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Be Kind, Please Rewind

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Jake says, "I think she might be the one," all casually, though the way his hands shake give him away. He and Amy have been sitting in this car for hours, talking about precinct gossip and going over their recent cases, the latest thing that Amy's binge-watching on Netflix, their usual guess-what-Charles-brought-for-lunch game, the usual gamut of stakeout chatter. The only thing they don't talk about, ever, is Sophia, and so naturally it's the first thing Jake blurts out.

But as soon as the words are out, Jake feels relieved; it had felt strange holding that in. Amy's the first person he's said those words to, and it feels right telling his partner about the most important thing in his life -- most important aside from his job, that is. His old partner from patrol, he shared every thought that was in his head. Jake suspects sometimes that guy made Jake into who he is today.

Of course, that's the moment that the perp finally shows his face. Amy says, "There's our guy," and she's out of the car before Jake can think about reaching for the door.

A couple of weeks later, the collar forgotten in the constant, unending tide of paperwork and dumb perps, Amy pulls Jake aside into the evidence lockup, and he feels himself get nervous. Things with Sophia are in a good place, a non-rocky place, for the first time in a while, and Jake doesn't feel like jeopardizing that. He looks at her in trepidation while she visibly steels herself to tell him something.

"I wanted to tell you something," she says, hands twisting in front of her. Jake feels dread slowly creep into his chest, a lingering coldness in his lungs. "I'm transferring," she blurts out, clearly seeing his emotions on his face. "Major Crimes offered me a job as a detective on their squad. I'm gonna take it."

She looks hesitant, and Jake responds with the immediate pride that he feels at hearing that she's set to make it. Jake hugs her quickly, almost on impulse, and he hears her sigh in relief. "That's amazing!" he says, and pulls away, keeping his hands on her shoulders. If it wasn't for that contact, Jake wouldn't be able to tell she's shaking all over. "When do you go?"

"I turned in my transfer this morning."

Jake can't quite read her expression, so he asks the next logical question. "Have you told the others?"

She shakes her head, and Jake feels pride and fondness bloom inside him, like a drop of food coloring in a glass of water: concentrated, and then branching. "Sarge said to wait until Captain Holt approves my transfer."

"He will. Of course he's gonna! It's such a good move for you." He pulls back, and Jake is certain that nothing, not even his antics, will prevent her from taking hold of this opportunity.

Naturally, it comes as a shock when, two weeks later at her own going-away party, Amy turns the tables on Jake and uses his own speech against him, telling him she has (present tense) feelings for him that she can't really deal with, and it makes that same dread creep into his chest, leaves his hands tingling and his grip slackened.

She walks away, her handbag held like a shield in front of her, and Jake reaches for her, but his fingers close on air with her name lodged in his throat. She's across the bar, out the door, gone.

Things with Sophia are fine until, one day, they aren't.

Jake never tells her about what happened with Amy -- it's not that he wants to hide things, it's that what Amy told him feels both final and private, something just between them. So, Jake doesn't tell Sophia, but Jake never wonders what if about Amy, either, not drunk or late at night or in quiet moments clocking in overtime while facing an empty desk.

At about two and a half years into their relationship, Jake proposes to Sophia, his mother having given him his grandmother's engagement ring -- the only thing from his father that she bothered keeping, apparently, aside from Jake himself, of course -- and her blessing.

The proposal is sort of typically Jake; everything is overdone and over-the-top, but all of it breaks, catches on fire, or otherwise goes sideways. In the middle of the water-logged set, Sophia soaked through from the emergency sprinklers, Jake kneels down on one (only slightly singed) knee and asks Sophia to marry him. Makeup running for two very different reasons, Sophia blinks tears and fire retardant out of her eyes and says, "Yes, of course, yes!"

The entire squad throws them an engagement party at Shaw's afterwards, loud and tumultuous. Jake and Sophia pose for Gina to take a picture, and Jake thinks he hasn't felt this happy in a long time.

They move in together, their things crowding each other. Jake's sublet from Gina goes back on the market properly, and Sophia brings all her furniture with her to their new place in Cobble Hill. Their home is beautiful, way out of Jake's price range but definitely affordable when they pooled their assets, in large part thanks to Sophia.

At the Nine-Nine, Rosa gets her sergeant's stripes, and mentions a few months later that Amy has hers, too. Jake very carefully doesn't express any more joy than Terry. It's been two years, but caution seems like the right move, somehow.

Hilariously, that same week, one of Amy's old collars gets re-arrested. While sweating (metaphorically; the air conditioner was broken, so the room was actually freezing) in Interrogation 2, he asks the one-way glass, "Hey, where's that hot chick? Ponytail, sexy pout, chunky heels, arrested me last time?"

"Shut up," Rosa had stated flatly into the intercom, a sentiment Jake couldn't have agreed with more.

Sophia slowly becomes more a part of the Nine-Nine family, even though it takes almost three years, and things seem to be on the up-and-up. Then, Jake is offered the FBI job and he takes it, along with the salary increase and the new location and the new badge. Somehow, it all leads to the worst fight Jake and Sophia ever have. Jake doesn't remember the details, not that night or years later, of how they went from a quiet dinner at home to the front door slamming while the words, "Yeah, we're done," hang in the air.

Mostly, Jake remembers both of them saying all the things they'd been holding back for years, and suddenly the truth being out in the open makes clear exactly how untenable their relationship is.

"I just," Jake says, slurring slightly and slumping in his chair. Charles nods sympathetically and pushes Jake's beer back towards the bartender, moving the water glass closer to Jake's limp hand. "She never respected my work, you know?"

Charles continues nodding. "I know, Jakey. I really do." And even drunk, Jake realizes that, in this, Charles has a lot of insight.

Jake sighs deeply and rests his head on the bar. "God, what am I going to doooooo?" His voice comes out muffled, his mouth half pressed into the varnished wood.

"Get a new apartment, separate your stuff from Sophia's, focus on your job, cry a lot, date someone new," Charles ticks off on his fingers.

Jake makes a sound somewhere halfway between a groan and a moan. "I'm gonna die alooooooone."

Jake misses Charles's expression deflate and the sympathetic look he shoots Jake as he settles their tab. Charles rubs Jake's back in soothing circles. "Come on, Jake, it's not that bad."

"I shoulda gone with Amy when she told me she liked me," Jake mumbles, drunkenly running the words together just enough that Charles can't quite make out what he's saying, for which Jake will be grateful later.

Charles's five-point list comes to bear, and Jake and Sophia break their lease and go their separate ways. Sophia handles the separation of stuff -- apparently all her things were labeled already. She leaves him a stack of cash for the things they'd bought together that she'd known he hated, a note itemizing what she's taken, another note wishing him well, and the black crushed-velvet box he'd presented her with in his slightly-charred suit that night almost a year ago. Jake opens the box and in it is the ring, simple and vintage and an heirloom, and for a moment Jake considers selling it.

The moment passes, and Jake gathers the papers, the cash, the box, and packs up his things.

The first six months at the Bureau are exactly what Jake needs. He settles into his Sunset Park apartment, builds his love/hate relationship with the N/R line, and throws himself into his new job. He flashes his FBI badge Mulder-style at every chance, introducing himself proudly as "Special Agent Jake Peralta," and occasionally getting asked to show a woman exactly how special an agent he is.

Jake dates, of course he dates. But there are long stretches where he doesn't. Jake realizes he has to sort out his feelings and decide what he wants. That question feels impossible, more grown-up than Jake cares to see himself as being, and he settles for letting the person come to him.

He hadn't meant quite so literally: four months later, Amy Santiago walks into him in a DC expo hall, and Jake's world turns over.

"We're sending you to DC," Jake's CO tells him, dropping a file onto the surface of the desk.

"Cool," Jake says. "Is the Bureau springing for the hotel?"

"Through the weekend," his commanding officer affirms, smirking. "Your mission, should you choose to accept it--"

Jake barely suppresses a groan. He never realized how annoying his Die Hard obsession was to other people until faced with someone who loved the Mission: Impossible series the way Jake loved John McClane. He covers his reaction by reaching for and flipping through the file folder.

She continues unhindered. "--is to recruit a speaker from that conference to interview with the Bureau. Think you're up to the task?"

Jake turns a page and finds a list of conference attendees, sorted by police department and unit. He scans down the list to the NYPD and sees AMY SANTIAGO printed in Courier New 12pt, and feels something like excitement rush through him..

"Yeah," he hears himself say. "I think I can manage."

The task itself is handled easily and fast. Jake attends the recruit's talk on the first day of the conference, then takes them to a bar for a drink and to talk shop. The two of them end up shaking hands and parting ways two hours later, the invitation for an onsite interview safely delivered.

Jake sends an email to his CO from his hotel room, loosening his tie with one hand while the other types clumsily. He clears out spelling errors before hitting send, collapsing on his hotel bed still in his suit and not giving a damn.

In the morning, the message is terse but clear: Enjoy DC, Peralta. Jake knows how to read for the unsaid Good work from her, and is grateful it isn't a quote from MI3.

The second day of the conference is busier than the first, with nearly every space in the convention center in use for a talk, a masterclass, a demonstration, or for booths. Jake wanders around and chats up the guys running booths with equipment on display, bean bag guns and miniature drones catching his eye. He pops into a talk about women in law enforcement and stands quietly in the back, the sheer nondescript nature of his suit giving away which agency he's with.

"I may as well be wearing my FBI windbreaker," he texts his partner, Jack Hsiao, who was recruited from Houston and occasionally will go off on a tear about Vietnamese food.

"So why didn't you," Jack texts back, like the jackass he is.

Jake is set to reply when he turns a corner and someone -- a decidedly female someone, given how she says, "Oof!" in a soft voice -- runs into him full force.

Jake registers who it is first, and he sees her realize it's him, even as she blurts out, "Oh my god, I'm so--" Jake sees her click her mouth shut, sees her swallow. He dusts off his shirt and straightens his jacket, slipping his phone into the breast pocket. "Jake."

He grins at her and braces his hands on his hips, feet shoulder width apart. He can feel his heart racing in his chest; it's the first time he's seen her in literal years.

"I hoped I'd bump into you." Jake feels his mouth tug into a wry half-smile. "Though maybe not so literally?"

She smiles and asks if he's okay, and Jake is trying hard to play it cool, so when she mentions that she's looking for classroom 1A24, he replies that he knows where it is before he can think too hard about it. Fortunately the talk yesterday was held there, so Jake does in fact know where 1A24 is, but he mentally berates himself in between small talk all the way across the convention center.

When they arrive in front of 1A24, Jake has no idea what Amy's been saying about her conference experience, but he knows this is a sign.

"Hey, how about we get a drink at the hotel bar tonight? Catch up?" He blurts out, though he doubts she notices his nerves. When she agrees, he feels a wide smile spread across his face. He says, "Awesome. Meet you at 7:30?"

"Eight," she replies, too fast, and points at the folder clutched in her hand. "I've got, um."

"Yes, 'um' sounds very important," Jake teases, still smiling, heart threatening to beat out of his chest. "Eight. I'll see you then."

Almost five hours later, several sessions and an impromptu run-in with the recruit behind him, Jake is seated at the hotel bar, suit jacket slung over the back of his chair and nursing a sweating bottle of beer, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He checks his phone compulsively, and is thankful when an email from the Bureau comes in as a distraction.

He looks up and he notices she's standing a couple feet away from him, dressed in a dark purple dress that reaches her neck and has no sleeves. Her hair is longer than he remembers it being, but her eyes are the same: large and dark and catching the light in their depths. There's a few more lines around her eyes and mouth, but he barely sees them. Amy has always overwhelmed his senses, and as she slides into the seat beside him he knows that much hasn't changed. He signals the bartender and orders the drink he remembers her preferring: bourbon, neat, with a twist of lemon.

Sheepishly, he admits he couldn't recall how she said the conference was going, and he listens as she speaks animatedly about the sessions in her track, the connections she's made, even the book recs she's been getting. Her entire face is lit up, and Jake forgets to keep sipping his beer, he's so mesmerized by the sight of her.

"And I was like, 'What are we even doing,' you know? I mean, what's the point if we're just--" She hiccups and looks self-conscious. "I'm boring you," she says with a laugh, swirling her glass with a turn of her wrist.

"What? No, Santiago, I knew what I was getting into when I asked you to tell me about the conference." He smirks. "How was your very important 'um' by the way?"

As expected, she reddens and mumbles into her drink, and Jake can't resist being the jackass.

He scoots his chair a bit closer and leans into her space. "What was that? I didn't quite catch what you--"

"I said I didn't make it to the networking thing," she says in a rush, and takes a fortifying drink. "I got….sidetracked." She shakes her head. "Why are you at a police conference, anyway?"

"I was recruiting one of the speakers for the Bureau. My CO thought it would take me through the weekend, but I handed them our offer after chatting for a couple of hours." He smirks a bit at her raised eyebrows. "Yeah, Santiago, I'm kind of a big deal."

She laughs into her tequila Manhattan and gives you a look. "I can't believe they sent you anywhere alone."

"Hey, I'm totally trustworthy."

"And how much of the room bill is gonna be candy?"

"Uh, none, I stopped at a Costco on my way in. Give me some credit, sheesh."

Over the second drink, Jake catches her up on what's been happening at the Nine-Nine. She laughs in all the right places, and nearly spits out her drink at his increasingly accurate Terry and Charles impressions. Amy tells some stories about the squad of detectives under her command at Major Crimes.

"One of them looks like a child," she admits, voice going low, like she's telling him a secret. Jake's face still hurts from laughing too loud and hard at one of her inept criminal stories. She stirs her drink to buy her some thinking time. Jake can feel their knees touch every time she shifts.

"I mean, is he one?"

"No! His records all say he's like 28 or something, but I swear he looks 15, like my nephew Memo. It creeps me out."

Jake starts humming 'Forever Young' only slightly off-key and Amy smacks him in the arm.

"Stop it, that's not funny," she says between giggles.

Jake doesn't really remember the third and fourth drinks, mostly because discussing Gina and Boyle at all gives him the hives. He remembers the fifth one, though, remembers watching Amy roll her shoulders back and ask with a carefully neutral voice, "How's Sophia?"

The question doesn't sting as much as it used to, but he still feels a small twist in his gut. He blinks at her slowly, setting down his drink deliberately, and folds his arms on the bar. He lets out a long breath before settling on his usual line. "I hear she's okay."

Amy's surprise is palpable, and she sets her drink down, too. "I thought you two were--"

"Engaged?" He interrupts. "Yeah." Jake picks at the label on his beer bottle. "Sometimes things don't work out, you know?"

Jake hears her nod, her hair swishing against her shoulders. The bar is strangely quiet, and he continues to run his thumb over the dog-eared corner of the beer bottle label. "You just..." She pauses, and Jake hears the rattle of ice in her glass. He glances at her just as she speaks again. "You said she was 'the one,' you know? It seemed serious."

"So was Teddy, right?"

"Touché," she murmurs, and looks away.

Some emotion creeps into his chest, and the words come out before he can realize he's asking them. "Was that why you left? Me and Sophia?"

She traces the rim of her glass with a finger. "A little." She shakes her head. "Mostly it was time. As much as I liked the Nine-Nine, I needed...more. Something else." Jake sees her smile to herself, her gaze distant in the bottom of her glass. "Ambition is a hell of a thing." She catches his eye, then, suddenly. "Was the FBI why you and Sophia called off the wedding?"

Jake laughs sharply, no humor in it. "That and the part where we both realized we thought of the other's job as garbage." He takes a long swig. "It's funny how quickly things go sour when you finally talk about work."

"Or when all you have to talk about is work," she retorts.

"Yeah, that too." He shakes his head and swirls the beer bottle in his hand, tapping the edge of the base against the wood of the bar. "So, I'm back to being single. The Feds keep me busy, you know." Jake takes a drink and contemplates the grain of the wood of the bar for a long moment of silence, the lacquer darkening the whorls to black. "God, we have terrible timing." He forces a laugh at the end of that statement. It can't hurt if it's a joke, right?

But Amy surprises him, just as she always has. "We don't have to," she blurts. "Have bad timing, I mean." Jake looks at her, a little startled, and she meets his eyes, nervous but steady. "I'm not seeing anyone, either."

Jake feels himself go still. "Amy," he says, voice low and rough and foreign to him.

She tosses back the rest of her drink and sets the old-fashioned glass down on the bar with a deliberate slowness. "Come up with me."

Jake searches her face, trying to find the lie, but her expression is all determination and a rawness to her that Jake isn't used to seeing. He nods, then, a single, sharp dip of his chin, and grabs his jacket. He tells the bartender, "I'm 258, she's…" He trails off at and looks at her.

"497," she says. The bartender nods, and she takes his hand, both of them walking to the elevator. The wait for the car to descend to the mezzanine is silent, the air so charged with anticipation that Jake feels the small hairs on the back of his neck rise. His heart threatens to beat out of his chest as he waits. The doors open. The doors close. His hands twitch.

The moment the car moves, Jake closes the scant distance between them, pushing her against the railing and the mirrored wall of the elevator car, kissing her the way he sometimes daydreamed about while he was undercover all those years ago, his fingers in her hair and tongue in her mouth. She moans, loud enough to echo in the silence of the car, and he feels her hands slip under his jacket, the way her nails scrape for purchase against his back.

The bell dings and when the doors slide open again, Amy pulls away and tugs him down the hall, her hands shaking only slightly as she fumbles the keycard for her door. Jake is definitely not playing fair, fingers touching every inch of exposed skin he can find -- and as he tugs down the zipper of her dress, there are exponentially more inches to touch. She makes a frustrated sound as she jams the keycard into the door, and Jake smiles against the exposed skin of the back of her shoulder, amused because he hadn't been able to figure out when she'd half-unbuttoned his shirt between the bar and this door. Turnabout, after all, was fair play.

The lock finally clicks open, the green light flashing in, and Amy practically barrels them both into her room. There's only one light on, a table lamp, and in the deep shadows it casts, Jake can see her breathing hard, see the flush in her skin, her dark eyes large and reflecting the light back at him. He pushes her back onto the bed, the dress on the floor and her bra tossed aside, his own shirt and slacks now lost, and crawls over her, grinning, and appeals to her sense of competition before she can overthink the situation.

"Whoever has the most orgasms buys the other breakfast," Jake declares, already shifting down her body.

"Jake," she says, brow furrowing in that annoyed way he recognizes instantly. It makes him grin wider. "Come on, that's not fa--" Her complaint is cut off, satisfyingly, by the low, pleased sound she makes in the back of her throat.

He teases her and takes her apart with fingers and lips and tongue, and the sound of his name from her mouth, relieved and pleasured and needy, as he pushes into her, is second only to the feeling of her hot, tight, wet sex clenched around him.

A couple of hours later, when they're both stretched out on her bed, sweaty and exhausted (4-2, Jake wins, Amy loses) with the sheets half-spread out over them, he hears Amy drift off. He wraps an arm around her waist and curls into her back, pressing wet kisses to her shoulders, to the back of her neck, and he is rewarded with her sigh of contentment as her breathing evens out.

He wakes to the feeling of Amy returning the favor, nipping at his chest, fingers scraping at his back. He groans and rolls onto his back, and she follows, straddling his hips and riding him to orgasmic wakefulness.

She's spread out over his body, head pillowed on his chest, when he says the thing he's been thinking since she fell asleep. "Extend your stay."

She props her chin on his chest. "What?"

"Spend the weekend with me. I already have my hotel room until Monday." He drags the tips of his fingers up her spine, the next bit harder to say than he expected. "I don't want you to go yet."

She sits up and pushes her hair back, letting it fall around her shoulders. Jake unabashedly takes in the sight of her, skin tinged gold by the light streaming in through the hazy curtains. Her expression is guarded, and Jake's hand stills. "I'll think about it," she says, and slides out of bed to put on her bra.

Jake knows a dismissal when he receives one, and Amy learned from the best captain they ever had. The walk back to his hotel room -- shirt untucked, jacket held over one shoulder -- is quiet and abandoned. Jake nods at a couple of the housekeeping staff as he passes them, but lets himself into his room without issue. He showers, the hot water stinging where she scratched her nails into his back, where her kisses had more teeth than tongue. It brings back the memory of the sensation, and Jake feels his knees shake. He emerges from the shower after steadying himself. When he wipes a hand across the fogged-up mirror, he can tell he's pink and glistening even in the blurry image.

A little after lunchtime, he gets a text. Her number hasn't changed, so his phone has her name attached to the message when it comes through. I'm coming up after I check out.

He debates what to say for a long minute, then replies simply, #258. Then he throws half the clothes he's got strewn about the room into his suitcase and closes the lid, not caring if his shirts all end up wrinkled. He looks himself over in the mirrored door of the hotel room's closet: gray FBI t-shirt, the screen printed letters starting to fade out, and a worn-in pair of jeans he's had for a few years, the knees starting to turn white.

He can hear her making her way down the hallway, the squeak of her carpetbag distinctly her somehow. He can see the slight shadow she casts against his door in the slight gap at the base, and he realizes he's holding his breath, waiting for her to knock. He counts five heartbeats, then ten, then steps forward and opens the door to his room.

And when she steps inside, when the door slams shut behind her, when this whatever between them that never got resolved, when it flares again, bright and burning, Jake knows that all roads led to here.

One day, they talk about what they both remember about that first weekend they spent together. Amy remembers moments, a lot of what they did. Jake is struck by the details and the sensations he remembers more.

He remembers: Her thin hands roll the condom onto him, the extra squeeze she gives the base of his cock before directing him to her entrance making his eyes roll into the back of his head. She feels so hot and wet and tight around him, he thinks he's going to come apart from the feeling of that alone. And then she does that thing with her inner muscles and Jake is undone.

He remembers: The want in her eyes as he pushes his fingers inside of her is maddening, but the way she bites her lip and her gaze goes unfocused when he makes a "come hither" gesture, thumb brushing across her clit, is mesmerizing. The way her hips buck into his hand fills him with a specific sort of masculine triumph -- Jake has always liked puzzles.

He remembers: Her nose crinkles slightly when she laughs too hard, and he takes it upon himself to tell her increasingly outlandish stories about hijinks at their old precinct to make that crinkle appear again and again. Soon, she's red-faced and blinking away tears from laughing too hard, and something warm unfolds in Jake's chest.

"Sounds like things didn't really change," she says, once she's caught her breath and wiped her eyes. Jake catches that hint of something sad in her voice. He rises up on one elbow, the mirth fading from his face, and tips her chin up with a crooked index finger, forcing her gaze to meet his.

"No, a lot of things changed," he insists, and doesn't tell her about the six months her desk was empty, about the drunken, mumbled conversation with Boyle in the bar after he and Sophia split up, about Gina and Rosa frowning at each other at the next youth outreach presentation, about the time Cagney and Lacey brought in Terry's homemade book featuring a heroine in an armored pantsuit.

He remembers: They reach for each other in the small hours of the morning, both of them half asleep and wanting. It feels like a dream, the slow and steady way Jake feels himself thrusting into her, the careful way she tilts and contorts her body so that he can fuck her there, find that place inside her that makes her come apart, the way her nails dig into his shoulders, the way his lips suck on her neck. When he comes, the dreamy, hazy nature of the encounter doesn't fade, and they fall into exhausted slumber curled around one another, her head pillowed against his chest. He feels her pull him closer, and he curls his hand over her hip.

He remembers: He hears her breathing change and stirs just enough to realize she's the big spoon. He smiles to himself and drifts back to oblivion with the feeling of her hands ghosting along his spine.

He remembers: the second time they order room service, Amy jokes that they have to carb up after all that cardio. Jake replies that it was mostly weight lifting for him, and she slugs him in the arm, no gentleness. He orders them chicken tenders and mac'n'cheese off the kids menu, and they take turns eating the chicken tenders in as sexual a manner as possible. Amy wins, making Jake crack up too hard to continue, and they finish by feeding each other gummy bears from Jake's stash -- she gives him all the orange ones, and he slips red ones past her lips, index and middle finger tracing her Cupid's bow each time. He drags the pad of his thumb across her bottom lip and the look she gives him sets his skin on fire. When he kisses her, she tastes like sugar and Red Dye #5 and the present, and Jake loses himself in her again, pushing her robe open and dragging his hands along her skin, savoring the way her voice sends tremors up his arms.

He remembers: She feels so good, her body splayed out all over his. They are catching their breath, her lips dark in the low light, kiss-swollen and full, and after a long breath, she looks at him, her eyes large and catching the light in their depths.

"What are you thinking?" he asks, shifting to sit up slightly. It dislodges her, and she ends up curling into his side, those large, dark eyes of hers still watching him.

"Nothing," she says after a long beat. His skepticism must show on his face, because she shifts position so that she's half on top of him, one leg sliding between his. "I was thinking about how much I want you," she admits, voice soft.

Jake doesn't have words for that, so instead he covers her hand with his and moves it until it presses against his racing heart, shifting so that their foreheads touch. She lets out a deep, contented sigh and slides her mouth against his, murmuring, "Jake," against his lips.

He remembers: He wakes on Monday morning and reaches for her, out of instinct. He finds himself alone, her bag and clothes nowhere to be found, and the disappointment is a cold, creeping feeling in his lungs. He runs his hands through his hair, presses the heels of his palms to his eyes, and stumbles into the shower, trying not to remember the sight of her on her knees in there, looking up at him through dark, wet lashes. He swallows past his lust and turns on the water so hot that it feels like it burns.

He packs slowly. There is no note, not on the nightstand and not in his pockets and not hidden in the steamed-up surface of the bathroom mirror. He checks out and takes the late train back to New York, trying to stop himself from checking his phone every five seconds for a call, a text, an email that never comes.

A week and a half later, Jake's CO says, "Do you know anyone in Major Crimes?"

Jake stops typing and turns fully in his chair to face her. "On the force?"

She nods. "Good ol' boys in blue."

"Uh, yeah, one or two, why?"

She hands him a folder. "We want their help, and in the spirit of interagency cooperation, I'd like to work with them rather than demanding they give us their files."

"Yeah, that never seems to go well, for some reason."

"Save it, Peralta."

Jake grins and flips through the file. It's a armored-car robbery case, one the Feds have been tracking across three states. Across the table, Agent Hsiao pretends to not be listening. "Seems pretty straightforward. Anyone you want me to work with specifically?"

His CO shakes her head. "I'm letting you take the lead on this, Peralta. I bet you know the right person for us to work with over there."

And, God help him, he does. Amy talked about her squad like they were a precious gift she still couldn't quite believe she presided over. Amy described making breakthroughs on tough cases the way some people talk about tropical vacations. Jake can't forget the way calling her "Detective Sergeant Santiago" made her flush with pride and want and joy.

"Yeah," he says slowly, expression carefully neutral. "I think I know the right person."

A couple of days later, after filling out all the right paperwork (in triplicate, no less, what is this, the past?) he makes his way over to One Police Plaza, flashes his badge at the guards, and makes his way up to the Major Crimes squadroom.

The kid at the front looks like a rookie, but his expression is all veteran as Jake walks into the room. "Can I help you?"

Jake pulls out his badge and ID. "I'm Special Agent Peralta, I'm here to see Detective Sergeant Santiago."

The guy looks him over. "She's not in yet."

"I'll wait. Briefing room okay?" Jake doesn't bother waiting for a reply, striding past and into what he assumes is the right place, the line of tables achingly familiar. He surveys the room slowly, rotating on one heel, before finally facing the view. In the distance, the Brooklyn Bridge stretches out over the East River, the Frank Gehry building just visible behind another skyscraper. It's strangely calming, and Jake studies rooftops for a long moment, hands stuffed in his pockets.

He hears some shuffling, and then the loud thud of the door closing. "Agent Peralta," she says, and he curses his heart for skipping a beat -- he's an FBI agent dammit -- and she continues. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

He turns halfway towards her. She looks good; her hands are braced on her hips, and she's wearing tailored khaki pants with a matching blazer, a navy button-down shirt, and has her badge clipped to her belt, just like always. If he didn't know she was more important now, he wouldn't have guessed initially.

He deflects. "I never thought One PP would have this good a view."

"It's the only decent view on the floor," she replies, voice a little wry. A long beat of silence stretches between them. Jake can tell she's waiting, but this was part of his training, the feeling out of local LEOs. "What are you doing here, Jake?" she finally asks.

He turns to face her fully, then, beaming a little at how quickly they fell back into old patterns. "The Bureau -- man, that never stops being cool to say -- wants to work with Major Crimes on a case." He swallows, this part a little more honest than he's used to being. "And I wanted to see you again."

He hears her take in a sharp breath. "You can't just say stuff like that," she bursts out. "That's--it's--"

"I know, it was such a great line, right?" He beams again, heartened to know she's as thrown off by this as he is. "So, you guys gonna help or what?"

"Shouldn't you be asking the Captain? Or the Assistant Chief?"

Jake reaches into his jacket and pulls out a sheaf of papers, glad to see they only got slightly crumpled on the walk over. "All cleared. It's your squad I want, Sergeant Santiago." He holds out his hand, the papers in them. "We'll be partners again," he says, voice a little softer, smile not as wide.

She searches his face for a long moment, that same fear and uncertainty in her eyes that had been there before she walked into his room. He waits -- he can be patient, and he forces himself to stay still, to not fidget, to wait her out. The silence is tense; Jake can feel that cold creeping feeling of disappointment start to edge in. Then: she reaches out and takes the papers from him.

"Okay," she says slowly, "But only I get to give my squad orders."

"Deal," he says immediately, and resists the urge to high-five her.

He manages to resist until the case is closed, when he holds up his hand after the raid that clinches the case, and she smacks his palm in full force. His hand stings for like a half hour, but given the near-manic expression in her eyes, Jake figures it was worth it.

Jake slides onto the barstool next to Amy at the get-together after the perps have been booked and processed. Jake sees her eyes flick to the bottle of Brooklyn Lager in his hand, and then she smiles. Jake understands immediately. "You getting déjà vu, too?"

"Little bit." She holds up her thumb and forefinger maybe a quarter of an inch apart, and Jake knows immediately that she's crossed the line from buzzed to tipsy, and he can't hold back his grin, the one that looks too big for his face.

He sets down his almost-empty bottle on the bar and rests his hand on her leg, hidden from the view of her squad and his colleagues by the bar and his body. "Come home with me," he says, a little terrified because he has been waiting until their case was done before he asks. The last three weeks have been achingly familiar, the two of them working side-by-side (literally and metaphorically) to solve a puzzle, put away criminals, make the world a little bit better. Just like before, there were 2AM coffee runs and stretch breaks and aimless teasing. Jake had forgotten how much he missed being with Amy, even if they went days without touching.

He feels her shiver, his hand pressed against her thigh. He looks her in the eye, and his heart is racing but he's trying to play it cool, keep her from balking, and he says the other thing he needs her to know. "No leaving without a word this time, though." He rubs his thumb along the seam that runs up the inside of her pant leg and tamps down the lingering sense of disappointment that surfaces when he thinks about waking up alone. He waits -- it seems like he is always waiting for her -- with bated breath, watches her eyes search his face.

"Okay," she says at last, voice a soft exhale. "Let's go."

Jake lets out the breath he's been holding, and his fingers tighten on her leg. Her expression shifts under the dim lights of the bar, her dark eyes glowing with what he's starting to realize is how she looks when she wants him. He dips his chin in a nod and signals the other bartender for the tab.

They take a cab back to his place, the lights of the bridge flitting past and casting strange shadows. Jake takes advantage of the long ride, running his hand up her leg and pressing his lips against her neck, in that spot he now knows makes her whimper and squirm. He can tell she's trying to keep her response quiet, and he smiles against the hinge of her jaw at that. "He's seen way worse than this, Santiago," Jake murmurs into her ear before nipping at the shell lightly. He feels her shiver, her entire side pressed into him, and she turns her head and kisses him, his mouth opening to the touch of her tongue along his bottom lip. She tastes like the whiskey she was drinking and the sweetness that is uniquely her, and Jake kisses her like a parched man drinks from a desert oasis. They pull apart to catch their breath, and her eyes are large and dark and luminous, her expression taut with desire, with needing him.

Jake doesn't remember paying the cabbie, doesn't remember opening the door to his apartment, doesn't remember stumbling up the three flights of stairs to his place, doesn't remember letting them into his unit, doesn't remember how they got to his bed, only that he's fairly certain they never broke apart once to make those things happen. Amy pushes the jacket of his suit off his shoulders, carefully unclips his service weapon holster and sets it on the bedside table, undoes the buttons of his shirt one-handed, makes a frustrated noise when she can't figure out his belt, is the one to push him back onto his bed after he's suitably naked.

He watches, mouth slack, as she strips off her clothes: service weapon and backup getting placed aside his, then her own suit jacket getting shrugged off, blouse getting tugged out of its tuck and unbuttoned until it slides off her shoulders, belt buckle and fly getting undone until her slacks pool at her ankles and she steps out of them. She's standing in a simple bra and underwear set, matched but clearly plain cotton, and Jake's mouth goes dry. In the shadows, he can't make out her expression, instead sees her reach back and tug her hair loose. Jake finally reaches forward, only to find that she's already reaching for him. .

"Amy," he says, almost hoarse, and the dark, cool curtain of her hair swings forward to enclose them as he kisses her, she kisses him, they kiss each other, his hands skimming up her sides. She makes a soft sound and straddles his lap and drags her nails down his back, and Jake is lost.

In the morning, the light streams in through his blinds, and Jake wakes up with his face pressed into the crook of Amy's neck, their legs tangled and her hair tucked under her shoulder. His whole chest warms, knowing that she kept her promise to stay, and he presses a kiss into her shoulder before getting up to wash.

When he comes back, his weight causes the mattress to dip, and Amy rolls over, unselfconscious about her nakedness. She blinks blearily at him. "Hey," she says, voice sleep-rough and hair a wavy tangle around her shoulders. She yawns and swipes at her eyes with the heel of her hand, and Jake smiles to himself at the sight. He crawls onto the mattress and pushes a leg between hers, kissing her without a care for her morning breath. She makes a soft sound low in her throat, and before Jake can put it all together, she's rolling a condom onto him and he's pushing into her. He finishes annoyingly fast, but the sight of her clutching at the slats of his headboard, back arched and face drawn with pleasure and tension, prove too much. He disposes of the condom while she touches herself, and he returns in time to kiss her through her orgasm, tongues sliding against each other and her hips bucking up into his hands. When she comes back to herself, she pulls him in for a kiss so electric, Jake swears his toes curl, and her gaze is blistering, hot enough to burn.

They doze, and when he stirs again, the light in the room is brighter, her breathing even but not the deep, slow breaths of sleep, and he can feel her tracing the lines of his chest.

"That tickles," he murmurs, and reaches out blindly to trace her hip bone with his thumb. He's debating if he's up for another round when his stomach rumbles obnoxiously loud. They both freeze, and then Amy starts giggling. 'Shut up," he says, and runs a hand over his stomach. "Breakfast?"

Amy opens her mouth to say something when her own stomach growls, causing her to flush from her chest to her hairline. Jake grins and kisses her, chaste because he's smiling, and sits up. "C'mon, there's a good place nearby."

Amy's only got her work outfit from the night before, so Jake dresses in his slacks and shirt, tie and jacket remaining on the floor despite the judgmental clucking Amy sends his way. Amy clips in her service weapon and her backup, and Jake circles his arms around her waist and says, "That's hot," trying not to laugh when she rolls her eyes at him and swats him away. When they get to the street, Amy reaches for Jake's hand and squeezes, and that warm feeling unfolds in his chest once more. He leads her to the main avenue, to the Jewish deli he's probably been frequenting too much.

He insists on walking her back to her place, even though it's forty-five minutes out of his way. When they get to her stoop, she turns to him, and Jake can feel the nerves radiating off of her. He kisses her, and when he pulls back he says, "I want to see you again," lips so close that saying "want" presses their mouths together once more. He pulls back and searches her face, watching her mouth make a round "o" of surprise. She swallows and nods, mouth pursing slightly.

The relief and joy that wash through him are sudden and sharp, and he feels his face light up before he can temper his reaction, sees a similar light in her own face beneath her blush. "Dinner tomorrow? I'll text you."

"Yeah," she says faintly, face flushed and hands fumbling for her keys.

Jake reaches out and touches her chin, tipping it up slightly to kiss her with singular focus. Her mouth opens up to him, warm and sweet and endless, and all Jake can hear is the blood rushing in his veins. He pulls back, unsteady, and she blinks at him like she's forgotten her own name.

"Tomorrow," Jake repeats while squeezing her hands, and then he jogs off, headed for the subway.

At dinner the next night, Jake wears dark wash jeans, a plaid shirt, and his leather jacket. His hands shake a little as he presses the buzzer to Amy's apartment. Her voice comes through, barely intelligible, but Jake surmises that she's coming down given that she doesn't buzz him up. He shoves his (still shaking) hands in his jacket pockets and fidgets, looking up and down Amy's quiet street.

He hears the door behind him open and he turns to see her. She's dressed about as nicely as he is, in fitted jeans and ankle boots with a chunky heel, a green blouse that's kind of shimmery in the light, and wearing her bomber jacket that Jake's always liked, the shearling collar bright against her skin.

"Hey," she says, a little shy, and presses a brief kiss to his mouth. Jake feels his stomach bottom out. She pulls back and her expression is soft, the lines around her eyes showing, and her cheeks a little pinked. "So, where are we going?"

Jake takes her to an Italian place in the neighborhood, and he has her tell him stories about her siblings and growing up as one of eight children in one home between stolen bites of his baked ziti.

("If you wanted ziti, you should have just ordered it," he chides, even as he pushes his plate towards her.

"Hey, I like Caesar salad," she protests, but her fork is already wedged deep into his dish.

"Could have fooled me," he mutters, tearing into the bread.)

Amy tells him about snowball fights and road trips, about playing rec league sports until she hit high school. She tears apart the foccacia the restaurant leaves on the table and tells him about her oldest brother teaching her how to throw a punch when she got to junior high. She licks her fork clean of tiramisu and tells him about pranks they pulled on each other, about the uproar that her getting her own room caused in the family. She sucks mascarpone off her finger and talks about watching her mother and her third-oldest brother, Manny, cook together while Amy sat at the dining table and did her homework.

And, over an after-dinner latte, Jake hears the wistful note in Amy's voice as she talks about her nieces and nephews and watching them grow up, and it makes something in his chest ache. He holds her hand on the table and signals for the check and listens to the way she talks about the arrival of each new family member. He hears the hopeful, yearning note in her voice as she idly stirs her coffee, watching the foam swirl in the ceramic cup, and tells him about attending baptisms and baby showers.

When they get back to his apartment, Jake leads her silently into his bedroom, gently tugs her clothes off, and licks her in earnest until that wistful, yearning note in her voice is replaced by need, sharp and raw, and then the distinct sound of her pleasure as she comes, inner muscles clenching and back arching off the bed. After, she pulls him into her and rests her head against his chest, breathing in time to his heartbeat.

When they go to brunch the next day, and when they walk through Prospect Park in the afternoon while holding hands, Jake ignores the way that ache in his chest doesn't fade until he's in bed alone back in his apartment, texting her goodnight followed by a string of emojis.

He sleeps over at Amy's place eventually, and sometime around dawn Jake stirs. Amy is wrapped around him, her arm around his middle, fingers laced with his. He savors the feeling of her holding him for a long moment before carefully extricating himself and going to wash.

By the time Amy stirs, Jake is almost finished dressing. "What time is it?" she mumbles, pushing her hair out of her eyes.

"Almost seven," he replies, voice still rough from sleep. "You've got twenty minutes until your alarm goes off."

She looks him over for a long minute. "You're leaving?" she asks at last, and Jake can't quite pin down her tone.

"Yeah." He clears his throat, runs a gentle hand up her leg. "I have to get back to my place before I go to work."

She nods slowly and gets out of bed, pulling on the clothes she'd stripped out of last night. Jake pulls on his socks and foregoes tucking in his shirt, the plaid button-down and thin white tee still presentable.

He feels her hands, then, on his shoulders, sliding up along his neck to cup his face between her palms. He looks at her, at her expression, and feels that familiar ache in his chest pulling at him. In her face, he sees tenderness in every line, something kind and covetous and warm in her expression. She kisses him, chaste and sweet, and the ache in his chest bottoms out, breaks wide open, and Jake can feel himself want her, a vast and cavernous gorge in his chest, dark and unfathomable.

Before he can think twice, he slides his hands around her waist and stands, changing the angle of their kiss, turning it from sweet to ardent, chaste to obscene, their mouths open and wet with tongues pressing against each other. She makes a soft, contented sound, and Jake walks her backwards until her back hits the wall. She gasps and he swallows the sound, his hands reaching under her shirt, fingers slotting between her ribs. She drags her nails down his back and he sucks her tongue into his mouth.

They break apart, breathing heavily, foreheads touching. Amy licks her lips. "Jake," she breathes into the scant space between them.

He pushes his fingers into her tousled hair and presses a firm kiss to her mouth. "I gotta go," he says, regret coloring his voice. Amy closes her eyes and inhales deeply, nodding as she lets out a long, slow breath.

"Okay," she says, and walks him out of her apartment.

He's halfway between floors, just past the landing, when he feels something tug at the back collar of his jacket. He nearly trips and catches himself on the handrail. He turns around and sees Amy there, barefoot and in her pajamas, arms extended invitingly, pulling him into her body, her mouth the apex of a very enticing triangle. Jake lets himself be drawn into her, and they kiss with her pressed up against a wall in the stairwell of her building, too early for her neighbors to intrude.

She draws back this time, patting his shoulders and smirking at him. "See you tonight?" she says, and it's more a statement than a question.

"If you want me," he replies, fingering the hem of her oversize sleep shirt idly.

"Oh, I definitely want, Special Agent Peralta," she says in her seductive voice.

He flushes at that and nods. "Okay, yeah, I'll text you when I'm done."

She nods and presses one last, firm kiss to his mouth before letting him go.

He gets down to street level, the entry door of her building slamming shut behind him, before he lets out a deep sigh. That cavernous, aching want still gapes in his chest, and Jake isn't sure if he remembers what it's like to not want someone this much.

Gina texts him a date, time, and address, and Jake knows a summons when he sees one.

I gotta go see a man about a wallaby, Jake texts Amy midway through his afternoon.

I thought we were done with the Disney quote text game she replies near-instantly.

I have to cancel on you for dinner :(

She replies, It's cool, call me when you're done, I have some Silk Stalkings on my DVR

Jake's response is a string of emoji.

Dinner turns out to be a little Nine-Nine reunion, with Terry, Gina, Rosa, Charles, and even Hitchcock and Scully all present.

"I tried to get Captain Holt and Kev to come, but they had tickets to something lame like the opera," Gina says by way of greeting, standing up to hug him.

"She did," Charles confirms. "She even offered to do an interpretive dance performance for them to make up for it, but Captain Holt was firm." Charles hugs Jake a little too tightly, even though he just saw Charles three days ago.

"Charles, I can't breathe," Jake struggles to say, before Charles finally lets go.

"Jakey!" Terry and Jake hug, with Terry physically lifting Jake off the ground.

"You're so strong," Jake murmurs dreamily, near-nuzzling into Terry's muscled shoulder. "How are the twins?" he asks, once he's back on the ground.

"About to finish first grade. They've grown so much in the last year--"

"Jake!" Scully interrupts, shouting. He trundles over to Jake and grabs him by the shoulders. "Jake, we thought you were dead, you've been missing for two years!"

"We thought about filing a missing persons report," Hitchcock adds.

Behind Jake, Terry groans. "He transferred to the FBI. Don't you remember? We even had a going away party."

"There was red velvet cake," Charles adds.

"Oh, yeah," Scully says.

Hitchcock nods sagely. "That was a really good cake."

Gina rolls her eyes hard enough that Jake's amazed they don't fall out.

Rosa is last. "Jake." She punches him in the shoulder, and Jake bites the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out in a high-pitched, pained squeak.

"Rosa," he replies, voice strained, and punches her leather-jacket-clad shoulder at about medium force. She smirks and appears wholly unaffected. Jake makes a mental note to work out more.

Dinner is a boisterous, chatty affair, with everyone chiming in on stories about what's been happening lately. Jake parries back with stories about the feds and what he's been working on. It isn't until about forty-five minutes in, when everyone is on their second drink and the plates have been cleared, that Jake realizes he hasn't mentioned Amy once.

"Jaaaaaake," Gina calls, gesturing with her glass. Jake raises an eyebrow at Charles, who simply shrugs and continues to sip at his beer. Jake notes, then, that Charles and Gina both have a hand under the table. Jake chooses to assume they're holding hands and refuses to speculate further. "You've been seeing someone."

The everyone at the table turns to him and goes oooooh, like the middle-schoolers they all are.

Jake rolls his eyes. "Not news, Gina. I told Charles that a while ago."

"You know I can't keep secrets from her," Charles says, shrugging vaguely in Gina's direction. It's still weird for Jake to process that they've been together for a couple of years now.

"How's the sex?" Gina asks, bluntly, smirking at him from behind her highball glass.

Jake chokes on the beer he was drinking, and Terry hands him a fistful of napkins. "Gina!" Terry says.

"What? We were all thinking it," Gina says, fully confident in her argument.

Rosa rolls her eyes. "Is it real?" she asks flatly, once Jake stops coughing, giving him that Holt-level stare that makes him feel like he has no secrets.

He swallows hard. "I'm not sure yet," Jake says slowly. "But I think it could be."

The table is quiet for a long beat.

"But how's the sex, though?" Gina asks, and half the table groans while the other half laughs. At the far end, Hitchcock has his shirt off so that Scully can inspect something on his back.

For the most part, Jake is okay with them proceeding with their whatever, no definitions, even though Jake hasn't been seeing anyone since he and Amy came together in DC.

Jake is checking his email, dressed for work and slumped in a chair at Amy's dining table, when she asks, "Hey, does Charles know about us?"

Jake pauses, his pulse suddenly racing, and sets his phone on the table, face down. "Does he know that we're…?" It's the first time he's pushed her to give their whatever a label, and it suddenly feels like the most important thing in the world. He watches her face intently, trying not to let his own expression give him away.

"Sleeping together." She frowns, though Jake barely processes it. His chest suddenly feels like it's held in a vise, tightening around his ribs. He thinks about all the nights spent curled around one another, laughing at his stupid jokes and her stupid perps in the dark. He thinks about holding her hand while they walked from One PP, across the Brooklyn Bridge. He thinks about the way she fits into his side, the two of them sitting in a corner of a dark Tribeca bar, their colleagues and friends riotous around them. He thinks about dinners at hole-in-the-wall restaurants by his apartment, about the way her dark eyes would look back at him over the rim of her wine glass. He thinks about waking up underneath her, that first morning after, at the sense of disbelief he'd felt at knowing that Amy was the figure sprawled out over him, her breath tickling the sparse hairs on his chest, her heartbeat slow and real against his skin. He thinks about how the last five months have been so much more than sex, and he wonders if it had been only he who had felt that way.

"Dating," she says, her voice more certain, more sure than before. Jake feels that vise around his ribs loosen, and he lets out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding, the smile spreading across his face before he could even think to hold it back.

"Charles -- and so Gina and the others -- only know I'm seeing someone. I, uh." He feels his face warm, the blush creeping up his neck. "I didn't want to tell them until you wanted to."

She brings the coffees to the dining table, setting the mugs on doilies atop coasters, and Jake pulls her into his lap, emails forgotten. Amy smiles, that slow smile that lights up her face, the one Jake likes the most, and taps him on the chin. "Boyfriend," she says simply, and Jake feels an incredible sensation spread through him, like sparks along every nerve ending.

Her nose wrinkles in that way it does when she's really amused, the gesture inordinately endearing, and he presses a kiss to the bridge of her nose. "God, that's cute," he says. "I have such a cute girlfriend." And the I love you that he's been feeling rattling around in his chest remains unsaid, burning a bright glow in his heart for the time being.

The days start to bleed into one another. He and Amy alternate whose apartment they stay at. Hers means they watch Netflix or spread out on her couch and read, Jake tapping at his phone while Amy flips through folder after folder of cases, the stack on the ground beside her as tall as her coffee table. After one particularly grueling case, Jake rubs her shoulders while she rants about the incompetence of the precinct originally investigating the case.

In turn, Amy is there for him when his own cases go sideways. Half the time, Jake can't tell her anything of value, and Amy nods sympathetically as Jake tries to talk through his frustrations by talking around them. Sometimes, when the words (or lack thereof) create more anguish than calm, she takes his hand and pulls him into the bedroom, and they work out his frustration through a different outlet. He's rougher, those nights, and her orgasms are bigger, leave her out of it for longer. She calls out his name with each hard, single-minded stroke, her voice breaking into sobs and cries of pleasure even as she pulls him closer. Their sessions end with both of them sweaty and exhausted and limp-limbed in the aftermath. On those nights, they hold hands in the dark and Jake listens to her breathe until his mind quiets.

At his place, they tend to cook dinner together, Jake carefully stirring sauces and boiling pots while Amy is assigned sides, because even she can't mess those up. She always makes a salad, which Jake never eats. His home is smaller than hers, and they tend to pass out draped all over each other in the middle of The Daily Show, before the interview even starts.

They go out: long walks in the park on weekends, along the Promenade after work if the light holds, one time to a salsa club that Jake hears about from another agent. Amy is just as terrible as she was four and a half years ago, but Jake doesn't mind. It means he gets to hold her close and lead her more deliberately. He walks her through a simple turn, and when she's facing him while still on beat, the brilliance of her smile leaves him dazzled.

And always, that gaping, unfathomable want aches in his chest, tempered only slightly by the warmth of the words he holds onto still.

Jake is joking about the color beige when Amy says it.

"I love you," she says, the words coming out all in a rush.

Jake feels his heart stop, and he goes totally still, looking up at her and her terrified, surprised expression.

Her mouth opens and closes soundlessly a couple of times before more words come out. "I mean, you're an FBI agent and you're almost forty--"

"Hey," he chides, but there's no heat in it. That vast gorge of want in his chest is collapsing in on itself, is filling itself in, and that warm feeling is everywhere, spreading to every extremity. He can't help the smile that is spreading across his features.

She keeps talking. "And you have dinosaur print band-aids, and I'm still the worst cook, I can't even drain pasta without hurting myself--"

He kisses her then, pushing her knees apart and tilting his head up to press his mouth against hers. She leans into the kiss, her knees around his waist and her fingers tufting his hair, pulling him in closer to the apex of her embrace. Jake runs his hands up her thighs, and then lifts her off the counter, walking them both to the bedroom. She wraps her legs around him, locking her ankles at the small of his back.

When he drops her onto the mattress, she scrambles to reorient herself. "Jake!"

He ignores her proceeds to strip off his clothes. "How did I end up with such an incredible, intelligent, ambitious--"

"You forgot 'beautiful,'" she interrupts, grinning at him. Jake's fingers are curled into the waistband of her slacks, which are halfway down her legs.

"I was gonna get to it eventually." He presses his lips to the inside of Amy's leg and he hears her whimper. "Say it again," he demands, half-rising so that he can look at her.

"What?" She shoots him a too-innocent look.

He levels a flat look at her and her grin widens. "I love you," she says again, more measured than the first time, but it feels just like that, the warm glow of those same words flaring up inside of him, the way the light is flaring in the depths of her eyes, and when Jake kisses her, it's like the Earth hasn't just moved, but it's goddamn exploded.

He kisses her all the way through her first orgasm, his fingers working her over until she's reduced to incoherent half-sobs of pleasure and tension. He kisses every yes and Jake out of her mouth when he thrusts into her, kisses her through the second orgasm, which tears through her like lightning. He kisses her through every aftershock, thumb circling lazily around her clit as she trembles and takes gasping breaths until she comes back to herself. He kisses her through the afterglow, every muscle in her body shuddering from expended effort. He doesn't stop kissing her until her pulse and her breathing are even and steady once more.

"I think the world ended," she murmurs, smiling at the ceiling with her eyes closed.

He smiles into her upper arm, his nose and brow pressed into her shoulder. "Good, I was really trying that time."

"Jesus, you mean you weren't trying before?"

"God, shut up, Amy."

She keeps talking -- isn't that supposed to be his thing? "And here I was bragging to my friends about you."

"Friend, singular. You have one friend." Using the last of his energy, he pushes himself up onto his elbow, and she looks up into his face. His ego won't let him leave that comment unremarked upon. "You were bragging about me? 'Cause I'm a sex god?" He can feel himself holding back laughter.

She rolls her eyes dramatically. "Men."

He grins. "You totally were! I totally am!"


He presses a finger to her lips. "For the record," he says, the ember in his heart flaring hot enough to consume him from the inside out. "I love you, too."

Her eyes go impossibly wide, taking on a slight sheen, so bright it's almost hard to look at her. "Oh," she breathes. "Really?"

"Yeah," he says, and pulls her in close, her back to his front, and tucks his chin over her shoulder. "I really do."

Jake is the third person to arrive at his own birthday party, which fills him with amusement.

"Technically," he says, twisting the cap off a Blue Moon bottle. "The party can't start until I get here."

"He is the birthday boy," Charles adds, looking at Gina.

Gina shoots Jake a look. "You think that just because you're the birthday boy, the party waits?" She laughs. "Newsflash, kiddo, I am the party."

"Oh no," Charles mutters, and starts drinking faster.

"Gina, we're the same age," Jake points out.

"Details," she replies dismissively.

Within a half hour, though, the bar's outdoor deck is full of Jake's friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. He's chatting with Rosa and some of their other police academy friends when he feels a solid thump on his shoulder.

"Oof," he says and stumbles slightly.

"Special Agent Peralta!" Jack Hsiao shouts, laughing at Jake's stricken expression. "You didn't think you were gonna turn 38--"

Jake groans exaggeratedly.

Jake keeps talking. "--without your federal friends, did you?"

"I'd kinda hoped."

Behind Jack, the rest of Jake's team comes in. "Too late," Jack says in a stage whisper, then claps his hand on Jake's shoulder one more time before rejoining the rest of the feds.

Charles glares at Jake from across the yard. Jake makes a helpless gesture at Charles, who is about to make a face back when Gina grabs him by the arm and hauls him out of Jake's line of sight.

"Your fed friends are weird," Rosa says, a slight smile tilting her lips upward.

"Yeah, well, I'm pretty sure the Nine-Nine can't throw any stones."

"Truth," Sarge interjects, walking past.

About an hour in, Gina sidles up to Jake, a cosmo in hand and half-gone. "So, Jake, when's your girlfriend getting here."

A few feet away, Jake's fed coworkers look over at them. Jake shakes his head slightly and they go back to their conversation.

"Soon," he says, casually. He's on his third beer and the night is young, the weather is mild, and a breeze is blowing through. It's nice.

"Uh-huh, sure she is." Gina takes a drink from her martini glass, one eyebrow raised.

"She will! I got a text from her a little while ago. Something came up at work last-minute." He shrugs. "She said she's running late but that she'll be here."

Gina rolls her eyes. "Give it up, Jake, she doesn't exist. We all know about your 'girlfriend' in Canada." She uses her free hand to make air quotes,

Before Jake can respond, Terry calls, "Amy!" Several of the Nine-Nine perk up and go over to her, giving her hugs and greeting her in turn. Jake is amused by the rush of love, but then, his opinion is biased. She catches his eye over Boyle's shoulder, Charles hugging her for a solid 3 minutes. He grins back at her, and she raises her eyebrows at him. Jake shakes his head, smirking, and takes a drink.

Rosa and Amy are chatting when Terry steps forward. "Look, Jake, Amy is here," Terry says, pointing.

"I see that," Jake says, voice wry, and he sees Amy cover her mouth to hide her smile. It doesn't work; her eyes crinkle in that way that he knows means her smile is wide and amused.

She manages to compose herself, though, because she steps forward (the entire squad behind her watching with rapt attention, Jake notes) and says, "Happy birthday, Jake." She reaches into her purse and hands him a wrapped cube.

"Sweet," he says, setting the bottle down and shaking the gift. "Can I open it?"

"If you want." She shrugs.

"Oh, I do want," he replies, and tears into the wrapping paper, then prying open the plain white box inside. The others ooh and aah when they see it: a Nakatomi Plaza Security mug. Jake doesn't really hear them, because Amy is looking at him like his is the only reaction that matters, like she's forgotten the others are even there. "This is amazing." Then he tilts his head at her, eyebrow rising. "How am I supposed to top this for your birthday?"

She shrugs. "I dunno, but I'm sure you'll think of something." Her casualness is belied by the small smile she sends him, looking up at him through her lashes.

He steps closer to her, into her personal space. "Thank you," he says sincerely, and kisses her in front of the crowd. Jake can hear a few people catcalling -- probably his fed friends, the jerks. When he steps away, he keeps his arm around her waist. "Everyone, I believe you've met my girlfriend, Amy?" The feds are nonplussed, but half the Nine-Nine is gaping at the display. Charles looks like he might cry from happiness.

"Told ya," Rosa says, smirking over the rim of her cocktail glass.

"Ugh," Gina groans, and hands Rosa a twenty dollar bill.

Terry points at both of them, finger waving (and ice in his glass sloshing) from side to side. "Seriously? For real? Like, real-real?"

She looks up at Jake, their shoulders brushing. "Yeah," she says slowly. "it's real." She laces her fingers with his.

Jake can feel his chest grow tight with joy, the warmth spreading like that droplet of food coloring in water. "The realest," he echoes, and presses a kiss to their joined hands.