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i don't love you (but i always will)

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Jake Peralta was not a list person. In fact, he wasn't particularly organized at all. His entire apartment was usually organized chaos. Week-old clothes were tossed on the back of the couch and dishes were teetering lopsidedly in the sink, half-clean and half-empty. It's not that he was sloppy necessarily, because everything that really mattered had a place. So, naturally, when it came time to pack, he had to actually do laundry and clean. He knew (because Charles told him three times) that he should pack further in advance than 13 hours before departure, so that he didn't have to scramble around so much. He always discredited the mere idea of a list, but this time, it seemed to make sense. He was going away for an indefinite amount of time, leaving behind all his friends, and everything he knew. 

He hadn't ever felt this level of uncertainty. Everything about this was uncharacteristic: purposely getting fired from the job he loves, abandoning badge, gun, and any semblance of comfort. He felt naked, and not in the" I'm-about-to-get-laid" kind of way. In the way that everything he knew, everyone he knew was back at the precinct. His credentials were not in his front left jacket pocket as they should be, they were elsewhere. Every familiar object was elsewhere. Except for the picture he kept tucked into the bottom of his nightstand, collecting dust under unpaid bills and take out menus. Gina had taken it during her "I am totally going to be an Instagram-famous amateur photographer" phase. It was of most of the squad all together at the bar. Charles was at the center, telling some ridiculous story and everyone was laughing. He never really noticed, but he and Amy are looking at each other. All the most important people in their lives were there that night, but they could only focus on each other.

 Something had been building, bubbling, simmering between him and Amy for years and it all came to a head when he asked her out. He recalled a few weeks earlier, after tactical village. It took every ounce of courage, every fiber of his whole body to bring himself to say those words. He had thought about it secretly, silently, for so long. He wasn't precisely sure when he fell for her, but he did. Jake wasn't easily scared (especially for the bee thing, the wasp and snake thing, and the Extreme Heights thing), but the idea of asking Amy on a date made his stomach lurch so hard he was sure it would somehow plunge through his abdominal wall and fall to the ground. 

Jake wasn't generally a mumbler. He was the life of the party, the center of the room and he never had any problem being heard. So when Amy's expression twisted and changed before it fell, it was if something in him had gone out. In the half-second of hopeful silence bridging the gap between his proposal and her declination, the light in him fizzled and cracked and broke. Her hesitation was ambiguous, and for a fleeting moment, he wasn't sure what she was going to say. He watched her eyes dilute from their normal, semisweet-chocolate brown to a melancholy dark grey as if someone had added a few too many drops of water to a swatch of paint.

 Amy didn't owe him a thing, and he knew that, but it still hurt like hell. His breath hitched a little in his throat as he nodded. She apologized and apologized and apologized, but Jake wasn't sure what for. She was so gentle and kind that Jake almost forgot that she was probably hurting too. His eyes burned a little as he exhaled, "okay, uh, see you at work tomorrow then."

It was awkward and concise and it felt unfinished. A large portion of him hoped maybe it was. His mind lingered on the possibility of being with Amy a little longer than necessary. A knock at the door pierced his daydreams and he cleared his throat. 

"It's open," he called, shoving a few final items into his suitcase, the picture from the bar tucked neatly where hopefully nobody would find it. The door to his apartment creaked open and Charles immediately started talking too loudly and too all-at-once.

"Charles, slow down," Jake cautioned, motioning for him to take it easy.

"Sorry, man, it's just my best friend is going undercover with the mob later today and I'm worried!"

"Charles, I'll be fine," he assured. In truth, very little of him believed that he'd be fine. He already missed the precinct, his badge and gun, the safety of a bulletproof vest, Amy. Mostly Amy. 

"Have you talked to Amy?" Charles's dewy brown eyes shone, ever the biggest supporter of a relationship that probably wouldn't happen. 

"Not, uh, since the other week. Not really."

"The other week?" Charles exclaimed, "Jake! You are leaving in three hours! You have to talk to her! You love her!"

"I mean, I wouldn't go quite that far," he scoffed, even though he totally would go that far, "besides, she doesn't really want to talk to me, man. She turned me down." Jake shrugged. He was actually pretty proud of himself for how nonchalant he sounded despite it being the first thing on his mind all the time, making it completely 'chalant. 

Charles stayed and made small talk until Jake had to leave. 

"Jake?"

"Yeah?"

"Come back in one piece, okay?"

Jake lazily saluted Charles, partly because he knew any words he said would come out in a broken voice. Charles stiffened and saluted Jake for real, jaw clenched tightly. Charles was the closest thing Jake had to a brother. The 99 was the closest thing he had to a family, period. Leaving them, he thought, was the hardest thing he'd ever done.

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Amy had the date marked on her calendar for months.

Dentist appointment: 4pm.

Except, it wasn't a dentist appointment. Amy Santiago had never played hooky a day in her life. She only missed school if she had a fever, and hardly every missed a day of work. So, asking to leave early on that specific date seemed eerily inconsistent to Captain Holt. He never brought it up, because he knew she wouldn't give him a straight answer.

She was leaving because Jake was leaving. She woke up that morning with what felt like butterflies. Except, they were angry, not fluttering, but rather beating their wings against her ribcage, making it difficult to catch her breath. The night before, she had a dream that tied her insides in knots and fogged her brain.

In the dream, Jake had established cover in the Ianucci mob after being there for several weeks. He was sent to take care of some business for the head of the mob, but he was double-crossed by a member of an opposing mob and shot. She could hardly breathe when she woke. The idea of Jake getting hurt made her want to throw up. 

She remembered tactical village. She remember all the times she considered asking him to dinner after an exchange was too playful, or too flirty, or made her heart beat just a little too fast. She promised herself when she was at the academy that she'd never date another cop. Conflicts of interest always confuse work and play and lead to an unsafe environment in the field. 

She convinced herself that it was just a dream, that she would've reacted the same way if it had been anyone else. Still, she could hardly fall asleep the rest of the night. She couldn't think about anything but Jake and how she turned him down just weeks earlier. She couldn't think about anything but the way his face fell in her hesitation, as if he had waited his entire life for her, just to be turned down. She thought about how she almost kissed him the day he got fired from the NYPD. She almost got up from her desk as soon as he walked in, and kissed him to say sorry, to turn things around, to give them a chance. But she didn't she waited too long. 

They were a series of almosts. Times they almost kissed, almost fell in love, almost ended up happy. 

It would be at least six months until he'd be back home. Realistically, she knew that six months would be too long. Anything he felt for her would have diminished by then. Six months is too long a time to maintain a crush, and that's all this was. She was just concerned, just empathetic, just compassionate. Amy Santiago was not in love with Jake Peralta.