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The first time, it’s past the end of a decent day; he suspects she’s high on the illusion of success and enough caffeine to kill a small bird. From what he gathered between her literally biting kisses and harsh tugs on his cock, she’s thanking him. Or he’s thanking her. Something.

Her hand freezes.

Liz’s icy eyes bore into his, oddly stern. “Are you thinking of my TED Talk or altruism or something?”

It occurs to Finn that his face has been scrunched as if he’s in pain and he’s been hunched over in the least arousing way possible, gripping the edge of his desk like he’s trying to break it off. He relaxes, gently driving his dick deeper into the tight circle of her fist.

“I’m fine,” he insists. Coughs. “Can I, uh…”

She peers up at him harder through messy bangs. His heart almost stops right there; he’s only momentarily cheered by imagining how difficult it would be for her to explain that to the coroner.

“Yes?” she prompts, deadpan.

Finn gulps. “Do you want…?”

Her hand twists - he curses and clings to the desk again, breaths escaping in shallow gasps.

“Deputy Head of Communications Kirkwood,” Liz says evenly, and fuck, that clunky string of words wasn’t meant to be uttered in a sexual scenario but here he is, shivering uncontrollably, “I want you to fucking come.”

For once, he obeys without question, groaning into her open mouth for the duration of his shudders; he stays pressed against her as she laps at her palm then kisses him. She’s warm, trembling despite her confident tone, and he can’t identify the taste of her through the fucking nicotine, why can’t he kick the habit he adopted to kick the habit, she’s going to find that disgusting -

She grabs him by the collar and pulls him in for more, rutting against any part of him she can reach. He’s fairly certain that she doesn’t come but it’s like electricity sizzling between them, too galvanizing to ignore but too little to truly hurt.  

“You’ve had this office for years,” Liz says later, still breathless from his kisses. She drapes her jacket over her shoulder on her way to the door; wobbling, he notes smugly. “Don’t tell me you’ve never had a pretty girl in here, jacking you off as a reward for good behaviour.”

“I thought I just did.”

“No, I’m ‘shimmeringly attractive’, as I recall.”

Finn flips her off with an embarrassed laugh. She smiles - amazingly free of hatred - and turns away. The second she does, his mouth goes dry. 

He waits until she’s disappeared down the hallway to the lifts. Then he runs to the (thankfully empty) men’s room, locks himself in a stall, and sinks against the door, body wracked by shudders again, now for a considerably different reason.

Oscar Wilde purportedly said, “Everything in the world is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.” Therefore, Finn is unchallengeable and wins at life by default. Also, it's not actually an Oscar Wilde quote, so everyone can go fuck themselves and fail to self-generate their fucking power.

Several facts form the foundation of this current dilemma: 

Finn understands words. How to arrange them for maximum impact, how to use them to hurt and, when he was young, heal. There are words he's used to describe himself for years. Without warning, they've begun peeling. 

Finn loves order, in theory. Yet he has trouble keeping things in their allocated place.

Finn hates Liz until he doesn't. 

On the day Inglis was appointed Head Commissioner, she had severely misread Finn in the morning. She'd seemed to gaze directly into what passes as his soul that night. But as time goes by, it becomes clear that she hadn't seen what it meant to him. Or seen that she'd seen. 

It's his own fault, Finn supposes. He gave her the wrong impression with those remarks about her beauty and shagging Richard (which he's beginning to doubt - he's discovering that her desire looks markedly less like her expression after Miller pecked her on the cheek and more like when she's snarking at Finn during a meeting.) He doesn't believe in karma: it's unregulated justice, and the regulated kind is already pretty fucking unjust. But there is a dark irony that would amuse him, were he not the not-quite-victim. 

His fingers had tingled for hours after she'd accidentally grabbed his hand in the Range Rover, softening him up for the subsequent elbow-grabbing. He'd had trouble falling asleep after they'd released the new footage, then entered the deepest sleep since...ever. He simply dreamt of Liz smiling, the freeze-frame on his mind when he woke. The last dream before awakening can be forty-five minutes to an hour long. He tries not to overthink it. 

(He fails.)

The fourth time, Liz teases him beneath the table throughout the day’s meetings, as entertainment, as retribution for whatever he did yesterday. (It’s so hard to keep track. For every thing she’s aware of, he’s done three more, which will inevitably come back to bite him tenfold.) After a particularly spirited outburst of his and her equally spirited rebuttal, her bare toe slides from his ankle up to his calf. Finn suppresses a whimper and kicks the offending foot away, albeit lightly.

Her expectations are by no means surprising, but with the penetrating stares, the chaste first touches, he’d hoped…

He should stop doing that. And he thought he had, until her. Until her fucking optimism wrapped in cynicism wrapped in fake optimism like a fucking mutant burrito was forcibly crammed down his gullet. Or, more accurately, heart. The gullet of his heart. Artery? Whatever.

She brings him home and pushes him onto her couch, and, without much ceremony, fucks him. His usually sharp tongue slackens to incoherence. Intoxicated by her scent, by her noises, he's able to distract himself from the growing unease coiling low in his body. He nearly confesses when the nominal pleasure threatens to crest too early, but the stab of fear provides a convenient spike of nausea and he holds off until she finishes and he follows mumbling her name, numb, every nerve alight but petrified.

Afterwards - but, oh, afterwards - lying beside him, Liz rubs her hands over his chest, drags them down to his waist and leaves her touch there. Finn tentatively twists locks of her frizzy hair in one hand. She allows him to lay the other on her hip.

“I can stay,” he blurts, overwhelmed by sensation. She lifts her head slightly, frowning. “If you let me. If you want.”

The lack of reply is worrying, but she rests her head back on a pillow. He thinks he sees her nod.

“The bed’s bigger,” she says, at length.

Finn huffs. “Does it matter? One of us will be on top of the other - ”

Liz silences him with her lips, hot and blistering, a startled moan caught in his throat and very possibly licked out by her tongue. She can have it. 

Finn's hatreds tend to blend. He doesn't like enough things for the same to occur with love.

The Mayor cockblocked them and wanted to bang credit. The privatisation lobby wanted to pry open their arse cheeks and fuck them; Liz continues to interpret this comment as a rape analogy, but that wasn't what he meant, though it's understandable when he dwells on it.

He's thinking of discomfort, of pain. He's thinking of where compromise becomes submission, where just once, just to know or everyone else does it turns into a lifestyle and a standard. Liz's moods wildly fluctuate between uninhibited and aggressive and subdued and gentle, yet he finds riding the swing and far less daunting than her riding him. 

If it was straightforward hatesex, yes, maybe he could cope. He could tell himself it's the extreme logical conclusion of having everything he loathes amassed and poured into a living vessel he'd been socially conditioned to view as attractive thanks to its specific combination of physical traits. Sex would be the negative version of the cherry on top. If it was ever good, it would be precisely because it's so bad. But she's funny. She's smart, which makes her idealism all the more annoying, which makes her all the more fascinating. She touches him, oh God, she touches like sex is a result rather than her intention. This is his newest addiction, and there's nothing he can chew to quell it.

Her interest in him must be a trick. Affair or not, she isn't above exploiting male colleagues' attention for her own ends. So far that hasn't been an issue, but why? We're playing the long game, she'd said. He'd thought his skepticism had guaranteed immunity; apparently he's the biggest idiot of all. 

The familiarity of a well-established routine grants some comfort. Not much.

Finn is always good at it. Really good, based on the way Liz mewls and writhes and begins crying his name louder each time he brings her to orgasm. He’s good at it because he’s good at guesswork and he’s good at reading her. She mistakes the intensity of concentration for pure lust. She seems to appreciate how often the act is stiff and mechanical, assuming it’s part of the game, assuming his distance is on purpose.

Going down on her is fun - plus, he isn’t expected to be turned on to the brink of needing to come. It’s a bit unnerving how frequently he is. Figures. In bursts of impatience she starts using parts of him to get off aside from his fingers, cock, and tongue; the depth of her ingenuity compensates for his shock, just barely.

Tonight, they’ve returned to his home following a tiring press event. This is her first visit. He nervously pours water for her, self-consciously fluffs throw pillows while she looks on, eyebrows raised. Finally, he opens the bedroom door and motions for her to enter instead of wresting her inside. She shoots him the most bemused glance he’s witnessed yet, then grabs the back of his head to push his lips to hers.

It’s different here, on his bed, on what should be his terms. Hollow. Part of the potential enjoyment is being surrounded by her, learning about her; or exploring each other on neutral common ground. Without that novelty, he’s practically having an out-of-body experience where he’s watching himself fuck Liz like it’s an uncomfortable scene in a nature documentary with stoic narration. After elaborate displays of aggression, the wild PR pricks copulate for pleasure instead of breeding, though the male seems curiously detached

Liz’s nails dig into his bicep, into his arse. Finn notes, with a twinge of satisfaction, that her toes have curled against his ankle. He rolls his hips at an unexpected angle - and she’s clenching, tight spasms around his cock, fuck. Seconds later, he shouts and squeezes his eyes shut. Emptying himself shouldn't apply this figuratively.

After their twitches have subsided, he doesn’t pull out, desperately wishing to extend skin-to-skin contact under the guise of recovering. The dreaded complaints don't come. Her fingertips stroke the curve of his spine, repeat the motion several times. He moans.

“Mmm, I know,” she says drowsily.

You couldn't, Finn thinks, hiding his face in the pillow near her shoulder. He can’t bury it in her skin. She might shove him away or, worse, realise that the dampness on his face isn’t just sweat.

They do go out together, increasingly often. It’s healthy for morale...the department’s, more than theirs. Theirs is chronically ill. Liz is a terrible conversationalist and a wonderful verbal sparring partner.

“This is better than sex,” says Finn, breathily, after much deliberation and taking the plunge after his better judgment has been weighed down by an adequate amount of alcohol.

Liz twirls her straw between her fingers. “You can’t lose sex.”

There's undoubtedly a witty reply to that, but it's buried beneath the automatic panic. He pats her free hand to distract her from the distress crossing his face. Concealing emotions has never been his strong suit; it’d been a major failing during interviews and it's a major failing around her. She stares at his hand for a second. She doesn’t withdraw hers. Most importantly, she doesn't notice how he looks at her. 

He wants her. Wants her more than he wants security, more than self-assurance, even more than he wants her fucking job. But there's no way to express that physically, only problematic associations with activities ranging from awkward to downright agonising. Verbally? Forget it. Maybe he could write, but that would run the risk of rejection ruining one of the few reliable elements of his life.

At her flat, he watches her dress pool to her heels. Everything is too tight - in the predictable euphemistic sense, and worse, in his chest. Off goes her bra. He's undressing as well, though it doesn't register, preoccupied as he is with her movements, with her expression at his expression at her expression. 

She closes the distance between them, still wearing her heels. His cock twitches, along with one of his eyes. 

Naked honesty is far more terrifying than actual nakedness. “I want to touch you,” he chokes. 

Liz’s eyes don’t leave his. She takes his hands and places them on her breasts.

Finn swallows his frustration, dips his head to latch his mouth around a nipple. Her happy gasp threatens to make his knees buckle from joy, anxiety, and a nameless ache stopping irritatingly short of need. 

It's dark. The heat between Liz and Finn's bodies is stifling. They're lying on their sides facing each other, one of her legs hooked over his thigh. Deceptively intimate. Perhaps if he stares hard enough, she won't see his fear. 

Mid-thrust, she reaches over. But her prone hand doesn't land on his body. Instead she's....feeling around her nightstand? 

“Liz, what're you doing?”

“Checking my phone.”

On instinct, Finn begins to ask for his, as sarcastic retaliation and semi-seriously - then snaps his mouth shut in favour of watching Liz's gaze glued to the screen behind his head. 

“Anything new?” he pants. The response is a vague noise that suggests she isn't listening. She's focused elsewhere. She's pretending not to give a shit about what he's up to. His cock throbs eagerly; her sound at that is much more pleased. 

Trying to regain Liz's attention proves to be an enjoyable challenge. Each lip-bite and involuntary moan sends his head spinning, encouraging him to an unprecedented level of effort. In a flash of inspiration he grabs her free hand and sucks on three fingers at once, earning a split second of astonished eye contact. That sets her off. Dramatically. She still manages not to drop her phone. 

This time, the orgasm doesn't feel dragged out of him. His heart racing isn't paces away from an attack. And as her giddy laughter tickles his face, he falls into sleep that's almost contented. 

It’s an argument unremarkable in its content and physical configuration. They start at Point A (the kitchen counter; the inherent recklessness of transparency), swiftly proceed to Point B (the centre of the living room; the purpose of a police force), take a brief detour to make out with Liz pressed against a wall in between insulting each other through increasingly contrived film references, and wind up at Point C (the couch, dead children).

What trips Finn up - aside from the ill-situated carpet - is her threat.

The lead-up is typical: “Liz, I will tear down your makeshift monument to yourself and repurpose the wood to build a guillotine to lop the ugly heads off any future bad ideas.”  

“Finn, I will burn your shoddy, inevitably uglier guillotine down with my bare hands.”

“That doesn't even make sense, unless your skin can set things on fire.”

“Seems to do that for you when you aren't busy burning yourself.”

“What does that make you? World's prettiest moth?”

Liz shakes her head in disgust. “I swear to God, I’ll stop fucking you.”

“Yeah, right.” He chuckles bitterly. “We’ll see how long that lasts.”

Shit. Fucking shit. Teeth bared, she charges forward in clumsy steps and demands, “Excuse me?”

Finn has to scoff to suppress potential sputtering. “You’re a fucking nymphomaniac.”

“And you go along with it every fucking time. So what are you?”    

“A raccoon,” he snaps, “performing a dual role as clean-up and scavenger in a filthy artificial ecology.”

“Oh, I get it.” Her eyes flash in a way he’s associated with her being wrong, before she’s even spoken, signalling an inglorious implosion of that sixth sense she usually possesses about motivations other than her own. “You wanted us to have the same relationship you deluded yourself into thinking I had with Richard, a workplace fuckenemy you can backstab and condescend to. At least he considered my ideas sometimes. Men like you are all the same, dick-for-brains in every way, trying to stick your cock into any crevice you can find while ignoring the gaping holes in your logic and general humanity - ”

“It’s never about sex!” Finn shouts, before he can stop himself.

The rage on Liz’s face contorts into confusion. His gut twists sharply. He feels his expression falling - plummeting - and turns his head to the side before she sees exactly how painful the mere hint of admission is.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” she demands.

“Nothing. Just forget it.” Deep, slow breaths. The door is a long way from where he’s standing and she shifts, subtly, to block him. The thought of pushing past - of being touched, or not being touched, then never touched again - makes tears prick his eyes. He cards a hand through his hair, close to clawing it out. “I believe you, about Miller. About not sleeping with him. Please. Just let me go.”

Finn’s voice cracks over the last sentence. Shit. Shit. She approaches like he’s a frightened animal which, to be fair, he technically is. His hyper-observant brain notices that she’s hugging herself. He itches to do the same, but has to settle for sitting instead, so his shaking is less conspicious.

Liz sits, silent. And puts her arms around him. Her touch is firm. Too firm. The first time she'd touched him, she'd been requesting his support. She has to have an ulterior motive here. What else could it be? Some prelude to mid-argument shagging? 

“Don’t,” he croaks. “It'll hurt more.”

She blinks rapidly; it dawns on him that she’s begun crying, too. Months ago, he would've crowed at her reaction, used her guilt against her. Now he just feels sicker.

“It’s not about sex?” There's no anger or disbelief in her question. Somehow, that's scarier. 

“Not...the way you think.” 

“Is it ever okay for you?”

“Sometimes.” Unpleasant as sex can be, her eyes at the corner of his vision hurt more than anything in recent memory. Looking at her might kill him. “Sometimes it’s really, honestly good. It’s rarely bad, I just... ”

Finn trails off upon glimpsing her glassy stare. It’s pointless. For a moment, he’s reminded of the futility of transparency bullshit, despises her for making him believe - in it, even remotely, and in the possibility of personal understanding, much less acceptance. She has an obsession with fixing things to rival his obsession with preserving them, especially what isn't broken or impossible to mend or both. She'd try to 'fix' him. But his fucking attachment to her denies his brain any potential catharsis that hating her could've granted. His shoulders sag further.

“I’ll leave now.” He gently pries Liz’s hands off his body, already mourning the permanent loss. “It was fun while it lasted.”

“Finn, wait  - ” She lunges after him, so fast she loses her balance and gasps - he catches her, sets her back onto the couch. Her fingers cling to his shirtsleeve. “Don't go.”

His lower lip trembles, as does his voice. “I’m not your delusional version of the police force. You can’t artlessly pound away until you change me.”

“I don’t want to change you.” Liz pauses. “In this specific case. The part where you call my assessments 'delusions' wouldn't be missed.”

Hesitantly, Finn sits back down and fumbles for a pack of gum, only to remember that he’s been abstaining for her sake. He nearly jumps when her fingers land on his cheek.   

She wipes tears from the bottom of his eyes, sighing. “Finn, you’re defective in many ways.”

“Thanks, Liz.”

“This really isn’t one of them.”

“I can’t even be repulsed properly,” he protests.

“Well, let's break this into parts,” Liz says, in that faux-chipper tone he recognises from her TED Talk. “Like a shitty guillotine.” 

“Or a transparent Jenga tower. ”

“One: you overestimate how important sex is to me.” 

Finn almost pulls away; he’s only stopped by her fingers tightening over his. “Don’t pretend it doesn’t matter.”

“Sure, it matters. I love it. I also love key lime pie. That doesn't mean I always want it for dessert, and I don't always want dessert in the first place.” The irritation overtaking her tenderness is the most soothing turn of events yet. “Why’s everything so fucking black and white with you except actual black and white relations in the mainstream news media? It’s like your brain rolled on a newspaper.” She exhales, shrugging as her tone lightens until she's basically talking to herself, “But maybe I shouldn't be surprised, since I’ve already spent months learning it’s less like a geriatric reptile and more like a scruffy puppy eating its own shit - ”

There are so many things wrong with that stream of words, but he's most concerned about his inkling about where this is headed. “If you're saying I'm blowing it out of proportion - ”

“I am trying to tell you that it doesn't make anywhere near as much of a difference to me as you're afraid it does.”

“So this is my fault?” Pained laughter sounds like it's being punched out of him. “How the fuck was I supposed to know how you'd react?”

“I didn't say that at all! I'm just saying, you made assumptions about me the way I made them about you. You're still making them, for fuck's sake.” Liz's face softens as she runs her thumb along one of his cheekbones, keeps it there. “Jesus, Finn. What happened to make you this defensive?”

“You know me.” 

“You're argumentative as a default.” 

“That, and it's hard to be honest,” he admits. “It's hard to accept change I don't exactly want. ”

Liz forgoes the obvious comment about transparency in favour of studying him with an altogether unreadable expression. Thinking. Welcome and even endearing in other circumstances, incredibly unsettling at present.

“Did it start after Inglis became Commissioner?” she questions. “When I...grabbed your elbows?” 

God damn it. God damn it. Why is her awareness either at 0 or 100? “It became noticeable then, but it started earlier.”

“Hmm. We could try that 'listening' thing I mentioned.” Her hand lowers; a fresh wave of panic surfaces, and Finn has to resist begging her not to break contact, instinctive terror overriding trust. 

Something must betray what anguish such a simple action causes. The hand returns to rub circles on his back. It should be comforting, but it feels like it's moving in the opposite direction of his insides churning an unfortunate mix of emotions. 

“Before that night, no one had - in - it's been - ” Mouth uncharacteristically uncooperative, he gulps heavily and folds his arms, squeezes once. Distantly, he hears her sharp intake of breath at the sight, realising its gravity. “I probably wouldn't have said yes if you hadn't touched me. It was stupid. All of my disapproval, my standards, my grudges - swept aside, just like that. And that makes me wonder, if you'd touched me earlier, if you'd come onto me in the lift - ” 

“I was kinda coming onto you in the elevator.” 

Finn wags an accusatory finger near her face. “You could've just said 'I was'. You're being difficult.” 

“So you shouldn't worry about your professional judgement being hijacked by an irrepressible desire to be touched,” Liz concludes. “And I held you after asking you to listen.”

“Was that holding?”

“I'm pretty sure. We could text Inglis to get his opinion.” 

“I'll pass.” 

“You know,” she says, matter-of-factly, “you don't need to fuck me to touch me.” 

“Right. Because it would've been completely normal to ask for a hug.”

“Now that I know, you don't need to fuck me.” She reaches for his hand to curl her fingers around his wrist. “I don't mind doing this whenever you need it.”

It's apt that burning was mentioned earlier, considering how his cheeks heat. “But it's not just about...touching.” Please don't make me explain. Fuck, please, please don't make me explain...

Liz regards Finn for a skipped heartbeat, chewing her lower lip like he wishes he could gnaw a piece of nicotine gum. 

“The men before you - I didn't care about most of them that deeply.” Fingers - familiar, yet foreign -  twine in his hair, twist with what he belatedly realises may be affection. “The feelings marketed together don't always go together. Unless you take life advice from a fucking Paula Abdul song. They haven't, for me. I get that it works both ways.” Her gaze darts to the floor, suddenly bright. “I'd be lying if I said I'm not scared of whatever this is, too.”

“Do you care about me?”

“Do you think I willingly had heart-to-hearts with any of those men in the middle of shouting about opening official Scotland Yard accounts on social media?” Swiping at her eyes, she adds, “I'm more than a handful. The insomniac ranting, the messiness, the irritability - ”

“Everything except the sex drive is easy.” Unsure where to put his hands, he folds them awkwardly on his lap. “I'm sorry about...what I've said about you and sex, during arguments. I was jealous. I attach my dislikes to each other.” 

Liz shakes her head - not quite forgiveness yet, though accepting. “The self-inflicted suffering probably compensates for that. I'm sorry about”

“Pretending bothers me more than the act itself.” His tiny smile turns sly. “Otherwise, I've adjusted. You've been screwing me since day one.”

“Actually, I think I sort of know how you feel,” she muses, her hand travelling down to grip his shoulder. “When I get really stressed, I want to be touched. But I've usually associated it with sex and self-loathing. It's nice, being touched by someone who won't make me hate myself more.”

Finn has never, in his life, solved a problem within a single discussion. While notably less confrontational than his other crises, this is no exception. The logistics aren't resolvable in one night, but having an ongoing problem with the likelihood of resolution counts as a victory in their relationship.

They eat with minimal talking, a first for them that doesn't help Finn's rattled nerves. They naturally retreat to separate corners of the living room and work in silence until nothing is left to serve as a shield. They reconvene on the couch. An hour passes, spent channel-flipping, mostly the news.

As her bedtime looms, Liz rests her hand on his knee. Squeezes. 

He fidgets anxiously. “Do you want - ”

“Not tonight.” She takes his hands in hers, presses a kiss to his knuckles. “We won't when you don't want to.”

The discomfort largely dissipates. Finn lets her push him onto her mattress. Liz nuzzles at his neck, settling by his side with a low hum, curling up to him. Minutes later, he dares to curve an arm around her waist. She shifts closer. Without the distress he'd grown used to, he's free to admire details he'd overlooked because he couldn't isolate them: her eyes on him, vibrant in the dark; the dexterity of the fingers that slip through the spaces between his; her lips grazing his cheek, unintentionally. 

Tomorrow, there will be another cavalcade of shit to contend with - it's what he signed up for. But here, in Liz's arms, he's reasonably safe. Happier than he thought he could be. And with him, she has a containment zone for her wild brilliance, a cause she can't lose or win. By his ear, she whispers the most beautiful thing she can possibly say:

“You're still fucking wrong about Tumblr.”