I’ve always been fascinated with Cora and Robert’s meeting when he comes back from the Second Boer War. So here’s my take on it. Please go ahead and do your own, or explore other ideas. Please! I need some Cobert drabbles right now.
They have left the candles burning, and though they are nearly down to the nub, wax running and light flickering and weak, she cannot bear to extinguish them. It is a silly thing, she knows, but there is a fear in the pit of her stomach that the body in the bed next to her will disappear if she cannot see him, cannot turn to him and rest a hand on him to know that he is real. And so the candles remain lit, even as they slip into a sleepy cycle of dreaming and waking and moving together, only to fall asleep once more.
Robert’s arm rests heavily over her, his hand splayed on her stomach, his breathing calm and even against the back of her neck. The dim candles throw shadows over scars she does not know on his skin, still pink and raw. There is a jagged one that runs from the crease of his thumb to the junction of his wrist, and she had seen it at once when he finally, finally crossed back through the abbey gates and came home again.
Mary and Edith had forgotten themselves and shrieked their joy, hurtling themselves at their father, and for all of his formalities, he had clasped them close. Sweet Sybil, barely old enough to remember the man before her, had clung nervously to Cora’s skirts, keeping her distance until Robert knelt in the snow and presented her with a doll, and her hesitance flew away. Robert had kissed Cora’s hand in greeting and she had received him with equal courtesy, and pretended that she did not ache to hold him close.
They had kept their respectable distance throughout dinner, the mere brush of fingers against fingers, leg pressed to leg as she sat at his right side, a reminder of the other’s presence.
The door had scarcely closed to their own bedroom when the polite masks of a lord and lady fell away, and she shivers now as she remembers the way his hands tore at the laces of her gown, snapping one in his haste until the material gave way. She had barely fallen back onto the bed before he was inside of her, mouth pressing down fiercely on her own.
Behind her, Robert’s breathing changes and she lifts her head slightly. It is almost strange to share a bed again after so long sleeping alone, and it leaves her sorrowful for the time lost. But she can still tell the tempo of his breathing as he sleeps, can hear the shift as he awakes, and she is grateful that some things have not changed. Lazily he kisses her shoulder, the back of her neck, and she shivers again, every nerve ending alight and oversensitive. She moans low in her throat when his fingers trail down her belly and between her legs, exploring the sensitive flesh there, and her head falls back against his shoulder. She is bone-weary and sore, but the pain is a good one and in either case, overpowered by her desire to have him close, so that she pushes back against him when she feels him stir against the small of her back.
His breath hitches briefly as he shifts and slides back into her, and it is almost too much. His movements are slow and deep, and with each roll of his hips she is reminded of the nights alone here.
Robert pauses, and his voice is a low rumble still thick with sleep when he murmurs, “Are you all right, darling?” She blinks, glancing down, and sees one of his hands cupping her breast and the other caught between her own, where she holds so tightly that both of their knuckles are turning white.
She draws the hand to her lips, pressing a kiss on the rough-skinned knuckles. She does not share the fears she had harbored, the overwhelming relief to have him home once more, but thinks she does not have to when he pulls her closer into the circle of his arms.