Three and a half years into the job, Jake’s convinced there should be some sort of honours system for parenthood. He swears he and Amy perform an act of extraordinary bravery intelligently performed in the line of duty at imminent and personal danger to life three times a day at least looking after a three-year-old and a one-year-old. They’ve collectively survived getting peed and puked more times than can be counted, getting woken up at 4am daily, one case of the chickenpox, two cases of the flu, three incidents of scribbling on walls and maybe two hundred or so tantrums, and their firstborn can’t even read yet. And after today, Jake thinks they should be getting a Medal of Valour for bringing their kids to a function as un-kid-friendly as a wedding.
“Just imagine, Ames. You could wear it on your lieutenant’s uniform,” he says, masterfully braiding his daughter’s unruly curls while she’s otherwise distracted by the iPad on the table in front of her.
“Yeah, and I’m sure Holt would totally approve of that,” Amy replies with an affectionate eye-roll from the neighbouring armchair. The sweet sight of her gently bouncing Maxwell on her lap negates any of the tired irritation she was going for.
“I’m just saying, if you left Holt alone with a crying Max when he’s hungry, then he’d appreciate such an honour,” Jake muses with a grin. He looks up from his hair-braiding duties. “You look great, by the way.”
Amy blushes ever so slightly and a shy smile forms on her face. For a moment it’s like they’re flirting colleagues again, “So do you, babe.”
At that, Maya looks up from her episode of Peppa Pig, scandalised at not being the centre of her parents’ attention. “How ‘bout me?”
“Why Miss Maya,” Jake lifts her dramatically into his lap and smothers her cheek in kisses, “You look so cute you risk upstaging the brides!”
That’s all it takes for his daughter to burst into a fit of giggles as her tiny frame tries to resist his kissing attack, and it’s the best sound Jake’s ever heard. He’s not even exaggerating about her outfit – the satin dress Amy bought Maya for the occasion and her little white shoes to match is almost too much adorable for Jake to handle.
When her laughter dies down, Jake’s bowtie seizes her attention and her small hands fiddle with it curiously, “Why are you wearing that?”
“Because at weddings you have to wear fancy-pants clothes,” Jake replies, before looking at Amy and smirking, “Well, at our wedding it was just us being fancy-pants since it ended up being so last minute.”
“Was I there?” Maya quizzes, tugging at his shirt collar to get his attention again. With the sheer amount of questions that she always has, Jake’s deduced that his daughter has inherited her parents’ outstanding interrogation skills.
“You weren’t even born yet, Maya-Moo. You were still in Mommy’s tummy.” Maya considers this for a moment, her face scrunched into an adorable frown as if trying to remember her time as an unfertilised egg.
“But you’ve seen photos of our wedding, baby,” Amy chimes in fondly, letting a curious Maxwell twirl the rings on her left hand. “You know, the ones of me wearing a white dress.”
“Yeah, Mommy looked so beautiful.” Jake beams at Amy with a familiar love in his eyes. “Like a princess.”
“Like Moana?” Maya’s favourite Disney princess changes weekly, but right now it’s Moana; Jake’s been told on good authority that it’s because they have similar curly brown hair.
“Even prettier,” Jake confirms, and Maya’s eyes widen almost comically; Jake struggles to hold back his laughter.
Maxwell suddenly lets out an incoherent babble and Maya glances at him briefly before looking up at her father again, “Boys can wear dresses too, right?”
“Of course they can. I mean most don’t, but if they wanted to they could.”
“Daddy, I don’t think you would look good in a dress. It’s not your style.” Maya tells him matter-of-factly, and Amy bursts out laughing at the offended look that immediate forms on Jake’s face.
“Maya Peralta,” he mockingly scolds, tightening his grip around her middle so she squeals, “I’ll have you know I’d look fabulous in a dress, even more fabulous than you and Mommy right now.”
“Which reminds me,” Amy interrupts Maya’s giggles at her father’s silliness and hoists Maxwell on her hip as she stands up. “We have a wedding to get to on time, babe.”
“No doubt, no doubt,” Jake lifts Maya off his lap and gently nudges her towards Amy to put her coat on. “Let’s listen to Mommy, Maya. We can’t keep Tia Rosa waiting!”
Getting the whole family out the door in one piece and with everything they need is always a task no matter how well-practiced ‘America’s dream parents’ (as Charles took to calling them within hours of Maya being born) think they are, but they make it, just.
“Are you excited to see your Tias get married, Maya?” Amy asks as she straps her daughter into her car seat.
“Mhm. Daddy said there’s gonna be cake!”
“He did, did he,” Amy looks pointedly at Jake with a small smirk and it doesn’t seem to be a question. He grins back at her as he straps Maxwell in before climbing into the driver’s seat.
“Mommy, do I have to be married?”
“You don’t have to, baby, it’s only if you want to,” Amy explains shutting her passenger door.
“Right now, I don’t want to,” Maya declares diplomatically. There’s a beat, in which Jake and Amy try not to laugh, then her small voice softens curiously. “Can I still see you when I’m married?”
“Of course you will, mija. Like how we see Nana and Abuela all the time, right?”
“Okay,” Maya’s eyebrows furrow Santiago-style as she processes this. “Then I’ll get married so I can have cake.”
“With extra frosting?” Jake turns around in his seat. Maya nods enthusiastically with a toothy grin. “Truly my daughter,” he beams as he shifts the car into drive.
They arrive at the venue miraculously on time, and its decoration is utterly beautiful; Amy will readily admit far more magical than what she put together for Rosa in less than 24 hours at Shaw’s all those years ago. Jake juggles the baby bag on one shoulder (they could survive a damn zombie apocalypse with that thing) and Maxwell on his hip, giving Amy a quick peck goodbye before she takes Maya’s hand and leads her into the next room where the rest of the bridal procession are. Rosa looks stunning in her wedding dress, just as stunning as Alicia and Amy has to interrupt them passionately discussing their mutual hatred of heels to let them know the ceremony is actually about to start.
When it does, Nikolaj’s the ring-bearer, and Maya and Iggy walk (it’s more of a skip) down the aisle with him, enthusiastically scattering petals in their wake. Amy and Gina follow closely behind on bridesmaid duty, anxious to keep their daughters moving in the right direction, while Charles, already out of his seat, crouches at the side of the aisle snapping as many photos on his phone as he can. Jake knows he – and a large proportion of the inhabitants of Brooklyn – will inevitably receive an email blast from him later with hundreds of photos attached, as is always the case whenever their kids do something together. Terry straight up bursts into tears when all heads turn to see Rosa and Alicia walk down the aisle, arm in arm and with no heels in sight.
Jake can’t quite believe how beautiful and deliriously happy they look together; he doesn’t think he’s ever seen Rosa smile this much in all his years of knowing her. It’s a little disconcerting but mostly utterly charming. Of course, he still somehow gets distracted by his wife walking in front of them; she looks incredible in her pale pink bridesmaid’s dress and he can’t wait to tell her so again.
Maxwell seems to agree. One minute he’s happily sitting on Jake’s knee quietly babbling to himself, his attention completely preoccupied by a toy, the next he’s spotted Amy standing at the front of the room and immediately starts fussing for his mother’s attention. Reaching for a pacifier from the baby bag is a trained reflex for Jake at this point, but it’s too late – Maxwell is already in tears wailing “Mama” with his chubby little arms reaching out for Amy. Holt stops his welcome address mid-sentence as the entire room’s attention shifts to the crying baby and an embarrassed Jake’s attempts to softly soothe him - “Hey, hey, shh, buddy, Mama’s not going anywhere.” Freezing in place, Amy shares a panicked look with her husband, before turning to Rosa, who simply laughs and nods at her encouragingly to go to her son as if that’s not the most obvious thing to do. She immediately goes to take the empty seat next to Jake and Maxwell in her arms – “What’s up, mijo? Mama’s here, baby,” – and, not to be outdone by her little brother getting all the attention, fairy footsteps follow as Maya runs over.
As Holt continues his address and the crying wanes, Jake whispers to his wife, “We’re all obsessed with you, Ames.”
Before Amy can reply, there’s an ardent tap on Jake’s knee. “Daddy, did you see me?”
“Of course I did, sweetheart; you did amazing.” He pulls Maya into his lap so that he can at least try and make her sit still throughout the rest of the ceremony. “Now we have to be quiet so that we can hear Tia Rosa and Tia Alicia get married, okay?”
Maya nods and makes a show of pretending to zip her lips. She manages to stay quiet for an entire minute before she leans up to whisper in Jake’s ear, “Did you kiss her?”
“Did you kiss Mommy at your wedding?”
“Yeah,” he glances lovingly at Amy, who in turn is looking lovingly at Rosa and Alicia with a sleepy Max against her chest. “I did.”
“Because after you get married, the person who marries you usually says: ‘You may now kiss the bride,’ and then you kiss,” Jake quietly explains. Amy glares at him to stop whispering but she doesn’t have the heart to go full on librarian and shush him because she knows their three-year-old is utterly incorrigible when it comes to reining in her curiosity.
“Because people like to kiss when they’re married.”
Maya's face contorts into a look of disgust that reminds Jake of the exact face that Amy made when Hitchcock proudly told her that he once wore the same shirt to work for seventeen days straight without washing it. He kisses Maya’s cheek for good measure.
“Are they going to kiss now?”
“Just wait, Maya-Moo, you’re doing so good. They have to say their vows first.”
“What’s a vow?”
“It’s when you tell the person you’re marrying that you’re going to love them forever.”
“I love you forever, Daddy.”
Jake grins and hugs her against his chest. “Love you too, monkey.”
She buries her head into his neck and doesn’t say a word as Rosa and Alicia exchange their vows, vows so romantic that even Nancy Meyers could take notes. Terry’s sniffles can be heard as Alicia finishes speaking – he’ll later claim in a toast that he engineered their relationship from the start - and Jake has to admit that seeing his oldest and best friend beside herself with happiness and standing hand in hand with the love of her life is pretty overwhelming. Maya lifts her head and reaches over to tap Amy’s arm, worry plaguing her face.
“Mommy, why is Daddy sad?”
Amy and Jake exchange a soft look and Amy’s lips curve upwards when she sees the tears forming in his eyes. She holds Max against her with one hand and rubs Jake’s thigh comfortingly with the other. “No, he’s just really happy, mija”
“Yeah, these are happy tears,” he assures his daughter with a smile. He lets her wipe one away from his cheek.
When Holt asks Nikolaj to come forward bearing the rings, a high-pitch squeal escapes Charles in anticipation of his son’s big moment. With his daughter’s arms clinging round his neck and his son half-drooling on Amy’s chest, Jake knows that he finally understands Charles’s unbridled, unadulterated enthusiasm when it comes to everything Nikolaj does, and he’d be loath to ever tell him to rein that devotion in. Still, he’d never force anyone to watch daily home videos of either of his kids brushing their teeth, he thinks (even if deep down he does believe that they would be Oscar-worthy; he’s sure Amy would agree).
After the exchange of rings, Holt pronounces Rosa and Alicia married and gives them the all-important blessing to kiss, much to Maya’s excitement. The whole room stands up, erupting into cheers and applause – it’s still not enough to wake Maxwell, the Peralta genes are strong – as the newly-weds grin lovingly at each other, and then at their audience.
“Your Tias are married now, isn’t that the coolest?” Jake smiles excitedly at Maya on his hip.
“Cool, cool, cool,” his daughter mimics him, and he’s never in his life been prouder of her. As Rosa and Alicia make their way back down the aisle hand in hand to continued cheers, Maya suddenly looks genuinely concerned. “Can I still cuddle Tia Rosa even though she’s married?”
A bubble of laughter escapes Jake as he sits back down. “Yep, she still has plenty of cuddles to go around; you know how much Tia loves to hug. Plus, you cuddle me and Mommy and we’re married, right?”
Maya supposes that this is true and cuddles into his chest. Jake kisses the top of her head and rubs her back gently.
“Max looks like he’s claimed my wife for now,” he says, gently running a hand through his sleeping son’s curls as Amy smiles tenderly at him. “So what do you say, Miss Maya: would you do the honour of heading to the reception and slow-dancing with me?”
Jake can’t quite believe that it was seven years ago that he was at Charles and Gina’s parents’ wedding shamelessly flirting with Amy and secretly (or not-so-secretly) being desperate to slow-dance with her. He still can’t really believe that now she’s his wife, that she loves him and his butt enough to spend the rest of her life with him. And he truly can’t believe that the Santiago-Peralta squad survived an entire twenty-five-minute wedding ceremony with only one minor meltdown and a couple hundred questions, a feat destined for the record books. What’s axiomatic, though, is that being a dad is categorically the best job Jake’s ever had; he decides in that moment with his daughter cuddled into him that he doesn’t really need hypothetical medals, not when he’s lucky enough to be rewarded with all his kids’ love anyway. He’ll tell Amy that later, when everything’s quiet and they’re in bed wrapped up in each other’s arms praying to the sleep gods that a certain three-year-old won’t climb into their bed or a certain one-year-old won’t wake up at some ungodly hour screaming the apartment down.
“Cake!” Maya replies.