Travelling Circus

Share on Tumblr

Alec Hardy is dismayed the circus has come to Broadchurch and he and his DS are put in charge of making sure they comply with local laws. He watches as a blonde trapeze artist is practising, who is Rose Tyler, the owner's daughter and he thinks it may not be so bad after all. Things go wrong though while she's trying to impress him after Rose falls in love with him.

Chapter 1

It was just another boring day after the two sorry specimens had been locked up for assaulting women in the local area and Katie Harford was back on probation pending a decision to let her back as a DC for not revealing a suspect had been her father. The chief had left it up to Alec to decide her fate.

"So are you letting her back then?" Ellie was asking him as they sat in his office.

"I've not made my mind up yet Miller. What was she even thinking of? I sent her home, she claimed she'd told us everything then she comes to find me while I'm walking home along the beach with Daisy. What do you think?" he asked.

"That she got a shock when I gave her a roasting, well that's putting it mildly," Ellie grinned. "She was insubordinate to me as well, refusing to carry out an order. Let her stew for a while. I just got this from the chief, which is why I came to see you. I didn't come in here for a social visit."

"Did I say anything?" he replied dryly. "So go on then."

She tossed a folder across the desk to him. 

"You might be glad you finally moved from that riverside shack," was all she replied.

"You are joking?" he asked as he read the short memo Ellie had received half an hour ago. "Give it to Harford, see how she likes that since she acted like a clown."

"Your sense of humour still sucks. No, the chief wanted senior officers on this, who knows what sort of people it will attract. I don't recall a circus being here before. Was one in town while I was in Devon?" she asked.

"You think I take any notice? No, not while I was living by the showground. What went on when I left town? You were back then."

Ellie shook her head, this was getting them nowhere.

"They'll be setting up, didn't you see anything on your way to work?" she wanted to know.

"I gave up crossing the river and looking at where I used to live Miller. If that's the most exciting thing going on, it will have to do. Well don't just sit there, go get the car."

Ellie grinned at him. A few months had gone by and the women of Broadchurch felt safe walking the streets again but Hardy hadn't been sure and she'd been glad when his daughter had finally persuaded him to let her visit her mother, they were still a bit at odds with each other.

"It's quicker to walk and you have no excuse now, you're not ill any more," she reminded him.

Alec did one of his usual huffs and got up. They walked across the harbour and came to the gap in the wall where the footbridge was, Ellie noticing the stall where the girlfriend of the main culprit of their last big case had stood there and lied to them over where he'd been. She'd seen the Big Top as they had crossed the road bridge, it was visible over the buildings and she hoped she'd get some free tickets for herself and Fred, she'd no chance of getting Tom to agree to go, unless there were semi-naked women prancing around.

"Remember when the fair had set up when you got home one night?" Ellie teased him as they bypassed the gate he used to go through.

"Don't remind me. I would imagine the circus owner will be inside the tent?" he asked.

Ellie wanted to correct him but it would be a waste of time. She saw a group of men in clown outfits and stopped to ask one of them.

"Hi, is the owner around?" she smiled at the dark-skinned man with cropped hair.

"He's not hiring," the man replied, sarcastically, Alec thought.

"We're on police business," Alec snapped, getting his ID card out of his jacket pocket.

"You want Pete Tyler then, he's in the Big Top. Just ask inside," another man replied, nudging the first man.

Ellie and Alec went off and the man who had told them gave the other one a shove.

"Don't mess with the cops Mickey, you know what Pete's like?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. I swear I've seen that bloke before," Mickey replied.

"He's been all over the news Smith," another one told him. "Don't you remember that Rose pointed him out and you got jealous?"

They all started patting Mickey's shoulder and laughing.

"I hate clowns," Alec muttered as they walked into the open tent, Ellie laughing to herself. They stopped as they saw the final touches being put to the ring and a man stood in the middle in a ringmaster's outfit. The man was talking to a blonde haired woman and they looked like they were arguing.

"Pete, I keep telling ya, she's gonna do something stupid one of these days if ya don't get Jake to back off."

"Relax Jackie, Rose won't give in until she's sure she can do it and we do have a safety net you know?" Pete replied, unaware they were being watched and someone was pointing at him.

"You don't need to be a detective to see who's in charge around here," Ellie smiled.

"You mean the woman?" Alec mused as they approached.

"Hi, are you Pete Tyler?" Ellie shouted out.

Pete looked around. 

"Unfortunately," he replied as his wife walked towards the exit.

Alec was too busy staring as a man and a woman were preparing to climb a ladder and the owner, well if it was the owner was moving out of the way as the safety net was being put out, Alec thinking if they fell, they would just bounce straight off it, it was more like a trampoline.

"We're from Wessex police, we wanted to discuss a few things with you," Ellie told him as they got their ID out, Alec for a second time.

Pete led them to the front row of seating as the two trapeze artists began to practice. Ellie knew she was going to be the one asking the questions, Hardy was already up there with them, well with the woman anyway.

"I'll take a look around," Alec told her, getting up.

"Where's he going?" Pete asked Ellie.

"He can't sit still for five minutes, trust me," Ellie grinned back.

Alec went to stand where he could get a better view, unaware what the two now flying backwards and forwards had been talking about before they'd climbed up there.

"Jake, I'm not ready," Rose was trying to tell her partner. "Practice with Martha if ya have to."

"She's not on the bill as the star attraction, is she?" Jake reminded him. "Besides, you two hate each other, I'm surprised you've not shoved her off the horse yet," he added with a laugh.

"Very funny Jake. You know my dad would go spare if she got injured, she's the lead on the horses. Who are those two talking to my dad?" she asked as they walked to the ladder and the gang were getting the net ready, well the trampoline anyway, she couldn't get used to it when at the last town, they'd 'upgraded' the safety equipment and they'd been having to practice falling onto it.

"It's not a trampoline, as such," Jake was telling her as she started climbing the ladder.

"You could've fooled me," Rose replied.

They discussed what they were going to practice, Rose looking down and seeing the man had walked off, obviously to get a better view. As Jake pulled the bars towards him from the middle, Rose swore the man looked familiar. Then it dawned on her – they were in Broadchurch, of course the detective she'd read about would be in charge of making sure the circus complied with the law.

Ellie had just joined him.

"Ready to leave or are you staying for the show?" Ellie teased him as he watched how graceful the woman was.

"What? You got sorted then?" he asked, trying to tear himself away.

"I got offered some free tickets, want one?" she grinned.

"What for?" he asked indignantly. "Oh, you're bringing wee Fred with you? Count me out, I'm not sitting with you."

Ellie was about to whack his arm when the woman above them did a double somersault in mid air.

"Who are you fooling?" she asked him. "The owner said three tickets would be at the ticket office for tonight's performance at half six. I'll need to leave early to collect Fred."

"Can't your father bring him down?" Alec wanted to know as Rose swung a bit more then the two of them changed places.

"No he doesn't drive any more and I've no car of my own. I must see about keeping the police one. Do you know what it was like when that monster was preying on women and I had to walk home?" she asked.

She was talking to herself as the woman above them did another double somersault and gracefully aimed to the safety device. Ellie just rolled her eyes. "I'll see you back at the station then, after you've finished conducting your enquires as to how she does that?" she laughed.

Rose had got down from the safety device to make room for Jake and was stood across from Alec. Jake got off and began walking to the exit, Rose's mother watching them.

"What's she still doing out there?" Jackie asked him.

Jake just shrugged his shoulders, got his robe and walked off.

Alec hadn't realised Ellie had gone off laughing as he walked towards the exit after Rose, picking up what he thought was her robe and handing it to her, Jackie having been distracted.

"That must take a lot of practice?" he asked as she took the robe, Rose wondering where her mother had disappeared to.

"Yeah, you could say that. I know who you are," she replied.

Alec thought didn't everyone?

"Are you coming to the opening performance?" she asked, fastening her robe and Alec not being able to stop himself from watching.

Hell, what was he still doing there, he asked himself as she waited for an answer.

"If you know who I am, you'll know the owner offered some tickets," he replied. "So, you are?"

"I'm Rose, Rose Tyler. My dad owns the circus."

Alec knew he was asking for trouble if the man thought he was bothering his daughter, he'd be the same with Daisy.

"Of course he does," Alec tried to smile.

"Well, I'm the star attraction, so I've been told although some would disagree with that," she told him, that someone being Martha Jones, the former medical student who had given up after claiming some space rhinos had transported the hospital she'd worked at to the moon and some mad 'Doctor' had claimed he was also an alien.

She'd not believed any of it, especially when Martha had thrown in that the space rhinos had been looking for a shape-shifter.

"In that case, maybe if my colleague has a spare ticket, I may well come and watch?" he answered, seeing the other blonde woman walking towards them.

"Who's this then?" the woman asked Rose.

"It's DI Hardy, you remember him from the papers?" Rose replied.

"Yeah, your father just told me. Come on Rose, you have to get changed to practice your riding."

Alec was about to say he'd stay and watch when he got a text from his DS. It read 'If you can tear yourself away, Harford is waiting for an answer.'

He thought to himself, let her wait but he had to tear himself away.

"I have to go. I look forward to seeing both your performances tonight then," he told Rose, who was dying to giggle behind her robe sleeve that the detective was being coy.

Her mother had her arms folded and was tapping her foot.

"Now Rose," she reminded her daughter.

"Sorry, yeah, I have to go too. Gotta teach that Martha she's not the only one who rides the horses."

"Indeed?" was all Alec could think of in reply. "Then don't let me stop you."

He turned to leave but glanced behind him as Rose followed her mother, probably to get changed. It may well be worth his while sitting with Miller and her young son unless he got there first and asked for a seat on his own. Well at least the circus was advertised as mostly human performers, there were no wild animals, only horses and he thought it had not been before time that such practices were introduced.

He went via the food stalls, stopping to get something to eat and opting not to sit staring at his former home. Whatever had possessed him to take it in the first place? Everyone who had gone there had criticized it, including his ex wife and Miller's sister.

He crept into his office, hoping Miller wouldn't see him but of course she did, having sent her a message back saying Harford could wait for an answer – not adding until at least the circus left town. Why had he given all his attention to the young trapeze artist and an even better question was why the hell had he said he'd be at the opening performance?

What had started out as making sure the circus complied with the law was turning out to be something else. He'd not dared try the dating 'app' again after the last disaster of a date when he'd made a complete ass of himself for first turning up in a suit and being awkward all night. He vaguely remembered walking Zoe home and she'd in not so many words told him that was it. It seemed having a teenage daughter had put her off to start with then of course he'd bumped into Miller on the way home and she'd constantly teased him about it.

"So, coming tonight?" Ellie grinned at him a few hours later.

"I'll think about it, since Daisy's not here. I may see you there," he replied, trying not to seem so keen about it.

Ellie went back out and Katie approached her.

"Why's he taking so long to decide?" she asked Ellie.

"Katie, you're lucky he even allows you to be here," Ellie reminded her.

"Well I wish he'd chill out, honestly, I've never known anyone as gruff as him."

"He's been through a lot Katie, he almost died a few years ago. If he'd not got well again, you acting like you did would not have helped. Nothing to do?" Ellie asked her.

Just before five, Ellie knocked on his office door.

"I'm off to get Fred, see you there then?" she grinned at him.

"Maybe," he muttered back, taking his specs off.

Maybe a visit to the circus would take his mind off his suspicions Daisy wouldn't want to come back, since Tess had begun talking about maybe moving, which was why Daisy had gone to live with him in the first place, to get away.

He let Ellie go and decided he'd go home and see if he could stop himself from going back out just to see the young blonde trapeze artist make everyone gasp every time she grabbed hold of the swinging bar that stopped her from falling. He hadn't liked the look of the safety equipment but there were strict laws in place. He'd not been to the circus since he was a boy, Tess not approving of taking their daughter to one so maybe it was time?

He found himself crossing the footbridge again, now seeing crowds around the entrance and a small queue at the ticket office, supposing a lot of people preferred to book online and hoped he wouldn't see Miller there in the queue. Behind the Big Top he could see trailers and a few smaller tents and then the car park further back so he expected Miller would come from that direction, though he was a little early.

He saw the clowns, pretending to fool with the smaller children and expected two were who he had talked to earlier and went to get his ticket, feeling a bit guilty he wasn't paying for it as a family of four were in front of him.

"Hi there, how many tickets were you wanting?" a blonde with curly hair asked him, Alec thinking that was a wig if ever he saw one and the woman was sat on a high stool, he noticed.

"A ticket has been left for me by Mr Tyler, I'm Alec Hardy," he told the woman.

"Oh yeah, he told me, well he passed a message on. Here you go, just one? He told me three."

"Yes, my colleague will no doubt be arriving shortly. Are the tickets numbered?" he asked, hoping the answer was no.

"No, they're in the unreserved section, just show the ticket inside. Next," she continued as she gave him the ticket.

He assumed that was it and made his way to the entrance. Once inside, a girl asked for his ticket and pointed to the third block of seats along and left him to it. Kids were messing around looking for their seats and being told off by their parents and a few clowns were already fooling around in the ring. He walked around to where the artists entrance was, hoping to catch a glimpse of Rose Tyler.

Rose had just got away from her mother, who was fussing over hers and Jake's costumes and Jake was telling her that tomorrow at practice, he wanted her to try for the triple somersault.

"Geez Jake, quit hounding me," she was telling him. "I can't do it when everyone's buzzing about below me. Get them to stop and I'll think about it."

"You know everyone else has to practice at the side," Jake reminded her.

"I know. Just quit asking me then, it's not like dad's advertised it or anything," she replied, hoping the detective had decided to come and see the show.

Alec couldn't see her so he went to get his seat, seeing Miller and her son settling down so he went to sit higher up while she wasn't looking and hoped young Fred wouldn't turn around and shout 'Hardee!' to him. As the ringmaster entered and everyone began to cheer as the artists came to join him, all Alec was interested in was the star of the show – Rose Tyler.

Chapter 2

As they waited in the wings, Jake was teasing Rose after she'd told him to quit going on about her new trick, or lack of it anyway.

"I saw you talking to that man earlier, Jackie said he was in the police. What did he want anyway? Were ya talking to him because he was another pretty boy? Ya know Mickey will get jealous."

"Stop it Jake. Me and Mickey were through a long time ago, it's non of his business who I speak to, nor anyone else's," she replied, not wanting to say including him, since he had to catch her.

"Well I heard Tina saying some tickets had been left for the two police detectives who were here earlier. Maybe those two are together?" he grinned.

Rose wanted to smack his arm but thought she'd wait until after they were swinging up in the air, in case his arm went numb.

"Well why did he let her walk off then?" Rose replied, trying to ignore Martha, who obviously was trying to find out what they were talking about. "Want something Martha?"

"Me? No, why? You two talking about how you can't manage the triple somersault when even I can do it? Come on Rose, you've been doing it longer than me and you had more training," Martha replied.

"Well anyone could ride a horse as well, in case you forgot Martha," Rose sneered.

"Keeping their balance while moving around?" Martha questioned. "I somehow doubt that."

"Have you two finished?" Jake wanted to know. "Honestly, I'm surprised you've not shoved each other off the horses by now and as for sharing a trailer? Geez you two, pack it in."

"What's going on?" Jackie wanted to know as she tried to see to Rose's costume yet again.

"Nothing Mum, Jake was wanting me to try the triple again just because Martha likes showing off."

"Martha's taller than you, that makes it easier," her mother replied, Rose knowing her mother had no idea what it involved.

Martha was shaking her head but careful not to give the older woman any cheek back, she knew she'd be out if she did.

"Did I tell ya I was gonna work on a new costume for ya?" Jackie asked Rose, Rose thinking that was another garment she had to get used to but her mother's sewing was thankfully better than her cooking.

"What about our riding outfits?" Martha butted in.

"They're not as important Martha, Rose is the star attraction around here," Jackie replied, a proud look on her face. "She's been doing the trapeze longer than the horses, she only agreed to fill in and she got stuck with it. Shame Pete won't let her do the tightrope any more, she was really good at that."

"So is Amy," Rose reminded her mother.

"Maybe but people don't come to see her, do they?" her mother asked.

Rose thought she was getting nowhere and was scouring the faces she could make out to see if the detective was there. Maybe he'd back out and just let the woman he was with attend, maybe she had two kids and Pete would only give three tickets away at the most, he may like to impress the local law enforcement officers but he had profits to make.

She knew sometimes he'd let the local primary school pay a visit to watch rehearsals but that was different, not everyone got their acts right the first time but it amused the kids and it meant the clowns could get some practice in. Alec was trying his best to see behind the edge of the seating where the artists appeared to be coming from but he couldn't get a glimpse of Rose Tyler.

Why had he been thinking about her all day and he'd given in and wandered over the bridge then tried to sneak past Miller but he bet anything she'd seen him in spite of attending to her youngest son. He still couldn't get over how big young Fred Miller was getting, he didn't need pushing around any more, something he'd done for support on their walks while trying to solve the Sandbrook case but had given the boy's mother some other excuse for doing so.

The ringmaster stood right in the middle as two jugglers were finishing their act and everyone cheered as a man in a fancy costume began leading out four white horses, all with white feathers on the harnesses.

"Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys," Pete announced. "Tyler's circus proudly presents our two lovely bareback horse riders, Rose and Martha for your enjoyment, give them a big hand everyone!"

Alec found himself clapping as Rose led the way, Martha behind her, sulking as usual Rose had got her name mentioned first and she got to lead, even though she herself had done that before Pete had swapped everyone around and put Amy on the tightrope because she'd fallen out with Rory who looked after the horses.

She knew after that, the couple had got on better and to her just proved you should never be involved with a person you worked with but she'd not heeded it, she was still trying to get Mickey interested in her but at least they had different acts. As Rose was judging her move to climb onto the lead horse, Princess, her favourite, Alec was now paying full attention, just as Rose gave a leap and the crowd cheered as she landed gracefully, followed by Martha on the next but one horse, Honey.

Martha knew she didn't get cheered nearly as much as she used to, after Rose had become her partner and she was also stuck with the boss's daughter in a cramped trailer when Rose decided to move out of her parents larger one, for what reason other than to annoy her, Martha didn't know but Amy had moved out to move in with Rory so Rose had seen her chance of being independent. She knew it just had to be her luck Rose had chosen to be independent with her.

Alec was watching, now wishing he'd sat closer to the ringside but that would have meant Miller or Fred would have seen him and insisted they sat with him, since none of that section of seating was reserved. It was too late now to creep down and hope he wouldn't be spotted as most of the seats further down were taken or kids were messing around and pretending they weren't with their parents.

He watched as Rose did somersaults and back flips from one horse to another while they were moving. Then some large round stands were brought out, reminding him of elephants the time he'd been taken to the circus as a boy but he watched the two women do their acts though his eyes were only on Rose as her horse raised its hooves onto one of the stands.

He couldn't remember being so fascinated watching anyone before, he'd never bothered going to see shows for the sake of it, Tess had seen to that and stopped him taking Daisy to the circus but while Rose was in town, he could make the effort to come and see her again and she'd not even done her other act yet. That, he was eagerly awaiting if her practice earlier was anything to go by but he'd had a feeling she and her partner had been arguing over something, the way he'd gone off without waiting for her. Maybe the other man was jealous Rose had stopped to talk to him?

No, it couldn't have been that, it had to be something else. He thought maybe the man was wanting to change their routine and Rose wasn't keen on it. Well either that or he wanted Rose to do something different that she wasn't happy about. He just hoped it wasn't anything dangerous, he still didn't like the look of that safety device.

Everyone was cheering as Rose completed showing off her skills on the horse she was on the back of as she let the man looking after the horses lead the animal back to the others, Rose doing a somersault off its back and landing out of the way of the others, Martha already having got off and knowing she had nothing more to do while Rose was showing off again.

Alec was now miles away, everyone around him was cheering, he expected Miller and her son were doing the same but he couldn't pick them out, since Miller hadn't been wearing that bright orange coat of hers that you could spot miles off. She'd tried to argue it was so her kids could find her easily but he didn't believe her, he and Tess had managed with Daisy.

He watched as the ringmaster introduced the clowns, who had been roaming around the edge of the ring and tormenting small children in the front row but he suspected workers were preparing for the main attraction. He was right but there was one more act before Rose and Jake would climb up to the trapeze and Alec thought about just leaving after seeing her and try to catch her before she went back in the ring but he thought he'd maybe get caught by one of the clowns as he tried to sneak off and he had no desire to be made a fool of.

Beside, trying to find her in the crowd of circus artists wouldn't be easy as everyone would be talking or getting changed and what would he say to her anyway? He'd at most get to say she'd been good on the horses but he knew that wasn't her main act, that was still to come and maybe he'd be best waiting until she'd completed it.

He watched the clowns try to drive off in a car that had seen better days as some acrobats came on. He wondered how the circus in general filled the spots now they no longer had elephants, lions and tigers but he'd hated the fact the animals were used to entertain people apart from being watched in a zoo or a safari park. This circus though had attracted a big enough audience on the opening night, considering he'd not seen any posters for it.

There again, he'd not been looking for any, had he? He thought maybe the council had considered everyone needed their minds taking off what had happened recently and it was just what the town had needed and maybe this particular circus had added the extra dates to their busy schedule. Maybe if he was lucky, he'd get to ask Rose later how they had been asked to visit the town, well that and ask her if she wanted to spend some time with him.

Before he realised, the acrobats were tumbling out of the ring and he'd not noticed ropes had been moving to put the bars above the crowds into position and the safety device was being brought into the ring and carefully placed. He expected the workers knew exactly where to place it and the trapeze artists themselves had chosen it but he still preferred to have seen the old-fashioned actual net there instead.

He expected the circus had to keep up with the times but safety would never be compromised, not like decades ago when it was considered more thrilling if no net was in place at all. Now, they would probably get closed down for not complying with the current health and safety laws, though that wasn't down to the local police, they'd just gone to make sure about crowd control and anything else Miller had thought of while he went off to admire the blonde who was now being introduced.

Now, his mended heart was making his pacemaker work overtime as he caught sight of Rose again, taking off the robe she'd hastily put on after finishing her other act and quickly getting changed into her other costume. What he didn't know was that Martha had been griping yet again to her.

"Leave off Martha, quit complaining," Jackie had told her when she'd heard the two of them. "What you got against Rose?"

Martha thought how long a list did she want?

"We never discussed she was going to start doing that bit at the end," she complained instead.

"She discussed it with Rory, didn't ya Rose?" Jackie asked her daughter.

"Come on Rose, this can wait," Jake was telling her, trying to get her to move forward.

"Well you could have fooled me," Martha was calling after her.

"Geez Martha, I wish ya'd quit finding fault all the time, just 'cos you used to have the lead. It was my dad's decision, not mine to move Amy but she was probably just as jealous of you as you are of me," Rose turned to tell her.

"Forget it Rose, ya have to concentrate on what's gonna happen up there," Jake was pointing to the bars as they'd been pulled back. "That detective might be out there, ya don't wanna mess it up do ya?"

Rose thought about it. No, she didn't want to mess up in front of the rather good-looking detective inspector she'd met earlier.

"Ya don't wanna try the triple then?" Jake asked as they took their robes off and walked forward.

"Not until I get it right in practice," Rose replied, trying to look confident.

Could she remain confident, all the way up there and knowing one pair of eyes in particular would be watching her every move? It was another matter riding the horses though an accident could result in a horse trampling either herself or Martha but compared with falling all that way down and missing the new safety device because all she could think about was a certain Alec Hardy, that was entirely different.

Pete was back in the ring. "Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys," he repeated again, something Jackie had told him he did too much of and he should just get on with it. "Now to our star attractions. They will dazzle and amaze you, maybe even scare you as they fly high above you and pass from one bar to another, making you gasp for more or hold your breath."

Rose wished he'd just get on with it as well as her mother. She had someone out there she wanted to impress. Not the audience, not those who buzzed around below as she and Jake practised but someone, if he approached her afterwards and maybe invited her out for a drink she would like to get to know while they were in town but they were only there a week.

She was quite used to having men chatting her up and offering to buy her drinks and she'd been glad they were leaving but something was different this time, there was something about Alec Hardy, beside him being in the news several times and she wanted to know what it was.

"I will now introduce to you the fabulous, the amazing - The Flying Majestics!" Pete continued.

Alec was surprised, he'd not known the act had a name but of course they would have, wouldn't they? Rose had just been introduced earlier under hers and the other woman's names but he'd vaguely heard the names of some of the other acts like the acrobats, the Tumbler Brothers or something like that, he wasn't taking much notice, waiting for Rose to appear.

Everyone was standing and cheering, they were obviously well known in circus circles or to the kids there but maybe the audience were cheering at the thought of the pair dangling all that way up there, flying backwards and forwards and hoping they didn't fall, how was he supposed to know?

All he knew was as Jake led Rose to the centre of the ring, both of them taking a bow, Jake then led her to the ladder attached to one of the long tent poles and the pair of them began to climb, Alec noticing this time, they weren't arguing. As they were sorting themselves out, Alec watched as Jake detached the rope from the bar and let it swing a few times, then grabbing hold of it and Alec swore he wouldn't let out his breath until Rose was safely back on the ground.

If he wanted to see more of her outside the circus while she was in town and maybe invite her out for a quiet drink or two, he wouldn't be able to sit and watch her every night and if she was being coerced into something she didn't want to do to thrill the crowds, now everyone was watching the pair and Rose had swung a few times then Jake had caught her.

He had to admire her, it seemed her partner was leaving her to do all the moves but all acts did it their own way, what did he know? Maybe it was the way they wanted it or since she was the circus owner's daughter, it was only natural she was the star of the show and now, she gracefully did a double somersault in mid air and she reached for her partner's hands and he had gripped her firmly with one hand and she tried to turn to catch the other bar coming back, Alec hoping she wouldn't misjudge it but he expected she'd had done this numerous times.

She caught the bar with ease, just as gracefully pulling herself onto it then hanging upside down as he watched. He had often wondered how the bars kept swinging when no-one was on them but he supposed that wasn't meant to be known to the public and even if he asked, he wouldn't be told. He compared it to not revealing how he had solved who killed Danny Latimer four years ago but he knew how he'd solved Sandbrook finally, Miller kept reminding him he couldn't have done it without her though that had been his fault for lack of something to say as he'd been about to leave afterwards.

All the while, he couldn't take his eyes off Rose as she did another somersault, this time Jake grabbing her foot as she dangled below him and the audience gasped, Alec wondering how the hell she was going to get out of that but she did and finally, she landed back on the tiny ledge and moved over to make room for Jake.

They both hung off the sides as the crowds cheered and whistled, Rose now grabbing hold of a rope that had appeared, well Alec thought it could have been there all the time, since no-one was looking and wrapping herself around it, Alec seeing two men holding the rope steady, she slid down it gracefully as Jake climbed down the ladder. Alec thought they would give the star the attention she deserved as someone brought her robe forward and she put it on, then being escorted out by her father, who once she was out of the ring, proceeded to end the performance for the evening.

"Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys," Pete announced yet again and Alec wondered if it was etched on the man's brain. "We hope you have enjoyed tonight's performance and tell your friends about it and also that you'll all come back and see us again. Now, a big cheer for all our wonderful acts tonight."

He stood back as the performers began to file in and walk on the low edge of the ring, then he saw the woman who had ridden the horses with Rose, riding into the centre since the safety device had been dragged away, Alec relieved neither of the trapeze artists had needed it, particularly Rose. He wondered where she had got to but Jake entered, last but one and he was followed by Rory, holding another horse that had been draped with a red cover and Rose was sitting sideways, her father taking hold of the horse.

"Goodnight everyone," Pete called out as he paraded Rose around the outside on the ring, all the artists spread out and waving.

As soon as the artists began moving back to the exit, Alec was up like a shot before everyone got in his way by dragging two or three kids behind them and almost got caught by Ellie.

"Hardee," Fred pointed out as Alec passed them, almost on the bottom row and having to wait for others who were now passing to get to the audience exit but he wasn't going there.

Ellie watched with amusement as he headed off to the artists exit.

"Come on Fred, we'll catch up with uncle Alec later, it seems he has other things to do," she laughed as he disappeared around the corner, knowing full well where he was going.

Chapter 3

Alec didn't actually know what he was doing as he passed his DS fussing over her son and if she'd called after him, he wasn't listening. All he wanted to do was get to where the artists were going and find Rose Tyler but then what? He had no idea what he was going to say to her but he'd surely come out with gibberish and try to ask her out for a drink, seeing it was still a reasonable time.

He moved amongst the artists who had gathered to talk and pat each other on the back and he heard the likes of 'Great performance' from one act to another and the clowns messing around pushing each other and laughing and saw the woman who had ridden the horses with Rose.

"Hi there, are you lost?" Martha asked him, giving him the eye and hoping he'd say yes then she could offer to help and he may ask her out for a drink, never mind that Mickey Smith, she'd show him he wasn't the only man around here.

"I'm looking for Rose," he replied, still searching for her as he swore the woman huffed and changed her attitude.

Martha had changed her attitude, no-one ever wanted to talk to her when Rose Tyler was around, did they?

"She'll have gone to get changed, her mother led her off a few minutes ago. Sure I can't help instead?" she asked hopefully.

Alec looked at her and shook his head.

"No, sorry. Who were you again?" he asked as he thought she was delaying him on purpose, then he'd never find Rose.

Martha did huff this time. 

"Typical," she thought to herself. "If Rose gets top billing, how's anyone gonna take notice of who I am?"

To Alec she just replied, "I'm Martha, Martha Jones and Rose may think she's the star but that's only because of who she is. She came along and took my place as lead on the horses, then to make things worse, she shares a trailer with me. What did you want her for anyway?"

Alec thought of a dozen reasons he wanted to catch up with Rose but they were all the same thing. He knew one thing though, this Martha was jealous of her co-star and it didn't take being a detective to work it out either. Then he heard a voice behind him.

"Hardy, what are you doing back here?" Ellie asked him as one of the clowns began playing around in front of Fred by ruffling the boy's hair.

"What are you doing following me Miller?" Alec asked, thinking he'd never catch up with the object of his desire now.

That was just it though. He'd not had Rose off his mind since earlier and he was now determined to do something about it – when everyone stopped asking him what he was doing.

"Fred saw you disappearing around the corner," she replied.

Martha was watching with amusement. Whoever this Hardy was, he wanted to chase after Rose Tyler when someone else was obviously jealous enough to go after him. Maybe the boy was his?

"Then take what's his name wherever he wants to go, I have to be somewhere Miller," Alec replied.

At this rate, Rose would have got changed and disappeared to wherever her trailer was or maybe she was seeking refuge elsewhere, since this other woman was making it obvious the sharing thing wasn't for her.

"So, Miss Jones, where can I find Rose?" he asked Martha as Ellie was trying to stop Fred going after the clowns.

"She'll be in the large blue tent behind this one but you'll need a pass to get in or see the bloke on security and trust me, Jack lets no-one in."

"He’ll let me in," Alec replied confidently, not wanting to get his ID out just yet but surely this woman had seen him and Miller there earlier?

He thought maybe the woman had been too busy trying to be better than Rose Tyler but since Rose had taken the lead on the horses and Miss Jones had also been part of a balancing act and wasn't the star there either, he thought she had a long way to go. Had Rose mentioned her earlier? He really couldn't remember.

He went off before anyone else could stop him and through the other entrance and saw a big blue-striped tent with two entrances marked 'Male Artists' and 'Female Artists' and thought it was very organized, not that he knew about circus practices and would never pretend he did.

Sure enough, there was a tall man between the two flaps, who was wearing a dark blue shirt, what looked like army-issue trousers, held up by a pair of red braces and who had his arms folded and a look on his face that was daring anyone to cross him.

Alec thought maybe he'd try his luck without his police ID and see how far he got.

"I'm looking for Rose Tyler," Alec told the tall man as he suddenly stood to attention instead of leaning on the thick tent pole.

"Yeah?" the man questioned him in an America accent that Alec was sure was either put on or it had been adopted. "You and every guy in the audience tonight. No-one gets in here except if they’re employees or by invitation."

"I'm DI Hardy, Wessex police. Mr Tyler assured my colleague we would have full co-operation while the circus is in town. Do I have to go find him to remind you?" Alec asked him.

Just then, one of the clowns came along.

"What's up Jack?"

Alec recognized the voice from earlier, it was the joker who had told him and Miller the circus wasn't hiring.

"Nothing Mickey, I can handle it. He thinks he's gonna get in to see Rose," Jack replied, a grin on his face.

"Are you trying to stop a police officer in the execution of his duties?" Alec questioned them both, thinking it was a long time since he'd said that and did anyone still use the phrase these days? "Who might you be?"

"Captain Jack Harkness and you still don't get to see her without an invite or a search warrant – Mr Tyler's orders so if you've not got a warrant, go away."

Rose was only just inside the tent, a makeshift curtain around her as she was getting changed. She had just finished pulling her jeans and t-shirt on and pulled the curtain back.

"Jack, what's going on out there?" she called, hoping her mother wasn't around, since she'd waited to take Rose's costumes to get them cleaned for rehearsals tomorrow.

"Nothing Rosie, just a guy trying his luck again," Jack replied, looking at Alec's ID card and debating how far this was going to go. "Look pal, she sees no-one so take a hike," he said to Alec but Rose had just got to the tent flap.

"Jack, whatcha doing?" she asked him, trying to get past. "Do ya know who this is?"

"Some bloke who thinks showing a police ID card is gonna get him in to see you?" Jack grinned as Rose moved him.

"Jack, my dad said the police would get our full co-operation, like we give all town police forces so quit acting all tough. You should have called me."

"I was about to Rosie, before you came out. I'm supposed to be in charge of making sure no-one bothers you," Jack replied.

"Yeah? Well you're not doing a good enough job when Mickey annoys me," she told him as Mickey was about to go through the other tent flap, making Alec wonder if they'd gone out together at some point and he didn't get the message it was over.

"I keep tellin' him, it's not my fault he can't take the hint you ditched him," Jack defended himself, looking at her then Alec. "So, what do ya want me to do with this one?"

"I'm sorry, Detective Inspector Hardy, Jack takes things too seriously sometimes," Rose apologized to Alec. "I'll tell my dad if ya don't let him past," she turned to Jack, who moved to one side and gestured for Alec to enter, Martha stood waiting to get in.

"I might have known you'd be holding everyone up," Martha complained to Rose as she got past and headed for the main dressing area, where Alec could hear a lot of chattering.

"That's okay Miss Tyler, if you are busy, I can come back another time," Alec offered, thinking she might offer to meet him over at the pub or outside somewhere.

"Have you eaten?" Rose asked, tying her hair back with a band she'd been holding.

"Rose, you can go in the catering tent any time you want," Jack reminded her.

"Yeah but I get tired of camp food Jack. Are there any pubs doing decent food around here?" she asked Alec, who had remained where he was so this 'Jack' couldn't accuse him of anything.

"I believe so, though I don't really use them. Miss Tyler, may I invite you to dine with me?" he asked her, trying to be polite and not come out with a load of excuses why he was there in the first place because he didn't know why he was there.

"Yeah, thanks, I'd love to but I'll have to go get changed first. It's Alec isn't it?" she asked him. "Jack, where are your manners? This is the detective who got the killer of that boy who died here a few years ago."

"How am I supposed to know?" Jack protested. "Have you any idea how many blokes I turn away who say they've come to see ya?"

Alec couldn't see anyone lurking around but it didn't mean no men ever tried.

"No need to get dressed up," Alec told her, thinking by the time she went to her trailer, got changed and they found somewhere serving food, it would be late and he'd not get chance to talk to her.

"I won't take all night Alec," Rose laughed as a few of the girls were approaching and giggling Rose was talking to someone.

"Hey Rose, you'll have to get rid of Jack if he's letting blokes in," one of them called to her while looking at Alec.

"Gonna keep him to yourself?" another girl asked her. "Not gonna share?"

Alec thought it must be an unusual occurrence for her to be talking to a man in the changing area.

"Take no notice Alec," Rose told him, trying not to blush as they did some more giggling at Alec before they left, Jack trying to lead them out.

"I must be a novelty to them?" Alec asked her as Jack went back outside, though the tent flap was still open and he could hear the man talking, probably to that clown from earlier.

Mickey had quickly got changed and saw Jack coming out after the girls who had been taunting Rose.

"You let that bloke in?" Mickey asked Jack.

"She came out Mickey, you know what she's like," Jack replied.

"So why's he still there?" Mickey asked as he caught a glance of Alec, who was looking at Rose and Mickey felt a pang of jealousy yet again.

"She'll tell her dad, then I'm out of a job," Jack replied.

"More like he'll finish you for letting someone in the women's tent," Mickey told him.

"He's the police Mickey, he gets in one time, next time, he won't be so lucky," Jack replied, clenching his fists.

"If ya just stay here a minute, I'll get my things and you can walk me to my trailer. I can be changed in ten minutes," Rose was telling Alec.

"Then fine, I will gladly escort you but I can assure you that you look fine," Alec told her.

"Yeah? In my jeans and top?" Rose smiled, pointing to what she classed as her 'best' jeans and a pink top with glittery butterflies on it.

"It makes no difference to me. I actually came to tell you that I enjoyed your performance tonight. It's been a very long time since I visited the circus."

"Really?" Rose asked him, dodging back behind the curtain to retrieve her purse and phone, then grabbing her cardigan.

No-one got in or out of the tent without Jack knowing and she had planned on going for a walk around the harbour and maybe finding a food vendor still open. She really was tired of eating with everyone else. Sometimes she'd just get a plate covered and take it back to the trailer but Martha made a point of getting air-freshener out when she got back.

What had possessed her to share with her infuriating rival who thought the worse of her just because she herself was the boss's daughter and got everything handed to her, including star billing? She'd worked hard to get where she was and Martha hadn't been there that long, only around seven years or so because she couldn't handle training to be junior doctor.

Rose returned to where Alec was waiting.

"So, where’s the nearest pub that serves food?" she smiled at him.

"Ah, my colleague who was with me this morning says the pub just across the harbour is the best one. I don't eat out that much," he admitted.

Since Daisy had come back with him, he'd eaten out quite a bit but mostly up in the town. Now, she was away again and he was going back to being a recluse. Maybe not for the remainder of the time the circus was in town though?

"Is that the big pub over in the corner?" Rose asked as they stepped outside, Rose purposely putting her arm in Alec's and waving to Jack and a startled Mickey.

Alec knew she was doing it on purpose but he wasn't going to object. Rose just hoped her mother wouldn't go looking for her at this present moment as they made their way through workers seeing to the horses and the dogs who had done a few tricks and who were yapping to be fed. He thought well at least the dogs seemed happy enough and although in a pen, they weren't tied up or caged. The horses were loosely tethered to a long bar and being given large bags of hay and a trough of water was nearby.

"You were very graceful on the horse Rose," Alec commented as Rose waved to Rory, the horse trainer.

"Yeah? Thanks Alec. I think Amy did me a favour really, I love riding the horses, this one's my favourite, aren't you Princess?" She stopped and patted one of the horses.

"We know she's your favourite Rose," Rory told her as he crossed to where they had stopped. "Martha wanted to try another routine tomorrow, she was annoyed we added that extra bit of you taking the stand."

"Ya think I didn't expect that Rory?" Rose asked him, letting go of Alec's arm as the horse nudged her that she wanted all Rose's attention.

"You don't appear to get on with your riding partner?" Alec observed as the horse was satisfied and went back to eating.

"Martha's jealous because Rose takes the lead, after my girlfriend left to do another act," Rory told him.

Alec just stared at him. The man looked just like the vicar who had left a few months ago. Was this the Reverend Paul Coates's new job or his twin, Alec wondered.

"I did her a favour," Rose smiled, taking Alec's arm again. "Rory, this is Alec Hardy, the town's DI. He got that boy's killer a few years ago."

Alec hated being reminded of that fact, since Joe Miller was still at large, in Liverpool so his wife had heard from Beth Latimer. He'd also heard Mark Latimer had left town after not being able to bring himself to punish the killer when the jury had let him off. He wished Latimer had asked him to tag along. Then he'd heard Mark had been found out at sea in a suicide attempt and wondered why the hell he'd insisted Daisy had stayed in such a messed-up town and they'd compromised by her going back to her mother's for a visit.

Was she coming back though?

"Alec, I'm ready to leave," Rose was smiling at him.

"Yes, sorry. We have to cross over the footbridge," he told her as he led the way, seeing a woman with bright ginger hair approach the man they'd just been talking to and assumed she was the man's girlfriend.

He wondered what had happened to Paul Coates, he was just starting to like the vicar after all that time. They walked in front of the Big Top, Alec seeing again where he used to live and half wishing he was still there, then he could have invited Rose back after they'd eaten but he couldn't have done with the noise, it had been bad enough when the fair had turned up, which Miller had reminded him about.

"So, have ya been busy today?" Rose was asking him as he led her to the footbridge.

"It's quiet at the moment, thankfully," he replied, letting her go first. "Did you not hear what happened a while back?"

Rose shook her head.

Alec wondered if the fish restaurant was still open, though he wasn't that keen on fish but Rose might like it but he'd heard you had to book in advance. Still, it was getting late, there could be some spare tables and as long as they weren't serving raw fish dishes, he could maybe cope. He led Rose around the front and found the main door still open.

"Ya never mentioned this place," Rose smiled as he went inside.

"I did not think it would still be open," Alec replied, hoping if they stayed that the place took cards. He'd not been prepared to take Rose out for a meal but he'd not eaten much himself.

"Hi there, wanting a table?" a woman asked him.

"Do we need a reservation?" Alec replied, hoping Rose wouldn't be let down if it was fully booked but he glanced further inside.

"No, we can fit you in. A table for two?" the woman asked him.

Alec wondered who else the woman thought he was expecting. He just nodded and she led them inside, stopping at a small table for two by the window. She left them to be seated and Alec helped Rose then sat opposite, handing her the menu.

"Do they only serve fish?" Rose wondered, seeing the name on the front.

"They may do other dishes, I'm not keen on all fish. My DS bought me fish and chips once in paper and I wasn't going to eat them but she pointed out that was all she had been able to get. I was ill at the time though," he smiled as he took another menu but it was only the one for drinks and desserts.

Rose was feeling guilty when she saw the prices and thought she'd never paid that much for something to eat in her life. She usually put up with her mother's cooking or went in the catering tent. Maybe she should have invited the rather good-looking DI who was sitting opposite and smiling at her while he waited for her to make her choice. She tried to go for something light and noticed at the bottom they did normal fish and chips and thought she'd be considerate and go for that.

She didn't know what half the things on the menu were anyway. She handed him the menu back, thinking the waitress would be back any second and she had taken her time. Alec saw the prices and thought it served him right for seeing if the place was still open. Then he noticed the less expensive options and hoped she'd gone for one of those and since she didn't seem the sort of person who would go for anything fancy, hoped she had picked one of those.

The waitress came over with a jug of water and Alec allowed Rose to say what she wanted, glad he'd been right about her and he ordered the same. At least here the food was served on plates, not greasy paper and he ordered a pot of tea for two and extra bread and butter.

"So, what do you do in your spare time Rose? Practice new routines?" he smiled as he put the menu away.

"Not every day, not new routines anyway. That one with the horse, I just mentioned it to Rory as we waited to go in the ring. It seemed to go down well, with everyone apart from Martha," she smiled back.

Alec had an idea that the rivalry between the two of them went deeper than a working relationship.

"Care to tell me why she was so off with you?" he asked as their drinks arrived.

"How long have ya got?" she teased him. "She was up for the lead on the horses when Amy was wanting to do something else. She got a bit annoyed when after I proved I could do it, it went to me. My dad knows when someone's good at something. Even being his daughter, he'd have given it to Martha if she'd been better than I was."

"I can imagine you would not take advantage Rose but maybe from her point of view, it seems to be the case. Would you care to talk about something else for the rest of the evening?"

"I've been trying to practice an extra somersault on the trapeze," Rose replied not getting what he meant, that he was trying to find out about her, not what she did in the circus.

He had to give her that one, since he'd not actually said what he wanted to talk about.

"Really? You were very good at it. I expect it's all in the timing?" he asked, now feeling hungry.

"Yeah but Jake's really good, he's never let me down. That's why I never argue with him," she smiled.

"That safety equipment, I don't like the look of it," he admitted, glad he couldn't quite see where he used to live.

"Well it's passed inspection, dad wouldn't let us use it otherwise. It's taken some getting used to, that's why me and Jake prefer to get back down the way we do."

Alec thought of saying it was the perfect ending for their performance and proved her father thought of her as the star of the show. She had been just as graceful sliding down the rope as when she'd been flying through the air.

"When we had the rope netting, we could fall down and make a show of it. It's not quite the same bouncing off a trampoline," she smiled as the waitress approached them.

Alec could only imagine the difference it made but watching her slide down that rope was something else and she'd been far too fast at doing so for his liking.

"So, you would introduce an extra spin?" he asked, not knowing the exact term for it.

Rose nodded as he passed the salt. "Something like that. I keep practising but I can't get it right, I keep falling on the safety device."

Alec thought well at least the thing served some purpose. He'd have loved to have seen her land in the net though and her showing off.

Chapter 4

"So you've not yet tried it in public?" he asked.

Rose looked at him. Hadn't she just said that?

"Not until I get it right Alec, I'm not even gonna try until I'm sure. The thing is, I think the crew and the others practising make me nervous," she admitted.

"So a crowd wouldn't?" Alec had to ask.

Rose shook her head. Then Alec got it. A crowd would give her their full attention, not stand on the sidelines or be busy getting ready for the next rehearsal. He couldn't really blame her though.

"I get it Rose. Could you not have the ring cleared?" he suggested.

"Dad says there's not enough time and when there is, I've got to practice on the horses. The thing is though, well can I trust you about something?"

"Of course you can," he assured her.

"Martha can do it, that's what bothers me. She can do a triple somersault and get it right every time and she's not been doing it as long as me. She's just my stand-in if I need time off like if I'm not well or something and she joins us on Saturday nights. She makes a point of reminding me, then she has the nerve to say I'm stealing the act we do together."

He could see her point, if she had star billing. Rose continued as he paid attention. She was very pretty and he wondered why no man had stolen her away from the circus. Maybe some had tried and failed?

"She's only perfected it recently and now, she's just waiting for the chance. I told my dad about it and he agreed that if I'm off and she has to take my place, he'll tell her she can't do it, not until I can. Even when I can do it, I'll have to practice more until I'm sure about doing it to a packed audience."

Now he could tell it bothered her.

"Then you'll keep practising until you get it right?" he asked her as he finished his meal.

"Well yeah but knowing she can do it? My mum's scared I'll do something stupid to prove a point."

"Has she any need to be worried?" he asked, pushing his plate to one side and offering the dessert menu to her, Rose shaking her head.

"Best not, if I put any weight on, Jake might drop me," she joked.

"I doubt that somehow. Why not treat yourself?" he asked. "You never answered my question Rose. Would you go ahead if you felt confident enough?"

"I don't know Alec? It would be the last part of the act anyway. Jake keeps pushing for me to do it, he says he has every confidence and he asks me every day," she replied.

"Is that what you were talking about this morning?" he asked, looking concerned. "Is he pressurizing you?"

"Don't worry about it, I keep telling him I'm not ready. The thing is, he keeps reminding me about Martha. My mum just keeps making it worse by coming up with new costumes for my act with Jake and since me and Martha wear the same on the horses, she tries to add bits to mine. It just makes Martha worse."

Alec could imagine it would. He called the waitress over and ordered two banana splits, making Rose wish he hadn't but she didn't usually spoil herself or have someone do it for her. He had taken a wild guess but Rose wasn't objecting.

"Would you like something else to drink maybe?" he asked, thinking he was doing somewhat better than his last disastrous date with Zoe, who he couldn't remember the last name of.

He doubted she remembered him either, if she was still in the town. Rose shook her head about the drink.

"Maybe when we get out of here?" she smiled as he was thinking it was going to be a short date. "So, where do ya live then?"

"Would you believe half-way up the east cliff?" he smiled.

"Really? There's a house on the side on that steep cliff?" she asked him. "I mean I saw houses on the other side but it doesn't look as steep. I had a quick wander around earlier."

"There is only one house on the side of that cliff. Well it's actually a cottage," he admitted.

"So ya live on your own?" Rose wanted to know.

Alec thought she wasn't wasting any time finding out, was she?

"You share a trailer with your rival," he smiled, turning the tables as their dessert arrived and he noticed only a few people remained.

"How do ya know?" she asked when the waitress had gone off.

"Your friend Martha made a point of telling me. I asked her where you were, I think she was jealous I was asking for you and not her," he smiled.

"She was givin' ya the eye then?" Rose smiled back. "She's not jealous because you were asking for me. She's jealous because my ex won't give in and ask her out even if I did get a new boyfriend. She's jealous if anyone asks for me and their not asking for her, or rather Mickey's not asking."

"So this Mickey, he's one of the clowns?" he asked, remembering the other man earlier saying the name.

Rose thought she'd mentioned him earlier but maybe not?

"So can we go get a drink when we've done here?" Rose asked as they ate their desserts.

"Sure, we can walk across the harbour, I'll show you where I live," he offered.

What was he thinking? Like she would climb all the way up there when it would be dark soon. It hadn't stopped Miller doing so at two in the morning though.

"You think I don't believe where ya live?" Rose smiled.

"I never said that. I only rent the place, I wanted something remote. I used to live in the blue chalet by the river."

"You did? Good thing ya moved then, the circus in your back garden," she teased him.

"The fair had set up while I was away for the day, that was noisier," he replied. "So, no sideshows with the circus?"

"We used to have, when we had wild animals but my mother never liked them being caged up. My dad took the circus over from his partner and gradually, mum wore him down. People don't really go in for that sort of thing now, he got the animals a good home in a safari park, at her insistence. Gradually, everyone gave up or left. We sometimes join up with a carnival when we're in the same area and the showground's big enough."

Alec wanted to talk more about her being the star attraction.

"So, how long have you been performing on the trapeze?" he asked.

"Seven years or so. Before that I did the tightrope, though I was practicing the trapeze when I was twelve, they lowered it down for me but the girl who did it left to get married so dad decided I was ready. Then I did them both, until I swapped with Amy."

"There is some difference between that and the horses," Alec smiled as he finished his dessert. "Was that difficult to learn?"

"Not really, it's all down to the timing again so I got used to it very quickly. Martha was hoping she'd get my spot on the trapeze so she got the other act instead. Funny thing though, she'd had little training, she was training to be a doctor."

"I think you already told me Rose," he smiled, though if she told him again, he wasn't that bothered, it kept her from saying she had to leave. She could repeat herself as much as wanted, no doubt he'd be repeating himself as well, any man in his right mind would ramble on in her presence. "So why did she join the circus? Were you born into it?"

"Yeah, dad had a partner, Harry but he went on to bigger things and sold it to my dad. Dad run it mostly anyway, Uncle Harry was the businessman. Mum was the magician's assistant, she keeps telling me about it. Anyway, the circus ring was my playground, there were lots of other kids, though they all left when they had the chance. So, what about you, Alec? You're a long way from home."

"What gave me away?" he smiled as he gestured the waitress to get the check.

He got his bank card out and followed her to the cash desk, Rose going into the ladies room. He waited for Rose and wondered if she would rather go for a drink or climb the steps to his cottage. She'd hinted she wanted a drink though and maybe there was time for both? She didn't sound that keen on sharing a trailer with this Martha. If that was the case, keeping her out shouldn't be much of a problem.

He helped her over the footbridge, Rose finding it very narrow as Alec told her he had to cross it all the time when he lived just behind the restaurant.

"So, you never said how you arrived in Broadchurch," Rose reminded him as they emerged by the catering stalls.

"A case that went wrong where I used to live. I needed a transfer, this was it. Then finally, I went back. Rose," he told her as they stopped before they got too far after they crossed over the road. "You should know, I was married, I have a seventeen year old daughter, well she's almost eighteen now. She's away visiting her mother, trying to decide which university to go to. I'm telling you now before we get too far away from the circus, if you want me to walk you back?"

Rose went to sit on the wall, facing the harbour. It wasn't quite what she was expecting but at least he was being honest with her. She had thought with him seeming older than herself, he would have been married but in her experience, men who asked her out weren't always so honest, well maybe except for James.

"You've not bought me a drink yet Alec," she reminded him, giving him a smile.

That was more than he'd got from his last date, that had been a mistake but it was partly Daisy's fault for not putting it in his profile. Rose seemed to be taking the news slightly better.

"You still want to go for one with me?" he asked, trying to remember the last time he'd gone to a pub for pleasure and not business.

Ellie Miller suggesting they went for a drink after solving their last big case wasn't quite the same.

"Well yeah, it's been a while since I was invited out for a meal and then for a drink. Can I be honest with you?" she asked him.

Alec sat beside her, not bothering about the boats, since he wasn't on one.

"I usually get asked out by the locals who have been dragged along to see the show or those who just hang around. You asking me out after giving me a compliment made a nice change. Oh, don't worry about having a teenage daughter Alec, it's fine, it's not gonna put me off. Can I ask ya something?"

"Sure, you can ask me anything Rose. Did I pay you any compliments?" he asked as she put her arm in his again and he took her hand.

"Yeah, well ya came to find me and I'm sorry about Jack. Did he say he was a captain?" she smiled at him.

"He made a point of telling me," he replied, wondering what she wanted to ask him. "So what is he a captain of exactly?"

Rose giggled into his arm, Alec liking he seemed to have made a good impression so far. The meals had been expensive but Rose Tyler, one half of the act named The Flying Majestics was certainly worth it.

"Actually, he never said," Rose replied, glancing up at him. "He just turned up and my dad hired him as head of security, he sat down and talked my dad into it. Anyway, what I wanted to ask ya was, well we're here for a week, we leave on Monday morning."

"Yes, so I was told," he replied as he helped her up or she'd be making up excuses to skip seeing his cottage and he really wanted her to, so he could try his luck at kissing her. "So, why exactly are you reminding me, Rose?"

That he did want to know. She was in town for a week, he had spent all day trying to come up with excuses for asking her out or at least visit the circus once or twice or wait for her after it had finished, was she going to say thanks for dinner but she didn't want him hanging around outside for her like other men had done?

"Alec, don't take this the wrong way," she began to say, Alec knowing he was right, she was going to tell him not to pester her every night. "Every town I go to, it's always the same, blokes waiting for me, that was why Jack got so tough. Maybe there were none tonight, maybe as we were leaving some were watching for their chance, so you probably rescued me, thanks," she smiled.

"You wanted to thank me for warding off men who were probably looking for a chance to ask you out?" he wondered.

"Yeah, well partly but Alec, I don't want ya to think I was using you."

"I would not think that Rose, I was happy I could rescue you," he replied as they arrived in front of the large pub in the corner near the old sea scout hut.

"Good, glad we've cleared that up," she smiled as he opened the door for her. Then she stopped. "Alec, after a drink, I'd love to see your cottage."

"That I will gladly show you it Rose. I take it you are not keen on sharing a trailer then?" he asked.

Rose shook her head. "I only moved in to stop my mum nagging me all the time. Anyway, the thing I wanted to ask ya. Alec, I'd really like it if I could see you while I'm in town."

That was only partly true she supposed. Having split with James after three years, her mother had gone overboard on the sympathy so Martha had been her only chance of escape after Amy moved in with Rory.

"Really? Rose, I'm flattered you would ask me but surely you would rather meet other men?"

"What have I just told ya? Alec, I'm tired of it, I'm tired of blokes trying to pick me up and try their luck," she replied.

Alec thought that was it, she'd not let him try then.

"Alec, please, would you let me hang around with ya, I need to forget about circus life after the performance, everyone talking about it and Martha nagging me. What I'm tryin' to say is, would ya collect me every night, we don't have to go to expensive places to eat, just maybe get a takeout and sit by the harbour?"

"Sure, we can do that, it would be my pleasure Rose. A better idea would maybe I could cook something for you? I could call for you and leave something simmering on the stove, then you could spend the evening with me or go for a drink. Then I can escort you back to your trailer?" he suggested, thinking this could be easier than he'd thought.

"Yeah, I'd like that Alec but I have an even better idea," she smiled as they walked up to the bar.

He couldn't wait to hear what that might be. They sat with their drinks, Alec splashing out and getting a glass of red wine as opposed to Rose's white wine with lemonade and Rose was looking at him though Alec was sure she was looking for the clock.

"So, Rose, this idea of yours? Would you care to tell me?" he asked, since he'd waited for her to say something.

He didn't want to rush her or do anything to make her demand he took her back but she was taking her time and if she didn't really want to see his cottage, maybe she was stalling so she'd have an excuse it was now too late to go. On the other hand though, she could be stalling so when she got there he'd be compelled to ask her to stay.

He didn't really fancy walking her back after midnight across a creepy showground, maybe some of the performers would still be hanging around, or Captain Jack. Rose had sat back on the plush seat, Alec's arm just resting gently on the back and slightly touching her shoulder but she didn't seem to notice. Then suddenly, she did and nudged it until he moved.

"What is it Rose? Is something bothering you? You can trust me, I promise. Whatever you wanted to ask me, I won't get mad. You asked if you could spend your time with me? I would like that very much Rose. My daughter is away at least another week and the DS who was with me this morning, she says I have been a misery since I've been on my own again. Do you want to know something?" he asked, trying to put her at ease.

Rose nodded, his arm now around her and she moved closer to him.

"I left to go back to see my daughter, she was worth the risk going back after I got divorced but things never worked out. In the end, bringing her back with me was a big gamble and recently, she wanted to leave but I thought I had talked her out of it. I still don't know what she will decide to do Rose. Her mother is trying to win her back, I think and she's even offering to move near the university. If my daughter decides to go to the one in Exeter, she'll have to travel or get accommodation there."

"So her mum's trying to bribe her?" Rose asked him, taking his hand.

"Yes, I believe she is but she's not got as much to lose as I have. She's eligible for a transfer, I'm not. I only came back recently and for Daisy to get a place there, she needs to know her options. I promised her things would be different, coming here with me, then not long after we arrived, there was a serious case I had to investigate and I was worried for her. To make things worse, someone from her school was involved in it and now, well I think that will drive her away."

"I'm sorry Alec. What went on here?" she wanted to know.

"Maybe we should discuss this at my place?" he smiled.

He didn't want to talk in public, a lot of people had been hauled in for questioning over the assault case and he didn't know if his DC was going to walk in, she still wasn't in his good books and her telling Miller she'd seen him with someone wouldn't help.

"Yeah, I'd like that Alec and I'm in no rush to face Martha, trust me. I'll send her a message to tell her I'll be a bit late back or I could say I'll see her in the morning?" she smiled as Alec removed his arm to help her up.

So that was her better idea? If it was, he was all for it, he didn't get many visitors, since he didn't count Miller as a visitor but that had been the point of moving to a more remote location. He'd thought his riverside cottage had been remote but people had kept pestering him and criticising his choice of home.

"I will leave that to you, you can text her once we get there," he replied, thinking once she'd climbed the steps in the dark, she wouldn't be so keen to go back down until it was light, despite the lamps on the side.

"Lead the way then?" she smiled. "So, where are ya from Alec?"

"Just outside Glasgow. I moved when I was young but I grew up in Paisley," he admitted.

"Where the shirts come from?" she laughed as they walked towards the steps.

"Not originally. Rose, before we climb up there, tell me what you were going to earlier."

"Why, so ya can turn me down?" Rose wondered out loud.

"What?" he asked. "Rose, that was not my intention, to turn you down. What was it you had to ask that you would think I would turn you down?"

Who had she been hanging around with that she couldn't trust him to give her an answer?

"Sorry. I don't normally have a problem. Blokes ask me out then walk me back to my trailer and when I tell them to shush so as not to wake Martha, they usually go off, some without even trying to snog me."

Alec could tell maybe that was her own doing, her own safety net, so to speak.

"Is that what you think?" he dared ask. "I know about you sharing Rose but unlike other men you meet, I would not presume you would invite me in, if I were to see you back to your trailer."

"Yeah, I get that Alec," she replied, looking above and seeing the cottage. "Sorry, I didn't mean you. So, are we standing here all night?"

Alec could see she was still determined to pay a visit as she put her arm in his. He still waited for her to say something though.

"Tell me Rose, please? What were you going to ask me or what was the better idea you had?"

"Well, okay then. You're so different to anyone I've met in a long time Alec. When I asked to spend some time with ya, well I meant as my boyfriend, while I'm here but when I leave? I was also gonna ask if we could stay in contact maybe?"

She added that at the last minute, since he'd seemed to think she meant he was as bad as every other man she'd come across since James had left her but the truth was, she'd not trusted anyone after that. Maybe Alec was different though he did look a bit like him, without the beard and the wild hair she'd loved to rake her fingers through.

"Really?" Alec was asking her. "Rose, it would be a pleasure, really. I know you lead a difficult life to enable you to have a relationship, it can't be easy getting attached to someone but you must have had a proper boyfriend before?"

"Yeah but he left me. He travelled with us, he was sort of my dad's assistant, sorting out locations and other stuff. We were together almost three years but he left. I don't want to talk about it."

Alec could understand that but what had this Mickey to do with it?

"It's okay Rose, you don't have to say anything. May I make it easier for you?" he asked as they got to the bottom of however many steps there were, he'd given up counting them. Rose nodded. "Then Rose, while you are in the town, would you do me the honour of being my girlfriend? I do not like the thought of other men hanging around hoping to get a date with you. You could tell your friend Jack to let me in the tent and keep the other men away, maybe?" he asked, hoping it wasn't too much.

"Yeah, I can do that and I'd love to be your girlfriend. Maybe I was asking too much, keeping in touch when I leave though?"

"No, you are not asking too much Rose," he told her as they reached the door. "Be warned though, that may not be enough by the time the circus is ready to move on."

Chapter 5

After Rose turned down sleeping in Daisy's room, nature of course took over and she had gone to the bathroom to freshen herself up, Alec sat up wondering how it had all happened so fast. He knew she had been amazing, maybe she had the advantage since she was a skilled circus performer but a few years ago, he would never have been able to keep up with her.

"Rose?" he called out as she'd left the bedroom door open and he'd heard the bathroom door and she'd not come back in.

He got up, she wasn't in the kitchen so he glanced into the dimly lit living room and saw her looking out of the window. She was only wearing a t-shirt of his and she had retrieved her underwear from the bottom of the bed. He went to stand beside her.

"Rose, is something wrong?" he asked her, putting his arm around her.

"What? Oh, there's nothing wrong Alec, that was really incredible. I just thought maybe I'd disappointed you?"

"Rose, how can you say that? Why would I be disappointed with you?" he wanted to know.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe you expected me to make a few more moves?" she tried to smile.

"Let's get one thing clear. You were perfect and I expect no more than what you actually did. A few years ago, I would never have survived. I was really ill, you could say terminally ill except I recovered from a heart operation that I didn't expect to recover from. Come back to bed eh?"

He'd not even expected for them to have sex on her first visit but time was of the essence and she was only there for a week so it seemed they had forgone the 'dating' part and gone for the kill by mutual agreement when she'd gone into his bedroom and began getting undressed to just her underwear. Then she'd told him she was covered when he was thinking of how to tell her he never kept anything in his wallet for 'emergencies'.

"How did you know I was going to raise the question of protection?" he smiled as they looked down on the lit harbour.

Rose giggled into his shoulder as he put his arm around her.

"Lucky guess? Seriously though, we have less than a week and I want to remember this. It's been a while since I had a proper boyfriend and none of the blokes who hung around wanted to be serious while I was in their town. I don't know what they thought about me. I never had to bother when I was with James."

"Rose, I am sorry for how those men treated you but you’re safe enough with me, no-one will bother you," he assured her, trying to put her arms around him.

"Thanks but what are people gonna think when they see you're with the trapeze artist?"

Alec held her back – was she serious? He decided to treat it as a joke.

"Well, I don't know about that Rose, how do you feel after just having sex with the worst cop in Britain?"

"Really? Wow, I didn't know that was you!" she teased him back. "I'm just glad I don't get my name in the papers that someone has kissed and sold their story to the tacky town paper."

"There is no longer a tacky town paper here, it closed a while ago. Rose, seriously though, I never listen to town gossip. Why do you stay with the circus?"

"I've never known anything else Alec. What would I do?" she asked, leaning her head on his bare chest.

"Get a job?" he smiled, resting his chin on the top of her head. "You could teach gym at the local school maybe? Then there's the old newspaper office on the harbour, you could open a studio."

"Are you the local job recruitment officer?" she teased him.

"No but a few years ago I taught police cadets for a while, I was told to get good at it and stop boring them."

"Aw, did ya bore them?" she asked, trying to look up at him. "I don't believe that. Can we go back to bed?"

"I thought you would never ask," he smiled at her. "Rose, spend every night up here, with me?"

"I thought that was the idea of being your girlfriend?" she asked as he led her back to his bedroom.

"You are allowed time off," he replied, pulling back the duvet and allowing her to get in first.

"Why would I wanna do that?"

"Well I thought maybe the odd evening we'd just get something to eat then you would go back to your trailer?" he suggested.

"I told ya, I hate sharing with Martha, she's annoying and I wish I'd never gone to such extremes to stop my mother fussing over James leaving me. Sorry."

"It's fine love, don't worry about it eh? If you spend every night with me though, you might not be able to get away fast enough on Monday morning."

Rose leaned on her elbow as he lay back on the pillow, waiting to put his arm around her and reclaim his t-shirt.

"What have I said?" he asked as she looked at him.

There was enough light from the lanterns outside to see the look on her face.

"Don't say that Alec. You are the most decent man I've met in the last few years. Please Alec, don't make me go back there while I'm in town?"

"I promise, not unless you want to go back? Have a bag packed before the performance tomorrow night, then we can come straight back here, yes?"

Rose nodded her agreement and fell on top of him as he tried to lift the t-shirt over her head.

"I believe this is mine?" he asked as he fingered the hem.

"Take it then," she whispered as she raised her arms.

Despite the late hour, they kissed for a while, just stopping short of having sex again. Rose got comfy on him and fell asleep, Alec stroking her back after she put the t-shirt back on. He supposed with sharing with another woman, she didn't like to sleep with nothing on but her underwear, which had just been halfway off.

"Rose?" he asked quietly but got no answer.

This was going to be difficult and he knew it but didn't care what Miller or Harford would say and how they'd go on about it every chance they got. Well too bad, he wasn't going to deny anything unlike earlier, when he'd not known if Rose would even agree to see him. Would he have given up if the burly man on the tent entrance hadn't been overheard by her? He didn't think he would have done, he would have waited at a safe distance but he would have done something if another man had dared to approach her.

He would have waved his ID card in front of whoever it was and politely told them to take a hike. What would she have thought about him though? Maybe that was not one of his best plans? It hadn't happened so he'd nothing to worry about and here she was, tucked in at his side and he knew in the morning he would have a mouthful of her hair and she would probably end up half over him.

He'd show his ex wife he didn't need her, after she'd turned him down and he'd gone back anyway to try to persuade her otherwise but it just hadn't worked out and two days of using the spare room where he used to live with her and Daisy had put paid to it.

He was drifting off to sleep when sure enough, Rose's hair began to tickle his nose and he knew he was going to love every single minute she spent with him, which now wouldn't be nearly as long as he wanted. Would she take the hint about the jobs and maybe stay? He knew he was fooling himself though, why would she want to give up the circus life to settle in Broadchurch?

After Rose had gone off with Alec earlier, Jack had shook his head and stared after them.

"When's she ever gonna learn?" he'd asked a dazed Mickey.

"Who does he think he is?" Mickey had replied with a huff. "He was here earlier with another woman, he'd better not be stringing Rose along."

"What are you two going on about?" Martha asked as she was going through the tent flap. "Did Rose go after that detective?"

"Why do ya think Mickey's got a long face?" Jack wanted to know.

Martha saw her chance.

"Come on Mickey, you can buy me a drink," she suggested, going for his arm.

"Get off Martha, I'm not going anywhere those two might have gone," he replied.

"Why not? It could make her jealous," Martha suggested.

Jack burst out laughing.

"Geez you two, just go back to one of your trailers and shag each other's brains out why don't ya?"

"What?" they both said at the same time.

Then Martha recovered slightly. "She's gone off with a detective Mickey and since she'd avoided you since James left she's hardly going to feel guilty about it, is she?"

Just then, Jackie came along.

"Where's my daughter?" she asked, looking at Jack.

Jack was trying to put his best poker face on, even he was scared of Jackie Tyler, where Rose was concerned anyway.

"Ah, Mrs Tyler, you just missed her," Jack replied, hoping Mickey would keep his big mouth closed but that was where Mickey excelled – at opening it in front of Jackie Tyler.

"Well, where's she gone? She's not in the catering tent, I checked in there. Martha?"

"Sorry Mrs Tyler, I got held up and was late getting changed," she replied, thinking it wasn't a good idea to say it had been due to the detective who Rose had gone off with asking where Rose was.

This could get messy, Martha thought.

"Well when ya see her, tell her to come to our trailer, I want to alter one of her costumes for Saturday night," Jackie replied.

"Why Saturday night?" Martha dared to ask, as if she didn't know that Rose liked to show off on Saturday nights, since she herself joined them for part of the act.

"Because I won't have it ready until then, I've got other things to do as well Martha," Jackie told her. "She doesn't need it before then, does she? She's not gonna do the triple is she? She'd better not be."

Martha was plotting her escape. "I don't think so Mrs Tyler. I need to get something to eat, excuse me."

"Yeah, me too," Mickey joined in.

Jackie watched as the two strode off to the catering tent, Jack shrugging his shoulders.

"Mrs Tyler, that detective who was here earlier was looking for Rose," he informed her. "I don't know if he found her or not."

Jack thought it was half true, they could have gone their separate ways on reaching the footbridge but he doubted Rose would be back tonight, she would be getting cosy with the detective at his place. He also thought her mother would erupt in the morning when she found out. He'd never known Rose leave arm in arm with anyone, if she'd been wanting some company, she just normally waited until the men were about to leave and call after one of them.

Maybe she'd finally got over James Noble and the detective did look a little like the man who had broken Rose's heart by leaving but she'd never said why.

Jackie had got back to the trailer where she'd left Pete eating.

"When did ya last see Rose?" she asked him as he put the fork in his mouth.

"As she was leaving the Big Top but I did see that detective as well," he replied.

"The one from this morning?" Jackie wanted to be sure. "What was he doing back here then?"

"I left a couple of tickets for him and his colleague, like we normally do on the first night. Why?"

"Because he was here and Rose is missing Pete, take a wild guess. You know he looks a bit like James?"

"I had noticed Jackie. So what of it? It's better than her leaving with a stranger, she has to get over James in her own way and doing it with someone different in every town's not gonna help her."

"Well we only stay in town a week, sometimes less," she told him, getting her meal from the oven.

Pete wondered if the food tasted any better when it had been left for a while? He daren't find out though or he'd never hear the end of it. An hour later when they were watching TV, Pete always leaving the crew to secure everything for the night, there was a knock on the door. Pete went to answer it and it was Martha. Before Rose had gone to Alec's bedroom and after kissing for over half an hour on the leather sofa, she'd gone to the bathroom and sent Martha a quick message.

It just read 'Don't wait up for me.'

Martha had got it and knowing Jackie would find out anyway and not wanting to get on her bad side, she'd walked across the field and convinced herself Rose was not really her friend so why should she defend her?

"Mr Tyler, I just got a message from Rose, I think she intends staying out, she told me not to wait up."

"Okay Martha, thanks for letting us know," Pete told her as Martha walked off.

She thought maybe she would stop by Mickey's trailer, even if it was always a shambles and smelled like it needed a full can of air freshener spraying around it with his smelly socks. She knocked on his door, hearing some cheering coming from the TV and changed her mind. She was about to walk off when he opened the door.

"What are you doing out at this time Martha?" he asked her.

"I just went to tell Mr Tyler I got a text from Rose. She's staying out all night Mickey," she replied.

"You are joking Martha? When has she ever done that?"

"The last time was when she took up with James or had you forgotten, Mickey?" she asked him.

How could he have forgotten? That was the time he'd known he'd lost Rose for good but when James had left her in that other seaside town he couldn't remember the name of in Wales somewhere, he thought she would go running back to him but she hadn't. No, instead she'd moved in with Martha and got over James on her own and Martha was forever giving him the eye. How many more hints did she want?

"It won't last, she'll be back in the morning," Mickey laughed,

Martha walked back to his trailer.

"Gonna invite me in?" she asked.

"You complain about my socks, the empty beer cans and the smell," he huffed, folding his arms.

What was she thinking of, she asked herself.

"Well get it cleaned up then 'cos if Rose has got a boyfriend all week, we'll both be on our own, she won't hang around with us."

Mickey asked himself why she had to keep reminding him?

"Hang on Martha," he called after her, just as one of the performers was passing. "Wanna help me clear up?"

"I'll go get the air freshener then?" she laughed.

The next morning, Alec woke up and Rose was still asleep. He tried to reach for his phone to see the time but she was on his other arm so he turned slightly and watched her. How could men treat her like that, wanting one night with her then never being seen again when she left town? He had some room to talk though but at least he'd done the decent thing and asked her to be his girlfriend for the week but could he let her go?

As she stirred slightly, he made his mind up to ask her to consider staying, he could but ask he supposed. She could either say no or that she'd think about it so he was now planning to give her a choice, if she couldn't bring herself to leave the circus that they would go for a long-distance relationship and he'd go to any town the circus was visiting within a few hours drive and he'd spend the weekend there because when she woke up and they'd kissed again, he was going to tell he how he felt about her.

If she felt the same, she would surely agree and if word got around, men would back off if they were part of the crew who were maybe hired locally to help out for a few nights and it would be spread to those who were just waiting around to talk to her that she had a boyfriend. He could do it, if she could, he could explain to Daisy that he was going off for the odd weekend but maybe it would drive her away altogether? It was a chance he'd have to take.

Even if Daisy decided to go to Exeter, she'd maybe still be away from home anyway? Then he'd be on his own again, just like he was before getting Daisy to come and live with him. Maybe it was finally his turn to have a bit of happiness in his life? Rose was stirring.

"Hey, morning," Rose greeted him, giving him his arm back.

"Good morning Rose, I can tell you slept well," he replied.

"I had a great pillow," she grinned, stretching her arms. "You have to go to work."

"Yes but I have time for a kiss, then I will walk you back to your trailer. Did you send a message last night?" he asked, going to kiss her neck.

"Yeah and knowing Martha, she'll have told my mother within five minutes of getting it. Geez Alec, I can't do anything since…." She trailed off. "Sorry, I shouldn't talk about it."

"It makes no difference to me Rose. I'm divorced with a teenager daughter who can't decide who she wants to live with. Don't let it worry you. Now, I want that t-shirt back, Miss Tyler."

Twenty minutes later, Rose had dashed into the bathroom after regretting letting Alec go first and he was making some tea.

"Help yourself to cereal Rose," he offered as he took his bowl to the table while the kettle was still boiling. "Had I known I was going to have some company, I would have gone to the supermarket, which is where I will go later so I can make you something nice for when we get back tonight."

"Aw, it's fine, there's normally a rush in the catering tent and Martha refuses to keep food in the trailer. I'm sure it's because she's too fussy after training to be a doctor. I don't know why she stays, especially since she fancies Mickey and he doesn't seem to know she even exists."

"So why did she join the circus?" he asked as he made the drinks, cringing when he remembered making it one night at the station in the microwave.

"Beats me but when she said what she'd been doing, dad took her on and asked if she'd be willing to train and take care of any minor ailments and accidents."

"Is that why she's trying to beat you into doing that extra spin in your act? So you won't try it and have a nasty fall?" he wondered.

Rose had never thought of it that way. Alec could tell but didn't say anything.

"Well, never mind eh? I will collect you after the performance and don't forget to pack a few things?" he reminded her.

"Enough until Sunday?" she smiled, seeing how far he was going to take this,

"As much as you need then? Rose, I want to talk to you tonight. You do know I'm not going to be able to say goodbye on Monday morning, don't you?"

Rose managed a nod, she wouldn't be able to either.

It was almost like being back with James again. She'd hardly seen him during the day while she'd been rehearsing but coming back here with Alec last night had brought it all back and now, she didn't know if she would be able to walk away from Alec.

"Alec, I think I know, what you want to talk about? You want me to think about staying?"

"Would you, if I were to ask? I know the circus is your life Rose but I was going to suggest we tried a long-distance relationship, at least to see if we can? I could travel to where the circus is if it's fairly close by?"

"You'd do that, for me?" she asked him.

"Yes, we can try, if you want?"

"Well yeah, I'd like to Alec. Wow, I didn't expect that but what if we find it’s not enough Alec?"

"Then you have to think carefully about leaving but first, we have the rest of the week but if by Monday it becomes clear long distance is not going to work, then I am willing to wait however long it takes for you to decide if you can leave the circus to live with me."

Chapter 6

Rose already knew that was not going to be enough, that of him catching up with the circus when it was viable for him to travel to it and book a hotel for a few nights. For the first time since James had left her after taking her onto a deserted beach somewhere in South Wales and tried to tell her he was leaving the circus, she felt safe and cared for by the man who she was sitting opposite to.

"Alec, can I ask something?" Alec nodded, not wanting to be rude while he was eating. "Why are you prepared to wait for me? I don't know if I can give up the circus just like that. I mean loads of people have come and gone and moved onto other things but I never imagined I'd be one of them."

"Maybe you have never had an incentive before?" he asked, wishing he'd not let Rose put slices of banana on his cereal.

"No, actually, I don't suppose I had? With James travelling with us, it never came up. I thought that was it, that we'd stay and, you know maybe one day settle down but he never gave it a chance. He said he wanted to be on his own for a while and that he knew I'd never really leave but he never gave me the choice. He just packed and stayed near Cardiff, the last I heard."

Alec reached to take her hand.

"Rose, you have nothing to explain to me and if you ask me, he did not deserve you. Maybe he was afraid you would want to leave and make a commitment, have you considered that?" he asked her.

"No. Why not just say though? Anyway it doesn't matter any more, does it? It's been a while now, he's not coming back."

"I'm sorry Rose but it's no wonder you did not encourage men to spend more than one evening with you and not take it any further, you seem reluctant to let it go?"

"Yeah, I suppose I am? Does that put you off?" she wanted to know.

"Absolutely not. Rose, when my wife was cheating on me, I never thought I could trust anyone else, hell, I even tried internet dating, that went down well," he smiled.

"Yeah, I haven't even got time for that, if someone had finally replied, I'd have been gone," she smiled back. "Well, I'd better get back and see when they can fit me and Jake in for practice, I'm glad it's not Martha's day, that's Friday. She does part of the act with us on Saturday night and I swear if she talks Jake into letting her do the triple, she's in dead trouble. Mind you, it might please my mum."

"Why would it please your mother?" he asked, finishing his drink.

"If Martha does it first during a performance, she'll think I'll back off. Only one artist does something special, if someone else does it, it's not a novelty, is it?"

Alec could see the point – Rose wanted to be first.

"Is that just within your circus?" he asked. "I meant surely other performers elsewhere include it?"

"Yeah, just in ours, like I just added that extra bit with the horse, Martha wanted to do it but I was confident about that, unlike the trapeze. Martha reckons my timing is out."

"Then she may be right? Still it's a long way up to lose your timing Rose?"

"Yeah, she tried to tell me but she's a different height and weight to me, it makes a difference. Jake thinks I don't know that."

Alec felt sorry for her, since she really was the star of the show, well he thought so and judging by the crowd last night, the town agreed. He'd caught a glimpse of Beth Latimer and Chloe with the younger girl and a few families he'd seen around, hoping they hadn't seen him or they may think he'd gone with Miller. Now he had to go face her questions of where he'd disappeared to while her son was running after the clowns.

He was not going to hide anything, was he? Why should he? Daisy was away, he could claim he just wanted some company and Miller had been sniggering about his fateful blind date a while back when he'd only been back a short time after going home and repeating the same mistakes with Tess he'd made before. He may as well have just stayed.

They cleared away the breakfast things and Rose went to get her cardigan, Alec helping her put it on.

"So," he said, putting his arms around her. "I will make my way around to the tent you get changed in then we can get straight off without anyone bothering you. No-one will be hanging around if they see you leaving with me, they probably know who I am?"

"The worst cop in Britain?" she teased him.

"Yes, thanks for that," he smiled, kissing her cheek.

"Well you started it, I never knew about it. Was that when that boy died?"

"Yes and it was one reporter who already went out of her way to destroy me once before but what I never got was she had the chance to chase it up and she stayed away, during the trial."

"Just be grateful she did," Rose replied, reaching up for a kiss. "Just one question, if I stay or you come and see me, how are ya gonna explain it to your daughter?"

"Well, she was the one trying to get me dating again, she should be glad it worked," he replied, going to kiss her.

They set off down the however many steps there were, he'd stopped counting them and he took her hand as they walked across the car park, which even at that time was beginning to fill up. He often wondered what people found to do all day, it wasn't the most entertaining town he could think of, they must find it a change from the noisy and crowded places.

Rose went first across the footbridge then Alec stopped her and she took his hand.

"Are you sure you want to be seen holding hands?" he asked, making certain.

"Yeah, why? They'd better get used to us Alec, tough if they don't like it. I'll talk to Jack and tell him to let ya in, no need to flash your badge in his face," she teased him.

"I did not flash my badge in his face," he defended himself. "I will have you know I showed great restraint."

"Yeah but would ya have done if I'd not come out?" she asked him.

"Yes, then I may have done. So which is your trailer?" he asked as they walked along, seeing people wandering around.

Rose stopped outside hers and Martha's.

"This is me. I'd invite ya in but you've already seen what Martha's like?"

"No need to worry. I will see you later and I hope you decide to give up on the triple, what you do is still amazing and don't let anyone talk you into it either."

"Only until I'm ready, how can I let her do it first?" she asked quietly.

Alec could see there was plenty of rivalry between the two of them, especially if an old flame of Rose's wouldn't let go when Martha was interested in him. Maybe Martha blamed Rose for it? She'd seemed a bit 'off' with him when he had asked after Rose. Now Rose was stood at the trailer door and Alec stretched his arm to rest his hand just at the side of her.

"Be careful at practice love," he leaned over to whisper to her.

"Yeah, I will Alec. Don't go chasing too many suspects."

"Rose, I gave up chasing suspects the night I collapsed and ended up in hospital and getting thrown out of my job until I got myself fixed. I had enough of being off work."

"Sorry," Rose replied, liking the fact he was calling her 'love' unlike the names James had for her.

"You were not to know," he replied.

He had just leaned in to kiss her goodbye when he heard noises behind him.

"Oh, so you've come back then?" Martha was asking Rose.

"Doesn't look like you've been in either Martha," Rose quipped back at her. "I sent ya a message and I bet ya went straight to my dad with it?"

Martha was guilty by her silence and Rose knew it.

"Don't tell me ya got Mickey to let ya stay over? Did ya have to clean his trailer to get in?"

"I've not got time to argue with you Rose," Martha replied, eyeing Alec, who had stood up straight.

"Neither have I," Rose replied. "See ya later Alec." She reached up to kiss his cheek. "Last night was amazing, I've not felt like that for a long time."

"Neither have I Rose, you are something else. Bye for now."

"Alec, watcha gonna tell your friend, the other detective?" Rose asked him, Martha having left the door open.

"That I have got myself a girlfriend?" Alec replied.

Rose touched his arm.

"You are gonna be late for work, Detective Inspector Hardy."

"I have an excuse, I was seeing you home. Will you be free, say around one?" he wondered.

"I suppose so, if we've not got to wait too long to practice? If not, I'll call ya or send a message. Want to show me off?" she teased him.

"Why would I not want to show off the fact that the star of the circus is having lunch with me? I could meet you here, if you would rather? If not, I will be across the road from the police station at the catering stalls."

"I'll come and find ya then? If not, come over and ask for me. Sure you won't come and watch tonight?"

"No, I had best give it a miss but I will come on Saturday evening and maybe sneak in and watch you practicing?"

"I think you enjoyed watching me practice more than the actual performance," she teased.

"What gave me away?" he grinned.

"Oh, maybe the fact you kept moving to get a better view?" she laughed.

"Guilty. Don't you be late for your practice."

Rose went inside after just kissing his cheek as more people were wandering around and she didn't want to let her mother catch her smooching with the nicest man she had met in a long time who wasn't a rat like James.

"So, you stayed with him then?" Martha called to her from her tiny room.

"So? Did ya finally get Mickey worn down?" Rose replied sarcastically.

"He sort of gave in but only because he was fuming he'd watched you walk off with another bloke. Geez, he never stopped talking about it, I don't know why I stayed except I didn't want to be on my own."

"Aw, did ya miss me?" Rose tormented her. "Ya'd best get used to it 'cos I intend staying out every night while we're in town and if you tell my mother, so help me Martha you'll regret it."

"She came looking for you last night and no-one told her you'd gone off with a bloke, well maybe Jack did after I went to get something to eat."

"Well I need to have a word with Jack so I'll get him to tell me if he did. I've got some stuff to pack if I'm staying over at Alec's," Rose told her.

"Must be serious?" Martha asked her, hoping Mickey would finally get the hint that a quick kiss and cuddle wasn't quite what she'd had in mind after she had sprayed his trailer with air freshener and he'd gone back to watching the football.

She supposed that may have been why Rose had left him? Was she that desperate to want someone Rose had kicked out, even before she'd started going out with James? James Noble had made it clear soon after his arrival he was making a play for Rose, the way he would watch her rehearse and followed her everywhere, no-one else had stood a chance but it had all come to an end as suddenly as it had started. As she got changed, she wondered if Rose had actually noticed the resemblance between her ex and the detective? If she hadn't, who was going to tell her?

Rose got changed then went to find Jake.

"Someone's in a good mood today," Jake greeted her.

"Yeah, had a great night with the town's dishy DI," she grinned. "If you tell my mum, they'll be trouble. Can ya get us an early practice time, he invited me to lunch?"

Despite trying his hardest, Jake was unsuccessful as time was limited due to one thing or another and it was almost twelve before Rose got up as the safety device was brought out. She suspected Mickey was the cause of the delay, him having claimed the clowns were trying a new routine that involved them running around everywhere but he'd seen her and Alec walk off last night and Martha had been bound to have told him about the text she'd received.

Mid morning though, Rose had escaped her mother's interrogation by saying she really liked Alec and was going to continue to see him while they were in town. She was actually surprised she'd got away with it while her mother was altering another costume.

"Well I suppose it's better than having men hanging around?" her mother had told her as they met in the changing tent.

"Mum, I'm over that and nothing ever came of it, it was just to get some time away from here," Rose had replied. "I'm seeing Alec every night, he's coming to collect me after the circus finishes so if there's anyone hanging around, they'll get the message."

"Well I don't know why Jack doesn't stop them going after ya?" her mother asked.

"He does, unless I pick one of them. I just go out with them Mum, it doesn't mean anything, I'm never around long enough but Alec said he would travel to see me, if I'm only a couple of hours away."

"Well that's something I suppose? You need something to get over James, ya can't go moping around and hoping he'll come back. I heard Martha was seen going into Mickey's trailer last night, maybe he's finally getting the message?" her mother asked.

"Well I hope so 'cos I ain't stopping him," Rose replied.

Her mother went off and Rose went to find Jack.

"So, you and the detective?" Jack grinned at her. "Never thought I see ya walking off without calling someone over. I suppose you want me to let him later?"

"Yeah, he's picking me up and don't you go spreading any rumours either," Rose replied.

So now, Rose was getting ready to climb above the ring when Jake asked her once more about the triple turn.

"Jake, I want to get it right, I want to impress Alec," she told him.

"That detective?" Jake wanted to know.

"I'm serious Jake, I wanna try it, right at the end so are ya gonna be ready?"

"Whatever ya say Rose, I kept telling ya to try it but ya kept saying you weren't ready, remember?" he asked her.

A while later, Rose was being helped off the safety device as she had misjudged her timing again, Pete having the sense to have a crew on standby when Jake whispered to him as they were about to climb up.

"Rose, if I tell your mother you tried again, she'll go crazy," Pete was saying to her as she put her robe on.

"I'm gonna do it Dad, I want to impress Alec, that detective."

"Your mother said something to you?" he asked, knowing she would have done after Martha had paid a visit last night.

"I'll tell ya later Dad, gotta rush, I said I'd meet him for lunch."

Martha just happened to be passing by so she followed Rose.

"Going out for lunch?"

"Why? Yeah, I'm meeting Alec, try not to miss me too much in the catering tent. So, are ya seeing Mickey or not?"

Martha was beginning to have second thoughts on that.

Alec hadn't had such a good morning himself and if he had known Rose had fallen from Jake's grip yet again, he would have felt worse because he'd had a feeling as he'd left her outside the trailer that she was going to try but trusted she wouldn't do it until she felt confident.

Ellie and Katie had been watching him with interest as he sat in his office and came out a few times to make himself a drink though not in the microwave, Ellie was relieved to see.

"So, what's with him this morning?" Katie asked over the desk.

"How would I know? Maybe his daughter finally decided which university she's going to and it's not the one near here?" Ellie replied.

"Can't say I blame her if she doesn't. I only moved here when my dad wanted contact with me, after trying to write to him when I found out he was still here. When am I going to get to know I'm off probation?" she asked Ellie.

"He'll say when Katie but he seems in a good mood, maybe it will be today? He turned up at the circus last night, I didn't think he'd bother."

"So he's just the same as the rest of us then?"

Ellie tried to ignore the remark. She knew he'd been up to something last night though, going off while she was trying to stop Fred and she bet it was something to do with that blonde trapeze artist. Maybe he'd tried his luck with her and succeeded, it was one step up from his mysterious date a few months ago that she hadn't been able to resist reminding him about.

She was about to go for lunch when he came out of his office.

"You going out too?" she asked him.

"Ah, I have to be somewhere," he replied.

"Meeting someone?" Ellie grinned at Katie, who was trying to ignore her grumpy boss. "Blonde maybe?"

She looked around to see the rest of them watching and Alec noticed.

"Get back to work," he told them, then remembered he was trying to be less grumpy. "Unless you are all going to lunch?"

Ellie thought it would be worth following him to see if she was right but that would be too obvious she supposed? Still, she could wander down towards the field and see if a certain trapeze artist was waiting around for him? She let him go first and saw him cross the road so she carried on, then on the other side of the road, she thought she saw the blonde in question, who had hurriedly got dressed and had dashed around the harbour.

Alec greeted her after he saw her on the path before she turned into where the catering stalls were with a kiss on the cheek.

"Glad you could make it, I thought you may be still practicing?" he asked, passing the menu.

"Just got out in time but had to dodge my mother to do so, she's still going on about a new costume, she had me trying it on earlier."

Alec smiled at her, wishing he could have been there.

"So, how did your practice go then?" he asked when he'd been to order.

"Fine, though I didn't have a captive audience today," she smiled.

"I thought I may have put you off yesterday? I won't watch on Saturday if you don't want me to?"

"Yeah, I'd love ya to come and watch Alec," she smiled back, touching his arm.

Alec had a feeling he knew why her ex had left so suddenly – he'd not liked her being watched every night by loads of people for fear something would happen to her because despite what she'd told him, he didn't think any man would be able to walk away from her once they were involved because he wouldn't be able to when Monday came around.

He could only hope when it came to it, she'd think the same or at least think about coming back when she realised he really cared about her. He also hoped maybe she would decide before then but he could live with going to visit her nearby if he had to.

Rose reached her hand out to him.

"Something wrong?" she asked him.

"No, just thinking about what we talked about, you never really said much about it," he replied.

"What can I say Alec?" she asked as the man from the stall came over with their drinks.

"That you are okay with it, with me joining you somewhere every weekend you are not that far away? What I mean is, will we be able to manage? Rose, I know we just met but yesterday morning, when I saw you up there, something made me stop and watch you then I wasn't even going to see the circus but I found myself walking across that bridge. Hell Rose, I don't honestly know what's happening to me."

Chapter 7

Rose reached over, putting her hand on his.

"Maybe because the circus is in town?" she suggested with a smile.

"If only that were true Rose," he replied as he saw their meals arriving and Rose quickly removed her hand, not that she was bothered anyone saw them.

"Yes, I'm okay with you joining me in nearby towns Alec but maybe by Monday, you may not have to?" Rose asked.

"I hope you don't mean what I think you mean Rose," he replied. "That you are just going to leave and not tell me where you are going?"

Rose stopped what she was doing.

"I never said that Alec. Anyway you can look up Tyler's circus online but that's not what I meant."

"It’s not?" he asked, waiting for her to put the salt down.

"Alec, I know you've not been out with anyone lately but still?" she teased him.

"Well only that disastrous internet date, which I would rather forget, I was quite relieved she never wanted to make anything of it," he admitted. "Especially when I admitted my teenager daughter had done my profile."

"Well that'll teach ya to let a teenager set your profile up then," Rose smiled. "Anyway, I told ya, it's not easy in the circus either but I seem to be the only one who attracts the crowds afterwards. Martha was complaining about Mickey, I think she bit off more than she could chew. What I meant to say was that by Monday, I may want to stay here or at least come back with you when you go to find me."

"Really? What if I don't want you to go on Monday Rose? What if I can't let you go? Would you consider coming back if I say I will come and get you no matter where you are? The circus may suffer though if you do leave."

"No it won't Alec, they pay to see more than me," Rose replied.

Alec was thinking otherwise but why was she putting herself down?

"You have no idea you are the star attraction, have you?" he asked her.

"Me?" Rose laughed. "It's a team effort, in case you'd not noticed? I'm sure my dad wouldn't agree with you on that point but my mother may. You should come and meet them properly but only if ya want?"

"Rose, let's see how things go first eh?" he asked before he said something like it wasn't a good idea as her mother may disapprove. "Let me ask you something? Did your last boyfriend get on with your mother, I mean just so I know?"

"Not a first, she thought he was a bit of a showoff but she got used to him. Did I tell ya that you do look a little like him?"

"Ah, no, I don't think you mentioned that Rose," he replied, a bit surprised she'd admitted it. "In what way?"

"Oh, sorry but my mum would have come out with it, trust me. Well not in the way you like showing off, Martha insists when he arrived all he did was spend time watching me rehearse but I didn't know he couldn't bear to watch the actual performance, it was Jake that told me."

"Well I admit I liked to watch you practice yesterday, it was the highlight of my boring day," he smiled.

"Yeah but you didn't want to watch me more than once actually perform," she reminded him.

"Rose, all I was trying to say was, it's your job, it's what you do and I would go to every performance if you asked me to but going on my own, I would maybe get a worse reputation than I was branded with before," he replied.

"The one you don't want to be reminded of?" Rose smiled as she finished her meal. "Sorry. Anyway, to James the circus was work but I never got how when I went out of the ring, he wasn't there to greet me."

Alec thought he already had that figured out, the man didn't want to share her with the audience but other performers were okay. Maybe he felt the same, in some way?

"Would you settle for me waiting for you after the performance maybe?" he relented. "I mean instead of waiting in the tent for you?"

Rose looked across at him.

"Well maybe you could catch the final part?" she smiled.

"I think I can manage that. Let me walk you back?" he offered.

While he waited for her coming out of the ladies room, he told himself not to go screwing this up by telling her he didn't know what was happening to him, he'd just managed to get away with that. He knew what was happening and he never thought it was even possible after what happened with Tess but his mother had always been a firm believer in being put where he was needed. He thought that had gone wrong, going back to Sandbrook but it had brought Daisy closer to him and now it seemed he was here to meet the one other person who could make his life better.

Rose put her arm in his as they walked back along the harbour, Alec never even noticing his DS over the other side sitting having lunch with Beth Latimer, whom she'd bumped into.

"Ellie, is that DI Hardy across the road?" Beth asked her as she looked around and saw a blonde attached to him.

"Probably, he's taken a liking to one of the circus performers, well I have a suspicion he has. He's been all sly about it and won't admit anything. Was she blonde?"

"Yeah, they were just heading for the east pier," Beth replied with a grin. "Well I wouldn't have believed it if I'd not seen for myself."

"It won't last Beth, the circus is only in town for a week and I can't see him following her everywhere, can you? He'll just be having a fling, like his sneaky little internet date a while back," Ellie replied.

"Oh, do tell!" Beth laughed.

As Rose and Alec stopped on the far end of the east pier, seeing Alec's cottage on the cliff, he asked when she had to go back.

"Don't you have criminals to catch?" Rose teased him.

"I could claim I am making sure the circus is complying with the law," he smiled, sitting them on a bench and putting his arm around her.

Rose grabbed his other hand.

"I'm usually only either trying to avoid my mum or catching up with gossip," she admitted. "This is much better. We could do this every lunch time, unless you get called out somewhere?"

"I'd like that Rose. Sorry about earlier but I really don't know what made me go last night when I was determined to stay away. Maybe it was watching you practicing?" he asked.

Then he realised that was what her ex used to do. Rose seemed to know what he'd meant.

"It's okay Alec, I'm over it. At least you watched the performance but I think I know how ya feel?"

"You do? Could you explain it to me maybe?" he smiled, squeezing her hand.

"Alec, ya just got back from trying to make friends with your ex and you don't know if you can let yourself be happy again."

He wondered how she knew?

"Do you trust me Rose, after you were left?" he wanted to know.

"Yeah, I trust you Alec, more than anyone I met recently because you were prepared to come after me, you invited me to your cottage instead of trying to talk yourself into my trailer and you cared enough to watch me last night and I know you felt out of place. Couldn't you have sat with your DS?"

"With her youngest son there? Rose, a few years ago, at the trial of Danny Latimer's killer, we were accused of having an affair. Since I came back I brushed it off but people remember. They accept we work together but being social? That can never happen."

"Sorry, I didn't know but who would do a thing like that?" she asked him.

"A desperate solicitor who wanted to get her client off by any means and it worked, she wrecked more lives than the killer did and he got off," he replied, not wanting to say who it was. "I expect with travelling, you missed a lot of it?"

"Yeah, sorry. I'm keeping you from working," Rose smiled at him.

"I'm only putting off a decision about a junior officer, no doubt she will be waiting for me when I get back," he told her.

"Why, what did she do?" Rose wanted to know.

"Made a rookie mistake and being too ambitious when she's not ready for it. I should do her a favour and send her back for training, I'm only putting off the inevitable really. The new chief here was running a programme, training on the job and she got in, how, I have no idea," he replied.

"Yeah, sometimes it's hard to know what ya getting into, she probably saw a good opportunity?" Rose asked him.

"Maybe so but how can I let her back Rose? She just needs more training and she has an attitude to go with it and the chief left it to me to decide. If I send her back for training, she may well have learned something but maybe one day, she will turn out to be my boss."

Rose giggled into his shoulder.

"Yes, I can see you find that amusing Miss Tyler. Come on, I will escort you to your trailer and just hope your mother is not prowling around."

They walked back across the narrow footbridge, Alec having thought he'd never have a need to ever cross it again when he'd got in the taxi that evening after Ellie Miller had left him in his chalet but now, for the rest of the week, he would be crossing it to meet Rose, something he could live with. Once at her trailer, he kissed her cheek and said he would be waiting for her later. Luckily for him, he'd just left when Rose's mother caught up with her.

"Rose, you fell again," her mother stated, crossing her arms as she tended to do.

"I was just giving it another shot, I almost did it," Rose insisted.

"One of these days Rose, you might miss that new safety device, I told your father it's not as good as the old one. You used to get an extra cheer on the way down for diving into it, remember?"

Rose didn't want to remember, she wanted the old device back as well, then she would really show Alec a graceful landing on Saturday night. Now, she was even more determined to show him she could perfect the triple somersault, before Martha beat her to it. She wondered if Alec had meant it when he said she was the star of the show? When Martha came back though, she made a point Rose should maybe give up.

"Face it Rose, I got the hang of it after a few attempts, how many have you made?" Martha asked her.

"That's not the point Martha, I'll get there, eventually," Rose huffed.

"Just to show off to your new boyfriend?" Martha asked sarcastically.

"So what if he is? At least he has a decent job, a place of his own and he cares about me, which is more than the losers who hang around waiting for me every night. Tell ya what Martha, if Mickey's let ya down, you can take your pick of the ones who hang around tonight 'cos Alec's picking me up after the show."

"I'm not that desperate Rose," Martha replied, going to fill the kettle. "So you're out all night again?"

"It's better than being in a tiny room all night Martha," Rose told her, wanting to add an 'with you' to the end.

Jackie had found out earlier that Rose had fallen again and was having a go at her husband for letting Rose carry on.

"Jackie, I can't stop her, you know that?" Pete had replied. "Rose would go crazy if I gave Martha the go ahead to perform it on Saturday night."

"Well it might stop her Pete. Can't ya at least get the old safety net back?" Jackie asked him.

"Jackie, the new one passed all the safety tests," Pete insisted. "I'll see what I can do but you know where we left it in storage, it could take a while to get it back."

"Well I hope ya don't leave it too late Pete, Rose ain't gonna stop and I bet she's tryin' to impress that detective."

Pete had known full well she was.

Katie was looking anxiously at Alec as he stopped to make a drink on his way back to his office.

"Something wrong DC Harford?" he called across.

"No Sir. Well just when am I off probation?" she dared ask as he walked towards his office.

"When I see an improvement in your attitude. Why did you even apply for the position? I know from DS Miller that you had very little training and she was right, you came in thinking you knew it all. Be thankful I let you back at all and I suggest you get that attitude of yours under control and start behaving like a police officer and not like having a conversation with your friends. Understood?" he asked her.

Katie looked blankly at him. If Ellie had said he seemed in a good mood, she'd hate to see him when he was in a really bad one, well one worse than the day he threw her out for not coming clean her dad was a suspect. She thought he must have something against junior officers full stop though Ellie had mentioned when he'd left a few years ago, he'd just survived a major operation so that may explain it. She just wished he'd really get himself a girlfriend instead of the odd internet date that she and Ellie had been laughing about the night he left early and wouldn't say where he was going.

She only knew because Ellie had caught him on his way home and had goaded him about it. She went back to work and just hoped Ellie might start taking her out on calls more often, no wonder she wasn't getting any experience, she'd been almost chained to her desk during the last major incident apart from a near fatal incident on a stake-out, she still got the shivers from the creep who had been a suspect and thought he was still guilty of something.

Ellie came back and saw the look on Katie's face.

"You didn't ask him again did you?" Ellie asked her. "I did warn you but you never listen."

"Why does he pick on me?" Katie wanted to know.

"It's nothing to what I used to have to put up with, trust me but I think you might see a difference over the next few days, just you watch."

"Want to tell me about it?" Katie asked hopefully, anything that would get him in a better mood.

She'd heard he'd tried to make up with his ex wife and that hadn't gone down very well plus he'd come back with his teenage daughter, who wasn't much younger than herself.

Ellie though wasn't so sure if she had been right about Hardy being in a better mood, well not after the circus left town and she didn't think the star attraction would be easily persuaded to stay.

Alec finally went home after calling at the supermarket to get some ingredients to make something nice for Rose that he could just leave in the oven while he went out to collect her. Should he go inside though and watch her? It might please her or bring back unpleasant memories of when her ex, who he was surprised to hear he resembled never watched her actual performance. He'd not had time to think about her admitting it but surely she wouldn't fall for the same type twice? How did he feel about it though? He still couldn't explain what was happening to him, was he falling in love with Rose already?

He'd forgotten how that felt, hadn't he? To get that rush, that feeling that you wanted to be with someone all the time and your heart sank when you were parted for too long. When he'd seen Rose swinging above the ring yesterday morning, he couldn't help but to go back and watch her again but could he watch her falling into that far too small safety device, if she misjudged her timing?

He knew that had been her ex's problem and why he'd left her but that hadn't been fair on Rose, he'd been sparing his own feelings and never had a thought for hers.

Rose was changed and waiting her turn on the horses with Martha, who didn't seem in a very good mood after Mickey had been trying to tempt her back to his trailer again, which she'd told him to forget. Alec was getting ready to set off to go collect his new girlfriend, trying to figure what time she would be climbing up that ladder. Then he had to show his ID to get inside the artist's entrance and catch the end of her performance.

He arrived on the field and made his way around the back to where some performers were standing outside smoking and drinking from paper cups, Alec thinking they were waiting for the big finale and he saw who Rose had called Jack leave another man on the changing tent entrance and stroll towards him.

"Well, well, well, if it's not the detective back again?" Jack asked him, Alec thinking he didn't need his ID after all. "Go on in, Rose told me to expect you."

"I appreciate that, Jack is it?" Alec asked him.

The tall man stood to attention.

"Captain Jack Harkness at your service, detective inspector and we're all a bit protective of Rose after her ex dumped her on a beach in South Wales somewhere. Don't let me keep you."

Alec wasn't intending to as he passed some clowns, noting Mickey was one of them and hoped he'd stay out of the way. Rose was halfway through her act. When she'd climbed up in front of Jake, she had no idea if Alec would relent and watch her but she didn't have time to look for him. Jake had told her not to even attempt the triple after earlier.

"Geez Jake, I'm not gonna try it with a packed Big Top, am I?" she'd asked him.

"I don't know Rose, are you?" Jake had replied. "I know you want to Rose but we have your safety to think about. Your dad mentioned your mother's on the warpath about the safety device."

"Yeah, she would be, wouldn't she?" Rose huffed as Pete was about to announce them from the centre of the ring.

"So is he coming to watch tonight?" Jake asked her as they took off their cloaks.

"Maybe the back end, he just said he'd be here for when I finished, unlike someone I used to know."

Alec was standing by the side of the seating, knowing Rose's other old boyfriend was probably glaring at him from behind but he was watching as Rose did a double somersault and a half turn to catch Jake's hand and everyone began cheering at her, including Alec, though he was only clapping as Rose got enough momentum to grab the free-swinging bar opposite and her landing gracefully on the side then sending the trapeze back to Jake, who had up-righted himself.

Alec heard more cheers as the two of them leaned over the side of the landing and held onto the supporting bar and waved. Alec knew it, what those feeling were he was having – he was falling in love with her and knew now he'd have to come and watch the end of the show every night. Rose was sliding down the rope that two men had hold of, well not sliding exactly but Alec still thought she did it gracefully and two of the girls who had been walking around the outside of the ring were taking their cloaks to them, Alec wishing he was out there helping her but if he was, the town would have more than enough to talk about as he'd wanted people to see them together gradually.

The safety device had been dragged out of the way hastily and people were now gathering for the finale, Alec trying to keep out of the way but Rose was coming through those gathering and caught up with him.

"So, watcha think then?" she smiled at him.

"Even better than last night," Alec tried to tell her over the noise as Pete was calling everyone forward.

"Gotta go, you stay there, right?" she asked him as Jake was trying to get her on the horse.

Alec did a mock salute and watched her ride off behind everyone else. Had she done that last night, he tried to remember. He'd been too busy thinking about getting to her to remember if she had done or not but she was definitely the star of the show whether she thought so or not as everyone was standing and clapping. Had he himself done that last night or had he been one of the few who had remained seated but still clapping?

He was sure Miller and her young son would have been doing as he'd gone down the steps to beat getting caught in the crowds leaving and it had been worth it, having Rose in his bed last night and now every night until she had to leave but maybe if he told her he knew what was happening to him, would she change her mind and stay? As Rory took hold of Rose's horse Princess and she was riding towards Alec, she motioned for Rory to stop and held out her hand for Alec to help her down.

"You were amazing Rose," he said softly to her. "How am I ever going to let you go?"

Chapter 8

Rose let Alec lead her to the changing tent, Jack now back on the entrance and giving Alec a mock salute but Alec insisted Rose went to get changed on her own. Alec was not happy when Mickey, still in his clown suit tapped him on the shoulder.

"I hope you're looking after her," Mickey told him.

"What do you take me for?" Alec replied, not being accustomed to being addressed by clowns.

"She has a lot of friends here," Mickey continued.

Alec wondered what that was supposed to mean until Rose moved the curtain.

"Go away Mickey, keep out of it," she warned him.

"Come on Mickey, leave it," one of the other clowns told him, trying to pull him away.

"Sorry," Rose said to Alec as she dropped the curtain.

"No matter but we have to get back or I may not have a cottage to go to," Alec replied. "I left some food in the oven."

"I won't be long, I've already packed a bag," she replied, moving the curtain again and handing it to him.

Alec knew now she was being serious, she may as well have packed a suitcase.

"Rose, you really were amazing tonight, did you change the end of your act?" he wanted to know.

"No, we just vary it a little every couple of nights, Jake knows to expect it when I give him a nod before I set out to finish the act. Worried about me?" she asked, grabbing her personal things.

Alec wanted to say he was but that would make him no better than the man who had left her, in South Wales, so everyone kept telling him.

Rose pulled the curtain back and they walked off towards the footbridge over the river and were soon back in time to save what was cooking, Rose insisting she helped.

"I think my mum's tryin' to get dad to send for the old safety net," Rose told him as they ate.

"That's good news then, it will make me happier as well. It must take some doing Rose, aiming for the new device if you lose your grip?"

"Yeah, it does but that's passed safety inspections as being adequate and so dad thought it just added more thrills to the show. My mum disagrees though."

"I should think so, he really needs to get it back, not only for you but the other two acts. Did he change it to save time?" Alec wanted to know.

"Probably, it gets the following act on quicker I suppose?" Rose agreed. "Everyone's had to adjust to it."

"Rose, you didn't try practising that triple earlier, did you?" He saw the look on her face. "Please don't."

"Alec, I can't let Martha beat me, I have to live with her, remember?" she asked him, wondering what he had against it.

"Not this week you don't. You are staying here, with me?"

"Yeah, I know but I have to practise in the same tent, she keeps rubbing it in now and then and I could do it, I know I can."

"Please don't while you're in town, I worry about you. Rose, has it occurred to you your last boyfriend may have found watching you up there too much?"

Rose thought he'd already mentioned that once.

"I told ya Alec, I don't think he did watch, he was never there to greet me like you were earlier. Oh, ya mean he was worried even when he wasn't watching? Alec, he knew what I did, did he expect me to give it up?"

Alec thought that was exactly what he wanted, it was what she did, he just had to accept it.

"Rose, please understand, I have never met anyone like you before, someone who is amazing and talented. I just thought maybe you could put your talent to better use than hanging from a bar and people watching you and no, I'm not against the circus in general. Well not now wild animals are no longer on display anyway, which was why my ex wife would never allow our daughter to go."

"Yeah, dad thought the attendance would go down but if anything, it gets busier."

Alec thought it rather proved a point that the public finally had some sense. For the next few days, Alec escorted Rose to her trailer even though she'd brought even more things of hers to his cottage and he'd thought he may have to use one of Daisy's wardrobes for his shirts but he was loving the way Rose was slowly taking over his life and even though she had never answered the question of how he was going to be able to let her go, he knew she was also going to find it difficult come Monday morning.

He had finally admitted to Ellie on the Friday afternoon that he and Rose were dating while she was in the town after she had got it out of him and had told him it was an improvement from internet dating she supposed.

"So what are you planning when she leaves town then?" Ellie wanted to know as they were driving away from an incident.

"Honestly? Well Daisy's not sure when or if she's coming back, I can travel to where Rose will be some weekends, if she doesn't want to stay," he admitted.

"Sir, she's used to travelling, how can you expect her to stay in one place?" Ellie wanted to know.

"I keep asking myself that question Miller. I suggested a few things she could do, if she stayed. She could open a fitness studio, the old newspaper office is still vacant, she might need some sort of licence though? Anyway, I have to get her to stay first and she seems unsure."

"Have you been going to watch her?" Ellie grinned.

"Only the last few minutes. I promised I would be there when she finished her act. It seems she used to have a boyfriend who wasn't keen on even doing that much for her by being there afterwards. I don't know what else to do Miller, I've asked her every night if she's made her mind up and I get no answer."

"You've still got the weekend, maybe she'll decide then? Are you going to see her on the last night?" Ellie wanted to know as they drove back to the station.

"Sunday afternoon is the last one, there are two on Saturday, she may have got it wrong before, I don't know if she mentioned it to me. I said I would go on Saturday night but I expect I will have to pay this time."

Ellie smiled at the thought of him buying a ticket.

"You can borrow Fred if you don't want to go on your own," she teased him.

"Hiring him out now are you?" he replied. "That's child exploitation Miller."

He went to collect Rose later that evening, deciding to go visit one of the pubs on the harbour and he had another try at getting Rose to stay.

"Alec, this has been one of the best town's we've ever visited. I wonder why we've never been here before though?"

"Maybe the town council decided the town needed something after what happened recently? Rose, there was a serious sexual assault case and all the women were afraid to go out on their own, until the latest victim's daughter brought all the women together to show them they would not give in to it. I know there was a murder before that but maybe your circus was not in the area at the time?"

"I don't know Alec, James used to help with all that, now it's down to Jack. We try to go as many places as possible every year."

"I'm sure you do Rose. So, we have Sunday night to ourselves then?" he smiled.

"Yeah, I'll have to take a few things back at a time, starting tomorrow. Are you working in the morning?" she asked him.

He knew he would have been, with Daisy being away but he'd promised to watch Rose rehearse.

"No love, I said I'd be there for your practise, did I not? Rose, I don't want you to take your things back, you know that?"

"You're making it difficult for me Alec. No-one has ever asked me to stay behind before. I'm really torn about this, between staying here with you and letting everyone go without me."

"I know, I'm sorry, it's not easy for either of us Rose. When I was visiting on Monday, I had no idea what was going to happen. You have still not told what you are doing to me Rose, why I feel like I do."

"I know Alec, maybe we can figure it out when we get back to the cottage?" she smiled, poking her tongue out slightly.

"Then are you ready to leave?" he asked, keen to get an answer out of his albeit temporary girlfriend but he hoped to change that.

They walked arm in arm across the lit harbour but Rose wanted to go for a walk on the pier, which was brightly lit with small string-lights.

"It's really nice here Alec. I know you went away but something made you come back. Was it because you almost died here a few times?"

He now regretted ever admitting chasing the suspect down the cliff then a few months later collapsing on the decking where he used to live, ironically where the circus was now situated.

"It seemed as good a place as any to try to give my daughter a fresh start but it's not worked out the way either of us wanted Rose. She may only come back for the rest of her things. Maybe she's made up with her mother but I think part of her can't forgive her mother for hiding the truth from her about that last big case. It took a lot of getting over with. Rose, if she comes back and you stay, is that what's worrying you, that she won't accept you?"

Rose pulled away from him.

"Oh, it is? Rose, you have nothing to worry about. She won't be back for long, she may opt to stay over in Exeter and get a room on the campus or share but at present I don't think she is ready to go out on her own and her mother offered to get a transfer near the other university. I think that will make her decide. I don't think I can move to Exeter, my DS said it was awful but maybe that was just her at the time?"

"Yeah, I'm sure there's nothing wrong with the place," Rose had to agree. "This isn't solving anything, is it?"

"No, it's not. Rose, what do I have to do to convince you to stay? You know how I feel about you."

"Yeah, I know and I feel the same Alec, it's a hard decision to make. I guess it'll be a last minute one?" she replied.

"I'd settle for that, if it meant you were staying Rose," he told her, taking her hand.

"Even if it's not the answer you wanted?" she asked him.

"Tell me what I can do to make you stay? Rose, no-one has ever made this big an impact on me as you have. I'm falling in love with you Rose, it's the only explanation why I feel this way, I seem to have ignored all the signs."

Rose leaned into his shoulder.

"I think I'm falling for you too Alec. You're the only man I trusted after James left. We have a few more nights left, let's make the most of them and if by Sunday night we can admit we love each other, that will help me decide. If I can't leave Alec, then I'll know."

"I can accept that Rose, I think we both have mixed feelings but it's heading that way, you know it is. Ready to go home, well your temporary one? If you stay, we could move, just not by the river eh?"

Rose let out a laugh as he helped her up and despite a cool breeze coming off the sea, they stood at the end of the pier and kissed, not caring if anyone was around.

"Alec, if we keep doing that, how am I going to be able to decide?"

"It's your decision Rose, I've tried everything I can think of but if you can't make up your mind and you leave, I will call you every day and join you at the first place you stop, which can't be that far away, surely?" he asked.

"Geez Alec, then I'll have to go through it all again and I don't know if I can. I know I wanted you to visit me but still, it's not gonna help, is it?" she asked him.

"Why not Rose? It may not be enough for me but I will do it for you, you know that."

"It might not be enough for me either. Alec, I think it's this place that's stopping me from deciding. James left me by the sea and I swore I'd never get over it and be able to trust anyone else."

"Is that it?" he asked, finally getting her to admit something. "Rose, I swear I would never do that to you. We could move up into the town, if you want?"

"I don't know Alec. I mean I like it here but it's not helping that James let me go on a beach. How do I know you can make me forget about it?"

"Rose, I would do anything to help you forget. I would say what my heart feels but it may be too soon for you to hear it so on Sunday night, I am going to take you on the beach and I am going to tell you. If you run away, I will just follow you and if you refuse to see me and just want to pack the rest of your things, I will let you go but I will be going to wherever the circus is going next. I won't give up on you, you have my word. I hope that's enough for you."

Despite what had been said on the end of the pier, Alec made Rose feel even more new sensations that he thought she was going to be heard the other side of the harbour, with it being so quiet but in reality, it only sounded loud to him as he came away from her. As he cradled her in his arms he told her again how much she meant to him and that he'd never stop following her. He just hoped it would be enough for her.

The next morning, Rose took a few things back with her, Alec not wanting her to but she insisted she made a start and if she did stay, he could drive round and help her pack again, which was some consolation to him at least. She let them into the small trailer, thankful Martha must be out somewhere or still in Mickey's messy trailer, since he couldn't get anyone to share with him.

"Before ya say anything Alec, I'm not saying I want to stay sharing with Martha. I might move back with my parents for now, if I don't stay."

"I was not going to say anything love but if you are moving back with your parents, you must be considering you can't carry on sharing with Martha? Maybe that's an added incentive?"

Rose playfully dug him with her elbow.

"I've gotta go Alec, it's early practise today, the clowns have to rehearse outside so watch out as do any other act who need a lot of space. Coming to watch?"

How could he say no? If he did she would think he was as bad as her ex.

"Yes, I would not miss it. Which is first?" he asked.

"Ah, the horses today, then we have the pleasure of Martha joining us up on the trapeze, lucky us."

Alec had an awful feeling about this as she walked off to get changed but he had to trust her, she wouldn't thank him for asking her yet again not to go for the triple somersault. He was waiting by the entrance for Rose to come back, hoping the clowns wouldn't be messing about there when he heard voices behind him, being Rose and Martha, who seemed to be having a disagreement.

"Rose, I'm telling you, you only have to tuck yourself in a fraction and you'll get it right," Martha was telling her as they waited for the horses.

"Why would you be giving me tips Martha? Every time I've tried, I still can't grip hold of Jake."

"I know, I was watching last time. Do you want to impress your new boyfriend or not Rose?" Martha asked her.

"He might not be after tomorrow night Martha," Rose had to admit before they entered the rear of the Big Top. "He said he'd travel to the next town if I can't make my mind up. He wants me to stay with him Martha and I can't decide. I can't even get the courage to tell my mother either, she'll go crazy and as for my dad? I'm gonna ask Alec to lunch with them tomorrow, they have to meet him properly or dad will have a fit and as for my mum?"

She gave Alec a smile as the horses passed her and she and Martha followed them and Alec watched as Rose then Martha gauged their leap onto their respective horses. He knew he'd already fallen for Rose, he just had to tell her and last night, he might have done if she'd decided to stay. Now it was almost his last chance so he hoped tomorrow night when he did tell her, it would make her want to stay.

Rose got down from her horse, Princess and Alec took her hand.

"You were very graceful Rose, do you have time for a break maybe?"

Rose put her robe on and they crossed to the catering tent, which wasn't that full but they went to a far table.

"So what were you and Martha talking about eh?" Alec wanted to know.

"Ah, just about the trapeze. I think she hates the fact she's only up there once a week. If I stay Alec, she'll get the job, that should make her happy and she won't have to share with me."

"I'm sure she doesn't look at it like that love," he tried to assure her.

"Don't bet on it Alec. She's wanted it all along but is that why ya think I can't decide Alec, because I don't want her to win?"

"Rose, I thought no such thing. Look, leave on Monday if you must and practise doing the triple and if you succeed and perform it, then maybe you will be more willing to come back here and stay with me. I will be worried about you doing it though but if I'm still here, it may be better for you that I wasn't there?" he asked her.

"Alec, it's not that. I know you worry about me but would you worry any less if I go some place else?"

"No. Rose, I would be there every night if I could love, you know that? Maybe though if I'm not there, you may actually do it?"

"I don't know if it would make any difference Alec. I just tell Jake on the way up if I feel like trying. I have to go now."

He saw Jake standing in the entrance to the catering tent beckoning her over. He got up to follow but she tried to stop him.

"You don't have to watch Alec."

"Yes, I do. Rose I was going to wait until tomorrow night but I think you are ready. I love you, Rose Tyler. Just go up there and be amazing as always but just be careful eh?"

He followed her across to the Big Top but Rose stopped as Jake went off.

"Alec. I love you too."

With that, she kissed his cheek then ran after Jake, who was waiting to climb the ladder after the workers freed the bars so Jake could set them in motion. She stopped halfway up.

"Jake, I wanna try."

"Rose, don't be daft, you fell yesterday, remember?" he asked.

"I know but Alec's down there, he told me he loves me, which is more than James used to do before I climbed up here. I love him too Jake, I have to try then maybe I'll get over what's stopping me staying."

They climbed to the top, Rose thinking Alec would wonder what was going on.

"So you're thinking of staying with him? Does your mother know?"

Rose didn't need to answer him as he swung the rope and leapt for the bar. Alec was watching with interest. In a few hours she'd be doing it to another packed house and he knew she loved it, why would she want to give it up? Maybe it was just the principle of not letting Martha beat her?

Martha walked past him and started to climb the ladder, joining Rose as she landed.

"Well, are you going for it or not? He's watching down there Rose. Just do as I said."

"I don't know Martha, I know he doesn't like me to try. I never told him I fell again yesterday."

"He's not James you know? At least this one watches you," Martha reminded her.

"I know and he wants me to stay and I think I want to. We'll do the usual then when you land, I'm going for it, Jake knows."

Martha just hoped Rose knew what she was doing as she took the bar and began to swing towards Jake.

While that was going on, Mickey had joined Alec.

"Are you trying to get Rose to stay here?" Mickey asked him.

"What if I am?" Alec wanted to know.

"She won't go until she does the triple, detective inspector, you do know that?" Mickey wanted to know.

That was what Alec was afraid of as Martha landed and Rose waited for the trapeze swinging back. Then when she grabbed hold of it, he was sure she was looking down and he knew.

Chapter 9

What happened next, Alec wasn't entirely sure. He knew she was going to try the triple, she'd just told him she loved him and wanted to prove she could do it so she could stay. Well he at least liked to think so but as he watched, he didn't notice the tiny extra tuck Rose was attempting despite Rose thinking Martha was a slightly different height that it may not make much difference.

Rose had grabbed the swinging bar, done the exact same amount of swings then prepared for trying the triple but doing what Martha advised but it was too late, she was a fraction out of reach of Jake, who was dangling upside-down from his own bar and trying his best to reach her.

Alec heard the gasps before he saw Rose lose her grip and she fell towards the safety device, the workers already rushing forward to help her once she landed but it seemed to Alec like it was in slow motion as everyone clasped their hands over their mouths and Alec knew there was something wrong when she somehow lost her balance and tippled over the edge of the metal frame and landed on the floor just as one of the workers reached her.

Alec ran forward with the rest of them, seeing Rose on the ground and shouting he was the police and for someone to call for an ambulance.

A first-aider rushed forward as everyone else moved back to let him through, Alec being surprised it wasn't Jack as he seemed to do everything else around the place.

Pete was shouting Rose's name from the back of the crowd, everyone letting him through.

"I told you about that device Tyler," Alec told him angrily as he crouched at the other side of Rose as the other man was examining a gash of Rose's forehead.

"What the hell happened?" Pete asked anyone who could answer as he'd been talking in the entrance.

"She missed, what does it look like?" Alec replied, hoping Rose would come round on her own. "Rose, can you hear me?"

"She's out cold," the first-aider replied, checking her pulse. "Where's the ambulance?"

"It has to drive down the field," Alec told the man, having himself walked down it many a time. "I told you that device wasn't safe."

"It passed all safety regulations," Pete was insisting as someone brought Rose's dressing gown and Alec put it over her.

"Leave her where she is, there may be injuries we don't know of," Alec insisted.

"Do as he says," Pete had to agree. "Everyone, carry on where you can and get Rose's mother."

Pete thought his wife wouldn't thank him for this, if he kept her away. Alec was getting his phone out to see where the ambulance had got to, like it would get there faster if he said who was calling. Then he heard who could only be Rose's mother calling her name, Pete trying to hold her back.

"What's he doing here?" Jackie referred to Alec.

"Jackie, leave him, he should be in charge love, it's what he does," Pete replied.

"What happened?" Jackie wanted to know.

"We would all like to know that, Mrs Tyler, what did happen?" Alec asked.

"She was trying the triple again," Martha admitted. "She should have landed and bounced off."

"Well she didn't, did she Martha?" Jackie asked her.

"Looks like she lost her balance for some reason?" Alec suggested, trying to take it all in. "Someone check where the ambulance is, the longer Rose is unconscious, the longer it will take to find out what went wrong. She will have concussion at the very least."

A few minutes later, Alec was relieved to see the ambulance crew enter with a stretcher who began examining Rose.

"We'll have to take her down to Dorchester, the local hospital is only for minor injuries and they have no beds."

"I'm DI Hardy, Wessex police," Alec stood up and got his ID out. "I'm going with her. Mr Tyler, are you following?"

"Yes, though I've no idea where Dorchester hospital is," Pete replied.

Alec wanted to say neither did he, since he'd only been to the one in Exeter.

"Well it should be easy to find, it will be signposted," Alec told him.

Alec thought it fortunate Rose's father wasn't wearing his outfit.

"They will want some details from you," Alec told Pete as they followed the crew out to the ambulance. "You know that was just waiting to happen?"

"Ya said ya were sending for the old safety net," Jackie reminded Pete.

"It was arriving on Monday before we left," Pete replied.

Alec wanted to say a fat lot of good it would do now. He climbed into the back of the ambulance, keeping out of the way as Rose was secured and made stable but it was all coming back to him, the rides he himself had endured a few years ago.

"We need some basic details," he was being asked, cringing at the thought Becca Fisher had gone through his wallet seeking his.

Rose had told him how old she was but not when her birthday was.

"Her parents are following but she's twenty nine," Alec told the other man.

"Do you know how she got that gash?"

"Yes, she lost her balance from above the ring when she landed," he replied, wanting to add it was partly her father's fault.

Pete had hastily put Jack in charge if he wasn't back for the afternoon performance, unless he left Jackie with who was seemingly their daughter's boyfriend and that wouldn't go down well, since Rose had probably been trying to impress the detective.

"I told ya Pete," Jackie reminded him. "I said she'd do something stupid and you let her."

"Jackie, how could I stop her if she tells Jake on the way up?" Pete wanted to know.

"You could have told Jake to refuse," came the reply.

"Jackie, he's the one who was encouraging her until lately. I'd say it was more Martha's fault than anyone else's, Rose was determined not to let her perform it first. You know she was maybe planning on staying?"

"What for?" Jackie wanted to know as they tried to keep the ambulance in sight.

"Come on Jackie, Rose is in love with that detective, what do you think?" Pete asked her, seeing the ambulance take the first exit on the roundabout and hoping he could keep up.

"She'd give up the circus for him?"

"Yes, after James left her, she wasn't happy and that's what drove her to do the triple Jackie, you know that? If she stays here, she won't be tempted but who knew what she had planned?"

"So it's his fault?" Jackie asked, seeing Pete shake his head.

"Jackie, it just made her more determined, she would never have given up trying, now she will," he replied as he saw the turn-off for the hospital.

Rose was being admitted with concussion until they determined if there was anything else and Alec used his ID to get some answers and being allowed to go further than visitors.

"You'll still have to wait there," a nurse was trying to tell him and the door closed to the emergency room.

Alec didn't like it but he couldn’t do Rose any good in there and he knew it. He heard the sound of Jackie's voice and hoped she'd opt to stay out there, she would surely blame all this on him.

"Why won't they let us in Pete?" she was asking as he was given a clipboard and asked for some details, which was difficult to put an address and didn't fancy putting 'Big Top Broadchurch'.

"Stay here Jackie, I have to go find that detective."

"Charming," Jackie muttered as she was handed the clipboard and pen.

Pete was asking where the man who came in with Rose was so a nurse went to get him.

"Something I can do for you Mr Tyler?"

"Yes, I need to put an address for Rose, can I put yours down?" Pete asked hopefully.

Alec thought his was as bad as saying she lived in a trailer but at least it had a name, that being Harbour Cliff Cottage. Well it always seemed to get him found when needed but the postman may not be all that pleased about it.

Alec reluctantly followed Pete and tried to avoid Jackie's stare.

"She was showing off to you," Jackie glared at him since he sat opposite.

"I begged her not to do it Mrs Tyler," Alec replied.

"Yeah but ya wanted her to stay so don't deny it, she wouldn't leave without proving she could do it. You're just as much to blame as Martha."

"Maybe I am but I asked her to stay with me, not leave her on a beach in South Wales," Alec replied.

"She told ya?" Jackie asked him as Pete came back from the desk.

"Yes, she did. She said she would decide by tomorrow night but I think before she climbed up that ladder, she was ready to stay. I did not need her to prove anything Mrs Tyler. Now she's in there and I am partly to blame."

Jackie looked at him and knew he cared for her daughter.

"So is she staying?" Pete asked him, wishing he had some change for the drinks machine.

"I can't answer that Mr Tyler but Rose wanted me to meet the both of you properly tomorrow and I agreed. I told her if she leaves then I would follow the circus to the next town, to give her more time to decide. Now I don't know what she will do."

Jackie was now feeling sorry for him.

"She told you, about James?"

"Yes and it makes no difference to me. I said I would follow her when it was practical to do so and she told me I at least could watch her performance, unlike her ex."

"Did she tell you why he left?" Pete asked him, looking at the time.

"She has only just worked that out, Mr Tyler. I may not like her doing it but the least I can do is watch all or part of the act. I suspect her ex could not even do that?"

"No, Inspector, James didn't like what she did. She'd only just started doing the trapeze, he wanted her to go back to what she was doing. I expect that had a lot to do with it?" Pete wondered.

Alec already knew that must have been the reason. The man must have loved her too much and thought she wouldn't stop just for him or he'd never really asked her. Maybe that had made all the difference. Alec was up like a shot when a bed was being brought through the doors where Rose had been taken.

"How is she?" Alec asked as Jackie clung to Pete.

"She has concussion but no other injuries. She had fallen from a height?" the emergency doctor asked him. "Is she a circus performer?"

"Yeah, she is," Jackie spoke up. "What's wrong with that?"

"Leave it Jackie," Pete was trying to tell her. "Rose is our daughter, her mother's just upset."

"That's understandable but we have an address for her."

"She was staying with me," Alec informed the man. "Where are you taking her?"

"Just to the general women's ward. She'll wake up in her own time. You can go with her but I can only allow one person at her bedside, it's out of visiting hours. Her mother maybe?"

"She'll be okay though?" Jackie asked again. "Why can't we both go in?"

"Mrs Tyler, it will disrupt the other patients on the ward. Unless you have private health insurance?"

"I have but Rose is not covered," Alec told them.

"Sorry then. Once she comes round, we'll keep her in for observation overnight. You've come from Broadchurch?"

"Yes, the hospital there is not adequately equipped," Alec replied, glad it had been when he'd been taken there once or twice and Mark Latimer had been there a few months back.

He wondered why there was no more room there though.

"Why don't you go in?" Pete suggested to Alec. "We'll just stay until visiting time."

"I suggest you all take a break and someone will tell you where she is," the doctor suggested.

"I will go find where she is and join you," Alec told Jackie and Pete, seeing a sign for the café on the second floor but there was a smaller one in the entrance.

"We'll be in the one by the door," Pete told him, trying to lead Jackie away.

"Why don't we go back Pete?" Jackie asked. "We can come back later, if he's gonna be in with her."

Pete wondered what had come over her.

"It's only a couple of hours Jackie and she might come round. Beside, he'll need a ride back for his own car, if he has one."

Alec had shown his ID to the staff on the ward, getting a funny look as he went behind the curtain around Rose. He knew the other women would be bound to gossip amongst themselves but he didn't really care. He sat there for what seemed like hours after going to tell Rose's parents where she was and getting himself a drink but he was about to go get them when he saw Rose stirring.

"Hey, welcome back," Alec smiled at her, taking her hand.

"Hi, where am I? No, don't tell me. I'm not at your place am I?"

"You mean our place?" he asked, trying to keep his voice down.

"What happened? I know I lost my grip, did I bounce off the safety device?"

"No love, not right away, you seemed to lose your balance and fell over the edge, before anyone could get to you. Your parents are outside, I will go get your mother, it's not quite visiting hours yet."

They kissed briefly and Alec went outside, talking to Pete while Jackie went to see Rose.

"So, you think she'll stay?" Pete was asking him.

"She has nothing to prove but she could not let it rest. If she stays here, she won't get tempted again."

"I don't know about that. You must be something, if she agrees to stay behind."

That was what Alec was hoping, that Rose would find it enough that he loved her for her to stay.

Jackie was trying to get Rose to reconsider.

"I told ya Mum, I think I'm gonna stay. Alec was right, I'll just keep on trying, Martha gave me the wrong advice, not on purpose but I won't get it right, not now. I'll get a job here, I could open a little fitness studio or something. Martha will get what she wanted."

"That's not the point Rose. Everyone comes to see you," Jackie insisted.

"No Mum, they come to see everyone else, I'm just in the last act," Rose told her.

Alec went back in to see her, Pete waiting outside to give him a ride back to Broadchurch while Rose had a rest and he was soon back, using his ID again but just before eight, Rose finally talked him into going home.

"So we go get your things tomorrow when they let you out of here?"

"Yeah, guess so? We can catch up with them when they appear nearby?"

"Yes love, we can. See you in the morning, get some rest."

"Alec, I'm sorry I made you wait, to see if I was gonna stay."

"I know love and I should bring you some clothes eh?" he smiled.

"Yeah, my mum's gonna be so annoyed about my costume."

Alec smiled at her, that was the least of her problems since he'd got a message from Daisy while he'd been away. He was surprised though that she was already home when he got back.

"Dad, why didn't you tell me the circus was in town? Mum would never let me go when I was younger," Daisy greeted him.

"I know. Daisy, there is something I have to tell you and it may make you decide to go back to stay with your mother."

"What?" Daisy asked as he told her he was involved with the star act of the circus.

"She was deciding if she was going to stay but she had a bit of an accident, she's in hospital," Alec explained.

"Geez Dad, is she okay?" Daisy wanted to know.

"Yes, she'll be fine and tomorrow, I'm bringing her back so if you want to leave, I will understand."

"After the trouble you went to getting me to come with you?" Daisy asked.

"I know it's not been easy for you but you have to make up your own mind which university you want to go to."

"Dad, I talked it over with mum. I don't want to go to university, just stay at college here, if you let me?"

After gathering some clothes Rose had left the next morning, Alec set off to collect her, Daisy not thinking it was a good idea she tagged along but when they got back, he was pleased how they both got on.

"So if you open a studio here, you're going to need some help?" Daisy asked her.

"I guess so. Well, where's this empty building you were talking about?" she asked Alec.

They all went across for lunch at the Tyler trailer and Pete let them into the final performance as Rose said she'd pack afterwards but when it was over, Martha having gladly taken Rose's place, Rose had to go pack and say goodbye to everyone. Little did she know that Jack had spread the word and told Alec to get her in the catering tent before she left.

Everyone was waiting for her, Alec and Daisy staying in the entrance.

"I don't know what to say, you guys," Rose told them tearfully.

"Lost for words?" Martha tried to joke.

"Thanks Martha. Now it's all yours, ya got what ya wanted," Rose replied.

"Not like this. Rose, I thought I was giving you the right advice, I obviously misjudged because we're not the same height and I'm sorry. Can you leave as a friend?"

Rose looked over to Alec and Daisy.

"Yeah and good luck with Mickey."

"I think I'll need it Rose, I don't know how you put up with it," Martha tried to smile as everyone was leaving.

"Why do ya think I took up with James?" Rose grinned.

"Well even though he left you, you've done well for yourself. Catch up with us sometime."

Rose agreed and went back to Alec, who put his arms around her and Daisy.

"Let's go see this empty newspaper office? It's not that big, maybe you can give private lessons, a few at a time?"

"I may need some help with all the paperwork," Rose told him as she peered inside.

"Then I will be only too pleased to do so. Right, are we all going home then?"


Rose was determined to make a go of her new studio, getting bookings from Chloe and Beth Latimer plus Ellie and Daisy was helping keep Rose organized but Alec had a feeling the place would be too small once it took off. Rose taught Daisy a few things about being a gymnast and a few weeks later, she got Rose to admit just how much training she'd done.

Alec had something in mind for the upcoming Christmas festivities, beside having Daisy with him this year as she was going to her mother's for the new year, he took Rose out a few nights before and asked her to marry him.

This time, she didn't hesitate as he took her to the end of the lit pier and she shouted a loud 'YES' and he swore Daisy could hear her over in their new place on the road out of the town.

The End!