Five years ago.
A week after Jake and Leslie meet for the first time, they're working the same case and show up at the same meet—which Jake finds out when he pulls in to park and Leslie pulls in right next to him. She doesn't see him, but he sees her, and he quickly gets out and jogs around the front of the GTO. He places his hand on her door as she opens it, and she tries to pull away when she realizes it's him but he gently takes her arm and says into her ear, "Follow my lead."
The guy they're meeting is shifting from foot to foot in front of a bar; Jake knows him pretty well, knows that he's squirrely and he runs at the first sign of cops.
"Keenan!" Jake says, draping his arm over Leslie's shoulders. "Whattay'at, bud?"
He side-eyes them, pulling a cigarette out of a crumpled pack and tapping it on his hand. "What d'ya want, Jake?"
Leslie reaches for her badge and with fast reflexes, Jake turns to block her, reaching for her hand with one of his. She looks straight at him and he shakes his head slightly, and after a bit of a staring contest she stands down. Jake pulls Leslie's blazer back over her badge and then turns to Keenan.
"You met my missus, Keenan?"
Effectively distracted, Keenan looks Leslie up and down and says admiringly, "Really? Not bad, Jake. You know, I never really reckoned you'd—"
Jake coughs and cuts him off. "All right, all right. Listen, I heard you might know where Cole is to these days. Any truth to that?"
Keenan narrows his eyes at Jake and then at Leslie, and Jake says, "Don't worry about her, bud."
"Yeah, all right."
He tells them what they need to know and Jake walks Leslie back to her car. At the door she pushes up on her toes and wraps her arms around his neck, and into his ear she says sharply, "You ever try that again I swear I'll knee you in the gonads. I'm not a toy or an accessory, Jake Doyle."
"That woulda gone a lot worse without me, Constable," Jake says cheerfully.
"You let me do my job, Doyle, or so help me God," and she pokes him in the chest.
Jake ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck, and Leslie gets into the car. With a last glare through the window, she speeds away.
Four years ago.
When they find out about a hotel just outside of town where married couples are being targeted, Jake doesn't tell Allison and Leslie doesn't tell the Mayor. It's just one night, and nothing's going to happen.
Rose packs them an overnight bag, provides them with rings, and they check in at 4pm on a Saturday. What they know is that couples are approached at the hotel, filmed without their permission, and then blackmailed with the documentation for as much as they have.
At dinner, they lean together as if drawn by magnets, their natural inclinations to reach out and touch allowed, for once, to carry through. They talk softly, soft enough that no one can hear it's utter nonsense, and they laugh affectionately.
After their plates are cleared, a rotund couple with American Southern accents approaches their table.
"Hello, dears," the woman says. "May we join you for a drink?"
"Of course," Leslie says, smiling up at them.
"I'm Bob, and this is my wife Alice," the man says as they pull up chairs. "From out of town, are you?"
"Yes," Jake says. "I'm in town for a medical conference at the University. My wife Leslie has come along for a bit of a vacation. I'm Jake, by the way." It sounds as stilted as it looks and Jake has to fight the urge to close his eyes and wince. He looks across the table at Leslie and she smiles encouragingly. "You two aren't locals, are you?"
Bob and Alice laugh. "Oh no," Bob says, and Jake is starting to get the picture that Bob does most of the talking in this relationship. "We're from Savannah, but whenever we feel the need to get a taste of fog we come up here. It's the best place for it, you know." He orders a round of neat bourbons, "a real Southern drink, to get them into the spirit of things."
"And what spirit would that be?" Leslie asks mildly.
Bob guffaws and looks to Jake. "You've got a real spitfire here!"
Jake laughs in disbelief and tries to look amused instead. "Don't I know it!" Leslie kicks him under the table and he nudges her leg with the toe of his shoe, grinning.
"So, what room are y'all staying in?"
Wow, smooth segue. "Oh, we're on the fourth floor," Jake says.
"Is that an east-facing room?"
Say, third from the left? "Why yes, it is."
"You'll see the most gorgeous [pronounced gaw-gee-us] sunrise if you're up early enough. Be sure you are."
The couple rides up in the elevator with them, and when Jake and Leslie get off on the fourth floor and the doors close behind them, they look to each other with wide eyes.
"A bit full-on, aren't they?" Jake says as he dials Des and hits speaker.
"Jake! Leslie! The cameras aren't up yet, give me a minute."
They wait outside the door, the hallway thankfully empty.
"Okay!" Des says. "I'm seeing one camera, pointed directly at the bed. Oh god, that's so gross. Um, it looks like it's probably inside or on top of the TV. Ew, ew, ew. So remember, I'm going to be watching. I better get a bonus for this. Oh god. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Or like, just anything. Don't do anything."
Jake and Leslie are silently shaking with laughter as they hang up and let themselves into the room. Staying close to the door, they take off their shoes and Jake sets his phone on the dresser, then looks to Leslie for confirmation. She nods, and he crosses to the bed and sits cross-legged on the end.
At the door, Leslie pushes up on her toes and flexes her hands, then walks over to the bed, making sure to keep her back to the camera at all times. She climbs gingerly up to sit on his lap, her legs extended on either side, and he checks with her once more before beginning to unbutton her shirt.
To the camera, it looks like he starts kissing her neck, but really he is trying to avoid seeing anything he shouldn't. He keeps his eyes pressed to her shoulder as he reaches the last button, and then he pushes the shirt off her shoulders. His hands go to her back and then the phone rings, their signal for the camera is down.
Like she's a hot coal, Jake takes his hands off her and leans as far back as he can, closing his eyes and then covering them with one hand.
She pushes herself off of him and stands, murmuring, "I'm going to take a shower," and walking away. He waits to hear the door close before he opens his eyes. Lying back on the bed, he stares at the ceiling, but when he hears the shower start he has to get up. He leaves a note—Gone for a walk, back soon—and takes the elevator down to the lobby.
He walks around the block two, three times, the brisk air and pace cooling him down and getting his blood circulating. He knew this was going to be hard; he just has to get through the night, push the plan through to fruition. He has to sleep next to her.
A car honks and he realizes he's wandered out into the road. He leans back where he stands and looks to the fourth floor—there. A silhouette.
The cool air is a balm to his fevered mind but he can't wander the whole night, not if they're going to play the happy couple.
When he gets back to the room, she's tucked in bed, on her side with her back to the rest of the bed. He changes in the washroom and climbs into bed wearing crisp new full-length pyjamas, an item of clothing he's never worn before and likely never will again. There he breathes slow and even and manages to drop off to sleep, a perfect twelve inches of space separating his back from Leslie's.
In the morning, there's a manila envelope pushed under their door, and they share a look of satisfaction, a look that says Of course it worked, we knew it all along. Leslie reaches the envelope first but Jake is close behind, and when she slides the photograph out he murmurs, "Sexy," in her ear.
She reaches back to push at him but he catches her hand and tugs, and she turns with ease, taking a step to maintain her balance. Instantly, his senses are assaulted, and his next move feels inevitable; he kisses her not as though he shouldn't or he knows better but as though it is all that he can do and she kisses back in the same way.
When she turns away it is not to cross the room or create distance but simply to turn her face so that his lips are pressed against her temple instead, and it is he who has to turn directly away, walk to the washroom and shut himself in. He splashes cold water on his face and avoids his own eyes in the mirror.
It is only the drive back to town now, and they will be with other people and other surroundings that reiterate the fact that this is not real and he leans on the sink and bows his head because he knows that he would stay in this room forever if it meant the fantasy could continue.
When he opens the door, he goes straight to the suitcase, pulling out his clothes for the day as she takes the washroom. Neither of them needs say it because it is so obvious it may as well be painted on the air: this is not real.
Three years ago.
The cocktail party with Garrison Steele is rife with surprises for Jake, but two of them hit him right in the gut.
First, Leslie is there. With a date. But she fixes his tie, saying, "My dad taught me how to tie one of these in case my husband needed it," and Jake can't breathe. He makes a joke about marrying her, but it isn't really a joke.
Then Garrison mistakes Leslie for Nikki and Jake thinks, Imagine. Imagine meeting Leslie all those years ago. Imagine falling in love with her when they were both young and stupid and too naïve to be cynical. Imagine if that house was one he shared with Leslie.
He doesn't imagine divorcing Leslie. That possibility doesn't exist in his mind.
And for just a second, he thinks, My wife, and it's a knife twisting in his lower abdomen. She walks away, looking like a princess, and he knows better. He knows, but he can still wish.
Two years ago.
When Leslie's undercover op comes up good and she gets a few days off, Jake drives that beat-up GTO north to Trinity. Where no one knows them, they're free to hang all over each other and spend more time than they should admit shut up in their room. If the locals smile knowingly, the store-owners wink with every purchase, well, who cares? No one seems to notice that they aren't wearing rings, but it's clear they think they're newlyweds. They may as well be. That op changed Leslie's perspective, and Jake… well, he's not grateful she was in danger or that everyone thought she was dead, but the change cannot be overstated. For the first time, the very first time, they can be properly together for more than a day or a couple hours. Not that they put a name to it—the physical proximity is enough.
Those four days, it's like they're two ordinary people in love. That's how it feels to Jake, anyway. If Leslie looks troubled at times… he does what he can to make her smile.
She trusts him now. If she still doesn't tell him everything, well. Jake is a patient man. When it comes to Leslie, he will wait.
One year ago.
Leslie chooses Callum and Jake goes numb. He understands history; hell, he even understands ex-spouses and not being able to let go of them. The difference is that when Leslie was a choice, Jake chose her. Every time. Every last damn time, and she chose Callum. But he understands history.
He also understands that a piece of paper means more than the connection between them.
He understands, he swears he does.
Their time together was a pretense, and Callum is the real deal. Right? That's what he's supposed to be getting from this?
It's a maybe. She's betting it all on a maybe.
He understands, he—he—
They get married in the most logical place—The Duke, right up against the bar. Tinny and Des spend the day clearing the floor and laying out an aisle of tulle and flower petals. Walter officiates, and what with the aisle and a few extra guests it outstrips Rose and Mal's wedding by just a wee bit.
Jake stands to Walter's left, hands folded nervously, and the small gathering of friends and family clusters on either side of the aisle with no rhyme or reason. Once they're reasonably sure everyone has arrived, Des cues the music and Leslie takes her walk down the aisle, with the strong support of Malachy on her arm.
He passes her hand to Jake's and pats them both confidently, surely, before kissing Leslie on the cheek and taking up his post at Jake's back.
Walter begins the ceremony, brief as it is, asking God to preside over this union and asking every person present to support Jake and Leslie on their journey together.
They speak their own vows, and Leslie goes first.
She draws a deep, calming breath, and speaks into Jake's eyes. "I never thought I'd see myself here." Laughter punctuates her sentences and Jake watches, sheepish and proud. "In fact, this is the last place I thought I'd be. I know it was a hard road for us, and I know a lot of that was down to me. Maybe I wasn't ready, maybe we needed to grow together, or maybe it was just wasted time, but I won't waste any more time regretting it, because now I know exactly where I'm meant to be—" She pauses, swallows hard, and continues, "—and it's right here. As much as five years ago I never would have dreamed saying this, Jake Doyle, I could not be happier to be promising to spend the rest of my life with you. I give you my heart, my soul, and my future."
"And hopefully some babies," Mal mutters, just loud enough for everyone to hear.
Obediently, with a huge grin, Leslie repeats, "And hopefully some babies."
Jake sniffles, swipes at his eyes, then clears his throat exaggeratedly. "I would like to say, first off, that I have allergies and am not nor will I ever be crying." The crowd laughs and Leslie just smiles sweetly, a smile that says, Keep that up if you can, boyo. "I could probably sum up my vows in one sentence: I was right, but I'm not so cocky as to try that one on. The truth is, I knew something when we met, but I didn't know what that something was. I figured it out, oh, say, years before Leslie did," laughter, "but when I did, I knew it was the only thing that mattered. So I waited. And, Leslie, I don't regret one minute of that waiting, because I would wait my whole life for you. I'm glad I don't have to," laughter, "but I would. I'm so excited to start a life with you; I've never wanted anything more in my life, and my promise is to give it everything I've got, anything it could ever take to make our journey run smooth. I love you so much."
"I love you," Leslie says back through tears, and they kiss with Walter hollering in the background, saying, "I didn't pronounce you man and wife yet!"
"Well, get on with it, then," Jake says, his arms still around Leslie.
"I now pronounce you man and wife, you may now kiss the bride."
"Finally," Jake mutters, and plants one on her, lowering her in a dip to a round of applause.
When they turn to the crowd, they wear matching grins that threaten to crack their faces. The bar opens and a cake is brought out and the next few hours pass in a blur of hugs and kisses, congratulations and exultations (and some dancing).
Jake is taking a pause near the wall, watching Leslie chat and look radiant, when Walter shows up at his elbow.
"We have a small problem."
The shift from happy, relaxed Jake to do-I-have-to-kill-you Jake is scary quick, and Walter immediately puts his hands up in defence.
"Don't get your panties in a wad, I said a small problem."
Jake takes a deep breath and glances at Leslie and then says, "Okay, what?"
"Well, there's this little thing called a marriage licence." Walter lays a manila envelope on the table. "You kind of need to sign it on the day of the wedding in order for it to actually, like, be a marriage, you know?"
Inhaling slowly through his nose, Jake's hands curl into fists. "That sounds like kind of a significant issue."
"Yes, yes, but it's a small fix," Walter says, a bit desperate. "We just need you both, and two witnesses, to sign the form before midnight. And we have," he checks his watch, "forty minutes until midnight."
Continuing to take deep, calming breaths, holding on to his sanity by a thread, Jake looks to Leslie again and catches her eyes, cocking his head to call her over.
When she's within speaking distance, Walter reaches into his jacket and says nervously, "We also, that is, we um, you didn't exchange rings."
"Walter!" Jake says. Leslie smiles and leans on Jake's arm.
"I know, but like, I'm an attorney, Jake, you knew this was my first wedding."
"That's true," Leslie murmurs. "You did know that."
He seeks her hand and squeezes it, looking down and telling her, "We have to sign the marriage licence. Have you seen my dad and Rose?"
She laughs a little and says, "I think they took off. What do you need, witnesses?"
"Yeah, we need two witnesses."
"Well." She waves around the room. "Anyone will do, won't they?"
"Okay." He turns around and grabs a waitress and Des (who seems to essentially just be hovering, but never mind). "Stay here. Don't move." He looks to Walter. "Papers and a pen, Walter. Right now."
Walter pulls the form out of the envelope and sets it on the table. Taking a pen from his pocket, he wraps Leslie's hand around it and guides her hand to the line she needs to sign, then hands the pen to Jake and points. Repeat for the waitress and Des, with heavy guidance, and then he signs it himself. Slipping it back into the envelope, he slides the envelope under his jacket and just past his waistband.
"There. See? Small problem."
Nodding and sighing, Jake gestures for the rings and then pulls Leslie a few feet away for some privacy. For a moment he just holds her hand in his and bows his head, trying to bring himself back to a we just fucking got married state of mind, and then he looks deep in her eyes and says, "You want one of these?"
She smiles and nods in giddy excitement and Jake thinks that that smile alone could cure half the world's ills. He can't help smiling back, as he opens the box and holds the ring in one hand. He holds her hand in the other and caresses her bare ring finger with his thumb before sliding the ring over her knuckle with all the reverence in the world. He just looks at it for a long moment, his thumb passing from the gold to her skin and back again. My wife, he thinks, and he has to look up and check her eyes to confirm it's true.
"Let me do yours," Leslie says softly. When he releases her hand she curls it protectively, her own thumb going to the ring and rubbing over it. Then she takes his ring and his hand, which looks so large as she holds it delicately, and slips the ring onto his ring finger. She wraps her left hand around the last two fingers of his and whispers, "I think it's official now."
He kisses her softly, butterfly kisses as he wraps his hands around her waist and breathes her in. When they look up again, the room is almost empty and Jake says, "Upstairs?"
She nods and they don't bother saying goodbye to the few stragglers, don't even look up to feel obligated to half-hearted waves; just put their heads down and get through the door to the stairs.
He doesn't carry her up the stairs because that would be insane, and also they aren't planning to live in the office and the whole carrying-over-the-threshold thing has something to do with entering a new home and anyway it's old fashioned and sexist, so they just walk up the stairs holding hands, Jake holding on to the handrail while Leslie focuses on lifting her skirt and not falling.
At the top of the stairs, they take the room in. Tinny and Des are responsible for this, too, but Jake tries not to think about that because it's kind of creepy and weird.
There's fairy lights everywhere and lengths of tulle, a few bunches of white roses. The centre of the room is a nest of blankets, pillows and cushions on a futon and Leslie immediately drops her dress and climbs in wearing only her slip. She burrows under the blankets and grins up at Jake, who has way more pieces of clothing to remove.
"Get to it then, b'y."
Glancing around, Jake leans down to open the minifridge and pulls out a bottle of champagne and two glasses. He hands the bottle to Leslie, lays the glasses on the bed, and says, "You get busy with this, and I'll get busy with…" He starts to unbutton his many, many buttons. Hanging his jacket on the coat tree, he unfastens his cuff links (passed down by Mal) and sets them on the table. As he unbuttons his shirt, he watches Leslie peel the foil, unwrap the wire, and then fiddle with the cork. She does not at all attempt to actually pop it, and Jake chuckles and ducks his head. "Need a hand with that?"
"You can deal with it whenever you take your sweet time joining me," she says, setting the bottle aside and lying back on the pillows.
"Yeah, yeah," he says, down to his undershirt and starting on his pants. That doesn't take long, but by the time he's crawling across the bed, Leslie is letting out that snuffly little snore and he just puts his head down on the pillow and laughs. He's exhausted too, admittedly, and it's not like he has any problem wrapping his arms around her and going to sleep, but you know… wedding night. He laughs again and then carefully scoops her up, holding her close, and for one short moment holds up her left hand and stares at her ring.
Honestly, as he settles into a nest of blankets with the woman he loves more than life, he could not be happier.
What else is a honeymoon for, anyway?