Amy comes strutting into the office on Friday morning with one of her Idea Looks.
“Everybody avoid eye contact with Santiago,” Jake announces without looking up from the pinball game on his computer screen. “She’s got an idea and it’s December.”
Groans wash through the entire room in response and Amy freezes mid-step, her eyebrows furrowing halfway between offense and befuddlement. Rosa lifts up a folder from under her keyboard and shields her face with it; Scully hastily moves to hide under his desk; Gina makes a small cross with her fingers and stretches it, hissing, outwards.
Charles, being Charles, glances around puzzledly at all of them.
“What’s so bad about that?” he asks. “Santiago has great ideas!”
“Thank you, Boyle,” Amy half-squeaks in a wounded voice, straightening her shirt primly.
“Like that Thanksgiving dinner—” Charles says, but Rosa cuts him off.
“Which was a total bomb.”
Charles looks torn, but weakly tries again. “Or that office swing-dancing night—”
“Which consisted of you dancing all alone and everyone failing to get drunk on the terrible wine Santiago brought from her grandpa’s junkyard-slash-vineyard,” Jake butts in this time, and Charles droops in defeat.
“Yeah,” Gina adds, drawing out the word. “Santiago’s ideas are good in practice, but they kind of inevitably end in complete disaster.” When Amy shoots her an affronted glare, she shrugs lazily, leaning back in her chair and fiddling with the pen in her fingers. “What, it’s true. You’re kind of the worst. Sweet and heartfelt and dedicated, but… the worst.”
“You guys are the ones who’re the worst!” Amy snaps, reeling an accusatory finger on them all. “You haven’t even heard what the idea is yet.”
“Ten bucks says Secret Santa,” Jake says, his arm jolting ramrod straight upwards. “Takers?”
“I’m in,” Charles replies instantly, mirroring Jake’s motion.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a Secret Santa,” Rosa grumbles, languidly half-lifting her hand.
“I’m gonna take the plunge and say White Elephant,” Scully says, looking incredibly pleased with himself.
“Me, too!” Hitchcock agrees. Scully tries to high-five him, but can’t reach across their desks, so he just sort of flaps his arm in Hitchcock’s general direction before huffing and flumping back in his chair.
“How ’bout you, Sarge?” Jake calls to Terry over his shoulder.
Gina, smiling diabolically, snaps her fingers and points at Amy. “Cocaine-fueled holiday rave.”
“I wish,” Jake and Rosa reply in unison. After giving Rosa an unnerved look, Jake turns in his swivel chair to crane his neck toward Terry’s desk. “Sarge’s bet is moot; he’s asleep.”
All heads turn. Sure enough, Terry is slumped over and snoring, his head resting serenely on a barbell. He always sleeps at the office with increasing frequency around the holiday season.
“Tell me I’m right, Santiago, so we can get this over with.” Jake flashes Amy a cloying smile. “The blood’s leaving my arm and I didn’t wanna become a brooding amputee cop until I was at least forty-five, so…”
“Fine!” Amy explodes furiously, flinging her arms out and fixing Jake with her patented frown of resentment. “Fine, I was going to say it’s time for our annual office Secret Santa. And Christmas is in twenty-two days, so we really need to get moving here.”
“Hate to break it to you,” Jake says, “but we are not doing another Secret Santiago this year. I say Secret Santiago because that’s always what it turns into.”
“Nice one, Jake,” Charles says, morphing his raised hand into a thumbs-up.
“Thank you, Boyle.” Jake returns the gesture before turning his smug grin back to Amy. “The point I’m trying to make here is: No.”
"What, why?" Santiago asks, looking immediately crestfallen.
Peralta grimaces horribly. "Because every year you always get some ridiculously over-the-top gift for whoever you get paired up with and then we all have to deal with crushing guilt and inadequacy at least until New Year's."
"Mmm, yeah, he does kinda have a point," Gina drawls. "Remember that year you got Rosa a chocolate gift basket approximately the size and weight of a small horse?"
"I do," Rosa grunts. "It was the best gift ever; that Christmas was the worst." A nostalgic smile tilts her mouth after a moment's pause. "I did get to punch Scully when he tried to take some, though."
"Good times," Scully says like he actually thinks so.
"Ah, all was not lost," Boyle chimes in stiltedly from his desk. When they all turn to stare at him, he blabbers nonsense for a second before returning to his files.
"You're just mad that I'm a better Secret Santa than you are," Amy goads Jake with a triumphant nod. Jake, naturally, falls for the taunt without delay.
"Trying to bait me, huh?" He grins like he's just won something. "It's totally working. I'm gonna out-Secret-Santa the crap out of you."
"Oh, I welcome it," Amy retorts, opening her arms at either side and swaying. "Bring it, Peralta. You think you can step to this?"
"Stop," Rosa deadpans.
"I do," Jake shoots right back, standing swiftly from his chair until he and Amy are aggressively oscillating in time at each other. "I do verily think I can step to this."
"Okay, then," Amy growls with a set jaw. "You got it. Let's dance."
Jake pauses, a cocky and crooked smile immediately rising onto his face.
"You mean, like, literally, because I gotta say, I took square-dancing super seriously in fourth grade, so I could totally—"
"TO THE CAPTAIN'S OFFICE!" Amy cries, raising her fist in the air and shouldering past him. He whirls around on one foot cursing under his breath before bounding harum-scarum after her.
"I gave you a head start!" he whines.
“Keep telling yourself that, Peralta!” Amy shouts back. “Last one there's Scully's toe jam!"
"Not faaaiiiir," Jake bleats. "And also profoundly disgustiiiing.” He rears his head back when he gets to the doorway to Holt’s office. "CAPTAIN, SANTIAGO'S BEING A—”
"KIDS!" Terry bellows very suddenly from his desk, making everyone in the office jump. "Don’t you make me come over there!”
“Did you… need something from me, or did the both of you plan to simply stand there glowering petulantly at each other for the remainder of the morning?” Holt asks, moments later, with his usual flourish of stoic indifference.
Amy snaps to attention first, instantly tacking on a sunny smile and clasping her hands at her stomach. Jake makes a show of rolling his eyes before landing them on Holt, arms akimbo.
“Sir,” Amy begins, sounding as starstruck as always. “What a beautiful tie. Sir, hello, how are you?”
“Santiago wants to borrow your hat for the Secret Santa draw,” Jake bluntly explains, earning him a hard whack to the shoulder from Amy. “Ow!”
“Suck it up, Death Wish,” Amy bites back venomously before switching her bright demeanor on again for Holt. “Sir, yes, as Peralta was saying, I’m putting together the Annual Nine-Nine Secret—”
“Santiago,” Jake says over her.
“Santa,” Amy barks. “And I need a… a receptacle for the, you know, the names. The names of everyone.”
“What a delightful idea, Detective Santiago,” Holt deadpans, his expression utterly unchanging. “My hat is… at your disposal.”
“What’s so delightful about it?” Jake sneers as Santiago flounces over to the shelf showcasing Holt’s uniform cap from his inauguration as Captain. “You get terrible gifts from somebody you don’t care about and spend valuable drink money on the most boring and neutral present you can think of for somebody you care about even less; how is that delightful.”
“The day you spend any actual money on a Secret Santa is the day Rosa goes twenty-four hours without getting mad at something,” Amy snips, polishing Holt’s hat with her sleeve.
Jake puffs out his chest, grinning. “Which is impossible, so I’ll take that as a compliment, and excuse me, slander, I give great Secret Santa gifts.”
“Our first year on the force, you bought yourself a vacation to Barbados and told me that your happiness was my gift,” Amy reminds him acidly, making sure to fire a dark look his way.
Holt’s eyes flick impartially between the two of them as though he’s watching a tennis match.
“Yeah, and your second year, you got me the full special edition Blu-Ray director’s cut box set of all the Die Hard movies and an actual Blu-Ray player,” Jake retorts. “So…” He trails off, frowning. “I don’t know what I was trying to prove there. Whatever, the point is, Santiago is wrong and I’m amazing.”
“Are you finished?” Holt asks them both flatly. “I have some paperwork and, now, some migraine pills to get to.”
“Of course,” Amy stutters back, Holt’s hat clutched at her chest. “We’re so sorry. Pardon us.”
“Nah, you don’t have to pardon me; I ask for nothing.” Jake braces both hands on Amy’s shoulders and effortlessly steers her toward the door. “Come on, Clarence; the crowd awaits.”
“Don’t touch me, Peralta,” Amy growls, swatting his hands away. In retaliation, he yanks on her ponytail and sniggers, which prompts her to elbow him in the solar plexus, which earns her a light shove in the back that she responds to with a well-aimed kick at his shin.
Holt puts his glasses back on after he’s gotten bored of watching Jake whine on the floor.
“Okay.” Amy’s beaming, holding out Holt’s hat, now filled with slips of white paper, as though it’s the Holy Grail. “Did everyone put their name in?”
“If by ‘put their name in,’ you mean ‘put in Donnie Brasco five times,’ then yes,” Jake replies cheekily from his desk.
Amy’s mouth falls open in an indignant gape. “Peralta, what the hell!” She digs around the hat, foraging for Jake’s prank slips, and flings them over her shoulder when she’s found them. “Did you at least put one in here that has your name on it?”
“Yes, Santiago.” The words drown in sarcasm. “This is me we’re talking about. I’m such a team player.”
“Why would you not want a present from somebody, Jake?” Charles asks, leaning against the edge of Rosa’s desk. Rosa, beside him, is prone back in her swivel chair with her motorcycle boots resting on top of some important-looking folders. “Get some Christmas spirit! It’s the best holiday in the world! All about family, and generosity, and peace on earth, good will to men…”
“Ah, yes,” Jake scoffs. “Three of my favorite things.”
“That was four,” Rosa grunts.
“Peace on earth would kinda put all of us out of a job, dummy,” Gina drawls, clearly engrossed in flossing her teeth, prompting Terry to grimace sourly. “How’d you even become a cop, Boyle? Did you, like, give them a buncha gift baskets until they let you in?”
“Anyway,” Amy yells, “I put Peralta in myself.”
"I'm just gonna let that one go," Jake says.
“Shut up, Jake! Get over yourself!” She straightens, holding out the hat with an ebullient smile. “So. Captain gets first pick, since he’s, well, Captain—”
“And since you’re a suck-up,” Gina pipes up, but Amy ignores her.
“So I’ll be right back,” Amy chirps. She vanishes into Holt’s office and everyone stares with rapt attention at the doorway.
“What would Holt even get somebody for Christmas?” Jake asks no one in particular.
“A gun,” Rosa suggests.
“A nice wine?” Charles muses.
“Some socks,” Terry declareswith conviction.
“Why is a gun always the answer with you?” Jake demands of Rosa. She smirks, saying nothing more.
At that moment, Amy prances back out, practically preening. Jake rolls his eyes.
“Okay,” she says cheerfully. “Who’s next?”
“Me!” Charles exclaims, bouncing with one arm raised like a particularly enthused third-grader. He springs off of the desk and rummages through the hat with careful consideration, waggling his eyebrows at the unresponsive room full of his peers. Finally, his fingers close around a piece of paper, and he brings it out with an ostentatious twirl of his wrist, returning to Rosa’s corner with it held high and proudly in the air.
“Okay, fine, whatever,” Rosa barks. “But you’re coming over here.”
Amy rolls her eyes, but she knows better than to argue. She marches begrudgingly over to Rosa’s chair, and Rosa yanks out the closest paper, slamming it facedown on the desk without looking at it.
“Next?” Amy calls out, wheeling back around.
Terry stands and digs through the hat before plucking out a strip with suspicious red flecks on it, looking spooked as he returns to his chair.
“If Rosa got mobile service, I want it, too,” Gina calls out, stretching, and Amy sighs loudly, but doesn’t protest.
Gina pulls a horrendous face when she reads the name on her paper, fixing Amy with a protuberant but imploring stare.
“Does it have to be this person?” she whines, and Amy nods stiffly. She flops back in her chair, neon-blue tie askew. “Worst Christmas ever.”
Scully and Hitchcock both take theirs at the same time, leaving only two more. Amy approaches Jake’s chair, but he slowly turns it away from her, arms folded, eyes pointedly fixed on the ceiling. Amy sucks her lips in furiously and fists a perfectly folded piece of stationery in her hand, dropping it in his lap without a word.
“I’m not looking at it,” Jake singsongs, but as soon as Amy turns away, he sneaks a glance at the name on the pale yellow slip. “Oh my God, really?”
Amy reaches for the final paper, eyes bright, but the enthusiasm swiftly dims when she reads it. Her entire face slackens in horror.
"No," she croaks. "No."
"It's Scully," Jake guesses. Scully, rather than reacting with resentment, merely shrugs as though Jake has raised a valid point. “Did I get it? Am I right?”
Amy seems to conquer whatever hurdle she’s struggling to get over and wheels on Jake with a ferocious pout, raising her fist at him.
“I’m not going to tell you, moron,” she says snidely. She closes her eyes and inhales deeply, blowing it back out through pursed lips and loosening her shoulders. When she speaks again, she’s remarkably composed. “That defeats the purpose.”
“Santiago, please; I’m the best detective in the entire universe; I’ll bet you I can figure out who you got by the time the non-denominational precinct holiday party rolls around,” Jake proposes with spread arms.
Amy jabs a finger into his chest, bearing down over him with rancor wavering in the air around her rigid shoulders. He smiles back at her like he thinks it’s cute, which only makes her eyebrows mash more violently together.
“You are so on,” she hisses.
“Like Donkey Kong, Obi-Wan, or a man’s clothes in your presence?” Jake asks, his grin all teeth. “Just so I can gauge the levels of ‘on’ we’re discussing here…”
Amy finally seems to abandon all tact and settles for vehemently raising her middle finger at him, just in time for Holt to emerge from his office in search of coffee and see it.
“I’m disappointed in you, Santiago,” he intones solemnly. “That’s a quarter in the Obscene Gestures jar from someone unexpected. This is a dark day for the 99th Precinct.”
He turns back into his office after sweeping over the room with one last discerning look.
The others can’t be sure, but it seems for a second that Amy’s about to break down in tears right there, as Jake links his hands behind his head and reclines in his chair.
Rosa guffaws shortly.
When Santiago gets up to probably, who knows, tie her hair back more tightly sometime after lunch, Jake sneaks out his slip of paper again and wrinkles his nose at it. He feels like he owes it at least one more derisive look.
Captain Holt, the immaculate block letters say on Holt’s special stationery.
His life is so over. Especially because he’s about ninety-nine percent certain that Santiago would slit his throat if it meant she could get Holt instead.
All right, so maybe it isn’t that bad, because at least he can dangle this over Santiago’s head for the next three weeks.
“I got it!” he yells to Amy on December 14th while violently wrestling a drug dealer with a soul patch and a Misfits beanie on the floor of a warehouse. “I know who you got for Secret Santa!”
“I don’t think right now’s a great time, Peralta—” Amy exclaims incredulously, her gun wavering as she tries to distinguish who to aim at. Jake is about to retort when the perp’s hands close around his throat and start repeatedly bashing his head against the concrete floor.
“Ah—okay—well—that’s—not—ow—concussion—it’s—Boyle!” he blurts out with each beat of impact. On the last syllable, he manages to tuck his feet under the burlier man’s torso and kick him in the diaphragm, knocking the wind from him in enough time for Amy to surge forward and pin him to the ground.
Jake pushes himself up on his palms, wheezing and sputtering, as Amy, straddling their collar, wrenches his grubby drug-dealing hands into a pair of handcuffs with more force than usual.
“I’m, like, really turned on right now; I hope you know,” Jake rasps.
“And I’m, like, really considering letting him loose on you again,” Amy snaps, dragging the man to his feet when she stands. She narrows her eyes at Jake, blowing a few loose strands of hair from her face. “And no, by the way, it’s not Bo—”
Suddenly, the perp jerks an arm out of her grip and swiftly cracks his elbow straight into Amy’s nose. In seconds, Jake has tackled him around the middle and splayed them both out on the floor again, but there’s no need for it, really, because Amy only clutches her face for about two seconds before shaking it off and whirling around to the spot where they’d landed. Blood dribbles from her right nostril, but it pales in comparison to the outrage in her eyes.
“I had him,” she shouts at Jake, who’s presently getting back to his feet with the dealer’s arms pinned against his chest and an uncharacteristically legitimate snarl on his face.
“Yeah, no, I totally know that,” Jake replies genuinely. “Just figured I’d hold him still for you.”
Amy considers this, spreading her feet apart and raising her boxing fists.
“Chivalry is super gross on you, you know,” she tells him.
“Yeah,” he grunts, holding the guy more tightly, his mouth thinning.
“The Captain’s really not going to like this,” she mutters, and Jake rolls his eyes.
“Punching people for good reasons has gone over pretty well with the Captain, just saying,” he says. “Man, come on, Amy; just break his face already; he smells like Axe and failure.”
Amy obliges him.
They high-five without even thinking about it after they’ve thrown the dude into the squad car. Amy’s nose is still bleeding and Jake has a split lip, but they’re both smirking.
“Badass Santiago is my favorite Santiago,” Jake tells her earnestly. “Since, y’know, all the other Santiagos are super duper lame.”
“Shut up,” Santiago mutters, poorly masking a smile. “I’m driving.”
She slams the unfilled paperwork on his desk a few hours later with a smug raised eyebrow and flashes him a simper.
“It’s not Boyle,” she tells him complacently. “You get two more guesses.”
“Aw, what?” Jake whines. “Not fair! I mean, I know you punched a guy in the face today, and that’s awesome, but you are being really mean.”
“I know, right,” Rosa agrees, picking at her teeth with a Bowie knife. “It’s amazing.”
“It’s Hitchcock!” Jake bellows through the air ventilation shaft joining the men’s room and the women’s room. “I went to the bathroom at the same time you did and while I was peeing it came to me! That’s why you keep going to the tailor’s after work! You’re trying to create a shirt that’s physically impossible for him to take off!”
“You’re wrong and also a weirdo!” Amy calls back without missing a beat.
Jake stays in the bathroom extra-long anyway. Anything to avoid having to hear Charles's latest overcomplicated plan for getting Rosa under the mistletoe.
“Captain,” Jake says without preamble, ambling into Holt’s office and halting in front of his desk, flattening both of his palms on the wooden surface, “I’m normally a lot more subtle about this stuff, but for the sake of clarity, I’m going to be as blunt as possible with you.”
Holt stares at him, unfazed, through his glasses. Jake stares back. Silence grows.
“I’m sorry, was that all?” Holt finally asks flatly.
Jake slackens and contorts his face into a childish grimace.
“Please, please, please don’t make me do the stupid Secret Santa,” he implores. “I’ll wear a tie every day for the rest of my life. I’ll wear a tie when I have sex and take showers and break into Boyle’s apartment at 3 AM to steal his authentic tiramisu gelato.”
“He’s been very distressed about where all of that’s been going,” Holt tells him, looking a tincture more unimpressed than usual. “Says he’s being… gaslighted. Sergeant Jeffords is concerned, as am I. Also, as usual, your vividly creative descriptions are unnecessary and unwanted. You are participating in Santiago’s Secret Santa. That’s final.”
“Whyyyyyyy?” Jake whinges, the syllable stretched to its absolute limit as he throws his head back and makes an ugly face that is assumedly supposed to emulate a crying infant. “Holidays are dumb. Holidays are dumb! Thanksgiving is the worst, and all, don’t get me wrong, but the holiday season shouldn’t even be allowed to exist. It’s not even fun to hate the holidays.”
“And why is that?” Holt asks calmly.
Jake throws his arms in the air, beginning to pace the floor feverishly.
“Because all that happens on Christmas and Hanukkah is that everybody else gets all happy with their stupid families and Boyle makes everybody wear ugly sweaters and the Sarge’s wife sends us a bunch of stupidly delicious peppermint bark and it gets all snowy and sparkly and every single person you pass on the street who isn’t a murderer is probably going to want to wish you happy holidays, or something, and when I was a kid my dad stopped being around for Hanukkah and my mom had to work so I sat alone and ate spear-sandwiches and watched stupid reruns of movies I don’t care about and only finding solace in my mom giving me Moon Shoes that got stolen from me by a Jehovah's Witness three weeks later,” he blurts out in a frenzy. “The holidays suck. Everyone’s so happy all the time. Dumb families. Dumb… feelings of good cheer and… and chestnuts roasting on open fires and junk. Worst time on Earth.”
“Do you have a bitter and unresolved childhood story for… every occasion, Peralta?” Holt asks him with absolute seriousness. Or, at least, he thinks so.
Jake immediately stills, grinning goofily.
“Sure do,” he replies. “The ladies love it when I break out the daddy issues. Kinda the hot new thing now.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Holt states bluntly, but after a moment, he leans slightly forward in his chair and removes his glasses, setting them carefully beside his open case file and folding his hands. He fixes Jake with a look that’s either one of solemnity or indigestion; Jake has narrowed that slight tilt of his eyebrows down to those two possibilities. “Peralta… you remember that discussion we had on Thanksgiving? About creating new families with new traditions, and learning to accept any unhappiness in the past as something not worth dwelling on? The holiday season will only continue to be unbearable for you if you can’t come to terms with the fact that the past is the past. You’re not a twelve-year-old boy waiting for Moon Shoes anymore.”
“You’re right,” Jake murmurs, gazing distantly at the wall with a slow and pensive nod. Within a second, however, his cheeky smile has returned. “I’m a twenty-nine year old man waiting for Moon Shoes.”
Holt stares at him emotionlessly but still, somehow, sternly. After a good few seconds of trying to hold the gaze with a comically agape, beaming mouth, Jake cracks, flailing his arms in the tiniest of tantrums and sighing, rearing his head limply backwards.
“Fine,” he snaps. “Fine. I will do Santiago’s dumb stupid lame bonding garbage that won’t work. But I am not letting Boyle put me in a sweater.”
“Sweater looks great on you, Jake!” Charles calls with several claps when Jake comes stalking stiffly out of the bathroom on December 23 in what has to be the most eye-bleedingly repulsive Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sweater on the entire East Coast.
At least he’s not the only one. Rosa, scowling, arms folded tightly, is wearing a bold green-and-gold knitted number with tiny scarlet baubles hanging off of it in strings; Santiago’s Christmas tree sweater with authentic sewn-on ornaments is about half a size too large on her and she looks more like a grumpy child than anything else with her cup of eggnog and her felt antler headband; Terry’s wearing a cranberry-red turtleneck with white snowflakes stitched in lines across it that he claims to have knitted himself (along with a furry Santa hat); Scully’s pine-green sweater vest has a small Frosty the Snowman embroidered into the lapel; Hitchcock is, naturally, shirtless.
Charles is wearing one of those pointy green-and-red striped elf hats with fake ears sewn to the sides, and his sweater literally has flashing lights sewn into it. Gina’s cardigan is crimson and patterned with white reindeer that look to be getting up to a little holiday fun of their own (Jake sucks at subtlety; he lied; she’s wearing a sweater with boning reindeer quaintly spread out on it). And Captain Holt, the icing on the cake in his own way, is drinking hot chocolate instead of coffee, sporting a bright red sweater of his own with a colorful holly-and-ivy motif, along with a Santa hat that matches Terry’s.
Just like the antlers that Charles had forced onto Jake’s head match Amy’s.
“Are there seriously no crimes happening right now?” Jake demands of the room. “Like, not a single person in Brooklyn is being robbed or mugged or flashed or brutally murdered?”
“It would seem not,” Holt replies, taking a sip of his cocoa. “Detective Santiago, how would you like to proceed with the distribution of gifts?”
Amy perks up and preens at the attention, and Jake has to roll his eyes especially hugely to convince himself that she looks stupid instead of kinda cute in that sweater and those antlers and that flashing red Rudolph nose.
“Well,” she replies, “Who’d like to reveal themselves first?”
“Ew!” Jake says. Amy ignores him.
After a moment’s silence, Scully steps forward, grinning excitedly. He picks up a pristinely-wrapped box from the table in the middle of the room on which all of the gifts are piled and turns back to the rest of the room.
“My Secret Santa,” he announces, “Was Hitchcock. Surprise, old buddy.”
Hitchcock lets out a cry of “Wow!” and enthusiastically pulls the paper off, his face splitting into a thrilled gasp when he holds up the single pair of plain black socks.
“You know just what I like,” he blubbers emotionally to Scully, who nods sentimentally and pulls him into an enormous bear hug.
“Wow, Hitchcock and Scully, that’s… such a shocking pair,” Jake comments. “Hitchcock, don’t tell me. You had Scully, too, and you got him white socks and the same gastrointestinal meds you do for his birthday.”
“Nope!” Hitchcock puffs up proudly. “I got the Sarge!”
Terry perks up almost hesitantly, squinting suspiciously at the opaque white plastic bag with a golden ribbon on it that Hitchcock carefully hands him. He tugs the handles apart to glance inside and, in an instant, brightens enormously.
“Nutritious snacks!” he exclaims, beaming at Hitchcock.
“I know you hide out from your family here during the holidays,” Hitchcock explains, “So those’ll hopefully last you ’til New Year’s.”
Terry lets out a noisy sniffle and strides forward, scooping Hitchcock up into a crushing embrace that cracks Hitchcock’s back in at least twelve places. After Terry releases him (and Hitchcock sways on his feet trying to catch the air that had been squeezed out of him), he reaches one paw-like hand to the table and hefts up a gift bag with a smiling snowman on it.
He passes it to Rosa. She blinks dubiously for a moment before accepting it.
“If this is any kind of article of clothing, I’m gonna beat your face in until it’s concave,” she deadpans, fixing Terry with her rare but indubitably patented glare of impending doom.
Terry huffs. “Just open it, Diaz; I’ve got a Nutcracker show to go to in an hour and a half.”
Rosa digs one hand through the glittery white tissue paper—“My girls picked that,” Terry explains delightedly—and the entire room sucks in a breath before it comes out again holding a stout black bottle.
She turns it over in her palm, eyes darting across the label.
“Authentic Hendrick’s Gin,” she says unreadably, but, after a beat, her lips twitch up slightly and her eyes go half-lidded, and she raises the bottle briefly at Terry in cheers. “Nailed it, Sarge.”
Terry infinitesimally releases a sigh of relief.
“Who’d you have, Rosa?” Amy asks perkily. Her smile has been growing more and more warmly elated with each person’s favorable reaction to their presents.
Rosa’s comfortable expression does not leave her.
“Boyle,” she replies.
“Don’t have actual physical copies, ’cause I got them online,” Rosa explains tersely, “But they’re having another one of those film festival things in January. Got us tickets to Vertigo and Breathless.”
“Good choices,” Terry mutters under his breath, grinning to himself.
Boyle, rather than responding, lets out an exuberant, high-pitched giggle.
“Well, congratulations, Diaz; you have officially turned Boyle into a hyperactive mouse,” Jake says.
“Shut up, Peralta,” Rosa barks, and then, more tranquilly, to Charles, she says, “Merry Christmas, Boyle. Don’t be obnoxious and screw up this time.”
“I, no, me, yeah, yes, yes, madam, mademoiselle, yes!” Charles practically sings. “And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I reveal to you my Secret Santa…” He plucks a gold envelope out of the pile and passes it to Scully. “Mr. Scully here! Thirty-five dollar gift card to Caputo’s; enjoy, sir.”
Scully takes the envelope reverently, holding it close to his chest and smiling with cheerfully crinkled eyes at Charles.
“My wife’ll have to tag along; she’s the only one who knows my no-no foods,” he says, “But this is perfect.”
“I feel like it’s only fair at this point,” Gina abruptly pipes up from her desk in a languid drawl, “To reveal my crazy-stupendous gift to the world, so that everybody who’s left can be spared any further delusions of adequacy.”
Jake pulls a face. “Oh, that’s… touching.”
Gina meanders to the table, parting Amy and Jake with two firmly pushing hands when they wind up being in her direct line of approach, and zeroes in on a long white box topped with a clearly used green ribbon. She holds it high in the air above her and spins on one set of toes to Santiago.
“For you,” she says, tilting her head and snapping the spearmint gum in her mouth for emphasis.
“Um, y’know, that’s actually… my gift, for, uh, the Captain,” Jake interjects with a raised finger. “But, uh, details, I guess…”
“Gina, did you actually get anything for your Secret Santa?” Amy demands, sounding flabbergasted with horror.
“Awwww,” Gina coos, lowering the box and extending it to Peralta, who swipes it from her with a roll of his eyes. “Yeeeeah, yeah, I did. And my Secret Santa was actually you, Amy! Goshhhh. Surprises, huh? Aaaan-yway, got you a few wacky Essie nail colors and subscribed you to a few porn websites. You’ll thank me one day, girl.”
Amy flushes red and buries her face in her hands.
“Naha,” Gina chuckles, chewing her gum even through her vaguely pleased dimple.
“Peralta,” Amy sighs, “You’ve been outed; you might as well give your present to the Captain.” Realizing what she’s just said, she suddenly sobers and freezes, and Jake immediately braces himself. “Wait. You got the Captain?! You?!”
Jake shoves the box at Holt and raises his hands defenselessly at either side of his head, lifting his shoulders and tugging his lips sideways in a what can ya do? sort of way.
Amy fumes blatantly at him, her lower jaw sticking forward, as Holt carefully undoes the sloppily-tied ribbon and opens the box with care. He stares at the contents unresponsively for one beat, then two, then three, and only when everyone starts to crane their necks over does he reach inside and produce…
“A tie,” Jake announces with a clap of his hands. “Classic. Plus, I figure a man can never have too many, especially if they’re ridiculously ugly, like that one.”
“It is indeed repulsive,” Holt concedes without inflection, holding up a neon pink-and-yellow paisley atrocity. He turns his head stonily to Jake, giving nothing away. “Why did you give me this?”
Jake, for a moment, seems on the brink of retorting with some off-the-cuff and undoubtedly juvenile explanation, but instead, he sighs and slackens his shoulders and finally lowers his arms from the enormous Rudolph face on his sweater.
“’Cause you gotta lighten up every now and then,” he says quietly, and when Holt stares harder at him, he puts a hand up. “Lemme finish! Look, Captain, I get that you had to work hard to get here, and you had to deal with a lot of crap. But you’re here now, all right? You made it. You’re not going anywhere. So… give yourself a break once in a while.” In a blink, the usual self-satisfied Peralta Grin is back. “And give us something to mock you endlessly for. Eh? Eh? I did good, right?”
Holt closes his momentarily agog mouth and glances aside at nothing in particular, and, after a moment, nods, his cheeks quirking just barely.
“Yes, Peralta,” he replies. “You did.”
Jake nods acknowledgingly and bows his head, kicking at nothing on the floor and smiling privately to himself in a way that’s almost bashful. Holt turns back to the rest of the Nine-Nine (and to a now-crying Terry and Charles).
“I suppose it’s my turn now,” he says, and Amy holds her breath. “Gina, would you step forward, please.”
“Is this about the kitten videos I’ve been spamming your personal e-mail with?” Gina asks, poking her fingers together.
“Hardly,” Holt deadpans. “My husband finds them to be… quite adorable. No, this is about the gift you'll be receiving. I was the one to whom your name was assigned. “
“Ohhhh,” Gina breathes, eyes protuberant. “Groovy.”
Holt picks up a bag with a picture of a wreath on the side and passes it to Gina.
“Within you’ll find many… eccentric knick-knacks and trinkets,” he says. “For your desk space. Three of them are illegal in Europe.”
Gina’s wide and worrisome grin is the most genuine any of them have ever seen it.
“I’m not gonna say thank you,” she tells him languidly, cocking her head so that her auburn hair cascades down. “Just that you’re a beautiful creature, Captain. Even though you make me do lots of dumb work I don’t like. And even though you don’t like Jay-Z.”
“I am merely unacquainted with him,” Holt corrects her. “Perhaps that can be your job for the new year. Repairing this gross error of living, that is.”
Gina chuckles nasally and that’s enough of an answer.
“Okay, so, is that everyone?” Jake says a little too loudly, swinging his arms back and forth. “Good, ’cause there’s some nog in the printer room that’s got my name on—”
“Jake,” Amy cuts him off with fond exasperation, and he quiets immediately with a wince.
“Damn it,” he whispers, and when he dares to pry one tightly closed eye open again, it’s to the sight of Amy’s braceleted hand extending a simple white envelope to him. He doesn’t let the simplicity ease him, however. “What is this, Megan Fox’s phone number? A warrant for the arrest of whoever thought that ending Magnum, P.I. was a good idea? Ah, man, you know I gotta do the theme now. Da da da DA dunununun—”
“Jake,” Amy repeats, shoving it at his chest. “Just take it. You can open it later.”
“Dick pics!” Gina yells through a cupped hand.
“I don’t have one of those, Gina,” Amy snaps, and Gina shrugs.
“Who am I to apply labels?” she drones, and Amy scoffs.
Surreptitiously, Jake slips the envelope into his pocket.
“I’d like to propose a toast,” Holt announces, and all heads, thankfully, mercifully, turn away from Jake and to Holt’s raised glass of champagne instead. “To the Nine-Nine. To family. And to never going anything alone.”
“Sappy!” Jake hollers, raising his paper cup of eggnog anyway, and it’s the closest any of them have ever seen Captain Holt come to a smile.
I don’t know if you noticed, blockhead, but the year’s almost over, and I’ve got your arrests beaten by twelve, which means hello, new car.
But as long as you pick restaurants the way you pick your automobiles, I could probably find it in my heart to do the… date thing.
Happy holidays, Jake. Thanks for always being just slightly less of a butthead than I say you are.
“Nice tie,” Jake calls the next Monday morning, when he sees Holt stride back to his office from the evidence room sporting the pink-and-yellow silk tragedy.
“Thank you,” Holt replies, even as ever. “I suggest checking your desk, Peralta. I’ve left some new evidence there for you.”
Jake groans, already unreceptive to the idea of more work, but trudges over to his work area anyway, flinging his backpack onto the floor beside his chair. He freezes, however, when, instead of any kind of new evidence, he sees a square box in front of his computer, wrapped in paper patterned with rocket ships.
There’s a tag dangling off of the gold ribbon. He holds it between two fingers and squints to read it.
As a reward, the immaculately-printed message says, For being a grown-up. —H
Jake lets out a “pffft” and peels the paper away.
Needless to say, chasing suspects is much more interesting with a pair of Moon Shoes.