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"Not For Public Circulation"

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‘Just fucking put it on, Liz.’

‘You know, you could have asked me before you ordered it.’ She pauses, resisting the urge to melodramatically plant a hand to her forehead. ‘Oh wait, I forget that asking is a foreign concept to you.’

Finn doesn’t take the bait and as usual, throws it back at her. ‘Yes, like procrastinating, or dawdling, or generally being annoying at 7.45 in the morning,’ he snaps, looking at his watch. ‘We’re going to be late.’

At that, Liz heads out of the door without a word and, more frustratingly, without taking the badge lying expectantly in his outstretched hand. Sighing, Finn shoves it into his coat pocket, picks up his briefcase and follows her.

‘Besides, you travel on the Tube with me,’ she says whilst waiting for their train. ‘Frankly, Finn, I don’t see how a tiny round badge would compete with big old you around.’ As if to shore up her argument, she indicates the considerably wide berth they’ve been given on the platform, an extremely unusual phenomenon for the early London rush hour.

‘This might be news to you, but the people I’m willing to fight this early in the morning boils down to only you and not some hipster nursing a chai tea latte on the District Line,’ says Finn, scowling as he spies one approaching them. The young man, startled, promptly reverses direction. Surreptitiously weaving her hand through his coat, Liz smacks Finn lightly on the arse. He grunts in response.

Their train arrives; the carriage is more than half full, but finding a seat is still relatively easy. Liz smiles triumphantly up at Finn as she quickly settles into one, leaving him holding a handrail.

‘Told you I don’t need it.’ She smirks. ‘Though it looks like you might.’

‘Shut up,’ is his reply but it lacks his usual bite. Mostly because his eyes are currently wandering up and down the carriage, like a man on reconnaissance, his brow furrowed. It’s almost like a routine now. Initially, Liz hadn’t known what to make of it. Then she realised with a jolt that this was how Finn’s protective instincts manifested themselves. It’s deeply embarrassing. It’s deeply endearing.

But he’s outdone himself now with the fucking badge. Liz’s first response was to laugh at the suggestion, only to be struck dumb when he produced one out of nowhere during breakfast a few mornings previously. Had it been an engagement ring, her reaction wouldn’t have been much different (although that particular bridge had already been crossed at another time). Laughter appeared to be the default response, however, even after she managed to get over the shock and had continued to do so for the past three days. Her fervent hope, really, is to play for time until Finn forgets about it…but knowing how infuriatingly persistent he is, she supposes she’ll have to give in sooner or later.

That time does indeed come. And much sooner than she thought. At the end of the working day, in fact. It’s been a long and ungodly one, with one PR clusterfuck after another with the result being that she’s only managed to spend a quarter of an hour out of the past eight hours sitting down. Her entire body aches and her back is killing her.

As the packed train taking them home pulls into the station, Liz’s chagrin doesn’t go unnoticed. Finn whips out the badge from his pocket, behaving as if he’s spent the entire day waiting for this moment, and not arguing with her over police procedures.

It’s her turn to sigh. She finally takes it but not without a half-hearted side-eye at him.

‘You’re welcome,’ says Finn.

Liz puts the badge on, blue text on a white background as obvious as the barely suppressed gleam in his eyes and both proudly declaring the same thing: ‘Baby on board!’