"That was real," he said, and her whole world shifted two inches to the right.
The words stuck in her mind.
The first time, she'd had six months to obsess over what he'd said and what it meant. Days and weeks of suddenly remembering something -- a strange look, an odd moment, an inexplicable expression -- and she would realize all of it added up to "romantic stylez" and how long he'd kept silent.
Now, though, there were new words stuck in the back of her head.
She lingered on them, like that almond from back when she was doing that Park Slope Portions diet with the Sarge, the one Hitchcock stepped on. She fussed over the words in quieter moments, when she was driving to her parents' house or walking through the grocery store or waiting on the subway platform.
Unlike that almond, though, the words, "That was real," never seemed to wear down.
They worked late some nights, staying past the day crew and splitting a takeout order.
Amy mostly used the time to plow through the paperwork that never seems to end. She filled out evidence forms and case files on her computer, her fingers flying over the keyboard as the boxes populated with information that she would have to repeat at trial in six weeks.
Jake, by contrast, was slower going, clicking instead of tabbing over to each field. Amy had tried to tell him to use keyboard shortcuts, but he either made fun of her or, when they were not the center of attention, shrugged and said he was used to clicking.
Otherwise, the bullpen was pretty quiet, the night crew mostly out on cases, and the custodial staff not on their floor yet. The lights had flipped off an hour ago, the building's timer automatically shutting them off -- ostensibly a go-green measure, but Amy suspected it was really to try and force people out of the building to cut back on overtime.
Sometimes she would look across her desk at Jake, past the wall of their monitors, and watch him.
How did he do it, she wondered, watching his face. He'd said, "romantic stylez," said, "that was real," like, for real. It wasn't just a vivid hallucination she'd experienced. And yet, he was sitting across from her like he had never said the words, like it wasn't a time labeled "after confession," but rather still that strange-beautiful time between the end of their bet and him going on assignment.
This was Jake -- he didn't have a hunger pang that he didn't telegraph, yet he sat across from her every day typing up reports and fielding the tip line and combing through arrest records and sometimes took her lunch order and brought back coffee when he followed up on a lead. Jake, who could barely pronounce 'salad' without gagging and ate like a ten-year-old with a credit card, who was probably the best detective she would work with in her career, even if his handwriting looked like the top of a Hostess cupcake -- which was, upon reflection, probably the actual model for his handwriting.
And in the three weeks since he'd come back, it had felt...normal. Scarily normal, like six months had been six days instead. Except he'd said "romantic stylez" and it should have changed everything.
That night, Amy closed out of the police database and leaned forward, resting her chin in the palm of her hand, her gaze traveling around the room until it settled on Jake. He was slouching, of course, filling out fields at his moderate typing speed, stopping every few seconds to click over to the next box. The low lighting made the glow from his monitor wash him out. His hair was still a little too long, and his plaid shirt was kind of rumpled, and his tie was loosened. He had slung his leather jacket over the back of his chair and badge sat askew on his chest. His shoulders were hunched forward, but aside from the scar from the fat lip that Boyle had given him, he looked normal.
She didn't realize she was staring until he met her gaze directly and smirked. "Like what you see?"
"Your mouth says no, but your eyes say, 'Come to mama,' Santiago." He waggled his eyebrows at her and made a 'come hither' gesture.
She rolled her eyes and tilted her head into her palm, watching his face.
"What?" he asked, pushing the keyboard aside. "You're being weird."
"You've been avoiding me," she said at last, expression carefully neutral.
He dropped his gaze to where his fingers were tapping on the edge of his desk. He was quiet for a long moment.
He took a deep breath. "Can you blame me?"
She sighed. "Not really," she admitted.
"Thank you for your honesty," he replied, voice bright with cheer. They shared a smile before his expression fell. "You've been avoiding me, too," he added. "You're really bad at hiding things."
She laughed, leaning back and running her hand across her forehead. "How do you do it?"
She made a sweeping motion with her other hand. "The--the normal. How do you act like nothing changed?"
His eyebrows rose. "That's why you were staring?"
"That, and I realized your handwriting looks like the top of a Hostess cupcake," she muttered.
He beamed. "You're right! Oh man. I should totally sell autographs saying I'm the model for the design."
"That's the most Gina thing I've ever heard you say," she marveled, only slightly surprised. "Also, that's fraud."
"Ugh, c'mon, why do you gotta do me like that?"
"Your distractions aren't working," she said flatly, suddenly overcome with exhaustion.
He sobered, the excess energy bleeding out of him in the span of a few breaths. "This is easiest for you," he said, at last, folding his hands on his abdomen. "The being normal. It's what easiest for you."
"Oh," she said, and it was hard to breathe.
His expression shifted into something she couldn't quite read in the blue light from his monitor. "But...avoiding you is easier for me," he added.
"Oh," she said again, comprehension in her voice. "Jake, I--" But whatever she was gonna say was cut off by her phone ringing. Startled, she rummaged through her purse until she found her phone. She shot Jake an apologetic look and half-turned away. "Hi, babe, what's up?"
She glanced at Jake out of the corner of her eye. She saw him hard-swallow before he quietly stood, turning off his monitor and sliding his bag over his head and pushing his chair in.
"...and that's how I found myself a few blocks away from your precinct. Are you still at work? You wanna grab a drink?" Teddy's voice sounded tinny in her phone speaker.
She turned her attention back to what Teddy was saying. "Yeah, no, that tapas bar sounds really good. Hmm? Well, yeah, but I could eat. Ten minutes?" She hummed. "Yeah, okay." Pause. Her expression softened. "You, too. Bye."
When she turned back after hanging up, she was alone.