sub culture - while collars wasn’t normally one of those things, things like a specific position or phrase being the overwhelming majority of situations - it wasn’t much of a stretch.

Not to mention that Charles knew that there had been some sort of bad dom in Jake’s past. He didn’t try to hide the fact - he didn’t conceal the truth, people just didn’t ask, except for Charles - and had talked, very briefly, about it during a stakeout.

Jake had explained that a partner of his would manipulate him and try to mess with his head - Jake never went into how, he didn’t want anyone to realize how fucked up he really was - and Charles had been understanding, and hadn’t pushed the issue.

Beyond asking who it was, and if Jake had filed a case or anything - Jake had explained that it wasn’t possible because of the circumstances, and Charles had just nodded sadly.

Sometimes, Jake worried about Charles. He was a lot more in-touch with his subness - in the sense that Jake constantly warred with himself about it and actively tried to suppress it in himself (which, okay, was probably a form of internalized orientationalism or at the very least some serious self-hatred, but, well, semantics) - but Charles seemed so much more vulnerable to the abuses that could come with being a sub.

Jake saw what happened to him after his ex-wife left him. But the difference was that Charles bounced back.

Jake couldn’t.

So instead of seeing a shrink, or maybe just trying to self-reflect for once in his life - that was sure to cause a self-panic -, Jake called up Sal, and asked him to come by the precinct.

Which was why he was sitting at his desk now, with Sal - one of his favorite people - sitting across from him.

“I can’t believe it’s gone, Jakey. All of it. The wood-fire oven. The first dollar bill I ever made. The 7-Up fridge.” He covered his mouth, voice choking up.

“Hey, it’s all right. You’ll rebuild.”

“The firefighters have been asking a lot of questions. They think I torched my own place.”

Jake saw Charles turn around in the periphery of his vision.

“You know I wouldn’t do that, don’t you, Jakey?” Sal asked worriedly.

“Yeah, of course.” Jake replied immediately, fingers beginning to tap on his badge - he had taken off his tie after seeing the collar - and looking at Sal concernedly.

He adored Sal - truly. He was a big, happy Italian dom, and he who would let Jake sit at one of the booths, even when he was too broke to buy a slice, after his dad had left. “Don’t you worry about a thing, Jakey,” Sal had said, hand patting him on the shoulder kindly, “You’re a good kid, don’t think he can make you feel otherwise.” - it was the first time someone, other than Gina, hadn’t been disappointed when they discovered his orientation.

“We’re going to solve this for you Sal.” Jake said firmly.

Sal smiled warmly. “Thank you, Jakey. I know you’ll do it.”

Jake smiled back as he grabbed his jacket, exchanging a few words with Charles. Sal was a good guy - he never thought that Jake wouldn’t make the Academy. When he had gotten accepted, Sal had patted him on the back, told him he was proud, and that, if Jake ever needed another job - “In this economy, Jakey, you’d be lucky to only have to work two!” - he always had one at Sal’s.

Charles began distracting the two firefighters in front of the burned-down Sal’s with a story about his son’s cat, Jake snuck in through the side door.

Only to be met with Boone.

“Gah!” Jake slammed down his flashlight, grateful that NYPD-grade flashlights could actually withstand the force of hitting the ground.

Boone lectured Jake about how clearly Sal did it, while the two firefighters and Charles entered through the main doors.

“Peralta has screwed with me for the last time! And now, you’re gonna pay.”

“Oh, anytime,” Jake ran his hand through his hair, “Anytime you wanna g-”

Boone punched Jake in the gut.

“Well,” Jake choked, “That escalated quic-”

Then Boone’s arms were on Jake, and he was getting tackled to the floor.

Jake was vaguely aware that Charles was getting ganged up on by two firefighters - totally not cool - but Boone was on top of Jake and he felt his body freeze for a second, before his adrenaline shot through the roof.

No.

Jake fought back hard - kicking and scratching, eventually the pair rolling out into the street, Charles stumbling out after them and grabbing the back of Boone’s shirt, trying to haul him off of Jake, who could feel his heart rate spiking higher and higher with each passing second of Boone’s body against his.

No.

Jake heard the sound of fighting - more voices now. He looked up, but all he saw were doms screaming and hitting each other, and Charles still pulling at Boone’s shirt, trying - and failing - to get him off of Jake.

Finally, the amount of cops outweighed the amount of firefighters, and the fight got broken up. Jake shoved Boone off of him, getting up and leaning against the wall of Sal’s, breathing hard. His muscles were tensed, and his hands were trembling, just a bit.

“You okay, Jake?” Charles asked hesitantly.

Jake nodded roughly. “I’m fine.” He said breathlessly, “I’m fine.”

Charles offered a hug, and Jake, actually, took it. He didn’t need it, per se, but it felt nice. His skin was itching from Boone’s touch, and Charles was the only thing keeping Jake from just… digging his nails under his skin and trying to take off a few layers. He didn't like to be touched - especially by a dom - without permission. Not that the average dom asked in the first place, but still.

Of course, when Holt showed up, Jake shoved his vulnerabilities down, standing up straight and sticking a cocky grin onto his face.

A grin that faded fast as Holt admonished him in front of Boone. He wanted to talk back, but didn't dare - his nerves were on the fritz, and talking shit in front of a bunch of doms, especially with Charles with him, didn't seem like a wise choice.

“I’m a reasonable guy,” Boone said, “Fire Peralta immediately! He’s obsessed with this pizza place-”

“Reasonable?” Jake cut him off, “How the fuck is sending me a collar as a prank reasonable?”

Boone frowned. “I did no such thing! That file had a donut in it and you know it!”

“That… that’s not what it was.” Charles piped up.

Holt's eyebrow twitched.

“My officers would not lie about such a thing.” He said simply.

Boone frowned harder. Jake would assume he was thinking, but he wasn’t sure firefighters were capable of that.

“Well.” Boone said finally, “It seems that… I have an apology to make on the part of my underlings as well, Captain.”

“Don’t apologize to me.” Holt's voice was slightly cold, “Apologize to them.”

Boone grimaced, but begrudgingly did so.

Jake and Charles stood there awkwardly throughout the entire thing. Jake still wasn’t entirely convinced Boone didn’t do it, except that the type of no-duh humor of a donut definitely seemed more his intelligence level. Boone just wasn’t smart enough to be creative like that.

Eventually, Boone agreed to let Jake and Charles work the case, after Jake admitted why he cared about Sal’s so much - which was embarrassing as hell - and then Boone was hugging him.

Jake did not like that very much.

Charles, of course, never turned down a hug, but Jake felt his skin itch harder.

When doms got emotional, they always made it seem that the nearest sub was the one who needed to be comforted. It was a ‘protect’ instinct, supposedly, but Jake thought it was more of an excuse so that doms could pretend that their emotions were actually the sub’s, and that they were still in control.

And nothing said control like forcing a hug onto a sub, just so the dom could save face.

Jake was relieved when they solved the case - no more working with the fire department. He was even relieved when he opened his drawer, and saw that it was full of shaving cream.

It meant they were back to normal. No collars in sight, and no Boone being emotional.

Jake could go the rest of his life without some random dom - or sworn nemesis, in Boone’s case - trying to hug him again. In a way, it was even worse than the collar prank. Worse than getting jumped. It was an action that was supposed to offer comfort, twisted into a pantomime of its purpose in order to gain comfort for a dom. It was violating in a way that only a kind action done coldly could ever be.

Jake would very much prefer if that never had to happen again.

But his orientation guaranteed that that it was going to happen. Over and over again, for his entire life.

Which is why Jake just dealt with it the best way he knew how.

Pretend it never happened, and never acknowledge his feelings on the matter.

That way, he could pretend he was fine.

And if he pretended long enough… maybe he would be.

Chapter Text

Jake was standing on the street corner, leaned back against a wall and bopping his head to the music supposedly playing through his earbuds.

“Careful, Jakey. Gaffer’s supposed to be coming up in-” There was a pause as Charles presumably checked his watch, “6 minutes.” His voice came across slightly crackly, and Jake readjusted the left earbud casually.

“No doubt.” Jake replied, tapping his fingers on his ripped jeans in accordance with the imaginary beat.

“You look so cool, by the way.” Charles piped up. Jake could hear the grin in his voice.

“How’s Vivian?” Jake asked. He didn’t want to have to respond, it would draw more attention if he was talking to himself. And what’s more, he was genuinely curious.

Curious being suspicious.

Everything had worked out between the pair, they were engaged now. Hell, Jake was the best man.

But still.

Charles was his best friend, Jake needed to make sure that everything was above board. A dom who treated their sub - fuck, Jake mentally corrected himself - a dom who treated a sub who chose to be with them with respect?

Jake knew Charles. He was a good, kind person who loved deeply and fully. But he also could be a bit of a pushover. He was normally pretty good about standing his ground to strangers or acquaintances, even bosses, but people who he deeply loved… well, Jake had seen him burned far too many times.

Jake had even been the one to hold the torch once or twice, so to speak.

Back when his anger hadn’t turned to bitterness yet - although to be fair, Jake was still plenty angry, he just got better at concealing it from everyone, including himself - and when Charles had finally divorced Eleanor.

Charles had been depressed for a while afterwards - the process of getting away from a dom was an extremely difficult one. Especially as a sub that, in Jake’s both professional and personal opinion, had been abused, or at the very least manipulated.

But then Charles had bounced back.

With literally no trauma.

Jake hadn’t been able to comprehend it.

He had struggled, was still actively struggling with a relationship that had ended before Charles’ had. And here was his best friend, going through a relatively similar experience, and he took it with no problem.

Charles wasn’t angry. He wasn’t bitter. He didn’t even repress the hell out of it, like Jake did. He wasn’t afraid of going into subspace again, of dating again, of trying again.

And it pissed Jake off.

He knew, of course, the real reason he had been so unbelievably frustrated at Charles - he was angry at himself, and projecting it. Because if he was okay, then that meant it wasn’t a sub problem, a relationship problem.

It was a Jake problem.

And he had reacted to that realization with cruelty.

He still remembered, in snapshot detail. Never failed to leave him with guilt in his heart.

Charles had gotten him a coffee, for a stakeout in Jake’s car. He had been humming some song from a musical, and practically skipping.

In excitement. To hang out with him.

Jake just remembered fixing Charles with a glare, refusing to take the proffered coffee.

“What’s wrong, Jake?” Charles asked, seeing the expression on his face.

“It’s like you don’t even care.” There was no context, but they both knew what he was saying.

Charles’ face had sagged slightly. As if he knew what was coming, but couldn’t bring himself to let Jake out of it by interrupting.

Jake saw the look on Charles’ face - he had wanted to stop even as he took a sort of vindictive, twisted pleasure in continuing, “Did you even care about her in the first place?”

Charles had just quietly placed down the two coffees, typing on his phone.

Jake was still too angry. He wanted Charles to get angry, to get mad. Anything, anything to show that he had something fucked up, too. That it wasn’t just him. But he also lost the ability to speak, watching Charles. Just wanting for him to react.

“Rosa’s taking over for me.” Charles said after a moment, voice devoid of emotion, before simply opening the car door and leaving.

Jake had stared after him, unable to form words to speak. He didn’t know what to say.

He felt a rapidly, exponentially growing guilt rise within him, and his throat caught for a moment, struck with the sudden urge to cry. Or slam his head through the windshield until he forgot that he had said that. But Jake didn’t have the right to do either, not when Charles was the one who he hurt.

The worst part was, he hadn’t even meant it. He knew Charles - the guy loved more deeply and more fully than anyone, and Jake knew how hard it had been for him to make the decision to get away from Eleanor. Jake had said it just because he knew it would hit his friend - if they could still even be called that - in his most vulnerable spot. Where it would hurt the most.

Jake had realized in that moment, that this was what shitty doms did. That they felt the same vindictive pleasure that he had felt during the moment. That Jake was using the same playbook his old dom had.

That particular epiphany prompted Jake to immediately yank open his car door, retching.

When Rosa had eventually shown up, glowering worse than usual, she found Jake practically shaking, trying hard not to drop and make an even bigger mess of it all. He deserved it, Jake knew, he deserved to drop and to hurt and to have Charles hate him forever. But it wasn’t fair to make this about him, to force the team to worry about him instead of Charles.

It wasn’t like Rosa hadn’t seen him drop before, either. She hated dealing with it, though - it stressed her out too much, and she would rather just leave him to deal with it himself. Except, of course, she never did, because she cared. Although she would kill him if he ever said that was the reason.

So, she slid inside the car, closing it sharply.

“You fucked up.” She said simply.

Jake nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He was rapidly forcing himself to shove all his guilt away, promising himself he would hate himself later, once he was off the clock.

“You’ll fix it.” It was phrased like a threat.

“What if I can’t?” Jake had asked hoarsely. He cared deeply about Charles, he was one of the few people who Jake truly trusted.

And Jake had gone and smashed that trust with a sledgehammer.

“You’ll find out later. For now, focus on the job.” Rosa had replied.

Jake had nodded - it was jerky - and had forced himself to focus on the stakeout.

Charles had forgiven him.

Of course, still seeing the best in everyone.

Even Jake.

Charles had been forgiving, but didn’t let Jake off the hook, either. He had asked, in his own firm-but-soft way, why Jake had thought it was okay to ask him that.

“Jake, I just don’t understand why you would have even considered it. I thought we knew each other better than that.” Charles had said, standing upright, arms crossed, expression sad but set.

Jake could have lied. Charles would have probably let it slide. But they both knew that, if he did, it would alter their relationship irreparably.

So he had been honest. He hadn’t really admitted to his old relationship… being the way it was to anyone, until that moment. In an empty evidence room with Charles, he confessed to… well, not everything, because the last thing Jake needed right now was a fucking flashback, but enough.

Jake had explained that his previous relationship had turned bad, that his dom had turned abusive - Jake didn’t mention what had actually happened, since he had done pretty much every act of abuse in the book, and some not even on there, if they were being honest - and that now he had some - a lot of - issues around it. And that seeing Charles able to recover…

“It made me jealous.” Jake had admitted, staring at the floor because he couldn’t bring himself to look Charles in the eye, “And it made me scared. Because if you could get over it and I couldn’t, then that would mean that I was the problem. That it’s not all subs who get screwed over by doms get fucked up. That I’m the part that’s broken. And, I guess I wanted to prove to myself that you weren’t okay, so that I could… I don’t know, justify my own reactions to myself. That if neither of us were okay, maybe one day we both could be.”

Charles had been quiet for a moment.

Jake didn’t dare look up, afraid at what he might see.

Finally, Charles had spoken. “Thank you for telling me this, Jake. And… I don’t really know the right thing to say, but… everyone goes at their own pace. And you shouldn’t hold yourself to any standard, including me.” He hesitated. “And I’m… not okay, either. I’m happy right now because my being happy makes other people happy, and that makes me feel better. And my life isn’t working out perfectly, but it’s working. It’s improving.”

“I feel like I’ve been running in place ever since I got out.” Jake said, hating himself for how his voice broke. “I can’t improve. Nothing’s changed.”

“Of course it has!” Now Charles sounded indignant. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re great! But life is always getting better. And I know it because I see you and you keep getting better! Like fine cheese.”

Jake had choked out a wet laugh.

Charles had offered a hug.

And Jake had taken it.

Jake was pulled out of his thoughts by the phrase “eating ice cream out of each other’s collarbones” being spoken directly into his ears.

“Ugh, TMI, Charles.” Jake grimaced, deciding to never picture that ever in- oh no now he was thinking about it. Jake repressed a shudder. “Our time?”

“Gaffer should be coming around the corner any minute.”

Jake began bobbing his head again, turning to the side slightly so he would have a good angle to cut off Gaffer if he tried to make a run for it.

Sure enough, Gaffer rounded the corner about half a minute later, carrying a bodega sandwich.

“Stop, NYPD!” Jake said, drawing his gun.

Gaffer threw the sandwich in his face, turning to run.

Jake chased after him, easily catching up and pinning him against a wall.

“John Gaffer, you’re under arrest.” He said, only slightly out of breath.

“Nice job, Jakey! You’re the best!” Charles said cheerfully, putting away his police baton as he came up the street from the opposite direction - to cut Gaffer off if Jake couldn’t catch up. He, somehow, didn’t seem as winded as Jake was, despite having to arguably run further, considering their respective heights.

Jake grinned back. “Thanks, man.”

Charles had forgiven him for his harsh words from so long ago, and, what’s more, had been significantly more encouraging to him after that. Of course, he had always been very open with praise and compliments before, especially towards Jake, but he got the feeling his friend had amped it up.

It was unbelievably sweet, even as Jake’s guilt for why Charles knew about his feelings of inadequacy lingered.

Hell, Jake still felt guilty about it, and it’d been over a year.

Charles seemed to see the flash of… whatever emotion it was, on his face, because he paused.

“Seriously, Jake. You did good.”

“You too, Charles.” Jake replied automatically, flashing him a disarming grin.

As Charles resumed their rather one-sided conversation about Vivian, Jake listened intently.

He knew how much he had fucked up when he had hurt Charles, and he wasn’t going to let Vivian have the opportunity to do the same.

Charles sounded so happy.

It made Jake smile a bit, to hear Charles wax poetic about his dom - even if some of the things he were saying Jake never wanted to hear again, or in the first place, for his entire life.

“-and, of course, she got me a collar.” Charles touched the item around his neck with reverent fingers.

Jake had noticed it immediately, but hadn’t really stopped to take a good look at it yet. For one thing, it was rude to stare at a sub’s collar unless invited, and for another, it made Jake feel a pang of equal parts want and fear.

But Charles was inviting him to look at it, clearly hoping for feedback, and Jake obliged.

It was a thick one - different collars had different sizes, depending on preference. Some subs had multiple collars for different wear and circumstances, especially when it came to celebrities and stuff, but Charles liked having just the one.

2” thick leather encircled Charles’ neck, clearly sturdy but most definitely soft. It was relatively understated, the darkish blue band decorated only by a thin silver trim along the edges. The clasp blended in nearly completely imperceptibly, and unless really inspecting it, as Jake was, it would look like one continuous loop. It was very obviously minimalist, and very upper range.

“Wow, Charles, it’s-”

“Amazing, right?” Charles bust out, clearly unable to contain himself for another moment. “Vivi and I got it for our big 2-week anniversary! I love it - blue’s definitely my color - and she preferred silver so it was a natural fit, not to mention here, touch it!”

Jake hesitantly reached out, fingers brushing the side of it. As expected, it was unbelievably soft. Still, he pulled his hand away quickly.

“Wow.” He said, impressed. “For your two-week anniversary? That seems… kind of abrupt.”

Charles shrugged. “Well, we had talked about it, and I mean I had brought it up once but she was the one who suggested it so it was a joint decision. I swear,” He sighed dreamily, “We are always on the same page. It’s great.”

“I’m really happy for you, bud.” Jake said cheerily, “You two really seem to be connecting.”

Of course, Jake found it suspicious that Vivian had gotten Charles a collar - but it wasn’t like a cop made a lot of money, and they did seem to genuinely get along, scarily well in fact, so he kept those thoughts to himself - especially considering how quickly they had started dating.

Although, they were engaged now, so Jake supposed it was a natural step to take going forward. And, of course, that wasn’t fair to judge anyway. Jake knew some subs who put on collars on date two - although usually their own, in a symbolic thing rather than in the way Charles was doing.

Jake drove them, Gaffer in tow, back to the precinct, half-listening to Charles talk about the entire process of acquiring the collar, including how the two of them had discussed it together.

Now, that was interesting, actually.

Jake didn’t know that doms would let subs pick.

Of course, he knew that some subs, like the aforementioned, would go and buy a collar for themself - famously, some college kids he knew would put them before going to parties, because uncollared subs were over 3x more likely to get sexually assaulted than collared ones. He had even considered doing that himself, once or twice, but he had never really had the guts to.

From his understanding, doms would pick out a collar they thought would suit a sub - much the way men picked out proposal rings for women - and then the sub would just accept it or decline it.

He didn’t realize there had ever been a third option.

Although, Jake supposed, bitterly, maybe that third option was only on the table if the dom wanted it to be.

Jake pushed his negative thoughts aside. He didn’t want to bring down Charles’ mood with his mopey confusion, especially since his friend was still eagerly explaining the difference between chrome tanning, which gave his collar the blue color, versus the dyed version of the white aldehyde tanning leather, which would discolor over time.

Jake had no idea what he was talking about, but if Charles sounded happy, then that was good enough for him. Although the fact that he was talking about long-term did give Jake pause.

He hadn’t gone full Boyle yet, however, which did give Jake hope. Once Charles did, the relationship in question tended to come to a screeching halt, and it really did seem like he was going to careen into it at some point. Especially talking about the future on a scant, two-week long romance.

Of course, Jake didn’t have room to judge. He sure knew how to pick them, after all.

Charles went ahead to the bullpen, while Jake took Gaffer to booking.

Gaffer had remained silent throughout their ride back, having invoked his right to silence the instant Jake had read him his rights. Now, however, in the short hallway, he found something to say.

“I can’t believe I got arrested by fucking subs.” He scowled, voice gruff.

Jake rolled his eyes, handing him off to the two beat cops in booking.

“Yet you did.” He said blithely back, before turning to walk away.

“You should tell your buddy that a collar won’t protect him.”

Jake paused, midstep. He made his face carefully neutral, almost disinterested, before turning around.

“Protect him from what?” He asked casually, even as his brain screamed danger.

“Look, I’m innocent.” Gaffer said with a shrug, “But other people, ones who are actually guilty, might not be so, well… civil.”

Jake didn’t respond, instead just turning back around and walking down the hall, to the elevator, Gaffer’s words ringing in his head. Of course, the perp was right. Being a cop was always a risk, and that risk was definitely exacerbated by being a sub.

Still, Jake thought with a grimace, it was like that for everything, so really the comparative personal risk wasn’t that different. It wasn’t a cop problem. It was a systemic issue.

Which made him feel so much better about the whole thing, to know he didn’t have the power to change the system.

Yay.

Jake didn’t want to be in a bad mood, but… today he just felt so bitter. He wasn’t even sure why, but it just seemed like his head had been stuck on negative thoughts all day. About himself, about the world, about Charles and Vivian, about… well, everything.

Jake forced his scowl into a more casual expression as the elevator doors dinged open.

To the sight of Amy congratulating Charles on his collar, admiring it as he grinned joyously at her.

Of course, he hadn’t been upset before when Charles had gotten his collar, just concerned on his behalf. But now, seeing Amy so delighted for Charles’, was making him feel a truly ugly - and self-loathed - pang of jealousy.

Jake immediately felt guilt overweigh his momentary emotion. Wanting after something he couldn’t have was selfish, and it would only serve to make him resentful. After all, he would never get that moment, and it was delusional of him to think otherwise.

Certainly not a moment like that with Amy, with her smiling broadly at him, eyes warm, telling him how good he looked in a collar-

Jake mentally slapped himself. There was no reason to be thinking like that. Not about him wearing a collar - since that wasn’t going to happen - and certainly not about Amy appreciating it.

As he changed their board to give himself another point, courtesy of Gaffer’s felony, he mentally regrouped, before moving to his desk.

Repression was his specialty.

He’d be fine.

Chapter Text

Jake woke up to the sound of his phone ringing.

He rolled over in his bed, groaning, picking up his phone and squinting against the brightness to read it.

2:08am.

This had better be life or death.

Well, actually, no. Jake would prefer if it wasn’t.

He opened his phone, waiting for his eyes to focus so he could read the message.

“It’s from me.”

Jake bolted to full awareness in an instant, one hand going to his gun on his dresser, while the other slammed onto the switch of his lamp, lighting up the room.

Rosa was perched in one of his massage chairs.

“Rosa?” Jake asked, lowering his gun and clicking the safety back on. “Fuck, dude, I could’ve shot you!”

“I would’ve disarmed you if you were going to do that.” Rosa shrugged, leaning forward to place her elbows on her knees, crossing her wrists. It was lounging, save for the discrete tensing in her muscles and body. She was relaxed, sure, but ready to strike in an instant if deemed necessary.

Jake ran a hand over his face, rubbing away the sleep. Whatever this was, Rosa clearly needed to have a conversation with him, in private.

It was too early for this.

Jake clambered out of bed, surreptitiously kicking some dirty laundry under the bed as he did so.

“What are you doing here? Wait, actually,” Jake backtracked quickly, “How’d you get in?”

“Fire escape. Jimmied the window.”

“...I have blocks on those.”

“Jimmied those, too.”

Jake rubbed at his eyes again, before walking past her to the kitchen, pulling down a box of mixed herbal teas - only thing Rosa drank, and religiously at that - and turning on his faucet.

Rosa didn’t tend to seek out conversation, which made it all the more suspicious when she followed him into the kitchen, leaning against one of the counters. Angled to see all of the exits, of course.

Jake turned around, kettle beginning to heat up.

Oh, sure, he only had three spoons in his entire apartment, but he had a kettle.

Jake didn’t even know how he got the thing, but kept it because he knew Rosa would use it - sometimes when he wasn’t even home.

Jake didn’t question when he would come home to see signs of her having been there. He wasn’t sure what it was, but she had always done it, even back in the Academy.

He had two main theories. One, it was her way of checking up on him, without having to admit it. Concern for his well-being, maybe some slight paranoia, whatever. Or, two, it was because she, maybe, didn’t like to feel alone. Liked having signs of another person’s existence around her while she just existed in the moment.

Jake knew she would kill him for even thinking it, but sometimes he caught himself wondering about it. Her level of intense privacy was important to her, but he felt like maybe she needed people, sometimes. Jake felt that way, when it came to subbing. It wasn’t a stretch that even someone super closed off like Rosa needed to feel like she had someone in her corner.

Jake knew she only did it because he wouldn’t ask her about it - so long as he pretended not to notice, except for occasionally stocking up on extra tea, she would continue. And, whatever Rosa’s reasoning was, it seemed to be something that made her feel better.

So, he pretended to be oblivious.

Except, it was actually really concerning that he slept through someone - even if that someone was Rosa - breaking in through his window.

Rosa, the unexpected guest who currently was not volunteering any sort of information as to why she was said guest.

Jake decided to prompt the conversation.

Otherwise, they’d just stand here forever. He’d never be able to beat her out in a standoff

“Why’re you here?”

Rosa seemed to tense at the words, as if she’d half-expected him to just let her stalk around in his apartment undisturbed.

Well, he had done so before. She just normally didn’t wake him up for it.

“I wanted to… talk… to you.” She said the words like it was causing her physical pain. Which, okay, it probably was, but still.

“About?”

“Back at the Academy, there was a cop named Devin Drouser, remember?” She seemed uncomfortable at the fact they shared a memory.

“Ha, yeah,” Jake rolled his eyes, “Stupid name for a stupid guy. He got put in the 70-somethingth precinct, good riddance. Why?”

“I think he’s in on the gigglepig.” She said shortly. Somehow, she seemed to actually relax, though, now that the focus was being shifted to police work, rather than her reasoning - although Jake would have to know, eventually, about that, too.

“What?” Jake frowned, standing up straight, “Rosa, that’s a serious claim. Are you sure?”

Rosa nodded. “Absolutely. I just need a little more evidence. That’s why I haven’t said anything yet.”

It made sense. On the one hand, if he was innocent - which, based on Jake’s recollection of the man, was unlikely - and word got out, his career could be tanked. On the other, far more probable hand, if he was guilty, the NYPD would bury it immediately. And, of course, Rosa sticking her neck out by pointing a finger at a dirty cop wouldn’t exactly win her any points in the department.

“What’s the plan?”

Rosa fixed him with a look. It was mostly her normal, impassive stare, but Jake swore he could see a touch of… maybe regret.

“You are.”

Seeing Jake’s expression, she allowed a grimace onto her face.

“Back in the Academy, Devin had a thing for you.” She said it with distaste.

Jake crossed his arms. “Yeah, I remember. I also remember breaking his nose and almost getting myself kicked out of the program.” The kettle began to whistle, and Jake turned it off automatically. “Last time I checked, that puts him in the pile of people I wouldn’t want to talk to.”

“He would never let me get close.” Rosa replied, leaning over to open his cabinet with his mugs, taking one out and passing it to him.

Jake took it, pouring the water into the cup and then holding up the box. “Chamomile or ginger?”

“You’ve got two more of the hibiscus.”

Jake checked. “Oh, yeah.” He picked out one of the remaining two bags - he supposed he’d need to get more, soon.

“He knows I’m on the taskforce. Knows I can’t stand him, too.”

“Well, I thought I made it pretty obvious I don’t like him, either!” Jake frowned.

“Yeah, but he won’t remember that part. He just thought you were playing hard to get.”

“I wasn’t-!” Jake began, irritated, but Rosa cut him off smoothly.

“I know.” Her voice was calm, factual, and Jake calmed down at her tone. It was true - she was just stating a fact, not an opinion. Didn’t mean it was fair, of course, but it was a fact.

Devin was hardly the worst of the bunch who’d been… interested… in Jake. Some of them thought it was ‘cute’ to see a sub in the Academy, some tried to take him under their wing - but somehow always expected sex or him subbing as recompense -, some ignored him entirely, and some just straight up tried to attack him or force him into submission.

Devin had fallen squarely into the first category. He thought Jake’s existence was endearing, the same patronizing air as if a kid showed Picasso a stick figure drawing. It was infantilizing, and while his condescension was mostly harmless, he did have a tendency to get a bit grabby. Still, not as much as others did, but certainly more than was acceptable - the acceptable being, of course, the highly unrealistic zero times.

Rosa was one of - if not the only one to just treat him like a person, as opposed to a sub. The elusive fifth category that so few people ever seemed to fall - or stay, anyway - in.

The first group, the one Devin fell into it, got under Rosa’s skin the most. She didn’t care for being talked down to, or told what to do - and she despised condescension with her entire being. Part of being a Latina woman did mean she got talked down to a lot, and she definitely had her fair serving of righteous fury over the matter - although she would deny even having feelings that could get hurt to begin with. “They just piss me off!” She would say sharply, while Jake pretended not to notice the way her shoulders would rise up towards her ears just a touch.

And yeah, it definitely annoyed Jake a bit, but it was relatively nonthreatening. What’s more, Jake didn’t mind being underestimated - when it came to people who weren’t important. When his old Captain or his coworkers had thought so, he was a little - okay a lot - more upset. But some random peers? Whatever. As Gina pointed out in the past, it can prove useful in the long run.

The second group got under Jake’s skin a lot more than he could really admit. He had sought out role models, wanted a guiding figure - to have people try to pervert it, over and over, wore on him. He got good at distinguishing motives, but still couldn’t bring himself to seek out guidance - like he knew Amy did - out of concern of being misled again. Sure, Holt was sort of guiding him, now. But that had a distinctly parental tone, versus a ‘friendship’ one, which always seemed to dissolve for some strange reason when the other person started throwing around commands or trying to get him to kneel.

Jake remembered one particularly memorable time, when an older dom in the program “didn’t have two chairs” in her two-person, set-unit dorm. But she did happen to have a pillow, if that was okay with Jake.

Jake had left. She, thankfully, hadn’t followed. And he had never gone back.

Rosa didn’t seem to tolerate that group much either, now that he thought about it.

The third category was fine. Jake didn’t care either way, and Rosa tended to ignore people she didn’t like anyway, so that group sort of worked itself out.

The fourth category… well, that one scared him. But he was equipped to handle violence, or even overt actions against him. He was a cop, and, hey - they try to hit him or force him, he can hit back without getting into too much trouble - so even though they were technically easier to deal with, they were also the ones who tended to try to fuck him up the most.

He disliked the ‘under the wing’ people the most, that was for sure - that’s where he’d been burned the most - but it was hard to keep up defenses all the time.

He’d been taught how to deal with violence. It had been Gina who hard warned him against the deceptive sort, late one night when they were drinking cocoa and Nana was asleep on the couch watching Jeopardy.

“Jake, you can’t trust them.” She had said, big eyes staring at him over the rim of her mug. They were both teenagers at the time, before she’d built up all of her defenses, too, and he had known, even then, that their conversation was serious. They always seemed to have serious talks when it was late at night at Nana’s. “Anyone who’s friendly right away - and not just polite, but friendly friendly? It means they’re up to something. They want something.”

“Couldn’t they just want to be my friend?” Jake had asked awkwardly, all gangly limbs and acne and low self esteem.

Gina had shook her head. “No one makes friends that fast. Especially not a dom and a sub, Jake. Play it safe. Always have a buddy system.”

“We’re a buddy system.”

“Damn right we are.” Gina said, before plucking a melty jumbo marshmallow out of her mug and popping it into her mouth.

Jake shook his head slightly to dispel his meandering thoughts, shoving the tea box haphazardly into its spot in his cupboard. He needed to get his mind back on track.

“Why are we meeting here to talk about this? Do you not trust the task force?”

“I trust them, sure. Doesn’t mean I’m going to take a risk.” Rosa shrugged. The tension in her shoulders gave away her nerves. Or possibly, Jake reflected, her discomfort at having answered so many questions that were tangentially related to herself and/or her feelings.

“Okay.” Jake decided to stop asking questions - it wasn’t like she was eager to answer them, and they both knew he would agree in the end, anyway. He always did, when it came to doing his job. “What do you need me to do?”

Rosa sipped her tea, giving a brief, small nod of approval - whether about the tea or his acquiesce, he wasn’t sure -, before walking back towards Jake’s living room.

He followed after her, and saw that she had covered his table in papers and photos.

“You did all of this while I was asleep?” Jake asked.

“Obviously. You really need to set booby traps, man.” Rosa said, setting down her mug onto the edge of the table - huh, she’d brought her own coaster, apparently, since Jake knew he didn’t have any. Jake knew better than to bring it up, though, or else she’d never drink a liquid in front of him again - and pointing to a police file.

“That’s his. I pulled his plates, phone records, everything. Each time we went in to do a bust of what we thought was going to be a major gigglepig operation, he made a phone call. To the same number.”

“That’s definitely a little suspicious.” Jake acquiesced, “But is there any evidence besides that?”

“Yep.” Rosa pointed to the left side of his table. “That half is incriminating evidence. Suspicious bank deposits, credit card purchases, surveillance footage locations. “

“It seems like you’ve got a lot, already. Why not go with this?”

“I want him to admit it. On record. Which is why I need you. There’s a police social coming up. Talk to him, buddy up, see if you can get him to give up any info.”

“Rosa-”

“You’ll have backup. Me, a couple of other cops from the precinct - probably Terry and Amy, you know they’ll both be there anyway - and you’ll be wearing a wire. We won’t let him do anything to you. 1,000 pushups.”

Jake sat back, hiding his discomfort at her seriousness by shifting. He knew it wouldn’t fool her. Jake didn't know how much Rosa knew about him. About everything that had happened. She would never treat him differently if she knew - except she would, because he's pathetic - and she had always been this sort of protective-yet-hands-off throughout their friendship. But she was sharp, so sharp - she must know, at least a bit. But she'd never ask, and she'd never give it away unless he asked her. And he didn't think he'd ever be able to do that.

“He’s been helping gigglepig?” Jake asked, finally. Redirecting.

“He’s probably been doing more, actually.” Rosa said, frowning, “The other half of the table is other things I think he might be related to. Once I bust him for gigglepig, major crimes or internal affairs is going to swoop in for the rest. He’s a dirty cop. And a dumb one at that. The least he could do is make it a challenge.”

Jake sighed. “Yeah, sure, I’ll do it. Just… this is going to be gross. But maybe he’s matured since the Academy?” He added hopefully, “You know, grown up a bit. Stopped wearing those neon ties and doing finger-guns all the time-”

“Finger guns are on his most recent badge ID.” Rosa said, pointing to another paper, featuring Devin giving finger guns and a wink to the camera.

“When was it taken?”

“Two months ago.”

Jake groaned, flopping his head back to stare at the ceiling.

“This is gonna suck.” He whined.

“Yep.”

“Cool.” Jake muttered, "Cool cool cool."

Chapter Text

Jake let out a nervous chuckle as he adjusted the tie of his dress uniform - taking care not to dislodge the wire attached underneath.

“Place your bets. How quickly do you think he’ll try to grope me? During the name portion of the greeting, or after I ask him how he’s enjoying the night?”

“Better now that you’re here, Peralta.” He pitched his voice down, making it slightly gruff, as Devin’s had been.

“I’m calling it. Enjoying the night, definitely. Rosa, care to wager?” He asked, faux-cheerily, over his earpiece.

“Jake, that isn’t funny.” Amy’s voice came over, sounding concerned. “Are we sure this is a good idea? If he’s handsy, maybe Terry or I should try the approach instead.”

“No, it’s fine.” Jake resisted the urge to wave his hand dismissively, not wanting to draw attention. He didn’t know why Amy was so concerned over him getting felt up. They were cops, they’d been held at gunpoint before. This was a walk in the park comparatively. “This op needs some sub-y wiles, I daresay.”

“Jake.” Rosa said testily. Jake detected the hint of actual nerves underlying her voice - the others would never pick up on it, he’d just been around her so long - and decided to quit poking the bear.

“And also because he already knows me, so he’ll trust me quicker. Sarge, you’re too high up on the food chain. And Amy, you’re way too respectable to have anyone believe you’re a dirty cop.”

“Aw, was that a compliment?” Amy asked, “I’m flattered.”

Jake fought the urge to blush. “No, it’s a burn, because of how… rule-follow-y you are, you… lame… person.”

He heard Amy laugh over the system, and he felt a small smile creep over his face.

Rosa’s voice cut through their banter - if Jake stammering could be considered banter, anyway.

“Jake, Drouser is at your 8. By the table with the blue hydrangeas.”

“You know flower-?” Terry began, voice surprised and a touch incredulous.

“Silence on the comms.” She growled, cutting him off sharply.

Jake hid his grin at her tone, turning it into a neutrally pleasant expression, gliding through the masses to casually work his way towards Devin.

He grabbed a drink, pretending to take a sip from it, before sidling up to Devin.

He spotted Rosa across the room by the bar, clearly holding herself back while another cop seemed to be talking incessantly at her. He could practically see her white knuckles from gripping her drink from here. Across the other way was Terry, who was animated - definitely talking about his kids - and then past Devin a bit, he caught sight of Amy.

Amy, who looked quite formal in her uniform, and was smiling, friendly, with a very nervous-looking rookie. Jake blinked in surprise. The cop was also in her uniform, but what caught Jake’s eye was the collar on her neck - thin and black - on full display.

As he watched, Amy said something, making the cop laugh, her shoulders untensing, seemingly put at ease by whatever it was Amy had said.

“Jake Peralta?” A voice asked.

Jake spun around. He had almost forgotten. Almost.

He pretended to do a double take. “Devin?” He asked, faking surprise, “I didn’t expect to see you!”

“Me either. I must say I’m surprised. This is an event for detectives, you know.” Devin said, voice dripping with condescending warmth.

“Yep.” Jake forced himself to give a pleasant, neutral smile. “I work over-” He probably shouldn’t mention he worked in the same precinct as Rosa - “At Ridgedale.” He remembered Rosa complaining about it, “We just started carrying bullets in our guns. Very high-end, you can imagine.”

Devin chuckled, seemingly oblivious to Jake’s sarcasm. “Well, a lovely sub like you shouldn’t be getting put out where there’s danger, anyway. You always were a bit… sensitive.”

Jake forced a laugh. It sounded annoyed, he knew, but he kept it under control. “Oh, you mean back at the Academy? You know if I hadn’t hit you that Diaz would’ve gutted you on the spot.”

“Yeah… that was one crazy bitch.” Devin laughed loudly.

Jake gritted his teeth, biting back a retort, and instead remained silent, waiting for Devin to add more.

“Say, have you… heard from her, at all? You two seemed pretty close, back at the Academy.”

“Diaz? Nah, she went to…” Jake pretended to be concentrating, “The… 93rd precinct, I think. Didn’t talk after graduation. She wasn’t really… chatty.”

“99th.” Devin corrected automatically. “And, I don’t know, man. You followed her around like a puppy.”

Jake didn’t know how to respond to that, without giving the hint that he was still annoyed about Devin’s past behavior. In the end, he opted for, “Well, I don’t follow anyone, now.”

“Oh.” Devin seemed taken aback. “You’re single?”

“As a pringle.” Jake grinned, giving finger guns - he resisted the urge to roll his eyes as Devin seemed to perk up at the gesture. He wanted to get back onto the topic of Rosa. And most certainly off the topic of his relationship life. Before Devin got any ideas.

“Although, seriously, do you know where Diaz ended up? My captain was talking about a new drug she was cracking down on.”

“Hm? Oh, yeah, I heard about that.” Devin said, taking a sip from his champagne. “It’s not really a drug so much as a stimulant.” His voice was still so fucking patronizing. Jake felt his smile twitch. “It’s called gigglepig. Her little task force isn’t doing too well. From what I’ve heard, anyway.” he added hastily after a moment.

Jake suddenly remembered how much Devin loved to correct him - well, correct subs in general - and decided to double down on it. Doms like him always had to make sure they were the most right person in the room, show off how smart they were. It was almost as frustrating as it was pathetic. Or, in this case, useful.

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be super common in Brooklyn, on the docks?” Jake knew for a fact that it was being found in old traincars - just as he knew that that was classified information, that only Rosa, himself, and, of course, gigglepig suppliers knew.

“Pretty sure it was traincars, actually.” Devin condescended.

“Mm, are you sure?” Jake frowned, as if deliberating, making his voice sound purposefully doubtful, “I could’ve sworn I heard-”

“Well, you heard wrong.” Devin interrupted hotly, “It’s found in traincars. Old traincars, like the ones in the old Greyhound station.”

“Oh. I stand corrected.” Jake said, making his voice sound grateful, as if he would have surely died without this information.

“Got it.” Rosa said in his ear, “Get out of there, Jake.”

“Well,” Jake said warmly, pretending to take a swig of his champagne. He couldn’t help the feeling of relief at the notion of getting away from Devin sooner rather than later. “I need to go mingle. If you’ll excuse me-”

Jake went to move away, but Devin caught Jake’s wrist, pulling him up short. Jake froze on the spot, careful not to react - his hand clenching around his untouched drink.

Jake felt bile rise in his throat and fought it down, trying to resist the urge to… something. Fight, run, he wasn’t even sure. He wondered if Devin could feel the pulse in his wrist where he held it skyrocketing, if it was just Jake or if everything had gotten so much louder and so much more unfocused at the same time. Jake felt his breath catch, biting back the little gasp of… not fear, he harshly told himself, never fear.

Jake viciously shoved his feelings, his nerves, his everything down with unmerciful willpower. He forced his body to remain still - too still, his nerves were on fire, he needed to tap on his glass or his tie or his badge but he didn’t dare so much as move his fingers. Lest they give him away.

“Unless there’s a spider on me, there’s no need for that.” Jake said cooly, giving his arm an experimental tug. The grip was tight - not tight enough to hurt, but enough that he couldn’t just pull his arm away without drawing attention to the pair.

And then Devin would know Jake was from the same precinct as Rosa - and, more importantly, that Jake had lied about it. Even someone as thick as Devin would be able to put it together.

So, Jake remained calm, trying to figure out how to signal to the backup to break it up without drawing attention.

The benefit of a large crowd - anonymity on a large scale, but if he fucked up then there’s a million eyes on him.

“More privacy?” Devin breathed, beginning to walk through the crowd.

“I’m good here, thanks.” Jake said, eyes glancing around the room. Rosa and Terry were still in sight, but Amy had vanished - so had the sub she’d been talking to. Jake deliberated for a moment - make the arrest now, in front of everyone, and screw the taskforce over completely, or go someplace more, quote “private” so that way Rosa could - she needed the arrest on her name for the gigglepig op, which Jake wasn’t technically on.

Jake felt his skin crawl at the thought of being alone with Devin, but then he harshly reminded himself that, as a cop, as a friend, he would want the arrest to go in favor of Rosa.

So, Jake forced his feet to move, allowing Devin to guide - okay, pull - him towards a hallway further away from the crowded main room. Jake saw Terry’s eyes on him, was vaguely aware of how Terry was now walking across the room to keep him in sight.

Aw. Terry cared.

“Where are you heading?” His voice came across the comm, quiet - well, quiet for him, anyway.

“Where are we going?” Jake parroted to Devin, knowing full well the man wouldn’t be able to resist ‘enlightening’ him.

“There’s a few empty rooms up just this way.”

“Oh, wow.” Jake felt like he was in a horror movie, minus the screaming. “Empty rooms on the hall going off from the table with the orange roses? We should go into the room on the left. It’s my better side.”

“You’re so silly,” Devin said, amused, grip on Jake’s wrist tightening ever so slightly. Jake felt his shoulders tense, free hand unable to resist twitching towards where his gun would normally be. Still, he obligingly opened the left door, offering Jake to go through it first, hand letting go of his wrist.

“On it.” Rosa said curtly. Jake could hear her boots clicking as she presumably began the approach.

Jake smiled tightly, entering the room and then quickly continuing to walk, placing distance between himself and Devin.

It was fairly large, clearly an old office that hadn’t been renovated yet. Plenty of room so he wouldn’t be trapped.

“Be there in two.” Rosa said over the comm.

Jake turned to face Devin, watching him as he sauntered towards him.

“So, Devin,” Jake said with a tense grin, “Here to ask me about Ridgedale?”

Of course, it wasn’t like that line of conversation would ever work. Devin wasn’t exactly known for his nuance.

Sure enough, Devin crossed the distance between them in an instant, one hand sliding onto Jake’s face. He seemed to be leaning in for-

Jake pulled back, forcing a laugh to cover the uncomfortableness he felt. He brought one hand up to create space between them, palm facing towards Devin.

“Oh, no, man, you misunderstand. I’m not interest-”

“Of course you are.” Devin frowned, taking half a step towards Jake, who forced himself to hold his ground. “You were fawning all over me.”

“We were catching up. We’re done doing that. You can leave, now.”

“You think any other dom would treat you as well as I would?” Devin asked hotly, “I’m better than them, I am - hell, I wouldn’t make you quit your job for me. I’m one of the nice doms.”

Jake raised an eyebrow. The delusion was strong with this one. “Hard pass.”

“Look,” Devin smiled, raising his hands placatingly. “If you are interested, just say so. None of this playing hard to get stuff. We’re both getting too old for it.”

“And if I’m truly not interested?”

“Then tell me, right now, that you aren’t.”

“I’m not interested.”

“Stop playing games!” Devin growled, grabbing Jake’s still-upraised hand again, shoving it down and grabbing his wrist again, this time in a bruising grip. “You know, my patience for them is wearing thin.”

Jake sucked in a breath, before saying, firmly, “You want to let me go.” His voice dripped with ice, danger etched into every syllable of his voice and every muscle in his body.

It wasn’t a command, didn’t even come close. But it didn’t matter - he registered as a threat, and that was that.

Devin’s grip loosened automatically, but he quite didn’t let go. Not that Jake really needed him to, he could break it easily enough if he had to.

“That’s not how that works, Jake.” He said after a moment, “Or did being a cop make you think you’re a dom, now?”

Jake heard footsteps rapidly approaching, and slapped on a cheeky grin.

“Only when I’m in uniform.” He said with a smirk, before twisting his arm, breaking Devin’s grip with almost laughable ease.

Devin frowned. “I see you’re just as immodest as you were in the Academy.”

“Arrogance is my color.” Jake shrugged, watching as Amy seemed to appear in the doorway out of thin air. She seemed slightly out of breath, and was clearly trying to hide it, one hand resting on her hip. Near where her gun was supposed to be strapped.

Holt had insisted on not pointing weapons at an officer, to make the arrest clean. Especially at an event that technically didn’t allow guns.

“Detective Pendalta? Is that you?” Amy immediately went for a handshake, stepping between the two. “I’m Detective Santiago. We met at a seminar for handshaking last month.”

“It’s Peralta, actually.” Devin piped up.

Amy studiously ignored him.

“Oh, yes, Santiago! I remember you by your handshake, that’s for sure.” Jake grinned toothily at her, “The knuckle to thumb ratio in your grip is truly the Mona Lisa of handshakes.”

“Oh, thank you! You’re too kind.” Amy replied, slowly shifting her weight so that she and Jake were now angled to be both somewhat facing Devin.

Cutting off any potential exit except for the main door.

Noice.

Not that there was any chance of him running out the main, as Rosa appeared in the doorframe, illuminated from the backlighting of the hallway like some sort of… well, not goddess, but she looked pretty fucking badass.

Devin - surprisingly - held his ground.

“Devin Drouser,” Rosa said curtly - although Jake detected the smugness in her tone, “You’re under arrest for aiding and abetting. We can either walk out of her nice and easy, or I can walk you in front of all your coworkers in handcuffs. Which’ll it be?”

“You’re wrong. I’m not…” Devin chuckled awkwardly, before pointing a thumb towards Jake, not even bothering to turn to face him. “Is this about Peralta? Look, I was just giving him some pointers. Cops like him, they need a little extra support, is all. Nothing wrong with that.”

Rosa’s smug look vanished, turning into one of distinct distaste.

“Jake, why don’t you and Amy head back to the precinct to back up the recordings? Last time Terry tried to do it, he crushed the second copy with his finger muscles.” Rosa said, eyes flickering to Jake’s face before reverting back to a now-staredown with Devin.

Hah. Jake allowed a small grin to form at the sight, even as he and Amy quietly slid out the doorway behind Rosa. No one, not even Holt, would be able to withstand one of Rosa’s glares.

Jake found himself hoping Devin made a fuss. Mainly so that he could recount Rosa dragging him out of the social in handcuffs.

Still, Jake was eager to leave, letting out a breath he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding as they re-entered the large crowd.

Amy reached out, catching his hand as she easily worked her way through the crowd, seemingly able to find even the slightest area to squeeze through. Jake followed behind her in a daze, and in a heartbeat they were outside, and heading to the car they had all arrived in - Amy’s car.

Amy still hadn’t let go of his hand, Jake noted. Her grip was firm, but not harsh like Devin’s had been on his wrist. It was almost gentle - Jake was sure he would be able to break it without question. But, of course, he wouldn’t have to - Amy would let go in an instant if he asked.

But Jake didn’t ask.

“You okay?” She asked, finally letting go of his hand - Jake pretended he didn’t notice how disappointed he was at that - in order to fish out the keys from one of her pockets.

“I’m fine, yeah.” Jake said lightly, “It’s always good to have Rosa owe me one.”

“Hm.” Amy made a noncommittal noise, unlocking her car and getting into the driver’s seat.

Jake slid into the passenger’s, closing the door behind him. He rested his head against the back of the headrest, letting out a breath.

“Jake? Are you sure you’re okay?” Amy asked again.

Jake kept his eyes fixed on the roof of the car, not wanting to turn to look at her. Her voice was so open, so legitimately concerned. Like she actually cared what he was feeling.

It made him nervous.

“When’s Terry getting here?” Was all he said, finally turning to glance at her.

Amy looked thrown, but recovered so flawlessly Jake wondered if she had been at all, or if it had just been wishful thinking.

“He’s supposed to come by once Rosa’s taken care of Drouser. Weren’t you paying attention to the plan?”

Jake waved his hand dismissively, “I only listened up to the part where I had to talk to that douche. After that, I just focused on getting it over with.”

“Was he always that bad?” Amy asked softly.

Oh, right. Amy could have heard their conversation over his mic.

Jake laughed bitterly. “Yeah, if you call him trying to force a collar on me after the first day he met me ‘bad’.”

Amy didn’t reply.

Jake glanced at her, and saw that her hands were gripping each other so hard her knuckles had turned white.

“I see.” She said slowly.

Jake felt his shoulders tense, quickly backtracking. “It’s fine, though! It was just a stupid prank, nothing happened. I punched him, it worked out.”

“Jake… I’m sorry that happened to you. He shouldn’t have done that.” Amy said, voice carefully soft. He could hear the anger simmering just underneath, but, for some reason, the knowledge didn’t scare him the way it did when most doms got upset.

He knew Amy wasn’t mad at him. Or even if she was - which for some strange reason he had the feeling she wasn’t, which was weird, since he had been the one to bring it up - he had the feeling she wasn’t going to think less of him for it.

Huh.

Jake hadn’t realized he trusted her that much.

Not like someone as insignificant as Devin Drouser was much of a test of faith, however.

Jake would rather deal with Devin every day for the rest of his life than have to admit to Amy - or anyone, for that matter - about the more… unfortunate parts of his life.

Still, talking about Devin was something. It was an improvement. He trusted Amy. Jake glanced at her again. She was still looking at him. Waiting for a response.

Jake opened his mouth - what to say, he wasn’t sure.

He was saved from speaking - and probably spilling his guts, if he was being honest - by the sound of the car door opening, Terry clambering into the backseat of the car.

Jake raised his eyebrows in surprise as Rosa slid in as well.

She answered his unasked question.

“He didn’t go quietly.”

“Did he incriminate himself further while he was claiming to be innocent?”

“Yep.” Rosa popped the ‘p’.

“I had to restrain him.” Terry piped up. “Some beat cops took him to booking. Ones Rosa actually trusts.”

“Hm. Rare feat.” Amy muttered, approving.

Jake turned to Amy, overdramatic frown in place. “Amy, seriously? I would’ve paid money to see Devin eat pavement!”

“Here.” Rosa tossed Jake a phone. “I had it recorded.”

“Aw, for me?” Jake batted his eyelashes, grin in place.

Rosa glared at him. “For evidence, dumbass. Just thought you’d want to see it first.”

“You do care.” Jake said, voice pitching up to a higher tone.

Rosa’s glare hardened.

“Haha, yep!” Jake knew he should feel threatened by Rosa’s stare.

And he was.

Very much so.

“So, Amy, shall we head out?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah, sure.” She nodded quickly, turning over the engine and pulling out of the parking spot.

“So, Rosa,” Jake turned in his seat after a moment, frown appearing. “Now that he’s gone, how long do you think before gigglepig switches its system?”

“I’d give it 24 hours. Maybe more, if they don’t realize how much of a blabbermouth he is.” Rosa said, smirk appearing on her face. “Of course, we’ve known where they were hiding out for a while - just needed to get Drouser out of the picture.”

“Noice.”

Amy pulled up to the precinct - they were all working overtime for this op, but she, Terry, and Jake were going to clock out after putting the equipment back. Only Rosa was getting back to work. Gigglepig wasn’t going to stop itself, after all.

As Terry called his wife to let her know he was about to head home, and Amy carefully filed away her belongings - yes, Jake knew for a fact her bag had a filing system in it for all of her stuff, including her shame cigarettes - Jake turned to his own bag.

He loosened his tie with one hand, other hand picking up his bag - his belongings already shoved haphazardly inside - to sling onto his shoulder.

Jake paused as Rosa sat down on the edge of his desk, gracefully avoiding the knick knacks and crumbs that littered his desk.

After the other two left, Amy casting a quick glance and a polite, if exhausted, goodbye to the pair, Rosa shoved Jake lightly, a rare smile crossing her face.

“Thanks, Jake.” She said honestly, “This is going to nail him. And help the gigglepig task force start actually making arrests.”

“No problem,” Jake shrugged, “Anything to get free, bottom-shelf champagne out of it.”

Rosa made a sound that could have been a chuckle, and then her smile was gone.

Jake knew her well enough to not take it personally.

“Do you want to get a drink?” Rosa asked suddenly, shoulders tensing up as her arms remained crossed.

Jake paused. Rosa almost never volunteered to hang out - he would have to ask her. And he knew she liked to, but would never admit it, so for her to offer… hm. It was like waking him up when she went to his place. It was a rare occurrence, and almost always meant something was on her mind that she felt the need to bring him into.

But Jake was just so fucking tired. He shook his head, “Sorry, but after all of this, I just want to sleep.”

“Jake.” Her voice was firm. It wasn’t a command, but he stilled just the same.

Rosa volunteering conversation was even more rare than offering to hang out - hanging out usually meant drinks in silence, after all.

“I only asked you to do this because I knew it would work. If I thought there was another option that would’ve worked under the timeline, believe me, I would have taken it.”

“It’s fine, Rosa.” Jake shrugged. “There’s nothing to be worried about.”

At the words, Rosa scowled, and Jake mentally cursed himself. He basically accused her of caring about something. Fuck, she’s never going to offer a conversation again-

“Well, I was.” Rosa said, teeth gritting at the admission, “I knew Devin’s a total dick, and I knew you hated the guy.”

“But?”

“No, that was it.” Rosa said curtly.

“It was for the job.” Jake said, knowing full well that Rosa was blaming herself - in her own way - for not being able to detect out a better solution. For not being able to figure out a way to catch the dirtbag without having to bring him into it.

It was sweet. In a Rosa kind of way.

“Jake-”

“Hey, you said nothing would happen to me. Nothing did. We’re good.”

Rosa nodded, almost imperceptibly, before standing up. “The taskforce needs to get to work on that Greyhound station. See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. See you.” Jake couldn’t hide the grin on his face as he turned and left the precinct.

Rosa was a total softie.

Chapter Text

The world of Jake fell back into its normal rhythm after that. Proof that see, repression worked! There were no repercussions whatsoever to refusing to even acknowledge or think about things that upset him.

Cases were solved and paperwork filed. A couple of perps threw commands his way - a couple of victims, too - but they were irrelevant, and it didn’t slow him down.

Although he did wish that people reporting crimes would stop asking whether or not a dom would be on their case "too".

Charles was still doing great, always in an exuberant mood. Jake was happy for him - although Vivian dropping by the precinct was a little offputting.

Sure, enough, come Monday morning, Jake, Terry, Amy, and Rosa were sitting, watching Charles and Vivian at his desk, giggling away over cups of artisan coffee and suspicious looking bagels - knowing them, it probably had something horrific in it.

Jake couldn’t help the smile on his face - seeing Charles so happy was contagious. The doms around him seemed to be relaxed as well, a rare occurrence in the precinct where seemingly no one was stressed even the slightest.

“Man, Charles has been so happy and confident ever since he started dating Vivian. She has tenure, and also has ten years, times two… older than him.”

“That sucked.” Rosa said, her slight hint of a smile vanishing from her face as she glanced at him.

“Yeah. It’s nice to see him like this.” Amy said kindly. Jake glanced at her. She seemed genuinely happy to see Charles at ease with himself, posture relaxed, and a small smile on her face.

Terry nodded in agreement. “He’s so confident. This morning, he finally corrected the barista who calls him Charlize. He’s been living as Charlize Broil for five years.”

Amy turned to look at Terry, mildly surprised, before facing back to Charles, smile spreading a little wider.

Jake felt a pang of- not jealousy, just… annoyance.

“It’s great. It’s all so great. He could take it down just a smidge.” Jake said, watching Amy out of the corner of his eye. “But I’m just so happy for him! It’s about time he caught a break.”

“He seems really devoted to her.” Terry added.

Jake glanced up at him. It seemed innocent enough, but-

“They both really care about each other.” Amy said casually. Jake turned to her, eyebrows furrowing slightly. She seemed oblivious, and he couldn’t tell if she hadn’t noticed Terry’s phrasing or had simply intended to contribute to the conversation. Huh.

Charles had always been more in-touch with his subness than Jake was - although, to be fair, who wasn’t? - and he had definitely been struggling with the lack of a dom in his life. It wasn’t just sex for him, Jake knew - obviously, considering Charles had a tendency to go full Boyle -, but it was about having that grounding force in his life. Charles liked, no, loved, subbing, and doing acts of service for people he cared about. That was especially true when it came to cooking, which he considered one of his favorite things to do in the entire universe.

The fact that Vivian loved the same weird, exotic food that he did only served to cement that for Charles. The two of them would have the cutest, grossest relationship ever.

“Oh my God.” Amy gasped, horrified.

Jake turned, to the sight of Charles and Vivian trying each other’s coffee via one another’s mouths.

“Nope!” Jake said, standing up and making his way over to the lovebirds.

“Jacob, hello.” Vivian said, extracting herself from Charles, who also turned to Jake cheerfully, as if they had not just been eating off each other’s faces - literally.

“Hey Vivian.” Jake put on a friendly smile, before turning to Charles, “We have a briefing in ten minutes.”

“Oh, I should go.” Vivian said, before turning to Charles. “I wouldn’t want to take away from your work, Charlie,” Her voice turning almost obscenely doting.

Charles stood up as well. “I’ll walk you out.” He said eagerly, “See you, Jake.”

“Yep.” Jake said, stepping back as the pair left the bullpen, tactfully pretending not to notice the placement of their hands on one another’s bodies. Charles was probably going to be late to the briefing.

Without Charles to provide entertainment, Terry and Rosa migrated back to their desks, and Amy began typing away on her computer. She paused as Jake sat down in his own chair across from her.

“So, Amy,” Jake swiveled in his chair, “Charles being so cheerful really seems to be brightening up the precinct, huh?”

“Yeah,” Amy nodded instantly, eyes lighting up slightly. “It’s always great when a sub’s in a good mood. I swear, it’s contagious.”

Despite having thought the exact same thing just moments ago, Jake couldn’t help but feel rattled.

“Is that something you like to have? You know, subs… being all cheerful, or whatever.”

Amy made a half-grimace, half-shrug. “Well, everyone’s different. Charles is pretty open about it, so I think it’s great. But more… private… subs are totally entitled to that, too. I’d never expect any sub to be open about their lives if they don’t want to be.”

Jake chuckled awkwardly. “That’s forward-thinking of you.”

“I just always hope that I don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.” She seemed to be looking at Jake more intently, now, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that she was speaking to him more directly. “Or that, if I ever did, that the person would feel safe enough to tell me.”

Jake nodded slowly, grin slipping down his face. He felt like she was staring into his soul, that she somehow could see through all of his defenses and masks and wisecracks into who he was a person, how broken he was, without him ever having to say a word. And that enticed him just as much as it scared him.

“Yeah, no, Charles is having a great time.” He redirected the conversation, letting it lapse into silence. He decided to bypass her words, ruminate on them later in privacy.

When Charles returned, just barely in time for their morning briefing, Jake couldn’t help but notice the brightness with which he carried himself. He practically radiated contentment.

It was an interesting difference between the two of them. Jake only ever subbed when he absolutely had to, when he needed someone to take control for a bit, and even then, only in a bare-bones, strangers-only kind of way. He did it to return to normal. Absolute minimum.

Charles, on the other hand, embraced it. He subbed because he wanted to, because he liked it. Not only did he seek out relationships with subbing as a fundamental part of them, but he also didn’t do it to return to normal, but rather because it was fun. He was always at normal, this put him over the top.

It was a striking distinction, and Jake found himself wondering, as he occasionally - and guiltily - did, what it would feel like to be so happy.

He had felt that way, once. But Jake didn’t want to think about that. So he didn’t. But he couldn’t pretend he didn’t sometimes wish to feel that way again. The overwhelming, all-encompassing feelings of comfort and contentment and joy that came from being someone’s sub. But he could never remember that without being reminded of all the pain and suffering that came along with it, too.

“Peralta, where are we with the black cab holdups?” Terry asked from behind the podium, startling Jake out of his reverie. He hesitated, trying to get his brain to jumpstart back into action and away from his thoughts, when he felt Charles clap a hand on his shoulder.

Another difference - Charles was always very tactile, but he got even more so when he was riding the high of subbing.

“I got this, Jakey.” Charles practically bounced up to stand next to Terry.

“Oh, all right. Have at it, man.” Jake replied, still trying to get his brain to unstick.

“Nice jeans, Boyle. Those are surprisingly low-waisted.” Gina piped up, putting her phone face-down to ogle.

Jake loved Gina. And she was far more clever than she let on.

She always noticed when subs were having a good time - or bad, for that matter -, even more acutely than most doms due to her being a switch. She claimed she got the best of both worlds (before launching into a rendition of Hannah Montana, because of course) since she could sense how subs were feeling like another sub would, and then if she thought they were hot be a dom for them (and vice versa). That way of describing switches, using the binary terms, was considered a bit archaic, but Gina had shrugged and said that was how she interpreted herself, so she didn’t care what other people had to say about it. “My opinion is the most important one to me, kiddo.” She had added with a grin.

Still, she rarely commented on subs’ personal issues. Quite simply, it wasn’t her style to discuss things that actually mattered to people - she was happy to gossip about trivialities, sure, but push to shove she knew when to keep her mouth shut. She was bad at keeping stupid secrets, but so good at keeping important ones that sometimes Jake would find himsefl questioning if she knew them at all - except she did. Although, the self-absorbed parts of her personality were easy enough for her to play up, making people assume she didn’t know because she didn’t care.

Gina was scary smart, sometimes. Or, well, all the time, Jake supposed.

“Eyes up here, Gina. I’m more than just a piece of ass.” Charles replied with a grin.

Most of the doms - a few beat cops, Amy - made an “ooh” sound, and Rosa cracked a smile.

Gina chuckled, looking amused. “Not bad, not bad.”

Jake knew that Gina, pretend as she might to be aloof, felt the shared sense of joy that Charles was projecting. A couple of other switches, and one sub, all of whom were beat cops seemed to be relaxed as well. Even Jake felt himself get put at ease by Charles’ presence.

Charles was currently going through the case - Jake grimaced as Charles got to the part where they discussed how they had basically no leads, due to the driver being not white and, therefore, every single race and ethnicity ever created in the eyes of tourists.

“Don’t worry Sarge, we’ll nail this guy.” Charles tossed the clicker back to Terry, who caught it without even glancing at it, eyes tracking Charles with a half-amazed, half-bemused grin on his face.

The Sarge loved love, after all. And Charles was practically exuding love from his very presence.

“I can’t believe I was just briefly attracted to Boyle!” Gina said loudly to Amy, waving her arms as if trying to shake off the emotion.

Jake watched Amy’s expression carefully. She seemed to be neutral, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with Gina’s statement. He wasn’t entirely sure what he had been hoping for, but somehow he felt disappointed, anyway.

They filed out of the room, and Jake went up to Charles.

Ever since Charles had started dating - and was now engaged to - Vivian, Jake hadn’t seen much of him outside of work. Normally, they did some fun, albeit random, stuff together, and to lose one of his key social connections - and more importantly, friends - was making Jake a little lonely.

“Hey, what are you doing for tomorrow night? I think I can get us some Mets tickets.”

“No go, amigo.” Charles replied with a grin. “Tomorrow is Vivi’s and my venue search. We’re going to go visit a few of them this week.”

“Oh. You guys have been spending a lot of time together, huh?” He asked, “Don’t you think you should slow your roll a little? You just got engaged like, a week ago.”

Amy appeared out of the blue, casting Jake a look of… was that annoyance or amusement?

“Are you really qualified to give romantic advice?” She asked, clearly intending to start bantering. “You’re not exactly the king of mature relationships.”

Jake felt his brain short circuit. How could she know about- he saw her looking at him, confused, and realized she was trying to get a rise out of him, not actually commenting on his past relationship. He blinked, trying to figure out how to respond. The silence seemed to grow between them with each passing second, and he didn’t know how to bridge it.

It was true, he wasn’t exactly qualified to give advice from a personal point of view. He hadn’t exactly had good fortune with it, and he had been notoriously bad with dates - it didn’t help that every time he went on one, the other person stopped texting, calling, or even acknowledging him when he said he didn’t do subspace. Or collars.

Everyone wanted either a one-night stand, which he was down with, or they wanted someone long-term. And long-term came with collars and subspace and subs who weren’t broken. And since Jake didn’t exactly fit the criteria, they left.

And thus, he had developed a reputation as being hard to date - the vast majority assuming it was due to his immaturity. He let them believe that, too. Didn’t tell Amy that no, actually, he had tried to make it work with all of them, but they weren’t willing to settle for someone like him. Of course, he could never say that without it leading to questions of what was wrong with him that being with him would be considered settling.

Just because Jake felt weird when he saw Charles happy, didn’t mean that he didn’t want him to be happy. On the contrary, Charles deserved the kind of relationship he so eloquently described as “washing each other’s hair” more than anyone else Jake knew.

Charles deserved more love than any dom Jake had ever met could give. But, hey, it looked like Vivian came close.

“Hey, Jakey!” Charles interrupted the tense silence, voice overly cheery, even for him. “Vivi has a friend of hers you could go on a date with!”

Jake blinked, turning from Amy’s face to Charles’, then back to Amy’s. Her expression looked confused, and a touch concerned. And Charles was overly eager, trying to cover for Jake and actually succeeding pretty well.

“I’ll prove I’m the king of mature relationships. I’ll go on that date. Let me guess, her name is… Patricia, she’s 49, and owns a house from before the economy made it impossible for people to own.”

“Nope! Bernice, grad student.” Charles replied, typing on his phone.

“Oh, that’ll suit you well, Jake.” Amy said, grinning. “College kids - idealistic, and won’t care about your debt.”

“Because they have money?” Jake asked, feigning confusion, “Amy, that’s not how college works. I’m pretty sure it’s kinda the opposite.”

“I know that, Jake!” She said, annoyed, “I meant because they’ll have debt, too.”

“Date set!” Charles interrupted.

“Great! Jake’s got a date!” Terry’s voice came from behind them, Jake jumping as he swiveled on the spot. “Congratulations. Now how about you all get back to work?”

They quickly dispersed, Charles texting Jake the date information as he made his way back to his own desk.

The rest of the day passed with Jake and Charles not being able to make any progress on the black cab driver, and Amy making another felony arrest. Their numbers were neck and neck, and Jake found himself continuously glancing at the scoreboard, as if the numbers would change when he wasn’t looking.

When he did show up to the restaurant, he idled outside, hands in his pockets. It was chilly, and he didn’t actually know what this… Bernice looked like.

“Hi! You must be Jake.”

Jake turned, ready to give a preliminary conversation, and did a double take, voice stammering out a random sentence. She was… wow.

6’ even, blonde, and with a bright smile. She practically oozed confidence, but more relaxed than overbearing, and Jake fought back the urge to blush at the sight of the absolutely stunning woman in front of him.

The pair sat down at a table, and Bernice began chatting with him.

It was all pleasantries, until…

“I wanted to be a cop when I was a kid, mainly because I love Die Hard.”

“Die Hard?” Jake squeaked. He had loved Die Hard ever since he was a kid - pretending he was John McClane, off to rescue the stunning wife Holly Generro. Of course, McClane was the dom and Holly the sub in the movie, but Jake would play pretend that he was on a mission to save his daring, gorgeous dom, who would naturally shower him in praise when he saved her life. After all, what greater act of devotion was there than risking his life to save his dom?

Of course, he also wouldn’t mind getting to be rescued, if… well, given the right circumstances.

“Die Hard? I love that movie! It’s great.” Jake choked out.

“I know right! And I mean, I don’t just love it. I’m obsessed. I sleep in a Nakatomi Plaza Security T-shirt.”

Jake felt a blush creep up his neck, as a grin spread over his face and he felt his head begin to duck.

“Ohh, wow.” He breathed, picking up his drink to hide his quickly blushing face, unable to help the slight shift in his posture to lower himself slightly, Bernice’s presence making him want to do so. “So, what do you do, if not a cop?”

“I’m in grad school. I thought about maybe being a sports reporter, but it would be impossible for me to be objective. I love the Nets so much.”

“You’re a Nets fan? I love the Nets.” Jake said stiffly, almost dismayed at how quickly he was becoming attracted to her. He placed down his drink.

Wow. Charles was actually, insanely good at finding potential dates. He really should have taken him up sooner on the offer to set him up.

“Oh, my God. This season has been a disaster, right?”

“Yes!” Jake squeaked, gesturing with his hand helplessly.

She didn’t even question his love for sports - typically a dom entertainment - or try to gatekeep his status as a fan. She was already invested. Although, to be fair, it wasn’t like women were really welcomed into the world of sports, regardless of orientation.

As they continued to talk, Jake felt himself grimace, mainly from how badly he wanted to have her take him back to her place.

Bernice was tearing down his walls of defenses.

In fact, she was scaling them with absolute ease. His banter that he used to avoid getting serious she responded to in kind, their shared behaviors, their similar passions. He was dangerously close to actually getting feelings for her, and he felt himself wanting desperately to backpedal, even as he found himself letting her further in.

It was terrifying.

Their conversation flowed easily and warmly, and, by the time it came to an end, Bernice offered him a ride back to her place.

Jake hesitated, buying time by shrugging on his jacket. He had two options. One, protect himself, and turn her down. Bernice would probably take it well, and Jake would go home alone. Two, agree, go to her place, and set himself up for the inevitable failure and rejection when Bernice realized he wasn’t going to be the right fit long-term. But… Jake couldn’t help but think of Charles, so happy and so madly in love.

It was selfish, but Jake wanted that for himself, too. No matter how many times he got burned, he kept coming back, hoping for a different result. He didn’t want to want relationships, but he did. He liked Bernice. He wanted to see her again. He wanted to be with her.

“Yeah, sounds good.” Jake said, unable to help the small, hopeful grin from spreading across his face.

Maybe this time would be different, after all.

Chapter Text

Well, Jake reflected as they heavily made out on Bernice’s couch, he really should take Charles’ advice more often.

Jake had his back pressed against the back of the couch, Bernice straddling his lap. Her hands were gripping into Jake’s shirt, crumpling it under her grip, while Jake’s were at her back.

When Jake finally pulled up for air, Bernice ducked down, beginning to suck a mark into Jake’s neck. He could feel her grin against his skin, and he felt one tug on his own lips as well - she was so eager, and it made Jake feel warm and fuzzy to have her so invested in something so simple.

Point Break was still playing on her TV, long forgotten by both of them as their hands had migrated to one another’s bodies.

Interesting thing, Point Break. It had been revolutionary - and highly controversial - when it came out in ‘91. For one thing, a male sub character hadn’t been a lead in an action movie in… well, ever, really. Sure, there was the occasional female sub role - like Ripley from Aliens - but it was pretty uncommon. Even more damning was the fact that the movie ended quite controversially - while the director and sub activists declared it a sub getting out of a toxic situation, doms claimed it was a sub’s betrayal.

Jake just thought it was a good movie. But he did note the positive implication of Bernice liking the movie as well - further proof that she maybe was going to be okay being with someone like him. At least for a while, anyway.

Still, Jake didn’t really want to waste time thinking about the implications of movies - although he would actually love to have that conversation with Bernice, he bet she would be totally into it - because he had more important things on him right now.

Like Bernice, currently literally on him, seemingly dedicated to leaving hickeys across every inch of his exposed skin.

His hands slid lower, wrapping around her hips, and she ground against his lap, returning to Jake’s mouth and swallowing his moan in another kiss.

Jake was seriously debating suggesting they move this to the bedroom when the door to the apartment opened and a voice said, surprised, “Oh!”

Bernice pulled back, fixing the newcomer with a glare, while Jake jerked his hands off of her like he’d been burned.

“Grace, I sent you a text.” Bernice said shortly.

“Phone died. Sorry! I’ll just-” Grace sped-walked past the pair, grabbing a phone charger, gaze carefully averted. “I’m going to hang with Clara tonight. Overnight study sesh. Ooh, Point Break. Nice.”

Jake was blushing red, and Grace practically booked it out of the apartment, closing the door behind her with a quiet slam.

Bernice grimaced. “Sorry about that. Roommates, and all.”

“She seems nice.” Jake squeaked out.

“Yeah, she’s great.” There was a beat of awkward silence.

“Now, where were we?” Bernice asked after a moment, pretending to ponder. “Let me think.” She leaned down, kissing him gently, before pulling away. “Were we here? Or maybe,” Her hands slid across his chest to the buttons of his shirt, fiddling with them, “We were here?”

“Seems pretty close.” Jake replied, “But not quite.”

She unhooked his buttons, one by one. Then, she slid her hands along his skin, tucking against his chest. “Here?” She asked, voice sultry, as she rolled her hips against his pants.

“Myeah,” Jake choked out. Bernice drew back, pulling off her own shirt with a wink, tossing it over his shoulder behind the couch, before undoing her bra.

“Thank God I wore the front-clipping one for tonight,” She said with a shrug, “I can never get the back ones off easy.”

“I appreciate the gesture.” Jake replied, as she tossed her bra in the same direction as her shirt. “But… should we move?”

“Yeah.” She muttered, peeling herself off of him long enough for him to get up, quickly leading him into her room.

Jake had had roommates who used the communal couch for sex, he didn’t want to do the same to Bernice’s.

Bernice stripped out of her pants and lacy underwear, and Jake did the same - albeit his boxers weren’t lace. Maybe he should get some? That could be cute - as she gently pushed him down into her bed. She straddled him again, her hands on his chest, as she bent down to plant kisses along his jaw.

When one of her knees pressed between his legs, Jake couldn’t bite back his moan, and he caught a flash of Bernice’s smile as she pulled her head back, surveying her handiwork.

Jake imagined he was quite a sight - covered in coloring hickeys, naked and panting in her bed - and they hadn’t even gotten to the main event.

It seemed the time was now, however, as Bernice crawled up his body, sitting on his chest with her weight being placed entirely onto her legs, which were braced on either side of him. One hand came down to grip his hair - gently, not a threat but just a presence - and she tilted her head down to look at him.

“Do you want to-?” She asked, suddenly unsure. They hadn’t discussed oral beforehand.

Jake nodded, relishing in the slight pull on his hair as he did so. “Yes, please.” He didn’t use a ma’am - they were having sex, they weren’t doing a scene, so using the labels didn’t make sense for this context - and she didn’t correct him on it.

“Then make me cum.” She said, before letting go of his hair, using her arms to brace up as well - further ensuring to keep her weight off of him. Some female doms he’d had in the past weren’t as considerate.

Jake was eager to oblige, tilting his head down towards his chest, where her spread legs were waiting.

He placed a kiss against her hip, before dipping lower, tracking down to her clit to place a light kiss there. Bernice’s thigh twitched, and Jake took that as a good sign - she wasn’t much of a screamer, it seemed.

His tongue slid between the folds of her pussy, using the broad part of his tongue to stroke up and down, the side of it just barely brushing against each side of her clit. Then, he flicked his tongue across.

Bernice moaned slightly, hands clenching in the bedsheets, and Jake couldn’t help the self-satisfied grin that briefly crossed his face at the sound. Alternating pressure, he moved his tongue in a vague interpretation of a circle, taking care to slide it across her clit at each turn. Pausing for half a beat, he pressed his mouth forward as well, thoroughly kissing his way along the same route, before capturing her clit in his mouth, sucking on it gently.

Bernice ground forward, one hand coming up from the bed to run through his hair for a moment, before moving back to its place, panting a “Don’t stop.”

Now that she was close - if her tensing leg was anything to show for it - Jake repeated the same action, maintaining even pressure.

He was rewarded with Bernice’s breath hitching, and the feeling of her rocketing pulse against his mouth, which was still at work to carry through on her orgasm. Her legs were tensed against his sides, and, after a few moments, Bernice took a steadying breath, leaning back and brushing her wayward hair out of her face with one hand.

“Figured you’d have a mouth on you.” She said finally, scooting back so she could lean down and kiss him gently on his reddening lips. She made to move and grimaced, one hand reaching up to rub at her thigh.

“You alright?” Jake asked, beginning to sit up. She stopped him with a hand on his chest, shaking her head.

“No, no, I just… whenever I do this my legs get sore.” She chuckled self-deprecatingly, “I tense up too much. But I do believe we have something more to do tonight, am I right?” She asked, one hand stroking down Jake’s stomach.

“Yep.” Jake said, popping the ‘p’ sound, “Definitely, definitely have more to do.”

“Excellent.” Bernice slid off of Jake, rummaging into a drawer to pull out a condom wrapper and some lube.

Huh. Jake blinked at the label on the bottle. It was the same one he had at his place. Bernice tore open the package for the condom without fanfare, fumbling with it for a moment as she checked that it was the right way up. She rolled it on, and it was equal parts hot and weird how attentively she seemed to be doing it.

“First time?” Jake asked awkwardly.

“Hm? Oh, no, no.” Bernice shook her head, “I just… I like to make sure it’s right.”

“You’re doing great.” Jake offered her blithely.

Bernice blushed, and Jake’s eyebrows raised with surprise before he shoved his face back to neutral. She was a switch, he realized - not that it changed anything, of course, subs and switches or doms and switches can be in relationships just the same as doms and subs. Sub-sub wasn’t legal, though, although enforcement was spotty on that - doms viewed it as a threat or a way of ‘opting out’ of their orientation. Not to mention, since subs had been marked as property and considered inferior for so much of history, it would actually have been a good way to escape some of the abuses doms subjected subs to. So, naturally, it was expressly forbidden - came with hefty jail time, too, although the ‘therapy’ portion had been dropped from the legal system a few years back.

Dom-dom relationships were legal, but as far as Jake knew no one actually did it - doms didn’t tend to do well together in relationships.

Anyway, Bernice being a switch didn’t change anything for Jake, and he was brought out of his thoughts by her sliding her legs back over him, returning to her previous straddle over him.

She took a moment to align herself with him, before lowering her body down, guiding his cock into her.

Jake choked on a groan, one hand going to her hip, the other one reaching up to her chest.

She pushed her hair out of her face, before her hands went to Jake’s chest. They made eye contact and she grinned, before, still fully seated, rolling her hips.

Jake’s breath caught, and her smile grew, as she began moving up and down, setting a pace that was comfortable for her - and it suited him just fine.

Jake’s brain short circuited at the sight of Bernice. Her tall, muscled body moving above him, skin slightly shiny from sweat, blonde hair falling down around her face. Even though she was quiet, not speaking or really even moaning, save for her slightly out of breath panting, he could see the pleasure etched into her face, feel it in the way her hands clutched his chest and her thighs tensed against his, knew it in the way she rolled her hips with each time she lowered herself down, ensuring that he was landing in the right places.

She was gorgeous, in the way people only ever really looked when they were in the midst of sex - a singular focus coupled with absolute, unabashed nakedness - and Jake groaned at the sight of it.

Bernice leaned down, still not stopping her ministrations, in order to bite down gently on an already bruising spot from before.

Jake’s entire body twitched in response, and she pulled back, picking up her pace just enough to send him into overdrive. Still, he was pretty skilled at holding it together until his partner got off, so he just enjoyed the ride - heh, literally - as Bernice came again, her nails digging almost painfully into his skin for just a moment, her breath catching.

She slowed the pace for a few beats, before picking it back up again, this time with a clear purpose to her actions in mind. Sure enough, within moments, Jake’s grip on her hip tightened, him choking out a warning that they were going to be finishing real soon.

She rode him across the finish line, Jake’s hand on her chest shifting in favor of gripping a fistful of sheets as he came with a moan.

Bernice slowly lifted herself off, while Jake tied off the condom and put it into the bin by her dresser.

Then, she slid off of him entirely, shifting down to lay beside him in the bed. He leant his head onto her chest, one hand coming up to rest on her stomach. His skin was tacky with rapidly cooling sweat, and she shifted her head so that her chin rested on top of his head, an arm looped around his shoulders.

“I liked that.” She said, tilting her head down to look at him.

“Me too.” Jake said, answering an unasked question. He bit back his own, however - she had already said she enjoyed it, asking her follow up would be overstepping.

They lay like that for a while, and Jake fought the urge to sleep - he didn’t want to right now. He hadn’t felt this comfortable in a long time. Eventually, however - it could have been minutes or hours, he didn’t know - she nudged his head, moving to sit up.

“I’m going to shower.”

“Space for two?” He asked cheekily.

Bernice paused, amused smile creeping across her face. "Certainly." She replied, sauntering to the room in question.

He took a moment to enjoy her body silhouetted against the bathroom light, before getting up and bounding after her.

Jake didn't know when was the last time he had felt this hopeful, romantic stylez, about anyone - and he had rarely been so excited, or terrified, by the prospect. It wasn't going to last - he was far too broken - but for now, for this moment, however short it may be... he had a reprieve.

Chapter Text

Point Break.

A classic movie, infamous for its progressive - yet controversial - sub advocacy themes.

The movie started simply enough, a generic action movie with a single distinguishing factor - Johnny Utah was a sub. Unusual, but in and of itself not threatening. Even the beginning act, with him targeting gorgeous switch Tyler Endicott and persuading her to help him learn to surf, was all within normal parameters. It’s even acceptable - if not actively encouraging for the general public - when Utah messes up the first sting operation of the surfers.

It showed that he was bad at his job - should have left it to the doms, the ‘real’ FBIs. How someone can watch a movie and not root for the protagonist was beyond Jake, but hey, the leaps some people go to to avoid empathizing with minorities, subs, and women is beyond him.

When Bodhi used Tyler to leverage Utah, it was met with distaste - how, after all, could a sub be expected to save their partner? - but that derision shifted when it was made into an act of devotion. Utah being a John McClane would have been beyond controversial, would have probably ended careers then and there.

But Johnny Utah, skydiving, freefalling, to his certain death - it was meant not to protect his dom, but in an act of true service. The lengths a sub would go to for their dom.

The fact that Tyler was a switch, not a dom, tended to be overlooked more often than not by that particular conversation piece.

Others, like sub advocates, would point out that Utah squared up against a dom - one who had a distinctly homoerotic undertone to their relationship - for the sake of a switch who had betrayed him, out of purpose. Out of a desire to actually protect, not just as some lost puppy looking for their master. That the movie was an example of how subs were capable of it - after all, Utah did catch the dom in the end, hadn’t he?

And that was it - the movie’s finale destroyed the entire argument about one sub’s indoctrination and devotion, and turned the entire film into an unequivocally rallying cry for advocates everywhere.

Utah, turning his back on the dom who had pleaded, begged, for his mercy. Giving it. Walking away, not looking back, as Bodhi surfs to his death. Tossing his badge aside.

Rejecting the doctrine of the dom who had held such devoted sway over him.

The movie had been pretty well received by minorities - dom men didn’t care for it, and dom women were iffy -but then it turned into an absolute cult classic later on. Women claimed it as a female gaze movie, with both a male dom and sub, both of whom were considered absolute dreamboats (which Jake wholeheartedly agreed on). The queer community marked it out for themselves as well, based on the devotion and indoctrination of Utah to Bodhi’s philosophy being an act of the deepest loyalty. Which Jake was less sure about - it seemed a little bit… abusive, to him.

Switches wanted it for themselves, too - not very often switches got portrayed as a true mix of dom and sub, rather than just relegated to one or the other and given lip service as to their orientation. Tyler was with Bodhi, and she was with Utah, too. She rescued Utah and was rescued by him in turn. It was rare for them to be actually… well, well-written. It helped that Tyler was hot, too.

Subs, of course, loved the movie as a community as well. Utah’s rejection of the dom, his reaffirmation and reestablishment of control over his own life, was met with raucous approval. It was rare at the time - still rare, actually - to see subs with their own autonomy. Especially since controlling relationships are painted as romantic - that sort of thing tended to benefit doms, naturally. To have Utah fully embrace, and then reject, it was a move lauded by sub advocates everywhere.

Doms didn’t like it for the same reason subs did.

The disapproval on the side of doms only served to cement the love for it in the switch and sub communities, though - in Jake’s opinion, anyway.

Regardless of all of the messages and how much Jake loved and appreciated the movie from a social and cultural standpoint, he had to admit.

He really liked to see a half-dressed Bodhi run around on the beach.

And him in the crop top during the football game?

Well, teenage Jake was over the moon for that, that was for sure.

Sure, Bodhi’s insistence that Utah give up control to the ocean was a bit… well, controlling, but teenage Jake had been enthralled with how Bodhi himself would do everything just for the adrenaline - that rush of pure emotion at controlling the one thing he couldn’t control - life and death.

Sure, Bodhi seemed to give up control - insisted that Utah did, too - but Bodhi himself always had a bit more. He would be the one to choose to risk their lives, never Utah.

Bodhi had led Utah to a cliff - and well past it - and Utah had followed.

Until he hadn’t.

Jake thought Bodhi was hot. It had also done him the solid of forewarning him that sometimes doms would take it too far.

Not that he’d paid enough attention to that warning, but whatever.

Jake felt Bernice shift beside him, and he tensed ever so slightly, but then she just moved her arm to pull him a little closer, still fast asleep.

Jake stared up at the ceiling of her bedroom.

It wasn’t anything personal - he just didn’t sleep at other people’s houses after hookups. Be it a dom or a switch, he just… didn’t. He wasn’t going to let his guard down just because Bernice had been considerate, had been all but perfect.

Jake turned his head to check the time.

2:18. Well, he didn’t have anything better to do than think, he supposed.

Gina absolutely loved Point Break - the amorality of it all was something she was super into. Not to mention she considered Bodhi's actor to be a borderline deity, and held up Utah's actor as a switch icon.

“Not as great as me, obviously, but he can hold the title for now. But I’m coming for it.” Gina was completely wasted, yet she fixed Jake with an absolute stare, oblivious to her slight slurring. “I’m the best. I’d make him my bitch.”

“Oh, definitely.” Jake had replied, taking a sip from his own drink. Gina could dom - or sub - anyone she put her mind to, that was for sure. She also had a tendency to make a specific type of dom fall for her hard - sugar doms, mostly. That said, she didn’t go for people who didn’t have enough of an ego - and, with all due respect, the boy toy of Point Break didn’t exactly have any ego to speak of, period.

No, Gina was more into Tyler than either Bodhi or Utah- a switch actually played by a switch, shockingly enough. Most media had switches played by either male doms or female subs, and they usually ended up sticking to that dom/sub slate anyway. What’s more, an entire subgenre - the switch femme fatale - sprung up afterwards, around women playing switches who would be assassins or spies. Although the switch was almost always played by a sub, anyway. Of course, those sorts of things always required her to end up with a dom man in the end, and anything else was showered in accolades for being ‘subversive’.

There weren’t many switches in the industry at all, really - partially because it was easier to get offered roles when they conformed to the ‘normal’ - male doms, female subs. Switches who were open about it tended to get overlooked, on the basis that they wouldn’t be able to ‘truly’ encapsulate the roles.

People like Utah's and Tyler's actors were exceptions to the rule - most switches got blacklisted the minute they opened their mouth, after all - but if anyone would overthrow an entire entertainment industry and change its system inside and out without exerting a modicum of effort, it would be Gina.

Jake felt his eyes droop, and rubbed at them in an attempt to stay awake. Gina would be rolling her eyes at him right now, he knew, if she saw him trying to stay awake rather than relax into sleep in the muscular arms of the gorgeous woman currently spooning him.

It wasn’t like Jake wasn’t tired. He was.

It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her. He just… didn’t trust anyone, he supposed.

But his eyelids were weighing heavily on him, and her skin was warm against his. Such comfort - human touch, a break from the loneliness - was precious.

Jake closed his eyes.

He opened his eyes to Bernice shaking his shoulder, gently.

Shit. Jake shot upright. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep.

But Bernice was just smiling at him, gentle and warm. It fell slightly, however, at his expression - he realized it must have looked panicked.

Jake quickly hid it with a yawn, using the opportunity to surreptitiously check that he hadn’t been restrained in his sleep, shifting his limbs and irrationally fearing that he wouldn’t be able to. And he hadn’t - obviously.

“I’m making coffee. Want some?” She asked, putting on a pair of sweatpants.

“Um,” Jake’s brain took a moment to admit there was no threat, “Yeah. Please.” He added as an afterthought.

Bernice ruffled his hair, amused, before getting out of the bed and picking up a shirt from the pile on her chair. “You’re cute when you’re tired.” The words were thrown over her shoulder, already halfway to her door.

“Hzgh.” Came Jake’s intelligent reply.

After a few minutes, Jake heard the coffee pot begin to make noise. With an internal groan - he wasn’t exactly a morning person - Jake got to his feet, haphazardly putting on his own clothes before stumbling into her kitchen.

Bernice was pouring herself a cup of coffee, another cup laid on the wobbly table for him.

Jake hesitated - having not seen her pour the cup, she could have added-

He picked up the cup, other hand digging its nails into his palm. Bernice wasn’t a threat. He was just trying to make himself stop feeling guilty about falling asleep, that was all. Jake dumped some sugar into his coffee before taking a gulp of it - too hot.

“Oh, Jake, be careful!” Bernice said, setting down her own cup to pry Jake’s away from him. “Are you alright?” She asked, one hand migrating to his chin as if to check.

“‘m fine.” Jake said, face heating up - he hoped it passed off as from the coffee, but the look she fixed him with made it clear that didn’t pass.

Bernice’s hand lingered for a moment, before she drew away. “Good, yeah. That’s… that’s good.”

Jake smiled tightly, before picking up his cup again - pretending not to notice the way she made an aborted raise of her arm, as if to stop him. It was almost sweet, how she wanted to protect him from something as simple as a mouth burn.

Jake couldn’t tell if he was pleased by it or not - the protectiveness was cute, but a touch… controlling? Then again, she hadn’t actually stopped him, so it was more endearing than controlling. Right?

Bernice sipped on her own cup of coffee, leaning against the tiny, dingy linoleum counter.

“Sorry that it’s gross,” She said, “I smuggled it from the dining hall."

“Free coffee. Noice.” Jake shrugged, “I don’t mind - it tastes better than the stuff at the station.”

“Mm.” Bernice raised an eyebrow, “You mean with all that city budget you don’t even get the good coffee?”

“Unfortunately, yeah. We keep the local coffee trucks in business, though.”

Bernice rolled her eyes, but didn’t respond - her phone buzzing on the counter. She picked it up, staring at the screen.

“Grace wants to know when she should come back. Do you-?”

“Yeah, no, yeah, I should… I should go.” Jake said quickly, downing the rest of his coffee.

“You sure?” Bernice asked, thumbs hovering over her screen.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s all good.” Jake nodded. “I uh, I enjoyed your company, and… um, had fun. We should do this again sometime. Or, you know, just… hang out. Or whatever.”

“Yeah.” Bernice grinned, “I’ll text you.”

“Cool, cool cool.” Jake nodded.

“Do you need to get your stuff?” Bernice asked, gesturing generically to her bedroom.

“Oh, uh, no, I’ve got everything.” Jake patted his pockets.

“Oh, great. I’ll, uh, I’ll walk you to the door.”

Jake followed Bernice - the door was literally 10 feet away, but he supposed it was the thought that counted - and she stopped by the door. Her eyes raked over him, evidently self-satisfied, before leaning in and kissing him.

“See you later.” She said, opening the door.

“Yeah. See you.” Jake replied, stepping into the hall. He caught one more glimpse of her - sweatpants and, sure enough, a Nakatomi Plaza T-shirt, her smile in place, before she closed the door after him.

Jake left the building - ignoring the wayward glance of a few random people - and got on the subway. He had left his car at the restaurant - which, in hindsight, was a terrible idea, since, well, parking in Brooklyn wasn’t exactly easy. Or cheap.

He took the subway to his car, then took his car back to his place.

It was only once he was inside he thought to check his phone. 29 missed calls and 203 unread texts from Charles - as was to be expected. Or, actually, it was sort of on the low end for him, all things considered. A random text from Gina - it was all emojis - and an email notification about a new, inter-departmental training seminar on how to not take bribes.

Jake rolled his eyes at that, sending a quick text to Charles while he got food from his cabinet.

His phone began buzzing instantly, and Jake awkwardly held it up to his ear, as he carried a bowl of cereal to the table.

“Charles, text before you call, come on.” Jake said, shoving some food into his face.

“Sorry Jakey, but tell me! How did it go? Are you two in love?”

Jake nearly choked. “No, Charles, we aren’t- I met her yesterday!”

“And?” He sounded confused.

“And we got along well. We might have a second date.”

Charles made an unintelligible squealing sound from across the phone, eliciting a sheepish grin from Jake.

“Jake, I’m so happy for you! Can I put Bernice down as your plus one for my wedding?”

“Uh, I’d have to ask her first.”

“I knew you two would be a good match! She’s great! I mean, the moment she said-”

Charles began chatting away, and Jake let him - normally, Charles would talk on the phone with him for hours, and would probably go longer if it wasn’t for things like sleep.

Instead, however, Charles was the one to end the conversation - he had a thing with Vivian in a bit.

When the call ended, Jake stared at his phone. It was the first time Charles had ever been the one to end the call. It felt… weird, a bit. Like the world had suddenly sped up when he wasn’t looking.

Jake caught a glimpse of his reflection in the black screen of his phone - his neck was dotted with hickeys - no wonder he’d gotten weird looks.

He felt oddly pleased with himself at the sight, though - it wasn’t often he allowed his hookups to mark him. It felt a bit too much like he was an object, as opposed to a person. That said, it hadn’t felt demeaning. And besides… Bernice wasn’t exactly a hookup.

He blushed deep red, and tore his eyes away from his dim reflection, not bothering to hide his stupid grin - no one was around to see it except him.

Chapter Text

Gina was sprawled out across his couch, slurping on hot chocolate and judging Jake. Not silently, of course.

“You can’t just put your jacket onto every outfit and call it good! You need some pizzazz - have you considered using a glitter gun?”

“You’ve bedazzled my flannel before, and it got sparkles all over everything.” Jake frowned, “I don’t think we should try that again.”

“Fine.” Gina rolled her eyes, “Don’t blame me if you look bland.”

Jake groaned, flopping down onto the couch next to her. “It’s not like this is a first impression, Gina.”

“Just show up in your cop uniform, that’ll impress Karen.”

“She already knows I’m a cop, Gina.”

“Does she? Last time I checked she hasn’t been stopping by to say hello.”

“She’s been busy.”

“Uh-huh.” Gina replied, eyes on her phone.

“Besides, I’m an adult. It’d be more weird if my mom was still hanging around in my life.”

“Look, what do you want me to say, Jacob?” Gina frowned, “I’m not going to lie and say that I’m glad she reached out. You know how I feel about her, and I’m not going to compromise on it.”

Jake bit back a retort - when Gina had opinions, she didn’t bow down from them, no matter what. And this was one of those things where it just… wasn’t worth the fight. Not today, anyway. So, instead, Jake just changed the subject.

“Either way, we can get back to painting nails, right? Yours should be ready for a second coat.”

Gina checked her nails, then held them out. “If you would.”

Jake took her hand - the nails were a bright shade of purple - and began applying.

He’d gotten insanely good at painting nails, courtesy of Gina. He had steady hands, when he wasn’t bouncing around the place, and it had given them excuses to hang out.

Of course, Roger hadn’t been happy with his already-sub son engaging in effeminate activities - as if nail polish even had a gender to begin with - but Karen had always indulged it. She would say that she had, quote, ‘made peace’ with the fact that her son was a sub, if asked by a nosy neighbor or teacher.

Roger never did make peace with it. He had held on hope that Jake was just confused, that the tests were wrong, whatever. But when push came to shove and it was all said and done, Jake was still a sub. And Roger had to deal with it.

So he did. By leaving.

Jake knew his orientation wasn’t the only reason his parents had split - the adultery had been a big part of that, too - but he had never quite shaken the guilt for it.

Karen had done her best, but she wasn’t… perfect. By comparison to Roger, sure, she was excellent, but Gina never quite forgave her for allowing everything to go down the way it did in the first place.

Fact was, when Jacob Peralta was declared to be a sub, it was no cause for celebration. Karen had started sobbing, Roger had started yelling, and Jake - still not entirely sure what he had done wrong - had run.

Gina had been the one he’d run to, too young and too alone to know where else to go.

She had sat with him while he cried. He didn’t even know what it meant, to be a sub. Just that he knew he was supposed to be a dom - that’s what his dad had said, after all - and that he had somehow failed a test he didn’t know he was taking.

Gina had comforted him, in her abrasive way.

“You’re going to be fine, Jake. Like, you’re going to be a sub, but that doesn’t matter. You can still do stuff, it’s just going to be harder. So buckle up and deal with it, you’ll be fine.”

She had also had to explain to him what doms, subs, and switches even were - of course, they were both too young to even know what sex was, and the orientation education program back then was very gendered. But he got the gist of it - he was a sub, which meant he was supposed to work ntil he got married - where he would then be expected to quit his job and be a stay at home parent forever. Also, he had to wear a collar that mark him as married to someone else until he died.

“Actually, after you die, too. You get buried with it, usually.” Gina had added - which didn’t make Jake feel any better.

“Why don’t doms wear the collars?” Jake asked - the words had been heavy, unfamiliar on his tongue.

“Because subs are supposed to be property.” Gina had replied.

“I don’t want- I’m a person, though!”

“Yeah. But the rest of the world doesn’t see it like that sometimes.” Gina punched his arm, trying to cheer him up. “I won’t let anyone mess with you, though. You and I can be a team, and I’ll beat up anyone who tries to make you property. Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Jake had agreed.

Somehow, it had never crossed either of their minds that Gina might need protection, too. She was always so strong, and seemed so capable. She didn’t bend - the universe bent to her liking, because she wasn’t moving.

She got tested the next week, and her results were clear: Gina Linetti was a switch.

Her parents threw her a party.

Jake wasn’t allowed to go - Roger had put his foot down as Jake’s orientation being nothing to celebrate. And Karen had acquiesced.

Sure, Karen was better about it now - she was never going to be an advocate, but she supported sub rights politically - but Gina never did forgive her for making Jake’s youth so much harder than it had to be.

Whenever Jake tried to defend her, though, Gina would always just say, “Parents are supposed to protect their kids, Jake. Accept them. Love them. Did she do that to you?”

And Jake would never be able to answer.

Gina’s distaste for Karen, however, was nothing compared to the unbridled vitriol she had for one Captain Roger Peralta.

She hadn’t liked him in the first place, but once they were both adults, she had no problem laying into him, especially once some of the repercussions - i.e., Jake’s daddy issues - started becoming more obvious.

Apparently having strong negative reactions to authority figures was a bad thing, who would’ve guessed?

Gina was opposed to Karen, but she never tried to stop Jake from visiting her. Sure, she would say her piece about it every time, but she would never make Jake feel bad about it. And, afterwards, she would always sit with him and debrief - since even though Karen was supportive now, it was still emotionally draining to be around her, to be in the house he grew up in.

He loved his mom, definitely. But that didn’t mean it was always easy to be around her, either.

Gina, on the other hand - it was always so easy to be around her. She didn’t pretend to be anything other than she was, and, while she was harsh, she never sugarcoated anything.

Being a sub, Jake was used to people sugarcoating everything for him. Patronizing, condescending, infantilizing, whatever term best described the way doms - and even other subs - would talk down to him like he was a child.

Whenever he went for his mandatory drug screenings and blood tests, the doctors would treat him normally - up until they read his orientation on the sheet, anyway, at which point they practically coddle him the entire way through. Not to mention, the amount of times he’s been labeled as ‘looking like a fainter’ despite being, in fact, a cop, didn’t pass him by either. Or how he went to the ER once, and been told by the nurse that he had a ‘boo-boo’, and had to practically force her to tell him that he did, in fact, have a broken rib. When he was like… 17. Sure, technically a child, but come on, he deserved to know what was going on with his own medical treatment.

Gina never played that game. He loved it about her - she refused to be made uncomfortable for who she was, and she never talked down to people. At least, she didn’t talk down to people unless she had already met them and decided that they warranted her scorn, anyway.

Why Gina thought he was a good person was beyond him, but Jake knew better than to question it. She didn’t like humility, and she certainly didn’t like people telling her she was wrong.

Gina inspected her nails, approving of his work. They sat in silence for a bit - Gina, despite her ability to fill the room, didn’t always feel the need to.

Jake felt, privately, that even though she was fully content with who she was, part of why she did fill the room so much was because otherwise people would speak for her. Or try to make her feel less than.

Woe to anyone who tried, but still.

He also knew that part of why she had been so hell bent on protecting him when they grew up was to create the image of being tough, of being capable of not only defending herself, but also others. Gina didn’t do things charitably - she always said that self-priority is a requirement of existence - and Jake had always known there was an exchange.

Of course, he also knew that she also did it because she cared, and her claims that it was solely because it benefitted her wasn’t the whole truth.

But Jake didn’t push her on it - he didn’t have to.

Not when she showed up at his place every single time he was supposed to meet up with his mom, and offer her support, in her own way.

Jake rubbed at his face. He was tired of having to dance around his mom every time he did anything - sometimes, especially in times like these, he wished he was capable of being more like Gina. That he could just cut off his mom and not feel bad about it, or just say his piece and then feel better and fix their relationship, or… something.

Anything was better than this weird middle road. He’d rather have her hate him than this weird, pseudo-acceptance.

Well, no. That wasn’t true, was it? He had to take what he could get. He clung on to even the briefest moments of acceptance - they came so rarely.

His phone buzzed, and he checked it. “I should go.” He said slowly, getting to his feet.

“Mm. Pick up some more marshmallows on the way back.” Gina said. Jake knew what she was really saying - one, that she needed more marshmallows. And two, she would still be here when he got back, with hot chocolate on the stove and Cyndi Laupner blasting through the apartment.

It was a welcome thing to come back to.

Jake left, closing the door behind him, opting to take the stairs down. Anything to prolong the inevitable, after all. Even though he was looking forward to seeing her, it was never easy.

As he drove, he couldn’t help but think of him and Gina growing up. Gina’s parents had pitied him,when they were young. He knew it even then, that Gina treated him differently - a better type of different - than they had, than anyone had. Her parents treated him like his teachers did, albeit for different reasons. They pitied him more because of his parents’ divorce and Karen’s… well, her flightyness, than anything else.

Now, teachers on the other hand… they pitied him for being a sub, if they didn’t outright dislike him for it - it’s a bit of a controversial thing to be a male sub, after all - which did make it a bit unpleasant to go to classes. Especially when education was already hard for him, what with his ADHD - just another nail in the coffin for him, in teachers’ eyes.

Jake was told that male subs were a sin by his english teacher once - informing her that he was in fact Jewish, not Evangelical, didn’t seem to fix the problem, oddly enough.

Jake turned off his car engine, his childhood home in front of him. He went up the steps - that familiar mix of excitement and foreboding growing as he knocked on the door.

It swung open, revealing the beaming grin of one Karen Peralta.

“Jake! Come in, come in!” She said brightly, pulling him into a hug.

“Mom, it’s good to see you.” Jake replied, hugging her back.

Similarly to Charles, she clung on, drawing out the hug for a few moments longer, before finally letting go so as to usher him inside.

Her home hadn’t changed much from when he had lived there - it had that same welcoming, eccentric energy it always did, complete with healing crystals and abstract art.

Karen poured out some wine for them. “I made potato casserole!” She informed, pulling out the dish.

“It looks great.” Jake said - while he did know how to cook, he didn’t have the patience to let ingredients cook on their own and go through all the steps of combining. He preferred to just put everything into a pot at once, which didn’t always lend itself to the quality that Karen provided.

“So, how have you been?” She asked, sitting forward. “I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Yeah, I’ve been busy working cases and stuff.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Working on the gigglepig task force mostly, with Rosa.”

“Anything exciting?”

“I’m not supposed to talk about it.” Jake answered noncommittally. He doubted Karen would be thrilled to learn that he’d played sub to catch a dirty cop.

“Oh, of course.” Karen didn’t question it. “And your friend, Charles - he’s getting married! How exciting!”

“Yeah, it’s great.” Jake couldn’t help but grin a little. “He and Vivian are really sweet together. I’m really happy for them.”

“Yes, Charles is such a kind man.” Karen agreed, seeming hesitant. “I presume Vivian is also… kind?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah, definitely.” Jake defended, “She’s great. They’re great. It’s nauseating, actually, how much they love each other.”

“Ah, that’s good to hear.” Karen smiled, before adding, “And you’ll change that tune when you find someone of your own.”

“Mm.” Jake replied, shoving some casserole into his mouth so he didn’t have to respond.

“Have you? Found someone?”

Jake hesitated. “Maybe. I’ve started seeing someone.”

“Oh!” Karen looked surprised. “I didn’t expect that.”

“Then why’d you ask?” Jake retorted, more defensive than he had intended.

Karen ignored the question, concern filling her eyes, “So soon after your breakup, Jake? Are you really sure that’s a good idea?”

His nails dug into his palm under the table, “It’s been four years, mom. And I’ve dated other people since then!”

“Well look how they all turned out.” Karen frowned, “You haven’t had a serious relationship since that man, and I don’t think you should just jump into this-”

“Mom, stop!” Jake’s voice raised to a shout, before he forced it back under control, taking a breath. “Look, I’m an adult. I can make my own decisions.”

“Well you aren’t making good ones!” Karen argued.

“You don’t even know her! I haven’t even told you anything, and you’re already saying-”

“I don’t need to know anything about her, I already know the type of doms you pick, Jacob!”

Jake snapped his mouth shut, seething.

“As opposed to you?” He snarled back after a too-long moment, hating himself for how her face grew sad, even as he was grateful for the silence it brought.

“I worry about you. I just… I want you to be safe.” She said finally, “I tried to raise you right, have you be safe. But the world isn’t safe for people like you, Jake.” Oh, no, she sounded like she was going to start crying. “And I can’t protect you from any of it, any of them.”

“You don’t have to protect me, mom.” Jake offered, “I’m fine, I’m a cop even. If anything, I should protect you.”

Karen laughed wetly, “I tried to protect you from it all when you were a kid. Why can’t keep you from doing things that put your life at risk now?”

“Because dating people isn’t something I should have to give up to be safe, mom!” Jake argued emptily - they’d had this fight a thousand times, and would have it a thousand more. Nothing ever changed, except he’d get angrier, and she’d get sadder. “I can go on dates and make out and hook up and it’s fine!”

“The world doesn’t see it that way. I love you, you know I do.”

“I know.”

“I knew your life was going to be harder because of it, Jake. I didn’t want that for you.”

“But it’s what it is, mom! I didn’t need you to tell me that my life was going to suck, or look at me like you didn’t want me to be this way - I knew all of that! I’ve always known all of that! I just wanted you to treat me like it was something good.”

“But it isn’t, Jake.” Karen sounded pleading, “Being a male sub is a bad thing! Not because of what it is, but because it makes your life so much harder than it should be.”

Jake gritted his teeth. Their fights always ended up like this. She was right on a technicality, but missing the point. Yeah, his life was harder because of his orientation, but that wasn’t the point. He was who he was, and she knew that - she never claimed that he should, or could, change. Just that… she wished he had been a dom, or a switch, if only so that his life would be easier.

He understood it from her perspective, sure - she was his mom, she didn’t want to see him suffer - but he was suffering anyway, and what he really wanted was her approval. Her support. Her pride. Not her telling him how much his life sucked because of his orientation, as if he didn’t already fucking know.

They only ever fought about this, and occasionally about dad. It was easier to just avoid the topics entirely, let her pretend that he was just a “normal” guy and never mention anything even relating to his orientation.

Of course, it didn’t make him feel better to know that his mom’s comfort around him was conditional on him not talking about aspects of his own life, own identity.

Jake bit his tongue, hiding words that he knew would never change anything, before finally saying, “I get it.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Karen wiped at her eyes, before smiling shakily. “So, update me about your desk turf war with Amy, dear.”

Moving into safer territory. Jake took the opportunity for what it was - an out from the same fight that they had memorized by rote.

He recounted the latest spats between Amy and himself, namely from his crumbs migrating due to the air conditioning’s patterns, as Karen laughed a little bit too forcefully.

She talked about the neighbors - “They’re lesbians, Jake” - for a while, and her borderline-creepy recounting of their gardening habits was almost enough to distract him from the whole thing. This was familiar, too - they’d fight, and then move on without ever resolving it. Because they never quite could.

His ex had taken away so much, Jake refused to let him take away anything more. He wouldn’t let him.

But to Karen, it was a manifestation of her worst fear - she had always been so scared for Jake, about how hard his life would be because of his orientation. To her, his ex was the default for subs like him, and that meant that it was safer to never date anyone.

Jake stayed the obligatory amount of time, before saying that he had to leave - he had to get some groceries.

“You should come over again soon.” Karen said, walking him to the door, wrapping him in another hug. “I’ve missed you.”

“Yeah, I’ll… see when I’m available.” Jake replied, accepting the hug, before leaving to his car.

Once she closed the door, he slumped back, pressing his head into the headrest. He wanted to curse, or get angry, or something, but he just felt tired.

He turned over the engine, driving back to his apartment - there was a convenience store that sold gigantic bags of marshmallows along the way, so he stopped in. They were all pastel and weird shapes - he figured Gina would get a kick out of them.Jake put the bag at the counter - the cashier barely giving him a glance as she scanned it.

“Thanks.” Jake said as she handed it to him.

She rolled her eyes.

Eh, gas stations at night were always sort of weird. Jake took his marshmallows back to his car, tossing them into his passenger side as he headed home.

Jake walked into his apartment, closing the latch automatically.

“You look like shit.” Gina said cheerily, not glancing up from her phone.

Jake tossed her the bag of marshmallows - he had gotten the pink ones shaped like stars - and flopped down onto the couch, bringing his hands up to his face.

“You want to talk about it?” Gina asked, stirring a pot of hot chocolate on the stovetop.

“No.” Jake grumbled, turning to face her. “I really don’t.”

“Okay.” Gina replied casually, “Want to watch some cooking shows?”

“Will you make fun of everyone?”

“Of course.”

“...Yeah.”

Gina handed him a mug, sitting down next to him and yanking the blanket over them both. “You need to use your heater more, dude.” Seeing his vulnerable expression, her face softened slightly, and her phone - which she had somehow been balancing in her hands the entire time - slipped into a pocket. “Come on.” She sighed, wrapping her arm around him and letting him rest against her side.

“Thanks.” Jake said meekly.

“Just drink your drank, Jacob.” She said, voice as close to gentle as she ever allows.

Gina always had these moments. It was hard to explain, because she was always herself - Gina Linetti, no one could take that away from her, that was for sure -, but in a way there was this bit of… softness about her she didn’t like to show. Which was strange, because she loved herself so forcefully.

They had grown up together, and the moments of softness were always there. He could never quite place what it was, what these little moments were to Gina. A weakness, or something private? Both strange to consider, considering she had no weaknesses and had no sense of privacy. Maybe it had to do with the ‘Gina Linetti’ image, or maybe she did genuinely dislike this part of herself.

But then, if she did, she wouldn’t be keen on letting him see it.

Jake couldn’t pretend to understand Gina - he could only ever take her at face value. But, regardless of her reasons, he was grateful for these moments. For a not-insignificant portion of time, these moments were the only times where he had felt cared for. And while he was a bit better about it now - work and friends and hookups certainly helped - there were still moments like these, where he just felt so painfully alone.

So he just curled up tighter against her, taking a sip from his perfectly over-sweet drink, and listened to her scorn the chefs’ cooking skills, phone back in hand.

Chapter Text

“Hey Jake, can we talk?” Charles asked suddenly.

Jake didn’t turn - keeping his eyes fixed on the building that they were staking out - but replied, “Yeah, man, what’s up?”

Charles rarely hesitated before talking, which was enough to make Jake slightly concerned that it was something genuinely important.

“Vivi and I are moving to Canada.”

Whatever Jake had been expecting, it certainly wasn’t that.

“What?” He asked, turning, “Canada? Seriously? Canada?”

“Yeah.” Charles shrugged, “She got a job offer in a university up there, too good of an offer to pass up. And-”

“What about your job? What about us?” Jake asked petulantly, as Charles shifted awkwardly.

“We want a family, so we talked about my being a stay at home dad. And, I mean, I’ve always wanted that!”

“You wanted that here, in Brooklyn! And, just…” Jake paused, closing his eyes and taking a breath. He had to remind himself that this wasn’t his life, it was Charles’, and he had to be supportive. He had to be. He could cry about it later, it was fine. “Well, is moving to Canada what you want?”

Charles hesitated. “Yes. I think.” He answered finally, unconvinced.

Jake frowned. “You… don’t sound confident about that.”

“Well, I mean, I don’t want to leave the 99. Or you. Or the cuisine. Or my food blog. Or you. But, I mean, I have to ask which is more important to me, Vivian or my life here, and…” Charles trailed off.

Jake didn’t reply, waiting.

Charles sighed, then admitted, “I don’t want to go to Canada.”

“Oh.” Jake tried to pretend he wasn’t as relieved about that as he was. “Then, you and Vivian should talk about that.”

“I can’t! That job is her dream, she can’t pass it up.”

“But you’ll pass up yours for hers?” Jake asked.

“I- I don’t know.” Charles frowned. “I love her, but I don’t want- I mean, I would be okay with moving for her. Wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t think you should move if you’re not sure.” Jake said, “I know you two are engaged and all, but I don’t think you should give up your life for her.”

“You’re only saying that because you don’t want me to go.” Charles replied, although there was no venom to his voice.

“Well, yeah.” Jake replied, “But I care about you, dude. And I’m not gonna encourage you to do something that you aren’t sure of.”

“I can’t just talk to Vivian about it, though! Every time I bring it up she talks about how excited she is for it, and I just… forget how I feel about it until later.”

Jake smiled bitterly at that. One of the plights of subhood - it was hard to object to the wishes of their dom, especially when love was involved. Subs were always expected to make sacrifices for the dom, when it never seemed to apply in the reverse.

Jake doubted that Vivian was being malicious about it - but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t indirectly using her privileges to get what she wanted out of the situation.

“I can go with you,” He offered, “And help you talk it out with her.”

“Really?” Charles perked up, “Jakey, you’re the best!”

“No problem.” Jake shrugged, “When are you seeing her next?”

“We’re meeting up for dinner tonight.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be going out with Bernice tonight, though?” Charles asked.

“Yeah, but bros- wait, no, uh, friends before girl...friends.” Jake replied awkwardly.

“How are you two getting along, by the way?” Charles asked, “I did some digging to make sure she was legit first, and you two have been going out for a couple months now. How’s it going?”

“Good.” Jake tried to shrug nonchalantly, unable to hide the small smile that crossed his face while thinking about her. “She’s… she’s great.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.” Jake grinned, “She’s awesome. We get along really well, and she’s smart. And she makes me feel… safe.”

Charles looked slightly sad at that word choice, so Jake added cheerfully, “Thanks for introducing us, dude.”

“Oh, yeah, of course.” Charles shrugged, “It’s my responsibility as your friend to make sure you’re happy, too.”

Jake sent Bernice a text to move their date - she replied with a thumbs up, and an invitation to text her if anything changed - and Charles gave him the restaurant place.

He was legitimately really happy with Bernice. She was funny, smart, they shared a lot of interests… and she was always so kind. He still wasn’t able to just talk to her about stuff, and he knew he deflected any attempts at deepening the conversations beyond casual, but she didn’t hold it against him.

She’d even been accepting with the lack of subspace - when he told her he didn’t go there, she had just paused for a moment before saying that she didn’t mind, before jobking that he was good enough in bed that he didn’t need it.

He’d laughed with her - she handled intense stuff the same way he did, with a joke and a grin - and they’d both never mentioned it again. That was about the closest to deep they’d gone. He figured that, if he wanted to get serious, they’d have to talk about some real stuff at some point - but he kept pushing it off. That’s part of why he’d been so eager to postpone on her tonight - he’d told himself that they’d have a real talk at their next date. So any chance to delay that was good in his book.

Jake was determined not to let Charles leave for Canada unless he emphatically wanted it - which he knew for a fact was never going to happen. Jake wasn’t going to lose his best friend to anyone, especially not Canada. What’s more, he wasn’t going to let Charles sacrifice his life for the sake of his dom. Most of it was just that Charles deserved to be happy, but a small part of him also viewed it as the principle of the thing - Charles shouldn’t feel like he has to give up his dreams for his dom’s.

He found himself thinking about it all throughout the day, trying to figure out the best way to approach the situation - distracting himself only when Amy challenged him to a coffee making competition - she won, but only because Hitchcock and Scully had drunk the open creamer so he had to open a new bottle.

It was nearing the end of the workday, so Jake finished off his coffee - ew, hazelnut creamer was decidedly not his thing - and joined Charles at the elevator.

“Where are you two headed?” Amy asked, squeezing between the closing doors at the last moment.

“We’re going on a date with Vivian.” Charles replied.

Amy turned, eyebrows raised. “Oh, uh, have fun.” She said awkwardly, eyes fixed anywhere but on Jake as she slowly turned back around to face the doors.

“Not- not like that!” Jake replied, face blushing red, “It’s- we’re just talking. About stuff.” He eyed Charles imploringly, and he cut in.

“Vivian and I are talking about moving to Canada.”

“Oh!” Amy swiveled around, “I don’t- um, do you think that’s a good idea?”

Charles looked uncomfortable, so Jake interrupted, “Oh, look! We’re there,” as the doors opened, “Well, Santiago, have a good night.”

“Um, yeah, you too,” She replied awkwardly, as Jake practically dragged Charles out the building to his car.

“Sorry.” Jake said, “I panicked.”

“It’s alright.” Charles shrugged, “She’s going to find out about Canada one way or another.”

“Yeah.” Jake replied somberly, obligingly getting into the car as Charles started it up.

They drove in companionable silence - normally Charles would be chatting, but he was clearly too nervous to do so.

Vivian greeted Charles with a kiss that went on way too long for the hostesses’ comfort, before seeming to notice Jake.

“Oh, Jacob! I was delighted to hear you’d be joining us tonight.”

 

“Yeah, for sure.” Jake replied, ignoring the hostesses’ judgemental side eye - why was everyone phrasing it like that? - as he glanced at Charles, who was practically vibrating with nervous energy.

They sat at the table, making small talk, until Jake said, “So, Canada, huh?”

“Yes.” Vivian grinned, “It’s my dream job. More research grants, better pay, not to mention it’s Canada” - saying it the exact oppositely that Jake would have - “And we’re both so excited to move there!”

“I don’t know,” Jake said, nudging Charles under the table, “It’s a pretty big step to move from both of your homes. I mean, Charles is going to have to leave everything behind - his job, his food blog, his friends,-”

“Yes, but we’ve already discussed it.” Vivian replied quickly, “Several times, in fact. And Chuck has been nothing but eager about the move.”

“Are you, Charles?” Jake asked, turning to him - who had been silent during the whole thing - “Are you happy to move to Canada?”

Charles hesitated, before frowning. “Yes, Jake, I am. And, what’s more, I don’t think you’re being a very supportive friend. Vivian and I are happy together, and I want to move to Canad with her.”

“No, you don’t.” Jake said automatically, thrown by the fact that this was not going as he had planned and rehearsed in his head, “You’re giving up everything you care about, just because you two are engaged doesn’t mean you should be making those kinds of sacrifices-”

“Jake, stop.” Charles shot back, “It’s not a sacrifice to love someone. I know you don’t think -” Charles cut himself off, eyes widening slightly, before adding, “We’ve already discussed this as a couple, and this is what we want. And if you can’t respect that, then… then we have nothing to say to each other.”

Charles got up to leave, but Jake shot back, “Oh yeah? What am I not thinking? Come on, don’t be a coward. If you’re going to lie to my face don’t hold back!” He was angry - way too angry - but Charles just left, leaving Vivian and Jake sitting in silence.

Vivian was looking at him coolly, and Jake defended, “He said he didn’t want to leave.”

She sighed, before saying, “Have you considered that he didn’t want to hurt your feelings by saying he wanted to leave? You two are very close, after all.”

“I could say the same thing about you.” Jake shot back.

“Look, I don’t- I’m not going to pretend I know what’s going on here. What I do know is that Charles cares about you, and Bernice cares for you. So, I’m just going to assume that this is frustration with the situation, and not at me. So… respect Charles’ decision, please. It’s not easy for him to leave all this behind.”

“Have you considered leaving your job behind for him to stay here?” Jake asked, anger gone from his voice, instead replaced with bitterness.

Vivian frowned. “It’s too much of an opportunity to pass up.”

“Would anything make you change your mind?”

“Sure.” She shrugged, “If someplace here could give me the same opportunities and resources, I would consider them. But that’s just not happening here.”

She stood, placing one hand on Jake’s shoulder. “I am sorry, Jacob. I know that this is difficult for you. But part of caring for someone is letting them make their own choices. Even if it hurts you personally.”

Jake watched as Vivian left, before getting up and leaving as well - the hostess glaring at him for having wasted the table space probably - before realizing that Charles had been the one to drive him there.

Groaning, he pulled out his phone. It was only a five minute walk to the nearest subway station, he’d be fine. As he started walking, however, Charles’ car pulled up next to him.

“Jake!” He said, “I’ll drive you home.”

Jake considered refusing - he was more than a little pissed off - but decided against deepening the divide that had popped up between them, and got in.

“I’m so sorry, Jake!” Charles said, before Jake had even finished closing the door. “I meant to tell her, I did! But then she was so happy about it I just… couldn’t do that to her.”

“But you could say that shit to me?” Jake retorted, before pausing. “Sorry, just… I’m a little too mad to have this conversation right now. Just… take me home, please.”

They drove in silence for a bit, before Jake couldn’t stand the quiet anymore.

“Charles, did you lie to me?” Jake frowned, “When you said you didn’t want to leave for Canada. Was that true, or did you just say that to make me feel better?”

“I didn’t.” Charles shook his head, “I do want to stay. I just… when I saw how sad she looked when you started talking I panicked. I didn’t mean to say those things - you know you’re important to me.”

“Yeah.” Jake replied, “I know. But, Vivian told me off after you left… and she’s saying the exact stuff I am. That you need to make your own decision, and that I need to be accepting of your decisions. And, I mean, if… if you did want to move, you’d tell me, right? You don’t have to lie to me to make me feel better.”

“I’m not.” Charles said determinedly, “I want to stay in Brooklyn.”

“Then tell her that.” Jake said sharply, “And don’t throw me under the bus about it.”

“Sorry.”

Jake sighed. “Look, it’s… it’s fine. I get it. Doms have a way of getting to us.”

“Yeah.” Charles frowned, “She doesn’t mean to, though.”

“Doesn’t mean she’s not doing it.” Jake replied bitterly. Then, after a moment, “What were you going to say? About me not thinking about stuff.”

“Oh.” Charles looked guilty, “I was… I was going to say that you don’t think a sub making sacrifices by their own choice is possible, but that I can. It just… I didn’t want to imply anything to Vivian, so… it worked out.”

“Oh.” Jake was oddly relieved about that - given his past, and how uncomfortably truthful Charles could get, he wasn’t really sure what was going to be said. Then another thing Charles said caught up to him. “Wait, you didn’t tell Vivian about my… previous relationship stuff?”

“No,” Charles shrugged, “You asked me not to talk about it with people, so… I didn’t.”

“But, you’re terrible at keeping secrets.”

“Yeah.” Charles shrugged, “But it wasn’t my secret to tell.”

“Oh.” Jake blinked, surprised. “Um, thanks.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Charles shrugged. “Look, I’ll talk to her about Canada tomorrow. You should come with me again, just so I don’t bail.”

“Only if you promise not to go weird on me like that again.” He tried to joke, but it came out a bit too seriously to be taken as anything less than hurt.

Charles was nodding before he’d even finished talking, “Of course, Jake. It won’t happen again.”

“Great. Thanks.” Jake rubbed at his face tiredly.

Charles dropped him off at his apartment, and Jake went up to it, pulling out his phone to look at Bernice’s message telling him he could reach out.

Jake hesitated, then typed in, Hey, you available to come over?

He felt like a bit of a douche texting her so late, but he didn’t really feel like being alone right now.

Jake felt weird about the whole dinner, and even though he completely understood where Charles was coming from, it still bothered him. He was fine being at odds with people, but there was something that just… hurt him about doing what was asked of him but getting punished for it. And for it to have come from Charles, too, only made him feel worse about it. It felt like a betrayal, and Jake had to keep reminding himself not to take it personally.

His phone buzzed with an omw, courtesy of Bernice, so he just shoved some of the mess out of sight under his bed and tried not to pace around the place.

Jake decided that he wasn’t going to talk to her about serious stuff tonight. He wasn’t really in a good mindset right now, and he didn’t think it was a good idea to have a real talk when he was so on edge.

By the time Bernice showed up, Jake had worked himself into even more of a stressed out state than before. He was practically radiating nervous energy as he let her in. She clearly picked up on it, eyebrows furrowing at his twitchiness.

“You alright?” She asked, putting her bag on a nearby chair.

“Yeah, just had a bad day.” Jake waved his hand, “Don’t worry about it. Did you eat already? I have some leftovers.”

“I’m good, thanks.” Bernice replied, before adding, “You seem upset.”

“Oh, sorry.” Jake replied automatically, “I’ve just… I didn’t want to be alone.” He chuckled awkwardly, fiddling with his shirt hem.

Her concern mixed with no small amount of nervousness.. “Did you drop?” She asked hesitantly, as if afraid of the possible answer.

“... Not yet.” Jake admitted meekly, “I just… sorry, I shouldn’t have bothered you. I’m just feeling sort of weird today. I didn’t mean to-”

“Hey, it’s okay.” She replied, cutting him off before he had a chance to start spiraling. “Come on, we can just sit and chat, yeah? Or, watch a movie or something.” She gestured over her shoulder, uncomfortable smile in place.

“I don’t want to talk. Just… can we just sit? Not do anything, just… exist. For a bit.”

“Of course.” She nodded, sitting down onto the couch before hesitatingly - but kindly - asking, “Would you feel better if you knelt?”

Jake froze, before nodding embarrassedly. He grabbed a pillow, putting it at the floor by her feet and going to kneel by her side. He felt a bit ashamed of himself. He rarely, if ever, knelt for someone - except during sex - and even though he felt himself relax slightly at the motion, he still couldn’t help but feel a bit stupid for needing it.

Bernice seemed oblivious to his inner monologue. Instead, she just carefully reached out, hand hovering in the air for a moment above him - deliberating whether or not to touch - before opting to just rest her hand on his shoulder with a touch so light it was, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent.

Jake was practically bouncing with this weird, uncomfortable energy - he desperately wanted to be able to relax, but his brain just wouldn’t stop spinning. Even though kneeling helped, the benefits of it were being diminished by the fact that Bernice didn’t seem to know what to do. Well, actually, that wasn’t true - she did seem to know what to do theoretically, but not how to do it practically.

He didn’t resent her for it - during one of their late conversations, laying in bed and pretending the rest of the world didn’t exist, she admitted that she’d never dated a sub before. She was straight, and since most men were doms… well, she just didn’t have that much experience. She wanted to, since she was a switch after all, and she was entitled to exploring both aspects, and Jake didn’t hold her naivety against her. After all, he figured it was better if she messed up on him - who was already so fucking broken that it wouldn’t make a difference - as opposed to some other sub.

Jake hadn’t told her that, though - he figured it would just make her more nervous about the whole thing - and just said that she’d done great so far.

Jake slowly leaned his head against her knee - giving time for her to move away if she wanted - but she didn’t comment on it. Her leg tensed as he first leant against it, and he glanced up at her, and she shot him a reassuring smile, hand squeezing on his shoulder momentarily.

Jake closed his eyes, wishing that he could just stop thinking for once in his life. That he could stop overanalyzing, that his stupid, emotional self from overreacting to every little fucking thing. He half-wanted Bernice to tighten her grip, or to command him, or to just… he wasn’t sure. Do something. He didn’t deserve her to do anything, but he wanted something anyway.

He felt too tight in his own skin, and he wanted so badly to just rip that skin off until he felt better. Jake felt his breath catch in his throat - wanting so badly for him to stop thinking.

“Jake? Are you okay?” Bernice asked - she was looking at him with open concern, and he became vaguely aware that he was shaking. “Come up to the couch, I’m going to get you a blanket.”

Jake considered refusing - he didn’t want to move, it was the first time he was on his knees since that one night stand and he hadn’t knelt for someone in years, he didn’t want to give it up now. It was a fleeting opportunity, and kneeling was making him feel slightly nauseous - as if he was going to vomit from the anxiety lingering under his skin - but he wanted to succeed so badly. He had to do this correctly.

But instead, he obliged, moving up to sit beside her - he didn’t want to make her life more difficult, just because he was a fucking mess didn’t mean she had to deal with it.

Bernice seemed unsure of what to do, grabbing a blanket off of the back of the couch and wrapped it around his shoulders.

“What do you need me to do?” She asked, pulling him into a hug beside her.

Jake melted into her arms, still feeling too tight in his skin.

“Can you… can you command me?” He asked quietly, face burning with embarrassment.

“Uh… to do what?”

Jake didn’t know how to respond. “Just… something.”

“Oh… I don’t think that’s a good idea?” Bernice frowned, “You don’t seem like you’re in the right headspace for that right now.”

Jake bit his tongue - she didn’t seem to grasp that the fact he was so off was why he needed it, and he would point that out except he just felt a bit too weird about it. No to mention, if she just didn’t feel comfortable commanding him, he wasn’t going to insist on it.

“Okay.” He replied finally, “I guess… yeah.”

Bernice just kept holding him, her gentle touch kind.

He didn’t deserve her kindness - he wanted her to hurt him, punish him for being so fucking broken - but he didn’t dare ask for anything more than what she offered.

He was a little bit too hurt about the whole situation - more than he could really ever admit, without also acknowledging the fact that betraying trust was one of the biggest issues for him in existence, and that Charles doing so - even though Jake fully understood the situation - had gotten to him way more than he was even entirely sure of understanding himself.

Even though he knew that Charles wasn’t at fault, it didn’t change this weird sense of being thrown - in part, he assumed, from the fact that he really only trusted Charles, Gina, Rosa, and maybe - maybe - the rest of the team. There was a point where the idea of trusting even one person was absurd to him, but now here he was, upset about feeling betrayed over something that wasn’t even a betrayal.

He and Bernice would definitely have to have a real talk next time, since she clearly noticed his… offness. But tonight was not the night, and he decided not to even think about it right now - his priority for the moment was to, selfishly, seek a sense of peace. He was essentially using Bernice, something he felt guilty for - despite the knowledge that she was fine with it - and decided that he would do something to make it up for her. He wasn’t in the mood for sex, but it was the least he could do to make it up to her for having to deal with him. Jake knew that mentality probably wasn’t healthy, but since when did healthiness determine his actions?

As the movie - Con Air, nice - started up, Bernice continued to hold him in a gentle hug. At some point, Jake closed his eyes, just for a moment to relish the contact he so often denied himself - but when he opened them again it was much later. Another Cage movie was on, now, and it was muted. Bernice’s arm was loose around him.

Jake turned to look up at her, embarrassedly wiping the drool off of his mouth, only to see that she, too, had fallen asleep, head leaning back on the couch, snoring slightly.

Jake got up, wincing as his back voiced its objection to sleeping on the couch, and gently shook her awake.

“Mm?” She mumbled, bringing up her hand to wipe at her face. ‘Wha?”

“Hey, we fell asleep.” Jake said, “Do you want to sleep on the bed instead?”

“Myeah.”

The pair shuffled to the bedroom, Bernice flopping down onto it. Jake felt a sleepy smile cross his face, before curling up into bed as well. Despite being half-asleep, Bernice pulled him against her, one hand migrating to loop itself around his stomach as she resumed her snoring almost instantaneously.

Jake closed his heavy eyelids, gladly drifting off to sleep. He vaguely recalled having been upset about something, but he was much too tired to remember what it was.

------
When Jake woke up, it was to Bernice curled around him.

He didn’t really want to leave, but he had to take Charles to see Vivian - leaving Bernice a note. They were off work, so he had nothing better to do than make sure his friend talked it out with Vivian.

Jake met Charles at his place, loading him into the car and driving to Vivian’s - ignoring Charles’ flip-flopping between trying to convince Jake he did in fact want to go to Canada, and his threatening to jump out of the car.

Charles wouldn’t - Jake had child-locked the car doors in prevention of that very thing.

After Charles tried to make a run for it - twice - Jake manhandled him to Vivian’s door, ringing the doorbell.

Vivian opened it, dressed casually. “Chuck!” She said cheerfully, before looking to Jake - her annoyance from the previous night gone. “Jacob.” She acknowledged.

“Charles needs to talk to you about Canada. And you need to listen.” Jake said firmly - Charles casting him a nervous glance before stepping forward.

Vivian raised an eyebrow, but stepped aside. “Do you intend to join the conversation?” She asked.

“No. This is about you two. I’ll be in the car.” Jake gestured to it, biting back the automatic just in case that wanted to add itself to the end of his statement.

Vivian and Charles went inside, and Jake got back into his car, slumping down in the seat. He played on his phone for what felt like hours, before he heard the door open - he looked up, and saw Charles walking towards him.

Charles got into the car, sitting down silently.

“Buddy?” Jake asked cautiously.

“I’m not going to Canada.” Charles said stiffly. “We both have careers to think of.”

“I’m so sorry.” Jake wasn’t sure what to say, “This must be difficult for you.”

“It’s fine.” Charles shrugged, “I’m… I knew what I was doing.” Then, he turned to give a small, tight-lipped smile to Jake. “Can you drive me home? I want to be by myself.”

Jake started the car, even as he asked, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I don’t want to leave you and have you drop, or anything.”

“I’m fine.” Charles shrugged, “I just need to destress. Unless your kitchen has a salad spinner?”

“Your place it is!” Jake replied, trying to inject some levity into the situation. Charles didn’t respond, and they drove back in silence.

Jake offered to stay with Charles - and then offered again too, for good measure. But he refused - he wanted to be by himself. And - although Jake didn’t feel like it was a good idea - he eventually obliged, but only because Charles pointed out that having another sub around if he did drop would just make it worse. Still, jake gave him a warning that he would be calling every hour to make sure he was holding up alright.

As Jake left a suspiciously chill Charles, his phone began buzzing again. Bernice had just woken up and wanted to talk.

As he bemoaned the price of gas, Jake drove back to his apartment. Seriously, if he had known he was going to be traveling this much, he would have filled his tank this morning. Still, he showed up pretty quickly - well, quickly given New York traffic, anyway - and entered to see Bernice sitting at a dining table chair, coffee in hand.

She gestured to the pot, and Jake poured some for himself as well.

Once he sat down, she let out a sigh. “Jake… we need to talk.”

He stiffened - had she somehow found out about his past? He had been planning on telling her, but-

“Vivian texted me.” She said, “The wedding is cancelled?”

“Oh, uh, yeah. Charles doesn’t want to move to Canada, so they had to end it.” Jake replied. “You were going to be one of the bridesmaids, weren’t you?”

“Yeah.” Bernice frowned, “Look… I… I’m Vivian’s friend, you know? I like Charles, he’s very sweet, but my friendship loyalty is to her. And, well,” She looked pained, “You’re Charles’ best friend. You’re my friend’s now-ex’s best friend. It’s a bit… messy.”

“Yeah, I guess that is a little weird for us going forward.” Jake chuckled awkwardly, wishing he couldn’t see exactly where this was headed. The inevitable conclusion that was going to be reached, no matter how much he wished it wouldn’t.

“I don’t think… it would be right of me to continue dating you. I’d just feel weird about it, you know? Like I’m betraying her.”

“No, I get it.” Jake replied automatically, even as his brain started gearing up to slam itself into his skull. “We’ve got our friends to think of.”

“No hard feelings?” She asked sheepishly.

“Nope, all good.” He replied with an attempt at a smile - dropping it when it came off far too pained.

Bernice stood, giving him a hug. “I am sorry, Jake. I hoped that… well, I wish you the best.”

“Same.” He replied briefly, watching as the first person he’d actually connected to in four years walk out the door.

The moment it clicked shut, he practically fled to his bedroom, throwing himself underneath all of the blankets. He supposed it was a good thing he hadn’t told her about his past. It was stupid of him to trust someone, anyone. Even someone who Charles recommended. It was a mistake - and he made so very many of them - and he harshly told himself that he would not make the same one again.

Jake didn’t call Charles - he didn’t want to tell him what had happened. Charles was getting over a fucking engagement, his own troubles were nothing compared to that. Besides, he knew how guilty his friend would be if he found out the person he’d recommended had broken up with Jake because of his breakup.

Not that it was Charles’ fault in any sense - no, it was Jake’s own fault.

He should never have accepted the offer to go on a date in the first place.

He knew better - he knew what sort of shit happened when he tried to date. Jake reminded himself - quite strictly - that he had gotten lucky. That Bernice could have blamed him for Charles and Vivian ending it, could have hurt him, punished him for having been so arrogant as to believe he deserved affection.

Jake curled into a ball under the sheets, squeezing his eyes shut against the too-bright world around him as his body began to shake.

He didn’t know what he wanted.

But he did know that he deserved nothing.

notes: the chapter notes aren't loading? idk dude. sorry for anyone who liked Bernice, but next chapter is going to be 'the bet' and maybe some other stuff i haven't decided yet. also comments are super appreciated, this chapter is like 6k words so that was fun, and reminder not to send "update faster/hurry up" comments please :D

Chapter Text

Jake grinned as Amy stepped out of her apartment complex wearing a blue dress and a scowl.

“I can’t believe you’re making me wear this.” She complained. “This whole thing is ridiculous.”

“You’re only saying that ‘cause you lost!” Jake replied cheerfully, “Come on, there’s plenty of embarrassing to do and only a few hours to do it in.”

“You’re the worst. Can’t we get this over with?”

“Nope! The date starts now and goes until midnight. I control what you wear, do, and where we go. And, there is one more rule,” Jake added, “You’re not allowed to fall in love with me.”

“Won’t be a problem.” Amy replied scathingly, getting into his car.

After a distinctly weird party - Charles’ words about him wanting attention from Amy ringing in his head - he and Amy were sent off on a stakeout.

Jake was a bit annoyed about that - he had wanted to get to spend time with Amy… great, now everything sounded like a plea for attention. Thanks a lot, Charles - but still, at least he got to take Amy with him. He could keep up his shenanigans. And keep up his subtle test of something that had been bothering him for a while.

They were sitting on a rooftop, staring at an empty alleyway. Now that they were back on the clock, their rapport fell back to normal. Jake found himself preferring it - he didn’t really like ordering Amy around. As fun as it was to embarrass her, it just felt… he wasn’t sure. Half of him relished it, but the other half of him… well, he felt almost guilty about it.

“So happy to be out of that dress.” Amy said, breaking the silence - silence that was much more comfortable than the one previously on the way to Charles’ party.

Jake fiddled with the binoculars, suddenly uncomfortable. “Did it really bother you that much?” His voice came out unsure, awkward.

She sighed, pausing for a moment. The pause weighed on him, heavy in its silence. He could feel her eyes on him, and he stared resolutely at the alleyway, unable or unwilling to meet her gaze.

She seemed like she was about to make a joke, but thought better of it.

“I mean, it wasn’t that big of a deal.” She said finally, before adding, “It’s more of a hurt pride sort of thing.” Seeing that his expression didn’t change, she nudged his side. “I know that if it had really made me upset, you wouldn’t have made me do it.”

“How do you know I would?” Jake asked, “Our bet was anything. I could have made you wear it, whether you liked it or not. Right?”

“Well, sure.” Amy laughed lightly, “But that’s not the kind of person you are, Jake. Obviously.” Her tone was amused, like he was telling some sort of joke.

Jake turned to her, frowning heavily. Her lips were turned upwards into a slight smile, and she seemed relaxed beside him. He was all too aware of how his body was ramrod straight, shoulders tensed up around his ears, grip white on the forgotten binoculars.

“I’m serious, Amy.” He said

Her smile faded slightly, and her growing frown matched his.

“Just… I mean,” He rubbed his hand through his hair, “If you said you… didn’t want to wear the dress, I wouldn’t have had to let you not wear it. Right? Because I won the bet. I had all the power here.” He meant for his voice to be firm, but it came out stumbling.

Amy’s frown deepened. “But would you? Have made me.”

“No,” Jake admitted, breaking eye contact to glare at the alley, hating himself for the swell of revulsion at the thought of doing that to her. “Fuck.” He muttered, kicking at the rooftop with a scowl. “Fuck!”

“Hey.” Amy said, hand touching his arm. “What brings this up?”

“I…” Jake shook his head, “It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does.” Amy replied, hand gentle on his arm. He hated how he wanted to lean into it. “You can talk to me.”

“I just…” He felt his face go red, “I wanted to see how doms could do it.”

“Do what?” Her voice pitched with confusion.

“I- make people do things they don’t want.” Seeing Amy open her mouth in objection, Jake rushed to explain further, “I mean, like, doms have the power right? So they can make subs do whatever they want. And I guess… since I had all the power here, I could do that too. To see what it is that makes you all like it. But it’s not… I can’t make it work!” He drew his arm away from her hand, not wanting to let himself enjoy the touch.

“Jake,” Amy’s voice was sympathetic, “That’s not how it works.”

“The fuck it’s not!” Jake retorted.

“Please, Jake.” She sounded pained, “That’s not… that’s not what it is at all.”

He raised an eyebrow at her, gesticulating for her to continue.

“Doms aren’t supposed to force subs to do anything. It’s- that’s a major violation of trust.” She frowned, “A sub entrusts themselves to a dom, and the dom has the obligation to respect those. No matter what, a dom isn’t supposed to do something that a sub doesn’t want them to. A sub’s trust is a gift, an ultimate privilege. They choose to give up control to their doms, that their dom will take care of them. Anyone who breaks that trust, who forces their sub to do something they don’t want to- to, to, to weaponize that trust against their sub?” Her voice was slowly raising, “They’re not a dom, they’re an abuser. The worst kind of abuser - and no sub ever deserves to have that trust broken. To be- I-” She paused, taking a breath.

Jake had to admit, he hadn’t seen her this angry in a while. Not since he’d accidentally knocked over her binder when it was unclipped - ruining her day’s worth of organized filing - but even then, he hadn’t seen her quite this impassioned. He was taken aback by it.

Maybe he’d never seen her this angry at all.

“A sub’s trust is the single most precious gift a dom can be given. It’s an ultimate privilege, and it can’t be bought or owned. It’s… it requires time, and effort, trust, and… and no one’s entitled to it. No one. To take that gift and just… just use it to hurt the sub who trusts you… I… it’s revolting.”

He felt lost.

“I just want to understand why he-” Jake cut himself off, mouth snapping shut hard enough that his teeth clacked. “I just want to know how doms can do that to subs.” He corrected, grimacing.

“No decent dom could ever do something like that to their sub. Abusers will always find ways to abuse. And some of them are willing to go that far, but it’s never right to do that to a sub. No one should be treated that way.” She was staring at him intently.

Jake couldn’t help but feel a bit of warmth at how angry she was on his behalf - not that she knew that, of course. He didn’t believe her, not fully - how could he? She was a dom, after all, and even if she claimed that doms weren’t supposed to hurt, how did he know she wasn’t lying? He was being irrational, he knew, but he couldn’t help it. He just… he had to keep digging, until she cracked and he could see how she was just like… his old dom. Like so many of the doms he’d met. She had to be - he didn’t know how he would react if she wasn’t.

“And you don’t? You’re some fantastic, perfect dom who never breaks their sub’s trust? Not even when you want something?” He injected some skepticism into his tone, but given the way Amy smiled sadly at him, she saw through that.

“I’m not perfect, much as I try to be.” She shrugged. “I do my absolute best. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, and I have before. Bu tI would never intentionally cause harm or discomfort to my sub. That’s why things like safewords and communication are so important. And… I hope that, if I ever did make a mistake, my sub would feel safe talking to me about it. A sub should never be afraid of their dom, and certainly never so much that they wouldn’t be able to talk to me about something as important as that.” She paused, “And I would certainly never violate that trust over something as insignificant as a personal want.”

Jake felt himself blush. He’d never heard a dom… talk like that before. Sure, he’d been to Sex Ed and all, where the teachers give a spiel about safewords and power exchange, but to hear an actual dom believe in it so deeply… he wasn’t sure if he should be impressed by Amy, or just amused she bought into it.

“I…” His throat felt oddly choked up - he stared at the alleyway some more, until he was able to formulate a thought. “I didn’t realize doms actually believed that.”

“Some of us do. The good ones do, certainly - although I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to call myself one-”

“It’s not arrogant of you.” He replied automatically, “You’re exactly what a dom should be.”

Amy was struck silent.

It was true, Jake knew. He hadn’t really thought about it until he said it out loud, but he somehow knew it was true the moment it had left his lips.

Amy was everything a sub could dream of. She was insanely smart, clever, witty, not to mention gorgeous. She was passionate, could take a joke and dish it in kind. She never fucked with him - as a friend to a friend, yes, of course, but as a dom to a sub? Never. - not to mention if she could put up with him being her deskmate for this long, it was no question she could handle anyone. Amy was wonderful. She made him feel hope that maybe not every dom is going to try to hurt him. That maybe he would find someone who would treat him… well, maybe like an equal was too much to ask for, but like a person, at least. It’d be a step up from property, after all.

Jake would bet everything in his entire life - not much, but still - that Amy would treat her sub like an equal. Treat him like an eq-

Jake shot upright with a bolt - huh, when had he started leaning down? Not going to think about that - he busied himself with rummaging through his duffel, pulling out a bag of peanuts, tossing one into his mouth. “Getting snacky.” He said with a forced grin, offering her the bag.

“Oh,” Amy blinked, then accepted some, trying to toss it into her mouth and failing miserably. “Thanks.” She said, adding, "Seriously. I- thanks.”

Jake made a noncommittal noise in his throat, as his phone began to ring. “Keep practicing.” He said over his shoulder as he moved away to pick up the phone.

As Holt informed him that there were some other officers bale to trade off, Jake hesitated. Amy was still trying to toss peanuts into her mouth - because he had told her to, but because she had wanted to, too - and felt a strange twinge of something painfully close to hope in his chest.

“No, thanks. I think we’re onto something.”

Jake hung up, walking back to Amy.

“Check it out!” She said brightly, tossing a handful into the air and catching one. “It’s about volume.” She said confidently, offering him the bag back.

“Nice.” Jake replied with a grin - of course she’d do something like that, it was so on-brand for her.

“So, what was that about?” She asked, tilting her head towards where he had been standing.

“Oh, just Holt. He said we were going to be stuck here for a while.”

“Darn.” She grinned, “No high school prom photos at the mall. I don’t know how I’ll survive.”

Jake grinned back. “If you really want to, you can put that dress back on for the stakeout. I think I’ve got my bow tie in the duffel.”

Amy laughed, “No, definitely not.”

“You sure? We’ve got prom-quality snacks right here.” He said, tossing a peanut into his mouth.

“You’re really good at that.” Amy commented, glancing over to the alley.

Jake felt a rush of warmth at the praise, and guiltily revels in it - not just because he was better at it than her, but because she had complimented him. Just because she could. He had earned her praise.

“Jake,” She said slowly, pulling him out of his guilty reverie, “Look, I… you don’t have to answer me, and I won’t hold it against you if you don’t, but, well… I guess, I’m just curious about something. You and Bernice…”

Jake stiffened.

“I mean, you two were going out for a while, I thought, but-”

“It’s over.” he said shortly. “It’s been over.”

“Oh.” Amy replied, suddenly seeming uncomfortable. “Sorry, I just- I don’t think I’ve ever seen you date anyone other than her, in our times of knowing each other.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not marriage material, I suppose. More the fuck around and dump kind.” He shrugged. “Guess I’ll die alone!” He cracked a bitter smile, but she didn’t return it.

“Jake, you’re a good person.” Amy sounded so certain that he found himself wanting to believe every word she said, “I can’t pretend to know what kind of relationships you look for, but I don’t see how anyone could not want to spend their life with you.”

“It doesn’t matter what I look for, there are some things that doms just can’t… there are some things they want that I just can’t do. And no one wants to long-term with a sub who won’t even… um, won’t meet their needs, I guess.” he finished lamely, biting back his shameful admittance - that no one wants to long-term with a sub who won’t even subspace.

“Jake,” Amy began, but Jake cut her off.

“Check it out,” he pointed to the alleyway, “There’s the van.”

“Come on.” She said, pulling up the ring he had jokingly given her that morning. “I have a plan.”

One embarrassingly faux-intoxicated conversation later, Jake and Amy were sitting in the car.

“I’m glad you two worked it out!” The perp said cheerfully. Amy rolled her eyes but didn’t correct him. Jake hated himself for how he felt a little bit happy at that.

Amy showed him ten seconds of kindness and now he was obsessed with her. The idea of a dom who… who cared about a sub’s wishes. About his wishes. It made him feel practically giddy at the thought - too hopeful, really. He had to be realistic. There was only one Amy he knew - and she didn’t deserve someone broken like him anyway.

How would that even go? “Hey, Amy, you’re great and you probably won’t fucking mess with me, which, according to you was straight up abuse, so that’s fun. Anyway, I like you, but only after you said you won’t hurt me, so that’s a low fucking bar. Oh, by the way, I can’t even subspace. So all of your hard work to maintain my trust won’t even have any sort of reward for you.”

Jake hated himself for how he was still kind of tempted to do it anyway. He was so fucking selfish. He didn’t deserve taking one of the good doms out there - Amy deserved a good sub, and a good sub deserved her. Not him. Never him.

Jake drove Amy back to her apartment. She seemed like she wanted to say something to him, so he kept the time filled with inane chatter. He already felt stupid for having mentioned anything to her in the first place. Even though it had made him feel better, he might as well have held up a neon sign saying “I’m fucked up!” on it. Well, not really, since that would have alerted the perps to their presence, but still. Basically the same thing.

When he finally stopped the car, Amy didn’t get out.

“Look, Jake…” Amy turned to face him. “If you ever want to talk, I’m… I’m here for you. And, just so you know, I… I don’t repeat things I’ve been told in private.”

It was as if she could see directly into his fears, and eased them without ever making it seem like she knew about them in the first place. Jake could feel himself falling for her with every passing moment.

“Yeah, for sure.” He replied automatically, watching as she smiled at him before opening the car door.

“Have a good night, Jake.” She said kindly, before adding. “I’m absolutely creaming you in our next competition, though.”

“‘I’m absolutely creaming you’, title of your sex tape.” He replied with a grin at Amy’s back.

He heard her laugh, her shaking her head as she walked up the steps to the door.

Jake waited until she entered the apartment complex before leaving, hands twitching on his steering wheel. He felt like he was floating.

Oh, fuck. This was a crush. He had a fucking crush on Amy.

Fuck.

Oh, he was absolutely fucked.

Fuck.

Fuck!

Jake slammed his hand down on his steering wheel, furious with himself. He was an idiot. He shouldn’t have- he should’ve- fuck, it dind’t matter. It was too late.

As if his life wasn’t hard enough already.

Fuck.

Tears stung at his eyes, and he grimaced, pulling over. He was way too much of a fucking mess to drive right now. He rubbed at his eyes, frustrated - but his frustration only made him more tears fill his eyes.

Great. Now he was crying. He laughed mirthlessly, hating himself for how his breath caught in his throat. He hadn’t- he hadn’t been delusional. He knew that maybe, not every dom was like… well. But, to hear it from Amy… he choked on a sob. Fuck. He had really fucked up. His old dom was garbage, he knew that - but to have Amy say he didn’t deserve it? That it shouldn’t have happened?

It was too much. It was all too much.

Amy didn’t even know, though. He hadn’t even told her, but she- would she change her mind if she knew about him? Would she still think he didn’t deserve it if she knew how much of a bad sub he was? He clenched his jaw until it ached, closing his eyes against the world. Acceptance was conditional. It always was. Always.

But Amy… Amy was incredible. She wouldn’t hate him for being broken.

Sure, she wouldn’t hate him.

But she’d never want him.

Fuck.

Fuck.

It always came back to that, didn't it. No one hated him for being broken. No one minded a quick screw with him. But long term? Meeting the parents? Marriage? None of that was ever an option for him. And it was wrong of him to have feelings for her, knowing that he would never be able to meet her needs. Never be able to give himself to her the way she deserved from him.

Never be able to sub for her.

Despite all of that knowledge, though, he still felt his newfound affection for her burning away inside of his chest, resolute in making his heart flutter at the thought of her.

Well. This was fucking perfect. Just what he needed. His life wasn't hard enough already, after all.

Jake had feelings. For Detective Amy Santiago.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

Jake opened his eyes to an all-too familiar room. Walls that were slate gray closed around him, the warm yellow light illuminating the room from its fixture hanging from the ceiling. He turned his head to the side, already knowing that he would see the nightstand with a small lamp, glasses, and whatever book Ethan had been reading most recently.

He shouldn’t be here.

Jake tried to sit up, but a jerk of metal on his wrists stopped him - he was handcuffed to the headboard. They were probably his own cuffs - Ethan didn’t like to use his for non-work purposes.

Jake figured it was more just that he didn’t want to have to go through the effort of explaining why there’s his serial number embedded in Jake’s wrist. He’d never minded some pain to go with his pleasure, and Ethan was always so mouthwateringly good at combining the two.

Speaking of, Ethan was straddling him, one hand planted on his hip, the other stroking the side of Jake’s face lovingly.

“You’re such a good sub,” He murmured seductively, pressing one knee between Jake’s spread thighs. Jake moaned and tilted his head slightly - whether from the compliment or from the pressure, he honestly didn’t know. Didn’t Care. Either way, Ethan took advantage of the opportunity, leaning forward and beginning to mark a hickey into his exposed neck.

Jake became aware of the heady, euphoric feeling of subspace surrounding him, washing over him gently. Wrapping him in its wonderful, comfortable floating. His eyes half-closed, Jake stared at Ethan in unabashed wonder.

Jake loved him.

“You’re gorgeous like this,” He drawled, raking his eyes over Jake’s body appreciatively. “I have the most beautiful sub in the world.”

Jake smiled, warm at the compliments - no cheeky response to be had, he was fully in subspace - and lifted up his head to kiss him.

“Oh,” Ethan leaned back, smiling teasingly, “Eager, aren’t we?”

“Yes.” Jake murmured, body practically twitching with the urge to have more contact. He felt like he was floating in nothingness, he wanted - he needed - physical contact like it was water in a desert.

“Well,” Ethan finally leaned down, kissing Jake for a moment before pulling away - Jake following after him, biting back a whine - and adding, in a voice dripping with pure sex, “I’d hate to keep my sub waiting.”

My sub.

Jake felt his smile grew wider - he was so happy in this moment that his chest ached. The subspace giving him that odd feeling of floating, like he was only grounded by the bits of contact between him and his dom. If his dom stopped touching him he would simply… float in nothingness. Jake craved more touch, wanted it so badly it almost hurt. But in a good way, sorta - he knew he would get that touch eventually, if he behaved. He bit back the sounds of pleasure trying to leave his throat - making noise wasn’t well-behaved, after all.

As Ethan’s hands and mouth worked their way down Jake’s body, the bound sub slowly became aware of a strange pain. This wasn’t the delightful, exciting pain. No, this hurt.

With a groan of pain - managing to slip past his urge to keep quiet -, Jake craned up his head, looking down to see Ethan sliding down his body slowly. His hands and mouth leaving raw, broken skin behind.

“Ow, wait, something’s wrong,” Jake said urgently, voice tinging with panic. “Stop.”

Ethan looked up to him - but his face looked off, like it was moving on its own. He smiled, but it looked distinctly menacing. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of you.”

“Right.” Jake said, trying to force himself to relax. “Because you’re my dom.”

“Yes.” The hands were stopped on his hips, still hurting just a bit but it seemed to have stopped for a moment, “You’re my sub.”

“I’m your sub.” Jake repeated, noting that the room had gotten much more dim - the wallpaper several shades darker than it had been. The floaty feeling of subspace was still there, even though he was fully cognisant, thinking and talking like he normally would at work, rather than in the midst of foreplay. That wasn’t normal, and Jake was once again reminded that he wasn’t supposed to be here. He felt like he hadn’t been in this apartment for ages, hadn’t felt Ethan’s touch in years.

Jake furrowed his eyebrows. Why was he here? A pit of some sort of visceral fear began to manifest itself, slowly forming inside of him and directing him to… something. There was a reason his mind was screaming danger even as his body remained lax.

“Jake, you’re going to have to stop thinking so much.” Ethan said. His voice was still sweet, but now sickly so. Jake felt tears come unbidden to his eyes as the hands stayed in place, burning away his skin, his flesh.

“Please stop.” Jake whispered - despite the pain, he seemed to be physically unable to scream, his voice coming out in a whisper.

“You’re my sub, aren’t you?” His voice dripped with ice - a contrast to the burning pain that seemed to be splitting Jake’s flesh down to the bone.

“Yes,” Jake replied immediately, earnestly. Pleadingly.

“Tell me.”

“I’m your sub.”

“I don’t believe you.” Ethan was scowling, now. Jake hated the bit of panic that set in at that, temporarily distracting him. “My sub would never break subspace just for that.”

“I’m still in subspace though.” Jake frowned - the floaty feeling was still there.

The instant the words left his mouth Jake felt a burning pain across his face, like he’d been slapped - but both of Ethan’s hands were still on his hips. His face was searing hot, and he swore he could feel it blistering. At least it distracted from the pain seeping into his torso for the moment.

“I’m sorry.” Jake apologized immediately, “I’m your sub.” Trying to inject something into it - to remind Ethan that he loved him, that he was Ethan’s so Ethan didn’t have to keep hurting him, he didn’t know. Even as the words came out of Jake’s mouth his mind could remember something akin to agony in the back of his mind, pleading to be let out.

Ethan shook his head. “I don’t understand how you could be my sub. My sub is good. And you’re being bad.” He punctuated the end of his sentence by digging his nails into the burned flesh.

“I’m not- bad I’m-” The fuzziness in Jake’s head was turning into a painful pounding, as if he was hammering at his own skull trying to break out, “I’m your sub.”

His laughter was mocking.

Jake felt burning blossom from where his hands were on his hips, spreading out over his body. As it spread up to his face, the burning sensation constricted around his throat, choking him. He reached to his neck with his hands - the handcuffs were gone - and his hands landed on the burning hot metal of a collar.

His collar.

Ethan’s collar.

It was searing hot, burning his skin and even his fingers as he tried to pull it off. But he couldn’t - it was stuck, latch locked in place. He looked up to Ethan pleadingly, who was watching him with a sort of bored interest.

“Make it stop.” Jake pleaded, voice cracking, “Please, make it stop.”

“Why?” Ethan asked, one hand coming up to stroke at the side of Jake’s face, touch gentle but so hot he was sure it was blistering his skin even more. “I like my collar on you.”

The words that had used to make Jake's toes curl now sent a jolt of fear coursing through him, along with the amplifying pain.

“It hurts.” Jake gasped out, “It hurts.”

Ethan leaned down, kissing Jake forcefully, lips leaving behind nothing but pain, “But that’s my favorite part, silly.”

Jake could feel the collar burning onto his skin, searing itself so fully that it would be impossible to remove. Cauterizing itself into his neck. Jake could feel it seeping under his skin - where his skin had been, anyway - rooting itself down. He wouldn’t be surprised if it was burning to his bones, at this rate.

“I like it.” Ethan said, ignoring Jake’s choked whimpers of pain - it hurt too much to cry out anymore. “Now you’re going to be my sub forever. No one’s getting that off of you.”

The collar burned too hot, too tight.

Jake couldn’t breathe.

“You aren’t going to be able to leave me again, now. You’re mine. You belong to me!” Ethan snarled, one hand grabbing Jake’s wrist and forcing it away from his neck.

“I wasn’t-” Jake tried to plead, but Ethan shoved his fingers into Jake’s mouth, pressing down on his tongue and effectively silencing him.

Jake didn’t dare bite down - he knew what would happen to him if he did - even as the sides of his mouth and top of his tongue began to blister.

“I thought I had taught you to be quiet.” Ethan’s voice was rich with threat, and Jake would have flinched from it, save for the fact that his body hurt too much.

“I’m going to have to punish you now.” Ethan decided, getting up.

Jake stared at him, eyes pleading. Even though his mouth was free, he didn’t dare speak. He couldn’t even feel his tongue. He tasted blood.

“This is going to be harder on me than it is on you.” Ethan said, grin stretching wide across his face as he moved to the closet.

Somehow, Jake doubted that.

As the door opened, Jake closed his eyes. He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want this. He wanted to not be here.

Ethan’s hand wrapped on a ring of Jake’s collar, giving it a tug, and Jake’s head jerked to the side.

Blinding pain shot across Jake’s face, and he jolted to his feet - knocking back the chair he was sitting in, barely noticing as it crashed to the ground behind him. The edge of a table looked innocently back at him, his cup of herbal tea - long since gone cold - still sitting, half-drunk, atop it.

Jake sucked in air, bringing up one hand to feel around his neck, checking for the collar he knew wasn’t there. His other hand began picking at the end of his shirt mercilessly, in a desperate attempt at self-soothing.

Despite feeling nothing but his own sweaty, clammy skin, Jake was unable to relax. He looked down, before suddenly lifting up his shirt, checking the skin of his front for any sign of burns.

He was being irrational.

He knew that.

There was no buzz of subspace, and the racing of his mind did help to assuage his concern on that front, even as his nerves still refused to settle.

Fuck, Ethan never even did anything with fire, he didn’t know why he was so caught up on this. Still, the sight of his own, unblemished - well, unburned, anyway - skin reassured him slightly. With an irritated groan, Jake dropped the edge of his shirt, leaning down and picking up his chair.

He hadn’t meant to fall asleep like that - his back was going to regret it tomorrow. It already twinged at the movement of putting it back up. He really should just go to bed.

Jake hesitated.

He didn’t really want to sleep anymore.

Sure, he was exhausted.

But he didn’t want to sleep.

Jake picked up his cold cup, padding over to the kitchen sink and dumping its contents down the drain.

“So much for that,” He muttered under his breath, before flinching - and then hating himself for doing so.

He placed the cup down - okay, closer to slammed but he hadn’t meant to do that - and wandered towards his bedroom. Copping out at the last moment and ducking into the bathroom instead.

He justified to himself that he was doing this because he needed to brush his teeth again. Not to prolong the inevitability of sleep.

Jake turned on the light, squinting against the brightness. His reflection stared at him in the mirror, eyes haunted.

His hand flitted up, unconsciously, to his bare neck - an attempt to remind him that he was safe.

Jake looked away.

When Bernice had broken up with him, he’d expected Ethan to show up in his dreams. For him to crack that smile - which used to be warm but had turned so fucking cruel - and threaten Jake with a good time. Good time for himself, certainly. When he hadn’t showed, Jake had thought - okay, hoped - that maybe, just maybe, he would be able to move on from the Bernice thing without one of these fucking dreams cropping up. Why it was hitting now, after he and Amy finished that stupid Bet date, he had no idea.

Seems he was, once again, getting the worst possible end of the bargain.

First a crush on his coworker - not just any coworker, but Amy, who was the closest thing he had to decent competition in his life - and now, a fucking nightmare about his ex.

Great.

Still, Jake had to admit, his dreams were usually a bit more… memory-induced trauma flashbacks than whatever sort of abstract bullshit that was about. While the whole “burning his flesh to the bone” part was a bit troubling, Jake found himself slightly relieved nonetheless. He could handle abstract horror. He was distinctly less okay with the memories of his worst moments on repeat as they so often were when it came to Ethan.

Jake’s hand snaked up to touch at his neck again, before he flung his hand away, mentally scoffing. How fucked up was that? To be grateful for one nightmare instead of another.

Jake brushed his teeth - checking his mouth to note that, while it wasn’t burned, he had chewed on the inside of his cheek to the point of bleeding. Perfect. Looked like he had to skip on the mouthwash, then.

All too soon, Jake had finished. He needed to go back to the bedroom. He was exhausted.

His own weary eyes looked back at him as he brought himself to look in the mirror, and he grimaced.

Jake lifted up his shirt, checking the skin of his chest and stomach in the mirror again. Still no burns - of course not, he hadn’t expected there to be any, but still. If anyone would figure out how to travel through dreams just to hurt Jake, it would be Ethan.

Assuming Ethan even remembered he existed.

Jake sincerely hoped not, but he doubted he was so lucky.

His hand touched his neck again. Of course it had to do with the fucking collar. A lot of his more… abstract nightmares had to do with that.

Ownership was not a good look on a human being, if Jake did say so himself. Of course, the collar wasn’t supposed to be about that. Sort of. Well, it was, kind of, but it had other implications too. Whatever. Collars were supposed to be a good thing. That was the point he was trying to make with himself.

Fact was, what it meat for him didn’t match up with what it meant for every other sub on the fucking planet. It used to, sure. If he cast his mind back, he could remember the moments of joy.

Jake groaned, rubbing at his face. He was too tired to think about this stuff. Reminiscing on the old days, when he was still naive and eager and not fucking broken wasn’t going to magically bring it back. It wasn’t going to fix anything. All it would do is make him hate himself even more.

Well. There was no delaying the inevitable.

He went to his bedroom, not bothering to turn on the light. Flopping onto his bed, Jake rolled under the blankets and stared at the wall.

After 40 minutes, he resigned himself to the fact that sleep wasn’t coming. He sat up, checking his phone. 3:02. He dithered, not wanting to bother anyone with a text. Who would he even text, anyway?

Certainly not Amy.

He really only wanted to talk to her though.

But fuck if that was going to happen.

She did say she was there if he wanted to talk.

He doubted she meant at this time, though.

Jake decided that he was just too… off from the whole nightmare. He didn’t want to accidentally overshare or something just because he felt safe around Amy.

That safety was an illusion, he reminded himself.

With a groan, Jake tossed his phone aside, lying back down and hoping for sleep. Hoping that the nightmares would stay away for the rest of the night.

As it worked out, he had no more nightmares. Mainly because he had no more sleep, but that’s not important. Jake counted it as a win.

He had to admit, he hadn’t noticed how many little pockmarks there were in the wall until now, but he also now knew exactly how many there were. He’d counted them all. Four times.

Showing up to work on no sleep was always fun. It was a game Jake liked to play called, “How long can I go before someone yells at me?” with the follow up addendum, “Who’s going to yell at me?”

Normally it was Terry.

Holt noticed, but didn’t comment on it - Jake doubted he cared one way or the other, so long as he did his job effectively. Rosa was the same way. Gina would pretend to be oblivious, but would walk by his desk with a coffee - most likely spiked with 6 hour energy - at some point for him. Meanwhile, Hitchcock and Scully were actually just oblivious. Charles would notice, but was always a lot more on the kind side about it, trying to convince Jake to eat some weird concoction that would ‘help’. He always politely declined Charles’ overture.

Unfortunately, Charles’ commotion would normally attract Terry’s attention - if Terry didn’t spot Jake’s demeanor instantly, anyway - and then it was all downhill from there. Terry had a tendency to be overly… maternal, maybe was the right word, when it came to the team. It was objectively great, and Jake didn’t mind it at times - in fact, he sometimes quite enjoyed Terry’s protectiveness, it felt paternal in a way that gave him way too many emotions about his actual parents - but he really wasn’t in the mood for it today.

Amy, meanwhile, would notice his exhaustion, but usually use it as an opportunity to get ahead on their bet. Although, actually, now that that was over, Jake didn’t know what Amy’s take would be. Somehow he doubted she’d be in the Holt-Rosa boat of not giving a fuck about it. Probably closer to Charles, honestly - except on the annoyed side, rather than the worried one.

Although, since his being tired no longer benefited her, he wasn’t sure she would even bother to comment on it in the first place.

Jake hadn’t had one of these… sleepless-post-nightmare nights in a while. He’d gotten better about them. Sort of. Not really. It wasn’t so much that he got better at handling them - he really, really hadn’t - but more that they had just stopped cropping up on their own.

Jake wasn’t sure why they had left him for so long, but he had been grateful for the reprieve.

Clearly that reprieve was over, though - a fact which would have frustrated him, save for the fact that all Jake felt on the matter was deep, apprehensive fear.

Jake forced himself to his feet, deciding to ignore that fun new addition to his life - along with all of his other fears, the crush on Amy, and everything else that made his life harder.

It wouldn’t do to think too much on it, after all - that would only ever make it all so much worse.

So Jake elected to busy himself with reciting every line of Die Hard he could recall - which, yes, was all of them - as he got ready and left for work, barely remembering to grab a bagel on the way out.

Jake got all the way to his desk before realizing that he had forgotten to put cream cheese on it. Which he realized when he bit into it.

Well.

Dry bagel it was.

He was too tired to even get annoyed about it.

Amy rolled her eyes at him. “Seriously, Jake, you could at least try to eat like an adult.”

Her tone was clearly intended to be joking, but Jake felt a rush of embarrassment - quickly putting the bagel onto his desk.

“I- uh, forgot.” Jake replied awkwardly, hoping that the neck of his jacket - which he had forgotten to take off - was covering the blush that was starting to creep up his neck.

Amy looked at him for a moment, as if trying to decide to say something or not - Jake mentally prayed she didn’t - and gave a small, internal whoop of joy when she instead just turned back to her computer without comment.

Jake shrugged out of his jacket, discreetly checking to make sure his shirt was on the right way - it was.

His head felt kind of… fuzzy. Not in a subspace way - thankfully, he probably would smash his head into the desk until it stopped if he had - but more just like… he was waiting for something. He was waiting for something - okay, someone - to attack him.

Or, more accurately, for Ethan to attack him. The elevator would ding, and he’d walk into the bullpen. He’d walk right up to Jake…

Jake could picture a million different things that Ethan would do to him if he ever got his hands on him. None of them were pleasant - most of them involved him with that fucking collar on - and he held out hope that, considering how long it’s been since he had left… Well, Ethan had stopped going after him after a while. Jake was pretty sure Gina was the one who did manage to eventually get him to back off - she never admitted to it, but he had his suspicions.

Maybe he’d forgotten him. Heh. As if Ethan would ever forget the sub who had- the sub who had left him.

He groaned, leaning back in his chair and rubbing at his eyes. He was way too sleep-deprived to even think in general, let alone think about Ethan.

Jake felt the eyes of Terry on him - he bit back another groan. Perfect.

Sure enough, Terry stood up, walking towards his desk.

“Everything alright, Peralta?” He asked, leaning on the side of his desk in a forced attempt at being casual.

Amy glanced up, eyes flicking between Terry and Jake - her expression unreadable.

“I’m fine,” Jake replied. Then, seeing Terry’s expression, added, “Just a bit tired is all. Nothing some caffeine won’t fix.”

Terry looked hesitant. “Are you sure?” He asked cautiously. He seemed to sense something was off, but wasn’t quite able to place it. If he did know what was up, Jake was sure he’d find a way to accidentally announce it to the entire precinct.

Look, Jake appreciated Terry. He really did. But Terry was… well, he was loud. And tended to draw attention to things. Which was decidedly not what Jake wanted - like, fuck, Terry’s so obvious that even Scully and Hitchcock could pick up on it. Well, actually, Jake reflected, watching Hitchcock try to get his hand unstuck from his own desk drawer, maybe that was a bit of an overstatement.

Regardless, it was in his best interest to assuage whatever concerns Terry may have. So, Jake plastered a gigantic smile onto his face, flashing it brightly at him. “Yep! Thanks for asking though, Ter-bear.”

Terry still looked unsure, but without anything to go off of he just uncrossed his arms, getting to his feet. “Alright man.” He said, patting Jake on the shoulder as he left.

Jake flinched slightly, half-expecting the touch to burn, but thankfully Terry didn’t notice, back already turned.

Jake turned back around to face his desk, eyes meeting Amy’s - who was looking at him with an expression that looked a touch too much like concern.

“What?” He asked - meaning to come off friendly, but ending up with something a bit more terse.

“Oh, nothing! Sorry, just spacing out.” Amy replied quickly, averting her eyes to type a few keys of her computer.

Jake wanted to apologize for the attitude - but he wasn’t entirely sure how to bring it up. So instead he just went back to working away on the stack of paperwork at his desk.

He jolted as a mug of steaming coffee was placed at his desk. Looking up, Jake saw Amy giving him a small, fond smile as she went to her desk. He really was out of it - he hadn’t even noticed she had gotten up to begin with.

“Oh. Thanks.” Jake said automatically, taking a sip. It was made just how he liked it - too much sugar, and just a bit of creamer.

“No problem.” She replied, already flipping open a file.

She was so nonchalant about it, and he so exhausted, that Jake didn’t notice until much later that Amy hadn’t made a cup of coffee for herself.

Chapter Text

Jake stared at the coffee pot, deliberating whether or not to make another pot. The mug Amy had handed him sat empty on the counter. There was one cup left. He heard footsteps approaching, and quickly poured the last of it into his mug - guess he was making the pot after all. He’d rather not have to wait - he could barely keep his eyes open as it was. The caffeine fix of Amy’s cup was officially wearing off, it seemed.

“Hey, Jake.” Amy said from beside him, “Mind if I squeeze by?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah.” Jake stepped to the side, letting her get into the fridge. He fiddled with the tub of coffee, scooping grounds into the machine. His hands felt weirdly shaky - he told himself it was caffeine withdrawal. Nothing to do with him making coffee. Nothing to do with Amy beside him.

“God, what did Charles bring?” Amy asked, grimacing into the fridge.

“Oh, yeah, he heard I was tired.” Jake cracked a grin, “Do you want to know what it’s made of?”

“Actually, no, I don’t.” Amy replied, straightening up and closing the door with the look of disgust still in place. She paused for a moment, giving him a weird look. After a moment, she asked, “Hey, can I talk to you for a sec?”

“Yeah.” Jake replied, feeling a twinge of something akin to apprehension - he wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but he figured it had to do with his exhaustion.

“I just… I noticed you seemed a bit out of it today.”

Yep. There it was. Jake mentally smacked himself. He should have disguised it better. Ugh.

He slapped on a smile. “Yeah, I’m just tired is all. Hence the coffee.” He lifted the mug to take a gulp of it. It was burned.

“Yeah…” Amy said slowly. “Look, I just… I wanted to apologize.”

“Huh?” Whatever Jake was expecting, it wasn’t that. He nearly choked on his drink. “What for?”

“Just… I realized that last night might have been- well, it was a bit of an intense conversation. And I didn’t mean to get so worked up.” She added with a forced chuckle, before her face turned serious again. “But it was wrong of me to push you on that… marriage comment you made. I could tell it made you uncomfortable, and I shouldn’t have done that.”

“It’s fine.” He repeated again. Then adding, “No, seriously, Amy, it’s fine. Conversations go both ways. It’s no biggie.”

“Still, I am sorry.” She looked more than a bit guilty.

“Seriously, I don’t care.” Jake waved his hand dismissively, nearly sloshing coffee onto the floor. “Look, last night was… I liked the conversation we had. I don’t regret it.”

That was true. Even if it was what triggered his crush - which was definitely not his best moment - or, as he was beginning to suspect, his nightmare, he still appreciated the conversation on a whole. Sure, Amy was almost hilariously passionate about sub rights, but he couldn’t find it in himself to crack a joke about it. It felt sort of nice, to see a dom on his side. Of course, Amy didn’t know that she was - he was sure that if she actually knew the situation, she would feel differently - but for now he got to pretend. And a dom who wasn’t saying they supported sub rights just to get praised for it, or to get sex out of it. Amy seemed to just… genuinely care.

He couldn’t bring himself to regret anything that had caused that fact to become known to him.

“Just, it was inappropriate of me.” Amy replied. “Look, if anyone had- just, I was thinking about how it would be to betray Teddy like that, and it just… it really got to me, is all.”

“Oh.” Jake’s mouth was moving, even as his brain slowly processed her words. “Who’s Teddy?”

“Oh, did I not- oh, right, I guess not, sorry.” Amy smiled awkwardly, “Teddy’s my boyfriend. He’s a cop in the 82nd precicnt., we met at a code seminar.”

“Sounds like you two have a lot in common.” Jake said after a moment, brain still stuck.

“Yeah,” Amy’s smile turned bright, “He laminates his paperwork too, you know.”

“Oh wow.” Jake replied, bringing his mug up to take a sip. “Well, I need to get back to work. Uh, congrats.”

“Oh, thanks!” Amy beamed.

Jake walked back to his desk. He felt oddly out of place. Of course this happened. He gets a crush on Amy. Amy has a boyfriend.

He wanted to laugh at himself. It didn’t matter - even if Amy was single, he’d never have been able to date her anyway. He was way too much of a fucking mess for that.

Teddy. Hm. Jake had to admit, the guy sounded exactly like Amy’s type. Smart, nerdy… okay, so that was all he knew about him so far. But that’s not the point. Teddy sounded like a kind of sub that actually deserved Amy. He sounded… well, not like Jake.

Jake was happy for Amy.

He was.

The fact that his chest ached was irrelevant. It wasn’t like her apology for having made him uncomfortable made him crush on her all the harder or anything. Which was actually sort of weird - normally, doms sucked at apologies. Somehow her managing to do it decently only made him like her more.

That didn’t matter.

He was happy for her.

Amy sat down across from him, flashing him a smile as she took a sip of the fresh coffee he had made, the container of food now warm and in front of her.

Jake flicked a rubber band at her.

She rolled her eyes, pointedly turning the monitor to make a shield, even as her expression was amused.

Jake grinned at her.

His chest hurt.

Jake tried to focus on his work. There was no point in thinking about anything else. No good would come of it.

---
Terry invited him to get drinks after work.

Jake wasn’t really in the mood - he was dead tired - but the thought of falling asleep was enough to make him accept the offer.

Which is why Jake was sitting at a bar, beer in hand, as Terry talked about his kids.

Yay.

“Look, man,” Terry said finally, getting off the topic of Cagney and Lacey’s newfound disinterest in anything other than mac and cheese, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, Terry, I’m fine.”

“Well, it’s just, I heard you and Bernice didn’t work out.”

“Where’d you hear that from?” Jake asked, narrowing his eyes.

“Boyle told me. While carrying on about her not being good enough for you.”

“Oh. That sounds like Charles.” Jake picked at the edge of the label. “It’s fine. I’m over it.”

“So she broke up with you? That’s rough, man.”

“I never said- ugh, yes.” Jake admitted, annoyed, “Look, it’s not a big deal. I liked someone, they don’t like me back, end of story.” He was talking about Bernice. Sort of. “Not to overstate it, but I’m definitely going to die alone and work is all I have.”

“Look, what you need is a rebound. No jobs, no real talk. Just… getting it on.” Terry said, nudging Jake’s shoulder.

“You offering?” Jake joked.

“Nah, I prefer my wife.” Terry replied, leaning back and glancing around the room. “There are plenty of attractive folks in this room. Why don’t you go home with one?”

“I can’t believe you brought me out here to get laid.” Jake laughed, “I thought you wanted to talk to me about your kids all night.”

Look, Jake. You’re one of my kids. And, well, I worry about you sometimes.”

“Okay, that’s enough mother henning for today.” Jake patted Terry’s beefy shoulder. “I’m going to go talk to people.”

“Alright, alright. Have fun!” Terry said as Jake walked away. “Find your meatloaf!”

Jake probably should have paid more attention to whatever Terry had been talking about earlier. He figured he’d just wait for Terry to leave - the man didn’t have much room for late-night outings now that he had a pregnant wife and twins - and then duck out. Alone.

But the aching in his chest wouldn’t go away - Amy’s words from the previous night echoing in his ears and making his heart twist - and he decided, fuck it, rebound’s a rebound whether it’s from a breakup or a never-going-to-get-together.

No commitment. Just… some sex. Barely even names.

Jake highly doubted that Terry knew that was what most of his ‘relationships’ consisted of. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have advised it - probably would have driven him to a fucking therapist instead of a bar, that was for sure.

Besides. He wouldn’t have to go to sleep if he fucked - or got fucked - into the morning. Maybe he was being selfish. But his reasons were no more or less valid than anyone else’s for wanting some action. He just really didn’t want to see Ethan again. Have to be back there again. Feel his hands on him, touching him, hurting him-

Jake made his way to a tall, dark haired woman who was pushing around a glass of wine. Definitely a dom, if her energy was anything to go off of.

He leaned against the bar beside her.

“Hello there.” He said cheerfully.

She looked up, a smile crossing her face. “Hi,” She said, leaning forward.

“It seems you’re not a fan of this joint’s wine.” He offered.

“Ha, yeah. But, it’s not the worst I’ve had.” She replied, “I’m here more for the hot wings than the booze.”

“Me too!” Jake exclaimed, “Their triple pepper hot wings are supposedly really spicy. I’ve been meaning to have some.”

She looked at him incredulously, grin widening. “Me too! I was about to order them. Here,” She gestured to the seat across from her, “Join me. We can suffer together.”

“Gladly.” Jake replied, taking the proffered seat. “I’m Jake.”

“Sophia.” She replied. “So, answer me this: if you had a clone, what would you do with it?”

“Okay, first of all, brand the number 2 into its cheek. You shouldn’t have a clone if you don’t know to do that.” He replied immediately.

“Exactly!” She nodded, “Clones can’t kill you or replace you if there’s a distinguishing feature!”

“Right?”

They continued to chat away, stopping only to eat some hot wings - and then go wild over the pain of… well, the hotness.

When they cleaned the plate, Sophia raised an eyebrow. “So… we both agree we like Die Hard. How about we go back to my place and watch some?”

“That sounds good.” Jake said, “I do love me some Bruce Willis.”

They left, maintaining a friendly chatter as Sophia drove to her place. They shared a lot of the same interests, from wings, to Die Hard, to basketball - watching, not playing -, and to ping pong.

Sophia’s apartment was very similar to how she was. Sleek and professional, but with the edge of fun that really just made the place enjoyable to be in.

It looked like someplace an actual adult would live in, unlike his own home.

Three movies later, they were on her bed.

Sex with Sophia was… well, it was about what he had expected from her - based on her attitude, demeanor, and her apartment’s style. Where Bernice had been hesitant, almost avoidant, of taking on the dom role, Sophia had no such qualms.

She knew what she wanted, and how to get it - within the quickly negotiated boundaries they’d set, anyway. Jake couldn’t help but feel a bit used - his presence had seemed almost optional to her pleasure - and it reminded him a bit of… well, Ethan, actually. Like he wasn’t actually really a person in the room, just… a method of her getting off.

Jake didn’t mind being used. Really, he didn’t. It wasn’t like he was worth anything more to begin with. Well, not here, anyway. In the world of policing, in movie trivia, in jokes and Mario Party and so many things… he knew that he had value. He did. But here, in a bed, on his back… there was no value he could give. Nothing beyond whatever the dom decided they wanted from him. Nothing beyond what they wanted to do to him.

Jake knew he was making the whole thing sound way too negativistic - fact was, it was nice just to be physically close to someone. Not to mention, spending time with Sophia was enough to quell the gnawing fear of Ethan’s reappearance out of his mind, at least for a bit. And she was a welcome distraction from Amy - Amy has a boyfriend, he has to move on - and Sophia made sure he had enjoyed himself just as much as she had been.

It had been a while since he’d been around a self-assured dom like Sophia. Ones who didn’t feel the need to prove their own dom-ness to him. She knew what she was, and she knew what he was, too. There was no grasp at power, no big show of control. She already knew she had all of it. She had nothing to prove to him. He was just a sub, after all.

Still. Sex was over. He needed to do something. He could feel sleep creeping in around the edges of his vision, and he wasn’t ready yet.

“So, I noticed a ping pong table.” Jake said abruptly.

Sophia’s hands, which were in the middle of doing up her shirt, paused. “You play?”

“Yeah. Not to brag, but I am very good.”

“Oh really?” Her face split into a grin. “I’d like to see you prove it.”

Jake hopped up eagerly, glad he was able to have pinpointed something that she was clearly invested in.

“Game on!”

They played well into the morning, in a hotly contested game that seemed without end. Hopefully without end. Jake was enjoying himself quite a bit - mostly the game itself, but a part of him would have gladly stared at a wall by himself, if only to keep the night away. Although, he did much prefer playing ping pong as opposed to counting wall pockmarks in his room for a fifth time.

Sophia was the one to finally call it a night. “I’ve got a big day tomorrow.” She said, holding the ping pong ball in one hand, racket in the other.

“Sounds like you’re chickening out because you know you can’t win.” Jake joked, not wanting the night to end. Not wanting to be alone with his thoughts. With his stupid fucking mind and its supid fucking dreams.

But she just laughed. “I promise, we can have a rematch some other time. But I do need some sleep. And you probably do to, tomorrow is a weekday.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Jake agreed, even as he privately mourned the end of this reprieve. He had known it wasn’t going to last - but it wasn’t like he’d expected it to in the first place. More just… pretended.

Still. He glanced at the clock, which read 2:12am. At least he’d made it this long without sleep.

Maybe he’d be able to drink some coffee to make it to tomorrow.

Jake could practically hear Rosa chewing him out over getting enough sleep just by thinking it. But whatever. He’d take what escapes he could.

He thought he was past this. Living in fear, frantically trying to avoid the ever-looming presence of Ethan. Well, he knew that he had always been afraid. Always. It was just… he’d been able to ignore it for a bit. The whole thing was just rearing its head - and would quiet down just as soon, if he was just patient with it. Avoidant with it. Trouble was, if he started dreaming too much of Ethan, it would only add onto itself, build up into something worse again. He had to nip it in the bud. He had to stop the spiral before it started - lest he end up where he had after he first ended it.

Fuck, just thinking about that was enough to scare him into wanting to stay awake for the rest of his life.

Still, he wasn’t going to be able to stay awake at Sophia’s, that was for sure.

Jake doble-checked that he had his keys and phone before heading for the door, Sophia half-a-step behind him.

“Hey,” She said.

Jake turned.

Sophia pressed him up against the door, pinning him in place. Not gentle by any means, and certainly firmly enough that it would take actual effort to break free, but it wasn’t a slam.

She leaned in, kissing him heavily, tongue sliding into his mouth and teeth grazing his lip. She pulled back just as Jake was beginning to wonder if he’d be able to breathe.

“See you around.” She said, stepping back and opening the door.

“Yeah, you too.” Jake replied, turning.

She smacked his ass, and he turned around and gave her a grin - face flushed red. Sophia closed the door, a satisfied smile on her face as he went.

Jake barely made it to his apartment before he practically fell down, exhaustion rearing its ugly head. 24 hours without sleep wasn’t exactly a good thing, and he so desperately wanted to stay up. Keep it all away.

Of course, the mess he was during the worst of the nightmares - when he would do anything, anything to stay awake just a few minutes longer… those weren’t good days, either. Him drinking energy drinks and coffee until he could feel his heartbeat thrumming in his chest, forcing himself into uncomfortable positions so that sleep wouldn’t come, working shift after shift of overtime just to try to stave off the ever-encroaching need to rest.

He wasn’t safe to drive, wasn’t safe to work. Would pick at his skin to stay awake, slam his knee into his desk if he started to space out. Anything to avoid it.

In the end, Rosa had just drugged him. Desperate for him to stop before he killed himself.

That… hadn’t ended well for either of them.

Jake had screamed until his vocal cords ripped.

Rosa had… well, it was the first time he’d ever known her to be genuinely afraid. She had been afraid for him, sure, but still. Afraid nonetheless.

Ugh. Jake scrubbed at his face. He was way too tired to deal with memories of that whole fucking experience on top of the shit he already had on his mind.

He padded into the kitchen, deciding to make a pot of coffee. Needing to make a pot of coffee.

He knew he shouldn’t. Knew he needed to sleep, if only for his own sake. But Jake was nothing if not avoidant, so he ended up putting coffee grounds into his pot. He decided to sit on the floor, staring at the clock while waiting for the pot to be ready.

He realized after 20 minutes that he’d forgotten to turn the machine on.

Well.

He should get up and turn it on.

But the floor was cool, and getting up seemed like far too much effort. He’d get up in a minute. He would just close his eyes for a second, the lights of the kitchen too bright against his eyes. He only needed a moment, and he’d be fine.

He was asleep before he realized he’d leant back against the cupboards.

Chapter Text

Jake woke up with a scream in his throat, choking on air - his heart was pounding its way up his throat, and he felt that, should he open his mouth in that moment, he would surely vomit out his lungs.

He brought one hand up to his face, skin dripping with sweat. He covered his eyes with his hand, taking - or trying to take - a few deep breaths.

His mind was racing, screaming at him - but he wasn’t entirely sure what it was trying to say. He pushed himself up against the cupboard, pulling his legs to his chest so he could rest his head on his knees. Breathing felt like a monumentous effort, and he realized - with no small amount of fear - that it was only getting more and more difficult.

Jake’s chest ached, and, no matter how hard he tried, his lungs simply wouldn’t expand to take in air. He placed both of his hands onto his knees, forcing his eyes open. For some, irrational reason, he was afraid he would see… well, he didn’t even know. Something, someone, a manifestation of a thought, it didn’t matter and he couldn’t remember what it was he was waking up afraid from.

Regardless of what he was afraid of seeing, it was mildly comforting to see that nothing of note was there. Since his back was against the cupboards, he was able to escape the ‘behind you’ anxiety that would so often come whenever he woke up like this.

Although, of course, it wasn’t like he woke up without remembering his more… unpleasant dreams all that often. No, Jake was a cop, and remembering details was, unfortunately, part of his job description - quite literally - and that meant that he very rarely forgot even a moment.

Maybe not remembering was a mercy - he had lived through his life once, and that was already more than he could take. Having to relive the worst parts of it - or, even more cruelly, the good moments - on repeat fucking sucked. So hey, not remembering his dream was a good thing!

So then why couldn’t he make himself breathe?

Jake closed his eyes again, placing his forehead on his knees. He felt vaguely ill, as if about to vomit, but he knew enough to know that that wasn’t going to happen. He brought one hand up to touch his neck, immeasurably reassured when his shaking hand met clammy, sweaty skin as opposed to the cold metal he half-expected.

It felt as if his heart was half in his throat, and it was hammering away like he’d just run a marathon - not that he’d ever willingly do that, but still.

Jake didn’t risk opening his eyes again - he already felt much too dizzy as it was - instead just trying to focus on the texture of his pants under his hands.

It felt weird - his hands were vaguely tingly, if not almost completely numb - and the texture felt vaguely alien. Still, the repetition of rubbing the fabric with his fingers was comforting, and Jake found himself unable to convince himself to stop - not that he was particularly inclined to, though.

How long Jake sat there, he didn’t know, but, eventually, his heart slowly crept its way back down to its rightful place, and his pulse slowed. Even as he became aware of his breathing becoming easier - instead of taking rapid, strained gasps, it was more like slightly-faster-than-normal breathing - the tingling in his fingers turned sharp, almost painful. He regretfully let them fall back to the floor, and slowly lifted his face up, wincing as he opened his eyes to the bright light of his kitchen.

Jake turned his head - wincing as he did so. He was by no means old, but it wasn’t like he could sleep on the floor without consequences - and squinted, trying to read the clock.

It read just past 9 o’clock, and it took a moment before Jake’s mind processed it.

Once it clicked, however, he jerked himself to his feet, ignoring the twinge of his stiff neck as he did so.

Fuck. He had to be at the courthouse at 10.

He ran through the motions of prepping for court - thankfully he knew his case from front to back, but unfortunately a large portion of being at court was centered around looking professional. Which meant he had to actually put in effort.

Jake hated going to court. For one thing, he had a high case closure rate, so he got called in more often than he’d care to. Secondly, the attorneys would always ask him a very… specific range of questions.

And every time, it was a toss up on if this case would be the one where he’d snap.

Of course, he never did. It wouldn’t bode well for his career, or his dignity - assuming that he even had any of that left - so he always found a way to bite his tongue. Today would be no different.

Besides, this was the Millhound case. That dick had nearly shot him - and had tried to command him, for fuck’s sake - so Jake wasn’t planning on skipping it.

Given his leftover anxiety, Jake really didn’t want to wear a tie - just the idea of something being wrapped around his throat just… he didn’t want it. But he knew that, like with most things, he didn’t have a choice in the matter - not really - and put one on with shaky hands. Whether that shaking just hadn’t gone away from when he woke up, or if it was returning now, he wasn’t entirely sure.

He supposed it didn’t matter either way. Not like it would change the outcome. All members of the 99 were expected to wear formal wear for the courts, something that even Rosa begrudgingly complied with. It wasn’t like he could roll up in a polo - not without it reflecting badly on Holt, at any rate. And Jake wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize his Captain’s standing - considering he genuinely liked Holt, and all. Maybe even looked up to him. A bit.

Jake had always wanted a father figure who would give a fuck, and, now that he perhaps had a chance of having one, he was not going to risk losing it. Not over something as stupid as this. As insignificant.

Jake grimaced as he pulled the knot tight, swallowing down his discomfort as the tie secured itself around the base of his neck, its slight pressure letting its presence become all too noticeable. Forcing himself not to undo it - he felt like it was too tight, choking him, he couldn’t breathe-

Jake closed his eyes, forcing himself to take a deep, slow breath. It was fine. The tie was fine. He was fine. He slowly reopened his eyes, before finishing getting dressed - there wasn’t time for coffee, but he was able to yoink some breakfast - and then just booking it to the courthouse. With any luck, there would be an opportunity to get coffee there.

There was never parking near the courthouse. So now there was no time to get coffee. That was definitely on track with how his entire day… fuck, his entire week had been going.

Jake barely made it to the courtroom, spotting the back of Terry’s head - and his shoulders practically bulging out of his suit - and slid down next to him quickly, bracing himself to get yelled at.

Instead, Terry just flashed him a grin.

“Had a good night, Peralta?” He asked leadingly.

“Huh?” Jake felt his anxiety spike - how did Terry possibly know about? - but then remembered that Terry had told him to find meatloaf the night prior. And that he had probably seen Jake leave with Sophia, too.

Jake slapped on a grin. “Oh, yeah! It was good.”

“Did you give her your number?”

“Well, yeah. She likes Die Hard. And ping pong. Not like I wasn’t going to.”

“Nice, nice.” Terry nodded, patting Jake on the shoulder, seeming pleased.

It felt a little weird to have Terry so encouraging - people tended to be a bit… uncomfortable with the idea of a male sub seeking out relationships. Although, there was usually less issue of him being with dom women than dom men, and if it was a switch - well then he was a homewrecker, pure and simple. Sophia exuded domness, though, so it made sense why Terry wouldn’t take an issue with it.

Not that Terry would, necessarily. Just that… that was what it usually was.

Sometimes Jake couldn’t get his brain to stop assuming that people he trusted weren’t thinking like the societal ‘people’. Maybe it was him trying to protect himself from when they inevitably let him down, maybe it was because he was a fucked up, broken- ugh. He had a headache forming, and thinking just made it worse.

Terry was just leaning over to crack a joke at the defense attorney’s expense - they were going to be late if they didn’t get there in the next minute - the doors opened, and a familiar figure strode past Jake. Before doing a double-take, turning around to face them.

“Jake?” Sophia asked, surprise evident in her voice.

“H...ey,” He said slowly, noting the briefcase and binder in her arms.

“You’re a cop?” She asked - her voice sounded accusatory - as if he had intentionally hid that fact from her.

Jake immediately bristled. “And you’re a defense attorney?” He snapped back, resisting the urge to fiddle with his tie. Or apologize for not telling her something that had simply never come up.

“I can’t believe I-” She dropped her voice, “I can’t believe I slept with a cop.” She sounded disgusted.

Jake gestured to the defense table, “And I can’t believe I slept with someone who defends criminals! What’s your point?”

“Ugh, this- we shouldn’t- ugh.” Sophia frowned, “I should never have done this. It was a mistake.”

Jake gave her a half-hearted glare as she turned and went across the bar into the… main courtroom area thing. He didn’t know what it was called, and was too annoyed to ask Terry.

“Was that-?”

“Yeah.” Jake replied irritably - he was sleep deprived, already fucking stressed out enough, and now this was just icing on the shit cake.

“Damn. I’m sorry, man.” Terry said, shaking his head. “A defense attorney.”

Jake didn’t reply, hands finding their way to the edge of his tie, scratching over the lining in a half-conscious attempt to self-soothe. Watching as Sophia took files out of her briefcase, he realized - with no small amount of anxiety - that that meant she was going to cross-examine him.

Fuck.

By some small mercy - how he had earned even the slightest reprieve was beyond him - Amy would have already done her piece the day prior - he didn’t have to sit and listen to her go through it all, piece by piece. Not that she’d be questioned nearly as extensively as he would be - ironic, considering she was the arresting officer, but not exactly surprising.

He was the weakest link of the two, after all. At least in the jury’s eyes, at any rate, which was the only opinion that mattered here.

Jake was the first witness called for the day - which meant that, once this was over, he could go back home and recount the marks on his wall until the sun went down - and he settled into his professional, officer of the law demeanour. He flashed a smile to the judge - who smiled back - and then faced the front.

The prosecutor walked through the entire process, having Jake detail, step by step, how they led to arresting Dylan Millhound for murder. Once that was completed, the defense - Sophia - took over.

She stepped forward, her heels clicking on the floor. She looked immaculately put together, the very picture of professionalism. A lawyer.

Jake’s hand crept to his tie, sliding the edge of it under his fingernail.

“Officer Peralta,” Sophia began, her voice clipped into that perfect sort of skeptically-neutral tone that lawyers always seemed to use. “Did the defendant threaten you prior to the arrest?”

“He had a gun-”

“The defendant was in his own home, and had a license to carry. My question was not whether or not my client exercised the 2nd Amendment, my question was if the defendant threatened you.”

“Millhound had a gun in his hand. I identified myself, and instructed him to drop the weapon. He did not, and approached me despite my ordering him to stop. At that point, Millhound raised his gun at me, at which point my partner disarmed and arrested him.”

“So he didn’t say anything to indicate being a threat?”

“The gun-”

“Yes or no.”

“He didn’t threaten me verbally, no.” Jake replied shortly. He was half-tempted to add that Millhound had tried to command him, but wasn’t sure if that would go over well.

“No, my client didn’t threaten. Nothing indicated he was dangerous, and yet the arrest report is being used to indicate my client’s guilt?”

“Objection.” The prosecutor interjected, “Is there a question?”

“Withdrawn.” Sophia replied automatically, eyes still fixed on Jake. His grip tightened on the bottom of his tie - he wanted to take it off. He didn’t.

“Officer Peralta, what is your orientation?”

“Objection!” The prosecutor spluttered, half-rising before a glare from the bailiff made him sit back down.

Jake’s gaze snapped to Terry, who looked like he was attempting - and most likely succeeding - to bend the unoccupied chair in front of him.

“The question pertains to the officer’s judgement and perception of my client.” Sophia argued.

The judge looked bored. “Get to the point quickly.”

Sophia nodded, before turning to Jake. “If you could answer the question, Office Peralta.”

“I’m a sub.” He replied, keeping his affect completely flat. Hands still in his lap. Not moving, and barely breathing. The very picture of a neutral answer, neutral expression, neutral existence. Anything less would have made the jury paint him as a whimpering damsel.

One glance towards the jury indicated that there were what looked like 9 doms - or, non-subs, anyway - and that did little to ease his concern. A few of them already looked skeptical. One woman - clearly a sub - looked uncomfortable.

“Has being a sub ever affected your judgement?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m under oath.”

“Please answer the question.”

“Yes, I’m sure. My ability to do my job is not impacted by my orientation.” Jake was keeping his voice neutral - if he lost it now, he would lose all credibility - but allowed himself to add, “There have been numerous studies, and the modern consensus is that orientation does not affect work capability or judgement.”

“Of course, no one is questioning your skills as an officer, or your placement in the NYPD.” Sophia nodded, “However, this situation was… unusual, was it not?”

“I don’t understand your question.” Jake replied coolly. He could feel his hands rapidly becoming sweaty, but didn’t dare wipe them.

“According to your report, the defendant commanded you, and then you perceived the gun being raised towards you. Is this situation unusual?”

Jake paused, considering. “Define unusual.”

Sophia’s expression flickered for a moment. “Uncommon.”

“No. Suspects attempting to escape through any means means that occasionally they attempt to command me or a fellow colleague, It is something we were prepared for the possibility of occurring when we were trained for the NYPD.

“So your anxiety about being commanded wouldn’t cause your judgement to be skewed and perceive a threat?”

Jake’s head filled with cotton - the first part, how - she said that out loud. To a courtroom. On record. He swallowed, feeling like he was going to gag on his tie. It was a tether, tying him here to this moment. Inescapable.

“My judgement was not skewed in any way by the defendant’s actions.” Jake replied, “I am fully capable of observing situations with the same reality as my colleague and, you know, real life. As for being commanded,” Jake couldn’t quite bite back the cold half-laugh, making direct eye contact with Sophia, “I have to actually trust someone to take a command. Needless to say, you…r client didn’t meet that criteria.”

She blinked, looking vaguely like she’d been slapped. “So you were completely unaffected by being commanded? It didn’t make you uncomfortable?”

“Yes and yes.” Jake wasn’t sure if that was technically perjury, but it was true in the context of the case.

“In that case,” Sophia said - as if she was circling prey. He supposed, in her eyes, maybe that was precisely what she was doing - “Why would you describe his command as a threat?”

Jake blinked. “Because… his attempt to do it constitutes a threat.”

“I’m confused. You just said that you were completely unaffected, and that it didn’t cause you any discomfort. So, then why was it a threat?” Sophia turned, more towards the jury than him. “Or, did you use any opportunity available to portray my client as a threat? And, in that case, we can’t trust your statement that the gun was being used threateningly, either.”

Jake made eye contact with Terry again.

The chair in front of him looked significantly more stout than it had before.

Jake wished he was still just having a panic attack on his kitchen floor. It was distinctly preferable to this.

----
“Hey,” Sophia caught up to Jake as he and Terry were leaving.

“What the hell was that?” Jake asked, irritated. “You questioned my place on the force, my ability to fucking think for myself-”

“It’s not personal.” Sophia frowned. Outside of the courtroom, she was still polished - but her posture a little more slack, demeanour less clipped. “My job is to defend my client. That means I have to pursue every angle.”

“Including the one where I’m a lying, delusional sub who can’t tell reality from fiction?”

“I’m just trying to convince the jury that my client isn’t guilty.” Sophia shrugged.

Jake felt another swell of irritation. “Well, good job.”

“Look, Jake,” She said, stepping closer. “I wanted to talk about… well, I enjoyed last night.”

Jake turned towards Terry, but the Sarge could move fast when he wanted to, and had all but moved completely out of earshot, idling near the coffee cart.

“Look, what I said earlier,” She said, “I was just surprised. You’re fun, and it’s hard to find a guy who… well,” She shrugs, “I think we should go on another date.”

Jake blinked. Considering the grilling she gave him, he didn’t expect her to have the guts for that.

“As if I’d date a DA.” He replied, trying for a joke - it felt flat - but Sophia just nodded.

“I’d be willing to date a cop. If the cop was you.” She offered.

Jake hesitated. The idea of going out again with Sophia again was equal parts appealing and discouraging. On the one hand, she was a DA, and clearly had no problems digging up whatever it took to win - which didn’t bode well for him long-term. On the other, she was fun, and he genuinely liked being around her. And, he admitted guiltily, being around her helped keep the world at bay - remembrance of Ethan, his stupid affections for Amy -, even if only for a moment.

Jake had never done well with being alone. And she hadn’t seemed like an overreaching dom, which was a compelling combo.

Truth was, Jake figured it would probably bite him in the ass - like most things always did - he had never been shy of taking on the risk of pain.

“Sure. This Friday, 8pm, drinks at Shaw’s?”

“Sounds good.” She smiled at him. And, with a gentle squeeze on his arm, she left - probably on her way to another case somewhere inside the bowels of the courthouse.

Terry reappeared, holding out a coffee for Jake, a second one for himself in his other hand.

“So?” He asked expectantly, as they walked down the steps out of the courthouse, passing by bustling lawyers as they went.

“I have a second date.” Jake replied, reaching up with his free hand to undo his tie, pulling it off and shoving it into his pocket.

“Really? After she… uh, was a defense attorney?” It sounded like Terry changed his mind on the question halfway through, but Jake didn’t call him on it.

“She’s just doing her job.” Jake shrugged. “Same as us. Besides, I like her. She’s fun.”

“Alright, man. Good for you!” Terry didn’t question it - he rarely questioned relationships, and the few times he ever tried he ended up just monologuing about Sharon for an hour while the other person just nodded along silently.

“I mean it, man,” Terry continued, “You deserve to be happy.”

“What makes you think I need a dom to be happy?” Jake asked sharply, although there was no real venom to it.

Terry shrugged. “Just… I’m glad that it worked out. And you seem like you want a relationship, so…” He trailed off.

Neither tried to save the conversation - it was a little too awkward for their level of friendship, and Jake was mildly relieved when it was time to part ways in their respective vehicles.

Jake realized, sitting in his car, ignition on, that he had no idea where to go. The idea of going home just… didn’t appeal to him in the slightest.

He deliberated for a moment, before pulling his car into the road. Maybe he’d just… drive for a bit. He drove on autopilot, sipping away at the coffee - the combo of sugar and caffeine only served to make his headache worsen - until he recognized the street he was on.

It was Holt’s street.

Jake stopped the car, staring at the house in front of him.

He’d only been here once - for the extremely awkward dinner party that had made Kevin dislike him, probably forever. And had gotten him chewed out by Holt.

He wasn’t sure what he was doing here.

Sure, he respected his Captain - Holt had never discriminated against him, which was more than he could say for, well, any other boss he’d ever had. And he trusted him, of course - it wasn’t like anything less was an option. He even looked up to him, more than a bit - although he felt awkward about admitting that out loud - and the idea of talking to Holt just… didn’t seem appealing.

What was he even wanting to say?

Jake’s head felt like it was full of static, a million thoughts pounding away inside his aching skull. He couldn’t think, all he felt was the urge to just… stop existing for a while.

He wanted to become less than he was. Maybe then, after all, the world would become a little more manageable. If he lost himself, then maybe Ethan would get lost too. Maybe he’d be able to just… be himself.

Jake hadn’t felt like himself in so long. He wasn’t even sure what he had originally been - so much of his life was marred by the existence of his orientation - or if he had ever been anyone other than who he was now in the first place.

Maybe if Roger had never hated him, he wouldn’t hate himself so much now.

Maybe if his mother had trusted him, he wouldn’t be so desperate to prove himself.

Maybe if he had never met Ethan, he would be able to just exist.

Jake realized he was crying. Frowning, he brought up his hand, wiping at his face aggressively - there was no point to him mourning the loss of opportunities he had never been entitled to in the first place.

He was startled out of his thoughts by a sharp rap on his half-down - and broken - passenger window. Kevin was staring at him with those sharp blue eyes, expression the same, slightly exasperated resting face he seemed to have. Or, at least, seemed to have around Jake, at any rate.

“Peralta. What brings you by?” He asked, voice crisp, to match his professional clothes.

“Oh, nothing, sorry.” Jake replied, mentally berating himself as his voice came out stuffy from crying. He could tell his eyes were already getting sort of puffy and gross, and he really just didn’t need Kevin to see that. Because he was sure Kevin would talk to Holt about it - like normal, happy couples do.

“Raymond is at the precinct. Did something happen?”

“No, no.” Jake shook his head, “Sorry, I- I haven’t been to the 99 today. I- I got out of court just now, and… I don’t know.” Jake’s breath hitched. He told himself he wasn’t going to cry again. “I just didn’t want to go home-” Fuck. His throat closed off, and he let out a slight huff of breath as his eyes filled up again.

Fuck, he hated this. Way to make a second impression, right? He cleared his throat, wiping at his eyes hastily.

“Sorry to bother you, Kevin. I’ll- I’ll get out of your way.”

Kevin was watching him with that same expression - it hadn’t so much as twitched, but somehow the gaze felt less skeptical, more… appraising. Jake felt like he was looking for something and, whatever it was, he seemed to find it.

“Nonsense. You are a guest, please, come in.” Kevin’s tone didn’t indicate it being a request.

Jake had the urge to spit a ‘fuck you’ and book it - Kevin, despite his slim stature, felt incredibly intimidating in that moment. Jake wanted to run. He felt like he had to run.

But he had nowhere to run to.

So, instead, Jake just stepped out of his car, tucking the keys into his pocket.

Kevin looked slightly pleased - or, at least, Jake guessed that the emotion that flitted on Kevin’s face was pleased, anyway, it wasn’t like he could really tell - and the pair trudged up to the house.

Kevin let him in, sliding off his shoes at the entrance. Jake did the same - since he had gotten ready for court, he had worn his nice socks - and looked around. It looked just as clean and orderly as it had at the party, and Jake figured that made sense, given the attitude the two seemed to have.

“Would you like coffee?” Kevin offered, and Jake nodded, barely remembering to add a “thank you” after.

As Kevin walked into the kitchen, Jake stood for a moment, not entirely sure what to do with himself. As if on cue, their dog - Cheddar? - padded over, stubby little tail wagging away.

Jake sat down on the floor - he wasn’t in the mood to care about taking care of his clothes - and offered his hand.

Cheddar sniffed it, then laid down, rolling half-into Jake’s lap, half splayed out on the hardwood floor.

Jake pet him, surreptitiously checking the dog tag - yeah, it was Cheddar, that’s what he figured - and watching as Cheddar’s tongue stuck out slightly as he lazed about.

It had been too long since Jake had been around pets - his mother wasn’t big on pets, and it wasn’t like he could take care of one. He could barely take care of himself, let alone another living being.

Still, Cheddar filled some need in his heart that he hadn’t been aware of missing in the first place. It took Jake a moment to realize that it was the first time he’d been offered affection without an ulterior motive since Charles had hugged him.

Jake sort of wanted to cry again. But he sure as fuck wasn’t about to do that inside of his Captain’s house, while Kevin bustled around.

Instead, he just focused on Cheddar, the sensation of soft fur under his fingers helping to ground him - the feeling of nonexistence slowly fading down until he stopped becoming aware of it at all.

Jake had all but forgotten Kevin’s presence entirely when the host cleared his throat, holding out a mug. He blinked for a moment, confused, before remembering the coffee, and accepted it.

It was definitely fancy coffee - Jake tried to appreciate it.

Kevin seemed to pause for half a moment in deliberation, before sitting down in an armchair, his own mug in hand.

They sat in a silence that Kevin seemed fully content in. When Jake dared to look at him, he seemed fully engrossed in studying a painting hung on the wall across from him. It seemed to fit with something that Kevin would normally do - at least, he assumed so - so Jake redirected his attention back to Cheddar, who was giving him puppy eyes to ask for more pets.

Jake slowly lost awareness of time, and only became aware of it having passed at all when he lifted his mug to realize that it was now empty.

Jake blinked, staring down into its empty contents - he had, at some point, drunk it - before looking back down and noticing that Cheddar had migrated completely into his lap, curled up and almost certainly asleep.

Jake kept his head still, but brought his eyes up to Kevin - then quickly averting them when he saw that Kevin was watching him.

He was sure that, if he just didn’t acknowledge Kevin’s presence, the other man would be content to sit in silence forever.

But, oddly, Jake felt better. So much better, in fact, that he found himself straightening up and facing Kevin head-on.

“How was your day, Kevin?” Jake asked politely - as if he hadn’t just sat on the floor for who knew how long. As if he hadn’t practically lost his mind. As if he hadn’t shown up unannounced to his home.

“It is going well.” Kevin replied smoothly, “I recently finished a book on the history of history. It was quite compelling, as you can imagine.”

“Oh, cool.” Jake wasn’t sure what ‘history of history’ could even be about. “No classes today?”

“No. It is the second Tuesday of the month.”

“Ah, of course.” Jake said. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but figured it was significant.

“You appear to have taken a liking to Cheddar, Peralta.” Kevin offered.

“Hm? Oh, yeah.” Jake looked down at the dozing dog, “I, uh, I always wanted a pet. Never really had the chance, though. Cheddar’s a great dog.”

“Yes, he is.” Kevin nodded. “Additionally, Cheddar seems to appreciate your affections in turn.”

Jake felt flattered by that - winning a dog’s approval was not something to be taken lightly, after all - but wasn’t entirely sure how to respond. Instead, he just ducked his head down to give Cheddar’s head some pats.

Kevin seemed to not mind the lack of response, and his gaze flicked from Jake down to the empty mug. He stood, picking up the mug along with his own and leaving for the kitchen.

As he did, Cheddar roused, and the dog blinked blearily up at Jake, clambering out of his lap. He watched as Cheddar stretched, before padding off after Kevin - Jake biting back his disappointment at that. Of course, Cheddar wasn’t his dog, but he found himself missing his presence almost immediately.

Still, Jake admitted, he felt significantly better than he had when he had first left the courthouse. He felt… well, he felt normal. Still broken, sure, but normal. Back to his regular functioning self, instead of whatever mess he had been going through for the past… fuck, had it only been a couple days? It felt like it had been forever since Ethan had reared his head in his brain, searing through his skin and branding him with his hands.

Of course, Ethan was always there, lingering down in the back of his mind, but he hadn’t had nightmares - not really bad ones, anyway - or flashbacks or shit in a long time. And, while he still wasn’t convinced they weren’t going to reappear, he was able to convince himself - for this brief moment - that they had gone away, at least for the time being.

He had felt truly at ease with Cheddar in his arms. And that reprieve honestly felt exactly what he had needed.

Jake felt… good. He felt like he was going to be able to go to sleep without waking up screaming. He truly, truly felt that to be the case - incredible what a dog and a bit of peace can do for the mind.

Jake got to his feet, wincing - he hadn’t exactly been sleeping at all lately, but when he did it tended to be in extremely uncomfortable positions, and his body was beginning to go from annoyed to angry about it.

He held his back as he stretched, letting his joints pop along his spine.

Kevin reappeared, sans mugs - Cheddar now at his feet. If he was surprised at Jake moving, he didn’t show it. Instead, his gaze seemed to zero on Jake’s side, expression carefully neutral.

Jake looked down, realizing that, at some point, his tie had slipped out of his side and was now half-hanging out of his pocket. He shoved it back in, before flashing Kevin a disarming grin that had absolutely no effect.

“Hey, Kevin, um,” Jake shifted his weight, “Look, I- thanks. I- um, I,”

“There’s no need to explain, Peralta. I understand.” Maybe it was Jake’s imagination, but Kevin seemed almost… sympathetic. “You are welcome to visit Cheddar again, should you so choose.”

“Oh.” Jake hadn’t even considered hoping for that offer - he had been under the impression Kevin disliked, if not fully despised, him - and he wasn’t even sure how to respond with the appropriate gratefulness. Eventually, he settled on a rather lame, “Thanks.”

Kevin didn’t seem to mind that, either.

“I, um, I should go.” Jake said finally, “I’ve got some stuff to do.”

Kevin nodded once. “Of course. I also have… ‘stuff’.” He seemed amused by saying the word, but, somehow, it didn’t feel like a jab at Jake’s word choice.

Jake slipped his shoes back on, giving a goodbye to both Kevin and Cheddar - who scampered over to ask for one more pat - before leaving, feeling significantly better than he had when he entered.

Chapter Text

Jake was a little thrown to see that it was significantly later in the afternoon than he had anticipated - and checking his phone indicated that it was almost 3pm. He was not aware of having stayed for so long, and he felt a bit bad for having eaten up so much of Kevin’s… day off? He had to assume that was what a second Tuesday meant.

Jake felt better - truly, he did, after having… what, hung out? That didn’t seem like the right term to describe anything relating to Kevin. Still, it had been a welcome break from his responsibilities.

He noticed that he was starving - he hadn’t realized how hungry he had become until he was back on the road. He deliberated going back to his apartment, but remembered that he had a lack of food there - he always seemed to forget to restock.

He supposed he could get more groceries - although he couldn’t quite remember what it was he needed. Was it that he had too much bread or no bread? It wasn’t like he’d kept track of his pantry lately, he’d been… going through it, a bit.

In the end, he opted for going home. It was a joy to change out of his courtroom clothes - he would have to get them dry-cleaned, they were coated in a fine dusting of Cheddar’s fur and crinkled - and he tossed the tie down with no small amount of relief.

Even if he was okay for now, having to look at ties never made him feel better.

Once he was dressed in far more casual clothing, he went into the kitchen.

He was out of bread.

Of course.

Jake made pasta instead.

While the water heated, Jake glanced behind him. The mug that Rosa always used was still in the cupboard - for some reason, he had half-expected to see it in the drying rack. She always seemed to make an appearance after he went to court - or when she did. But not always - that would be too close to a routine, which Rosa was, of course, allergic to.

Jake dumped some pasta into the now-boiling pot, rummaging through his sparse fridge - okay, he had to go to the store. Seriously. - and pulled out a half-full jar of red sauce. There wasn’t any parmesan cheese, but there was butter, which was close enough.

Not to Charles, probably, but hey. He wasn’t here, so… Jake happily sliced a chunk of butter into the bowl, along with the sauce.

He didn’t like putting sauce in the pans - made it harder to clean, after all - but putting the sauce in the bottom made it easier to mix it properly, give the sauce an even coating.

Heh, he had first learned that trick… fuck, when even was that? He was still working for his old precinct, the 125. Heh.

Jake stared down at the bowl.

He couldn’t remember where he had learned it.

It didn’t matter.

Jake turned abruptly, flicking on the TV and selecting the first movie that popped up. He was doing well. He was going to continue doing well.

He ate his perfectly-sauced pasta, staring at the wall a few feet to the left of the screen. The wall looked dirty. He could clean that.

Jake wanted to get back to work.

Boredom did not suit him. It usually meant thoughts creeping in, whispers and phantom pains dancing across his body.

Strangely, though, he felt none of it. Just a nearly-serene quiet. It was a bit unsettling. It’d been so long since Jake could just exist like this that he couldn’t remember how to. He didn’t really like how peaceful he felt - he didn’t want to get used to it.

He glanced at the wall again. Maybe he should clean that.

-------------
Jake showed up the following day to work, and knew immediately that something was afoot.

For one thing, Terry looked guilty.

The man had a terrible poker face - how it was so legitimately bad was beyond him. Regardless of why, Jake could read him like a book.

Terry had been at the courtroom. That probably had something to do with it. Okay, more than probably, Jake amended, seeing how Charles flashed him an overly-forced grin, and Gina raised an eyebrow at him from behind her perpetually raised phone.

He elected to ignore it, instead sitting down behind his desk. Amy looked up, giving him an attempt of a smile.

“Hey, Jake! How are you?”

“I’m good.” He said, booting up his computer. Seeing her slightly incredulous look, he added, “Seriously. I’m good. Great, actually. I got to pet a dog.”

“Oh, that’s good!” Amy replied, voice going up half an octave. Her smile turned less strained, and Jake returned it to her easily before refocusing on his work.

He had just begun tapping away on his keys - and resigning himself to the fact that nothing every stayed quiet in the fucking precinct - when Holt approached him.

“Peralta,” He said simply. “If you could please come to my office.”

Jake got up, casting Gina a glance, who just shrugged - her way of saying, “Sorry, fuck if I know”.

“Peralta, please, take a seat.”

Jake internally grimaced - yeah, unsurprisingly, Kevin and Holt had a genuinely healthy relationship and talked when employees showed up out of the blue crying and petting their dog.

“Kevin informed me that you visited our home yesterday afternoon.”

“Yes, si- Captain.” Jake felt like he was being skewered under Holt’s impassive gaze. He felt oddly guilty, even though Kevin didn’t seem to have minded.

“Peralta,” Holt sat forward slightly, “Jacob. It is important that you understand my home is open to you, should you ever need… assistance.” The way he phrased it was deliberately vague. “Sargent Jeffords informed me of the court proceedings in the morning, and I fully understand that-”

“You all heard about that.” Jake replied, not bothering to feel bad for interrupting.

Holt nodded once. “Yes.” He sat back, “It is not uncommon to have certain lines of questioning directed to the… non-stereotypical members of the NYPD.” He allowed one side of his mouth to curl up in a wry smile. “As I recall, I was once accused of ‘anti-white sentiments’ by a lawyer after I had arrested a man for embezzlement.”

Jake blinked. He hadn’t known that. Of course, it seemed obvious now that Holt had said it, but, somehow, it had never crossed his mind. They all faced discrimination inside the NYPD - Holt especially, certainly - but the idea of Holt having to sit in a witness chair, next to a bored judge and a scrutinous jury, as a lawyer listed off aspects of his existence as a reason for his incapacity…

It felt oddly reassuring, as cruel as that may seem. Jake felt guilty for thinking it.

Holt continued. “Regardless, as I stated, my home is open should you ever need it. Kevin said that Cheddar took quite a liking to you, as well. I am sure he would appreciate your visiting.”

Jake wasn’t sure how to feel about that - a part of him was eager, practically bounding at the opportunity to not be alone. But another, larger part of him was just plain scared. He didn’t want to want to be around Kevin and Holt and Cheddar - if he wanted it, then he would start to need it. And if he needed it… he wouldn’t be able to cope when it was inevitably taken away.

Because it would always be taken away.

“Thank you.” Jake said after a moment, trying to keep his thoughts to himself - he would prefer not to think of such things, it would disrupt the calm that had come over him lately. Holt didn’t seem to mind his hesitation, still looking at him with that polite impassivity.

“Is there anything you would like to speak to me about?”

Jake was used to feeling like he was bursting at the seams - the odd quiet that seemed to be covering everything had settled into an almost-peaceful feeling. It felt odd - he wasn’t used to being at ease - but he doubted that was what Holt meant.

“My cases are going well, yeah.” Jake nodded, “I don’t have any problems so far.”

“Very well.” Holt seemed to be waiting for something.

Jake wasn’t sure what. After a moment, he gestured with his thumb back towards the door. “Am I good to go?”

“Yes, of course.” Holt replied, remaining still as Jake got up and left.

Gina leaned across her desk towards him as he closed the door to the office. “What’s up?” She asked.

“Oh, Holt wanted to talk to-”

“No I know that.” She interrupted, “I heard you were going on a second date? You should’ve told me!” Gina typed on her phone. “What’s her insta?”

“Uh…”

“Nevermind, found it.” Gina frowned, “Wow, she doesn’t post regularly. Are you sure this is what you want?” Her tone was skeptical.

Jake felt a flash of irritation. “It’s just a date. You didn’t care about Bernice-”

“Well, of course not.” She waved one hand dismissively, “I was sure Boyle would do almost as good a background check as I would’ve.”

“You do know he’s an actual detective, right?”

“And?”

“I- nevermind.”

“Hm. Decent track record,” Gina shrugged, “Lot of work commitment. Is she going to be able to invest into your relationship?”

“Gina,” Jake rubbed the back of his neck, “She’s fine.”

“Hang on, I’m trying to see if I can break into her bank accounts.”

“Gina!” Jake gesticulated, “You’re seriously going to tell me, a cop, that you’re breaking the law. In a precinct?”

“Fine.” Gina clicked her phone off. “There’s no need to be dramatic. I can do this later, when you’re not around.”

“Why would I want you to go behind my back?” Jake knew he was sounding defensive.

“I’m not, I’m telling you right now.” Gina’s face was incredulous.

Jake didn’t have time for this. He just… he just didn’t. “Do whatever you want, Gina.” He muttered, walking away.

“How’s it going with your drug bust case?” Amy asked as he sat down across from her.

“Pretty good.” Jake nodded. “We’ve got the guy in, I just need to get the confession and then…”

Jake trailed off as Amy’s face turned bright, a small smile spreading across her face, eyes sliding past him.

He turned, and saw Teddy entering the bullpen, awkwardly fiddling with the gate to try to make it close properly. He’d seen Amy do the same thing a million times.

Jake pretended his heart didn’t ache as he turned back to Amy - seeing her expression that wasn’t meant for him - who was excusing herself to go up and give Teddy a hug.

They began whisper-talking, and Jake turned back around to his desk, picking up the file for his drug case. He had to get this done anyway, and Amy had more important stuff to do anyway.

Jake got up, carefully avoiding looking in the direction of Amy and Teddy, and headed for the interrogation room. Rosa slid in behind him, plucking the file out of his hands and opening it.

“This loser?” She asked, “It can’t be hard to get him to confess.”

“He sold tons of adderall to local colleges. Made a hefty profit.”

“Yeah like I said, a loser. Everyone knows to upcharge the rich kids.” Rosa handed the file back to him. “He was charging NYU and community kids the same price.”

Jake raised an eyebrow. “That is sort of unusual, actually.” He opened the file again. “Wait, why would he do that?”

“Because he’s an idiot.” Rosa offered, even as she frowned, crossing her arms in thought. “That or he wasn’t selling the same thing to both.”

Jake shook his head.

“I need to look at this again.”

“Have fun.” Rosa replied dryly.

Jake pretended not to notice that Amy was conspicuously absent from her desk, as was Teddy in the bullpen, and instead opted to look through the case again.

It didn’t make sense, actually. Rosa was right, something was off. Adderall wasn’t that pricy, compared to other drugs on the market, but these prices were low for it across the board. Jake had assumed it was bad math, but even so, the rates should be different between the two areas. Unless he was trying to undercut a competitor.

Still… something about the pricing was off. If anything, if Jake hadn’t seen for himself that the drugs in question had been Adderall, he would have doubted if that was even the drug he was selling.

Jake frowned, pulling up his computer’s server to check for any drug-related arrests in the colleges. As expected, the community college, which was frequented by lower income students, had significantly more busts - aka more policing - while the wealthier school had… wait.

It had none. Now, that wasn’t that suspicious in a general sense - gated colleges always kept out of the NYPD’s way - but considering how much product Wesner had been pushing, it just didn’t make sense for there to be none.

As much product as his pricing claimed to be pushing compared to his bank records.

So, if there wasn’t that much drug being put into the colleges as Wesner claimed… then that meant that he must be selling something else.

Jake frowned, re-checking the bank statements. Each deposit - seriously, who deposited their drug money into a bank? - seemed to go in odd numerical groupings.

Adderall was getting sold for $8/pill according to his spreadsheet. Once again, a spreadsheet? Come on, man. A bit of a lowball cost though, considering it could go for a lot higher with rich kids - especially during exam weeks. But, when he looked at the records, the deposits seemed to be varied. A lot of different numbers, but none of them were divisible by 8.

Jake would suppose it was an attempt to look less suspicious, but the guy didn’t seem smart enough for that. Or, more likely, there was some sort of, ‘buy one, get one half price’ deal he had.

Jake frowned. Something about this seemed off. Now that he saw it, he couldn’t seem to un-see it. He couldn’t understand why someone would work their drug business the way Wesner did. Or what, if anything, Adderall was covering up for. Although, what could be the worse thing that Adderall would cover for?

Jake decided he was going to look further into this. He could get Wesner charged on the current ones, see if he would get nervous and flip on a competitor - or, whatever it was he was actually selling. If he was selling something different, anyway. Jake still wasn’t convinced he was - but something did seem to be bothering him. He couldn’t quite tell what - the numbers in the deposit looked somehow suspicious to him, and he couldn’t tell how, just that they were.

Maybe he could let Wesner go without charging him, then see where he went? Wesner hadn’t seen him yet, so he could still work a cover.

He wheeled his chair over to Rosa, who was typing away at her desk.

“Hey, Rosa, what’re you doing?”

She looked over to glare at him. “Why.”

“You want to work on this case with me?”

“No.”

“We can go undercover at a college.”

Rosa rolled her eyes. “No.”

“Please?” Jake batted his eyelids at her.

Rosa sighed, pushing away from her desk.

“Fine.”

“Yes!” Jake grinned, “You’re the best!”

“Don’t let Gina hear you say that.” Rosa replied, even as her expression softened ever so slightly. Jake grinned back - their friendship had always been a weird one. She almost never acquiesced to anyone, but when he asked she would usually do it. However begrudgingly.

It was almost as if she felt pity-

Jake shoved that away with a gesticulation of his hand towards the Captain’s office. “Let’s go run it by Holt.”

-----
A couple weeks, and a lot of preparation later, they were doing it.

Jake slid between the drunken mass of collegiate kids, suppressing a grimace as sweaty skin brushed by him. No one seemed to notice his presence, and he tugged on the edge of his T-shirt uncomfortably.

Rosa nodded at him from across the room, red solo cup in her hand. The thumping music blared into Jake’s head, pounding away.

He knew he had been the one to suggest this.

He was beginning to regret that.

Jake didn’t like parties. Not like this. There were too many people. His eyes flitted across the room, but he couldn’t see an exit through the masses of people. Any of them could be a threat. All of them could be a threat.

He tucked his arms into himself, managing to work himself to a wall that he promptly leaned against. A staircase led up towards a second floor, which did look a bit less crowded, but he wanted to be able to come across as just part of the crowd.

A passerby shoved a cup into his hand, and she giggled something slurredly wordless in his ear. Jake lifted it, pretending to take a sip, and the smell of jungle juice hit him.

-----
Jake was drinking too much, way too much. It wasn’t like he meant to. He was in high school, homecoming dance, and Jenny Gildenhorn was grinding away on some random guy like there wasn’t a care in the world.

Maybe, for her, there wasn’t.

There weren’t a lot of dom girls in his class. And, sure, some of the guys were cute - Brandon Bliss especially -, but he was already the priss, he couldn’t be the gay kid too. His life was hard enough.

So instead, Jake slammed back another beverage of questionable origins, and avoided looking at anyone. Not for the first time, he desperately wished he could have just stayed home. But his mom had been adamant, and now… he blinked, staring at his cup. It was empty. He should get a refill.

He walked over, bumping into someone.

“Oh, sorry.” He muttered, stumbling away.

“Hey, it’s alright.” A warm voice said. Soft, sweet. Unusual to hear it that way towards him. “Looks like you’re a bit of a lightweight, huh?” Her face swam into view. Her hand came up to hold his arm, steadying him. Her beautiful, painted nails brushed against his skin.

Oh, it was Kimmy. She was a dom - but he didn’t really like her. She would mock Gina a lot for not ‘picking a lane’, and besides, he didn’t like the way she would look at him. Like he was something to be pitied. She hated him, he was pretty sure.

Jake mumbled an apology, moving away, and she told him that he should really sit down, he looked pale.

He didn’t think he did. Maybe she was drunk, too.

His limbs felt heavy.

Where was Gina?

---
Jake lowered his cup, frowning down at it. Turning, he met Rosa’s eyes - hers slid past him easily, continuing on to watch the crowd with a bored expression.

He glanced across the room, and noticed a particularly buff frat guy, who was leaning against the wall by the stairs. He looked like he was trying to be casual, but Jake could tell enough to tell that he was supposed to be a bouncer.

Jake sidled over to him.

“You got anything more fun than this?” He asked.

The guy raised an eyebrow. “You look a bit like a lightweight, buddy.”

“I’m not talking about alcohol.” Jake tried. “I’m looking for a… good time. And I’ve got the money for it. Is there a guy who can hook me up?”

The guy hesitated for another moment, before tilting his head. “I’ll take you upstairs. We’ve got a guy with the goods.”

Jake didn’t look back, but he could feel Rosa’s gaze on his back as he went up the stairs.

“So, which cutie are you looking to take down?” Buff guy asked.

“Uh?” Jake answered, confused. He didn’t know what ‘cutie’ meant, in this context. Maybe it was a new slang or something.

“Right, right. The less I know, the better.” Buff guy replied, waving his hand.

Jake frowned. The doors he walked past were all closed - various items of clothing hanging off of the doors haphazardly. He tried to ignore the sounds coming from behind them - the walls were sort of thin.

Buff guy stopped in front of a door with green shoes in front of it, knocking, and then opening it.

Jake prepared to walk in on people getting freaky, but instead, it was just Wesner, sitting on the bed. A massive bag was in front of him, and he seemed to be playing on his phone.

“He’s a customer.” Buff guy gestured to Jake.

“Hey.”

“What do you want?” Wesner asked boredly, looking at him. No hint of recognition in his expression. Good.

“What do you have?” Jake countered.

Wenser shrugged. “Whatever man. You look like you need to bring the noise down, right?” He opened the bag, rummaging through it.

“I’ve got something that can do that for you real nice.” He pulled out a baggie, holding it out for Jake to inspect.

Jake picked it up, turning it over in his hands. Pale green pills looked back up at him.

“What is it?” He asked - he could feel his nerves begin to rise as he swore he knew what it was before Wesner even answered.

“Subazepam, dude.” Wesner shook the bag, seeming not to notice how Jake had gone completely still. “You gonna buy or…?”

---
Jake felt hands on his back. He was limp, he was so fucking limp, he couldn’t even move he swore he couldn’t even blink, couldn’t even breathe. Nothing felt real, nothing was happening, he couldn’t think there was nothing there and he could hear a sweet voice asking him if he was okay and all he could remember was some pretty painted nails rubbing his shoulder as he vomited in the bathroom.

“I told you you were a lightweight,” Kimmy said with a worried smile. Her voice was sweet, and her dress was still as proper as ever. Her usually cruel expression was even more pitied than usual. She picked up the cup that he had put down, frowning down at it with an expression that looked like suspicion, before dumping it along with his stomach contents.

“Who gave this to you, Jake?” She asked, holding up the now-empty cup.

“I don’t know-”

Her expression flickered with open irritation, even as pity seemed to be building up inside of her like a dam about to burst. “Tell me.” She commanded.

The command dug into his already shaky brain, trying to rip out information that he just didn’t know.

Jake threw up again.

---
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll buy.” Jake heard himself say. Wesner asked for $35 - which Jake handed over - and then the buff guy slapped Jake on the back encouragingly. Jake swayed forward slightly from it, flashing a tight grin to Wesner.

“Word on the street is you sell Adderall, too?” He asked.

“Yeah. But that’s not what you need.” Wesner replied with a shrug.

“Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.” Jake replied. “This is perfect.”

He followed the buff guy out, walked down the stairs on automatic - tucking the baggie into his pocket as he went.

He walked past Rosa, tapping her on the wrist twice, before heading for the kitchen.

They’d mill for a bit, to avoid suspicion, then head out. The signal was that he had the trade.

He walked into the kitchen, which was thankfully less crowded. People were gathered in groups of a few, and he lingered along one wall. After a few minutes, a woman walked up to him, flashed him a grin and said, “You have a favorite hole, handsome?”

“Wh-” Jake sputtered, feeling his face go red.

“Donut hole, silly.” She said, voice dripping with something that was definitely not about donuts. “We’ve got a variety pack.” She leaned down against one of the counters, looking up at him through half-lidded eyes.

“I’m… not hungry.” He said after a moment, trying to back his way out of the room.

She raised a carefully sculpted eyebrow. “Oh? I’ve got something to fix that.” She pulled a piece of paper out from the top of her dress, scribbling down on it with a pen on the counter. She handed it to him, her hand lingering on his as she slid past. She craned her neck up to whisper in his ear. “For when you get an appetite.”

Jake blinked as she left, looking down at the paper in his hand. It was her number, scrawled with little hearts.

He had a… well, he had Sophia already, and she seemed intoxicated - and very young - and he wasn’t interested in general. But what bothered him most was that, well, she was a sub, wasn’t she?

Jake frowned, one hand coming up to his neck. No, he hadn’t suddenly turned into a dom - why people here seemed to think he was was beyond him. The buff guy, the woman… he wasn’t dressed or acting particularly unusually, so it didn’t make sense why everyone assumed he was.

Or, actually, no, it didmade sense. This was a frat party - frats usually only let in dom men, with the occasional token switch, and a sub man wouldn’t go to one of these parties unless he wanted to get the shit beaten out of him. So it would be assumed he was a dom. The buff guy and Wesner certainly wouldn’t have sold him the drugs if they thought he wasn’t.

Wait. How many of the subs here even knew what was going on? Did she know that the frat house was dealing drugs that would put her under? Jake felt nauseous. He had walked by all of those rooms… were they all from this? Were any of them? He crunched the number in his hand, wishing he could run upstairs and just… make an arrest now.

But he couldn’t. He couldn’t and it wasn’t fair.

If this was actually subazepam, it was so much bigger than this one frat house. Bigger than Wesner. This would require international smuggling. Probably a whole underground network. He couldn’t blow it all just on the off chance of helping a few people. He wished he could call that woman back, warn her, tell her to take her friends and leave.

But he didn’t.

Jake wanted to cry.

---
Jake rubbed at his face, wincing at the bruise that was forming. He couldn’t remember getting it, but he had hit the ground pretty hard. That must have been why he was so disoriented and felt so weak. He was sitting at a chair on the side of the room, a cup full of water placed in his shaky hands by Kimmy.

He frowned as he looked around. Everything was sort of blurry. He still felt nauseous, but he didn’t feel all… limp like he had before. Jake squinted - he had forgone his glasses for the sake of the party - and swore he could see Kimmy and Gina speaking to one another. They were sworn nemeses, it wouldn’t make sense for that to be the case.

He closed his eyes, and when he opened them back up, Gina was in front of him, plucking the cup from his limp hands, and Kimmy was nowhere to be seen.

Jake wished he could apologize for throwing up in front of her. That was gross.

Gina shook her head at him, seeming sad. He realized he wasn't sure if he had said that out loud or not. “It’s alright, Jakey. Come on, let’s get you home.”

---
Jake went outside. The change was instant - the temperature dropping several degrees as the sheer body heat of a building crammed with college students faded away. It was instantly so much quieter, and Jake took a few steadying breaths. The polluted air was a welcome relief to the packed, heavy air of the frat house.

Jake walked down the steps, waiting outside as Rosa exited a few minutes after him. She was stumbling, walking in a crooked line, and Jake felt his pulse skyrocket for a moment - what if someone had drugged her? What if they’d- but then she turned to check behind her, and immediately straightened up, walking the rest of the way to the car without so much as a misstep.

“So?” She asked, turning so they were walking in lockstep towards the car, getting in. The interior light illuminating her bored-but-curious face.

“Subazepam.” Jake said, cold seeping into his tone and turning his words to ice.

Rosa cursed under her breath. “Are you sure?”

Jake pulled out the bag silently, handing it to her. She lifted it up, studying it under the lamplight.

“Looks like it. Could be something else, though?”

If he didn’t know any better, he would say she sounded hopeful.

“If this is back on the street…” Jake said slowly, “We’ve got a bigger problem than college campuses.”

“Yeah.” She muttered, handing it back to him. “Come on, let’s make sure it is what Wesner claimed.”

“It would explain his pretending it’s Adderall. This is way more-”

“Let’s just check first, okay?” Rosa snapped. Jake fell silent. “There’s no point in speculating. If it’s a problem, we’ll take care of it. Until then, we aren’t worrying about anything other than Wesner.”

“Alright.” Jake replied placatingly.

Rosa’s expression was still stormy, but she didn’t speak further. Instead, she just turned back to face the front of the car, starting up the engine and pulling out.

Jake turned the bag over in his hands. The little insignia pressed into it - a little smiley face, with its eyes closed - felt oddly familiar. It reminded him of the old subazepam trade - the main guy who distributed it had used to put smiley faces on his, too. But he was long since dead.

He frowned, shoving it into his pocket. He could worry about that later.

Jake didn’t like how this case was turning out at all.

He tried to ignore the weight of guilt in his chest as they drove away - leaving all of the subs there to the mercy of a bunch of frat guys.

Jake was still holding that woman’s phone number, crumpled, in his hand.

He was still half-tempted to call her, warn her. But he couldn’t.

Jake put his hand in his mouth, biting down on it, closing his fist and shoving the scrap into his jeans pocket.

Rosa pressed down on the gas, accelerating the car. Pulling them away from the house faster.

“I know. I know, Jake. I know.” She said, voice made of ragged steel. “I know. We can’t stop it right now. I know.”

Jake felt like he was about to cry - but Rosa always hated people getting emotional in front of her - so he pulled himself together, staring out the window at the passing billboards advertising submission and houses and sex and beer and burgers and abuse rights and lawyers and diamond collars and and and and.

Somewhere out there, this fucking drug was getting sold.

Jake wanted to scream.

He didn’t.

He was so far in his head, he couldn’t - he hated inaction. He always had.

But he couldn’t do anything about it. This- this was so far out of his and Rosa’s hands. The International Division was going to have to take this one over, that much he knew.

So now he was stuck with the knowledge of this drug being in circulation, but without any power to do anything. Or even say anything about it.

----
Sure enough, upon informing Holt of the situation, and handing over the evidence, Rosa and Jake were delayed while he made calls.

Rosa had her feet on the desk - Holt would probably have said something, except he seemed a bit preoccupied in the middle of a professionally-worded throwdown over the phone.

“Yes, that is the drug that my detective was informed of.” A pause. “No. That is not relevant.”

Jake raised an eyebrow, glancing at Rosa. She rolled her eyes at him, unfolding her arms to check her watch.

Jake checked his phone - it had been on silent - and felt his heart skip a beat. He had forgotten the day’s date - he had made plans with Sophia.

He felt a thread of anxiety wrap around his throat, pulling tight - he clicked open his phone, to the few messages she had left him.

They had only gone out a couple times more since their… meeting in the courthouse. Jake didn’t want her to think that he was flaky, or that he couldn’t handle a bit of criticism. Besides, they’d had fun afterwards - she hadn’t brought the court up, and he’d been more than happy to pretend it never happened.

Sophia was nice. She didn’t pry too deep, and he was enjoying the camaraderie they had established. The intimacy was nice, too - she never made a fuss about him not doing subspace, and it was nice to feel… well maybe she judged a little, but it was nice to not have it be a dealbreaker.

Regardless, Jake didn’t want to have her mad at him - he could feel his anxiety building just at the thought of it - so he opened his messages. Her texts were short. Telling him she was there, then asking if there was traffic, then that if something came up, they can reschedule. Lastly, a text, informing him that she was headed home.

The last one was sent recently. Jake typed a message apologizing, work had run late, he hadn’t had access to his phone, he was so sorry, if they could reschedule that would be great, he was sorry-

“Peralta.”

Jake jerked his head up to meet Holt’s gaze. He could feel Rosa’s eyes on him as well.

“Huh?” He asked dumbly, fingers stilling.

“I asked you to not disclose any information about this case. International is taking over.”

“Yeah, yeah, no prob.” Jake nodded, “Lips sealed, I get it.”

Holt glanced down at Jake’s phone, then back up at him. He paused for a moment. “Very well.” He turned to face them both. “You may leave.”

Rosa got up, Jake sending the text as he followed suit. She fell in step beside him.

“You want to grab drinks?” She asked. “I could use one.”

Jake’s phone lit up with a notification. Sophia had texted him back. An offer to spend the night, if his work was done.

“I… think I have plans.” Jake said slowly, disappointed.

Rosa frowned. “Would you rather drink or fuck?”

“Honestly, I’d rather just sleep.” Jake muttered.

“Then go home.” Rosa's words were blunt, but her tone seemed to fall somewhere between kind and obvious.

Jake shrugged, trying to seem indifferent and probably missing by a mile. “I mean, I already made plans with Sophia that fell through, I don’t want to… come off as being difficult.”

Rosa’s frown deepened. “She’d understand you needing time to yourself, wouldn’t she?”

Jake hesitated for a moment too long before answering. “Yeah.” He sounded unsure even to his own ears, so he repeated himself, more firmly. “Yeah, of course she would. I just want our relationship to succeed.”

“Mm.” Rosa replied noncommittally. She didn’t seem pleased, but didn’t try to stop him as he replied to Sophia with an affirmative that yes, he can come over. She crossed to her desk to adjust a stack of papers as he headed for the exit.

He felt her eyes on him as he left.

Jake didn’t know why he felt so anxious about it.

Chapter Text

The door opened to Sophia, whose expression was somewhere between exasperation and irritated acceptance. She was in a robe, which was tied closed.

“Jake,” She said, “Glad you could make it.”

“Yeah, me too.” He replied, “I’m really glad you were still okay with us hanging out. I’m really sorry about cancelling, work just-”

“Come on inside.” She interrupted, waving her hand generically and closing the door after him as he obliged, still talking.

“-Yeah, but I am really sorry, I was looking forward to us spending time together, and I know you probably were too, I’m really sorry-”

“Jake.” She leveled her gaze at him - he fell silent. “I get it, you were busy. Apologizing won’t change anything.”

“Okay.” Jake replied, rocking on his feet. “What, uh- what do you want to do?”

She shrugged. “It’s a bit late, but there’s still plenty of night left.” The tone of her voice was edged towards sultry.

“I- I’m sort of tired, from work.” Jake hedged, “Could we just… cuddle, or something?”

Sophia tilted her head. “You came to my house… to cuddle?” Sophia tilted her head. Something about the way she said the word, as if the idea of cuddling was such an absurd concept, made Jake regret asking- regret wanting it to begin with.

“... Yes.” Jake answered meekly after a pause, feeling the all-too familiar warmth of embarrassment spread up his face.

“You’re cute.” She said, voice rich with a patronizing amusement, shaking her head. “Come on, we can lay down on the bed.”

Jake followed after her, kicking off his shoes and removing his jacket. She laid down on top of the sheets, patting the spot beside her.

He laid down, and she shifted to get comfortable. One of Sophia’s hands came up across his chest to his far shoulder, hand beginning to rub circles. She tucked her head against his neck, and slung one leg over his waist. They laid there in a mostly-amicable quiet - Jake would prefer if he had more movement, her limb positioning sort of restricted him from getting more cozy, which wasn’t very conducive to rest, but he didn’t want to disturb her if she was comfortable.

Sophia tilted her head, placing a kiss on Jake’s neck. He blinked, exhaustion pulling his eyelids closed, but he didn’t object. After a moment, she did it again, her hand continuing to rub at his shoulder.

He didn’t say anything - if it made her happy, it was fine, he was too tired to really complain anyway. She was just trying to be considerate.

But then Sophia shifted, rolling slightly over him, her leg slipping down to slot between his, and her other hand coming up to his side, her face above his own. She leaned down, placing a kiss on his lips, gently.

“Sophia,” Jake began, a little confused - he was tired, he thought he had said that already? Maybe he wasn’t clear before, that wasn’t her fault if she misunderstood him - but she pressed her leg up, and his breath hitched on the end of her name.

“Mm,” She murmured, “You’re so pretty under me like this.”

Jake brought up one hand, rubbing at his eyes - suppressing a yawn as he rose up on one elbow.

“Sophia, I’m really sorry, but-”

“It’s okay. I already told you, apologizing for work going late won’t change anything.” She said, before capturing his mouth in another kiss when he tried to speak. While his mouth was occupied, her hand slid down his side to wrap around the top of his jeans.

Jake pulled his head away from her, feeling a curl of some sickly emotion begin to swirl through his veins. He didn't know what it was, or how to identify it, other than the vague reminder of Ethan's hand in his hair, holding him in place-

“Sophia. I’m tired. I’m not really in the mood for this.” He said it as firmly as he dared - which wasn’t very, considering he was too tired to really get worked up about it, and besides, she was his dom - being too oppository would be met with harsh retribution, and he didn't want that, either.

She sat back slightly, her leg stroking up between his legs as she did so. “Not in the mood? Is that really true,” Her leg pressed, and he choked on a groan at the sensation.

“Yeah, it is.” He replied anyway.

She sat back further, face flashing with irritation. She was still on top of him, and Jake wished that she wasn’t - he didn’t like being trapped when doms got angry.

“Seriously, Jake? I mean, why are you here? We planned to do this tonight anyway, and you cancelled on me for everything else but still show up now? You led me on to think that something more was going to happen than there was.”

“I’m sorry,” Jake said guiltily - phrased like that, he could understand how she could have felt misled by his actions. It was his responsibility to be more clear about what he wanted. “I really just wanted to cuddle-”

“If I had known you just wanted to cuddle and small talk, I would’ve just gone to bed.” She said hardly, before abruptly softening, her hand coming up to stroke his cheek gently. “I had a really stressful day, and looking forward to this was the only thing that got me through it.”

Jake hesitated. He felt poorly - he had basically come over under false pretenses, since he hadn’t said he wanted to just cuddle. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to let you down. I just… I want to, too. I’m just really tired, I don’t think I could do a very good job.”

Sophia leaned down, giving him another kiss. Her voice was soft. “That’s okay, I can do all the work. You don’t have to do anything, I’ll take care of us.”

Jake hesitated. He didn’t really want to - he was exhausted, the news of subazepam and the party scene having drained him of pretty much every ounce of energy he had, mentally or physically - but he also really didn’t want to let Sophia down.

“Jake.” She said, voice sharpening on his name, before softening just as quickly. “I really want this.”

“Okay.” He said finally. Who was he, after all, to deny his dom her wants? He was her sub, his body was just as much - if not more so - hers than his.

Sophia smiled, bright and wide. She gave him another kiss. “I’m glad.” She said cheerfully, before undoing her robe, tossing it aside. She was wearing a lingerie top underneath, a pretty red thing that was clearly designed for a dom to wear - minimal straps, and more sheer silk than lace - that accentuated her assets.

She pulled off his shirt - “No buttons this time,” She commented with a smile, “Makes it quicker to get to the fun part.” - and then slid off his jeans and boxers, along with his socks.

Sophia sat back, resting on his thighs to look him over appraisingly. “Mm.” She hummed approvingly, “You really are cute like this.” She raised an eyebrow at his only slightly involved cock. “Well, almost.” She bent down, wrapping her lips around it, using her tongue with the sort of efficiency that Jake had always strove for whenever Ethan had grabbed his hair and pushed him down to his knees-

Jake blinked that memory back, and Sophia didn’t react to him, so he doubted he had given any outward indication of his thoughts.

She pulled off with a satisfied smile, his body’s reaction apparently meeting her requirements. She pulled out a condom and a container of lube from her drawer, unwrapping and uncapping them respectively, sliding the condom on.

“Like I said, Jake, don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take care of everything.” Her voice was gentle, even as she worked her hand up and down his cock.

With that, she scooted up, aligned her body with his, and slid down. She waited for a moment, shifting slightly to get comfortable, before - still fully seated - bending down in an impressive feat of flexibility and giving him a kiss.

Then, she straightened back up, her hands on either side coming to grab his hips. Her legs braced on either outer side of his. And then she was moving, and oh fuck-

Jake groaned without meaning to, the sensation tearing through his sheer exhaustion with a spike of pleasure that, somehow, just made him feel even more tired. He silenced himself just as quickly, swallowing back the urge to make any noise.

Sophia set a pace for herself. Jake supposed that, should he be more invested, the sight of his dom bouncing up and down on his cock would be a lovely one to behold. As it was, he just sort of… wasn’t engaged enough to care, at the moment. He probably should be.

It was really too bad, too, since it was so rare that a dom would ride him without his being restrained in some way. Jake understood the reasoning - he was a sub, he was meant to be enjoyed, and whatever made the dom enjoy him more was how it would be - but that didn’t mean there weren’t times he wanted to be able to reach up and hold his dom’s hips, to touch them because he wanted to instead of just when they wanted him to.

And now, here was the opportunity right in front of him, and he just didn’t want to do it. It was such a waste, and it was all his fault for not wanting to hold her right now, even though he might not get the opportunity again-

Jake drowned out those thoughts by focusing on the sound of Sophia’s heavy breathing and her moans of pleasure.

He felt something akin to pleasure form in his own gut - the physical sensations were definitely making his body react, even as his brain kept wandering..

Apparently his body was more attentive than his brain was, though, as his hips suddenly twitched up to join with her motions.

“Mm, I knew you’d get into it once we got started,” Sophia said breathily, as she rolled down her hips, making his body flex up again. Her hands were on his hips, but one thumb was pressing up against her clit, adding stimulation as she moved.

Jake’s body was experiencing pleasure - and Sophia certainly was.

Her breathing was steadily becoming more ragged, and her hip movements more shaky. After a few moments, her breath caught, hands clenching down on his hips, fingernails digging in almost painfully, as she rode through an orgasm.

Jake can’t help but feel a bit hopeful - now that she’d gotten off, maybe it would be over. He really just wanted to get to cuddle, or even just straight-up sleep at this point. He was so tired.

But his hopes were quickly dashed when she instead merely paused for a few moments to catch her breath, before resuming once more.

His heart sank, even as his hips jerked spasmodically up to hers. Sure, he hadn’t gotten off yet, but he didn’t even care - he just wanted it to be over. What was he supposed to do to make this be over? Jake hated how hard it was for him to breath all of a sudden - it was probably just his body getting worked up from the sex, though, even if it felt a bit like there was a band wrapped around his chest and pulling tight. He focused on his breathing, not wanting to get too out of breath, and, though the tightness lingered, his breathing eased up a bit.

Sophia was halfway to her second orgasm when she finally clued him in.

“Jake, come on, I want us both to finish.” She said, rolling her hips deliberately.

Jake swallowed back the groan that threatened to escape at that action, his body by now wanting nothing more in that moment than to continue on this current sexual path to its finish. And besides, his brain reasoned, its goal was to get to sleep. And if cumming was what he had to do to get to that goal, then, well… he should get on it. Or, get off, to be exact.

So, Jake gave in to the physicality. He focused his brain, what little bit of it was still functioning, onto the sensation of her riding him, allowing his body to react the way it was trying to, even though it lacked the energy to.

Now that he knew what she wanted to have this end, he had no problem getting there - Jake came, biting down on his lip to the point of blood to avoid making a sound, a short while after she hit her second.

Sophia slid off of him. Even out of breath, she was able to flash him a broad smile. “See? Once we got started, you had plenty of fun. I promised I’d do the work.”

Jake nodded once. “Yeah,” He said, throat feeling oddly closed off, “Thank you.” He said it automatically - he wasn’t sure what exactly it was he was grateful for, probably her ‘doing the work’, even though a part of him also thought that his gratefulness came from its conclusion. But that would be ungrateful, and he wasn’t an ungrateful sub - he wasn’t.

“Of course. That’s what doms are for, right? To know what the sub needs - even if they don’t know it themself.” Sophia patted his side patronizingly.

Jake nodded - he wasn’t sure she needed a response from him. That sort of thing was common knowledge, after all - the basis for most romance movies, certainly - and besides, Ethan had never said something like that to him, he’d always said the sub’s needs were irrelevant. So Sophia must be in the right then, if what she said was different.

Right?

That didn’t explain why he felt so bad, though.

Sophia finished putting everything away, and then laid down beside him, tucking herself against him in something akin to a hug.

Despite it being the one thing Jake had wanted with her out of the night, he found that he didn’t want to lay here beside her.

“I should take a shower.” Jake said suddenly, shifting to dislodge himself from the bed. Her arm around him tightened slightly. Not enough to truly prevent him from leaving, but he stopped anyway - it was a command, regardless of it being unverbalized.

Sophia rolled over slightly, pushing her hair out of her face to look up at him through half-lidded eyes. “Worry about it tomorrow. We should both get some sleep.”

“No, it’s going to be itchy.” Jake shook his head, “And I’m all sweaty and stuff from work.”

Sophia just made a noise, letting go of him so he could get out of the bed.

Jake trekked over to the shower - he felt shaky, oddly enough, like his muscles weren’t quite in control of themselves. He turned on the shower, stepping into its too-hot spray with a sigh of relief.

The water almost burned on his skin, and he relished it.

Jake didn’t know why he felt so off. Sophia had been nice, she had made him feel good, everything should be fine. But something was pressing at the corner of his brain, and he was too afraid to poke at it - doing that tended to turn up Ethan, and he would rather avoid that.

Sophia had been good to him. She had.

His eyes burned and Jake realized, with a start, that he was crying.

Why was he crying?

It must be from the exhaustion. That was why he was shaking still too. Probably.

Jake covered his mouth - he needed to make sure not to make noise. If Sophia heard him crying, he’d be making her feel like he didn’t appreciate her enough, and that would make her mad.

Jake didn’t want to make his dom mad.

He knows what happens when he makes his dom mad.

Ethan’s belt coming down onto his back, he was making Jake count them out but the numbers had lost all meaning by now - Jake trying so hard not to make any noise but he never was very good at that, and whenever a whimper did escape his throat, it only ever made Ethan angrier-

Jake closed his eyes, then reopened them, staring at the shampoo bottle label until he was able to force himself to stop crying - a skill he had picked up that he was able to execute with some level of proficiency, so long as he caught himself early enough, while he still had some composure.

His eyes probably looked a little red, but he could lie and say he got shampoo in them, if Sophia asked. That’s what he used to say when Ethan asked. Of course, then Ethan had joked about tying Jake down and doing it himself, which had been fine until he wasn’t joking-

But that didn’t matter. Sophia wouldn’t do that.

Jake regretfully turned off the shower, drying off and looking around, before remembering he didn’t have his clothes with him - that seemed to make him almost irrationally distressed, he sort of wanted a barrier between his skin and the rest of the world. There wasn’t any, though, so he left the bathroom, reentering the bedroom where Sophia was lying there, still awake but clearly approaching sleep.

He really didn’t want to lay back down in her arms. The thought hit him like a truck. His whole body felt itchy, as if there was something wrong with his skin - maybe that was just from the hot water, though-, and he felt vaguely nauseous.

But there was no reason to feel like that, Jake told himself harshly. Sophia had been very kind, she had done all the work and she had made- she had let him come, and besides, even if it hadn’t been how he’d wanted- how he’d planned the night, his role was to make her feel good regardless. He was her sub.

Jake walked over to the bed, laying down and letting her pull him into her, wrapping herself around him once more.

Thankfully, she hadn’t noticed his moment of hesitation - that would raise questions as to his reasons for not going to her the instant he was available to - which came as a relief.

Jake closed his eyes, and wished for sleep to take him away from here. And that, when he woke up, he would stop feeling so off.

Sophia’s arm tightened around him as she shifted, tucking herself closer against him, her skin pressed against his, and Jake could feel a slight bolt of anxiety - before it just made him all the more tired.

------------
Excerpt from: “The US’s History of Controversial Drugs” by William Copper, author and journalist

Supazepam was part of the Benzodiazepine drug class. Similar to other azepams, it’s primary purpose, and official marketing, was as a hypnotic and sedative. It’s chemical makeup, and effect, is very similar to Flunitrazepam - also known as Rohypnol - with a few specific modifications.

As the name may indicate, the target demographic of subazepam is subs. This drug is known for causing subs to approach subspace, as well as all related factors of subspace - for instance, commands become more effective, the sub often becomes more complacent, and more outwardly submissive. Some subs do move entirely into subspace with the administration of this medication. However, this must be closely monitored, due to the adverse effects.

Adverse effects include amnesia, loss of consciousness, bradycardia - the slowing of the heart - and, most critically perhaps of all, the sub can fall very quickly into drop during the subspacing process. This is true of natural subspaces, however this medication has a significantly higher risk of this occurring - an approximately 70% chance of drop occurring, either during or after administration, as opposed to the estimated 4-5% of drop for non-medicated subs, a number that is decreased from previous studies with the implementation of aftercare education.

This data is, of course, skewed by uncontrolled variables. Most non-medicated subspace occurs with a dom or other partner, while the administration of subazepam that this percentage is based off of is most often used for medical procedures.

Subazepam causes extreme nausea in doms, due to the chemicals that affect subs’ so strongly. It’s use in switches, specifically switch women, for orientational correction - the attempt of some to move switches further towards or away from their sub or domness, the shift attempt usually based on perceived gender role - is met with heavy criticism, both from advocates and scientists who find its effectiveness doubtful.

Subazepam is no longer sold within most countries, and is illegal in the United States among other drugs, including Rohypnol, with the majority of the countries that still use it being in Europe. The rationale behind its disuse comes from the risk of drop being considered more serious now than in the past, and that other benzodiazepines are just as effective for the purposes of medical procedures.

Sub drop was not considered a genuine health concern until more recent years, and is still a disputed, and often political discussion among the majority of countries, which could be one indicator for the shift away from its usage. However, the more likely reasoning for this change is that subazepam has come under intense scrutiny for its use as a “date-rape” drug, in which a dom uses its sedative and subspace qualities to coerce a sub into engaging in sexual activity with the dom.

This crime is severely underreported, due to the amnesiac aspect of the medication, as well as other factors that could cause a sub not to come forward.

Some spokespeople for the medication defend that this drug does not ‘force’ subs to do anything, and that the lawsuits against their company are not valid.
“This drug does not cause these feelings of… of submission, of sexuality, you must understand - it merely exposes the feelings that the sub already has. To blame a medication for doing this, it would, it would set a precedent that would open every single alcohol company to being litigated, too! [a pause] It’s not our responsibility what subs want, or if our product lowers inhibition and - I hate to say it, but - emboldens them to act on those wants.” (quote from Johnson Smith, lawyer for Rochester Pharmaceuticals) The case has since been dropped.

Regardless, activists and politicians have decried its usage, for sub rights and for the health risks associated with drop, respectively. Since its being made illegal in 1995, there have been several major drug operations broken up that had been illicitly distributing subazepam. Street versions of this drug can often be cut with other medications, such as fentanyl, which can prove lethal. The approximation of subazepam-related overdoses has increased in recent years, as the ability to acquire the medication has become more difficult with the lack of a major ring.

A recent, anonymous study conducted in 2012 has been recently hitting the headlines, as it claimed to find that over 84% of doms would consider using subazepam on their sub. However, this study neglected to mention that their questionnaire was conducted on popular internet site [redacted upon demand from website] and localized entirely within a singular ‘community’, whose summary was listed as:
“Real doms take control, and real subs know to be grateful for it. We teach doms how to treat their property. SOme [sic] content may be nsfw. Trolls and ‘sjws’ will be blocked!”

This [redacted website]’s community has since become closed.

Additionally, this study has been unsuccessfully corroborated, due to the difficulty in getting participants to disclose their opinions, based on the nature of the questions. This lack of repeatability has led some to claim that this study is entirely fabricated, and others to claim that it is entirely indisputable.

Looking back through this drug’s tumultuous history, it can be difficult to believe that it was created so recently as the 1950s. Some critics of the medication suppose that it is beneficial that this medication was not in existence during the same time as ‘hysteria’ being a medical diagnosis among the female population, given the misuse of sub-oriented medications for that purpose in the 1800s.

Some activists in recent years have criticised other mood stabilizing medications, particularly anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications, as being intentionally constructed to encourage docility among subs. A side effect of many of these drugs are risk for accidental subspace or drop, however critics say it is wholly unintentional, and more correlated to the hormones and chemicals that the drug effects in order to alleviate the condition.

The majority of drug clinical studies being conducted on doms could be correlated to the issue of sub-related issues being so prevalent in the majority of medications. This is something that the United States government’s FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has taken steps to rectify, by encouraging studies to include subs. However, without the regulations to enforce this, it is easier for pharmaceutical companies to continue their current method of clinical study than open themselves to this new avenue for potential litigation.

The average American sub will never encounter subazepam in their life, unless they were to travel abroad to Europe and then require a surgical procedure. Still, the fear of this drug pervades within sub communities, based in large part with the belief that the police system allows the drug trade to occur, or even aids the drug operation. This mistrust stems from the historical disregard for assault charges brought by subs, as well as dozens of high-profile subazepam scandals from officers within departments across the country, including upper-ranking officers in the Detroit PD, Jacksonville PD, and New York PD.

One activist, 24 year old Olivia Nguyen, in a protest against the NYPD’s refusal to fire Captain Wilson in 2004, said on the topic of subazepam,
“We [subs] just don’t feel safe! How can we? When this shit is supposedly impossible to get, but half my fucking friends have gotten it slipped in their drink? I’m tired of it all - I shouldn’t have to watch my drink! It’s not- [chokes up] It’s not fair. We just want to be safe.”

Olivia Nguyen was found dead from a drug overdose two weeks later, which her family claimed was done by a perpetrator. Her case was not investigated by the NYPD, and was ruled a suicide by the coroner. Her words, and her death, became the rallying cry that grew the movement, eventually resulting in Captain Wilson being fired from the NYPD, and investigated by an ethics board. He was found guilty of misuse of evidence, but was found not guilty of the sexual assault of his seventeen accusers, whose names are not reported here.

No systemic change occurred as a result of this action, as no police officer was ever convicted of sexual assault through the use of subazepam, and no federal legislation was passed on this issue, due to the partisan nature of the bill.

One political party favored the bill, while the other contested that, as the drug was illegal, such legislation was unnecessary and redundant.

One politician, Michael White of Alabama, said in a 2004 press conference interview that,
“While I feel for subs who have been negatively impacted by what they believe to be subazepam, I will not have subs in my state running around blaming every single bad decision they make on ‘Oh, I couldn’t help it, I was drugged’. That’s an excuse that’s going to be lobbed at every dom they have a bad hookup with, or every time they fight with their partner. It’s pointless, there’s no need for it. We don’t need a few- I hate to say it, but whorish subs- causing chaos in our community.”

Michael White’s stance is shared by many on his side of the aisle…

-------
Hands were running through his hair, and it should’ve felt nice but it hurt, and he swore his skin was made of ice and he was shaking why was he shaking- was he crying or was there water? He couldn’t tell and it wasn’t like anyone was going to tell him- and someone was speaking unintelligibly and the sound of their voice - or maybe what they were saying? - made his brain hurt and the hands weren’t in his hair they were on his chest and he swore he couldn’t breath, but it was fine, everything was fine, he didn’t need to breath right now anyway - and he couldn’t move his arms, he could feel the heat from them as they bled red from whatever it was that made it so he couldn’t move them and it didn’t hurt, because everything was cold and he was shaking too hard to notice anyway- but the red was interesting because everything else was so gray but the hands weren’t gray and they were touching him and he didn’t know whether to lean into their warmth and shy from the pain he knew would come so he did neither and just stayed still as a hand touched his shoulder and squeezed it, the voice saying something more-

------
Jake woke up with a start, half-rising before groaning and falling back down into bed. His muscles were horrifically stiff, and every single one of them ached - probably from being tensed all night. He could vaguely recall a dark feeling of having had a dream, but it was fading as he tried to grasp onto it. He was pretty sure there was water involved, but he couldn’t remember.

“Hey Jake,” He heard a voice - Sophia - say. He tried to turn his head, but his neck was screaming pain and he opted to roll to the side to face her.

“Morning.” He said, before falling silent - the sight of her seemed to make him anxious, an odd little bit of wariness poking through his mental fog - but she just smiled at him and patted his arm.

“I’ll go make us breakfast.”

Jake sat up, biting back the groan of pain that tried to escape, carefully trying to move.

“What’s with the stiffness?” Sophia joked, “I was the one who got fucked, as I recall.”

“Yeah, yeah, I just… I guess I slept weird.” Jake wished he could take those words back - what if she thought he was saying it was a problem with her bed, or sleeping with her, or-

Sophia nodded. “Ah, I get it. Feel free to stretch around, I’m going to go get some eggs going.”

Jake felt guilty - of course she wasn’t mad - he was just feeling anxious from his dream, there was no reason to feel anxious and scared. She wasn’t a bad person, not like how Ethan was, so there was nothing to worry about.

He stretched as best he could - he didn’t want to take too long and make her wait - and yanked on his clothes before he joined her in the kitchen, his muscles still achingly tight.

Sophia gave him a smile, gesturing to the coffee machine with a spatula. “Grab us both a cup, would you?”

Jake did, dumping an unhealthy amount of sugar into his, and one packet into hers. He put them both on the counter, leaning against it.

“Need a hand?” He asked.

“Not particularly.” She replied, turning to half-face him. “I got some toast on.”

“Cool.” Jake nodded, letting the silence rise up - he wasn’t sure what to say to her, suddenly.

Sophia clicked off the stove, making them plates. She took a sip of the coffee, and gave an approving nod - Jake felt a surge of happiness, glad that he could do something good for her.

“So,” She said, reaching into her pants pocket - she had put on clothes at some point too, it seemed -, “You want to tell me what this is?” Her voice was calm.

It was the phone number.

Jake blinked. “That’s from work.”

“A coworker gave you this?” Her voice was still chill, but Jake felt his anxiety rocket even higher.

“No, no, it’s from a case I’m working. It could be useful as an informant. Besides,” He added, “She’s a sub, it’s not like- I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“Mm.” She made a noncommittal noise, still looking at him silently.

Jake felt his pulse pick up - she didn’t seem mad but he was scared, he was so fucking scared and he didn’t know why-

The feeling of door plaster giving way against his back, the sound of breaking wood momentarily drowning out the voice screaming at him, but not the feeling of the hands clenched on his arms, holding him down as his skin dug into the wooden shards, fingers pressing down so hard that he could feel his shoulders twisting in their sockets, but it was his fault anyway, he should’ve said he was going out with Rosa-

“Jake.” Sophia said - he snapped his head up to meet her gaze, as his had at some point shifted towards the floor. She looked irritated, and he mentally berated himself for slipping like that - he couldn’t be spacing out in the middle of conversations, especially not to his dom.

“Sorry,” He said automatically, feeling his body achingly tense up. “I didn’t- I really didn’t mean to worry you-”

“I wasn’t worried.” Sophia replied immediately, “I just wanted to know who gave the number to you.”

“A sub, from a case. That’s all.” Jake tried to be as open as possible, even though he - illogically - wanted to just turn and run. “Please, believe me.”

Sophia tossed the paper aside.

“Well,” She said, turning off the stove and putting the eggs onto plates, “I want to believe you.” She turned around, leaning back against the counter. “Really, I do.” A sigh, then, “But I’m just not sure I can.”

Jake swallowed - his mouth suddenly felt dry, and he felt, in that moment, like prey being stalked down - the urge to turn and flee almost overpowering. The only thing that kept him rooted to the spot was the knowledge that, if he did, Sophia would think he was lying, and then she would certainly never believe him.

“I’m telling the truth.” He said shakily - she still looked so calm, and that scared him.

Ethan was calm, too - Jake would do something bad and Ethan would give him a look and then be calm and normal the rest of the day but Jake would know that he was angry, that he was going to be punished, going to be hurt, and then every time once they were alone-

They were alone now.

Jake was afraid. He was pretty sure he was shaking - one hand on the table behind him to try to keep himself grounded, his other one wrapped around himself in a pantomime of protection - and he hated himself for seeming so weak.

“Are you?” Still so calm, but she pushed off of the counter and was stepping towards him. “How do I know? How do you prove it to me?”

Jake’s eyebrows furrowed. “I don’t- what do you want me to do?” He hated how confused he sounded, even to his own ears.

One of her hands reached out to hold his shoulder - not even tightly, but his body still sent the warning signs of remembered pain radiating out - and she gave him a look of mixed sadness and condescension.

“Poor thing,” She said, “Do you need my guidance for everything?”

Jake didn’t know how to reply to that - to say yes was a lie, to say no was disrespectful - but thankfully she didn’t give him the opportunity.

“I can’t have people thinking you don’t belong to me,” She said, other hand coming up to his face, “I need you to let me prove that you’re mine.” Her hand slid down to touch against his neck.

Jake froze. “I don’t wear collars.” He said. His voice came out steady, even as he could feel his insides turn to jelly.

Jake was proud of himself for saying it so firmly - the benefits of practicing in a mirror for hours upon hours until he could say it without an apology on his tongue - but as Sophia withdrew her hand, looking disappointed, his moment of pride was immediately washed away by intense guilt. He had made his dom feel badly - he had nothing to be proud of for that.

“I’m sorry.” He added after a pause. So much for holding strong. He had already told her before, he wasn't sure how she had forgotten. “I can’t- not now.”

Sophia smiled tightly. “See what I mean? I ask for so little from you, just the basics of being my sub - subspace, collar - and you can’t oblige. How do I know that you truly belong to me?”

Jake would have, if he felt bolder, said that he didn’t belong to anyone. But he was not bold, he was tense and afraid - afraid of upsetting his dom any further, afraid of being worthy. She was right, though, of course she was right. He knew he was broken, he knew he couldn’t be who doms wanted him to be, but it cut deep into him to have it pointed out so casually.

“I’m sorry.” He apologized - what more could he do, after all? He couldn’t fix it, all he could do was ask for her forgiveness for his crime of being damaged goods.

“I understand.” She said simply. “It will take time before we get to that point. But I still need to prove you’re mine now. You understand that, right?”

Jake nodded immediately. He didn’t understand, not really - his pulse was pounding in his ears and she was very close to him, almost too close, which didn’t make sense because she had been closer last night. Although for some reason remembering that made him feel worse, he wasn’t sure why-

Hands on his skin that he didn’t want to be there, why wasn’t he leaving he wanted to leave but he was supposed to stay so he had to-

Jake felt Sophia’s body pressed against his, and when had he sat back onto the tabletop? He couldn’t remember doing that - but then the feeling of the press of the table was the least of his thoughts because her mouth was on his neck. Jake choked on a word that he wasn’t even entirely sure what it was supposed to be, shoving it down and trying not to think on what it was he wanted to say.

He was good at being quiet, he was good at being quiet-

---------

”Fun night, huh?” One of the 125’s detectives - Preston Smith - asked, leaning against the table, eyes fixed on the heavy, purpling hickeys that dotted Jake’s neck just above his collar.

Jake’s face was red, and he stared down at his paperwork, wishing he could be anywhere else. “None of your business.”

“Yo, Ethan!” Preston turned, “I don’t know how you deal with your sub - he’s got such a mouth on him.”

Ethan looked up, flashing a grin. “He knows when to be quiet.”

“God, have you thought about including that during briefings? He never shuts up then.” Preston spoke over Jake’s head, like he wasn’t there. Jake was grateful - he didn’t like how people looked at him, here. Like he was property, or something to be ogled. It was better when they treated him like property - if Ethan caught them looking, Jake would be punished for it later. He was the only sub in this precinct, after all, and Ethan had said he didn’t want Jake to lead anyone on about his availability. As if the collar around his neck wasn’t enough of a signal to that already. Jake felt a bitterness edge on his tongue, and he shoved it down mercilessly - it wasn't Ethan's fault that doms would bother him. It was his own.

“Ah, voyeurism’s not my thing.” Ethan joked. “Maybe a cat will show up and do it for you.”

Preston let out a laugh, before heading off towards evidence.

Ethan’s gaze fell to Jake’s, and his grin vanished, fixing Jake with a Look.

“Why didn’t you tell him you enjoyed last night, Jake? Are you embarrassed to be known as my sub?” His voice was light.

Jake shook his head quickly. “No, not at all, I just- I thought you wanted to be private about it.” He didn’t tack on a sir at the end - at work they didn’t, that was a departmental rule that Ethan had begrudgingly agreed to comply with.

“If I wanted it to be a secret I wouldn’t have given them to you.” Ethan sighed, “Honestly, Jake, you can be so clueless.”

He leaned over, looping a finger through Jake’s collar to pull him over their desks for a kiss.

Jake tried to ignore the fact they were at work - thankfully Preston had been the only other person around this early in the day, and he was off somewhere, but he still hated the fact it was at his job. Ethan preferred leaving marks for people to know Jake was his, rather than doing them in front of people, a fact for which Jake was immeasurably grateful.

“Now, Jake,” Ethan said, sitting back but not letting go of the collar, so that Jake was forced to stay half-leaned over his desk, one hand gripping the table to keep himself from falling over. “He makes a point though. Be quiet for a bit, okay?”

“Okay.”

Ethan gave him another look. His grip pulled on the collar infestiminally, and Jake felt the pressure around his neck constrict for a moment. “Be quiet for a bit, okay?” He repeated sharply, voice tonally much more a command.

Jake was silent. The command hit him hard - along with the shame of making such a stupid mistake - and he doubted he could have spoken if he’d wanted to.

Ethan smiled, then, and let go - Jake pulling back to sit fully behind his desk once more.

“Good, Jake.” Ethan said - and Jake felt a surge of pride at the praise, wiping away his feeling of wrongness from his error. He could be quiet - he knew how to do that. He could be good for Ethan. He was going to be good.

-------

Teeth scraping against his skin jolted Jake into awareness, to Sophia giving a last few sloppy kisses against his neck, before pulling back and placing a kiss on his lips.

Sophia looked him over, seeming satisfied.

“You really are so cute.” She said after a moment, “And you’re mine.”

Jake didn’t reply. The words felt sticky on his skin, and he hated that he didn’t love to hear it, didn’t relish the words like the gift they were clearly intended to be.

The words, spoken from a different mouth, a different voice, Amy’s vo- no, that wasn’t fair to either of them, any of them. That wasn’t the path to go down. That wasn’t right.

Jake brought up one hand to numbly touch at the slightly damp, sore patch of skin on his throat that was certainly bruised to hell.

Sophia kissed him. “I’m glad that you let me prove how I can trust you.”

Jake nodded, and she rubbed his shoulder before turning around to pick up their plates.

“Oh, they’ve gone from hot to warm.” She said, “Let’s get into these before they go cold.”

Jake slid off the table, getting the toast for them both - grabbing the paper with the woman's number and slipping it back into his pocket - and joining her. He, oddly, felt like if he tried to speak he would suffocate on his own words.

He found himself eager to leave - telling himself that it was just because he really wanted to get back to work, and for no other reason at all.

Breakfast went quickly - Sophia had places to be as well - and the pair walked out together, parting ways at their respective vehicles. She didn’t seem to mind his silence.

Jake didn’t realize how tense he had been until he sat down in his car, closing the door. His entire body seemed to deflate, his shoulders coming down from around him and his jaw unclenching. He caught a glance of his reflection in the rearview mirror and grimaced at the - thankfully not overly massive - hickey on his neck. Far too high to cover up with his shirt’s collar, though. He hated that, he didn't want to go to work like that.

Jake didn’t hold it against Sophia, though. He’d do - or let her do - anything to prove to her that she could trust him, even if he was all fucked up.

Ethan had made sure that no dom would ever love him, not really. Broken him so far that he couldn’t be cared for by anyone except himself. And Jake had left him anyway.

Not for the first time, Jake wondered if he had made the right decision in leaving.

He knew he had, he knew he had! He knew it the instant it even crossed his mind, and certainly before. It was better to be alone than with Ethan, he knew that, he completely truly did! But that didn’t mean he didn’t long to just be with someone, and to just be enough.

He was with Sophia now, but he knew that he wasn’t going to be enough. Not unless he was willing to put on a collar, go into subspace, do all the things he just couldn’t do.

A cruel part of him whispered that, actually, he could, if he tried. It was easy to do it, easy to fall down into space, easy to let someone wrap something around his throat. The only thing stopping him was himself, because he was a coward. Because he was scared of someone who wasn’t even there.

But that wasn’t true, Jake reminded himself. It wasn’t.

Ethan was still very much there. He couldn’t help but feel like he was right behind him, at that moment, about to reach out and-

Jake turned over his car engine. He was going to work. He wasn't going to entertain idle fantasies of being good enough for anyone, or stupid self-scares about his ex.

He told himself he was turning around to back out of his parking space, and that his gaze wasn’t flitting to the car seat behind him.

Jake was fine. His and Sophia’s excursion had been fine. He was going to work, where he was going to continue to be fine.

Chapter Text

Jake couldn’t bring himself to meet anyone’s gaze. His shoulders hunched up around his ears, hoping that no one would notice the reddish purple mark on his neck - marking him out as a sub, as fucked.

He didn’t mind occasionally chatting about his sex life with the rest of the team, when everyone else was as well, so long as it was kept superficial - the idea of anyone wanting to talk to him about this, though, sent an involuntary shudder up the back of his spine.

Jake didn’t know why he was so… on edge about the whole thing. Or why the hickey was bothering him - Ethan used to practically cover him in them and he had never protested then.

Well. Actually, he hadn’t really cared for it then, either, but hadn’t dared say anything oppository. And it wasn’t like he was protesting it - he hadn’t refused it, after all. But still, the fact that it had been ingrained in him to not hide them… and yet here he was, anxiously walking through the bullpen and wishing he had thought to grab a scarf.

Unless that would have upset Sophia.

Just thinking about her being upset made him feel vaguely uneasy - maybe because he wanted her to be happy?

The thought didn’t ring true, even to himself, and he felt that little something in his mind - the one that he didn’t want to poke because of the reminder of Ethan associated with it - seem to fill just a little bit more space. Somehow, something in his brain was trying to connect a similarity between Ethan and Sophia, and he refused to entertain the idea for even a moment.

Sophia had been kind to him. She had done nothing to hurt him.

But Ethan had been kind to him once, too, Jake found his own mind arguing against itself. He shut that thought process down, hard, feeling slightly nauseous. No, no, it was best not to think about that.

He had just gotten to his desk when Rosa put her booted foot up on it, leaning down on her leg to give him her normal glare.

“Morning, Rosa,” Jake said, giving a smile - he felt like it was strained, but wasn’t quite sure how to get rid of it.

“Did you go to Sophia’s place?” She asked.

Such a… well, social comment was unusual for Rosa, highly unusual in fact.

Jake shrugged. “Yeah.” He answered.

She narrowed her eyes at him. After a beat of silence, she asked, “So did you two do it?”

“Wha-?” Jake began defensively, feeling a surge of… well, something aside from defensiveness. Maybe it was wariness, he wasn’t entirely sure, but there was nothing to be wary of. Annoyed at himself, he answered the question. “Yeah, yeah, Sophia and I… did. Why?”

Rosa replied, leaning forward further. She must be getting a good calf stretch out of that, Jake noted absentmindedly. “I just thought you told me you weren’t in the mood for anything last night.” Her tone edged towards that ‘interrogating a suspect’ tone and it made Jake feel like he was being cornered.

“Uh,” Jake swallowed. “Clearly, I er- changed my mind, Rosa.” Then, “You don’t ask about people’s personal lives, I thought.”

“I’m not.” Rosa replied, standing up abruptly. Her expression hadn’t changed throughout their conversation. “You free for drinks tonight?”

“I…” Jake hesitated. “I mean, I should be? I don’t know if Sophia had plans-”

“I asked if you’d be free, not her.” Rosa interrupted smoothly.

“Well, I mean, I don’t have any right now.” Jake said, embarrassedly. He didn’t mean to come off as clingy, just… he didn’t want to let Sophia down if she made plans.

“Then I’m making plans with you first.” Rosa said, poking him in the chest with one finger - it felt a touch gentler than she would normally do, Jake thought, but he wasn’t sure and definitely wasn’t going to comment on it - “So that means we’re getting drinks after work.”

“O…kay,” Jake agreed. Rosa seemed to relax minutely at that - although that was probably imagined - and she stalked off to her own desk.

Jake sat down, reaching into his pocket and pulling out that woman’s number. He knew he wasn’t supposed to have it - it was supposed to get turned over to International, or just thrown away - but he had forgotten it before, and just wanted to get it out of Sophia’s sight that morning.

Now, though… he wasn’t so sure. International had been supposedly going after subazepam for a while, but it wasn’t like it ever turned up. They always caught a couple dealers, but never made it up to the top. It reeked of corruption, of a cover-up, and Jake expected nothing different this time. He could do some investigating on his own, right? Sure, it would cost him his job and his future and pretty much everything, but… he wanted to do something about it.

"Hey-" Amy's voice began, then paused abruptly. "Jake," She finished, voice an octave higher.

He looked up to see her looking at his neck, and he ducked his head down quickly, embarrassment creeping up his face. "Hey, Amy." He replied.

"I was going to ask what you did after your bust but... looks like I can guess." She said light-heartedly.

His shoulders tensed, rising towards his ears. "Yep," He replied, so quiet as to be nearly inaudible.

Amy paused. "Is... everything alright?" She asked slowly, papers rustling as she closed a file. He could feel her eyes on him - and it made him nervous.

"I'm fine," He replied, "So, you heard about the job Rosa and I did yesterday, then?”

“Yeah,” There was the sound of Amy’s chair squeaking as she leaned forward, her moment of concern switching to eagerness - which Jake counted as a victory. WHy, he wasn't entirely sure - as she asked, “Subazepam? Crazy right, I thought that was off the streets years ago.”

“Just went underground. Never stopped being available.” Jake replied miserably. “But, let’s say I have a contact-”

“Give it to international.” She replied immediately.

“We both know they don’t do shit.” He looked up, irritated.

Amy sighed, and adjusted some folders. She looked tired - almost more tired than him - and his eyebrows furrowed in concern.

“Amy, are you alright?”

“Hm? I’m fine.” She replied, “But more importantly, this contact of yours- is it a dealer, buyer?”

“Potential victim.” Jake said, showing her the scrap of paper with the number scrawled on it.

Amy looked pained. “We aren’t supposed to intervene.” Then, she paused. “Well, if there was drinking, and if maybe she was underage, we could just go and talk to her?” She seemed to be warming to the idea, “For that completely unrelated reason, that is.”

“And if she happens to have information on subazepam, we could give that to international.” Jake said, beginning to grin.

“Yep, very professional.” Amy nodded eagerly.

“Very, very professional.” Jake agreed.

Feeling in much higher spirits at the allure of actually being able to do something, Jake searched up the number, and they were heading off to one of those apartments that are like… literally on campuses but not considered on campus. Which was good for them - on-campus police were literally the worst.

Jake and Amy gained easy access to the apartment floor, and Jake knocked on it.

A woman - different from the one who had given him the number - opened it. She looked harried, and held the door only slightly open.

“Can I help you?” She asked.

“Yes. I’m Detective Jake Peralta, this is Detective Winona Pretzel,” He felt Amy step on his foot lightly at that, “Can we come in?”

“You’re not in trouble or anything,” Amy said quickly, seeing her pause, “It’s just that we have some questions about a party that happened last night. Your… roommate?” Her voice raised towards a question, “Emilia was at it and we-”

The woman rolled her eyes. “Emilia’s 21, so am I.”

“Yes, but, well,” Amy hesitated, “Look, there was possibly something… more than just alcohol and weed there, you know what I mean? Like, something seriously, seriously dangerous that we’re looking into.”

“What?”

“Date-rape drug.” Jake replied - so much for their pretending to be there on totally different business.

The woman frowned, then, stepping aside, said, “Yo, Emilia, some cops are here to see you. They’re here about the party last night.”

Emilia emerged from a room. “Ah.” She gestured to the singular couch. “Take a seat, I guess.” She said, dragging over and sitting down in one of the three chairs. She squinted at Jake. “Do I know you?” She asked.

He handed her the phone number scrap. “You, uh, gave this to me.”

“Hm.” She said, crumpling it up. “Too bad you’re a cop, you were cute.” She eyed his neck, "And taken, it seems."

“Uh,” Jake felt a bit of heat tinge his face, and ignored the slight glance Amy threw his way. “I don’t think I’m your type anyway.”

Emilia studied his face for a moment, then chuckled, sitting back and seemingly at ease. “You’re right. Guess I was super drunk - and I am 21, by the way,” She added quickly. “So, what’s up?”

“I was there because I was trying to find a specific dealer. Found out the party was being supplied with a date-rape drug.”

“Which one?”

Jake shook his head. “That’s not… something I can disclose.” He shrugged. “Point is, it’s a safety concern. We just want to know if you saw anything suspicious, or think there’s anyone the police should contact as a potential user or, uh, victim, of a drug like that at the party.”

Emilia frowned. “Look, I enjoy the party scene as much as the next college girl. But it’s not like I keep an eye on everyone. I watched my own drink, but, I mean, I'm not really that focused on it.”

Jake felt irritation color his tone, and he wished he could bite it back even as it seeped through. “So you have no idea of where we could go on this? People could get seriously hurt-”

“I’m aware.” She replied sharply, sitting up straighter and become slightly more aggressive as she perceived his tone. “And if I had been aware of it, I would’ve done my part. But your investigation isn’t my business, and I don’t enjoy being told that other people’s actions are my fault.”

“We didn’t mean to have that perception,” Amy smoothed over quickly, “Jake just takes things a little seriously sometimes.” Her posture was lax, and Emilia slowly calmed as well. “If there was anything unusual, maybe you didn’t notice it at first but thought it was just sort of weird, anything at all that could be helpful?”

“I mean, a lot of people would go upstairs and then come straight back down.” Emilia said with a shrug, “But I just figured that was where people were like, getting fakes or something. Although,” She hesitated, “There was this one guy- he seemed really annoyed with it? He kept trying to say they could get what they were looking for for cheaper at Oakley’s - it’s a diner near here, it’s pretty sketchy but they’ve got good waffles - but everyone kinda blew him off. I thought it was ‘cause cheap fakes aren’t as good. Not that I’d know.” She added quickly, “I’ve never broken a law or seen anyone else do so.”

“Uh-huh.” Amy replied. “Did he say when he’d be selling?”

“No, but I imagine he’d want to actually have customers, so…” She shrugged. “I don’t have more than that, sorry.”

“Can you describe him?”

“Sure.” She wrinkled her nose. “He was a blonde. Short hair, like… probably one of those ROTC schmucks, you know what I mean?”

“Hm. Yep.” Amy nodded.

“And he was clearly a dom but like, overcompensating?” She rolled her eyes, “You know the type, doms who expect every sub to call them ‘sir’ and shit - not that he did, just that that’s like, the vibe I got from him?” Her voice lilted up at the end.

“Ugh, they’re the worst,” Jake agreed, “Have you ever had a Dominic tell you to ‘just call them Dom’?” He put on a falsely deep, accented posh voice.

Emilia laughed, “Oh my God, there’s literally a guy in my chemistry class who pulled that.”

Jake was about to make a - in his opinion very witty - joke about doms like that lacking chemistry, when Amy cleared her throat. She looked slightly uncomfortable, and the edges of her mouth were tilted downwards in what seemed to be displeasure.

Jake fell silent, then, swallowing, gave Emilia a nervous smile. “Well, that’s everything we had to discuss, so…”

“Right, yes.” Emilia nodded, “If you need anything else, let me know, but um, here,” She stood, “I’ll escort you out.”

As they began to leave, Emilia tapped on his arm, and he paused. Amy stopped as well, turning.

“Jake, we have to follow the lead. Come on.” She said, slightly irritated - Jake tensed. He didn’t know why she was suddenly in a poor mood, but he hoped he wasn’t the cause of it.

“Sorry, I just needed to check in with Jake about something.” Emilia said with a winning smile, “It’ll only take a minute.”

“Of course.” Amy replied graciously after a moment - perhaps thinking that Emilia would feel more comfortable discussing something sub-to-sub, as opposed to woman-to-woman.

Jake figured the same thing - which is why, when Emilia closed the door and began fidgeting, he patiently waited.

“I really am sorry I can’t help more.” She said, meeting his gaze - Jake tried to make his expression kind, which was easy given the circumstances.

“You helped us a lot.” Jake replied.

“Yeah, but… I’m worried. Do you think anyone was drugged? And that anyone was, you know...?” Her gaze dropped to the floor, letting her sentence trail off to the implied.

“It’s possible.” Jake hedged. “We aren’t sure.”

She nodded, looking despondent. “Okay. Yeah, yeah, I figured-” She shook her head, as if trying to clear away her emotions. She met his gaze again, and it was clear her attempt had been unsuccessful. “Am I allowed to warn people? Or…?”

Jake grimaced. “Well, we don’t want the dealers to go underground, it’ll make it harder to stop them all.”

“You can’t expect me to not say anything.”

“No, no, of course not.” Jake shook his head. “Just… make sure you don’t imply any certain drugs are in use, or that the NYPD’s involved.”

“Okay. But, I can tell people to watch their drinks, and stuff?”

“I’m not sure how effective it’ll be, but you’re more than welcome to.” Jake shrugged.

“Have you ever been roofied?” She asked suddenly. She sounded curious - too curious, like someone who doesn't quite grasp the depth of their question.

Jake jerked his head, surprised at the bold question. It wasn’t really something people asked, and he wasn’t really sure of the answer - the hazy, half-memory of Kimmy rubbing his back on the floor of the bathroom, the blurry color of her dress, and the feeling of the cold tiles under his sweaty hands - seemed to drift across his mind. He banished the memory quickly back into that space of his brain that he tried to avoid.

“No,” He replied after a beat, “I haven’t.” Then, “Have you?”

“No.” She shook her head, “I worry about it, though.”

“Worried is good.” Jake found himself saying, almost dazedly, “Worried means safe.”

“I guess.”

"Thank you for your time.” Jake said, as politely as he could manage - for some reason, the reminder of that homecoming made him feel a surge of misplaced irritation, and he didn't want to make her think it was anything she'd done. “I must be going, though. We need to follow up on Oakley’s and everything.”

“Alright.” She opened the door, and he quickly left, giving a nod to her half-wave.

Amy was standing in the hallway, a little ways off, studying an activities board.

“They have a competitive crosswords club!” She said excitedly, pointing to a rather dull-colored poster tacked onto the corkboard, surrounded by significantly more neon posters advertising various mixers and intramurals. Her moment of moodiness from before seemed to have vanished, and she seemed eager to pursue this new lead.

Jake supposed he would have appreciated that more if he wasn’t so confused. Both at his sudden, strangely angry irritation - which had seemingly vanished the instant the door had closed behind him, leaving a sort of disquiet that put him off-balance.

“Jake?”

He turned to see Amy’s expectant gaze.

“Hm?” He asked, “Sorry, I was just reading about-” He pointed to one of the particularly gaudy posters, “Joining the competitive marco-polo team.”

Amy looked amused, her mouth twitching upwards to a smile.

“I said we should head over to the diner, see what we can scrounge up.”

“Alright.” Jake nodded, following after her - giving one, almost compulsive, glance backwards towards the apartment they’d just left. He was tempted to go back, and demand she explain exactly what made her think that he was a victim - what about him gave that - wrong, he wanted to say, but they both would know that was a lie - impression. So that he could conceal those parts of himself beneath a few dozen layers of jokes, of course.

But he didn’t dare.

They got to the diner quickly enough - it was a short walk, and they occupied themselves with light conversation about colleges.

“I’ve always wanted to go,” Amy said, almost dreamily, “I wanted to be a lawyer, you know.”

“I… didn’t know that, actually.” Jake replied, turning to look at her.

She looked wistful, staring at the trees, their leaves slowly turning from green to autumnal colors. For as good of a detective as she was - and she was better than him, although he’d never admit it - in that moment, she seemed very much at place on the campus. It seemed to fit her very well, and he could envision her at some Ivy League almost as easily as he could recall her at her desk.

“Yeah,” She said, a sad smile spreading onto her face. “I even studied for the LSAT, just for fun - I got a 176, good - but not perfect.”

“Did you apply?”

“No, no. I’d have needed to get a bachelor’s, and… well, every dom in my family’s a cop. I was the only girl, so…” She shrugged despondently, “My father told me he’d accept whatever decision I made, but…” Amy sighed, “We both knew what he was saying - acceptance, not support. And I knew that if I became a lawyer, I’d never even have a chance at being treated equally to my brothers.”

“That’s… I’m sorry.” Jake said, heart twisting at the desolation in her tone. “You shouldn’t have had to compromise like that.”

“It’s fine now.” Amy assured. “I love being a cop, and, having met lawyers in our job, I think I made the right choice anyway.” She gave him a smile, its warmth seeming to chase away her melancholy. “But thank you.”

They walked in silence for a bit, Jake unsure of what to say, when Amy asked, “Did you ever think about college?”

“Not really.” Jake shook his head. “I wanted to protect people, you know? And, well, be able to stop people so they couldn’t hurt others. Being a cop just seemed like the only opportunity to do that. Besides, I’m not very smart,” Amy made a noise of objection, and he raised his eyebrows at her, continuing. “I never got good grades, or anything like that. Barely scraped a pass in anything.”

Amy looked like she wanted to say more on the subject, but Oakley’s came into view and they both fell naturally into their cover - two college students, just hanging out.

They intended to just pop in long enough to see if their guy was there, but a waitress gesticulated to a table and, next thing Jake knew, he and Amy were seated.

It was one of those shitty little booths that are just sticky enough to make your clothes feel gross, but without the ‘fun’ of having to peel yourself out of the plastic benches when you get up.

They looked around, but didn’t spot their man.

The waitress looked thoroughly bored, and was actively chewing gum.

“What do you want?” She asked.

“We’re actually looking for a regular here - a dom guy, blonde, short hair?”

She sighed, long-suffering. “Yeah, yeah. He gets more business than we do. Should turn up in a bit. Wanna order, or just want to sit there looking like cops?”

Amy laughed forcibly at that. “Oh, that’s so funny!” She said, “Don’t you agree?”

“Hm? Oh, yeah, so funny.” He smiled back. “We’ll order. Coffee?”

“Amazing.” The waitress did not sound amazed.

Jake sighed, sitting back and then regretting it as he felt something slightly damp touch the back of his neck - some wayward stain was recent, it seemed.

“Great.” He muttered, looking at the variety of stains that surrounded them, “Food poisoning is exactly what I wanted today.”

“Oh come on,” Amy poked him under the table with a teasing nudge, “I, for one, love these kinds of dives. There’s this one place near my family’s, it looks horrid but it’s clean and they have the best onion rings in the city.”

“Somehow, I didn’t peg you as an onion ring person.” Jake frowned, as the waitress returned with two overfilled mugs of coffee. She did not offer creamer.

“You’d be surprised.” Amy replied, sliding over a few packs of sugar to him. “I like a lot of things.”

“I don’t doubt it.” Jake said, dumping the sugar in and stirring it with a fork - the stirs at the table looked already used.

They sat in silence for a bit, before Amy spoke - holding her mug with one hand, and scratching at a piece of chipping porcelain on its side with the other, her eyes fixed on the table.

“Do you really think you’re not smart?” She sounded downcast, almost sad.

Jake sighed heavily, staring down at the contents of his cup. There was no banter to her voice, so he felt compelled to give an honest answer.

“I don’t know.” He admitted finally. “I’m good at making connections, like with… our projects and stuff like that. It’s just… I’m no good at numbers, and fancy or complicated language confuses me. I can’t study, not properly, I just get bored and can’t focus, no matter what I try.” He shrugged. “The only thing I’ve ever been good at is helping people, you know?” Jake paused. “It’s like… the one thing, the singular thing that I’m able to do competently is make someone else feel safe, and… I dunno, trick people into telling me things, I guess.” He laughed self-deprecatingly. “There’s a pretty narrow field of usefulness for that combo, I think.”

“You are smart, Jake. It’s not all book-stuff.”

“Ha, says you,” Jake laughed, “Weren’t you the one who memorized the handbook front to back?”

“Well, yes,” Amy said, “And I still know it, for the record-” “-Of course-” “-but you just have a different approach is all.”

Jake took a swig of his coffee, and was pleasantly surprised by its lack of being burnt. Better than the precinct could do, that was for sure.

“Is this our guy?” Amy muttered, “He’s talking to the waitress.”

Jake stretched, using the opportunity to glance around a bit, as Amy surreptitiously took a photo. There was a tall, blonde guy for sure - and ugh, he really did have one of those military haircuts that looked good on, like, maybe Tom Cruise, if you squinted, and were also deeply intoxicated.

Jake faced Amy again and picked up his drink as footsteps approached. The guy paused in front of them, before grinning.

“Long time no see, buds! C’mon, scoot over.”

Jake obligingly slid further down into the booth, letting military cut sit down next to him. He glanced between them, before focusing solely on Amy.

“I heard you were looking for me?”

“Yep. We’re looking to score.” Amy said. “Heard you were the guy.”

“Where’d you hear that?”

“Party last night, frat house.” She replied easily, “Said you could do what the other guy could, but cheaper. That true?”

“Maybe.” Military cut leaned forward. “But what I don’t get is, how’d a chick like you get into that party? Sub girls only, rule was. And you're a flip if I've ever seen one.”

Amy didn't recoil - in fact, she gave no indication at all to the insulting term other than a tightening of her jaw, and a slight flash to her eyes.

“She wasn’t there,” Jake said, interrupting smoothly, and giving Amy time to recollect herself, “I was.” He gave a coy smile and batted his eyelashes, “I meet a... specific need.”

“Hm. Any reason she talked like she was there, then?” Now military cut was giving him his undivided attention - Amy watching on carefully.p>

Jake shrugged. “You normally sell to doms, from our understanding. Didn’t want you losing interest in our… purchasing capacity.”

Appeased, military cut nodded. “I can see the concern. Don’t worry, I’m an equal opportunity provider. Course,” He acknowledged with a snort, “I do get a pretty one-sided clientele. What’s a priss like you wanting with this product?”

Jake found the lie slipping out almost without thinking. “Revenge.”

“Oh?” Military cut looked intrigued.

“Yeah. This absolute tool stole my dom out from under- or, over me,” He punctuated with a laugh, “And I’m looking to make ‘em suffer for it.”

Military cut nodded. “Fair, fair. And you?” He directed the question to Amy.

“I’m not interested, he’s the one who wants it. Like we said, we just thought you were a dom-only business. But, since you’re not, it’s not a problem.”

“Yep.” Military cut eyed Jake critically, then scowled. “If you’ve lost your dom, what’s with the lovebite?”

“My… temporary breakup was recent.” Jake said. “Couple nights ago. I was gonna buy from the frat, but when I heard you’d get the same thing for less…” He shrugged, “I don’t wanna spend a buncha money on an enemy, you know what I mean? And if it’s less safe, no skin off my back.”

“You’re a vindictive little thing.” Military cut said, sounding pleased. “I can get product to you. When’d you want it?”

“The sooner the better.” Jake replied, “Any chance I could get it now?”

“Sure thing. I’ve got some in my pocket.” He tilted his head. “It’s one of those things - if you’re a cop and I give it to you, I’m dealing, but if it’s in my pocket and you remove it, that’s possession. Lesser crime.”

Jake tried his best to look impressed - that was not in fact how the law worked. “Wow, that’s so smart.” He said. “Which pocket?”

“Front right.”

“Cost?”

“$20 a pop. How many you want?”

“How much would I need? One or two?”

“One. Two could make the guy overdose. And overdoses draw attention my way, you know what I mean?”

Jake nodded, then put his hand under the table. Keeping eye contact with Amy - who looked a little bothered by what she was seeing but unable, or maybe unwilling, to look away - he reached across military cut’s lap and into his pocket.

“Is that a roll of quarters or are you just happy to feel me?” Jake tried for a joke. Amy visibly winced, but thankfully military cut was too busy staring at Jake to take notice of Amy’s reaction.

It was not, in fact, a roll of quarters, but was a tube full of individual, wrapped foils. Jake got one, and was just pulling his hand out when military cut’s hand clasped around his wrist, holding him still - grip not quite tight, but enough that it would cause a scene for him to pull away.

“I could, ah, give you a discount.” Military cut offered, “Free, if you want to… keep it there.”

“No thanks.” Jake said, keeping his voice carefully steady, even as his other hand - the one not being pressed against what was definitely not a roll of quarters - was shaking slightly. “I’d rather just pay.”

"Alright." Military cut released his hand, and Jake pulled it back quickly - noting Amy’s slightly sagging shoulders indicating her relief at that. “Just ‘cause I sell the stuff, doesn’t mean I participate.” He said, “I’ve got morals.”

“Uh-huh.” Amy said, sounding deeply skeptical, as Jake pulled out a $20 and put it on the table.

“I cost a lot more than that.” Jake said after a beat - trying for a joke to lessen the tension.

Military cut laughed, taking the bill and tucking it into a different pocket. “In that case, I should’ve told you to buy two.” He replied amusedly, before standing and adding, loudly, “It was good catching up! You guys should join me for drinks sometime.”

He left them, going to sit at a different booth, with another person at it - a shifty-looking dom.

“Bet he won’t ask him to fish it out of his pocket,” Jake muttered, slipping the little foil into his own and standing up. Amy, silent, got up as well.

The two left the diner, Jake turning the foil over between his fingers inside his pocket as he walked. He was wary of losing it. They walked in silence for a few minutes, before Amy suddenly spoke.

"Well that was fucking terrible."

"Because he called you a, you know...?" Jake made a face, "I am sorry that happened to you. Who knew drug dealers were so derogatory?"

"That's... not what I was thinking about." Amy replied, " Are you okay?”

“Hm? Yeah, of course - we succeeded without any hiccups.” Jake beamed, “That doesn’t happen often. Pretty sweet.”

“Without any hiccups? Jake, that guy just forced you to basically grope him,” The words burst out, as if she had been holding them in since they started walking and could no longer do so. “That is beyond not okay-”

“It’s not a big deal, Amy.” Jake said, rubbing at his face with his free hand. “We finished the job, isn’t that enough for you?”

“No!” She snapped - Jake’s hand froze on the little foil for a moment, before resuming its turning, albeit with a slight tremor to his fingers - as she continued. “We shouldn’t have done this, the case wasn’t worth it.”

“What? How was it not worth it?” Jake was confused, “We got a bunch of evidence: the product, that photo, and a potential new person to flip on the bigger fish!”

“No case is worth you getting harassed, Jake.” Amy’s voice was bitter. “Nothing’s worth that.”

Jake frowned, but didn’t object - he didn’t understand her reasoning, couldn't. The case was much more important than a few seconds of discomfort for him, discomfort that barely held a candle, no, a single, flickering ember, to some past situations. But, he understood that pushing her on it would only make her sad, or maybe even upset like she had before.

So instead, he said nothing.

Chapter Text

To say Holt was annoyed with them would be an understatement - his voice raised in a rare display of anger as he reminded them that, as per protocol, International was responsible for this investigation.

“Now Peralta, I expected something like this from you!” Holt’s tone was sharp, “But I have to say, Santiago, that I am disappointed. I thought you valued protocol-”

“I do!” Amy interrupted, “But we felt this was important-”

“Then give the information to the right people! I won’t have my precinct getting in the way of this investigation. A single misstep, no matter how seemingly minor, could lead to the entire case falling apart! What if you two had been caught?”

“We weren’t.” Jake muttered sullenly. He had known that Holt would be angry at them, but had figured that, to an extent, he’d be able to talk his way out of it. But that did not seem to be the case.

“You don’t know that!” Holt snapped, “Your little bust could already be causing the suppliers to go underground, do you understand?”

“As if they were ever going to get caught.” Jake scowled, “International always takes lead for subazepam, and they never manage to actually follow through.” His tone turned sarcastic, “Couldn’t possibly be because of dirty cops.”

“Peralta!” Holt raised his voice further, before pausing, composing himself before continuing to speak, in a more subdued tone. “I am aware of the lack of action on that front, and the public’s suspicion as to their ineffective work. However, I do not want either of you to be the excuse that they use to get out from under it. Understood?”

Jake glanced at Amy - her expression was distasteful, as she clearly seemed to hate the fact that people weren’t fulfilling their responsibilities - before nodding at Holt.

“Yeah, yeah, we get it.” Jake admitted, “Do you want us to tell International-”

“I’ll take care of it. You were merely investigating fake IDs, and stumbled across the drug, after all. It was completely unintentional.” Holt replied leadingly.

Jake nodded, placing the paper for the evidence bag containing the foil - which they had checked, and did in fact contain more of everyone’s least favorite drug - onto Holt’s desk

Amy didn’t look happy about it, and the clench of her jaw gave away her wanting to speak.

“Amy.” Jake said lightly, “Come on, we have paperwork to do.”

“Fine.” She ground out after a pause, spinning abruptly on her heel and leaving the office.

“What was that about?” Jake asked Holt jokingly, but Holt simply sat back down in his chair and sighed.

“The corruption ingrained in policing still vexes me greatly, despite my familiarity with it.” Holt narrowed his eyes slightly. “Something that I believe you are also familiar with.”

There was a pause - Jake was unwilling to share, and Holt didn’t press him on it.

“However, it seems that Santiago is still… inexperienced in regards to certain aspects of that corruption.”

“Like what?”

“The sheer scope of it all.” Holt suddenly seemed weary, despite nothing in his demeanour changing. “Corruption seeps into every corner of the NYPD, and everyone within is forced to encounter it at some point.”

“How could she have not known that going in?” Jake couldn’t help but frown. “It’s not exactly a secret.”

“Santiago is idealistic. Perhaps she believed she would be able to avoid that corruption forever. Regardless, it is a true shame that this precinct was touched by it, even if merely passively.”

Holt fell silent, seemingly in thought.

“Right.” Jake said finally, if only to break the silence that would have likely stretched on for some time. “Well, I’m going to go do some more of my job.”

He left, leaving Holt still staring off into space, as if in contemplation.

Jake had barely sat down - bummed by the fact that the stack of paperwork on his desk had not, in fact, decreased while he had been gone - when Amy glanced up at him, scowl in place.

She was typing away on her keyboard rather aggressively, and Jake raised an eyebrow at her.

“What’d the computer do to you?” He asked jokingly.

“It won’t connect to the printer,” Amy said through gritted teeth, “This stupid- ugh.” She slammed a button, and nothing happened.

Jake clicked a few buttons on his own computer, and the printer whirred to life.

“Wha-? Fucking how?”

“I dunno, I just pressed print?”

“Thanks. You’re a real help.” Amy replied sarcastically, restarting her computer.

“Sorry.”

“No, no it- it’s fine.” Amy shook her head, “I’m just frustrated with this whole situation.”

Jake recalled his conversation with Holt. “Is it because of the sting we just did? It kinda sucks that our work isn’t going to help any.”

Amy looked up at him. “Exactly!” She started typing again. “I can’t believe that we’re just going to let them cover it up! And I mean, I know that historically, some drug rings had some, you know, cops looking the other way type of thing, but it’s not supposed to! And, and for our work to just get basically thrown into a trash can… ugh, one second.”

 

She was now restarting the printer.

“I mean, what did you think was going to happen, Amy?”

“I don’t know.” She was trying to print again. “Maybe, like, the investigators would do something? Have a few good cops in there who’d bring down the suppliers, or- Yes!” She cut herself off with a cheer as the printer finally began printing her sheets. “Oh, thank God, I was starting to lose it a little.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

Amy rolled her eyes at him, a smile dancing on the edge of her mouth, and Jake did his best to push down the little surge of happiness he felt at seeing her pleased.

“Like Holt said, we can’t end up getting screwed, too. Maybe this time someone will be able to step up.”

“Well, why can’t that someone be us?” She asked, gathering up her papers and beginning to feed them into her laminator.

Jake paused. Her words sat heavily in his chest, and he found himself unable to find an answer - other than the tension in his gut that told him it was a bad idea. “I don’t know.” He said finally, softly. “Maybe if we were on the actual task force it’d be different, but…”

Amy pursed her lips, before turning back to face her computer screen, expression determined - as it always was when she had an idea.

Jake hoped she was determined about her lamination, and nothing more - but he knew that to be unlikely.

Hours passed, and Jake was getting his last cup of coffee for the day when Charles bumped into him - literally, the guy had two left feet and was always carrying something.

Thankfully, Charles managed not to spill his bowl full of questionable food, and instead beamed up at Jake.

“Hey Jake!” He said cheerfully, “Got any plans tonight? There’s this new meatloaf recipe I want to try-”

“Sounds fun, but yeah actually. I’m getting drinks with Rosa.”

“What? Oh, man.” He visibly deflated, “It’s not as much fun eating meat by myself.”

“Uh huh.” Jake replied, turning to pour some sugar into his mug, before whipping back around when Charles gasped abruptly.

“You have a hickey!” Charles’ voice rose to a squeak towards the end.

“Yeah, I noticed.” Jake replied, feeling vaguely uncomfortable - he sort of wanted to cover it up with his hand, but that would be weird.

“Why didn’t you come and tell me right away? I love hearing all about your relationships! And then judging them brutally, hah.”

“I know you do, Charles, but it’s not really something I want to talk about.” He could hear his tone becoming defensive, even as he tried in vain to keep it light.

“In fact,” Charles was frowning now, “You don’t have a glow!”

“What?”

“Post-sex, you always have a look. I know it. But you aren’t dressed right, and your face looks all wrong-”

“Don’t stare at my face, dude-”

“Wait a minute!” Charles grabbed Jake’s arm, voice lowering. “Are you… you know, doing okay?” He seemed worried, and his voice was a tiny bit too loud for Jake’s comfort - even though no one else was near them.

“I’m fine.” Jake pulled his arm free. “I just have a lot on my mind is all.”

“You can talk to me if anything’s wrong,” He was still pressing, and fuck Jake felt that strange, irrational rage starting to bubble up in him again - the one he had felt earlier, with that college woman - and he couldn’t place it. Kindness should not make him angry, but it was.

“Nothing’s wrong, Charles. Drop it.” Jake said sharply, a bite of that anger coming through in his tone, managing to slip through his best attempts to hold it back.

Charles stared at him for a moment, as if wanting to push, but something in Jake’s expression - the anger, it was the anger, what else could it be? - managed to convince him not to.

“Okay, Jake.” Charles said finally, although he didn’t seem even remotely convinced. “If you ever want to talk, though, I’m here for you.”

“I will, when there’s something to talk about.” Jake replied, turning around and doing his best to walk away without looking like he was storming off - that would only draw attention, and he didn’t want that. He told himself he wasn’t fleeing, that there was nothing to run from, certainly not Charles.

Jake had just barely begun to question whether or not he should quit the NYPD and take up a job in biohazard cleanup - never needed to see people’s necks with all that gear, after all - when he realized he’d forgotten his coffee, having left it in his hurry to escape his anger. He could see the cup from here, sitting on the counter.

But he was too annoyed to go get it, now.

So instead he just focused on his job, irritation seeping into his core - even as he couldn’t quite understand what that anger was from, why he even felt it, or what it was he was trying to direct it to… he just felt like he was about to explode.

Maybe drinks with Rosa was a bad idea. He wasn’t sure alcohol and his current mood would be a good idea.

But then he thought about going back to Sophia’s apartment instead, and his stomach did a flip. That was just because he felt bad about not making drinks last night, though, Jake hurried to assure himself. He owed Rosa a drink anyway, he’d do that. Besides, he liked Rosa, he enjoyed her company.

Jake told himself it was because he wanted to hang out with Rosa, not because he wanted to avoid anyone - anything, that is.

Drinks with Rosa is easy, he told himself as he walked the block to Shaw’s. They’d always just sit in silence, maybe give a passing comment on something arbitrary, like telling her about his car’s latest problem, and then that’d be that.

Nice and easy. Nothing to think about, or worry about.

He reached the table they always had - away from the lights and the loud noises, closer to a wall, as per Rosa’s preference - and could see Rosa’s face, set in her normal scowl. How she always managed to get here before him was beyond him, since even her motorcycle was beholden to Brooklyn traffic.

His relief in it being an easy night did a bit of a twist in his chest, though, when he saw Amy sitting beside Rosa. Her hands were on a beer, which sat, clearly undrunk, in front of her. She looked worried.

Damn it.

Jake hesitated. He didn’t want them to… to ask him questions. To pry into his life and ruin something he had. His relationship was fine, he was doing fine, he liked Sophia. But he knew that, if they talked to him long enough, they would reveal something he’d rather leave in the dark. So that he could enjoy what little bit of light there was left to him.

There was so little in his life that was spared from the poison that Ethan had dumped into his brain - it was all Jake could do to cling to the parts that were still intact. He wasn’t delusional - he knew some of what he clung to was tainted, but he couldn’t bear to let it go - and he certainly wasn’t interested in having this conversation.

Amy looks up and sees him. Their eyes meet for a moment, and she sort of half-rises from her chair…

And Jake bolts.

He barely makes it out the door before physically colliding with Charles. Again.

“Wh-?” Charles begins to speak, but Jake pushes past him, making a beeline for the sidewalk, trying to put some distance between himself and his team that, whatever they were going to say, he was desperately not wanting to hear.

He told himself this was irrational, that even if he evaded them he’d still see them all the next day, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself - even as he told himself, quite strictly, to stop, to act normally, that this was only going to increase their suspicions about his life, but he couldn’t seem to make himself stop.

A hand grabbed his arm and Jake whipped around, yanking his arm free and crouching slightly into a fighting stance.

It was Charles - that’s right, Charles always could run faster than him - and, looking past him, Jake could see two more figures headed in their general direction.

Grimacing, Jake pulled Charles into an alley.

“Jake, what’s going on?” Charles asked.

Jake opened his mouth to speak… and found that he couldn’t. He sank back against the dingy brick wall, putting his face in his hands. “I just… I just can’t right now, okay? All of you can just back off.” It was hardly the demand he had wanted, but he simply didn’t have the strength to muster it.

“Jake, it’s alright.” Charles said, stepping closer, face sympathetic. ‘We’re just worried about you, you’re our friend.”

“I’m fine, seriously. Everyone needs to stop pestering me about this.”

“You’re not fine. Something is clearly wrong. We’ll have your back, no matter what.”

Jake shook his head.

“Does it have something to do with Sophia?” Charles asked carefully, eyebrows furrowed in a sympathetic expression.

“No.” Jake said - it sounded weak to his own ears. He could hear Amy and Rosa round the corner, coming up to them. “I’m just annoyed that my night out is getting ruined by everyone asking me stupid questions.”

“We’re trying to help you, dumbass.” Rosa said, tone much too kind for her words, hands shoved into her jacket pockets.

Jake choked on a bitter laugh - a cruel thing that he didn’t mean, didn’t even believe himself to be warranted - and, casting a glare onto her, asked sharply, “Why don’t you go help me like you did last time?”

Rosa flinched back ever so slightly, before closing off, stiffening upright. Without a word, she turned and stalked off, her boots clicking away down the sidewalk.

Jake wanted to stop her, tell her he didn’t mean it - he didn’t, of course not - but at the same time, he couldn’t bring himself to apologize. Something inside of him was seriously wrong, he felt guilt and vindictive pleasure in the same moment - the latter of which made him feel physically nauseous.

“I- Rosa-” He tried to explain, voice quiet, more to justify to himself than anyone else.

“I’ll talk to her.” Charles offered, “She knows you don’t mean-”

“No, don’t.” Jake shook his head. “Just… just leave her alone.” Just as his rage had come on suddenly, it fled just as quickly. He felt exhausted, beyond drained - like how he did when he was coming out of a drop - and he was grateful for the wall behind him, leaning back and sliding down it until he was crouched on the concrete ground.

“Jake,” Charles crouched down beside him, “What’s going on? You’re acting unusual, and don’t seem to be reacting normally to situations. Something has happened, and- we just want to make sure that you’re safe.”

Jake’s throat felt closed off. He shook his head, head in his hands. “As if I’m ever gonna be safe.” He chokes on a humorless laugh, “I can’t just be normal. I’ve always got to be fucked up.”

“Jake…” Amy began sympathetically, “That’s not true, we have ways of protecting-”

“That’s not what I mean.” Jake shook his head again. He felt dizzy, lightheaded. “You all think Sophia’s doing something wrong. She’s not, okay? She’s not-” Jake knew he didn’t sound very convincing, but his next words certainly were, “I’m the one who keeps messing it all up.”

“I-”

“No, it’s… I’m telling the truth.” Jake tried to explain, “It’s… the way I am, the problems that I have… I’m fucked up. Really, really fucked up. And, and it’s not fair to tell me that Sophia’s a problem, she’s the only person who hasn’t… she’s the only dom who has even tried to connect with me since- since-” He doesn’t want to say Ethan’s name. It feels as though he would summon him if he did, “Since the problems happened. It’s not fair that you all want me to leave the one person who makes me feel… normal. Appreciated. Desired. I don’t- I don’t know.”

“Does she make you feel loved? Protected, cherished? Not just desired, but valued?” Amy asked.

Jake closed his eyes against her words, wishing he could avoid them as easily as he did his own thoughts. “What should I do, then? I leave Sophia, then what? Go back to being some… unwanted, broken thing? Let’s face it, I’m never going to attract the ‘good’ kind of dom. The way I am… something about me, it just… I’m not the type of sub doms love. That they cherish, or want to marry. I’m… Sophia might be my only chance at a dom who’ll treat me…” Jake was going to say well, but he felt like he’d be lying. “Who won't treat me like an object.” He finished, somewhat quieter, unable to meet either of their gaze, instead simply closing his eyes, forehead resting on his knees.

“Jake,” Amy said softly, voice full of pain, “You shouldn’t be with someone just because they treat you like a person. I don’t care what you think, you deserve better than that. You deserve to be cared for, and you will find someone who will love you, and want to marry you.”

Amy rubbed his shoulder, Jake too worn out to even react to it, and added, “And even if not, is being with someone who makes you so unhappy really better than being single?”

“I just don’t want to be alone,” Jake choked, and damn it, there were the tears - he had been trying to hold them back best he could, but it was finally breaking through and he simply lacked the willpower to do anything about it.

“You won’t be.” Charles interjected, “You’ll have me! And the precinct, and…” Grimacing, he begrudgingly added, “Other friends.”

Jake couldn’t help but laugh at that - slightly hysterically - but it seemed to break the moment of hopelessness he was experiencing. “Okay, okay. I get it.”

Amy was still touching his shoulder.

“Look, I’ll… I’ll talk to her about it, okay?” Jake still wasn’t entirely convinced that Sophia had actually done anything wrong - he was her sub, after all - but he had enough common sense to know that if his two closest friends and, well, Amy, all agreed that Sophia was a bad move, he would believe them.

Besides, he had to admit, the idea of not being with her again was strangely appealing, although he couldn’t place why. There was just this general sort of relief - a sensation not dissimilar to how he had felt when Ethan would text to let him know he was going to be working overtime that night, or was getting a multi-day sting op.

It was a reprieve.

Jake grimaced. It probably wasn’t a good thing when he was happy to not see his partner.

“Come on, let’s get you home.” Amy said, helping him to his feet. Jake felt off-kilter, as if he had drunk a few beers at Shaw’s after all - although it was likely just the exhaustion seeping through.

“Hang on, is Sophia going to be there though?” Charles suggested, “He can stay with me.”

“No, no, I live closer.” Amy shook her head, “Besides, I’ve got a fold-out couch, and Teddy’s away right now for a training camp. We can talk about filing a report on Sophia, too-”

“Wait, wait,” Jake pulled himself out of her light grip, “I’m not interested in doing that. Like I said, she hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“Jake,” Amy began, but he shook his head quickly.

“Look, not making me happy, or not ‘valuing’ me, or whatever, isn’t a criminal offense. She hasn’t done anything to me I haven’t…” Jake was going to say ‘wanted’, but that wasn’t true now, was it? “Nothing I haven’t fully consented to,” He said after a moment.

Amy didn’t look convinced, but Charles, thankfully, came to his defense.

“Amy, he’s right. If nothing illegal happened, just… you know, leave it be. You need to respect Jake’s wishes, here.”

She looked conflicted, but reluctantly acquiesced. “Fine.” She said, “Jake, let’s go.”

“Hang on, I never said I was going to go with you,” Jake argued.

Amy paused. “Do you want to?”

He hesitated, wanting to refuse simply on the basis of his objecting in the first place. But… the thought of having Sophia show up at his apartment made him inclined to agree.

“Charles, let’s go to your place.” Jake said finally, stepping away from Amy, not looking at her for fear of seeing hurt on her expression.

“Yes!” Charles pumped the air, “Sleepover!”

Jake chuckled. “Yeah, sounds good.”

“Right. Then. I’ll, uh, see you both at work.” Amy said, awkwardly. “I will, um, go then? Unless there’s anything I can do…”

“No, thanks-” Jake made the mistake of looking at her. And, as he had feared, her expression was a careful mask that didn’t quite hide the concern on her face. “We’re… good. Seriously.” He added, making direct eye contact.

“Okay.” Amy replied finally. “If you’re sure.”

They part ways - Charles and Amy seeming to have a silent conversation for a brief moment - and Charles bundles Jake into his car.

They get all the way to Charles’ place - the basement of his ex, who was thankfully absent - and Jake was fully in his pajamas - of course he had a set at Charles’ house, they were friends, duh - when Charles finally broached the subject.

“Look, I know that you don’t necessarily want to talk about it. And I’m not talking as a cop, or as someone who’s gonna try and pressure you to make a report. I just want to know…” Charles sighed, “Is Sophia like… your previous relationship?”

Jake blinked. He had made a lot of unconscious, and conscious, comparisons between the two. And there were a couple of similarities, sure, but that was how it was for every dom. “No, they’re extremely dissimilar.” He said finally, honestly. “She treats me like a person, like I said.”

It, oddly, didn’t seem to be the response Charles was wanting - his expression, which had at first relaxed slightly, seemed to tighten up once more. “You deserve to be treated as more than a person, Jakey.”

“Yeah, that’s what you guys said.” Jake laughed. “But, I mean, isn’t a person the best I can get? The only other option is sub, after all.”

“You…” Charles seemed at a loss for words. “You do know that, subs are supposed to be treated like people, too.”

Jake felt slightly uncomfortable. He knew that, obviously - of course he did. But it didn’t… something about it felt off. Even though he knew it to be true, logically, it didn’t change how his lived experiences seemed to state something different - that he was closer to an object than a human. “Yeah, yeah, I know.” He nodded, “It’s just some doms don’t quite get the memo. But Sophia does.” He shook his head, “I’m still not sure why you all want me to break up with her. She’s the best option I’ve ever had.”

“What about Bernice?”

“I was a dalliance for her.” Jake shrugged, “She wanted to explore her options, like college students do, and I just happened to be the one she saw first. There was no possibility of a future with her, there was no option there other than some temporary pleasure.”

“And before her?”

“There was only one person before her.” Jake shook his head. “And he’s the one… he’s the one who made me into this.”

“Well, there’ll be someone after Sophia, too.” Charles said.

“Maybe.” He shrugged despondently.

They lapsed into silence after that.

“Do you want a hug?” Charles asked suddenly.

“Hm?” Jake blinked. “Yeah, sure.”

Charles flung himself onto him, wrapping around like an octopus, clinging tight. Jake embraced him back, and told himself that he only felt the pain in his chest from having cried earlier, and not from the feeling of being cared for.

Charles loved hugs, but sometimes Jake wondered if he knew how much they helped him, too - although he had never admitted it, he had his suspicions that Charles had picked up on it.

Jake relaxed slightly, tension he hadn’t noticed in his back and shoulders fading away.

“Are you going to want help with it?” Charles asked.

Jake didn’t have to ask what ‘it’ meant. “No, I’d rather talk to her alone.” Jake replied, arms tightening around him for a moment. “She hasn’t done anything wrong, I don’t see a need for backup.”

“If you change your mind…” Charles said slowly, “Or if you need help afterwards. I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.” Jake knew Charles meant it, and he did, too.

But he was sure that, no matter what might happen, he was not going to ask anyone for help. He didn’t need anyone thinking there was something wrong with him - or, worse, any of them figuring out exactly what was wrong with him.

Although, if they knew, then maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to have him leave her. Hell, they might even give her accolades for deigning to be with someone so truly pathetic.

Either way, he wouldn’t let them know. He didn’t want their judgement - couldn’t handle their judgement, their change in opinion of him.

Jake valued them far too much to risk that on something as insignificant as his wellbeing.

Chapter Text

Jake knew he had hurt Rosa’s feelings. Not that she’d admit to having them, but he had nonetheless. He was half-hoping to find a text from her when he sat up in bed - having attempted, and failed, to sleep for the past few hours - but knew better than to expect it. Still, he was disappointed by the lack of notification, the bright screen shining up at him and making him squint.

“Jake?” Charles’ voice was low, bleary from sleep. His place only had one bed, and besides, the two had shared plenty of beds over the years - they were best friends, why wouldn’t they?

“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you up.” Jake said, clicking off his phone so the room was once again darkened.

“‘s okay.” He replied. There was a rustle of sheets as Charles sat up. “What’s going on?”

“Do you think Rosa’s…” Jake paused. ‘Mad at me’ was a bit of a generalization. “Think she’s alright?”

There was a beat of silence. Jake felt stupid, sitting in the dark like this worrying, asking pointless questions.

“Nevermind.” He said as the silence stretched.

“No, no, Jake, I’m just- I’m just tired.” Charles replied, “Rosa’s… she’ll be fine.”

Jake grimaced. Rosa wasn’t an easily forgiving person - to herself or anyone else - and he felt shitty for having jabbed at what he knew was a particularly sore spot for her. He suspected she hadn’t really ever forgiven herself for the situation, no matter how much he’d tried to convince her otherwise.

And now he’d gone and thrown it back in her face.

Jake felt a surge of shame slam into him, practically stealing his breath away. He hated being like this. Hated being mean, hated being cruel - and he wasn’t like this, he wasn’t. He didn’t understand why he was acting this way, why even when he told himself to stop he couldn’t make himself do so - and it made him feel awful.

Jake pulled his knees up to his chest, crossing his arms over them.

“I don’t know why I said that to her.” He said finally.

It was silent for so long that Jake was convinced Charles was asleep when he finally responded.

“You were lashing out. It happens sometimes, Rosa won’t take it personally. No matter what you said to her, what it meant, she’ll be fine.” There was a pause. “It’s you we’re worried about, you know.”

Jake curled even tighter in on himself - he could feel his disgust at himself, at his own stupid, horrible actions seeming to build upon itself. He was awful to Rosa. He was rude to Amy. Rude to Charles. He had tried to ditch them in the first place. He’d blown off his paperwork. He was rude to that college woman. He went against Holt with the subazepam case - and yeah that was for a good reason, but the feeling didn’t care for anything as paltry as logic. All that mattered was that he had made Holt mad at him, too.

He had done so many horrible things to so many people who hadn’t done anything wrong to him.

Jake felt his throat tighten, and he so badly wanted to say ‘You shouldn’t, I don’t deserve it’ but instead all he did was open his mouth, and then close it again - knowing that if he tried to speak, he would not be able to get the words out.

They sat in silence for a bit - Jake clinging to himself, trying to get the lump in his throat to move away without success, and Charles, who was still propped up but not speaking, either.

Just… sitting there, being there for him, existing in this space with him.

It reminded him so strongly of when he was younger, with Gina and him staying up late at Nana’s apartment, whispering secrets to one another from the pits of their beings while the moon rotated past the window, and the rest of the world seemed to be at peace, if only for that night.

It made him feel… melancholy. He was comforted, but by something indescribably sad.

Jake couldn’t tell if it made him want to cry more or less.

Despite it being dark, he knew Charles was watching him - Jake couldn’t bring himself to turn and look in his direction.

“I’m-” The sorry was choked out entirely as Jake felt a sob burst through his chest - it physically hurt him, as his body beat out his will. He felt arms wrap around him, pulling him into a hug, and he tried to speak again, which only made his heaving all the worse.

His chest ached with each sob, his lungs aching from the force of it. He wanted so badly to stop, to return to where he had been a few minutes before, but he quite literally could not stop himself.

He cried until he couldn’t breathe, until he was gasping for air - each time he tried to intake a breath, his lungs punched it back out. Jake felt a touch of fear begin to grow in his mind as he couldn’t get himself back under control.

“Jake,” Charles was speaking, voice calm - his hands on Jake were slightly trembling, the only thing betraying his nerves - “How about you sit up some more, okay?”

Jake straightened upright, having curled so far into himself, arms going behind himself to brace upright. He felt like he was suffocating, drowning in his own fucking tears.

“How about I tell you about this new dish I heard about? It’s this little-known Italian dish, involving poaching the eyes of a…”

Jake did his best to focus, trying to hear what Charles was saying. He was processing each word individually, but no meaning was coming from it - the rhythm of his voice, though, provided something to cling to, and Jake let himself get lost in the sound of it.

Jake wasn’t entirely sure what happened - maybe he just fell asleep from exhaustion, or maybe he passed out from all the hyperventilation - but either way, he woke up to Charles washing dishes.

It was so mundane, so… generic, that it almost made the entirety of the past night feel unreal. Like it hadn’t even happened.

The only sign that it had was Jake’s own feeling of having had a good cry - his chest seemed a bit lighter, and he felt almost close to normal. Or, well, more balanced, anyway.

Charles certainly showed no sign of disgust or revulsion towards him, not even a hint of annoyance. Instead, he just looked up, beamed, and gestured to a coffee pot, which was a little over half full.

Jake walked over - he felt awkward, but it quickly faded as Charles seemed completely nonchalant about the entire thing. Within the time it took to pour and make his cup of coffee, Jake had fallen back into the normal dynamic they shared.

Charles was incredible - somehow, he always seemed to know what it was Jake needed at the moment. Maybe it was because he was a sub too, or maybe just because he was a caring person. Maybe only subs could be caring.

Jake snorted into his mug at the thought - that wasn’t true, of course, but it was sort of funny to think about it like that.

Charles raised an eyebrow at Jake’s amusement, his cheery mood seeming to lift his own.

“I could make us pancakes.” Charles offered.

Jake shook his head, “Thanks, but…” He thought for a moment. When was the last time he’d eaten? Time seemed to pass so strangely for him sometimes, in drawn out minutes and bursts of hours, and somehow he would forget to do things as mundane as eat. Oddly, he didn’t feel hungry, though, not until he thought about eating and then suddenly he became aware of it. “Um, I guess some food would be great actually. Thanks.”

“Alrighty!” Charles positively beamed, setting down the dishes and whipping out a plethora of ingredients. Jake reflected that he probably would have said yes anyways, if only because he knew that food and cooking was how Charles demonstrated affection.

Jake checked his phone - having taken it with him - and noticed a few texts from Sophia. He felt a tinge of something inside of him, something unpleasant, and he quickly scrolled past it to check his messages with Rosa.

There was nothing there.

Jake tried to suppress his disappointment - knowing that that was exactly what he had expected to be there - but wasn’t entirely successful. His fingers were hovering over the text keys, trying to decide whether or not to send her a message, when another text dinged up.

Terry wanted him to help with an event on Monday, some dinner or something. Whatever. Jake responded in the affirmative, then continued to stare at the blinking… type line thing. He couldn’t remember what it was called. Oh well.

Sorry for. He backspaced. Hey, just wanted to let. He erased that as well, putting one hand up to his face to try to think. Rosa, if you want to talk. No, no, she never wanted to talk, what was he thinking.

Charles was humming at the stove, the sound of sizzling in the air.

What I said was shitty, and I didn’t mean to He frowned. I don’t know why I said it. That’s no excuse, though. He almost pressed send, before adding. I did want to hang out with you. We can try again, maybe next week?

He pressed the button, then tossed his phone aside - Rosa wouldn’t respond, she rarely did. The guilt of the night prior was beginning to press on him once more, but Jake pushed it away. He could do damage control later, right now there were other things to think of.

Like Charles and the frankly massive stack of pancakes he put in front of them, sitting down across from him at the table.

They ate in companionable chatter, talking about whatever happened to strike them - mostly, Charles talked about how he had ground his own flour for the pancake batter, and Jake nodded and pretended that he could tell there was a difference. Maybe there was, he didn’t really make pancakes well so Charles’ just tasted better in general.

Eventually, though, this too wrapped up. There wasn’t much either of them had to do - Jake couldn’t remember if he needed to get groceries or not. He remembered thinking about it before, and then having an answer, but he couldn’t remember which way it had been answered. He remembered it had to do with bread, but… he frowned.

He didn’t want to buy more bread and have it go bad. But he didn’t want to be out of bread if he was.

Jake mentally shrugged. He could just go home, and then go to the store afterwards for what he needed.

He expressed as much to Charles, who became immediately, visibly excited.

“That sounds fun! We could go together.”

Jake would usually refuse that offer, since Charles would always try to convince him to try new, usually unpleasant food. But he looked so eager - and Jake did enjoy his company, and maybe perhaps felt just a little bit guilty from before - that he agreed.

Charles practically exploded with eagerness, essentially shoving Jake out of the house to go.

Jake had left his car, so Charles drove to his place. He had forgotten the anxiety around that, but it was thankfully empty - why thankfully? He didn’t like that thought process - and a quick check of the pantry confirmed that he was in fact out of bread, but weirdly had like, four jars of tomato paste of varying sizes.

Typing a haphazard list on his phone, he went back to the car. As he did, the little notification for unread text messages pinged once.

He checked it as Charles pulled out - it was not from Rosa, disappointingly, it wasn’t even on read, but it wasn’t from Sophia either. It was another text from Terry.

As Jake read it, he felt a sort of shadow fall. Of course. Of course it was never this easy.

It was a defense attorney event.

Well. Jake sure as hell wasn’t going to break up and then go to a fucking meeting with her after.

He could just wait. He could wait a few days, it was fine. He wasn’t even really sold on ending it with Sophia anyways, maybe this would give him some time to figure it out.

As if there was anything to figure out. If Rosa and Charles said someone was bad news, they were. Amy… probably. She seemed to jump the gun a bit, though, and she would raise objections to things he barely even paid attention to, let alone thought were out of line - like that drug dealer. He still wasn’t entirely sure what she was so up in arms about then, but it’s not like he could just ask her.

She’d give him one of those looks, the one that started out shocked and then turned devastatingly sad, as if she was at the funeral of a loved one.

Jake already felt like he was dead, sometimes. Being looked at like that did not comfort him. No, he much preferred her outraged response, because at least then when she was angry it wasn’t about him. When she looked like that kind of sad, it was always because of him, it seemed.

Charles pulled into the grocery store - a generic one - and they got out. Charles immediately went for a cart, whipping out an itemized grocery list and pen. He took this sort of thing very seriously.

Jake pulled up his phone’s list. It was mostly typos and poor autocorrect, honestly, and he had already forgotten if the “bread(?)” was on there because he needed more, or already had some.

As they wandered down the aisles, Charles putting his things into his cart as he went - inspecting each product thoroughly before doing so - Jake managed to grab the stuff on his list. He opted to get bread, figuring he had gone to the trouble of putting it on the list, that meant he probably did need it then.

As Charles carefully inspected each apple before putting them into a reusable bag, Jake split off to wander over to the ice cream section. Charles could easily be in the produce section for hours, and he wasn’t going to try to rush him. He had nothing else to do, after all.

He stared at the rows upon rows of frozen dairy. He never knew what to get if he tried to read the labels, so instead he just got one of the same few he would always get. Checking to make sure it said chocolate and not coffee - he had made that mistake once, and would not do so again - he heard a squeaky cart come up from his left.

Closing the door, he glanced to the side. A woman and what seemed to be her child were looking at the same section as he was in. The child looked up at him and then tugged their parents’ arm.

“Mom, how come he’s got a bruise?” The child asked, loudly.

Jake immediately turned red - making brief, deeply uncomfortable eye contact with the mother, who was staring back at him with a mix of irritation and exhaustion. He saw her eyes dart down to his neck, before turning to her child and beginning to whisper about how ‘it’s rude to ask that in front of people’ and the like.

Jake speedwalked away, turning the corner as soon as possible to enter the next aisle, face still red. He had forgotten about the hickey, fuck.

Jake hated being stared at by strangers. Sometimes, he could feel people watching him, either to judge him for who he was, or desire, or general curiosity, or out of some other reason, but regardless of it he had somehow not noticed it until that moment.

He felt like he was being stared at, because the mark on his neck was proof he was owned and he felt his skin crawl at the thought. He was half-tempted to just abandon Charles and book it for the closest exit, but that would be rude, and besides, Charles had the keys anyways.

So instead he walked back over to the produce section, trying to tell himself the jitter in his hands was from the cold of the container, not from the feeling of being watched. Was the person walking past him actually just doing that, or were they hating him with all their being?

Jake was relieved to finally find Charles, who had moved on from the apples to the bell peppers, and was paying them an equal amount of diligent attention.

“Hey, how much do you have left? I got my last thing.”

Charles didn’t look up. “Oh, just this and then I’m good to go.” Shaking his head, he set down the pepper in his hand and picked up another one. “The quality today is slightly lower than normal. I wonder if it’s from the seasonal rain uptick these past few weeks.”

“Mm.” Jake replied generically, turning to stare at the radishes as some people walked by. Charles only took another ten or so minutes to select his bell peppers, at which time Jake had managed to calm himself - for some reason, being in Charles’ company eased him.

The checkout clerk seemed to hate her job, not even looking at him as she chewed gum and scanned his items through, or as he paid. Nor did she even react to Charles’ rather eclectic array of goods. She dropped the apples unceremoniously into a bag, ignoring Charles’ little gasp at the potential of them becoming bruised.

By the time they got back to the car, Jake was fine - he was hyperaware of his neck having a hickey, though, and wished he had remembered so he could’ve tried to cover it a little - but other than that, he was fine.

Charles dropped Jake off back at his apartment. He’d offered to stay, but Jake had declined. He knew Charles had other grocery stores to go to - the more specific, specialty ones - and he didn’t want to hold him up. Besides, he was sort of… done with socializing for the day. He was tired.

Jake unloaded his groceries into the kitchen, and was just beginning to sort out what went where when he noticed a cup in the drying rack.

“Hey.” A voice came from above where he was sitting on the floor.

Jake’s head snapped up so fast it hurt, making eye contact with Rosa, who stood in the doorway into the dining room/living area.

“Oh, it’s you.” Jake said, relieved.

“Who else would it be?” She asked, eyes narrowing. “And why are you glad it’s not them?”

She already knew.

Of course she already knew. She always - okay, almost always - did. She was Rosa, after all.

Jake didn’t bother to respond, just shrugging. “I can’t do what you guys want me to do anyways. Terry and I are going to a defense attorney event on Monday, I can’t end it until after that.”

“If Sarge knew the situation-”

“He doesn’t, and he doesn’t need to.” Jake replied, setting down his butter a little harder than he meant to. Rosa didn’t even blink. “Sorry.” He said after a moment. “I just… I’m sorry.”

“I get it.” Rosa shrugged, leaning against the doorway. “And I’m not mad at you.”

“Should be.” Jake frowned at the bread. “You know I don’t even hold that whole thing against you, right?”

Rosa didn’t respond.

Jake blinked a few times. The bread label was getting blurry. “I just… I just wanted to be mean to everyone. To you. I don’t know why. It was like I couldn’t help it, it just kept spilling out from somewhere inside me.”

Rosa sighed, uncrossing her arms. “That sucks.”

“Yeah.” He looked up. “You wanna daydrink?”

“Absolutely.”

----
Jake was still trying to stay up. His hands were shaking, his eyes burned, and he had had a headache for the past few days straight now. Still, he reached for his coffee mug, hoping to keep away the sleep for another few hours.

A hand, with a few healing stitches across the side of it, came down, pulling his mug away from him. Jake looked up with a slightly-slow head tilt, scowl in place.

“Give it back, Rosa.” He snarled, or at least tried to. It probably sounded pathetic.

“No.” She replied, dumping the contents into the trash. Her fading black eye, and heavy, stitched cut across her eyebrow and forehead only served to make her more intimidating.

“Hey!” He gestured to it - he felt dizzy, and nauseous, and he was so bone tired. But he couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes Ethan was there and he couldn’t take it. He couldn’t. Every single time he fucking slept it caused him drop, it made him want to run further, it made him want to run and beg to be held, it made him want to never fall asleep again or maybe it was just to never wake up. To drown in himself, in all his blood and misery and be done with it all.

What was the point of it all anyways?

Rosa was staring at him, concern written on her face in that Rosa sort of way.

“You need to sleep, Jake. Or you’re going to drop dead.”

“What’s so bad about that?” He replied, thunking his head onto the table - it sent reverberations through his skull and made his stomach turn.

“You’ll feel better after you sleep, dumbass.”

“I’ll feel better once you stop talking. It’s hurting my brain.” Jake replied, voice monotone from lack of energy.

He heard a short huff of air through gritted teeth, and then the sound of Rosa’s footsteps walking away.

Jake looked up. She had taken his coffee cup with her.

He felt bad. She had barely come back from being undercover - ending in a fucking drag-out fight no less - to find him like this. She had checked herself out of the hospital just to sit at his dumb side, and he wished he could appreciate it. But he couldn't. He couldn't appreciate anything, right now. Least of all the presence of someone he cared about, to see him like this.

The coffee situation was alright, though. He could always make more. He set on another pot - he had hidden this one, since Rosa had taken away his original one - and waited for it to boil.

He felt so ill, so horribly ill. It wasn’t from lack of sleep, or at least it hadn’t been at first - ever since he had left Ethan, since he had betrayed his do- not his dom, not anymore, he had to keep reminding himself of that. But ever since that moment, seeing that rage and that hurt from something he had done, Jake had felt horrible. He was a bad person, a bad sub.

Jake nearly gagged. He wanted to sleep so badly, now, his body. But he refused. He would not do it. Maybe it was because of the horrors, sure. Or maybe it was because when his memories of Ethan were kind, it made him feel like the worst being alive for hurting someone so wonderful. At least the nightmares of being slammed into walls and choked out by angry hands didn’t make him feel so guilty.

Sure, they still made him feel guilty obviously - for letting it happen, for being a bad sub. Ethan wouldn’t have done that if he’d been better. Jake shook his head, then regretted it as it made the world tilt horribly, painful spots flickering in his vision. There was no point in thinking about it. He wasn’t sleeping anymore, so that took care of that.

He made himself another cup, then hid the pot again. He had gotten about halfway through drinking it when Rosa returned. Huh. Jake had thought she was going to leave. He had been rude to her. But it wasn’t his fault she wouldn’t leave him alone.

She saw the cup in front of him, and her jaw twitched.

Jake was worried she was going to yell at him, or command him to tell her where the other pot was. If she did yell, he’d just ignore her. But if she commanded him… he gagged again, the thought of it making him so close to ill that he swore he could taste it on his tongue.

Instead, Rosa just slammed his cup in front of him, now full of water.

“Drink this. I’m not going to have you dehydrate from all that caffeine.” She said shortly. It wasn’t a command, but it certainly wasn’t a request.

Jake frowned at it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had just plain water. Definitely since before he decided he was going to just avoid the whole sleep thing.

Rosa impatiently tapped the table. She seemed on edge, even more so than usual, and Jake wasn’t sure what was making her so anxious. Maybe it was his hidden coffee.

“I’ll stick to coffee.” He said finally, taking another sip. Maybe he was being petty, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do anything other than this.

Rosa’s jaw twitched again. She sighed, then took a breath, pausing as if she couldn’t bring herself to speak. Then, she did.

“Drink it. Now.”

Her voice heavy with the inflection of a command.

Jake had taken the cup with automatic hands, and had drunk nearly all of it before it processed in his brain what it was she had done.

He set the cup down with a sharp bang that made his head spin, staring at her with wide eyes.

Rosa looked back, resolute - but with tension in her face. Maybe she was fighting the urge to apologize. Jake didn’t know. He didn’t care.

He got to his feet shakily. “Get out.” He said, voice shaking. “You need to go, I don’t… get out.”

“I can’t.” She replied, her voice so rigid that it sounded like it hurt.

“Why.” He was too tired to get angry, too tired to even stand anymore, and he sat back down heavily.

Rosa paused, but spoke without any regret or hesitancy. “Because I drugged you, and I’m not going to leave you unmonitored.”

“You… what.” Jake looked down at the cup. He had liked that one. It had Die Hard on it.

“It’ll knock you out.” Rosa said, “I promise, I’ll make sure you’re alright the whole time. You just need to sleep.” Her voice cracked towards the end, revealing something far too emotional for her to have ever wanted to reveal.

“Fuck you.” He said, standing up - the dizziness hit him harder this time, and he swore he could see bathroom tiles and a red dress - and Rosa’s arms were firm around him as she guided him to his bed - he was shoved onto the bed and he could feel the hands gripping him digging in hard, fingernails cutting through the skin of his hips as he was pulled roughly down to give him better leverage - and as she placed him down onto it he swore he could hear her sniffle but that wasn’t Rosa, it couldn’t have been, it must have been something pulling up from his memory.

Jake fought the pressing sleep every single inch of the way, but he couldn’t resist it forever. He was tired, and weak, and his body welcomed rest far more easily than his mind ever could.

He could have sworn he heard Rosa speaking, but even if he had been in a state of mind to listen, he would have refused to. As sleep wrapped around his body like a vine, dragging him underneath the dirt into his coffin, his last thought was one of betrayal.

Chapter Text

Jake was glad he kept alcohol in his apartment - times like these, it paid off to keep some on hand.

Rosa accepted the beer he offered her, sitting down on his couch and kicking her booted legs up. Jake sat down on the other side of the couch, leaning against the arm of it so he could half-face her.

They drank in silence for a bit - a welcome silence, one of an understanding that they shared.

Sometimes, all Jake needed was for the world to be quiet. In times like those, Rosa was always there for him.

She didn’t speak - Rosa never began conversations - and Jake was content in their mutual, quiet companionship. After a bit, Rosa got up, collecting their empty glasses and asking him if he wanted another.

“Yeah,” Jake said, “Thanks.” He reached out to check his phone - he had silenced it, the thought of getting notifications from Sophia filling him with a sort of... dread, which he couldn’t quite place. But Rosa’s company had given him some modicum of strength, and he figured it was best not to keep putting it off forever.

Rosa came back, drinks in hand, and passed him one. It was already open, and he drank from it without a thought. He became self-aware halfway through his sip, and had to physically stop himself from reacting to it outwardly. He forced himself to not choke on it, setting the drink down on the table - Rosa wasn’t looking at him, and he hoped beyond hope that she didn’t notice.

He hadn’t been wary of her in fucking years, where was this coming from now?

Maybe it was karma for what he had said to her last night. But that wasn’t fair, though - he knew that, if she picked up on his behavior, it would only make her feel bad.

He already felt like shit, he didn’t need to make it worse by being an even bigger dick to Rosa.

He wasn’t like this, not anymore, not about her. Not for a long time.

-----
Jake couldn’t remember most of what happened. He could vaguely recall screaming, horrible screaming - it was his voice, but it couldn’t have been him. Couldn’t have been. He remembered choking on blood, he thinks - but that might have been a supplemented, false memory. He certainly didn’t remember whatever nightmare had grabbed him that night.

He was told he had torn his vocal cords. He didn’t think that even made people bleed, so maybe it had been in his head - it felt real, though, when he thought back to it. He could remember choking on it, how it had coated the inside of his throat and made him gag.

Jake could remember bits and pieces later on, too, but tiny fragments of time.

Waking up ever so slightly, and trying to speak - finding himself unable to. His own hands reaching up to find something plastic - intubation, the nurse later informed him, much later - shoved down his throat.

Jake could remember his hand just barely touching the plastic before trying to rip it out - it had all gotten very loud, then. Lots of noise, from people and from machines and then he couldn’t remember anything else for a while.

The next time he was awake - well, awake was a strong word. The next time he rose enough out of the haze of whatever it was he was on - sedatives, it turned out, along with what the doctor called the worst case of drop she’d seen all her life - he reached up for a tube again and found that his wrists were restrained to the sides of the bed.

He was pretty sure he had had an extreme reaction to that, since he yanked so hard against them - like a wild animal, he was pretty sure he heard one tech say to another, what was wrong with him? - that he heard something crack. He didn’t feel any pain - they had him on a lot of drugs, and besides even if he had felt pain he’d had worse, it hardly mattered if it hurt, Jake honestly couldn’t remember if it had hurt or not. But either way, it didn’t stop him from pulling against them.

He wished he could speak, if only so he could beg them to just let him go, that he could be good if they just let him go.

Something must have come across to them - maybe it was Rosa, he could hear her voice at some point - saying something in a tone of rage that made him wish he wasn’t restrained so he could run, get away from the angry dom, don’t let her hurt you but just as quickly he was back under whatever they had him on and he was gone.

Either way, the next time he woke up, he lifted his hands towards his neck and found he could reach it, and that the tube was gone.

Jake tried to sit up, groaned, and promptly blacked out from the sheer pain of making that noise.

As the nurse was explaining to him, while showing him a whiteboard, that he had torn his vocal cords, wouldn’t be able to speak for a while, sympathy written across her face, the only thing Jake could think was that this was going to be easy.

Ethan didn’t like him talking anyways.

When Jake remembered that Ethan wasn’t there anymore - that he was out of his life, they weren’t together anymore - he wanted to cry. He didn’t - it would probably hurt too much. He wasn’t sure if it was relief, or humiliation. He didn’t want anyone to know he had done this to himself. Over the fear of having a memory of an ex.

Well, Rosa had done it to him, technically. Jake turned the thought over in his head, considering it, before setting it aside for future thought. He was too hopped up on drugs to think straight.

The memory of a red dress and bathroom tiles, a warm hand rubbing circles in his back, a half-full drink on the floor, crossed his mind for a moment, and he shook it away. This wasn’t the same thing. Rosa hadn’t wanted to hurt him. She’d been trying to help.

Rosa had been there for most of it - whenever he pulled awake she had been there at least - but he felt like some of his memories must have been false.

Like the ones where Ethan would walk in, right past Rosa, and lean over the bed. He’d dig his nails into Jake’s neck and it would hurt like agony, but the machines would never beep and no one would ever come. Or the ones where one of the techs would come in and check his wrists from under the restraints, and would whisper that he’d look pretty with one of the restraints around his neck, before wrapping something around his neck and pulling tight until Jake was choking, pain arcing through his throat like a special kind of agony.

Rosa had kept quiet throughout the whole thing, even after he woke up for real this time. When the nurses stopped sedating him every time he moved, and he was able to think without his brain trying to melt, he had written things on the whiteboard to her. She would respond, but never contribute further.

Of course not - Rosa wasn’t the type to do that anyways - but Jake’s left hand would ache whenever he had to hold the board for too long, courtesy of him apparently dislocating something from the restraints - and he just… didn’t know what to say.

Rosa had relayed the situation to him concisely. After she’d drugged him, he’d fallen asleep, where he had slept for a good six or so hours before he had started screaming. He was unable to wake up - she wouldn’t look at him as she was saying this, and her shoulders were up higher than normal - and he’d ended up here. He’d been here for the past three and a half days.

Jake hadn’t known what to say, really. She didn’t apologize, and he wasn’t sure he’d have forgiven her if she had.

Well, he would’ve liked to believe he would, actually. Her still-battered face looked worn, dark circles under eyes even more pronounced than they had been when she’d returned from undercover to find him in his state to begin with. Nor could he begrudge her doing what she had to to get him to just sleep. He told himself that, once he was better, he’d let her know he wasn’t mad at her. Not really.

But it never felt the right time, or the right moment, and he’d never gotten around to saying it. And she’d never asked.

She’d never asked.

”Jake,” Rosa was in his apartment, staring down at him. Her cuts looked a little better - more scabbed, less puffy - but the rest of her face looked worse. Her frown was deeper than usual, and her eyebrows were set low, the only indications of what she may have been feeling.

Jake was glaring back at up at her, irritated. If he could speak, he would have told her where to stick it, but he was unable to. That was her fucking fault, for the record, and the first thing he planned on saying after he was able to was going to be “I fucking told you so”.

“You need to eat something.”

Jake glared at the cup she had placed before him an hour ago, before pointedly looking away from it. He was being petulant, he knew, but couldn’t be bothered to stop himself. He felt justified in it.

Rosa sighed, then went to his fridge, pulling out the same thing - protein shake - and held it out to him. “I won’t open it.” She said, “Here.”

He took it after a moment, staring at it. He felt stupid, but he couldn’t shake that feeling. He didn’t want to go back there, and she had put him there against his will.

Jake knew a thing or two about things happening against his will.

He broke the seal of the container, and Rosa stepped a couple of paces back, keeping her hands in view.

Like he was going to snap in an instant.

She wasn’t wrong in thinking that.

It was strange, in a way - he would never dare to be so outwardly angry, let alone acting on it by refusing to drink what she had given him, with anyone else, except maybe Gina. Maybe… it was because he did feel safe with her. Jake knew that Rosa wasn’t going to hurt him for being angry, hurt him for not trusting her.

That made him feel ashamed.

He reached out, tapping her arm. Rosa looked down sharply at the touch, then met his gaze, her expression purposefully blanked out - he could see the emotions beneath that expression though, and he was surprised to see no hurt at all.

Just self-loathing.

Jake wished he could speak, after all. But not to chew her out. He just wanted… he just wanted to tell her that it was okay. That he understood. Because he did. Jake knew he had spiraled, way too far. But… he just wanted to escape it all. That if he could run from it long enough, then maybe the part of his life with Ethan would stop chasing him.

But that wasn’t how the real world worked.

And it wasn’t fair to Rosa, and it certainly wasn’t fair to him, but they could only do what they could to get through it.

Jake hoped he was able to convey that through his eye contact with Rosa.

More likely, it was just him doing puppy eyes at her. So, close enough.

Her expression softened just a bit, but that loathing was still there, under the surface. Jake doubted whether or not it would ever truly go away.

-----
Jake was a full three drinks in before his phone buzzed. He reached for it automatically, clicking it open and squinting at the screen. His stomach flipped as he recognized it.

“It’s Sophia,” He said to Rosa.

Her drink clinked down onto the coaster, and she leaned over his shoulder to read the texts.

The last one just read: Call me when you’re available.

“Guess I should call her.” Jake said, going to press the phone button.

Rosa snatched it out of her hand, checking the phone screen. “No, dude, don’t- don’t talk to her. You said you wanted to end it.”

“It’ll say I’ve read it, though.” Jake replied, scrabbling for the phone. Rosa let him take it back, unresisting.

“Fine. But act sober.” She said shortly.

Jake called, and the phone dialed twice before picking up. There was silence on the other end.

“...Hello?” Jake asked after a moment.

“Jake, I was worried about you.” Sophia’s voice filled his ear, low and heavy with concern. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Jake said, staring at the beer bottle in front of him - the taste on his mouth had turned sour, somehow. “I didn’t realize we had plans.”

“We didn’t, but I just wanted to see you. I still do, if you want to come over?” Her voice tilted upwards.

Jake didn’t want to. He was comfortable here, with Rosa. “No, I’m… I’m a little busy right now. Maybe this week?”

There was silence on the other side of the line.

“I’m sorry,” He apologized, “I just don’t really have time right now.”

“Can’t you make time?” She asked sharply.

Jake tried not to wince - he hated that, he hated that he kept having to find different ways of saying the same excuse.

“I really can’t,” He said, “I’m too busy. Maybe some other time?”

“Fine.” She said, clearly annoyed, before her voice turned playful. “I guess you’re going to have to make it up to me then.”

“Yep.” Jake says, voice sounding strangled even to his own ears.

She ended the call after they exchanged some goodbyes.

Jake stared at his phone. Make it up to her. The memory of her riding him, touching him, filled his mind. He felt like he was going to vomit, could practically taste the bile at the back of his throat.

He stared at the screen until it went black, then looked up. Rosa was watching him, her expression somewhere between concern and anger, both hidden rather poorly behind a mask of indifference. Well, poorly by Rosa’s standards anyways. If he hadn’t known her so well, she probably would have looked completely disinterested.

Jake was tempted to go along with it - she would prefer if he didn’t mention anything, he was sure. Rosa hated personal life talk.

But then… maybe that was why it had gotten so bad before, with Ethan.

Rosa had always been a major part of his support system, ever since the Academy. His precinct didn’t exactly welcome him with open arms, aside from Ethan anyways. All he’d really had was Rosa - and Gina, but she was off doing her own thing - and he loved their time spent hanging out. And he hadn’t met Charles yet, either, or any of the 99 for that matter.

Being with Rosa was some of the rare times he actually felt like he belonged someplace.

So of course he wasn’t going to infringe on her ‘no personal life’ mandate, he was sure she would have just laughed off his concerns about Ethan anyways.

Though, Jake still didn’t really know now. Rosa hated personal life talk, and interpersonal conflict unless it directly related to her, but… he studied her now. He wasn’t sure where the line was, when it went from personal life she wouldn’t get involved in to where she would. Why did she not care about Ethan giving him an apartment key, but left AMA from the hospital with half her face stitched just because she heard from Gina that he wasn’t sleeping?

What was the difference from talking about Sophia before to talking about her now? Why did she seem to be so much more invested in his relationship with Sophia, even before the Shaw’s debacle, than she ever had before?

It confused him.

Jake wanted to ask her. But he knew that she wouldn’t give him a straight answer - but, well, did he know, actually?

“Rosa,” Jake found himself saying, “Why did you ask so much about Sophia?”

Rosa visibly stiffened. “I don’t.” She said sharply, “I don’t care about her.”

“I didn’t say you did,” Jake replied, feeling vaguely off-kilter. He felt weird asking Rosa questions that he knew would upset her, it felt wrong. But he just…

“I’m sorry, I just… I don’t get something. You don’t… you don’t normally ask questions about my personal life, because of the no personal life rule and all, and that’s fine, but I guess… ever since I started dating Sophia I’ve felt like you’ve been sort of… keeping way more tabs on my life than normal.” Jake swallowed. “Just… why is that?”

Rosa sighed, unfolding her arms and putting her elbows on her knees. Setting herself lower, so she seemed less intimidating.

“That’s…” She paused, looking up for a moment before meeting his gaze. “After everything that happened with your ex, I want to make sure you’re doing good. I don’t want anyone fucking around in your life.” Rosa frowned, looking away from him. When she spoke, her voice was ever so slightly shaky. “I don’t want to see you hurting like that again.”

Jake blinked. “I’m sorry.” He wasn’t sure of what other response to give. It wasn’t fair to her to see him suffer from his own mistakes. “I really… I don’t mean to keep doing this to myself.” He apologized, “And I’m sorry that it’s interfering with your life.”

Rosa swiveled her head around to look at him, eyebrows high. “That’s not what this is about, dumbass. You aren’t the one doing this to yourself, and if I didn’t want you interfering I wouldn’t let you. It’s not your fault you’ve got a bad relationship, it can happen to anyone.”

“But it’s happened to me twice now.” Jake argued, “Doesn’t that make it my-”

“Nope.” Rosa cut him off, “It just means you got unlucky twice.”

“Okay.” Jake replied, not wholly convinced, but deciding to drop the subject, as Rosa clearly wanted him to do. “Let’s drink some more.”

Rosa nodded in approval, and lifted her beer. Jake politely ignored the slight flicker on her face - one of worry - as she did so, and instead lifted his own drink once more. The taste of the beer no longer appealed to him, it only served to keep back the nausea he was feeling as Sophia’s words repeated themselves through his skull.

-----
The rest of Saturday passed in a drunken blur, Rosa taking the couch - not sober enough to drive or public transport, and she fully refused to ever take a cab to her home.

Jake supposed he should be flattered that Rosa would allow herself to be so vulnerable as to sleep in front of him, but she did it so regularly that he didn’t really pay it any mind.

Not that he was sleeping, anyways - he was staring at his phone, typing and deleting and retyping a message to Amy.

He wanted so badly to talk to her. Jake wasn’t even sure what about, just… something. Anything. He pictured her smile, the one she gave him when he was able to actually crack her up, and his heart twisted for a moment.

There was nothing to talk about, not really. She’d seen him freak out, okay, yeah, and he was pretty sure she knew something was up with him and Sophia, which, great, that’s embarrassing. But at least she didn’t know about Ethan. That, at least, he was able to play close to his chest. Even if her opinion of him was irrevocably brought down from Sophia, at least… at least it wouldn’t be as much as it would be with his ex.

But then… Amy always talked about supporting subs, and seemed like she was against Sophia on it. Didn’t blame him for anything. Granted, she didn’t know what had happened - and Jake wasn’t entirely sure what happened either, actually - but still. Maybe she would… have his back, if he told her about it.

But today wasn’t the time. Not when he was buzzed, not when he was heading for a breakup he didn’t entirely understand but was definitely behind - anything to get away from that nausea, that anxiety he felt whenever he thought of Sophia - not when it was a Saturday night and she had a sub of her own.

The remembrance of Teddy only reinforced his decision to not bother Amy. There was no point in hoping that she would come whisk him away to a world of acceptance, not when she already had a perfectly acceptable, perfectly perfect sub already.

Jake instead chose to take the coward’s route - sleep away his troubles.

Maybe Sunday, things would change for the better.

Chapter Text

Jake woke up Sunday morning to find that Rosa had left.

That… wasn’t entirely unexpected, so he didn’t think too much of it, instead checking his phone. There weren’t any new messages, and Jake pretended that he didn’t feel as relieved by that as he was.

Hangover eggs and coffee did their work, and he was up and about easily enough, shoving his laundry into his washer and forcing the knob to turn - it was kinda broken when he moved in, and more broken now. Chores didn’t stop just because life was on fire, and Jake actually found the things he normally hated - laundry, dishes, cleaning, all the stuff that had to be done all the time but never ended - oddly soothing.

He was up to his elbow inside the oven - cleaning it, for the first time, well, ever - when his phone buzzed.

Well. The good times had to end eventually.

Jake checked it warily, a pit in his stomach, but that dissipated into a strange jolt as he read it as having been from Amy.

Hey Jake, do you want to get coffee before work Tuesday?

Jake typed back an affirmation, and then placed his phone down, looking back at the oven, which suddenly no longer looked interesting to clean.

He had nothing else to do, though, so he might as well finish.

-----
Monday morning, Jake felt jittery. It had nothing to do with caffeine - he hadn’t even had a cup yet - and definitely nothing to do with how Terry was finishing up one last piece of paperwork before they headed out.

Jake wished he could get out of this, somehow. He wanted to make an excuse and back out and then never have to so much as look in the direction of Sophia ever again. As the time creeped closer and closer to the defense attorney function, he found himself becoming more and more antsy. All he wanted to do was run, run and never look back. He didn’t want to go. It felt like… like he was coming back to his and Ethan’s shared apartment after staying out late.

He hated that feeling.

---
Jake opened the door as quietly as he could manage, slipping inside and putting his keys on their hook on the wall and slipping his shoes off. He removed his jacket, hanging it over the back of a chair. In the darkened room - the sun having set so long ago - he squinted as he made his way towards the bathroom, clicking on the light in order to remove his contacts.

Grimacing, he tried to rush through his nightly routine - he was already so late, there was no point. Ethan was probably asleep at that point, and Jake hoped that he wasn’t upset. He knew he’d be disappointed in him for staying out so late, and he hated to upset him.

Jake turned off the light, slinking across the floor in his socks as he went to the bedroom. As he opened the door, he saw a glint of pale yellow light emanating from it. Heart sinking into his chest, he opened it all the way, coming inside of it.

Ethan looked up from the book he was evidently reading, expression turning into relief.

“Jake!” He stood up, setting it aside, and came up to him, giving him a warm embrace. “I was so worried when you didn’t come home! Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Jake replied, “I got stuck with some paperwork, is all. My phone died.”

“Oh,” Ethan pulled back to look him over, concern pulling across his face. “I do wish you’d remember to bring a phone charger with you. I was beside myself with worry.”

“I’m sorry,” Jake said, guilt filling him at the thought of Ethan in the apartment, waiting around for him. Not knowing if he was okay or not. “I usually do, but I totally spaced.”

“It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean to upset me.” Ethan said, pulling him back into another embrace.

Jake hugged him back, feeling a nauseous tightness in his chest at the thought of the worry he’d caused. “I’m sorry,” He said quietly.

Ethan pulled back and kissed him, soft and gentle, before smiling at him - all the concern on his face having completely vanished, replaced with something much more sultry. “Well, you’re here now. We can… alleviate some of the energy I’ve gotten from being worried for you.” He leaned forward, kissing Jake once more, a bit deeper.

Jake felt warmth pulse through him immediately, and returned the kiss eagerly - the press of guilt not quite going away, but certainly lending itself to the desire to please Ethan. To make up for his error. Besides, Jake’d been wanting this all day…

---
Terry and Jake were standing in the courthouse, and Terry was frowning at Jake.

“Why are you so nervous, man? Sophia’s going to be there, it’ll be easier.”

Jake made a face, fiddling with the hem of his dress shirt, making a noncommittal, “Mm,” sound.

Terry’s eyebrows furrowed. “What the hell? I thought you and Sophia were doing good.”

“I mean, we are, I think. She’s just been… distant lately.” Jake lied. The actual answer - that she wasn’t distant enough - wasn’t really something he wanted to discuss with the Sarge.

“What’d you do wrong?” Terry asked.

Jake internally winced at that. “Nothing!” He defended hotly. Her hands on his chest, her thighs against his sides, riding down on him and whispering-

“Well, it better be fine, because I brought you here because you’re her boyfriend. I need to talk with her boss, Hoytsman, and convince him to support the prosecutor on a case I’m working.” Terry reminded.

“Yes, yes, we reviewed this a million times. He likes skiing, his dog, Atlantic City, and slave movies - sketch.”

“Very sketchy, yes. But we need to focus on getting in good with him, got it?”

“Yep.”

“Seriously, though, Jake, is everything alright?”

Jake nodded, swallowing around the lump in his throat.

Terry’s eyebrows furrowed, and he opened his mouth as if to speak, when one of the sets of doors nearby opened, and all the well-dressed people around them began trickling in.

“Looks like it’s time.” He said instead.

Jake nodded. “Put on your phonies smile, Sarge. We’re going into the belly of the beast.”

Terry cracked him a wide, fake grin, and the pair entered the Association of the Brooklyn Public Defenders. As they pushed open the doors - heavy wooden ones with hinges so well oiled they didn’t even think about squeaking - and entered, Terry and him wore those broad, fake smiles so well loved by the attorneys of the world.

They’d barely made it a few steps in before the attorneys took notice of them, a few side eyes being thrown their way. Jake’s eyes flitted around, looking for Sophia - he saw her standing beside an older man, who looked put together aside from a slightly askew tie.

Jake immediately recognized him as her boss, Jeffrey Hoytsman. The reason they were there in the first place. He just needed to get Sophia to introduce him and Terry, then Terry could do all the talking and then bingpot, Terry’d get the evidence appeal waived for his robbery case.

Sophia turned, making eye contact with him. Rather than seeming pleased, though, she looked… frazzled. She turned to her boss - Hoytsman, Jake was pretty sure his name was - and said something, before making her way over to them.

“Jake!” She said, voice hushed. “What are you doing here?”

“Heyyy, girlfriend!” Jake said, before shaking his head. “Sorry, that came out way saucier than I meant. How’s it going?”

“Good, but, what are you doing here?” Sophia glanced at Terry, then back at him. “I thought we agreed Thursday wasn’t a big deal?” She asked.

Jake blinked, momentarily stunned - he didn’t intend to bring that up, and Terry was staring at him - and then said the first thing that popped into his head. “Yep! Well, I’m not here to talk to you, actually, I’m here to talk to your boss, Jeffrey Hoytsman.”

“Oh, god.” Sophia sighed.

“Oh good indeed!”

“You misheard me on purpose.”

“Maybe. But either way, I’m going to talk to Hoytsman, we’re gonna bond, and then he’s going to help Sarge here with a case he’s working on.”

“What case would that be?” Sophia asked, turning to Terry.

Terry, thankfully, didn’t so much as pause before launching into a brief explanation of the issue. Sophia nodded along politely, waiting for him to finish, before shaking her head.

“Not gonna happen. Jeffrey doesn’t like cops, he’s not going to help you out. Not if it’ll risk his own counsel.”

“That can be for him to decide-”

“Hello, Sophia.” Hoytsman appeared at Sophia’s side, “Sergeant Jeffords,” He acknowledged, before turning to Jake, “Detective Peralta.”

“Please, my friends call me Jakey Snowpants, from how much skiing I do.Carving moguls on a black diamond.”

“I prefer cross-country skiing.” Hoytsman replied, “No point in calling it a sport if gravity does all the work.”

“Hm, yeah, gravity.” Jake nodded - shit, he hadn’t known there was more than one kind of skiing. “Anyway, I’ve been spending most of my weekends at Atlantic City these days.”

“Oh, that place is a dump,” Hoytsman said disdainfully. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to steal Sophia away.”

As the two went off, Jake turned to Terry, who had replaced his phony smile with a frown. “I don’t get it. Why would he spend so much time in a place he hates? There must be something there he loves.” He paused, then grinned. “I bet he loves to gamble.”

Jake waited a few minutes, until Sophia and Hoytsman split off from each other, and then he approached - Terry waiting in the wings, clearly not on board with whatever thing Jake was about to do.

As he approached, Hoytsman’s smile tightened ever so slightly. “I’m going to grab something to eat,” He said, turning.

“Hey,” Jake said, “Bet you five bucks you can’t guess three of the hor deourves they’re serving.”

Hoytsman paused. “I’ll take that action.”

Terry obligingly appeared about five bets later, and laid on the ground so Jake could line up eggrolls beside him. He was giving Jake a sort of resigned look, seemingly indifferent to the entire situation - so long as he got on Hoytsman’s good side to get his case thing done, he didn’t seem to mind the shenanigans.

Jake’s phone kept buzzing throughout the night, and, at one point pulling it out to check as Hoytsman was distracted lining up a tomato shot, saw that all of them were from Sophia. He didn’t check theml, but the most recent one read,

You don’t need to be here. You’re going to embarrass me in front of my colleagues. Go now, or else I… The rest of it required him to unlock his phone. Jake didn’t bother to.

Hoytsman certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, at any rate, eyes bright and practically skipping as they placed bet after bet, seemingly oblivious to the wayward glances of his colleagues.

As Hoytsman left to go to the restroom, Sophia came back up, looking even more irritated than before.

“Jake, what are you still doing here? I asked you to leave, and were you talking to Hoytsman just now?”

“Yep. We’re bonding.” Jake nodded, feeling his heartrate jump up at the sight of her. “Sarge’s getting in his good graces with some old-fashioned betting. Oh!” He cast about for an idea to leave, he didn’t want to see her irritation at him. Her anger. “I should bet him I can pee longer than he can. Be right back.”

He brushed by Sophia - pretending that the touch didn’t make him want to shudder - and headed to the bathroom.

He opened the door, and said, “Hello Jeffrey.”

Hoytsman turned around, revealing lines of a white substance, some of it on his nose. “Oh, hello!” He said cheerfully.

“...And that’s cocaine.” Jake said slowly, closing his eyes and reopening them to see the same scene before him.

“It’s no biggie. Hey, I bet I can snort all of this coke before you finish peeing.” Hoytsman offered.

“No? I’m going to have to arrest you, you know.”

“What? Why? I’m not doing anything illegal.”

“There’s literally cocaine on your jacket right now.”

“What?” Hoytsman looked down, then snorted it up. “No there isn’t.”

“Oh my… Okay, come with me nice and calm, or I’ll handcuff you in front of your coworkers.”

“I bet you won’t.”

Jake pulled out his handcuffs regretfully. “I bet I will.”

He emerged from the bathroom, making a beeline straight for Terry - who, fuck was talking with Sophia at that very moment.

Looking up, Terry’s face morphed into one of exasperation, and Sophia turned.

“Heyyy, so, no biggie, but I did just arrest your boss.” Jake said, uncomfortable grin on his face.

“Well, I read that wrong.” Terry said, glancing at Sophia, who rolled her eyes.

“He was doing cocaine.”

“Okay, so I accidentally got some cocaine-”

“No, you put it in your nose on purpose.”

“I don’t even think I have a nose, Peralta. I certainly cannot feel it. The defense rests!”

“What is going on?” Another attorney turned around to see what was happening.

“Sophia’s cop boyfriend is arresting me in front of my friends and colleagues!” Hoytsman’s voice raised, and the room fell silent, everyone turning to look at them.

“Hey, everyone, I’m Jake.” He raised his hand awkwardly. “So, who here’s seen 12 years a slave? Won best picture.”

Terry grimaced. “Come on, Jake, let’s go.”

Sophia looked completely blank, her attorney face firmly in place. She got out of the way, and Terry led Jake and Hoytsman out.

Hoytsman continued to protest the whole way, saying that this was racial profiling - Terry rolling his eyes so hard it looked like he was getting an exorcism - and they were in the squad car soon enough, bringing him back to the precinct.

“So… about that case.” Jake began to Terry.

“Just… not a word.” Terry replied, gripping the steering wheel so tightly Jake thought it might bend.

Once Hoytsman had gone through some processing - still no less chatty - he was sitting at the chair beside Jake’s desk, still handcuffed but seemingly much more down from his high. At least, enough that he could think straight enough to be a real dick about it.

“You screwed this up, buddy. You think she’s gonna still love you after this? She’ll see who you are now.”

“Hey,” Jake looked up, keeping his voice even. “You don’t know anything about me and Sophia.”

“What? I’m talking to myself. About my wife. She is not gonna like this. Who cares about you and your gross life?”

“Hey, Jake, heads up.” Terry said from across the bullpen.

Jake turned to see Sophia walking over. If she looked irritated before, she looked enraged now.

“Sophia!” He stood up. “I’m so glad you’re here, I wanted to talk-”

“I’m not here to talk with you.” She said shortly, “I’m here as Jeffrey’s attorney.”

“Okay look, I know that you’re mad.” Jake began, “But I talked to the DA and he agreed to drop the charges. Jeffrey just has to do a little bit of community service and it won’t even go on his record.”

“Not good enough. You have no evidence.”

“Sophia, he literally did cocaine in front of me. And the evidence tested positive as cocaine.”

Sophia scoffed.

“I had to arrest him! I had no choice.”

“Really? Cause I can think of 50 other ways you could’ve handled this scenario.”

“Oh my God, you’re such a lawyer.”

“You’re such a child!” Sophia snapped back. “I have one night with you where I tell you I want something, and you go and ignore me- and then show up to bother my boss without even letting me know?”

“How is it my fault your jerk of a boss stuck his jerk nose into a pile of jerk cocaine?”

“Okay, you know what? We’re done.”

“Alright, fine. I’ll talk to the DA, see if I can cut the community service in half, how’s that?”

“No, Jake, not with the case. You and I are done.”

Jake jerked back, feeling a surge of confusion and anxiety burst up inside of him. Underneath it was a not insubstantial amount of relief - he didn’t have to do it, now, she was going to - but mostly he just felt blindsided.

Sophia turned and walked away, entering the elevator.

“Holy shit.” Terry said, “That’s… that’s rough, man.”

Jake didn’t respond, didn’t even look in his direction. He just bolted for the stairs, swinging the door open and heading down them.

“Hang on, Sophia!” He said, bursting through the door, barely managing to stop her outside.

“Little winded there?” She asked.

“Yeah, give me a sec. Can you just talk for like, 20 minutes while I try to catch my breath?”

“I don’t have anything to say.” She crossed her arms.

“This is just a stupid fight over nothing, I’m not going to let us break up over this.” Jake didn’t want them to end over this, he realized - not her dumping him over screwing over her boss. He wanted it to end with him telling her how she had hurt him, her apologizing and changing for the better and then holding him close and loving him-

“It’s not about this, Jake. Our jobs are incompatible. Our lives are incompatible. Alright, look, Jake, you’re fun, okay? And we’ve only been dating for three months. It’s just not that serious.”

“Well, it’s kinda serious to me.” Jake said, “Look, we can make it work-”

“Work how? Jake,” She looked sympathetic for a moment, but still in a controlled way - still in a lawyer kind of way. “You and I… it can be fun, sure, but… you can’t honestly expect me to want to be with you permanently. Not when you can’t meet any of my needs.”

“Which needs?” Jake felt like his head was stuffed with cotton, fit to bursting, scraping along the inside of his skull. He already knew the answer - he had always known the answer.

“You won’t- ugh, do I even need to say it?” She didn’t wait for him to answer, “I can’t say it nicely, there’s no sugarcoating. Look, I can tell that you’ve been through some stuff, it’s obvious, but that doesn’t change the fact that I need someone - a sub - who meets my needs. And, that’s not going to ever be you. I thought maybe, last time you spent the night, it would… it would happen, but you just can’t. And that’s not on you, it’s just… an incompatibility.”

“This isn’t fair.” Jake found himself saying. “You don’t get to break up with me. My friends told me to break up with you.”

“Well, they were right.” As she turned to leave, Jake couldn’t make himself follow.

He watched her go.

She didn’t look back.

Jake wasn’t sure how long he stood out there, as the cold from the snow sunk into his shoes, but when he finally did come to awareness of himself, he couldn’t feel his fingers. He hadn’t grabbed a jacket, in his haste to catch up to her.

He trudged back upstairs, ignoring Terry’s concerned look, and suggested they go to Shaw’s. Work had ended anyways.

They went off in the direction of Shaw’s - work had ended hours ago anyways - and stuck his numbed hands into his pockets.

It seemed that misery wanted company, because when he entered, he saw Holt - whose demeanour could only be described as sulking - and found himself wandering over to him.

“Hey, Captain. How’s it going?”

“Terribly. Wuntch has been plotting, and she played me like a fiddle.”

“Oh. That sucks.” Jake didn’t know who Wuntch was, but okay. “My girlfriend broke up with me.”

“Come on, Captain, you didn’t fail. You took the high road with Wuntch, that counts for something.”

“Not entirely. While in her office, I changed her computer so it would autocorrect “Wuntch” to “Butt”.” Holt replied.

Jake would have enjoyed that, he thought numbly, if he was in a better frame of mind.

“Ahh, I should not have gone to that party. I should not have gone into that bathroom, I should not have arrested her boss.” Jake grumbled, putting his face in his hands. Her words - I need someone - a sub - who can meet my needs swam through his head. He should’ve just gone into subspace. Should’ve just kept texting her, or something.

No, he recentered himself. He should have broken up with her first, so that he’d never had heard that. That would’ve been the right approach.

“I don’t see it that way.” Terry replied. “You did everything right. You were a good cop.”

“Good lonely cop.”

“Hey man, you put yourself out there. I haven’t seen you date anyone except for that friend of Boyle’s in all the time I’ve known you. You liked Sophia, you fought for her. You should be proud.”

“No, you should be changing her autocorrect. What’s her last name?”

“Perez.”

“No, it’s Butt now. Sophia Butt.”

Jake couldn’t help but chuckle - Holt seemed completely genuine, and there was a slight lightness to his voice that Jake appreciated.

Holt seemed pleased by the laugh, and said, “That feels good, doesn’t it?”

The smile slipped from Jake’s face. “Not really.”

“Okay.” He paused, “Then let’s get soused.”

“Oh, okay, okay, okay!” Jake flagged down the bartender.

As he drank himself stupid with his Captain and his Sarge, he couldn’t help but reflect on, how even though he felt this crushing weight in his chest - Sophia breaking up with him, another failed relationship on his end, her reasoning for doing so - he, at the same time, felt lighter than he had ever since that night they shared.

The night where she took, and he gave - gave more than he meant, than he wanted.

But still, Jake thought dourly, even giving Sophia all of that wasn’t enough for her.

Chapter Text

Jake waved at Amy, who was standing outside by the preferred coffee stand of their precinct. A few cops were milling about already, cups in hand, and the man who ran the stand was chatting with one of the uniformed ones while digging out more sugar packets from a drawer.

Amy noticed him, and her expression - which had seemed a bit strained - lit up into a smile as she waved back.

It was cold out - not bitterly so, but enough that the coffee would be a welcome source of warmth.

“Hey,” She said, “How’s it going?”

“Good, you?” He replied automatically.

“Cold.” Amy said back - true to form, she was bundled up far beyond what the weather called for. Her hands were buried as deep in her pockets as she could manage.

They ordered their coffees - hers with milk, his with as much sugar as he could reasonably fit into it - and walked over to an outcropping of the precinct so that they were out of the wind.

“How’s it all going?” She asked him, sipping from her cup. “I heard you busted a DA for cocaine yesterday, that’s a little crazy.”

“Yeah, that was a bit… unexpected.” He laughed a little, “It didn’t work out for me though. Sophia and I broke up.” He said it almost automatically - he wasn’t sure what had prompted him to do that. He’d brushed off Terry’s concerns, and done his best to move past it - i.e., not think about it for even a second - but he found the news on his tongue anyways. Amy was just so easy to talk to.

“Oh!” She seemed taken aback, “I’m… sorry to hear that, that must have been difficult. How did she take it?”

“Oh, no, no, she… she broke up with me, actually.” He explained, feeling his face warm slightly with embarrassment.

“...What?” Her voice went up a pitch. “She broke up with you? What for?”

“Uh, the guy I arrested was her boss.” Jake replied - he didn’t really feel the desire to tell her about everything else she’d said to him - “So, she broke up with me.”

“I can’t believe that!” Amy said sharply, “How could someone be so underhanded!”

“Not really.” Jake defended. He didn’t know why he was taking Sophia’s side, and he wanted to stop, but he couldn’t seem to help it. “I mean, it’s not like she knew I was going to break up with her. And it doesn’t really matter, because it’s over either way.”

“Well, yeah, and I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re out of that relationship, but…” Amy’s face scrunched a bit, as if she was trying to find the right way to phrase something. “It seems… manipulative for her to have done that. Did you at least get to say your piece to her, about your own issues with the relationship?”

“Oh, that never really came up.” Jake replied, giving her a pained grin. He wished he had had the guts to tell Sophia how he really felt. How she had made him feel, after that night. The way his skin crawled, how he felt nauseous just at the thought of her touching him again. How the sight of her made him ill, her smile threatening, her hands weapons to wield against him.

But he hadn’t. And now he never would.

It made him feel equal parts relieved and upset.

“Um…” She seemed at a loss for words. “I’m surprised it didn’t, I guess. It seemed like something that would matter. To you.” She added on the last piece hurriedly - as if reminding him, or maybe herself, that the issue affected him.

“Yeah, I know, it did, that doesn’t mean I need to share my problems all the time. I have issues, we can move on.”

Amy nodded quickly, “Sorry, if I overstepped-”

“No, you’re good. I know you have my back.” Jake said simply. “I didn’t mean to snap, it’s just… been a long week.”

They walked in an odd silence for a bit after that, neither quite sure what to say.

“Anyways, how’re you and Teddy doing?” Jake changed the topic, trying for lightness to his tone.

Amy’s expression morphed into one of annoyance. “Teddy,” She said - tone slightly irritated - “And I are not… necessarily going well.”

“Oh, really?” Jake wasn’t sure how he felt about that. “What’s the, uh, problem? With him.”

“He’s just so boring!” Amy gestured with her cup, nearly spilling her coffee, “All he ever does is talk about freaking Pilsners and… just, he doesn’t have an opinion on anything - except Pilsners, of course.

“That’s… wow.” Jake blinked, confused. “I thought you two were good together.” He didn’t understand how they weren’t working out perfectly. Amy was the perfect dom - smart, motivated, kind - and Teddy was, well, everything Jake wasn’t. He was so… Jake wasn’t sure how to explain it. Teddy was just… able to be a sub so easily? There was no war within him - at least, not one that Jake could see - about his place, no fear of being an object. He didn’t push back against his lot in life, and seemed to genuinely enjoy his identity. Teddy was just so… content with his role. Just like Amy was.

“Yeah, I thought we would be too.” Then, tilting her head, she asked, “What makes you think we were good together?”

“Oh, just, you know, he’s…” worthy “really nice.” He finished, somewhat awkwardly.

“He is nice. Just so, so, so boring. He never jokes, or tells me what he wants, or wants to do anything out of the routine, or…” She broke herself off suddenly, looking flustered, “Um, well, anyways, enough about me. I guess we’re both having relationship stuff going on. Not that I’m comparing our situations!” She added quickly, “Just that, if you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you.”

“Yeah, thanks. And same. If you ever wanna complain about Teddy, I’m all ears.” Jake belatedly hoped that didn’t sound sarcastic.

“Thanks.” Amy didn’t seem to notice an issue with his words.

Jake drank some of his drink to avoid looking at her, sort of staring off into the middle distance. He wanted to… he wasn’t sure. He had gone home after Shaw’s and slept, hadn’t dreamt at all. Still, he felt that unease that creeped up whenever he spent too long thinking he was okay. That knowledge that, no matter how well he seemed to be, it would always come crashing down.

“Anyways,” Amy said after a moment, “I’m glad you were able to… fix that situation. I’m really happy for you.”

“You’re happy that I got dumped?” Jake raised an eyebrow, joking, “Your priorities are weird, Amy.”

“No, I mean,” Amy looked away, looking awkward, “I just mean that, um, I really do think that it’s for the best. I only want you to be cared for like you deserve.”

Jake’s mouth felt dry, and he doubted drinking coffee would help. After a beat, he swallowed, and then gave her a wide grin. “Well, you’d be the first.” As Amy looked at him concernedly, he continued. “This is a weirdly deep convo to be having so early, come on. I'm not drunk enough for this. Besides, this is going to be the first time I’m not actually late to the morning briefing, so thanks for that. Maybe Holt will be impressed.”

-------
“I am impressed, Peralta. You managed to arrive at the designated time for your job.”

“See?” Jake mouthed to Amy, who rolled her eyes.

“Unfortunately, there is little time to celebrate this monumental occasion.” Holt continued, “As there is a current situation that requires our attention.”

Terry stepped forward, opening his powerpoint. “There’s been a massive surge in armed muggings in the area. It’s getting towards tourist season-”, “-As if that ever stops-” Rosa muttered. Terry nodded in her direction, but continued, “The spike’s likely related to that. So, we need to increase patrols in that area. In the meantime, we’ve got quite a few witness statements to take care of, and some backlogged evidence to go through. It’s going to be a long day, guys.”

Grumbling, the uniformed officers headed out, while the squad - no happier with the morning’s briefing - trudged into the bullpen.

“This is lame.” Rosa said, “Tourists should just not carry money with them. Idiots.”

“Honestly, it’d probably be safer for them. How many statements do we have to get through?”

“Thirty-five.” She replied.

“35?” Jake rubbed his hand over his face, “Cool, cool, cool, well, this is going to be super fun.”

-----
“-and I would describe them as ‘ghetto’, yes.” The woman he was interviewing at his desk had been effectively monologuing for the past two minutes and 18 seconds. “The person who attacked me was definitely not white - I noticed that right away. I’m not racist or anything, obviously, but, well, being from out of state - I’m just visiting, by the way, I’m not sure if you noticed - we don’t really see those kind of people where I’m from. Not that there’s anything wrong with them! So long as they, you know, behave and all that. But clearly they can’t, that man was so violent, so aggressive!”

“So, all I asked you was what street you were on when you were mugged.” Jake replied, head in hands.

“Oh, well, I don’t know. I don’t read signs, that’s not my job. But I bet that mugger wouldn't know either, he didn't seem educated, like he could read you know?"

Jake sighed. “Okay, well, thank you for your time. You were mugged somewhere in this district, you don’t know where, or by who, or what they looked like-”

“Well I knew they were-" She lowered her voice to a whisper, "Not white.”

“Yes, thank you. That will be very helpful. You may go.”

The woman left - grumbling about something unintelligible but likely offensive - and Jake rubbed at his face, looking at the report he’d gotten from her. It was abysmally lacking in details, to say the least. He flipped it over to the completed pile - he’d gotten what he could - and opened the next one.

“Is there a John Johnson here?”

“Yes,” A deeply fake tanned man split off from the complaining queue in the waiting room to sit down across from him.

“John Johnson, alright. Can you explain what happened?”

“Sure.” He crossed his leg, sandaled foot nearly knocking over a stack of paperwork. “There I was, minding my own business, exploring the city, when some dude comes up and steals my bag. I yell at him, and no one does anything.” He shook his head, astounded. “I mean, where I’m from, that kind of thing would never fly.”

“Mm.” Jake nodded. “Where are you from?”

“Why do you need to know that? I don't want you signing me up for advertisers."

“For… the report?”

“No way I’m giving you my address. I don't want you knowing that."

“I mean… I can leave it blank?” Jake offered. Useless report, then.

“Oh, sure, fine then.” He shrugged. “Guy who mugged me was tall, built like a boxer, and he had a knife.”

“Do you know where you were?”

“Um, somewhere in Central Park? I don’t know.”

“Okay. What was around you? Any statues, or buildings, or anything memorable?”

“Um, trees.” He said, as if Jake was stupid. “You know, plants and stuff.”

Jake resisted the urge to slam his head into his desk until he either passed out or was sent home. Instead, he just smiled and nodded. “Okay. Do you remember what the guy looked like?”

“I told you, he was tall and buff.”

“Okay, but was he wearing a certain outfit, his hair color, that kind of thing?”

“Who pays attention to that? In my opinion, a man can dress however he feels."

Jake glanced over the man's horrific outfit, complete with sandals, and nodded. "I can see why you'd think that."

----
“These statements are stupid,” Rosa slapped her files on top of his completed pile. “None of these tourists know anything.”

“You’re telling me.” Jake muttered, “I’ve gone through seven so far, and no one’s seen anything.”

“Yeah,” Rosa rolled her eyes. “These are such a waste of time. And it’s all we’re doing for the next fucking week, looks like.”

“Great.” Jake sighed, “We’ll be lucky to even get one of these guys.”

“Yeah.” Rosa leaned down against his desk, thumbing through one of his incomplete files - the witness had called him a slur when he’d asked where he was from and stormed off - looking over it with a bit more attention that it really warranted.

“You good, Rosa?” Jake asked. “What’s up?”

“I’m fine.” She replied. Rosa glanced around furtively, before leaning in and lowering her voice. “I heard from Sarge that you and Sophia broke up. Did it go well, or do you need me to set her car on fire?”

“It’s fine.” Jake shrugged, “We broke up, I arrested her boss, it’s all good.”

“Cool. If you do need anything vandalized-”

“Yeah, yeah, you’ll be the first one I come to.” Jake waved his hand dismissively.

Rosa nodded approvingly, before pushing off to go back to her own desk. Sighing, Jake turned his attention back to his paperwork. He hated working this part of the job - he liked actually getting in the action, connecting the pieces to solve mysteries. This sort of thing… sitting around, pushing paperwork for hours - and days, and weeks - on end felt like he was back to being treated like a secretary, rather than the detective he was.

---
“Here, I’ve got a job for you.” A stack of files plopped down onto his desk.

“Thanks,” Jake said sourly, flipping it open.

A hand came down over the file, slamming in the center of it. “Is that attitude from you, Peralta?”

“No,” Jake gritted out, tone sarcastic. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to do your job, Wiseman.”

“That’s what I thought.” The hand didn’t come up - instead, Wiseman leant forward, pushing himself into Jake’s space. Jake forced himself not to move back, not to flinch away. “You’re never gonna make detective without putting in the work. Well, one of two kinds of work, anyways. How did you get that bonus this year?”

“I did the most overtime.” Jake replied, voice steady. His foot was bouncing under the desk a mile a minute. “And if you keep crawling all over my desk, I’m going to have to use yours.” Jake cracked a wide grin, “And I don’t think you’d like the crumbs.”

Wiseman snorted, then let go - his amusement at Jake’s joke managing to get him to back off. Jake let out a slow breath, pulling the file closer to himself, looking down at it to try to seem aloof. He could see the paper trembling slightly in his hands, but Wiseman didn’t seem to notice - and he certainly would’ve mocked him if he had.

The case had already been solved. Jake wished he could have been given this case to solve, rather than just to type up the report. He could’ve at least been given the chance to try. But, well, he was still technically just a beat cop. He’d passed the detective requirements, he was just waiting on the Captain to actually approve the transfer.

He’d been waiting for a while, now. Jake’d asked Ethan to give the Captain a push, and Ethan had sworn he had, but… well, it hadn’t happened yet.

But that wasn’t Ethan’s fault. This Captain was always kinda slow with paperwork. And old-fashioned. Jake fully trusted that Ethan had done everything he could to get the approval pushed through - he couldn't ask for a bigger supporter than his boyfriend.

In the meantime, though, all he had to think about was typing up this report. Trying to suppress his disappointment, Jake opened the file on his computer, and began filling it out boredly, ignoring Wiseman's sardonic amusement.

----
That wasn’t a fair comparison, Jake told himself firmly as he shook his head, trying to clear the memory from his mind. Everyone here was doing the paperwork, not just him. A glance around confirmed that for him - even Amy, who normally loved paperwork, seemed irritated by the lack of progress being made in regards to its usefulness, and was actively typing away, laminator whirring.

Jake typed up the papers he could get done - he somehow managed to finish faster than Amy, likely because of a laminator jam - and went to hand them in to Holt.

“Peralta.” Holt acknowledged as he entered.

“Hey, Captain. How’s it going?”

“It is going adequately.” He said, “I had been hoping to finish this paperwork by noon, but I can see that was a fool’s error.”

“O-kay.” Jake set his own papers down on the stack haphazardly, causing some of the papers to spill out onto the desk and floor. “Ah, sorry, one sec.”

“By all means, vandalize my office.” Holt said dryly.

Jake looked up, hands full of papers, and saw a faintly amused expression - he was joking with him - before resuming picking up the stray papers. He felt surprisingly ease by Holt's ribbing - it felt a bit like they'd bonded the previous night, even more so than before. It made Jake feel a bit more comfortable in his own skin, and he had the feeling that Holt genuinely cared about him. Jake knew the feeling was likely his own projection, but even so.

Putting the papers back on the desk, he idly scanned one, and read -volvement with subazepam trafficking on a city-wide level. The current team was hand-picked, and while we appreciate your input, there is no need to reallocate either resources or officers for this current taskforce. Sincerely, The Office of the Commissioner, One Police Plaza

“You were trying to get one of the officers put onto the subazepam investigation?” Jake asked, feigning nonchalance - and almost certainly failing completely.

“Yes.” Holt said, straightening the stack of papers more to his preference. He was almost certainly going to pull out a ruler once Jake left. “They refused, however.”

“Who were you trying to get put on?”

Holt seemed to deliberate telling him for a moment. “I was planning on asking Santiago.”

“Why?” The word came out before Jake really meant to, sharper than he meant to. Amy was qualified for it, of course, but he was… he felt like he had expected it to be him. Hadn't even known the option existed until now, but had wanted it to be him.

Holt sat back in his chair. “I understand that you are upset. You and Santiago are both very committed. I had made the decision for a few key reasons. The primary one is that Santiago is less invested than you. She will be able to approach the situation in a way that is both objective and rational.”

“I can be objective.” Jake argued. His voice sounded whiny to even himself.

“Peralta, your dedication has always been one of your strengths. Don’t mistake my decision for condemnation of that trait.”

“Whatever. It doesn’t matter, you got rejected anyways. It’s fine.” Jake said, turning, “I’m going to go back to my desk.”

“Peralta, one final note.”

Jake paused. Holt looked… for lack of a better word, he looked concerned.

“It is in regards to what happened with your partner. Should you need to take some time off, you may do so.”

“Thanks, but I’m good.”

“Very well.” Holt hesitated. "If that should ever change, please tell me."

"Yeah, yeah, I will."

As Jake awkwardly left, he heard the distinct sound of Holt shifting papers - and a glance back confirmed that a ruler was in hand.

Chapter Text

Jake supposed that, if he had a healthier relationship with life, he would actually mourn stuff like the loss of a girlfriend. Instead, he seemed to have no problem moving through it. Maybe it was because he had already been through much worse with Ethan so he could cope better. Or maybe it all just got swallowed up by his other issues.

Regardless of reasoning, he wasn’t complaining.

He was back on the single life - oh well, going to die alone had been his plan for the past few years, he could always fall back on that. He and Amy were starting to spend more time together - which was a little strange, as their rivalry had seemed to fade into a mutual camaraderie. He had always respected her, and it felt a little strange to have that reciprocated.

Overall, his life had seemed to equalized - despite the strange tightness in his chest that appeared whenever he thought of Sophia, it seemed to trade off with a different, much more welcoming warmth that accompanied his time with Amy.

Which is why he felt the tender equalization inside of him thrown wildly out of balance when his father sent him a text in the early morning.

Well.

Jake had never come awake faster in his life.

When he did read the text, he felt an eager lightness to his hands as he typed out a response - affirming that yes, he was more than welcome to come by the precinct, to go to dinner with him.

Jake hadn’t heard from Roger in… well, how long had it been? He had forgotten Jake’s birthday - but he was born on a high-travel day so it was really his fault for being born early - this past year, and had last called him about 19 months ago in a butt-dial, so… yeah, 19 months ago.

Jake practically skipped to work that day, excitement in his chest and his feet, stupid smile on his face that he couldn’t seem to get to go away.

Charles was the first to notice his - likely giddy - expression, and he moved over to greet him.

“Jake, what’s up?”

“Great news!” Jake grinned, “My dad’s in town and is stopping by!”

Charles’ own smile almost immediately slipped down, and his eyes narrowed slightly. “Your dad?” He asked, almost cautiously.

“Yeah, he’s got a couple days off I guess so we’re going to spend some time hanging out, catching up, you know, the usual father-son bonding stuff.”

“Jake, your dad doesn’t… he hasn’t visited you in six years!”

“He’s busy being a pilot, Boyle.”

“Regional.”

“He flies internationally.”

“Quebec to Albany,” Charles scoffed.

“What is going on here?” Jake asked, confused - Charles was almost always excited for him, and his demeaning of Roger seemed out of character. “Why don’t you like my dad?”

“I’m just wary,” Charles said, “He left you when you were seven, and he’s been letting us down ever since.”

“Us?”

“I see you as a brother Jake. That makes him associated with me.”

“Alright, look, I get it.” Jake straightened his tie. “He hasn’t always been the best dad in the past -” He grimaced for a moment, remembering some of the less-than-pleasant moments. “But he’s changed. Look, we’re going to go out to a restaurant, maybe take a walk in the park, possibly a carriage ride. If I get chilly, he could lend me his coat- I’m describing a date, I don’t know what fathers and sons do. But I’m going to find out!”

“Hm. Well, it’s Friday, so reservations are going to be limited - I can get you a table at Csaba, a Hungarian sausage place my father and I go to. I’m a loyal customer” Charles was still frowning, but he seemed to have relaxed slightly. “For the record, I still don’t think it’s a good idea, though.”

“Great, thanks.” Jake said, already typing in his phone to his father the address - underneath the text he had sent in response to Roger asking where it was he worked, again? - He had had to remind him he worked for the 99th precinct.

“Hey Rosa guess what!” Jake called over to her.

“No.” Rosa didn’t look up.

“My dad’s coming by today! In a little bit, actually.” Jake said brightly.

Rosa did turn around then. “You want me to hide Hitchcock and Scully when he gets here?”

“Yes, please.” Jake nodded.

Rosa - long-suffering and supportive in equal measures - went over and began convincing the two to move to the break room that afternoon. Not that it took much convincing, of course, considering the break room had couches.

Amy raised an eyebrow at him as Jake began cleaning off his desk, organizing the papers and brushing the many assorted crumbs into the trash bin.

“I didn’t know there was ever a reason good enough for you to clean your desk.” She said, reaching out to catch a stack of his files that were about to tip. “Your dad must be someone impressive.”

“He’s the best.” Jake agreed, “Ah, thanks.” He took the files from her and placed them back in their space, trying to ignore how their hands brushed. “He’s an airline pilot. He was always so busy, it was hard for him to make time for me - which is why him visiting today is so great! Really gives us a chance to bond.”

“I’m happy for you,” Amy said, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Let me know what I can do to help.”

“I, uh, I will.” Jake felt warmth in his face, and quickly looked away - Amy had been becoming more and more physically affectionate with him after their conversation, and it never failed to make him a bit weak in the knees. It wasn’t a mystery why - Amy was… well, Amy - but she definitely didn’t mean it how his brain was deciding to project it. Especially since she was still dating Teddy, too, he reminded himself - Amy was just being friendly, and that was all.

Jake practically jumped as he got another text, hoping it was his father - instead, it was Gina. Looking up, he saw her watching her phone, not so much as glancing towards him.

If you need backup, I’m there.

Jake left her on read - he felt, irrationally, that if he responded to her offer of support that it would speak that need into existence. That there would then be a reason for her support.

He pushed aside the negativity from Charles and Gina, and instead focused on his own excitement - and Amy’s support too, of course.

Jake was too distracted to get anything done, and instead just did busy work until Roger informed him of his arrival.

“He’s in the building!” Jake announced, getting to his feet. His eagerness - and bright grin - had slowly been giving way to nervousness for the past while, and he felt an uneasy edge to his voice as he spoke. “Everyone get ready. Look busy, smile, hide your moms, I don’t know.”

Charles stood up from his desk, holding an open folder in an attempt to be incognito as he watched Jake. Rosa had her legs kicked up on her desk, and she was sharpening one of her knives while she eyed her computer - or maybe a little over it, where the elevator was. Terry was also standing, albeit ramrod straight, and hands clasped in front of him, like he was getting an ID photo taken. Amy was - Jake glanced back at her - Amy caught his gaze and gave an encouraging smile.

Jake felt his heart flutter from something other than nerves.

He watched as his father stepped out from the elevator, smile in place, uniform on. “Paging Detective Jake Peralta!” He said, holding out one arm, suitcase in the other.

“Ah, dad!” Jake darted over, massive grin forming, running over to give him a hug - one that was returned. Jake felt his grin grow even wider at that.

“Everyone,” Jake said, turning around. “This is my dad.” Then, to Roger. “Introduce yourself in your Captain’s voice.”

“Attention passengers. This is Captain Roger Peralta. If you look to your left you’ll see me, making your acquaintance.”

“Love that.” Jake said - he noted a smile from Amy, and a slight almost-smile from Rosa. Charles was rolling his eyes.

“Hi, I’m Charles, Jake’s best friend. Pop quiz, what’s Jake allergic to?”

Jake grimaced but Roger was already answering.

“Bees.” Roger shrugged.

“And wasps. Guy didn’t even include wasps?”

“Wasps aren’t even real,” Jake replied, before spotting Holt. “Hey, Captain Holt! Come meet my dad, Captain Peralta.”

“Hello Captain,” Holt acknowledged.

“Captain.” They shook hands, then turned to face Jake.

Jake stared at the two of them. “This feels super weird to me.” He said, still smiling - but he felt a bit displaced with how, when he looked at them, he found more comfortable under Holt’s gaze than his father’s.

Both held him to high standards - but Holt’s felt achievable.

Besides, the last time he’d seen Roger had gone… less than ideally. He had been in a hurry - in town on a random day, and wanting to meet his lovely boyfriend of 1 year. This had also been the last time he’d visited, 6 years ago - and Jake didn’t care to recall it.

”Captain Peralta, pleasure to meet you.” Roger extended a hand to Ethan, who accepted it. “You must be the boy that my son’s spoken of.” He smiled wide, all white teeth and no venom. “I have to admit, I was disappointed when Jacob’s results came back as a sub. But with you for a son-in-law… well, I think that could help balance the scales.”

Ethan laughed, while his free hand tightened on Jake’s shoulder. Reassuringly, it had been reassuringly. “Well, I can tell you’re a hardworking man. I’m sure we’ll get along quite well.”

Once they were inside, Roger pulled Jake aside. “Really, Jacob,” His voice sounded slightly scolding, “Did you have to wear that collar of yours? Just because you’re a sub doesn’t mean you have to demean yourself, or flaunt such a thing.”

Jake felt some righteous anger flare up on behalf of Ethan, one hand coming up to touch the smooth leather edge of his collar. “There’s nothing demeaning about love, dad. And he loves me.”

“Sure.” Roger said patronizingly, patting his head. “And of course he loves you. Just look at how he dotes on you - like a prized pet.”

Jake felt rage rise inside of him, but tamped it down quickly - it wouldn’t do to have a fight, and especially not with Roger. Roger didn’t understand, of course, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still try. He was doing his best, and besides, he was nice to Ethan, which is really what mattered.

Jake didn’t care to think how angry- no, how disappointed Ethan would be if Roger had said this out loud to him.

“I’m an adult, I can make my own decisions.” Jake said simply.

“Including incompetent ones, it seems.”

Roger turned his back to Jake, and rejoined Ethan, starting up a cheery conversation about some little trinket on a shelf.

Ethan glanced back, and Jake dropped his hand from his collar quickly. He deliberated for half a second before joining them as well in their conversation, Ethan slinging one arm across his waist as he came over, keeping his eyes, and conversation, on Roger.

There was no point in being upset, Roger was probably just trying to be helpful. He wasn’t the best at fatherly advice, but he tried, after all.

Roger wished Ethan well when he left, and gave a cold hug to Jake as he left - displeasure with Jake talking back clear in the lines of his face.

Jake wished he could make his father proud. Just once. He sometimes wondered if it was even possible.

Jake became aware of Roger finishing up a story - a classic one, about Oregon - and put his smile back on. “Let me give you a tour of the precinct!” Jake offered, once he finished up.”Oh, you can interrogate one of my perps!”

“No, he can’t.” Terry said immediately. “Don’t do that Jake!”

One tour later - complete with pointing out the best bathroom, the worst coffee machine, and the printer that didn’t jam quite as often as the others - they headed out to Csaba.

The entire time, Jake chatted excitedly with Roger - who seemed genuinely interested in everything. He listened, and added to the conversation, and no mention was made of Jake’s orientation, or his lack of relationship - they hadn’t really talked after that last visit, and although Roger knew of the breakup, he’d never commented on it. Or tried to see how Jake was doing.

But that’s because he was busy, of course.

Once at the restaurant, Jake quickly regretted taking Charles’ advice for food. But, at least, they were able to joke about the sausages, and Roger didn’t seem to mind it very much.

Jake was too excited about his father to care much about anything else.

“So, dad, you know how when we would go out to restaurants when I was a kid, and you would do that thing?”

“Tell the waitress it was your birthday to get a free dessert? Already did.”

“What?” Jake grinned, “I just told her it was your birthday! You know what that means?”

“We’re going to get two, likely sausage-filled desserts?” They both laughed.

“This is pretty fun, right?” Jake said, “I mean, we’re actually bonding.” His heart felt full, in a way it never did with his father, and always wished it would - he had his dad’s attention, his approval, his respect. It felt… it felt good.

“Jake, there’s something I want to talk to you about.” Roger looked serious, suddenly. “Last week, I was flying into Albany from Quebec, and you know how I always keep my snowboard with me in case I get a chance to carve.”

“So cool.”

“Well, Canadian customs found some prescription meds in my board bag, and they’re accusing me of smuggling. They’re not mine, I have no idea how they got in there, but it’s bad. I could lose my pilot’s liscence.”

“But, you’re the best pilot in the world, I’m guessing, without knowing anything about the field.”

“I’m really in a bind here. Jake, I need your help.” He paused for a moment. “That’s actually the reason I’m here.”

Jake felt that lightness sink down, settling somewhere as a resigned self-hate. He should have known he wasn’t good enough for his dad to visit just for him, he knew it but he had decided to pretend that it wasn’t the case and got his hopes up for nothing. Jake hated himself in that moment for having been disappointed. But even more so for not being enough in the first place.

“Oh. So that’s the reason.” Jake said after a pause, smile gone - he could feel himself suddenly wanting nothing more than to go home and curl into his sheets and never move again. But he was already so useless to his dad - if it was as serious as he said it was, maybe helping him out with this would make him proud.

Despite himself, despite knowing it was a bad idea, Jake couldn’t help but feel a bit hopeful.

-------
The next morning, Jake commandeered the briefing room.

“All right,” he began, once everyone was seated - everyone being Charles, Hitchcock, and Scully. Holt joined as well, walking in to see what shenanigans Jake was up to. “Let’s talk about my dad’s case.”

“The case of why he came to town?” Charles asked immediately, “I solved it: because he wanted to take advantage of his son.” He tossed down his notebook and pen.

“Alright, fine.” Jake felt a twinge of anger at Charles - it was misdirected, of course, he knew he should be angry at himself for not being good enough - and tamped down on it. “First, I was a little upset. Then, I realized, this is great. I’ll solve the case, and then he’ll see what a great detective I am.”

He could feel Holt’s eyes on him. Jake studiously ignored him.

“He should already think you’re great!” Charles said, “You shouldn’t need to prove anything to him! Take my dad, I don’t need proof to have him know Jake Peralta’s the best detective on the precinct! He knows it!”

“Tell us about the case.” Holt interjected, still watching Jake with an impassive, prying eye.

“Here’s what we know so far.” Jake said, “One, Hungarian sausage is a terrible recommendation. Two, Quebec officers think my dad used his security clearance to smuggle in over a thousand pills of Turgidol.”

“Canadian erection medication,” Hitchcock supplemented helpfully. “Very potent. I don’t need it,” He added, less helpfully, “but I love it.”

“Three, the case against him looks pretty solid. Four, he’s never been a good father to Jake.” Charles argued.

“Five, he has been a good father, especially from ages 0-7 and yesterday through forever.”

“Enough.” Holt said, cutting the argument off, “How did you read these files? They’re french.”

“Scully translated for me.”

Scully began some boring life story about being stranded.

“No one cares about your boring life story, Scully. This is about proving my dad’s innocence.” He turned to Holt, “Sir, I’d like to take a few days to go to Canada, and help my dad out.”

“Of course,” Holt shrugged, “But take Boyle with you. It’d be good to have an objective set of eyes.”

“Fine, but under protest because he’s a jerk. Also, we want to take Scully.”

“Perfect.” Holt nodded, “I do you a favor, you do me one too. Thank you.”

Holt left, and Jake felt the tension form before lifting slightly. He didn’t know why, but Jake had been expecting Holt to say something different - not that he couldn’t go, necessarily, but… well, Jake wasn’t sure. Maybe that Holt would have been disappointed in him, too. He couldn’t think of a particular reason in the moment, but he was sure there must have been some reason for it.

-------
Jake and Charles were on the plane when Roger came by, sitting down beside Scully - a dangerous move, not that he seemed to mind.

“Hey, Jake.” He said, “How’s the case going?”

“Good. We’ve already got four suspects. Some airport workers and your girlfriend, Denise. She had access to your bags.”

“Not that night. Denise’s been… spending some time at her place. Relationships are complicated.”

“You cheated on her a bunch and she found out.” Charles nodded.

“Okay, I deserve that.” Roger nodded. “Charles, I have cheated on women in the past and on this one too.”

“You got a penchant for blondes,” Jake said, trying for a smile and feeling it be more of a grimace.

“Hey, come on, you can’t blame a guy for occasionally dropping anchor at the Cold Commodore Club.”

They both laughed - Roger amusedly, Jake forcedly. Charles didn’t react to it, instead taking a slow sip of water, looking over the top of his cup with a frown.

“So, seriously Jake, is this going to be okay?” Roger asked.

“Oh, yeah, you’re going to be fine.” Jake nodded. “When we get there, we’ll go to two suspects in the baggage area.”

As it turns out, they did not make it to the baggage area. Roger was arrested not long after they got off the plane, as they were walking along the way to get there.

With Scully translating, they said that they found pills in Roger’s apartment.

“Jake, I don’t know what he’s talking about.” Roger said, as the officer handed Scully - who they apparently thought was in charge - a photo of massive bags of drugs. “I swear I don’t know how those pills got in my apartment.”

“Scully, tell them we’re cops!” Jake said, as they began to move away, Roger in tow.

Scully stepped over and shouted something in french. A few passerby gave him a strange look, but the police did not stop.

They ended up having to ask around quite a bit, with a lot of confusion, to eventually figure out that the police were holding Roger without bail - evidently he was a “flight risk” - and Scully had acquired poutine.

“Man, I can’t believe they found pills at my dad’s place.” Jake shook his head, “That means none of our suspects could’ve possibly done it. Oh my gosh, Boyle - is there a chance my dad is actually a drug smuggler?”

“Well, let’s look at the facts.” Charles said, folding his jacket over his arm. “Drugs in his luggage, drugs in his apartment. Terrible dad, terrible husband, cheats on his girlfriend. I think he did it.”

“You’re right!” Jake said, “He didn’t do it! He said Denise wasn’t there last night - so who was?” He thought for a second, “In the Commodore Club!”

One set of fingerprints later - really, this was too easy. Jake thrived in these sorts of environments, and was very much hoping to prove his dad’s innocence. In part because it was the right thing to do, but mostly to be able to see his dad be proud of him for it.

When Jake cleared Roger, he couldn’t help but feel absolutely elated. The way Roger thanked him - he said he had done well, and Jake practically preened. He even offered to give them a flight back home, which Jake readily accepted.

When they got back, Jake couldn’t wait to tell everyone the news. Roger came along with - another win in Jake’s mind.

“Guess who freed his dad from Canadian prison, and slammed six free mimosas on the first-class flight home? Spoiler alert, it was me!” Jake grinned. “Turns out my dad’s side piece framed him. She was hella pissed when she found about his girlfriend, and his other side-piece. So my dad’s actually a great guy after all!”

Holt was looking at him again, with that same blank expression.

“In celebration of my freedom, I’m taking everybody out tonight. Drinks are on me.” He slung one arm over Jake’s shoulders.

Jake felt so happy in that moment, he could have cried.

He should have known it wasn’t going to last.

-----
That night, as everyone gathered at Shaw’s, his phone dinged - Roger, letting him know that he wasn’t going to be able to make it after all.

At that exact moment, Hitchcock decided to toast Jake’s dad - everyone giving a cheer.

“Yep.” Jake sighed, before showing Charles the phone screen.

Charles’ expression - one of gracious losing - turned into resigned sadness. “I’m sorry, Jake.” He said quietly. “Do you want me to let the others know?”

“Yeah.” Jake rubbed his face with a hand. “I don’t- I don’t want to deal with this right now.”

“You got it.” Charles flitted off, ducking between everyone and muttering discreetly. The energy was brought down quickly - Hitchcock looked mildly annoyed, while everyone else looked concerned. Holt was watching Jake again.

Jake didn’t really care for their glances, so he busied himself with getting a drink, and then sitting down in a dimly lit corner of the bar.

“I’m sorry, Jake.” Charles said, once he found his way back. “I’m sure your dad has a really good reason for not being here.”

For all his talk about how Jake’s dad sucked, it seemed that the minute Jake was actually hurting, Charles was trying to cheer him up. It was sweet, but it only made Jake more resigned. He would have almost preferred the gloating - not really, of course, but he just wished for any of this to be different.

“No, don’t do that. Don’t let him off the hook. It’s what I’ve been doing my entire life. You know, when he missed my 11th birthday, I blamed myself for being born on a peak travel day.” He smiled wryly, feeling the mix of anger and sadness boiling inside of him. “You were right about him Boyle.”

“So what do we do now?” Charles considered. “Hug for ten minutes.”

“No, give me a rain check on the hug. There’s something I got to do.” Jake stood. “You can have my beer.” He’d never even bothered to open it.

Jake found his way to the hotel he knew his dad was staying at, the Cortney Hotel. One flash of his badge got him to the room, and he stood outside of it for a few minutes, trying to work up the nerve to knock. The mixing pot of feelings in his stomach only intensified the longer he stood there, and he finally couldn’t bear to wait another moment. And knocked.

The door opened. “Jake.” Roger said, seeming surprised. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the party, buddy, I’m… subbing for a buddy of mine with an early flight. I’m sure you’re upset.”

“Actually, I’m not upset at all.” Jake said, arms crossed -because he wasn’t. Just disappointed and sad and angry and a million other things. But not upset.

“Really? Great.”

“Yeah. More relieved.” Jake said. “You know, you were always my hero, but I think I’m finally starting to see you for who you really are. A regional airline pilot who makes bumpy landings, and a selfish guy who doesn’t care about being a father.”

“Jake, you don’t understand.” Roger said, “There was a downdraft on the Drummondville runway. And, besides, you don’t understand what it’s like trying to raise a son who’s a sub. It’s hard, knowing that your kid’s never going to be treated the same or be as good as the next one. Having to pretend your kid’s normal to your coworkers.”

“Oh, wow.” Jake had been hoping for an apology, or… something. An acknowledgement of his mistakes. All he got was more excuses. There were always so many, he was drowning in them. It was always something else’s fault, someone else’s fault. Nothing was ever on Roger, always on everybody else. Always on him.

“It’s not my fault.”

“Yeah, clearly.” Jake scoffed. “Look, I’ve been making excuses for you my whole life, but you’re a pretty crappy father, and until you’re ready to be a good one, don’t call me.”

Roger stared at him, seemingly at a loss for words.

Jake left. There was nothing Roger could say to him anymore that would matter.

As he found his way back to Shaw’s, he had felt himself slowly shifting into doubt - maybe he shouldn’t have said that, maybe he could have done something else that would have made his dad proud.

Jake knew logically, of course, that nothing he did or said would ever win his dad’s approval. It just wasn’t something his dad even had to give in the first place. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still disappointing.

Charles welcomed him back, loudly, and Jake smiled - he could always count on his friend to raise his spirits. As he went in for a drunken 10-minute hug, Jake giving only token resistance - Charles gave excellent hugs - Holt approached.

“Boyle, release him.”

“Fine, but only because you’re ordering me to.” Charles said, letting go. “There’s nine minutes left on that hug,” He informed Jake, before moving away.

“Nice job in Quebec.” Holt said, “I bet the local cops weren’t happy you showed them up.”

“Yeah, well maybe not at first. But by the end, they kept calling me a real ‘batard’, which I can only assume means hero.” Jake joked.

“It means bastard.” Holt informed, “But that’s only because they were jealous. You did good work.” He held up some cash. “Here.” And placed it on the bar.

“Is this an allowance?” Jake asked excitedly, “Are you giving me an allowance?”

“No, I’m paying the bartender for more drinks.”

“Oh, right.” That made more sense, Jake supposed.

Holt reached out, placing one hand on his shoulder, looking hard at Jake. His expression for once open, in clear sincerity. “I am proud of you.”

Jake felt his expression change, he wasn’t really sure what into - in that moment, all he felt was relief, and pride in himself. Not only had he managed to make someone proud of him, it was Holt. That was so much better than anything Jake could have ever hoped for.

As Holt moved on past him, and Charles ran up to continue the hug, all Jake felt was a sense of comfort that he had never experienced before, comfort in the fact that he was valued. Maybe that was what fathers were supposed to make sons feel.

Maybe that was why he’d never felt it before.

Chapter Text

“Jake, come on. Don’t be a spoilsport.”

Jake could feel Ethan’s chest against his back, hands roaming over him. Could feel the mattress pressed against his chest, his face. Could feel the collar around his neck just a little too tight. Could feel Ethan fucking into him.

Could feel Ethan’s hand wrapping around his cock-

Jake let out a shuddering gasp, arms twitching helplessly from their bound position behind his back.

“I thought we agreed that solving a case deserves a reward, didn’t we?”

Jake nodded, still gasping for breath. He felt dizzy from lack of oxygen - not enough to pass out, or even enough to see spots, but enough to make it hard, if not impossible, to catch his breath.

“That’s right.” Ethan stroked up and down Jake’s cock, listening to his gasps with a nod. “Yes, yes, good point. You haven’t earned a reward, have you.” He let go of Jake to wind up and smack him across the face, while in the same moment, slammed fully into him.

Jake saw spots now. He was pretty sure he hadn’t made any noises, though - that was good, that was good. He had upset Ethan, and now he was getting punished for it. Getting what he deserved for it. Upsetting Ethan by talking would only make it worse.

“Luckily, this is a reward for me, and a reminder for you.” Ethan now held both of Jake’s hips still, ass raised off the bed. He drew out ever so slowly. “When I say I want sex, you don’t tell me no.” With the word, he slammed in again, and Jake couldn’t bite back the cry of pain at that.

Fortunately, Ethan seemed to be focused, didn’t seem to notice the lapse.

Unfortunately, he was now fucking into Jake with abandon - Jake could feel the skin on his hips ripping, could feel the hot pain arching up his spine with each thrust.

“When I tell you I want you, my sub, that I want to fuck you, what are you supposed to do?”

Jake tried to speak through the gasps. He took too long to catch his breath - Ethan slapped him across the ass, which already hurt from being fucked into for so long, without anything in the way of prep - and Jake’s vision whited out momentarily.

When it cleared, Ethan was still fucking into him, still waiting for an answer.

Jake licked his lips - he had bitten them through to bleeding - and managed to choke out, “I’m supposed to get on my knees and shut up.”

“What happens if you don’t? If you say no to the main purpose of your existence?”

Jake closed his eyes. “I’m a bad sub, and I need to be taught better.”

“See, you know all of this.” Ethan sighed, “But sometimes I don’t know if you understand it. What happens when you say no?”

“I’m a bad sub.”

“Again.” Ethan’s voice sounded pleased.

“I’m a bad sub.” Jake tried to pour conviction into his words.

When Ethan spoke again, he sounded a bit out of breath himself - his thrusts becoming more rapid. “When I say I want to fuck you, it’s not a request. I will fuck you. It is why you are here. It is why you have my collar, that drawer of clothes, that place on my bed.”

“Yes, sir.” Jake said.

Ethan paused, and Jake worried he was going to be hit for speaking out of turn. But, after a moment, Ethan continued, still becoming increasingly ragged. “Good, you’re making some progress. The only word I want to hear out of you is yes. So tell me.”

“Yes, sir.” Jake said, and then flinched as a particularly hard thrust hit him and his vision blurred with pain once more.

“Again.”

“Yessir.”

“Again.”

“Yes s-”

Ethan came.

When he finished, he slid out of Jake easily, then tutted. “I can’t believe this. Blood on my sheets.”

“I’m sorry sir.” Jake said, feeling his momentarily relief vanish. “I can wash them right away.”

“No, no, you’re not done.” Ethan’s hands trailed down Jake’s spine, digging his nails in. “You’re going to stay here, and think about what you’ve done. Think about how to be better. I only accept the best from my sub, you know that.”

“I’ll be better, sir.” Jake said. He felt, with increasing dread, exactly what was going to happen next. “Please, I’ll be better.”

“I know you will.” Ethan’s hand vanished - the cold filled the space. Jake felt himself shaking - he didn’t want this. Hadn’t he already been corrected?

“You’re going to stay here, and think about what you’ve done.”

“Sir, please-” Anything but this. Jake could take the fucking, he could take the hitting and the beating and any other punishment he had earned. But this one was the one he hated the most. He couldn’t bear it. Couldn’t bear the emptiness, couldn’t bear the drop.

“You wouldn’t have to be punished if you were a good sub, Jake.” Ethan reminded, his voice already sounding further away.

Jake felt himself begin to cry. “Please.” He said, feeling his voice crack. “Please.”

The door closed.

Jake was alone. The sheets - damp from all manner of things - pressed against his skin, the dry area near his face rapidly wettening with his tears.

He should have just said yes. He should have just said yes.

Jake dropped, alone and restrained in his dom’s empty bedroom.

------------
The next time Jake went to work, Amy had taken the day off.

To say everyone was worried was an understatement. Amy never took leave unless she absolutely had to - she’d once dislocated her ankle and still hobbled her way to work. She even beat Jake in terms of hours - although that was only because he was perpetually late, Jake had argued. She’d said that was nothing to brag about.

Jake had already, immediately, gone to pester Terry about Amy’s absence.

Terry was not particularly enjoying the interrogation.

“Jake, everyone’s entitled to their time off. It’s not your business.” Terry said, looking up from his computer. “I’d tell you to take it up with the Captain, but Holt’ll tell you the same thing.”

“It is not your business.” Holt said, sitting upright in his chair. “Santiago has the time, she is allowed to use it. You should be working, instead of asking pointless questions.”

“Are you sure you can’t tell me? I’m worried about her, she never takes time off.”

“I understand your concern. However, this is not relevant. If Santiago needs help, she will ask for it.”

Jake privately thought that Amy would rather let him reorganize her desk than ever admit to needing help - she wasn’t the type to admit to not being able to do it all herself. But he wasn’t going to argue with Holt, so he instead just muttered something about his paperwork and headed back out.

“So, what’s the situation?” Rosa asked, a few minutes later. “Did she fall down a flight of stairs? Run out of binders?”

“Holt won’t say.” Jake complained, swiveling in his chair. “It’s not fair, she’s supposed to canvass with me for that burglary in the apartments on 85th.” Whether or not there were other reasons for wanting her to be there was… not something he had to discuss with Rosa, necessarily. He had been really looking forward to getting to work with her that day - wandering around, making stupid bets over who would live in each apartment, talking about everything and nothing, listening to her laugh-

Hm. Totally normal feelings about a coworker who is just a coworker and friend and nothing else whatsoever.

Rosa was eyeing him with a slight, amused curve to her lips.

Jake felt himself beginning to blush slightly. He had a feeling Rosa could see his feelings more clearly than she should’ve. “Um, anyways, I should go- uh, do that by myself now, then.”

“I can come with.” She offered, still eyeing him. “I’ve just got paperwork today.”

“Sure, yeah.” Jake grabbed his jacket, and the two headed outside.

After about 20 minutes of driving in relative silence, Jake spoke.

“How, uh, how obvious is it?”

“That you have the hots for Santiago? Very.”

“Do you think, uh, she’s noticed?”

Rosa shrugged. “Hard to say. She’s oblivious to that. Besides, she’s dating Teddy, and you aren’t a homewrecker.” The last part was said almost as a warning.

“Of course not- besides, Teddy’s better for her anyways.”

“Oh?” Rosa raised an eyebrow at him.

“Well, yeah. I mean, he’s… got a lot more going for him, I guess. He’s nerdy, and…” Jake trailed off. He didn’t really want to remind Rosa of his less fortunate moments - particularly not considering how much of it she had unfortunately been privy to. “He’s just… a better fit. Brings out the good in her in a way I wouldn’t.”

Rosa was eyeing him critically. “I think Teddy brings out the boring in her.” A pause. “But I support the decision she makes to be with him. And I won’t help you fuck with her relationship.”

“I don’t want that?” Jake defended, “I wouldn’t- I would never try to screw her over just because I’m a dumbass with feelings. Her happiness is more important than- than-” his own “-some… stupid work crush.”

“Good.” Rosa nodded. “I wouldn’t expect you to, but I just wanted to… make sure you knew that I wouldn’t cross the line for you. I would for most things, you know that.” Her hand rested on his shoulder - a rare occasion of her instigating touch - before lifting off. “But I won’t help screw over another woman’s life for anyone’s sake.”

“That’s reassuring.”

“And she hasn’t done the double-tuck for you before anyways.” Rosa pointed out.

“The what?”

“You know, the thing she does when she likes someone?” Rosa gave a loud, airy giggle, tucking her hair behind her ears on both sides, before her smile immediately vanished and she said, deadpan. “You know, that.”

“That was horrifying.” Jake said, staring at her aghast. “But, noted.”

Twenty minutes later, Rosa was trying to explain that no, she was the police, while an old woman frantically dialed 911 to explain that a scary woman was breaking in.

Apparently the information was relayed to Gina, so - upon their return to the precinct - she had slung herself onto Rosa’s shoulder and congratulated her on terrorizing the populace.

Rosa didn’t reject the touch, but her teeth gritted at the words. “Maybe they wouldn’t be so scared if they fucking listened to me for once.” She snapped, stalking over to her desk and leaving Gina standing by the entrance to the bullpen.

“Well,” Gina said, watching Rosa storm off, “Not all of us can be terrifying to behold.” Then, turning to Jake, “Hey, Jakey, do you wanna grab drinks later? Not Shaw’s, there’s this other bar I think you’d like.”

“Not Shaw’s?” Jake hadn’t been to any other bar in years, aside from his… momentary lapses. He suddenly, desperately hoped that Gina wasn’t on to him - before he mentally shook himself. Of course she knew what he got up to - he’d called her after his hookups left and he felt disgusting more often than he’d care to admit. Not that they’d done anything wrong, sometimes - just that afterwards, he sometimes felt filthy, felt empty in a way that hurt.

Gina’d seen him drop more than once. She always swore she wouldn’t help him the next time, but she could never seem to bear not to. After all, no one else would.

Jake always felt bad when she found him like that. He never wanted to make her help him. But she always would, and always tell him after, once he was stable, that they couldn’t keep having her do this. That it was draining. That he needed to find someone else. That he needed to find a repeat hookup instead of all these one-night stands. That they hurt him more than they helped.

He always told himself he would do what she asked. He always knew it was the smart thing.

He never did.

“Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone cart you off.” She said, voice a joke but they both knew she was serious. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Alright, sure.” Jake smiled at her. A night out, drinks with Gina? It’d be just like the old days, before Rosa and him were ‘outside of class’ friends. Maybe this could be fun. “Should we invite Rosa?” He asked.

Gina shrugged, “I would, but I don’t want you stuck third-wheeling with two hotties.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Alright, bet.” She turned over her shoulder. “‘Ey Rosa!” She shouted across the bullpen, “You wanna get drinks tonight?”

“Sure.”

“It won’t be at Shaw’s.” Jake informed, ignoring Gina’s elbow jab as he did so.

“Then no.” Rosa didn’t hesitate.

------
The bar was someplace Jake had thankfully never been before - he tended to go to the seedier places. By contrast, this one seemed relatively nice, with decent lighting, non-sticky floors, and a drinks menu. A drinks menu that was predominantly Latine-oriented.

Jake felt a bit of suspicion - Gina was more upscale than this, and they were kind of close to where Amy’s apartment was, if he recalled correctly. Not in a creepy way - everyone knew where everyone lived, except Rosa, who gave each of them a different location and name to use.

Gina found them a table near the back - and soon both of them had extremely fruity cocktails in hand. Jake loved a good cocktail, but never got them at Shaw’s - too much risk for scorn, there.

He sipped on his drink - something with papaya, orange, and a lot of tequila - and asked Gina, “So, what’s up?”

“What, I can’t just take a friend out to try someplace new just for fun? There doesn’t always have to be subterfuge, Jake.”

“You’re right, I’ve been overthinking. I’m sorry.”

“Buttttttt,” Gina leaned forward, “I heard that Santiago skipped work today. Her one friend - the one who works in records - said that she’s having a rough time, emotional-speaking. I know, I know, hard to believe Santiago’s got any but hey. Anyways, she said that Amy comes here to get away from it all. So, if she’s not actually out sick or whatever lame excuse she gave the Captain, then she’ll be here, getting turnt.”

“If Amy comes here to be alone, then we should leave.” Jake said stiffly. He felt… weird about this. A part of him wanted to immediately bolt out the door - he didn’t want to see Amy when she was upset, it wasn’t like he knew how to make her feel better. But another part of him - a part that seemed small but grew larger by the minute - instantly wanted to find her, and see if she was okay, and see what he could do to help.

“And miss all the hot goss? No way.” Gina sipped on her drink, eyes on her phone. “I have a tracker on her phone, and it says she’s been here for the past thirty minutes.

“Gina-”

“And there she is.” Gina said, looking up and gesturing.

Jake turned to see Amy sitting at a booth a bit further away. Well, fuck, now all he could do was hope that she didn’t notice they were there.

Gina grabbed her drink and stood up. “I’mma go record her.”

“Wha- Gina, no-” Jake followed after her, practically tripping as he tried to snatch her phone out of her hand. “That isn’t going to be funny-”

He looked up to see Amy making direct eye contact with him, expression shocked.

“Jake? Gina? What are you-?”

Gina’s flash went off. “Hah, nice!”

“Gina, delete that.” Jake said, as she held it out of arm’s reach. “Now.”

“What-” Amy’s confusion rapidly changed to concern. “Did you just- Gina, please delete that. I don’t need this right now-”

“Nope, this is too good. You, skipping work to go drinking? For shame, Amy. For shame.”

“I- I wasn’t-” Amy stood up, “I didn’t skip work, the Captain approved my absence and- and you have no right to be taking photos of me!”

“I’m sending this to Terry as we speak.” Gina said threateningly.

Jake grabbed her arm. “Gina,” He said, trying to sound as authoritative as he could, “Cut it out. You’re not being funny.”

“Who said I was trying to be funny?” Gina replied, wrenching her arm free.

Amy placed her hands on the table, arms trembling. “Gina, give me your phone.”

“No, I think you’re kinda fun when you’re worked up. Besides, this is some perfect blackmail.”

“Gina,” Jake warned, “Seriously, stop. This isn’t like you at all.”

Truly, Gina had a bit of a mean streak, but certainly nothing cruel. Nothing like this. Jake wanted to intervene, had to intervene.

“Don’t make me make you.” Amy snapped. “I don’t owe you an explanation for my being here, so back the fuck off and delete that fucking photo.”

“Why don’t you go and make me, then?” Gina grinned.

Jake paused, glancing at Gina. That was deliberately goading - she reserved that for her enemies, not Amy…

Amy straightened, opening her mouth to speak - Jake mentally prepared himself for whatever command she was about to say.

Please, Gina, just delete it.” She said after a pause, falling back into her seat. “Just… please.

“Fine.” Gina sighed, “I was going to lord it over you, but if you’re going to be so lame about it, then it’s no fun.”

Amy didn’t even respond, just faced away from them.

Jake, feeling extremely awkward, helpfully said, “She really did delete it, Amy.”

“I guess you got what you came for, then?” She said stiffly.

“Always, love.” Gina placed her drink down beside Amy’s arm. “You’ve earned it. Come on, Jake.”

Amy glared at the cup, pushing it across the booth away from her.

Jake stood between them, feeling like he was missing something obvious. “Um, I’m not sure…”

“Whatever. I’m getting out of here. Not enough Beyonce on their playlist.” Gina began walking away.

Jake deliberated for a second, then sat down opposite Amy.

“Amy, I- I’m so sorry, I promise Gina’s not normally like that, I don’t know why she- I mean, we’ve been friends since we were kids, she’s not… she doesn’t act like that.”

“Really? You don’t know why?” Amy eyed him, upset etched into her form. “It’s not exactly fucking hard.”

Jake could see that she was a bit tipsy - probably around one or two drinks in - and he felt, in this particular moment, exceptionally stupid. “I… I really don’t.”

“You think I can’t recognize a test, Jake?” Amy asked, gesturing one hand in the vicinity of where Gina had stood. “Ooh, see if the emotionally fragile dom breaks her word to get her way! Do you really think that little of me?” Her voice began rising towards the end, and Jake leaned forward, arms on the table.

“Amy, I promise, I didn’t- I had nothing to do with that, honest. I didn’t know Gina was trying to pull anything, she had just invited me for drinks is all.”

“Whatever,” Amy said, pulling back from him, leaning against the back of her booth. “Tell her congratulations. She proved I may be a shitty girlfriend but I’m not a shitty person. Incredible deduction skills, really. Why doesn’t she take my badge while she’s at it, since she’s so clever?”

“Don’t be hard on yourself. You’re definitely not a shitty person, let alone a shitty girlfriend. I would assume. Based on our previous interactions. As colleagues!” Jake sensed he was rapidly digging a hole and decided to stop.

“Hmph, well, you’d be wrong.” Amy said, the prickliness in her posture vanishing as she slumped a bit, “I broke up with Teddy.”

“Oh! Oh. I’m- I’m sorry to hear that.” Jake said, “You two seemed really sweet for each other.”

“Yeah.” Amy sighed. “Teddy was sweet. He just wasn’t anything else, you know? He always agreed with whatever I thought, whatever I wanted. He was boring.”

Jake wanted to ask her how that was fair - if the sub did everything the dom wanted to keep them happy, how was that not enough? - but figured it wasn’t the time. “I mean, it’s good that you recognized that now. Before, like, proposals and meeting the family and stuff.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I did - he wanted to meet my family, and I just thought about having to defend him to them and I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

“Wow. I, that’s a good way of judging if someone’s a good fit for you I guess, seeing if they can handle your family, hah.” Jake felt like he should pat her shoulder or something, but wasn’t sure if he was supposed to or not.

“It’s not fair,” She said, gesturing out again. She was more… expressive than normal, and Jake leaned back reflexively from her wide swings of her arm. “Teddy should be perfect for me but he… he fucking sucks.”

“That’s the best criticism you can give?” Jake joked. Seeing her expression, he hurried to add, “But really, Amy, I do understand. Sometimes people just aren’t good fits, and no one’s done anything wrong but it just… doesn’t work out. Take me and Sophia-”

Amy snorted. Then looked mortified. “Oh, no, Jake, I’m not laughing at you, it’s just… you don’t honestly think that, do you?”

“No, I was just trying to get you to laugh. Hah, score, I win.”

“Sure,” Amy rolled her eyes - but a smile was playing at her lips, and her posture lightened slightly. “I don’t- I don’t mean to be complaining, I just broke up with him last night and kind of… needed the day to myself. To recover.”

“Did he take it well?”

Amy made a face, then reached for the drink Gina had abandoned, and chugged from it. “He proposed.”

What?” Jake’s mouth fell open.

“Mhm,” Amy looked at him over the rim as she practically evaporated the contents of the glass, before placing it back on the table with a clack. “Not only that, he tried to convince me that he could become interesting - that he’d start drinking stuff other than Pilsners, that he’d take up whitewater rafting, anything I wanted.”

“Ah. I guess, I don’t really see how that is worse than the proposing thing.” Jake didn’t really see how it was a problem that much anyways. He’d done plenty of things, gotten into plenty of things, just for Ethan’s sake. For Sophia’s. For a hookup’s, for fuck’s sake.

“Jake, I don’t want someone whose only personality is pleasing me. I want someone who’s got…” Amy paused, considered, then said, “Okay, think about Charles, right? You didn’t expect him to leave New York for Canada just for Vivian, right? Same thing, basically - I don’t want them to change who they are just to make me happy. Not at their own expense, of their happiness or themselves.”

“Oh.” It made sense, when she explained it like that. He would have been furious if Vivian Had insisted Charles give up on his pizza classes - not that he was any good at them, but still. It wouldn’t have been fair. Jake didn’t care to think about what Amy would have to say about all the things he’d done, or had done to him, in the name of love.

“That makes sense, when you explain it like that.” He said instead. “So, you’re, what, single now?”

“Yeah.” Amy shrugged. “Might be good for me, you know. Take more time for me. Go to my favorite places.”

“Oh, like the pierogi place by your apartment?” Jake offered, “You said you were craving it a couple days ago.”

Amy blinked at him, looking mildly taken aback. “Yeah, exactly, actually.”

They chatted about nothing for a while, onto lighter topics, until Amy eventually said, “You know, I really just wanted to be alone and mope, but… I’m glad you’re here.”

“I’m glad I’m here too.” Jake said, “Hanging out with you is the best. For reals.”

Amy smiled at him, and then stood up. “I need to get home, for reals. Before I forget my address.”

“As if you ever could.” Jake pointed out, even as he stood and walked her outside - from there, they walked to the subway entrance, where she paused, turning to face him. Her eyes were bright, and she still had that little smile dancing around her lips.

“Jake,” She said slowly, stepping forward into the space between them, “I really am glad you’re here.”

Jake froze.

Amy’s hand was on his arm.

Jake could feel the pressure of her hand on him, could see where the night was being hinted at to lead.

He couldn’t move.

Amy asked, “Jake, can I kiss you?”

“No.”

Jake pulled his arm out of her light grip - gently - and then took her hand with his. “Look, Amy-”

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” Amy was immediately backing up, trying to fade back into the subway entrance as fast as possible. “I didn’t- I’m drunk, ignore me- I, oh my god-”

“It’s- it’s fine.” Jake winced a little as she pulled her hand out of his. “Amy, wait!”

She stopped.

“Look, you- you’re a bit drunk, you just broke up with someone. I’m not- I’m not interested in being your rebound, or your hookup.” Jake felt proud of himself for setting those boundaries - and a bit overjoyed that he wasn’t immediately afraid of Amy hurting him for doing so. That gave him the courage to push on. “But, look - if, if you, if when you’re sober, when it’s been a week or two and you’re over your breakup, and you still feel the same way, then… then ask me again. My answer… it would be different. But I don’t want to say yes just because it’s you - and believe me,” Jake laughed uncomfortably, “You alone are more than anyone I’d ever, or will ever say yes to. I want to because… because you’ll ask because it’s me. And that I’m who you want - not just some hookup, or some… whatever.”

“Jake,” Amy hesitated. “I… thank you for telling me how you feel. I’m… I’m sorry for overstepping.” She looked like she wanted to say more, but Jake suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of what she might say. What she might tell him.

“You didn’t.” He interrupted, trying to close off the conversation. “But you should go get some sleep.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. I- I’m going to go.”

“Cool, cool, cool. Get home safe.”

“You too.”

Amy vanished down the steps.

Jake waited until the sound of her footsteps faded to silence.

Then, he leaned heavily against the rail with one hand, his other hand coming up to cover his mouth. He could feel it trembling against his face.

He felt sick to his stomach.

Jake had had something he’d wanted for so long handed to him, and he’d said no. It had made sense in the moment, of course, she was drunk - but he had said no. And Amy had listened. And Amy had left.

Jake was grateful for that - if she had pushed, if she’d commanded... he might have broken under her words. He was so... he felt a flutter in his chest at the knowledge that Amy - even a drunk, freshly broken up, deluded Amy - had asked him... that's she'd seen him as someone desirable.

Of At the same time, though, Jake really just wished she had never asked. Amy wasn't fully in control then, she would've been furious at him if he'd said yes, if he'd let her take him home. But by telling her no... well, it didn't matter if random perps and drunkards thought he was a bad sub, they didn't matter. The thought of Amy, knowing he was bad, that he was broken in a way subs weren't supposed to be, that he was incapable of being... being a good sub...

Jake rubbed at his face, hand shaking. He felt sick to his stomach.

Amy was… everything he could have possibly wanted, and everything he didn’t deserve.

He had said no.

It was the right thing to do. Jake felt horrible for it.