It wasn’t the first case they had worked together since he had been back. It was the third. He had the psych eval and was given an adequate (they presumed) adjustment period before coming back to work, and even then he had only actually been out in the field since last week. And he had been making jokes like always the whole time. She knew everything wasn’t all fine and dandy like he was acting, but…
She didn’t have a good reason for the but.
She was afraid. She knew everything wasn’t all fine and dandy like he was acting, but she was afraid.
Amy was afraid of what he said, and what it meant, and what she wanted. So she had been withdrawn and just a step above formal around her partner. She didn’t know what to do, and she always knew what to do. She had never not known what to do. So she hid inside herself and behind a false pretense, but she was really regretting that decision on their 3rd case together since he got back.
He hadn’t talked to her about everything, or really anything that had happened while he was away. She hoped he was talking to somebody. She was sure he’d have mandatory counseling sessions that would decrease in frequency over the next few months, but that didn’t mean he was actually talking to anyone.
She at least made sure they weren’t called onto any murder scenes since he got back, just in case. But he wasn’t half of the idiot he acted like most of the time, so if she did anymore he would get onto her for babying him. He probably already realized she was doing it, but it was his third case so he didn’t have any real evidence to accuse her with, and robberies weren’t too much of a step down from murders (well, kinda, but it wasn’t like she was trying to bore him to death).
She never should have taken her eyes off of him.
Amy swore it was only for a second. She was in the middle of telling him something when she looked up to see his response and saw that he was missing. Logically she knew that he could have just walked into another room and nothing was wrong when he seemingly disappeared, but she knew that wasn’t the case.
She made a quick sweep of the apartment and wasn’t at all surprised to not find a trace of him. He wasn’t in immediate view when she checked out in the hallway, but she knew he wouldn’t have just walked off for no reason without telling her- even if he had a ridiculous reason he would have said at least a word. She walked down the length of the hallway and was about to turn around when she heard someone gasping for breath, and it wasn’t any use pretending she didn’t know who it was without even seeing him.
Jake was crouched on the floor with his back to the wall of the next hall that intersected with the one their crime scene was located in. His inhales were so empty and slight, but she could literally hear that each one was getting shorter than the failure before it.
“Jake?” She asked with such a sense of apprehension that it sounded like she was checking if he was even still alive, and if he was then checking if he would crumble at the sound of her voice.
“Don’t-” he croaked and held out a hand to ward off her approach that she hadn’t even begun yet. It was that motion that encouraged her to move, because until then she had been frozen to the spot. She wasn’t proud that she froze when he needed her, but she decided beat herself up over it later. He never froze when she was gasping for breath.
“It’s okay, Jake. It’s okay. You’re doing fine. Just take a-” she had been using her soothing voice as she got closer to him, but the hand she placed on his shoulder was too much.
“Don’t,” he gasped in what was surely as close to a scream as his body would allow him at the moment and shoved her back with shaky hands. There was barely any force behind his hands, but it was the emotional punch they packed that knocked the wind out of her.
She didn’t freeze this time. She had done enough freezing for the day. She immediately turned around and sent one of the techs from the crime scene down to him while she informed another one of proper techniques for dealing with panic attacks before sending her off down the hall too.
The first tech she sent as soon as she saw him so Jake wouldn’t be alone when he couldn’t breathe. The second was so someone could actually help him breathe, because the first one sure as hell didn’t know what to do.
But she didn’t want him to be alone.
She was sure she called or texted someone from the nine nine right after that, but she didn’t remember who. It didn’t really matter who.
She felt awful for not being there with him, but he needed to breathe and not to fight her trying to help him. If she went back it would only be making herself feel better, because he sure as hell didn’t want her there.
It wasn’t any use pretending that she didn’t know why he pushed her away so hard and fast.
She tried to pretend that nothing had changed, or at least pretended to be ignorant of her avoidance of the change. Jake pretended to be normal too, but she wasn’t sure who started first.
She was afraid it was her. She was afraid that she started pretending first when he needed the real her, and then he just went along with it and pretended to be ignorant too.
Even if it wasn’t her that started it, she should have been the one who stopped it and pulled him out of it.
They were partners. They balanced and compensated for each other’s weaknesses and flaws. He always made up for the areas and times she was more than a little lacking. He always helped her.
Everyone knew that Jake was emotionally avoidant. It was one of the most problematic things about him that was normally so frustrating. She knew that. She had always known that.
Amy should have picked up the slack when he needed her, but she didn’t. She knew exactly why he pushed her away.
He had always helped her breathe before.
She didn't know what she did between the last time she saw him and the next time. She was on autopilot with no black box recording for hours, but the next time she saw him all the lights flashed back on. She wished they hadn't though.
If she had stayed on autopilot even after seeing him then she could have had a hope of talking to him like normal.
But then she realized that if he needed her, he would need the real her. And if she could talk to him normally on autopilot and if she was a complete wreck as herself, he needed to see the wreck.
If he wanted to, that is.
She hated herself that it was all her fault and that she was wishing it was easier on her.
She was typing at her desk in the middle of a word when she came back to life.
The little cursor line was blinking after the letters rec, but she didn't know what word it was supposed to be. Reconciliation, recover, recognize.
She couldn't even focus her eyes enough to read the beginning of the sentence and use context clues.
When he sat down across from her the look on his face was so contrite she was reminded of two more words: recompense and rectify.
But the one word that described everything she was feeling was heartbreak.
The look of regret on his face was breaking her heart.
“You don't have to apologize,” she interrupted him, because if she heard the end of that word she didn't know if she would make it to see tomorrow. “You didn't do anything wrong.”
He gave her a single nod and she would have attempted to smile at him if he ever looked back up at her.
Which he didn't. He just stared at his hands while she stared at him.
The cursor was still blinking following rec, but she never bothered to try to finish the word.
“C’mon, I'm driving you home.”
He didn’t fight her on that demand. It wouldn’t have mattered if he did because Amy wouldn’t have taken no for an answer, but he didn’t even try. The old Jake would have at least attempted to put up a front of a fuss, but this one didn’t.
She didn’t mean to call him that. It wasn’t old Jake and new Jake. It was just Jake. The same Jake Peralta and she was the same Amy Santiago. Over the years they had always grown and progressed together, but this time they were apart and they had both changed so much. But he was still Jake Peralta who she was head over heels in…
She never told him.
He didn’t say a word the whole time. Neither did she. It was only supposed to be a drive. Or at least that was all she claimed it was supposed to be. That was all she demanded and asked of him. That one sentence.
But when she parked outside of his apartment building and got out with him to ostensibly walk him to his door he didn’t even mention it. He didn’t tell her she was being sappy or melodramatic by walking him to his door, and he didn’t even make fun of her for it.
The whole way was made in silence and she wasn’t sure of what she was going to do when he got his keys out and unlocked his door, but after he entered and took off his shoes he left it slightly ajar, left it open for her to follow. Not open enough that it would make a huge deal if she just walked away and he had to close it himself, but open enough that she knew it was an intentional invitation, so she took it and closed the door behind her.
He dropped his bag and jacket in heap on the floor like he always did. Instead of hanging hers up in the closet that only had hangers that she had given him, or even laying them down on the counter, she just dropped her stuff in the mess on top of his.
Jake sat down on the couch and turned the TV on like everything was normal, but it wasn’t. Nothing was normal. He wasn’t normal, and that meant she wasn’t normal.
She sat down next to him and hugged him, but those weren’t the most accurate words. She practically sat on him and wrapped her arms around him and did her best to cover him with her body.
And he froze and stiffened, because this wasn’t normal either.
Amy Santiago sheltering Jake Peralta wasn’t normal.
Not just in the sense that she was trying her best to be all around him so his skin didn’t even touch the air of the outside world. She was, but it didn’t work as well as she’d like, because Jake always was bigger than her.
The shelter of his arms was always enough to keep her safe from the world.
And this whole time she didn’t even try to do the same for him.
Even if it was just as stupid as giving him one of her firm handshakes that he always complimented her on.
She didn’t even try to reassure him with something as simple as a touch, and she hated herself for that. He was always there for her. Whether she needed jokes and laughter or if she just needed someone to be quiet and close to her.
But then he relaxed under her, and she could feel his breathing and tried to keep his pace, but he was breathing much too calm for her guilty and greedy lungs.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She meant to say more but she couldn’t even finish that without a single sob that let him know that she was without a doubt crying even though her face was buried in his chest. As she took in those shaky breaths his arm wrapped around her and he began stroking her hair, over and over again. Even though it wasn’t normal, it felt right.
“I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” he said softly and she hated herself even more.
“Shut up. Shutupshutupshutpshutup,” Amy ordered, but it was more of begging, at the very least a request. “You’re supposed to make me feel bad, and I hate that you’re not. And I’m making me feel bad, and I know I’m making you feel worse cause I’m here and I’m-” she hiccuped and squeezed him tighter because she knew he could feel her tears soaking his shirt and she didn’t have to say it out loud. “But I don’t care. I know I should and I’m sorry I don’t, but I just want to keep being selfish and stay here with you, okay?”
She snapped like she was angry, and she was- but it was obvious who she was angry at.
“I know I should stop crying and I know I should leave but- I can’t do that, Jake. I just can’t. And I’m so, so sorry that I -”
It took her a good 60 seconds filled with swallowing to try to get the lump out of her throat before she could get a single word out that was still just another syllable away from breaking.
His pause was even longer than hers, so long that she wasn’t sure he was ever going to give her an answer, and if he didn’t say a word the rest of the night at least that meant he wouldn’t tell her to go.
“Okay, Amy. You can stay.” His voice didn’t sound too far off from hers, and her name spilled out strangled like a wreckage from his mouth.
She wasn’t sure if he was crying too with tears like she was, but she didn’t dare check. She knew he was stupid with emotions and wouldn’t want her to see if she was. He had given her so much, and he was letting her stay, so she could at least give him that.
She couldn’t even acknowledge his words with anything more than a nod because any vocalizations from her end would really start her off, but she hugged him so tight that he had to get the message.
And if she did feel a drop of water or two land on her head, she didn’t acknowledge that either.
She just held him while she was the most selfish person she knew, but she knew him too and knew he didn’t mind. He was so kind and selfless while all she did was take. And she was going to keep whatever he would give her, and she hoped that he would never stop giving himself to her because she was horrible and wanted all of him for her alone.
She was always so scared and took every bit he ever offered her and gave him nothing in return, and she hated herself for that. She was always so scared of giving any part of herself to anyone, but she was snatching every bit of Jake up the entire time.
When he gave her shelter she hoarded it like it could disappear at any second, when in reality she knew it would never leave. She never should have doubted him. She doubted everything around her, and even herself. But she never should have doubted Jake.
Amy wasn’t going to tell him now that she loved him, because he didn’t need that this night. He didn’t need any pressure because he thought she had expectations of him, even though she didn’t have, and never had, any expectations of him.
He didn’t need to hear it that night.
But she was going to tell him soon. He had waited so long to hear it. The six months of separation and the weeks of emotional distance since he got back was more waiting than he ever deserved. And she had kept the words from him the whole time.
She could at least give him the words that she’d always been too afraid to say.
Of all the times Amy imagined sleeping in his bed, next to him, she never pictured them both fully dressed with her as big spoon. When she pictured their first night (if they were ever going to have a first night) she always thought there would be a lot less clothes. Not him in pajama pants and a long sleeve shirt even though the night wasn’t that cold. He was wearing short sleeves the whole day, but she guessed that being covered when he went to bed was a comfort.
They had been sitting there for hours, and it was past midnight when they moved off the couch and he told her to go home, but she refused. He gave her some sweatpants and one of his shirts because she wouldn’t even leave his side to go home and get something more comfortable to sleep in than her work clothes.
He turned his fan on high and she didn’t even think twice about it, not even enough to mention it, but he made an excuse anyway.
“If I don’t keep the fan on then it’ll be too hot for a blanket, and then what will keep the monsters from eating my toes?”
And he had that silly slight smile on his face that she missed like heaven and earth.
Ever since he had been back, the whole 3 weeks, he looked tired. But he didn’t look tired now. Right now, Jake Peralta looked sleepy. Not tired. Like he needed rest, but he was ready for dreams and not nightmares.
All dozy and dopey with a lightness that she felt like she hadn’t seen for ages, but she knew exactly how long she had been missing it. He was sitting on his bed while she was still standing, but she soon made quick work and crawled in next to him. Jake tried to shift into a better position but she pushed him back until his head hit the pillow and she wrapped her arms around him.
“Go to bed, sleepyhead,” she murmured affectionately as she pulled him closer when her advice equally applied to her too.
“I’m already in bed, but you get points for rhyming. We should write a rap in the morning.”
“Be quiet and close your eyes, okay? You’ll be asleep before you know it.”
He shifted and settled into her and she was so exhausted that she could barely keep her own eyes open.
Being enveloped in his scent while she got to grip him so tightly was just another thing she didn’t deserve. She reasoned it wasn’t too selfish since she knew he didn’t have anyone else to spoon with, but even if he did she knew she wouldn’t have let them.
She had never carried him, while he had never failed her.
“Okay, Amy,” Jake whispered, and she knew she had to tell him. Soon. Tomorrow night at the latest. She was going to tell him she loved him.
But tonight she got to hold him in the harbor of her arms. She didn’t deserve him. She didn’t deserve any part of him. But she could at least give all of herself to him, even though he had never asked for just a single piece in return.
He would have caught her if she had offered nothing.