"Heads up, high-class swag coming through!"
A bundle of cloth bomped Jake in the head, falling onto his keyboard and rolling it into his lap. A preemptive smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "For me?" He said, snapping off the rubber bands holding it together.
It was a distressed v-neck t-shirt, the fabric buttery soft and Egyptian blue. Embroidered into the fabric in silver thread was an elaborate, looping logo that read 'BUCKET LIST OR BUST!' Jake let out a guttural moan and rubbed the material gently against his face. "This shirt feels amazing. I want to make out with it."
Gina made one of her singular, self-satisfied chuckles, leaning one hand against his desk. She wore the same shirt under a dusky yellow jacket. "Had to make sure you're ready for Sunday."
"What's Sunday?" Amy asked, eyeing her boyfriend as he nuzzled the shirt. "I mean, I know it's-"
"Bucket Day!" Jake interrupted, leaning back in his chair and launching into sing-song, "A day for dreams to come true, for me and for you: Bucket Day. Bucket Da-y!" He grinned brightly upon nailing the falsetto high note at the end. "The theme song could use a little work, but in fairness, we made it up when we were nine. There's, like, fifteen verses."
"Mmhmm, and this is going to be the best Bucket Day ever. The stuff of legends, my friend." Gina declared, gesturing vaguely with glittery gold manicured nails. "Case in point: I got us reservations at Jean Georges."
A binder clattered to the floor beside them. Charles gaped, open-mouthed. "You're going to Jean Georges and you're not taking me?" His eyes were wide, his expression pained.
Gina smirked. "Trust me, boo boo, if you ever wanna show your face in there again, you don't wanna come for this ride."
The hurt drained from Charles' face, replaced by hesitant confusion. "Jake, Jean Georges has three Michelin stars. You're not gonna make a scene there, are you?"
Jake crossed his arms. "Come on. Three stars is the C student of restaurants. It's not like we're screwing around in a five star joint."
"They don't give out five Michelin stars, Jake. Three is the most you can get." Charles said, sighing like he was explaining that water was wet.
"Oh. Well, in that case," Jake steepled his fingers and let out a mighty supervillain cackle.
Charles whimpered and picked his binder off the floor.
Bouncing in his chair, Jake's smile was radiant. "Augh! I can't stand this shirt not being on my body! Be right back!" He grapevined his way out of the bullpen, humming the Bucket Day theme song.
Amy scooted back from her desk, a slight frown weighing down her expression. "So you two work on your bucket lists every Fathers' Day? How come I've never heard of this?"
Tilting her head to the side, Gina pushed her lips out in a pout. "Mmm, maybe as an individual with a father who isn't a complete asshole, you didn't need to know." After a moment, she shrugged. "Although, maybe you do and you just keep that bidness under lock and key. I don't know you. I don't know your life."
Looking toward the restrooms, Amy's eyebrows went farther north. She wrapped her arms around her middle. "Well, at least something's keeping his mind off his dad this weekend." After Jake had cut ties with his dad last year, she'd expected this Fathers' Day to be rough.
"Don't worry, puddin'. I can be very distracting." Gina said, her voice smooth in a way that was both reassuring and troubling.
The day began with the fanciest breakfast food that young Jake and Gina knew of: french toast. Their cooking skills had grown at staggered rates since the first Bucket Day, but practice had imbued them both with strong French Toast-ing skillz.
Wiping powdered sugar from his mouth, Jake checked his phone briefly before digging in his pocket for a tattered piece of paper that had been stained, folded, and refolded over many years. "Alright. Time for the ceremonial reading of the List. Will you do the honors?"
"With pleasure, Monsieur." Gina licked the last of the Nutella from her spoon and wiped her hands on a napkin, then took the List from Jake with gentle fingers. She cleared her throat.
"Win a prize at Coney Island."
"Swing from a rope into a lake."
"Build a tree fort."
"Wildly structurally unsound, but check."
Gina folded the paper delicately, tapping it on the table before her. "This year's agenda: trapeze lessons and getting kicked out of a fancy restaurant."
Jake pumped his fist. "Yes! We're gonna check this in the face!" He folded his arms behind his head, nodding assertively. "Look at us, huh? We did all this stuff on our own. We're doing just fine. Hell, we're better than fine. We're kicking stuff off the List left and right. We're the Chuck Norris and Lucy Liu of dream-accomplishing."
Standing up to stack the dishes, Gina raised her eyebrows in warning. "Bup bup bup. You know the rules, Jakey. No dad talk until two drinks after 8 o'clock."
Jake checked his phone. Nothing. He stood as well, gathering his own plate and silverware and affecting his best Liam Neeson voice. "Do not cite the deep magic to me! I was there when it was written."
"Throw pennies off a skyscraper."
"Ride in a hot air balloon."
"Be an extra in a movie."
"Take pole dancing lessons."
The Rules of Bucket Day were as follows:
1. Bucket Day shall commence with the traditional breakfast and the ceremonial reading of the List.
2. Participants must accomplish one item and add one item to the List.
3. No frequenting establishments with Fathers' Day events.
4. All phone calls must be made from public restrooms to prevent overly emotional contact with father figures.
5. No Dad Talk until two drinks past 8 PM.
"Throw a dart at a map and travel where it lands."
"Check. But Camden, New Jersey was a huge disappointment."
"Jump off a building onto a crash mat."
"Check. Still awesome."
Jake huffed out a breath. He shifted from foot to foot, adjusting his grip on the trapeze bar. "I never should have let you talk me into this!" He called to Gina, twenty-eight feet below on solid ground.
He couldn't see her, but he could hear the smug grin in her voice. "Is it the heights or the yoga pants?"
"No, I think this guy's gonna drop me to my death!" Jake announced. But the yoga pants were chafing a bit, too.
Hanging upside down by his knees some fifty feet away, Brent the catcher waved to him. Even upside down his stupid blond hair and stupid chiseled jaw was perfect. Sure, Jake was strapped into a safety harness and there was a tremendous net below that refused to waver in the humid breeze. Sure, Brent had been doing this for years, but that didn't mean that Brent wouldn't 'accidentally' murder Jake so he could get with Gina at the funeral.
"Woman up, Peralta! Make this trapeze your bitch!" Gina shouted.
He bounced on the balls of his feet. Tightened his grip on the trapeze. Waited for the apex of Brent's swing and.....
Jake lept off the platform with a wookie roar.
"Get a sandwich named after self."
"That's a check on the Jakewich."
"Start a flash mob."
"Learn to sail."
"We were on a boat. Close enough check!"
"Get a tattoo."
"Mom would disown me. That's a check for you."
"I'll take it."
Their exit from Trump Tower was far less dignified than their entrance an hour earlier. Jake draped the shredded remains of his coat/jacket combo over his shoulder. Gina had replaced the silk orchid clip in her hair with a pirate hat made from a napkin.
"Three Michelin stars and they can't serve a decent hamburger." Gina said, clucking her tongue. "Such a shame."
"Fifty-seven minutes. I gotta say, I'm disappointed. They put up with us a lot longer than I thought they would." Jake said, checking his phone and shaking his head.
Gina snorted. "That's your fault, boo. When Claudio ripped your coat off, I thought he was gonna have a heart attack. He was ready to put up with anything after that. How'd that work, bee-tee-dubs?"
"A lady in my building sewed 'em together and tore out a bunch of stitches in the jacket. I figured they'd be a little zealous about checking my coat, so I prepped it as a surprise in case they wouldn't take no for an answer." Jake replied. "You were fantastic in there. I didn't know you could do a Croatian accent."
"I'm fantastic everywhere." Gina corrected, smoothing her bubble gum pink dress. "That was passable Bulgarian. I was waiting for him to call me out on my phoney names and places, but I guess he got freaked out by my uncle, the Viscount of Genovia."
Jake peeled the Tom Selleck mustache off his upper lip millimeter by millimeter. "Or he was into you. I saw Claudio scribbling on the receipt. You get his number?"
"Of course." Gina fished in her purse for two slips of paper. The first she'd got off Brent after they'd held hands on the trapeze for an inordinate amount of time. "I'm two for two, baby."
"Yeah, well, not even patient Claudio could handle The Haunting of Jean Georges." Jake observed.
Waiters these days. Couldn't even deal with a patron swiping a tablecloth, wearing it like a bedsheet ghost, and wandering around making spooky noises at other tables.
At least Claudio had a sizable tip to work with if he wanted to put a deposit on ghostbusting lessons.
"Uncheck. Also awesome."
"Attend Masquerade Ball."
"Uncheck. I don't know how that's gonna happen unless you put it together yourself, Gina."
"O ye of little faith. Set a world record."
"Uncheck. I think we could go for biggest object covered in sticky notes, but we need about five more pallets of sticky notes. Because we've got zero."
Two drinks after 8 PM, Jake and Gina sat on a bar patio beneath strings of twinkle lights.
"So why doesn't your lady know about Bucket Day? Seems like the kind of thing you'd share with your partner-slash-partner." Gina observed, swirling her cocktail of something purple and blue rimmed with pink salt.
Jake shrugged and checked his phone for the umpteenth time that day. A couple of unopened texts from Amy, but nothing else. This was the first Fathers' Day he'd skipped sending a text or voicemail to his old man. Jake had meant what he'd said. It was his dad's turn to make an effort in this relationship - and it looked like Roger had passed on that once more.
He didn't know why he kept getting his hopes up.
Jake shoved his phone in his pocket. "Didn't wanna dump my daddy issues on her, I guess."
"Seriously? Amy is gaga for you. She'd eat this stuff up." Gina said. Condensation beaded on her glass and circled its base.
His fingers tightened around the cool amber glass bottle. "Yeah, but- Amy wants a family. She wants kids. If she knew what I'm gonna become, there's no way she'd wanna.. settle down."
"Whoa, time out." Gina leaned forward on her elbows, feigned disinterest fading away. "Settle down? I didn't know things were that serious!"
Jake pressed his lips together. He gave a slow, little nod, then looked away and shrugged. "If she wants."
"You're not gonna turn into your dad, Jake. That's the dumbest thing I've heard since Hitchcock tried out for American Idol." Gina declared, flipping her hair over her shoulder.
Jake spread his hands helplessly. "You know what they say about kids of divorce. And even if I don't become my dad, there's so many other ways I can screw this up. What if I get shot and die on my kids? What if I do something stupid with our money and bankrupt us? What if I'm too-" He gestured vaguely at his torso, "me and Amy decides she can't deal with that any more?" Jake rested his forehead in his palm.
"Since when does Jake Peralta give a crap what other people say about him?" She said, words dripping with disdain.
Taking a drink from his beer, he stole a moment to consider his reply. "Since my future had more than just me in it."
Gina sat for a long moment. Amusement overcame her intolerance of his self-doubt and she chuckled, putting a hand down on the table. "Boy, you got it bad. Chin up, lil pup. There's no way Amy would let you bankrupt yourself."
Jake snorted. He took another drink and mumbled something affirmative.
"Look, I don't know the future. We got psychics for that bizz." Gina said. "You can't count on what tomorrow brings. But you can count on what you know about each other. You and Amy are the most stupidly competitive people I know. It's, like, ridiculous. You two are gonna fight to show each other up over anniversary things, and when you unleash your badass progeny on the world, you're gonna be the best team ever at raising them. Because you always have each other's backs." She fought for his eye contact. When he wouldn't look up, she kicked the leg of his chair. "So, let her have your back already. Tell her what's going on."
Nodding, Jake took a steadying breath. His stomach felt like he was standing on the trapeze platform again, this time without a net to catch him. But he'd taken the plunge once today, and he trusted Amy to be there for him way more than some chiseled acrobat. "You know, I think you could be right about that."
"Of course I am. And you and I both know that being a dad is about more than than biology." Gina declared, leaning back in her chair. Purple and blue mixed in a spiral cloud as she sipped her cocktail. "Although, I think it's fair to warn you that if you name me godmother, I will preemptively sell your children to the circus."
Jake smiled. This talk about fatherhood and father figures reminded him...
"What are you waiting for? Get to the bathroom, make your sappy call to your girlfriend before it's her bedtime." Gina rolled her eyes and gave her head an incredulous little shake.
The next morning, Ray Holt opened his front door to grab the newspaper. Wedged inside there was a small gift box tied with a golden string. The tag was unsigned, written in barely-legible handwriting.
Thanks for leading and mentoring our precinct. You are the reason we've grown this much.
Happy Fathers' Day.
Inside the box was a silver tie clip with a tiny, red-eyed robot on the end.