Alec was taking down all the items from the wall of his rented riverside chalet that suddenly seemed a whole lot tidier now he had sent all the case folders from Sandbrook back to South Mercia Police and all that remained was to seal up this box and wait for someone to collect it before he left. Was he going back though? He thought he might just apply for his old job back now he no longer had a health problem and he had proved he was no longer a failure, well maybe he was, Joe Miller had just got away with murder despite standing in his garden shed and confessing, then confessing on tape at the station.
Wherever he went, he wanted to see his daughter again, he'd missed so much of her life but the one person he really wanted was back in London with her family and whom he'd not heard a word from since she left Broadchurch and him behind. He was just as much to blame, being his usual stubborn self and not letting a case get away from him again to the extent his health had been put on the back burner until it had got too much for her.
She had told him she loved him but it was destroying them both, she had cared too much for him, begged and pleaded with him to take the time to go get his operation but he had refused time after time to the point he had collapsed twice, once just after he had met her and he had never told her despite him eventually confiding to her what was wrong with him that he had to go easy with his love life and she had been happy to accept what he had to offer, saying it was enough for her.
He should have known though that he would have to give in eventually and he had, just before the end of the trial after yet another near miss, this time on the decking outside which had prompted him to go knock on the door of the Latimer's prosecution lawyer early one morning to write his will. Of course he blamed Miller, he always blamed her especially when she had told him he was a complete ass for letting the love of his life walk away and for not telling her he had got himself fixed.
Ellie had left a while ago, to go do what the jury wouldn't do – dish out some justice for Danny Latimer and this time, Joe Miller wouldn't be able to change his plea to not guilty because he may have had a fancy lawyer to drum up facts and figures to steer the blame away from him in court but in front of half the population who were now probably running him out of town, there was no escape.
He had of course warned Miller that she was not to contact his ex-girlfriend under any circumstances but she had admitted she would have informed the young blonde woman who had captured Hardy's broken heart and tried to make him better that Hardy had not made it after opting to finally have the surgery he had so badly needed and even a short while ago, Miller had nagged his ear off arguing he should at least call her and tell her he had survived.
"Miller, for the last time, I'm not calling her, she doesn't need to know."
"Yes she does Hardy, you're still an ass. Two months she was with you, she loved you and you wouldn't do a stupid thing like get yourself fixed. Then you wondered why she went off and left you. Did she even know you collapsed that night you were chasing Joe up on the cliff top?"
"No she was gone when I got back, drove back to London I expect. What would someone like her want to know about me? Leave it Miller, she's gone for good, she won't come back now, not after all this time."
"They watch the news in London you know?"
"Now who's being an ass? So what? It proves I was a failure."
"Well we both failed on that point as did the Latimers, well Mark and half of Broadchurch Police Station but you reprieved yourself on Sandbrook, that counts for something. Lisa's family have found out the truth as has Cate Gillespie, think what she's going through? Then they said I should have known what Joe was doing."
"Leave it Miller, shouldn't you be running him out of town by now?"
"I'm waiting for Beth to ring. When are you leaving?"
"Tonight or maybe in the morning, I've not decided. I'll have to call Daisy first, let her know I'm coming then I'll have to go give the key back. Can't say I'll miss this place, I don't know how I let myself get talked into taking it or why I stayed after she left, I still hear her laughing sometimes, now I don't wake up feeling like I'm drowning any more, I just hear her voice."
"She was good for you, you know that? What about now, can't you bring yourself to send her a text even?"
"No and don't you dare do it for me, it's over, didn't even get a Christmas card from her."
"Why would she send one? She probably didn't know if you were alive or not, you left her in limbo and you talk about giving closure to the victims of those two cases and you can't give her peace of mind you're still annoying the hell out of everyone?"
Alec pulled a face, something he did when he was losing an argument to Ellie Miller. She knew she had him there. Her phone rang, it was Beth.
"I'm on my way."
Ellie looked at Hardy. "So are you going to stay in touch with me?"
"You have my phone number, you'll probably call me at inconvenient times and call me names."
"You deserve it and I still think you were a fool not to follow her. Call her, if it's just an hello and hang up, she'll want to know you're still around."
"Will she? Goodbye Miller, say goodbye to Tom and what's his name for me."
"You still don't know his name and you've been pushing his pushchair and looking after him?"
"I should think so and no, I'm not hugging you, you have someone else who needs that more than I do, go find her."
Ellie held out her hand and shook his and then she was gone. He knew despite losing the woman he had loved, he wouldn't hear the last of Miller. She hadn't succeeded in getting him to choke on the grape seeds yet. So now he was looking out of the glass door, it was raining, what a surprise. He looked across the river at the caravans, where his lost love had stayed with her family and she had stayed after they went home. Her stepfather, being ultra rich still liked to spend time with his family and had brought them down last summer, a few days before Danny had been killed and he had just arrived and had seen the man's stepdaughter with her young brother, getting him an ice-cream across from the station and he had thought she was the most beautiful woman he had seen in his life.
Then he had crossed the road, just missing a car and almost knocked the said ice-cream out of the boy's hand, getting him a telling off like he'd never had in his life until he had asked her out for a drink then that had been it, he had fallen for her in a big way and the night she was meant to go home, he'd asked her to stay and she had said yes, on the condition he rented the blue run-down chalet across the river from the caravan site and he'd said yes without hesitation.
That was when he had known he loved her and they had been happy and the one night he hadn't been with her before they had moved in, he'd collapsed on the hotel bathroom floor and had told her he had slipped in the shower and unlike Miller, she had believed him and kissed it all better. He had warned Miller not to tell her. Then she was gone, after she lost yet another argument when he'd refused to go get his heart fixed. She hadn't even said goodbye properly, she had driven off while he was interviewing two suspects, just after his almost fateful run from the cliff top hut.
No wonder she hadn't come to the hospital. All her things were gone when he had got back. No note, nothing so he had assumed she was well and truly pissed with him and that had been that but he could never love anyone the way he had loved her – Rose Tyler.
The last six months had been hell. She had buried herself in her work, gone out to charity functions with her parents and even tried to start going out with friends again but nothing could compare with the blue chalet she had shared for almost two months with Alec Hardy, the impossibly, irritating police detective inspector who had almost collided with her younger brother that afternoon then have the nerve to ask her out for a drink and she had surprised herself by actually saying yes to him. What a nerve he'd had and trust him to wait until the night before she was going home to ask her to stay and tell her that he loved her.
He'd even rented that adorable blue chalet for them that they had looked at for a few days while eating a quick lunch the two days he'd had time to meet with her during the difficult case but when she had found out what was wrong with him, she was glad she had told him she would stay.
Now her mother was staring at her over a late breakfast when she had announced she felt sick again and hadn't gone to work.
"Rose, you need more than toast you know, now there's two on ya. At least have some eggs or some cereal, yeah?"
"I'm not that hungry, just a bit sickly. You do remember what it was like don't you?"
"Don't I ever? Don't you think you should call him?"
"Well at least you know he's still around, we saw him on the news though if I got my hands on that Miller bloke, he wouldn't know which earth he was on, what sort of a jury would have acquitted him? I reckon they were bribed."
Rose smiled, her mother meant well. "Go to him Rose, he deserves to know."
"Does he? If he's not got his heart sorted, how can he cope? No, it's for the best."
"For who? Are you even going to tell the baby who its father is?"
"What do I tell he or she? Anyway, I go for another scan soon, I'm gonna find out, I've decided."
"I'm glad you're doing one sensible thing Rose Tyler. The other one would be for you to get in your car or have Jake drive you down there."
"I'm sure he's left by now."
Jackie hadn't told her she knew for a fact he was still in that silly run-down shack that Rose had liked so much and that Alec Hardy would have to be prised out of it. Pete had even arranged to keep the rent low so he could afford to stay there. They had liked Alec, he'd been so good for Rose and once she had found out she was six weeks pregnant, the week after she had come home, they had been overjoyed, well except for Rose herself who had cried herself to sleep almost every night since. Rose knew it was all her fault, they had been out, Rose had one too many and Alec had seemed to conveniently forgot what time of the month it was for her and she had conveniently let him. It had got too much though and no matter how hard she had tried and gone on at him, no, he was finishing the case then he would get sorted and she had stood by and let him until one day, he had been out all night working, not a phone call and he could have been lying dead somewhere and it had been too much.
She had packed and was on her way back to London and he'd not even called her. She had been so mad before she left, she had never even noticed her monthly was late, until she felt sick one morning and Jackie had called in the family GP who had smiled and congratulated her, asking who the father was.
Pete had kept the news extremely quiet, nothing had been leaked to the press and it wouldn't be, even when she gave birth in around another three months. Rose had made it plain she didn't want Alec to know it was his baby she was carrying. She had seen him on TV, he looked well but she had only seen by accident when changing channels last night.
She got up from the table and made her way back to her room, staring at her wardrobe. Suddenly, she grabbed a holdall and began throwing in loose t-shirts, larger sized trousers, she refused to buy maternity clothes saying they were too 'Frumpy' then she grabbed her laptop and charger and the charger for her phone and caught one of the maids to carry her bag downstairs. Jackie stared at her.
"You're right Mum, he does deserve to know. I'm gonna drive down and if he's still in town, I'm gonna tell him and if he's left, I'll call Ellie and find out where he is or I'll call him. If he's left, I'll get a room at the hotel for the night."
"Let me get Jake to drive you down Sweetheart."
"I can still drive Mum, I'm not an invalid. The seatbelt doesn't hurt now I've got that pad on it. I'll take my time, make a couple of stops and don't you dare go calling him to tell him I'm coming down. Promise?"
"I promise. Just make up with him Rose, I'm sure he's been just as miserable as you have. He did look better, maybe he got himself fixed?"
"Maybe but if he hasn't, if I tell him about the baby, I'm sure he will. Tell dad for me when he gets home and tell Tony I've gone away for a bit. If Alec doesn't want anything to do with me, I'll be back tomorrow."
"Don't be so daft Rose, of course he'll want you and the baby. Go on, get going and call me when you get there. You hear?"
Rose gave her mother a final hug and one of the staff carried her bags out, covering them up in the back. It was almost twelve, it may take her over four hours in current traffic and she would need to stop at least once, maybe more if the baby decided to move and set her off going to the bathroom at frequent intervals.
It was almost five when she was pulling into the field behind the blue chalet, driving right down as far as she could go and parking just behind. The blinds were pulled down but they had always been like that, Alec wouldn't have changed his habits. It was raining, of course it was and her coat was in the back seat and she didn't want to twist around so getting out quietly and closing the door softly, she put her jacket on and locked the door, she could come back if he was in, if not, it was up to the Traders hotel for the night or she might stay at one of the others. She was tired and still feeling a bit sickly though she shouldn't be really.
She walked through the gate that led to the chalet, too many times they had hardly got through without stopping to fervently kiss and almost have sex where they were standing, they had been so in love with each other. She had laughed when Alec had chased ducks off the decking at seven in the morning when he'd looked out of the bedroom window to see a family of them had taken up residency overnight, then he'd gone to chase them in just his t-shirt and shorts then got the hosepipe out and cleaned up so neither of them would slip and fall into the river, given Alec's frame of mind about large bodies of water.
She wondered if that had changed now? Closing the gate quietly, she approached the door – to see Alec staring out at the rain and the river. She blinked, he came out of his daze and their eyes met. Alec hardly registered the sight of his lost love staring back it him like she was some kind of mirage, a trick his mind had been playing on him and damned Ellie Miller for making him think about her.
Rose stared at him, he fumbled for the door handle.
"Rose? Is that really you?"
"Well last time I checked it was, it's pouring it down, aren't you gonna let me in?"
He stood to one side as Rose stepped in, shaking her hair since her hood had fallen down. He took her jacket off her shoulders.
"Let me go put the heating on, you'll catch cold."
He never even noticed she was slightly larger than the last time he had seen her and without even giving her a kiss, he went off to the kitchen to put the heating on and switched the kettle on. Then he came back out and saw her, a purple t-shirt, a blue hooded top and black stretch trousers and his eyes rested on her swollen belly, her hand resting on it.
"How have you been Alec?"
He was lost for words. "Fine, I can see how you've been. How far on are you?"
"Almost six months. I found out the week after I got home, it's yours Alec."
He stepped forward a few paces and looked at her, a smile beginning to form on his face.
"You grew your beard Alec, see just because I wasn't here to remind you to trim it. You look better though."
"Yes, got off my arse and went for the op, Miller said I owed it to you to get myself fixed. What are you doing here?"
"What do you think you plum? I came to see you."
"Sorry I didn't mean it like that. I meant, oh hell, you know what I meant."
Rose smiled. "I came to tell you, my mum gave me a kick up the backside and told me to come and tell you, you deserve to know.''
"What are you having?"
"Don't know, got another scan next week, I didn't want to know last time, I was too upset. I missed you teddy."
"I missed you too princess. Got a kiss for me?"
He held his arms out and she stepped closer.
"Don't squash me though."
He leaned down and placed his lips close to hers. "The baby, it's ok?"
"Fine, alive and definitely kicking, do ya wanna feel?"
He placed his hands on her belly, waited a few seconds and felt something. Then he smiled.
"I never stopped loving you Rose. There was never anyone for me after you left and you were right to be angry with me and I was too much of an arse to still do anything. I only had the operation last week."
"Idiot, I thought you might have gone and died on me."
"Nah, you're not that lucky."
She swatted his arm playfully.
"Ow, what was that for?"
"For being an arse and not telling me. So everything's over with?"
"Yes, it's all over and the town are now dispensing the sentence the court failed to dish out as we speak and the three Sandbrook killers are being charged. Come back to me Rose?"
"Why do you think I drove all this way, just for the sake of it? To dangle the fact I'm carrying your baby and then just walk away again? No Alec, I've done enough wallowing in self pity, I'm going through a terrible time and you're going to suffer with me. Did you say three killers? What about Lisa?"
"I'm sorry Rose, South Mercia Police found her a short time ago, it was her uncle."
He felt her slump in his arms and guided her to the battered sofa where they had spent many an afternoon making out on before she had left. He left her for a second and went to make some tea, a good thing he had some milk left, then handed her a cup.
"I'm so sorry Alec, I wanted her to be ok."
"I know princess. She's at peace now, her family finally have some closure. Never mind that, I want to know everything, when do you go for your next scan?"
Rose looked at him, she had been so wrong about this. "Next Thursday."
"Well can you get transferred to a hospital down here?"
"I suppose but I'll have to go back for the rest of my things, why don't you come back with me and we'll keep the appointment then ask for them to transfer me? You still haven't asked yet if I'm staying?" She eyed him thoughtfully.
He looked serious. "Will you?"
Rose swatted his arm again. "Of course I will you plum, you got me in this state, if I've got to suffer then so do you."
Alec smiled and put the two mugs down then pulled her close. "I'll go out and get some food then we can talk. You still like Chinese food?"
"Yeah, like a Chow Mien is gonna fix everything though."
She saw the look on his face. "Oh I was joking with you Alec, lighten up."
"Well you go off for six months and turn up on a miserable rainy afternoon after the hell of a day I've had and tell me you're six months pregnant with my baby, what do you expect?"
"A bit of sympathy, a foot and back rub possibly," she grinned.
He knew he couldn't be mad at her any more.
"When I come back princess, can I take your car?''
"Yeah but can you bring my things in first?"
"You were planning on staying then?"
They managed to get as close as they could when they got to bed, Rose warning him she might have to make a few quick trips to the bathroom which unfortunately was across the other side of the living room so the next morning, they took her car up to the rental agency and negotiated a rental agreement on a three bedroom house just behind the Police Station then Alec took her back to the chalet and he went to see his old boss who agreed he could come back part time in view of his new circumstances and congratulated him.
While he was out, Rose had a visitor in the form of Ellie, who was surprised to say the least to see her old friend sat outside on the decking when she had been visiting her sister at the newspaper office.
"Hi, when did you get back?" Ellie asked, trying to get young Fred to stay in his pushchair so he wouldn't chase a duck that decided to join them on the decking. Rose remembered Alec chasing a family of them off in just his t-shirt and shorts at seven in the morning and she was howling with laughter which had got her into trouble when he went back inside.
"Late yesterday afternoon. Alec's gone to see if he can get his old job back, at least part time. You left then?"
"Yeah, I'm a traffic cop in Exeter but if he gets it back, I might come back to keep him in line."
Ellie could tell Rose was hiding something, sitting awkwardly behind the picnic table. "Something you want to tell me? Did you two make up?"
"Yeah, we just went to the rental agency, we're moving on Saturday, just behind the station. I don't know why he stayed here, he must have hated it, hated me."
"Listen here you, he never hated you, you kept him going after the case was solved. He was angry, at himself for being pig-headed and refusing to do anything and driving you away. Did he tell you where he was that night?"
"I never asked him, do you know?"
"Yes but you need to ask him Rose, I'm not telling you. Do you still drink coffee?"
"No, decaff tea but Alec's calling at the shop on the way back, we're out of milk, he was going to be leaving."
"You timed it right then. I left Broadchurch but I just moved back into my old house, me and Tom are decorating, you two should come over when we've finished."
"We're going back to London for next Thursday."
"Why, what's so special about that day?"
Rose realised Ellie hadn't noticed and moved around so she could see. Ellie's mouth opened but nothing came out.
"Oh, congratulations, how far are you?"
"Six months, my next scan is next Thursday, Alec's coming with me, I need to get some more stuff. Now I think he'll want to go to Lisa's funeral."
"Probably, since it almost killed him again trying to solve the case. He told you?"
"Yeah, last night and I got mad at him again for not telling me he got himself fixed."
"He made me swear I wouldn't tell you Rose, I wanted to, really I did but he needed to solve Sandbrook and if I'd told you and he found out?"
"I know Ellie, I don't blame you, I was just as bad as he was."