The following fanfiction was written by ZoeSong. Here’s the link to the original source.
“You did bloody well to keep him talking that long, Robin, but next time you get a call from an unknown number, you bloody well call it back and check who’s on the other end. And don’t you ever—ever—tell a suspect anything about your personal life again.”
“Would it be OK if I have two minutes,” she asked, pressing the cold kitchen roll against her swollen and bleeding lip, “to enjoy not being dead, before you start?”
Strike blew out a jet of smoke.
“Yeah, fair enough,” he said, and pulled her clumsily into a one-armed hug.
His awkward show of affection caused Robin to tear up. She tried to stifle a sob, but suddenly it all became too much for her. The tears started down her cheeks and she couldn’t suppress a few shudders. Her midriff hurt and she wondered again if Raphael had cracked a rib when he’d hit her. She leaned into Strike’s shoulder and sniffled. “Sorry.”
“Hey, no, I’m sorry. You alright?” He stubbed out the cigarette in the sink, and put his other arm around her, pulling her into a proper hug.
She had to take a few painful breaths before she could answer. “I…I will be.” She winced as the pain flooded in. She realized she had been in shock a few minutes earlier. “I think I may have a broken rib.”
“What?” Strike pulled away, looking down at her stomach. “What did he do to you?”
“He punched me—here.” She winced as she clutched her open palm over her upper abdomen. “I was preoccupied with my phone, so I didn’t see it coming.”
“Shit. Here, sit down.” There was a stool in the tiny galley, and he put it under her just as she realized she was starting to fade out. “Put your head down, if you can. Breathe. Remember your breathing.” He kept his hand on her shoulder as he turned towards the broken door, where Eric Wardle was supervising the police were gathering evidence. “Wardle!”
Wardle turned. “What’s up?” He glanced down at Robin. “She OK?”
“She’s feeling faint. He punched her—she might have a broken rib. Will you call an ambulance?”
A little later Robin was tucked up on a trolley in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. The paramedic had given her oxygen, which was helping immensely.
Strike had insisted on riding with her, and it was a testament to how shaken Robin had been that she’d not argued with him. In fact, she was glad he was with her—ironically, his being there was helping to prevent her from having a full out panic attack. She had had a bit of a meltdown back there in the galley of the houseboat, but she’d pulled it together with Strike and Wardle present.
The paramedic finished taking Robin’s blood pressure and put away the cuff. She turned and said briskly, “Now, let’s take a look at those ribs. May I?”
“Yeah.” Robin’s voice was muffled through the oxygen mask.
The woman slid Robin’s top over her abdomen to have a look. “Well, that’s looking pretty.”
Strike winced at the ugly bruise spreading across Robin’s midriff. He’d sustained plenty of those as a boxer, and some since then on the job, and he’d seen a number of victims as a SIB man—more than his fill—but seeing it on Robin caused a rage to rise in him all over again at that bastard Raphael.
The paramedic felt around gently, questioning Robin about the level of pain she was feeling at each area examined. Robin gritted her teeth, and answered the questions as accurately as she could. She hissed when one particular spot was touched. She caught Strike’s movement out of the corner of her eye and glanced over, catching him looking, seeing the anger in his eyes.
He looked away, realizing that he was invading her privacy. “Sorry.” He stared at the bit of street that could be seen whizzing by through the window.
“Yeah, that’s likely a fracture there. They’ll want to take a scan of that.” The paramedic turned to a cabinet behind her. “Let’s get some ice on it.”
Strike ventured another glance, just in time to see Robin’s face relax when the large icepack was placed over her stomach.
Robin sighed as the cool spread over the heated surface. She’d forgotten how hot a large bruise could feel.
“Let’s look at this now.” The paramedic indicated Robin’s lip, and gently pulled the oxygen mask back. The woman examined it expertly. “Well, that’s not so bad—you shouldn’t need stitches. You’ll just have a fat lip for a bit.”
Robin glanced up at Strike, who smiled commiseratively with her. “Well, you’ve joined the ranks of the best of them.”
“Best of who?”
“Human punching bags, more like.” Robin coughed suddenly, and the paramedic put the oxygen mask back on.
Strike took heart at Robin’s attempt at humor. She’d escaped another violent killer and yet was trying to make light of it.
At the hospital the doctor ordered scans and determined that Robin did indeed have a cracked rib, but it wasn’t too severe. He recommended rest and cautious movement for a while.
“How long will it take to heal?”
“About six weeks is usual, could be longer.”
“Six weeks! I’d no idea.”
“Yes. Meanwhile you need to be very careful about physical activity. Nothing rigorous. No bending or heavy lifting—if it hurts, don’t do it.”
Robin nodded skeptically and glanced toward the door, where Strike had been hovering, trying to stay out of the way, but still be supportive. Strike gave her a sympathetic grimace. She remembered, suddenly, how much he hated hospitals.
“Right. So I’ll get these notes written up for you, and the prescription in, and you can be on your way.” The doctor turned away, then turned back again. “Oh, and you will probably need to sleep in a slightly upright position for the first few nights.”
A look of consternation passed over Robin’s face, but she murmured, “Okay. Thanks.”
The doctor left, and Robin carefully adjusted her clothes, holding the freshly applied ice pack to her midriff. She gave a little gasp.
Strike spoke from near the doorway, where he had turned his back while Robin straightened her clothes. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I just realized that I need to get a hold of Vanessa, but I can’t without my phone. I don’t know her number by heart.”
“Well, Wardle will have told her, won’t he?”
“I have to call him anyway, when you’re done here. He’ll want that statement.”
Robin grimaced. “You think he’d wait until tomorrow? I’m knackered.”
“I know. I’ll call him and see if I can put it off. And I’ll get him to let Vanessa know you’ll not be there tonight.”
“Where will I be?”
“Hear me out. The last thing you need is to sleep on a hard sofa.” She had confessed a few days back that she would be glad to be moving into her box room to get off of Vanessa’s sofa. “If we go to mine, Wardle can come in the morning to the office and you won’t have to travel to the Met.”
“You’ll take the bed; I’ll take the cot—I’ll set it up down in the office. It’s no big deal.”
He said it with a firm authority that Robin had no energy to resist. And if she was honest, she was just as glad. She wasn’t looking forward to that sofa tonight anyway. “Fine. Thanks.”
Strike offered her his arm to help her down from the exam table, and they made their way down to the pharmacy.
When they finally got to Denmark Street, Robin was more than done in. The injection of pain medication at the hospital had taken effect, and it was all she could do to get up the three flights of stairs even with Cormoran’s help. She was more than happy to collapse—carefully—on Cormoran’s bed. Fortunately, she had her emergency bag of tricks in the office, so she had her exercise clothes that she could sleep in.
But when Cormoran made to go downstairs, she stopped him. “Cormoran, you don’t need do that. Just sleep up here. We’ve slept in the same room before, you know. Well, the same car, anyway.”
“You sure? Thought you’d prefer the privacy.”
“I would prefer not to put you out entirely.”
“It’s no bother. But if I were here, it would be easier for you if you needed something in the night.”
“Right. Then stay.” She was confusing herself. She didn’t want him to stay so he could wait on her. But she really didn’t want him to leave. Or have to sleep on a nasty little cot. “And I’m not putting you out of your bed. It’s big enough for two of us—and I’m going to be half sitting up anyway, so I won’t be under the covers. You’re as tired as I am, so you may as well get a decent night’s sleep.”
He looked at her skeptically.
“I mean it.” She carefully slid over to the far side of the bed, grimacing as the pain jabbed her. “Just mind you don’t roll over and slug me in your sleep.”
Strike smiled at that, turning to grab a couple of cushions from the sofa. “We’ll use these as a buffer.”
Robin slept fitfully, despite the pain meds. Sleeping on her back was not her preferred position, let alone that she had to be slightly elevated. She tried not to move around, as much to avoid waking Strike as to avoid the pain. She dozed in and out of sleep, and snippets of her ordeal kept creeping back into her mind. The force of shock when Raff had hit her, the pain and incapacitation after, the burning sensation where’d he yanked her hair, the cold steel of the barrel of the gun pressed to her forehead.
Raphael pulled the trigger, but it just went “click,” and Robin was both shocked and relieved all at once. But Raff was furious. He pulled the trigger again and again to no avail. Then in a fit of rage he raised the gun and slammed it into Robin’s head. Then he was dragging her by her hair and waistband, her arms flailing. She tried to scream, but no sound came out. Suddenly she was in the water, trying to hold her breath, trying to swim, but her hands were tied. She gasped and water rushed into her mouth.
Robin jerked awake, coughing, and breathing hard, then gasping as her breath caused her rib to hurt. She blinked in the dark room, trying to decide if she was back on the boat with Raff.
“Robin?” Strike’s voice came out of the gloom. “You alright?”
She sighed in relief. “Yeah,” she lied. “I must have moved in my sleep—my rib really jabbed me.”
There was a pause and Robin wondered whether he’d heard her. Then he said quietly, “Want some painkiller?”
“Yes, please. Where did I leave it?”
“Just here.” Strike reached down to the floor, just below him, where he’d put the bottles of pills and water, just in case. He handed her the pills, then opened the water for her and offered it to her.
“Thanks.” She took the pills and a few sips of water, trying not to let the coolness of the water recall her dream. She recapped the bottle and laid it in her lap.
Strike looked over at her and could just make out her face enough to see that she was still sitting up herself, staring towards the window. “Robin.”
She turned towards the sound of his voice. “Yeah?”
“You know you don’t have to fake it for me.”
“What? What makes you say that?”
Strike had been sleeping just as fitfully as Robin. He’d heard Robin’s troubled sleep, the little distressed noises she had made. He’d been debating about whether to wake her, but just as he’d finally decided to do so, she’d awakened with a cough and a gasp. “Thought you might have been having a nightmare. Just the sound you made before you woke up.”
Robin recalled Matthew remarking on the strangled sounds she’d made after she’d been attacked by Laing. She blew out a shallow huff of breath.
“It’s alright if you did. It happens.”
She said nothing, and only the sound of a car passing down on the street could be heard. At last she whispered, “To you?”
He turned to face her. “Do I have nightmares? Yeah, sometimes.”
“After Laing? When he cut you?”
Strike nodded slowly. He wasn’t any happier to reveal these things than she was, but he knew it was important for her to know she wasn’t alone. “Did for a bit—right afterwards.” He shifted a little and the bed shook. “But for me nightmares are usually about the explosion.”
“Yeah, it’s not so frequent now. Just sometimes when something triggers it. But back then, right after, I’d wake up thinking I’d lost both legs—or worse.”
“And then there were dreams where I still had both legs—and I’d wake up and have to face the loss all over again.”
“I didn’t think of that.”
“Yeah, it’s weird. Like phantom pain, sort of. But it got better with time.”
“Yeah. It does,” she remembered, thinking of her own bouts with nightmares years ago, immediately after the rape. She sighed, winced at the pain, then relaxed as it eased. “I did. I had a nightmare.” She told him about the things Raff had said and done to her, both in reality and in the dream.
“Christ, Robin. Sorry—ugly dream.”
“He would have done it too. He’d already said he was going to dump my body in the canal.”
Strike felt around for her hand and gave it a squeeze. “But he didn’t. You kept him talking and we got him.”
“I know.” She sniffed slightly. Kindness always got her going.
He released her hand, patting it gently, then resting his hand over hers. “So anyway, you don’t need to be faking it. Just be yourself.”
“Faking it saved my life—twice.”
“Twice?” He knew she’d played dead with her rapist, but the other?
“With Raff—I pretended to be calm, forced myself to talk slowly, drag it out.”
“Right. Good. But–”
“And I already told you that faking it is what got me out of the house after…you know.”
“Yeah…I get that. And that’s good if you can psych yourself up to deal with the world. But you don’t need to do that with me. I won’t think less of you—I don’t think less of you. I already think you’re the strongest person I know—you don’t have to pretend to be alright. Take time for yourself, deal with things. And if you need anything, just ask.”
“I…” She began to protest, but she could hear the affectionate sincerity in his voice. He really was a good friend. “Yeah, I take your point. I will. Thanks.” She took a labored breath and leaned back, sliding down against the pillows a bit more.
“Good.” He settled back as well. There were a couple of hours still before they had to face Wardle. He closed his eyes.
“Hmm?” He opened his eyes again.
“Do you have another ice pack?” She was removing the now-warm ice pack from last night from under her t-shirt.
“Yeah, think so.” He sat up.
“I’d offer to get it but…” She was hemmed in against the wall-side of the bed.
“Nope, I’ll get it.” He reached to take the warm ice pack from her, then hoisted himself up.
He hopped to the kitchen, using his other hand to steady himself along the rafters, aware that her eyes were on him, even in the dark. Well, if he expected her to be vulnerable with him, he could do the same with her.
No more faking it.
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