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i've been waiting for you

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November 13th, 2020

 

/2109 hours/

 

Jake loves movies, catchy music, and his wife.

Watching Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again on Netflix and cuddling on the couch is therefore one of the best evening concepts there ever was in his eyes, second only to non-stop sexy-timez with his wife. Those nights are also pretty dope.

But really, Mamma Mia comes close.

He’s been relegated to the floor with his back against the sides of the couch seats tonight. Amy heartily suggested the armchair when he insisted she’d take up the whole couch and its pillows and blankets for now - She deserves it, what with being 38 weeks pregnant and constantly hot and uncomfortable and just having had her first day of maternity leave after working desk duty as long as she could - but this is more than good enough for him. He reaches to hold her hand like this, being close while also giving her space to stretch out and put her feet up.

She’s squeezing a little hard is all. Like, similar to the way she did when they watched American Horror Story together for the first time and she almost crushed the bones in his hand to smithereens.

But the scariest part of Mamma Mia so far has been when Jake for a second believed Bill and Harry wouldn’t make it to the hotel opening. So that shouldn’t be it.

“Ames?”

“Yeah?”

He turns around to face her, meeting a tired smile not quite reaching her eyes. The whole third trimester pregnancy thing is getting on her nerves by now; exhaustion and backaches and random bouts of crying she can’t quite control leading to crying over the fact that she can’t control it will do that to just about anyone, but it still pains him to see how tired she is of it. Fifteen days left - less if they’re lucky, more if they’re not. “You okay there? Squeezing a little hard, babe.”

“Oh. Sorry.” She makes the grip more loose, sitting up straighter in the couch and adjusting one of the decorative pillows behind her back. “Just some Braxton-Hicks, is all.”

Jake freezes instantly, eyes wide and hair standing on end. “Those are -”

“The practice contractions, which have been going on for weeks and will keep on doing so, because this little nugget is having the time of their life in there.” Amy presses lightly at the top of her stomach before moving his hand to the same spot. Even beneath fabric of the oversized NYPD t-shirt he feels it, tiny feet kicking against his palm with surprising strength and tenacity. “In-utero life, I guess. Still. They’re snug as a bug and enjoy kicking me in the ribs too much to ever want to evacuate.”

“You’ve been casually murdering my hand for the last hour, though.”

She rolls her eyes. “Fine, maybe they hurt a little. But it’s nothing, honestly”, she quickly adds upon noticing the over-excited look on Jake’s face. “They’re super short and far apart. We have over two weeks left until the due date.”

“Santiagos are always unwarrantedly early for everything, alas, our baby will be no exception”, he muses. Amy’s phone’s already in his hand, contraction timer app - which he did not know was a thing up until a month ago, but has been dying to use since because using it means they’ll be closer to meeting their kid - open and ready to go. “We’re going to time them so I can say I told you so when it turns out you’re definitely in labor.”

“Jake, no.”

“Jake, yes.”

“Fine, but only because I know it’s a false alarm. Give it to me.” She takes the phone from his hand and from that point onwards, him focusing anymore on the plot of Mamma Mia! is a lost cause for the night.

 

When the credits roll an hour later, they’ve timed four suspected contractions of ten to fifteen seconds with twelve to fourteen minutes in between.

Which is nothing, Amy dutifully reminds him with a satisfied smirk, and Jake groans when he has to admit defeat.

“Get out of there”, he mumbles with his lips against the baby bump when they eventually give up the timing. “C’mon, kiddo. Prove me right.”

He gets a prompt kick on the nose for that suggestion.






/2318 hours/

 

“What if this is the last night we go to bed without a baby?” He’s been asking her the same rhetorical question for over a week now, unable to shake the thought. For all he knows, he could be holding a baby in 24 hours. They could be on their way to the hospital. They could be walking up and down corridors. They could be hours or minutes away from being a family.

(His family.)

“You know I want them out of there as much - nope, scratch that, more - than you do”, Amy huffs as she moves decorative and regular pillows around in bed, putting them around and under herself for maximum comfort. It’s an entertaining sight, not fully being able to separate what’s her and what are pillows from under the covers, but it’s where their life is at right now. “But I’m positive it won’t be tonight. Or tomorrow.”

“Proving you wrong is going to be so much fun.” Jake unceremoniously tosses his hoodie on the floor before slipping into bed himself.

“You won’t”, she promises, letting out a content sigh when he moves closer to her and starts massaging her back, pressing his knuckles up and down her spine the way he knows makes her relax. “Mm, that’s nice. Thanks.”

“It’s just because I know it’s the last night”, he teases. They’re both aware it’s a blatant lie - he’d give her massages for the rest of her life if she requested - but he hears her laugh and it’s heaven, even when she’s exhausted and he’s about to doze off and he suspects she’s probably rolling her eyes at him again. He can’t confirm his suspicions with his eyes closed, but he knows her, and remembers the desperate lengths he used to go to to hear that laughter or see that eye-roll back when they were still mere deskmates and colleagues who worked well together.

Their kid is going to laugh at him. One day, they’ll be rolling his eyes at him, too.
Sue him for wanting them to get out now.

Also, he kind of misses being the little spoon. It’s a cuddle position he’s been denied for months now.

“Night, Jake.”

“Night, Ames. Tomorrow.”

“Nope.”

“You’ll see. I have a feeling”, he murmurs, lips against the nape of her neck.

“Shut up.”

“I love you.”

She sighs. “I love you too. Now please go to sleep.”

He turns off the bedside table lamp, leaving them in darkness when he gently wraps his arms around her.

Eight minutes later he has to turn it on again.

“Jake. Jake. ” He’s on the verge of falling asleep, already halfway into his dreamland of constant Die-Harding off roofs, eating display temperature Meat Supreme pizza and snuggling with his wife when her alarmed voice rouses him and reminds him he’s currently only doing one out of the three. Still pretty good.

“Mmmph”, is all he manages, feeling her twitching in his arms. “What?”

“Can you let go of me? I need to pee.”

“Y’went b’fore we went to bed”, he protests in a semi-coherent manner, not at all thrilled with having to let go of Amy. She’s warm and soft and smells like home and he was literally seconds from falling asleep.

“Yeah and I’m 38 weeks pregnant where rules about how often someone should pee no longer applies - Seriously, Jake, I have to.”

“Fine”, he relents, both letting go of her and helping to move pillows out of the way so she can climb out. He’s well on his way to close his eyes and try to drift off again when he hears a yelp of surprise. It makes him sit up straight in bed so abruptly he bangs his head on the metal bed frame before reaching to turn on the table lamp, a reverberating gong making him dizzy and causing him to lose focus for a few seconds while his head pounds. “What now?”

“I’m not sure”, Amy admits, voice stressed and eyes flicking from a dark, puddle-looking spot visible on their sheets to the way her own pajama pants have turned a darker shade of grey along the inside of her thighs and down her legs. “But, uhm, I might have been wrong before. About the false alarm. Maybe.”

She shuffles off to the bathroom at her best speed (not very fast, then) and Jake thinks he can hear a oh god it’s still happening from there, so he allows himself a triumphant victory gesture before getting out of bed.





November 14th, 2020

 

/0455 hours/

 

He’s had weird snack-runs before. From the ones Charles has dragged him on to buy octopus balls, to ones raiding the store of Cheetos on a dare by Rosa, to ones competing with Amy about who can come up with the craziest backstory about other customers and their purchases, Jake’s had his fair share, and yet this one wins. It’s not because of his outfit or the time - he’s visited the 24/7 corner store in sweatpants and at night more times than he can count - or the excessive sortiment of granola bars, fruit snacks and sour candy he’s buying. No, the reason it feels weird is because he knows it’s the last time he’s here in the familiarity of messy aisles and an odd arrange of customers before . The next time he picks up a six-pack of orange soda he’ll be rushing home to a baby afterwards.

(Their baby , he corrects himself.)

After drawing the conclusion that yes, there really wasn’t a better explanation for what happened than Amy’s waters breaking unless she was peeing herself every couple of seconds for an hour (and they did scratch that idea), sleep was no longer on the table for the night. They were having a baby. Soon .

Cue all of the panicking.

He’s managed to keep himself from spiralling too deep so far, shutting off the overthinking part of his brain and getting to work on more immediate concerns. Changing sheets. Helping Amy breathe through contractions, still short and far apart but bad enough to make her go nonverbal, close her eyes and squeeze his hand tight for as long as the wave lasts. Being punched by Amy for saying ‘I told you so’ at least five times. Calling their hospital, confirming they’ll be going there at eight or earlier if things pick up speed. Going through their hospital bags one last time. Buying snacks.

 

They’re prepared, of course. Everything from crib to clothes to stroller to a fully refurbished guest room turned kid’s room is ready to go, ready for their new arrival to be here and present and exist out in the world with them to make them a weird, perfect little Santiago-Peralta family. It’s all he’s been able to think about since March, and yet now when it’s happening he can’t wrap his head around it.
He’s held babies before. He’s babysat the Jeffords twins and Ava both with and without Amy, has fawned over and later played with Iggy on numerous occasions, learned how to bottle-feed, burp and change a baby during the Santiago family gatherings he goes to now. He’s made his way through three full books on babies and parenthood this year by sheer willpower alone. He adores this child to pieces already, and he’s so ready to have his son or daughter in his arms and say some super cool phrase like Welcome to the family, pal, but he’s also terrified beyond compare.

What if he fucks it up? What if he can’t handle the whole birth thing and faints in the middle of it all like the useless husband he so desperately wants not to be? What if something goes wrong and it’s somehow his fault?

There are too many what ifs and not enough answers, so he reluctantly pushes the thoughts aside and pays for the snacks.

 

A light drizzle dampens his hair when he leaves the store, jogging a little both to avoid the rain and to get home as soon as possible. Amy did promise to call if anything changed and he’s only been away for a maximum of twenty minutes, but it feels wrong, against his every instinct to leave her alone when she’s in pain.

It’s not like he’s ever doubted how astonishingly badass she is. He’s learned his lesson not to underestimate her the few times he has. But even if all he can do is stay by her side and keep telling her she’s doing awesome, he owes her that.

He counts the streetlights until he reaches their stoop, pretending the way becomes shorter in his doing so.

 

“Babe?” The hectic pace has made him short of breath when he reaches their door, another probable piece of evidence Terry’s right whenever he orders Jake to start working out more.

“In here”, he hears from what used to be the guest room mere months ago. With its white walls and picture frames, crib and changing table alongside one wall and bookshelf and dresser along the other, it’s both nonidentical to before and their new favorite room in the apartment. Decorating it with colorful details and surprising each other with a new stuffed baby toy - or in one case, a brand new armchair with matching footrest - has been a beloved hobby for both Jake and Amy during this pregnancy,  and damn it if the finished result doesn’t look adorable. Even Rosa has approved it after performing a few minor tweaks.

“I got all of the snacks we could ever need - what exactly are you doing?” Amy’s hunched over a pile of baby clothes on the violet long-pile rug, neatly folding and refolding onesies in meticulous style. She cranes her head at his words, meeting his confounded gaze with a no-nonsense one of her own.

“I’m folding laundry.”

“I see that. It didn’t occur to you, that, y’know, you’re in labor?” He gestures vaguely to the folded towel she’s still sitting on.

“So?”

“So, maybe laundry shouldn’t be your top priority? Have you tried, I don’t know, resting ?” He’s half kidding, but he’s also serious as he sits down and grabs a grey newborn onesie with rainbow hearts to help her. Amy’s expression remains neutral.

“The laundry needed folding”, she states in a serious-minded tone. “So I’m folding it.”

“Are you going to start doing dishes as well?”

She looks up at him, honest-to-god fear burning in her eyes. “Do we have dishes? I asked you to do the dishes, Jake.”

“Geez, Ames, I was kidding. We don’t have dishes, I did them before we went to bed.” He puts the folded item on top of the pile of ready ones. “How are you doing?”

“Oh, you know. Just breathing through nightmarish pain every ten minutes and mentally preparing to push a human out of me. Never been better.” She shrugs. “I needed a distraction.”

He opens his mouth to respond, but she shakes her head and leans against his chest while twisting her face, her hands gripping onto his shoulders while he presses a kiss to her forehead, rubbing circles at the small of her back as her breath shakes and after what feels like forever, stabilizes.

“You’re doing awesome”, he tells her when she sits back up, fixing her ponytail and going back to folding clothes in a matter of seconds.

“Don’t you dare stop saying it”, she whispers, but there’s a smile on her lips that wasn’t there before.






/0743 hours/

 

Informing Terry that he won’t be coming in to the precinct neither today nor in the following month is an interesting phone call.

“It finally happened?” Jake’s willing to bet good money the Sergeant is jumping up and down in his chair. “You guys are parents?”

“No, well, not yet - I guess it’s happening today - we just got to the hospital.”

They’re early, because of course they’re early, even with having had time to stop for Starbucks between their apartment and Brooklyn Methodist. The coffee burns the roof of his mouth and he didn’t pour enough sugar in, but after his sleepless night he’s inhaling the caffeine like it's air and he’s choking. Next to him in the passenger seat of their parked car, Amy’s staring out the window more than actually drinking from her own paper cup of decaf. He squeezes her shoulder before going back to the call.

“Keep us updated, alright? We’re all waiting. You two excited?”

Excited?

He’s sleep-deprived and jittery and trying his best not to freak out every time Amy does the forehead scrunch that means she’s in pain. Excitement has taken somewhat of a second place while Jake’s been dealing with it all. He’s reminded of it now, hearing the question from Terry at the same time he catches sight of the car seat they installed two weeks ago, visible in the rearview mirror from where he’s sitting.

Next time he drives this car there will be a baby safely strapped in there, wearing the adorable fluffy jumpsuit with ears packed in their hospital bag and either sleeping or screaming. Either case, it’ll be the scariest and most wonderful car ride of his life, driving both the love of his life and the most precious of cargo.

He looks over to Amy. He’s searching for signs of pain without realizing he’s doing it, but she appears fine for now, fingers dancing over the touch keyboard while she updates someone on the recent turn of events. There are bags under her eyes and she’s texting slower than usual, but he sees the grey message bubble pop up and she reads it and laughs before looking up at him and linking her left hand with his right.

They’re having a baby today, and it’s the most insane, incredible notion in the world to him to know that before the day is over he’ll most likely be holding their kid in his arms.

Today.

“Peralta? Earth to Jake”, Terry’s voice calls out from the other end of the phone. “I was asking if you’re excited?”

“Sorry. Yeah.” He coughs nervously. “Yeah, we are.”

“We’re all thinking of you! Oh, and everyone has lots of bets going, so Gina wants me to ask you to ask Amy to…”

“I’m hanging up”, he informs his boss before pressing the red symbol and pocketing his phone in the dark blue hoodie he’s chosen with care, the definition of care being he had exactly two clean hoodies at his disposal and Amy stole one of them. She looks cute in it, though.

“What’d Terry say?”

“He wished us good luck. Wanted to know if we’re excited. Are we?”

She nods. “I think so. Are you?”

“Not about seeing you in pain”, he admits and she lifts his hand to her lips, pressing a subtle kiss to it before answering.

“I’ll be fine, Jake.”

“I know.”

“We’ll have our baby after.”

“We will.” He grins at the thought. “We’re having a baby today.”

“We’re having a baby today.” Her repeating it is all it takes for them both to burst out laughing. “I can’t believe you were right.”

“I’m always right.” He opens the car door and grabs their bags from the backseat before helping Amy out and walking up to the parking meter. “How does this work? Where do I put the card?”

“Huh? You just push it in, babe.”

“Title of your sextape”, he teases, and she snorts before rolling her eyes. “Besides, Ames, I already did. That’s the whole reason we’re here.”

“I swear I hate your guts sometimes”, she mutters, massaging her temples.

“Joke’s on you, you’re having my baby.”

“Yeah. Today, apparently.”

 

“Mm, so you might not be having a baby today.” Up until this point, Jake’s been a fan of the friendly nurse with a ginger pixie cut who’s presented herself as Morgan. She seems knowledgeable, isn’t giving him the creeps, and she actually laughed at one of his jokes before.
He kind of wants to punch her in the face now, though.
“What do you mean?” He’s speaking before Amy has a chance to. “Water broke like, hours ago.”

“Contractions aren’t very strong or close together yet.” She sighs and gestures to the complicated-looking monitor Amy’s hooked up to before turning her focus to her, offering an apologetic smile. “And you’re only three centimetres dilated.”

Amy bites her lip. She has the same empty expression as the last time he forgot to DVR Property Brothers, only this time Jake’s not the source of disappointment. “Ah.”

“Since the waters broke and you are having some contractions, I assume you’d still like to get this going for real.” Morgan scribbles down something illegible at a chart before looking up at them again. “How do you feel about going for a walk?”






 

/An insight into Jake Peralta’s text messages/

 

From: Charles Boyle
10.09

IT’S HAPPENING I’M SO EXCITED

-

AAAAAAHHHHHHH

-

AAAAAHHHHHHHH

-

AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!

-

10.10

I can’t believe it’s finally happening

-

We’re going to be DAD BUDS

-

Should I order t-shirts????

-

10.16

I ordered the t-shirts Jakey

-

10.18

How’s it going??

-

I need constant updates

-

If things are moving slowly I have a bottle of buffalo-goat milk that’s supposed to really kickstart things

-

10.19

Should I come by??

-

10.22

Terry said I couldn’t but I still need CONSTANT UPDATES JAKE

-

/33 more text messages/

-

To: Charles Boyle

10.42

Love you bud, but if you don’t calm down Amy says we’re removing you from the first visiting shift

-

And trust me I don’t think you want her to be mad at you right now

-

Update you when I have time!!

-

 

From: Terry Jeffords

10.45

Carried Charles to his desk and hid his phone for you

-

GOOD LUCK!!

-

 

From: Rosa Diaz

11.03

If I hear anything bad about you from Amy after this I’m kicking your ass Peralta

-

11.04

Baby’s a girl btw

-

 

From: Group Chat - The SantiaBROS

11.14

Christian: WE HEARD THE NEWS

Christian: Happy for you

-

11.15

Julian: Assuming Amy’s off being badass, we’re counting on you to update us here

Julian: When’s the next Santiago gracing us with their presence??

-

11.19

Luis: Oh and Jake, kids look kinda weird when they come out. Don’t worry about it cause you’ll still think they’re cute, but like, don’t freak out. Just a word of advice from one dad to another

-

11.20

Tony: We’ve all heard the story, Luis. You’ll be fine Jake!! Give Ames our best, she’s got this

-

 

From: Karen Peralta

11.41

So excited for you two! Let me know how it’s going when you have time. Looking forward to meet my grandkid! ♥️

 

From: Gina Linetti
12.28
okay so here’s the rundown: don’t be an asshole, don’t make anything about you, don’t take it personally if amy yells at you, get her whatever she wants or needs, again don’t be an asshole man

-

12.29

but you and amy are a great team or whatever you’re gonna be fine

-

oh and don’t listen to rosa, baby’s a boy

 

From: Norm Scully

12.31

Terry saic you’re nt cobing to worj rodayy

-

Cam we havve the cookies in yr desk draeer

-

 

From: Raymond Holt

12.45

Dear Jake,
Terry has informed me Amy has gone into labor. I wish you a happy and healthy delivery. Please keep us updated.
Best, Raymond Holt

-

To: Raymond Holt

12.57

Thank you, sir.

 







/1424 hours/

 

“You’re really not feeling anything? No changes?”

“No, Jake. There has been no changes since the last time you asked forty-three seconds ago.” Her tone is short and snappy, but with regards to the situation they’re in he chooses not to take offense. He’s as frustrated over the standstill as she is. The lack of events is making him walk circles around the examination room they’re still stuck in, check his phone for the seventeenth time that hour time despite not knowing who to update on the fact that there are no updates, and, apparently, ask Amy the same question on repeat.

“Are you sure?”

“That I would notice if I had a contraction, since I’m on zero pain relief and have been feeling them since midnight up until an hour ago?” She gives him a sharp look from her half-sitting position on the examining bed. It’s the kind of look to drill deep into his soul and make him equally terrified and sometimes turned on at once, and he takes it as his official cue to shut the hell up.  

They’re nearing six and a half hours at the hospital. At least four of them has been spent walking or waddling up and down corridors, reminiscing about old times and laughing at the absurdity of how their previous childish rivalry and courtship has become a childish marriage now progressing to childish co-parenting.

If, you know, their baby would make an effort to get out anytime soon.

Despite their own indefatigable attempts to get things going through walking, sitting on a medicine ball, going up and down stairs, doing lunges and for a few minutes trying their best at dancing, contractions have not yet sped up. They’ve stopped.

Which is the very opposite of what they’re supposed to do. Jake knows that much.

 

A knock on the door makes him stop dead in his tracks, and his head swivels to see Morgan - the friendly nurse he definitely never considered punching in the face - back in the doorway.

“I thought I’d have a check on you again. Is that alright?” She’s talking to Amy. Everyone here is talking to Amy, and he’d kill them if they tried to do the opposite because he’s really not the one in focus here, but it's still odd to see them walk in and start putting monitors on her stomach without doing as much as acknowledging his presence. “You said contractions had stopped?”

Amy nods. “I haven’t really felt anything for an hour.”

The previously friendly smile on Morgan’s face turns into a stricter expression, scrutinizing eyes watching the unmoving one of the graphs appearing on the screen. “I can see. That’s... not great.”

“I figured.” Amy stretches out her hand and Jake’s there in what he’s sure is milliseconds, holding it when he sees her bite her lip and stare intently at the graphs. “So what’s going to happen? Do we just go home? Wait?”

“Not exactly. See that graph for baby’s heartbeat there?” They both nod this time. “It's a little high, which is a sign of stress. It’s not dangerously high at all, but it's… notable.”

“Oh.” She sounds apprehensive, much more silent than he’s used to, and he wonders what’s going through her head. He’s fully zoned out in a desperate try to avoid the outright panic creeping up on him, but he senses her fear and squeezes her hand tighter.

“I would like to put you on a drip with Pitocin to stimulate contractions. Make sure things are moving along.”

“...Okay. Yeah, okay.”

“We’ll keep monitoring the heartbeat and hopefully we’ll see some progress with the drip so we can move you to a birth suite.” Morgan gives Amy’s thigh a squeeze before once again writing something down and leaving the room. Although Jake knows it’s not her fault, he’s even more sure than before of how much he’d love to punch her.

He has no time to delve deeper in said feeling, though, because the second the door closes, Amy starts crying.

“Ames - no - hey - what’s happening?”

“I can’t do it”, she manages in between heaving sobs. “Look. Everything, everything’s stopped.”

“It didn’t stop”, he tries, wiping one of her tears away with his free thumb. “It’s… taking a break. We knew this could take a while. We researched this, remember? You made me read that whole super long book?”

“It’s not supposed to stop!”

“I don’t think giving birth is a supposed-to sort of thing, babe. And they’re giving you a drip...”

“I read about Pitocin”, she tells him sharply. “It could distress the baby. My body is, I am stressing our baby out because things aren’t happening and this drip could stress them out further and it’s my fault, it’s my goddamn fault.” She takes a break, panting for air in between the crying and quick-paced talking. “I don’t know why I thought - why I thought I could do this.”

“You are doing this”, he reminds her, suddenly unsure of what to say or what to do. She’s barely uttered a word of self-doubt since midnight, never told him anything along the lines of fearing she couldn’t handle this. The sudden change floors him.

“What if I can’t?”

That’s bullshit, he wants to say. Idiocy .

“Of course you can”, he opts for. “You’re, like, the strongest person I know. Stronger than Terry.”

She snorts in the middle of her crying. “Hilarious.”

“I’m serious. You’re a goddamn superhero, there’s no way on Earth you can’t do this.” He swallows, the sleep-deprivation and the emotional vulnerability of the milieu and situation they’re in bringing tears to the corners of his eyes, too. “Worst case scenario, you’ll have a c-section and I know that’s not what you wanted-” She gives him a death glare at the mere mention. “But you’ll survive it.”

There’s a moment of the closest thing to silence there can be in a hospital ward, the only sounds he’s hearing the humming of a ceiling fan and the pitter-pattering of people walking past outside.

“I said I was going to be badass”, she whispers, all traces of anger gone from her voice and replaced with something Jake thinks might be fear from the way she’s avoiding his gaze and staring up at the ceiling instead. “Do it all on my own. Impress you. Impress everyone. I don’t know.”

“You’re worried you’re not going to impress me?”

She nods, eyes flicking to his befuddled expression and then back to the ceiling. “Yeah.”

“Ames, that’s literally insane.” He shakes his head. “You’ve spent nine months growing a freaking human. I guess said human wouldn’t exist without me, but you did the work. It’s all you. You can’t… there’s no way you wouldn’t impress me.”

“I wanted to be badass”, she repeats in the same quiet tone.

“You’ve been the most badass of them all since day one.” This makes her laugh, a sweet and mellifluous sound he’s missed so much since he last heard it, and she turns her head to look at him again.

“I distinctly remember there being a lot of categorically non-badass crying in the early days.”

“All real badasses cry sometimes.”

“If you say so.”

“I’m not going to stop”, he promises with a kiss to her lips, and it’s the most indisputable fact in his head to know he won’t stop telling her what’s true. “Let’s get you that python.. something-drip.”








 

/January 2011/

 

Amy Santiago has one hell of a grip.

It’s one more fact for Jake to add to his growing mental list of information he could use to blackmail her someday, because of course he’s had one of those since the day they started working together. (What can he say? Gina taught him well.) The list may be messy, disorganized and filled with question marks and the one time he tried to write it down it was mysteriously lost somewhere in the chaos of his desk the next day, but he has it and is currently adding the trivia about the death grip to taunt her with someday.

Some other day. Not today, not in this filthy New York alley smelling vaguely of urine and old alcohol and dirt, not when she’s leaned against the rough stone wall with a little bit of blood at the tips of her now unkempt ponytail and a medic he doesn’t recognize is disinfecting the wound near her shoulder. Not when her nails are digging into his bicep so sharply he suspects it’ll leave permanent marks.

She didn’t tell him he’d gotten shot before they’d cuffed the perp. Only when they were reporting the arrest did she mention they should probably call for backup and a medic team, barely uttering the words before she slumped against the wall with a hand pressed against the bleeding shoulder and something inside Jake froze to ice.

He gets the whole thing with trying to appear unbeatable in front of her colleagues. He really does, because he does it himself, but it bothers him how she’s so adamant about it. She could have mentioned getting shot a little earlier, for example. Most people generally say something.

Heck, he’s supposed to protect her. He can’t do that if she’s at all times out to prove she doesn’t need protection, and he wants to yell this at her in fury. He probably would if his heart wasn’t beating a mile a minute and she was slightly less pale than a ghost.

Instead he draws a breath of relief when the medic confirms Amy will be perfectly fine if they take her to the hospital. He wouldn’t admit it to anyone unless the confession took place after one too many alcoholic beverages, but Jake doesn’t want to lose Amy Santiago. In spite of the pertinacity she has and he both loathes and is jealous of, together with her above-average competitiveness measurable only in comparison with his own, he kind of really likes her.

She finally lets go of his arm when she’s loaded onto the gurney. It’s equally to his dismay and amusement when he finds five small, nail-shaped scars there the same night.

 







/1720 hours/

 

The good news? The drip is working. Eighteen hours after waters breaking, things are progressing, and their baby is not in too much distress.

The bad news? Amy’s definitely in too much distress, at least too much distress for her own and for Jake’s taste, and all of his focus is going straight to making sure she’s not going to faint or throw up or outright murder someone when a new contraction hits every three to four minutes. They last up to a minute now, and he’s changing his mind about his previous belief that a minute is something short, because these minutes are everything but. They’re never-ending. They’re hellish, and surreal, and filled with more swearing than he’s ever heard her or anyone in his life say out loud. They’re torturous, and he’s never felt more worthless in his life, never wished more intensely for a crazy innovation allowing him to take over the slightest margin of her pain.

He’s stuck rubbing the supposedly soothing circles on her back he believes he could do in his sleep now and tell her the same things over again until they’re a mantra.

I love you. You’re doing awesome. It’ll all be over soon. It’ll be worth it. Keep on breathing, you’re doing so good.

There’s no good enough way to phrase what he really wants to say, which is more along the lines of I can’t believe you’re still standing even though you’ve had no sleep and I could never understand how bad this pain is but I can see how much you hate it and I’ve never been more impressed with someone in my whole life, into simple words of encouragement.

 

“If you tell me to, quote unquote, just breathe one more time”, Amy wheezes through gritted teeth after a particularly rough contraction, “I’m going to kill you for real. This is your fault.”

“I’m pretty sure you were in on it too”, he jibes, because through his debilitating worry he’s still trying to make her laugh.

“Your fault.”

“Yeah, okay, my fault.” He strokes her hair as her breathing regulates. “You want to sit down? Get some water?”

“Water sounds good”, she mumbles, sitting down at the edge of the bed with a little bit of help. “As does unconsciousness.”

“You’re saying you want me to whack you in the head?”

“When you put it like that? It sounds real tempting. Don’t make it worse.”

“You know no one is going to judge you if you get pain relief, Ames.”

She shakes her head and takes a swig from the bottle of water he’s offering her. “I didn’t want drugs.”

Didn’t . You’d never been in labor when you decided that. You can still change your mind - god, babe, you look like you’re going to faint every single time - it’s okay.”

“I’m fine. I think.” She draws another few deep breaths before they go strained again and she’s up on her feet, leaning against him while a new wave of excruciating pain surfs through her and Jake fights to keep his calm again.

“You can do this”, he tries to tell her, going through the words almost on routine at this point. “I know you can.”

“Shut up, Peralta”, Amy groans, so he does.






/1849 hours/

 

“I’ve changed my mind about drugs”, is a sentence Jake never thought he’d heard his rule-obeying perfectionist wife would say, but he’s hearing it now. “They’re the best. I’m going to have to call Holt and tell him to revoke all my drug crime arrests. ‘Cause honestly? I get it now.”

He can’t do anything but laugh at her half incomprehensible slurring. Amy’s clearly exhausted, closing her eyes every other minute to doze off before twitching awake again to demand Jake go steal another jello cup from the nurses’ station, but during the minutes she’s awake she’s saying some seriously entertaining things. With the playlist of relaxing music they have on in the background and him laying next to her scratching her back, she should be all set for some well needed rest, but she’s still not asleep. He wonders if it’s because she’s nervous. He knows that’s why he’s not sleeping.

“I imagine Holt would be pretty confused if that’s what you called him about now”, he points out as a response to her previous remark.

“He’d get it if he’d ever been in labor.” She picks up her phone from the pocket of the oversized black hoodie stolen from Jake earlier in the morning. “Maybe I should text him.”

He snatches it from her hands before she has a chance to enter the messages app. “Drugged up you is hilarious to watch, but is not texting Holt about epidurals. You’ll thank me later.”

She twists her head to stick out her tongue at him, but accepts and drapes the cozy blanket they brought from home over her again. “For the record, drugged up me could still kick your ass”, she mumbles before closing her eyes, and he snickers.

“Wouldn’t doubt it.”

“I won’t, though. I need you awake later.” She yawns. “You should get some sleep, too.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll try.”

The Spotify playlist from his portable speakers changes to an instrumental cover of All Out Of Love, and he hums along to the melody almost instinctually. He’s slow-danced to it with Amy enough times now to no longer associate it so vehemently with heartbreak and rejection, and yet it feels particularly ironic to have it playing today. They’re light-years from the mutually pining morons they were when she tricked him to dance with Gina’s great-aunt at the Boyle-Linetti wedding, hours away from being parents and entering a whole new stage in their lives, but they’re also still just Jake and Amy - albeit with a few adjustments.

He remembers exactly how badass he found her that day while he watched her chase a perp in heels and a dress without flinching. He’d been crazy impressed by her then, and yet it all pales in comparison to what he is today.

He’s not the slightest bit shocked. He’s always known his wife can do anything, and in a few hours, the extensive list will also include giving birth to their baby.

For now, though, Jake simply watches her sleep.





/2235 hours/

 

“Ten centimetres.”

What? ” They exclaim this in unison, Jake almost spitting out his sixth cup of coffee for the day in shock. The woman who’s introduced herself as Dr. Cowan just nods and laughs at their dumbfounded expressions. Jake’s decided he for sure likes this one - she must be around Holt’s age, an air of experience around her, and she has a comforting smile. He hasn’t gotten the chance to see if she’ll laugh at his jokes yet, but from the looks of it this might not be the best time.

“We’re letting the epidural wear off, so you should be starting to feel some pressure pretty soon.” Amy’s face drops at the mention of losing her new best friend, but she bites her lips and nods intently. “Don’t be nervous, you’ll do great. You can walk around some if you’d like. Helps your body get ready.”

“Right.”

“I’ll go prepare the other nurses. Don’t hesitate to press the alarm if you need me.” She offers them another smile they both make half-successful attempts to reciprocate, and then she’s off, leaving them in privacy.

“So this is it, huh?” He could say better things, finishing the last of his coffee in one gulp before putting the cup away and taking her hand in his, but he draws a blank. Last hours, hour or minutes depending on how long the last stage will take, before their lives are changed forever.

“This is it”, she whispers, voice shaking a little. “How do you feel?”

“Weird. Nervous. Excited”, he tells her. “You?”

“Exact same.”

“You’ve got this.”

“I hope so.”

“Well, I know so.” He squeezes her hand harder. She squeezes it back. It’s the same wordless communication they’ve been doing back and forth for over twenty-four hours now, not yet growing old or losing meaning. “You feel ready?”

She eyes him closely. “You’re staying here with me, right?”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m divorcing you if you faint.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“Okay.” She nods again, and he moves to lock lips with her one last time in the before. “I’m ready.”






/2326 hours/

 

Looking back, Jake will be as immensely proud of himself as he will be disappointed.

He prides himself for not fainting, for not crying out once even when it feels like the bones in his right hand have become a finely grinded powder, for keeping almost quiet and refraining from telling any desperately bad jokes.

He’s satisfied with the way he stays focused on Amy for most of it all. He pushes away the gnawing feeling of uselessness, holds her hand and presses a chilled towel to her forehead despite how he’s not sure it helps. She asks him to talk about something, anything, just keep me distracted and he asks Die Hard? and she says no, Jake, not Die Hard so he starts rambling about their night on that rooftop almost six years ago, how watching her miserably failing at catching peanuts in her mouth was somehow the most endearing thing he had seen and enough to make him obsessed with her forever and when he finishes that story he goes off on a tangent about crossword puzzles.

He follows the instincts he’s had since they were made partners, the ones he knows are the same for her when it comes to him. Is she hurt? Is she in danger? Does she need his help? He knows the answer is no for the last one and trusts the midwife and doctor when they tell him no for the first two.

She’s his focus, and then he also has to try to be in two places at once, and in all of the madness and crucialness of the moment, it takes him a while to notice.

He doesn't notice at first how another doctor and more nurses are coming into the room.

He doesn’t notice at first how their tones are changing, going worried, going confused.

He doesn’t notice at first what they’re saying, and in retrospect he will hate himself for it.

Because it takes him a few seconds to notice that there is no crying.

 

Their baby should be crying.

 

Why is there no crying?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




/October 2012/

 

Amy’s late to Shaw’s this Friday.

Not that he cares or anything. He has better things to do. Infinitely more important things, such as being a super awesome Detective and solving crimes and coming up with great punchlines for arresting criminals. Only today, Jake has been forced to work on his technique so he can beat Rosa in the next fire extinguisher roller derby, bid on an online auction for a Canadian Die Hard DVD with presumably better sound quality, and at least pretend to listen to Charles’ tear-filled testimony about how his now-ex-wife Eleanor refuses to give him back his best vegetable peeler. He’s a busy man with little to no time for questioning the whereabouts of Detective Amy Santiago.

The only issue is that it’s 10 p.m. and he’s heard one too many divorce-themed sob-stories from Charles today. Gina has dance practice with Floorgasm. Terry is at home taking care of his daughters. Rosa may win the precinct record for many qualifications, including most likely to assassinate you without anyone suspecting her and most likely to wear a leather jacket to a wedding, but she loses it for most talkative , so he’s given up on her for the night. In short, their Friday hang at Shaw’s consists of him and Rosa drinking in silence at one table and Charles repeating the vegetable peeler story to Hitchcock and Scully at the adjacent one, and Jake’s bored out of his mind without feeling any strong desire to return home. Amy may annoy the crap out of him sometimes, what with her affinity for correcting his grammar and constant telling him to focus on his work instead of learning how to skilfully head a football while standing on one leg (he was really close), but at least she’s someone to talk to when his brain begs for stimulation.

Plus she said she’d come after she wrapped up her case. Not that he misses her or anything.

“You’re staring at the door”, Rosa grumbles with a swig of her whiskey. “Weirdo.”

“I’m not staring”, he defends himself, because he’s not. He’s looking, which everyone knows is different.

“Uh, sure you are.”

“Uh, sure I’m not.”

She shrugs, drums her fingers against the wood of their table in a rhythmic manner. “Yeah, whatever you say.”

He’s given no time to retort before the door’s pushed open and the familiar face he most assuredly wasn’t waiting for joins the laid-back, medium-volume atmosphere of Shaw’s this mid-October Friday evening. There’s water dripping from the tips of her hair, and the casual outfit of blue jeans and hoodie she’s thrown on is far away from her usual pantsuits, but that’s not what gets him. No, what truly makes him suspect something’s wrong is the woeful glint to her eyes. Call it finely tuned Detective skills or a well evolved ability to read her expressions after two years of working together, but before she’s sat down opposite them at their table, he knows something is wrong.

“Santiago.” Rosa acknowledges her presence with a nod, and Jake lifts his beer bottle in greeting. “How’d the hostage situation go?”

“We got the perp”, she answers shortly. “Dead to rights.”

“Nice.”

“I guess.”

Amy’s the one person Jake knows to be prouder than himself after a successful arrest. This silence and disinclination to look him or Rosa in the eyes is uncanny to him. Subtlety isn’t one of the many skills he considers himself to have mastered, so he cuts to the chase and asks. “Why aren’t you celebrating?”

She swallows, picks at a dry piece of skin near her wrist. “There was a… situation.”

“A situation”, he repeats.

“One of the hostages went into early labor.”

“Damn.”

“I had to deliver the baby.”

Damn”, both he and Rosa repeats in choir this time, Rosa leaning back a little in her chair and watching Amy with wide eyes. “You get a citation bar for that”, she adds, pointing to Amy’s chest.

“I know.”

He has to ask again. “So… why aren’t you celebrating? You were literally in a good mood for a month when you got the Excellent Police Duty bar.”

She shakes her hand, continues picking at the piece of skin before replying. “The baby was stillborn.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“That… sucks.”

“Yup.” She sighs, finally looking up from staring at her own wrists and giving them an apologetic smile. “It wasn’t… my fault, or anything. The ambulance nurses said I did a really great job. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Just… one of those things you can’t control. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“That’s horrible”, says Rosa before swallowing the last of her whiskey. “I’m sorry, Santiago.”

“Thank you.”

“Yeah, it’s… I…” He’s trying to think of something, anything comforting to say, but coming up short. “I’m sorry.”

She nods, a vulnerable frailness to her voice when she replies. “Me too.”

“Come on.” He puts her hand over hers, feeling the difference in temperature; his are fiery warm after two hours inside in Shaw’s, hers are freezing from the outside storm. He wonders briefly if they’ve ever touched hands like this with intention before. “I’ll buy you a drink. I’m guessing you need it.”

It’s not much - it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what she must need - but it’s something, and it earns him another timid smile.

“That’d be nice. Thanks, Jake.”







/2327 hours/

 

Someone grabs his arm, squeezing a tight enough grip on it to pull him away from Amy somehow, hand still throbbing. The volume of everyone’s voices is cutting into his eardrums while remaining too low and incoherent for him to make sense of anything, every word fading into a blur of an indistinguishable foreign language. He tries to look back at Amy, cranes his head almost desperately because she's his partner and the love of his life and someone's dragging him away and out of the room in the moment when he least should leave her. He’s not sure if it's the case that he doesn't see her or if it’s because everything is becoming a blur in front of his eyes now.

The tight grip on his arm remains, and there are doctors, too many doctors in front of him and he sees nothing but flashes of their faces when he’s rushed out into the brightly lit corridor and into another, smaller room with too many machines, too many things he doesn’t understand or recognize.

Someone makes him sit down. Someone, a new male face he doesn’t recognize, kneels in front of him and talks to him in words he doesn’t hear. The man squeezes his arm again, repeats himself.

“Mr. Peralta?”

“Peralta-Santiago”, he whispers, and the unfamiliar voice nods. “Or just Jake.”

“Jake, okay. Are you hearing what’s happening?”

“Not - not really.” His vision is still flimsy, sharpening and then going blurry again. He makes out the smell of disinfectant, the low buzzing of a ceiling fan, too many doctors and nurses huddled too closely together for him to see anything. “Confused.”

“Your daughter was born with the cord wrapped around her neck.”

 

His daughter.

 

“She’s not breathing.”




 

/September 2020/

 

This whole expecting a baby-thing has brought on some odd changes to Jake’s personality.

Just this afternoon, for example, he’s seconds from stopping at Whole Foods after work to buy a zucchini solely because the app on his phone tells him that’s how big their baby is today at 30 weeks. And Jake hates zucchini.

He reads the pregnancy app notification again while stuck in a traffic jam, since he only had time to check it briefly during his lunch break. It tells him their fetus is now strong enough to grasp a finger. He gets a mental image of holding a newborn in his arms and letting them do just that, and for what must be the quadrillionth time since March, a warm sensation of equal shares nervosity and excitement flows through him.

Ten weeks left, less if they’re lucky. He’s hoping it’s less. It’s mostly because he’s dying to meet the individual that’s waving at them during scans, kicking against his hand if he’s lucky to time it and entertaining them thoroughly by getting the hiccups every few nights, but also because Amy’s starting to get uncomfortable now and he feels bad for her. He remains convinced his wife is nothing short of a superhero to still be kicking ass at her (currently field work-less) job while casually going through the process of growing a human, but it still bothers him to know there’s next to nothing he can do to help her. He rubs her back and feet and performs well, other services (who knew pregnant women get so horny?), to make it better, but he’s still the privileged one in their whole having-a-baby-duo. Much like his wife remarked yesterday; no one’s kicking him in the bladder.

 

Thursdays are Amy’s new extra days off while he works. She usually spends them decorating their guest room turned nursery when she’s not napping or working on the gargantuan creation that is the baby binder, so he’s not surprised to hear her from in there when he enters their apartment. What shakes him is the fact that she’s crying.

“Ames.” He drops his messenger bag to the floor and rushes to her where she’s crouched with her back against the Ikea package for the dresser they still haven’t put together, holding her phone and drawing shaky, tear-filled breaths. “What’s wrong? Are you in pain? We should call the hospital if you’re in pain, I read that whole chapter on preterm labor….”

“No pain”, she whispers, voice hushed as she wipes away tears with the sleeves of her dark blue knit sweater. “Not that.”

“Then what’s happening?” He sits down next to her, loosening the phone from her tight grip and moving her left hand to rest over his heart. “Is this another breakdown about being a mom?”

She shakes her head, gesturing to the phone, and he unlocks it to find it open on a webpage reading When a baby is stillborn.

“Oh.” He swallows dryly. “Oh, no, babe - that won’t happen.”

“I used to think that, too. Then I delivered one.”

 

It clicks. Jake remembers the night at Shaw’s almost seven years ago, how she’d after telling him and Rosa about the event downed six shots of vodka, threw up on the street in the pouring rain and kept up her inconsolable crying until he drove her home. She made both of them promise never to speak of the night again when she got to work sporting a nasty case of hangover the next day, and they haven’t. Until now.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“What if it happens to us, Jake?” She’s using her free hand to draw patterns over her bump. “It’s one in a hundred every year in the United States. That could be us.”

“Or it could not be us.”

She snivels. “You can’t know that.”

“And you can’t know the opposite”, he reminds her, keeping his voice composed in the tone he’s mastered in his years of living with Amy Santiago’s panic attacks. “It won’t happen, Ames. I won’t let it.”

“I don’t think it’s in your control.”

“It is now. I’ve decided it is”, he states with orotund confidence and closes the Safari window. “Baby Peraltiago wouldn’t do that to us.”

She snorts at the nickname, wipes her tears again. “And how can you be so sure?”

“Confidence is key, m’lady. Plus”, he puts his hand on the bump, feeling a stubborn kick as if on cue, “This baby has fifty percent of my genes, and since all my genes contain a heaping amount of I Love Amy Santiago-juice, they adore you too much to put you through that. Simple math.”

“You’re terrible at math”, she says, but she’s smiling through the tears now. “And biology.”

“Yeah, I am. But I’m pretty great at cheering you up.”

“You’re great at being a giant dork”, she laughs before kissing him. “But I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He puts his arm around her shoulders, letting her lean into him and continue catching her breath from the anxiety attack. ”Our baby won’t die.”

“Our baby won’t die”, she repeats, moving her hand to where his is so they’re both feeling the movements from their very much alive baby.






/2328 hours/

 

“Jake, stay with me, okay?” The nurse whose name he’s still unaware of is shaking him again.

Some part of his brain makes note that the man has nice eyes, and then he curses himself for making note of anything human about the person who’s telling him their baby is -

 

There’s a sound.

 

There’s crying.

 

He’s never loved the sound of someone crying so much.







/2331 hours/

 

Jake learns three things about his daughter (his daughter!) in his first three minutes of fatherhood.

 

Number one is that she’s angry. Furious, he deduces from the sound of her repeated cries. He figures this is justified, considering how her first moments outside-womb have not been very relaxing for anyone.

Number two is that she’s small. She seems perfectly healthy, the doctor assures him, but she’s still almost drowning in the baby blanket she’s been swaddled in when they place her in his arms and his whole world shakes and is made whole at once.

Number three is that she’s the very best, most magical little person and the closest thing to perfection if not the very definition of it, he’s ever held in his arms. There’s still a slight bluish hint to her face and a bruise at the top of her head visible through the soft black hair, and her features twists with anger as she keeps on crying, but he’s never seen anything better than her in the world.

He can’t tell if she looks more like him or Amy just yet, what with his daughter being literally three minutes old and all, but he’s not sure it matters. She’s here, and she’s alive, and she’s so, so much better than he expected.

He always knew their kid would be perfect. Now he knows what perfect means.

 

“Mr. Peralta? Jake? We should take her to her mom now, don’t you think?”

He can only nod in response, speechless by shock after the last five minutes of his night.

“She can stay in your arms if you want to carry her there.”

“Am I - I’m not going to drop her, right?”

“I would doubt that”, says the nurse with nice eyes he hated three minutes ago. “You’ll be fine.”

It’s nothing short of terrifying to stand up with her in his arms, made worse by the fact that he’s still shaking a little, but he does it.

Her cries reduce when he starts walking, bouncing her almost imperceptibly in his arms because it’s the one piece of baby advice he remembers in the moment. It’s close to make his own eyes tear.

She’s light, but she holds the weight of all that’s important in the world.

 

There’s a midwife and a nurse still in the delivery room, both of them talking in calming voices to Amy. She’s still crying, and it occurs to his shaken, flabbergasted mind how she must have been under the belief their child’s not alive for the five eternal minutes they’ve been separated.

He opens his mouth to say something, but the nurse with nice eyes is talking before he has the chance to, explaining the situation and how everything’s okay now.

His eyes meets Amy’s.

They’ve locked eyes so many times before, but no occasion has felt as important as this.

There’s an unspoken question in her eyes, and then they’re wandering to the tiny, squeaking bundle in his arms, and her mouth shapes to an o .

“Hey”, he whispers, not quite sure what to say when he sits down on the plastic chair right next to the bed. “We have a daughter, babe.”

“We have a daughter?” She repeats the statement in a doubting voice. “Is she okay?”

The daughter in question lets out another angry cry as if to answer her mom’s question before her dad has the chance to speak for her.

“I think she’s saying she wants to see you”, he says with a smile before he carefully, more carefully than he believes he’s ever handled anything in his life, moves their baby to Amy’s chest.

“Hey”, is Amy’s first whisper to their five minute old miracle. “Hey there, drama queen.”

It’s so perfectly on time when their daughter quietens and opens her eyes to look up at Amy right after her words, it makes Jake wonder if he’s dreaming.

There’s no stopping his tears this time.






November 15th, 2020

 

/0050 hours/

 

“You should sleep, Ames.”

“I don’t ever want to sleep again now when she’s here.”

They’re in a new room now, transferred to the mother-baby ward after receiving final confirmation everyone is well after the dramatic circumstances the first moments their daughter’s life consisted of.

He keeps repeating the words their daughter in his head. They’re unreal to him still, as if written for an imaginary situation where they’re in a Harry Potter novel, put under a hazy trance while experiencing the most magical of illusions.

And yet - at the same time - she’s the only real thing in the world for them in this moment.

She's six pounds nineteen inches exactly with a full head of dark hair. Her eyes have stayed closed for most of her first hour, but every now and then she looks up at them with a gaze that reminds him so much of Amy's. So does her nose, but maybe, just maybe, the mouth and the ears are copies of his own baby pictures. She's an actual, living combination of them both and entirely her own all at once, and she looks so at peace on Amy's chest it almost makes him forget the horrors they've been through today.

“I know. Me neither.” He laughs, scoots closer in the recovery bed and lets his pinkie stroke over their daughter's soft cheeks for the millionth time. “But you kind of just went through labor. Like a goddamn champion, I might add.”

“Guess I'm officially more badass than you now”, she mumbles, quiet as to not to interrupt the half-sleeping baby.

“You're like, more badass than Rosa.”

“Ooh, don't let her hear you say that.”

“I'll be careful”, he promises her. “But it’s still true. You both are.”

“She definitely is.” Amy presses a kiss to their daughter’s forehead, resulting in a small grunt that makes both parents laugh. “If a little dramatic.”

“You know what, babe?”

“No?”

He puts his arm around her, trying to put as much meaning into the kiss as possible without having to look away from their daughter a moment longer than necessary. It’s a complicated mission, but he tries. “I think this goes on the good date list.”

She snorts. “Yeah, we’re not repeating this date. She’s the only one you get, I’ve decided that now.”

“I can live with that”, he tells her, and in this moment, he means it. “You think it’s time to share her with the world?”

“I think we’d be egoistic not to.”

 

He does eventually convince his wife to close her eyes and go to sleep, promising her ten times over they’ll both still be here when she wakes up.

“It’s just because I’m too tired to protest”, she grumbles before moving their daughter to Jake’s chest. The newborn opens her eyes for a second, eyeing him with brief suspicion before deciding he’s acceptable and closing them again.

The amount of texts waiting for him are less overwhelming than he’d expected. He scrolls through them without answering any - everyone is just waiting for updates anyway - before starting to type out the information he has for them now, complete with one of the few precious pictures they’ve taken in the last hour.

His phone starts buzzing seconds after he’s copy-pasted and sent the message for the ninth time, but he places it on the bedside table and returns instead to admire his new center of attention.

 

Everything else comes second place compared to her. She’s just over an hour old and has spent most of it asleep, but she holds his heart the same way her tiny fist grips his index finger; tightly and without him wanting her to ever let go.

“How much you wanna bet they’re all going crazy right now?” His question makes her open her eyes again, staring up at him.“I’ll let you in on a secret. I am, too. I’m just keeping it together in front of you.” She yawns, the cutest little yawn he’s ever seen, and he feels his heart melt for the five-hundredth time this night.

“I can’t believe you’re here”, he continues his whispering. “I mean, we’ve counted down the days for so long, you know? Talked about you all the time, who we’d thought you’d be, and here you are and you’re just… better than anything we imagined.”

There’s a small grunt, as if she’s trying to say, yeah, dad, duh, and it makes him laugh.

“Of course you are. You have the best freaking mom in the universe, who’s somehow convinced me I’ll be the best dad, and we love you so much -” His voice breaks. He takes a few deep breaths to regain composure, accepting that it’s a scarce commodity tonight.

“We didn’t believe you were coming at first. Your mom made me go and buy like six more tests after she took the first one, it’s the only time she’s doubted a test, and then they were all positive and we freaked out.” He laughs at the memory. “I don’t think we really believed it until we had our first scan, you were just a white blur on a screen then, but you were there and you were ours and we’d never seen anything better.” He kisses her forehead, hearing another annoyed grunt.

“You’re so perfect. Really, the only problem is how none of the names we had fit you. But we’ll solve that”, he promises, stroking the fist not already grabbing onto his index finger. “Yeah we will. We’ll just get some sleep first.”

His daughter yawns again, ostensibly agreeing with this.






/0113 hours/

 

The intermittent buzzing from his phone increases tenfold the moment Jake closes his eyes. He fights to ignore it, but then a small clack announces the fact that it's vibrated itself off the table down onto the floor and his daughter starts whimpering again from the sudden noise.

Crap.

Amy stirs next to him, reacting to the continuous whimpers, and he bites his lip to keep from swearing. This is going to take some fine multitasking, or a damn well thought-out plan.

“Sschh, everything's okay”, he hears himself say, trying to make his voice soothing. He lightly pats their baby's back through the blanket, but it's giving no result. A new plan is needed. He puts her down in the bassinet this time, reluctantly bends open her fist to release his index finger and prays her squeaking protests won't be enough to wake Amy. He climbs out of the bed with little elegance but all the more speed, dives for the phone to put the still vibrating item in the pocket of his hoodie and gently picks up his daughter to cradle her against his chest and bounce her lightly in the same way that worked so well the last time.

Through some miracle it works again. He's tempted to make another victory gesture - going on two hours of fatherhood and he’s not doing terrible yet - but the fear of dropping these six pounds of warmth and light and everything good in the world fit into a tiny little human is overpowering, so he remains holding her.

One hand supporting the head, one hand supporting the booty. He can do this. Right?

“Right? Look at us. We're doing great”, he tells her. It earns him another side-eye. “We're okay. Yeah, we are.”

He takes a few steps with her, then a few more, walking back and forth while he feels her breathing against his chest.

In his career he's been undercover with the FBI, given special recommendations for his work and solved cases through which he's known he's been able to make a real importance. He's been a cop for fourteen years and a dad for two hours, and yet there is no question about which role has felt more important.

She squeaks again - squeaking and grunting appears to be her favorite means of communication outside crying - and it runs through him without warning once more, this current of overwhelming, all-consuming love unlike anything he’s ever felt before, avalanching down and burying him under the masses. It's petrifying and shocking and so, so right all at once. He never wants it to stop.

(“Newborn babies are pretty much like drugs”, Terry had told him some time shortly after the news about Amy's pregnancy became common knowledge to the precinct. “The worst kind of addiction, and you don't want it to end. You never want it to end.”

“Is this to warn me or to make me excited?” He’d asked, getting a grin back from the Sergeant.

“It’s a bit of both.”)

If she’s a drug, it's an addiction he'll gladly live with for the rest of his life.

 

Illumination from streetlights and lit-up buildings is seeping through the blinds, giving the room a tranquil glow. Looking from his beautiful, fighter, almost sleeping daughter to his beautiful, exhausted and strong as hell sleeping wife, he's never felt this at peace.

The phone is still buzzing in his back pocket. It must be Charles, he thinks, going crazy after hearing the news, and although he knows he promised calling after he has half a mind to ignore his friend now. Tonight, even his ever impatient best friend can wait a few hours. Everything can wait tonight.

“Everything except you, of course”, Jake whispers to the bundle in his arms. “You don’t strike me like the waiting type.”

There’s another grunt, like she’s saying yeah, don’t you dare, and he laughs.

“That’s your mom’s genes, you know. Impatient. And probably a little bit of mine for the whole attention-seeking thing. But I hope it’s more of your mom.” He looks up at his wife again, grinning when he notices her smiling in her sleep. “She’s the greatest, you know. You’re going to be lucky to have her.”

“She’s going to be lucky to have you”, follows a low mumble before Amy opens her eyes and he realizes she must have been faking her sleep.

“How long have you been listening?”

“Most of it”, she admits. “All of it, I think. Long enough to know how great you are.”

Their daughter begins to whimper again at the sound of her mother’s voice, no longer satisfied with Jake when she remembers the other option.

“Hmm.” He blushes at the comment, walking up to the bed to transfer her over to Amy again. “I still think she prefers you.”

“I'm pretty sure that's biological at two hours, babe. I'm food and the same heartbeat she's heard for the whole time in there. She’s bound to be biased.”

“But you’re still going to brag.”

“Yeah.” She shines up, playing with her daughter’s dark hair while the newborn seems to be falling back asleep from the sound of her even breaths. “I’m still going to brag.”

“Well, you earned your bragging rights”, he tells her, climbing back into bed and scooting closer to the two members of his little family before pressing a kiss each to both of their cheeks. “You were amazing, Ames. That was incredible.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I mean, it was insane. But you kicked ass.”

Her eyes soften, and despite or maybe because of the bags under her eyes and exhausted appearance, her beauty stuns him.

For every time Jake’s thought he cannot possibly love her more than he already does, the Universe has laughed him in the face and said hah, you thought . He harbors a growing suspicion this feeling will only be more powerful for the baby sleeping on Amy's chest.

“I love you”, she whispers, and he whispers it back. “We have a daughter.”

“We have a daughter.”

“We have a daughter.”

There’s yet another grunt and a determined fist freeing itself from the white blanket. Yeah, you do.

 

If someone had told Jake twenty-eight hours ago about the emotional rollercoaster he’d go through before stepping off in this new and improved reality, he would have shaken his head at them and gone back to singing along to Mamma Mia!.

For now he simply turns off his phone - ninety-two texts from Charles and seventeen from other sources as of now - and closes his eyes.

Tomorrow, and as many days the Universe will allow for the rest of his life, he’ll wake up to his family.