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you can tell me when it's over if the high was worth the pain

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Officer Kate Mullins is a kindly prison guard at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Manhattan. She’s originally from West, Texas, and despite the fact that she moved to the Big City more than ten years ago, she hasn’t quite been able to shake that old southern accent. She’s almost always the one sitting at the sign-in desk at the visitor’s center, putting her at a unique vantage point in the prison as a whole. There’s always a new face to see, one fresh with apprehension and fear; these belong to the new inmates’ visitors.

But of course, there are those who are here so often they’re practically Kate’s friends. Family and friends of long-term inmates, ones who come visit regularly, ones whose faces are blank and unaffected. Some of them know her by name and greet her as they step through the security check; others merely shoot her a tight grimace in acknowledgement.

And then there’s Amy Santiago.

She comes sweeping in with as much grace and authority as she usually does - though Kate can’t help but notice her purse doesn’t hit the inspection table with as much rattling force as she’s grown accustomed to. She looks more timid than usual, too; something in the restless way her eyes shift around the visitor’s entrance in an uncharacteristically nervous tick, or the way her hands (heavily bandaged, Kate notes) tremble on the way up to her newly-shortened hair. Kate can see her visibly swallow from her perch behind her computer monitor, and for a moment, she just stares.

The moment passes, though, and Kate shakes herself. Clearly, Amy’s in need of some cheering up. “G’mornin’, detective.” Kate says with as much enthusiasm as she can muster. Amy practically jumps out of her skin, her distant, distracted gaze suddenly darting to Kate over the monitor between them. Kate leans to one side, points to her hair, and says, “I’m lovin’ that new ‘do.”

“Oh, thanks,” she lifts a hand and touches her fingertips to the feathery ends of her hair almost absently, self-consciously, as if she has to keep doing so or else she’ll forget. “And it’s - it’s actually sergeant now. I got the promotion.”

Kate leans around her monitor again, her grin wide and blinding despite the clear bitterness creasing Amy’s face. “Well, congratulations! I know how hard you were workin’ for that! That’s a real big deal, sergeant !”

“Thank you.” This one seems more genuine, more gracious and real. “I mean, I don’t know when any of it will go into effect - we’re, uh, kinda - kinda slammed at the Nine-Nine right now - but, yeah. Soon, I think.”

“Well, I’m proud of you, sweet pea.” A vague look of confusion crosses Amy’s face, but she smiles good-naturedly nonetheless. “You’re all clear, by the way. Who’re you here to see? I can call ahead and have ‘em ready to go in a private room for you -”

“Oh, n-no, uh - that won’t, that won’t be necessary. I’m...I’m not here for case.”

Kate furrows her brow. “Who’re you seein’?”

Amy inhales deeply, squares her shoulders, and says, “Jake Peralta. My...my boyfriend.”

A beat passes. And then a second. “Oh,” Kate hears herself say.

Amy nods quickly, a blush turning the tips of her ears pink. “I’ll just - it’s through this door, right?”

“Um, yes. Yes, just - down that hall, and to the right. There should be some other guards in there who can point you in the right direction if you get lost.”

Amy nods again, quickly gathering her purse and darting toward the side door. Kate sits very still, eyes trained on her computer screen, waiting until she hears the door click shut to release the breath that solidified in her lungs. “Kate?” Amy calls timidly behind her.

Kate whirls around.

“Thank you.”

Amy’s through the door a second later, gone before Kate can really remember how to make the words stuck in her throat depart her lips in a coherent matter. Kate stares, mouth open, feeling exceptionally useless.

Until her computer dings with a new email notification, sent to her from the head of the prison’s security office.

It’s not entirely unheard of for the guards to be particularly watchful over certain inmates over others. She’s called in a few favors like that before, but only for certain friends. There are over a dozen hand-written holiday cards in a box in her storage closet all signed from Amy, and the leather bound planner tucked neatly beside her computer monitor - the one that has her name engraved in it - was a gift from Amy as well. If she can’t offer any comforting words, she can send a special request in.

Calling in a favor. Keep an extra eye on an inmate named J. Peralta.

She sends the email before she can think twice and then stares, frowning, at the thirteen unread emails waiting for her perusal in her inbox.

At the sound of a clearing throat, she jumps; Detective Burrows is smiling apologetically at her from behind her computer monitor.

“Detective Burrows, I’m so sorry! You caught me daydreamin’ there for a second! How’re you doin’ today? That’s a nice new belt ya’got there!”


The communal visitor’s center is empty, as Amy expected it would be. It’s a large room - about the size of her high school’s cafeteria - dotted strategically in off-set rows with circular picnic tables bolted to the floor, each surrounded by four evenly-spaced benches which are also bolted to the floor. She enters through the east door, held open for her by a bored-looking security guard whose nametag reads SMITH, and the first thing she really absorbs is the barred door directly opposite the one she entered through.

The inmate entryway. There’s a security guard posted there, too.

Amy chooses a table on the third row in, toward the middle, and when she sits she finds herself trembling already. Partially because it’s absolutely, miserably freezing in this room. Partially because of the blank, disinterested masks each security guard wears.

Mostly because of who she’s waiting for.

She’s never given the retrieval of inmates much of a thought before. She’s really only ever been here on business, to interview former-perps-turned-snitches for information about gang-related cases that cross her desk, but those meetings generally happen in secured, private meeting rooms, reserved specifically for detectives and FBI agents as well as inmates’ lawyers. She’d never truly considered what the march between cell to interrogation room might be like; never wondered how intimidating the guards are.

Never wondered if new, first-time inmates are more intimidated or comforted by the guards’ presence.

Her leg is bouncing restlessly beneath the table and she can’t stop picking at the loose, practically disintegrated gauze wrapped securely around her still-achey palm. It’s been three days since the incident with the plates and while she’s healing, her hands still hurt when she grabs her car door handle wrong or when she writes for too long. She’d considered, briefly, bypassing the gauze altogether to make things a little less conspicuous for this inevitable meeting.

But then she’d really looked at her shredded skin, and it was an easy decision. Even if his imagination ran wild, he still probably wouldn’t picture anything quite as gruesome as the truth.

It’s been three days since she’d destroyed half the plates in their kitchen in a fit of blind rage; three days since the guilty verdict. Three days since she last kissed him, last hugged him, last saw his pale face twisted in sheer terror.

It’s felt like a lifetime.

But she’d promised him, right before they loaded him into the back of a squad car, that she would come see him as soon as they let her.

And here she is.

Waiting, rather impatiently, to assure herself that he hasn’t completely dissolved beneath this latest crushing blow.

She hears footsteps approaching from beyond the barred door and straightens on instinct as her heart shoots up into her throat. Her vision is going black around the edges but the guard posted at the barred doors is stepping to one side and there’s a new guard behind the door, inserting keys into the lock, and beyond him she can see the barest glimpse of a baby blue jumpsuit -

Jake is somehow even paler than the last time she saw him. His eyes are wider than she’s ever seen them in her life and he’s staring at her like she’s the only thing he can see, like he’s seeing color for the first time and every pigment in existence is painted across her face. She stands quickly, realizing belatedly that she’s touching the ends of her hair again - he looks like he’s trying to stare at her hands and her hair at the same time as the guard unlocks the handcuffs cinched around his wrists.

The moment the cuffs fall away Jake’s rushing toward her, darting around the tables between them, bee-lining straight to her. “ Amy ,” he chokes.

And then he’s bowling her over and they’re both crying, sobbing, hands scrabbling and fingers squeezing painfully, all hard, unforgiving desperation. He holds her hard enough to break her but she squeezes back, ignores the way her muscles ripple and twitch in protest beneath his fingertips. Her nose is buried in the dip of his shoulder and he’s running one hand over the back of her head, stopping short where her hair stops, gripping it in his fist and tugging slightly. His chest heaves against hers and prison soap is terrible, awful, no where near as good as that spicy soap Terry got for him the last time he went to Lush.

But it doesn’t matter - at least, not really - because it’s been nearly 72 hours since she last got to do this and it’s crazy, ridiculous, because it feels closer to 15 years.

It’s that thought that makes her cry harder.

Officer Mullins must have radioed ahead - it’s the only explanation Amy can think of for why the guards haven’t ordered them apart yet. Touching is strictly prohibited in the communal visitation center (according to the rules listed on the Detention Center’s website), but aside from the guard at her entrance pointedly clearing his throat, neither guard has said anything.

She thinks it probably would be a different story if there were other visitors present.

It takes a few minutes, but eventually the heaving eases back into a more natural rhythm. Jake’s grip has loosened but Amy can still hardly draw a breath beneath the pressure of it, and he’s gone from fisting her hair to slowly combing his fingers through it. She wonders if he, too, feels like he’s finally found the missing half of his heart again.

“You cut your hair,” he mumbles into her shoulder.

She closes her eyes and remembers - briefly - that half-second glimpse she’d caught of herself in the bathroom mirror at the height of her blind rage. The deranged fury in her eyes, the blood smeared across her face, the hacked-off hair in the sink beneath her. That was how Gina found her - a bloody, sobbing mess on the bathroom floor.

“I - there was an incident.”

She feels his jaw clench against her neck. Guilt and regret burn through him so violently she can feel it rolling off of him in waves, but she can’t protest, because his elbows squeeze harder, forcing out the last bit of air she has there, and she’s pretty sure he’s going to flatten her against his front completely.

“I’m sorry, Jake,” she manages to whisper.

“You’re beautiful.” he answers, and the words shake with reverence.

“We’re being pretty lenient, here, guys - let’s wrap it up with the hug.” The guard behind Jake calls.

Amy has to bite down hard on the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming at him.

Disentangling from each other is hard, harder than it was at the courthouse, which she thought of at the time as nearly impossible. But they do it, and Amy can’t help but picture the velcro from her nephew’s light-up Power Rangers shoes ripping apart as Jake’s big warm hands sweep up her upper arms one last time before he pulls away completely.

He drops down opposite her at the table she claimed earlier, and she catches him staring at her bandaged hands as she eases back down on her bench. Her heart is thundering and it’s suddenly very difficult to remember how to speak, but she has to, she absolutely has to, if she doesn’t speak he’ll ask her about her hands and she won’t be able to lie to him because she hasn’t ever been able to lie to him about stuff like this -

“What happened?” He asks quietly.

It’s not a question so much as it’s a guilt-riddled, self-hating accusation.

She hesitates, glancing down at her hands briefly, and when she meets his eyes again she can practically see the demons in his head screaming you should have been there! “Don’t do that to yourself.” She says in a voice that just barely breaks through a whisper. “Please, don’t - don’t do it.”

“Ames…”

“It was an accident. I was -” she stops again, shakes her head slightly. “I had - a brief meltdown after the trial.”

A muscle in his jaw twitches as he nods, and in his eyes she sees the flames of burning despair licking at his irises. “I’m so sorry,” he whispers.

“You shouldn’t be. You should be proud . I know I am.” He shakes his head quickly, gaze darting down to the table between them, so Amy leans forward until he looks back up at her. “Jake, I’m so, so proud of you. You discovered a dirty cop and you did the right thing. You tried, you gave it your best shot. Any other cop might’ve turned the other cheek or let it slide because of her reputation, but you didn’t, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much I admire you for that.” Tears are streaking down his face again but she can see something shattered in his gaze beginning to heal, so she presses on. “You’re a good detective, you’ve solved impossible cases and saved so many lives. This has nothing to do with you or your abilities as a detective or as a cop in general. She’s been doing this for too long, she’s too dirty. That isn’t your fault.”

“I miss you so much,” he mumbles through a choked-back sob. “God, I - you have no idea how much I’ve needed to hear that. How much I’ve needed you .”

She leans forward, boldly reaching for his hand. He extends his arm and takes her hand, exceedingly gentle compared to the harsh desperation from earlier. “You know you have my heart, don’t you?” She whispers.

“And you have mine.”

“No touching.” The guard posted by her entrance barks.

Jake and Amy withdraw their hands obediently, Amy shifting just slightly in her seat. “How’s Rosa holding up?” She asks after a moment.

“Good. Good. I mean, I hardly see her around, but good. I think people are scared of her.”

“I figured they would be.”

Jake grimaces and nods. “How’s Charles?”

“Devastated.” Amy says honestly. “He won’t stop eating powdered donuts and crying in the break room.”

He shivers and shakes his head. “God. He didn’t even eat powdered donuts after his dog died. I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”

Amy shrugs. “It’s not so bad. He’s actually not bad company. I think we’re becoming better friends.”

A light flickers briefly in the recesses of Jake’s eyes. “Really?” She nods, and a genuine smile twitches across his face. “That’s - that’s great. What do you guys even talk about?”

“You, mostly.”

“Right, makes sense.”

“Charles talks a lot more than I do.”

“Yeah, that checks out.”

They both grin at each other, momentarily forgetting this new reality, but the moment is short-lived - the guards’ radios blare to life and it’s almost as jarring as that guilty verdict being read. “Jake,” Amy says softly when he closes his eyes and drops his head, “listen to me. I know things are really bad right now. I know you’re scared, and I know you feel powerless, and I - I can’t even imagine how horrible this is for you.” He lifts his head and swallows thickly, eyes rimmed red all over again. “Hawkins is pure evil , you and I both know that. The whole Nine-Nine knows that. But I refuse to let her have this. We all know that evil never wins.”

A deep valley appears between Jake’s brows as something unfamiliar blazes to life in his gaze. “Wait, wait - please tell me you’re not going after her.”

Ice drops into the pit of her stomach. Amy withdraws slightly, curling her fingers back to her palms. “I promised you I would fight for you.” She reminds him quietly.

He’s already shaking his head rapidly before she’s finished speaking. “No, no, n-no no no,” he mumbles, reaching across the table. She lets him grab her arm without thinking, and his grip is hard enough to bruise. “You can’t, you can’t , please - God, no, please, you have to - to promise me, you have to swear that you won’t go after her, none of you will go after her -”

“No touching.”

“Jake, calm down -”

“Stay as far away as possible from her, okay, don’t - don’t do it, don’t try to take her down, please -”

“Jake you have to calm down, okay, you have to breathe -”

Terror, he is the embodiment of sheer terror and she cannot comprehend why -

“I said no touching, I’m not gonna say it again!”

Jake -

“I can’t let what happened to me and Rosa happen to you,” Jake rushes, eyes still wide with panic. He’s trembling violently, looking just seconds away from combusting fully, and Amy has never felt so powerless in her life. “She will kill you, Amy, she’ll kill you - I won’t let it happen, you - you have too much to lose, you can’t end up here, you can’t -”

“That’s it! You’re done!”

“Wait, wait, Jake -”

“I’m sorry!” The guards are on either side of him and they’re yanking him up by his armpits, hauling him back toward the barred door. “Promise me, Amy!”

Jake!

PROMISE ME!

She can barely hear him yelling over the slamming door and the punishing sobs shattering her hollow chest.


Charles is an exceedingly good cook.

It’s a fact Amy has known (or, rather, has had entrenched within her) for as long as she’s been working at the Nine-Nine, but it’s not something she’s ever let herself personally experience. It was something she was willing to just arbitrarily assume based on the - well, interesting is one word for it - smells that waft from the break room microwaves every day at lunch.

But it’s not something she viscerally experiences until Jake and Rosa are in prison.

“Amy.” She jumps, having been lost in the casefile for the very first Golden Gang robbery for the last twenty minutes. Charles is standing beside her desk, far too subdued and apprehensive for her liking; he is, in this precise moment, an exact reflection of the general mood of the precinct as a whole. “Have you eaten yet today?”

She stares at him blankly. Eat. She ate an orange this morning, and she thinks she might have found a half-stale tortilla in the fridge the day before that. Beyond those two - she doesn’t quite remember the last solid meal she consumed. “Can’t,” she grunts, turning her gaze back down to the crime scene report.

The file is forcibly removed from her grip, and Charles just grabs her wrist when she makes a strangled sound of protest. “C’mon,” he says, hauling her up to her feet with a surprising amount of strength for a man with dyed-brown eyebrows.

Boyle ,” Amy practically whines as he marches her to the breakroom, “I’m not even hungry -”

“I’ve been listening to your stomach growl all the way across the bullpen for three days now. You have to eat. You’ll be completely useless to this investigation if you’re malnourished.”

“Keep it down , Boyle,” Terry warns in a hiss as they pass his desk.

The investigation is...not strictly official. The Nine-Nine is under pretty stringent scrutiny by Internal Affairs at the moment - apparently two dirty officers in one department is cause enough for a precinct-wide investigation. Amy feels a faint twinge of guilt; really, the first Golden Gang robbery case is closed, and if an IA officer were to walk in and spot it on her desk, it could potentially be grounds for a demotion.

Amy has literally never cared less in her life.

“I’m not really in the mood for - whatever it is you’re trying to feed me.” She tells him as he forces her to sit with two hands on either shoulder. “Really, I appreciate the thought. But I can’t -”

“I know you’re doing important work and I know how much you want to fix this, and believe me, I’m right there with you. I’m doing this because Jake asked me to.” Charles tells her firmly. She sinks down in her seat a little, and he nods decisively before turning his back to her to pull something warming in the microwave. She blinks rapidly, picking nervously at the mostly-healed scab on her palm.

He returns to the table with two steaming slices of hamburger and onion pizza - her favorite - on a paper plate. “You went to go see him?” She asks quietly as he slides the plate in front of her.

“Yesterday. I actually saw them both.” He stops, looking pointedly at the pizza. Amy closes her eyes and exhales loudly through her nose before grabbing the top slice and ripping a bite off with her teeth; the moment the pizza touches her tongue, she’s ravenous.

“Oh, my God, Charles,” she says, muffled through the pizza. “Where’d you get this ?”

“I made it.”

She pauses. “ Seriously ?”

“From scratch.”

“It’s incredible ,” she marvels, before shoveling in another mouthful.

It’s easy to pretend like she doesn’t notice Charles watching her eat - she hadn’t felt it earlier, but she’s practically trembling from how hungry she’d actually been. Her strength is coming back to her and with it comes heavy fatigue; she can hardly keep her eyes open by the time she finishes her first slice.

She can tell by the look in Charles’ eye that she probably won’t be allowed to leave the break room until she’s eaten both slices.

“So...you went to see Jake,” she says as she picks little pieces of hamburger off her second slice.

His expression is uncharacteristically neutral. “I did.”

She nods, clears her throat, and averts her gaze. “How - how is he?”

“He misses you. I mean, he misses everyone, but - he mostly wanted to talk about you. He wanted me to tell you how sorry he is for what happened when you went to see him last week. He’s really, really sorry.”

A dull wave of pain washes through her gut - she can still hear him yelling all the way down the hall when it gets too quiet around her. “Yeah,” she says, voice breaking. “It was - it was pretty bad.”

He’s nodding sadly when she chances a glance up at his face. “He told me. He also mentioned that you haven’t been back to see him since.”

She clenches her jaw and picks at a stray onion. “Yeah,” she whispers.

“I don’t...I mean, I don’t mean to make you feel guilty , or anything,” Charles says after a long pause. “But...he really misses you, Amy.”

She closes her eyes and shakes her head slightly, trying and failing to fight off the few stray tears now streaking down her face. “I miss him, too,” she admits, and her voice has never sounded so much like a whimper than it does right then and there. “I’m just - I’m scared .”

Charles nods solemnly as the tears become more insistent, a more steady stream. “Scared of him?”

“N-no, no, just -” she stops short, reaches up, and swipes quickly at her face. “You didn’t see how angry he got, Charles. I mean, I never even officially said that we’re - doing things ,” they both glance at the break room door on instinct, and when she turns back to him Charles looks vaguely sheepish. “Just the implication of it was enough to make him almost lose it - and I can’t...I can’t look him in the eye and lie if he asks me about it again. I can’t , and he will ask me again. But I also can’t let him talk me out of this. It’s too important, if we don’t do this - if I don’t do this...”

“I know,” Charles says softly.

“We’ll be in their fifties , Charles.”

She can see his heart breaking in the recesses of his gaze.

“Not to - not to say that it’ll be too late - of course it won’t be too late, but -”

“It’s okay, Amy. I know what you mean. You guys deserve a happy ending, and spending fifteen years in prison definitely isn’t part of your fairy tale.”

A lump has risen in Amy’s throat; she nods, hoping Charles won’t notice.

“He’s just gonna have to deal with the fact that you’re working this case and that you’re gonna get him off with all of our help.”

She pulls a face. “Maybe don’t phrase it like that.”

“Yeah, Jake said the same thing when I tried to tell him.” He heaves a sigh as he shakes his head, turning to glance out at the bullpen through the breakroom windows, before leaning back across the table toward Amy. “What if I went with you the next time you go see Jake? I could sit at the table with you or I could visit Rosa -”

Guilt surges through her system - in truth, Amy had hardly even thought about Rosa since the verdict. “I think that’d be a good idea,” she finally says, grimacing at how thick her voice sounds. “I need to apologize to Rosa, anyways. I’ve been so caught up in worrying about Jake that I haven’t even been to see her yet.”

Charles smiles at her sympathetically. “I don’t think she blames you. She knows you have a lot on your mind, and i think she also knows that if she was in a similar situation she would do the same thing. I...I almost...this is gonna sound bad,” he clears his throat and scoots a little closer. “I’m actually not...all that worried about Rosa. I think it’s because she’s...well, she’s tougher than Jake. More intimidating. She can hold her own in a place like that. I’m sure she’s more worried about Jake than anything else, too.”

“Yeah. I guess we’ll find out.”

He nods definitively, pushes back from the table, and stands. “Jake also told me to tell you one more thing: he said to say, ‘Charles better not let you leave this room until you’ve eaten both slices.’”

She smiles a little tearfully and raises one hand to salute. “You got it, Boyle.”

He turns to leave, and just before he passes through the doorway he pauses and glances back at her over his shoulder. “Apparently inmates are allowed to have photographs in their cells.” He says off-handedly. “He asked me to send a really specific picture of you to him in the mail. Also, a picture of the Eiffel Tower.” Amy’s breath catches in her throat, and for a moment, it’s like having her entire chest squeezed tight. “I figured the last part would mean more to you than it does to me.”

He leaves her like that, dumbstruck and breathless, staring down at her slice of pizza without truly seeing it. She’s nervously picked off half the hamburger over the course of talking to Charles, leaving them all in a pile on the side of her plate; she pushes through them now with the tip of her finger, watching them roll unevenly in the wake of the intrusion.

“I’m gonna get you to Paris, Pineapples.” She whispers to her plate. “That’s a promise.”


Captain Holt dedicates one of the interrogation rooms to Charles’ clan of hackers exactly one hour after the Internal Affairs investigation ends.

“You have all been added as part-time, temporary employees to the Nine-Nine’s records, and your official job titles are ‘IT apprentices’.” He announces over their heads. They’re all staring at him, fingers still but hovering over their keyboards, watching him pace back and forth before the interrogation table. “You are to report any and all findings to Savant, our head of IT.”

“Wait, wait - Savant ?” The girl with the cat ears gasps. Amy exchanges a glance with Charles before turning back to the glass separating them from the group. “He went dark years ago, right after he hacked -”

“A police precinct ! You guys hired Savant !”

Savant, ever Gina’s protegee, chooses that exact moment to throw the interrogation room door open and sweep inside. He’s met with a chorus of oh ’s and a smattering of applause; if the situation weren’t so grim, Amy might have rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “My fellow hackers,” Savant says once the noise has died down, “we’re here today to perform a duty to this city. Two of my coworkers were wrongfully convicted of a crime. It’s up to us to prove their innocence by doing what we do best.”

“There is no time to waste.” Holt interjects. “We need irrefutable evidence and we need it now . You all have a general idea of what we’re looking for, but if you come across anything - anything - that looks even remotely suspicious, let Savant know at once. Our case must be airtight if we’re going to take this woman down.”

“Amy,” Charles nudges her. “We’re supposed to be at the prison in twenty minutes.”

She stares at Holt’s back through the glass for only a moment longer before nodding and leading the way out of the observation room.

They take Charles’ car, and she spends the majority of the time staring out the window, thoughts drifting even as Charles struggles to sing along to the Wicked soundtrack playing on full-blast. His voice cracking over the high notes in Gravity fades from her attention as her mind drifts completely.

She remembers Kevin talking about the chateau he’d stayed in just outside of the city back when he was taking his sabbatical and things weren’t quite so complicated. It was perched near the back of a six acre property, giving way to rolling hills and picture-perfect views of the vineyards nearby, the Parisian skyline distant and beautiful on the horizon. She imagines curling up on a sofa in front of a large bay window overlooking the property, wrapped up to peak warmth in blankets, Jake’s clothes, and Jake himself. She’ll fall asleep with her head against his chest and wake up to his peaceful snores rumbling beneath her ear and a light, gentle rain tapping against the windows, and she’ll know no discomfort, no pain or misery or misfortune -

“Amy.” The music has stopped, the car has stopped, and when she blinks the rolling vineyard hills vanish and the tall imposing walls of the detention center take their place. She lets her head fall back against the headrest, winded, and from the corner of her eye she sees Charles watching her. “C’mon, we’re late.”

Both Jake and Rosa are already waiting for them, each at their own table, by the time they get through the security check and are escorted to the communal visitation center. Jake stands the moment he spots Amy, his expression much the same as it was that very first time Amy visited him, except this time he keeps his hands firmly clasped behind his back and remains rooted to the spot as Amy approaches. “Ames,” he says softly when she’s close enough.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispers, stopping a foot short to stare up at him earnestly. “Jake, I - God, I’m sorry.”

“No, no, I’m sorry. I freaked out on you and that wasn’t fair. I was - I mean, I am still, a little, um…” he glances to his left, past the table where Rosa and Charles are already seated across from each other, to a rather large and intimidating man in the same blue jumpsuit as both Jake and Rosa, speaking quietly with a woman who looks far too relaxed to have not been in this room before. “Prison’s not the best place to be when you’re an ex-cop.” Jake says, flashing her a tight, nervous smile when she turns back to him.

She feels her brows drawn together in that extreme, exaggerated way he always used to gently smooth down with the pads of his thumb. “They’re not hurting you, are they?”

“No. Not - not yet. They’ve tried, but the guards - I think they’re keeping an eye on me and Rosa. Someone always intervenes before anything actually bad happens.”

Amy thinks briefly of Kate Mullins - of the overwhelming (and over-the-top) enthusiasm with which she greeted both her and Charles just a few minutes earlier - and resolves to send her a basket of muffins and a handwritten thank you card as soon as she leaves here. “I’m glad they’re looking out for you.”

He nods, dropping his gaze to the table. “Shall we sit?”

She settles herself on the bench right next to his, easing her purse off her shoulder and watching the way Jake carefully restrains his hands. He’s drumming nervously, fidgeting restlessly, unable to keep his gaze steady and trained on one thing for too long. “Jake, look at me.” His head snaps toward her and he goes completely still, eyes wide and, she’s just realizing, a bit sunken in his head. “Are you taking care of yourself? Eating, drinking water, all that?”

He blinks. “Yeah?”

“Are you sure?”

A muscle in his jaw twitches, and he shifts, suddenly appearing both uncomfortable and defensive at the same time. “I’m doing about as well on that front as you are.” He mutters.

She blushes, almost violently, and glances down at her lap. “Fair enough.” She says when she can lift her head again.

Jake stares at her for a moment, seemingly sizing her up, before flattening both his palms against the table and leaning toward her. “You’re still working the case against her, aren’t you?”

Amy’s stomach bottoms out but she manages to keep her chin lifted. “I made you a promise on that farm, Jake. I don’t break promises.”

He shakes his head, but the frenetic energy from last time appears to remain carefully restrained in the hard lines on his face. “You didn’t work with her, Amy.” He whispers through stiff lips. “You didn’t see the things I saw, you have no idea what she’s capable of -”

“I think I can handle myself, Peralta.” He clenches his jaw and leans back a degree, seemingly recognizing the determination currently swooping through her gut. “I don’t lose. She’s not going to take this away from you, or from Rosa. She made this personal for me. I will not stop until she’s rotting in prison for the rest of her life and we’re together, like we’re supposed to be. I won’t stop until you and I are in Paris and all of this has become nothing more than a bad dream.”

He swallows thickly, gaze suddenly glassy. “We’re gonna go to Paris,” he whispers.

“We are.” She confirms with a decisive nod. “But first I need to prove that you’re innocent.”

He closes his eyes and shakes his head, before turning away and heaving a great sigh. “I hate this.” He tells her quietly once he’s turned back to her.

“I know.”

“I mean I really, really hate this. More than I hate the Vulture.”

She smiles, sad and wistful. “I know.”

“You have to promise me that you won’t do anything stupid.”

She hesitates. “Jake…”

“You made me promise to keep my head down while I’m in here, and I did. I have no intention of doing anything brash or idiotic while I’m here, for you. I need to get out of this place in one piece, for you. All of this, everything that I’m doing in here to just survive, is for you . You have to promise me that when I get out of here, you’ll still be in one piece, too. Please. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me.”

“I can’t - I can’t promise that something bad won’t happen -”

“I don’t care about that, I don’t care if something - I mean, I care , obviously, I care so much I’m probably gonna die because of it, but that’s not what this is about. I understand that you can’t stop working the case, but I need you to promise me that you won’t go looking for trouble, Ames. This - it’s not worth losing your life over. If you find yourself having to make a choice between an easy decision and a safe decision, you have to promise me that you will always, always make the safe one. Please. I’ll never forgive you if you get yourself killed because of me.”

“Jake -”

“I’ll never forgive myself if you get killed because of me.” He amends loudly. Charles and Rosa and a few other people at surrounding tables are looking at them now, staring, and Amy feels heat rising up the back of her neck in response. “I love you , Amy, I can’t lose you, too. You’re the only good thing I have left right now, and I can’t - God , I can’t lose you.”

“Okay, okay, I promise. I won’t do anything stupid, I’ll play it safe. I promise.”

He releases a breath and drops his head to thump against the table, before lifting it quickly and inching even closer to her. “I’m sorry, I know I’m being crazy , or...whatever - you know I hate feeling this powerless, and - and it’d be a different story if it was just a normal criminal, or if - if I could be out there in the thick of it, too. But I can’t, and she’s dangerous and brutal and...I don’t think she’d hesitate to kill you if she was given the chance and the right motive.”

“She’ll never have that chance.” Amy says, careful to keep her voice as low and soothing as possible. “I promise you, I won’t give her that chance.”

Jake nods, clearly relieved. “I’m sorry, Amy.”

“You don’t have to apologize to me. I would be the same way if our roles were reversed. You have nothing to worry about. The Nine-Nine is going to figure this out, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I love you so much.”

“I love you so much, too.”

They spend the rest of their visitation time planning their trip to Paris - Jake tells her about the travel books he thinks he saw in the library when he visited a few days ago, and makes plans to go there right after he’s caught up with Charles. “I’ll have the whole two weeks planned down to the minute by the time you come in again,” he says quietly as he pushes up from the table.

Her gaze lingers on him as he switches places with Rosa, up until he’s seated and staring at her across the distance between them. “Santiago,” Rosa grunts quietly.

Amy jumps, head snapping back to face the woman before her. “Sorry,” she says, shaking her head to clear it.

Rosa shrugs. “Don’t apologize, I don’t actually care.” She leans closer, arms crossed in front of her to hold her weight against the table, and Amy mirrors her posture immediately. “I heard you promising not to do something stupid.”

“Yeah. I mean, Charles has his hackers working on finding a trail, I figure I’ll just make myself avail-”

“It’s a stupid promise.” Rosa interrupts. Her voice is dangerous, but quiet, almost lost beneath the general din of noise in the communal visitation room; so quiet, in fact, that Jake and Charles can’t hear her. “It’s a stupid promise, and you have to break it.”

Amy stares. “I don’t break promises.” She says just as softly. “Especially the ones I make to Jake.”

“I get that. But you’re gonna have to this time if you’re wanting to take that trip to Paris before you’re both fifty.” Rosa shifts a little closer as Amy struggles to remember how to breathe. “Jake’s right, Hawkins is dangerous. She’s clearly operating outside of the law, and she clearly has a really good handle on how to do that without being detected. She’s good. Really good. We tried to take her down the smart, safe way, and it landed both of us in jail. You’re a detective, you know what that means.”

“That - that we need to find hard evidence proving your innocence.”

“No, it means that smart and safe make no difference in the face of batshit crazy. You can’t sideline yourself for this case. Santiago. He’ll understand.”

“I don’t think he will , Diaz. You heard him, you saw him. And that was the more tame reaction. He literally had to be dragged out of here the first time. I wanna do anything and everything I can to get you guys out of here as quickly as possible, but I would also really like to avoid him spending time in the hospital due to a stress-induced heart attack.”

“We’re going to spend the full fifteen years in here if you take yourself out of the field on this case.” says Rosa. It’s a simple phrase, really, but it lands like a swift, hard punch to the gut. “No offense to Charles and Terry - full offense to Hitchcock and Scully - but you’re the best damn detective in that precinct and if you’re not in the field, this case will go no where, fast . Hawkins’ lawyer is already three steps ahead of ours, so unless you guys find something big - unless you find something big - we’ll be serving our full terms. And we all know the only way to find something big is to do something big. You’re the only hope we have. You have to break your promise. You have to finish this. And if you get the chance, you have to deck Hawkins in the face as hard as you can .” Amy manages to arch an eyebrow, and Rosa smirks. “I guess you don’t have to do the last one. But you’ll be a legend if you do.” She stands before Amy can respond, casting one spare glance toward Jake and Charles before meeting Amy’s gaze again. “Something to consider.”

And then she’s gone and Amy’s alone, meeting Jake’s lingering stare with what she hopes is an unreadable expression. She turns away when he stands to leave, and does not look back up again until Charles is seated beside her and the barred door clangs shut. “Everything okay?” He asks quietly as she slowly lifts her gaze.

She can see Jake’s retreating back through the barred door; she stares for a moment, drawing in a deep, steadying breath. “Fine. I’m fine. But I need to make a stop before we go back to the precinct.”


“You’re very lucky, you know.” The receptionist informs them loftily. “She doesn’t normally take such last-second meetings.”

Amy bites the inside of her cheek to keep from blatantly rolling her eyes. “We know her personally, actually.” Charles sniffs.

“Regardless.” The receptionist leads them down a long hall sparsely dotted with closed doors; Amy can hear loud voices behind a few, arguing, shouting, angry. It sets her even further on-edge than she already is.

They reach the end of the hall and the receptionist stops short, turns, and holds a hand up. “Wait here. I’ll make sure she’s off her call.”

“This is a bad idea, Amy. We are literally in Satan’s armpit. Are you sure about this?” Charles hisses once the receptionist has cracked one door, slipped inside, and shut the door again. “I don’t think this is what Jake had in mind when he was telling us not to do anything stupid -”

“Rosa was right.” Amy interrupts, gaze never wavering from the closed door to her left. “Hawkins’ lawyer has consistently been three steps ahead of Jake and Rosa’s. I told Jake I would do anything stupid in the field, but I made no such promise about their legal representation.”

She can practically feel Charles gearing up with a snappy retort, but before he can get the words out the door opens and the receptionist appears. “She’ll see you now.”

Amy and Charles shuffle forward through the office door, and for a moment Amy is completely overwhelmed. The office itself is large, light and airy, mostly lit by the natural light pouring in through the large floor-to-ceiling windows that make up the back wall and the single standing lamp set up between to grand oak bookshelves on the wall to Amy’s right. The carpets and walls match perfectly, of course, the same off-white color that somehow manages to be warm and comforting. A large oak desk is the central focus of the room; behind that desk sits a woman Amy never imagined she would ever see in the flesh again. “Y’know, I gotta say,” Sophia Perez says through a billion-watt smile, “I thought hell would’ve frozen over before I saw any one of you walk through that door.” She stands and leans across her desk to shake both Amy and Charles’ hands (and if she notices the way Charles’ upper lip curls in absolute disgust, she appears utterly unperturbed). “It’s good to see you guys again.”

Amy and Charles exchange a look - Amy’s a warning, Charles a dare - as they sit in the two plush guest chairs before Sophia’s desk. “Yeah, it’s good to see you, too, Sophia.” Amy says as politely as she can.

“You’re looking cold and callous as usual.” Charles sniffs.

Charles !” Amy hisses, but Sophia’s laughing.

“It’s okay, Amy. He’s not wrong. It’s the pantsuits.” She winks and leans backwards in her seat (which is leather and beautiful and probably worth at least six months’ rent) and studies them, amusement twinkling in her eyes as Charles and Amy both straighten up. “I guess we could skip the small-talk.”

Amy nods and inhales deeply, steeling herself. “I’m sure you’ve been watching the news.”

Sophia nods once.

“Right.” There’s a heaviness to the air now, a solidity that wasn’t there before, and if she wasn’t already talking Amy might completely lose her nerve beneath the weight of it. “You should know, they’re both innocent.”

“I don’t doubt that for one second.” Sophia says seriously. “I mean, I know both of them. Or...I knew them.” It’s strange - Amy thinks Sophia looks almost wistful for a moment. But then she blinks and the wistfulness is gone, replaced instead by cool, detached calculation. “But more importantly than that, I know Hawkins. She’s one of the biggest reasons I’m... wary of police in general.”

Tangible relief washes over Amy and, judging by the pleasantly surprised look in his eyes, Charles too, and for a moment Amy has to fight off an insane urge to shrilly giggle right there in the middle of the most beautiful office in New York City. “So - so you know , then, that they were framed!”

Sophia hesitates. “I know...the way that whole trial went down seemed really shady.” She starts slowly. “I know the Jake and Rosa I knew two years ago never would have committed that level of criminal activity. And I know that you wouldn’t have come to me unless you were really, really desperate.”

“So you’ll represent Jake and Rosa in the appeal, then!” says Charles, leaning forward in his seat, his previous hesitation apparently evaporated.

Sophia’s mouth flattens in a thin line, and Amy’s heart sinks. “The city was able to dispute every single piece of evidence the defense had. I looked over the evidence against Jake and Rosa, out of curiosity. The case was air-tight.”

“But the paper trail was forged - we already know the name of the fake bank the offshore accounts supposedly came through is named after one of Hawkins’ former squad member’s farm.” Charles practically whines. “All we have to do is figure out the disprove the rest of the evidence and tie Hawkins to everything instead -”

“Do you have any idea how difficult that will be? Hawkins is literally a career criminal, she’s built her entire life off of playing the system and she plays it well . It’s not as simple as finding the evidence, it’s not such a cut-and-dry, black-and-white kind of case. If it were , Jake and Rosa probably wouldn’t be in jail right now. The city loves Hawkins. You’d have to find a literal motherload of evidence just to get any of them to even consider that she might not be as badass and awesome as she seems. A case like this...it’s a matter of influencing public opinions, and I just don’t know that anyone can get enough dirt on her to do that. And before you accuse me of anything crazy, this isn’t because of what happened at the inn, or what happened between me and Jake.” Amy’s heart throbs for a moment, distant memories of quiet, burning jealousy flickering to life again somewhere in the back of her mind. “This is purely business. After reviewing all the evidence, the case for an appeal seems impossible from where I’m standing. Unless you guys can pull off a miracle of biblical proportions.”

“Sophia,” Amy says, and when Sophia turns her head to look Amy straight-on Amy can feel her knees weakening beneath the desk. She thinks of Jake - of the look in his eye that very first time she visited him in prison - and forces herself to keep speaking around her numb tongue. “I know this won’t be easy. I know you and Jake have a - a, um... history ,” the ghost of a smirk crosses Sophia’s face despite the fact that Charles makes a quiet but still clearly audible retching sound. “And I know you and I didn’t exactly end things on great terms,” Amy presses on, “but all of that aside - you chose a career in law. In regulating the law, in making sure than innocent people aren’t taken advantage of by the law. You know Jake - you know him - there isn’t a mean bone in his body. The justice system failed him and he’s paying for a crime he had nothing to do with. You are the best hope he has - that any of us have in making this right again. If you don’t take this case, the cop who makes you hate cops will stay on the streets, probably continuing to do the exact things that make you hate cops for the rest of her life, while the one and only cop who ever made you reconsider that stance spends the next fifteen years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Please , Sophia. They’ll never stand a chance if you don’t help them.”

Sophia stares for a long, thoughtful moment before quickly looking away. If Amy wasn’t so desperate, she might think Sophia’s hiding tears. “I don’t know, Amy.” She sighs when she finally turns back to face them. “It would take months to get the warrants you’d need to find the evidence, and that’s if there even is a way to find it. And...I just don’t know that anyone can come up with enough evidence to substantiate a solid appeal.”

“That’s why we’ve come to you,” Amy says, letting her desperation color her voice. “You’re one of the most successful defense attorneys in the state , Sophia. We’re working the case now, we’re looking for the evidence, but it won’t mean anything if their lawyer can’t stand up against Hawkins’. I’ve seen you in court, I’ve been cross-examined by you in court - if anyone can hold their ground, it’s you . Please, please, please .”

They stare at each other for a long moment - indecision flickering in Sophia’s dark gaze - before Sophia finally sighs. “Alright, alright. I’ll do it. I’ll take the case.”

Relief floods Amy’s system, and she can’t help it - she turns to Charles and grabs his arm excitedly. He’s the perfect combination of apprehension and excitement, looking to be on the verge of throwing up and also leaping out of his chair to cheer. “ Thank you , Sophia,” Amy breathes as she turns back to the desk, standing quickly to shake her hand, “seriously - we’ll owe you so majorly -”

“We’ll talk legal fees later,” Sophia interrupts with a tight smile, waving her hand dismissively. “But listen, guys - I’ve gone up against Hawkins in court before. She’s ruthless . You’re gonna need absolutely irrefutable evidence to even raise a reason for doubt in the judge’s mind. This will not be easy, not by any stretch of the imagination.”

“We know.” Amy says as Charles stands and reaches for Sophia’s hand. “But at least now we have a fighting chance.”