It’s a Friday night, and everyone got their paperwork in on time. Captain Holt left promptly at five for a weekend in the Poconos with his husband. You just wrapped up a big murder case, one you’ve been working doggedly for months. So when Rosa pulls a bottle of tequila out of her desk drawer and raises one eyebrow you just smile and pass her your empty coffee mug.
Turns out there’s probably a reason tequila is normally served in small, regulated portions.
Soon Rosa’s sloshing generous amounts of booze into NYPD mugs and water bottles, and looking a little impressed when you’re already asking for a refill.
Boyle has a supply of fresh citrus fruits in the fridge and flaked sea salt in his satchel, surprising no one. He announces that Vivian won’t mind if he’s a little late to dinner, and beaming, cuts a pile of limes into wedges with his portable chef’s knife.
Terry hovers, looking like he wants to intervene. Then he glances at the photo on his desk, and apparently remembers who his real kids are. A second later his coat’s on and he’s out the door, his parting cry of Make good choices hanging in the hot, stuffy air.
Peralta hooks up his iPod to some computer speakers, and a few shots later Rosa’s pulling you out of your chair, basically forcing you to dance with her to that Jason Derulo song you always pretend to hate when it comes on the radio. You’re rolling your eyes, because everything about this is ridiculous, but the truth is you’re having fun. The lyrics are stupid, but the sax riff after the chorus is insane. Your tongue is buzzing, and your limbs feel heavy and light at the same time. You sway your hips, slide your hands up your sides, and look up to see Peralta staring at you.
Contrary to popular belief, you’re not totally oblivious. You know the two of you have chemistry. It’s why you work so well together, the 60% of the time you don’t actively want to kill him. He’s attractive (though you’d die before admitting it to him - he’s obnoxious enough as it is). You’re attractive, more so on the rare occasions you dig out the makeup that you depressingly inherited from your thirteen year old cousin.
So it’s really not that weird that he’s looking at you. Anyway, you must be quite a sight right now, with your hair loose around your shoulders, your lips bright and glossy in preparation for meeting Teddy later.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? Something’s changed since you’ve started seeing Teddy. All of a sudden he’s acting a little distant – most people wouldn’t notice the difference, he’s still weird goofy Jake, but he hasn’t made a joke about the name of your hypothetical sex tape once this week. And then you catch him looking at you when he thinks you won’t notice, all sad and serious.
You’re pretty sure you know why, and you’ve thought through the implications, and honestly it makes you feel a little sick. Not in a ew, gross way, but in a scary, swoopy, professional relationship (and okay, friendship) jeopardising way.
But you’ve found the solution to that feeling, and – surprise! – it’s alcohol. He’s leaning back against his desk and watching you with an intensity that you’re not sure you’ll ever get used to. But you hold his gaze, and cock an eyebrow, and your smile is like a dare. He smiles back and licks his lips a little, and you swear to God that’s not why you suddenly stumble.
Trying to cover for yourself, you raise your palms and beg to be relieved of dancing duties. You retreat to sit on the edge of Scully’s desk, your face burning. Gina nods appreciatively and asks if you’d consider joining Floorgasm.
There’s a minute when everyone’s just milling around, nodding to the music and smiling at each other. It’s nice. You like these people a lot. They’re weirdos, but they’re your family. You love your job, and you really love the Captain (whoops, tone it down), and standing here with your team, it’s just a good moment, okay?
So Rosa goes ahead and ruins it.
We should do body shots.
You may be positively overflowing with liquid courage, but you know for a fact that it’s a terrible idea. It’s like playing Never Have I Ever (Peralta’s favourite stake-out game, by the way, until you put a total moratorium on it after, oh, a week of working with him). It can only end in awkwardness, often coupled with overwhelming feelings of sexual inexperience and inadequacy.
Ok, maybe that’s just Never Have I Ever.
So you’re protesting, but as usual no one’s paying any attention. Peralta’s cheering, and Boyle’s passing his weird fancy salt, and Gina – yep, Gina is splashing tequila into a mug and licking a long stripe up Rosa’s neck. While the males of the precinct, and, okay, you, watch dumbfounded, she shakes salt onto the damp patch of skin and leans back in.
Your eyes are still fixed on them, so you just catch the moment when Gina looks up, her tongue still swiping salt and Rosa’s skin, and winks at Boyle. Fiancé or no, the poor man looks like he’s forgotten how to breathe.
Gina takes a swig from her mug, and Rosa pops a wedge of lime in her mouth just in time for Gina to bite it out. You’re laughing breathlessly because you feel like finally you’re friends with the cool girls, and Peralta looks like all his Hanukkahs have come at once.
Rosa decides that it’s her turn, and moments later is licking salt from Gina’s navel to a chorus of claps and cheers. Meanwhile Hitchcock already has his shirt off, of course, and Scully is shaking salt onto his shoulder, and ew ew ew, no.
You look away, and your eyes catch Peralta’s. He pulls a face at you, all look at these idiots, and you shrug and smile right back. There’s something behind his expression that you can’t quite read, which is weird, because he’s normally an open book. Because his grin takes up half his face, but you’d swear he’s worried, or nervous or something.
Then Gina’s shouting Amy and Jake!
No, no, no, no...
Rosa looks straight at you, in that piercing way she has, and you wordlessly beg her to put a stop to this. The corner of her mouth quirks upwards, and she yells, Yeah, Santiago and Peralta! Step up!
You dare to glance at Peralta, and he looks just as traumatised as you by this turn of events. And in a weird way, that makes you feel better. Because if he’s the one who’s nervous, and panicking, and thinking about the consequences...
That means that just this once, you don’t have to be, right?
Besides, everyone’s drunk, and everyone’s doing it. Hitchcock and Scully are taking turns doing body shots off each other, and that doesn’t mean there’s anything sexual between them, does it? (Oh, god, does it?!)
And at the back of your mind, there’s the fact that you’re seeing Teddy later. For once, you’re the one with the active dating life. There’s a guy coming to your apartment later who wants you, and who isn’t afraid to tell you so. And the knowledge that you’re going to have sex tonight, and it’s going to be awesome – it fills you with a strange and wonderful confidence. Is this what empowerment feels like? If so, you love it!
So as Peralta shakes his head and looks at the ground, you unbutton the top of your blouse and step forward.
Rosa bites back a smile, and Gina’s mouth is hanging open, and Peralta looks like he’s about to bolt. But Boyle’s pushing the salt towards him with a sly grin, and you’re popping a wedge of lime into your mouth as you undo another button.
Come on, you say, thrusting the tequila towards him, but it comes out fairly unintelligible, what with your mouth all full of lime. You make yourself giggle, and the juice is cool and sour against your tongue.
His eyes meet yours for a moment, and seem to ask you what the hell you think you’re doing. You just roll your shoulders back and smile. His eyes flicker down, taking in all of you. You have a feeling he’s looking for a safe place to – oh god – to lick. But your sleeves are long and buttoned at the wrist, and your shirt is still mostly tucked into your pants, and your hair is sticking to your neck.
Your cleavage is pretty much the only exposed skin available. Apart from your hands.
You slip them in your pockets.
Your colleagues are chanting your names, and Peralta’s stepping towards you warily, and you’re trying not to let your smile falter.
It’s all in good fun, you tell yourself. This is what normal people in their twenties do with their unnervingly attractive co-workers. No biggie.
Even so, your heart feels like it’s going to thump right out of your chest.
Then he’s right in front of you, trying to distract you from your inner pep-talk with his dumb muppet face. Santiago, he says, I knew this day would come. He’s trying to play it like this is just a big joke to him, but you see the way he swallows like he’s running out of air.
So you lean back against the desk, and glance down at your breasts (your shirt is still mostly buttoned, but you’re far more exposed than anyone at the precinct is accustomed to seeing you), and smile innocently at him. You remove the lime wedge from between your lips.
What’s the hold up, Peralta? Are you chicken or something?
His eyes darken, and in a second he’s bending down and his tongue is dragging up the centre of your cleavage. You barely have time to register the sensation before he’s pulled back, shaking salt haphazardly down the front of your shirt, determinedly avoiding eye contact. This time you make sure you pay attention as he leans in, you catalogue the way his tongue feels hot and rough against your skin as he licks up the scattered crystals of salt.
Then you’re sucking in a breath as he tips his head back and swallows the tequila straight from the bottle, one gulp, two, wayyyyy more than a single shot, his eyes slammed closed as everyone except you whoops and cheers.
He tears his mouth away from the bottle with an audible pop, his eyes watering. He glances at the lime, held loosely in your fingers where they hover by your mouth. Then his gaze settles on your lips.
You pop the lime back in your mouth, and without a second’s more hesitation, he leans in to take it from you. Your eyes flutter closed as his face draws near, which is ridiculous, because it’s not like this is a kiss or anything. Just because his lips brush against yours, and his nose nudges your cheek, and hand is grazing your upper thigh.
It’s not... that’s not anything.
You open your eyes as he pulls away, just in time to see him bite down on the lime. You’re both breathing a little heavier than normal, and you’re both looking at each other’s mouths. And in that moment, you’re so, so glad that everyone else is here, because if it was just the two of you, you know without a doubt that something would happen. And you’re not ready for that. Not yet.
As it is, Rosa points out that Peralta finished her tequila, and Boyle announces that he needs to get back to Vivian, and everyone gathers up their bags and coats. You all traipse outside together, these people who you didn’t choose to spend half your waking hours with but who you love all the same. Boyle’s offering lifts because apparently the sneaky bastard was sober the whole time, but there’s not enough seats and he’s going in the wrong direction, so you volunteer to take a cab.
Boyle offers the last seat to Peralta, but he says he’d rather walk. Boyle looks like he wants to say something, but glances at you and keeps quiet. He wishes you goodnight and pulls away from the curb, Rosa in the front seat taking control of his radio, Scully and Hitchcock in the back already passed out on each others’ shoulders.
You stand on the sidewalk with Gina and Peralta, keeping an eye out for an available cab. Gina stares at you for a long minute, then does the same to Peralta.
Wow, she announces. The sexual tension here is off the chain. I’m gonna skedaddle.
She saunters off around the corner, leaving a heavy cloud of awkwardness in her wake.
Peralta chuckles, his hands deep in his pockets. Crazy night, huh? He clears his throat. What’re you doing now?
You almost want to hug him, standing there all tall and gangly and hopeful. Honestly, he’s one of your best friends – you can admit that to yourself when you’re pretty drunk.
But you tell him you’re meeting Teddy, and you watch his smile fade. A cab draws near, and you hail it. You barely glance backwards to say goodnight, your mind already drifting into the approaching hours, to Teddy’s mouth against yours, your legs around his waist.
And maybe someday, you’ll want Peralta’s tongue on your skin again. Maybe next time his lips brush yours, you’ll lean in.
But not just yet.