Strike watched from the bar as Robin snuck out of her wedding, quickly followed by her new husband. He could see that she was upset, though he was probably one of the few that could. He knew her so well, he could read all of the little undercurrents of emotion in her expressions. He knew how angry she was with the tit. Though he hated that Robin was hurting right now, he was relieved that the reason she hadn’t responded to his messages was because she had never gotten them, not because she didn’t want to talk to him.
Strike was glad when he saw Stephen follow them upstairs. Much as he would like to punch Matthew, her brother would probably be a more welcome presence at the moment. Plus, his injured hand was already hurting, not to mention the rest of him.
He desperately wanted to leave, but he also wanted to be here for Robin. He knew this was important to her, much as he hated watching it. He had accomplished his goal in coming here, apologizing to her and getting her to come back to work. Back to him.
He decided he would at least stay long enough to talk to her one more time, hopefully alone, and maybe dance with her. She looked incredibly beautiful in her wedding dress. He hated that it was all for someone else. Maybe it was selfish, but he wanted to hold her in his arms at least once, and this might be the only opportunity he would ever receive. Tired as he was, he could wait that long at least.
Stephen returned a short time later and whispered in his wife’s ear. He didn’t look happy. That meant that Robin was alone. Strike started to step away from the bar to find her, just in case, but then she and Matthew came back in, neither looking very happy. Strike noticed that Robin’s arm brace was back on. Was that why she had left? Had he misinterpreted her body language earlier? No, he was sure he had read her right.
If Strike was honest with himself, he would admit that part of his motivation for staying was hope. Hope that the tension between the bride and groom might somehow work in his favor. Maybe? But hope was a dangerous emotion. It carried with it the threat of total annihilation. A small part of him knew he should leave, knew he should have never have come. He knew that “annihilated” was exactly what his heart would be when Robin left here with her husband.
Even still, he couldn’t forget Robin’s face as she had said “I do”. She had looked at him, not her husband. And her face had lit up in a way that it certainly wasn’t now as she looked at the twat. And that treacherous feeling of hope bubbled up within him once more.
Matthew was pulling his bride in for their first dance to “Wherever You Will Go” by The Calling. Strike wondered which of them had chosen the song, or was it a mutual decision. Bit of an odd choice… Didn’t they realize it was more of a breakup song?
Strike felt his strength crumbling as he watched Matthew’s expression soften, leaning down to Robin’s ear. Fuck this. He drained the last of his pint, deciding it was unnecessarily masochistic to put himself through this. He stood up to leave, but then the dancing couple turned and he locked eyes with Robin.
Her expression was haunted. He could see the hurt, and the pain, and… longing? She obviously wasn’t affected by the song the same way that her husband was. She seemed to be pleading with Strike, her eyes begging him to stay. He swallowed the lump in his throat with difficulty and sat back down.
Robin maintained eye contact with him through the whole of the dance. She winced a couple of times when Matthew had touched her injured arm. He didn’t seem to treat the injury with the tenderness and respect it deserved. Fucking arsehole. Didn’t he realized what Robin had gone through acquiring that scar?
Every time the couple would turn, Strike would glare at Matthew, giving him his most threatening look. Matthew resolutely avoided looking at him. Cowardly tit.
The song ended, and Robin stepped quickly away from Matthew. She took one step towards Strike before her father caught her, taking his turn to dance with her. Strike got another pint and waited for an opportunity to steal the bride away. All of the family took their turns dancing with her. She kept a connection with Strike the entire time, sparing not even a glance for her new husband. Finally, Strike thought he saw an opening. She was dancing with Stephen, and the song was coming to an end.
He approached and tapped Stephen on the shoulder. “Mind if I cut in?”
Stephen kissed his sister on the cheek and stepped away. Strike offered Robin his injured hand and she gingerly took it. Ariana Grande’s “Almost Is Never Enough” started playing as he put his other hand on her waist. She made a pained expression as she lifted her injured arm to his shoulder.
I’d like to say we gave it a try
I’d like to blame it all on life
Maybe we just weren’t right,
But that’s a lie, that’s a lie
“How’s your arm? Is it hurting you?” he asked her quietly.
“A bit yeah. I should have had the brace on earlier.” Robin’s breath hitched as he leaned his cheek in next to hers.
And we can deny it as much as we want
But in time our feelings will show
“Why didn’t you wear it then?” he asked in her ear.
She didn’t say anything for a moment, then muttered something about Matthew and the pictures, but he didn’t quite catch it. He didn’t need to hear her exact words though, he understood. He experienced another flash of anger. He squeezed her waist gently, letting her know that he empathized, that he was here for her.
They swayed and turned slowly to the music. Strike’s nose was filled with the smell of Yorkshire roses, and Robin’s hair, and her skin. His senses were overwhelmed with her. The feel of the fabric beneath his fingers, the gentle touch of her hand, the smoothness of her cheek against his.
Robin leaned into Strike. She longed to rest her head against his chest. She almost did, but realized she was in a roomful of people, at her wedding, and it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to make an intimate gesture with another man. Instead she brushed her cheek over his, gently at first, then she leaned into him more firmly. He was gritty and dirty, but she couldn’t get enough of the feel of him. She wanted to be closer. She felt his sharp intake of breath. She wondered if his heart was pounding as hard as hers was.
‘Cause sooner or later
We’ll wonder why we gave up
Strike felt a lump in his throat as Robin leaned into him. What are you doing, you fucking sadist? Now that she was in his arms, he didn’t know how he would let her go. What was he thinking wanting this moment with her? Wouldn’t it have better to never know what it felt like to have her pressed against him? Wouldn’t it have better to never feel her skin against his? Wouldn’t it have been better for his arms not to remember the shape of her?
Robin breathed deeply, trying to hold back the tears. She closed her eyes, trying to memorize this moment. She never wanted to forget the feel of Cormoran’s stubble against her cheek, the way he tenderly held her, how cognizant he was of her arm. He was so thoughtful. She recognized the sharp contrast in the way Matthew regarded her injury. What am I doing? She breathed in his scent, which wasn’t great at the moment, but there was an undercurrent of his unique Cormoran smell.
Almost, almost is never enough
So close to being in love
If I would have known that you wanted me
The way I wanted you
Then maybe we wouldn’t be two worlds apart
But right here in each other’s arms
Cormoran bit his lip, trying to hold back the tide of emotion. His breath was ragged as Robin nuzzled her cheek against his. His fingers tightened on her waist and he gently rubbed his thumb over the hand he was holding.
He choked out, “I have to go.” But he kept holding her. She pressed into him in acknowledgement, willing him to stay.
If I could change the world overnight
There’d be no such thing as goodbye
“I’m sorry, Robin, I can’t do this. I have to leave.” She could hear the catch in his voice, feel the emotion that was threatening to overwhelm him.
She nuzzled her nose into his neck, all propriety forgotten. His chest heaved as if a tiny sob had escaped, and his head turned upward.
He pressed his face into her ear to murmur, “I can’t wish you congratulations. I can’t tell you I’m happy for you. I can’t watch you leave here with another man, with your husband.” His voice sounded strangled on the last word, as if the word itself had clung to his throat, refusing to let him utter it unscathed.
“I’m sorry, I have to go.” He kissed her temple tenderly, his eyes closed tightly. His lips lingered for one…two…three seconds. As he pulled away, he dropped his hold on her and stepped away, whispering, “I can’t…”
Robin lurched forward at his abrupt absence. He made his way quickly across the room towards the door. He didn’t care if he caused a scene, all he knew was that he needed to get out there as soon as possible. A tidal wave was bearing down on him and he needed to let it destroy him in peace.
He practically ran down the stairs, seeking the refuge of the stolen car and his friend, whom he knew would understand. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard his name.
“Cormoran! Wait!” Robin was running towards him.
He turned towards her, taking in her beatific face. Hope surged once more inside him. He moved as if in slow motion, climbing the stairs back to her, drawn to her radiance. She stopped at the top of the stairs, he a couple of steps below her.
“I’m coming with you.”
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