It isn’t usual for Inglis to go off script, let alone off-piste; so him cutting off an interview midway to give chase to a bike thief is a PR wet dream and a security nightmare rolled into one. In the ensuing confusion and chaos, Liz and Finn are helpfully abandoned; the only consolation being that at least this time, the city isn’t in flames around them. Actually, Finn just might prefer the former; undoubtedly dangerous, but it’s a welcome distraction from his inconvenient feelings which he spends twenty-five percent of his waking hours trying to deny the existence of.
In the middle of the darkened street – it’s only four in the afternoon but hey, that’s winter for you – they catch each other’s eye; Liz looking perplexed, him mirroring her…until his brain catches up with him and he fumes and he turns away.
Not for long, though, as the clatter of heels announces that she’s gone after Inglis and his security team. He’d let out a stream of curses if he wasn't so aghast. Again, his brain is slower than the rest of his body, because his legs are already propelling him forward. But it quickly makes up for it. By the time he falls into step beside her, he’s come up with a dozen (and weak) preemptive reasons for following her.
Her challenge doesn’t come, neither do his excuses.
But there is a stupid tremor in his voice when he asks, ‘Which way did they go?’ Shit.
She fixes her eyes on him and it’s startling how suddenly focused she looks. ‘You scared, Finn?’
He isn’t prepared for the softness of her voice; he’s so used to hurling things back at her (verbally, obviously) that it feels like he’s grasping at thin air here. He could mention how terrified she was in the car during the riots and crow about it endlessly, but somehow that doesn’t feel right. Nothing has felt right since September.
‘You wish,’ he mumbles eventually, shoving his hands in the depths of his coat. He makes a show of looking for his phone, knowing full well that it’s tucked away on his belt.
‘You could go back to the car, you know.’
Fuck, now she actually sounds concerned.
Finn is pretty sure that Liz is about to say that Tom can keep him company when he snaps, ‘Keep your mind on the bloody task, Liz. We’ve got a Commissioner who’s gone rogue. Which, naturally, is breaking the cardinal first rule of PR: always keep control of the story.’
Liz’s expression hardens, his anxiety largely dissipates. Thank God.
‘You sure about that? Coming from you, it sounds like the first rule of a dictatorship.’
‘I could say the same of Metwork.’
Sparring is a venture into welcome, familiar territory, but it’s put an end to much too soon. Her phone rings and it’s frightening how close he is to whipping it out of her hand and tossing it aside, if only to get her to yell at him. Because her anger is preferable to softer, gentler emotions. Right?
‘Hi Frank? No, we haven’t seen him either. What?’ There’s a horrible pause in which lifetimes could be measured. Finn’s blood pressure spikes. ‘Shit. Uh-huh. Okay. Yeah, okay we’ll do that.’
She looks up.
‘Frank has to move, he’s gonna meet us down the street.’
Well, that’s an anticlimax. But it’s better than hearing ‘The Commissioner’s been stabbed/kidnapped/any given catastrophe that can happen within a metropolis’.
Liz blinks. ‘Oh.’ Finn presses a hand to his forehead when she hurriedly consults her phone.
“‘Newsflash: Met Director of Comms gets murdered while checking Google Maps.”’
‘“Culprit: her Deputy of Comms who doesn't know when to shut the fuck up.”’
Finn opens his mouth to reply, but stops because her face is illuminated by the soft glow of her phone screen. Something within him melts. He also wants to punch a brick wall. (That’s convenient, he supposes, because now they’re currently in an alley so he’s got his choice of walls to pick from.)
Liz isn’t that great with technology, so it takes them a full minute to realise where they are and where they’ve got to go.
‘Got it. He’s only five hundred metres away from us.’
‘Right.’ They stare at each other. Finn’s arm makes a sweeping gesture, an awkward attempt at chivalry, because if he’s letting her go first, he looks like he’s trying to bat her away.
Liz hasn’t taken three steps out onto the pavement when there’s a sudden whirr of a small engine. Fucking moped thieves. The latest London menace and despite months of work, they haven’t managed to keep these bastards in check. But that’s secondary to everything else because they’re racing towards them and eyeing the phone in Liz’s hand…
Several things happen at once. One of the men reaches out to grab her phone, Finn extends an arm of his own, and Liz lets out a short squeak as she’s yanked back into the alley.
Someone swears; it could be one or both of them. But Liz gets over her shock quickly. However, she nearly has a heart attack when she sees her deputy edging nearer and not away from the street.
‘Finn, what –?!’
‘Checking if they’re doubling back,’ he reasons, with unreasonable calmness, over his shoulder.
Grudgingly grateful though she is, this is terminally stupid. Like sticking your head over a trench in fucking No Man’s Land to see if a sniper is still hanging around. Men.
With an exasperated sigh, Liz grabs a handful of his mac and pulls him back. Perhaps a little too hard. He yelps as they slide and topple ungracefully into each other’s arms; his open palm slams against the wall to steady himself.
It’s dark and terrifyingly quiet. It takes them a moment to realise that they’re facing each other, her breath is exhaling warm and rapidly against his collar, while she can feel his curls brushing against her forehead.
It’s much too close and uncomfortable and right.
Finn’s body doesn’t betray his inner turmoil, because he’s trained himself not to. It’s all for the better, because he’s now in the grip of an adrenaline rush multiplied manifold. As in September, he can't tell where his panic ends and his attraction to her begins. It’s as if the world demands their “relationship” to advance in dramatic inclines, in situations out of their control (his feelings are out of his control by default, so that’s nothing new), rather than in more sedate inches round their department water cooler or something. Like normal people. Or at least that’s what he assumes normal people do.
Liz’s breathing has steadied. He figures that any second now she’ll be shoving him aside with an outraged ‘Get the fuck off me’ which is understandable. No one wants to be in a quasi-embrace with your mortal enemy, no matter how exceptional the circumstances. It should be a relief, extracting himself from her, but instead there’s a weird, dull ache where his heart apparently is.
He clears his throat and makes to shift away from her when she does the worst thing possible. She whimpers.
It genuinely stuns them both and, as far as they can tell, is involuntary. Perhaps to hide her embarrassment, Liz’s hands come to frame his face. Gentle and soft. Distressingly comforting.
‘Liz, what –?’
Without much ceremony or hesitation, her lips touch his. Lightly. Probably her way of saying “thank you”. It should be enough to satisfy, he thinks, as her hands fall to her sides.
But it isn’t. Because even in the darkness, her eyes gleam with uncertainty…and with hope. The awful thing is that he’s pretty sure that his are, too.
He swallows and mirrors her movements, hands trembling as he cups her face. Liz’s hands cover his (for assurance?) and he feels her nod. Finn leans in, expecting to be as chaste and brief as she was.
It quickly falls to pieces, because apparently Liz is as pent-up as he is. Moped gangs, AWOL Commissioners…Armageddon could be upon them and forgotten in the heat between them now. Kisses become hungry and biting, and it isn’t long before he’s shoved roughly into the opposite wall.
Finn watches dazedly as Liz’s feverish fingers fumble for his belt and zipper, and his half-hard cock is pulled out. A few dexterous tugs elicit a whimper and a sloppy kiss as a reward. Long, clever fingers skim down, past her trench coat, and bunches up her skirt. He rubs them against her and it takes all his willpower not to sob at the enticing wet heat beneath him. They have enough presence of mind not to tear each other’s clothes off, but make no attempt to suppress the mutual moan they make when he sheathes himself inside her.
‘Oh, Jesus, Finn.’
Instead of galvanising him, her exhalations seem to do the opposite. Belatedly recognising through his haze of lust that they are in public, Finn evidently thinks that he is obliged to fuck her quietly. The procedure-fetishist that he is. As if that’s possible. Even so, she’s having none of it. She nips the side of his neck.
‘Ow!’ he complains and his hips stutter mid-thrust. She salvages the situation by wrapping her thighs tighter about his waist and squeezing about his throbbing cock. Its owner moans in approval and finally, he throws caution to the wind and pounds into her.
‘Fuck yes. Fuck me, Finn.’ She means it as a plea, it comes out an order. He shivers then latches his mouth onto hers, ravenously. It’s freezing, an ill-fitted brick is digging into her lower back, and honestly their first shag is every bit as rough as she’d imagined it to be. Steadily, the pressure builds. She matches his strokes with frantic snaps of her hips. Inside her, surrounded by her, Finn is soon close on the verge of a sensory overload.
‘Liz,’ he whispers, almost broken. She gives him back his name, breathily, nearly over the edge herself, but she manages to twine a hand into his hair, tugs with what he interprets as half-affection, half-command. It’s more than enough, but he holds on, until her moment of pleasure crests and comes and the mewls in his ear are a catalyst for his own orgasm and he cries out.
They spend a minute panting into each other’s skin, before Liz shakily plants a heel against the ground. Now quiet and muted, Liz buckles his belt, Finn tidies up her skirt, both avoiding eye contact. Once they appear passably presentable, his blood pressure rises again, wondering how they’ll manage to restart the search for Inglis or Frank after this…
His answer comes in the form of frantic footsteps and a heretofore unwelcome face. Because into the alley comes…Tom.
‘Oh,’ he says, upon seeing them. ‘It's only you.’
‘Only?’ challenges Finn.
Tom flushes. ‘Well, I thought…that is…I thought I heard cries for help.’
For once, Finn thinks ungenerously, he isn’t too far off. Not that he’s going to admit that. He dares a glance at Liz, and to his relief, she’s decidedly impassive.
Tom’s eyes scuttle between them, sweet dubiousness bubbling to be let out. ‘Say, you weren’t…because it sounded a lot like…’
‘Of course not, Tom,’ snaps Liz, shutting him down in his tracks. He visibly flinches (and not so visibly, so does Finn). ‘We had a run-in with two guys on a moped who were interested in this.’ She waves her phone.
‘Oh cripes, you weren’t hurt, were you?’
‘No, only a little shaken. Thanks to Finn here, who did something good for the third time in his life.’
At this, Tom turns to her deputy approvingly.
‘Fuck off, Tom,’ says Finn, but with noticeably less bite. ‘We’ve more important things to worry about. Did you find Inglis?’
‘He’s safe and sound back at the car. Frank managed to track him down.’
‘Thank God,’ says Liz.
Tom leads the way back to the Range Rover, going on about how apparently the camera crew got some excellent footage of Inglis wrestling the bike thief to the ground. Finn, however, is more preoccupied by other things.
‘“Third time in my life”?’ he queries into Liz’s ear. ‘I know about the Vas/Coward footage and the moped twats, but the third good thing I’ve done for you?’
She regards him intently. ‘Between you and me, that was a pretty good fuck we had just now.’
Finn gulps as she brushes off an imaginary speck of dust off his shoulder. Bites her lip expectantly and God, he wants her again.
‘In that case,’ he says, voice helplessly low and husky, ‘care to let me show you that I’m more than just a hat trick?’
‘I was hoping you might say that.’