Exactly two weeks after kissing Jake in the woods, Amy's sitting down at her desk at home, a new college-ruled notebook in front of her, flipped open to the first page and with only a heading written on it: "Ways To Announce to the World That Amy and Jake Are Dating." Six sharpened pencils are lined up on the desktop, and Amy's holding a seventh, the point slightly dulled from writing the page's title, poised above the notebook, and she waits for inspiration. Or a comment from Jake, who's slouched behind her on her bed, examining her bookshelf and paying absolutely no attention to Project Come Clean.
Project Come Clean-otherwise known as Project We Have To Admit That We're Dating Eventually, Amy, I Mean, You Want to Go to Prom Together, Don't You, Well, How Can We Do That If We're Not Officially a Couple-was Jake's idea in the first place, so Amy's more than a little ticked off that he seems to have no contributions to make to it, being instead more than a little engrossed in her complete set of the Chronicles of Narnia.
"Dude, I love these books," he tells her, cracking open The Horse and His Boy and resting his head on her pillow. He looks at home there, Amy realizes-possibly because he is, because ever since they got back from camping they've been spending most of their free time in each other's bedrooms, talking and making out. Even though Amy's parents are stricter than Jake's mom, they've decided that her house is still better because it's also filled with her seven brothers, all of whom take up enough attention that Amy can basically get away with sneaking a boy into her room unnoticed. (And ever since the Tampon Fiasco of seventh grade, no one ever enters Amy's room without knocking. They're too afraid of what they might see.)
So the sight of Jake dipping into C. S. Lewis and mussing her floral duvet with his dirty Converse is no longer a discordant one for Amy, but seems part of her life now-she's just a girl hanging out with her boyfriend.
Thinking of Jake as her boyfriend, though, brings her back to what they're supposed to be doing-figuring out how to make their relationship public.
"Come on, Jake, you can read later. I want thoughts on reveal strategies."
"We live in the internet age," Jake reminds her. "Let's just make it Facebook-offisch. Easy-peasy."
"I think that's too big of a step," says Amy, frowning. "It needs to be more casual. Like, holding hands in the hallways in front of Gina, so that she notices and tells everyone."
"All right, write that down," agrees Jake. "But this is going to be a big deal, no matter how we go about it. I mean, not only is the hottest commodity at Schur High announcing he's taken, we're also admitting to all our friends that we've been lying to them since we got together. I can guarantee that Charles is going to be pretty disappointed in me, at least. So, even though I know you want to try to ease people into this gently, I think doing something big and shiny might distract people enough that they don't get so mad at us."
Amy starts to nod, then pauses. "Wait. Have we been lying to all our friends?"
"I mean, I sure haven't told them."
"Yeah, I know, but...they never asked. We've lied by omission, okay. But no one has ever straight-up directly asked us if we're dating."
"So what if we got them to?"
The next day, at school, Jake doesn't leave Amy's side. He's there, waiting, when she walks in the door, and the way his face breaks into a grin as he sees her makes her heart basically leap out of her chest, even though she knows very well that's anatomically impossible. And even though she knows equally well that he's only being so clingy because it's part of the plan, she also knows that there's sincere emotion behind that grin, and after weeks of avoiding each other, of sneaking around, it feels pretty damn great to see all that emotion out in the open.
Gina is the first one to notice, of course, her eyes going bug-wide when she sees how Jake's acting (and how Amy's welcoming it), and sure enough, before Amy gets a text after second period.
GINA: hey girl come to the third floor ladies room asap we need to talk
AMY: Okay, I'll be right there. But I think it's gross that you're texting in the bathroom.
GINA: i'm not on the toilet so not even gross, plus everyone does it, grow up
"Well?" Amy asks, strolling into the bathroom, completely confident for once, so sure of how this is going to play out that she's not even reviewing possible responses in her head, comebacks to each and every thing Gina could say.
"You and Jake totally hooked up, didn't you?"
This is not the phrasing Amy was expecting.
"I, uh, I don't know if I'd call it…"
"I knew it! All right. I can't say I didn't see this coming. Time for negotiations to begin."
"You guys got together while we were camping, didn't you?"
"Yeah-uh-wait, how did you know that?"
"Because," says Gina, widening her eyes dramatically, "I saw you. It's only too clear to me what happened, little Amy. Devastated at the end of what seemed to you like the only relationship you would ever have, you turned to the arms of one Jake Peralta for consolation. You saw it as a passing fling. Terrified lest anyone should discover your indiscretion, you insisted that the dirty deed be done in the darkness of a closet. What you didn't know was that Jake Peralta has an extremely distinctive breathing pattern when he is nervous or aroused. But I, having known him since basically the womb, noticed this breathing pattern at once when I entered that same cabin. I knew Jake was in that closet with someone, but until today, I didn't know who. But now it appears that Jake wants more from your assignation than that one moment of bliss you gave him. And his lovesick attitude is threatening to reveal your tryst to the school. Well, Amy Santiago, I can be generous. I will keep my knowledge from the rest of Schur High's student body. But at a price."
Amy takes a step back, bewildered. "You knew we were in the closet? But then you know that we know that you were with Charles?"
"And that," Gina admits, "is the price. We both made terrible sexual mistakes, Amy. Me in hooking up with a loser, and you in hooking up at all, what with that whole prudish shame complex you've got going on. But I will keep your secret if you are willing to keep mine. You can't reveal you've seen me and Charles without revealing that you were with Jake. And I am in the same trap. But I think we should swear each other to secrecy, just in case." Gina spits on her hand and holds it out.
"But…" Amy falters. "But I'm not ashamed!"
"I'm not! I like Jake. I don't care if people know we're together! And it wasn't just a 'tryst,' we didn't just 'hook up,' we're dating, Gina, for real, and everyone's going to know soon anyway! I'll keep your secret about Charles, okay, whatever. But I'm not going to swear to anything, because I don't want your promise of secrecy!"
Gina frowns. "I still think you're bluffing. If you're really dating Jake, why haven't you seemed into him at all?"
Amy shakes her head in desperation. "I just don't like public displays of emotion, okay?"
Gina sighs. "It appears you're not yet ready to negotiate. Let me know when you get out of denial and change your mind."
In the end, it's not Gina who ends up discovering the truth.
"Santiago, I need to talk to you." Her face is emotionless, as usual, but there's urgency in her voice, and Rosa doesn't speak urgently without good reason, so Amy follows her outside.
"What is it?"
"Peralta really likes you."
"Peralta really likes you, okay? Like, in a mushy, romantic way. Don't ask me why I'm doing this. It's because you're my stupid friends and I don't want either of you to get hurt, okay? You need to know how he feels before one of you does something stupid. Peralta really likes you, and you should decide whether you like him back."
"I do," Amy says, without thinking about the Plan, just telling the truth. "Rosa, Jake and I are dating."
Rosa cocks her head. "Do you mean," she says evenly, "that the two of you are already falling all over each other, and there was no reason for me to get involved at all?"
"Basically," says Amy, stifling a laugh. "But, hey, while you're feeling altruistic, mind telling everyone? You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get a rumor started around here."
Either Rosa somehow manages to gossip for the first time in her life, or Gina decides to take Amy at her word, because by the end of the day, everyone knows that Jake and Amy are dating.
After school, they sit on a bench outside, and Jake places his arm around her, like at the campfire, but out in the open this time, broad daylight, where anyone could see.
Terry and his girlfriend walk by, holding frozen yogurt cups, and they wave to Jake and Amy as they pass, and Jake waves back and Amy just smiles. Bernice passes by a little while later, stops and talks to them for a few minutes, and without the pang of jealousy Amy used to feel every time she saw her, she actually enjoys the conversation. Charles comes and sits directly between them for a time, seemingly oblivious, but dashes off once he sees Gina walk by.
"Do you think they're still…" Amy asks Jake.
He shrugs. "Who knows? Who cares?"
The last person they see before Amy has to leave to catch her train, the last member of the Schur High family to casually walk by, is Holt. He doesn't quite stop in his tracks when he sees them together, but his gait is very definitely thrown off, and Amy thinks she sees a twinkle of approval in his eyes when he nods at them formally.
When she tells Jake about the twinkle, however, he throws his head back and laughs for a full minute at the idea that Holt could possibly have an opinion on their relationship.
"I saw what I saw," Amy insists, and Jake humors her by shutting up.
Jake and Amy go to prom together, not in a limo, and Jake shows up an hour early, "because I know you start panicking an hour before it's officially time to panic and I didn't want you to panic that I was going to stand you up again."
They take the subway over (Amy has a towel in her bag so that they can sit down without worrying about getting the dirt from the seats all over their fancy clothes) to the same hotel that winter formal was at, and Jake sucks in his breath when he sees how fancy the ballroom is, and Amy laughs at him, and he rolls his eyes at her.
They don't actually end up dancing all that much, just in a big group with everyone else for the fun songs. Jake suggests they try one slow dance, and Amy says yes, but reluctantly, and they have to stop after thirty seconds because she's already stepped on his feet to the point of bruising them. Instead of dancing, they sit at a table with a bunch of their friends and Jake tells terrible jokes and Amy can't stop laughing, she's so happy.
Terry and the other seniors kick all of the juniors off of the dance floor at the end of the night, and Amy watches as the football team releases a bunch of balloons they were hiding in one of the smaller connected rooms, and as all the seniors jump around and try to pop them. She feels sad, for a moment, thinking of how this will be them, next year, of how high school is three-quarters done.
Then Jake squeezes her hand, and she remembers that they have another full year left, another chance to do all the things they haven't done, and she smiles and shakes off the sadness.
Afterwards, when they're walking back to the subway, just the two of them, Amy stops in her tracks and takes Jake's hands in hers and looks up at him and says, for the first time, "I love you."
"I love you, too," he says, with that big dumb beautiful puppy grin on his face, "but you already knew that."
"Mmm-hmm," she says, grinning right back at him, and he leans down to kiss her.
All in all, Amy thinks to herself, after she gets home that night, junior year wasn't half bad.