~Five Days Later~
Despite the triumph of their last minute rescue, Jake's mood had been on a steady decline in the five days that had elapsed since. It hadn't helped that he had spent those days in hospital, a place that he was growing to hate with a passion, but what weighed far more heavily on his mind was the realization that it would take him weeks to recover from the sum of the injuries he'd sustained over the last ten days.
The nausea he'd felt initially has passed, but he was still experiencing severe headaches, dizziness and his vision kept blurring. The neurologist treating him had assured him that these symptoms would likely fade in time, but he had also told Jake to be patient, as it could take anywhere for a couple of weeks to a few months.
Mal had already made it clear that he wouldn't have him back at work until he was fully recovered, which meant Jake was looking at weeks or even months of boredom and inactivity, something which he barely tolerated at the best of times. The physical limitations already had him irritated and short tempered as had the investigation of the police in which he was a central witness. Being cooped up for weeks was unimaginable. He hadn't seen or heard from Leslie since the night at the harbour, although he couldn't shake the impression that she had been there at some point during the day and a half that it had taken him to fully regain consciousness. When he had asked Mal about it though, his father had only shrugged and told him that he should take it up with Leslie.
On the face of it, not a bad result considering how much worse it could have been, still Jake couldn't help but feel that, on the whole, he had emerged as one of the losers.
Yes, he was alive and would likely make a complete recovery given sufficient time, but worse than the prospect of a lengthy period of restricted activity was the realization that his relationship with Leslie might be beyond repair altogether. He could definitely bury any hopes he might have had for rekindling of their romantic relationship, Jake thought pessimistically. It was true that Leslie had saved his life by taking out Calvin, but she would have done the same for any civilian, no matter how much he would like to believe otherwise.
The fact that he hadn't seen Leslie since the night at the docks was telling him plenty about how she felt about him. He hadn't expected Leslie to suddenly throw herself at him, but he had risked everything to prove her innocence. That should at least count for something, he thought. Still, he didn't regret what he had done, and would do so again in a heartbeat, but the disappointment stung nonetheless. Part of him could understand Leslie's reaction, especially now that Mal and Rose had filled him in on everything that had happened.
Jake was lost in thought until he was interrupted by Rose's entrance.
"Hey Jake," she greeted him. "Everything ready?"
Jake nodded and got up from where he'd been sitting on the bed.
"Mal couldn't make it, he's working a new case," Rose explained as she grabbed the gym bag containing Jake's things.
Jake opened his mouth to ask about the case, but Rose seemed to have read his mind when she said, "No, you can't come work on the case. You're going home to rest, not to drive all over town chasing down leads.
Driving, there was another sore point. He wouldn't be allowed to drive for at least another four weeks, on account of his head injury. Not driving meant that he would need someone to take him to his physiotherapy appointments and collect him afterward. He hated depending on others like this.
Rose continued to make pleasant conversation which mostly consisted of her talking and Jake making the occasional agreeing noise. They were walking to the elevator when Rose turned to him.
"You didn't hear a word I just said, did you?" Rose asked.
"Uhm, what? No...yes. I mean yes, of course," Jake replied.
"Then you'll be happy to know that you just agreed to trade in the GTO for a hybrid," Rose told him, smirking. She grew serious again almost immediately though. "What's bothering you?"
"Nothing," Jake replied, unable to even fully explain to himself why he was in such a foul mood when he had so much to be grateful for.
"That doesn't sound like nothing," Rose remarked, but appeared to drop the subject when the elevator doors opened. They stepped inside. However, instead of pushing the button that would take them down to the lobby, she pushed the button for the floor above them.
"Where are we going?" Jake asked, curiosity temporarily displacing the gloom that seemed to surround him.
"You'll see," Rose said. That was all she would tell Jake. He didn't have to wait long to find out though. Waiting for them at the nurse's station of the next floor was Leslie. She was sitting in a wheelchair, her lower left leg and ankle were encased in a bulky brace and her right wrist was in a cast. A pair of crutches was leaning behind her against the counter.
"Hi Rose" she greeted the other woman with a bright smile. "Jake" she said, nodding in his direction, but her smile seemed a little bit more forced now.
"Thank you so much for letting me stay with you for a few days. I hate to impose on you and Mal like that, not after everything you've been through...," Leslie said.
"If it hadn't been for you, things would have turned out very differently. Believe me, it's the least we can do. Now, I think it's high time we get out of here," Rose said, "Jake, can you grab the crutches?"
Jake nodded, feeling somewhat steamrolled by this new development. Being under the same roof as Leslie could be potentially problematic and the prospect did little to improve his mood. Retreating to his place wasn't an option either. The doctors had made it clear that he wasn't to stay on his own for a while after his release from the hospital and since Mal and Rose were well aware of this, there was no chance they would change their minds about him staying at the family home, no matter how much he didn't want to be stuck with a pissed off Leslie.
An hour and a half later, Rose had dropped off Jake and Leslie at the house. Leslie who had considerable trouble getting around on crutches due to her injured wrist and arm had settled herself on the couch with some help from Rose. Making sure that both Jake and Leslie would be all right for the next few hours, Rose had then headed for the office to help Mal and Des with their new case. With Tinny away at school, Jake and Leslie were alone in the house.
At first, Jake was of a mind to slink off upstairs, but figuring that he couldn't avoid Leslie forever, especially since she was going to stay with them for the next week or two, he decided to face the issue head-on.
He walked into the living room, intent to clear the air between them, but was surprised to find Leslie fast asleep on the couch. Watching her, he reflected that she looked exhausted. No wonder, considering what she had been through the last few weeks. And that was only the things he knew about which was probably not even the half of it considering he had spent the better part of a week in hospital either unconscious or otherwise incapacitated and another couple of days imprisoned in a basement. Not his finest hour, he had to admit. Mal and Rose had been able to fill in most of the gaps, but there were still plenty of questions only Leslie could answer. Well, it looked answers would have to wait. Jake was about to walk away, intent on getting some rest himself when he was surprised by Leslie's voice.
"Do you have a moment?" she asked, yawning.
"Sure," Jake replied, feeling only the smallest bit of hesitation but doing his best to quash it immediately.
Leslie shifted into a sitting position on the couch, making room for Jake to sit down next to her.
"Don't let it go to your head, but I wanted to thank you for believing that I was telling the truth all along," Leslie said. "If you hadn't found out about Calvin,..." she trailed off.
"So, does that mean you don't hate me?" Jake asked with forced playfulness to hide the flutter of hope he felt at her statement. Damn it, he thought, he had it bad. His earlier anger at Leslie had evaporated as soon as a he learned that Leslie had spend the last five days in hospital, recovering from surgery she had undergone to repair torn ligaments in her ankle and hadn't been purposefully avoiding him after all. Still, there was undeniable tension between them, even more so than usual.
"You did save my life, after all," he added more seriously when Leslie didn't answer.
"I think I never really did hate you," Leslie confessed after a long pause, ignoring his last statement. "I might have wanted to and perhaps there were times when I really should have hated you, but no, I don't think I ever really did. Even...even when Calvin made me choose between you and innocent bystanders and I...I chose you. I knew it was wrong and I should have acted for the greater good, but I just couldn't. I couldn't go through with killing you, no matter the consequences."
"Calvin made you choose?" Jake had had no idea. He did remember that morning at the hospital, but the memory was hazy, dream-like and vague, like everything that had happened during the first one or two days after he had first woken after his escape from the basement.
"Yes, he ordered me to kill you at the hospital, or he would detonate a bomb that would kill dozens of innocent people. I pretended to go along with him, but when I saw you and you didn't even recognize me, I...I couldn't do it. If the bomb's detonator hadn't been faulty, who knows how many people would have been killed, all because I let my feelings get in the way!" Leslie reproached herself.
"Sounds to me like you're not happy with the choice you made?" Jake asked, trying to keep his voice light, but failing miserably.
"It turned out all right in the end, but only because I got lucky. And even so, I nearly got Des and Tinny killed when I threw that bomb vest out of the window! So you see, it would be so much more easier if I did hate you."
"Well, I for one am glad that you don't hate me," Jake said, meaning it. "Look, Leslie, it doesn't matter if you made the right call or not. What matters is that we're all still here."
"I never should have let things between us get this far," Leslie argued.
"It's not your fault. It's Calvin's fault for putting you into an impossible position. You did the best you could and everything turned out all right."
"Yeah, as far as the criminal charges go maybe, but I might still lose my job," Leslie replied gloomily.
"They're still investigating you?" Jake asked.
"Yes, I'm officially suspended pending investigation," Leslie told him.
"Look on the bright side, if they do fire you, you can always come work for us," he said, only half-joking. "But seriously, you can't keep beating yourself up over this. It's going to eat you alive if you do."
"Maybe you're right," she said and sighed. "But if I do forgive myself, I can't go on pretending that I hate you."
"Would that be such a hardship?" Jake asked.
"It wouldn't, except, sooner or later, you're going to do something that'll make me wish I could, that I really did hate you. You keep acting like you're invincible. But you're not. You're human just like the rest of us, Jake. One of those days, you're going to get yourself killed and then what?"
"Leslie, I can't promise, I'll stop taking risks, it's part of what I do. You take risks too in your line of work," he pointed out. "It's part of what we do. Now, we can either spend the rest of our lives, however long that is, denying how we feel about each other, or we can give this another shot. It's up to you."
Leslie took a deep breath, clearly coming to some sort of resolution. "You just never give up, Jake, do you?" However her voice was lighter now.
"Does that mean yes?" Jake asked.
"I don't know Jake," Leslie confessed tiredly. "I have a lot of stuff to figure out, not just about how I feel, but also about what I'm going to do next."
"You don't have to do it alone, Leslie. Let me be there for you," Jake implored.
"Jake, I don't know..what if...what if I can't forgive myself? What if I do and things don't work out between us? What then?"
"Then we'll at least have given it an honest shot," Jake countered.
"I need time," Leslie said after a long pause.
"Whatever you need," Jake promised. "Just tell me you'll think about it?"
"Let's just take it slow, okay?" Leslie said.
A smile spread over Jake's face.
"You got it," he replied. He leaned in closer to Leslie, but a sharp pain in his ribcage caused him to wince and abandon the movement.
"Don't start something you are not up to finishing!" Leslie chided playfully and started to laugh, only to cry out in pain.
"Are you okay?" Jake asked, concerned.
Leslie nodded, still trying to get her breath back. "Just my ribs," she finally managed. "I'm okay."
"Guess we have no choice but to take it slow," Jake remarked.
"You won't get any argument from me there," Leslie agreed heartily.
Author's Note: Well this is it! I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. Also, a great big thank you to Welsummer who has been kind enough to beta-read the second half of this story.