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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.”

Chapter Text

Sophia turns out to be the second-best decision Amy makes throughout the duration of Jake and Rosa’s stay in prison despite Charles’ initial reluctance. Even Jake - from whose face all the blood had apparently drained when his and Rosa’s last lawyer told them the news - had to admit that it was the best possible decision.

With Sophia’s ownership of the case comes more momentum, more forward movement; for those first few weeks, it almost feels like they’re winning.

Almost.

(And really, if she’s being honest, 90% of that feeling comes from the fact that Sophia allows members of the Nine-Nine’s detective squad into those private rooms in the prison when she goes to meet with Jake and Rosa, and Amy’s able to hold Jake’s hand beneath the table.)

Sophia tells them she’s analyzing the evidence, that she’s working with an entire team of top-notch attorneys to take Hawkins down, and for the first time in the whole two months that Jake and Rosa have been in jail, Amy actually manages to get a full six hours of sleep in a night. The hopefulness is a welcome change to the endless despair that has been sitting like a noose around her neck.

But all of that forward momentum - all of that hopefulness - comes to a grinding halt with one phone call.

Shanked in a prison cafeteria and sent to the emergency room is not the means by which Amy imagined being able to kiss Jake again, and yet all she can focus on as she races through the emergency room halls is getting her hands on his face and her lips on his. Reassurance, she thinks wildly, that he’s still alive and breathing beneath her.

He’s sitting up in his bed when she comes barreling through the door and even though he’s much too pale to be considered anywhere near healthy enough to ever go back to prison, he absolutely lights up when he sees her. She doesn’t even give him a chance to fully form her name before she basically jumps him; he’s just gotten through the “ A ” when she swallows the rest with a desperate, bruising kiss.

Mmph ! M’okay,” he mumbles against her. There’s a series of noises coming out of her - strangled and foreign - and she’s pretty sure she’s crying (she’s sobbing ) as she repeatedly rakes her fingers through his hair. “M’okay, m’okay.”

She keeps raking, sweeping trembling fingers over his skull and down his neck and shoulders up over his jaw. He lets her, his own hands unsteady where they fumble over her hips and her waist, and even though she wants nothing more than to crawl up in this bed and straddle him she’s absolutely terrified of what damage she might accidentally worsen in doing so.

Amy’s not positive when she moved from kissing the daylights out of him to having her face buried in her neck, but she reasons that’s to be expected when her sense of clarity is coming in short, sharp bursts. One moment she’s relishing in the feel of the edges of his teeth against her lips and his nose crushed against her cheekbone and the next she’s practically hyperventilating into his neck, desperately trying to focus on the feel of his fingers firmly combing through her hair.

“Come back, Ames, come back to me, everything’s okay, I’m right here and I’m okay, sh…” Jake’s keeping a steady stream of nonsense murmuring going in her ear, chest buzzing beneath her palm, and when she forces herself to inhale deeply it’s rasping and stuttering on the way down. “That’s it, that’s right, you’re doing great...sh, babe, it’s okay, it’s all okay…”

Minutes - or perhaps hours - pass. Eventually the room is blanketed in silence, the kind made thick with tension and relief all at once - a feeling not unlike returning home after a day full of errands to find the back door had been unlocked the whole time. Amy isn’t sure how she found this little blue plastic chair she’s sitting in but it doesn’t matter, because Jake’s hand is securely wrapped in both of hers and he’s looking right at her, staring at her, drinking her in completely and unabashedly. It’s comfortable and familiar but horrible and wrong all at the same time.

“We can have you moved to a different prison,” she finally says, and her voice is still thick and choked.

He smiles at her sadly, and her whole chest aches. “They did a risk assessment of all the prisons in the county. The Metropolitan Detention Center is the lowest risk.”

“You got shanked , Jake.” She snaps, and they both wince at the raggedness to her tone. “There’s nothing low-risk about being shanked in broad daylight in the middle of the cafeteria.”

“Amy, listen to me, I was - I was being an idiot. I kind of brought it on myself. I should’ve just kept my head down and avoided confrontation, but...you know me and my big stupid mouth. I said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, and…”

“It shouldn’t matter. You shouldn’t have to worry about being stabbed just because you said the wrong thing. You say the wrong thing all the time at work and no one’s ever stabbed you for it.

“That’s not true, remember that dude I caught selling cocaine? I called him ‘bruh’ while making a pun and he stabbed me in the arm, look,” he shakes the sleeve of his hospital gown down from his free arm, bringing a small V-shaped scar on his inner upper arm into view.

She squeezes the hand still clasped in his and he lowers his arm, and as she watches the tiny flicker of humor in his eyes dies. “You could have gotten seriously hurt, Jake. You could have died. If that wound was an inch to the left, it would’ve nicked a kidney. You’re incredibly lucky it didn’t hit any organs or veins.”

“I know.” His voice is softer now, more vulnerable, and Amy can’t help it; she inches forward and lifts his hand to her lips. “I know, and I’m sorry. All I could think about on the way here was you. I was scared…” he stops and clears his throat, and when he blinks his eyes fill with tears. “I was scared that I was gonna die without seeing you one last time.”

She closes her eyes and concentrates on the feel of his skin beneath her lips, taking her time to kiss each individual knuckle until the burning in her throat has subsided slightly. “You don’t have to worry about that anymore, okay?” She says softly, eyes still closed. “It’s over. You’re alive, and I’m here, and...and we’re okay. We’re always gonna be okay.”

“I’m really glad you’re fighting for me,” he tells her in a whisper. Her eyes flutter open and he’s dropped his head back to his pillow, turned to face her, eyes now half-lidded. “I hate that we’re in this situation and I hate that you’re having to go through all of this, but...God, I’m just really glad I have you on my side.”

Heart clenching, chest aching, Amy inhales. “You’re never gonna find me anywhere else, Jake.”

The guards allow her to stay until he’s fallen asleep. They find her holding his hand with her left and stroking his unruly curls away from his forehead with her right; it is the single most difficult thing Amy’s ever had to do to leave him alone in that hospital room, hand still hanging off the side of the bed where she was sitting.


She’s able to acknowledge, at a very base level, that the idea to go to the gym was not in itself a bad one. Terry’s intentions were good, regardless of how the whole thing played out. The suggestion itself was born from concern for her general health and wellbeing; born from a place of genuine friendship.

The decision to actually go to the gym was not an easy one to make. Jake had only just been deemed healthy enough to return to prison a week earlier and neither the hackers nor Sophia have anything remotely solid against Hawkins. It felt wrong to leave her desk for something as frivolous as exercise when remembering to eat a full meal was still a challenge; really, she only agreed to go at all because Terry’s been staring at her for three months now like she’s on the verge of dropping dead and he has no idea how to save her.

(She only agreed to go because the code she’s running against Hawkins’ bank activity - which was not obtained in a strictly legal way, thanks to the hackers - doesn’t really need her supervision, and Terry’s lingering stares have officially gotten annoying.)

Amy is, of course, dying within half an hour. Terry assures her that she’s doing a lot better than Jake did the one and only time they ever came to work out together, and it’s a true testament to how hard her heart is pounding that she only feels the faintest echo of that three-month-old ache in her chest that only flares to life at the sound of Jake’s name.

She lets him drag her around to all the different machines and after a while, she stops thinking. She is consumed by the adrenaline, by the burning ache settled pleasantly in her muscles, by the sheer intensity of the amount of effort she’s exerting. Sweat is pouring down her face and staining her t-shirt but it doesn’t matter because nothing else matters except her next breath in, her next gulp of water, the next weight she’s pushing or pulling or lifting.

By the time she finally comes back to herself, two hours have passed and even Terry looks winded. “You did great, Santiago,” he pants, toweling the sweat off his face as they begin the slow, sore trudge toward the locker rooms.

Amy hears another voice echoing from further down the hall before she can formulate a response - a voice that makes her skin crawl before she can even fully place it. She freezes in place, gaze suddenly hardened and calculating and trained toward a set of doors only partially propped open several feet ahead of them. “What’s in there?” She asks as she slowly approaches the doors.

“Boxing ring,” he says uncertainly. “I didn’t think you’d be into boxing, though. You wanting to go after a bag or something? I can give you a few pointers.”

She can’t remember how to speak. Because she’s just pushed the doors open and spotted a familiar face - currently pink with her own exertion - in the ring.

“Amy,” Terry’s voice is different now, lower, closer in tone to a warning. “Let’s go.”

She pushes forward without thinking, into the secondary gym, shoving the door open with enough force that it slams into the wall. Hawkins looks around at the noise, eyes locking in on Amy lumbering toward her on instinct. It’s the instantaneous shift in Hawkins’ gaze - from bright to amused condescension - that has Amy’s blood boiling in a split-second. She’s pretty sure Terry is scurrying in after her, trying and failing to grab her swinging arms, but before she knows it she’s climbing into the rings and seizing a stray pair of gloves from where they sit on top of a post.

Hawkins watches her almost lazily, slowly pacing the far side of the ring, watching Amy struggle to get the gloves on. “Afternoon, detective,” she says with a nod.

“Hawkins.” Amy spits with all the venom she can muster, before grabbing the velcro with her teeth and cinching the wrist piece tighter. “Got another round in you?”

Hawkins arches an eyebrow in vague amusement. “Always,” she sniffs, stepping closer, dropping into a more defensive stance. “You think you can handle it?”

“I know I can.”

Amy’s pretty sure the guys gathered together on the other side of the ring are chortling, laughing at her expense, but she pays them no mind - she has eyes only for Hawkins. They start pacing in a loose circle at the same time, fists raised but not quite ready to swing yet, sizing each other up. “Didn’t have you pegged as an aggressive type, Santiago.” Hawkins tells her as Terry slides into Amy’s view.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t have you pegged as a dirty cop. But here we are.”

Hawkins smirks again, and then lunges forward. Amy has just enough time to deflect her uppercut before Hawkins’ fist slams into the side of her head, sending her stumbling a few uneven paces to her right. “Gotta watch that hook!” Hawkins crows as Amy straightens.

“Let’s go, Santiago!” Terry calls.

Amy hurls herself forward and throws a hard left hook, registering a split-second before impact that Hawkins had mistaken her for a righty and had prepped as such. The feel of the muscles and bones of Hawkins’ face beneath her boxing glove is as addictive as it is satisfying, but when Amy tries to swing again - an uppercut, this time - Hawkins is ready.

She catches Amy’s elbow with one hand and swings again, hitting her in the same place as before. Amy releases a loud, primal growl from the pit of her chest as she stumbles, whirling around to face Hawkins, who’s now bouncing from foot to foot just outside of her reach. “C’mon, Santiago, keep up now! I’d hate to see someone else from your precinct fall behind!”

Blind rage seizes Amy all at once. There is no finesse to her movements now, no restraint, no fear ; her vision has gone completely black around the edges and the only thing she can make any sense of is the slightly blurry image of Melanie Hawkins and her infuriating, taunting smirk.

She roars when she charges forward, arm cocked back, and even though Hawkins is ready Amy hits her with enough force that she still goes down. Amy hits again, and then again, unsure if the screaming in her ears is coming from the others in the room or if it’s her own pulse racing. She doesn’t care, she doesn’t, not even when Hawkins throws her off and she rolls across the boxing ring floor.

Amy’s on her feet and charging again but this time, time freezes. This time, she’s forcibly stopped in place by a fist - unsheathed from its glove - making direct, sharp contact with her cheekbone. She falls at once, crumples to the ground, and as the shock quickly works through her system it takes all the fight out with it.

She knows she’s hearing Terry yelling now, thinks he might be trying to get into the ring, but Hawkins is on top of her and has seized her shirt in her newly-freed split-knuckled fist so forcefully that her nails have ripped through the material, leaving what will later be jagged welts across her chest. Hawkins yanks her up from the floor and forces her face up closer to hers, noses just inches apart. Amy can’t help but notice that Hawkins’ smirk is finally, finally gone; it’s replaced by a fierce snarl.

“He’s gonna rot in there forever. I’m gonna make sure of that,” Hawkins whispers.

She releases her shirt and Amy hits the floor hard and stays there, gasping for air, staring at the ceiling, listening to Hawkins rip her other glove off and climb out of the ring. A second later Terry’s face is filling her vision, looking equal parts worried and furious. “What the hell were you thinking , Santiago?”

She sits up slowly and by the time she has her wits back about her enough to turn, Hawkins and her goons are already gone. “I wasn’t ,” Amy finally answers, and the words taste bitter. “I wasn’t thinking at all , I was just - mad .”

Terry seems to soften a bit; he pulls her to her feet and gently removes the boxing gloves from her hands. “Look, Amy, I know you’re hurting.” He says as he tosses the gloves aside. “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. But you can’t go do stupid stuff like that, not when the Nine-Nine was just under investigation by Internal Affairs -”

“I get it , Sarge. I made a mistake, and I’m sorry . I just - I saw her, and, and...and I flew off the handle. I know it was stupid and brash and I know I’m gonna regret it later, but - to be fair - if we can get access to the security tapes, we’ll have evidence of Hawkins assaulting me in broad daylight.”

Terry glances at the security camera Amy’s pointing to - the one over his shoulder, overlooking the boxing ring - and when he looks back to her, his expression is reproachful. “It doesn’t change the fact that what you just did was reckless . You can’t go around challenging her like that, especially when she has you so outnumbered.”

She sighs in defeat. “Yes, sir.”

“But...the security footage is a big deal.”

Amy’s head snaps back up, hope trickling down her spine. “It is! I bet Sophia will think it’s at least enough to raise a reason for doubt!”

Terry grins as he nods, offering her his hand and hauling her up to her feet in one smooth tug. “That, plus the black eye!”

Her stomach swoops, her own giddy grin falling away instantly. “Black eye? She gave me a black eye ? Oh my God,” she chokes, “Jake’s gonna kill me.”


“This won’t stand up in court.” Sophia tells them flatly.

Amy deflates, forcing herself to keep staring at Sophia even though she can see Jake shaking his head from the corner of her not-swollen eye. “But you can clearly see her punch me in the face without the glove on,” Amy says numbly.

“Yeah, but...three seconds before that , you can also see you beating her to an absolute pulp .” Sophia rewinds the tape and then plays it, right when Amy charged at Hawkins. “The glove coming off looks like an accident, look,” Hawkins cocks her fist back in the video and the glove goes flying off, “and her coming after you looks like self-defense. There’s no way around either one of those.”

“She provoked me -”

“That can’t be proven without sound, which this tape does not have.”

“But Terry -”

“- is one witness against her eight .” Sophia interrupts with a shrug. “Not good enough.”

A stuttering exhale escapes Amy’s chest; hopelessness fills the void where her heart once beat.

“At least you got a few good hits in.” Rosa murmurs, eyes never leaving the screen.

“So you’re telling me we still have nothing ?” Jake asks.

“We have video evidence of Amy appearing to assault Lieutenant Hawkins that we need to hope and pray she doesn’t also have, and we have the paper trail Boyle’s hackers have turned up connecting Hawkins’ IP address to the wireless transfer of the twenty-six million to those two fake offshore accounts, which was obtained illegally and therefore cannot currently hold up in court. So, in short, we have a better case against Amy than we have against Hawkins at this point.”

Shit .” Amy hisses to the otherwise silent room.

Sophia sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. “I think there’s a way we can go about proving the paper trail legally.” She says after a moment. “It’ll take a little while longer - we’ll need warrants - but it can be done.”

Amy drops her head to her hands, keenly aware of Jake’s gaze on the side of her face. “How long will that take?” She mumbles.

“Could be a couple of weeks. Could be a few months. Depends on the judge.”

“Will it be enough?” Rosa asks quietly.

Sophia exhales slowly, and when Amy lifts her head, she finds Sophia staring at the television screen where the frozen image of Hawkins kneeling over Amy is still displayed. “It’s the best chance we’ve got right now.”

Silence descends, thick and tense, and Amy can’t look away from Sophia. Because she knows the only other place her gaze will land is Jake, and she hasn’t been able to look him in the eye since he first walked in and inhaled sharply upon registering her black eye.

She’s not sure she’ll ever be able to look him in the eye again.

“So what do we need to do? What can we do?” Rosa asks.

“You need to keep laying low. Don’t get in fights and stay away from the gang activity. Good behavior is always rewarded in prisons like this, especially to ex-cops. You might be able to lessen your own sentences if you stay on the right side of the rules. I’ve seen it happen a million times.”

Pitiful helplessness seeps through Amy’s veins; it’s a struggle to even lift her trembling hand to weakly rub at her forehead. “We can do that.” Jake mumbles, subdued. And then - “Will you guys give us a minute? I really need to talk to Amy in private.” It takes a second, a brief pause, but after just a moment of shuffling Sophia and Rosa file out dutifully. As the door clicks shut, Amy closes her eyes.

“You promised me you wouldn’t do anything stupid.” His voice still rumbles dangerously, and despite the fact that she’d sworn to herself that she was going to stand her ground, Amy feels ice surge through her veins at the sound.

“I didn’t do that on purpose,” she murmurs.

“You expect me to believe that you accidentally ended up in the boxing ring with her? That you accidentally pinned her down and started beating the hell out of her? Amy,” the legs of his chair scrape loudly along the interrogation room floor, and when she opens her eyes out of instinct it’s to the sight of him leaning into her space. His face is pinched and weathered, his fingers seeking hers harshly, wrapped impossibly tight around her hands. “You swore -”

“I know you don’t believe me right now, but I kept my promise.” Amy interrupts fiercely. “I didn’t go seeking her out, I was - it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I’d just worked out for over two hours with Terry and I was still high on the adrenaline, I wasn’t thinking , I heard her voice and I just reacted . It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t thought through at all . I did exactly what you would have done in that moment.”

“That’s not fair.”

“How is it not fair ?” Amy interrupts, shoving back from the table to face him. He does not let go of her hands, though, so she’s unable to truly pull away from him. “It’s the truth !”

“It isn’t, though. It’s not the truth. Because if you were trapped in prison and you were begging me to keep myself out of clear and obvious danger , I wouldn’t have put myself in a boxing ring with it. I would’ve thought about you, and I would’ve just kept going.”

“I get it. You’re allowed to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time, but I have to lock myself in the tallest tower at the first sign of danger.”

“Oh, my God ! That’s not what I’m saying at all ! What happened to me was just a fluke, it was just...just a consequence of me being here surrounded by the people I’m surrounded by! I don’t have a choice, I don’t get to avoid any of them! You , on the other hand, made a deliberate and reckless decision to approach her -”

“Why is it just a fluke for you to get shanked but it’s reckless when I get punched in the face? Why is the thought of me doing my job so difficult for you to deal with?”

He releases one of her hands and slams his fist on the table beside them, and despite the anger surging through her veins she still jumps at the sound. “Because I swear to God , Amy, I will lose my mind if something happens to you and I can’t be there for you!”

They’re both panting, three feet of space between them, and Amy’s not sure if she’s going to burst into tears or scream incoherently. Jake’s glaring at her, chest heaving, and for a moment it feels as though the space between them is wider than any chasm in the known universe.

Her vision blurs after a moment, and Jake drops his head, letting it hang loosely. “Jake,” she whispers, and his head twitches. “You know that I don’t think you abandoned me, right?” She waits a moment, staring at the top of his head, and when he does not move she tries again. “I know you’re innocent, and I know you didn’t have a choice about this - you didn’t abandon me. I know that, okay? You did not abandon me.”

He still won’t lift his head, so she leans forward and grips his shoulders tightly in her hands. “I know this is hard for you, I know you hate feeling powerless, especially when - when your friends are in danger. But Jake, please, just - you have to understand, you have to - you would be doing the same thing if our roles were reversed, we’ve talked about this, it’s - it’s just like the women’s prison in Texas. You have to trust that I know what I’m doing. You have to trust me .”

He shakes his head slightly, before lifting his head and surging forward. He ends up on his knees before her, both her hands in his, squeezing past the point of pain and holding her gaze more fiercely and earnestly than ever before. “I love you. I love you more than anything . I know you’re capable of taking care of yourself, I know you’re tough and you’re just as badass as Rosa and you can and do and will kick ass. This has nothing to do with me trusting you, of course I trust you, but God , Amy - we’ve already figured out that the law can’t touch Hawkins. And you,” he sweeps his thumbs out across the backs of her hands, a brief smile flashing across his face, “you are so amazing and loyal and so, so good at your job. I’m not gonna -” he stops and clenches his jaw, and the pressure around her hands increases. “I...I can’t handle even the thought of her coming after you. You’re right, this is just like the women’s prison, but this time I’m the one surrounded by guards who’re supposed to keep me and all the other people in here in line and following the rules. You’re so strong and so capable, but you don’t have the guards there to make sure she’s following the rules, too, and she’s dirty and violent and evil and God , God, you can’t -

“Jake, stop.” She wrenches her hands from his and frames his face, forcing him to meet her gaze despite the fact that his chest is heaving and his hands tremble when he reaches to steady himself on her thighs. “Stop it, listen to me. Focus, Jake, focus, just breathe, keep breathing, you’re okay.” Jake inches forward on his knees, stumbling slightly, burying his face in her neck. She can feel his heartbeat fluttering, a hummingbird pace out-of-time with her own pounding heart where they’re crushed against her chest. She combs through his hair with her fingers, feeling wetness against her neck from Jake’s desperate, hysterical tears finally spilling. “It’s okay, Jake, it’s okay, just keep breathing.”

She ends up scooted forward to the edge of her seat, one arm wrapped tightly around his shoulders and rubbing down his back, the other curled up against his shoulder to allow her to stroke his hair. He’s knelt between her legs, arms wrapped tight around her waist, forcing her knees to bracket his ribs. They’re both quiet, aside from Jake still occasionally sniffling and the quiet, spine-tingling sound of her nails gently scraping against his scalp.

“I can’t lose you, Amy,” he whispers.

“You’re not gonna lose me. I'm not going anywhere.”

“You can’t promise that, though, you can’t guarantee that something won't happen -”

“Okay, okay, sh, it’s okay, you’re - you’re right. I can’t promise it, I can’t guarantee it, but, Jake,” she takes a steadying breath, trying to ignore the feeling of his eyelashes fluttering  against her neck. “That’s...technically true of every other day on the job.”

“This is different -”

“I know it is. It’s different because you’re the love of my life and I’m in a position where I can do something to help you. To save you. I’m gonna fight for you and for Rosa, and I’m not gonna let some old has-been dirty cop intimidate and bully me into not fighting for you. Nothing's gonna keep me from fighting for you, Jake. Nothing .”

His fingertips dig into the muscles of her back and she bites back a pained gasp. “I love you so much, so goddamn much, God I -” he stops and chokes out an exhale that sounds remarkably similar to a growl. “I can’t lose you, Amy. I can survive anything except losing you.”

She longs to reassure him, to say the words she knows he’s desperately wanting to hear, but the words stay stuck in her throat. So instead she takes his face in her hands and pulls him up, toward her, until their lips are sealed together and his breath is escaping through his nose to warm the side of her face. She pours everything she has into that kiss - every last ounce of hope and fear and determination and love - and when she slowly pulls away and opens her eyes, it’s to the sight of his bobbing adam’s apple and his reddened, swollen lips. “I love you so much,” she whispers, and his eyelids flutter as his grip on her tightens. She strokes his cheekbones with the pads of her thumbs, leaning into him when he angles his head to press his forehead to hers. “I love you, Jake, with everything I have. Never forget that.”

A soft, quiet whine escapes him, originating somewhere near the back of his throat. His hand is a warm anchor on the back of her neck and the feel his lips still searing on her own. “I’m gonna take you to Paris, and - and we’re gonna be in love, forever,” he mumbles before leaning into her again, kissing her, deep and strong and claiming. He kisses her like the first time all over again.

Like it's going to be the last.

He keeps his eyes on her even as he's being led away, craning his neck around to stare at her over his shoulder, seemingly oblivious to Sophia standing to her right or the guards marching him along with a hand clenched just above the bend of his elbow. He stares all the way down the hallway, until he's around the corner and out of sight.

And it’s only when he's out of sight that Amy's heart finally comes unclenched.

“Sophia,” she hears herself say, “what is the fastest legal way to end this?”

Sophia scoffs quietly, turning to Amy with one incredulous brow raised. “A confession straight from Hawkins. But hell really will have frozen over the day that happens.”

“What if someone catches her talking about it? People like Hawkins, they like to brag. They’re show-offs, they boast. Hell, she practically confessed in the boxing ring at the gym, right when she knelt down and grabbed my - my...oh my God ,”

“What? Oh my God what?” Sophia asks, but Amy turns away slightly, lifting a hand to her forehead. “What just happened, what did you just realize?”

“She thought - Hawkins thought I was wearing a wire in the gym. That’s why she grabbed my shirt, she was - she, like, clawed at my chest, I thought she was just being overly aggressive but she was feeling for a wire -”

Amy takes a step back, and then another, until she feels her shoulders hit the wall. A plan is quickly forming in her head, pieces falling into place so quickly and seamlessly she can barely keep up; she’s only minimally aware of the fact that Sophia is still standing before her, still in her face, still speaking words that have become garbled in her ears.

“I think - I think I have a plan,” Amy chokes. She supposes she must have interrupted Sophia, because the buzzing in her ears ceases immediately and when Sophia’s face comes back into focus, she’s staring at Amy as if she’s never seen her before. “I think I know a way to get Hawkins to confess to me, and to get it on tape.”

Sophia stares, mouth partially open, before she blinks and shakes her head slightly. “Amy, listen - I’m all for ending this as quickly as possible, and I’m all for taking Hawkins down, but...you don’t really think she’s foolish enough to talk about what she did in front of you, do you? You said it yourself, she thought you were wearing a wire to the gym , there’s no way -”

“I’m not an idiot, Sophia, I know she’s not that stupid. But she is proud . Too proud for her own good. And I think I know a way to play that to my advantage.”

Sophia swallows thickly and drops her gaze down to their toes briefly before lifting her head back up to look Amy in the eye. “I can’t officially condone anything outside of what we have warrants for,” she says, more quiet and serious than Amy has ever seen her be before.

“I know.” Amy whispers.

“And it’s probably for the better if you don’t tell me anything. The fewer details I know, the less liability Jake and Rosa will have to...whatever goes down.”

“Of course.”

Sophia stares another moment, some unidentifiable emotion swelling in her gaze, before she suddenly lunges forward and pulls Amy into a tight hug. “You’ll be careful, won’t you?” She whispers in her ear. Amy closes her eyes and nods, unable to speak around the lump rising in her throat. “Good. Good.”

“Please don’t tell Jake.” Amy whispers. “Or Rosa. Not until everything is...settled. I just - I don’t want them stressing and worried when they can’t do anything to help.”

Sophia pulls back far enough to look Amy in the eye, holding her gaze for a moment before nodding resolutely. “I’ll make sure they find out when the time is right.”

Amy smiles, melancholy clinging to her very bones, before pulling Sophia back in for another brief hug. “Thank you, Sophia. For everything.”

Sophia clears her throat as she steps away, turning her head away and shaking it slightly so that her long hair comes tumbling around one shoulder. “Don’t thank me yet,” she says coolly as she pulls her sunglasses from her purse. “Thank me when you’re out to dinner with him to celebrate his freedom.”

Amy’s smile fades as she watches Sophia walk away. She waits until the far door closes behind her, until the echo of the clanging metal has faded from the empty hallway, until she is completely and utterly alone.

She doesn’t remember how or when she got his number, but he’s right there in her contacts. Her thumb only hovers for a moment.

“This is Savant, talk to me.” His voice filters through after two rings.

“Savant, it’s Santiago from the Nine-Nine.”

“Santiago,” he says, clearly surprised. “What’s - uh, what’s up?”

“I’m gonna need a favor.”


The precinct is so fraught with tension by the time Amy returns that it literally stops her in her tracks two paces outside of the elevator. Almost every eye in the room is on her, every eye mixed with apprehension and fear and what she can only really describe as morbid curiosity, watching her so closely it’s as though this moment is the one they have been simultaneously dreading and looking forward to all day. She turns her head, seeking Charles’ gaze; she can already see beads of sweat glittering on his upper lip as she makes a slow, cautious approach through the bullpen gate.

“What’s going on?” She asks quietly once she’s within earshot.

“Amy,” Gina’s nasal voice rings out over the general quiet in the room. Both Amy and Charles snap toward her; it’s only then that Amy registers Captain Holt’s blinds are closed. “The captain wanted to speak with you.”

An apology is written clearly across Charles’ face when Amy glances back toward him, her pounding heart sinks deep into the pit of her stomach in response. “What’s going on?” She repeats, even more quiet than before.

“You should - you should go talk to Captain Holt.” Charles says.

There is a strange man sitting on Captain Holt’s couch; strange, but familiar. He looks as if he might be tall, if he were standing, and his sallow face is pinched in the same kind of concern with which Charles seemed to be staring at her. Amy can’t help but to pause in the doorway and to stare - something about this man is setting her teeth on edge, sending the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. She thinks it might have something to do with the fact that his hair is so similar to the Vulture’s. “Ah, Amy, thank you for joining us.” Holt says brusquely from where he sits behind his desk. He gestures to the loveseat, where the stranger is sitting. “Please, have a seat.”

She takes an uncertain step forward, and then another one, bypassing the loveseat to claim the guest chair before his desk. Her vision has blurred from the nerves and she’s trying to remember how to regulate her breathing while also trying to make the shapes of Holt’s face make sense. From the corner of her eye she can see the man shift forward, to the edge of the loveseat, and Amy’s pretty certain if she were a cat she would be hissing right now.

“Amy, this is Officer David Carlisle. Officer Carlisle, Detective Amy Santiago.” Holt pauses, looking at them expectantly, so Amy forces herself to turn around and shake this man’s hand. “Carlisle has come to us with a very interesting, tantalizing offer.”

“I’m...one of Hawkins’ squad members,” Carlisle says quietly.

The next few moments come in chopped pieces. One second Amy’s seated, numb, and the next she’s on her feet towering over Holt’s desk. She’s pretty certain she’s yelling based on the way she can feel veins bulging dangerously in her neck but she cannot bring herself to stop, or to even care, that she is screaming at a superior officer. None of that matters when an actual accomplice to the crime Jake and Rosa are paying for is seated three feet behind her and Holt made her shake his hand as if none of it matters at all.

Of course it matters, detective, now have a seat . I will not ask again.” Amy steps backwards, chest heaving, realizing belatedly that her train of thought got caught up in whatever foreign tongue she’d started screeching. “Officer Carlisle has defected from Lieutenant Hawkins’ squad. He’s come to us offering to serve as a witness in the appeal hearing and to give us inside information in order to assist in the case we’re building against her. He’s here to help us, Santiago. He’s here to help Peralta and Diaz.”

“I-I really am so, so sorry for the way that went down,” Carlisle says, and if Amy wasn’t quite so ready to murder him right there on the spot she might have detected the genuine apology coloring his tone. “I’ve seen her pull shit like that before on other officers, but - somethin’ about what she did to Peralta and Diaz made the whole thing, I dunno... real for me. It made me realize that she probably wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing to me. That’s why I’ve come here, I need to get away from her, but more important than that, I need to - to make things right. I wanna make things right, please, please let me help you take her down.”

Amy shakes her head, before turning back to Holt. “You can’t honestly tell me you’re falling for this, can you? Captain, all due respect - you should’ve thrown this guy out on his ass the second he walked through the front door.”

“That’s quite enough, Santiago. As I do recall, I am the commanding officer of this precinct, and I am telling you that this is happening. We are going to allow Officer Carlisle to assist us because he is an invaluable resource and I believe he will be vital in proving the truth. If we have a man on the inside, from the inside, we have a direct line to Hawkins herself. Now, I’ve already taken Officer Carlisle’s statement. Please add it to the casefile. You’ll find it in the evidence lockup - Boyle was working with it earlier. That’s an order , detective.”

She stares a moment longer before snatching the papers from Holt’s hand. Gina must’ve closed the door behind Amy; the blinds rattle and protest loudly as Amy throws the door open and storms away, past Rosa’s desk, down the hallway toward the evidence lockup.

The file is already out on one of the desks in the room and Amy flips through it blindly, reaching the back page and forcibly, messily jamming Carlisle’s statement through the brads. She slams the folder shut and stands quite still for a moment, feeling the urge to scream boil up and fissure in her chest.

She lets a small, quiet one out - one that borders more on a shrill growl than an actual scream - before shoving away from the desk and stomping further into the evidence lockup. It’s quieter here, it always has been, and as she reaches the very last shelf on the left she feels all the anger leave her at once.

It was here, in this spot, that it all began. She curls her arms up to her chest - hands against her forearms, not quite crossed - and leans against the shelving unit. She was facing the other way that fateful evening when Public Relations seemed like her worst nightmare and her partner came to her with nothing but open vulnerability in his soft brown eyes; she was facing the other way when he stole her heart away.

She was facing the other way when she fell in love.

She hates the tears dripping down her face, she hates the unbearable ache welling up from the pit of her gut to seize her whole hollow chest, she hates the officer in Captain Holt’s office and she hates the fact that no matter how long she stays here waiting for him Jake is not going to come find her this time. No one is going to come find her this time.

“So much,” she whispers to the empty room, pressing her palm over the place where her heart normally beats.

It’s a monumental effort to turn around, to reach the resolve necessary to lift her chin and walk back outside to pretend like everything is fine, but she’s glad she musters it up - the moment she turns, her gaze is caught by the paper hanging over the edge of one of the upper shelves. It’s folded in half, but Amy can tell that it’s nice, thick paper even so; she’s pleased at a very base level to find that she’s grabbing cardstock when she pulls it from the evidence box beneath which it was pinned.

Amy,

I know Officer Carlisle is lying. I know he is here under a ruse, as a guise, sent to carry out a mission given to him by Lt. Hawkins. Please do not mistake whatever callousness with which I reacted to your concerns as belief that he is in any way being genuine.

I want him to feel as though he has immediately gained his trust. The moment he believes he is fooling us is the moment his true intentions will be revealed. I intend to give him enough freedom to create the ruse with which he intends to trick us while simultaneously keeping an eye on him. Wherever he gravitates over the next several days will determine our next course of action.

I trust that you will be discreet with this information. Upon reading this, you will be the only other person aside from myself who is privy to this knowledge. Share this information with Sergeant Jeffords and Detective Boyle, but do not, under any circumstances, allow anyone else from this precinct to overhear you. It is vitally important that Officer Carlisle truly, fully believe he has the upper hand.

I will be at the corner of Fifth and Leming this evening at precisely 6 O’Clock. Meet me there, alone, and we will discuss next steps.

Destroy this letter.

There is no signature, but printed across the bottom of the page in neat, clean print, are the words:

FROM THE DESK OF CAPTAIN RAYMOND HOLT

She arrives at the corner at precisely 5:45 PM, pausing only briefly with a small, nostalgic smile at the sight of the meat cart from which she’d purchased their sandwiches back in the middle of their very first stakeout together. It hadn’t registered earlier - she’d been distracted, admittedly, by the bombshell of information the letter had revealed - but warmth sparks in her chest for just a moment.

She spots Gertie’s front bumper around the corner, so with a polite nod to the cart vendor, she hurries on her way. The sidewalks are moderately crowded but Amy thinks that’s probably a good thing - it covers her in the event that someone is watching her.

“I must admit, I was momentarily concerned you had not found my letter in the evidence lockup.” Holt says quietly as she slides into the passenger’s seat.

She takes a moment to just look at her captain across the center console - to bask in the sense of security that always accompanies the close presence of a trusted authority figure - before straightening up in her seat and turning back toward the windshield. “It was risky to put the letter all the way in the back,” she says carefully.

“A calculated risk. And I needed to put it in a location others would not go.”

She glances at him from the corner of her eye. “How’d you figure I would go back there?” She asks quietly.

“I know that particular area holds - particular memories.” The words feel carefully chosen, dutifully woven together, a subtle reassurance and reveal simultaneously. “For you, and for Peralta.”

The tips of her ears are burning, but she ignores it, electing to keep her cool instead. So, Holt knows that’s the place they had their first kiss. It’s not like Rosa and Charles kept it a secret from every single person in the precinct.

(They really have to work on not living their relationship so publicly.)

“Right. Well, I found it. And I’m early, so.”

“Yes, you are.”

They sit in silence for another moment, before Holt leans forward and starts the car. Classical music starts up on the radio, loud enough to conceal their voices, but not so loud that they’ll have to shout.

“I believe I already have an idea of Carlisle’s endgame.”

“Already? He’s only been working for us for four hours -”

“Officer Carlisle has already displayed a keen interest in you , Amy.” Despite everything, Amy’s stomach flips. “He’s asked about you more than any other singular thing regarding this case. He’s framed it as concern due to the fact that you and Peralta are romantically involved, but even after mentioning Pimento’s involvement with Diaz, he remained fixated on you.”

Amy swallows, blinking rapidly. “Okay, so...so what am I supposed to do?”

“I’d like for you to maintain your obvious distrust as publicly as possible. He’ll run out of options eventually - the more we strip those away, the closer we get to unveiling his plan. And once we understand what it is that he’s after, we can prepare ourselves for a counterstrike.”

She thinks briefly of the call to Savant - to the hard, calculating look in Jake’s eyes just before he rounded the far corner back at the detention center - and almost balks. “Sir, I - I don’t think we need to wait that long.” Her voice is coarse and foreign in her ears and Holt turns to stare, brow furrowed in confusion at whatever her face is giving away. “I’ve...I’ve actually already come up with a plan. All I needed was a way in, but...I think Carlisle is the key I’ve been looking for.”

He continues staring for a moment, and if Amy’s not mistaken - and she so rarely is - she’s fairly certain she detects a hint of pride flickering in his eyes. “Well, Detective Santiago. Care to elaborate?”

Chapter Text

“I’m gonna throw up.” Charles declares.

“Can you maybe not say that when you know my shirt’s unbuttoned?” Amy grumbles from where she sits behind Charles’ turned back.

“I promised Jake I would do everything in my power to keep you safe, and I’ve already broken that promise to him once - are you sure you don’t want him to know the plan?”

“We’ve been over this twice already. You said it yourself earlier - the stress of not being able to get real-time updates in a situation this intense will be too much for him. Especially when he can’t do anything about it. Listen, Charles, I know this sucks. I hate hiding things from him. But you can’t think about this in terms of this singular moment. You have to think about the long-term - about whether or not you’re willing to risk him having a heart-attack while he waits for updates.”

“Oh, God, don’t even say that - knock on wood, Amy, knock on wood !”

“The point is,” she says loudly as she begins working on rebuttoning her shirt, “you and I both know it’s not worth it. I’d rather him be upset with us for not telling him than in a medically-induced coma while recovering from heart failure. Wouldn’t you?”

“I guess.” He says bitterly. “I just - I don’t know what I’m gonna do if something bad happens. I mean, what if the operation goes wrong? What if you don’t get the confession before -” he stops, a quiet choking sound escaping his chest, and Amy closes her eyes as she finishes with the last button on her shirt.

“It’s...a risk I’m willing to take. Besides, I don’t have to be...conscious for the wire to work. I just have to be in the same room as her.” She steps up behind him and places a hand on his shoulder and he turns toward her immediately, eyes swimming in unshed tears. “Oh, God, Charles. Please calm down.”

“You’re willing to die for him,” he whispers, and her breath catches. “You’re willing to lay down your life for Jake - your love is so pure, so good , you guys are the stuff of fairy tales!”

Amy huffs out a near-silent laugh, one hand still gripping Charles’ shoulder. “Yeah, well. It’s time for this knight in shining armor to go slay the dragon. You with me?”

Charles claps his hand over Amy’s shoulder, nodding in determination in spite of the muscle in his jaw jumping. “‘Til the end.”

The interrogation observation room door flings open, revealing a slightly windswept-looking Savant. He’s looking to Amy nervously, fidgeting with the small black box in his hands and taking a tentative step forward. “I got it,” he says.

Amy points, unable to speak, and Savant pops the box open.

Inside is a small thin squared ring with one tiny lump on one side. Savant sets the box on the table and produces a pair of tweezers from his pocket along with a sterilizing wipe ripped from the packaging with his teeth. He wipes down the tweezers quickly before carefully lifting the device from the box.

“That is the tiniest microphone I’ve ever seen ,” Charles marvels softly as Amy quickly reclaims her seat and leans back until her head is against the back of the seat and she’s gazing up at the ceiling. “What if you swallow it?”

“I’m not gonna swallow it.” Amy mutters before opening her mouth dentist-visit wide, carefully holding her head as still as possible. Even so, Savant steadies himself with one hand on top of her head; she closes her throat and holds her breath as the tweezers disappear from view. A tense moment passes, in which Amy actively resists the urge to probe at the scraping feeling against her back molar with her tongue while also being acutely aware of the fact that Charles has a clear view of her tonsils, and then the hand on top of her head disappears.

“O-okay,” Savant breathes, pulling the tweezers away. “How does that feel?”

She closes her mouth and runs her tongue over the molar she’d felt the tweezers against only moments earlier. The ring feels like a raised edge wrapped all the way around her tooth; the tiny microphone protrudes slightly against the inside of her cheek.

It certainly isn’t the most comfortable sensation in the world, but she’s definitely had worse. “It’s fine. Will it be able to pick up sound outside of my mouth?”

“It’s one of the most powerful microphones in its class. It’s, like, FBI-strong. It’ll pick up any sound within a two-hundred-foot radius.”

“What about - will it pick up sound...over my voice? If I’m talking, or - or yelling?”

Savant’s gaze flickers to Charles, visibly swallowing before turning back to Amy. “Yeah,” he says with a slow, uncertain nod, “It can filter through sounds happening in the host’s mouth to pick up sounds happening outside of the mouth.”

Amy nods, inhaling deeply, refusing to meet Charles’ eyes.

“There will be a wireless transmitter in triage that’ll pick up the signal it puts out. So it records, and it also lets the listener hear what you’re hearing. In case - in case something goes wrong.”

She swallows. “Right.”

“I’ll do it,” Charles says so loudly both Amy and Savant jump. He’s looking back and forth between them with intense desperation, eyes comically wide, face alarmingly pale. “I’ll go instead, I’ll sacrifice myself for your love -”

Charles , we’ve talked about this. You have Genevieve and Nikolaj and the dogs, you can’t...I won’t let you risk that. Besides, she’s after me . Not you, not Terry, not Captain Holt. Me . She’s already slipped up once,” she points to her half-healed blackened eye. “I think I can get her to do it again.”

“But -”

“This is the best chance we’ve got. Jake and Rosa have been in prison for five months now. Jake almost died . If this works - and it will work - they’ll be home by next week. It’s a calculated risk,” she says with a faint smile, “but the payoff will be worth it. No matter what.”

Someone knocks sharply at the door, startling all three of them; Amy feels her heart in her throat as Charles turns back to face her, face even more pale than before. “Just promise me you won’t provoke her too much,” he says softly.

Amy stands and crosses the space between them quickly, wrapping Charles up in a tight hug. “I promise, I will be careful.” she whispers.

She waits several moments after he leaves before heading out of the observation room herself, walking with as much cool confidence as she can muster toward the briefing room where the detectives squad and the tactical teams are gathered. The general flurry of movement within pauses as each person in the room turns back at the sound of her entrance; Holt, Terry, and Charles’ gazes all linger a moment or two longer than the rest. She allows herself precisely three seconds to meet all of their gazes - to thank them the best she can without words - before heading to the first table on the far side of the room. Carlisle is three tables back and she can feel his slimy gaze on the back of her neck; she does her best to ignore him as she quickly dons her Kevlar.

She feels his presence before she sees him, sidling up behind her and leaning back against the table upon which all of her gear is laid out. “Need a hand?” Carlisle asks.

“I’m good, thanks.” She says shortly. Terry clears his throat at the table to her left; it’s been a struggle, apparently, for him to get on board with the plan.

“You, uh,” he leans closer, not-so-subtly glancing at her chest. “You got the wire on already?”

“Yeah,” she grunts, keeping her gaze fixated on the posterboard in the back of the room before absently brushing her hand over the center of her chest, where the Kevlar covers it. Carlisle shifts, antsy, and Amy resists the urge to smile. “If you’re here to get a good look at it, you’re gonna die in that spot.”

“Easy, Santiago. I know you don’t like me, but you gotta cool it with that shit. I don’t how how many times I gotta tell you, I’m on your side.”

She clenches her jaw and glares at him as icily as she can manage. “One more time.” She mutters.

“Squad,” Holt’s voice cuts off whatever response Carlisle was about to produce; with one last eyeroll, Amy turns to the front of the room and centers her laser-focus on the man behind the podium. “You’re all aware of your assignments. Jeffords, you will lead a tactical team around the east side of the building. Boyle, around the west. You are to wait for my go-ahead following Santiago’s signal before storming the building and you are not to be seen or heard a moment before then, am I clear?”

“Yes, sir.” ripples through the group.

“What, exactly, is Santiago’s signal gonna be?” Carlisle asks half a beat later.

“It is of no significance to you. Your are to get the confession out of Hawkins at an appropriate proximity to Detective Santiago and then you are to get Lieutenant Hawkins away from Detective Santiago as quickly as possible. You will likely not be in the room with Santiago at the time of the tactical team storming the building, and both tact teams have been given clear instructions not to harm you upon entering. Am I understood?”

“Yeah,” Carlisle grunts.

“Carlisle, you are not to intervene in any way, no matter what, until Santiago has the confession. You must ensure that Lieutenant Hawkins does not discover the wire prematurely, and that none of the other squad members bring her harm. Am I understood?”

“Yes, sir.” Carlisle says.

“Should anything go wrong in this case - should anything happen to Detective Santiago - you will find yourself in a prison cell faster than a Sousa march. Am I understood ?”

He doesn’t answer right away, and when Amy glances at him, his nostrils are flared and his jaw is clenched in clear anger. “Yes, sir.” He says.

Holt stares Carlisle down a moment longer, before turning his head a degree to look Amy in the eye. “Santiago.” She straightens on instinct, lifting her chin slightly, pretending like Terry and Charles’ identical looks of apprehension aren’t affecting her. “Are you certain you want to do this?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’ve considered the possibilities of what might occur inside that building?”

“Yes, sir.”

Holt stares for a moment - expression unreadable - before nodding. He glances down at his podium and clears his throat, and Amy is suddenly clenching her own jaw at the surge of emotions burning sharply in her throat. “Very well.” He says once he’s lifted his head again. “While it is important that you get the confession clearly on tape, your life - your wellbeing - they’re both of the utmost importance. It is our top priority. I will wait for your signal, but the moment something seems off, I will not hesitate to storm the building.”

She nods, unable to form words.

“Very well. If everyone is prepared - let’s go take down a dirty cop.”

The time it takes to get from the briefing room to the Slaughterhouse passes in what Amy will later think of as the slowest blur of all time. Minutes pass, stretching on into one numb string of color and sound, but then she blinks, and she’s on the sidewalk outside of the Slaughterhouse, hands zip tied behind her back and Carlisle’s grip vice-like just above her elbow. She closes her eyes and pictures Jake in a near-identical position three days earlier - the way he looked the last time she saw him.

She panics for a second - did she remember to say ‘I love you?’

“You ready, Santiago?” Carlisle asks quietly as they approach a rusted, unmarked door.

The panic and fear fade quickly as she lifts her chin again, refusing to look back at him. “You can bet your ass I’m ready.”

The key to the front door is one of three keys on Carlisle’s key ring, and it only takes him a moment of struggling one-handed before the key is in the lock at the door is swinging open. Carlisle shoves her forward almost violently, and she stumbles over the raised lip of the doorframe on her involuntary lurch forward. The room is as dark and super-villainy as Jake first described, lit only faintly by random exposed lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling and the eerie bluish glow of at least two dozen televisions and computers mounted to various stands throughout the room. There are a few people in the room - seven, she thinks, unless there are more in the shadows she can’t quite see - but it’s the woman at a desk several feet ahead and to her left who quickly stands when Amy straightens that catches and holds Amy’s gaze.

“Well, well,” Hawkins calls, and her gleeful voice carries and echoes through the cavernous warehouse. “What’d you bring us, Carlisle?”

Amy feels his hand on her back, shoving her forward again, and this time she stumbles so violently she ends up sprawled out on her side on the floor. “I was drivin’ up and caught her snoopin’ around the far window in my headlights.”

He spits on the ground near her head, and she resolves to kill him the moment she gets the chance.

“Interesting. And in full tactical gear, no less.” The heavy, clunking sound of thick boot heels pacing across the concrete floor gets louder and closer; as Amy struggles to get herself upright with her hands bound, her limited vision is filled by the sight of Hawkins’ boots. “What’d you think, sweetie? You were gonna storm the place all by yourself to find evidence that doesn’t exist?”

“I know you framed them,” Amy growls. “I know it was you, I found the paper trail and I know you’re lying.”

Hawkins seizes her by the neck of her Kevlar, forcibly rolling her to her back. Amy winces and bites back a grunt at the pain of her weight rolling over her wrists, struggling just to keep her head lifted as Hawkins leans in close. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, Detective,” she says, dangerously quiet. “I didn’t frame anyone. I got two dirty cops off the street and made this city that much safer from corrupted law enforcement. It ain’t my fault you were shacked up with one of ‘em.”

Amy gathers all the courage she has and spits in Hawkins’ face.

The satisfaction that comes with Hawkins’ disgusted grunt is worth the pain of her head hitting the concrete. “Is this bitch wearing a wire?” Hawkins growls to Carlisle once she’s wiped Amy’s spit out of her eye.

Carlisle glances down at Amy - holding her gaze for a long moment - and even though Amy has been preparing for this moment for days now, a block of ice still drops into her stomach when he smirks at her as he nods at Hawkins. “Yep. Beneath the vest.”

Hawkins nods, and then Carlisle is at Amy’s neck, ripping the straps of her Kevlar off. Amy kicks wildly, the noises escaping her throat coming unbidden but convincing; within seconds, two other members of Hawkins’ squad are holding her feet down while a third shoves a bandana in her mouth.

(The panic is genuine for a moment - what if they can’t hear around the bandana?)

Carlisle yanks at the fabric at her throat, sending the buttons of her blouse flying off, and he smirks again, entirely too slimy and smug as he rips the wire off in such a way that his hands rub almost painfully at her exposed skin and the tape pulls extra-painfully.

“So, no wire then,” Hawkins says calmly as Carlisle passes her the wire. She lifts it closer to her mouth, turning away from where Amy is still struggling for freedom. “That’s good. That’s excellent. Listen, Santiago, how about you just wait back here in this private room and take a minute or two to decompress. I’ll come get you once you’ve cooled off, and I’ll give you a ride back to your precinct. I know how stressful it can be to lose your partner but you have to believe me when I tell you that this is truly not personal. I like to think you would’ve done the same thing if you were in my position.”

She watches, feigning horror, as Hawkins continues talking in a low voice as she takes the wire across the warehouse floor toward a side door. She disappears behind it for a moment and when she reappears, the wire is gone and her smirk is back, more skin-crawling and irritating than ever before.

“Let’s have a little chat, girl to girl.” Hawkins says. She nods to the two holding down Amy’s ankles and they loosen their hold just enough for Carlisle to reposition himself at Amy’s shoulders.

They lift her off the ground at the same time and Amy manages to spit the bandana out of her mouth. For a moment she’s breathless from the genuine fear that surges around her heart, but then she remembers the microphone cinched around her tooth and the dozens of officers in riot gear waiting for her signal to pull her out of danger. “ You’re not gonna get away with this! ” She shouts; the others in the room ignore her.

The room she’s dragged to is small, as dingy as that rusted front door, and Amy’s not sure if it’s genuine panic swelling in her chest or just some strange breed of adrenaline wreaking havoc on her wildly-beating heart when they toss her to the floor. She lands on her wrists, and this time she can’t hold that grunt of pain that bursts from her chest.

She’ll have to be quieter than that.

The two who were holding her legs down file out and Hawkins paces the length of the far side of the room leisurely, watching Amy slowly squirm around in an effort to find a more comfortable position. She steps forward, planting her boot on one of Amy’s shoulders and forcing her to roll backwards, before she steps away and turns to Carlisle. “Is the rest of her team out there?”

“They got the building surrounded.”

“Send Morgan and Peters up to the roof, but make sure Garcia and McBride don’t know about it. And make sure my full tactical gear is ready to go in my office. I don’t think we’ll have too long to turn this one around.”

“Yes ma’am. But you should know - they’re waiting for some kind of signal from her before they storm the building.”

“What signal?”

“I don’t know. I couldn’t get the captain to tell me.”

“The whole point of sending you in there was for you to gain their trust, you dipshit.”

“It’s not like it matters! You stripped the wire and it’s not like there are any windows in this room. We’ll be fine. I’ll keep an eye on things out there and I’ll let you know when it’s time.”

Hawkins rolls her eyes but jams her thumb toward the door, and Carlisle exits obediently. Which leaves Amy alone with her.

Hawkins leans against the far wall, studying Amy, watching with faint amusement as she struggles to get to her side. “So,” she says just as Amy manages to push herself up into a seated position. “That’s quite the shiner you got there.”

“Yeah. Some asshole perp I’ve been after hit me in the face while I was trying to do my job the other day,” Amy says, and in her mind she pictures Rosa’s approving half-smile.

“Did you get the arrest?”

“Not yet. But I’m close.”

Hawkins arches an eyebrow, looking completely and utterly amused. “You’re a weird little bird, you know that?” She asks, pushing off the far wall to approach Amy slowly. “I don’t know a whole lotta ladies who’d go this far for a boyfriend. ‘Specially one as... goofy as Peralta. Now, Diaz , I could understand. But not Peralta.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not a whole lotta ladies.” Amy mutters.

Hawkins nods, as if she genuinely agrees. “You got a point there. Youngest Latina sergeant in NYPD history. The first perfect score on the sergeant’s exam in over a decade. Notary Public, met the comptroller. Lead detective on a number of high-profile cases in the ninety-ninth district, among which are the Pinhead Killer, the Taxicab drug lords, and the officially unofficial investigation that led to the arrest of Jimmy the Butcher Figgis. Tell me - did you really go undercover as an eight-months-pregnant inmate in a prison in Texas to get information from his sister?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“And - did you really shoot Peralta in the leg at some arcade in Florida?”

“It was - why do you care?”

“Well, I’ve been doing all this research on you for the last couple of weeks, and I gotta admit - I’m something of a fan of yours. Did you know you have me listed as one of your most influential figures on the two-thousand-eight survey of Women of the Force questionnaire?”

Molten heat rises up from the center of Amy’s chest.

“Gotta say, I’m flattered. Makes what I’m about to have to do a little more awkward, but...I think I’ll manage.”

Amy gets absolutely no warning before the heel of Hawkins’ boot is connecting with her gut and she’s winded, blinded, and then forced back to her side by another hard kick to her ribs.

The pain is absolute and all-consuming, but Amy manages to keep herself from screaming until Hawkins pulls out the taser. Even then, it’s involuntary - the concentrated electricity seems to pull it from her without her consent, ripping it from her seizing body and projecting it to echo horrifically throughout the room. Hawkins is screaming herself but her words are a garble, lost to the rush of blood and pain pounding through Amy’s body. It’s invasive, persistent; when Amy rolls to her side and curls in the fetal position, Hawkins whips out a nightstick and brings it cracking down across her exposed hip twice.

Blood, there is blood everywhere, in her nose and in her mouth and drenching her ruined shirt and splattered on the blurry wall, and Amy can’t understand, can’t make sense of any of it, can’t comprehend the violent obscenities being hurled at her over the electricity jolting through her body and the steel-toed boots crunching against her ribs and the high-pitched, laughter ringing in her ears that is beginning to consume all else -

She gasps and chokes, coughing violently, blood splattering across the floor beneath her cheek. “What’s the matter, Santiago?” Hawkins crows from somewhere above her. It’s hard to tell especially because Amy can’t hardly see straight anymore, but it sounds as if she’s winded; as if the sheer exertion of beating the hell out of Amy has her exhausted already. “No more smart comebacks? Come on, it’s only fun if you try to fight back!”

“You’re - a’monster,” Amy chokes as she falls heavily to her back.

“No, I’m a genius . The system is rigged to play us, honey. It’s not my fault you choose not to play it right back. There’s a line out the door of officers and detectives who’d kill to be on my squad, because every single one of ‘em is attracted to success and power. But every now and then, a rotten one - or two, most recently - will sneak in. They wanna play by the rules. So they get played. I’ve got two more assholes out there right now who’re gonna take the fall for your murder. But don’t take it personally - after all, this is strictly business.”

With all the strength she has left, Amy lifts her head and squints at the Hawkins-shaped mass of color standing in the center of the spinning room. “What...what’d you jus’ say?” She rasps.

Hawkins chuckles. “I’m gonna murder you, Santiago. And I’m gonna let two dumbasses who’re trying to pull the same shit Peralta and Diaz tried to pull take the fall for it.”

She lifts her hand, and Amy only just then catches sight of the six-inch long carving knife clutched in Hawkins’ fist. “B’fore...that,” she forces the words out of her throat.

Hawkins tilts her head. “What, you lookin’ for a confession? That’s your Make-A-Wish, really ?” She scoffs. “Alright, fine. I’ll tell you the truth, and then I’m gonna drive this knife right through your gut, and I’m gonna watch the life leave your eyes.” She leans in close, laying the steel blade of a six-inch-long butcher knife across Amy’s exposed chest, and if Amy had any semblance of strength left she might try to scramble away on instinct. As it is, she merely tilts her head back to get a better view of Hawkins’ face. “I framed them.” Hawkins says softly. “I was the one running the whole Golden Gang operation, and I was orchestrating all the heists. Diaz and Peralta figured it out and tried to outsmart me but I’m Melanie Fuckin’ Hawkins and I don’t get outsmarted. So I framed them for the last robbery, and then I forged the paper trail linking them to all the other robberies. And now they’re in jail, and I’m twenty-six million dollars richer.” Amy lets her head fall back to the concrete beneath her, an overwhelming peace settling over her all at once. “That what you wanted to hear, sweetheart?”

“It’s exac-” a cold sharp something is inside her stomach and she can’t breathe , can’t see , can’t scream. The knife is in her gut and blood is filling her mouth and all the warmth she has inside her is flowing out all at once and she can’t move because she’s paralyzed because Hawkins just stabbed her and oh God she’s going to die here, she’s going to die alone on the dirty floor of an unfamiliar warehouse that smells like rotten gym socks while her murderer gets away and she’s never ever going to see Jake again . Never going to see him or hold him or kiss him or laugh with him or yell or dance or run or scream, she’s screaming, the whole world is screaming -

Amy, ” Charles’ voice cuts through the haze; she blinks the redness away from the center of her vision and his face comes swimming into view, shining with sweat and twisted in terror. “She’s still breathing, Sarge, get her out of here -”

The world tilts violently and she’s pretty sure she just threw up or maybe screamed or perhaps she finally choked on her heart in her throat and her back might be wet and it shouldn’t be wet but it is and she hurts, everything hurts , and it’s dark outside, dark inside, dark and cold and pitch black and freezing -

Alone. She is alone, in silence, in numbness, in nothingness.

Chapter Text

It’s the sound of her heart monitor that initially rouses her from sleep.

And it is sleep, though she’s not sure when the shift from complete unconsciousness to sleep occurred. She goes from drifting through nothingness to sudden awareness of the warmth in which she’s swaddled and the quiet, muted, steady rhythm of her pulse counted by the monitor somewhere up and to her right. It’s quiet and her blankets are warm but her nose is cold, freezing ; somewhere far away, outside a window some unknown distance from where she’s laying, thunder rumbles in displeasure.

It’s echoed by her twisting, empty stomach.

(It’s either nausea or hunger, she can’t really tell - it gnaws away at her either way.)

But it’s easy to ignore, especially when the low, soothing hum of warmth in her veins lulls her back and forth between unconsciousness and reality. Her moments of awareness are not those sharp bursts of color and sound she’s so often read about; it’s slower than that, slower and quieter, a general knowledge she can’t even really grasp until it’s already slipping away again. She’s drifting , in every sense of the word, and the thought occurs in some disjointed part of her mind that it’s actually quite nice.

It’s the strong smell of Canyon Stank that finally brings her to the surface and holds her there.

The smell is startling, as unpleasant in her nose as it always has been, and even though it really draws out her natural gag reflex she can’t help but to feel her heart flutter unpleasantly. Charles is near, close enough for Amy to smell his cologne, and the fact that he’s wearing cologne can only mean that he’s had enough time to put cologne on which means that a period of time has passed since the last time her eyes were open and the only thing she can remember about the last time her eyes were open is overwhelming pain, pain to the point of madness, and if Charles is here after something that monumental but no one is holding her hand then Jake must not be here and why isn’t he here -

The Canyon Stank is stronger now, more predominant in her nostrils, and her nose is cold. As cold as it was that night that Jake smelled like it when she’d grabbed his face and kissed him, when he’d gathered her up, holding her close and quickly rubbing his hands over her back to generate the warmth she so desperately needed while she shivered against him, legs completely numb from mid-thigh down. He’d gone home with her that night, forgoing his own bed to continue cuddling the feeling back into her extremities despite the fact that his hands shook with a combination of latent nerves and adrenaline when he reached for her coffee mug. Her nose is as cold as the night she foolishly thought being held hostage in a mall by unknown robbers was the worst thing that would ever happen to him, when she thought the sense of relief that had nearly knocked her down at the sight of him alive and well was the strongest it would ever be, back when she thought she knew what overwhelming anxiety over Jake’s well-being felt like.

Her nose is so, so cold, and the Canyon Stank is comforting .

“Amy?” Charles’ breath smells something like stale coffee and old potato salad and if she had a single ounce more of strength she might gag, but as it is, all she can muster up is the power it takes to furrow her brow. “Amy, are you awake? Can you hear me?”

His voice is hushed, almost scared; something shifts unpleasantly in Amy’s chest. Speaking is completely out of the question - just parting her lips takes monumental effort - but she tries anyways, and the sound that escapes her throat is something between an airy moan and a moderately loud exhale.

It seems to be enough of a confirmation of life for Charles, for he makes a noise not unlike the one her mother makes when she greets Amy at the front door every time Amy comes home to visit, and after a moment or two of scraping chair legs and shuffling objects, Amy feels the circular edges of a plastic straw pressing at her dry, cracked lips. “Drink, Amy, it’ll help,” he urges her softly.

The muscles in her throat sorely protest her swallowing motion - she almost chokes on that first gulp - but the water is cool against her tongue and it’s as if it’s bringing her back to life as it washes down her throat. It is the single most refreshing feeling of her entire life thus far.

Charles keeps up a steady stream of quiet encouragement until she manages to drain the glass, and after a moment or two of struggling, Amy finally manages to get her eyelids to unstick. They flutter open just in time to catch sight of her pink plastic glasses lowering toward her face. The arms slide over her ears and the bridge slides up her nose and Charles is there, right there, leaning over her and hovering, watching her blink back to reality through glassy eyes and a broad, face-splitting smile. He opens his mouth and a sob escapes, wrenched from deep in his chest, and if Amy were a little less disoriented she might snort in fond amusement. “Oh, God, ” he moans into the palm of his hand, “Oh thank God ! You have no idea what a relief it is to see you awake again, Amy!”

“Charles,” she rasps, and it’s as if she hasn’t used her vocal chords in months. He frowns and turns to his right, hands fluttering over what she thinks might be a bedside table; it takes a moment, but she realizes belatedly that he’s pouring another glass of water from a pitcher set up on the table. “What, what - happened?”

He stares at her a moment, utterly frozen, before his brows draw together and his entire demeanor softens. He carefully replaces the pitcher of water on her table and sits, drawing his chair up as close to the side of her bed as he can. “What do you remember?”

“Slaughterhouse. Carlisle...betrayed me...like...the plan...said. H-Hawkins.” Her chest quakes a moment as her inhale catches, and a shadow passes over Charles’ face. “She - she hurt me, a lot.”

“Yeah, she did.” He murmurs.

“Did I...get...the confession?”

He smiles, small and tentative and maybe a little affectionate. “You did,” he says, hoarse. “You got the confession on tape, Amy, you got every word of it, crystal clear. Your plan worked. You did it.”

She closes her eyes and tries to lift her left arm - to raise a fist in victory, perhaps - but a shot of stiff soreness shoots all the way up to her shoulder. She thinks she might have made her hand at least twitch. “Yay,” she groans through her grimace.

“Do you remember getting the confession?”

She tries to remember, tries to swim through the dark murkiness back to the last time she was awake, but all that comes to her are blurry colors and that nauseating, overwhelming pain. “No,” she whispers, eyes still closed.

“So - you don’t remember what happened right after you got the confession?”

“Not - not really.”

Confliction blazes like physical pain in his eyes when she manages to get hers open again, and the sight sends a pulse of visceral fear billowing up her spine. “You don’t - you don’t remember anything?” He asks.

Her breath is coming harder now, faster, through her nose. “What happened to me?” She whispers slowly.

Charles stares a moment longer before dropping his head. A sigh escapes him - one bitten off on the edges, hesitant and tentative and scared. “There’s not an easy way to say this,” he says, lifting a hand to rub at his forehead. “Hawkins stabbed you, Amy.”

Amy stares.

“Twice, actually. Hawkins stabbed you twice. Holt gave us the go-ahead to storm the building as soon as he heard Hawkins’ confession but we were too late to save you - the pain was too much, and you were already unconscious by the time Terry and I got to you. You came when I - well, I kind of...um,” he’s staring at her knees, face red, rubbing the back of his neck apologetically. “I kind of...hit you. Not hard, or anything,” he adds quickly, “just enough to - to wake you back up. You came to and then Terry carried you out but you passed out again before we could even get you out of the building. Your doctor said you barely made it. She said you probably would’ve bled out if we’d waited for EMTs to get to you.”

She knows he’s still speaking - his voice is buzzing in her ears - but she can’t quite comprehend the words he’s saying. Because it hadn’t been a bad dream, the feeling of steel against her organs was real and she now had an intimate familiarity with it, one she anticipates will be haunting her nightmares for years to come, because it was real , which means that her last thoughts really were of Jake and the bittersweet fact that her last ‘I love you’ was to the only man she’s ever really loved and she’d said it to distract him from her own inevitable fate -

“Amy?”

She jumps, blinks, and forces her fuzzy vision to focus on Charles. His face is even more twisted in concern than it was before; it takes a moment, but she realizes it’s because she’s hyperventilating. “I’m - okay,” she forces the words out between grating inhales, but somehow the words only serve to deepen the worry lines. “Just - gotta - breathe,”

It takes longer than usual - she can feel the stitches pulling at the skin of her stomach with each breath - but eventually, she feels herself settle. Fatigue sits heavily between her eyes and she knows it’s probably not quite as natural as it would be otherwise - perhaps placed there by the morphine running through her veins - but she forces herself to stay awake.

She needs to know more.

“Where - where are Jake and Rosa?” she croaks.

Another wave of discomfort washes over Charles, this one strong enough to make him shift a little in his seat. “Uh...they’re...okay, technically, they’re still in prison.”

Her chest seizes again.

“Listen, listen, take a deep breath - there’s no need to panic. They’re only in prison because they haven’t had the hearing yet. But they’ve been moved out of general holding and they’re in a kind of limbo holding, now. Sophia heard the confession you got on tape and she said it was perfect , absolutely brilliant , but she has to get it transcribed for legal reasons and then she has to actually file the formal appeal. It’s a fast process, but it’s still a judicial process. It just takes a few days to get things moving.”

“Do they know?”

The question comes out small and timid, quivering with all the fear simmering beneath the paper-thin surface. And there’s that look again, the one that drove her so crazy when it was doled out from Terry; far off, distant tragedy, like she’s one breath away from falling off the edge, like she’s on the verge of drowning. “No. No, they don’t know. We - we all thought it’d be best  for both of them to wait until you woke up again.”

She’s not entirely sure what she feels, but it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of relief.

“They do know that something has happened, though. Sophia told me that all she told them was that we’d uncovered new evidence that has made her feel confident enough to move forward with the appeals case. She says she’s keeping her word to you and hasn’t told them anything about your plan, or the way things went down.”

A thousand questions burn through her mind, but all she manages to get out is a quiet, strangled, “Charles?”

“I don’t know when she’s going to tell them. She wanted to wait until you woke up, to...to avoid...y’know...stressing Jake out anymore than necessary. She’s just trying to keep them both in one piece until the trial. I don’t know when she’s gonna tell them, but we’re not allowed to go visit them now that they’ve been moved to a different wing, so Jake hasn’t picked up on the fact that any of this happened. We’ll have to wait to see them until after the trial.”

“When - when is the trial?”

He grimaces, and her heart drops. “Three days from now.”

A distressed whine escapes her throat. “How long have I been here?”

“Three days.”

She turns her head away, face toward the ceiling, letting the knowledge that the world spun for 72 hours without her settle over her. It is, by far, the most disorienting piece of knowledge she has been given yet.

Charles seems to understand, for he lets her sit for a few moments, lets her digest everything he’s shared and come to terms with everything she now knows. It’s in the midst of this process that Amy begins to absorb the details of her surroundings - the gloomy light pouring through the partially-opened blinds hanging over the window far off to her left, the futon couch sitting low to the ground beneath that window, the three gift baskets competing for space on a small sidetable and the large, bright pink balloon waving lazily in the breeze pushed through the room through a solitary AC vent.

The bright pink balloon reads, It’s a GIRL!

“Why...is there a baby balloon over there?” Amy asks.

“Oh! Oh my God!” She turns her head to face him, taken aback by the sudden surge of excitement in his voice. He’s bouncing in his chair, grabbing onto the edge of her mattress for balance, and she’s getting motion sickness just watching him. “Gina had the baby!”

The nausea fades immediately, replaced instead by softly-glowing wonder. “The Enigma is here?” Amy whispers.

He nods, beaming so brightly, and Amy couldn’t stop the grin that spreads across her face if she wanted to. “She came three days ago! I’m an uncle!”

“That’s amazing!” She says as energetically as she can. “That’s so incredible! Oh my God, are they - where are they?”

His smile fades a little, but he’s still bouncing in his seat. “They’re actually both here, in Brooklyn Methodist. Gina went into labor almost three weeks early - apparently, um, extreme stress can do that - so the baby is still in neonatal intensive care. But she’s already made such massive improvements, she’ll be totally healthy in no time at all! And that’s actually why Captain Holt and Terry aren’t here either - you were also in intensive care when you first came out of surgery, so there was a strict one-guest limit in your room. But you came out of that yesterday. Everyone keeps going back and forth between your room and Gina’s room. But don’t worry, Gina’s almost ready to be released, and she says as soon as she’s done checking on the baby she’ll come see you.”

Gina does come visit a few hours later, when the light pouring in through the window has brightened quite a bit and it’s become easier for Amy to speak coherently. By then Terry has taken up residence in the plastic chair on the other side of the bed, Hithcock and Scully have laid claim to the futon, and Amy’s bed is now in a more reclined position to make it easier to see around the room. Gina’s in a wheelchair, pushed into the room by Milton (who is flanked by Captain Holt), and her grin is as broad and blinding as Charles’ was when he first told her about what she’d missed.

“Amy!” she squeals. Genuine excitement and relief fill her beaming face, and even though both Milton and Captain Holt have to help ease her up on her feet from her wheelchair, her grin never falters. She hobbles across the two-foot distance between them and leans over Amy, pulling her in for an awkward but incredibly warm hug. “Hey,” she pulls back slightly, leaving a foot of space between their faces. “Whaddya think hurts worse - being beaten almost to death, tased, and stabbed twice, or childbirth? Don’t bother answering, we both know it’s childbirth.”

It’s the first time in eight months Amy has laughed, and she laughs until tears come streaming down her face.

(They’re only partially because of the searing pain caused by her abdomen contracting with the repetitive movement.)

The atmosphere feels lighter somehow, warmer, and even though the gaping hole left by Jake and Rosa’s absences is an actual physical pain blending in with the rest of her injuries, Amy feels herself smiling. The knowledge that it’s over - that all they have left to deal with are formalities, now - feels like the bobbing balloon tied to the back of Gina’s wheelchair that reads Get Well Soon!

(“At least they tried,” Gina sighs, eyeing the pink balloon tied to Amy's bedside table.)

The conversation stays light, but after a while it’s almost forcefully light. Amy doesn't allow herself to think about it too much. She chooses to ignore the pointed glance she catches Terry and Charles exchanging over her head, to ignore the way Hitchcock and Scully keep their hands clasped firmly behind their backs when they tentatively approach her bed, the way Captain Holt’s gaze always lingers on her face just a beat too long after she’s finished speaking.

She chooses to ignore it all, because she feels the urge to drown in the overwhelming loneliness caused by Jake’s absence lurking just beneath the surface and if she doesn’t ignore it she’s quite certain she’ll be crushed beneath the weight of it all.

The conversation lulls for the first time since Gina’s arrival, and Holt chooses that precise moment to pointedly clear his throat. Amy casts a desperate glance around - hoping against all hope that someone else might continue talking - but every eye in the room has turned to Holt.

She bites back a resigned sigh as she adjusts her head on her pillow to get a better view of her captain.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to thank each of you individually for the tremendous focus and dedication with which you have all tackled his case. Any other group of people might have left Peralta and Diaz to fend for themselves, but you all have truly gone above and beyond the call of duty in this situation. I know both Peralta and Diaz greatly appreciate your loyalty...and your sacrifices,” he shoots Amy a pointed look, and she can’t help it - her heart skips a beat. “I am always proud to be your commanding officer, but never more so than I am right now.

“The next few days are going to be difficult. They are going to require patience with the very system that caused all of this to begin with. But I truly believe that the wait - the reunion - everything we’ve gone through, and everything they’ve gone through - it will all be worth it. I’m proud of every last one of you. Nine-Nine!”

The squad echoes the cheer and Amy’s smiling through the tears in her eyes, unsure if it’s the overwhelming gratitude or the clearly defined absence of both Jake and Rosa’s voice in the cheer that carves into her very soul that caused those tears in the first place. It’s no matter, not really, because the morphine clouding her veins has begun to dissipate and the pain is swelling, growing, bigger and harder and more suffocating -

There’s a button in her hand, placed there earlier by an overly-helpful nurse, and it’s unbelievably easy to press her thumb down on that button. The effect is strong and almost instantaneous, and in less than a minute she’s half-heartedly fighting to keep her eyes open. For just a minute longer, for just one last look. Before, her short-circuiting brain was filled with frantic, erratic thoughts of Jake; her descent to unconsciousness is far smoother this time. He’s in her mind, clinging to every thought, but it’s the vision of her friends - her family - that remains right there in the center of it all as the rest of the world fades away.

With three days left until the hearing, the hours pass in a blur of morphine-induced naps and quiet, healing conversations.

With two days left until the hearing, the hours pass with refusal of painkillers, a lot of grit teeth and pained grunts at each movement, and the grand introduction of one Harmony Enigma Linetti-Boyle. One single hour on this day is dedicated to consoling Charles, who immediately bursts into tears upon realizing that this beautiful little girl exists, in some form, because of him.

(“I swear to Beyonce , I will kill you in the most painful way possible if you ever mention what went down between you and me back in twenty-fourteen to my daughter, Charles. Mark my words. I will end your life.”)

With one day left until the hearing, the hours drag on, and on, and on even more. It’s all staring at the clock and aimlessly flipping through the books Charles brought to her from her apartment and endless, unbearable nerves. It only improves slightly when Gina produces her phone and starts taking Snapchats and selfies of everyone in the room to send to Jake for him to have when he gets his phone back after the trial.

It is here, now, that Amy allows herself to really look at her own reflection for the first time.

She looks like hell, full stop. Covered in bruises that play a splotchy, blue-green-purple kind of hopscotch all over her body. The neck of the t-shirt Charles brought to her - the soft grey one whose front design has long-since faded, the one that once belonged to Jake before they moved in together - has loosened over time. It hangs like a shallow scoop-neck might, revealing the topmost portion of her upper chest to those standing over her; it unveils the barest hints of the nightmare that lies beneath it. Her black eye has mostly faded but her split lip is angry and swollen and she’s accidentally reopened it while talking or smiling three times now and really, truthfully, she looks like she just crawled directly out of hell.

And that’s just her face. She’s not exactly sure how Jake is going to handle all of that, plus the stab wounds, the three broken ribs, the taser burns, and the deeply-bruised hip. Especially considering how badly he took the black eye.

She does not let Gina send any close-ups.

That night she dreams of miscarriages of justice, of last-second reveals and falsified evidence and all of it, everything she’s spent the last five months working toward, being for nothing. She dreams of high-security prison and solitary confinement and tragic love stories; she dreams of Jake, lonely and scared, alone in the dark, forgotten and abandoned.

She wakes at 6 AM, drenched in sweat and panting.

With two hours left until the hearing, Amy allows her focus to drift. She closes her eyes and pictures him - awake already thanks to the strict detention center schedule, probably seated in the cafeteria and staring at a breakfast he isn’t hungry for. She imagines him showering quickly, only the barest cursory wash of his hair and skin before toweling off and redonning his jumpsuit so that a guard with an utterly neutral expression can march him back to wherever he’s been sleeping for the last five nights. Or perhaps to a private interrogation room where Sophia is waiting for him, and Rosa is too, and maybe now Sophia is finally, finally telling them the truth.

She does not allow herself to think beyond that moment. She blots it out in her mind, voids it; she skips ahead, an hour ahead, to Jake and Rosa and Sophia filing into the courtroom and sitting down at the defense’s table once again.

Or perhaps not. Is it still prosecution versus defense if it’s an appeal hearing? She should have asked Sophia when she still had the chance.

She should have done quite a few things while she still had the chance. She should have kissed him more often, or held his hand more, or hugged him from behind while he made dinner like she did that one time. She should have let him dance with her in the kitchen like he always begged her to, she should have let him pick the stakeout music more often, she should have cared less about his shoes messily discarded in the entryway instead of nagging at him about it. She should have left Teddy the moment Jake confessed his true feelings for her, she shouldn’t have wasted so much time , she should have snatched him up the moment he offered himself to her and she should have held onto him for dear life.

“Amy,” Charles’ voice is as startling as it is intrusive; she jumps and he’s there, standing at the side of her bed, gaze darting back and forth between her and his phone clutched tightly in his hand. There’s a certain amount of concern in his expression and tenseness to his posture that suggests he’s been trying to get her attention for quite some time now. “I just got a text from Sophia. The hearing’s about to start.”

Her heart is in her throat as she nods, lodged firmly in place between her vocal chords as she tries to settle back against the pillows and loosen her shoulders.

It does not work.

A small eternity passes between updates; an eternity filled to the brim with tense silence, with sparse interruptions in the form of quietly-cleared throats and, once, a phone ringing. The room is full once again of her Nine-Nine family and Amy’s sitting straight up for the first time in days, acutely aware of the fact that she is dressed exclusively in Jake’s clothes even down to the boxers hidden beneath the folds of her heated blanket. She sits with her legs loosely crossed, fingering the frayed hem of the t-shirt, trying and failing to calm herself by steadily counting the seconds as they pass.

The eternity ends with the quiet vibration announcing the arrival of a new text.

“It’s over,” Charles says, and even though his voice is quiet it still pierces through the entire room. Everyone shifts, everyone leans toward him, and Amy holds her breath. He stares at his phone a moment longer, eyes quickly drifting back and forth across the screen, and then - “It worked! Oh, my God, it worked! The appeal was granted! They’re free!”

When she was a child, her father used to refer to the very beginning of heavy rainstorms as “the bottom dropping out.” It is a specific, visceral kind of imagery - as if all the rain came down in one thick sheet, all at once, slapping against the ground forcefully and crushing everything beneath it. It never failed to make her giggle.

She’s reminded of the phrase in this moment, in the giddy, excited laughter that bubbles from Gina’s chest, in the broad grins and sounds of relief, in the tears that flood her vision all at once.

“How’s it already over, though?” Terry asks once the initial delirium has worn off. “The hearing only lasted an hour, that’s unheard of!”

“According to Sophia, it only took them playing the confession once for the judge to accept their appeal! She said it’s the fastest appeal case she’s ever had in her entire career.” He’s grinning broadly, still staring down at his phone, scrolling through what seems to be several messages as he speaks. “She said they’re gonna go back to the prison to do all the paperwork and to get their stuff, and then she’s - oh,”

His grin falters, and then disappears completely, and Amy’s heart drops. “What?”

“They’re - uh, they’re coming straight here from the courthouse.” He furrows his brow, eyes nearly a blur as they race across the screen. “They’re on the way here now.”

“Why?” Amy asks, breathless. “What’s going on?”

“Maybe - maybe Jake’s just really anxious to see you again, Amy,” Terry suggests uncertainly.

“I’ll wait in the main lobby to greet them.” Holt stands from the futon, straightens his coat, and heads toward the door. “Perhaps I can provide some form of explanation before they arrive.”

He files out to a general murmur of agreement. “Sophia’s being weird,” Charles mutters. “She won’t answer any of my questions, but she keeps sending me updates. They’re five minutes away, by the way,” he adds, and Amy’s heart skips a beat.

“Is he - I mean, are they - okay?”

Charles is still frowning at his phone. “I don’t know.”

The first confirmation that something is really, truly off comes in the form of a text from Captain Holt to Charles, consisting of exactly three words: they didn’t know.

“They didn’t know?” Amy repeats, feeling the edges of panic beginning to slice at her soul. “They didn’t know what ?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Charles mutters, distracted, furiously tapping at his phone. “I think they’re on the way up.”

“Hey, man, should I…?” Terry gestures to the door. Amy whips back to Charles just in time to catch the end of his surreptitious nod.

“Charles?” Her voice borders on hysteria as Terry quickly maneuvers around the bed.

“I’m sorry, Amy, I don’t -”

They’re interrupted by the second confirmation - the sound of muffled voices shouting from somewhere down the hall, coupled with frantic footsteps pounding against the tile. Amy leans forward, wide eyes on the open doorway, only fractionally aware of Charles leaning into her space to get a good look as well.

“Jake, Jake, slow down -!” Terry’s voice is cut off with a grunt, with the sound of a body ramming into his; in the narrow strip of hallway Amy can see, a massive blur of color - most of it baby blue - goes stumbling quickly by. “ Peralta !”

She can hear his voice - loud, strangled, alien, but his - shouting over Terry, strained with exertion, but the words are lost in the garble suddenly drowning out everything else in her ears because Jake is right outside the doorway. Jake’s here, Jake’s here , and Terry won’t let him come inside.

Amy inhales and automatically grimaces at the sharp pain in her side that answers the movement. Oh, right. She looks like hell .

“You gotta ease up , man, you gotta be gentle , you can’t come in here like a tornado -”

Charles casts one last apprehensive glance back at Amy before standing and hurrying to the door, but he doesn’t even make it to the doorway before Jake’s suddenly there, barreling past him, bee-lining right toward Amy. She has just enough time to absorb the agonized, haunted look in his eyes before she’s in his arms, before he’s pushed her backwards into the mattress and has essentially dived across the bed beside her all in one move. It hurts, it hurts , but the pain is just a dim warning light in the back of her mind because Jake is absolutely wailing against her. The noises coming from him are primal and heartbreaking all at once, a complete and utter collapse of whatever semblance of togetherness he’s been projecting for the last few hours (and days and weeks and months before that, probably). It is a step above the violence of sobbing, it’s raw and exposed and it is the absolute worst sound in the entire world.

She can’t hold him tight enough.

It takes a long time - just over an hour, actually - for Jake to finally, finally stop crying. They never break their embrace but it shifts, changes, grows from hard desperation to whole and healing; he’s still in the bed but his forehead is cradled in the bend of her neck, his nose pressing lightly against her chest each time she inhales, arms still wrapped just below the point of pain around her abdomen and one of his legs draped over hers above the blankets.

He hasn’t looked her in the eye yet.

She’s okay with that, really, she’s content to stroke his hair, to slowly and soothingly rub her hands up and down his shoulders and back, to reacquaint herself with each ridge and curve and slope and line still hidden beneath the thick material of the jumpsuit he’s still wearing. He’s not outright sobbing anymore but the tears are still flowing, still wetting her skin, and he can’t seem to stop nuzzling his nose into her collarbone and the hollow at the base of her throat, can’t seem to stop breathing her in as deeply as he can.

She knows he’s inhaling the eye-wateringly harsh scent of hospital disinfectant just as she’s breathing in the bitter starchy scent of prison soap; it’s small, but it’s a clear reminder of the sheer magnitude of all that has gone wrong for them over the last five months and the four years before that.

“Jake,” she whispers, gently scratching her nails over a spot behind his ear. He nuzzles impossibly closer, burrowing the hand under her around to grip her sleeve, pulling the hand scratching his scalp down to cup the back of his neck instead.

He makes a quiet sound, something akin to a soft moan, and the fingers squished between her spine and the mattress twitch and ripple. And then he’s humming throatily, hoarse and almost imperceptible, hands roving restlessly over the parts of her he can actively reach without outright loosening the stranglehold he has around her.

“Jake.” Louder now, more insistent. He grunts and presses his face into her neck harder, the bridge of his nose coming dangerously close to actually crushing her windpipe. “Jake, look at me.” She feels him shake his head, almost belligerent, grip growing even stronger. “ Look at me .”

He shifts, rolling to hover over her slightly. His face is pressed more into her pillow now, his lips against her shoulder, and most of his weight is on his right side which lays against the mattress, his hip flush against hers. He’s breathing heavily, and his left hand shakes when he reaches up to briefly tangle his fingers in her hair. It takes him a few moments - a few deep, steadying breaths - and then the mattress is faintly quaking as he slowly pushes himself up on his straining, curled right arm.

Jake’s head remains bowed even with six inches of space between their chests, his puffing, labored exhales warming her chest through her shirt. Amy strokes his face lightly, the pad of her thumb catching on his unkempt scruffy facial hair. Another long moment stretches on, marked only by the quick, steady pulse of his clenching jaw beneath her palm. But it becomes too much, too difficult, to pretend the fact that she still hasn’t seen Jake’s eyes doesn’t bother her. So she swallows thickly and says his name one last time, throaty and desperate, fissuring under the pressure of a violent sob brewing just beneath the surface.

Jake .”

He inhales one last time through his nose, deep and unsteady, and then lifts his head just enough to peer at her through his lashes.

Oh ,” he half-breathes, half-sobs, and his tears are renewed as he inches forward until their lips collide. His kiss is punishing, bruising, harsh. It reopens the scabbed-over part of her lip and the taste of blood is almost overpowering but it doesn’t matter, not when his quiet chest-wracking sobs are muffled against her lips and his free hand is tangled in her hair. “Amy, Amy, Amy, ” he mumbles desperately between the kisses he dots down her jaw.

“It’s okay,” she hears herself whisper. She screws her eyes shut as his lips connect with a particularly sore spot near her ear but if he notices he does not let it deter him; he continues his steady path across her face with nothing more than a quiet, choked sob muffled against her skin. “It’s okay, Jake, I’m okay, I’m okay, everything’s okay, sh...it’s over now, it’s all over. We made it. We made it.”

It doesn’t last as long this time - less than ten minutes, actually - and when he finally does manage to calm down, he pulls back and looks at her without her urging. His face is blotchy, eyes bloodshot and swollen, but the absolute wonder with which he looks at her is unmistakable. She’s punch-drunk already, giddy from the heat of his weight against her side and the awe in his expression and the possessiveness in his grip. As if she is a most priceless treasure, as if he’s in danger of losing her at any moment.

“You’re so beautiful,” he tells her in a breathless whisper.

Heat fills the hollows of her cheeks and the tops of her ears. “I look like I got run over by a steamroller,” she mutters as she reaches up to stroke his face again.

He catches her hand before she can make contact and pulls it forward to press a lingering kiss against her palm. “Beautiful,” he insists, squeezing her hand, though there is a fractured quality to his gaze suggests there might be a small part of him that agrees with her.

But it’s no matter now - she can hear the quiet murmuring voices belonging to the squad just outside the closed door and Jake’s shifting, moving closer, until her head is tucked into his neck and he’s got a solid-but-gentle grip around her, one hand roving with a feather-light touch up and down her back. She curls herself into him, ignoring the twinges of pain from her protesting muscles, and closes her eyes to the feeling of something tattered and broken finally knitting itself back together in her chest.

“I love you, Amy,” he whispers against the crown of her head. Exhaustion hums in her veins and she’s whole, warm and full and content again. “So much. So, so much.”

She drifts to sleep before she remembers to say it back.


Going back home is a far quieter affair than it should have been - Amy dreamed of streamers and balloons, of barbeque and blue cake and maybe a Die Hard quote-off. She dreamed of surprising them both, of opening the front door with a flourish and beaming at him - at both of them, really - over the shouted chorus of welcome home! s from the entire ninety-ninth precinct. She imagined long conversations filled with laughter and happiness, long looks shared over the heads of their friends, ones that spoke volumes of the love he would whisper into her skin for hours as soon as the last guest left.

What it actually consists of is a lot of pain muted by fading painkillers, waiting in the car, grocery bags full of medication prescriptions, and a gait interrupted by a slow limp thanks in large part to her heavily bruised hip. Jake has to practically carry her over the threshold upon catching her wincing stepping wrong on her hip and aggravating her hip and broken ribs simultaneously; she grits her teeth to bite back a scream when he accidentally steers her into the entryway wall.

“Are you sure you're okay?” he asks for the third time as she settles back on the couch.

“For the last time, yes , I'm fine. I promise you , I'm fine.”

He stares at moment longer - a muscle jumping in his jaw - before nodding and stepping backwards. He moves back toward the entryway to close the front door and then heads into the kitchen. Her heart swells with contentment at the sounds that follow: opening cabinets, shifting dishes, the stovetop burner hissing to life, crinkling wrappers and running water.

Jake’s making tea.

He’s home, he’s in their kitchen, and he’s making her tea.

On the heels of that swell of contentment comes a throb of guilt from somewhere in the base of her chest - he just spent the last five months in prison and he’s making her tea.

He emerges several minutes later, carefully balancing two mugs by their handles in one hand and carrying what appears to be a handful of pills in the other. “Here, Ames,” he carefully dumps the pills into her outstretched hands and waits until she’s fully situated before handing her a mug and carefully settling in beside her. He watches her carefully until she’s taken all the pills (which drains half the tea in the process) only looking away when both of her hands are curled around her mug and she’s leaning into him slightly.

He’s back in his clothes but he hasn’t showered yet; the scent that fills her nose as she turns her head into his chest and breathes him in is almost his, almost perfect, but still just a little bit off.

“I should’ve made you tea,” she mumbles as she drops her head to fully rest against his shoulder. She’s surprised at how tense the muscles are beneath her cheek; they loosen a split-second after she touches him, as if he, too, is only just now aware of it.

Jake chuckles, briefly tilting his head to lean against hers. “We both know I make it better than you do,” he says.

Amy scoffs even as he presses his lips to the crown of her head. “Rude and untrue. Everyone knows tea is my best dish.”

“I hate to be this guy, babe, but...that’s not really saying much.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know I’ve gotten a lot better, lately. Charles taught me a few things.”

“Yeah?”

He’s grinning into her hair now, clearly amused, and she can’t help it - she huffs and elbows him in the side. “He says I have a lot of potential, as long as I label everything really clearly in the cupboards.”

“Mmm...I don’t believe you.”

“It’s true! I promise it’s true.”

He stiffens beneath her so violently her whole body jerks, tea nearly sloshing over the rim of her mug. Amy goes very still, tensed, waiting for whatever it is that has startled him, but it never comes. So after a moment, she leans away, and he studiously avoids her gaze.

Her heart sinks.

“What? What’s wrong?”

She can tell he’s trying to play it off in the way he squirms in place slightly, shifting around to alleviate whatever tension is currently rippling through his legs. “Nothing, nothing. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Relax.”

There is nothing relaxed about the way he curls his arm almost determinedly over her shoulders or the way his leg is bouncing in that nervous tick that has given him away for years now, and if she wasn’t quite so sore she might just bounce right off the couch and tell him so. But as it is she remains in place, tense and quiet, quickly replaying the last few moments in her mind.

It occurs to her - dimly - that he’d stiffened up earlier as well. It was brief but she’d noticed it, thinking of it as an involuntary reaction to seeing her grimacing, but...she hadn’t grimaced.

So she pushes away, angling herself on the cushion to face him more fully, carefully noting the pink tint spreading across his face. “Jake,” she says, and he clenches his jaw. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” he’s almost pouting , brow furrowed as he stares down at his lap, compulsively rubbing the pad of his thumb up and down the handle of his mug. And he still refuses to look at her.

“Okay, now I don’t believe you .” He’s looking at her now, a bit incredulously, but she ignores the heat that rises up her face in response and presses on. “You can’t keep stuff from me, Jake. You’re an open book. What’s the problem?”

“Honey, there’s no problem. I’m just...it’s weird to be back home, is all. Please stop worrying, okay? You’re gonna hurt yourself.”

She stares at him, searches his face, but the walls are clearly visible in his eyes and the downward tug of the corners of his mouth. “Is it about me? Something I did?”

His brows draw together, lips parted, but his breath catches. Hesitation, clear as day, in the entirety of his posture. “No,” he finally breathes.

The lie cuts deep.

“Jake -”

“Can we just -” he interrupts loudly, and then stops, dropping his head to his hands and roughly scrubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. “Can we drop it, please? I haven’t been home in five months and I just - I just wanna be home. Quietly. Please.”

She’s quiet for a moment, watching him rub at his eyes, before she turns her head and stares at the corner of the coffee table closest to her. “You can’t avoid it forever,” she tells him, voice soft. “We’ll have to talk about it eventually.”

“Not right now.”

Amy chews the inside of her cheek, and then leans forward, grabbing the arm of the couch to hoist herself up to her feet. She can feel his eyes on her, can sense that he’d started forward too, but she moves out of his reach as quickly as her injuries allow. “I’m tired,” she says, casting about half-heartedly and off-handedly as she rounds the far side of the coffee table so as not to brush past his legs to get to the bedroom. “I’m gonna go to bed.”

She’s almost through the doorway before he calls out to her, and when she pauses it takes a deep, steadying breath before she can look him in the eye. His face is utterly unreadable, gaze darting quickly down from her eyes to her feet and back up again, and he releases a breath she hadn’t realized he was holding. “Your doctor said the bandages have to be changed every six hours.” She glances blindly at the digital clock on the bedside table on her side of the bed - it reads 8:24 PM. “I’ll...I’ll wake you up at midnight.”

“Thanks.”

It does not take long for her to drift to sleep, but the sleep itself is restless. It’s not quite a dream - it’s not visceral enough for that - but she knows her heart is pounding and sweat is beading on her brow. Her core is alight, molten heat coursing through her veins, and she can’t quite catch her breath. A heavy weight pins her right shoulder to the mattress and she’s keening, whining, doing her best to squirm out from beneath it -

“Amy,” she blinks, vision bleary, and after a moment Jake’s silhouette comes fading in through the darkened shadows cloaking their bedroom. The weight disappears from her shoulder and his hand is suddenly brushing her hair away from her face - he must have been shaking her awake. “Are you alright?”

Her chest is heaving as she nods, reaching up blindly to swipe the back of her hand across her damp forehead and then up further until he grasps it firmly in his. It’s a monumental task, to sit up without screaming in pain; judging by the frown she can only just barely make out on his face, she must look pretty bad.

Her hands shake as she grasps the glass of water he hands her, downing half of it in several large gulps before even bothering to start taking the pills he’s patiently offering her. She’s dizzy and disoriented and leaning into the cool touch of his hand against her forehead, momentarily forgetting all else but sheer relief.

“You’re burning up,” he murmurs.

“M’fine,” she mumbles, “just - hurts.”

She thinks he might be nodding - she can’t really tell, the vast majority of her focus is fixated on the glass of water in her still-shaking hand. “I have to change the bandages, now.” He whispers. “Finish the water and lay back down, we’ll just do it here.”

She hums, eyes closed even as his weight lifts off the mattress and his footsteps fade into the bathroom. The water is gone much too soon but it takes the disorientation with it; she looks around the room with only vague vertigo, blinking lazily and sleepily, a more comfortable kind of warmth settling in the center of her chest.

Until her head drops down and to the left, on Jake’s side of the bed. Where the sheets are still tucked in tight beneath the mattress and the decorative pillows have not yet been removed.

He hasn’t come to bed yet.

“Lay back and lift your shirt, babe,” he instructs from the bathroom doorway. “I’ll be quick, and then you can get back to sleep, okay?”

She lays back down without a word, without a single sound, pulling her shirt up and staring determinedly up at the ceiling even as he kneels beside her.

The lamp at her beside clicks on, and then his fingers are at her stomach, nails gently picking at the medical tape holding the gauze in place until a corner finally gives. He peels it back slowly and carefully, and just as open air hits the tender stitches he inhales sharply.

He does not pause, though. He’s holding his breath but he’s peeling the gauze away, and when she peeks at him through her lashes he’s folding the red-dotted material in half and dropping it in the trashcan he’d brought with him from the bathroom.

The other strip of gauze goes next and Amy closes her eyes, unable to get rid of the mental image of what he’s seeing at this precise moment. Her torso has been reduced to nothing more than a network of vicious bruises and scabbed-over cuts, the gnarly stitches set three inches apart being the hideous centerpiece. She knows he’s seeing the angry almost-black bruising marking the place where her broken ribs reside, knows he’s seeing the faded taser marks and the nearly-healed welts stretching up over her hip peeking out from beneath the waistband of her shorts. Jake is, essentially, staring at what can only be described as portrait of torture by Melanie Hawkins. He’s quiet, almost forcefully so, but he’s breathing so heavily through his nose it’s a wonder he hasn’t started hyperventilating yet.

She’s just about to lose her nerve and offer to do it herself when the feeling of cold antibiotic cream dabbing at her skin makes her jump. “Sorry,” Jake whispers, and her heart skips a beat at how shaken he sounds. “Should’ve warned you.”

“S’okay,” she breathes, focusing on the warm weight of his arm across her hips and ignoring the tension heading beginning to flare behind her left eye.

He’s delicate, but thorough, ensuring every last millimeter is coated in ointment before pulling two rectangular pieces of fresh gauze from the package her doctor had given them before discharging her earlier from their sterile wrappers and gently laying them over each wound. He tapes the edges down with medical tape, carefully running the tip of his index finger over all eight sides, before gently pulling her shirt back down and tugging the sheets she’d kicked down in her sleep back up to her chin.

“Jake,” she whispers, and he pauses, halfway through cleaning up the medical supplies. He’s still kneeling beside the bed, eyes wide even in the scant light; she lets her right hand fall off the bed, hanging awkwardly close to his upper arm, almost touching but not quite. “Please.”

“Please, what?” He whispers. He won’t shift closer and he won’t take her hand, leaning forward to grab the roll of medical tape and shifting the tube of antibacterial cream into the same hand to grab the trash can in the other. “What do you need?”

Her words are sticking to her tongue and her face still flushed, and he stays just outside of her reach, watching, waiting. “I…”

He rocks forward on his knees and pecks her lips, gentle and chaste, before standing. “Go back to sleep. I’ll turn the fan on.”

She doesn’t have the strength to argue.

Her alarm wakes her at precisely 5:45 AM, cutting through the haze to rouse her from a far deeper, dreamless sleep. Muscle memory almost has her flop to her stomach on Jake’s side of the bed to shut the damn thing off but she hardly makes it past planting her right foot on the mattress for leverage before an unbelievable kind of soreness seizes at her muscles; her responding gasp is loud and ragged, but still manages to get lost in the screeching alarm.

She hears a muffled thump from out in the living room, loud and out of place, and then quick, shuffling footsteps come hurrying down the hall. The bedroom door swings open and Jake is there, half-awake and clearly disheveled, squinting and glaring furiously through the grogginess as he pokes and prods at the alarm. “Son of a bitch ,” he mutters.

It shuts off just in time for her quiet groan to be heard; she keeps her eyes screwed shut even as he sets the clock back down with a bit more force than necessary and heaves a long, loud sigh.

“D’you wanna change them out a little early, or wait fifteen minutes for six on the dot?” He asks in a voice that rumbles with sleep.

“Early,” she whispers, already halfway back to sleep, ignoring the unidentified red flag waving in the back of her mind. Her muscle memory has officially reached ridiculousness, even by her standards; just the knowledge that she’s not out of bed and heading to the shower on a weekday is messing with her internal clock.

He snuffles out another tired sigh. “‘Kay. But I’m gonna shut the other two off first. M’not awake enough for all that yet.”

He starts moving around the room, grabbing at her extra backup alarm clocks and prematurely dismissing the alarms, and she drifts until she feels his arm settling back across her hips, same as before. This time he pushes her shirt up himself, and even through the exhaustion she recognizes how gently he handles her, even when her sleep-heavy hand lands against his arm in a half-hearted attempt to help. He merely angles his arm up to kiss her fingers where they curl around her forearm before dropping his elbow back to the mattress, and her eyes prick at the tenderness of the move.

She’s more prepared for the shock of cold this time, holding her breath and only jumping a little when he first dabs it on. He moves a bit more confidently now - or perhaps a bit more heavy-handedly - finishing in less time than he did last night. The taping process is just as slow, though, just as gentle, and it takes a moment for her to realize that there is far more light in the room now than there was last night.

Meaning that all those angry, vicious burns and bruises spider-webbing across her top half are starkly visible.

Her eyes are open by the time he’s all done, open and watching him screw the lid back on the tube of ointment. He gathers everything up and shifts it all to one hand before finally meeting her gaze. “You okay?” He whispers. She nods, eyelids tugging down, and this time when her right hand falls from the mattress he grabs it and squeezes. “You look a lot better than you did last night. I was worried.”

“Jake.”

“Hm?”

“Lay down with me.”

“I already did.” She furrows her brow - hadn’t she noticed the bed still being made on his side last night? Didn’t he just come in from the living room? - and he rocks forward and plants a kiss right in the center of her forehead, lips lingering until her forehead smooths out again. “I gotta clean up and get your medicine ready. And then I’m gonna make a pancake run. Does that sound good?”

No , she wants to tell him, though she can’t quite identify why. So instead she blinks up at him drowsily and nods.

“M’kay. Go back to sleep, babe. I’ll come back with the pills, and then I’ll wake you up as soon as I get back with breakfast.”

He kisses her again, as soft and chaste as the night before, and she lets her eyes stay closed long after his footsteps have faded away.

The atmosphere is tense, in a word, when he returns from getting the pancakes. She’s already risen by then, and she can tell by the way she catches him frowning at her when he thinks she isn’t looking that he expected her to wait for his assistance before rolling out of bed. She ignores it, ignores the stiffness with which he hands her one of the two boxes of pancakes and the fact that he seems to be taking extra care not to let their fingers brush by accident as they both set about doctoring their boxes. The events of the night before have come back to her now, in startling clarity, and as she carefully cuts bite-sized pieces of the soft buttery cakes and stabs through them with her fork, she remains quiet.

If he wants to stay angry, to sit in stony silence and not acknowledge what she knows they both know to be true, that’s fine. She can deal with the silence, so long as he’s not outright avoiding her.

The morning passes in that same bubble of uncomfortable contentment, hours drifting by only punctuated by the occasional phone buzzing with a text and the seamless transitions between television shows. They sit side-by-side on the couch, Amy’s left leg bent at such an angle that her thigh overlaps with his just slightly, and his arm is draped across the back of the couch behind her shoulders. It’s warm, and perhaps if Gina or Rosa or even Charles were to walk in and see them like this it would appear as though everything is normal.

But the fact of the matter is that it isn’t. It isn’t normal, because Jake’s not lightly caressing her arm with the tips of his fingers or letting them drift up the back of her neck to gently tangle in her hair or massage her scalp, and she’s not leaned into his chest the way she always is when they sit like this.

He taps her knee with the hand not gripping the back of the couch at noon and she shifts, only letting her gaze linger on his back for a moment as he stands and retreats to the bathroom. Her heart thumps uncomfortably at the small, involuntary wave of relief that washes over her the moment he’s left the room, trying and failing to quash the subsequent guilt before he returns.

“Everything okay?” He asks as he carefully eases the medical supplies down on the coffee table.

“Fine,” she says through a tight smile. He eyes her curiously for a moment, and then gestures toward the cushions to her right.

It takes a moment - a few tense starts, a few bitten gasps and restrained grunts - but she manages to maneuver herself around and down to a horizontal position without his help (though his hands do twitch over her shoulders a little uselessly as she eases herself backwards). The pain in her abdomen pulsates and fades as he lifts her shirt and leans over her once again.

She catches a whiff of his soap as he works, and when her eyelids flutter open she finds him staring at her stomach with a look of intense concentration. “Jake,” she says, and even though her voice is quiet he still jumps, head snapping up toward her. “Did you shower?”

He blinks. “What?”

“Did you take a shower?”

“Um - yeah? Last night, after...after you went to bed. I stayed up for a while and took a shower. Why?”

“It’s not bad,” she says quickly watching the crease between his brows deepen. “You just - you smell like you again. I...I missed it. You. I missed you .”

He softens considerably, seeming to melt a little on the spot; the hand not hovering with a Q-tip bearing ointment over her abdomen lifts up to the couch, and he lightly, gently strokes his thumb over her uninjured hip a few times. “I missed you, too,” he murmurs, and it’s so earnest, echoed in the intensity in his gaze.

The world feels a little lighter after that.

His arm drapes lightly over her shoulders once they’re situated back on the couch, his hand curled around her upper arm and thumb gently stroking the topmost curve of her shoulder. Her thigh rests more fully against his, her left arm now flush against his side, and every time he moves - be it leaning forward to set his mug back down on the table or reaching to hand her the remote - she catches another whiff of his soap.

It’s enough, for now.

He still won’t talk to her about anything that delves deeper than the surface-level; their longest conversation so far has been her instructing him about where to find batteries when the two in the remote die. The discomfort has gone, mostly, but the fact remains: he’s still angry at her.

It’s all just a matter of waiting until he’s ready to talk, now.

They eat dinner early and he changes the bandages on the couch once again, his touch just as slow and gentle as before. He’s just laid the gauze across the stitches - just started casting around for the medical tape somewhere around his knees - when she speaks.

“You’re mad at me.” He freezes, eyes wide but still trained on the ground, and Amy adjusts her head on the couch cushion to see him better.

“I’m not - I’m not mad at you.” He stammers once he seems to have recovered. He finds the tape and inches a little closer, shifting his weight from knee to knee restlessly.

“I can’t fix it if you won’t talk to me about it.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.” He snaps. “I’m not mad, and that’s that. Are we done talking about it?”

“No, we’re not done talking about it, Jake! We haven’t hardly talked at all ! You think I haven’t noticed that you won’t touch me? Or even look at me? You think I don’t know you well enough to know when you’re pissed off at me about something?”

“I’m not having this conversation with you right now.” He starts ripping strips of tape off the role haphazardly, and even though his movements are jerky and unpredictable, his touch is still exceedingly gentle.

Still, she rolls her eyes and glares up at the ceiling, heat building up in her face. “Let me know when you’re ready to be an adult and have an adult conversation about this.” She says haughtily.

He’s only just finished taping the last edge down when she says it; his hands freeze against her, and she forces her gaze to remain fixated on the ceiling despite the fact that his is both trained on her face and burning with a sudden, dangerous kind of rage. “ Me ? You - you’re accusing me of -” he stops, barking out a disbelieving laugh, and then he’s on his feet and pacing away from her across the living room. “You wanna lay there and accuse me of not communicating like an adult?” He half-shouts when he turns back to her.

She’s propped up on her elbow now, unable to get much further any faster. “I’ve been trying to have this conversation since last night -”

“Let’s be clear, here, Santiago, this isn’t a conversation - it’s a fight . Yes, I’m mad at you, and yes, I should’ve admitted it last night when you asked, but I didn’t because you’re still really hurt and taking care of you is more important than getting all of this out in the open right away, but you can’t provoke me like that -”

“Like what ?”

I’m not the one who didn’t communicate! None of you did! We had no idea what happened at the Slaughterhouse until we walked into that courtroom and heard the confession! We didn’t know you went in alone, we didn’t know you’d gotten hurt, and -” his voice breaks and he stops, choking down a sob. “And we didn’t know if you survived.”

His chest is rising and falling almost violently, which is ironic, considering the fact that Amy can’t breathe. She stares at him, vaguely aware of the fact that her mouth is hanging open in shock. She shakes her head, unable to look away from the agony in his eyes; in that moment, she’s reaching through the last few days, seeing him as he was in that courtroom the moment the realization of what happened hit him. Her heart is broken, shattered, aching , and he’s so far away.

Her arms are straining, her shoulders screaming in protest, but she grits her teeth and pushes herself up to a seated position. Slowly, slowly, she eases her legs over the edge and turns so that she’s facing forward; with one hand on the arm of the couch and the other on the coffee table, she pulls herself to her feet.

Jake has not moved a single muscle. His arms are crossed tightly over his chest and he watches her slowly approach, remaining completely still until she’s in his space, arms burrowing beneath his and forcing them to come uncrossed, wrapping around him in the warmest hug she can possibly give him. His arms remain hanging loosely at his sides. “I’m - I’m so sorry,” she mumbles, only just then aware of the fact that tears are pouring down her face. “Jake I - we never meant for that to happen, okay, you, you have to believe me, I had no idea she kept it from you for that long, I promise -”

“No offense, but your promises haven’t really meant a lot to me lately.”

She pulls back, recoiling a few paces, unable to disguise the hurt currently jutting through her chest.

He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, that was - that was harsh. I just...I keep hearing that tape, Amy. Every time it gets too quiet, I can hear that tape again. I can hear you screaming and crying and - and I can hear - I can hear when she -” his breath comes out stuttering and he shakes his head quickly, unable to finish the sentence. “I heard everything.”

She closes her eyes and turns her head away, shaking it slightly, willing herself not to cry. “I’m so sorry.”

“That’s not the worst part, though. The worst part is hearing it over and over and over again, and - and knowing that it’s my fault .”

Her head snaps up. “What?” She says, louder than she means to. “What are you - what ? How is any of that your fault?”

“You were only in there because of me, Amy -”

“That’s - I mean, technically , that’s true, but it’s not like you forced me to go in there! That was my decision - all of it was my decision. And that’s not your fault.”

He’s shaking his head, gripping his hair in his fists, eyes screwed shut. “You got hurt because of me, you almost died because of me -”

“Jake, stop it.” He doesn’t stop, keeps shaking his head and tugging at his hair, so she strides toward him as purposefully as her hip and ribs will allow and seizes his arms, yanking them down to his sides and shocking him into looking at her. “Look at me. Stop . None of what happened to me happened because of you. None of what happened to me was an effect of what happened to you. I chose to go in there, I chose to let that happen to me. Not because I had to or because I was forced to, but because I wanted to. Because I love you, and I wanted to get you out of prison as quickly as possible. I didn’t do it because of you, Jake. I did it for you.”

He inhales raggedly, bloodshot eyes shining with both unshed tears and disbelief. “I - you - you could’ve died ,” he breathes. “You almost did die.”

“I am really, truly sorry that I didn’t tell you about our plan. I’m sorry that I asked Sophia and the squad to keep it from you, and I’m so, so sorry that Sophia didn’t tell you about it before you had to hear those tapes. Really, I am - I told her to tell you when everything had settled, I just - I assumed she would’ve at least told you before the trial. Honestly. I had no idea she kept it from you for that long and I don’t even really understand why she did that -”

“She wanted me and Rosa to have genuine reactions to the tape,” he mumbles, “to make us look more human to the judge.”

“Did it work?”

“I don’t know. I threw up in the trash can under the desk and then blacked out until they sent us into a different room.”

Amy grimaces. “I’m gonna have to talk to her about that,” she mutters under her breath. “My point is - I’m sorry I broke my promise to not do anything stupid, and I’m sorry that we handled the rest of the situation really, really badly. But...I’m not sorry for doing what I did. I’m not sorry, because it brought you back home. I’d do it all over again if I had to. I’d do whatever it takes to bring you back to where you belong.”

“But - but you almost died -”

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Jake, especially since you seem to be having a hard time wrapping your brain around it, but...you’re worth dying for.”

He inhales sharply, shaking his head rapidly. “N-no, no, I’m - Amy, don’t say things like that -”

“Why not?”

“Because - because you’re too important, okay? And I’m - you can’t, you can’t go around saying things like that -”

“I’m not going around saying things like that, I’m standing right here and I’m telling you exactly that. I think you’re worth dying for, Jake. I really do. That’s why I did what I did. Because I love you and I would do anything for you, including but not limited to dying.” He looks as if a hole has been blown through his chest, jaw hanging, shoulders slumped and concaved, but she presses on. “You’re everything to me. You’re the best part of my life. I regret the way I handled things, but I don’t regret what I did. I never will. Because what I did was what it took to pull both you and Rosa out of a shitty situation. Not because I had to, or because I was obligated to, but because I chose to. Because you are worth everything that I went through. You’re worth the pain, you’re worth the recovery, you’re worth the wait. And that’s not for you to decide, so you can stop shaking your head. I get to make those decisions for myself, and I decided that you’re worth it. Whether you believe me or not is up to you.”

He’s panting, looking a moment away from bursting into tears. “No one - no one has ever …”

Amy approaches him slowly, and this time he reaches for her and pulls her in gently. “Until now,” she murmurs against his chest.

They stand that way, holding each other, healing, for a long time. He starts stroking her hair after a while, pulling that same move from the first time she visited him in prison, running his fingers through and stopping at the ends, fisting them and tugging gently. “I’m sorry I’ve been a jerk,” he whispers before he presses a kiss against the shell of her ear through her hair.

“I’m sorry I lied and broke a promise to you. I will never, ever do that again.”

“I know.”

“So are we...are we good?”

“I hope so. I’ve been dying to make a scar twins joke but it’s hard to do that when I’m mad at you.”

She shakes her head against his chest, smiling and squeezing him closer. “Joke away, dork.”


The settlement from the city is not quite as large as Amy would have thought it would be, but it’s more than enough to cover a trip for two to Paris. They have to wait a few weeks for Amy’s injuries to heal enough for her to fly comfortably for that long, but in the end it’s perfect: they make it to the chateau where Kevin stayed right at the peak of Autumn.

The chateau itself is even more beautiful than Amy’s daydreams, but she finds herself distracted from it all - Jake is positively glowing with happiness, even as he hauls all of their bags in from the little rental car and deposits them two feet inside the front door. He lets out a low whistle from the center of the open, airy front room, turning slowly on his heel to take it all in. Amy thinks there might be marble countertops in the kitchen behind her, and an even more beautiful view than she’d imagined outside of the bay window to her left, but she can’t bring herself to look; he’s turned to face her, his smile bright and radiant in the setting Parisian sun.

“This place has a hell of a view,” he murmurs through a cheeky grin, maneuvering past the couch between them. She backs away from him slowly, playfully, until the closed front door is at her back and Jake’s pressed up against her front.

“I’ve been admiring it myself,” she says as nonchalantly as she can, draping both of her arms over his shoulders and dragging him down for a slow, lazy kiss. It’s deep but totally unhurried; for the first time in a long time, they are where trouble cannot reach them. And they’re there for two whole weeks.

Jake pulls away slowly, almost reluctantly, chuckling throatily and leaning back in for two more chaste kisses when she strains to follow him. “Gorgeous,” he murmurs when her eyes flutter open again.

“So, dinner?” Amy asks once he’s pulled away from her completely.

“After we’ve unpacked, of course,” he says with a knowing grin. “Can’t leave the clothes folded for too much longer, or else they’ll wrinkle.”

“I really am predictable, aren’t I?”

“Predictable, consistent. Potato po-tah-to…”

He carries her bags to the bedroom - the centerpiece being a large, tasteful king-sized four-poster complete with plush pillows and a deep red duvet - before retreating back out to the living room to get their laptops and cell phones plugged in and charging again. “Should we talk about dinner plans?” Amy calls as she unzips the largest suitcase.

“Uh, yeah - wanna make something here? Or go into the city?”

“We’ll have to go to the market no matter what, either tonight or tomorrow. I think it might be better to go tonight - that way our whole day can just be about exploring tomorrow, y’know?”

He doesn’t answer right away - in fact, she’s got most of her folded clothes stored in the chest of drawers and has just started on the hanging clothes when she hears him speak again. “So you do wanna go to the city for dinner?”

“What? No, that’s not what I said. I think we should go to the market tonight, so that we can spend the whole day exploring in the city -” a muffled thunk at her feet gives her pause. She’d just lifted a cotton sundress she’d had rolled securely toward the bottom of her suitcase and something solid fell. She takes a step back, looking down curiously, and freezes.

A small black ring box is lying on its side on the floor beside the bed.

Her heart hammers wildly as she slowly kneels and picks it up. It’s soft and velvet beneath her shaking fingers, soft and velvet and black and oh so tempting.

She did not pack this box.

The dress has slipped from her hand, fallen in a pool of material at her feet, but she is not even fractionally aware of it. Because she just pulled a ring box she does not recognize from her suitcase and Jake has been suspiciously quiet.

Amy swallows and, with her breath held, carefully pops the lid back from the box.

The most beautiful ring she’s ever seen in her life is nestled in the cushion inside.

She has all of one second to truly appreciate it before her vision is blurred with tears. She’s frozen, rooted to the spot, alone in a bedroom in Paris with an engagement ring in her hand and she can’t make sense of this -

“Jake?” She starts toward the door, ring in her hand, but before she can even formulate the next question she’s brought up short once again.

The room has transformed in the few minutes she’s been in the bedroom. Flickering candles litter every available surface and the sun is setting outside the big bay window, so even though he’s dimmed the main lights she can still see the delicate flower petals strewn across the floor. One of their laptops is open, screen on and bright, filled with the faces of the rest of the Nine-Nine; it takes a moment, but she realizes belatedly that they’re Facetiming in, watching the whole thing live.

Jake’s on one knee, several feet in front of the laptop, looking breathless and nervous and excited all at once. He smiles at her, as bright as before, and holds one hand out to her.

It’s as if she’s in a trance; her feet carry her forward and she’s there, free hand in his as she clutches the ring box tightly in the other, heart pounding absurdly hard in her chest. “Hey,” he whispers through a smile, squeezing her hand reassuringly.

“Hi.”

“Ames,” he starts, and now she’s really crying. “You’ve made me happiest, luckiest guy on Earth. There aren’t - there aren’t words for how much I love you. Believe me, I tried looking for them. This was gonna be different, I was gonna go back to our rooftop and - it doesn’t matter,” he shakes his head and she laughs breathlessly, tearfully, mesmerised and transfixed at the vulnerability in his gaze. “I love you, so much , and - and I figured, if we’re both willing to die for each other, we might as well let the whole world know, too.”

He pulls the ring box out of her hand and flicks it open with his thumb, and her heart is flying, soaring , because his hand is shaking. “I spent way more than one dollar on this ring, but it’s okay because it all came out of the settlement that I lied to you about because I wanted to surprise you with the engagement ring you deserve. I want to give you everything you deserve, I wanna spend the rest of my life making you as happy as you’ve made me. Amy Santiago,” he pauses, swipes his thumb over her knuckles lightly, and takes a deep breath. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she breathes. He stares, and she nods, nods so fast her neck is already sore but it doesn’t matter because an impossibly-wide grin is splitting across his face and their friends are whooping so loudly the laptop speakers crackle, and she’s saying it over and over again, crying it out, even when it’s muffled against his lips and muted into his shoulder. Yes, yes , it’s the only word her brain will conjure as he slides the ring over her finger and mashes his lips against hers again.

It takes a few minutes - a few false goodbyes to a positively weeping Charles - but eventually they get the Nine-Nine off the line, leaving them alone in a dimly-lit room, surrounded by scented candles and a soft, glowing love reflected in the setting sun behind Jake’s back. He’s holding her hand tightly, so tightly, and his thumb keeps catching on the engagement ring. He can’t stop grinning at her, and she can’t stop grinning back, and they’re two idiots in love grinning at each other in a chateau in Paris.

Two engaged idiots in love grinning at each other in a chateau in Paris.

“So...what now?” Jake asks tentatively.

“Now...now we start our future.”

He grins, a breathless laugh escaping in a sharp exhale through his nose. “I meant for dinner, but that sounds really, really great, too.”

“Oh, we’re not eating dinner.”

“We’re not?” She shakes her head with a sly, suggestive grin, and starts walking backwards, toward the bedroom. It only takes a moment before he catches on. “We’re not !” He says enthusiastically.

She runs into the doorframe and can’t stop laughing, not even when he bends his knees and hooks his arms around her waist and lifts her up so that her toes are barely brushing the ground. She leans into his kiss, grinning when he hums in contentment, before pulling him back with a gentle tug to his hair. “I love you, Jake,” she whispers as she strokes the backs of her knuckles down his cheek.

He makes a soft noise of wonder in the back of his throat. “To the moon and back, Ames.” he murmurs.

They do not make it to the market until well into the following afternoon.