Alec was there when it happened.
He wishes to god he hadn’t been.
From his office window, he saw the man in the tailored suit approach her desk, shake her hand, and smile at her. And he saw her smile back. He saw the way he smiled at her. And the way she smiled back.
Leo Marsan, his name was. Is.
A solicitor from Norfolk who somehow found his way to Broadchurch to prosecute a woman they themselves had arrested and charged for the accidental murder of her husband.
Leo was what he’d heard women in town refer to as a “silver fox.” Probably not much older than Alec himself was, but every inch the suave gentleman that Alec was not.
For the two weeks that the case was being tried in Wessex crown court, Leo Marsan stayed at the Trader’s of all places. He came by every day with a cup of coffee for Ellie for in the morning. Alec thought he must have been a right idiot to compromise himself by developing a relationship with one of the arresting detectives, but he was smart enough to maintain just enough boundaries to keep things merely friendly and professional.
But there was nothing professional about the way Ellie looked at him when she thought no one was watching. She grinned at him. Laughed at his terrible jokes. (Alec thought they were terrible, anyway.) Lightly touched his shoulder when they spoke.
The day the trial’s verdict is rendered (guilty, thank you very much), Alec watches Leo Marsan approach Ellie in the crown court lobby from only a few feet away.
“How about I take you out to celebrate?” He suggests.
Ellie blushes. It makes Alec’s blood boil.
“All right, yeah.”
She turns her head, no doubt looking around for Alec. She waves him over when she spots him, and he reluctantly obeys, hands shoved in his pockets.
“You can drive back without me, yeah?” She confirms with him. “Leo and I are going to grab a bite to celebrate.”
Alec’s response is a raised eyebrow. Ellie looks back at Leo, smiling. “Great, let’s go.”
And they do.
Ellie cannot stop thinking about Leo Marsan’s face, and she won’t pretend otherwise. She also can’t stop thinking about when he takes his jacket off, when he smiles at her, and when he touches her hand. His attention on her drives her mad in the most glorious way.
When he takes her to out after the verdict comes through, his focus is only on her. He asks her about her life (oof), her hobbies (she has none), her favorite things (chips?). Afterward, he drives her back to Broadchurch to CID, where she has left her car. He reaches for her hand as they walk to it and she can see on his face that he has no fear of anyone seeing them. He still doesn’t quite understand how gossip works in Broadchurch, and but she suspects even if he did, he would still have no fear.
When they reach her car, he does not let go of her hand right away. “I’m glad all this nonsense is over,” he confesses. “I’ve been dying to kiss you for weeks.”
Ellie’s eyes widen. The art of dating is still a mystery to her and though it was certainly evident that he’s had some kind of interest in her, hearing this confession put to words is quite stunning.
“You haven’t,” she demurs, fully aware she’s blushing.
He is unperturbed. “Right, then, I’ll prove it to you.”
He lets go of her hand and takes her face in his hands as he leans down and presses his lips to hers. Her eyes flutter closed and he takes this as permission to part her lips with his tongue, pulling her closer. She feels like she’s melting into the pavement and will be fully liquified at any moment.
Then she hears someone nearby clear their throat. And she’d recognize that sound anywhere.
She pulls back and turns her head, and there’s Alec Hardy in his overcoat, brooding about fifteen feet away.
“Best be gettin’ on, Miller,” he calls out, chastising her. “We’ve an early start in the morning."
Then he turns and walks away.
When she looks back up at Leo, he’s laughing. Soon she’s laughing too.
“I’m so sorry,” she says, shaking her head. “He’s a grumpy old knob, that one is.”
“Oh, I know it,” Leo agrees. He runs his hands up and down her arms, then leans in to kiss her again.
“He’s right, though,” Ellie notes reluctantly, pulling back from the kiss. “I should be off. Kids and all.”
“Can I see you for lunch tomorrow?” He asks, squeezing her hand.
“You’ll be leaving town now, won’t you?” Her eyes widen with surprise.
“Might be persuaded to stick around for a bit.” His eyes twinkle as he smiles. He is impossibly charming that way.
“Fine, then,” she agrees. “Lunch tomorrow.”
He gives her another quick peck, then opens her car door for her. He watches her drive away.
Alec has been pacing his house for an hour now, to Daisy’s amusement. She wants to ask, but the look on his face tells her no good can come from it.
Around 9pm, he picks up his mobile and sends a text: Not a good idea.
Within thirty seconds, her reply: Not a good idea for who?
He frowns. Whom.
Two seconds later: Sir.
And that’s the end of it.
The next morning, Ellie waltzes into CID looking like a million bucks. She’s wearing makeup, a nice blouse, even a skirt, and he can tell she’s actually taken the time to blow dry her hair. Alec deduces quite quickly that this means she’ll be meeting him for lunch, so at noon on the dot he decides to wait outside for the man.
Leo Marsan arrives dressed more casually than Alec’s ever seen him. Jeans and a jumper. And sod it all, he looks fit.
“DI Hardy,” the slightly older gentleman greets him, calmly. He holds out his hand and Alec reluctantly shakes it.
“You’re taking her to lunch,” Alec announces.
“How’d you guess.”
“She’s wearing lipstick.”
Leo grins. Alec frowns.
“How long you in town for?”
“Long as she’ll have me, I s’pose.”
Alec shakes his head. “Wrong answer. She’s been abandoned before.” He immediately regrets his choice of words.
Leo raises an eyebrow, accepting the challenge. “By you, as I understand it.”
“By – “ Alec puts his hands on his hips. “No, not by – I mean, I did leave for a bit, but I came back, and anyway I’m not her – “
“Her…anything.” Alec feels a great loss of something when he admits it out loud.
Leo, as ever, is unbothered. “Ellie is very much her own woman,” he says, and Alec wants to punch him right between the eyes. How dare he even hazard to guess what kind of woman Ellie is after only two bloody weeks. “And I imagine you’re down here trying to convince me to stop seeing her because you couldn’t convince her to stop seeing me. Am I on the right track?”
Ellie emerges from inside the building then, meeting them by the concrete steps.
“What’s all this now?”
Leo is smiling, and Alec is looking at her helplessly. He says nothing.
“Shall we?” Leo asks.
“Give me just a minute, yeah?” Ellie says to him.
Leo nods and walks away a distance.
Ellie turns to Alec, hands on her hips. “What is it you think you’re doing right now? Honestly. In your head, how does this go?”
Alec looks down at his feet and mumbles, “Don’t like him.”
She seems remains steadfast. “Well you don’t have to, it’s not you he’s after.”
He looks up then, but his expression is still sheepish. “You really want someone to be after you?”
“So what if I do,” she retorts. “I deserve to be courted. I deserve to be wooed if some bloke sees fit to woo me. If a kind, smart, attractive man wants to take me out to lunch, wants to kiss me outside my car and hold my hand, what reason have I to stop him?”
Alec opens his mouth to reply, but falters.
“’s what I thought.” She turns away. “See you after lunch.”
He watches her go.
She doesn’t speak to him for the rest of the day. She’s not rude, but she goes out of her way not to interact.
At 6pm, he appears at her desk. “Let’s go to the pub.”
She blinks back at him, waiting for an explanation.
He grimaces. “Ach, come on, Miller, don’t make me beg.”
She smiles, and it warms him a little. “Quite like you to beg actually.” She leans back in her chair, waiting expectantly.
He sighs. “Just let me buy you a pint, will you? We deserve to celebrate yesterday’s verdict as well.”
She thinks about it, then nods. “All right then.”
At the pub, they sit at the bar and both end up ordering a Jameson on the rocks instead of a pint. They both need it. He sips his gingerly, occasionally glancing over at her as surreptitiously as possible.
But he’s not especially subtle. “What,” Ellie demands, without turning to look at him.
He shrugs, and throws the rest of his whiskey back before ordering another. She raises an eyebrow, thoroughly impressed.
“Easy now,” she says, though she’s smiling. “You’re a man of questionable health.”
He ignores her, focusing on the task that he has decided is at hand. “So you like this bloke, this Marsan fellow.”
She makes an inscrutable face and takes a sip. “Yeah.”
“Like his whole…debonaire thing?”
Ellie smiles into her glass, hoping he can’t see it. “Is that what you call it?”
“What would you call it?”
She puts the glass down and looks at him. “He’s a good man. He’s intelligent and witty and…calm. Nothing seems to vex him. Makes him quite lovely to be around,” she explains, before adding, “A nice change.”
He frowns. “What’s that mean?”
“Dunno.” She shrugs. “Don’t meet a lot of men like him around here.”
He tries very hard to keep himself from rolling his eyes as he looks away, annoyed. “Didn’t think that was your type.”
She raises an eyebrow. “And just what did you think was my type?” Then she turns away, thinking of Joe. “Don’t answer that.”
They both drink.
“You gonna keep seein’ him?” Alec asks finally.
“But you’re not…” He swirls around the liquid in his glass, trying not to look at her. “Exclusive or some such. Are you?”
She looks at him with surprise, jaw dropped a tiny bit. “No.”
“So you might, um.” He takes a sip. “Allow for some competition.”
It’s all she can do after the last few minutes not to fall right off her chair in response to everything he says. She tries to collect herself. “Who d’you have in mind?"
He finishes what’s left in his glass, then stands up, pulls some cash out of his wallet, and leaves it on the bar.