Disclaimer: Broadchurch belongs to ITV, and the wonderful portrayals of Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller belong to David Tennant and Olivia Coleman. This short story belongs to me.
A/N – Hi one and all, and welcome to my first Broadchurch story. This short one shot came to my mind as soon as I'd finished watching the final episode of Season 3, but I've only just been able to find the time to sit down and actually write it. This story only features Hardy and Miller, and I've tried my best to keep them in character, because I honestly love how they're portrayed in the TV show. This is just an additional scene really, and I hope you like reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
~ To Be Strong ~
It was late when Hardy heard the knock at his door.
He frowned and rubbed a hand across his tired face as he tried to work out who it could be. Daisy was already asleep, but Hardy had stayed up without even considering the alternative, well aware that any semblance of rest would be hard to come by after the sort of day he'd just had.
Yes, they'd solved a crime that had been haunting the people of the town, but the culprit – a scared, vulnerable teenager – was not the evil demon they had all been imagining in their nightmares. Leo had come close to that – particularly in that final interview - but Hardy had only felt partially satisfied in putting that little prick away.
More than anything else, he'd felt shame. Shame that he even shared the same gender as that bastard. Shame that he had anything at all in common with the being who had orchestrated so much misery.
He heard the knock again; it was loud, unrelenting, and it forced his mind away from the tired and dark thoughts that had been circling for the last few hours. Whoever it was clearly had no intention of giving up. Hardy stood on tired legs and sighed heavily as he made his way over to the door.
He could still summon anger though, and he was all ready to yell at whoever it was – press, well-meaning neighbours, whoever – to kindly piss off and leave him alone, right up until he finally opened the door, and he was greeted by a face that caused the angry words to stall in his throat. These days, there was only one person – other than Daisy of course, who was safely tucked up in bed – who could cause that reaction in him.
"Hi, Sir," Ellie Miller said with the sort of forced cheerfulness that Hardy generally abhorred. He watched as she quickly glanced past him into the house. She nodded to the empty room and asked, "Is Daisy in bed?"
"Er, yes," he replied, taken aback by her sudden question. His hand was still on the door, keeping it only half-open; he made no move to open it fully. "Miller – "
"Good," she interrupted. "You going to let me in?"
"Why?" he asked, a little dumfounded by her abrupt and entirely unexpected appearance at his front door.
"Because despite the face you're pulling at the moment, you're not such a grumpy bastard that you'll leave a woman standing in the rain and the dark at midnight."
Hardy sighed and stepped back to allow her entrance. He hated when she was right. "Fine."
"Wonderful," she said without a trace of amusement. "Cup of tea then?"
Hardy had no idea what had got into her, but he knew her well enough by now that it wasn't worth arguing with her when she was in this type of mood. Especially after the day they'd just had.
So instead he made the tea quickly and took the mugs back to the living room, where Miller had already made herself at home. Her coat was off, so were her shoes, and she was thumbing her way through one of those daft women's magazines that Daisy liked.
"Did you know that women over forty are more likely to get pregnant than those under twenty?" Miller said suddenly. She scoffed. "Fat chance."
Hardy shook himself slightly. "Miller, what are you doing here?"
"Needed to talk," she replied, her eyes still fixed on the stupid magazine she was reading. "You didn't want to go to the pub, so I decided I'd just come here instead."
"Couldn't sleep," she replied shortly, and Hardy knew not to push it. She looked at him shrewdly, possibly talking into account his wild hair and tired eyes. "Had a feeling you wouldn't be able to sleep either."
"Drink your tea," he said instead of acknowledging how right she was, nodding to the mug he'd placed on the table in front of her. He took a seat on the sofa, giving her as much space as he would a wild tiger. She pulled a face as she picked up her tea, probably remembering the way he sometimes microwaved his brews to heat them back up, but at his pointed look, she finally took a tentative sip.
"Not bad, sir," she told him after a longer consideration than he felt was fair. He rolled his eyes.
"Thanks," he deadpanned, which drew a small smile from her at least.
The silence quickly grew uncomfortable again though, as if they both knew what was coming but neither actually wanted to take the step of starting the conversation.
Eventually, Hardy, as he so often did, lost patience with it all. He hated beating around the bush…
He sighed loudly, and asked, "What are you doing here, Miller?"
"Do you ever wonder why they do it?" she asked suddenly, her eyes fixed downwards as if she was scared of looking at him in case she saw something she didn't want to see.
He had no idea what she was talking about.
He frowned. "Why who do what?"
"Offenders," she replied quietly. "You know; wife beaters, murderers." She paused. "Rapists."
"Miller…" Hardy began. Because it had been a shit couple of weeks and he didn't want to talk about it. Not with her, not with anyone.
In fact, he was just about to suggest that it was late and it was time she should be getting back to her boys – despite the fact that she'd only just arrived - when she spoke.
"It could have been my son," she told him, her voice breaking. "Michael…it could so easily have been Tom."
Hardy sighed, deeply and without relief. At least he knew why she was here now. She needed to talk, clearly, and he knew that there was no one else she could talk to about this. Not when it involved her family. Not after Joe.
"Nah," he replied with a firm shake of his head. He took a sip of his tea and stared at her as if daring her to disagree. Of course, it was Miller, so she did.
"Yes, Hardy – "
"No, Miller," he interrupted. He waited until she raised her gaze before he continued, determined to get through to her. "Your Tom's a good boy."
"Michael was a good boy," she replied, her voice breaking slightly. He could see tears in her eyes, but she was clearly determined not to let them fall.
"Michael raped a woman," Hardy retorted bluntly. She looked ready to argue with him, but he knew he was right about this. "He could've said no. He could've called for help. And if no one had heard, he could've run back to that bloody party and screamed for help. However much he was coerced, he did not have to rape Trish Winterman."
"I know," Miller replied, and he knew that she did. "But…he was abused. Verbally at the very least, maybe even physically if the stories of him and his step-dad are anything to go by. Leo took advantage of that, you know he did."
"Not an excuse, Miller," he told her heavily. "You know that."
"Abused kids are more vulnerable to grooming through," she commented. "And people who go through tough times as kids often find it harder to relate to other people as adults."
He knew what she was trying to say, but he had something to say too.
"Doesn't mean every kid who's abused has no choice but to become an abuser," Hardy argued. "Not every abused kid is a rapist."
"I'm not just talking about abused kids," Miller shot back. "I mean…Tom went through a tough time when his dad…when Joe…"
She broke off, but Hardy had no intention of breaking the silence. This time though, it was like a vice pressing into his chest, and he wondered why he hadn't just gone to bed instead of answering the door.
Miller took a long, deep breath and continued. "Don't you think…I mean, it's possible that Tom…?"
"No, Miller," Hardy said firmly, his brown eyes meeting hers. "No. Your Tom is a good boy. That's important. Not everything we do is because of our pasts. We get a choice."
"Right," she replied woodenly, clearly still unconvinced.
"Michael had a choice," he continued. "A shite one obviously, but still a choice. He chose wrong and he'll spend the rest of his life paying for that mistake." Hardy paused. "But that won't happen to Tom. If he was ever in that situation, Tom would choose right."
He barely knew her son, but he knew that with a certainty that even an earthquake couldn't shake.
"How could you possibly know that?" she challenged with a slight desperation. He felt his heart clench slightly, because if there was anyone who did not deserve to feel like this, it was Ellie Miller.
In the end, maybe that was why he decided to say what he did next.
Hardy sighed. "Because he's got you."
That seemed to throw her. "What? Me?"
"Yes, you," Hardy replied gruffly. He'd always been uncomfortable expressing emotions, particularly positive ones. "Having you…that's important too."
"How do you know?" she repeated in her usual dogged way. It's what made her such a good detective. She knew when to ask the right questions. She also clearly knew that there was something he wasn't saying, and he knew there was no way in hell she was going to let it go now until she knew what it was.
Hardy cursed himself for talking himself into a corner and decided to go with only a partial truth, rather than the full, ugly version.
He sighed again and ran his hand through his messy hair. "Because it worked for me."
"Having me worked for you?" she asked incredulously. She smiled at the play on words, but there was a tenseness there, and her smile dropped when she saw he was being completely serious.
"Oh, shut it," he replied with a roll of his eyes. He tried for a smile of his own but he had a feeling that it looked more like a grimace. "That's not what I meant and you know it."
"What did you mean then?" she asked, a frown on her face.
"You're like…" he began to explain quietly. He paused, then continued. "You're like…my mum."
"No I'm bloody not," Miller interrupted.
"Miller!" he replied, irritation growing along with his nerves. He didn't like to talk about his mother at the best of times, but it would seem he had no choice now. "Will you let me speak?"
"Sorry," Miller replied, chagrined.
"You remind me of my mother," Hardy continued quietly, shooting a pointed look in Miller's direction. "You're almost exactly like her. She was tough. Strong. She didn't take shit from anyone and she had this way about her that made me want to do everything in my power to avoid pissing her off."
"I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me, Sir," Miller said with a smile.
He almost smiled back, but the memories were already making their way to the forefront of his mind.
"I told you once that I was a child when I first came to Broadchurch," he told her. When she nodded, he continued, "I was on holiday with my parents. I was an only child and I was rubbish at making friends – "
"No change there then," Miller muttered. After a few seconds, she reddened slightly and looked mildly apologetic, but it wasn't the worst thing she'd ever said to him, so he let it go.
"Thanks," he deadpanned. He took a deep breath and continued. "Anyway, since I didn't have anyone my age to talk to, I spent a lot on time on my own. Mainly on the beach under the cliffs. It was quiet. I liked it."
"You told me your parents argued," she said, and he wondered if she realised she was already treating him like a victim. He wasn't sure he liked the feeling, but it did give him a new perspective on her abilities as a cop. Not that those abilities had ever really been in doubt…
"Yeah," he replied, running a hand through his messy hair. "That was probably a bit of an understatement."
"Oh," she said quietly, a knowing look on her face.
"He was a hard man, my dad," Hardy said, careful to keep any shakiness out of his voice. "He didn't stop at mean words either."
He didn't know why he was telling her this, except she was so worried about her son, and he knew he had to help her see that she had nothing to worry about.
"He hurt you," Miller said.
"Sometimes," Hardy replied with a shrug that was anything but casual. "Mostly, he hurt her. My mum."
They were quiet again then, as his words began to sink in for both of them.
"Why are you telling me this?" she asked finally. "No offence, but we're not exactly best mates most of the time."
"I've got a dodgy heart, Miller," Hardy admitted gruffly. "But I'm not heartless. I want to help."
"I know," Miller replied softly. "But how does this help?"
"I think I would've been…vulnerable to someone like Leo when I was a kid," Hardy said. "I was lonely, and angry, and hurt. I would've been glad if someone had paid me even the slightest bit of attention."
"But even if I had met a person like Leo, and that person rescued me from my shite life, I still wouldn't raped a woman on their say-so," he told her with conviction. "Not in a million years. I would've run a mile rather than do something like that."
"That's quite the statement, what with your dodgy ticker."
"Yeah, well it's true," he continued with a small smile. "And I think it's because of my mum. Because in the midst of my dad's violence, she raised me right. She was strong, Miller. And she made me want to be strong too. She made me feel like I could be strong. That I didn't have to be like him, not if I didn't want to be."
"Sounds like an amazing woman," Miller commented quietly.
"She was," Hardy agreed. He took a deep breath. "So are you."
"Before the rape, Michael didn't have a mum like that. Someone to make him feel strong. It wasn't her fault, not at all, but she just wasn't strong enough herself, so Michael didn't have what he needed – that one person in the whole wide world who would stick up for him no matter what," Hardy continued. "But Tom does."
She swallowed hard. "And that's enough?"
"It was for me," he repeated. "It will be for Tom."
"How do you know?" Miller asked again one last time.
"Because I am not my dad," he replied firmly. He raised his gaze and looked at her long and hard. "And Tom is not his."
To Hardy's mild horror, tears began to fall from Miller's eyes then, but she was silent, and Hardy made no move to comfort her. It wasn't how they were. It wasn't what they did.
Instead, he was silent and unmoving as his DS cried silently into her hands, all the while feeling so inadequate that he half considered waking Daisy up to see if she could fix the mess he'd made of this conversation.
Eventually though, Miller pulled herself together and pushed the tears away.
"You're still a knob," Miller replied after a few minutes, eyes puffy and red. "But…thank you."
"For what?" he asked, still a little embarrassed by how badly he'd handled this. "For making you cry?"
"For helping," she answered, looking at his like he was an idiot.
"Oh," he replied. "I helped?"
"Yes, you helped," she replied with an eyeroll. "And I know it wasn't easy. I appreciate it, I really do. But…"
"Next time let's just go to the pub, yeah?" she said as she got up from the couch. Without either of them explicitly stating it, they both knew that it was time for her to go back home.
"Ach, away with ya," he said, a small smile on his face as he walked her the door.
"Thanks, Sir," she said again, and he marvelled at how far they'd come from that first meeting, where she'd hated his guts and he'd deliberately pushed her buttons. They were friends now. It was weird but true. And even weirder was the fact that he actually liked being friends with her.
He liked her.
She was tough. Strong. She didn't take shit from anyone and she had a way about her that made him want to do everything in his power to avoid pissing her off.
"Anytime, Miller," he said, and was surprised to find that he meant it. "Anytime."
A/N – So, how was it? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this story and on Broadchurch in general. I'm always happy to hear from another fan! I may write more in the future, but for now, and until next time, thanks for reading!