Jake stares down the clock above the elevator with malice in his eyes. It's been less than three minutes since he last checked the time.
In his defense, the bullpen is irregularly quiet, and Jake is struggling to focus because nothing is happening and everything is so dull. Also, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and for the first time since his Nana died, he won't be alone.
It's been enough years that he's starting to forget how it felt to wake up when they sky was still dark and the city was still asleep but Gina was shaking his sleeping bag in the dimly lit blanket fort in Nana's living room until he woke up. He can't really remember the smell of her coffee cake warm out of the oven, and the chatter of Gina as she swallowed her slice whole and passed out the presents under the tree.
She'd tell them about everything she'd asked Santa for, and it was always silly things, because what she wanted were things even magic couldn't give her. So Jake asked for them because she wouldn't.
Dear Santa Claus, he would write. Please bring my sister's mom and dad home for Christmas. They're never here, and she misses them a lot.
They never came, and she stopped caring (no she didn't), but Jake never stopped asking. Even when Santa wasn't real anymore, he still asked, even though he stopped writing letters.
Then they grew up, and Nana died and Jake was already two years into the academy and Gina was in college, and one Christmas went by with no money to spend on flying home to see his sister, and then two and three and four, and then they both lived in the city but without Nana, they didn't remember how to celebrate.
The years keep passing, and he sends her a card and a photograph every Christmas through the mail, so he doesn't have to look her in the eye and remember that he's starting to forget their holidays with the woman who cared for them when her parents wouldn't, and his mother was too busy working three jobs to be a mom as well.
He tries to remember how Christmas felt when he was young and had bright eyes and a blanket fort and coffee cake with blueberries and the warmth of the lights on the tree. He tries to remember for Gina, he really does. He makes copies of all the pictures he has left of Christmases together with Nana, and delivers them in person early in the morning, before the sun rises and the blanket fort would've been taken down.
He knows she'll be awake, but he doesn't knock or use his key; he leaves the envelope on the doorstep and walks home while the sky is still dark.
The holiday passes and he spends it alone in the quiet of his apartment. She texts him Thank you, when the day is almost over. There's no emojis, so he knows she's sad like he is. They don't talk about it anymore, but he knows her parents visit even less than they did when she was young.
The next Christmas he spends in an apartment in a city he doesn't know and doesn't like, with no word from his sister and no way to tell her Merry Christmas, I miss you.
He's been undercover for awhile, and he's longing for Brooklyn, and the people he left behind. He wonders if they miss him too.
He hopes Gina doesn't spend it alone, but he knows she probably will.
He wonders who Charles will be with, and realizes he's never asked who his friend goes to on holidays. He swears he'll be a better friend when he goes home, if he goes home. He knows his odds aren't great. This is a dangerous case, and he's always been reckless with himself.
He imagines Terry will spend Christmas with Sharon and their girls who have Santa and a family that will always be there, even when they've grown and changed and left the nest.
(He's happy they have parents as wonderful as Terry and Sharon, but if he's being honest and maybe a little sad and a little drunk, he'll admit he's jealous. His mom worked so hard to make sure there was enough money to keep him happy and healthy, and he's grateful, he really is, but he would've been fine starving a little if it meant he could've spent time with her. He lives far away now, and she calls sometimes and he answers, but they never know what to say. They don't really know each other. They never did.)
Rosa might go to see her parents. He doesn't really know. She probably wouldn't answer if he asked. Not that he can.
Holt will undoubtedly spend the day with Kevin, and Hitchcock and Scully will probably eat themselves into comas.
He mostly wonders about Amy. He hopes she's not still dating that human ricecake, but knows she probably is. That's okay though, because she deserves someone responsible and organized like Teddy. Jake knows he isn't good enough for her, and that Teddy might be.
He wishes anyway. He wishes he could be somewhere she is, and he could see her smile and maybe be the reason she does. Mostly though, he wishes she's happy. For the first time since he lost Christmas, he writes a letter to Santa, and drops it in the special mailbox at the post office that delivers to the North Pole.
Dear Santa, he writes. It's been a while. I have the usual request—for Gina's parents to come home. I know you couldn't before, but try again, I know my sister still misses them. I've got something else this year, something that's probably more possible. There's someone super important to me. Amy Santiago. Can you make sure she's really happy? I can't imagine she isn't, but just make sure, okay?
Christmas comes and goes, and he doesn't know if Gina's parents came home (they probably didn't) or if Amy was really happy (she probably was), because Santa still isn't real.
Another month passes, and then two, and then he gets to go home. They're all there to greet him, and he barely catches a glimpse of the girl he's still hopelessly in love with before he's attacked by Gina.
Gina, who never lets anybody see that she cares, pulls him into a bear hug that reminds him of when he was little and he hugged her when she wished her mom and dad would come home on her birthday and they didn't, and she cried until she fell asleep, and pretended to be all better when she woke up.
She doesn't cry but she whispers to him before she pulls away: "I missed you."
I missed you too, he thinks, but she's already gone before he can tell her.
Charles starts to cry really, really, ugly tears when he grins at him and says hi, and he hugs Jake like he thought he'd never see him again. Jake knows he could've been right, but he doesn't dwell on it because he never asked before so he has to now:
"How was your Christmas, Charles?"
The man looks confused but he smiles anyway, and Jake thinks he's about to get a half hour monologue about his best friend's holiday, but he doesn't.
"I'll tell you later," Charles says instead, before he glances over at Amy and Jake understands. Charles thinks that Amy will want to see him, but Jake isn't sure she will. He remembers how he left her with a bombshell as a lousy goodbye, and figures she probably isn't so happy with him right now. He thinks he can find a way to live with that because she's probably better off without him.
But she's got shiny eyes when he looks at her, and she's slow to approach. She isn't smiling, and he isn't sure if she's glad to see him, he really can't tell, but she folds him into the softest hug he's ever been given, and he thinks maybe she missed him, at least a little.
She hugs him with her arms tucked under his jacket and her fingers gripping the fabric of his shirt. She hugs him like she isn't sure he wants her to, and he hugs back like he's dreaming and she won't be there when he wakes up.
"I missed you," She murmurs, and she doesn't pull away quick like he expected she would because he didn't think she would linger. He hadn't really thought, he'd hoped though, that she'd even be here when he got back. He wants to say I missed you too, but he's so surprised because she really sounds like she means it, so all that comes out is a choked: "Really?"
He can feel her smile against his shoulder, and he pulls her a little closer as she whispers back: "Of course I missed you, you clueless idiot."
Just yesterday he thought he was gonna die when he stared into the eyes of the criminal instead of the barrel of the gun aimed between his eyes, and now he's so glad he didn't, just for this moment, for Amy and the fact that she missed him.
"I missed you too," he tells her. "A stupid amount."
She pulls away after one more long second, but she doesn't go far. She stays right beside him, and he thinks he's probably hallucinating, but he can still feel the warmth of her skin even after they've separated.
Charles, who's practically bouncing on his heels, suggests Shaw's to celebrate Jake's return, and he's missed these people so much but he's also really tired and hasn't slept well in six months, so he declines and asks for a raincheck.
Gina shoots him a grin before she climbs into her uber and is gone, and Charles has to practically be shoved into a cab by Terry, who climbs in after him because they live only a few blocks apart. Jake never saw Rosa leave, but she's gone when the captain offers Jake a rare smile before he drives away.
He turns to Amy, who hasn't moved from his side and looks rather anxious, and if he's being honest, he doesn't want to part ways. He's still processing the fact that she's here, and she missed him, and he missed her so, so much.
"Wanna share a cab?" He asks, hoping he doesn't sound too desperate. He isn't ready to watch her walk away. It looks like he won't have to, though, because her eyes brighten a little and she offers him a smile that makes her eyes crinkle around the edges before she nods quickly like his offer will go away if she doesn't grab it fast.
They're quiet when they climb into the backseat of a cab together, and she hesitates for a moment before she settles into the middle seat and her knee bumps his leg and her shoulder brushes his and stays there. She's warm against his side, and he leans into it. She looks so soft right now, cheeks rosy from the February chill and her eyes reminding him what home feels like.
"How was your Christmas?" He asks, voice quiet and curious. She tilts her head at him, but she tells him without wanting to know why he's asking.
"Strange, but okay. Teddy asked me to go with him to Vermont, to meet his parents, but instead I broke up with him and spent Christmas Eve with Gina."
"Oh," Jake says, because he can't come up with anything better to say. It shouldn't, but a little bit of hope blooms in his chest when she says she ended things with Teddy.
"She showed me the pictures you gave her," Amy says softly, like she's sharing a secret. "She told me about your Christmases as kids, with your Nana. They sounded wonderful."
"They were," He replies, his voice thick. He feels like he's choking. She takes his hand in hers and slides her fingers into the spaces between his, and he can breathe again. There's a long pause before she speaks again.
"Christmas was bad this year, for you." She says it like it's a fact, not a question, and he nods, because she's right. "You asked Charles about his Christmas as well."
"I wrote a letter," He tells her, feeling silly like he did when he was sending it. "To Santa. That sounds really stupid, but I used to do that when I was a kid. I asked, every year, for Gina's parents to come see her. They never did, but she was too afraid to ask, so I did it for her."
"Does she know you did that?" Amy asks. She's leaning into him more now, and he's looking down at her hand in his and tracing patterns against her skin with his thumb.
"I don't think so, no."
"Is that what you asked for this year?" She asks, turning her head to look at him, her dark eyes looking at him like she's really listening and she cares what he has to say. It's been so long since he's been so vulnerable and still felt safe, and he thinks he'd tell her anything right now, in this quiet cab just before midnight.
"Yes. But I also asked for something for me this time," he admits. She's quiet for a moment before she says: "You don't have to tell me what it was, but you can, if you want. I'll listen."
"I asked him to—to—" he stops short. He breathes in deep, and tells her. "I asked him to check on you. Make sure you were having a really good Christmas. That you were happy."
She inhales sharp and exhales shakily, and whispers: "Jake."
He's still looking down at their hands twined together, painting loops and spirals down the back of her hand to her wrist then back towards her fingers with his forefinger, and she whispers again, a little more urgently: "Jake."
He looks up this time, and her eyes are shiny but so gentle and soft and warm and Jake feels so peaceful even though his heart is racing. She reaches out, brushing her fingertips down his cheek. They settle on his jaw and she tilts his head down until his forehead bumps hers, and she pulls him a little closer and presses her lips to his, so lightly it's like being kissed by a feather.
He falls into her touch and never looks back.