Here is my first story (well, a ficlet) written in english. I just couldn't write a story about Dempsey & Makepeace in french: it didn't "sound" right.

From the bottom of my heart (and even if it sounds like an Academy Awards Ceremony), I would like to thank Archea (it must have been a bore to read a story about a show you didn't know anything about, but I really needed your reassurance), my beta reader WhiteKnight for her help and kindness. And Haveunotthought: without her, I would be still praying for a beta reader.

Any mistakes left are mine.

« God bless the Queen »

She cared. Those two words kept ringing in his mind, and the more he repeated them, the more they seemed right. He hadn't believed Spikings first, but after the first shock and the denial phase, he actually believed it. It felt like the beginning of something, and it felt good, really good. Of course she wouldn't admit anything to him, that he knew for sure, but her acts spoke louder than her words of rejection. She was back for good, with him.

She was driving them to the station, focused on the traffic, and he couldn't stop looking at her. She cared. Now that he had the time to think about it, the pieces of a beautiful jigsaw were slowly clicking into place. He remembered small gestures, moments, turns of phrase. The lighter she kept in her bag for his use only, her reaction when he had told her he didn't want to see her die. He hadn't seen much in it back then. Now everything was crystal clear, almost blinding: Spikings was right, she cared-cared. How much did she, that was for him to discover. Hell, he had to discover how much he cared, for that he absolutely, definitely cared. How and when had that insufferable, toffee-nosed, by-the-book, lady cop crept under his armour ? Was it when she first saved his butt ? When he first saved hers ? He would have to ask her one day.

- Dempsey ?

- Hmmm ?

- You're staring.

- Yes I am.

- It's annoying.

- You'd better get used to it, princess, because I intend to make it a habit.

- Quit it.

- Why should I ? It's good for my health. Sugar for the eyes.

- Oh god, now the sappy lines. Stop it now or get out of the car. Walking three miles will be even better for you health - and mine may I add.

- Sappy ? Nah. Haven't begun yet to show you sappy.

- And what's next ? Will you confess your undying admiration and love ? You know I will never buy it, do you ?

Oh he liked that. He had miss that bantering, and since he now knew almost for certain that there was more to the game, he felt that he should spice it up a little.

- You know what ? I might just do that. Do you want me do go down on my knees again? Or to seduce you day after day: I could drive you crazy you know. A long courtship maybe, for the Lady ? Or just skip it: you and me and a night of incredible sex.

- All right, you win.

After a quick glance in the rearview, she pushed on the brakes so hard that he had to put a hand on the dashboard.

- Get out, Dempsey.

Wow. She was mad, really mad. That was not the plan and he had to get back in the mood ASAP.

- Different place, different car, same driver… It's seems a little "déjà-vu". Thanks for the offer but no thanks. I admit: I pushed a little too far. I was just happy to argue with you. Truce ?

He tried his most innocent look, but she turned away, still fuming. A car approached and the driver slowed down while overtaking, wondering if they needed help. Makepeace waived him off with a polite smile, then took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly while holding the steering wheel for dear life. She kept looking forward in a very clear attempt to stay calm.

- Lieutenant… If, and that's a pretty big if, I get my job back after the little stunt I put with my resignation, I expect you to behave less… more… To…

- You want me to act differently? To be different maybe ?

- Y… no!

- Do you want us to be different, then ?

The calm, deep tone of his voice made her bit back an automatic response and look straight at him. What answer could be the right one, anyway? She expected his trademark grin, but it wasn't here. A slight smile did play with the corner of his mouth but his eyes told a different story. Cars were passing by, honking, and she couldn't care less.

- Listen Harry, I won't change who I am. I'm not perfect, I'm not the gentlemanly, classy, tight-assed English police officer you hoped for three years ago, and I'm proud of that. That's what saved my ass, from the day I was born to this very day. But I'm also different from the guy who put money on your tray in that smoky pub. You too are different. We grew up, some may say. What about going on like that ?

- I think I've already answered that. I can't go on with you putting your life at underestimated risks. One day there will no angel over your shoulder, and then… Then life will no longer be hard.

- I hear you. Believe me, I do. I'm no suicidal freak, but the job has to be done, and I'm good at it.

- You are. If you repeat that to anyone I'll have to kill you, but I respect you as a cop.

- Only as a cop ? What about the man ?

- Dempsey…

- Ok. See, I expected us to have a little chit-chat tonight in a pub or at your place, but well, if the lady wants it here, let it be. Sush! Let me talk for once.

She closed her mouth, crossed her arms in an unconscious defensive posture and nodded to him to go on. After a few seconds to gather his thoughts he licked his lips and started to talk, eyes darting anywhere but toward her.

- I might be a little out of it, so indulge me would you ? A lot happened those last few days, you see, and you're right, some things have to change. No scratch that, things have already changed. I guess they have been for a while, and all this time I've been so… What I want to say is… I'm sorry, Harry. I've been playing this lone ranger act for so long I haven't seen it coming. Well it's not really an act, more a habit. Anyway in the last 48 hours I've been lectured by two men, one of them being a tramp and the other our lovely chief, and believe me it couldn't have been weirder. And it took the two of them to make me see what was in front of my nose all this time. Like I said earlier, I need you. I knew it, but I didn't know how much I did. How much I do. And by "us" I wasn't talking about a professional partnership. Damn.

The tricky part was coming, and he hoped he wasn't going to mess with it, once again. He almost risked a glance to his right but decided against it: it was easier without looking at her.

- It was hard to say those words to you, Makepeace. To tell the truth, I practiced on my way to the museum. I'm not used to needing someone, and every time I let myself be close to someone something bad happens. You know about Joey, and maybe I'll tell you my own little sad story one day. But the point is that I came here, to England, like you go to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. I never expected to find my place here, I never expected to enjoy working with you. And I never expected to feel something. It was supposed to be a few months and then, back to my life, to Simone or anyone else. And here I am now. I never expected to care.

Those last muttered words took Makepeace breath away. If any car had passed by she would have miss them, and she thanked her chance for the relative silence. It seemed so unreal: him, them in this car stopped in the middle of the traffic, this long monologue coming from the usually private and secret Lieutenant James Dempsey… She was afraid to move or to speak and waited, still, until he seemed to shake himself awake.

- I don't know if you really do care about me, or how much. I think so, though. And I do too. There's no promise here, no words of forever and always because it would be a lie. One day perhaps, but it's too soon. I just want… I would like to…

He was at loss for words and it was so frustrating. Sighing, he sat back and pressed his palms to his eyes. She took it for her cue to talk, except that when she did her voice croaked and trembled.

- I do care.

Three words. It was enough to make his mouth go dry and his hand shake. He looked at her face and it was like nothing else mattered. She had that knowing smile, the one she had after their last encounter with Coltrane, and her eyes conveyed the softest expression.

- You do ?

- It was why I had to leave. I care too much about you, more than a partner should. It's been a fight or flee situation, but I had no one to fight against.

- Except me.

- Except you. But I didn't know how to do that. Leaving and hoping to forget was easier to speak and take the risk of losing everything. And going on was out of the question.

- Some pair we make. Grown-ups, armed and dangerous, but when it comes to relationship let me tell you that, Harry: we suck.

She laughed and nodded.

- We sure do.

- So…

- So ?

- Where do we go from here ?

That was a good question, she thought. The sun was low on the horizon. Makepeace watched the orange sky, conscious of his puppy eyes on her. She knew it wouldn't be easy between them: they'd still fight and bite off each other's head about silly things, but she knew deep inside that her decision was already made. Although she would be damned if she let him know that. She knew that he wouldn't take it any other way.

When she looked back at him he seemed so unsure that she couldn't crash his hopes.

- We go back to SI-10. We report. I crawl in front of Spikings. You buy me a glass of white wine at the pub. We play by ear from there. And tomorrow will be another day.

- Your wishes are my command, Lady Scarlett.

She put the car back on the road, and after a few miles broke the comfortable silence.

- But don't expect too much, Dempsey.

- I didn't, partner.

- So stop staring.

- Not my fault if you chose to wear that skirt! I like it, very well tailored.

She looked down: the skirt had opened and showed her legs up to mid-thigh. She glanced at him and he smiled wildly while she wriggled to cover herself.

- So, Harry. I don't remember your answer ?

- About ?

- Courtship or seduction ? I have to warn you: I'm better at the latest.

Another glance kept him silent until the parking, but the goofy grin was still in place. Once they were in the elevator and he felt her presence behind him, almost touching. Her hands running up his arms kept him from turning, and then he felt her breath on his neck. With a low voice she whispered a few words that he first failed to understand.

- I have to warn you: I'm a quick learner, and slow, really slow seduction is definitely on my program.

By the time he came back to his senses she was already out of the elevator, calm and composed, as if nothing had happened. If not for the slight tremor of her hands, he wouldn't have known that it had been a really bold move for her.

- What are you waiting for ? Spikings must be fuming.

Two thoughts were on his mind: first, he couldn't wait the end of the day. Second: England was not so hostile, after all.

As the doors closed, a male voice resonated in the corridors: "God bless the Queen".