If anyone is still living under the belief that Strike and Robin are somehow still a “will they/won’t they” pairing, we’d like to invite you to join us in the “When and How Will They” club.
With foreshadowing like well-planted seeds, we have eagerly watched as their relationship has bloomed into something even they can’t define. For this very special StrikeFans Valentine’s Day post, we invite you to take a look back with us at some of the most memorable moments and tell signs that our two favorite detectives will soon be more than just partners and best friends.
The Cuckoo’s Calling
When we first meet Robin in The Cuckoo’s Calling, she tells us that she “… had never before woken up in the certain knowledge that she would remember the coming day for as long as she lived.” At the time, we, along with Robin, assume it’s because she’s just become engaged to Matthew, but we literally see the brightness of her engagement ring fade as she approaches the door of Cormoran Strike.
“Savoring the moment, she approached the engraved door very slowly. She stretched out her left hand (sapphire dark, now, in this dim light) towards the handle; but before she had touched it, the glass door too flew open.” The Cuckoo’s Calling, Chapter 1
The dimming of her ring representing the sun setting on her old life and rising again with the start of her new one, as the person she was always meant to be. She will remember this day forever, not because of Matthew, but because she’s just met the man who will ultimately change her life in every way.
On Strike’s side of the equation, we see it as foreshadowing that Robin literally stands in the way of his chasing after Charlotte, who had just been in his office after their latest breakup. Strike then literally saves Robin’s life, as he nearly knocks her down the stairs when he barges out of the office. It will be a slow burn between them from this point, but the literal and symbolic signs are there.
Arguably, the most memorable moment between Strike and Robin in The Cuckoo’s Calling is when she models the green Cavalli dress during her first time undercover. It’s a moment that Strike still thinks about, almost five years later in Troubled Blood.
“Nothing else had seemed to encapsulate what he wanted to tell her, which was ‘look what we achieved together,’ ‘I couldn’t have done it without you’ and (if he was being totally honest with himself) ‘you look gorgeous in this, and I’d like you to know I thought so when I saw you in it.’” Troubled Blood, Chapter 13
In The Silkworm, we start to see Strike’s increasing distress over Robin’s upcoming wedding and his unwelcome happiness at it being postponed. We also see Robin’s desire to marry her work life with her home life, something that she can never quite achieve with Matthew in the picture.
“She wanted to tug the working life that she had never enjoyed so much closer to the personal life that currently refused to meld with it; she wanted to stitch the two together in a satisfying whole and to see Strike in the congregation, approving (approving! Why did he have to approve?) of her marrying Matthew.” The Silkworm, Chapter 10
Don’t worry, Robin. One day your work life and personal life are going to meld together just perfectly!
We would be remiss not to mention one of the sweetest parts of The Silkworm, when Robin and Strike begin their journey together as partners.
“’Well, merry Christmas, partner.’ The idea of a hug hovered briefly in the air, but she held out her hand with mock blokeyness, and he shook it. ‘Have a great time in Cornwall.’ ‘And you in Masham.’ On the point of relinquishing her hand, he gave it a quick twist. He had kissed the back of it before she knew what had happened. Then, with a grin and a wave, he was gone.” The Silkworm, Chapter 50
Career of Evil
From Career of Evil onward, it becomes increasingly difficult to select only a few of these moments, as Strike spends an entire chapter thinking about how he sort of/definitely doesn’t/ absolutely has feelings for Robin.
“He was sorry, genuinely sorry, for the pain she was in. Yet the revelation had caused certain other feelings — feelings he usually kept under tight rein, considering them both misguided and dangerous — to flex inside him, to test their strength against their restraining bonds. Don’t be a stupid fucker, he told himself. That’s one thing that can never happen. It’d screw everything up royally.” Career of Evil, Chapter 20
And Strike isn’t the only one thinking of possibilities. This marks the first time we see his good friend, Ilsa, express her opinion on the matter.
“… she was not the first of his friends to say that he and Robin got on so well, wasn’t there a possibility …? Hadn’t he ever considered …? Career of Evil, Chapter 11
There have been quite a few moments where we’d all like to give both Strike and Robin that same look, Ilsa!
When it comes to thoughts of Strike, though, Robin spends a lot of Career of Evil wondering why certain thoughts pop in her head.
“Does she know you’ve gone away with me? Just the two of us?
Robin felt herself turn red. She did not know where that thought had come from. It wasn’t as though …” Career of Evil, Chapter 26
One moment early on in chapter 8, Robin is trying not to overhear Strike on the phone with his girlfriend, Elin, and finds it “difficult to imagine Strike murmuring endearments to anyone.” Something tells us that maybe she’ll be able to imagine it soon. Career of Evil, Chapter 8
While the ending of Career of Evil left everyone desperate for the next book (and screaming ‘NOO!’ that Robin actually marries Matthew), it also gave us this particularly wonderful moment when Strike shows up to her wedding, knocking the flowers to the floor.
We don’t know about you, but we’re really looking forward to the possibility of Robin, once again, looking into Strike’s eyes and saying “I do.”
The wait for Lethal White was long but worth every minute with the number of “aww” eliciting moments it gave us.
As painful as the prologue of Lethal White is for both Strike and Robin, the imagery and symbolism we get with the swans is some of the best yet. Swans — representing inner beauty, love and most importantly, soul mates — are seen at Matthew and Robin’s wedding. And, interestingly, the swans do not begin to make their way to each other until Matthew lets go of Robin.
Robin and Matthew’s wedding force Strike and Robin to face some of the feelings they keep deeply hidden:
“Strike was forced to recognize how long, and how deeply, he had hoped that Robin would not marry. He had wanted her free, free to be what they had been together. Free, so that if circumstances changed … so the possibility was there … free, so that one day, they might find out what else they could be to each other.” Lethal White, Prologue
And this absolute gem of a line where Robin realizes just how much Strike means to her:
“… of the friendship she had not known was one of the prizes of her life until it was torn away from her…” Lethal White, Prologue
And, of course, the hug that lingers in both of their minds even a year later. (Not that they have feelings for each other or anything.)
“The feel of her was both new and familiar, as though he had held her a long time ago, as though he had missed it without knowing it for years. Through the closed door upstairs the band played on: I’ll go wherever you will go If I could make you mine … “ Lethal White, Prologue
Robin even asks herself the big question: “Am I in love with him?” Even though she convinces herself that the answer is no, we think we all know the real answer.
Both Strike and Robin had moments in Lethal White that strike us with a “this might come back up later” thought.
While some fans might be unsure if Strike and Robin will ever actually get married, one thing that really stands out — and points all the way down the aisle — is Robin wondering in Lethal White, Chapter 23: “… what it would be like to have a wedding day and honeymoon about which it was safe to reminisce.” This seems like another thing she might find out one day.
Then there’s this stopped-us-in-our-tracks moments:
“Strike had made a vow to himself two years previously, and he made very few vows, because he trusted himself to keep them. Having never said ‘I love you’ to any woman but Charlotte, he would not say it to another unless he knew, beyond reasonable doubt, that he wanted to stay with that woman and make a life with her.” Lethal White, Chapter 24
We can’t help but be convinced that he is going to one day say those words to Robin as the woman he wants to make a life with.
While we’re all anxiously awaiting an on-purpose kiss, the accidental kiss Strike and Robin share is a favorite of many fans.
“Robin walked away without looking back. She could still feel the shape of his mouth on hers, her skin tingling where his stubble had scratched her, but she did not rub the sensation away.” Lethal White, Chapter 26
“Strike had forgotten that he had meant to have another cigarette. Whether because he was now confident that he would be able to take his nephew to the Imperial War Museum, or for some other reason, his exhaustion was now stippled with a crazy light-heartedness, as though he had just taken a shot of spirits. The dirt and heat of a London afternoon, with the smell of stocks in the air, seemed suddenly full of beauty.” Lethal White, Chapter 26
“Some other reason” … Sure.
“It was a glorious thing, to be given hope, when all had seemed lost.” Lethal White, Chapter 26
Back to the swans: Throughout Lethal White, Robin, who feels alone, often notices the lone carved swan located above the The White Swan pub near her home with Matthew. It’s not until the end of Lethal White, when she and Strike are walking together and after she’s left Matthew, that we see another pair of swans, this time facing one another.
“They parted with a wave, concealing from each other the slight smile that each wore once safely walking away, pleased to know that they would meet again in a few short hours, over curry and beer at Nick and Ilsa’s.” Lethal White, Epilogue
“They do take a big step forward in this book, but it’s not quite the step forward I think some people would want to see.” -JK Rowling, Robert Galbraith in Conversation with Mark Billingham
Let’s talk about that step forward! Troubled Blood opens with Dave Polworth — of all people — asking Strike about his relationship with Robin and bringing up marriage in the same context. Polworth explains that it was Mazankov and Krupov from Anna Karenina that ultimately convinced him to marry his wife, Penny, but more on that later.
Not only is this the very first time Strike admits “’There might’ve been moments,’ he admitted, ‘when it crossed my mind.'” Troubled Blood, Chapter 1, but we also learn that, in addition to Ilsa, pretty much everyone in Strike’s life is wanting him to end up with Robin!
“Joanie reckons you’re gonna end up with your business partner. That Robin girl.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 1
And soon after, Robin has this beautiful thought that speaks to more than just her drive to Falmouth: “In spite of her tiredness she found her spirits buoyed by the glorious morning, and the idea of Strike waiting at journey’s end.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 5
Strike and Robin spend a lot of time thinking about each other throughout this book, with a heavy focus on how much better, light-hearted, happier, etc. they feel when speaking to or seeing the other. There really isn’t enough space on the internet to list them all, but they’re very, very sweet.
We already know that Strike has always found Robin attractive (that’s been mentioned as early as The Cuckoo’s Calling), but we see that escalate slightly with thoughts such as: “He glanced at her, then, frowning, looked away. She was looking particularly sexy in that blue dress, which he’d never seen before.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 63
Luckily for Strike, he’s not the only one! Robin’s attraction and feelings for Strike are starting to become more apparent, even if she still tries to keep them hidden.
“… Robin felt a wave of liking simply for the way he looked.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 16
We also see Robin feeling actual sparks of excitement upon thinking she saw Strike.
“In the pit of her stomach, the last sparks of the excitement she’d felt on thinking that she was looking at Strike glimmered and died.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
In fact, Robin’s thoughts about Strike in Chapter 45 of Troubled Blood mirror Strike’s thoughts about Robin in Chapter 40 of Career of Evil, and they both have a slightly honest conversation with themselves about their feelings for the other.
“Robin knew she’d been avoiding the question of what she really felt about Strike for the past year.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 45
While Robin still seems desperate to keep her feelings hidden, Strike starts to become “all antennae” about the situation.
“Strike wondered exactly how egotistical it was to suspect that Robin’s feelings toward him might be warmer than those of pure friendship…”
“Nor was Strike unconscious of Robin’s good looks: indeed, he’d been fully aware of them ever since she’d taken off her coat in his office for the first time. But her physical appeal was less of a threat to his peace of mind than the deep, guilty liking for being, currently, the main man in her life.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 22
We don’t know about you, but we are forever loving Strike’s “main man in her life” comment!
There are two chapters in Troubled Blood that bring about a lot of much-needed change for Strike and Robin’s relationship.
The first of these chapters (Chapter 40) just so happens to take place on Valentine’s Day! We’ve all been wanting Strike and Robin to spend Valentine’s Day together, but we never imagined it would be like this! The explosive fight they have is painful to read but leads to some serious change in how Strike operates with Robin. The things she takes issue with (his lateness, his rudeness to others like Pat and taking his temper out on her) all change after this confrontation. We see Strike make a noticeable effort to arrive early to all their meetings, be friendly to Pat, and apologize when he’s stressed and snaps at her. Growth!
“’Al pissed me off,’ he explained. ‘So I might’ve been a bit—’
“’Cormoran, it’s fine,’ repeated Robin, but with a smile that reassured Strike.’” Troubled Blood, Chapter 56
The other chapter that brings change — but in a much more pleasant way — is Chapter 58. Here they come the closest they’ve ever come to moving their relationship to the next level and expressing, even if not fully, what they mean to each other.
Strike and Robin are able to open up to each other (with a little help from whiskey) in a way we haven’t quite seen yet. We very much hope to get more of this in future books as they actually try “that talking thing.”
“How could he say, look, I’ve tried not to fancy you since you first took off your coat in this office. I try not to give names to what I feel for you, because I already know it’s too much, and I want peace from the shit that love brings in its wake. I want to be alone, and unburdened, and free.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 58
Yes, Strike actually thought the word “love” there!
“But worse than that, by far: she was scared of giving herself away. The feelings she’d been denying to Matthew, to her mother, to Ilsa and to herself must remain hidden.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 58
Poor Robin — she’s so afraid of her feelings! Here’s to hoping Barclay doesn’t interrupt them the next time they come this close!
Robin notes that walls have come down since that night in the office, but we get a particularly enjoyable chapter when Strike and Robin go to Skegness to interview a possible suspect. Strike appears so happy in this chapter that he not only sings but also has the desire to buy Robin a stuffed donkey like he was a “kid on a daytime date with his first girlfriend.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 65
One especially great moment is when Strike appears to almost flirt with Robin, making her blush: “Strike looked at her without smiling for the space it took him to chew and swallow a chip, then said, ‘Yeah. But you’re exceptional, aren’t you?’” Troubled Blood, Chapter 65
Remember the swans from Lethal White? We had hoped that the twin swans facing each other at the end of Lethal White would mean Strike and Robin getting together, but in hindsight, maybe it was indicating the additional closeness they’d achieve in Troubled Blood and the recognition of their best friend status. If that’s true, we have very high hopes for what this mention of swans in Troubled Blood could indicate for Book 6!
“Kirsty had arranged towels in the shape of kissing swans on the maroon bedspread, which matched the patterned wallpaper of maroon and deep purple.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 64
We know that many people had high hopes that Strike and Robin would get together by the end of Troubled Blood, but chapter 73 was still a wonderful gift to all the shippers out there, letting us know that it must be coming soon!
Throughout Troubled Blood, poor Robin is subjected to a couple of rather thoughtless gifts from Strike for her 29th birthday and Christmas. While illness, leaving things to the last minute and a strong desire not to give away too much of his feelings play a role in that, Robin is stung by his lack of thought. So it was to her delight — and ours — that Strike goes full force on her 30th birthday.
“As she hadn’t heard the doorbell, she had to conclude that Strike had somehow transferred both box and card to Max ahead of time, to surprise her with this morning. This argued degrees of planning and effort that seemed highly uncharacteristic. Moreover, she’d never received a proper card from Strike, not even when he’d bought her the green dress after solving their first case.
The front of the birthday card was somewhat generic and featured a large glittery pink number thirty. Inside, Strike had written:
Happy birthday. This isn’t your real present,
you’ll get that later. (Not flowers)
Love Strike x” Troubled Blood, Chapter 73
Strike texts Robin and asks her to meet him under the pretense of work, but in reality, he is planning the most date-like birthday celebration that Robin never saw coming.
“’Happy birthday,’ he said, and after a brief hesitation he bent down and kissed her on the cheek. He smelled, Robin noticed, not only of cigarettes, but of a subtle lavender aftershave, which was unusual.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 73
Strike’s previous attempt at Christmas to buy Robin perfume went wrong for a lot of reasons, but also because he was afraid the gift was “too intimate.” However, now that he’s not only buying her perfume but also taking her shopping to select it, this suggests that he’s not worried about it being too intimate anymore. Robin also takes a bit of a step forward here.
“Now she hesitated, wondering whether she dare do what she wanted … but surely, if they were best friends, it was all right?” Troubled Blood, Chapter 73
She asks for his opinion, giving the excuse of “… You’ve got to live with it, in the Land Rover.” Sure, Robin, it has nothing to do with you wanting him to like the way you smell. Troubled Blood, Chapter 73
Of the two choices she gives him, one reminds him of “of warm, musky skin, with a suggestion of bruised flowers” and then the other literal vanilla. So, Strike, would you like Robin to smell like warm, musky skin and flowers or this very safe, platonic vanilla? Spoiler alert: He doesn’t choose the vanilla!
Which brings us to the end, where he tells her the real plans for the night.
“I’m taking you to the Ritz for champagne,” said Strike. Troubled Blood, Chapter 73
He really did put a ton of effort into planning her birthday celebration, which again suggests that he is less worried about putting everything on the table. It’s almost like he’s finally made up his mind on the ever-present “all or nothing” question.
“For a moment Robin simply looked at him, then she reached up and hugged him tightly. Surrounded by banked flowers, both remembered the hug they’d shared at the top of the stairs on her wedding day, but this time, Robin turned her face and kissed Strike deliberately on the cheek, lips to stubble.
‘Thanks, Strike. This really means a lot.’” Troubled Blood, Chapter 73
The book ends with a reflection back to Chapter 1 with the mention of Mazankov and Krupov from Anna Karenina. This is extremely important given Strike’s previous hangups about marriage and pursuing a relationship with Robin. While Polworth’s explanations for why Mazankov and Krupov ultimately convinced him to propose are arguably less than romantic, the fact remains that Strike remembers a conversation about changing your mind about marriage while sharing this moment with Robin. This is a Big Deal and really suggests that “now or never” is now!
“Out of his subconscious rose the names Mazankov and Krupov, and it was a second or two before he remembered where he’d heard them, why they sounded Cornish, and why he thought of them now. The corners of his mouth twitched, but as Robin didn’t see him smiling, he felt no compulsion to explain.” Troubled Blood, Chapter 73
We hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with us throughout this very special Valentine’s Day post. And we wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day! Be sure to tell us what your favorite Strike and Robin moments are in the comments below.
Now please enjoy some awesome fan contributions below with additional fanart, a fan-made video, a link to the Valentine’s episode of The Strike & Ellacott Files podcast and a special Valentine’s Day fanfic from pools_of_venetianblue!
Fan art by S. Aust. You can find lots more in our galleries!
Here’s a new Valentine’s Day fan video made by MonoMama:
Click here to listen to a special Valentine’s Day episode of The Strike & Ellacott Files!
And here is our Valentine’s Day Quiz
Last but certainly not least, enjoy an exclusive first look at a very special Valentine’s Day fic by pools_of_venetianblue
she’s the one I’ve watered
“…my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.”
– The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
As she climbed the stairs from the Tottenham Court Road tube station, Robin was mentally going over her schedule for the day. Strike would be on surveillance this morning, but he was planning to call in for the meeting they had set with a potential new client at three. She’d prep for that first thing, then spend the rest of the morning updating the files on Two-Times’s latest girlfriend. She had to talk to Pat about the rota at some point too, she realized, dodging past a slow-moving tourist dragging a heavy suitcase behind them.
As she reached the top of the steps, she passed a tall, thin, blonde woman, wearing a skirted trench coat, whose face was taut with anger as she yelled into her mobile, “It’s Valentine’s Day, Hugo! We had plans!”
Robin tugged her own phone out of her pocket and glanced at the date, confirming that she had, indeed, forgotten that it was Valentines Day.
The revelation came with a certain sinking sensation. She couldn’t help remembering the night exactly a year ago, which she easily ranked as one of the worst Valentine’s she’d ever spent; single, exhausted, gritting her teeth through the Nightmare Dinner, watching Strike vomit in the street and the blowout fight she’d had with him immediately after…
But at the same time, she remembered seeing her phone light up with his name the next day, her surprise at his unprompted and sincere apology, the way he’d made her laugh and cry at the same time. She’d felt a change in him, in the year since that night. He’d been slightly more thoughtful, more open. Warmer. He’d remembered her birthday, and Christmas too, and she felt a small glow of pleasure at the memory of both as she unlocked the outer door of the office and started up the metal stairs.
And though she could admit to herself now (even if only when alone in her bed, in the hidden dark of night) that she might want more of Strike, might in fact want all of him, she was content with what they had.
Best mates, she reminded herself with a tiny spurt of happiness as she keyed open the office door.
Pat hadn’t yet arrived, and Robin deposited the day’s mail on the front desk on her way through to the inner office, unwinding her scarf and unbuttoning her coat as she went
At the sight of her desk, she halted in her tracks and stared.
Standing there, emerging from a slim glass vase, was a single, exquisite white rose.
She had worked late last night, but she knew had left her desk tidy, its surface bare, as always. The rose hadn’t been there then. She felt a quick stab of anxiety as the image of a quivering bundle of red roses swam before her eyes, and hesitated a moment before stepping forward.
As she moved closer, she saw that the bottom of the vase was filled with glass pebbles of the most delicate blue-grey. There was a card propped up next to it, bright pink and glittery with a cartoonish red bird singing on the front of it.
She picked up the card with trembling fingers, and flipped it open.
You said I wasn’t to get you flowers,
so I picked out just the one.
Love Strike x
The sight of the cramped and spiky handwriting, as familiar to her as her own, came with a rush of relief, followed almost instantly by something much warmer spreading through her in its wake. She huffed a quiet laugh of surprise and delight as she lifted the flower carefully from the vase, the water clinging to its stem cool on her fingers. She inhaled its scent, its petals soft as they brushed against her lips, and read the card again.
There had been white roses at her wedding; she wondered now if Strike remembered. She would have thought, a day ago, that this particular flower would hold only bad memories for her. But now, all she could see as she twirled the stem slowly between her fingers was Strike standing sheepishly next to an overturned vase at the back of the church; all she could feel was his arms around her, his breath stirring the curls of her hair.
She looked up, startled. Strike was standing in the door of the office, a tray of coffees in one hand, a paper bag in the other. He was wearing his overcoat still, with a dark blue scarf wrapped around his throat. His cheeks were ruddy from the cold, his eyes bright, and Robin’s heart jumped at the sight of him, as it so often did these days.
Slightly flustered, she stared at him for a moment too long and then, realizing that she was still holding the rose to her lips, dropped her hand. She felt her cheeks begin to heat, and looked down before he could see the ridiculous grin that she couldn’t stop from spreading across her face.
“Good morning,” she said to the wood of her desk, and blushed harder at the sound of her voice, which she could only describe to herself as throaty. Her mind scrabbled frantically for something else to say, something normal, something casual, willing her body to calm down, but every second that passed made the clamoring mess of feelings inside her stronger and more unruly.
It was Strike who broke the silence first.
“For what?” she said, startled into looking up at him; but Strike was grinning in a way that was anything but contrite.
“Going against orders,” he said, his eyes twinkling at her as he glanced pointedly down at the rose.
She laughed. “I’ll allow it,” she said, finding solid footing again on the back of his joke. “Just this once, mind you,” she added with mock severity. They stood there, grinning across the office at each other, for a long moment before Strike seemed to remember the coffee in his hand.
“Here,” he said, putting the paper cup on her desk. He placed the paper bag carefully down beside it, and glanced up at her almost shyly as he added, “Triple chocolate brownie.”
She recognized the logo on the bag; it belonged to a trendy new bakery that had exploded into sudden popularity, the artfully composed shots of its decadent pastries and cakes that swamped Instagram feeds drawing enormous crowds and resulting in lines out the door. She’d idly mentioned wanting to try one of their famous brownies, more than a week ago. She hadn’t thought he was listening.
Robin felt her heart swell and her eyes prickle threateningly. The bakery was nowhere near Denmark Street. Strike was on surveillance today; he wasn’t even supposed to be in the office. He’d gone out of his way, braved the tube at rush hour, to bring her this.
“You must’ve gotten up at the crack of dawn to beat the queue,” she said thickly, her attempt at lighthearted banter drowning in the tears pooling in her throat.
Strike shrugged, sipping his own coffee and leaning back against his side of the desk.
Robin sat, placing the rose that she’d still been holding carefully back in its vase.
“Didn’t you get anything for yourself?” she asked as she unwrapped her brownie, placing it on top of the smoothed-out bag where she could admire it, the chunks of dark chocolate and drizzle of ganache making her mouth water.
“Ate it on the way back,” he said with a sheepish shrug, and Robin laughed again.
She was conscious of his eyes on her as she broke off a piece from the corner and took a bite. Her eyelids fluttered closed as the cake crumbled and melted on her tongue, the decadent, dark, fudgey chocolate prompting an involuntary moan of delight.
Having savoured every moment of the morsel, she opened her eyes, and her breath caught in her throat as she met Strike’s gaze; for the briefest of moments his eyes were dark and blazing with something that looked almost like desire. Then he looked down, fiddling with the lid of his coffee cup, and the moment broke as Robin felt her heart start beating again.
“Thank you,” she said softly. “For everything. I wasn’t expecting…” she trailed off, helpless to describe the jumbled mass of feelings that were burning under her ribcage.
“You’re welcome,” he replied quietly, glancing back up at her. The burning in his eyes was gone, or banked; he heaved a breath and pushed himself up off the desk.
“Listen, before I head out…” he hesitated for a moment before he said, in a rush, “D’you have plans tonight?”
“Plans?” Robin said blankly.
“Yeah. Plans,” he said, eloquently.
“I—no, not really,” Robin answered, as articulate as her partner, blossoming excitement and quavering uncertainty mingling and fluttering in her stomach. “Max is having his boyfriend over, I was going to make myself scarce. Early night with a book kind of thing.” She became aware that she was babbling, and clamped her mouth shut. Strike took a deep breath.
“Would you like to have dinner with me?”
The question was clear and confident; but as Robin stared at him, her mouth hanging open a little in surprise, she could see a hint of fear and uncertainty lurking in his dark eyes, in the near whitening of his knuckles as he gripped his coffee cup.
“Tonight?” she managed, her voice emerging an octave too high.
“Yes,” he said, and when she didn’t respond, added with a rueful grin, “I’ll be both punctual and sober, I promise.”
Robin stared at him, lost for words. Was he asking what she thought he was asking? The flower, the chocolate… it was Valentine’s Day. Surely this wasn’t what best mates did on Valentine’s Day. Or was it?
“We’ll never get a table,” she said weakly, not knowing how to respond.
“I already have one.” He was holding her gaze, his dark eyes steady and warm.
“Well. Alright then,” she said, her cheeks pink, tucking her hair behind her ears with trembling fingers. “Yes. That would be…lovely.”
“Good.” The corners of his lips tilted, in a crooked and almost boyish grin. “Pick you up at seven?”
She nodded, but as he got up out of his chair to leave, his coffee in one hand and the other busy re-tucking the ends of his scarf into his collar, she felt the need to say something, anything, to put some kind of words to the hope blooming in her chest.
“It’s a date,” she blurted with sudden, reckless bravery.
Strike paused, glancing back at her with a cheeky grin as he reached the door.
“Yeah,” he said, his eyes meeting hers with a burning intensity that made her stomach flip. “It is.”
And then he was gone.
She fell back into her chair, her eyes falling on the white rose in its vase, fresh and bright in the morning sunlight trickling through the window, once again wondering why he’d chosen it.
Perhaps, she mused, unconscious of the tiny smile blooming on her face, she’d ask him tonight.
On their date.