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"Not For Public Circulation"

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Finn has spent his whole life with words. Reading them, immersing himself in them at school and then at uni. Then he’d graduated into work and when people noticed his ability, he’d spun them, weaved them into masterpieces of shitposts. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in four years, he can churn out the lexical equivalent in four minutes. There’s no combination which he can’t handle. Figures that words sometimes leave him cold, he’s worked with them so much, it’s easy to become…desensitised.

He realises, however, that what still manages to floor him are the little things. Small packages but packing one hell of a punch. Usually they come in words of two or three, and Liz has been the instigator of all those so far. His mental chronicle is short but noteworthy. She’d dropped her first ‘I love you’ casually on the phone. With bad reception. In the midst of a thunderstorm. And when he and the Commissioner were racing to catch their flight to a Police Conference in Hamburg. He’d been so gobsmacked that the usually unflappable Inglis was seriously concerned that Finn was having a stroke.

It’s fitting that Inglis had also been present when the second combination of words had been pronounced. Finn had been ready that time. Or so he thought. It turns out that watching YouTube videos and reading accounts of other people’s weddings on the internet can’t prepare you for the real thing. Or indeed, your own wedding. Liz beaming as she said ‘I do’ had caused a myriad of reactions; mostly the overriding desire to melt into a puddle and gladly be stomped upon by everyone present. Obviously, that hadn’t happened, but something close to it had. Mentally, anyway. Even now the rest of the day remains a blur. A happy one, yes, but still a blur. (He ignores the fact that it's a perfect description of how his eyes were that day.)

Finn is sure he’s heard them all now, those emotionally-tricky words which come in two or three. And he’s pretty confident he’s prepared for them, too: whenever Liz so much opens her mouth these days, his entire body spurs into reflexive action.

But not that he needs to this lazy Sunday afternoon. Liz is on the couch, engrossed in reading an article on her iPad, but she occasionally steals glances at his backside as he lies on the floor of their living room, mirroring Sinead who is crawling across the carpet. It slowly evolves into a playful game of tag and Sinead excitedly throws a stuffed toy at his head.

Finn makes a face and she squeals in delight.

‘Dada!’

Their year-old daughter laughs again at his expression, now one of genuine shock. And judging by how Liz’s iPad lands with a thump on the floor, her feelings are likewise.

She joins him on the carpet and after a while, nudges him.

‘I’m kinda sure she was trying to say “dinosaur”,’ she teases – and threatening to pour cold water over the moment as well.

‘She can call me “dinosaur” if she wants to. It’s been done before, anyway.’ He instinctively puffs out his chest – which fails completely – and he only ends up giving himself a crick in his back. He glares at her. ‘If it helps, I feel like one, too.’

Liz pecks him on the cheek, then retrieves her iPad. She shoves it under his nose without explanation and plays back a video. Finn raises a questioning brow at how it begins.

‘What the fuck is this? Gratuitous close-ups of my arse?’

‘Shut up, or you’ll miss the important part.’

He nearly does. But the impact of hearing Sinead’s first word is no less astounding and again causes his breath to hitch in his throat. Liz watches him as he replays the footage a dozen times.

‘Totally on record, don’t you think?’ she comments when he eventually turns his face away. She averts her gaze when he wipes his eyes on his sleeve.

‘Totally,’ he agrees, after he clears his throat. ‘And I’m more than certain she said “Dada” and not “dinosaur”.’ They stare at each other. ‘Your loss, Liz.’

Liz personally doesn’t think so, not when she gets to see him like this. His gaze softens and he leans over, kissing her on the lips.

‘I love you.’

Her eyes glisten in the light and it’s his turn to smile. Words, words, words.