It’s 5:42 p.m. on Christmas Eve when Jake makes it over to Amy’s apartment. This was the first Christmas Eve in years that Jake spent feeling disgruntled at the precinct, the first time he felt he belonged somewhere else.
What’s done was done, though; he had committed to working this holiday early in the year, before he had committed to her, and Amy understood. The long, drag of a day was behind him, and he was hers now.
He parks the car, cuts the ignition, and peers over at the two wrapped gifts in his passenger seat. He’s nervous, for a plethora of reasons.
Jake has never celebrated Christmas with anyone before, let alone a girlfriend who is arguably now the most important person in his life. This is also another big first for them, and another potential disaster. He feels like has no idea what he’s doing and only wants to be his best for her. And then there’s tomorrow.
His phone buzzes in the cupholder, interrupting his thoughts. It’s Amy. Jake realizes that he’s spent at least five minutes sitting in his car, feeding into his nerves, wasting precious time.
“Are you okay? I thought you left 20 minutes ago. You don’t want me to start cooking dinner by myself, babe.”
Jake smiles as he responds. “I’m alive! Don’t start without me. Be up in a minute. Promise.”
When Amy opens her door, she smiles so big and says “Merry Christmas!” Her arms hug Jake’s neck, pulling him close. He returns her embrace and softly kisses her forehead.
“Merry Christmas, Ames,” he says, and realizes he’s not so scared after all.
The apartment isn’t covered in Christmas decor, but Jake figures that Amy spent a good part of her day off - the first one in a week and a half - making the place look appropriately festive.
Amy walks around with Jake close by as she shares a stories about some of the decorations that mean the most to her. Soon, they make their way over to her mantle, where not one, but two stockings hang.
Jake can tell that they are both handmade; one is freshly knitted and vibrant, while the other is worn and faded. They read ‘Jake’ and ‘Amy’.
Jake looks over at Amy, her expression apprehensive but also eager.
“So,” Amy says, hesitating. “What are you thinking?”
He grins, crossing his arms and nodding casually. “I’m thinking that I love this,” he says. “It’s awesome. Did your mom make these?”
Amy perks up and she clasps her hands together at her chest, beaming. “Oh my god, good!” she replies, relieved. “And yes, my mom mailed yours to me a couple of weeks ago, actually. I’ve had mine since I was a baby.”
Amy points to a green envelope poking out of Jake’s stocking and then turns to walk away. As she does, she says, “That’s for you, too, from my mom.”
Jake opens the envelope, revealing a miniature Christmas card. Inside, Amy’s mom has written: “Merry Christmas, Jake. I thought you might enjoy having a stocking this year. Thank you for making my daughter the happiest. We’ll see you soon, dear.”
Jake and Amy spend the next couple of hours cooking and eating dinner, sipping wine, laughing, stealing kisses, staying close. Admittedly, Jake does most of the cooking, but this is expected, and Amy isn’t lying when she claims to be a fabulous sous chef.
When it comes time to exchange presents, Jake feels his nervous excitement return, but it’s not the kind that makes him want to run away. If anything, it pulls him in.
Amy turns on Christmas music to play quietly in the living room. They sit cross-legged in front of Amy’s tree as she passes out their gifts.
Jake has changed into an NYPD t-shirt and flannel pajama pants, the pattern a red and green plaid. Amy wears a onesie that is covered in reindeer and snowflake print, and she's sporting some fuzzy grey socks.
Amy has her hair up now, in a high ponytail, and it’s a little wispy from snuggling on the couch earlier. Jake thinks she looks pretty cute, and he tells her, too.
“You look pretty cute yourself,” Amy responds, a little snarkily. “Now open!”
They had agreed to only get each other one gift this year, but Jake accidentally let Amy see his two that he brought in for her earlier. Now, Amy is insistent upon Jake opening his gift first, “as punishment.” Amy has a funny definition of punishment.
Jake unwraps his gift, curious as to what Amy found for him, and he’s taken aback at the sight of it. The box holds a watch that Jake remembers pointing out to Amy one time months ago, when they were still a new, unstable couple, just casually window shopping.
The watch caught Jake’s eye because it had reminded him of one that his grandpa had worn, that Jake remembered from when he was young. It was never something that Jake realistically imagined owning, despite how much he loved it, and he can’t believe that Amy remembered, and that she’s done this.
The watch itself is a huge surprise, and then he notices that Amy has had the case engraved with Jake’s initials, just like his grandpa’s.
Stunned, Jake suddenly remembers that he hasn’t vocalized a response to his girlfriend at all. He quickly sets the watch aside, crawls over to Amy, and playfully tackles her to the floor. She erupts into muffled laughter and tries to ask him if he likes his gift, but before she can finish, he’s kissing her deeply and she’s softening underneath him. Jake pulls back, tells Amy it couldn’t be more perfect and thank you and I love you.
Then he pulls her up from the floor and says, “it’s your turn now.”
Amy tries to remain grumpy about receiving two presents instead of one, but it’s not long before her pout changes to a smirk.
Jake encourages Amy to open the flat, rectangular box first, and then the gift bag.
“Okay, but before I start, please know that this, right here?” she says, holding up the box. “This is wrapping done well. And you’re a Christmas rookie. I’m impressed, Peralta.”
“Thanks, Santiago. And are you like, super into me right now? You know, me, as a Gift Wrapping God. You totally are.”
“Maybe. Now, shh. I need to focus.”
And focus, she does. Jake watches Amy carefully remove the ribbon and wrapping paper, placing it all in a neat pile next to her before opening the box. She does the same with the gift bag. He expected nothing less.
She wears a confused look on her face at first, as she tries to figure out what all she’s looking at. He knows she’ll get there in a second.
Amy looks up at him then, her eyes wide, mouth agape. She shakes her head, laying out the four ticket stubs and room voucher on the floor in front of her.
Two of the tickets cover round trip airfare to Burlington, Vermont, while the other two cover admission into a carefully selected science museum. The room voucher covers a hotel stay for two nights.
Jake can't help but share the moment he knew that this would be his gift for Amy, no matter what he had to do to swing it.
“Do you remember that day in like, September? When we found that random cafe and ended up camping out there for a good two hours? When we definitely pissed off the baristas because we barely left before closing.”
“Yes!” she says. Now she’s tearing up. “There’s no way I’d forget that day.”
“I couldn't either. Anyway, you were so in awe of this place because it reminded you of a city in Vermont, right? Where your aunt and uncle used to live. You told me about a science museum that they took you to when you were eight - just the three of you."
He continued with Amy nodding along. "The museum itself obviously made you into a huge science nerd...” he trails off and she laughs at this. “But the rarity, I guess, of you experiencing something for you, without all your brothers around - that seemed special. And I wanna take you back, if you’ll go with me.”
Amy uses her sleeve to dry her eyes and cheeks. She scooches over to where he’s sitting, cups his face with her hands, and says, “You’re unbelievable, you know that?”
“I’m so glad you like it,” Jake says, his thumb grazing her cheek.
“I love it. Beyond love, I just-” she pauses, struggling to find the right words. Amy kisses him then, slow and heavy. “Thank you. This means so much to me. When do we go?”
“February 18th. Soon.”
Amy wraps her arms around Jake, burying her face in the crook of his neck. She’s practically in his lap now.
“It’s a date.”
Jake and Amy spend the rest of the night watching Christmas movies - The Santa Clause, Elf - and they eat more than enough Christmas candy and cookies. Amy falls asleep on Jake at least two times during each movie, but he doesn’t mind.
Before they know it, it’s after midnight and they’re sleepily cleaning up a dinner mess that they had forgotten about entirely.
“Amy, c’mon, let’s save this for tomorrow morning,” Jake tries, despite already knowing the answer he’ll get. They’re standing side-by-side at Amy’s kitchen sink, illuminated by a dim overhead light. Jake is towel-drying an abnormally large mixing bowl.
“Nope,” Amy says matter-of-factly, scrubbing extra hard on the platter that she’s washing. “We’re leaving at like, 8:30 in the morning. Plus, there’s no way I’d sleep well knowing the kitchen looked like this. You can go ahead, I promise.”
Jake snorts. “That’s not happening.”
Amy shrugs and passes the platter over to Jake. Instead of drying the dish, he places it and his towel on the counter. Amy stops and her eyes dart over to him, knowing he’s up to something.
Jake takes her hands in his own and dries them off, to which she sighs dramatically. He smirks and gently pulls her away from the sink. She doesn’t protest.
They fall into a slow dance around Amy’s kitchen, one that’s familiar now, and they inch closer together with each step, each sway, each spin. Pajamas, sock feet, dancing in low light, a first Christmas.
Amy rests her head on Jake's chest and then they’re just standing. Her eyes are heavy again, and she’s warm and solid against him when she whispers, “I can’t believe we waited so long for this.”
Christmas morning definitely comes too soon.
Right on schedule, Jake and Amy leave her place, ready for a three hour road trip to her parents’ house. Jake has met Amy’s mom and dad, but not her brothers. He could probably throw up at just the thought of how this could all go seriously wrong.
Every time Jake starts to nervously tap the steering wheel, Amy puts her hand on his leg, plays with his hair, gives him a half smile. It all works.
“You’ll be great,” she says with confidence as they pull into the driveway. “I’m right beside you.”
As soon as they walk through the doorway, they receive a loud, friendly welcome. Amy’s nieces and nephews are all under ten years old - most under five - and they greet her with shrieks and leg hugs.
“Guys, this is my friend, Jake,” she says to them, her voice sweet and kind. “Say hello to him, too.”
“Don’t you mean boyfriend?” says one of the younger girls, serious and quick. Some of the kids giggle. “Anna from Frozen has a boyfriend, you know.”
Jake kneels down so that he’s at face level with the kids. “I guess I am kind of like that guy, huh?”
The girl nods her head, gives him a toothy grin, and bounces up and down.
Amy smiles and rolls her eyes. “Well, that’s a win.”
Jake spends the day making small talk with Amy’s brothers and dad, helping Amy’s mom in the kitchen, and being the captive audience for the kids’ Christmas show-and-tell amidst other performances. Aside from the obvious, he seems to fit right in.
After dinner, most of the company leaves, except for Jake and Amy and Amy’s brother, Max, and sister-in-law, Bree, who traveled from Florida. They have twin four-year-old girls and a new baby girl that’s barely three weeks old. Still, the house is fairly quiet now.
Jake finds Amy sitting on the couch, almost alone in the living room. She's holding the littlest Santiago. He does a double take before leaning down to press a kiss to Amy’s temple.
“Hey you,” he says softly, then carefully sits down next to Amy on the couch, hoping not to wake the baby.
“Hey you,” she says, looking up at him. “Look who I’ve got. It's Amelia.”
“I see. I was surprised.”
“Yeah, Bree needed a break.”
“I can imagine. You okay?”
“Scared shitless, but better with you here. A natural.”
The baby starts to wake up, so Amy has to reposition a bit. She looks at Jake, panicked, so he guides her through it with ease, but really it’s all her.
“I’ve gotta put her to bed. I kind of volunteered.”
“Oh, really? Look at you go.”
Amy grins, then asks him, “Will you help?”
“Of course. You ready?”
Jake stands by as Amy slowly makes her way to the guest bedroom. He turns on a small corner lamp.
Amy takes a deep breath and lowers the baby into the bassinet, strokes her head but just barely, and turns on the baby monitor. She grabs the handset to take to Bree.
They stand there in silence for a couple of minutes, captivated by this tiny human, Amy especially.
Before they go, Jake takes Amy’s hand and intertwines his fingers with hers, then whispers, “You’re gonna be so good at this someday.”
The edges of Amy's mouth turn up and, despite the light, Jake sees her blush as she drops her head.
"You think so?" she asks.
"Oh, I know so. A natural."
She kisses the back of his hand and leads them down the hall, back to the living room.
Jake and Amy share a blanket back on the couch and drift in and out of sleep. He thinks of the hustle and bustle, the cramped quarters, the discarded wrapping and tissue paper, the talking and yelling and laughing, and he can't imagine having spent this day anywhere else.
He wants Amy, and this, and whatever else comes along with it, forever.