The volume in the bar was set to a dejected murmur, so Amy Santiago felt right at home. She slid onto a stool by the counter and gestured for a drink. The bartender knew her order by now; two weeks in the city, every other night spent at this same stool, with that same frustrated frown on her face- it made her easy to remember. That and the giant black duffel bag at her feet, stuffed to the brim. Although the bartender glanced at it occasionally, he was as likely to mention that bag as he was to ask her what she was drinking tonight. The bar had become her regular spot the moment it was clear that people there didn’t ask to many questions.
Amy could have left the bag in her car, but she was comforted by being able to tap it with her toe. She justified it once, to the team’s head Hunter, Holt, by animatedly explaining how she was always going to be ready. He’d simply pointed out that she could keep a weapon in a side bag. His point was valid, and she was left admitting to herself- but not to him- that the bag was as good as a security blanket at this stage. Filled with weapons fired and cleaned and tested, but never really used properly. She didn’t know when and if she’d need each one, and so instead of abandoning them to the car, where she could end up without her shotgun or silver-bulleted assault rifle or a blowtorch, she would have each of them at her fingertips at all times.
The second beer of the night arrived in front of her- tonight she wasn’t in much of a mood to be cheery and talkative with the bartender, and so it was as if beers arrived in front of her by magic instead of being placed there. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t have spoken if prompted- it was more that she was worried about talking too much.
What’s got you looking like that tonight, was a question that she could only dance around, but knowing her she would ramble around it, dropping to many hints about the specific truths. Inevitably, she’d embarrass herself and have to excuse herself, and she wasn’t looking forward to that.
With a sigh, she drank her beer and scanned the room. She didn’t know any of the faces beyond the ‘I think they were there last night’ level of recognition. The first few nights she’d been at the bar she’d attempted to bring along familiar faces, but since she’d been on rotation with Scully and Hitchcock, they weren’t actually very pleasant company. Terrible drinking buddies, actually, who tended towards showing repulsive semi-healed scarring even before they’d had their first drink. She’d rather the seats next to her be empty, if that was her only option.
“Gimme the usual.”
Amy nearly jumped as someone sat down in one of the empty seats beside her. She hadn’t realized that the bar was full enough to make those seats actually appealing places to sit. She scooted her stool over so the newcomer wouldn’t feel like she was crowing them, and then finally took the opportunity to look up in their direction.
And then she immediately glanced away from the tall, curly haired occupant of the stool next to her. The tall, curly haired patron in a leather jacket and slim dark jeans and boots that looked as if they could kick through a wall and their wearer wouldn’t feel a thing.
“Not staring’s worse than staring.”
Amy felt her stomach drop and her heart skip, but now that was mostly embarrassment than anything else. “Um, excuse me?”
“If you’re gonna stare, do it,” the woman said, although for the first few words of her sentence she didn’t bother to look Amy’s way. When she finally did, Amy blinked a few times, just for the sheer intensity of the woman’s incredibly reserved expression. “Better than punking out about it.”
Amy narrowed her eyes as she thought about it from that perspective. “I guess.” The bartender brought over a bottle and a glass and put it in front of the woman. Amy cleared her throat and shook her head. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me, I-”
“Don’t worry about it,” the woman answered, and Amy got the feeling that it wasn’t the first time that she’d had this conversation. “You smell better than most of the guys in this joint, I’m not complaining.” Whether it was the drink or the attention, Amy’s cheeks flushed warmly, and she stared down at her own bottle. The woman watched her for a second before gesturing at the bartender. “One more glass.”
“Oh, you don’t ha-” Amy started.
“I bought this to share, but the asshole I’m supposed to share it with is running so late I’ll have gray hair by the time he gets here. Go ahead.” The woman had a tendency to interrupt, but considering Amy was only going to ramble, Amy considered it a gift, preventing her from saying any of the things that she would inevitably say.
And it wasn’t as if anything else was happening for the rest of the night. Patrol was over, Hitchcock and Scully were fortunately far, far away, and it was nice having someone in the seat next to her. Amy smiled as she reached over and grabbed herself a glass, maybe a little too widely and trying a little too hard, but she meant it.
Rosa’s smile- they introduced themselves a little after the second glass-, on the other hand, was a little like a baring of teeth, but the delight in her eyes was as genuine as Amy’s giddiness. The smile did interesting things to Amy’s stomach, because she couldn’t remember ever seeing anyone who smiled like that before. She spent a few minutes running through the list of people she knew in her head, but none of them, not even Jeffords with a smile that could cow an entire army of the undead, smiled like Rosa did.
They moved from the bar to a table when another couple of patrons cleared out. Rosa slouched back in her seat lazily, like she might be tempted to fall asleep any minute, while Amy leaned in, her forearms on the table as she held her glass with both hands. Rosa’s smile made Amy smile. It was a little like a nod of approval from Holt during a patrol- it felt as if it took effort to win that smile, that Amy had won some competition that no one but she knew existed.
When they moved to the table, Rosa had reached down to take Amy’s duffel bag for her, but Amy was not so far gone that she didn’t quickly grab it herself. Now the bag sat by Amy’s feet again, like a cat curled against its owner.
Rosa glanced down at the bag again for the first time in what might have been ages (two hours, tops, Amy corrected herself, but it felt like ages). Her head still tilted down towards it, she glanced up at Amy. This many drinks in, that look, that seemingly expressionless but not blank look, made Amy feel warm. “So what’s in there? A body?” Her voice was flat, and so Amy stared, mouth gaping for a moment. “That was a joke.”
It didn’t sound like a joke, Amy thought, and the explanation that it was a joke didn’t sound any different from the joke itself, either. Fortunately Rosa replied fast enough that Amy’s brain didn’t automatically supply ‘You’re supposed to get rid of werewolf remains immediately- there is a window of post-mortem infectiousness and the parts of a werewolf could be used in too many dangerous magics.’ Even know, turning bright red and hyper aware that Rosa probably thought she was an absolute freak, Amy couldn’t help but mentally run through all the rituals she’d been educated on.
“I, uh, it’s…my work bag?”
“That a question?”
Amy drank some more and cleared her throat. “Work out bag,” she corrected herself. “For the gym.” Rosa clearly didn’t buy it, but she didn’t seem to care all that much. She glanced over her shoulder at the door; while she was turned away, Amy cursed under her breath and mouthed, ‘work bag,’ mortified. She coughed again. “Are you waiting for someone?” She asked. She winced at herself; she knew the answer already. “I mean, they haven’t called or sent you a text about being late or…?”
Rosa shrugged as she turned back. “He’ll be here whenever. He’s usually late.”
“He?” Amy tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice, but she’d never been very good at that. What she was good at was recovering with a little too much enthusiasm, as if she could bury it under the exuberance of her voice. “Well I’m sure he’s just busy or got tied up or-”
“Nah,” Rosa shook her head. “He probably just overslept.”
“He takes his naps seriously.”
“Oh, okay.” Rosa snorted. “What?” Amy pulled back defensively in her seat.
Like it was a dance, Rosa leaned forward, filling the space Amy had just made. “It’s hot when you do that.”
Amy very nearly choked, in spite of the fact that there was nothing to choke on. “Do what?”
Rosa’s smiled her teeth-baring grin again, which helped nothing. “That blushing thing. Do it again.”
Flabbergasted, Amy couldn’t help but do it again. “I don’t- that’s not a thing I can just do on command.” Rosa raised an eyebrow, and Amy took a breath to recover. “I…” Amy pressed her lips together firmly to give herself a second. “Aren’t you waiting for someone?”
“You just asked that.”
“I mean- you can’t just say that I’m doing something ‘hot’ while you’re waiting for someone,” Amy stammered. “It’s ridiculous, for one, it’s not true, for another, and it seems disrespectful to the person you’re waiting for.”
“Huh?” Rosa screwed up her face in confusion. “How?” Before Amy could put it in plain terms, the door to the bar opened, and Rosa turned her head. She seemed to lose temporary interest in the conversation- a good thing for Amy, because it forced Amy to stop speaking, and a bad thing because Amy was surprisingly annoyed that Rosa was paying attention to something else.
Rosa nodded towards the man that walked into the bar, and he nodded back, that solid single-movement nod perfected by people way too cool to wave (cooler, occasionally, than Amy). The newcomer walked over to the table, grabbing a chair on the way over and dragging it to the table.
“Am I interrupting something?” He didn’t wait for anyone to respond to him. “Of course I am. Couldn’t wait a little bit for me for me, huh?” He shook his head and tsked- but in shaking his head really noticed Amy for the first time. “Hello.” She made a face at his tone. “And I am incredibly rude for not introducing myself. Jake. Jake Peralta.”
“Jake, Amy.” Rosa handled the introductions sharply, succinctly. “Amy, Jake. He’s the asshole I told you about.” Jake shook his head no, opening his mouth to argue the point. “She’s not interested.” She spoke to Jake, but kept her eyes on Amy; her gaze alone was a question that made Amy blush for what felt like the twentieth time that night.
Still, the fact that Rosa made the situation- insomuch as it was a situation beyond two women talking in a bar- clear made a thrill curl up Amy’s stomach and spine. She smiled- no, beamed- in Jake’s direction, and couldn’t help but pose a little with the angle of her shoulders as she confirmed Rosa’s statement. “No offense, Jake, I’m sure you’re a great guy and all-”
“He’s not,” Rosa assured her, while Jake countered with, “I am.”
Amy hesitated at both interjections, blinking. “-but I’m…” She smiled over at Rosa, and her already large smile became overlarge, “…not interested.” She hoped- hoped- that made it clear enough for Rosa and Jake both that there was someone at the table she was interested in. She nearly frowned, immediately worried that she was being too forward, but then recovered; after all, it wasn’t as if Rosa had been being coy, right?
Jake shrugged. “Your loss.”
He didn’t sound nearly as crude as Amy would have expected, but still… “I’m sure,” she replied dryly.
“So what were you two ladies doing besides drinking the drink I should have drinking hours ago?” Jake asked. It was unfortunate that as much as he got one part of the message, he wasn’t moving. Although, Amy supposed, Rosa had been waiting for him in the first place.
Rosa rolled her eyes. “I’ve gotta jet,” she told Amy. “We’ve got things to do. You got a phone?”
Amy was disappointed for a beat, but brightened up with an exuberant nod. “Absolutely. Of course.” Did she sound too excited? Maybe. Probably. She should have probably relaxed, but she’d already said it, so she hoped that her more somber expression covered up for it. Jake’s amused sidelong expression towards Rosa said otherwise. Rosa sighed and gestured towards Amy. “Right.” Amy dug in her jacket pocket for her phone- an action that the drinks they’d shared made slightly more difficult than it should have been- and passed it over to Rosa.
Two seconds later Rosa handed Amy back the phone. “Text me.”
Amy had to remind herself to stop nodding once Rosa and Jake had left the table.