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Professional partners, end of story...?

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Miranda opened her front door to see Max standing on the terrace, looking happy and relaxed on this warm, late-spring evening. He was delighted to have been invited over to catch up with his compañera and had been looking forward to it all day.

“¡Hola, Miranda!” he greeted her with a wide smile. “I brought this”. He held up a bottle of Schnapps.

“Hi, Max,” she replied genially, taking the Schnapps from him, “come in”. She opened the door wider to let him enter. “Bit early for Schnapps maybe - start with a glass of wine? We can go up to the balcony. Seems nice out,” she suggested with a small shrug.

Ja, sounds good!” he beamed, glad to be in her company again.

They headed to her kitchen and she reached down two glasses from a cupboard. While she got things prepared, he made himself comfortable, removing his sunglasses and leaning against the counter. A bottle of red wine and a corkscrew stood ready in front of him.

She turned back to him, placing the glasses next to the wine. “So, how was your fortnight in Munich? Nice to see your family?” She uncorked the wine and left it to breathe for a while as they chatted.

“Yes,” he smiled. “I had a great time seeing everyone. My dad managed to get us tickets to a Dortmund game, and I got my fill of the excellent Bavarian cuisine, of course.”

He made a chef’s kiss motion as Miranda rolled her eyes: German food had never tempted her. More repulsed her. Too much heavy meat and cabbage, she thought, remembering the smell of the bierocks he liked so much. Gross: cheese sandwich and a bag of salt and vinegar every time over that, thanks!

He continued, ignoring the trace of revulsion crossing her face, “I brought back some delicious local sausages for Christian, but I remembered that you think they’re the wurst... Miranda, wurst/worst... get it...?”

There was no reaction from Miranda, who preferred not to encourage his puns, although she had found herself trying to amuse him by making some of her own lately.

“Anyway, so I got you some artisan chocolates instead.” He pulled a small, golden confectionery box tied up with a red ribbon from his pocket and presented it to her with a flourish.

“Thank you, Max! You definitely made the right decision there,” Miranda replied, taking the box from him. Their fingertips touched momentarily as she did so and she blushed slightly, praying he wouldn’t notice. She set the box down next to the wine, ready to be carried up to the balcony later.

“So, did your date with Alex go well?” He grinned, teasingly, “that must be your third or fourth by now - getting pretty serious, huh?” He always enjoyed joking with her, but this time was tinged with an emotion he couldn’t quite define. Was he... was he jealous?

Miranda looked down and awkwardly answered, “well... erm, I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other again, or at least not as anything other than friends.” Her face had flushed again at revealing this to him. She hated discussing feelings and emotions; facts were where safety lay.

“Oh no, that’s a shame!” Max replied, his blue eyes full of concern. He regretted trying to wind her up now. “What happened?” he enquired softly.

Miranda struggled to look directly at him. Hesitantly she explained, “well, he... he said that he really liked me, but that it was obvious there was someone else for me...” She nervously studied her fingers, before forcing herself to glance up at him again.

They gazed at each other, the tension palpable. Everyone else in their lives had long seen what existed between them; it was blindingly obvious to anyone who knew them, but they had both been ignoring their deep connection, afraid of what acknowledging it would change in their lives.

Miranda was the first to look away, uncomfortable with the extended eye contact and what significance might lie behind it. She fiddled intently with removing the cork from the corkscrew to avoid meeting Max’s scrutiny again, and broke the silence “... anyway, how’s Carmen? I haven’t had time to catch up with her while you’ve been away. She’ll be glad to have you back, I bet.” She cautiously peered back up at him, relieved to have been able to change the topic.

Now it was Max’s turn to look away awkwardly. “Ah, actually... we split up just before I left for Germany...” he frowned.

“Oh! Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” Miranda replied, feeling clumsy for having put her foot in it. Should she do something reassuring - give him a pat on the arm or something? A squeeze of the hand, perhaps? She hesitated: not being demonstrative by nature she wasn’t sure what to do.

“It’s fine, really,” Max told her quietly. “We grew apart; ever since she turned down my proposal we both knew it was only a matter of time. It was a pretty amicable split.” He shrugged, letting her see that he wasn’t too upset by what he had known for some time was inevitable. He had surprised himself by how well he had picked himself up and begun to move on already.

“Oh, well, I’m glad it wasn’t acrimonious or anything like that,” Miranda responded quickly, relieved that he didn’t seem too downhearted. “What finally made you both decide to part ways then?” she ventured. She looked into his eyes and felt a small flip in her stomach as she did so.

“It was Carmen’s choice in the end. She said it was clear that there was someone else for me, and that she thought we should both move on and take the chance to be with the right people,” Max informed her, staring glumly down at the kitchen counter now, wondering if he had just revealed too much.

He made himself face her again and their eyes met for a few seconds, searching for the full meaning behind what they had both said tonight. These “right people” for them that Alex and Carmen had been talking about weren’t just abstract concepts, were they? Could they could be right for each other? Were they finally going to open up about how they truly felt after more than a year of pent-up emotions, longing glances, brief touches? Neither of them really knew how to continue along this line of discourse, or indeed if they should. Both still doubted that their feelings were reciprocated and finding out would mean such a risk, personally and professionally.

Max decided to take the focus off himself for a while by steering the discussion back to her recent dating. “So, you sure you can’t make things work with Alex then? Good-looking doctor like that, he’s a catch!” Max asked her brightly, trying to move past the charged moment.

“Yes, but he’s not...” Miranda trailed off as she realised what she had been about to give away. She couldn’t complete this sentence and she cursed herself for having uncharacteristically let her guard down and started it.

“Not what? Handsome enough? Intelligent, kind, rich... enough?” Max pushed. There was a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Just leave it, Max!” she exclaimed, shoulders stiffening and forehead furrowing with irritation.

“How am I supposed to be on the lookout for your next date if you won’t tell me what was wrong with this one, huh?” he persisted, flashing her a cheeky grin.

“I said, drop it!” Miranda ordered, folding her arms defensively.

“You know I’m not going to, so we might as well skip to the part where you tell me just so I’ll shut up,” he told her with a wink.

Miranda sighed in frustration and looked across to her living room - anywhere but directly at Max. This exchange was getting too intense. Could she really finish the sentence and tell him how she felt? Yet equally, could she really go on like this, not sure where she stood with him? He had only just broken up with Carmen, though he didn’t appear to be too cut up about it. Maybe she should just finish the sentence and get it over with? You do want to be with him, she reasoned with herself, and that’s not going to happen if he doesn’t know you like him like that... Come on, Miranda, she resolved, time to be brave and let him in. No guts, no glory.

She took a sharp breath, screwing up her courage. “He’s not... not... you.” She glanced at him nervously. Her skin had gone cold and she could hear the blood rushing in her ears. Her mouth suddenly felt arid and her stomach fluttered with anxiety. The clock on the wall seemed to be ticking far more loudly than it ever had before.

Max was caught off guard by her revelation; he had expected her to be annoyed with him, tell him off and change the subject: standard Blake procedure. His mouth opened slightly, but he didn’t know what to say. The silence was deafening. After a few agonising seconds his mouth formed a tentative smile.

“Miranda, I... I need a moment by myself to think, ok?” he said gently, reaching out to lightly rest his hand on her shoulder.

She jumped slightly at his touch. “Ok,” she mumbled quietly. This was excruciating.

He took his hand back and thought for a moment. “Right... now I’m going to need you to go out for a walk for, umm... thirty minutes? Ok?” he asked more confidently, an idea having struck him.

“What the hell, Max?!” she stormed, eyes blazing. “YOU go for a walk! This is MY apartment!”

“I know, I know, but just... humour me, ok? Go for a nice little paseo along the seafront and come back in thirty minutes... please?” he pleaded, nodding at her. “Please?” He really needed her to agree before he lost his bottle and abandoned the newly-formed plan. He was pretty sure it was one of his better schemes and he desperately hoped she would go along with it.

“Ughhh... ok, FINE!” she huffed at him, and headed towards the door, grabbing her phone and a light jacket as she went. It didn’t look cold out currently, but the breeze off the Mediterranean could whip up suddenly on a spring evening and she preferred a cosy existence.

She turned back as she was leaving, throwing him a suspicious glare. Questions whirled in her mind. Just what the hell was he up to, ordering her out of her apartment as soon as she had hinted at having feelings for him? Had he fully grasped what she’d meant? Was he trying to think of how best to let her down? Or was it possible there was some reciprocation on his part? No, that would be too much to hope.

She was already regretting saying anything and now she supposed her best prospect was that she wouldn’t be completely humiliated when she returned in half an hour. She didn’t even want to think yet about what this meant for them as compañeros. Inés would be livid when she found out.

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As soon as Miranda closed the front door behind her, Max dropped his gentle smile and went into action mode. He had a lot to do in not very much time and he wanted this to be perfect. He took their still-empty glasses, the chocolates and the bottle of wine from the kitchen counter.

Ooh, Ramón Bilbao reserva, he thought as he briefly inspected the label, she’s been listening to my ‘wine snob’ lectures. Not as good as what I’ll be producing when I retire to my vineyard in Binissalem, obviously, he chuckled inwardly.

Box of chocolates safely stowed in his pocket once more, he carried the bottle and glasses upstairs to her balcony overlooking the bay. He set them on the table and placed the confectionery box beside them, then raced back downstairs and grabbed her keys, before charging out of the front door with a determined expression on his face.

He dashed through the streets of El Molinar to Miranda’s local supermarket and quickly emerged with a bag containing a few packets of food, some tea lights, a box of matches and a red rose. Clutching his purchases in the warm evening light, Max jogged back to her waterfront apartment, size 14 loafers flapping against the pavement. He stopped briefly to retrieve his dry cleaning from his beloved BMW and to catch his breath. Miranda was the athlete of this duo, not him: she was the one with the ‘superior aerobic capacity, body mass index, flexibility and lifestyle’, as she herself had put it after their race up Sa Calobra.

Back inside, he bounded up the stairs and then set out lines of tea lights leading through her bedroom to the balcony, and all along the edges of it. The breeze coming in off the sea was gentle enough tonight not to extinguish any of the flames, he noticed gladly as he lit the wicks.

He arranged the food he’d bought on the table: olives, jamón ibérico, some local semi-cured cheese, mini breadsticks, and Lays salt and vinegar crisps. Nothing too challenging for her plainer tastes.

The evening sky was by now tinged with orange, yellow and pink as sunset approached. The gentle waves of the Mediterranean in front of him reflected the beautiful kaleidoscope. How romantic, he thought, and how glad I am she didn’t decide to say what she did during a gota fría; emotional declarations in the pouring rain might look good in films, but in reality you are both just standing there freezing cold and wet, wishing you were indoors with a warm drink.

He went back inside to carry on with his preparations. Next he produced a makeshift sign with a marker pen and some card that he’d found waiting to be recycled in her kitchen. He wrote a message in large letters, adding a few decorative swirls in the corners. He stuck the notice above the sliding doors to the balcony with some tape he’d found in the same drawer as the pen.

Not too bad for hardly any time and only what he could find in a small supermarket and Miranda’s kitchen, he thought, standing back inside her bedroom to admire his efforts.

He checked the time on his phone: only a few minutes before she’d be back. He grabbed his dry cleaning bag from her bed and quickly changed into his evening suit, the bow tie left hanging around his neck and the top buttons undone for that dishevelled Bond vibe that he liked to think he could pull off. He’d seen the look in Miranda’s eyes the times he’d dressed like this before and had his suspicions that she’d secretly found him attractive, in those moments at least. He hoped she wouldn’t brush him off with a barb about not being in a posh frock again when she returned from her enforced walk.

He headed to the balcony to wait for her, taking the portable speaker from her bedroom with him and placing it on the table. He set up a song ready to play on his phone that he really hoped would mean the same to her as it did to him.

He sat down on one of her patio chairs and wondered what mood she’d be in when she joined him again. He prayed he hadn’t got the wrong end of the stick. That would be mortifying. He wanted so much for this to go well; he’d waited a long time for the chance to be with her.

If this evening turns out the way I hope it does, I’ll be the luckiest guy in Mallorca, he told himself. I’m pretty sure she likes me - she did say she didn’t want to be with Alex because he’s not me; what else could she have meant? And all those meaningful looks were real, right? We make each other laugh, even if we do annoy each other occasionally. We’ve even saved each other’s lives. We’re a team. And although it was pretty funny when first Rico and then that flirty archaeologist chatted her up, I was totally jealous. I just hope I haven’t called this wrong; it could be the end of a great partnership instead of the start of something beautiful...

Ah, no point overanalysing, Max, just keep it simple and go with the flow, he decided. Miranda will be doing more than enough thinking for the both of us right now anyway, that’s for sure.

He tried a few of the crisps. What a weird flavour combination, he’d thought when she first mentioned them. He found that he actually quite liked them now though. He brushed the crumbs from his fingers and checked the time again. The half hour was just about up, so she should be back any moment now.

Right, he thought, taking a deep breath, I suppose I’m ready. Here we go, Max: don’t mess this up.

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Miranda stomped off along the wide promenade in front of her apartment and headed northwest towards the centre of Palma. Her anger at being kicked out of her home gave way to anguish and regret as she replayed the last hour in her head, and her pace slowed to a melancholy stroll as she approached Portixol. From here she could just see the yachts bobbing about in the marina and the clinking sound their rigging made drifted towards her on the balmy air.

She wasn’t mad at Max for making her go out any more; she was furious with herself for what she’d said to him tonight, potentially jeopardising their professional partnership. She stopped near the end of the curving sandy platja, turning to look out to sea and thrusting her hands in her pockets despondently. She watched as a fishing boat chugged along, heading back to port with the day’s catch while dozens of swooping gulls followed closely, alert for discards.

She should never have said anything, she thought. Letting him in had been a terrible move; things always got complicated where feelings were involved. Safer to stay in her unemotional comfort zone, self-preservatory barriers up.

She was still slightly puzzled by him sending her out though: why did he need half an hour and why did it have to be in her apartment, by himself? He must have understood what she’d meant about Alex not being him. She wished he’d just told her he wasn’t interested straight away, so she could get on with trying to get past this confusing evening. She cringed thinking about having to continue working with him next week after all this.

She looked down at her smart watch. Fifteen minutes before she could go back and face him. She found a bench and perched uneasily, looking out over the bay as sunset approached. The wide, palm tree-lined promenade where she sat was busy with couples out for their pre-dinner amble, holding hands and looking content. Thanks for rubbing it in, Miranda thought.

Come on, apply some rational analysis, she urged herself. I like him, right, really like him? He’s my best friend, he’s kind, he makes me laugh, he looks out for me - saves my life without hesitation, even. He looks pretty good in a suit, his light blue eyes make my stomach and knees go funny, and I tingle when he touches me. I don’t like it when he flirts with other women and I always felt quite envious seeing him with Carmen. I want to be around him all the time, and when we are apart I spend a possibly unhealthy amount of the time thinking about him. So... that’s a yes then. Oh crap, I think I’m in love with him. Wow.

What about him though? He said he needed to think, so either this was a surprise to him and he’s not sure how he feels, or he doesn’t think of me like that at all and is considering how to reject me tactfully, or... he likes - loves? - me too. Surely the last option is too much to hope though?

Think it through: is there any evidence of how he feels? Those lingering glances aren’t one-way, are they? I think he nearly kissed me once when we were dancing, and he slept with his arm round me another time, though he was probably only spooning me then because he was asleep and thought I was Carmen, so maybe I can’t count that... He goes out of his way to help me and make me happy: he found me my apartment, he made us a picnic of my favourite sandwiches, he helped me battle my claustrophobia and he didn’t say I was hurting his hands until he knew I was ok. He risks his life for me, to the point that it maybe contributed to him losing his girlfriend. So, nothing conclusive, but it seems like there’s a chance he feels the same way...?

Just don’t get your hopes up too much, the cautious part of her mind chipped in, you’ve totally misunderstood his behaviour, that’s almost certain; he’s just a friendly, tactile kind of guy, and looking out for each other comes with being partners. None of it means he’s in love with you.

The case of ‘Max and Miranda: where is this going?’ isn’t one I can solve alone with my usual logic and persistence, she realised with some dismay. She needed Max for that.

Miranda remained on her bench by the sea, scrutinising every aspect of their relationship for clues until it was time to head back. She concluded pessimistically that she had misinterpreted their friendship and that when she returned Max would tell her in his caring way that they ‘should stay just friends - compañeros, right?’. He’d do it as compassionately as he could, but it would be a distressing rejection nonetheless, she was fairly sure of that.

She set off along the promenade, in her turmoil unable to appreciate the calm and rather beautiful evening. Her heart was thumping hard and her stomach churned with dread as she prepared herself for being let down and the pain that would follow. At least she had her emotional poker face, so he wouldn’t see how much he would be hurting her. She didn’t want his pity.

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Arriving back at her home, Miranda took a deep breath, opened the front door and nervously looked inside. She couldn’t see Max. She quietly walked through the living area to the kitchen; it was empty, and so was the bathroom. No sign of him downstairs. She hung her jacket up and began to ascend the stairs apprehensively.

Maybe he’d left and sending her on a walk had just been a way of getting rid of her while he escaped. That must be it, she resigned herself: she’d started to disclose how she felt about him and he’d run, terrified or repelled. He didn’t feel the same and she’d made a complete fool of herself. Why did she have to say anything?! Her life in Mallorca had been pretty good and now Max wouldn’t want to work with her, or be friends with her... Would she have to ask for a transfer? Gah, what a mess! She shouldn’t have even invited him over tonight. She should’ve waited to see him at work next week, but she had been too eager to spend time with him after a fortnight apart.

She reached the top of the stairs and caught a slight movement out of the side of her eye, to the left, over near the balcony. She looked up tentatively. There he was. Max hadn’t fled.

He was wearing his black evening suit, she realised, a jolt of electricity running through her core. She remembered seeing him dressed up like this when they were investigating the prostitute robbing rich men with a stun gun. He’d taken ages getting ready for the sting at the casino, but when at last he’d come out in his suit she’d been shocked by how good he looked and how much she wanted to be with him. She’d helped him put a wedding ring on as part of his cover, feeling so self-conscious holding his hand. She blushed thinking about it. And then he’d had to wear his suit that time after their cycle round the nature reserve, when he’d fallen in mud, and the only way she could think of to conceal her feelings then had been to make a cutting remark about bringing a posh frock next time. He’d strutted about Port de Pollença knowing he looked good, and she’d loved it, despite what her face had said - well, couldn’t let his ego get any bigger, could she?

She realised she’d been silently staring at him standing at the entrance to the balcony, framed by the golden glow of the sunset. “Max... I...” What could she say? She had no idea what was going to happen here.

“¿Señorita?” Max offered her his arm and stepped towards her. It seemed his attire might be having the intended effect, he mused. She didn’t seem to be in a huff with him any more, at least. That was a start.

She smiled cautiously and walked towards him, taking his extended arm and wondering what he was up to. She caught a glimpse of the sign that was hanging above her as she went through the doorway to the balcony. ‘Bienvenidos a Cazador’, she read. She’d been so stunned seeing him standing looking so smart underneath it that she hadn’t noticed it at first.

‘Welcome to Cazador’: did it mean what she thought it did? They’d never talked about what had happened when Inés had made them stay overnight there to solve a murder case, apart from the clumsy conversation in his car as he dropped her back at her old apartment, when they’d both pretended they’d merely been talking about him stamping on her foot. She flushed at the memory of the paso doble they’d danced in the street outside their hotel in the interior town. She’d wanted to kiss him so much then. Perhaps it would have happened if they hadn’t been bashed into by another couple. The look in his eyes had seemed so intense, so full of ardour, but he was still with Carmen back then... No, she had probably read too much into that night and into what was going on here, she decided: he’s just recreating a nice evening with a close colleague, trying to soften the blow when he breaks my heart any minute now.

He hadn’t been wearing his suit in Cazador though, so what did wearing it now mean? Had he had another wardrobe emergency or could it possibly be to impress her? Was it that obvious that she liked him in it? If so, she must be more transparent than she’d thought. How humiliating... although, if he was going out of his way to make himself attractive to her, that was a good sign, wasn’t it?

Max led her across the balcony towards the table and pulled out her chair for her. She sat, taking in the flickering candles he’d lit all around and the wine and food he’d laid out on the table. He had clearly made a huge effort to construct a romantic setting, so surely he couldn’t be planning to just reject her? She was still too scared and flustered to truly hope for anything from him though, so instead steeled herself for imminent disappointment and enduring embarrassment.

“Glass of Rioja for my favourite lady?” he asked, holding the bottle up and raising a quizzical eyebrow. He’d called her that before, but this was the first time he’d said it since he’d become single. It felt bolder addressing her that way now.

She gave a small nod, too tense to say anything right now. He poured her a glass and she took a small gulp.

“Mmmm, that’s nice. Glad I listened to at least one of your oenological talks!” She let out a nervous chuckle.

He gave her an appreciative smile and took a swig from his own glass. No time for swirling or sniffing the bouquet tonight: he needed a little liquid courage. From her awkwardness he realised how vulnerable she was feeling, having had no response from him to her revelation still. Better get on with it, he thought, even if it does turn out I’ve got it all wrong; we can’t have this uncertainty and confusion at work next week.

He put his wine down on the table and sat opposite her. They picked at the tapas he’d set out. “So, tell me, what was your opinion on bullfighting again, Miranda?” he asked playfully, before crunching on a breadstick.

She looked slightly confused, but answered forcefully, “it’s just cruel, Max! Those poor animals are let out into the arena with absolutely no idea what’s going on and then minutes later they’re savagely killed, all for some light entertainment and macho showing off. It’s completely barbaric!”

Her Aberystwyth accent had intensified as she had become more impassioned. Max loved that she sounded more Welsh the angrier and more indignant she got. It usually served as a good barometer for how mad she was at him.

“Ok, so I put you down in the ‘against’ column then,” he grinned cheekily at her. He reached down to his side and from its hiding place next to the table leg he retrieved the beautiful crimson rose he’d managed to find on his dash to the shops earlier. He held it out across the table to her. “¿Una rosa? ¿Una rosa para la mujer preciosa?”

Their eyes met as she took the proffered flower. Well, she hadn’t been rejected and humiliated so far, she reflected, and now he was giving her a red rose. And, if she’d translated him correctly, he’d just described her as beautiful...

He broke the eye contact as he reached into his pocket for his phone. This is going well so far, he thought, I only hope what I’m about to do isn’t misjudged. He pressed play on the song he’d set up earlier. His heart pounded as the music started.

¡Señoras y señores, el paso doble en el balcón!” he announced loudly, suddenly standing up again. He came round the table, holding out his hand to her and stamping his foot dramatically. She smiled shyly, her nose wrinkling. She took his hand as he led her towards the part of the balcony he’d set aside for their dance floor. No need to drag her like last time, Max thought. She wants to dance with me.

“I promise not to stamp on your foot tonight. And there are no lampposts up here, so you’re safe from my Gene Kelly impressions too,” he reassured her, pulse racing with excitement.

He took her hand in his and delicately put his other hand on her waist, as she tentatively placed hers on his shoulder, too nervous to look up at him yet. He counted them in and they began to dance to the song from all those months ago at the fiesta in Cazador.

He leaned his head forward and whispered into her ear. “The paso doble... it’s drama, it’s bravery, it’s passion... and this time there is nobody here to crash into us.” She looked up at him as she caught his meaning and he winked, sending a thrill right through her.

Oh wow, she thought, I think he’s going to kiss me. It’s really happening. After all this time. This is much more dramatic than the evening I’d been expecting!

They danced for a while longer, getting closer and closer, but too shy to look at each other now or to take anything further. The sun had set already, the first stars visible as the sky faded from red and gold to an inky blue. Bats had begun to chase nocturnal insects attracted by the streetlights, and the tempting aromas of garlic and olive oil wafted through the air as the surrounding restaurants began to serve their clientele; Max was glad of the tapas he’d bought.

After a couple of minutes Max found himself standing still and staring down at Miranda dancing in front of him, in wonder and longing, just as he had in the street all those months ago. A few seconds later she became aware that he was no longer moving. She lifted her head and they gazed at each other bravely. Slowly, still looking intently into each other’s eyes, they moved their faces together until they were only centimetres apart. They paused, briefly seeking reassurance from one another. Max decided to take the initiative and met Miranda’s lips with a tender kiss. She reciprocated gently, but more than willingly. They were both too afraid of scaring the other off and ruining their relationship to start with anything other than softness. They pulled apart gradually, hearts thumping, breathing fast and shallow. Their eyes searched each other’s for answers. Were they really doing this now, and where would it lead them? Silently, they agreed that this was what they both wanted, consequences be damned.

Miranda put her hands around Max’s neck as he moved both his around her waist and pulled her body close against his. They kissed again, more eagerly, passionately and for much longer than before, as they began to caress each other. They had waited so long for this and all their pent-up emotions spilled out into their embrace, his hands moving over her back and hips and hers running up his neck into his wavy hair and then down across his shoulders and chest.

Eventually they separated again and Max held her hands up and entwined their fingers. They grinned at each other, eyes shining with joy.

“So... I guess we should talk... a bit...?” he ventured.

“Mmm... yes...” she replied. “You first this time.”

He smiled. “Ok... well, I - obviously - have feelings for you, and... you do for me?” he asked, still unsure of exactly what this all meant to her. She nodded, wanting to hear more.

“Ok. Good,” he said delightedly. “Well, I’ve felt like this for a long time. Definitely when we danced in the real Cazador, but probably long before that. If I’m honest, probably even on our first case, back when we were chasing down bad guys on the golf course and crashing funerals with you in your sexy little black dress. Oof... if you ever felt like wearing that again, or that tight green jumpsuit, I would not be complaining.”

Miranda’s cheeks coloured at him saying she’d looked sexy. She took a deep breath, unused to emotional discussions, but ready to try for him. “The same for me: I properly started to realise how I felt about you when we danced, but it had been building ever since we were at Niall Taylor’s fake wake and his daughter told me it was obvious that you were proud of me. Then I saw your terrible dancing on the pool terrace, but for some reason it didn’t put me off, it just made me like you more”. Her nose wrinkled as she teased him. He looked amused at her critique of his moves. “When I woke up after we slept outside at Rancho del Rey and your arm was around me, Max, I was thrilled. I put my hand on yours while you slept and it felt so right.”

Her admission of wanting him for so long too filled him with joy, and he bent to give her a quick kiss. “So... what is this then? I know intimacy can scare you, so I don’t want to push you-”

“No, it’s ok... I can do this,” she interrupted. “I think... I think I’m in love with you.” These last words tumbled out in a rush of trepidation. She looked into his eyes nervously as she finished, even now still scared of rejection.

His expression didn’t change for a few seconds as he took this in. Suddenly he broke into a huge grin. “Miranda, I’m in love with you too. I love you. You’re my compañera, my favourite lady, my Miranda.”

She returned his smile and they kissed again, desire consuming them. Everything was right in their world tonight. She let go of all the regret and fear she’d felt since starting them down this path earlier that evening.

A while later, by wordless assent, they moved inside to her bedroom. The sun was well below the horizon now and the crepuscular wind had picked up a little, blowing out the tea lights one by one.

He stopped her as they stood by her bed and took her hands in his again. “Are you sure this is what you want? You want me to stay?” he asked, looking tenderly into her eyes, full of concern for her feelings and respect for her boundaries.

“Yes,” she replied firmly, squeezing his hands in affirmation. She recalled the conversation when Carmen had told her a major reason she had stayed with Max was the sex. No pressure then!

“Well, ok,” he beamed, “but I haven’t even got a toothbrush here!”

“Ah... actually, you have.” She looked embarrassed. “I kept your ridiculous flamenco dancer one from our bathroom in Cazador... you know, just in case you ever needed it...”

“Miranda Blake! Who knew you were so sentimental!” He kissed the top of her forehead. “Thank you, Schatz.”

Chapter Text

Miranda and Max whispered animatedly across their adjoining desks. They had taken care to arrive separately again that morning, despite having spent every night together for the past few weeks; having been partners and friends for so long meant they had skipped the ‘getting to know you’ phase in their romantic relationship.

“Miranda, we have to tell her!” Max insisted.

“But it’s still early on. And what if she stops us working together?” she hissed back.

“Yeah, she probably will, but I don’t want to see how mad she will be if we don’t tell her until we’re engaged or something! You know I quite like all the sneaking around, but we have to be honest with her now,” he replied, shrugging slightly.

Miranda’s eyebrow raised at the mention of them getting engaged. “You’re really serious about us then?” she asked, trying to sound casual and suppress her elation.

“Of course I am. We’re a pair of geese, aren’t we? Partnered for life,” he confirmed to her.

Her face light up with joy for a moment, until she remembered the point of this discussion. She leaned back slightly and crossed her arms nervously. “We haven’t even told Carmen yet. I don’t want to upset her - it’s not that long since you were together.”

Max gave her a look of mischief, blue eyes sparkling. “Ah, I didn’t tell you the rest of what she said when she broke up with me, did I? She told me that if I hadn’t asked you out by the end of the summer, she was going to lock us both in Joan’s bar after hours and not let us go until we figured it all out,” he laughed.

Miranda was visibly relieved; she had hoped Carmen would still want to be friends with them both and this news was far better than she had anticipated. “Fine, if I don’t need to worry about Carmen, then I guess I can brave the wrath of Inés. Can’t put this off forever. But you tell her; she prefers you,” she instructed.

“I love you,” he mouthed at her and she smiled coyly in reply. They gave each other a small nod and both rose and walked into Inés’s office.

“To what do I owe the pleasure, Detectives?” Inés asked suspiciously. They usually only came in here when summoned.

“Well, we need to talk to you, about our... our...” Max started. He wasn’t sure how to finish this sentence; Inés had a knack of vanquishing his confidence with nothing more than her presence.

Miranda summoned the courage to continue from where he had stopped. “About our relationship, actually”. She tried to look brave, though she wasn’t feeling it at all.

“Oh, something wrong? I thought you had been a good team recently. You seemed pretty close,” Inés replied warily. As the chief of police, she had enough problems to be dealing with.

“No no no no, we are a good team! We like working together. We don’t want that to change. What we wanted to talk to you about is... our relationship outside of work...” Max trailed off again, uncertain of how to carry on.

Miranda picked up the thread as Inés turned from Max to her, eyebrow raised archly. “So... we, well, we’re... we’re together now! Umm, surprise! We know that you’ll probably want to separate us and we understand that, but we didn’t want to keep it from you and, and, well now you know.” The words spilled rapidly out of Miranda as she cringed slightly under Inés’s scrutiny.

Inés sat back in her desk chair and didn’t say anything. She brought her fingers together and drummed them against each other. Miranda and Max looked at each other, wondering what was coming next. This was torturous. They quietly and subtly reached out and held hands behind their backs so Inés wouldn’t see.

“So you two idiotas have finally realised what we have all seen for months then!” Inés smirked.

Miranda and Max’s mouths both opened slightly in surprise. They’d been braced for a dressing down and an abrupt end to their partnership.

“You’re not... mad at us?” Max asked Inés, hesitantly.

“No! I am relieved that you’ve figured it out - eventually.” She rolled her eyes at them. “This is serious, this ‘thing’ between you, is it? You are not just fooling around?”

“Very serious: we are in love!” Max informed her proudly, while Miranda shrank with self-consciousness.

“Good.“ Inés nodded and sat forward. “Personally, I am happy for you both. Of course, professionally, I am concerned about how this could affect your work. I’ve had a long time to think about it though - longer than you two tontos have. There are no rules against you continuing to work closely together; in these cases it is left to the commanding officer’s discretion to handle the situation.”

She studied her detectives, noticing that they were holding hands and trying to conceal it from her. It’s actually quite sweet, she thought, though I’m not letting them know I think that. She had worked hard to get where she was, and to stay there; a reputation for sentimentality was the last thing she needed. She left them in suspense about their future for a few seconds more before carrying on.

”I have decided that I will keep you as partners, on a trial basis. Show me that you can still work together and keep your private life out of it and I will not have to split you up. And definitely no kissing in the office, ok?” She gave an uncharacteristic wink at them as they smiled, relieved.

“Now, get back to work,” Inés snapped, keen to return to some urgent paperwork she needed to finish before a meeting that afternoon. “That robbery in Inca isn’t getting solved with soppy looks and handholding. I expect some progress by the end of the day, got it? Dismissed.” She waved them away.

They sheepishly separated and returned to the outer office, pleased that the conversation they had been dreading had gone so surprisingly well. Life in the (entirely fictional, two-person) German-British division of the Palma Police was pretty good. They were still compañeros.

Back at their desks, Max flopped down in his chair and let out a sigh. “That went a lot better than I expected. Aren’t you glad we got it out of the way?”

Miranda nodded and looked across shyly at him, hesitating to bring up what he had said earlier about the direction of their relationship. “Max... you know what you said about us? The future? We have only been together a few weeks, Max. Just... you don’t need to rush things, ok?” she pleaded quietly.

He smiled at her tenderly. “Of course, Schatz, don’t worry. We’ve got time on our side.”