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Briar Rose

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Rose woke up choking on the smell of mold and rust. She sat bolt upright in bed, sweat plastering her hair to her forehead, fist swinging through the air at an attacker that wasn’t there.

Finally her eyes flung open and she found herself safe in a comfortable bed, the room smelling like a combination of the air freshener plugged into the wall and the sea breeze coming through the open window. She looked around confusedly for the source of her nightmare, and found it in her husband’s obvious absence. She huffed in annoyance and threw the covers off her legs.

She padded through the house with her arms crossed in front of her. They had finally managed to move house after Joe had been arrested six months back. It wasn’t as claustrophobic now. Two floors, four bedrooms, and a big picture window that opened out right onto a hill overlooking the beach.

That’s where she found Alec—out on the terrace, watching the early morning sunrise. He looked up as she slid the door back. “Hey,” he started, and then took in her expression. “Sorry, did you have a nightmare?”

He at the very least had the decency to look sheepish, so she decided to forgive him. Instead of reprimanding him for leaving, she just took his tea from his hand and claimed it as her own with a large gulp and a purposefully raised brow—waiting for an explanation.

“Sorry, I got a call, didn’t want to wake you.” He held up his mobile for emphasis. “I planned on coming back to bed but…” he sighed, and Rose didn’t like the look he was giving her—like he didn’t want to tell her something.

She shivered though just before he could go on (as she was currently only dressed in an oversized t-shirt and shorts, and March in Dorset was far from warm ), and his face morphed into one of concern. “Come on, you shouldn’t be out here dressed like that. Not in your condition.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Alec, I’m pregnant, not terminally ill,” she replied dryly, but stood up anyway, allowing him to guide her back into the house.

They sat together on the sofa, and Rose’s hand went to trace the small scar across his heart, left over from the surgery he’d gotten in October, as she waited for him to tell her what he didn’t want to. She loved that scar. That small bit of proof in second chances. Her other hand fell absentmindedly to her four-months pregnant belly as it was wont to do now that she was showing, and Alec tracked the movement.

“Jimmy Stone,” Alec finally spoke, voice rough, “he’s been released on license.”

 

Ellie flicked on the light of the police vehicle as a man went speeding past them going ten over.

She walked up to his window once they’d pulled over. She was wearing the usual traffic cop garb—bright yellow jacket, checkered bowler hat, the whole thing. Like a child in a Halloween costume.

“I'm really sorry,” the man apologised quickly. “I didn't realise—”

“You were speeding,” Ellie cut him off emotionlessly.

“I've got a hospital appointment. Biopsy results. My last meeting, it ran over—”

“Of course it did.” Ellie remained unfazed by his excuses.

“Look, here's my appointment card.” He showed her the pink slip of paper that did in fact mark him as running late for biopsy results. She just blinked boredly down at it.

Behind her, the young officer she normally worked with there in Devon Police Station mumbled to her, “Come on, give him a break.”

Ellie barely glanced over to her. “License, please,” she said to the man.

 

“Oh my God,” Rose paced anxiously back and forth across their sitting room. “He’s going to kill me—no, worse. He’s going to kill you and Daisy and our unborn child and just keep me prisoner—”

“Don’t say things like that,” Alec cut her off firmly, standing up and reaching out to grab her arms and stop her from making another turn about the room. “I’ve already got people back at Scotland Yard keeping track of him. They promised they’d shout if anything goes amiss.”

Rose bit her lip, looking up at him through her lashes. “What if he finds us, Alec?”

“He won’t.”

Tom Miller appeared at the bottom of the stairs then, holding up his mobile. “Sorry, Olly’s just phoned to ask where you were,” he spoke to Alec, “said you were supposed to be meeting him for an interview before the thing today?”

“Bollocks,” Alec muttered, just barely remembering to place a reassuring kiss to the top of Rose’s head before barreling up the stairs to get ready.

Rose shook her head, smirking as she watched her husband disappear around the corner. She looked down to Tom. “How about you and I get started on breakfast before school then, yeah?”

Tom had started staying at the Tyler-Hardy residence off and on since Ellie had run away to Devon. He hadn’t wanted to move at all, but he also wasn’t speaking with his mother (for reasons unbeknownst to any of them). So he now rotated between their house and his Aunt Lucy’s. Both of them allowing it just because it made Ellie feel better to know where he was and how he was doing, and none of them wanting to force the boy to do anything he said he didn’t feel comfortable with—not after what’s happened.

Daisy walked into the kitchen a few minutes later tying her hair into a messy bun as Rose pulled fruit out from the fridge and directed Tom to heat up the frying pan. “Are we all doing school today?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Well, I’m not.” Rose smirked, popping a blueberry into her mouth. “You two are welcome to stay home, but I’d have to call a sitter.”

Tom and Daisy shared a disgusted look across the breakfast bar at that, and shook their heads vehemently. “No, I’m good with school,” Tom answered quickly.

“School’s good, yeah,” Daisy agreed.

Alec came charging down the stairs then as Rose laughed at the kids. “All right, I’m off,” he said, kissing Rose and Daisy quickly, and mussing Tom’s hair. He grabbed a stray child-sized granola bar from the table. “This’ll do,” he nodded, and kissed Rose again before shooting out the back door.

 

Very few people knew that DI Alec Tyler-Hardy was actually capable of not looking like he had an entire tree up his arse. Tom Miller was one of those people now.

Alec tried not to think about that too much as he walked onto the beach where Olly and Maggie were already waiting for him. “Where the hell have you been?” Oliver demanded.

Alec squinted at the young man and rolled his eyes. “Watching after your cousin,” he answered dryly, even though that was only a partial truth.

“All right boys, settle down,” Maggie sighed, getting them back to business.

Olly held the microphone end of his mobile up to Alec as the interview began. “Right, DI Tyler-Hardy, you must be anticipating the relief today's court date will bring.”

“It's only the plea and case management hearing,” Alec replied boredly, shooting Maggie an annoyed look for letting him lead.

“But you're pleased you got the right man in the dock?” Oliver pressed.

Alec squinted down at him reproachfully. “What sort of a question is that? ‘Pleased?’” He looked over to Maggie incredulously. “Is that how you train him?”

Maggie only shrugged. At this point she was well used to these two arguing, and she felt absolutely no need to add any fuel to the fire.

Alec huffed. “Today's hearing is the result of a thorough investigation by a team of dedicated officers who worked day and night under difficult circumstances.” He just went ahead and gave them the quote they needed, no prompt necessary.

“And how will you personally feel seeing Joe Miller again?” Maggie spoke up finally.

“No,” Alec answered immediately, shaking his head. “Don't do that. It's not about me.”

“He's the husband of your old detective sergeant!” Maggie protested. “The father of one of your daughter’s best friends! You just said Tom Miller has been—”

“Maggie,” Alec warned her seriously, and she had sense enough to snap her mouth closed, even if she did look put-off about it.

She did go on though, changing tactics. “You must want the same as us,” she said, “Joe Miller sentenced for what he did. As soon as that happens, we can all move on.”

Alec only kept his face carefully passive though. “You know I can't comment in advance of today.”

“You’ve recently been reinstated as Detective-Inspector following a forced medical leave,” Oliver butted in again, and Alec raised a condescending brow as he turned back to him. “Has your health continued to affect your work like it had during the investigation?”

Alec glared at him—if looks could kill, the young man would have been turned to dust. “You can probably stop taking the arsehole pills now, Oliver.”

“All right!”  Maggie cut in before Olly could reply. “Picture! If you just stand there…” She motioned him back a few steps.

He looked behind him to the cliff where Danny’s body had been found. The place where the forensics tent had been was now replaced with a pile of fallen rubble. “Here? Really?”

“Yeah, that cliff fall's recent,” Maggie made mild conversation more than she really answered his actual question, clicking away on her camera as she did. “They're getting more frequent.”

Alec looked down to his shoes at that. “Things fall apart,” he muttered to himself.

“It'd help if you look up!” Maggie called, and he just barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes as he did as he was told.

“Smile!” Olly smirked from behind her, and Alec glared further at him.

 

Mark and Nigel were trying to get the hose going to set up the pool in the nursery.

“Is it working?” Nige called from the bathroom.

Beth sighed as water just dribbled uselessly from the end. “Not exactly.”

Both men appeared in the doorway at that, looking exasperatedly down at the nonfunctioning hose and the empty pool. Nigel stepped forward to take it from her hand. “Pressure’s not strong enough,” he muttered, messing with the washer on the end.

“So fix it,” Beth replied tiredly. “If this pool isn’t full and I’m mid contractions—”

“They’ve got a pool at the hospital,” Nigel grumbled, and Beth rolled her eyes.

“Don’t you start. I’m having a home birth,” she insisted, not for the first time that morning. Over her head Mark and Nigel shared a knowing sort of look that she pretended to miss, sharing her own look with Chloe.

Mark sighed. “All right we need to get going,” he said, clapping his hands together, and then tugging on Chloe’s oversized sweater. “Get changed, Chlo.”

 

After dropping the kids off at school Rose and Alec drove slightly out of the city limits towards Wessex Crown Court. “Are you sure you want to come to this?” he asked.

“I told Beth I’d be there,” Rose repeated tiredly.

“I know but now that—”

“What do you want me to do, Alec?” Rose cut off his protests. “Stay holed up inside the house and pray he gets thrown back in prison before he can find us?”

Alec let out a long breath and reminded himself that his beautiful wife was currently swimming in hormones. “All I’m saying,” he replied calmly, keeping his tone carefully measured so as to not set her off again, “is that you’re going through a lot right now.”

“Yeah, well,” Rose sat back with a huff, “so is Beth.”

 

At the courthouse they saw the Latimer's walking in from the opposite direction and shared small nods before walking through a crowd of journalists begging for quotes.

They met up after passing through security. “You didn’t need to be here,” Alec said, giving them the softest sort of look he could manage.

“No, I did,” Beth insisted, taking a deep breath as she looked up to the detective. “I need to hear him say it.”

Rose pulled Beth into a sideways hug at that, and over the tannoy a voice announced the Miller case. From the benches near them a number of other Broadchurch residents and friends stood up.

Alec spun in a small circle. “Where the hell is she?” he mumbled, walking backwards until he reached the stairs and had to turn around.

 

Ellie ran through the courthouse lawn, knocking over stray photographers on her way, and barely processing her trip through security once she got indoors. She tripped over a few steps on her way up to Courtroom 1, and was thoroughly out of breath by the time she crashed through the doors.

She looked around the quiet room, thankful that the judge hadn’t yet arrived. She made brief eye contact with Rose who pointed to her other side. Ellie turned to see Alec gesturing her over. “Miller!” he stage whispered. “Over here!”

She sat down gratefully, only to have to stand up a moment later as the judge entered.

He sat down and they followed suit. “All parties in the case of Joseph Miller,” he requested, and all heads turned to watch at the door behind the glass casing the defendant box opened, and Joe walked out.

Joe’s eyes searched about the room, landing on Ellie’s.

“Don’t you look at me,” she growled, tears springing to her eyes at the sight of him.

The bailiff stepped forward. “Are you Joseph Michael Miller?”

“Yes,” Joe answered quietly.

“Joseph Michael Miller, you are charged with murder contrary to common law. The particulars of the offence are that on the 18th day of July 2013, you murdered Daniel Latimer, of 4 Spring Close, Broadchurch, Dorset.” Chloe, Beth, and Mark were all crying again as it played out before them, holding each others hands for support. “How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?”

Joe kept his face carefully neutral. “Not guilty.”

“No!” Ellie let out, and all around them the court started mumbling and whispering.

Beth was looking around frantically. “No… no…  he can't… he can’t!” She looked around Mark to see Rose’s horrified expression.

Across the aisle Rose and Alec’s eyes met.

“Er, Your Honour, sorry.” Joe’s barrister sat forward, seemingly uncomfortable. “Um can I just ask for the indictment to be put again?”

Mark stood up suddenly at that, slamming his hand down on the wooden bannister in front of him. “BE A MAN JOE!” he shouted angrily, tears streaming down his face. “YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!”

The judge banged his gavel. “Sit down!” he ordered. “I said sit down!

Nigel pulled Mark back down to his chair, and the judge turned back to the woman representing Joe. “I take it from your reaction, Ms Thompson, that Queen's Counsel have not been instructed.”

“Very much not, Your Honour,” Ms Thompson answered, turning around to glare at Joe incredulously.

“Could you confirm your plea, Mr Miller? Not least, it seems, for the benefit of your own counsel.”

Joe again, showed absolutely no signs of remorse as he repeated his plea, “Not guilty.”

Beth started uncontrollably sobbing.

 

After they were dismissed Rose went off with the Latimers to find out from their legal counsel what was going on, and Alec watched as Ellie disappeared quickly into the toilets.

He waited around outside of it for a bit, but when she didn’t show after five minutes he grabbed the ‘closed for cleaning’ sign outside the men’s room, and walked into the ladies’, setting it down in there.

He knocked on the only closed stall.

“It’s occupied!” Ellie’s voice called back annoyed, and he could hear that she was crying.

“I know. Come out, Miller.”

The door flung open at that and Ellie stood there, staring at him incredulously. “Go away! It's the ladies! You can't come in!” she shouted at him.

“What are you doing in there? You've been ages,” Alec shot back dryly, and then looked up as the door opened and another woman walked in. “Oi! There’s a sign! ‘Cleaning in Progress’! Out! Out!” He shooed away the strange and startled woman.

Ellie huffed and walked past him towards the sink, leaning over it to inspect her reflection miserably. Alec sat back against the counter across from her. “Don't let it get to you,” he spoke quietly as she sniffled.

“Oh, well thanks for that. Brilliant advice,” she bit back sarcastically. She wiped her nose, shaking her head and letting out a long breath. “God. You caught Joe. He had Danny's phone, you brought him in, you interviewed him. He didn't resist. He is guilty,” she rambled, needing him to say it was all going to be okay.

“And the case against him is strong,” Alec agreed. “The CPS never had any doubt about prosecuting.”

“Doesn't he know what it's gonna do to Beth and Mark? To all of us?” she sobbed. “Oh, God, who'll tell Tom? He's at school. If his friends find out before him—”

“It’s all right, I spoke to your sister,” Alec cut her off, already ahead of her. “She and Olly are gonna take him out at lunchtime.”

“Well I could go with them. I could see him,” Ellie tried hopefully, wiping at her face without making any real progress towards drying it.

Alec gave her a sorrowful, pitying look. “You know he doesn't want that,” he said quietly.

“I'm his mother!” Ellie protested miserably. “He's only gonna blame me more. How am I ever gonna get him back if there's a trial? How is this my life now?”

“I'm sorry,” his voice was barely even a whisper now as he stood up straight. “…Do you want a hug?” he offered awkwardly.

“What? No!” Ellie yelled at him. “What's the matter with you?”

Alec shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m just trying to help—”

“What, hug it out?” She yelled incredulously, throwing her bag over her shoulder

Alec shrugged helplessly. “People do that—”

“Well, not you!” She marched past him angrily.

“Just try not to be alone today, Miller,” he called after her.

She didn’t pause on her way to the door. “I am alone, sir,” she growled out.

“You don't have to call me sir anymore.”

“I know.” She answered through her teeth, and then crashed into the cleaning sign. “Oh for Christ's sake! Did you put that there?” she shouted at him, kicking it out of her way and slamming her way out of the restroom.

 

“So what happens now?” Beth asked as Ben Haywood sat down next to Mark in front of them.

Chloe was leaning heavily against Rose, and just behind them Maggie stood as a sort of comforting presence. “It's a full trial, I'm afraid,” Ben answered.

Beth leaned her head back as Mark scrubbed his hands down his face. “I don't believe this,” he mumbled.

Ben nodded. “We need to make sure the CPS find you the best QC, which might be tricky…”

Beth’s eyes widened at that and she sat forward. “You can get us someone, can't you?”

“Look, I know who you want but you won't get her,” the junior barrister told her honestly. “She hasn't taken a briefing in such a long time… She's the best there is, she lives locally, she's CPS approved…” He shook his head in silent resignation.

Maggie pressed her lips together. “I know who you mean,” she said, and Rose shot her a curious glance.

 

“Did you speak with Ellie?” Rose asked as they pulled onto the road leading back into town.

“Yeah, she’s…” Alec drifted off, unable to find the words, but Rose nodded in understanding anyway. “You should probably talk to her. You’re better at the whole… people thing.”

“Yeah that’s why it means more coming from you,” Rose answered easily, shooting her husband a knowing smirk. “I know she seems angry when you try but I’m sure it does actually mean a lot to her that you do.”

Alec stayed silent as he turned into the school’s lot.

“Heard what happened at the trial,” the receptionist said to them conversationally as they walked in, “don’t know what he’s playing at.”

They both squinted at her incredulously. “How have you already heard?” Rose asked.

“Olly posted it on his blog,” she answered, holding up her mobile for emphasis.

“Oh bloody hell…” Alec grumbled, rolling his eyes and turning away before the woman could start asking him questions about how the trial would go, and Rose mouthed an apology for her husband’s language.

“Shouldn’t he and Lucy have gotten Tom by now?” Rose glanced up at the clock behind the desk. It had been nearly an hour now since they were let out of the courtroom.

The receptionist shook her head. “No they haven’t been by. Did you two want to check him out as well?”

“No, it’s okay…” Rose bit her lip as she considered. “Probably best if family tells him. Then he can decide if he wants to come to ours later.”

The woman made the look Rose and Alec were becoming well accustomed to seeing now whenever they spoke about Tom being at their house—the combination of sympathetic ‘oh the poor kid’ glance down, and judgemental ‘why isn’t he with his mother’ raise of brows.

Thankfully though, Daisy appeared in the doorway before the woman could make a comment. “Is everything all right?” she asked, furrowing her brow at her parents.

 

Maggie ventured up the hill that led to her best friend’s house—not more than fifty metres from the new Tyler-Hardy family residence. She glanced towards the Detective Inspector’s home as she knocked on the door to her mate’s.

She could see Jocelyn inside, sitting with her back to the door with headphones over her ears. Maggie sighed as her knocks went unanswered, and she turned towards the empty flower pots where she knew a key had been hidden.

She pushed back the sliding door, and staggered slightly at the warm air that hit her upon entering. “It's boiling in here! You've got all the radiators on!” she exclaimed. “It's the most gorgeous day!”

Jocelyn turned finally when the curtains were flung open and her sitting room was suddenly filled with light. “Oh, for goodness sake. Stop it! Leave me alone, will you?”

Maggie gave her a bored sort of look. “No,” she answered easily. “Look at you, marinating in self pity.”

Jocelyn huffed and pulled her headphones off fully. “I'm not marinating in anything. I'm listening to a book.” She stood up to raise her brows at her. “You remember books? Hm? Some of us can cope with more than 300 words at a time.”

Maggie rolled her eyes, but otherwise ignored the snark. “You've heard what's happened? To the Latimers?” She asked, chasing the other woman into her home office.

“Yes,” Jocelyn began sorting through papers that didn’t need it. “Are they all right?”

Maggie scoffed incredulously. “’Course they're not all right! They've got to go through the indignity of a full trial!”

Jocelyn dropped her papers to turn to her at that, hands falling to her hips. “What's he playing at?” she asked, eyes narrowing in consideration.

Maggie shook her head, “I don't know, but the family needs help…” Jocelyn turned away from her again, but Maggie simply placed Ben Haywood’s card in her line of vision. “That's their barrister. Young chap.”

“No,” she answered shortly, turning on her heel to walk into the sitting room.

“I haven't even said what I want to say—!”

“I said no,” Jocelyn cut off her protests. “Go away.”

Maggie wasn’t one to take no without a fight though. “They're worried the CPS will fob them off with just anyone,” she went on.

“They're right to be worried, but it's not my problem.”

“Jocelyn—!”

She sighed heavily, and walked until they were standing face-to-face again. “Don't, Maggie. I'm sure you've prepared a barnstorming little speech but you're getting on, save your energy.” She pushed past her back into the office.

Maggie clenched her jaw, and ignored that little jab. “Jocelyn, you know them,” she said to her back.

She didn’t bother to look back at her. “Barely,” she called over her shoulder.

Maggie stomped forward. “You know what it means to all of us. He can't get away with it!”

Jocelyn rolled her eyes. “Spare me the sentimental populism. I get enough of that from your rag.”

“Please!” Maggie followed her back into the foyer.

“No.”

“Why?”

Jocelyn let out a long breath, sitting back down in her chair and refusing to look up to her friend as she answered. “You know why,” she said quietly.

Maggie didn’t let the look dissuade her from her argument though. “We'd find you a team to help! You can't just sit here! The Latimer’s need you!”

“Enough violins now,” Jocelyn folded her arms in front of her stubbornly, “the answer is no.”

Maggie sighed, shaking her head and not bothering to say anything else as she stomped away towards the door, flinging her bag over her shoulder.

“Don't bother to close the curtains and I'm moving the key!” Jocelyn called after her, and Maggie stared at her profile for half-a-second before finally leaving.

Out on the terrace she could just see the Tyler-Hardy’s pulling into their driveway, and she lifted her arm in an aborted sort of wave as the family of three filed out of the car, looking worse for ware.

 

Twenty-four hours after the hearing, Ellie stared off distantly as her therapist asked her how she felt about Joe.

“Do you mean do I still fantasise about beating him with a hammer until he's dead? And do I still daydream about that while I'm making toast? And thinking how often I'd hit him before wiping the blood and the brains off the hammer? Then do I worry if those thoughts make me the same as him?” She sniffed and shook her head. “Not as often, no.”

“And after being in court?”

Ellie pressed her lips together, feeling the tears well up behind her eyes again. “I was doing all right, you know? I was pressing it down, burying it… Cos I taught myself to do that, these past few months, so I could survive…  and then in the court seeing him and then him choosing to-” She cut herself off and took a deep breath. “Cos I thought—okay, naive, but I thought he'd plead guilty, he'd get sentenced and then it'd be done and then in a few weeks, or a month, I could go back to my home, to Broadchurch, and I could cope with all the glances and the stares cos justice would have been done and he wouldn't be coming back…  And then maybe in time, Tom would want to come and live with me again, and we could work that out… It all seems a long way away now.”

“And how are you feeling about that?”

Ellie used the tissue next to her to wipe at her face. “Guilty,” she answered shortly.

“Why?”

She sniffed miserably. “Because it’s my fault.”

An hour later she walked out of the therapist’s office building to find DI Alec Tyler-Hardy leaning against her car. “Miller,” he said by way of greeting.

“Go away! What are you doing here?” Ellie shouted at him incredulously.

“It's your appointment.”

Ellie glared at him as she stomped forward. “But I didn't tell anyone.” She unlocked the car to shove her things in the back seat. “Have you been following me?”

“Shut up,” Alec deflected.

“Stalk me and insult me and you wonder why you haven’t got any friends.”

He ignored that. “I'm in a bit of trouble,” he told her

Ellie rolled her eyes. “Yeah me too if I don't collect Fred from the childminder’s in the next twenty minutes,” she replied flippantly, walking around him.

“Seriously,” Alec begged, setting her with a serious look. “I sort of need your help.”

Ellie scrunched her face up angrily at that look and groaned; she hated that look. “Get in,” she grumbled, motioning towards the passenger side door. “For God's sake!”

After Ellie informed him that no, she was getting Fred, they ended up sitting outside on his back terrace, overlooking the water, Fred asleep in his pushchair beside them.

“You’ve got a great view,” Ellie said as Alec continued to stay silent—eyes trained on the horizon.

He rather predictably didn’t answer, and she rolled her eyes as he stayed quiet for another few minutes.

Finally, Alec took a deep breath and sat forward. “I need to tell you something, Miller.”

“Yeah I sort of figured that when you turned up uninvited to my appointment,” she retorted sarcastically, but sobered as she watched him grimace. “Shit, you look serious. What’s happened?”

“This has to stay between us,” he warned.

“Yeah, okay.”

“Promise me, Miller.”

“Yes, all right fine, I promise. Now tell me what is going on.”

Alec’s eyes flickered back to the water. “I met Rose at a crime scene,” he started, and Ellie pulled her chin back in surprise. Of all the things she thought he was going to say, that wasn’t one of them.

“What? Rose? Really?” she asked incredulously.

Alec glanced at her sideways, and kept going as if she hadn’t spoken. “It was a murder, and Rose had been the only witness… and now he’s out of prison.”

“Okay, so…” Ellie sat back. “Does he know it was her that did him in?”

Alec finally turned to her. “He was her boyfriend.”

Ellie’s mouth went slack and her eyes widened as she took that in. “You think he’s going to come here?”

“He already has,” Alec told her ominously, standing up and walking towards the back door.

Ellie noticed then that the handle was at a harsh angle, and one of the panels of glass had been cracked at its center—like it’d been hit by a rock. “Oh my God,” she whispered as Alec led her inside to see their front room in shambles.

“Happened early this morning, sometime after we left and before I came back.”

“Did you report it?”

Alec shook his head. “To who? Myself?”

Ellie rolled her eyes. “Well if it was him that did it then it’s breaking parole and you can arrest him. At least get SOCO in here to see if there’s enough evidence for grounds.”

Alec put his hands on his hips and turned in a small circle. “Yeah… maybe.”

“I’m the meantime get a security system. Why don’t you have one? You’re a bloody cop!”

Alec shrugged noncommittally. “It’s Broadchurch,” he said, as if that actually meant anything resembling ‘safe’ anymore, and Ellie scoffed.

“Does Rose know?”

Alec shook his head. “No, I don’t want to tell her. She’s already terrified knowing he’s out, she’ll be a bloody wreck if she knew he was here. And with the baby…”

Ellie nodded in understanding as he drifted off. “What do you want me to do?”

 

They sat out on the terrace again as Brian and a few of the other SOCO members on his team made their way through the Tyler-Hardy’s sitting room.

“What happened to the ‘no secrets’ thing you and Rose had?” Ellie asked, studying the side of his face.

Alec’s brow immediately furrowed at that. “What do you mean, what happened to it?”

“You just said you aren’t going to tell her that someone—likely her murderer ex boyfriend—has broken into your house.”

Alec’s brow furrowed impossibly further—like his brain was short-circuiting at the very idea of keeping anything from Rose. “No,” he answered slowly, clearly replaying the scene in his head. “I said I don’t want to tell her, not that I’m not going to.”

Ellie tilted her head at that. “Is there a difference?”

He stared at her for a few moments.“I’m going to tell her,” he replied dryly.

“Why would you though? If it will only make her upset?” Ellie continued to argue.

A remark about her being the last person he should be taking marriage advice from died on his tongue—thankfully realising just how precisely tactless it was (even more so than his usual comments). His mouth snapped shut as the repercussions of such a statement fluttered through his brain.

It didn’t occur to him until later that to Ellie it probably looked like she’d won the argument when that’s all he did before remaining silent.

SOCO left a bit later, unfortunately not sounding very hopeful with their findings, and Ellie helped him get the room back in order. “How long was he in prison then?” she asked once she’d thoroughly fluffed the sofa cushions back to their original shape.

“Fourteen years,” Alec answered grimly. “The minimum for a murder charge. He’d admitted it to me, and Rose was a key witness, but since he hadn’t given a full formal confession and I was the only arresting officer he still plead not-guilty.” Alec plopped down heavily on the sofa and Ellie mimicked him, settling Fred down in her lap. “He was offered a plea deal. We dropped all the other charges—which would have totaled a life sentence—if he pleaded guilty.”

Ellie wrinkled her nose. “Why would you do that?”

“So Rose wouldn’t have to testify.” Alec shrugged.

Her brows knitted together at that. Rose seemed to her like the type who would want the truth to come out, and to serve justice to someone who had done her wrong. Had she still loved this man even after he’d killed someone in front of her? “Why?” she asked bluntly. “What were the other charges?”

Alec only looked at her sideways though, and stood up to retreat into the kitchen and flip the kettle on.

Ellie sighed and followed him. “Shouldn’t you be at work?” she asked instead, watching him move around his kitchen. It was weird actually, seeing him being domestic—especially without Rose or Daisy around.

Alec gave a sort of noncommittal snort. “Are you telling me you’ve forgotten what Broadchurch Police Station is usually like?”

Ellie blinked slowly as that realisation settled in her gut, sitting there rather uncomfortably. That’s right, less than a year ago Broadchurch was a safe, easy town to live in. Her job had been boring. She shook her head incredulously, “That seems like such a long time ago now.”

 

Sharon Bishop sat across from Joe Miller 32 hours after he changed his plea to not-guilty while in the stand.

There was something about agreeing to a case wherein the defendant had already confessed. Maybe it was a pride thing—just proving that she could, that she really was as good as she said she was.

“Thanks for coming,” Joe started as Sharon flipped open the file her junior barrister, Abby Thompson, handed to her. “There’s a lot I need to tell you.”

“No,” Sharon interrupted before he could continue. “What you need to do is shut up. I’m looking at these transcripts and your interview, and you’ve done far too much talking already.” She looked up to him seriously. “As your new counsel, my advice is don't talk to anyone, don't discuss the case, keep your mouth shut. Understand?”

Joe nodded at her raised brow.

“Now, a few questions to start us off, get things straight… When you were arrested by DI Tyler-Hardy, was he alone? Did he have other officers with him?”

Joe shook his head, “Uh, he brought one of those guys in uniform. I don’t remember his name.”

“And how did he take you into custody?”

“There was a police car, other side of the field.”

“And you walked with them?” She paused as Joe nodded silently. “Did you talk to them then?”

“No. I started to, but he told me to wait.”

Sharon nodded slowly, they weren’t exactly the answers she was hoping for, but they weren’t terrible either. “Now, your wife worked alongside DI Tyler-Hardy. Had you met him outside of work?”

“Yeah—he’d um, he’d been round for dinner a few times. Him and his wife and daughter. Our kids were mates, his daughter spent the night a few times. Also his wife was Tom’s teacher, and Ellie and her got on too.”

Sharon and Abby shared a significant look at that.

 

Ellie ended up taking the guest bedroom that night instead of driving all the way back to Devon. It was obvious too, that she had hoped Tom would show up and have to talk to her, but alas he had elected to stay with his aunt again.

Alec trotted down the stairs after wishing Daisy a good night to find his wife sitting cross-legged on the floor of their sitting room, staring at the new lock he’d just finished installing. He’d told her already what had happened, but that SOCO hadn’t thought they’d found any evidence it was Jimmy. He tilted his head and moved to sit down next to her, his joints cracking a bit in protest.

Rose leaned her head on his shoulder without looking up. “I keep replaying it,” she whispered.

“Don’t.”

Rose shook her head, July of 1996 flashing in front of her eyes.

 

“Rose, please don’t do this.” Mickey begged her as she continued shoving all of the stuff she could fit in to what little luggage she owned.

Rose shook her head, a smirk playing on her lips in sharp contrast to the serious look her best mate was giving her. “You’re quitting school too,” she shot back easily.

“Yeah, to run the shop. Not to chase after some shit guy—”

“Yeah that would be news to me,” Rose snorted, interrupting him.

Mickey rolled his eyes. “He’s no good for you,” he said, not for the first time.

“He loves me,” Rose insisted again. “He says he loves me.”

 

Rose pressed her forehead into her husband’s shoulder to stave off the headache. Wishing more than anything that she could just take some aspirin, her hand fell to her stomach, and she wrapped her arms around their growing baby protectively. “I’m so scared, Alec.”

“I know… me too,” he admitted quietly, pulling her closer to him.

She allowed him to hold her for a few minutes more as they sat in their concern, but finally she took a deep breath and changed the subject. “Jocelyn agreed to take the Latimer’s case,” she informed him.

“Right…” Alec’s brow furrowed. “Who’s Jocelyn again?”

Rose couldn’t help the giggle that built up at that, letting it out with a snort and burying her head in her daft husband’s shoulder. “Out neighbor,” she told him dryly, a smirk playing at her lips. “Apparently she was some big hot shot attorney and everyone in town but us knew it.”

Was? ” Alec asked, raising a brow.

Rose shrugged. “She agreed to come out of retirement. Called Beth a bit after Joe Miller’s barrister was on telly.”

“Joe Miller already has someone who will take his case?”

Rose pressed her lips together and studied him curiously. “You didn’t go to work at all today did you?”

Alec ran his hands through his hair sheepishly. “Well I did, but I came back a bit before lunch and…” he gestured vaguely to the new lock, and Rose nodded in understanding.

“Security company will be here tomorrow morning,” she told him distantly, her mind traveling to dark places again as they circled back around to their original topic.

Alec pulled her out of those thoughts as he pulled her back to him, placing a kiss to the top of her head. “Sounds like we should turn in then,” he said, moving to stand and help her up as well.

Rose nodded and allowed him to guide her up the stairs, even while in the back of her head she was reeling with worry.

 

The following morning Rose had Fred on her hip and was helping feed him while Ellie was getting ready, and Alec flipped bacon behind her. Daisy was still asleep upstairs, using Saturday morning to her full advantage.

Alec’s mobile rang just as Ellie entered the kitchen, tying her hair up. He squinted as Paul Coates lit up his screen. “Yeah?” he answered.

He started grabbing his things wildly as the vicar started talking, ignoring the perplexed looks coming from both of the women. “Yeah, I’ll be right there,” he ended the call abruptly and looked to Ellie as he was halfway to the door. “Are you coming?”

“Going where?” Ellie asked, sounding annoyed.

Alec just raised his brows in answer though, and it was more a challenge now than anything. She looked over to Rose helplessly, letting out a long-suffering sigh.

“Do you mind keeping Fred?”

Rose shook her head quickly, bouncing the one year old as she did. “Of course not, you two go—sounds urgent,” she replied, sending her husband a worried glance.

He tried to give her as reassuring a look as he could, but it probably wasn’t all that great. He rushed forward to kiss her goodbye before turning on his heel and sprinting back towards the door. “Come on, Miller!” he shouted, not bothering to shut the door behind him.

“Oh, I so have not missed that,” Ellie grumbled, giving Rose a significant look that she couldn’t help but giggle at. Ellie rolled her eyes and kissed her son goodbye before chasing after her old boss.

Alec peeled out of the drive, and Ellie squinted as he turned onto a familiar route. “This is the road to the church.”

“I know,” Alec answered gruffly.

“Why are we going to the church?”

Alec stayed stubbornly (though predictably) quiet as he pulled up to the entrance to the cemetery. An ambulance and a forensics vehicle were already there, and Paul Coates ran to meet them as they exited the car.

“Tell me they’re not going to do this,” Alec said as he slammed the door shut and Paul threw his hands up in exasperation.

“They’ve got a court order,” Paul answered, shaking his head, and then looking confusedly over to “Ellie?”

“Would somebody tell me what’s going on?” she begged as she chased after Alec and the vicar.

Paul glanced between Alec and Ellie in question, but when Alec didn’t look over he just assumed the fact that he’d brought her meant that it was okay he told her. “Joe’s legal team have requested a new autopsy on Danny’s body,” he explained. “It means an official exhumation.”

Ellie looked in horror to the top of the hill they were climbing and saw the white tent. “Oh God, no.”

When they reached the top Alec spotted the uniformed officer who was holding the court order. “Give me that,” he said as he snatched it out of her hands, walking past her towards the grave site, further than Ellie or Paul had jurisdiction.

Paul spotted the Latimers first, and rested his hand on Ellie’s shoulder to get her to turn.

“MY BOY IS IN THERE!” Mark shouted as they and their barristers marched up to them. “YOU! WHY CAN’T YOU LET HIM REST, EH?” He jabbed an accusatory finger at the forensics team.

Both him and Beth had tears streaming down their faces, and behind them Chloe stood in much the same state. “Alec…” Beth looked to him pleadingly, but he was powerless to stop this. She sobbed, and Chloe pulled her away from the scene.

“Do something, Paul,” Mark pleaded desperately.

“I’m sorry,” Paul shook his head helplessly, “I’m sorry.”

Mark tried weakly to run towards the tent, but he only made it about half a step before the vicar stepped in front of him and Nigel grabbed his shoulders.

Jocelyn and Ben glared over to where Joe’s legal team was standing, hands shoved in their pockets and faces devoid of any sympathy as they watched the scene play out.

Alec stepped back over to where Ellie stood off to the side, feeling wholly useless and completely prohibited from saying anything at all to the Latimer's. She hadn’t seen nor spoken to Beth since that first night after Joe had confessed, and she was forced to assume she either blamed her or just wasn’t ready to talk to her. She hoped for the latter, obviously.

“You all right?” Alec asked.

“No,” Ellie answered honestly.

Alec nodded in understanding and glanced up towards the top of the hill that would overlook the rest of Broadchurch. At its peak a figure of a man stood, and Alec walked slowly forwards as he spotted him.

Ellie followed his gaze, and squinted at the stranger who was very clearly watching them. “Who’s that?”

“That’s Jimmy Stone.” Alec practically spit the name

“You’re kidding.”

Alec shook his head, continuing to glare dangers towards the man. Ellie watched his profile as his jaw clenched with barely concealed rage. She’d never seen that much fire behind a man’s eyes before.

“What were those other charges?” she asked again, but Alec still refused to answer.