The breakdown

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Rose Tyler is on her way to a new life with her six month old son Jack when her car breaks down just outside Broadchurch.  Alec Hardy stops to help her and calls a breakdown truck then offers her a ride into the town.  Rose says she can't afford to pay for her car being repaired and he offers to help her in return for her looking after his new house while he's at work.  Having nothing to get back to, Rose agrees and eventually, she doesn't want to leave but Alec gets worried when the baby's father wants to see him.

Rose Tyler is on her way to a new life with her six month old son Jack when her car breaks down just outside Broadchurch.  Alec Hardy stops to help her and calls a breakdown truck then offers her a ride into the town.  Rose says she can't afford to pay for her car being repaired and he offers to help her in return for her looking after his new house while he's at work.  Having nothing to get back to, Rose agrees and eventually, she doesn't want to leave but Alec gets worried when the baby's father wants to see him.
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Chapter 1
After all the arguments with her mother, Rose Tyler finally decided enough was enough.  Along with the "Why don't you get a job instead of taking money off Jack's father" and the "I can't look after a six month old baby when I have clients coming in, I'm not a babysitting service" from her mother and the "We could start going out again, you could say the baby is mine" from Mickey, Rose thought the best thing she could do was take her six month old son Jack, whose father had left them three months ago saying he wasn't cut out to be a dad, away from London and make a fresh start.

So she had packed her Vauxhall Astra car with two suitcases, a stroller, a bag of toys, a baby bag and a folding cot and headed down the motorway towards Exeter and maybe beyond but she was going to stop overnight in the city and get her bearings.  What she was going to do when she decided her final destination was anyone's guess.

She had no need of going out to work, she got a single mother allowance, child allowance and a generous amount from Jack's father every month but getting her own place in London had not been an option.  Her mother had taken her in until she found somewhere but the council wouldn't give her priority because she had a roof over her head, even though she had to share her old bedroom with her son.

In her haste to implement her plan of escape, she had failed to notice a problem with her car, which Mickey was supposed to do the maintenance at a reduced rate but she had forgotten to take it two days before she planned on leaving.  Now she was off the motorway and had just left the roundabout leading to Dorchester, Jack was asleep in his baby seat after being fed at the last motorway stop but it was after four in the afternoon and she wasn't sure if she should stop off somewhere and find a B&B for the night.

She still had some money from James that he gave her on his last visit to see his son, he gave her a cheque every time though Rose would have preferred for a bank transfer but he said he liked to make sure she got it.   On his last visit, he'd still had no regrets about letting them go even though he knew where they were living.  He'd told her he could help her set up a private flat but in London, that was out of the question so he'd agreed she would leave, not too far away and if she found somewhere suitable, he would act as a guarantor and help her with the deposit.

She had still a bit to go and a sign was coming up for a place called Broadchurch, which had been on the news recently but it was as good a place as any.  Suddenly, the car began acting strange so she thought it best to pull over as a lay-by was coming up.  She just made it before steam began coming out of the engine compartment so she turned it off and would have to wait for it to cool down.

She had a large bottle of water in the back so once it cooled down, she would try filling the radiator but half an hour later, Jack had woken up and began crying so she went to sit in the back with him, the car hood still open since she'd covered her hand while doing so.

Suddenly, she was aware a large SUV type car had pulled in behind her, a bearded man at the wheel and she began to panic when he got out and went round to the passenger door and tapped on the window.  She was even more worried when he went in his jacket pocket but he brought out a wallet and held it up.  It identified him as Detective Inspector Hardy, Wessex Police so she breathed a sigh of relief and opened the door, since the windows were electric and the engine was off.

"Hello there, you seem to be having trouble?  I am no expert but perhaps your car radiator has boiled dry?"

"Yeah, stupid thing, I was about to go try and fill it up, I have water in the back."

"Then fetch it and I will attempt to do it for you.  Do you have breakdown cover?"

"Yeah, with having a six month old baby.  Let me get that water."

"What's the boy's name?"

"Jack and I was trying to get him to go back to sleep.  It's starting to get a bit cold now."

"Right, let's try filling the radiator and if that's no good, call the breakdown service, get your son and I will get his seat and you both sit in my car until they arrive, if you agree?"

"Well you are the police, I reckon I'm safe enough with you."

So she waited as Alec Hardy took the bottle of water and since the radiator had cooled down he took the cap off but right away, the water was going straight through so he stopped and shook his head as he looked around the hood at Rose as she kept a safe distance.

"I guess it's got a leak."

"You don't say," Rose replied, feeling totally cheesed off.

"Well get your son and go keep warm in my car and I will call the breakdown company, they will take more notice of me.  They will have to tow it to the nearest garage which will be in Broadchurch.  Where were you heading?"

"Originally Exeter but I was going to stop there for the night, in Broadchurch anyway, Jack will need to settle down for the night.  I'll get my membership card then get Jack out of his seat.   Do you know how to take it out?"

He'd had plenty of practice with Ellie Miller's son recently.  "Yes, my DS has a two year old, she was driving me around until fairly recently."

That done, Alec put the seat in from the passenger side and Rose strapped her son back in even though he was getting a bit irritated by now so she gave him a baby biscuit to suck on and got in the other side after locking her car, not that it was going anywhere but all her belongings were in there except for the baby bag she'd put on her shoulder when getting Jack out.

Alec got back in the driver's seat, switched the engine on to get the heater going then dialled the number on the card, noting the name of Miss Rose Tyler.  Rose was thinking it was her lucky day to have a police officer stop to help her and he wasn't bad looking in a scruffy bearded sort of way.  She thought though he looked a little like James but shook the idea off instantly.

Alec was pulling rank with the breakdown service operator.

"Look, I am not having this 'we'll have someone with her within the hour', she is alone with a young baby, now get someone out sooner than that."

"Sir, all our patrols are attending other breakdowns but as soon as one is free, I'll have them go out to her as priority.  Is she safe for now?"

"Yes, they are sitting in my car, you had best send a recovery vehicle, her car is going nowhere except to a garage."

"Sir, that is why she will have to wait, if the car is not drivable and she can't sit in it with a young baby and steer it.  Are you staying with her?"

He didn't have much choice, looking in the mirror to see her trying to keep the young boy entertained.  She was now smiling hopefully at him.  There was only one thing to do, the right thing and that was get all her things out of her car and take them into Broadchurch and try to find them a place to stay.  Her car would be expensive to fix, would she be able to afford both repairs and accommodation?

He had an idea but didn't know if she would agree.  He could call Miller and ask if she'd finished decorating her loft but he doubted it was at the top of her list of priorities.  If not, he had a spare room to offer her for the night or however long it took to repair her car.

He half turned to tell her what had been arranged.   Rose was annoyed they didn't think of her as a priority.

"That's because you are with a police officer, you are safe enough with me.  Now give me your key and I will get your things out of the back.  Where were you planning on staying?"

"No idea, do you know any places?"

"No disrespect but if you have car repairs to pay for, can you afford a hotel?"

Rose put on her best smile.  "Maybe not then?"

"Well if you agree, I have a spare room, do you have a cot for the baby?"

"Yeah, a folding one, in the bottom, under the cases.  Shall I help you get everything out?"

"No, I can manage, stay with your son, he seems to be going to sleep again."

"For now, he'll want feeding and changing again soon and settling down for the night."

"Well if you agree, as soon as the breakdown truck arrives, let them take it to the garage and I'll take you to my cottage, at least for tonight.  Then tomorrow, we can see what the damage is and arrange to do the repairs."

"I can't afford a lot, I'm on a limited budget if I have to find a place to stay."

"Well, you can stay for as long as you need to.  No need to pay me, maybe you can do a little housework and a bit of cooking in return for your room and board.  So what do you say?"

"Thanks, I think.  Why are you doing this?  Because you're a police officer?"

"Partly but I could hardly check to see how you were doing then just drive off, could I?"

"Most men would have done," Rose sighed.

"I am not most men.  I'll go get your things now,  is there anything you want to leave?"

"No, there's just the cot, the stroller, two cases and a bag of toys."

"You got all of that in the back?  Is it bigger than it looks?"

"Maybe?" she smiled, looking at her baby son, who was now asleep but wouldn't be for long.  At least it was now warm in the car, which had lulled Jack to sleep again.

She knew she couldn't afford the car repairs and a room so she was going to have to rely on Alec Hardy's generosity and hope he wouldn't try to take advantage of her but she could handle herself.  Looking after his house in return for them staying there, just for a few weeks wouldn't be all that bad, at least she wouldn't have to find a job for a few weeks until the next cheque from James like she thought she might have to do by hoping wherever she could get some work she could take Jack with her.  Once the next cheque came through, she could start looking for a place to live, James hadn't been happy her mother was actually charging her rent, which had taken a big chunk out of her income.  She knew that was the reason he'd agreed to help her move.

Alec was transferring Rose's belongings to the back of his car when a patrol pulled up behind him, whom he recognised as Bob.

"DI Hardy Sir, I thought that was you so I turned back.  The young lady having trouble?" he gestured towards Rose in the back of Alec's car.

"The radiator is leaking, we are waiting for the breakdown truck to take it to a garage, they should be here soon then I am taking her down into Broadchurch for the night until she finds out how long it will take to repair."

"Do you need some help then Sir?"

"Yes, help me with her cases."

Alec was soon back in the car, having checked nothing was left in Rose's and a short time later, he could see the yellow and orange lights of the breakdown truck so still having her membership card, he told her to stay where she was and he got out to deal with the patrolman.

"Are you with the young lady?" Alec was asked.

He got his ID card out and the other man nodded.  "You're sure it's the radiator?"

"Yes, that is why there is water all over the road, though I don't pretend to be an expert, that's your job.  Where will you take it?"

"The garage just off the High Street, they should still be open.  Right, since the young lady doesn't need a ride, I'll take care of it, can I see her membership card?"

Alec handed it over and waited for it to be checked, he'd not seen a problem with it though.  Getting it back, he handed the key over and left the man to it after handing the man his card with his phone number.

"Give that to the garage, tell them I am dealing with it."

He got back in the car again and told Rose he was taking her down near the harbour where he lived.  He'd only come back recently and had been unable to get his riverside chalet back so he'd taken a two bedroomed cottage instead, in case his daughter decided to grace him with her presence, now hopefully not while Rose and her son were going to be staying with him.

He didn't know how she was going to react when he'd suggested they stay with him but what was the alternative?  Find an expensive B&B for a few days and live in just the one room?  He wondered where exactly she'd been staying and who the baby's father was, maybe she was running away?

He knew nothing about her yet he'd jumped in feet first and offered them a place to stay, he must be getting soft in the head.  Maybe he should call Miller, then she could tell him exactly the same, that he needed his head examining, let alone his check-up on his pacemaker, which was where he was coming back from when he'd seen a car up ahead with the hood open and when he'd pulled in, seen a young woman.

He turned off at the next roundabout towards the harbour, then down his street until he reached the row of cottages.  Getting out, he went to the passenger side to help Rose get the sleeping baby out of his seat then he went ahead to open the door for them.

"Make yourself comfortable Rose, it is Rose?"

"Yeah, that's me, hi, we weren't properly introduced, were we?"

"Well we are now, are we not?  I will go get your things, I think you need the stroller first, then you can put him in there and come and help me, it will be much quicker with two of us bringing everything in.  Will he want feeding soon?"

"Yeah, it's been a while but he has milk before he goes to bed, I'll need to make some up."

Alec brought the stroller in and she put Jack in and strapped him in the went to help Alec with the rest of her things, him taking her cases to the spare room, then the folding cot, putting it up at the end of the bed.

"It's not a big room but it's comfortable enough plus while I am at work, you will have the house to yourself, please make it your own.  Right, you get unpacked before he wakes up and I will go make us something to eat, are you hungry?"

"Yeah but if he wakes up first, I'll need to see to him."

Rose decided she may as well get what she needed for the night and following day out but he had said she could stay as long as she wanted but she didn't want to overstay her welcome by too much.  She recalled seeing him in the news recently as well as last year but hadn't taken much notice but she could have sworn he'd been ill.

While Rose was upstairs, Alec looked at the sleeping blonde-haired baby, who was making faces which made him smile to himself.  He was quite used to babysitting over the last weeks, while the trial had been taking place so this was nothing new to him.

Rose could smell something cooking and went back downstairs as Alec was taking Jack out of the stroller and trying to calm him down by rocking him in his arms and to Rose's surprise, Jack obliged and looked at the strange man holding him.

"You two have met then?" Rose smiled as she held her arms out.

"Yes, we have come to an understanding, have we not young man?  Make his bottle up then I will stir the sauce in the pasta, I will keep it on a low heat until you finish."

"That could take a while, depending on what mood he's in.  Then I'll get him ready for bed."

"Then I will turn the stove off and leave it for a while until you put him to bed.  Then we have some talking to do such as why you are running away."

"What makes you think I'm running away?” she asked, boiling some water to make the bottle since she had used the only one she'd made up on the way.

Alec was now sat with the boy, who was trying to go for his beard and Alec was grabbing his tiny hand and pretending to eat it, making Jack giggle.  Rose took the bottle over having cooled it in a jug of cold water and sat next to them, holding her arms out but Jack made no effort to move, now sat in Alec's arm and looking at her.

"Pass it here then.  You may as well know I have a teenage daughter, I have done this before."
Chapter 2
Rose didn't seem that surprised as she watched him carefully feed her son while she went to get his sleepsuit and a nappy out of the baby bag.

Jack was still taking his time finishing his bottle, something he tended to do at bedtime.  The baby then made a noise her friend Mickey would be proud of, Alec cracking a smile.

"Bet your daughter didn't do that?" Rose smiled as Alec put the baby over his shoulder, having handed him a towel first.

"Maybe not but better out than in as my mum used to say.  Do you want to change him or shall I?"

"Well you two seem to be getting along just fine, I'd hate to spoil your fun."

Before Rose could stop him, Alec grabbed the disposable nappy and began to change Jack, Rose watching from the chair.  Once the baby was in his sleepwear, Rose went to pick up a yawning Jack.

"I'll put him to bed, thanks for helping."

"I figured you needed a break if you have been travelling all day.  Over dinner you can tell me what led you to your car breaking down."

"Ah, that could take a while, it's quite boring."

"I still want to know and tomorrow, I will introduce you to my DS, she has a two year old.  You need more than one friend in the town.  I can ask her if she has finished decorating her loft, it will be bigger than my spare room."

"Alec, it’s bigger than my old bedroom me and Jack used to share at my mum's, trust me.  I don't know how to thank you for rescuing me."

"No thanks needed, I was glad to help you.  Looks like he won't take much getting to sleep," he pointed to the baby, who was already nodding off.

Rose took him upstairs and put him in the folding cot he'd been using for the last three months, since there was no room for his old one in her mum's flat.  James had sold it to a friend and given her the money for it, in case she ever got a place of her own.  The break-up had been amicable, there had been no arguments or fighting, James just admitted he wasn't dad material and Rose had gone quietly but disappointedly back to her mother's.

The only problem though was Mickey, pestering her to go back to him, which she didn't want to do, she would rather be on her own with Jack seeing his father every month.  Downstairs, Alec was just serving their meals onto plates when Rose left the sleeping baby.

"Did you get him settled then?"

"Yeah, I left the bedroom door open.  That food smells good."

"Well I am not much of a cook, ask my DS.  The best I could offer her was ham salad.  I am just recovering from heart surgery, I had to watch what I ate."

"Crikey and I let you heave all my stuff around, sorry Alec, you should have said.  What surgery did you have, a bypass?"

"No, a pacemaker, that was where I had been, for a check-up since they decided to send me to Dorchester rather than where I had it done in Exeter.  You were heading there, why?"

"Seemed as good a place to head for than anywhere," Rose admitted as they ate.

"Trust me Rose, my DS lived there, she hated it.  She had a pokey one bedroom flat above a shop and it cost a fortune.  She had it subsidised but she still had to pay towards it.  She couldn't wait to get back to the house she had to leave here in Broadchurch.  Think yourself lucky your car broke down near here, any further and you would have been in Devon."

"Yeah, then you wouldn’t have rescued me.  Let me do the dishes then I’ll tell you why I was in such a hurry that I didn't get my car checked."

"You would still have broken down, radiators are not part of a service you know.  You wash, I will dry, then you can tell me."

Sitting on the sofa together, Rose began to tell him how she had met Doctor James Smith, his doctorate being in history and science.

"I was in my final year in college, he wanted a research assistant and he said I was his brightest history student.  We travelled around the world, just as friends but when we reached Norway, the hotel had made a mistake and there was only one room available.  It was freezing so you can guess what happened?"

"Yes, I can imagine, no need to go into any details."

Rose tried not to look embarrassed.  It had happened quite naturally as she and James had huddled together under the duvet that night, she was almost in tears and he had tried to assure her he'd been in worse places, without company and he had started kissing her cheek so she kissed his back which led to more, resulting in Jack Tyler being born nine months later. 

James hadn't made it on time, she had been resting, the baby in her arms when he'd got to the maternity unit near where they shared a large two bedroom apartment but she had forgiven him since he had been in the middle of an exam for final year students.  Things had been fine for the first six weeks, until James had gone back to work then he'd said he couldn't concentrate when the baby cried as he was preparing his student's papers for the next term.

He had said she was lucky having Jack during the long summer holidays but Rose was already suspecting he was now regretting getting her pregnant.  After he had gone back to work, she was miles away from her mother so he had bought her a second-hand car so she could go visit but her mother, since Rose's departure, was taking more clients at home and she wasn't always welcome.

She'd been surprised James hadn't wanted to give the baby his surname but he'd not argued when Rose had put her own down when she went to register the birth.  Then when Jack had reached three months, it had become apparent James no longer wanted to be a father and they reached an agreement he would support them financially and her mother had agreed to take them in until they found somewhere to live, reluctantly, which had never changed.

So after Alec briefly explained how he'd arrived in the town last year, got caught up in a young boy's murder, Rose was telling him her story, the cut-down version and he listened, feeling more sorry for her by the minute, it was plain to him she hadn't deserved any of this.  What young baby didn’t cry?  He'd had sleepless nights when Tess had been on early duty and he'd stayed in Daisy's room to stop her being disturbed and what had it got him?  Estranged from his teenage daughter, almost dying several times, a nagging DS and coming back to the town he'd hated on his arrival last year because he had nowhere else to go.

"Am I boring you?" Rose smiled as he'd got up to make some tea, seeing she was close to tears, remembering everything that had happened.

"Not in the slightest, I figured you needed a drink.  So, he still sees the baby then?"

"Yeah, every month, he's due to see Jack in two weeks.  I told him I was heading for Exeter so he could set off early in the morning, they normally spend the afternoon together, I used to take Jack to the apartment and go back later though I've only done it twice."

"So you'd had enough?  It must have been cramped, in that tiny bedroom?"

"Yeah and there were women coming in all day, mum's hairdressing business had really taken off, she was properly registered to work from home and everything, while I was away and she wasn't about to give it up.  She even had the nerve to charge me rent, James went crazy about it, he said he'd help me find a place but there was nothing in London for me so I told him I was leaving the city."

"He agreed?"

"Yeah, we never fell out over it, he gives me money every month but I have to find a cheap B&B somewhere until I find a flat, he's helping with the extra money for the deposit and agreed to drive over."

"Well, stay here until your car is ready, it will be next week now anyway, they will get nothing done tomorrow, being Friday so it will be Monday or Tuesday before they start working on it.  I will talk to my DS tomorrow, she may be able to lend you a proper cot for Jack and maybe a high-chair, which will give you a break from constantly watching him.  I can't say what she has left, her friend recently had a baby."

"I'll be grateful if she can lend me anything but Jack's used to sleeping in the portable cot."

"He's a growing baby, he needs a proper one.  I will ask my DS if there is a hire shop around the town."

"Alec, I'll be gone when my car is repaired, if I can afford to get it done, it could be expensive.  It'll be another two weeks before I get more money from James."

"If you don't mind me asking, where did the money go?"

"I do mind you asking, you'd say the same as he did.  My mum charged me fifty quid a week rent, then I had to buy my own food, things for Jack, car insurance and running costs, need I go on?"

Being on his own for so long and not driving, he had forgotten how expensive the cost of motoring and bringing up a baby was.

"Sorry, I did not mean to pry but if you have not got much money left, should you even be contemplating being in such a hurry to leave when your car is fixed?  I am out all day, I told you, you can stay as long as you want and on Saturday, if you agree, we will go down to the superstore in Dorchester and see how much a cot will cost if my DS has given her son's away already."

"I had money for a new one but I had to use it just to survive.  I'll pay you back."

"No need.  You look tired, when did you last get a good night's sleep eh?  When did you last sleep in a room of your own either?"

"Before I left James, I moved out of our bedroom, since Jack was constantly waking up and it disturbed him, me getting in and out of bed all the time."

"Did he not help you?"

Rose shook her head.  Why should she defend him to Alec?  James had been the one to say it was over, not her.

"Rose, I brought my daughter up when her mum worked different hours to me, we shared mostly but that was not the cause of our break-up, that happened years later over something else, a case that overtook everything and destroyed our marriage.  Could you not reconcile?"

"No, he said he's not cut out to be a dad."

"Maybe he will change his mind when the baby gets older?"

"Yeah?  Fat lot of good that will do, when he's left me to bring Jack up on my own.  My mother told me to accept it and get on with it, she raised me on her own, my dad died when I was a baby.  That won't happen to Jack, he'll still know his father, which is more than I had so I can't force James to do anything or else he'll stop wanting to see us."

"I understand Rose, I really do, the boy needs to still see him.  Look, don't take this the wrong way but you need a break from being in the same room, why don't you go get ready for bed and come into my room, we can talk for a while and you can go to sleep whenever you want, no strings.  How about it?  Have some adult company for a change, I will be on my best behaviour, I promise.  You look like you need it."

"You won't take advantage of me?"

Alec shook his head.  He'd been on his own a long time now and Rose was the only female apart from Becca Fisher he'd asked to keep him company and the hotelier had quite rightly turned him down flat when he'd been on his last legs.

"Why would I do that eh?  I am trying to help you Rose, stay here for now and save your money.  I will take care of your car, you keep the house tidy, cook for us both and maybe do some grocery shopping and the rest of the time is yours, take your son for walks on the beach and spend some time outdoors with him, you both look like you need it.  I will give you the spare key but be careful what you tell people who ask where you are staying.  Just tell them you are an old friend I am helping out."

"Yeah, I can do that, I'll tell them I don't want to talk about it, which I don't.  Thanks Alec but maybe I'd better sleep in my own room, I've not been with anyone since James."

"Is that a warning?" Alec asked, raising his eyebrows. "If you are telling me to back off, I will but you look like you need a shoulder to cry on."

Rose laughed. 

"I meant it, come and keep me company for a while at least, you must be tired of talking to your mother or your son eh?  You go use the bathroom then when I am ready, I will leave my bedroom door open for you, whenever you are ready just come in."

Rose nodded and leaned over to kiss his cheek and touched his beard.  Alec smiled and kissed the back of her hand.

"I won't be long in the bathroom.  I promise I won't dry my underwear and hang it on the shower rail."

"You can use the washing machine tomorrow, then take it across the road to dry at the laundrette but there is a clothes dryer in the shed out back, you can put it out and they will soon get dry, if you have to wash some of Jack's things."

"Yeah, okay, I'll do that, leave me the shed key."

"It's hung up by the back door, along with the door key, there is only one.  Anyway, I'm not so sure I am in a position to cause you any concern, I have not had the all-clear from the hospital yet.  I was coming back from there when I saw your car had broken down."

"How long ago did you have the pacemaker fitted?"

"About six weeks ago, I had several scares which made me realise I was living on borrowed time."

"I'm glad you're okay now, I can't imagine what it must have been like for you.  Can I ask you something?"

Alec nodded and sat up.

"Why are you still on your own?  Wasn't there anyone you could trust?  I mean if you were ill and you were hiding it?  Did anyone know?"

"Yes, the hotel owner where I was staying, she had to get me to the hospital, she kept her silence after I told her I would not pursue the fact she got some drugs for a couple who were staying, it was a mutual understanding.  I had very little choice but as for taking up with someone, who would have wanted me in my state?"

"Don't be so hard on yourself Alec, what about me, with a young baby?  That's enough to put any bloke off, even when it's your own partner."

"Is that why he made you leave?  He couldn't accept the responsibility of getting you pregnant?  What sort of man would do a thing like that?"

"Enough of the questions, quit being a detective will ya?  Yeah, I suppose it all boils down to the fact we were just friends until that cold night in Norway, then our relationship changed overnight.  We went back to London, I found out and I moved in with him.  Everything was fine until a few weeks before I was due and I could tell then he was having regrets about the whole thing but we just carried on.  Then it must have got too much for him and he didn't know how to tell me until one night when we sat down."

"So it was a mutual split then?"

"Yeah, no screaming and shouting, there was nothing to argue about.  Oh, your divorce wasn't so amicable, was it?"

"You could say that, she found someone while I was working on a very difficult case.  Then she lost some vital evidence and the whole thing fell apart, as did our marriage.  I covered it up to prevent our daughter finding out she was having an affair but Tess gave the game away and told Daisy it was me that left.  She later forgave me, after my surgery, I went to see her, I have only been back a month or so."

"I'm sorry, I didn't even know what had been going on here until you said, I had a bit of a bad time while I was having Jack.  Speaking of him, I'd best go check on him.  Hopefully he'll sleep through until around six or so.  I'll try not to let him disturb you."

"Don't worry about it, I am used to waking up early, before I had my surgery.  If there is anything I can do, just say."

"Thanks, I will.  I'll go get ready for bed then."

"Aye, you do that and please, feel free to come into my room."

"I'll think about it, you may just regret it."

Alec sat a while after Rose kissed his cheek again and went upstairs.  What had he been thinking?  Did he want to put her off for good, doing a stupid thing like inviting her to his room?  He may as well have just come out and asked her if she wanted to have sex with him, which he wasn't quite sure it had sunk in he could pursue such physical activities again.  The specialist had said more or less he could get back to leading a normal life as long as he didn't overdo things but was having sex even one of the normal things?

He was a forty-something single again man, Rose looked a lot younger, maybe her late twenties, he had no business inviting her to his room even if it was only to 'talk' but he had to start somewhere after being alone for so long.  Maybe it wasn't fair he should try to find out with her, she'd had a tough time by the sound of it.  No wonder she'd asked him about taking advantage of her but that wasn't what all this was about.

It was about helping out a young vulnerable woman with a six month old baby and she was right, who would want to take up with her when no-one had wanted to take him on.  They could maybe help each other get over it, if he was lucky and why her partner had decided he didn't want the responsibility, well he certainly didn't deserve someone like her.

It was quite obvious to him the man had wanted her, not a child and since it was just about an accident, maybe that had changed things between them but it happened all the time.  He switched out the lights and went upstairs, seeing the other bedroom door open and Rose standing over the baby.  He watched from the top of the stairs, Rose unaware he was there until he moved.

"Sorry, did I make you jump?"

"No, he woke up so I just changed him, he's gone back to sleep.  I should get the nappies that stay dry all night but I switched to a cheaper brand, maybe I'll go back to them though.  Sorry, you use the bathroom if you want?"

"Then on Saturday, we will go shopping and now you have no rent to pay, go back to the better brand."

"Is there a supermarket close by?  I need to get more baby food and some milk for him."

"There is just the mini-market, well two of them about an equal distance walk but if you can manage until I get back tomorrow night, I will take you."

"Maybe we'll just take a walk and leave the rest until Saturday."

"Aye, I will try and ask my DS if she has anything she can lend you, then she can drop them off tomorrow evening."

He went off to the bathroom, here he was getting all domestic with a stranger he'd rescued a few hours ago, at least she was more civilized than Tess had been towards the end, their break-up had been anything but amicable.

Rose had closed the door and changed into her pink pyjamas, thinking they were more suitable if she changed her mind and went to his room, which she wasn't planning on doing but an hour later, it was all she could think about after tossing and turning then getting up, she put her dressing gown on and opened the bedroom door, Alec's was closed.  She thought maybe he had changed his mind and the invitation no longer stood so she went back and sat on the edge of the bed.

Alec was still awake, wondering if she would knock on his door or think he was no longer inviting her.  He got up, put on a t-shirt and opened the door, in case she changed her mind but as he opened it, he noticed hers was open and he could hear her crying.  He opened her door to see her sitting on the edge of her bed.

"Rose," he whispered.  "Tell me what's wrong?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Yes it does, come to my room."

"Your door was closed."

"Yes, sorry but you could have knocked.  Shush before you wake him eh?"

He held his hand out to help her up, Rose allowing him to do so and putting his arm out to steady her, left the bedroom door open and went into his room, helping her take her dressing gown off and putting it on the chair for her.  When they got into bed, Rose lay on her side as he lay on his back.

"I don't know where to start," Rose declared as Alec put his hands behind his head.

"Then start with why you can't find someone else, just because you have a baby.  There are a lot of men who would be happy to take the role."

"Well there was an old boyfriend who offered to take me back, even to say Jack was his but I was over him a long time ago."

"Well that was a start."

"You have room to talk, why didn't you find anyone to trust with your secret?  Well maybe except that hotel owner?"

"She was also the town's gossip, she surprised me she never told anyone I was ill."

"Well lucky for you she didn't.  You could have anyone you wanted Alec, if you tried."

"You mean tidy myself up and stop being so grumpy?"

"I never said that, I don't know you well enough but I do know women should be queuing at your door."

"Then you could keep them away, I am not ready to fend women off."

"Well I'm not ready to fend men off either.  Maybe I should just tell everyone I'll be gone soon."

"You don't have to leave.  Where will you go eh?  To another city and be on your own in a tiny apartment?  You really need to talk to Miller, she was on her own after I arrested her husband and she had a really bad time, she only had her sister and her nephew.  Is that what you want Rose?" he asked, turning to face her.

"No.  I don't know what I want Alec."

"You need someone, a friendly face.  Stay here, I ask only you look after the house."

"You think I didn't have enough of that, after James?  If I'm gonna stay, I don't want to be treated as the hired help."

"I never meant that, we can be friends, at least you won't have to find a job and I'm not asking you to keep to your room or be the hired help, if that's not what you want."

"Then what are you asking me Alec?"

Alec Hardy always was a believer in actions speaking louder than words, the worse she could do was slap his face, go back to her room and be gone in the morning so he took a gamble, hoping it would pay off.
Chapter 3
To say Rose was taken aback was a bit of an understatement.  Alec leaned over and kissed her, gently at first until she responded and kissed him back.

"What was that for?" asked a confused Rose, moving away to get out of his bed, thinking she had just made a very big mistake at letting him lead her there in the first place.  "I should slap you silly for that."

"Well get it over with then.  I am sorry if I assumed too much but I really hate not knowing where I stand.  We could spend the next few days wondering if it's the right thing to do or not, I just thought it would save time.  Besides, you did not seem to object, you kissed me back."

"I hate men who force themselves on me."

"Then I apologise and if you want to leave in the morning, I can't stop you but what are your alternatives eh?  You are on your own Rose, some other man will only take advantage of you, maybe someone from the garage will offer you a discount to sleep with him, who knows?"

"I told ya, no-one will like the fact I have a six month old baby tagging along on a date."

"Who said anything about them asking you on a date?  They won't care you have a baby, they will just use you for what they want then dump you."

"Yeah, I had enough of that, thanks very much."

"You think James used you?"

"I don't know now so much.  He never actually said he loved me first, I always said it and he'd say 'you too' but I don't know now.  It was bound to happen, us two travelling around like that but we got pushed together now I think about it.  I think he liked me but it was forced on us after that night in Norway.  If that hadn't happened, we'd have probably gone our separate ways when we got back."

Alec touched her arm, Rose not attempting to move it.

"Rose, I am very sorry for my actions just now but you are alone, with a young baby and you need someone to take care of you."

"Well Mickey offered to do that," she sighed, leaning back on the pillow, too tired to fight this now it had happened.

James had never kissed her like that, in fact she had been the one to initiate anything and after two months of being pregnant, James had never even attempted to have sex with her, mainly because she was going through the being sick period.  Then after Jack came along, she had bought him something as a joke when some friends had goaded them about getting back into having it again and he'd only used two, once when they had been out after Jack's naming ceremony and when Rose had persuaded him to let her get a babysitter and they went out on New Year's Eve.

So to say she needed some attention in that department was also an understatement since it was now into April.

"You look like James," she dared say to him, to get his reaction and get it over with since if she ever was brave enough to let her mother meet him, Jackie Tyler would come right out with it.

Alec had turned onto his back, his arms behind his head again, not knowing what to say.  He had driven her away within a few hours of them meeting, as he always did.

"Is that meant to make me feel better or to tell me something else?"

"I just thought you should know, that's all."

"Is that all?  I expect you will leave in the morning then?  I won't stop you but think about it first eh?  You can't stay in a one-roomed boarding house with Jack for however long it takes to pay for your car repairs, they will want a deposit on any work they do, it will cost at least twenty pounds a night just for a room, let alone food and anything Jack needs.  Maybe if you are lucky you can rent a caravan but they can get expensive depending on the season.  Look, forget the kiss, I'll not presume anything else again and you stay here like we talked about, you will have the house to yourself during the day and when I get home, I will go to my room."

"It's your house Alec, I can stay in my room."

"Very well.  So are we agreed?"

"It wasn't that bad."

"What?  You are confusing me Rose, what are you saying?"

"That I could do a lot worse than you but you do remind me of James, well apart from the beard."

"I can assure you the beard is staying.  Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I don't want you to think if I stay, it's because you look like him.  I'm over him, if there was ever anything to get over.  I was happy, well reasonably, apparently he wasn't."

"Then he was a fool not to love you back and he does not deserve you.  I meant it Rose, men will take advantage of you now you are on your own and they will not be so understanding as I am."

"Why are you doing this?  Is it because your family broke up?"

"No, not entirely but you do need someone to watch out for you, while you are in the town, I thought maybe you would let that be me?  I will speak to Miller tomorrow, I will offer to finish decorating her loft for her so she can maybe let you stay there until you can leave town and I will still pay for your car repairing if you look after the house."

"She doesn't even know me."

"Neither do I but I would like to get to know you, if you would let me?  I made a big mistake trying to kiss you but I wanted to prove to you that you are not considered as my hired help."

Rose let out a giggle.  "Yeah?  Sorry but it sounded that way to me."

"That was not my intention, I promise you.  Hang on, you were testing me?  To see how I would react?  That was not fair Rose."

Rose turned onto her side to face him.

"I had to see what your intentions were, detective inspector, you may be a police officer but how did I know I could trust you?"

"You think I make a habit out of rescuing young women when their car breaks down and offer to pay for the repairs?  I can assure you, you are the first.  I think it should be me who is offended."

"Ouch!  I guess we both got our wires crossed?  You're right though, what if the bloke in the garage is big, burly and gruff and says he'll repair my car for free if I sleep with him?"

"That is exactly my point, how will you be able to say no for getting your car fixed for free?"

"You're the one offering to get my car fixed for free.  My mum always says better the devil you know than the one you don't."

"I thought Kylie said that?" Alec smiled, turning to face her, remembering Daisy had found the record and played it constantly when she was seven years old and he'd finally hidden it while she was at school, resulting in her not talking to him for a week but it had been worth it for some peace and quiet, as much as he loved her.

"Friends?" Rose asked, putting her hand on his arm.

"Yes, friends.  Go back to your room, if you want?"

"You invited me, you just caught me by surprise, that's all."

"So you did not really object?"

"You could have said something first."

"Oh, then maybe I should have invited you on a date as well?  You are hard work Rose Tyler."

She leaned over and kissed his cheek.  "You have no idea Alec Hardy, do you know what you are taking on?"

He put his hand on her shoulder, her pyjama top being loose around the neck that his thumb touch her bare skin.

"I would not have offered you a job and a place to stay otherwise."

"About the job," Rose asked, not attempting to move his hand that had now found more bare skin.  "Does it have to sound like you are employing me?  Can't we say I'm just a friend who is staying with you?"

"Yes, I did not mean it to sound like I was employing you, you said you did not want to be the hired help.  What really happened with you and James?  Did he make you feel that way?"

"Everything was fine, or so I thought but he obviously didn't see it the same as I did.  He told everyone I was his girlfriend, I referred to him as my partner.  Forget it Alec, I see him for a few hours once a month to hand Jack over to him, that's it, there is no chance we will get back together again."

Alec leaned forward and kissed her forehead.  His beard felt soft as it touched and he slipped his other arm under her and around her waist.

"So the kiss wasn't that bad then?"

Rose let herself relax into his shoulder, noting how good it actually felt and she was going to turn him down, what was she thinking?  James hadn't really shown that much affection, them getting thrown together that night had been a huge mistake but she didn't regret having Jack, when he was awake, he was a happy enough baby and she'd done the best she could with him, under the circumstances.  It hadn't helped having to keep him out of her mother's way, now she had a chance of at least a temporary home and a proper cot for him to sleep in and she didn't have to share a room with him.

Alec had made a good point in her being tired of trying to talk to her mother and having baby conversations either to Jack or about him.

"No, the kiss was rather nice, I'm just tired Alec, it's been a really long day.  Maybe we can talk about this tomorrow?"

"Yes, if you are not going to pack while I am at work?"

"No, I accept the offer as long as you don't tell people I'm your housekeeper?"

"Now you are teasing me.  My DS will tell me I need my head seeing to but apart from that, she will help you with things for Jack if she can.  I meant it Rose, please, make yourself at home here, for as long as you want.  I don't want you to worry about getting your car back, I will take care of the gruff mechanic."

Rose smiled to herself and buried her head into his shoulder as he put his arm around her.  She tried to look up to him so he moved his head.

"Can we try again?  The kiss I mean."

A few more kisses later, Rose was leaning into him again and fell asleep, Alec staying awake and wondering where all this was leading.  Would she stay after her car was fixed and she had paid him off by looking after his cottage?  Maybe it wasn't a coincidence he'd been passing just as she had been waiting for her car engine to cool down, what were the chances?

He gently removed his arm from around her waist and she moved slightly so he could get it around her shoulder, his other one around her back.


"Shush, go to sleep."

"Wake me if Jack starts crying."

He had no intentions of doing so, he could attend a crying baby, he'd had enough experience with Daisy.  Her so-called partner had left her to do everything and while he'd done most of it with Tess working different hours to what he'd done, she had still been there.

Rose panicked slightly when she woke up in a strange bed, alone.  Had Alec had to dash off for something work related?  She'd have to get used to him being called out in the middle of the night or early morning, she was in no position to argue he stayed at home and let someone else attend.  Getting her dressing gown on, she went to the bathroom, since all was quiet in Jack's room, the door still open slightly but when she went in, the portable cot was empty.

She'd not looked at the time so she picked up her mobile she'd left to see it was only just seven.  The baby bag was open and another bottle was missing along with the tin of baby milk, a packet of baby cereal  and a feeding bowl.

Alec had woken up half an hour before and slipped out of bed without disturbing her when he'd heard a noise from the baby's room, Rose having left both doors open so he meant to pick up a baby monitor if Miller didn't have one and putting some jogging bottoms over his shorts, had gone in to see Jack laid on his back playing with a teddy bear Rose had left him to sleep with.

"Hello there young man, you are awake early.  Let's see if you need changing eh?  Your mum will have to get you some better nappies, won't she?"

Jack just gurgled and held his arms out to be picked up, which Alec thought was good instead of him screaming the place down for his mother to attend him.  He put the baby on the half made bed and went in the packet of nappies she'd left out, then went to get the baby wipes and was pleased there wasn't much of a mess as he'd thought there would be.  Then he got a clean vest, a top and some pull on bottoms and dressed Jack, then used a bag she had left out for the nappies and picking up the young boy, held him in one arm and took the bag to the bathroom litter-bin.

He went back in the bedroom, deciding he'd come back up for the things he'd need and went downstairs and put Jack in the stroller, the boy just gurgling at him and making noises then went back upstairs and took what he needed to feed the boy after switching on the kettle.  Alec thought he'd try Jack on the baby cereal and if not, he'd have to make up a bottle but he remembered Daisy drinking normal milk at that age so making the cereal, he got the milk out of the fridge to warm up a bit while he attempted to feed the cereal to the eager baby who was sat in his stroller and kicking his legs, leaning forward to take the offered food after Alec picked up the bib that was left from last night.

Rose had gone to get dressed and went downstairs to hear Alec talking to her son.

"Now, you are going to eat this, are you not?" Alec was asking as Jack opened his mouth.  "You are not going to spit it out, are you?"

"You two seem to have come to an understanding?" Rose greeted Alec, putting her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek.

It was a far cry from the mornings she'd had recently and those where James had not gone out early, which she now knew was to avoid feeding and changing his son.

"Does he drink normal milk yet?"

"Yeah, long as it's not really cold.  Hey you, are you being good for Uncle Alec?" she asked the smiling Jack.

"Don't call me that, Miller used to tell her son that."

"Then what do I call you in front of him?" Rose asked as she offered to take over but he refused.

"He's not old enough to call me anything yet but I now know the reason he has taken to me."

"You think he believes you're his dad?"

"The thought did occur to me."

"He's not seen him for two weeks Alec.  Want some tea and toast?"

"Thanks.  Yes, it may be two weeks to you and I but to a baby, it may just as well be yesterday.  Rose, I'm fine with it, really, let's not go into that again eh?  You were good enough to tell me, I respect that and we won't talk about it again, agreed?"

"Yeah.  You'd best get ready for work."

"I will finish what I started, eh Jack?"

Jack gurgled again and kicked his legs, trying to grab one of his feet and Alec tickled his foot, making Jack giggle.

"What are you planning for today then?" Alec asked her as she waited for the toast.  "I think he may want his milk now."

Rose handed the bottle over and kissed Alec's cheek again.  "You're really good with him, he normally won't let his gran near him on a morning."

"Well I am not his gran, am I?  Maybe if she is always avoiding him, he knows it.  Babies are very sensitive.  Did he spend any time with her?"

"Not much, she was around and would pick him up now and then, a bit like James really but the last two visits Jack had with his dad went down well, according to James."

"Yes, well now he does not have the responsibility, does he?  You just did not see it Rose, admit it.  Now he's free again, having a son he can hand back at the end of the day is more to his liking.  He was right to admit he wasn't cut out to be a dad, it's better than him being a bad one."

"I expect he did his best."

"Come on Rose, there are natural parents and those who keep their distance, James was one of them.  Is letting him see Jack once a month a good idea?"

"How can you say that Alec?  I get that your daughter was taken away from you but that wasn't yours or her choice, was it?  James has to take some of the responsibility or like I said, he may stop seeing us altogether and I want Jack to know him, since I never knew mine.  It's the same as what happened to me Alec, I barely remember my dad, I don't intend for Jack to go through life not knowing who his father is."

"I'm not suggesting you do," Alec replied, now supporting the bottle Jack had both his tiny hands on and was drinking away.  "Fine, you stick to your arrangement, if James is willing to travel but if he agreed to you moving away, maybe he is trying to tell you something?"

"What?  Such as he wants an excuse not to see us?"

"Think about it Rose.  Jack, you are not going to get any more out of that, are you?" he asked, pulling the almost empty bottle away and Jack pulling a face like he was going to start crying.

Instead, the boy held his arms out for Alec to lift him out of the stroller.  Rose went for him but Jack just settled against the back again, waving his arms at Alec.

"Come on Jack, he has to go to work."

"I have plenty of time though at this rate, I may have to take the day off, eh young man?  Come here then," he told the boy, unfastening the straps that he'd managed to work out how they fitted together, a much more complicated arrangement than Daisy's had been, albeit fifteen years ago or so.

"Why don't you go to your mum eh?" Alec asked as Rose buttered the toast and took a slice.  "See, you need a high chair and if Miller does not have one, I will go down tonight and get one, we can get a cot tomorrow."

"I can't let you keep buying him things Alec."

"Why not?  He's a growing baby and you can't keep him in the stroller all day, can you?  He can play on the floor when you are sitting down but he needs somewhere safe the rest of the time.  Maybe Miller had a playpen as well, she never said if she had given everything away to Beth Latimer."

"Isn't that the mother of the boy who died?" Rose asked, trying to part Jack from playing with Alec's beard.

"Yes, she had a baby recently so if Miller still has those things, maybe she would let you borrow them for the time being.  Jack, you should really go to your mum now young man."

Jack looked at him, then at Rose as she finished her toast and drank her tea.  Deciding it was time to stop playing with the beard of the man who looked like his dad, Jack held his arms out to Rose, who smiled and took him.

"Sorry about that, you're right, he does recognise you somewhat.  This is so embarrassing."

"Why?" Alec asked, taking some toast and a mug of tea from the kitchen counter and Jack holding his hand out.  "This is not for you, Rose, have you got those biscuits you gave him yesterday, he would be better with one of those.  Don't be embarrassed, it happens and I told you, it's fine.  No-one here knows that, do they and you are hardly likely to go around telling anyone, are you?"

Rose smiled and went to sit down, putting Jack on the rug and letting him eat the biscuit, laying a teacloth in front of him she had grabbed hold of.

"No, who would believe me and if they did, what would be the point of having someone dump me and I go for his twin?"

Alec thought she rather had a point, he really had nothing to worry about on that score, even if she told Miller, who would really say he needed locking up in a nice padded cell.

"I have to get ready for work, come and meet me across from the station around twelve and you can meet my DS and she can tell you what she has left of the baby equipment.  If you are going shopping, get a taxi to the supermarket up past the roundabout, the local ones may not have what you want and it will be cheaper for you.  I'll give you some money and see what we need in the way of food."

"I don't need any money Alec, if I don't have to pay for a place to stay.  I get my benefits on Monday, I can use them for anything me and Jack need then I get money from James in two weeks.  I'll have to see if we're staying here or not, I'll have to inform the benefits office if I'm away for more than two weeks, since I didn't know where I was going in Exeter."

Alec was hoping she'd stay longer than that, well if he had anything to do with it anyway, he was in no hurry to see her go and after the misunderstanding about that first kiss, she seemed to have got used to the idea he wanted to make something of their unusual situation.
Chapter 4
Rose got Jack into his stroller after they waved goodbye to Alec, she had kissed his cheek and he had kissed hers and the baby's foreheads.  It was a far cry from when James couldn't wait to get out of the door, he had only stopped to give her a peck on the cheek and a 'see you tonight', Rose thinking some nights he stayed at college late so his son would be asleep.

Now, here was Alec Hardy, whom she'd met less than 24 hours ago, making plans to go buy Jack anything he needed and giving them a proper home not shared with her mother's hairdressing equipment and women coming in all day, asking what happened to Rose, who was either in the kitchen or her bedroom trying to keep a young baby from crying.

She had felt like a prisoner after she left James, she was stuck in a deep hole she thought she would never get out of but now, had her car not broken down just outside the town, she'd probably be in some cheap boarding house in Exeter doing exactly the same.  Was it some sort of fate Alec had been on his way home as she had waited for the car engine to cool down?

Before he'd left, he'd given her his spare key, they had exchanged mobile numbers and Rose had dared to take his picture, though he had protested and said he'd break the phone's camera.

"Rose, I would prefer you didn't do that," he blushed as he pushed his hair back, the phone camera clicking.

"Aw, it's just for your contact picture, you can take one of me and Jack if you want?" she told him, quickly going into the contacts and assigning it, then sneakily putting it on the lock screen, replacing the one she'd taken of James holding Jack she was going to take off anyway.

"Maybe later eh?  I'm not sure it is such a good idea yet, well not for me.  I have to go and explain to Miller why I am asking about what she did with her son's baby equipment."

"Well maybe you should leave it until I meet her?"

"That's all very well Rose but what do I say to get her to come with me eh?  I can't just say oh by the way I rescued someone last night and she's got a young baby and they are staying with me, can I?"

"Why not?  You already said she'll think you need locking up, what else can she say?"

"I would rather not think of what she will say.  I will drop a few hints, see her reaction and I'm not trying to hide you Rose, really I'm not, it's just somewhat unusual circumstances that brought us together and tonight I'd like us to talk more about what you are going to do.  Please Rose, don't pack and leave while I'm gone, will you?"

"No, I said I wouldn't.  Where can I go with no car?"

"I will call the garage, see what the damage is and don't worry about dealing with gruff mechanics eh?"

So after cleaning up, making the beds and feeding Jack again, she looked up taxi cabs and got one to the supermarket, opting to put Jack in the trolley seat instead of dragging the stroller and a hand basket around.  While Rose was doing all that, Ellie Miller had been out and had just got back so Alec called her into his office.

"Sit down Miller."

"What have I done now?" Ellie protested at him being all mysterious when he'd called her in.

"I'm going to tell you something and you'll be calling the nearest mental institution.  On my way back from my check-up last night, I stopped to help a young woman whose car had broken down, in the lay-by just outside town."

"Since when have you been a car expert?"

"Just listen will you?  She had a young baby with her, the radiator had overheated but when I poured some water back in, well let's just say the car was going nowhere so I waited with her for the breakdown service."

"Well hark at you, the good Samaritan, so what?"

"She had nowhere to go and not much money so I brought her to my place."

Ellie burst out laughing and everyone outside looked in their direction.  Alec got up to scowl at them and pulled the blinds closed.

"Stop it Miller, I am being serious."

"So what are you going to do about it?  Where's her car?"

"Been taken to the garage up on the High Street, I am going to call them now but I gave the patrol man my card.  I'm going to take care of it, they will take advantage of her situation and charge her twice as much.  She and her baby are going to be staying with me, until the car is fixed but she has nowhere else to go so she may stay beyond that."

Ellie decided he couldn't be making this up.  "I can get my loft finished over the weekend, she's welcome to that, maybe look after Fred so I don't have to pay a child-minder.  So how old is her baby?"

"Six months or so, his name is Jack and she's called Rose, Rose Tyler."

"You, remembering names!  Well she can come and stay with me and look after Fred and do a bit of housework in return, does she have any money coming in?"

"Yes, some benefits and she gets an allowance from the baby's father, he sees the baby once a month but I think she will be better off staying with me for now.  Besides, I said I would pay for the car being repaired to save her going without anything until she gets her benefits so she is looking after my cottage for now plus it's on the harbour, she can take the baby out more easily, until her car is fixed."

"You really are being serious aren't you?  So what do you want from me?"

"Anything of what's his name's that he no longer needs."

"Hang on, you know her son's name and you don't know mine?"

"Oh, I know his name, I was just seeing your reaction.  I mean anything of Fred's that you've not promised to give to Beth Latimer."

"Well Lizzie's still in her crib so I've got everything really but I promised her the cot, the baby's too young for anything else yet.  I could lend Rose them, her son will be out of them when Lizzie is old enough, if she sticks around.  I'll get them out of the garage when I get home and bring them around and see what Beth says about the cot."

"Thanks Miller, I appreciate anything you can lend her since I don't know how long she's staying.  We talked about it last night but things are still not clear, I think she will leave when her car is fixed."

Ellie noticed he looked disappointed at the thought.  "You're really taken up with all this, aren't you?  Admit it Hardy, she's got to you."

"Maybe she has, I just want to help her.  She split up with the baby's father three months ago and she's been living in her mother's flat in London.  Her mother runs a home business and Rose has to stay either in her room or the kitchen with the baby all the time, the weather has been too bad lately for her to take him out."

Rose hadn't actually told him that but he could guess why she'd stayed indoors most of the time, it was no fun dragging a baby out in the rain just for the sake of it.

"Poor thing, now you're making me feel sorry for her.  Okay, I buy it, when can I meet her?"

"Across the road around twelve, I told her to meet us there, she was going up to the supermarket to get things for the baby.  She was so tired this morning, I got him up and fed and changed him.  Don't look at me like that Miller, I looked after Fred for you did I not?"

Ellie was trying not to laugh too much.  From her coming back for the trial and him dragging her into the Sandbrook case, they had spent a lot of time together, he'd even pushed Fred around in his stroller and looked after him on the odd occasion and now, he'd taking someone in, she thought he'd have learned his lesson after what Claire Ripley had done to him.

Just before twelve, having got back from the supermarket with the better brand of nappies, more milk and other baby food and the groceries, Rose changed Jack again, stuffed what she was going to need into her shoulder bag and was on her way to meet Alec, seeing the catering area he'd told her about but having to walk all the way around to it.

She was just at one of the stalls waiting to order tea for two when she saw a woman walking towards her in a sort of uniform and wondered if it was Ellie Miller.

"Are you Rose by any chance?" Ellie asked, looking at Jack, who was trying to bite his toes and halfway got his sock off.

"Yeah, you must be Ellie Miller?  Hi.  Where's Alec?"

"He was still talking or rather shouting at the garage owner where your car is.  He called them earlier and they said to ring back at twelve, I wouldn't like to be them right now.  So this is Jack?" Ellie asked, leaning over and grinning at him.  "Hello there little man, you're going to lose your sock."

"It's a new thing, trying to bite his toes," Rose smiled as she paid for the tea and was told it would be brought over to her when she also ordered two baked potatoes with cheese and salad, hoping Alec would be okay with it.

Ellie laughed and ordered a coffee and a sandwich while Rose sat at a nearby table.  Back in his office, Alec was barking orders down the phone.

"Well you are dealing with me, not her so tell me again why you can't get a radiator for her car until Monday?"

The man tried to explain they had to order it in and while they did that, they would take the old one out and check no more damage had been done.

"So how much is that going to cost and when will it be ready?" he asked, scribbling down the total amount including tax and labour charges.  "So I have your assurance that is the total?  You had better not keep calling back saying you have found other problems with it and it will be ready on Tuesday.  I will be paying for it and collecting it for her so it had better be ready on Tuesday afternoon."

Fairly satisfied he hadn't been completely ripped-off, he got his jacket and headed downstairs and across the road, seeing Rose talking to Ellie, who was tickling the baby's foot and making him laugh.  He felt like that was now his job but pulling on his tie, went to join them.

Rose just had to give the game away, didn't she as Alec sat next to her and she greeted him with a big smile and put her arm in his, kissing his cheek.

"Hi, I ordered lunch for us.  So, what about my car then?"

He knew there was no escaping Miller's attention now but he'd not said anything about how they had spent the night together, even though it was only a few kisses.  He gave Ellie a warning look telling her she'd better not say anything, he'd told Rose earlier he wasn't trying to hide her or anything but now his DS knew it was more than him just rescuing her.

"It is being taken care of and will be ready on Tuesday and I will collect it for you.  So have you two discussed baby equipment?" he asked as their lunch arrived and looking at the baked potato was grateful she'd not ordered tuna since he hated any fish that didn't go with chips, now he could eat them again.

"I was just going to tell her," Ellie objected.  "There's everything really but I'll have to check with Beth about the cot, the other stuff she won't need yet.  I'll bring everything after work, there are some boy's toys and some clothes I never got rid off, if you want them?"

"Yeah, I'd appreciate anything you have, I had to leave things behind.  I had everything Ellie but I had to let it all go when I left Jack's father.  Well I didn't exactly want to leave but I had little choice, we just weren't getting on."

"I never meant to pry Rose, these things happen but hey, you ended up in a seaside town, you'll love it here, my two boys loved going down to the beach when they were babies.  How long are you planning on staying?"

Rose glanced at Alec.  "Listen Rose, I can get my loft finished over the weekend, it's yours if you want it?"

"Thanks Ellie but I'm going to be staying with Alec, I have to work off what I owe him for my car since I can't afford to pay it all at once for another two weeks."

"Well the offer still stands, if you ever get tired of looking after him."

Jack decided he was missing out on being fed so Alec being the nearest took the feeding bowl Rose had got out along with a jar of something Alec pulled a face at and said it was 'mushy'.  He put the bib on Jack and began spoon-feeding the boy whilst trying to finish the remains of his lunch.

Ellie grinned at her boss being all 'domestic' and could only imagine what was already going on between the two of them since Rose had kissed his cheek and taken his arm and the baby was happily accepting the food given to him by a stranger but he'd said he'd fed and changed the boy that morning so maybe Jack had already got used to who had once been her grumpy, miserable boss.

Ellie made her excuses and left them to it after saying she would throw what she could find into her car and be over around six.

"Thanks Ellie and don't worry about the cot, we can go pick one up tomorrow, can't we Alec?"

Alec was trying to clean a squirming Jack's face covered in a brownish coloured remains of his food, Alec not even wanting to know what it was made up of.

"See you back at the station Uncle Alec," Ellie grinned as she got up.

Alec could only scowl at her while Rose giggled and patted his shoulder.

"Now see what's happened," Alec remarked as he put the dirty baby wipes in a nearby bin and Jack was making noises that he wanted his milk that was sat on the table Rose had poured in a bottle earlier. 

She'd got some proper baby milk from the supermarket and was about to reach for it when Alec sat down again and picking it up, leaned down to hold the bottle in place as Jack grabbed hold of it.

"You're really good with him Alec, he never did that for James."

"Maybe he was too young then?"

"No, I don't mean taking the bottle, he always made a fuss when his dad tried to feed him."

"I told you Rose, babies are very sensitive, they know when someone is uncomfortable with them.  Maybe that is what drove James away in the end?  I mean if he felt Jack wasn't comfortable with him, it works both ways."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right Alec.  So what about my car?  Is it just the radiator?"

"As far as they know.  Don't worry, I told you I was taking care of it for you.  When you get the baby things from Miller, you will be able to let him play safely while you get on with things and tomorrow, if there is no cot, we will go down and get one.  Now Jack, you take the bottle from your mum, I have to go now."

As if to respond, Jack moved the bottle from his mouth and grinned at Alec as he let go and got up, leaning down to kiss the boy's forehead.  Rose moved over and Alec leaned down to kiss her cheek, since there now seemed very little sense in hiding the fact they were together but would everyone think the baby was his?  Jack was about the right age for everyone to believe he'd met Rose just after solving Danny's murder so he was going to have to come up with a plan and soon, especially if Miller's nephew caught on.

"Maybe when you get home and Ellie brings that equipment round, I can make us something nice for dinner?" Rose asked, taking hold of Jack's bottle.

"Yes, that would be good.  Why don't you take him down on the beach for a while?"

"Yeah, he'd like that.  See you later then, Jack, say 'bye."

She took the bottle away and Jack held his arms out to Alec so Rose took one of his arms to get him to wave.

"Bye for now, you go play on the sands with your mum for a while eh?" Alec told him, kissing Rose's cheek again and being thankful they were tucked in a corner out of the way but a certain Olly Stevens had been on his way back to the newspaper office across the road and had seen his aunt with Hardy and another woman with a baby in a stroller. 

So he'd crept a bit nearer, seen his aunt leave then Alec taking the baby's bottle then kiss the woman's cheek.  Now he was intrigued and had to find out what it was all about.  At his uncle's trial, he'd seen a woman with brown hair with Hardy a few times, then she'd been arrested but his aunt wouldn't say much except it was an old case and it would all be revealed sooner or later.

Was that why Hardy had been away from Broadchurch after the trial had ended?  To bring his girlfriend and baby back to live here?  This was going to make a hell of a story. 

Hardy had been expected to leave Broadchurch after Joe Miller had been locked up but he'd stayed and taken that blue chalet by the river so how had he met her?  Olly had not seen her around before so they had kept it all secretive and now the trial was over, Hardy must have persuaded her to come and live with him.

Olly saw Alec walk off so he got up and headed across the green and into the newspaper office, calling upstairs for Maggie and ignoring his mother sat at a desk typing something.

"Hey sunshine, where are you going in such a hurry?" his mother asked him as he shouted "Maggie" and was halfway up the stairs.

"Maggie, you'll never guess what I just saw?"

"Not now Olly, I need something for the front page and there's nothing going on around here.  Did you talk to your aunt about that old case of DI Hardy's?  Maybe we can do a story on him, how he was on death's doorstep and solved an old case?  Oh, I've got a better idea.  Find out where he went when he left town for a week or so and why he decided to get himself fixed and if you can, how he got his job back.  Why are you grinning?"

"If you stop I'll tell you," Olly grinned, sitting opposite her.

"Don't be cheeky Olly.  Well?  This had better be good."

"Oh it is, I've just seen DI Hardy across at the catering stalls, with a young blonde and get this, there was a young baby in a stroller and Hardy looked like he was feeding the baby and he kissed the woman's cheek when he left them."

"What?  Are you serious?  Oh petal, that is a story.  Well don't just sit there, write down what you know and go find her and get the story and pictures.  Find out who she is, where she's from and more importantly why she's arrived all of a sudden.  Maybe Hardy didn't know about the baby and she's come to tell him?"

"No Maggie, he knew the baby, I'm sure of it the way they were acting and he was leaning over the stroller.  I couldn't see if it was a boy or a girl, I was too far away.  He may have been hiding her away somewhere during the trial and he's got her to come and join him."

"Well get on with it then, I need to get it ready for Monday.  Thank goodness we only print once a week now you have that news blog or whatever it's called.  This is exactly what we need to get the town interested again.  I had another offer today but I turned them down, some paper from Bristol wants to take us over and use us for getting the latest news from the area to save them sending reporters down all the time."

Olly knew his editor wouldn't give up the paper without a fight, she had down-sized to save money when things had got tight.  He got up and going back downstairs was relieved to find his mother on the phone so he wouldn't have to answer why he was in such a hurry.  Who was the mysterious blonde with Hardy and why were they being so open if he'd been hiding her away?

His imagination was working overtime as he set off to see if she was where she was earlier but she had gone so he walked past the police station hoping Hardy was around but he wasn't so he walked along the esplanade to see if he could catch up with her.  He spotted her a bit further down at the edge of the beach, the buggy empty and Rose sat on the sands with the baby jumping up and down.

She looked up when someone stood in front of her and not having her sunglasses with her, squinted against the afternoon sun.

"Can I help you?" Rose asked, reaching for her mobile on the blanket.

"Don't be alarmed.  I'm Olly Stevens, Broadchurch Echo.  I saw you and DI Hardy earlier and I wondered what the story was, you're new in town."

"Well aren't you the clever one?  So you saw us together?  Big deal.  What makes you think I want to talk about it?"

"I saw enough back there, you and Hardy fussing over the baby.  Is he the father?"
Chapter 5
"What?" Rose exploded at the reporter.  "Get out of here now before I call the police."

"You mean Hardy?  I saw you with him earlier, why deny it?"

"Yeah, well my car broke down last night, he brought me into the town while it gets repaired, that's all."

"What about him leaning over the stroller?"

"Mind your own business, why don't you go ask him?  I'm sure he'll be only too happy to tell you to go jump in the river.  Excuse me, I have to go."

"Look, you can't stop me from doing a story, if Hardy was with you.  He's already been in the news lately and with all the accusations at the trial."

"What accusations?" Rose asked, putting the straps of the shoulder bag over the handles of the stroller.

"Can I carry that off the beach for you?" Olly asked hopefully, to keep her talking.

"You might as well make yourself useful but I'm not talking to you.  I know him, that's all.  He found me a place to stay until my car is fixed – end of story."

"Then why were the two of you looking cosy over lunch?"

Rose let out a laugh as Olly picked up the pushchair and Rose picked up her son and the blanket.

"If you had really been there, you would have seen his DS with us."

"I did, she's my aunt."

"Oh, I didn't know that but what gives you the right to go spying on him?  If he's already been in the papers, give him a break will ya?  What's he done to you?" Rose asked, strapping Jack in the stroller and giving him a bottle containing some baby juice she'd got from the supermarket.

"Bossed me around once too often, I don't take that any more.  Look, if you're leaving town when your car is fixed and there is nothing between the two of you, then I'll leave you alone but if I see you around the town together, then everyone else will and others will start asking questions.  It's my job to report who's new in town and if they are interesting enough."

"I'm not interesting," Rose laughed again, putting her sandals on after shaking sand out of them.

"Give me your story of how you met then, if he rescued you.  What happened?"

She knew Alec wouldn't want any glory for helping her. 

"My car overheated, the breakdown truck was gonna take an hour so he let us wait in his car, then he dropped me off and today he was telling me how long my car would take, he saw to the breakdown truck.  I'm gonna tell him that I told you so don't be surprised if he stops you."

Olly had been stopped more than once by the gruff detective but he'd not looked gruff fussing over the baby in the stroller nor kissing the blonde's cheek.

"Can you at least give me your name?"

"No, I don't want it in the paper."

"Why not, are you running away from something?"

"You could say that I suppose.  Look I'll talk to him, he's looking out for us.  If he thinks it's a good idea then I'll tell you but if he says no, well you know him better than I do."

Olly did know the detective but if this young woman had mellowed him somewhat, there may be a good story here - how a young blonde and her baby stole his recently mended heart.

"Fair enough but I will print a story, if you won't tell me your name or not.  If Hardy rescued someone, the town will be interested in light of what happened at the trial."

"Why, what happened at what trial?"

"The man who killed Danny Latimer last year.  He decided to change his plea at the last minute and his defence team walked all over Hardy and my aunt.  Ask Hardy about it, then there was the brunette who kept turning up at the court with him and the man who Hardy had an argument with a few times both inside and outside the court."

"Why are you telling me all this?"

"If you have taken up with Hardy, you should know how the town sees him.  I can make him out to be the hero, rescuing a damsel in distress and her baby, it will shed a whole new light on his softer side.  Did you know he'd had heart surgery a while back?"

"Yeah, he told me, why wouldn't he?  I told ya, he helped me, we talked and arranged to meet so he could tell me how the car repairs were going."

"Are you sure about that?  You're a very attractive woman, people will talk if they see you together so why not prevent any speculation?"

"There's nothing for them to talk about.  Why don't you go and pester him?"

Olly thought yeah, like hardass Hardy would talk to him about a young blonde he'd rescue but there again, if Hardy had taken a fancy to her, he might want to brag about it to turn his reputation around after being accused of having an affair with his own aunt Ellie, something the whole town was having a hard time swallowing considering they argued at every opportunity but where did she get to that night he and his mother went to look after the boys in that hotel room?

"I will then but ask him about the brunette and where he went after the trial ended."

Rose walked off, leaving Olly talking into his phone, making notes of his conversation with the mysterious blonde and hoping he'd sown the seeds of doubt enough to get her asking questions.  Then if she got mad enough at the detective, she might be more willing to talk.

Rose really needed a strong coffee after that conversation so she got one to take away and sat on the wall opposite the police station and wondered what the annoying reporter had been getting at.  He'd said something about accusations, a brunette but where he'd gone after the trial had ended was no-one's business, not even hers.

Alec had tried to go back to work but now, he couldn't keep his mind on anything and considered taking the rest of the afternoon off.  The chief super had told him not to do anything stupid like chase another suspect and he could do the hours he felt he could handle for at least another month but if he went home, Rose may take it the wrong way.

Ellie knocked on his door and sat opposite him.

"She's nice, just what you need."

"What's that supposed to mean Miller?" he asked, shuffling folders he'd never even opened.

"There's no point in denying anything Hardy, she's more than just staying with you, the way she greeted you."

"She was just nervous, she had a hell of a day yesterday.  She'd had a long tiring journey plus she'd packed up and left home, what do you expect?"

"She may have done but I can't imagine you taking someone in without wanting something in return."

"Excuse me for playing the hero then, was I supposed to just throw her to the lions and drive off?"

"No, that's not what I meant Hardy.  You're still impossible, how does she put up with you?"

"What makes you think she does?"

"I saw the way she greeted you and the way she smiled at you and Jack seemed quite at home with you."

"Can I help it if the baby liked me feeding him?  He probably thought I was his dad, he's not old enough to tell the difference.  Did you want something?"

"Yeah, I'll be over to your place around six, you can help me take everything in.  I called Beth, she doesn't need the cot yet but you'll need new bedding for it.  I have a chair, a baby lounger that rocks, you know what I mean and a collapsible playpen.  Oh I might still have Fred's baby bath, if Tom's not used it as a storage bin for his junk after we moved back in.  I can get that loft done if you're having second thoughts."

"I am not having second thoughts.  I hope you are not going to tell your annoying nephew about this?"

"Olly's got bigger worries than to bother about your love life."

Alec scowled at her, something that was never going to change.  He got a text message and Ellie took that as her cue to leave.  The text was from Rose.  It read 'I need to speak to you' with a 'x' after it.

Was she mad at him already over something?  Only one 'x' after the message?  Why was he even bothered about how many she had put, he never even used them despite Daisy saying that was what you were supposed to do with someone you knew well but he didn't yet know Rose that well, did he?

He sent one back – 'Where are you?'

The reply was – 'Opposite the police station, look over the balcony'.

He got up and went to the balcony door, getting him a stare from those who wondered why the king had come out of his ivory tower.  Rose was just seeing to Jack but she looked up and waved.  He waved back and sent another message for her to wait there.

She waved to say she would but what was she going to say to him?  Olly had upset her but did she think she could just move in with Alec without him having a past?  She'd told him about hers but he'd not yet said much back since she'd fallen asleep.  She wished she knew more about what had happened in the town but she'd had other things to worry about at the time, she'd given birth to Jack.

When she and James had got back from their trip, she'd missed her period, gone to the clinic and found out she was almost six weeks pregnant.  That night in Norway, neither of them had thought about the consequences but it was the best sex of her entire life and the weeks following, they'd had it as often as they could and he'd already asked her to move in with him but when she'd told him, the move had been rushed and it became apparent neither of them were going to change their ways.

At least he'd stuck by her to some degree, as far as she knew he'd never gone elsewhere for sex, there were no tell-tale signs except for him working late after Jack was born.  She shook her head as she saw Alec come out of the station's front entrance and walked down the steps, checking the road.  He kissed her cheek as he sat next to her and saw Jack had nodded off.

"The sea air must be doing him good.  What's wrong love?"

Rose turned to him.  "I'm sorry to bother you but, well the town's reporter just caught me by surprise."

Alec thought he should have know the scourge of the Broadchurch Echo would have spotted them having lunch.

"Forget it Rose, don't let him worry you.  I told you we were not going to hide.  Did you tell him anything?" he asked, taking her hand.

"I didn't have to, he saw us having lunch.  Is he Ellie's nephew?"

"Yes but she disowns him on a regular basis.  He wanted to know about us?"

Rose thought she'd best not drop the bombshell the reporter had suggested Jack was Alec's child.

"You could say that but he went on mostly about you.  Something about accusations during the trial and a brunette.  Was there someone before you got well again?"

"No, she was a witness from an old case.  Short version, she was hiding from her husband because she testified against him, he walked free and I hid her about five miles away from here.  Then I got a transfer to keep an eye on her and all was well until he found out where she was.  I was going to tell you but you fell asleep love.  She was involved with the murders of two young cousins, she's locked up, no need for you to worry.  She turned up at the court in Exeter a few times, Stevens tried to get Miller to tell him about it but it's still an ongoing investigation and he knows better than to ask.  Anything else?" he asked, squeezing her hand.

Ellie had seen him come out of his office, go to the balcony then get his jacket and walk out so she went to the balcony and saw him holding Rose's hand, the baby buggy at the side of Rose and Alec glancing over at the sleeping boy.  If she didn't know better, the two of them could indeed be already lovers after Danny's murder had been solved.  She had moved away, Hardy could have taken up with Rose and she'd gone away to have the baby but why the elaborate tale of her car breaking down on the main road?  Why not just admit it?

"I didn't tell him anything except you helped me when my car broke down Alec, honestly."

"Shush love, it's okay, he is just on a fishing expedition to see if I will take the bait and he saw us together and thought you would be the easiest catch."

"Did he bother you a lot?"

"You could say that.  Rose, the town is settling down after a very difficult time, Danny's murder and the trial shook everyone up.  I will tell you everything tonight, I promise, if you don't fall asleep on me again?" he smiled, brushing her cheek with his other hand.

Rose kissed his cheek and looked at Jack.  "He suggested Jack may be yours."

"I will string that little rat from the town hall spire."

"It's no big deal Alec, everyone is going to assume the same when they see us walking around together, we can't hide.  The only way the rumours won't spread is if you talk to the reporter and confirm what I told him, that you rescued me when my car broke down."

"Then what eh?  You are not considering leaving on Tuesday are you?" he panicked.

"No, of course not but if you tell him there is nothing newsworthy, he'll print that and leave us alone."

"No he won't Rose, he will still go after me and what bothers me more is what he will print about you.  I will go and talk to him and warn him to back off."

Then it hit Rose what Olly had been going on about accusations.  "He said to ask you why you went away after the trial."

"Rose, I went to see my daughter, to prove to her I got myself fixed.  Who are you going to believe eh?  Me or a junior pain in the ass reporter?"

"Then what did he mean?

"Nothing, well, look, I will tell you later.  Why don't you wait here, I will close down my computer and we will go somewhere and talk.  I will kick Steven's ass another time.  He upset you and I am not having that."

He kissed her cheek and got up, leaning down to kiss the sleeping baby's forehead.  Jack stirred slightly but didn't wake up.  As Alec got back to his office, Ellie followed him in.

"Tell that nephew of yours to stay away from Rose, Miller, I mean it."

"What's he done now?"

"Ask him yourself and tell him he will be getting a visit from me when I have calmed her down.  She's been through enough already, I'll not have her being upset by your nephew trying to get to me through her."

"Then tell me what he said."

"He was spying on us at lunchtime.  He asked her if Jack was mine."

"Is that all?  Come on Hardy, he's winding you up and you're falling into his trap.  The whole town will assume Jack is yours, hell, I was thinking the same, how do I know what you got up to when I was in Exeter?"

"Well he tried to imply to her about certain accusations that were made, now who is he winding up?"

"What?  The whole town knows that's complete rubbish."

"Well Rose doesn't know that, does she?  You may as well know, I am pursuing her Miller and your nephew's little game is not going to work.  I'm taking the rest of the afternoon off and I am going to tell her everything, well only certain bits about Sandbrook and Claire, since he already mentioned a brunette being seen with me at the court.  If she leaves now Miller, I won't be responsible for what I do to him."

"Calm down Hardy or you'll have another heart attack.  How did that happen so fast?"

"I don't know, it just did.  It is not beyond the realms of possibility you know?  I am telling you, if he puts her off, he'll be out of this town because there will be nowhere he can hide from me, I will make his life as miserable as he makes mine."

"She's really getting to you?  I always thought something had gone on between you and Claire, the way she turned on you.  What was all that crap about you hurting her?"

"You know as well as I do she just lies all the time.  She had her chance to press charges against me, you saw her clam up."

"Well that won't go down well along with the fact we got accused of a non-existent affair though you have to admit, all the signs were there."

"Now you are winding me up Miller, there were no signs whatsoever, you were just careless leaving my hotel that night."

Ellie gave him a wicked smile.  "Rose won't believe it, surely?"

"You and your nephew had both better hope not.  Now, I am leaving, I will see you when you bring those baby items around later."

"Tell Rose about the cot, it will be a big help to her at least while she's here."

"Well I am hoping she will stay a lot longer, where else does she have to go?"

"So what's her story?  Bad break-up?"

"I think she should tell you, don't you?"

Jack was just waking up as Alec joined them on the wall opposite and as he wanted feeding again, they walked back to the cottage since Alec didn't take his car with him that morning.  When the baby was settled and playing with some toys, Alec wanted to know exactly what Olly Stevens had said to her.  So putting her feet up, she leaned into Alec's shoulder and told him.

"Rose I will tell you now, the accusations he was talking about were the defence team trying to get a murderer off the hook and it worked.  Did you not know anything that went on here?"

"I told you, I had too much going on, I was having Jack, watching the news was the last thing on my mind."

"Well they were so desperate to get him off, they accused Miller and myself of colluding to pin the murder on him so we could carry on with our affair."

Rose couldn't help but laugh, which relieved Alec somewhat.

"Hang on, did Ellie's husband kill that boy?"

"Yes, he confessed but we screwed it up.  She attacked him in the interview room and to make things worse, that night, she was spotted on camera leaving my hotel.  It is not funny Rose."

"Oh come on, so the jury believed it?"

"Yes, they were not from the town, were they?  That's it Rose, there was no affair, I was too ill and Claire kept well away until just before the trial, she wanted some attention.  Her husband came back, I put the pieces together with Miller and now they are both locked up along with a third person.  It is still ongoing, I can't go into details."

"So the reporter thought he'd tell me, to put me off?"

"He wants a story, the town is bored now and if he puts on the paper's headlines I went away and came back with a girlfriend and a young baby, it will give them something to talk about."

"Then let's set the record straight.  I just don't want my name in the paper until I've told James where I am."

"If he finds out you are living with me, he will stop the money he gives to you?"

"Maybe but it could turn the other way, he could want more access.  I'll have to inform the benefits office wherever I go.  My mum wouldn't write a letter to the council saying I could no longer stay with her."

"That was not very nice of her, did she not want you to leave?"

"Why, when I was paying the rent for her?  She wasn't always like that, she just got used to being on her own when I left and was building up her business.  She thought I'd be there for a few weeks but it stopped my chances of getting a place of my own."

"I'm sorry Rose, I did not know how difficult things had been for you but heading for Exeter to be on your own?  You could stay here, with me, let me take care of the both of you."

"Even if everyone thinks Jack is yours?"

"Then you tell James you are staying with me, get your benefits sorted and if they stop, no worries.  I have nothing to spend my money on, I can take care of things."

"Why would you do that?"

"You don't get it, do you?  I am asking you to stay with me, even if the entire town gets the wrong idea.  So, what do you say?  I want to pursue you Rose."
Chapter 6
Alec was about to kiss her when Jack threw a toy on the rug.  He laughed and moving Rose, got up to kneel beside the young boy.

"Are you missing out eh?" he asked picking Jack up.

Jack put his hand on Alec's beard.

"Yes, you like that, don't you eh?  Rose, are you sure his dad did not have a beard?"

Rose got down beside them, holding her arms out but Jack liked it where he was. 

"It's something new to him, like trying to put his foot in his mouth.  Are you gonna have a sleep Jack?"

Jack put his fist in his mouth, Alec just knowing his beard was now going to get wet when the boy took it out.

"Miller has one of those chairs that rock, you can start putting him in that.  She may have a bath for him and oh, she has the cot but it will need bedding."

"Great, he can make do with the bedding from his other cot, if you can put the new one up.  I have a spare sheet for the mattress."

"I have done it before Rose, think of all the advantages if you stay with me, you won't have to show me what to do."

"Then why do you want to do it all again?"

"Honestly?  Tess never wanted any more after Daisy, she had a hard time and being in the police, well she decided her career was more important."

"That's not fair on you but are you ready to take someone else's on?"

"Don't make it sound like that Rose.  I am not taking this lightly you know, it is a big responsibility and you may not think I am up to the job.  Miller asked me how this had all happened so quickly."

"I wondered that myself, it took me and James almost a year but I guess you just know when something's right?"

Alec was now trying to stop Jack putting his wet hand on his chin, Rose smiling as Jack made noises when Alec blew into his hand.

"Why don't we go out for something to eat?" Rose suggested, since it was getting on for five.  "We can go sit at one of the stalls and have fish and chips."

"Everyone will see us."

"That was the idea Alec."

"Well if Stevens happens to be passing, let him say something to me.  Why don't you go get Jack here some dry clothes and we'll take a walk?"

Ten minutes later, they were walking around the corner and finding a table by the river, Alec ordered their food.

"I used to live there," Alec pointed to the blue chalet by the river.

"Before you went to see your daughter?"

"It was taken when I came back.  Good thing really, it is no place for a young baby.  Miller and I solved my old case in there.  My condition back then was more serious than I let on, I almost left it too late."

"Why did you leave it so long?"

"I wanted to solve Sandbrook.  Then I realised that was not going to happen and I would have to leave it to her so I went for the surgery.  I think Jack wants some of your chips."

Jack was holding his little hand up and making noises.  Rose smiled and got a biscuit out of the bag.  Olly was just coming out of the newspaper office, talking to his mother.

"So, where did you get to earlier?" Lucy was asking him but he had spied Rose and Alec sitting at a table overlooking the river.

"Nowhere, I'll catch up with you Mum."

"Is that DI Hardy over there?  Who's that woman with him, with a buggy?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out Mum, she won't give her name."

"Then ask your aunt, she's bound to know."

"That's not a bad idea, thanks."

"Go on sunshine but I bet you twenty quid that kid is his.  We all know that thing about him and your aunt having an affair was a ruse to get your uncle off.  I was right about the vicar and Becca Fisher."

"Yeah but they've split up, after she found out he was visiting uncle Joe.  You owe me that money back."

"Forget it, a bet is a bet sunshine.  Now stop wasting your time getting anything out of them and call Ellie."

Ellie was getting Tom to help her dig out things from the garage and putting them in the car, starting with the cot.

"Why are you giving them away Mum?  I thought they were for Mrs Latimer?"

"Well, someone new just got into town, she's staying with my boss and she has a six month old baby."

"You said he was a grump who lived alone.  So who is she?"

"Her name is Rose, that's all I know.  Put that chair in the car as well.  Do you know where that baby bath is?"

"Sorry, it's in the shed, I used it for storage," Tom pulled a grin, hoping to get away with it.

"Tom, she could have used that.  Hold on while I get this.  Olly, what do you want?" Ellie answered her phone seeing 'Olly' on the screen.

"Aunt Ellie, do you know who's with DI Hardy?"

"Blonde?  Yes, I know who she is."

"Then are you going to tell me?"

"Why would I do that and have him on my back?  Geez Olly, can't you find out on your own?"

"I met her earlier, she refused to give her name."

"Then maybe she wants to keep out of the news?  I have to go but can you come over for a while?"

"Mum, I can look after Fred," Tom insisted.

"I know you can but I don't know how long I'll be."

"I'll be right over, if you give me a name."

"All I know is she's called Rose."

Rose and Alec had just walked back to the cottage, Alec expecting Ellie to be early but there was no sign of her.  Jack was still awake and so Alec went to make him a bottle up while Rose got him into his sleep-suit after taking him upstairs and giving him a quick wash, hoping Ellie would have a baby bath for him or maybe she would try him in the big one.

She took Jack back downstairs and Alec held his arms out to feed him.

"Let me do it Alec, please?"

"Sorry, I did not mean to take over from you, I was only trying to help."

"I know, thanks but he'll get too used to you doing it, let's take turns when you're around?  You feed him in the mornings and if we meet for lunch, I'll do the evenings and weekends we'll share."

"Fine, we'll do that then but I want you to know I want to share the responsibilities with you, he needs that."

"Yeah, I know Alec and I'm happy to let you do that but for now, let him get used to you.  I wonder where Ellie is?"

"Probably finding the baby bath, she said her eldest may have put his things in it."

Just then, there was a knock on the door.  Ellie had escaped Olly's questions about her boss's possible new girlfriend.

"Olly, I told you, I don't know that much, now I have to go, I'm lending her some of Fred's old baby things."

"So she's staying?  Where is she?"

"I can't tell you that Olly and you leave her alone or Hardy will come down on you like a ton of bricks.  I mean it, back off.  If they want to talk, they will do, he's been in the news enough."

"Exactly, this will show a whole new side of him and take the heat off the accusations, if he had a girlfriend all along, while you were investigating Danny's death."

"Forget it Olly, you're not dragging her into that."

So now, Ellie was waiting for someone to answer the door.

"Miller, you're late."

"Nice to see you too.  Well come and help me."

A few trips later, Alec was wondering where it was all going to go as he carried the cot upstairs, Ellie had taken Jack and Rose was carrying the mattress, then she went down for the bag of baby clothes to sort out while Alec put the cot up, folding the other one away.  The high chair was by the kitchen door and the playpen propped against the wall at the bottom of the stairs.

Ellie was jogging poor Jack up and down trying to keep him amused when Rose came back down, Jack rubbing his eyes.

"Sure he can do that cot?" Ellie smiled, handing over the tired baby.

"He says he can.  Thanks for all this stuff Ellie, you'll get it all back, when your friend needs it."

"Don't worry about it, sorry about the bath and the bedding."

"No worries, we can get those tomorrow, his old stuff will do for now and I'll put some pillows around the edge.  Beats me why they don't make soft sides."

"They do but they're expensive, trust me.  That cot was Tom's, don't know why we never got rid of it, there's ten years between them.  Fred was a bit of an accident," Ellie smiled as Rose held her son.

"Rose, the cot is done, you can bring him up," Alec shouted to her.

"Look at you two," Ellie smiled as Rose started walking up the stairs.

Ellie was hoping to get more out of Rose, not that she intended telling her nosy reporter of a nephew, she knew better than to cross Alec Hardy.

Alec had put the mattress in and the clean spare sheet over it, then the baby duvet.

"We will have to get some more bedding tomorrow Rose.  Here, let me take him while you put the pillows around, he'll be fine for tonight."

"Alec, I'd rather not put pillows at the side, I'll just put him lower down for now, I'd be worried about him."

"Rose, don't worry so much love.  Here you put him in the cot and I will work this baby monitor out.  I'm not sure I have any batteries for the handset though, this unit plugs in."

"We can do without it for tonight Alec.  Can you reach his toys?"

Ellie had wandered upstairs and was watching them, convinced they had done this before, who were they trying to fool?

"Ellie, did you want something?" Rose asked, realising Ellie was behind them as she reached down to kiss Jack goodnight, Alec's arm around her.

Alec let go quickly then thought why should he?  "Get a good look Miller but keep this from your nephew.  I told you earlier."

"Just wanted to see for myself.  Sorry, I told him your name was Rose, he refused to look after the boys while I came over."

"It's okay Ellie, it's just I didn't want to be in the papers until I had chance to tell Jack's father where I was.  He knew I was coming down this way but he thought I'd be on my own and the last thing I want is for him to read it first."

"It's a small town paper Rose, not The Herald," Ellie insisted.

"How do we know he won't sell his story to his friend Karen White?" Alec asked as they left the sleeping baby, Rose leaving the door open again.  "I will go up to the store and get some batteries for the monitor Rose, then you can relax a little.  Want anything else?"

"No thanks.  Ellie, thanks again for all this stuff."

"You won't have a lot of space in the room," Ellie hinted.

"The other cot can go in the shed in the morning," Alec told her, getting his jacket on.

"Want a ride to the mini-market?" Ellie asked, hoping to ask him a few more questions about his relationship with Rose, to satisfy her own curiosity.

"Why not?  I can walk back, won't be long Rose."

Alec got into Ellie's car for the short ride but she wasted no time.

"So, come on then, had you two met before?"

"No, we had not.  Why do you find it so hard to believe I can pick up a woman and have her move in with me?"

"It's so out of character for you, given that Becca Fisher turned you down."

"I hate small town gossip.  Not a word about this to your nephew."

"Yes Sir," Ellie smiled as she pulled in front of the mini-market.

Once Alec got back and fitted the batteries into the baby monitor, they were able to relax on the sofa.

"So, I will get up if he wakes up early, since I am usually awake."

"Thanks but I can do mornings."

"Yes but it will give me time to spend with him before I go to work.  I don't know what arrangements you had with James but I am not like that.  You have to tell me Rose, what I can do to make life easier for you.  Now, you have seen the laundry, just use the machine then when I come back, we can go over and get everything dry."

"I can take Jack with me, in the morning, it won't take long.  Do you have to go to work?" she asked, putting her arm around his back as they lay on the sofa that was too small for Alec but he didn't mind.

"Just for a few hours then I will take the weekends off.  I took it on, I will have to find a replacement, one of the other DS's can do it.  If you do the laundry, then we will go down to the superstore and get the bedding for the cot.  Jack should be able to sit in the bath now."

"Yeah, I was thinking that too.  He'll be seven months next Thursday."

"Well he seems very happy and healthy but you should go find a clinic on Monday and get him registered and both of you at the health centre, promise me."

"Yeah, I will but maybe I'll wait until I get my car back, since I don't know where the clinic is."

"Fine, now come here, time for some grown-up conversation.  When was the last time you really relaxed?"

"I told you Alec, James lost interest and I never bothered after I left him.  I do need to go to health centre, I don't take precautions, if that's what you're getting at?"

"Ah, well I may have been presuming things but my trip to the store was not just for batteries."

Rose went for a cushion and threw it at him.  "Cheat, you are presuming a lot Alec Hardy.  It's a good thing you're so cute."

"You think I am cute eh?  Everyone thought I was a grizzly bear a while back."

"Maybe a teddy bear?  I can't imagine you being grumpy," she assured him, laying into his shoulder.

"Well just ask Miller what I was like."

"Does she think we already knew each other?" Rose asked, daring to go for one of his shirt buttons, his arms around her.

"Aye, she came out and asked me.  I think she may tell her nephew something."

"Then I'd better tell James where I am, he deserves to know before reading about it."

"I can get it stopped love, don't worry so much."

"No, it's best we tell our story, that you rescued me and I decided I wanted to stay with you."

"You took a bit of persuading you know.  Rose, don't take this the wrong way but when I stopped to help you, that was all I was going to do, make sure the breakdown service came out to you but as I watched you with Jack, I felt I wanted to get to know you."

"You regret having no more kids?" Rose asked, another two buttons undone and Alec putting his hand under her t-shirt and going for her neck.

"I never had a say in it and I thought I would never get another chance.  I am not trying to take Jack's father's place but I would like him to get to know me, to be there for him."

"Yeah?  I'd like that too Alec but I don't know how James will react.  I could tell him I'm on my own but when he comes to visit, he'll find out anyway.  I'd rather just be honest with him."

"Well call him tomorrow eh and get it over with.  You should let your mother know where you are as well."

"I know, I will.  Now can we stop talking 'cos I really want to snog your face off right now."

The last button had come undone and Alec lifted her t-shirt.  She went to lay on him, his long legs over the arm of the sofa but he didn't really care as they kissed and he unfastened her bra strap.  It was soon getting dark, just the light from the TV that had been left on as they carefully changed places and he pulled at her bra.

"Rose, we should take this upstairs love.  Maybe you can find something other than pyjamas to wear?  Why don't you go get ready for bed?"

"Yeah, I will and I won't hesitate to come in your room tonight."

"It can be our room, if you want?  I can take the other bed down tomorrow, make more room for the cot."

"We'll see, this is all happening so fast Alec."

"I know love, it took me by surprise you stayed with me last night.  I thought you had changed your mind."

"I almost did but hey, I've been on my own too long, I figured I deserved a little attention."

"Yes, you do.  You go upstairs while I turn off the TV.  I promise I won't use what I bought unless you say so."

"I can tell you're a man of your word Alec, see you upstairs."

Rose had unpacked the rest of her things earlier and as she looked at her sleeping son, Alec saying he would bring the baby monitor up to his room, she found a nightdress and got changed, then went into the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror.  She'd mostly got her figure back after having Jack but she thought she could maybe do better and hoped Alec wasn't choosy with his women but she had laid on him earlier, her bra halfway off and he'd not said anything, he'd just kissed her exposed skin gently.

She wished now she hadn't been so reluctant last night but he'd not forced her into anything.  He'd been so kind, gentle and considerate so far and he was obviously taken with her, saying he wanted to pursue her and now she had more or less given him permission to do so.  If he wanted to use what he'd bought earlier, she wasn't going to object, why waste time?  She'd not been with anyone since James on New Years Eve, she was way past thinking they would ever get back together again.

Alec had got into bed, leaving his t-shirt on in case Rose would be scared off by him assuming she would prefer he didn't wear one.  He lay with his arms above him, waiting for her after leaving the door open.  He heard the bathroom door and waited to see if she came straight in.  She did, standing in the doorway in a pink, low cut nightdress that he didn't mind she would have worn it for another man and he hoped to relieve her of it sooner rather than later.

"Come here Rose, don't be shy.  Please, consider this as your room.  Here, let me help you?"

He pulled the duvet back and Rose sat on the bed, turning around to face him and seeing the small packet on the bedside table.  She wasted no time climbing onto him, going for his t-shirt, Alec now wishing he'd taken it off.  He slid the straps of her nightdress down and kissed her shoulders as they changed places.

"Alec, you can use what you bought, it you want?"

"Then who am I to argue?"

He leaned over to retrieve the packet, Rose going for the waistband of his shorts and playfully pulled on them at the back, showing his rear for a few seconds as he just as playfully pulled them back up.

"Just you wait a moment unless you want to help?"

Rose got onto her knees and put her arms around his waist, kissing his back and going for his shorts again.

"I'm a bit out of practice."

"Then let me guide you through it, here."

He turned around and reached for her nightdress, helping her out of it and leaving her just in her underwear as Rose went for the back of his shorts.  Alec fumbled with the packet, wishing he dared put his specs on but he shouldn't need them to complete a simple enough task, since Rose was willing to help him.

She surprised him again by pushing him on his back and lying on him as he just finished the job in time before the sensation of her wriggling out of her underwear and them both touching hit him like a hurricane.

"Oh, you want to be on top do you now?" was all he could manage to say.

Rose giggled and began kissing her way across his chest and whispered in his ear, "Is that a problem?"

"No, no problem, just make sure you can keep up with me."

Now was his chance to see how good a job they'd done on his pacemaker as she eased onto him and he just hoped the item he was now wearing, which was one of the new thinner types would stand up to the test.

Rose was getting herself worked up as the sensations hit her and if she thought sex with James had been good at the beginning, it was nothing like what she was feeling right now as wave after wave crashed over her, Alec feeling the same as he held onto her hips and they both cried out at the same time, Rose collapsing into his waiting arms.  They began kissing soon after, Alec holding her tightly as he explored where she liked to be touched.
Chapter 7
"That was amazing Rose, I thought I would never be able to be with a woman again," Alec admitted.

"I'm glad you had the surgery then but it wouldn't have made any difference to me, if you'd told me you were still having problems."

"Thank you for saying that.  Maybe next time, you will allow me to be on top?"

"I like being on top, it's more exciting.  Don't worry, I won't insist every time though and once I've been to the clinic, you won't have to wear those things.  I could hardly tell you were wearing anything though."

"New type, thought I would try them," he grinned as Rose climbed off him.  "I had best get cleaned up, then I will go check on Jack."

"Thanks.  Just one thing though, well it's just a little thing really.  I'll not be able to go on anything right away, until after next weekend.  Hope you got a good supply?"

"Don't worry about it love, we will make them last, we don't have to use them all the time, we will wait until just before you are due.  Rose, I was married, I swear my ex wife had two a month, she thought she was fooling me.  You will warn me if you get grumpy?"

"Yeah, maybe that's what put James off in the end?  Sorry, I won't mention him again."

"Yes you will, it is unavoidable, it will happen.  You know Jack is going to be confused, when he gets a little older, well never mind when he gets older, that is the reason he is happy coming to me, you must know that love?  You asked what you should call me, in front of him, I can't tell you, I suppose Uncle Alec will do for now, until he starts trying to talk but how will he feel?  I know this is difficult for you, you have to talk to his father about it."

"Yeah, I know that Alec, when James comes to town, people will notice he looks like you.  Maybe we should go to the paper, it will save a lot of embarrassment for both of you."

"You mean tell everyone you left your baby's father, arrived in Broadchurch by accident and taken up with me, who could pass as his double?  That's a bit personal Rose, don't you think?"

"What else can I do Alec?  Tell everyone you're his father?  What about James?  There's no easy answer to this, I can't think about it."

Rose got out of bed and put her underwear and her nightdress on, Alec trying to get out without making a mess, which wasn't easy, since he was out of practice.  He thought Rose was going back to her own room but she got back into bed as he took off the used article using a tissue then binned it.  Putting on his shorts, he retrieved his t-shirt and went to check on Jack, who was fast asleep in the middle of the cot, Alec thinking he looked better in that one than the folding one.

Yes, he did feel sorry for how they'd had to live for the past few months but Rose was right, how were they going to explain it but then he had an idea – if Rose would agree.

"Rose, I may have a solution love."

"What?" she asked, yawning.  "I'm not telling everyone you're his real father, we just met yesterday Alec."

"I know and no, I wasn't going to suggest you did.  Meet James somewhere else, I don't know, Dorchester, Weymouth or even Lyme-Regis.  We can both go there, you can hand Jack over to him for a few hours and if James wants to see where Jack lives, we can bring him back and hardly anyone will see him.  If anyone does, Jack will be with us, we can say James is my cousin."

"I suppose it's worth a try but I want to go to the paper, I'm not having everyone thinking you and Ellie were having an affair and you were seeing me at the same time."

"Good, I am sure she will be relieved about that.  I would hate to be accused of cheating on either of you."

Rose sat up in bed and smiled, Alec switching off the lamp and Rose turning to him.

"You're not thinking of keeping that t-shirt on are you?"

"Are you keeping that nightdress on?"

"Just in case I have to go see to Jack."

"I told you, I will take care of him in the morning.  So, about seeing James, what do you think eh?"

"That you being a detective didn't go to waste after all, it's a good idea and I can tell James there's nothing to do here and they'll be better off going to another town, that way, the less people see them together.  I'll call him tomorrow and I'll write down what I want to tell the paper."

"Fine.  I will take my t-shirt off if you wear it."

Rose let him help her take her nightdress off and he put the t-shirt on her.

"I want that back in the morning, Miss Tyler."

"Yes Sir, DI Hardy, Sir."

Alec was missing again the next morning, having heard young Jack on the baby monitor making noises so he slipped on his grey joggers over some clean shorts, though Rose would be disappointed she'd missed that and another t-shirt and walked into the other bedroom that would soon be a nursery, when he'd taken down the other bed.

"Hello there Jack, you are an early riser.  Let's give your mum a lie-in eh?"

He changed the boy, got him dressed and since Rose had left everything downstairs, he put Jack in the high chair he'd opened up last night before going upstairs and found a clean bib.

"How about some cereal and some milk?"

Jack was wondering where he was, he'd never got to use the one James had bought for him but he looked quite happy, Alec making sure he was securely strapped in.  He made the cereal by pouring some water in the bowl with the mixture, wondering if in future he could maybe try Jack with some ready made but he'd leave that to Rose.  In the quiet of the morning, he pulled a chair over and sat in front of the baby, who was opening his month for the spoon. 

"Someone is hungry, I wonder if you were so eager to take breakfast from your mum?"

Jack made a few noises, Alec assuming the boy hadn't and had given Rose a hard time.  Well it looked like life was going to get easier for her but it was a shame he couldn't claim his grey t-shirt back, he would have enjoyed doing so but maybe Jack would oblige and go back in his cot for a while?

The cereal all finished, he brought the milk over and Jack held his hands out for it, Alec just supporting the bottom.  There was still no sign of Rose, who had woken up, seen it was six forty-five and had crept to the bathroom then gone back to bed, knowing her son was in safe hands and hoping since Alec had to come back and get dressed, he would claim his t-shirt back.

His task finished, Alec carried the boy back to his cot and lying him down on top of the duvet, gave him some toys to play with that Rose had sorted out from those Ellie had brought.  He leaned over and kissed the boy's forehead.

"You stay there for half an hour while I wake your mum."

Rose had heard him on the monitor and was sat up in bed, waiting for who overnight had become her friend, protector and lover.

"Hi there Uncle Alec, come to claim back your t-shirt?"

Alec gave a wicked smile and taking off his jogging trousers got back into bed, Rose rolling over on top of him and Alec putting his hands under the t-shirt that was too big for her.  Rose lifted his t-shirt and began kissing his chest.

"You can bet on that, give it back Rose."

"Always willing to co-operate with the police, inspector, come here."

They kissed as Alec helped her out of the t-shirt and pulled down her underwear, remembering she wasn't protected so they could only fool around, which didn't bother him in the slightest, now he'd experienced her last night and could feel her going for the back of his shorts.

"Ah, just you remember something Rose."

"I'm trying to, you were so good last night, I don't think that packet you bought is gonna last another week.  Make me happy Alec."

He turned her over onto her back and pulled off her underwear as she yanked down his shorts, then he laid on her, making her gasp, pulling his t-shirt off.

"Now do you wish you had been underneath me last night?"

As Rose moaned underneath him, he didn't need an answer but they couldn't linger for too long, Alec very aware of the young baby in the other room and all too soon, after they both let their feelings wash over them from just touching, Alec was helping her with her underwear.

"What time do you need to go to work Alec?"

"Not for a while, come here gorgeous."

 He leaned down to kiss her again, Rose grabbing his ass.

"Wait until tonight, I'm on top."

"No arguments from me.  You get dressed, I'll go see to Jack."

"Rose, he's fine, just listen.  If he wasn't, he would be crying, he's just gurgling.  Just relax love, that's what the monitor and the baby equipment are for, you just have to leave him sometimes, you are just a few seconds away from him, if he does start to cry.  You have to learn he does not need watching 24 hours a day."

"I know Alec, it's just what I've got used to over the last few months, I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry for being a good mother Rose.  Now, do you feel confident to get dressed with me or are you going back to your own room?"

"This is my room Alec, if you're willing to share but my clothes are in there."

"Yes, I already said this is your room as well.  Why don't you move your things in later, when I get back?  You can watch me if you want?"

"I got a good view of your ass last night.  Maybe you could turn around?"

"Ah, sorry but I put clean shorts on earlier, better luck tomorrow morning love.  You could help me with my shirt maybe?"

Rose got out of bed and put her nightdress on while Alec went to the bathroom then got a shirt from the wardrobe.  They kissed again while fumbling around with the shirt buttons but she left him to put his trousers on, not being able to trust herself that he'd actually get to work.

"You go get dressed love, I will get Jack, the chair is already up, don't go falling over it will you?"

"Nah but thanks for the warning.  Alec, can I just say something?"

He was putting his tie on but he stopped before he tightened it. 

"You can say anything you like love," he told her, leaning down to kiss her.

Rose fumbled nervously with his tie.  "I wish I'd met you before Alec."

"That would have been impossible.  I was in a bad way, I was getting ill, I was chasing a suspect in a murder investigation, back in Sandbrook, I was not in a good place Rose.  You were travelling around, seeing the world.  Tell me something, you and James, if not for that night in Norway, would you have ever got together?"

"I don't know Alec, really I don't.  He liked me, we had loads of fun together, getting into trouble with the locals for not obeying their customs.  We kissed a few times when we were saying goodnight, nothing serious.  We used to walk around holding hands, I think he mainly did it for my protection, in foreign countries, to warn off the locals from chatting me up in the bar.  He used to sit close to me, playing with my fingers while he talked and give me the odd kiss on the cheek."

"You went along with it?"

"I fancied him when I was in college, I wasn't gonna turn him down, was I?  Besides, I really didn't want the locals chatting me up, how would he have felt?  He took responsibility for me and yes, he was older than me, your age probably.  He promised my mum he'd look after me and bring me back safely.  He wouldn't have chatted women up, not with me around so I suppose we were looking out for each other really."

"So how long were you travelling together?"

"Six months or so, he told me his girlfriend had left him to further her career, he wasn't looking for a replacement.  Guess he meant it."

"Rose, he did not deserve you.  I think someone out there wants some attention so I will get him, you get dressed eh?  Not that you don't look good in that nightdress."

Rose reached up and kissed his cheek.  "Thanks, for being here for us."

"My pleasure love."

"By the way, my mum slapped him for getting me pregnant while we were away," Rose smiled.

Alec smiled to himself and went to get Jack, who had lost grip of a soft toy he'd been holding. 

"Come on Jack, let's see if your mum has any biscuits for you so you won't want her toast."

Jack just held his arms up and let Alec lift him from the cot, going for Alec's beard again, something he was getting used to and thinking about trimming every morning.  Sitting Jack in the chair again, Alec switched the kettle on and found the packet of rusks Jack seemed to enjoy, the boy happily taking it from him.

Alec wondered how Rose was really taking this, how easily they had both fallen into a routine after only a day.  This just felt right to him somehow, she needed someone in her life after what had happened.  How could Jack's father just leave them like that?  It was all too fresh in his mind, Tess taking Daisy and their break-up.  This was slightly different though, Jack was just a baby and now he was going to be confused over two men who wanted to be his father, if Rose wanted to stay with him, which judging by last night and this morning, was a certain bet.

Rose was wondering the same, Alec taking them in like that and he'd been honest about his motives, that he'd been going to leave her to get on with it but she would have been stuck in a cheap B&B until James gave her another payment and then it would have meant scraping by for another month unless he had been willing to help her out.  She'd never reckoned on major repairs on her car, it had been reliable since he'd bought it for her.

She went downstairs, Alec was buttering the toast and getting the scrambled eggs in the pan.  She went to put her arms around him from behind and kissed his cheek.

"He looks quite at home in that chair, considering he's not been in one before."

"Aye, he seems to like being high up, he can see everything."

Rose moved her hand from his rear, Alec raising his eyebrows, not that he objected.

"I will put the playpen up for you by the window before I leave, then it can stay there until his bedtime and don't worry about it taking up room, I can move the sofa up a bit.  This is your house now Rose, now get your breakfast eh?  I will finish work at twelve and when I get back, we will get Jack in the car and go get what he needs, no arguments.  I will walk to work again, I need the exercise, not that I did not get enough with you last night."

Rose blushed again, something she was getting into the habit of since she'd met him.

"Yeah, maybe you'd have to explain a baby seat in the back?  Really Alec, you can take it out."

"Not until your car is ready, we will be using it this weekend.  Now, you do the laundry today since you never got the chance yesterday, sure you can manage to take it to dry?" he asked, putting breakfast on the table.

"Well now I think about it, maybe I'll wait for you coming back but I need some laundry bags.  How did you manage?"

"I took it in carrier bags, I am out of practice, I had a dryer where I lived before, I will see about getting one for you.  Look, this place is not going to be practical so, I was thinking of seeing the agency about getting somewhere bigger."

"Alec, I can't let you do that, we'll be fine here.  What makes you think anywhere else will be bigger?  You just moved here."

"Rose, don't worry love, I take it on a monthly basis, I've been here almost six weeks so that gives us two to find somewhere.  No arguments, Monday lunchtime we will go see what they have coming up, there are plenty of furnished properties in the town."

"I like being by the harbour, Jack and I can take walks, when we don't get pestered by reporters.  Will you talk to that one?"

"Leave it to me love, I will have words with him to back off, until we are ready to talk.  Now, put Jack in the other seat and I'll put the playpen up for you.  Don't forget to call James and your mother, the sooner you call him, the sooner we can sort out this mess.  Rose, you trust me, don't you love?"

"Yeah, I trust you Alec, I wouldn't be here otherwise, would I?  Why are you asking me?"

"Well what I said, about if people do see James here, with Jack, the first few times we will meet him out of town then if everything goes well, we can invite him back to see where Jack is living, well if we have moved by then and I will talk to him about going along with being my cousin, just to satisfy the town."

"Alec, that's not gonna work, is it?  There's no easy answer to this, I'll just have to admit that James is his father and I left him and it was just coincidence I met you.  The town can take it or leave it, I really don't care.  I'm not gonna hide, I want James to be able to come here, not meet secretly, that's not me."

"Okay love, we will talk about this later eh?  Whatever you decide is fine with me, I was just thinking about you and Jack."

"I know Alec, thanks.  I'll call him and arrange for next weekend, the town will just have to live with two of you being here, won't they?"

Alec got up and went to kiss her cheek, Jack happily playing with the remains of his biscuit and Alec smiling and getting a cloth to clean him up while Rose cleaned the tray.  She put him in the rocker that was just about big enough for him though not for much longer and he began making noises when he discovered the chair moved when he did.

"Seems he has missed out on a lot Rose," Alec remarked getting down in front of the chair and rocking it again, getting Jack all giddy.  "We need a bigger place love, for when he's ready for bigger toys."

Rose still didn't get why Alec was doing all this, taking on a fatherly role two days after they had met, well never mind two days, it hadn't been two hours after he'd stopped to help and he'd brought them here, just for the night.  Now they were talking long term and it should scare her but it didn't, she wanted to make plans as well, this was so different than the life she had left behind in London.

She'd had no plans when they had left last Thursday morning, her mother arguing as usual that Rose had her head in the clouds, going off with her son and nowhere to go.  She thought back to that morning but Alec was talking to her.

"Rose, I was saying love, he needs some bigger toys soon, to ride on and to learn to walk."

"Not for another few months Alec.  Sorry, I was just thinking about the morning I left."

"Come here love.  Forget about it, you are both here with me now," he told her, getting up and putting his arms around her.  "Did you argue with your mother before you left?"

"Yeah, she said I was being stupid, going off like I did but I'd really had enough so like I told you, I was heading for Exeter, don't ask me why."

"Then I won't, I am not judging you Rose but I am glad you came this way, even if it was a misfortune your car broke down and I happened to be passing.  My original appointment should have been at the hospital in Exeter but it was changed, what were the chances of that eh?" he asked, going to kiss her.
Chapter 8
"That's a hell of a coincidence Alec, I'd never had a problem with my car before.  If I didn't know better then I'd say something brought us together.  I needed a fresh start with Jack and you, well what were you looking for?"

"Honestly?  Well, I survived a heart operation, which I never expected.  At first I was looking to start again with Daisy but she is still not so sure about me, thinking someone abandoned you takes some getting over, I expect you feel the same with James?"

"Yeah, at first but I already knew what was going to happen, I was prepared for it but I didn't know what a mistake it was moving out so soon and back in with my mother.  I should have waited and let the council re-house me.  I just thought it best to go, before we really fell out, you know?"

Alec kissed her forehead, watching Jack play with a toy and rocking himself in the chair.

"I have to go soon, wait for me before you take the laundry to dry eh?  Maybe we both needed a fresh start and for me, you and Jack were just what I needed, to feel wanted again."

"Aw, I'm sure your daughter will come round, it's not the same as me and James."

"I invited her to come down when she wanted, maybe I should call her?"

"It's fine Alec, if she turns up, you can't send her away but maybe you'd better tell her about me?"

"I will love.  Now, I just have time to trim my beard before young Jack here puts his wet hand on it again."

"You look cute with the beard Alec."

"I am not shaving it off, don't worry.  He needs to be able to tell the difference between me and his dad."

"Yeah, so does everyone else.  If you see that reporter today, go easy on him will ya?"

"I will try, just for you."

After kissing goodbye and Rose getting Jack to wave then putting him in the playpen Alec had put up by the window, she gathered the laundry and just after ten, called James.

James Smith was in a bit of a dilemma since Rose's bombshell she was moving out of London and down to Devon.  They had decided he would still see his son once a month though it would mean a few hours journey but he couldn't just abandon them.  She'd been good about moving out but when she'd said last month she was unhappy sharing her mother's flat, they'd discussed again her getting her own place, out of London and she'd convinced him that Devon, probably Exeter was as good a place as any.

After all, he'd bought her a car to get around so she may as well use it so when his phone rang and her name came up, along with a recent picture of Jack, he was surprised since he wasn't expecting her call.

"Rose, is something wrong with Jack?"

"Hi James, no, he's fine, I've got some news for you."

"You're still in London?" he asked hopefully, to save himself from a long journey the following Sunday.

"No, I got as far as Dorset, Broadchurch to be exact."

"The place where that boy was killed last year?  Is that a good idea with Jack?"

"Relax James, the killer was caught, it was an isolated incident."

"Yes but he walked free, haven't you been following it on the news?"

"I had other things to worry about James, in case you'd forgotten, like keeping Jack out of mum's way, it was almost as bad as keeping him quiet when you complained."

"Rose, I said I was sorry about that, I know young babies cry a lot, I told you, I wasn't prepared for it.  What are you doing there?"

"My stupid car radiator bust, that's what."

"You need money to get it fixed?  Where are you staying, in a B&B?"

"Not exactly, we're staying with someone who helped us when the car broke down."

James was getting suspicious.  "You let a complete stranger stop and help you?  Didn't you call breakdown?"

"Yes, a truck came to take my car to a local garage, it won't be ready until Tuesday."

"Right, that makes it okay then.  Rose, what were you thinking of?"

"Stop it James, it was a police detective who stopped to help us."  She was tempted to say it was Ellie Miller but he'd find out, when he came to see Jack.  "It was Alec Hardy, the lead detective on that case."

James had noticed how the detective bore a strange resemblance to himself but had never mentioned it to Rose, who was already stressed out with the baby and she'd already left when it was revealed the defence had walked all over him and the killer had walked out of court.

"Tell me you aren't being serious?  So you're staying with him until Tuesday?"

"Not exactly, I've decided to stay here with him."

"Oh.  So you and him?"

"Yeah, me and him.  I'm sorry James but you know how things were, we just weren't meant to be, we tried.  He's getting my car repaired for me and we've moved in with him.  Don't ask me how it happened so fast, I don't know."

"Well that's an easy one, he looks a bit like me.  Have you told him?"

"Yes, he knows and he's fine with it.  There's just one thing, Jack seems to think Alec is you, even though he's got a beard."

"Yes and sometimes I don't shave at weekends, remember?  Geez Rose, how did you let this happen?"

"Well excuse me for getting out of yours and my mother's ways.  What do you expect me to do?"

"Sorry, I know I don't own you, I never did, did I?"

"You were the one who backed off James.  Let's not start all that again on the phone shall we?  Are you going to come and see Jack next Sunday?"

"That was the agreement and Broadchurch is slightly closer than Exeter.  Has anyone seen you all together yet?  Will there be any problems only I'd hate to take Jack out and get arrested for kidnapping my own son."

"No, there won't be a problem.  The town's reporter has been nosing around, we're gonna do an interview of how my car broke down and Alec helped me.  Then if people see us together, which they will, they know he's not Jack's father but Alec suggested we meet somewhere else and you follow us back to see where Jack is living, if that's okay with you?"

"Do I have a choice?  At least you've been honest with me, I respect that but the thought of Jack thinking he's his dad is a bit much to take in."

"Well if he sees you both together, he'll know, won't he?  Well maybe not now, Alec thinks he's too young but he should go to both of you.  I didn't want you to see it in the papers, if others pick up on it 'cos Alec's been in the news recently."

"Yeah, a killer got away and he'd been having an affair with a co-worker."

"James, that is not true.  I met her and trust me, it never happened, the defence just wanted to get their client off.  James, please, don't make anything of it.  Alec's just getting over heart surgery, he almost died while catching the killer.  The defence failed to point that out.  So, why don't we meet in Weymouth?"

"No, I want to meet you in Broadchurch, to prove I exist, if you're going to the paper.  I'll not hide Rose so forget trying to shield me, go to the paper if you feel you have to explain things."

"I just don't want any problems, that's all.  When you get to the turn-off for Broadchurch, follow the road down to the harbour then turn right at the junction then on the left, there's a car park.  Get an all day ticket, Alec said it's cheaper and call me, I'll bring Jack across."

"Fine, I will see you next Sunday then, with your cheque for this month, it will pay for your car.  I expect now you won't be looking for a place of your own?"

"No, it should please you, you won't have to pay towards it.  We aren't gonna fall out over it, are we?"

"No, we are not falling out over it, if this is what you want?"

"Yeah, I'm happy here, Jack's got some new baby stuff Ellie brought over, that's the woman Alec was accused of having an affair with by the way.  Why would she do that if she was still seeing him?"

"I don't suppose she would then but it was pretty convincing, never mind.  See you next Sunday, give Jack a kiss from me.  Rose, I am sorry the way things turned out for us."

"I know James but maybe it was for the best.  I just had three months of hell, it's a fresh start for me and Jack."

Seeing Jack had nodded off in the playpen, she made him comfy then put the washer back on the spin cycle, hoping the noise wouldn't wake him but James used to say he could sleep through a hurricane.  She sat down again and called her mother.

"So where did you end up then?"

"In Dorset, my car broke down.  I have something to tell you."

"You made up with James?"

"No, I met someone, his name's Alec, he's a police detective."

"That didn't take you long.  He's willing to take you and Jack?  Mickey would have done that."

"I am not going back to Mickey, how many more times Mum?  Stop going on about it.  Alec's given us a home and we're staying.  Before you say anything, James already knows."

"I never said anything, did I?  What about the rest of your stuff that wouldn't go in your car?"

"I'll come up for it when we get settled, I'll introduce you to Alec."

"Hang on, where are you?  You said Dorset, are you in that murder town?"

"It's not a murder town, there was one isolated incident and it's called Broadchurch."

"You mean that detective, Alec what's his name?  You know he looks like James?"

"I'm living with him Mum, I had noticed."

"Won't Jack get confused?"

"He's taken well to Alec, thankfully.  So listen, I want you to promise not to tell Mickey where I am, you know he's been trying to get me back, that's why I left while he was at work.  Promise me Mum."

"Okay, keep your hair on, I won't tell him but I'm not gonna lie to him and say I don't know where you are, I'll just say you're down in Dorset, it's a big enough place."

"I just hope he doesn't start looking for doubles of James."

Alec had got to work and was looking for someone to take over on Saturday mornings, since protocol demanded a senior officer was present over the weekend and the two who shared responsibility couldn't do Saturday mornings all of a sudden, which had landed him the task since Miller had two young boys.

"So, who's free then?" Alec was asking hopefully amongst the dozen or so officers present.

A newly promoted woman DS timidly raised her hand.  "Sir, can I ask a question?"

"Yes, if you must Mason."

The woman was surprised he'd actually remembered her name but had noticed when he'd walked in, he was actually smiling for the first time since he'd come back to work and the bets were he'd had sex last night though who the unlucky woman was would be anyone's guess.

"Will that be every Saturday morning Sir?  I could do it but I'd rather it was on a regular basis, so I can get the experience."

Another officer, Frank Harris spoke up.

"Mason's not had enough experience, I'll do it Sir, got something else to do have you?"

Alec scowled at him, he was now the same rank as Miller, who had been re-instated but Frank had taken over while she had been in Exeter and she wasn't too happy with it.

"Right, you're it Harris and yes, I do have something to do though it's none of your business and I heard you lot earlier.  Get back to work."

He went back to his office and tried calling Rose, getting her answer phone but then he thought she would be calling James and her mother.  She saw the missed call and guessed it was Alec, who else would it be?

"Good news love, I got someone to cover for me, did you make your calls?" he asked, making sure his door was closed.

"Yeah, James insists on coming here to see Jack."

"Well I half expected that so we go to the paper.  I will call and see if there is anyone around and break the news to him, so to speak.  We have to decide what exactly we are going to say."

"The truth Alec, that we met and now I'm staying with you.  James doesn't want to hide and neither should we."

"No, we are not hiding.  I have to go love, I have to give a good impression on my last Saturday morning and they are already taking bets as to why I was cheerful when I came in.  The general consensus is I had sex last night."

Rose burst out laughing.  He knew if this relationship was going to work, with Rose being much younger, he would get talked about but he was willing to take the risk.  He was about to leave when the chief stood in his doorway.

"Alec, a word.  I can't let you keep working Saturday mornings on top of what you are already doing, it's too much for you yet."

"Think I am going to collapse on you?  I can assure you I can shuffle a few folders on my desk and yes, I send others out or go with Miller, as per your instructions but you will be pleased to know Harris is taking over from next Saturday."

"Then I'm glad to hear you've come to your senses.  I thought I would have a fight on my hands, you saying you've nothing better to do."

"Yes, I have come to my senses, I do have something else to do with my Saturday mornings."

"Anything I should know about?  Those accusations about you and DS Miller?" Elaine smiled.

"No, I have someone staying with me now."

"Your daughter?"

"Well maybe in the foreseeable future but no.  I met someone on Thursday evening, her car had broken down and I stopped to help her, she had nowhere to go."

"That's very commendable of you Alec but won't she be on her way once her car is fixed?"

"No, she's in no hurry to leave, like I said, she has nowhere else to go and she has a six month old son."

"Well, that's a turn up for the books Alec, taking up with a young mother, she must be someone special?"

"Aye, she is.  She split with the baby's father and she's had a difficult time the last few months, she needs a fresh start."

"With you, apparently.  Well at least she's stopped you from over-working, I like her already."

Alec decided to go home via the newspaper office, next to the amusement arcade but only saw Ellie's sister, Lucy packing up.

"DI Hardy, can I do something for you then?" she asked cheerfully.

"Your son not around then?  Gone to bother someone else?"

"What have you got against him?"

"Personally?  Where do I start?  He went after someone yesterday, it bothers me he never came to me first."

"Oh, the blonde and the baby?  Got something to say have you?"

"I'll stop by on Monday, tell him I said stay away from her."

"He's tired of you bossing him around."

"Well tell him to stop riling people then, he brings it on himself," Alec scoffed, looking at the food stalls and wondering if Rose wanted some lunch.

Figuring he'd be safe with some jacket potatoes with cheese, he waited for his order and sent her a message saying he was ordering lunch, to which she replied she could come and meet him in a few minutes so he said 'why not?'

He ordered some tea to go with the food while he waited and saw her carrying Jack along the street, having picked him up from the playpen where he'd woken up and she'd grabbed a bottle of baby milk and the rusks into her shoulder bag.  She waved as Alec was collecting the food, saying he'd be back for the drinks and they sat at a table on the corner.

"Hi, that was a nice surprise," Rose greeted him, kissing his cheek and Jack wanting Alec to take him.  "Hang on Jack, he's got his hands full.  I should have brought the buggy."

"No, he's fine, aren't you young man?  He needs to get out of it once in a while, here I'll take him, I used to eat one-handed holding Daisy."

Lucy Stevens was still waiting for Olly to pick her up to take her to the supermarket and had seen Rose come along to meet Alec and them greeting each other.  Maybe now she could convince her son and get that twenty quid bet off him, now the detective was holding the baby and eating at the same time.  Olly pulled as close as he could get with his car and she got in.

"Did you see those two at that table?" she asked him, putting the seatbelt on, Olly looking through the rear-view mirror at who he could just make out was them.

"Aunt Ellie wouldn't tell me anything, just her name was Rose."

"Well sunshine, he just came looking for you, maybe he wants to do an interview after all?  He said for me tell you to leave her alone, seemed a bit upset you'd tried to talk to her."

"Yeah, like Hardy would voluntarily give me an interview," Olly huffed as they drove off.  He could live in hope he supposed.

After lunch, Rose took the wet laundry across and put it all in the large dryer and noting the time it would take decided to go around to the harbour stores and get a bottle of wine for later then persuade Alec to go find a Chinese takeaway so they could have a romantic evening in.

When she got back, they drove down to Dorchester, Alec getting the wrong roundabout and having to follow the satnav to the store, which amused Rose since he was confident he'd seen it on the map earlier.  He almost had an argument with another car at a junction, Rose getting worried since it was at Jack's side but the other driver had seen the baby and backed off so as they were getting out in the store car park, Rose had something to say.

"Rose, it was not my fault the corner was like that, that idiot was in the wrong, he backed off, he was trying to be clever."

"Not with my son on that side he wasn't, what the hell was he doing, he came from nowhere."

"Calm down love, Jack is fine."

Jack was still in the car, Alec had his arm around Rose, who was a bit shaken.

"It was probably a local who knew the road layout, forget about it.  Now I'll get him out of his seat love, you go get a trolley eh?"

They located what they needed, bedding for the cot and Alec got him some more of the expensive nappies then they got some groceries, Rose saying she could have got the wine in the store.

They got back without further incident, Alec normally being a careful driver, when he was in an automatic and not crunching the gears of Ellie's car anyway and Rose went to put the new bedding in the cot while Alec put the groceries away after placing Jack in his playpen.  The baby fell asleep in the playpen again and Alec took a photo of him as Rose covered him with a baby blanket.

"He did that earlier, he'd just woken up when you sent that message.  Time for a lie on the sofa?"

"Of course but we have a lot to talk about love.  How did James take the news you are living with me?"

"Better than I expected but what did he think, that I'd stay as I was?"

"Shush love, if he wants to see Jack, I have no objections but does he still want to give you money towards Jack's upbringing?"

"He said he did.  Let him do it this month, I can pay you back for the car repairs."

"Well I am still on reduced hours, well slightly so just this once, when you get the money, keep it in your bank and you can pay for the groceries if you take Jack to the supermarket and start getting those better nappies eh?  He'll be a lot happier if you do."

"Yeah, it was only because of us coming down here, the others were supposed to be as good."

"No supermarket brands are better, it's just a ruse to outdo their rivals.  Now, no more talking eh?  By the way, my boss was pleased I am no longer working Saturday mornings.  I told her the reason."

"So, the first steps?  We don't have to do the dating thing do we?"

"Oh, you want dating do you?  The cheap dates, wining and dining?  You'll be wanting chocolates and flowers next?" he teased, putting his hand under her t-shirt.

"Well I got wine, maybe you can get us a takeaway later?"

They spent the rest of the afternoon on the sofa until Jack woke up then Alec played with him for a while, making the boy giddy rocking him in the chair and taking photos of him, then they eventually got him fed for the night and Rose took him to the bath, Alec getting the water temperature just right and putting in the baby bath oil that was supposed to help him sleep.

"Mmm, wouldn't mind using this myself," Rose hinted as she took a sniff at the bottle.

"Only if you let me help you eh?"

"Thanks for the offer but maybe another time?  This is all new to me Alec."

"I know love, I was just teasing you.  Maybe when you feel more relaxed with me?"

"I'm not opposed to it, really, it's just too soon, when I get settled, we can, you know, do things like that together."

"Then I look forward to it.  I think that bath oil is doing the job."

Alec lifted the boy carefully out and Rose had a baby towel ready to wrap him in.  Once they had him settled, Alec took the baby monitor and kissing Jack goodnight, he switched it on.

"Rose, you can't stand over him all night love, come on and I'll go get us some food."

Managing not to get too shy getting undressed in front of Alec at bedtime, he asked if she wanted him to make use of his recent purchase again, pointing out that morning she seemed to have enjoyed being underneath him.

"Yeah, that would be nice Alec, I'm still not confident with those things though, they're a bit on the thin side."

"That is the idea Rose, to make them more shall we say 'realistic'?  If you would rather wait, it's fine, really love."

"Well maybe this time but just be careful, I'm not ready for more kids yet."

"I know love, you have your hands full with Jack, just tell me if you want me to back off.  Fancy helping me again?"

They managed between them, Rose thinking it was a bit soon to be getting so intimate with each other but they'd already had sex once and had come close that morning, it was only natural it would lead to other things.  As she lay beneath him, thinking that maybe letting him be on top did have certain advantages after all, they seemed to know what the other wanted and soon, they had fallen over the edge and Alec began kissing her.
Chapter 9
Getting cleaned up, he slipped his shorts on and looked in on the still sleeping baby, Rose waiting for him to come back in.

"How about we go out tomorrow Rose?" he asked as she snuggled up to him.

"Yeah, I wanted to take him into the water.  I never got chance the other day."

"There is a beach a bit further down where we can take him then go have some lunch.  I'm sorry Rose, I can't go in with you, after carrying that girl out of the river but you two enjoy yourselves."

"Maybe I can help you get over it?  It's just like standing in the shower Alec.  You can hold my hand."

"I know love, maybe I can give it a try eh?  That was why I took that chalet by the river, to try to get over it."

"Did it work?" she asked, yawning after he'd worn her out.

"Not really.  I did collapse on the decking and when I woke up, it was covered with water.  I don't know why I chose that place."

"Well you got help before it was too late.  Was it you who delayed or the hospital?"

"It was all me Rose, entirely, I was too stubborn but that scared me enough to think I would never see the outcome of the trial or finally get justice for Pippa and find her missing cousin."

"What happened to her Alec, the one who was missing?"

"We were too late, someone confessed where they had left her.  I can't talk about it love, my ex is still building a case against them."

"So that woman the reporter saw you with, she was part of it?"

"Yes, she was the main suspect's wife but it turned out she as more involved.  Leave it Rose, please?"

"Yeah, sorry.  I just missed so much of what was going on.  James knew you looked like him."

"He never told you?"

"No, he never mentioned he thought he had a double, that's how much we bothered I suppose.  It's over Alec, I'll let him see Jack but that's it."

"I know love and I will be with you."

"Thanks, I don't know what we'd have done without you."

"Well you can thank me by not rushing to see to your son in the morning and spending some time with me, we have the monitor, he'll be fine."

As promised, when Alec woke, he just let Rose stay where she was, half on him, her head nestled in his shoulder that his arm ached but he didn't want to disturb her.  He managed to squint at the large digital alarm/radio, it was 7.05 am and there were no sounds coming from the baby monitor so he relaxed and waited for his new girlfriend to wake up.

He'd asked Rose how she felt about their new relationship, she had said before they fell asleep that she felt comfortable and safe with him even only after a few days and trusted him completely with Jack, who seemed to have had no problem going to him, even more than he'd done to his father.

James and Jack had been a bit 'off' with each other but the last time, Jack had been happy to spend a few hours in James's apartment, playing with a few toys that had been left in what had been the nursery.  Now Alec wanted to turn the other bedroom into one and wanted to take the bed down and ask Ellie if she could store it in her garage for them, since the baby equipment was out of the way.  He'd said he was going to get a baby storage unit with a padded top for changing and for Rose to look online at local adverts to see if there were any used ones since she'd pointed out how expensive they were just for another 6-16 months or so. 

Rose was moving and opened one eye and for one moment thought she was looking at James, who had never bothered shaving on a Sunday morning, his 'day off' he stated from being a history professor and a science 'buff' and she'd often teased him he should keep it, when things had been going well, before Jack had come along but she'd not forgotten how things had soon started to turn sour on them.

"Hello gorgeous, sleep well?" Alec asked, trying to move his numb arm.

"Hi yourself, you're so cute you know?  You look like a teenager with that grin on your face."

"If that is a compliment, I will take it as such and I think I actually feel like one, that is how you, Rose Tyler, make me feel again.  You promised me a morning snuggle, remember?"

"Have you heard Jack this morning?"

"Just making a few noises, he might be waking up but he will let us know when he wants us Rose, don't fuss love eh?  Time for some grown-up fun, come here."

He went for her underwear, Rose pretending to battle him.

"I am not going to do anything you don't want but it is time you completely relaxed with me.  I want you to see how serious I am about you going to that family-planning clinic so tomorrow, find out where it is and get a taxi there, maybe that and the health centre and baby clinic are all in the same building?"

"I told you Alec, I can't do anything until after next weekend," she protested as he attempted to pull her underwear down again.

"They have a morning after pill you know, maybe you can get a few until after your monthly?  Allow me to give a demonstration as to why you should ask?"

She moved her hand off of his and he proceeded to take them off then pulled down his shorts slightly and pulled her towards him so her leg was over his left hip.  It didn't take long for a rather pleasant feeling to come over them, without the protection he'd bought getting in the way as Rose giggled and pushed him onto his back, going with him.

"Oh, you are a giggler are you?  Then maybe I should give you something to giggle about eh?  So, have you enough incentive yet?" he asked as he battled to work his shorts off.

"Mmm, I might have, demonstrate some more."

Rose was still giggling when they plainly heard Jack, not crying but making loud noises.  It seemed to Rose now he'd only cried when she was with James or at her mother's, which made Rose think she should have got out earlier but had she done that, she'd never have met Alec, who within a few days had become her lover and much more, he was becoming a father to Jack.  She'd noticed how much happier her son had been since they met Alec, who was beaming from ear to ear as he was delighting a more than willing Rose.

"I'll go love, you stay here eh?" he volunteered, fishing under the duvet for his shorts and getting her knickers instead and holding them out to her as she fell off him and onto her back.

"Thanks, having trouble finding your shorts?" she laughed.

"I've got them thanks.  I'll bring him in shall I?  Let him get used to us."

"Yeah, that's a good idea, I always went to him and got him dressed before James got up on a Sunday morning.  Alec, he's missed out on an awful lot."

"Shush love, don't get upset or feel guilty about it.  He was only three months old, he didn't know that you and his dad were breaking up," he told her, trying to sit up and pull his shorts up.

"You can do that standing up you know?  I've seen your cute ass before."

"Yes, it was dark though, I might be shy."

"Rubbish, I'm the shy one."

"We will discuss that later, I think someone is getting hungry so I will bring him in for a few minutes then next time, for longer," he suggested, putting his t-shirt on.

Rose heard him on the monitor talking to her son.

"Now young man, are you gettin' hungry eh?" he asked, grabbing the duvet and going to tickle the boy, who was looking at him.

Jack gurgled and let Alec pick him up then he went to get a nappy, the packet of baby wipes and thought he'd let Rose choose what the boy was going to wear and then ask her if she minded what he chose, since he'd grabbed the nearest things the last few mornings and she'd not said anything about it.

Rose was sat up, waiting for them as Alec carried Jack in and held him out for Rose to take, putting the other things on the chair.

"Hi there, how are you today?" she greeted Jack, who was now smiling at her as she held him against her raised legs so he could lean back.

Alec got back in bed beside her, putting one arm around her and going to tickle Jack with the other, Jack now kicking his legs and smiling at them both.

"He'll love going in the water when we go down to the beach, he can feel it around him, get him used to it.  I was thinking about taking him up to the caravan site's swimming pool, I saw it the other day.  Do you think it's open to the public?" Rose asked as Jack gripped her finger and tried to put it in his mouth.

"I would expect so, you could go and try, he will probably enjoy it.  Why don't you stop by and we'll take him next Saturday afternoon?  I can sit and watch then you can have a swim afterwards?"

"Yeah, I will, that would be really nice, I don't get much time to myself you know?"

"I know love but all that has changed now, you have to remember that," he told her, kissing her forehead then reaching for Jack to hold him up.

"See, I told you those more expensive nappies were better for him, was he always this happy in the morning?"

Rose had to admit he hadn't been.  They had never spent time with James in bed on Sunday mornings, the only reason they had slept together was because Rose needed to keep some sort of relationship but they had at least kissed goodnight though he'd not lingered over it for too long.  She'd told Alec she'd seen it coming, James suggesting she moved out, since she was never on the lease for the apartment.

Alec was rubbing her shoulder.

"Come on love, I'll get him dressed and changed, you get ready and go make his bottle and his cereal eh?  You said we'd share at weekend did you not?"

He knew she was thinking about the past, how could she not?  She hadn't deserved any of it and he thought she was feeling guilty for some reason.  Now he had to prove to her how wrong she was, that it had been no-one's fault but he didn't want to pry too much as to her past domestic arrangements with James.

Holding onto Jack, Alec got out of bed carefully and laying the boy down while Rose got out, got him changed and dressed, Alec watching out of the corner of his eye as Rose turned around to change her underwear.

"You don't have to be shy in front of me love, you know that, don't you?"

"Yeah, sorry, it's just a habit."

"I know but maybe you will get out of it, yes?  Do you want me to take him downstairs for you?"

Rose nodded, she still didn't trust herself to walk down the narrow stairs with her son in her arms, after living on one floor for so long and when the lift had been broken in her mother's block of flats, she'd been grounded.  She followed Alec and Jack downstairs, Alec having left the chair ready the night before and strapping him in kissed the boy's forehead.

"Will you be okay while I get dressed?" he asked, slipping an arm around her.

"I'm fine Alec, really.  Maybe tonight I won't be so shy in front of you?"

"I hope not.  I'll make us some breakfast when I come back down, you just feed Jack, he likes that cereal and try him on that new follow-on milk you got him."

Rose couldn't believe how much Alec knew, compared to James, who had been somewhat at a loss of how much milk formula to put in the bottle but Jack was growing, almost seven months old and was wanting to try other things than his milk.

Just after ten, after Jack had some more milk and a rusk, Alec strapped him in the car seat and they drove down to the next village and parked near the beach by a café and a shop and they settled on the sands.  Even though it was the middle of April, it was quite warm so Rose took off Jack's baby socks and the blue striped cotton trousers Alec had picked out after Rose said whatever he chose would be fine with her.

Jack was making screaming noises as the water trickled over his tiny feet and he was jumping up and down, making him giddy.  Alec had his phone out, taking photos of them, then calling for Rose to turn him around.

"Wave Jack,'' she told the baby, who was all smiles and wet sand on his feet, wanting to go back in the water.

Alec was only a few feet away from them, Rose had got a blanket and he'd spread it on the sand and had taken off his shoes and socks and vowed he was going into town the next day and getting some sandals and another pair of jeans, the black ones he had on were the only pair and he'd managed to roll them up slightly.

"Come nearer Alec," Rose called to him as she put Jack back in the water.

"Hell," he said to himself, he could go stand in the water with them, it was nothing like being up to his waist in the river, carrying the dead girl out.

He got up, his jacket was in the car and there was nothing of value, just a few toys, the baby bag, they'd not bothered with the stroller, Alec had carried him, the baby bag on his other shoulder.  He took off his sunglasses, put his phone in his jeans pocket but Rose held her hand out for it.

"Let me take some of you, my phone's in the bottom of the baby bag, you can send them to me later.  Here, take him and stand in the water or is it too much for you?"

"No, I can stand in an inch of water Rose, I'm not as bad now I have justice for Pippa.  Smile for your mum Jack."

Jack had no problem smiling, his fist in his month and jumping up and down in the water, Rose had put him some shorts on and Alec was trying to get the fist out of his mouth, thinking better that than his foot he'd been trying to get in earlier.

Rose was taking photos then standing with Jack between them, Alec putting the phone's camera on what his daughter had told him was 'selfie' mode, took some more, then he kissed Rose's cheek as she held her son.  They had just gone to sit down again when Ellie, Fred and Tom wandered onto the beach, Fred heading straight to 'Hardee' as he shouted for Alec and almost fell on his face.

"Hello there, you must be Fred?" Rose greeted the boy as Tom caught up with him.  "Hi, you must be Tom then?  I'm Rose and this is Jack."

"Hi Rose, come on Fred, Uncle Alec's got his hands full with the baby.  Is that Jack?"

"Yeah, we've just been in the sea, he didn't want to come out."

Alec was painstakingly trying to get the wet sand from between Jack's toes so he got up and took the boy back to the water, a bit further out so the boy's feet wouldn't touch the ground and so the sand would wash off easily.  Rose smiled and took another photo as Ellie caught up with them, Fred having sat down on the blanket.

"Hi Ellie, Fred's made himself at home."

"Hi Rose.  Fred, what are you doing?" Ellie asked as he picked up a toy that had once been his.

"Aw, he's fine.  Alec's just getting the sand off Jack's feet."

"Him, going in water?  Did he tell you about that?" Ellie asked as Tom got Fred's trainers and socks off and took him to the water, joining Alec, who nodded to Tom and Fred, who was looking at him to pick him up, probably wondering who had taken his place.

"So, I can see you two are getting on well then," Ellie remarked, putting up the folding chair she'd been carrying.

"He's been great Ellie, for the first time in a long time, I finally feel at home.  He's been really good with Jack."

"They both look at home with each other.  So, I heard he's given up working Saturday mornings?  He was such a grump over it, he could have let someone else do it in the first place.  I bumped into Frank, who's taking over from him.  Did he tell you they were all betting he's got himself a new girlfriend?"

Rose smiled.  "Yeah, he said they'd been taking bets he'd had sex on Friday night."

"Were they right?" Ellie laughed, watching the three of them fussing over Jack, who had wanted to be put down, which defeated Alec's object of washing the boy's feet.

"Maybe, that would be telling, wouldn't it?  Ellie, I need another friend, besides Alec, can we be friends?"

"Yeah, of course we can Rose.  I worked closely with him, to bring in those responsible for those girls' deaths.  He told you about the older one?"

"Not much, since it's still ongoing.  I missed out on so much Ellie, practically looking after Jack on my own but I don't need to know the details, he'll tell me when he's ready.  Jack's father's coming down to see him next Sunday and you may as well know, him and Alec look a bit alike."

"Well that explains why Jack goes to him, won’t he get confused?"

Rose smiled.  "Who, Jack or Alec?  No, James doesn't have a beard, well except if he still doesn't shave on Sundays.  They both know about it, James didn't take it very well.  The thing is Ellie, well we split amicably but I'm scared now I have Alec, James will want more to do with his son, since he's getting older now and taking more notice.  Alec's really taken with him and I don't want things being spoiled.  I had no-one Ellie, I lost touch with all my friends when I moved in with James, he never even suggested I had a night off and he'd look after him and he constantly went on about all Jack's crying but since we've been with Alec, Jack's not cried at all."

"Babies know when someone's nervous around them, Alec's brought his daughter up, James was new at it but some men take to it and some don't."

"Yeah, James admitted he wasn't cut out for it but if he starts coming down here to see Jack, I'm afraid Alec's not gonna take it well.  I can't stop James seeing him, he gives me money every month towards expenses and I think Alec's gonna insist he stops it.  I don't know how James will take that."

"It's only natural if Alec takes to Jack that he'll want to take on the role of his dad but it's only been a few days, how is that even possible?"

"Don't ask me, I've no idea and neither does he.  I feel like I really belong Ellie, after all this time that we're a family.  Alec told me of his fear of water, how he had nightmares about finding Pippa in the river.  Did he ever talk to you about them?"

"No but by the state he used to be in some mornings at work, I could tell it was more than him being ill at the time, though why he never told anyone about his heart problem beats me.  Oh, you know about that?"

"Yeah, after I let him move all my things from my car to his, then he took everything upstairs, trust him.  Ellie, I know about those accusations the defence for your husband threw at you, I don't believe any of it."

"Good, there was nothing to it but they made me feel like I was the one on trial, not Joe.  No-one from the town believed it either, we used to fight like cat and dog and I hated him for taking the promotion I was supposed to get but it's over and he was right to take it, I couldn't have found Danny's killer when I was sleeping next to him, he always said I was too close to things."

Alec had cleaned the boy's feet again and was carrying him back to the blanket, Tom and Fred remaining in the water.

"Look at you, Uncle Alec," Ellie laughed as he handed Jack to Rose, along with the towel.

"Rose, put his socks back on love or I'll be cleaning his feet the rest of the day and less of the 'Uncle Alec' Miller."

"Alec, don't be rude, can't you call her Ellie, it's her day off," Rose chastised him, Alec pulling a face and picking up his sunglasses he'd left on the blanket as Jack was looking at them.

He was glad now Ellie had joined them he'd not been tempted to take off his t-shirt, the one Rose had worn the other night that she'd laundered.

"It's okay Rose, I'm used to it, he went mad when I started to call him Alec.  You're not half as disagreeable as you used to be you know, sometimes you were like a grizzly bear."

"That was when I was ill, you know that and I did used to let you call me Alec, you started telling Fred I was 'Hardee'."

Rose started laughing, the suggestions something had gone on between them sounding more ridiculous by the minute.

"Well, Rose and I have decided to be friends so if you want to please her, I'll let you call me Ellie.  I didn't like it because of the day you told me my husband had killed Danny."

"Yes, I know, I was sorry about that.  I wanted to be wrong.''

Rose leaned forward and put her free hand on his shoulder, then kissed his cheek, Jack wanting to go to him.  He took the struggling boy from Rose, Jack settling into his shoulder then promptly falling asleep.
Chapter 10
Alec passed the sleeping Jack carefully to Rose, who held him in her arms while Alec went to the car to get his baby seat then he placed him carefully in, Jack not stirring.

"Aw, bless him, you tired him out," Ellie told Rose while Alec went to the car.

"Yeah, I think Alec had just as much fun, considering he doesn't like the water.  He told me last night he wouldn't be able to go in and while me and Jack were in, he just got up and joined us."

"Seems your new relationship has done more than make Alec less grumpy.  I can't tell you what he used to be like, you'd never even believe me, he's changed so much, even since he had his surgery."

"Did he tell you he was going for it Ellie?"

"No, the nut job sent me a text saying he was going to get it fitted and if he didn't make it, it was nice knowing me.  Who does that?"

Rose smiled, looking at Jack.  "Well I'm glad he's still here I can tell you that much.  He makes it worthwhile coming here, for both of us."

"Rose, I can see the difference you and Jack have made to him, that was all he needed, a purpose, having no-one with him all that time.  I met his ex a few times, can't say I blame him for leaving her, she's a bit, you know."

"He never talks about her, just she's in charge of that case that haunted him.  He said he couldn't have done it without your help."

"Rubbish, all he needed was a kick up the backside to get on with it and he got it, in more ways than one.  I wish I'd had someone like him through Joe's trial, we were still a bit grouchy with each other at first but after those accusations, I thought he'd never even speak to me again, it must have hurt him as much as it did me.  When I think about it though, we really asked for it, I was upset that night when I went to his hotel room and never once did he suggest anything.  That's who he is Rose, a good decent man and you're very lucky to catch him."

Rose smiled, touching Jack's cheek, yes she was lucky to find a man like Alec, who was prepared to give them a home within minutes of them meeting, how often did that happen, well except for the wrong reasons.  Alec was walking back, having taken his shoes and socks off again, that had taken him twice as long to get to and from the car.  After setting the seat beside Rose, he knelt down and took Jack from her and placed him carefully in the seat, kissing the boy's forehead and putting the sun hat Rose had left in the car on Jack's head.

Ellie shook her head as she watched, who would have known a six month old baby could change a grizzly bear into a purring kitten?  A hour later, Alec picked up the baby seat to start the walk back to the car while Rose gathered everything else up, Ellie and Tom offering to help.

"We're going for lunch Ellie, come and join us?"

"I think he'd rather just have lunch with you Rose," Ellie laughed, trying to get the sand off Fred's back, since he and Tom had been digging.  "Go on, don't bother about us.  Tom, help Rose back to the edge of the beach will you?"

Tom put his t-shirt back on then picked up the baby bag for her while she folded the blanket and gathered the other things.  Alec was waiting and took the bag from Tom.

"Thanks for your help Tom," he told the teenager.

"Glad to help, Uncle Alec.  Bye Rose, it was nice to meet you and Jack."

Alec led it slide, since Rose had given him a lecture about it earlier, saying he'd better get used to being called 'uncle' until they established what Jack was going to know him by.  Over lunch, Jack waking up and wanting his after they managed to get a high-chair, Rose asked Alec again.

"What do I say Alec?  Do I tell others you're his uncle, I've really no idea what others do in this kind of situation."

"Neither do I love, I'm new at his as well you know.  It's an unusual situation but maybe you should just refer to me as his uncle for now, Tom and Fred call me that, apparently though I think Tom was being a bit cheeky."

Rose smiled and patted his hand.  "I'm sure he didn't mean to be cheeky, he seems a good kid.  It must have hit him hard, losing his friend."

"I think he suspected about his dad you know, the way the interviews came across, like Tom was looking at him to be told what to say."

"Did you ask him about it afterwards?"

"No, he went to stay with his aunt, he blamed his mother and me for taking his dad away, he's just getting over it.  Less of that anyway, it's done love, let it rest eh?  What do you want to do after lunch?"

"Can we go down to Dorchester or somewhere, I'd love to look around the shops for a few hours, I couldn't get in places where there's no room for buggies."

"Sure, maybe you can get something nice to wear for me tonight eh?"

Rose blushed, hoping no-one was listening as they got Jack into the car.  They found a car park, which unusually was free on Sundays then found the main shopping area and Alec told Rose to go wander around for an hour or so on her own and they'd meet outside a café he pointed out.

"Go on, me and Jack will be fine, won't we?" he asked the boy as they stood over him and he was tickling his foot.  "Don't come back without something nice to wear tonight, do you have enough money on you?"

"Yeah, I'm fine thanks.  See you in an hour and thanks for taking Jack."

"Rose, you have to remember love, we're a family now, that's what we do.  You don't have to ask me to do anything, I will do it.  We can discuss the finer points later but just relax, Jack and I will be fine so stop worrying eh?"

"I can't get used to all this Alec, it's all been so sudden, I'm bound to forget.  Bye baby, be good won't you?" she told Jack as she kissed his cheek, making him giggle and wriggle around in his stroller.

She kissed Alec's cheek and went off, her first taste of freedom that she hoped was going to be the first of many, now she had someone she could rely on, who would take Jack willingly though Mickey had sometimes offered but it hadn't seemed right somehow.   She found a few interesting shops, one had a sale of nightwear so feeling daring, she found a blue silky one with yellow flowers that seemed a bit low cut, in her size and paid for it before she changed her mind along with a pair of white flimsy underwear.

Alec was wandering around an arcade with Jack gurgling away in his stroller and finding a shop that allowed him to push the baby around, got Jack another soft toy and some scented candles for Rose, thinking if she was agreeable, they could put them around the bath and she could relax later, then she might allow him to join her, he could always live in hope.

After meeting up and Rose getting some tea for two, they drove back home, just managing to get a parking spot opposite, even though permits were needed, Alec already having one.

"Where am I going to put my car Alec, when I get it back?" Rose asked as they got Jack out and Rose got the bag and knowing she'd have to wash the blanket.

"I will see about another permit but overnight, it can go around the front in the car park until nine, I will move it before I go to work, don't worry.  This is a very quiet town, the car will be fine."

Settling Jack in his playpen, Alec put his arms around her and kissed her neck.

"Right, about us being a family?  Anything to say?"

Rose shook her head, what could she say?  She did feel like they were a family even after only a few days.  Fate had intervened that she had broken down when Alec would be passing, there was no other explanation and who was she to argue with fate?  Perhaps that night with James had been a mistake but she didn't regret Jack being the result of it, they would have still split up when they got back home, James wasn't looking for anything more.

Now though, she was worried he'd want to make more of it, now she had found someone else.  She didn't want the two almost identical men vying to be Jack's father and win her affections, could she ever go back and live in that apartment with James and have him going back to how they used to be?  No, looking at Alec, who was handing Jack the new soft toy he'd just got him, James had never showed him that much attention until they had moved out and he could hand his son back over after a few hours.

Jack needed a full-time father, not a part-time one and Alec seemed more than willing to fill the role.

"Rose, love, have you anything you want to say?" Alec asked again as Jack sat with his new yellow duck toy, debating whether to put it in his mouth or not.

"No, I've got no objections.  Sorry, it's taking some getting used to, you know?"

"It's fine Rose, maybe I'm going too fast for you?" he asked, snuggling her neck.

"No Alec, I need this, really I do and so does Jack.  Sorry, I think I'll go lie down for an hour, do you mind?"

"No love, take your time, I'll feed Jack when he's hungry.  Sundays from now on are going to be your take it easy day, starting right now.  How about a kiss before you go upstairs, then I'll come and wake you in an hour or so?  I got something for you, some scented candles, I will run a bath for you later and you can relax then maybe I can join you?"

"Yeah, I'd like that Alec.  I want us to start doing things like that but you'll have to be patient with me and not take it the wrong way if I say no at first."

"Got it but I can be very persuasive, as I demonstrated earlier.  Maybe I can remind you again later, in the bath?"

"Maybe you can?  I'll leave you two to play then?"

As Rose went upstairs, Alec put the TV on and put his feet up, half watching the screen and half watching for any signs the baby was getting hungry or tired or even irritable but so far, he'd not cried once, well not really cry as such and he wondered if the boy felt like he was getting enough attention now and really didn't need to fret.  Maybe his father should have paid him a bit more attention but he had no idea what things had been like for Rose so he was the last one to judge.

Rose just lay on top of the bed, trying to take stock of the last few days, since leaving her mother's and breaking down on the main road just before the turn-off for Broadchurch.  It was clear now Alec had actually said they could be a family that he obviously wanted to be a dad to Jack but next Sunday, his real one was coming to visit and she had no idea how the two men would react around each other.

She did have to smile though, the confusion it would cause were the two of them be seen together, with Jack and James had pointed out he didn't want to be accused of kidnapping his own son so the sooner they went to the paper, the better and get everything cleared up.  Had they been in a larger town, the whole thing would have gone unnoticed.

Alec had been right on one thing though – getting to Exeter then finding somewhere to stay would have been a nightmare and more than likely she would have gone back to London, what had she been thinking?  She would have had to scrape by for a few months and then what?  Alec had been willing to just let her look after the house in return for them staying but since that first night, it had become much more than that and she still couldn't figure out how she'd let him into their lives so quickly.

Now she had at least gained another friend in Ellie, which would be a big help should she ever get stuck or she and Alec had a bit if a tiff but she doubted that would happen, he'd probably just reason with her but how would she react over decisions regarding her son?  She had to establish some points that would not be open to discussion and she'd have to consult with James over though there was nothing on paper that said she had to, except his name on the birth certificate.

She'd only claimed the other benefit after she'd left him so she would have to get that sorted, now she was living with Alec.  She was just dozing off when she realised Alec was in the doorway, holding Jack.

"I think someone wants you," he smiled, sitting on the bed and Jack reaching over to her.

She should have expected he wouldn't leave the boy downstairs on his own, leaving him in his cot was a little different she supposed.

"Hey you, why aren't you having a nap?"

"He's been playing with his toys, I was going to feed him but we thought we'd come and wake you first, right Jack?"

"I didn't really sleep, sorry.  It's very rare I get some time to myself without having to worry about him."

"Well I told you, that has all changed.  You have to get used to it love.  I'll go and start feeding him, come down when you are ready, no rush."

Later that evening, they put Jack in the bath again after he'd been fed then putting him to bed, Alec led Rose into the bathroom where he'd placed the scented candles.

"Right, time for you to relax in that baby bath oil you wanted to try," he insisted.

"I got some from the discount store, lavender and jasmine and no, it's not a cheap brand."

"Never said a word love," he smiled, putting the bath plug in and turning on the taps. "I will fill the bath for you, you go get ready and bring your new nightdress in, then I will give you some time to soak and come and join you, if you want?"

Rose looked at him, who in their right mind wouldn't want him to get in the bath and relax with him, well maybe except his stupid ex wife who didn't realise what a good thing she had divorced but that was her loss.

Coming back in wearing just her robe and the new pair of knickers she'd just bought that just about rested on her hips, the bath was foaming nicely and Alec was sat on the side making sure the temperature was right.

"That looks really nice Alec," Rose hinted at the lit candles, though it wasn't quite dark yet but he'd pulled the blue window blind down.

"Let me help you love?" he asked, as Rose unfastened the belt on her robe and he went for the collar.

Putting the robe on the towel rail, he picked up a large cream bath towel and put it on the clothes hamper, waiting for Rose to turn around.  She stood with her back to him, the white underwear showing her hips that Alec could only stare at.  Experiencing her in bed was one thing, kissing all over her top half but getting to see her, smiling at him was another.

"Are you still feeling shy Rose?"

"A little, I know I shouldn't be."

He went up behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders and kissed her neck.

"Please Rose, turn around for me?"

He let go and she hesitated a few seconds.  He had braved his fear of the water to join them splashing about, something he'd told her he couldn't do so she could do this, for him.  She slowly turned around, Alec taking her hand.

"Why would you want to hide from me?" he asked after letting out a whistle.  "You are beautiful Rose.  When you get more confidence in front of me, I hope you will allow me to take some photos of you?"

"Like this?" she asked nervously.

"Well that would be nice but maybe some of you in your underwear and your new nightdress?  I got plenty of you with Jack today, which I will transfer to your phone for you.  I won't mind if you take some of me, without my shirt."

Rose smiled at the thought.  "Well maybe some with your buttons undone as well?"

"Now you are teasing me but yes, if that's what you want.  Now do you need help getting in the bath?"

"I can manage, thanks.  Come back in half an hour?"

"Twenty minutes?" he asked, kissing her neck, feeling her through his t-shirt that he'd bought earlier in the menswear shop, which had got him some attention from two female assistants asking if the baby was his.

What was it about men with small babies in buggies that interested women?  He had quite liked it though and it had made Jack laugh as they had fussed over him, getting them a scowl from their boss.

Not wanting to argue she replied "Twenty five, not a minute less."

He smiled and stepped back.  "Yes love, twenty five then, just for you."

He hoped she wouldn't get too mad if he tried his luck a few minutes early, he would go get another towel from the airing cupboard, take his shoes and socks off and change into the new pair of tight fitting jeans he'd bought, which had probably got the assistants interested as he was choosing them, then he would casually leave them unbuttoned and go sit on the edge of the bath, minus his t-shirt and hope she would invite him to join her.

He went to check on Jack, who was fast asleep in the middle of the cot with the soft toy duck he wouldn't let go of and Alec wondered if it was because it was new and he had given it to the boy.  Things had been very strange the way Jack had taken to him, when he'd spoken to the baby, he had looked at him and would have answered had he been able, he'd let him feed and change him, pick him up and never fretted once for his mum but had gone to her instantly when taken to her that morning and on the beach.

He would go as far as to say the boy already considered he was safe and happy and had accepted Alec had taken on the role of his father but he hoped when his real one arrived next Sunday, the boy wouldn't make a fuss and James accuse him of taking away his son, that was the last thing he wanted.  He got changed, even though it wouldn't be for long and waited exactly twenty two minutes until he got the towel and put his hand on the handle of the bathroom door.

Rose was relaxing in the bubble bath, her eyes closed, smiling to herself she could finally get a few minutes to relax, twice in the same day.  It was a far cry from her mother calling every time Jack even moved and James saying he was busy.  The time seemed to fly by when she heard the bathroom door opening, certain her time wasn't up but there would be no curbing Alec's enthusiasm and she couldn't be mad at him for trying, it must have been torture for him counting the minutes.

She looked as he stepped inside the bathroom, a white towel over his shoulder, bare feet and wearing slim-fitting jeans Rose wasn't even aware he'd bought since he had gone back out to the car to fetch everything in and he'd brought most things upstairs.  Now she noticed the jeans were unzipped and for added effect, he'd ditched the t-shirt at the last second and putting the towel on top of hers, stood in front of her.

"Hi there handsome, couldn't wait?" Rose teased him, going for his leg with her wet hand.

"You said you wanted me with no shirt on?  Mind if I join you?"

"I thought that was the idea?"

He wasted no time taking off his jeans but hesitated pulling his new white boxers down facing her.

"You told me not to be shy Alec."

"I know love, why don't I get in behind you, move up."

"Not until you take those boxers off I'm not."

"Oh, so you are not shy at seeing me then?"

"I've seen your ass Alec, it's very cute.  Hurry up before the water goes cold."

Thinking to hell with it, he let his boxers fall to the floor but moved so quickly, Rose hardly saw him, Alec putting one leg in the bath and trying to keep his balance, which wasn't easy in the slippery remainders of the bubbles.  He put his hands on her shoulders and carefully sat down behind her, going to kiss her neck, Rose moving to sit on his lap and feeling him stirring.

"Turn around Rose," he asked, whispering in her ear she looked too gorgeous.

"Well help me then," she replied, trying to manoeuvre herself to face him and giggling at the same time, never having done this before, even when things were going well with James. 

She carefully put her legs on top of his but he pulled her closer, shuffling up so her feet were touching the end of the tub.  He put his arms around her and they kissed, Rose not being able to resist climbing further onto him until they touched.  Rose knew from that moment, she didn't really want him to wear anything in bed and cursed herself for not getting something done about it but with James being out of the picture, him having been the one to take the precautions on the odd occasion, it hadn't seemed that important.

As she climbed further on him, he could hardly resist her but knew he had to, until she got something sorted so he lay back a little against the tub and let her move around on him as they kissed, the water going cold but neither of them really cared, this is what they both wanted, to get as close as they could with nothing getting in their way.
Chapter 11
"Rose, you are going to that clinic tomorrow?" he asked as they realised they were sitting in cold water, the bubbles almost non-existent.

"Yeah, I am now 'cos I want more of this Alec, I'll put up with the protection tonight but I don't want you to use it, unless we have to."

"Good, neither do I love.  Be careful getting out, here let me help you?"

As she got out, Alec holding her arm, she got rather a good look at him, smiling to herself.

"I know you're looking Rose."

"Can't blame me can you?  I think I might be over my shyness."

"Pass my towel will you?" he asked, putting his hands on the sides to ease himself up.

She picked it up after wrapping hers around her, holding it out.

"Come and get it," she teased, laughing as he tried to reach it.

"If you make me get out for it, you are going to regret doing so, Miss Tyler."

"Never!" she laughed back.

He stood up and holding onto the side, got out carefully, Rose watching him. 

"Well don't say I never warned you," he laughed as he grabbed the towel and wrapped it around his waist and then went for her.  "Don't go waking Jack, come here."

He picked her up and carried her to the bedroom, Rose grabbing her nightdress and underwear after he emptied the bath and they'd dried off a little.  He lay her on what had now become their bed and unravelled her towel, Rose going for his.

"Just you wait a second, we don't want any accidents do we?" he warned her.

"I really hate those thing though those new ones aren't that bad I suppose.  I can't wait until we don't have to use them any more," she sighed as the towel parted and he got up at the last second, pulling it around his waist again.

He was soon back, going to see if Jack was still asleep and pulling her up, they finished getting dried and he passed her the nightdress but she shook her head and throwing off the towel, got into bed, Alec having turned down the duvet at the corner.  He reached for the small packet and sitting on the edge of the bed, set about his task, hopefully for the last time until she got herself sorted.  As he got into bed, even though it was still early, it was getting dark and he turned out the bedside lamp, making sure the baby monitor was switched on and climbed over her.

Putting her arms around him, she knew now she wanted to stay with him, she was falling in love with him and he would be a great dad to Jack, should he want the job and so far, he seemed like he did.  As they moved together, Rose keeping her noise to a minimum, Alec could no longer resist her, having had to stop himself in the bath and now, neither of them could wait until he could stop wearing something and were free to express their feelings once and for all.

As Alec finally came away from her, she ran her fingers through his hair, going to kiss him and whispering, "I love you Alec," into his lips.

He didn't think he had heard her right as he stopped mid-kiss.


"Oh, is it too soon?"

"No love, it's not, I thought I misheard you, that's all.  I love you too sweetheart."

They kissed some more then when Alec went to get cleaned up, he put his shorts and t-shirt on and went to check on Jack again, Rose thinking he was overdoing it and he'd told her not to fuss so much.  She heard him on the baby monitor as he found young Jack awake.

"Now, what are you doing awake then?  Was your mum making too much noise eh?" he asked the baby, picking him up as Jack made noises.  "Did you lose your new toy?  Come on, you go to your mum while I get you a drink eh?"

Rose quickly put her underwear and nightdress on and sat up in bed as Alec carried the boy in, who was clutching the yellow soft duck he'd been given earlier.

"Hey you, you should be asleep," Rose told him as Alec handed the boy to her, Rose sitting him against her raised legs.

"I will go warm him a drop of milk, see if that will settle him, maybe you were a wee bit too noisy eh?"

"Thanks, it was your fault, wasn't it Jack?"

The boy put his fist in his mouth and flung his legs around, Rose catching them. 

"Don't you get all giddy, you don't usually wake at this time."

"That we know of love, he might do, he was just laid awake watching that light-up star mobile you got from Fred Miller, he seems to like it, since I got batteries for it while we were out."

"Yeah, thanks, I forgot, good thing you didn't, right Jack?"

The baby gurgled in agreement and Alec leaned over him, Jack going for his beard.

"I will really have to trim this, is he tryin' to tell me something do you think?"

"Maybe that he knows the difference between you and his dad?  No, that's daft."

"Not so daft love, the test will come next Sunday, see if he will go to both of us."

"It sounds like some kind of contest," Rose remarked, trying to get Jack's fist out of his mouth and getting her hand wet.

"It is not a contest but he has to live with the fact I look like his real dad.  Come on Rose, you must know what I am getting at?  Don't you?"

"Yeah, I get it, you want to be his dad as well, don't you?"

"You mean you never thought about it?"

"Yeah, I did, I was gonna leave it up to you, when you were ready?  Is it too soon for you?"

"No, it's not too soon but before you say that in public, maybe we should go to the paper first?"

"Why?  What business is it of anyone's if they think you’re his dad or not?  We wouldn't have this problem in London or a bigger town and I don't want to go to the paper, let that reporter write what he wants, you deal with him how you want if he gets too much and speculates if you’re his dad or not, I don't care."

"Finished?" Alec smiled, getting up.

He left her to think about it and went downstairs, carefully avoiding the high-chair he'd started a habit of putting up before going to bed.  Getting some fresh milk, he put it in the clean baby bottle and warmed it for thirty seconds on a low heat in the microwave, just to take the chill off and went back upstairs.

Rose had been thinking about what she'd just said, if they didn't go to the paper, who knew what that reporter would make up?

"Pass him here love," Alec told her as he got in beside her.

"You need some sleep Alec, you've got work tomorrow."

"It's not that late, it won't take long, will it Jack?"

The baby agreeably drank the milk and then began to yawn, resting against Alec's raised legs so handing the empty bottle to Rose, he carefully moved so she could kiss Jack goodnight and making sure he had the duck, laid him in his cot.

"Night Jack, you be a good boy and go to sleep now eh?" Rose heard him tell Jack on the monitor.

When Alec got back in bed, he took his t-shirt off and Rose snuggled up to him.

"He really likes that duck you got him."

"Aye, he does, maybe it's due to the fact it's the first new thing I have given him?  He's very alert for his age you know?"

"He's almost seven months, he takes a lot of notice now.  He really enjoyed it in the sea, if I'm still okay next Saturday, we'll take him in the swimming pool, will you be able to go in?"

"I can sit with my feet in the water in the baby pool," he smiled, leaning against her and kissing her hair.  "You smell really good after that bath love, let's make Sunday nights our shared bath night eh?"

"Yeah, I'd like that but I get a few minutes on my own first?"

"You drive a hard bargain Rose.  So, is that settled you call me his dad, just in front of him for now?"

"I really don't know Alec, it's gonna be confusing for him."

"Why is it eh?  He is not the only child who is told he has two dads and he won't be the last either, it's the best thing to do and if you don't want to face that reporter, I will pay him a visit tomorrow and warn him off.  If he then prints anything, I'll go for him."

"Well maybe we can just say my car broke down, you rescued me and I'm showing you how grateful I am?" she asked, settling her head near his heart, careful to avoid the exact spot.

"That's what you were going to say originally love.  You don't have to be careful with me, I'm fine now," he told her, referring to his slight scar.

The next morning, they settled into their routine of the last few days though Rose dressed Jack while Alec prepared his milk and cereal but Rose was still unsure about carrying her son downstairs and while Alec waited, he went up to see why they hadn't appeared and found Rose looking at the steps from Jack's bedroom door.  Knowing there was something wrong, he held his arms out for the baby.

"Is there something wrong love?"

"Yeah, can you take him down?"

"You should have called.  Tell me what's bothering you?  Are you frightened of carrying him down the stairs?"

He would surely think she was crazy.

"Yeah, a bit.  Alec, I lived in two apartments, with lifts, well when the one in mum's block hadn't broken-down and I was grounded.  I've never had to carry him down a narrow staircase.  I'm a bit nervous about it."

"You will be fine with him love, I will take him down today but maybe tomorrow, you follow me down carrying him until you get more confident?"

"Yeah, I can do that, sorry."

"Don't apologise for caring about your son's safety Rose, you could have attempted it and lost your nerve and dropped him or fallen.  You just have to get used to it."

"I will Alec, I'm sure I will."

"Want me to come back for you?" he smiled before turning around, Jack firmly in his arm.

Rose managed a weak smile.  "No, I've got it thanks."

Before he went to work, Alec put up the playpen again while Rose was looking up health centres and baby clinics, finding there was one with everything she needed up in the town.

"I'll go and register Jack at the baby clinic, I should be able to get him in.  Did you want to come with us?"

"I think everyone in any official capacity knows who I am Rose, if you don't want this to get around the town just yet?" he smiled, putting some more toys in the playpen as Jack sat in the middle – with his duck.

"Yeah, not one of my best ideas.  Maybe you could go with us another time?"

"I will, let everyone get used to us first eh?  What do you think Jack?  Do you want to be seen with me?"

Jack made a few noises and handed the duck to Alec, who smiled again and took it, waving it at him and making him laugh.

"Right, I'm off and I will make sure the garage is getting on with your car, then you can get out and about again.  Maybe we should get another car seat at the weekend, save swapping it around?" he asked, Jack taking the toy from him and laughing.  "Don't forget to look for a changing unit, then I will take the bed down and see if I can get it stored."

"Won't it go in the shed?"

"Doubtful, it's not bigger on the inside love," he smiled, waving to Jack.  "Come and kiss me goodbye eh?"

Rose had plenty to do when she had sent Alec off with a proper snogging, telling him to wipe that look off his face before he got to his office or he'd never hear the end of it from Ellie.  She washed the clothes that would dry on the airer when she got back from the clinic then got Jack ready to go out and called for a taxi that could take buggies since Alec had the car seat and not left her the keys.  He said he would ask about putting her on the car insurance but the police were paying for it so he doubted he could ask his boss about putting his new girlfriend down as a driver.

Ellie was already at her desk when Alec walking in, trying to heed Rose's advice but Ellie had already spotted it, not saying anything until she knocked on his door and sat opposite him.

"You look cheerful this morning, things going well then?" she asked him.

"Yes, you could say that.  Has your nephew said anything to you?"

"Why should he?"

"He went after Rose on Friday afternoon, while she was out."

"She never said anything yesterday.  Why would he do that?"

"He probably saw us together and thought it would make a good story.  I went by the office on Saturday but he was out, your sister was there, defending him."

"Depends what he's done, she changes sides easily.  Do you want me to talk to him?"

"I can handle him, he had better stay away from her next time and just come to me.  What is it with the press lately?"

Ellie got up and went back to her desk, sending a warning to her nephew – 'Stay out of Hardy's way, he's after you.'

Olly was upstairs in the newspaper office, Maggie was still going on about a headline for the next edition and he wasn't being all that helpful.

"Come on Olly, you promised me a story," Maggie was telling him.

"I tried Maggie, I almost had one but Hardy warned me off," he grinned, showing her the message.

"Since when did you take notice of him petal?  Go on, see if you can catch up with him, what was it about anyway, what's he telling you to back away from?"

"His new girlfriend and a young baby."

"Really?  They were together?  When?"

"I saw them with my Aunt Ellie on Friday then I saw them just across at the food stalls on Saturday, she was carrying the baby from around the back of the pub and he took the kid from her as they sat down.  She has to be staying with him, he lives around there somewhere when he couldn't get that blue chalet back."

"Well go on then, don't sit there Olly, get me a headline and quick.  If you can't find him, maybe he'll be meeting her at lunchtime?"

Rose had been dropped off at the health centre and was filling in Jack's registration card for the baby clinic, a trainee coming over to him and leaning down to greet Jack.

"Hello there, what's your name then?"

"It's Jack, hello.  I'm having trouble with this form, maybe you can help me?" Rose answered without looking up.

She soon saw where she'd gone wrong and went to hand the card in.  She was told if she waited, they'd fit him in for a quick check-up so while she was doing so, she sent a message to Alec, taking a photo of Jack holding his duck, having been keeping a close eye out that he didn't drop it or leave it somewhere but it had a little loop on it so next time she strapped him in the stroller, she was going to fasten it on.

Alec smiled when his message tone went, seeing Jack with the toy he'd got him and the message saying he was waiting to be seen.  He sent a message back asking about what she was going for, getting one back saying she wouldn't forget, not after last night.  Ellie had seen the smile on his face and went to see, since everyone was still talking about him.

He had learned how to put a photo on his phone's lock screen and home screen so he assigned it to the lock screen of his personal phone and showed it to Ellie when she asked what he was grinning at.

"Aw, he looks really cute, did you get him that?  I didn't see it yesterday."

"We went to Dorchester after lunch, I was looking after him while Rose had an hour on her own.  She's had a hard time finding someone who would look after him, when she was at home."

"Not even her mother?" she asked, a bit surprised.

"Don't ask Miller.  I don't know the last time she went out properly anywhere, do you know any reliable babysitters?"

"Yeah, Chloe might or if not, bring his folding cot over and I'll have him for the night."

"I'm sure Rose will appreciate that, thanks Miller.  I will suggest it to her but she will be wound up this coming weekend, Jack's dad is coming to visit him."

"She said, I take it you're not keen?"

He sat back in his chair, folding his arms.  It reminded Ellie of what he'd been like when he'd first arrived, Rose had certainly changed him the last few days.

"I don't have to like it, he's Jack's dad, I can't change that.  Did she tell you we even look alike?  She says it makes no difference to her, they hadn't been together for a while, she was not looking to replace him."

"Maybe not but what were the chances?  Well maybe the weekend after, if she can bear to part with him, or if you can.  You seemed to enjoy yourself yesterday?"

"Aye, we may take him to the swimming pool on Saturday afternoon."

"Does she know about you and water, I mean what really happened?"

"She never asked.  It's over now, I got justice.  Did you want something?"

"No, just to see what that silly grin on your face was for, they're all talking about you again."

"Well you are the senior officer out there, tell them to get back to work."

Rose was getting Jack weighed and being asked how he was progressing, being told he was doing well for his age.  She asked where the family planning clinic was and was directed to a unit behind the centre so she went to register for a doctor for the both of them, being told to ring in two days to see if they had been accepted, which was fairly standard since she'd moved back to her old one when she'd left James.

Her final stop was the family planning clinic, getting put back on pills again but it didn't help her with her short-term problem.

"So, Miss Tyler," the nurse was saying to her, smiling at Jack.  "Any questions?  You've had them before?"

"Yeah, for three months after I had Jack but I split from my partner, Jack's dad.  I've got a new boyfriend now, Jack and I have just moved here but since I've got to wait until next week, is there any chance of getting something to take afterwards?"

"Well there is, when are you due?"

"Saturday or Sunday, it varies.  Is it still a week after I start taking them before I'm covered?"

The nurse nodded, going to the cabinet.

"You usually have to go to a pharmacy for these but I can give you a limited supply for ten days, that should cover you.  Take one as soon as you get up, before food or drink but don't take one the day you are due, it might interfere with it."

"Thanks, I'd better be going, Jack will want feeding soon, you've been really helpful."

She decided to walk up the road to the High Street and was passing 'The Traders', seeing some benches a little further down and planning to just give Jack some milk and a rusk for the time being.  It was already eleven thirty so she thought she'd text Alec to meet her at twelve fifteen and see if there was a shorter way to the station.

Becca Fisher was putting out a board advertising lunch specials as Rose was passing.

"Aw, what a cure baby!  What's his name?"

"It's Jack.  Hi, I'm Rose, I just moved here."

"Hi, I'm Becca, I own the hotel.  Hello there Jack, that's a cute toy, did your daddy get it for you?"

"You could say that.  His dad's not around any more, we split up.  He's sort of got a new dad now, haven't you baby?"

Jack was making noises and trying to get the beak of the duck in his mouth but since Rose had fastened it on, he was failing, Rose thinking he was going to cry but he didn't.

"Is there another way to the sea front from here?" Rose asked as Becca made a fuss over Jack.

"Yeah, that path there brings you out by those holiday flats, did you want that side?"

"Yeah, I'm meeting someone opposite the police station in about half an hour.  We've just moved here though by accident, my car broke down last week, it's still getting fixed."

"What a nightmare, especially with a young baby but you found somewhere to stay?  Are you leaving when it's fixed?"

"I was but I've been persuaded to stay, I sort of got rescued by someone who talked me into staying."

"Oh, who would that be?  Anyone I might know?"

Rose thought it was a dead certainty she would know Alec, maybe he'd even stayed at her hotel when he'd arrived, there was a lot she still didn't know about him and was finding out new things every day, as was he with her, starting with her fear of taking Jack downstairs and how embarrassed she had felt despite him assuring her she would get over it.

"Yeah, you might do, he's sort of a fixture around here, been in the news recently though I missed a lot of it, I was having a few problems of my own."

Becca took a wild stab in the dark.  "Tell me it's not DI Hardy?" she smiled, forgetting the lunch specials for a bit of small town gossip.

Rose figured if she told people who were interested, the local reporter would be telling old news.

"Yeah, actually.  I was heading to Exeter but I changed my mind, me and Jack are staying with him."

"Well I would never had thought he would rescue anyone but hey, welcome to Broadchurch.  Someone looks hungry."

Jack had his fist in his mouth again so Rose got him a rusk out and broke it in half. 

"Yeah, I may as well set off now and wait for him, say bye Jack."

She got there with plenty of time to spare and ordered a coffee while she waited, looking at the menu then getting Jack's feeding bowl and spoon and taking a small flask of warm water out of the baby bag, mixed him some food.  Alec was getting some fresh air and noticed them at a table so he sent a message to say he was on his way.

Ellie was meeting Fred and the child-minder so she declined his offer to join them.

"You two have a lot to talk about, you don't need me there," she told him.

"Aye, we do Miller," he replied as he got his jacket, Ellie having pushed the door to.  "I think Rose is prepared to let me have more to do with her son."

"You mean act like his dad?"

"Well that was the idea, we talked about it briefly but she has no idea how his real one will feel about it, it's very difficult."

"It will be but lots of kids have more than one dad."

"That is exactly what I told her but we will have to see how it goes.  I had better go, she's waiting across the way, she got Jack in at the baby clinic."

"Good, I used to take Fred there.  Are you doing anything about Olly?"

"Not yet, no doubt he will be lurking around somewhere."

"I sent him a message earlier, to warn him," she admitted.

"Good, I hope he takes notice."

That was a relief to Ellie, she thought he was going to chew her out about it and that he'd wanted to warn Olly himself, he must be going soft.
Chapter 16
Alec was about to leave when his work mobile rang, hoping the garage were finally calling him back after he'd rung them when he'd got rid of Ellie earlier.

"Hardy," he answered and listened to the caller.  "What do you mean there has been a delay?  They've not delivered the radiator yet?  Well get on to them, she has a young baby, she needs her car."

"We're doing our best," the gruff voice on the other end answered.

"Then do better, her car is needed for tomorrow afternoon, as agreed, there will be no delays, understood?  You know who I am?"

The mechanic did indeed know who Hardy was – the hard-ass detective who took nothing from no-one, he'd gained a reputation and everyone had breathed a sigh of relief when he slipped quietly into the background but he had come back.  The kid reporter had been in that morning to book his car in and they had been talking about him.

"So," Olly had said to 'Mac' the mechanic.  "Can you fit my car in tomorrow?  I'm having trouble starting it and my mum's going on at me about it."

"I dunno mate, we have a car with a bust radiator and we have to make it top priority, some woman needs it urgently – Hardy's instructions."

"Does it belong to a woman with a baby by any chance?" Olly asked, thinking he might not have to face the gruff detective after all.

"Yeah, the breakdown truck brought it in just before we closed last Thursday night and handed us Hardy's card.  I told him we had to order the radiator but it's not turned up yet and I have to call him back and tell him, don't fancy doing that, I might get Jonesy to do it."

"Well rather you than me Mac, Hardy's already on my case and my boss wants me to do a story on him, which is where I should be right now.  I'll call in tomorrow on the off-chance and good luck telling him."

So 'Mac' had decided to face the detective himself and wished he hadn't as Alec argued with him down the phone.

"Hey, Jonesy," Mac turned to a big guy who used to be a bouncer and 'security' guard to several celebrities before he'd taken a career turn.  "Get onto that parts bloke and tell him that radiator for that Astra had better be here within the hour or I'm giving Hardy their number and they can tell him why his lady-friend's car has been delayed."

Olly had driven off, eventually and was now putting the pieces of a story together, maybe he wouldn't have to interview the detective after all, it was becoming clear Hardy had rescued the blonde, overseen the car recovery and was handling it.  Then he'd offered her a place to stay and judging by the greeting he'd got on Saturday afternoon they were probably already shagging each other but where had she come from and where had she been heading before the car radiator had blown on her?

That piece of news though had put paid to the thought she and Hardy already knew each other, if he'd rescued her, he had moved in on her at lightning speed over the weekend.
On his way back he'd spied the hotel owner outside and pulled into the lay-by outside the newspaper's old offices and stopped to talk to her and five minutes later had established the blonde was called Rose, the baby was called Jack and she was indeed with Hardy, well so Becca reckoned and she wasn't usually wrong where gossip was concerned.  He thought she had secretly once been in a popular Australian soap about a bunch of neighbours in a certain street.

He went back to the harbour, used his parking permit and instead of going back to the office, decided to see if the mysterious blonde was out with the baby again, not being able to tell either time he'd seen her how old the boy was.  The baby looked around six or seven months and could still easily be Hardy's kid, that would tie-in with the detective coming to the town in time for the investigation into Danny's death and Hardy slipping into that blue chalet afterwards and keeping to himself but why hadn't the woman been seen around town before?  No-one knew quite what the DI had been up to prior to his arrival except for that old case Hardy and his Aunt Ellie had just solved so he could have known the woman before.

He walked towards the police station and saw Rose, walking around with the stroller heading for the outdoor catering area but maybe he should heed his aunt's warning and back off until he established a few more facts though Maggie had sent him another message telling him to get a move on or she'd kick his ass.  He saw her go to a stall and then sit down with a drink and see to the baby but had then seen her waving across the road to who could only be Hardy, so he got up and waited just across from the station.

He had to get more information than he'd just got before he was out of a job so he saw Alec come out of the station's front entrance and decided it was either the detective or Maggie who got the pleasure of kicking his ass.

"DI Hardy, got a minute?" Olly asked hopefully as Alec crossed the road.

"What do you want Stevens?  I've got better things to do in my lunch break than talk to you."

"Such as meeting a blonde with a baby over there?" Olly gestured in Rose's general direction as she spoon-fed a hungry Jack.

"Why are you so interested in who I am meeting on my own time?  If you bother her again, I am warning you, don't bother, there is no story, she is waiting for her car to be repaired."

"Yes, I know, up at 'Mac's', I was up there earlier.  So will she be on her way when it's repaired?"

"How would I know?" Alec answered honestly.  He could still blow all this somehow and she would still leave tomorrow or the day after.

Was he moving too fast for her?  She'd said not and readily accepted his help and a lot more and they'd become lovers rather quickly but in the back of his mind, it was all too good to be true and the slightest thing could change her mind about running off to Exeter.  He'd been doing some thinking, well inbetween Miller constantly interrupting him and arguing down the phone with the garage owner twice, the first time when he'd been given several excuses for the delay of the radiator arriving and the second time, he'd told the man her car would be ready or he'd be up there himself.

"So who is she then?  Everyone has seen her walking around, Becca Fisher was talking to her a while ago."

Alec shook his head, if Becca Fisher had indeed talked to Rose, the whole town would know and it would be on the local six o'clock news grapevine. 

"Get out of my way Stevens, if I have anything to say, I will come to the office, if you are in."

"My mother said you called there on Saturday, was that to warn me off?"

"Yes," was Alec's gruff reply.  "Leave her alone, she does not need you reporting her every move.  Back off Stevens, I'm telling you as a police officer.  I helped her when her car broke down, we have become friends, whilst she is in the town, let's just leave it at that for now."

"Really?  Is that why you took the baby off her on Saturday then?  She came from the direction you live in."

"So what?  Don't make a big deal out of it.  I told you, if I have anything to say, I'll not be interviewed in the middle of the street."

"Then come to the office later and give me the story."

"There is no story.  Look, I know where this is going, I am not that baby's father so right, go print that.  I met her on Thursday night when her car broke down and if you have talked to Becca Fisher, you will already know hers and the baby's names and that we are friends."

That was all he was prepared to say for now, he wanted to get to Rose and Jack and spend some time with them, that was all that mattered now, she had become an important part of his life, along with Jack, who had already accepted him.

"So can I quote you on that then?" Olly insisted.

"Yes, fine, okay, print that but you add any speculation to it, I will personally throw you in the river, got it?"

Olly grinned.  "Got it."

Rose had seen the two of them talking, seeing it was the reporter, Ellie's nephew and hoping Alec was now setting the record straight.  She didn't like being the centre of attention, at least though she'd told James about her and Alec, though it hadn't gone down well.  Alec got away and went to Rose's table, Jack just finishing his food and wanting his milk.

"Hi, been having fun?" Rose asked him as he went to get Jack out of the stroller and reached for his bottle. 

"That was the annoying reporter, sorry love but I had to tell him something or he would have gone after you again.  How was your morning?" he asked, putting his free hand on hers, holding Jack on his knee and supporting him while he happily drank his milk, Alec holding the bottom with his little finger.

Rose thought he looked well practised and surmised he used to do it when his daughter was a baby.  To say he was a natural father was an understatement, James had admitted he'd never taken to it.

"Fine, I got sorted, you'll be happy to know."

"Really?  That's the best news I have heard all morning, well except you got Jack into the baby clinic, Miller said she took her son there.  There has been a delay getting the radiator for your car, I told them to light a rocket under the suppliers."

"Yeah?" Rose laughed as Jack stopped for a rest, displaying his latest trick to Alec, which was dribbling his milk while blowing a raspberry.

"When did he start doing that?" Alec smiled, wiping Jack's chin and his wet shirt sleeve with the cloth Rose handed him.

"Just now it seems.  We stopped just down the esplanade, he'd made a mess with the rusk I gave him but he didn't want his milk then.  I think he was waiting for you.  I'll go order lunch, if you two have finished?"

Alec finished giving Jack his bottle while Rose went to get lunch ordered.  She was liking this, subtlety showing the town they were together so people got used to seeing them out as a family and she was happy he'd set the record straight with the reporter but her mother would surely get to know she was parading her relationship all over the media.

After kissing Rose and Jack goodbye, Rose getting the baby to wave to him, he went back to work, happy that they could relax without the town's nosy reporter taking pictures of them after promising to email him a photo they had taken the previous morning down the coast.

Olly had got back in double-time and quickly tapped out his 'interview' with Hardy on his pad and rushed upstairs, his mother wondering what was wrong with him.

"Well did you get me a story?" his editor asked him.

"Yes, I got you a story, here, read this."

When Rose got Jack home, he was asleep in his stroller so she left him while she put the laundry on the airer in the garden and looked online for a changing unit, seeing a few reasonably priced ones and made a note of them for Alec to approve.  It would make things a lot easier and eventually there would be room for Jack to play.  Alec hadn't mentioned getting a bigger place since the other day, she didn't want him to have to move just for them when he'd only been in the cottage for a short time.

After selecting a photo from his phone of himself and Rose holding Jack between them to Olly via the newspaper, Alec decided to finish early again, it was up to him how many hours he put in and he wanted to spend some time with his new family.  He had to let his daughter know, in case she turned up on his doorstep on a whim but he was about to be in for a shock as Daisy was just arriving at the harbour bus stop and followed his directions to the police station, walking up to the front desk.

Daisy Hardy had a training day off and had spent a couple of hours on a bus to Southampton then a coach to Broadchurch and was debating whether to surprise her dad or warn him but had decided if she warned him, he'd try to put her off.  He couldn't very well ignore her if she just turned up, with a few things stuffed in her fabric shoulder bag.  She planned on getting him to drive her back home later that evening or call her mother to tell the school she was off sick.

The desk sergeant looked up as he saw the teenager enter and walk towards him, thinking she was lost.

"Can I help you Miss?"

"Yeah, I'm here to see Alec Hardy."

"Is he expecting you?"

"Probably not, I'm his daughter."

The desk sergeant put his pen down and looked at her.  There had been rumours going around since Saturday that the DI had been seen with a young blonde and a baby across the other side of the river but here was a teenage girl claiming to be his daughter.

"I'll just call him for you."

Daisy sat down and got her phone out of her pocket, thinking of saving him a job.

"DI Hardy, Sir, someone is here to see you," he told Alec when he'd picked up his desk phone after putting his jacket on, ready to leave. 

It was only three thirty but he'd had enough of the stares from the other officers. 

"Well who is it then?" he asked, hoping it was Rose but not with the news she was leaving, she wouldn't come and tell him at work, would she?

"The young lady says she's your daughter."

"What?  Keep her there, I am on my way down."

Opening his office door, Ellie saw him.

"Sir, is something wrong?  You know you're not supposed to go out on your own."

"I have something to attend to that does not require a babysitter Miller.  By the way, you've not done a very good job keeping those rumours at bay, have you?"

Ellie got up to follow him as he walked off.

"Sir, with all due respect, people will talk if you don't confirm or deny you have a girlfriend with a young baby."

"Really?  Right, you lot," he turned back to get their attention, not that it wasn't already on him at this point.  "I am only going to say this once.  Yes, I have a friend with a young baby and that friend and I have been seen around the harbour together.  You can read about it in the next edition of the paper, I'll not repeat it twice.  Now get back to work."

"Yeah," Ellie scoffed.  "Like that's going to stop them.  Just admit it."

"You tell them then.  Miller, she still might leave when her car is fixed."

"Why would she do that?  Can't you see she's totally gone on you, poor thing.  She loves you, anyone can see that.  I don't think you have any need to worry she'll leave when her car is ready tomorrow."

"You don't?  Well my teenage daughter is waiting for me downstairs, how is Rose going to take that?"

"What?  She arrived without any warning?"

"I told her to come down, any time, seems she took my invitation quite literally.  If this does not drive Rose away, I don't know what will."

On his way downstairs, he thought it also could set things even further back with Daisy and he might well lose both of them.  Rose couldn't leave town until tomorrow and if she left him, how would she pay for the car repairs?  She had told him James would be giving her a cheque when he came to visit but she'd never said how much it would be for, though he doubted it would be enough so see her through another month if she had to pay for the car and find a place to stay.

He emerged from the stairwell and saw Daisy sitting with her earphones stuck in and messing around with her phone.

"Hi Dad," she greeted him, getting up and kissing his cheek.  "You said any time, well here I am.  Can I get something to eat, passing those food stalls made me hungry.  I guessed knowing you, you'd be at work when mum told me you were supposed to take it easy."

Alec was waiting for her to finish.

"What are you doing here?  You should have called me."

"Nice to see you too Dad.  I should have known you didn't mean it."

She took her other earphone out and shoved them in her shoulder bag, Alec noticing it looked full.

"Guess I'll just get the next bus back home then?" she added, turning towards the door.

Alec saw the desk sergeant watching them with interest.  As if the rumours he had a girlfriend with a baby weren't enough.

"Wait, don't go off like that, you came all this way."

"Yeah, I can see you're glad I did that.  You said to come down, Dad, why say that if you didn't mean it?"

"I did mean it, it's just now is not a good time."

"When is it ever a good time with you?  Mum was right, you've not changed much."

"Look, I'll get you something to eat from one of the food stalls, then we can talk but there's something you need to know."

"That you've got another important case you have to deal with, one that's more important than me and mum?"

"No, that's not it.  I'm not allowed to take major cases on my own.  Come on, I'll tell you on the way."

"Why can't we just go opposite or don't you want to be seen with me?"

"That's not true Daisy and you know it.  If that's what you want fine but I have a call to make."

"To mum?  She knows I'm here, I'm old enough to come and see you on my own Dad.  I'm not a little kid any more you know?  She expects you to have me home tonight at some point."

"Daisy, it's almost four, what are you playing at, coming here at this time?"

"I missed a bus and missed the coach, there was a queue for tickets.  So are you going to take me back?"

He dreaded to think of how long it would take to get to just outside Sandbrook and back, even if he waited for the traffic to die down.  When he and Miller had gone to visit, they'd stayed overnight, embarrassingly in the same room and sharing a bed and he hoped Miller wouldn't tell Rose it was the day after the affair accusations.  Rose might believe there had never been such an affair but sharing a room, after what had happened between them that first fairly innocent night, might be a bit harder for her to swallow.

As they crossed the road, Alec silently prayed Olly Stevens had got his story and was holed up somewhere, preferably out of town.  Daisy ordered some food when he gave her some money, telling her to get him some tea, though he could have done with something a bit stronger.  What was he going to tell Rose and how was he going to tell Daisy he had a new girlfriend, with a seven month old baby that wasn't his?

Rose answered the phone, she'd changed the ringtone for Alec's number and put his picture on, one from the day before.

"Watcha Alec, miss me already?"

"Sure love, I miss you.  I'm on my way home."

"Great.  What's the special occasion lover?  That morning after pill only works in the mornings, I think."

Alec smiled at her enthusiasm.  "Sorry darlin' but we will have to put that on hold.  Daisy just turned up at the station, without any warning."

There, he'd told her and she would be packed when he got there with Daisy.  There was no easy way of telling her his teenage daughter was now heading towards the table he had sat at earlier, giving Jack his bottle and laughing with Rose at the baby's latest trick.

"Rose, are you still there love?" he asked, trying to keep his voice low as Daisy made her way through the tables.

"Who are you talking to Dad?  Is that mum?  Tell her I missed the coach thanks to her fussing.  I swear she did it on purpose."

He put his hand over the phone. 

"No, it's not your mum, I have someone staying with me."

"Oh.  Male or female?" Daisy smirked, picking up her soda can and slurping with the straw she had conned the stallholder out of and passing a carton of tea with a black plastic lid on it across the table to him.

Rose hadn't been expecting his daughter to just turn up but what could she say?  She couldn't tell him to send her back on the next bus or coach back to where she lived.  It was going to be give and take in their new relationship, Alec had accepted Jack and the fact his father would be seeing him on Sunday.  The least she could do was accept his daughter and meet her, even if the teenager didn't like her.

"Yeah Alec, I'm still here.  Well you half expected it, didn't you?  Bring her back, I'll tidy Jack's things away.  Is she staying?"

Alec thought it would be the easiest thing, to send her back on the coach the next day, if she'd thought about getting a return ticket.

"I don't know yet.  I've just got her something to eat, we'll be back soon."

He hung up without indicating to Daisy who he'd been talking to and she looked across at him, then got up when her order was called.

Eating her burger and chips, Alec observed her, he'd missed a lot the last few years yet he'd been given another chance, to watch Jack growing up and he was damned if anything was going to stop that.  He would have to discuss things with Rose but if she and Daisy got on, there was no reason to shut Daisy out of their new family, if she wanted to be part of it.

"Daisy, there is someone I want you to meet but don't tell your mum, I have to tell her myself."

The teenager stopped mid-bite of her burger.

"You're living with someone?  How could you Dad?" she asked him, putting her bag on her shoulder and getting up, Alec grabbing her arm.  "Get off me Dad, I'm going home right now.  You said we had some making up to do, you never said anything about a girlfriend," the angry teenager told him as he tried to get her to sit down.

"Listen Daisy, your mum has someone else, why should I not have anyone?  I want you to meet her, her name is Rose and she has a seven month old son called Jack."
Chapter 13
"What?" the teenager asked him.  "I was joking about who was staying with you, I never actually thought you were living with someone, with a baby?"

"Shush Daisy, the whole town will hear."

Daisy sat down again, her food going cold.  She picked at the remaining chips, having lost her appetite and tried to come to terms with it.

"So who is she then?"

"I told you, her name is Rose and she knows I'm bringing you back with me.  I met her last week when her car had broken down up on the main road.  I offered her a place to stay while it got repaired and it just happened.  She's a lot younger than me."

"Well she would be, if she has a baby.  I hope she's not my age?"

"No, of course not.  She's almost twenty seven, next month and yes, it is a big gap but we don't look at it like that.  Her baby's father is about my age and you may as well know, I look a bit like him, apparently.  The baby seems to think so, he always comes to me.  Here, I'll show you a photo of him that Rose took earlier."

He got his phone out and pushed the button on the back, since when he tapped the screen, it didn't always come on.  The lock screen showed the photo of Jack, trying to bite the duck he'd bought for him.

"Aw, he's cute but dad, you only met them a few days ago.  Mum knew Dave for years and yes, I know all about it and why you left.  I don't blame you now, mum was to blame for everything but she turned me against you."

He put the phone away and took her hand.

"It's ok, it happened and the most important thing is, I got myself fixed and we can start seeing each other again, if you want?"

"Yeah, I'll meet her then.  We might as well go, I hate cold burgers."

"Rose will fix something later.  Now, about you getting back tonight?  Did you get a return coach ticket?"

The teenager looked guilty.

"Never mind, I will take you up to the bus station tomorrow and get you one, it's a long way to drive there and back tonight, you can stay in Jack's room, the bed is still up.  I will call your mum, she will have to make up an excuse why you are not in school."

"She can ask for a study day, I take my exams soon."

"You thought about it before coming here?" he smiled as she got up to bin the rest of her food and he finished his tea.

"I doubted you'd actually take me back tonight but I thought I'd chance it.  So where do you live then?"

He led the way across the river, turning at the wall by the side of it and down the street to the row of cottages.  Rose had tidied up and had put Jack in the rocking baby seat and he was babbling away to her as she held the duck and waved it at him.

"You've got a new daddy now baby, what do ya think about that then?" she asked him as he let out a laugh when she bumped his nose gently with the soft toy.

"You still have to see your real one though, you're such a lucky little boy, your grandad would have just loved you but you'll never know him so instead, you deserve to have two dads.  You're gonna meet someone else now, she might be your big sister some day, maybe, if things go well."

She heard the key in the door and Jack looked up from his toy and started kicking his legs and holding onto his duck.

"Rose, meet Daisy," Alec called from the doorway, letting Daisy in first.

Rose got Jack from the chair and held him in her arm, Jack hearing Alec's voice and dying to get to him.

"Hi Daisy, nice to meet you.  This is Jack."

"Hi.  Hello Jack, nice to meet you.  Dad says you live here?"

"Now Daisy, one thing at a time eh?"

Jack was reaching out for Alec to take him, which he did, kissing the boy's forehead.

"Now then Jack, meet Daisy, say hello.  Do you want to hold him?"

"Will he come to me?"

"Sure, won't you Jack?"

He held the boy out to her, Jack looking at him as she held out her arms to take him, Rose indicating for her to sit on the sofa.

"Can I get you something Daisy?" Rose asked her as she tickled Jack, making him laugh.

He seemed quite happy with her so Alec sat beside her then Jack decided he wanted to go to him.

"Don't worry Daisy, he does that all the time even when he's with me.  It's only 'cos he's missed him while he's been at work."

"Aye, you do, don't you eh Jack?  Just like your mum misses me."

"Dad, don't be so soppy," Daisy told him, as Jack went to Alec.

"You'll have to get used to us Daisy, how much did he tell you?" Rose asked, sitting in the chair.

"Just your car broke down and he let you stay but you're his girlfriend, aren't you?"

"Yeah, we're not hiding it.  Jack's dad is out of the picture, he sees Jack once a month and that's it and the only reason I keep to that is because I never knew my dad, he died when I was six months old, the same age as Jack."

Alec looked at her as Jack put his tiny fingers on his beard.

"You never told me love, why not?"

"There are lots of things we've not told each other, I would have done.  I didn't want the same to happen to him that's all."

"That's very commendable of you but it upsets you."

"Yeah, a bit but it's not about me, is it?  Sorry Daisy, I know you and your dad haven't been seeing each other."

"Yeah but he's still here, just.  It's not the same is it?  He was still around, my mum told lies and kept me away from him.  I suppose she was trying to protect me but I'm old enough to know the truth now.  I wanted us to make up."

"We will love, Rose and Jack won't make any difference to that.  You will always be welcome here, won't she Rose?"

"That goes without saying Alec, of course you're welcome Daisy.  Are you staying tonight?"

"Dad, am I staying?  If I am you can call mum."

"Right.  Come on Jack, go back to your chair eh or are you going to your mum?"

Jack went for his nose as Alec went to tickle him, making the boy laugh.

"He seems very happy," Daisy observed.

"Aye, he is, aren't you Jack?"

He put the boy in the chair and reached for his phone, Daisy picking up the toy duck.

"Did you get him this Dad?"

"Yeah, it's his favourite toy now," Rose told her.  "He won't let it out of his sight.  Did you see the photo I sent your dad?"

"Yeah, it's on his lock screen.  I taught him how to change photos, didn't I Dad?"

"Aye, you did," he replied, putting on his glasses to get Tess's number, since now he had no need to vain in front of anyone.

"Tess," he said as she answered.

"Alec, I hope Daisy is with you?"

"Aye, she's here but a warning would have been nice, you could have called."

"You mean you're not glad to see her?  Interrupting something was she?"

"Stop it Tess.  It's a long drive up there and back, she's staying overnight, I'll get her to the coach tomorrow.  Did you know she never got a return ticket?"

"She's your daughter Alec, what do you expect?  So what do I tell her school?"

"That she's taking a study day?"

"I suppose they might believe it, she's allowed a few.  So how have you been then?  Let me talk to her."

Alec was passing the phone, hoping Jack wouldn't start making a noise but as he handed it to Daisy, Jack decided he'd try something else new.

"Is that a baby I hear?  Alec?"

"Yes, it's a baby.  I have someone staying with me."

"Really Alec, what's wrong with you?  First you hide Claire Ripley, then you get accused of that affair and now you have someone with a baby staying with you.  Another witness?"

"No, her car broke down."

Tess laughed.  "That's the oldest excuse in the book Alec, can't you do better than that?"

"I can give you the name of the garage, you can ask them what the delay has been."

Rose was wondering why he just didn't admit she was staying but supposed he'd want to tell her gradually.  Daisy had arrived unexpectedly so it had been unavoidable but his ex wife was a different matter.

"Yes, very amusing Alec.  Just make sure Daisy gets back tomorrow, preferably before her friends get out of school, I'm not going to explain her absence to them when they call for her.  Shame you never spent time with your own daughter."

Alec wasn't even going to answer that, it would erupt into another massive argument which he wasn't inclined to start in front of Rose and the baby and he'd just established some sort of relationship with Daisy again.  Jack was kicking his legs as Daisy held the duck in front of him.

"Does he play with anything else?" she asked, looking at the playpen full of toys yet he seemed attached to the soft toy.

"It's the first thing your dad got for him, don't ask me how he knows, maybe it's because they were out together and he handed it to him, right Alec?"

"Aye, I was thinking the same thing," he admitted, at a loss of how this was going to work, Daisy staying overnight with them and the routine they were establishing of him going to check on Jack but since she would be in his room, she would have to accept responsibility for the night and call if he woke up.

"Well I'll go tidy his bedroom, good thing we haven't taken the bed down yet, we were looking for a changing unit.  I found a few, I can call about some, yeah?"

"Yes, do that love but maybe we can replace the bed with a folding one, then Daisy can stay whenever she wants?"

"I hate those folding beds Dad, my friend has one when I sleep over.  Can't you get a sofa bed?"

"Yeah, that's a good idea Alec then when Jack wakes up, we can sit in there with him, it will save disturbing each other."

"Rose, I told you, I don't mind being disturbed and I go most of the time anyway, it will be a case of me not disturbing you."

"Wow, you two are really into this," Daisy observed.

"We are just at the beginnings of establishing a routine for Jack, I think that's important while he is still young, don't you Rose?"

"Yeah, we didn't really have one before, it was difficult at my mum's and I was all over the place before that."

"So who's his dad then?" Daisy asked, getting a frown from Alec.

"Daisy, don't ask personal questions," he chastised her.

"It's ok Alec, she'd old enough to know.  I had a relationship with a history professor when we travelled together, I was his assistant and before we got home, well let's just say nature took over but it didn't work out.  I left him when Jack was three months old and went back to my mum's.  What a mistake that was.  So I packed up and was on my way to Exeter to make a fresh start but your dad rescued me when my car broke down.  He wasn't just saying that for your mum's benefit."

"Yeah, he's like that, putting other people first," Daisy replied, sadly.

"That's not fair Daisy, I'm sure things were just as difficult for him as they were for you, he must have hated having to spend time on that case and not be with you.  Alec?"

"Don't go into it Rose, please.  I regret everything Daisy, had I known how it was going to turn out, I would have made more of an effort but you have to understand, it was never a choice between you and finding those girls' killers.  Cases like that consume you without you realising and when you do, then it is too late to do anything about it."

Daisy took his hand.  "Sorry Dad, I need to be grown-up about it.  I think Jack is falling asleep."

"Yeah, he gets excited when your dad gets home then wears himself out bouncing up and down.  You can feed him when he wakes up in a couple of hours, if you want?" Rose asked.

"Yeah, I'd like that.  What does he eat?"

"Baby food and some milk, I'll show you what to do.  Why don't you two go for a walk, you must want to talk?  Jack will be asleep for a while yet and I have to go check the laundry.  Can you call at the store and get a few things Alec?"

"Sure love, give me a list, I know you're fussy," he smiled, looking at the now sleeping baby clutching his toy. 

He had a feeling the boy would now never let it go, even if he bought him other toys, it would remain his favourite.

"So, what do you call my dad in front of Jack?  Is it 'Uncle Alec'?" Daisy smiled.

"Well that's up for debate, we were discussing it.  He's already known to his DS's boys as that but, well you tell her Alec."

"I don't know how you will take this Daisy but well, Rose and I were discussing her referring to me as his dad, for now.  We don't know how his real one will react so it will just be at home.  To everyone else, we will just say we don't mention it."

"Oh," the teenager managed, a bit surprised they'd got to that stage after only a few days.  "Well I won't be around that much but when I'm here and he gets a bit older, it will seem odd to him if I call you dad and he calls you uncle but what about when he sees his real one?"

"We don't know yet, like I said to Rose, we have to establish some things but we think he can already tell the difference, he keeps going for my beard, his real dad didn't have one so he is trying to tell us something."

"To get a shave?" Daisy laughed.

Rose smiled.  "She's got a point, maybe he is trying to tell you his dad didn't have a beard but he never reacted with James the way he does to you.  He seems to listen to you and he never wanted to go to James as soon as he walked through the door.  It's only been since we've been seeing him once a month that Jack has actually gone to him without a fuss."

"Didn't he go to his dad much, when you were together?" Daisy asked.

Rose shook her head.  "James admitted he was a bit lost with it all, that's why I left.  It was no good for Jack, growing up like that.  I never had that, when I was growing up, it would have got to the hate stage if I'd stayed, now we're at least friends again."

Alec got up, seeing it was upsetting her to talk about it.

"Come on Daisy, get your jacket and we'll go for a walk and get the things Rose wants from the store, write that list Rose."

Rose got up and went to the kitchen drawer for the notepad Alec kept there.  While Daisy excused herself to the bathroom, Alec put his arms around Rose, her head on his shoulder.

"Sorry about this, I had no idea she would just turn up today.  I can take her home if you want?"

"No, it's fine, we knew she'd come and visit at some point, best to get it over with.  She seems ok with us but won't she tell her mum when she gets home?"

"I'll talk to her but teenagers are no good at secrets.  I'll call Tess before Daisy leaves and I will take the morning off, then we will go to the bus station up in the town with her and get her a ticket.  Tess will have to meet her when she gets off the coach.  Don't worry love, what can Tess do about it eh?"

"Tell Daisy to stay away?"

"She will be sixteen soon, old enough to make her own mind up, eh Daisy?" he asked as she came down the stairs, seeing the two of them.

Rose made the list, it was after five so Alec said on the way back, he would call at the takeaway and get them all fish and chips to save Rose from having to cook.  Alec led his daughter across the road onto the east pier, which for some reasons had little flags hung across and they could see his old blue chalet by the edge of the river.

"Mum told me she took you back there after your surgery," Daisy smiled as they sat on a bench.

"Aye, I spent a few months in there.  Good thing it was not available when I came back, Rose would never have agreed to stay there, with it being too near the water.  She's very nervous with Jack, she can't walk downstairs with him."

"Really?  Why's that?"

"She says she lived in two apartments, she never had to really but she's unsure about a lot of things and I think I can help her get over them, she had a tough time."

"I didn't, when you left?"

"Daisy, you had your mother, Rose had no-one.  Her mother didn't have time for the baby, she ran a hairdressing business from home, Rose had to stay in one room out of the way."

Daisy realised how lucky she'd been then.  They talked some more, then walked across to the mini-market opposite the takeaway, Alec getting Rose a box of chocolates to say 'sorry' for Daisy just turning up but as they came out of the takeaway, Alec trying to balance three boxes of food while Daisy took the bag of shopping, Olly had been out and about and saw them walking across the road bridge and wondered who was with the detective now, when he'd just admitted he was living with the blonde and the baby.

Olly had finished his story, his editor had approved it and he'd inserted the photo Alec had sent him and it had all been sent to print – with the headline 'Has Alec Hardy finally settled here?'.

Rose had been feeding Jack, since he'd woken up and she thought he'd make a fuss because he liked Alec to feed him in the evenings but he took it non the less but as Alec and Daisy came back, he decided to stop and wait for Alec to give him his milk, not delaying Alec from eating though, making Daisy laugh as he and Rose sat on the sofa, Alec holding the bottle while eating, since Jack wanted out of the chair.

"You make that look easy Dad," Daisy told him.  "When are you going to start feeding him chips?"

Rose had tidied Jack's room for Daisy so while Alec was keeping the boy amused, Rose led her upstairs.

"It's not much and if Jack wakes up, knock on our door, we won't put the baby monitor on.  You won't mind if we put is light-up mobile on, will you?  Your dad found him awake last night, just watching it."

"No, it's fine.  Rose, I'm sorry I just turned up like that, I had no idea my dad had got a girlfriend, I mean I knew it might happen some day but it was a bit of a shock."

"I bet it was.  When I set off for Exeter, I had no idea where I was going to end up but I like it here, I can take Jack to the beach and walks around the harbour, it will be great during the summer and yesterday morning we took him down to the next beach and into the sea, he loved it."

Daisy smiled, remembering their outings when she was small.

"I wish we'd been nearer the coast, Jack's very lucky."

"I was lucky it was your dad that stopped to help.  Loads of cars passed me but no-one stopped, I expect it's because they thought I'd call the police if they did.  I got a bit of shock when I saw him walk to my car, he pulled up behind me.  Mind you, I was lucky to get to that lay-by before the steam started coming out of the radiator."

"So did he offer to just bring you into the town?"

"No, Jack was getting a bit upset, he wanted feeding properly so he brought us straight here and told me we could stay the night but things soon changed, don't ask me how."

"Sounds like my dad."

"Well I was in no hurry to leave, he persuaded me that I'd be better off here than Exeter and at first he said I could stay as long as I wanted and that in return, I just looked after the cottage for him.  I thought it was fair enough but we got talking after I settled Jack for the night, I won't go into details.  Are you ok with this?"

"I can live with it.  My mum said he got accused of having an affair with his DS, it reminded me of when mum left him for that loser Dave.  I know it was all her now and she made me blame him."

"Maybe you'd better tell him that?"

"I will.  Are you staying?"

"Yeah, I think I am, we're gonna make a go of it, Jack's father didn't want the job."
Chapter 14
Alec was just bringing Jack upstairs, Rose hearing Jack babbling away.

"Aw, is it his bedtime?" Daisy asked, sounding disappointed.

"Yeah, he's getting his bath first, come and watch him splash around."

Alec ran the water while Rose got Jack's sleepsuit and Daisy held him, watching how carefully her dad was testing the water and putting the baby bath oil in.

"You're an expert at that, I remember when you used to put me in while mum was working."

"You never forget.  He enjoys the water."

"Mum told me what happened, when you found Pippa and I'm sorry I was so hard on you."

"It's done with, forget it.  I got myself fixed, no more grumpy dad eh?  Come on Jack, let's get you ready for your bath."

The three of them crowded into the bathroom, Alec using the baby sponge to clean him then Rose carefully washing Jack's hair, which was growing.  Once they had got him in his cot, it still being light so Alec didn't bother with the mobile, they switched the monitor on until Daisy was going to bed.

"Are you mad at me for coming down without telling you Dad?" Daisy asked.

"No, I'm not mad at you, I did say any time and I was going to tell you about Rose."

"Yeah, he was Daisy, things have happened very quickly for us, neither of us expected it to, it's just one of those things.  I had no idea where I was going when I set off, I was gonna stop off in Exeter for a while but whether I'd have stayed there is another thing.  Your dad said his DS lived there and she hated it."

"I was not just saying that to put you off leaving you know?" Alec smiled, taking her hand.  "Ask her yourself."

"I will," Rose smiled back.

Soon, Daisy said she was going to bed so they turned off the baby monitor and Alec went up to check on him, Daisy saying goodnight to Rose.

"Thanks for letting me stay."

"It's nothing, you came all this way to see your dad, I wasn't going to turn you away.  Will you tell your mum about me?"

"Tell her what?  She knows you're staying here, she'd never believe he could get a girlfriend."

"Why not?  He never talks about what happened, not that it's any of my business but what's wrong with him?  If you ask me, it's her loss and my gain."

"She went off with another bloke, when he was obsessed with finding those girls' killer.  It got very bitter and she dragged me into it, I was only twelve when it started."

"Sorry, it must have been upsetting for you, not knowing what was going on?"

"Yeah, it was.  I wish I'd known the truth, that my dad was ill."

Alec had come back down and heard them talking.

"I never told your mum how bad I was but it may not have made any difference.  We will both take you to the bus station in the morning, I will call and take the morning off then call the ticket office for the times of the coach.  Where was its destination?"

"Exeter, where Rose was going.  It's not that far is it?"

"No, I had to go to the court there.  Right, off you go then and call us if Jack wakes up."

"I will, make sure you hear me."

Leaving Daisy to settle down, Rose curled up on the sofa next to Alec.

"Guess we'll have to keep quiet tonight?" she grinned as she kissed his cheek.

"You make all the noise love.  So, you got something to take in the morning eh?  We'd best leave it tonight, in case Jack wakes and Daisy calls out."

"Yeah, if we have to, I was rather looking forward to it though.  Why don't we have an early night?"

"Only if you promise to stay quiet love?"

Rose was right, it did make a difference and she hoped what she had to take in the morning really did work.  Alec lay with her in his arms afterwards, kissing her forehead.

"That was amazing love.  You made the right choice, me not using anything, just don't go forgetting in the morning eh?"

"Mmm, you were so good.  No, I won't forget but we only have another few nights, I got told not to take anything too near the time, best be on the safe side and Saturday night, I'll be worked up about James seeing Jack."

"Rose, there is nothing to worry about now, I will go with you, if it will help?"

"No, best stick to the plan, I'll take Jack across to meet him then bring James back here.  Let's leave that bed up until we get a sofa bed, can we afford one?  You have my car to pay for."

"We will leave the bed for now, in case Daisy decides to visit during the holidays and the changing unit can wait as well, we'll manage on the bed."

"Do you still want to move?"

"Well I was going to wait a while, until we got settled but we can start looking any time you want?"

"I like it here, let's stay a while longer?" she replied, her arm around his waist.  "No dashing off to get cleaned up or check on Jack tonight."

"No love, I can get used to not having to mess around with those things but I will miss checking on him."

"Daisy is capable of hearing if he wakes, even if he doesn't make a noise but maybe you spoiled him last night, giving him some milk?"

"Ah, I was prepared for that, the milk is downstairs already out of the fridge."

"You think you're so impressive, detective inspector."

"I am impressive, am I not?"

"Yeah, aren't you just?" Rose giggled back, kissing his chest.

Sure enough, they were just going to sleep when Daisy knocked on their door, Alec putting his t-shirt on over his shorts.

"Dad, Jack's awake but he's not crying, just thought you should know."

"I will get him a drink," Alec told her.  "Can you bring him in?"

"Yeah, I can manage him Dad."

Twenty minutes later, Jack seemed satisfied and it was up to Rose to sneak him back in his cot without waking Daisy.

To her surprise, the next morning, Alec was still beside her.

"Hi there, not checking on Jack?"

"No need, we have a babysitter in his room, I am sure she will wake us when he's ready to get out of his cot to come in here."

Daisy had woken up and heard noises, then went to Jack's cot.

"Hello there, you want your mum?"

She left him and knocked on their door, just calling Jack was awake.  Rose went to get him while Alec got dressed and she got the boy ready, Daisy going to the bathroom to get changed.  After breakfast, Alec called the station while Rose looked up coaches for Daisy to get home.

"Alec, there's a coach at eleven, do you want to call the ticket office?" Rose asked him.

"No, we will get Jack ready to go out and let Daisy look around the rest of the town and get there half an hour early, that okay with you Daisy?"

"Yeah, fine.  You mean there's more to this town?"

Rose smiled.  "Yeah, this is just the harbour area, hardly anyone lives down here, except in those flats and the houses on the cliffs.  Where did ya think the bus station was?" she laughed, getting Jack's outer jacket on and trying to keep his socks on.

"Rose, you should really get him those suits that have feet in them, he is going to lose those socks love," Alec warned her as Jack reached down and he took the boy's hand.  "Jack, come on now or your toes will be cold."

Jack looked him and tried to move as Rose fastened his jacket.  Daisy was taking it all in.

"What are going to tell mum?"

"She's a detective, I have someone staying with me, let her work it out for herself and don't you go helping her."

Daisy smiled at the thought of giving her mother the run-around.

"Don't worry, I'll plead innocent and say I saw nothing while I was here, you never even snogged in front of me."

"Really?" Alec asked, raising his eyebrows as Rose put Jack in his stroller.  "We will have to remedy that, won't we?" he asked Rose, pulling her towards him and going to kiss her.

"Yuck Dad, get a room."

"Now you have something to tell her if she corners you and interrogates you," he smiled, winking at Jack who was making noises and taking hold of his duck Rose had already fastened on.

"We walking up then?" Rose asked.

"Why not?  Daisy, any objections?"

"No, I'll be sitting on a coach for a few hours.  Ready?"

With Alec pushing the stroller, something he'd already got used to, pushing Fred Miller around, they made their way around to the road up into the town just after nine, stopping to look in a few shops and Alec waiting outside a few while Rose and Daisy went in where there was a sign stating no pushchairs but they came to the indoor market and still having an hour and them all being able to go in, Rose bought a new scarf and a toy for Jack to play with in the bath.

Soon they were making their way to the bus station, Alec going with Daisy in the queue to get her ticket.

"Are you coming for a visit soon Dad?"

"I don't think your mum is ready to meet Rose and Jack yet but soon, when she realises we are serious."

"Why didn't you stay, when you came to see me?"

"Daisy, it is not that I never wanted to stay but it was impossible to go back there and work, after what happened.  Can you imagine your mother and me in the same station?"

Daisy put her arm in his and they walked up to get her ticket then went to join Rose, who was giving Jack a drink of juice.

"All ready?" Rose asked as Alec sat beside her and Jack noticed him.

"Aye, she has just gone to the ladies room, why don't you go check on her love?"

Rose kissed his cheek and went off to find Daisy, who was just washing her hands.

"Did my dad send you to check I got on the coach?"

"No, he wouldn't do that.  I wanted to say it was nice meeting you, you should let your dad walk you to the coach."

"Sorry.  It was nice meeting you and Jack, I've not seen my dad like that for a long time, you're good for him."

"Thanks.  Now don't miss your coach and call him the next time you're coming for a visit."

They walked towards Alec arm in arm and he got up as the coach was announced.

"Bye Rose, thanks for letting me stay," Daisy told her, going to hug her.  "Bye Jack, you be good."

She leaned down and kissed his cheek, Jack gurgling.  Rose watched them walk to the stand the coach had pulled in to and saw them hugging.

"Bye Dad, I'll come back soon, if that's okay?"

"Aye, it's okay.  Have a safe trip."

He waved as the coach backed out of the stand then went back to Rose and Jack.

"We will get a taxi back then after lunch, I have to go back to work."

"Yeah, my feet ache," Rose agreed, Jack looking for Alec to take him out of the stroller.

There was a taxi rank just outside so Rose got the boy out while Alec put the stroller in the back of the cab, giving the address then he got in and Jack was trying to get to him.

"No Jack, you stay strapped in with your mum eh?" he told the boy, wondering why taxi cabs never carried a spare baby seat since it was the law in private cars.

When Alec got to work, Ellie was curious as to why he'd had the morning off.

"My daughter decided to stay overnight, I had to see her off and get her a ticket," he told her, thinking last year he would have told her not to be so nosy but that was what Rose was doing to him, making him more bearable.

"So, how did they get on?  Has Rose left you?"

"No, not yet and I think I may have just worried over nothing."

"I could have told you that, idiot.  If she can take an unexpected visit from your daughter, you're home and dry."

"Aye Miller, I think I just might be.  We talked about Jack, that Rose would call me his dad, just at home."

"See, I told you, that's great."

Alec thought it was great but what would happen once Jack's real dad came to visit?  Was he worrying over nothing just like he'd been about Rose leaving when his daughter visited?

Up at the garage, they were just finishing Rose's car by filling the radiator and making sure everything was topped-up and 'Mac' was about to call Alec, with the good news it would be ready to collect at three, he hoped.

Alec saw the garage's number come up and braced himself for bad news – not that they were going to get away with it.

"Hardy," he answered, waiting for the excuses Rose's car would not be ready today.

"DI Hardy, your girlfriend's car will be ready to be collected after three, we're just filling it up now."

Alec didn't like the way the man assumed Rose was his girlfriend but since he'd made such a fuss about it the previous day, it wasn't surprising and everyone would now think the same.  If he thought about it, that was what they wanted anyway, without the complications of others also assuming Jack was his but did he correct them for thinking such a thing?

"Then I will be there just after three.  You do take bank cards?"

Mac then assumed he'd been right, since several of his employees had been talking about this week's edition of the Broadchurch Echo earlier and the headline that the once grumpy town's detective was here to stay.

Alec now had to get a ride to the garage to pick it up and hope the extra expense wouldn't leave him short until the end of the month, which was the following Tuesday but at least she would be able to get out and about with Jack a bit more.  He called for Ellie to tell her he needed to collect the car.

"You're taking this part-time business seriously lately."

"I am not leaving Rose to deal with the garage, they will try and talk her into all sorts of extras."

"I use that garage, they don't try that with me."

"That's because they know who you are and besides, I am paying for it so I have to go."

"Well have you seen this week's 'Echo'?  You two are on the front page, I saw it earlier.  Now everyone might stop talking about you, eventually."

"Good, that was the idea.  We will leave around three, the car should be ready then."

"Are you still taking that bed down?  I can fit it in my garage if you want?" Ellie offered, now a lot of Fred's baby equipment had gone but she still had to tell Beth she'd let the cot go, she'd assumed their baby was still in the crib.

"No, we are going to leave it for now, in case Daisy comes back, we are then going to look for a sofa bed.  We were going to look for a bigger place but Rose seems to like it there though she's not keen on carrying Jack down the stairs."

"Well if she lived in her mother's flat, it's hardly surprising.  Even if you move, she'll have the same problem."

"Aye, I just have to give her some time, I suggested she held Jack and followed me down."

"She'll soon get her confidence.  I'll come back at three then?"

"Do you know about parking permits?  I got one when I rented the cottage but Rose will have to leave her car around the front, I hardly got in the other day."

"Olly has one, I'll ask him for you."

Just after three, Ellie dropped him at the garage and Alec went to settle the bill.  He found a place to park and put his permit from his own car in and used the 'Police' sign he got from the desk sergeant on their way out in his own.  Rose had been out for a walk along the east pier and had met Beth Latimer, Rose recognising her from the papers.

Beth was fussing over Lizzie as Rose reach where she was sitting.

"Hi, mind if I join you?" Rose asked, since Jack had fallen asleep.  It seemed the fresh sea air did that to him.

"Yeah, how old is he?" Beth indicated to Jack, who was now laid back, clutching his toy.  "Does he always keep hold of that?" she smiled.

"Yeah, it's special to him.  I'm Rose, that's Jack, he's seven months, well just about.  I just moved here a few days ago, though it was quite by accident."

"I never thought anyone came here by accident," Beth told her.

"Well my car broke down and I sort of got persuaded to stay.  I've just made friends with Ellie."

"Oh, she asked me about the baby equipment, you're the one she lent it to?  I should have known she wouldn't just lend it out to anyone.  Lizzie's too small for any of that yet anyway though she just told me she lent you the cot but we're keeping Lizzie in the crib a bit longer.  Ellie said she didn't know if you were staying around though?"

"Well, it was a bit up in the air but yeah, we're staying.  I wasn't planning on it but things changed."

"You and Alec Hardy?"

"Ellie told you?"

"She said you were staying with someone and I saw the paper this morning."

Rose had forgotten all about it and wondered exactly what had been written but Alec would have something to say if it had still been suggested he was Jack's father.  She wanted him to take the job but when James had been for a visit on Sunday, would all that change?

Rose was glad to get her car back and planned on sorting out her insurance and other details the next day, changing her address and also seeing what the benefits office had to say now she was living with someone again.  Alec went with her on Thursday, since they wanted his proof of income and he was still on reduced hours and a bit of sick pay.  When they got out, Alec told her she'd nothing to worry about and that they would manage until a decision was made.

"We can manage love, don't fuss about it.  You still have some money left?"

"Well now I don't have to pay anything."

"Well on Saturday we will go down to the big supermarket and do the shopping, there is more to choose from and why don't we try Jack on some of the things we eat?"

"Such as chips?" Rose smiled, taking one from the carton as they sat by the river and Jack holding out his hand.

"Well not yet.  You don't seem very happy love, something wrong?"

"No, it's just all these changes, now I'm staying here."

"Well, you would have had to do it, wherever you settled.  At least now, I am here to help you."

"Yeah, thanks Alec.  No Jack, you can't have mummy's chips, you're not old enough yet.  Sure he's finished his food?"

"Yes, all of it," Alec confirmed, putting the empty bowl into the plastic bag and getting some milk out.

Jack eagerly held out his arms for the bottle, Alec supporting the bottom of it.

"He'll be holding it on his own soon," Rose remarked.

Alec was hoping not too soon but Jack was growing and taking more notice of things.

"Aye love, he will.  Worried about Sunday?"

"Yeah, now it's getting nearer.  I'm nervous about the two of you meeting."

Alec took her hand with the one that wasn't holding Jack's bottle.

"It will be fine, stop worrying eh?  I promise to be civil with James."

Rose smiled, she knew this wasn't going to be easy for any of them.  By Saturday, it was really telling on her how worried she was about the next day.  As they got back from shopping, Alec suggested he took Jack out for a walk and let her have an hour to herself.

"Rose, we could bring our bath night forward, if you want?"

"No, I've got pains, I think I'll just lie down for a while.  Sorry about not going swimming, I don't want to risk it and I can't expect you to take him on your own."

"That does not have to stop you from going love."

"Yeah it does, it can happen any time now, trust it to be a bit early.  Shame I can't get something waterproof like those swimming nappies we just got for Jack.  We can go next week or maybe one afternoon when you get out of work?  I could go early and you could come and join us?"

"We will do that then.  Now, I will take Jack out and you take it easy and I will make lunch when we get back."

Not being able to do much that night except kiss and get as close as they could, Alec lay with her, assuring her he'd been through much worse with his ex wife.

"I told you Rose, I swear Tess had two a month, I don't want you to go worrying about it.  Now get some sleep love eh?  You are already too wound up about tomorrow."

"I know, sorry.  What if Jack won't go to him?"

"He will love, if anything, it will be James worrying about Jack not going to him.  Just feed Jack as normal in the morning, get everything ready for him going out and when James calls, go meet him and I will wait here for you.  Then bring James back here and while you are out, I will put the playpen up so he can see Jack has somewhere safe to play and you can show him Jack's room if you want?"

"I can't take Jack upstairs, I won't be able to carry him back down."

"Rose, you have been doing fine following me downstairs with him, you can do it on your own love or suggest James carries him down."

"You won't mind seeing them together?"

"Rose, when the visit is over and James has gone back to London, you and Jack will be staying here and that is all that matters to me."
Chapter 15
James was up early, getting ready for the drive down to Broadchurch though he wondered why Rose's car had to decide to break down there, of all places when he knew for a fact he had a double there.  It had not escaped his attention while the murder investigation was going on but he'd never got around to telling Rose, when that boy had been killed last July, she had been pregnant.

Now, he was beginning to regret letting her go and it was too late to tell her, since she had admitted she had found his double and had moved in with him but if Alec Hardy thought he was going to win his son over, well that was a different matter.  On the other hand, Jack was growing and might easily mistake the detective for him so when he got there, he hoped the boy would come to him.

Alec had got Jack out of his cot, just like any other morning this last week and he still couldn't quite believe it had been such a short time and how they'd soon settled down.  If all went well today, he was going to suggest that next Saturday, they would get Chloe Latimer to babysit or Miller take the boy and they would go out for the evening though Miller might be the better option, then they wouldn't have to check on him.

They had just got downstairs when Rose's mother rang her after James had told her he was setting off.

"Hello Jackie, how are you?" he'd asked who had almost been his mother-in-law.

"Are you going down to visit Rose and Jack?"

"Yeah, nothing's changed.  They might have moved away but I'm still going to see him."

"Well next time, maybe I could go with you?" she asked, now wishing she'd spent more time with her grandson when he'd been there but she'd had a business to run and she'd not thought they were going to stay over three months.

"Jackie, I hate to tell you this but you're part of the reason they moved, remember?  I'm just as much to blame, I know that, we both drove her and Jack away and now, there's nothing I can do about it, she's found someone else."

"I know, she told me.  It's my fault she left."

"Never mind that, anything you want me to tell her?"

"Just I'm sorry for how I treated her."

"You and me both Jackie."

So Rose was answering her mobile, Alec seeing to Jack.

"Hi Mum, what are you doing, calling early on a Sunday morning?"

"James just called me, says he's coming down to see Jack?"

"Yeah, I'm not stopping him, why do things have to change just because I'm down here?"

Jack decided to start making noises, Alec trying to hush him.

"I can hear him, how's he doing?  Is that what's his name, Alec, with him?"

"Yes Mum, his name's Alec.  Why wouldn't he be with him, we live here now."

Rose didn't think it was a good idea to tell her mother that most of the week she'd been calling Alec his dad in front of the boy, well that and how his real dad would be coming to see him.

"I'm sorry Rose, for driving you away."

"It's over and done with Mum, me and Jack are happy here, with Alec.  I'm not coming back, except for a visit, maybe in a few weeks?"

"I asked James to bring me with him next time."

"Mum, that's not a good idea.  It's the time James spends with Jack, I just leave Jack with him for a couple of hours, then we leave or now, we stay here and James goes home, I can't change that."

Jackie was disappointed but when all said and done, she'd been the one responsible for Rose doing what she'd thought best, getting away.  Rose had gone to her when she and James had split up and she'd thought her business was more important but she thought Rose was gone for good. When she'd come back and announced she was moving in with James and that she'd been pregnant, she thought that was that, she never expected her to come back.

James turned off at the second sign for Broadchurch, Rose having told him the first one went the long way around and he followed her directions to the harbour car park and went to get an all day ticket.  It was just after twelve, he'd made good time, taking a break about halfway and texting Rose he was on his way.

Rose was eager to get it over with and Alec could tell as they watched Jack playing on the fluffy blue rug they'd bought.

"I wish he'd hurry up and get here," Rose said suddenly, breaking the silence.

Alec didn't know what else to do, he'd been trying to keep her calm all morning and Jack was blissfully unaware.  Alec went to pick him up and sat him between them.

"Now Jack, let's calm your mum down eh?  Let's get you ready and we will all go for a walk, just across the harbour."

"No Alec, I don't want James to see us all together, not yet."

"Rose, he will see me when you come back.  What difference is it going to make?  He won't get back in his car and leave without seeing Jack first."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right and anyone that's seen you with Jack will assume you've had a bit of a shave and taking him out on your own."

Alec kissed her cheek.  "That was the idea love, see, it will be easier than you thought, no-one will ever know.  Think about it?"

Rose got everything ready while Alec put Jack in the stroller and fastened on the duck, Jack reaching for it and Alec tapping his nose with it.

"Tell James not to lose that, if he takes Jack out of the stroller."

"Yeah, don't worry, I will.  Ready?"

They walked across the road and towards the station to the other pier, sitting down at the end.  Rose was looking at the houses on the side of the cliff.

"We can't afford to live there love," Alec told her, taking her hand and tickling Jack as he went for his socks.  "Tell James to watch those as well."

"We should get him some shoes soon."

"Why, he will just take those off to get to his feet.  It will be warmer soon, then he can go without or I will tie them on, like Daisy used to do with her gloves."

Rose smiled at the thought and squeezed his hand as they sat, facing the cliff and away from the east pier as James had pulled in. 

James put the ticket in his car, wondering why it wasn't free on Sundays but he'd just missed that.  He got his phone out to call Rose to say he'd arrived, looking across the harbour at the other pier and seeing two people sitting together then looking again, seeing it had to be Rose when he caught sight of a stroller.  He was about to press her number when he saw her leaning on Alec's shoulder.  He hesitated, wondering if he should just get back in his car and drive off but he'd come all this way to see his son, he shouldn't let that put him off, he had to get used to the idea she was never coming back to him.

He thought back, they had never really gone out that much as a family, except sometimes on Saturday afternoons when Rose wanted to go shopping or the odd Sunday in the park.  Rose answered her mobile when James's name came up.

"Hi Rose, I'm outside that harbour café, are you across on that other pier?"

"Yeah, how did you guess?  I'll set off now, just wait there."

"I can come over Rose."

"Fine.  We'll wait then."  She turned to Alec.  "Looks like you two are gonna meet a bit sooner.  Now everyone will be confused if they see me handing Jack to your double."

"Aye, it should keep the locals amused after that story eh?  I could go now, if you wanted?"

"No, you'll still bump into each other unless you go hide in the station?"

"I am not hiding, we have been through that already love.  Besides, he won't take long to walk round, I will just wait with you.  What do you think Jack?"

Jack yawned, Rose thinking James would be talking to himself for two hours, there wasn't much to do which was why she had suggested meeting in Weymouth but James had insisted he came here so if Jack went to sleep, it would be two hours of sitting on the pier or the beach with him.

"Come on Jack, don't go to sleep now, your real dad will be here in a minute.  Oh, that's him," Rose pointed out and Jack looked up at the word 'Dad', holding his arms out to Alec.  "No Jack, not that one," Rose smiled.

James caught up with them, having thought he wouldn't have to face his double and rival to be Jack's dad for another few hours.

"Hello Rose.  Hi there Jack, how are you doing buddy?"

Jack just looked at Alec, then James, totally confused and held his arms out to James, who was relieved.

"See Alec, I told you he knew the difference," Rose told Alec as James picked up Jack.  "Why don't we leave you two here and meet you at the end in two hours?" she asked.

"Is there anywhere else to go?" James asked hopefully

"Just the rest of the esplanade, the harbour you passed and the beach.  You can put him on the sand for a while, we went down the coast last Sunday, he likes going in the water."

James looked up at his almost except for the scruffy beard twin, not that he himself had shaved that morning, Sunday was his day off.  Alec felt just as bad coming face to face with Jack's dad and neither of them wanted to be the first to say anything.

"Yeah, I'll take him down on the beach then we'll go look at the boats, eh Jack?"

"Here's his bag, there's milk, some ready made food and a nappy and wipes but he was changed before we came out, he's got those better nappies now that last about eight hours or more, they're worth paying a bit more for, I just changed him so he wouldn't get upset later."

She leaned over to Jack, who was looking at his dad then Alec.

"Have fun you two, don't fall asleep on your dad will you baby?" she told him, kissing his cheek.  "Bye then, be a good boy for your dad."

James was standing behind the stroller, taking off the brake.

"Come on Jack, say bye to your mum and Uncle Alec."

"Actually James, we don't call him that, I was gonna talk to you later about it."

"Yeah, I think we'd better Rose.  Did your mum call you?"

"Yeah, don't bring her down next time, please?"

"No, I wouldn't have without asking first.  So, two hours, back here?"

"Yeah, fine, call if you need anything."

"No-one's going to arrest me for kidnapping him are they?"

Rose didn't know if he was joking or not, until he smiled.

"Just checking.  I expect they've seen the two of you around and think nothing of it now?  You went to the paper?"

It was Alec who replied.

"The town's reporter had already picked up the story, I just confirmed a few things.  Don't let us keep you?"

James was stalling and he knew it, hoping ten minutes had been cut off his time but Rose said nothing and got up, Alec already doing so and kissing Jack's cheek.

"Be good for your dad eh Jack?"

Jack waved his arms and legs and grabbed his duck.

"Don't let him lose that or his socks, will you James?" Rose asked.

James just nodded and waved, Alec leading Rose away down the pier.

"Come on Rose, you have to leave them, you know that?"

He put his arm around her and they walked off, leaving James facing his son.

"Well then Jack, what are we going to do around here for two hours eh?  You like going in the water?" he asked, getting up and seeing if Rose had left a towel in the bag, which she had along with a spare pair of thin cotton leggings.

"She thinks of everything your mum does.  So, the water it is then?"

James set off, figuring out how to get onto the beach, which had lots of pebbles until he walked a bit further down and was only able to get so far so he gave up and sat on the wall and took the boy out, leaving the duck in the stroller.  He put the towel on the sand and sat the boy down.  Ellie was out for a walk with Fred and saw who she thought was Alec on the beach, forgetting Rose had told her his dad was coming for a visit and of course, Fred went straight for him.

"Hardee!" the boy shouted before Ellie could catch up with the boy.

"Sorry young man, you got the wrong guy."

"Hardee!" the boy repeated, looking at Jack.

"Fred, come back here," Ellie shouted, thinking her boss had actually shaved that morning.  "Sorry Alec, you know what he's like.  You and Jack giving Rose a rest?"

James thought if he could do a decent Scottish accent, he might get away with it.

"Sorry, I'm not him, you know him and Rose?"

"Oh, sorry, you're Jack's dad then?  Rose wasn't joking.  I'm Ellie, I work with him and sorry, we'll be on our way.  Come on Fred."

"Hardee!" the boy tried again.

"No Fred, it's not him.  It looks like Jack's nodding off.  Do you want a hand getting off the beach?"

"Nah, it's fine, I may as well stay here, there's not much else to do.  What do you do around here all day?"

"I work and it's not that bad, Rose likes it here but after London and the past few months, I don't blame her."

"Is that directed at me?" James asked, getting up as Jack nodded forwards, almost losing the blue sunhat.

He put Jack in the stroller, letting it ease back.

"No, just that she had to live with her mother in one room most of the time.  Is that not true?"

"Yes, it was true and I drove her there, did she tell you that?  I'm the reason she's here now, with him."

"I'll leave you with your son then.  You won't have much trouble, people are used to him pushing Jack around but watch out for my nephew, he's the reporter around here."

"They've been in the paper, I know.  Can't say I fancy reading about them though.  Actually, a little help wouldn't go amiss, if you can take the front of the buggy?"

Once they got back on the esplanade, he thanked Ellie for helping him and gave a pound coin to Fred to buy an ice-cream later.

"Don't have it before your lunch, will you?" he asked Fred, who was still wondering what the other boy was doing with him.

"No, we're waiting for my eldest coming back, he's gone off with some friends.  They're over the other side of the harbour playing football, Fred was getting that he wanted to join in.  I thought Rose would have been with you?"

"No, I get two hours on my own.  She suggested meeting in Weymouth, wish I'd said yes now, I still have over an hour."

"You could go get something to eat, Jack might be hungry when he wakes up."

"Yeah, thanks for the idea, I might do that.  Nice to have met you Ellie."

"I'd join you but the office already talk about him and Rose, they'd have more to talk about if they saw us sitting together."

James smiled at the thought of Hardy having been seen with a co-worker and Rose's son, her son and them all eating together.

"Yeah, best not then, Fred keeps looking at me.  I didn't think Jack would come to me, being here a week with him."

"You've not got a beard," Ellie pointed out. 

She wondered what the difference was between the two men that had made Rose run away from one and into the arms of his twin but there again, Rose had said James didn't want the job of being Jack's dad and Hardy did.

"Nice to have met you too James," Ellie told him as they got to the corner near the police station, having got Fred past the ice-cream stall.

"Yeah.  Well I've got an hour before I meet Rose back here, where are the food stalls?"

"There are some around that corner and some across the other side."

"Oh, yeah, I passed them earlier, I forgot.  Well since Jack's asleep, I may as well stay here, I was hoping he'd stay awake a bit longer now he's getting older."

Ellie went off, leaving James to wheel the stroller up to one of the stalls and order some fish and chips, hoping it would pass the hour that was left and Jack would wake up when he'd finished eating.  Lucky for him Jack did exactly that half an hour later and wanted feeding.  Since he was still feeding the boy five minutes before he was meant to meet Rose, he sent her a text to say where he was.

Rose and Alec had been talking about how James was going to react seeing where his son lived and Alec fussing over him.  She was about to set off again when she got the message where to meet James.

"Jack must have wanted feeding," she told Alec, showing him the message.

"Go on love, go meet them."

Rose was anxious to find out how they'd got on so seeing James just putting everything away, she went to join them, Jack holding his arms out to her.  Jack was now used to Alec taking him out of the stroller to have his milk but James had left him in.

"Hi baby.  You had your milk?"

Jack made a noise and tried to get to her.

"He had some of that food then his milk, I left him in there.  Do you normally take him out to feed him?"

"Just his milk but Alec usually does that.  Do you want to come back with us?"

"Yeah, that would be good, right Jack?  Can I push him?"

"Yeah, why not?  It's not far, see that pub over there?  We live just behind it."

They set off and James admitted he'd met her friend Ellie.

"She thought you were Alec?" Rose laughed.

"It's not funny Rose, I could have an identity crisis, not to mention her own son being confused.  How do you think this will affect Jack?"

"Me and Alec talked about it, we think Jack can tell the difference, you saw it yourself earlier."

"Well he didn't refuse to come to me I suppose but this is an unusual situation."

"Why is it?  Lots of kids have two dads," she told him as they walked towards the cottage.

"Well yes but how many kids have two identical dads?"

Rose opened the door to the cottage then turned to get Jack out of the stroller.  Alec came to the door, forgetting she already had some help, Jack kicking his legs when he saw him.  Rose thought it best to hand Jack over to James, even though it would normally be to Alec.  Alec was a bit put out but could understand her doing so.  He just had to let her do what she thought best, it wasn't easy for any of them.

"Had a good time with your dad?" Rose asked him, waving the duck at him.

Jack laughed and went for it, Rose pulling it away and then handing it to him.

"Glad you kept your socks," she added, even though one was coming off and she pulled it back on.  "Alec, guess what happened to James?"

"I don't know, what happened to you James?"

Rose answered for him, laughing.  "Ellie thought he was you, ha!"

"Yes, that's very amusing Rose," James told her as he went to sit down with Jack, who wanted to go to Rose.

"James, put him in the playpen for a while," she suggested so neither him nor Alec could complain, since Alec was looking a bit off.

"Rose, why don't you show him Jack's room and I will make some tea?"

"Yeah, come on James, Ellie lent me some of Fred's old stuff."

James followed her upstairs, seeing the single bed near the cot.

"Do you sleep in here with him?"

He knew the answer already.

"No, I had enough sharing a room with him at my mum's.  What do you expect James?"

"Sorry.  Well Jack seems happy enough, Alec must get on well with him?"

"Yeah, they get on well together.  About what I mentioned earlier.  I've started calling Alec his dad, just here, not when we go out."

"I see.  That's a bit quick."

"Jack spends a lot of time with him, he likes Alec to give him his milk at night and get him up.  It's really surprising how he's wanting to do things like that.  Come back downstairs, Alec wants to talk to you."

"I bet he does."

While James had been out with Jack, Alec had suggested a few changes in their arrangements but Rose didn't think James would be so keen.

Alec had made the tea and they sat down, Rose sitting next to him.

"Rose and I wanted to ask you, well from next month, we don't want you to feel you have to keep giving her money for Jack.  I am going to see about going back to work full-time, I expect you know what happened to me?"

"Rose mentioned it and I read the papers.  If that's what you want though I would rather just reduce the amount, you can open an account for Jack."

"We'll think about it and Rose will let you know.  I would have asked you stop already but Rose had her car to pay for and I have been on short hours.  Rose thinks she can cope if I go back full time."

James got up and went over to Jack.  The boy looked up at him and James thought that when he got older, he would favour Alec rather than himself and he was glad they'd not asked him to stop his visits but would that come later?  He picked the boy up, wishing now he'd paid more attention and not let Rose slip away so easily, both himself and her mother had lost her.

~~~~{ silversurfer60 }~~~~

Jack's first birthday was approaching.  All through the summer, Rose had him out almost every day, sometimes meeting up with Beth and Lizzie, they took him to the pool every Saturday afternoon and on Rose's 'off' days, Alec would sit in the baby pool with him, Rose watching from a chair where they kept their things.

Daisy had been for several visits and they had found another cottage just on the road out of town, a two bedroom with a large attic for when Daisy stayed and they planned on moving Jack into it as he got older.  James was due to visit on the Sunday, two days after Jack's actual birthday, to which Tom and Fred were coming over for a little party and Rose had relented and said her mother could come with him, if she wanted.

The month before, they had talked to James about Alec adopting Jack at some point, if ever they decided to get married and James had gone away to think about it so they were anxious for his answer.

The night before Jack's birthday, they were talking in bed and Alec decided it was time for a very serious talk.

"Rose, you know I love you?"

"Yeah, I know you do, what's all this about?"

"Well now Jack in one, if James agrees to let me go about adopting Jack, well how about a brother or sister for him?"

"Oh.  He'll have a big sister to watch out for him already."

"I know but maybe one a bit closer to his age?" he asked, going to hover over her and putting his hand on her leg, creeping higher.

"We'll he'd be almost two by that time so, yeah, okay?"

"Yes Rose, even if James says no, it will not change my mind but maybe we can come to a compromise with him?"

Rose wondered what that was going to be.  The party was a success, Alec and Rose getting Jack a ride-on toy but he still clung hold of the duck Alec had given him almost six months ago.  When James went to pick up Jackie, she was keen to get going, they'd only been up once to see her, Alec had taken the long bank holiday weekend off and he'd booked a hotel not far away.

Jackie hardly spoke on the way down but when she saw the sign for Broadchurch, she found her voice.

"I wonder why Rose likes it down here so much?" she asked him.

"Because my double is still here, that's why.  Did she tell you, he wants to see about adopting Jack?"

"No, she never told me but why would she?  Have you said yes?"

"Not yet, I haven't made my mind up and they want an answer when I get there."

"It's a lot to ask of you, they've only been together for five months."

"Seems that's enough time, they were only with me six months and Rose was never really mine.  Jack was an accident, did she tell you that?"

"No, she was happy when you got back and she moved in with you."

"Well I thought we were, until she told me she was pregnant, what was I supposed to do, abandon her?  I did my best Jackie, really I did but it seems that wasn't enough after Jack came along.  She thinks Alec's been more of a father to him than I was.  She was right."

For once, Jackie Tyler was lost for words.  When they arrived, Jackie made a fuss over Jack, who almost didn't remember her and they all went for a walk down to the harbour, Jack loved watching the boats.  When they went back, Rose took her mother into the kitchen while Alec and James talked.

"We're thinking about having our own, now Jack's a bit older," Rose told her mother, who almost choked on her tea.

"That's a bit soon isn't it?"

"We don't think so, there won't be much between them, Alec doesn't want to leave too long a gap.  His daughter's sixteen, he reckons that's enough."

James and Alec were watching Jack with some of his new toys, James had got him a musical train and Jackie had got him a boat for his bath.

"So, have you made up your mind then?" Alec asked, hoping to get an answer so he could make enquiries.

"I'm very torn up about it but I should have expected it I suppose, when I first found out.  I'm a reasonable man, I'll do what's best for him on one condition?"

Alec was relieved.  "Name it?"

"That you don't shut me out and I get to see him, every three months."

"Agreed, Rose would not like you to miss him growing up, she said Jack would never see his grandad so she wanted him to have two dads."

"Identical ones?" James smiled.

"I think we can all live with that, eh Rose?" Alec asked as she came back in.

"Yeah.  Thanks James."

"I know Jack has a happy home, who am I to deny him that?"

The next day, Alec went to the town hall to see about adopting, once James signed the papers, he would officially be Jack's dad, not that he hadn't been the last five or so months, since the day Rose's car broke down just outside Broadchurch and he'd unexpectedly had his appointment switched from Exeter to Dorchester.  If he didn't know any better, he would have thought it had all been carefully arranged to give Rose and Jack an happier life than the one they had been living but most of all, in the not too distant future, another child of his own, something not even a year ago he thought he'd never have and now he had Rose, Jack and he'd got his daughter back.

Not bad for someone who Miller had told him he'd died on her.

The End!