“Christ. So it’s come to this, has it?” Hardy says once the two of them have stopped laughing.
A few minutes ago he’d woken up in his bed, feeling unusually well-rested, to find her awake already and watching him, her face full of the gentleness that he’d seen often before but seldom aimed at him. For a moment, he’d stared back, wondering too, and then something in her eyes had brightened and she’d started giggling, and there’d been no hope for either of them after that.
Now she groans theatrically and pulls a pillow over her head. “Ugh. Don’t remind me.”
“We’ve neither of us been good at the whole dating thing, but this--this is beyond the pale. How could this have happened?”
“I don’t want to point fingers, but maybe it had something to do with you kissing me.”
“I did not!”
“Oh, I think you did.” She waves her hands down at her sheets-covered body as evidence. (Miller and his bed sheets; now, there’s a combination he’s never bloody entertained before.)
“If anything, it was you who initiated it.” He points at her on the ‘you’ like they’re arguing at work, sending coworkers flying from the room.
“It was not!”
“It must’ve been, because I don’t make a habit of kissing my colleagues out of nowhere.”
“It wasn’t out of nowhere. You did make me a very nice dinner. We had a very nice chat. Very nice wine.”
“Well, when you say it like that--”
“I’m saying what literally happened!”
He growls out, “I didn’t invite you over here with--with designs on you, Miller.”
She laughs, irritated-but-affectionate, and he lets out a breath he hadn't noticed he’d been holding. “Of course you didn’t, you knobhead. Sometimes things just happen spur of the moment.”
“Like when you kissed me.”
“Exactly. Like when you kissed me.”
They stare at each other, locked in the sort of stubborn limbo that usually comes out during cases. (Or that truly godawful time the two of them somehow got saddled with planning the workplace Christmas party.)
“So it was a joint effort, was it?” Miller capitulates.
“I think so,” he says gravely.
“God, that’s annoying,” she mutters, rolling over onto her back and staring up at the ceiling.
“You’re telling me.” He copies her pose. “You think we were pissed?”
“I wasn’t,” she admits, scrunching up her nose as she glances at him. “Not terribly, anyway. Were you?”
He sighs. “No.”
“So we’re just idiots.”
“Looks that way.”
She rolls over onto her side, facing him, and he feels a flash of gladness. “You know what I hate the most about this?”
“Hm?” He looks over.
“Everyone’s going to be so smug. So ‘I always knew there was something going on between the two of you.’ When there wasn’t! When this wasn’t remotely anything until last night. Beth’s already sure you’ve been secretly pining for me.”
“Ha!” Hardy barks.
Miller stares at him.
“What?” he asks.
“You didn’t have to be so incredulous.” She hits him with a pillow.
“I really did,” he says, lifting a hand to stave off a second attack. “No offense. Just not much of a piner, that’s all.”
She pulls a face at him. “Oh, I know that. Well, me either.”
“Really?” he asks, surprised.
“Not where you’re concerned.”
“Would you have liked me to be pining for you?” she adds cheekily.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he grumbles.
“I’ve got to a bit. This is a really ridiculous situation.”
He huffs in agreement.
Even in this great mess, he finds he’s still glad to be beside her. They haven’t been as joined at the hip as they used to be; Broadchurch has had a quiet few months, so most of their substantial time together has been spent outside of work instead of running themselves ragged in pursuit of the buried truth. He’s not the only one adjusting to an emptier house with a child grown up and off at university; Miller’s been nice enough to invite him over to hers for dinner at least once a week, and he’s accepted mostly so he can tell Daze he’s not spending all his nights at home sulking alone in the dark--Daze’s description, not his, though in all honesty it’s a pretty accurate one. Then Miller had mentioned yesterday that Fred would be staying the night at a friend’s, that she was oddly a little miserable at the thought of having the house to herself, and the dinner invitation was out of his mouth before he’d even stopped to think.
“Yeah, I cook.”
“Since my daughter informed me that it’s pathetic when a grown man can’t cook for himself, let alone anybody else. I woke up one morning and there was a great towering stack of cookbooks on the kitchen counter.”
“Good old Daze. She’s a bright one, that girl.”
“Can’t imagine where she got it from. Right then. I accept.”)
The fundamental trouble, he decides, is that everything is always so easy with Miller. Arguing with her’s easier than getting along with anyone else.
He supposes he ought to make this easy for her now. Return the favor.
“We could always keep it between us,” he forces himself to say. “Never mention it again. Go about our lives.”
“Suppose we could, yeah,” she agrees lightly after a pause. “There’s nothing that says this has to become a regular thing.”
“Right then.” She moves to get out of bed, dragging the sheet with her. “I guess I’ll just get out of your way--”
Hardy groans and reaches for her arm, pulling her back down. “I didn’t mean that. Come on, stay for breakfast.”
“You don’t have breakfast.”
“How d’you know that?”
“I've known you for five years. Although really, I could've cracked that one in five minutes.”
“Yeah, you’ve got me there. Something to drink, at least. You want coffee?”
“You don’t like coffee. Why do you have coffee?”
“You’ve been coming ‘round a lot. I figured I might as well have it on hand to offer in case you got sick of tea.”
“You did?” Her expression softens.
“I did,” he admits uncomfortably. He’s struck by a feeling that he mostly knows from work, the sneaking epiphany that he’s overlooked a clue that should’ve been obvious.
Miller seems to be thinking along the same lines. “Maybe we should have seen this coming. Maybe it’s been building for ages and neither of us noticed. Some detectives.”
“If it has been building for ages,” he says, “maybe we shouldn’t …” The look on her face is the only possible force in the world that could keep him talking. “... er, pull the plug just yet.”
She exhales. “Wow. There’s romance for you.”
“If you’re expecting romance,” he replies, heartened by the cheer under her exasperation, “you’d best get your things and go right now.”
“Believe me. I know.” She waves her hands, ushering him. “Up, up! Go make a girl some coffee, then.”
He likes to think he turns away just in time for her not to spot his smile.
When he comes back in, he’s carrying a breakfast tray that he found after a bit of rummaging through the kitchen; it must have been left behind by the previous occupants. The cup of coffee steams cheerfully from the mug Miller usually uses when she comes over, and he’d unearthed an apple that still looks all right from the corner of the refrigerator and cut it into slices. On a whim that he regrets as soon as he sees her reaction, he’d plucked a flower from the arrangement Daze had sent him a few days ago (To brighten things up, the card had read) and rested it on the tray. Miller had been admiring the flowers last night while they chatted and ate, and he’d thought--well, clearly something delusional, even if he does feel a traitorous surge of liking for the diabolical sparkle in her eye. He likes, too, that she hasn’t bothered to get dressed, that she seems to have committed--for this morning, at least--to being a fixture in his hitherto very solitary bed.
“Look at you, Mr. Domestic! First dinner, now this?”
“Am I hallucinating?” she asks as he sets the breakfast tray in front of her.
“If I say yes, will you let this go?” He climbs back into bed beside her.
She grins at him. “Absolutely never.”
“Big surprise,” he mutters.
She gives him one of those looks that he knows well -- the ones that mean she likes him more than she’d expected to. Then she leans in and kisses him.
“You want to hear something really terrible?” she murmurs.
She wrinkles her nose. “I think I could get used to that.”
“Awful,” he agrees fondly, brushing his fingers against her cheek.