As Robin waited for the tea to steep, she looked around the new flat. Their new flat. Most of their things were still in boxes, stacked against the walls, even though it was a full week since they had moved in. Work had been so busy that they had barely even seen each other over the past seven days, let alone had the time to unpack.
Balancing the tea and a small plate of biscuits, Robin moved from the cramped kitchen into the only slightly less cramped sitting room, where Cormoran was relaxed on the couch in front of the television, legs stretched out in front of him. He accepted his mug with thanks, took a biscuit and munched it thoughtfully as he turned his attention back to the BBC.
Robin sat beside him, legs curled underneath her. His arm settled around her shoulders as she gazed absently at the television, where the presenters were discussing the wave of racism spreading in the wake of Brexit. The details of the story failed to register; in what seemed like the first moment in which she could sit down and breathe since the move, Robin’s mind was drifting along the years that had brought Cormoran and herself here, to this couch, on this day.
The thought of the date stirred a memory, and she spoke without thinking:
“Five years ago today, Matthew and I were getting married.”
To cover the sudden awkwardness of bringing up her utter failure of a marriage on their first real Saturday morning together in their new home, Robin took a sip of tea and kept her eyes trained on the news. She could feel Cormoran glance at her then look away.
The only comment Strike had, as he polished off his second biscuit, was – “Huh.”
Taking this acknowledgement as a sign that the topic wasn’t completely unwelcome, Robin continued. “Right about now,” she glanced at her watch, “he was throwing a fit about you ruining the ceremony.”
She could see Strike hiding his grin behind his mug. He sounded sincere, though, when he said, “I did feel bad about that.”
“I’m sure.” Robin rolled her eyes at the TV, grinning a little herself. The memory of Strike, battered and bruised, apologizing weakly from the back of the church, was inextricably tied to the overwhelming flood of relief and joy she had felt the moment she saw him, had realized that he hadn’t written her off, that he wanted her back at work, back at the job that she loved so passionately.
As they sank into a comfortable silence, Strike watched Robin out of the corner of his eye. She seemed pensive, lost in thought as she sipped her tea. When she leaned forward to set her mug on the beaten-up coffee table, he made his move. He slipped his arm from her shoulders to around her waist and dragged her, with a squeal of surprised laughter, to sit sideways in his lap. Ignoring her laughing protests, he rested his chin on the top of her head and wrapped both arms around her, absorbing her warmth and the scent of her perfume.
As she settled against his chest, one hand playing absently with the buttons of his shirt, he asked the question that had been weighing on his mind since the moment she mentioned what day it was.
“You’re not upset, are you?”
She snorted. “God, no.” Relieved, Strike turned his attention back to the news, where pundits were arguing heatedly and the scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen announced economic disaster.
It wasn’t long before Robin sighed deeply. “I was just- what was I thinking?”
Strike considered his options, and decided to go with honesty. “You weren’t.”
“Very funny.” Robin said, her tone dry. But Strike knew that she ultimately preferred hearing the truth, no matter how blunt, to being patronized with comforting platitudes. It was one of the things he loved about her. Nevertheless, there was a hint of righteous indignation in her voice as she reminded him, “You know, it was five years ago that you fired me, too. Gross misconduct.”
Strike laughed. “Okay, so neither of us were thinking,” he said, running his fingers gently up and down her arm, along the long scar that was a constant reminder of how close he had come to losing her. Robin hummed contentedly, her eyes sliding closed as she enjoyed the slight shivers that followed the path of his touch on her skin.
Feeling mischievous, Strike mused out loud, “Maybe I should send Matthew a gift. Sort of a thank you present. For being such a wanker, and for letting go of the most beautiful, brilliant woman in London.”
Robin’s eyes snapped open. “Just London?” she demanded in a tone of mock outrage, turning as furious a glare as she could muster on Strike. Its effect was somewhat lessened by the smile tugging irresistibly at the corners of her mouth, by her dancing blue-gray eyes.
“All right, most beautiful and brilliant in the UK. Although I have heard that there are some very impressive women up in the Hebrides-“
Robin struggled upright, raising her arm to smack Strike on his shoulder.
“I’ll send you to the Hebrides, you prat!”
Laughing, Strike caught her hand in his, and leaning down, kissed her gently, sliding his lips over hers as he cupped her face in his other hand.
There was a minute of busy silence.
Robin pulled away, breathless. Cormoran looked years younger than he usually did, his face soft, a small smile replacing his habitual scowl, his hair tousled where Robin had run her fingers through it
“I think we should go celebrate my anniversary,” she murmured, her thumb tracing the contours of Strike’s lower lip.
“Yeah? How should we do that?” Strike’s voice was gruff, his eyes darkening as he gently caught Robin’s wandering thumb between his teeth.
Robin arched her eyebrow and glanced pointedly at Strike’s hand, which had found its way to her thigh, resting under the soft cotton of her skirt.
“I thought you might have some ideas.” Cormoran’s soft laughter, his lips busy against her neck, the scraping of his stubble on her skin, his calloused thumb tracing circles towards the warm heat that pooled low between her thighs…
Five years, and so much had changed, while at the same time it seemed as though nothing really had – that this had been an inevitability from the moment she had first seen Strike’s name engraved on his office door.
As their tea cooled, and the golden light streaming through their curtains moved slowly across the floor, Robin resigned herself to the stacks of boxes staying where they were for another week.