Jake’s still slightly cotton-mouthed from another late night when he stumbles out to his driveway for the pre-arranged 9 am meet-up with Holt. It’s actually 9.20 already but he hopes Holt will understand that they’re technically not on NYPD time (unlikely), that Jake needs his beauty sleep (also unlikely), and that not everyone lives their lives in a sustained, regimented manner (most unlikely of all).
Sure enough, seconds later the captain rounds the corner of the block with his walking trio, Ruth already midway through her recitation of divorced Anne and pharmacist Vince’s first date.
“Call me old-fashioned but I don’t think mini-golf is a real date. Give me dinner and a movie any day,” Ruth complains.
“Ah, movies,” Holt chimes. “I watched many a movie with my late wife. She was a woman of large bosoms and very refined taste, as you know. But now, here’s my neighbor Larry.”
“Hello ladies,” Jake greets, waving awkwardly as everyone comes to a stop next to his house. He winces as Holt glances, blank-faced, at his watch and keeps marching in place, ostensibly as part of his workout but clearly furious to Jake’s practiced detective eye.
“Larry and I have to discuss our fence again,” Holt informs them. “It’s all quite important. He’s thinking of growing a vine or a trellis on his side and I’m concerned about damage to the wood on my end.”
The ladies share a significant glance between themselves.
“I’ll just bet it’s your wood you’re concerned about,” Estelle mutters, loud enough for everyone to hear, and Ruth strangles a laugh.
Jake feels his smile become fixed as the Captain stops marching in place.
But surely he just misheard them. “What now?” he checks.
Ruth laughs. “Oh, come on. We’ve all known forever. ‘Checking the fence.’ There's only so many times you can talk about a fence, Greg. At some point, you’ve just gotta admit you want to nail Larry's round ass.”
Jake doesn’t know what his face is doing but there are about a million feelings all rushing through him. The human body isn’t made for so much joy all at once. He has to high-five Ruth. He has to look at Holt. He has to call Amy immediately. He has to tell Gina. Oh my god, he can’t call anyone. Oh god, he’s trapped here and no one will ever know someone told Holt to nail his round ass. It’s a damn tragedy.
“I beg your pardon,” Holt asks, pauses between every. Single. Word.
“It’s obvious that you’re gay,” Estelle drawls. “Look at me. I have beautiful hooters and you’ve never looked at them. Not once!”
Jake looks and yeah, it’s true, on a woman Estelle’s size, she’s got quite reasonably sized breasts. He nods, and looks to Holt for confirmation only to get a blank-faced look that ostensibly means scathing reproof. Or agreement. Who knows here.
“Like all heterosexual males, I require outsize yet firm bosoms,” Holt says, doubling down to regain lost ground. Jake can already tell this is going nowhere that isn’t disaster city. “Perhaps you simply don't fall into those criteria enough for my taste!”
“I’m firm as a melon!” Estelle yells.
“Yeah,” yell the other two.
“A mid-size melon—” Holt begins, and Jake has to do something as soon as possible because there’s no way this won’t end with murder and regardless of whether it’s Jimmy ‘The Butcher’ Figgis or Estelle, Jake’s kind of invested in keeping Holt alive.
He screws his face up and claws his thigh through the pocket of his shorts to start the tearing up process. “I don’t understand why you won’t tell anyone about our love, Greg!”
Holt startles, clearly baffled. “What?”
“You promised you’d respect me in the morning!” Jake gleefully fake-cries, throwing all the gas he’s got on this particular fire. Gina would be proud. “You told me you’d write it in the skies! You sold this whole thing to me, all ‘come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs, yippie ki yay...’ but now I’m just a fly in the ointment. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass.”
“Is that Die Hard?” Ruth asks, suspiciously.
“I don’t think it is because that would be against the rules,” Holt grits out, obviously trying to murder Jake with his mind instead of thank him for this brilliant distraction. But even so—
“It’s not Die Hard,” Jake forces out, the lie choking him at every stage. “It’s just how I feel.” God, he’s going to be sick. He publicly renounced Die Hard. He’s dirty now.
“Whatever. If this one’s the pain in the ass, then…” Estelle mutters, eyeing up Holt and then turning a critical eye on Jake's clearly shorter but equally muscular frame and squinting dubiously.
“Oh, come on! We take turns!” Jake tells her, and she nods, clearly eyeing his frosted tips and refusing to believe anything he says because of unreasonable gender stereotypes. “This is Florida chic!”
“And then there’s all those sleeveless t-shirts and shorts you wander about in,” Estelle says insinuatingly, except Jake has no idea what she’s insinuating.
“It’s Florida! It’s hot! But whatever, I’m not here to defend my outfit or my looks, despite the fact that frosted tips are making a huge comeback and my stylist told me so just last week when he redid the ends, and these t-shirts are microfiber so I only have to wash them once every week—”
“Completely untrue,” Holt says, butting in with useless facts, the butt-er-inn-er.
“—Besides which, this guy,” he points at Holt, “promised me we’d be together forever.”
Holt shoots him a quelling look. “I promised you,” he growls, over-enunciating every word, “nothing.”
This is basically primetime drama and Jake is ready to sell it to these ladies. “He’s always like this,” he cries and stumbles into the arms of the nearest one. “My heart’s just always breaking.”
“Greg!” they scold.
“His heart is fine!” Holt points out, and is completely ignored.
“You come with me, hon,” Ruth offers. “I have some brownies that’ll help make you feel better. You should expect more than someone who doesn’t want to admit he’s with you.”
“Totally,” Jake agrees, fake-sniffling. “Do you have cookies too? I'm a big fan of chocolate chip.”
When he looks back and holds his thumb up, Holt’s still standing in his driveway, a blank expression on his face.
“Well,” Jake mutters, “this won’t be good.”
Holt doesn’t come over that day even when Jake comes back loaded down with brownies and cookies, which feels like a plus at the time but not so much later when he’s covered in chocolate and on the verge of throwing up from eating most of them.
And then Holt doesn’t come by the storage unit either, which is way more worrying.
When Holt isn’t even with the walking group the next morning, Jake knows it has to be serious. There’s many things Captain Holt is, but of all of these, the thing that defines him most is his love of routine. Nothing changes that; not even Witness Protection.
Jake heads over but even after hours of knocking on his door and yelling “Greg” through every available vent, and whispering “Captain” through some of the smaller ones when no one’s around, there’s still no response.
Jake breaks into Holt’s house on the third day. Which is why Estelle now has pictures of Greg’s supposedly heartbroken twink lover Larry breaking into his house. And also why Jake now owes her a favor for not calling the cops, and it might be to take her shopping for a new summer look. Damn these fashionable frosted tips!
Holt’s just sitting on the sofa when Jake finally rolls over the windowsill and thumps down onto the carpet. He’s got half a glass of orange juice sitting by his elbow and it’s strained, which feels like a bad sign because Holt seems like the sort of person to enjoy the idea of more fiber with pulp.
Still, it’s a relief to know that he’s okay.
“Hey,” Jake greets and rolls upright to throw himself onto the couch opposite Holt. “Haven’t seen you in a few days. But, you know, you’re fine?” He’s unsure enough to leave that open ended.
“I’m fine,” Holt echoes blankly, sounding not fine at all.
“You’re not fine,” Jake deduces.
Holt’s sigh is long and heavy. “Do you know what it was like living openly as a gay black man in the 70’s, Peralta?”
This feels like a rhetorical question, but Jake’s careful to answer anyway. “I do not.”
Holt picks up the glass of orange juice and rolls it in his palms, keeps his eyes on it. “It was hard. And not a little hard, but very hard. And I didn’t regret it. Even now that I’m captain of the 99, it’s still hard and I don’t ever regret it. Because I’m proud to be a gay black man and I’ve never wanted to hide that. And now,” he pauses and seems to gather himself, “I’m playing Greg who is straight and had a wife, and although I know it’s a cover, it’s still something I have to do. But I don’t like it and it’s much harder to do.”
“Okay,” Jake says, confused. “So what’s the problem? Now the walking group knows you’re gay. Which actually kind of means everyone in the neighborhood thinks you’re gay because wow, can those ladies gossip, amirite?” He grins and waits for Holt to join in.
“Wrong,” Holt snaps. “We will be telling them that Greg is straight and Larry had a few too many beers the other morning and made it all up.”
“You heard me,” Holt announces, and then drains his orange juice before looking at it, clearly dissatisfied. Hah! Jake knew he was a pulp guy!
But even then… “I don't understand why you're so upset about this. So we have a few sleepovers and I put my hand in your back pocket once in a while, what's the big deal?”
“The ‘big deal,’ Peralta, aside from the fact that no hands will be in any pockets—”
“Wait… So even our own pockets?” Jake asks.
“—is that I cannot and will not, even hypothetically—”
“How will I get my keys out?”
“—cheat on my husband in any way, shape, or form; Peralta focus!,” Holt bellows, interrupting Jake's attempt to squat down and force his keys out of his pocket hands-free.
Jake sighs. “Look, I miss Amy too. And it's not actually cheating if we're only doing it so we have a good cover while we work on the case and get ourselves home faster to Kevin and Amy, right?”
Holt isn’t totally convinced though. “And what happens when we’re the center of attention thanks to your display the other day?”
“But we’re already the center of attention! Look, I’ve thought it through. We pretend we’re dating and in a couple of days it’ll expected that we spend a whole bunch of time together. We can actually work at night at our houses now, and all our nosy neighbors will finally have a reason for why we keep sneaking off together. And for a small town, this place has a lot of nosy neighbors so this makes sense because otherwise, forget the FEDS, we’re gonna get busted by Estelle!”
“Well, it’s true that this town is a hotbed of gossip. There’s not a lot to do since the new community center won’t be ready until the summer of 2018,” Holt muses.
He thinks it over for longer before coming to a resolution. “Fine,” he clips out, “but there will be rules.”
“Just like with Amy,” Jake nods. “Gotcha.”
Holt pauses, but clearly decides not to ask. “We might as well let the story stand. But there will be no kissing, no hugging, no claim we’ve copulated in odd ways you’ve googled on the internet...” Holt trails off because Jake’s face is no doubt broadcasting his guilt.
“So, not a big deal, but I maaaay have already told Ruth you’re a fan of something called—”
Holt holds up a hand to stop and pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration with the other.
Which has Jake backpedaling quickly. “You know what? I’ll just tell her I made it up.”
Holt eyes him warily. “Agreed.”
“Never fear, sir. This is going to be great. We’ll be back with Amy and Kevin in a jif!”
“Peralta, please,” Holt grimaces. “If I chastise you for slang, I'm only going to miss Kevin more. It’s bad enough that I haven’t been able to read Beowulf in months.”
Jake squints morosely. “And I'll miss Amy. Hey, isn't it weird that the same thing works for both of us?”
Holt rolls his eyes and pushes to his feet, taking his glass to the kitchen. “We will never speak of this again.”
“You can’t deny it,” Jake shouts after him. “We have stuff in common! We're bonding here!”
“I will not admit to any of this,” Holt calls back.
“Definitely fucking,” Estelle tells the others the next day, showing everyone a picture on her phone of Larry sneaking out of Greg’s house in the morning, hair mussed and sleepy-eyed, with clear signs of breakfast on his chin.