The gathered crowd gasps when the butt of the gun cracks her skull, hard.
Something - someone - catches her before she hits the ground in the square. It’s Max, she can tell, because she’s suddenly boiling and she knows he runs as hot as an iron furnace.
She wants to tell him to run after the killer, not to bother himself with her, but white-hot pain radiates from just above her ear and stops her from being able to form words. Her eyelids flutter, and Max goes in and out of focus in front of her.
“Hey, keep your eyes open- eyes on me, Miranda!”
She tries, she really does. He barks an order for an ambulance and back up into his radio, directing them where the killer ran. He always impresses her with how efficient and focused he can be when he wants to be, which is rarely.
“Schatz, stay awake for me, okay?”
The unfamiliar German word piques her attention briefly, before her vision swims and fades again. Her head feels floppy on her neck, like it might roll right off onto the cobblestones if Max wasn’t cradling it between his hands.
Turns out, blacking out is something of a relief.
Miranda comes around extremely slowly.
His entirely uneducated opinion is that she works too much and doesn’t get enough sleep, so her body greedily takes all the rest it can get regardless of whether or not it’s voluntary.
He doesn’t know what to do with his hands. Sometimes the instinct strikes him to hold hers but it’s too - intimate. He isn’t that to her. Three different nurses have already mistaken him for her boyfriend and he’s stopped correcting them.
Instead he folds them uselessly in his lap, or picks at the peeling black paint on the legs of the uncomfortable plastic chair he’s sitting on.
She’s so still and silent for so long that despite the comforting bleep of the heart monitor, it gets to the point where he’s considering calling a nurse in to make absolutely sure she isn’t dead.
“Where am I?”
Her eyelids flutter and squint open, trying to focus. Max had been gazing out the window at the burnt orange setting sun, but refocuses quickly.
“You’re in hospital,” he says gently.
“What happened?” she croaks.
He hands her the plastic cup of water on the cabinet beside her bed wordlessly.
“You’re okay. You were - actually, hold on, let me take a minute to say my favourite English phrase of all time-” he clears his throat “- pistol whipped by our friend the murderer. They think you might have a concussion, you’ve been out for a few hours.”
“Hennick, what happened to Hennick?” she asks, and he’s not sure if that’s what she meant all along.
“Well, he ran off but-“
Miranda scrambles upwards, alarming Max with how close she comes to accidentally pulling out her IV line.
“I need- we need to go, to catch Hennick- he could be anywhere by now, we need to get his photo to the airport and ferry terminals-”
“No, we don’t.”
“What are you talking about? Where’s my phone? Does Ines know-“
“You have so little faith in me, Blake. I’m almost hurt.” Max lays a hand on his heart, feigning pain. “He’s in the cells at the station, charged with murder and assaulting a police officer. Has been since you got to the hospital. Patrol got lucky and tripped him up in one of the alleyways.”
That seems to take the wind out of her sails.
She settles back down into the sterile hospital pillow uncertainly, as though she doesn’t quite trust that there’s nothing for her to do.
“All in a day’s work, ma’am.”
Miranda rolls her eyes, but there’s a telltale smile on her face that Max chooses to interpret as fond.
The moment only breaks when his phone rings.
“Yep,” Max says. He’ll feel guilty if he answers and guilty if he doesn’t.
“Go,” Miranda says. He looks at her, unsure. “Really, I’ll be fine. I’ve got my hospital dinner for one and a telly with old Spanish movies I only understand half of. I’ll be fine.”
He looks between his phone and her. “Sure?”
“Yes.” Her tone leaves no room for argument, so he gets up and walks backwards to the door. “Go.”
“You rest, that’s an order. I’ll call you tonight.”
“You don’t have the authority to give me orders,” she tells him, sounding so much like her annoying know-it-all self it releases a knot inside him that he didn’t know was tied. She’ll be okay. She’ll be okay.
“You called me ‘Schatz’, when we were in the square,” Miranda says. Max freezes with his hand on the door handle. “What does it mean?”
Treasure . It had slipped from his lips without much thought or conscious direction in the heat of the moment, the panic of seeing her collapse under herself, and will definitely require some serious self reflection at some point.
But not now.
He isn’t quite ready to admit to that yet.
“No direct translation, but something like... ‘pain in the arse’, I guess?”
The lie must be just smooth enough -or maybe it’s just that her razor-sharp instincts have been dulled enough by pain killers - because she doesn’t seem to spot it.
She just rolls her eyes again and pulls her blankets closer.
She’s out cold again before he even leaves the room. Max watches her for a second, a odd sort of warmth filling his chest, then quietly closes the door behind himself.
“You shouldn’t be here,” is the first thing Max says to her the next day.
“And a good morning to you, too,” Miranda says, not looking up and continuing to type her report.
Her head does feel like anthropomised sludge that somehow also hurts, but it’s fine. She’s worked through worse.
“And I’m fine!”
Max is about to argue, but at the exact same moment Ines power-walks in, a haze of expensive French perfume and fresh pressed pencil skirt.
She stops, takes one look at Max, then at her, and barks, “Winter, Blake— my office.”
Miranda is hopeful for a new case, or an update on their gun-handy killer in the cells downstairs. Those hopes are dashed very quickly.
“Detective Winter, I’m assigning you to make sure Detective Blake home and to make sure she stays there. Blake, you are on enforced sick leave for at least the rest of the week and I reserve the right to extend that if necessary-” The argument on Miranda’s lips is pre-empted, Ines- not even giving her chance to to voice a syllable “-And if you attempt to enter the station by any means, so help me God I’ll have you escorted out by security and assigned to foot patrol on El Arenal for the next month. You and Winter.”
“Ines, actually, I think you’ll find collective punishment is prohibited under Article 33 of the Geneva Convention,” Max pipes up.
“Then take me to The Hague,” Ines says, unmoved. “You’ll still be picking tourist vomit out of your fingernails when I get to trial.”
Miranda knows this is a lost battle. “But Ines-“
“You’re dismissed, Blake.” She doesn’t even grace Miranda with another glance. “Winter, a word.”
“Wait for me outside?” Max asks, touching her arm as she passes. She glowers at the feeling of being babied, but nods.
She steps out into the mid-morning sun, shielding her eyes from it because she left her sunglasses on her desk like a idiot. In her pocket, her phone vibrates and it makes her jump.
“Is she okay?” Ines asks once her office door closes behind Miranda.
It isn’t the talk he was expecting. Max turns his head and watches Miranda stomp out of the bull pen, like a petulant little kid.
“She will be fine,” Max says, smirking to himself. He faces Ines again when Miranda’s head disappears. “She’s tough.”
Ines purses her lips and regards him carefully. He gets the strangest sense that she knows something about him that he doesn’t.
“Well... look after her.”
He knows Ines cares a lot more than she ever lets on, but he’s still a little surprised by her obvious concern. And to think Miranda thinks Ines doesn’t like her.
“Dismissed,” Ines says.
Miranda is on the phone when he exits the station, leaning on the bonnet of his car. She holds her phone out in front of her while it’s on loud speaker, and the man on the other end sounds a lot like her. Only his accent - that Max now distinguishes as broad Welsh- is much stronger, where Miranda’s only really comes out when she’s upset or angry.
“Dad, I’m fine. You really don’t need to worry about me- it’s just a bump on the head.”
“Hâf, I always worry about you. It’s all very well you sunning yourself out there but when something happens and you’ve got no one there... I just I wish you’d come home.”
“Dad,” Miranda sighs. It sounds like this is a well worn topic of conversation.
“I know, I know - nothing happens in Aber, you’ve said. Give your old pa a break.” Her dad sighs. “Well, what about that Gerry partner of yours? Does he have your back?”
“Yes,” Miranda says quietly, as though the answer surprises her. “Yes, he does.”
Max smiles to himself. He waits for her to say goodbye, promising to call him later on, then opens the driver’s door which announces his presence. Miranda jumps out of her skin.
“How long were you there?!” she demands.
She narrows her eyes, but doesn’t question him further.
“Your dad?” Max asks, even though he knows already.
“Yep.” She pops the P.
He’s desperately curious - about her, her family, the image he has of her as a deeply serious child with the weight of the world on her small shoulders - but in classic Miranda style, she offers no more details.
“What was he calling you? ‘Half’?”
“Hâf, spelt H-A-F. It’s my middle name.” She glances over as he starts the engine. “It’s Welsh for ‘Summer’.”
“Oh.” Max chews this over for a minute. “ Summer. It suits you.”
His grin broadens at the look on her face, suspicious and distrustful.
“Goes with your bright and sunny personality,” he explains.
Miranda just gives him a withering glare, one he’s seen so many times before that it’s practically an old friend at this point.
The sunlight plays in her hair as he takes the sharp corners of the country roads, dances over golden skin. She was much paler when they first met. Right now it’s as though she takes in all the light that touches her and then gives it out ten times stronger.
He turns back to the road before she can notice he’s looking. It really does suit her.
Max, in a fit of deeply annoying chivalry and obedience, insists on taking Ines’s orders to the letter and not only drives her home but accompanies her right the way inside her flat.
He seems right at home there, even though she can’t remember if he’s ever been here before: even the dog she dislikes but keeps feeding adopts him instantly, following him around and licking his ankles until Max bends down to scratch behind his ears.
His instant familiarity with her space gives her odd feelings that she doesn’t want to examine too closely.
Miranda folds onto the tiny two seater she calls a sofa, feeling all her structural integrity leave her at once. The most she’s willing to admit to is being more tired than she thought, otherwise she’s completely fine and Max and Ines are being ridiculous.
Max is poking around in her kitchen, talking away to himself about her terrible diet and lack of decent wine, but his voice sounds faraway- like her head is wrapped in cotton wool. It’s oddly comforting to know he’s there though.
When he rounds the corner back into her living room with a sandwich and a glass of water, Miranda is dead asleep on her back on the sofa: mouth open, a little dribble running from the corner of her mouth. She’ll have a crick in her neck from the way she’s sleeping when she wakes up.
“You know it’s very rude to fall asleep when you have guests, Miranda,” he says out loud. “A less confident man might think he was boring you.”
Miranda doesn’t respond, except for a gentle snore.
His first instinct is to take a picture of her— partly because she looks cute and funny, mainly to torture her with it when he next sees her. But it’s not good partner/companero behaviour, so he resists the urge.
Instead, he pulls her blankets from her bed -deliberately not ruminating too much on her bedroom- to lay it over her. He gently pulls her brown brogues from her feet and lines them up next to the couch.
Max takes one final look at her, that strange warmth taking root in his chest once more, and clicks the door shut behind him.