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Travelling Circus

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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 on 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 feather 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 as 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 practiced 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'd 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 practicing 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 practicing 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 practicing 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 tyin' 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 white 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 white 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
Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

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