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Strike & Ellacott: Case Files

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Robin snuffled loudly into the tissue, then dropped it into the rapidly filling bin beside her.

"God, I hate summer colds," she sighed. "I can barely breathe." She propped her chin on her hand to look at Strike, her eyes glassy and heavy lidded.

He murmured in sympathy.

"Last night..." she hesitated, shamefaced. “I didn't snore, did I?” 

“Like a chainsaw,” Strike said cheerfully. Robin groaned and dropped her head to the desk with an audible thump.

"A cute chainsaw, though," he amended.

“I’m disgusting,” came her muffled response. Strike smoothed her hair off her feverish forehead, and heartily disagreed.

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“Well, if this doesn’t convince Honeypot to hit on me, I don’t know what will,” Robin said, eyeing her reflection critically. She caught Strike’s eye in the mirror.

“Don’t you think?” she asked, stepping back so he could take in the full effect of the clinging dress, the smoky eyes and tousled hair, the pale pink lips begging to be kissed.

“Yeah, I would,” he said without thinking, distracted by the creamy swell of her breasts rising from the plunging neckline. It was only when she froze, eyes wide and locked on his, that he realized what he’d said.

“That came out wrong,” he blurted, panicked mind catching up with his careless mouth. “I meant-”

But it was clear, from the rapidly spreading blush on her cheeks and the tiny smirk on her lips as she turned back to the mirror, that Robin knew what he’d meant better than he did.

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“So… did you mean for this to be a date?”

Cormoran’s head jerked up, his eyes snapping to meet Robin’s; she was staring fixedly at the empty bottle of beer in her hands, her slender fingers fiddling with the half-shredded label, soggy with condensation, that she’d been industriously peeling off. Instinctively, he opened his mouth to deny it, to dissipate the tension thrumming between them and smother the writhing ball of hot panic in his stomach; but the words tangled on his tongue as he looked at her, her cheeks flushed a darker pink than two beers would justify, her rose-gold hair warm in the dim light, gathered over one shoulder to expose the long white line of her neck.

He looked at the brief flicker of her eyes as she glanced at him from under her fine blonde lashes, the nervous fiddling of her fingers with the label; he looked down at himself, dressed with more care than he liked to admit, his crisp new shirt the exact shade of forest green that he knew was her favourite; he looked at the scant pile of folders on the table, barely ten minutes worth of discussion that they’d spun out into almost an hour, at the nervous energy in his own fingers as he drummed them on the table.

He cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he said, “I think I did.”

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Robin's stomach lurched as her foot slipped out from under her; she threw out an arm that met with nothing but empty air, and then she was falling, with only a moment to brace herself for the smack of the pavement rising up to meet her - and then with a jolt she was hanging in the air, one of Strike's arms wrapped around her waist, the other a firm grip on her elbow, supporting her weight. For one dazed, dizzy moment she was looking up at him, his features craggy and shadowed under the streetlight.

"Oops," she said weakly, with a breathy little giggle that a small, sober corner of her brain despised her for; and then he was setting her back on her feet, his warm hands dropping away from her as soon as she was steady.

"You alright?" he asked, voice gruff

"Yeah." She gave him a shaky smile. "It's slippery just there."

"I'm sure," he agreed, but the corner of his mouth twitched in a poorly concealed smirk. Robin blushed.

"That last round of shots might have been a bit much," she admitted. He raised his eyebrows at her. "Fine. Both rounds," she said, giggling again, and he laughed with her, the corners of his eyes crinkling. She dropped her gaze from his face, feeling the warmth of her blush as it spread down her throat, across her chest.

"We got him, though," she said in quiet satisfaction, her shoulder bumping against his as she listed slightly to the right. A moment more, and Strike's hand had found its way back to her waist, and she was leaning into his solid warmth.

"We got him."

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"This movie is terrible," Strike groused as settled back onto the couch, propping his leg up on the ottoman in front of him and popping the tab of his second beer with a crack and a hiss. Robin leaned back into his side, folding her legs underneath her, and his arm moved without thought to drape across her shoulders.

"It's romantic," she said primly, and then jabbed his side with her elbow. "I can feel you rolling your eyes, Cormoran! I pick the movie and no complaining, those were the terms."

Strike sighed. He should have known better than to bet against Robin's instincts, especially when it came to people; but he had been certain that their client was right, that his wife was cheating. It had seemed like a sure thing, a safe bet. One week of surveillance, though, and the woman's cliché story about her pottery class had been proven true - and Robin had won a full month's worth of movie choices. With no complaining.

Strike took a pull of his beer, his attention wandering from the screen to the feel of Robin pressed against him, the blue light of the tv glinting on her hair where it fell across her cheek, the familiar warm scent of her skin beneath her delicate floral perfume. If he was honest with himself, he didn't give a damn about what they watched; just sitting here like his, with her, was enough for him.


"Ridiculous," he murmured into her hair as the credits rolled. "There's no such thing as destiny, or fate."

"You don’t think so?" she asked, pulling back to look up at him. "What would you call the way we met, then?"

"What, me almost killing you?"

"Obviously not," she said, rolling her eyes; but her smile was soft and fond as he smoothed her hair away from her cheek and leaned down to press a kiss against her lips. He could feel her grin as she brought her hand up to cup his cheek, scratching her nails gently through his stubble. A moment of breathless pleasure, and she pulled away, ignoring his groan.

"Being assigned as your temp," she said firmly, "that was fate."

"Serendipity," he corrected her, his voice gruff with desire, and he cupped the back of her head with one broad hand to bring her back into him. "The luckiest moment of my life, for sure," he continued, as she leaned up on her knees, the curves of her body soft against his; her lips found the skin behind his ear, and his head fell back with a strangled groan. "But not fate," he managed, before her lips were on his again and he found that there was, quite suddenly, absolutely nothing more to complain about.

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Robin's eyes slid closed and she hummed in pleasure, luxuriating in the weight of Cormoran above her, the warm bulk of his body pressing her into the couch's cushions as he trailed soft kisses down the length of her neck, his stubble rough against her skin.

She had no idea of the time; she had fallen into a doze in front of the television, waiting for Strike to return from the evening's surveillance job. He'd stumbled, grimy-jawed and hollow-eyed with exhaustion, into the flat that had darkened while Robin slept and was now lit only by the flickering blue light of the television. He hadn't collapsed into bed, though, or made a beeline to the fridge where she had stocked a six-pack of his favourite beer; instead, he had reached for Robin, gathering her into his big arms and inhaling deeply, something desperate and hungry in the grip of his fingers as he clung to her, in the insistent heat of his mouth against hers.

But Cormoran's kisses had slowed, lengthened, as he drifted down past her collarbone; and now he had stilled, his head pillowed on her breasts. Robin's eyes fluttered open.

"Cormoran?" she whispered, and then, slightly louder, "Cormoran." There was no response other than the sound of his breathing, deep and suspiciously even. His weight had settled on her, pinning her to the couch, and she had to crane her neck around to take in his face.

His eyebrows were still furrowed, deep lines creasing his forehead; but his eyes were closed, his lips slack and parted, and - Robin had to stifle a giggle - he had begun to snore, softly, his chest rumbling against her. Robin rested her head back against the arm of the couch and grinned at the ceiling, smoothing the lines of Cormoran's forehead with one hand before burying it in his rough curls.

"Sweet dreams," she murmured to the quiet bulk of him cradled between her legs, heavy and warm and comforting as the soft rasp of his breathing lulled her back into sleep.

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“I think he might've seen us,” Robin muttered into the steaming latte cradled in her mittened hands.

Strike darted a glance at the man they were tailing, masking the flick of his eyes with a hearty swig of his own coffee, scalding and bitter on his tongue. The Filcher, as Robin had almost immediately named him, had straightened up from the pile of boxes he’d been arranging and was indeed squinting across the street to where they stood, frowning. It was a miserable day, cold and damp and grey, and no pedestrian would be lingering on the chilly pavement unless they had good reason to be there. Despite their practiced air of casual indifference, he and Robin were out of place.

“I think you're right,” he muttered back.

“Well, that's today buggered then,” she said, turning to leave while keeping her face - mouth twisted in frustration - angled carefully away from Filcher’s line of sight.

“Hold on,” Strike said, pulling Robin back into the shadowed doorway that she’d spent the morning lurking in. He tugged at her arm and she allowed him to pull her closer, her eyebrows raised in a silent question as she looked up into his face. He snaked his arm around her waist, guiding the length of her body to press against his, and as her eyes widened slightly in surprise, ducked his head to capture her mouth in a slow, careful kiss.

She was still for only a moment, her lips soft and warm against his, and then she melted into him, lifting one hand to press gently against his jaw as she parted her lips, a hint of vanilla as her tongue sought his.

When he pulled back to catch his breath, chest heaving, it was to see her smiling up at him, eyes sparkling and cheeks flushed with more than the cold air.

“I thought we agreed we’d keep things professional during work hours,” she whispered, moving her hand down to smooth the lapel of his overcoat. Strike grinned back at her, pressing a quick kiss to her forehead before slinging his arm around her shoulders and steering her out into the street.

“Had to throw him off the scent,” he said with a brief nod towards Filcher, who had indeed turned back to his boxes, studiously ignoring the amorous couple. “It was a professional kiss. Purely business.”

He could practically feel Robin rolling her eyes at him, though she was smiling fondly when she halted in the middle of the pavement, grabbing his lapel and pulling him around to face her.

“In that case,” she murmured, craning her head up to brush her lips against his again, “better make sure you’ve done a thorough job of it.”