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Things that go bump in the night

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It’s the thud which wakes Finn up. He’s at his house tonight seeing that he and Liz ended the working day shouting at each other, as per usual. But this time the insults they had hurled at one other had taken a painfully personal turn. Finn had stormed out first, but not before hearing Liz loudly declaring that she wouldn’t care if she never saw him again.

That had hurt him, deeper than he would ever admit. Did this spell the end of their…liaison? Finn hasn’t a bloody clue about these things and storming back into Liz’s office to ask ‘Are we breaking up?’ hadn’t seemed like a good idea.

Somehow he had managed to get home without burying his head in his briefcase and sobbing into it. Likewise, he hadn’t quite cried himself to sleep but there had been some tears involved, most of them discreetly wiped away with the back of the hand.

So, it’s a surprise to be woken up at midnight; he hadn’t realised he’d fallen asleep. Drowsily, he rolls over onto his back and feels something hard trapped underneath. He wriggles it free and realises it’s his phone.

Pulling up his home screen, he sees…no notifications from Liz. He double-checks his inbox – both work and personal – but zilch. There’s a terrible sense of emptiness growing steadily in his chest, where his heart is (or where he thinks it is, anyway), and his fingers itch to dial her number – but he’s prevented from doing so by what sounds like his house falling apart downstairs.

It’s enough to make anyone seriously concerned and Finn quickly gets out of bed, deciding to deal with his messed up love…personal life later. He doesn’t follow the cliché of grabbing any improvised weapon close to hand in the face of a possible intruder: he simply grabs more gum from his nightstand and pops two pieces into his mouth. Then he grabs a tennis racket from his closet.

Wielding his racket and chewing angrily, he descends the stairs, saunters boldly into his living room and turns on the lights. It looks exactly as he left it. He checks the front door and finds that it’s still locked.

When he enters the kitchen, he finds all his dishes upturned and shattered on the floor. Gaping at the ceramic carnage before him, Finn spots a half-broken plate out of the corner of his eye which appears to have grown a tail and apparently eager to escape the scene of the crime…

He’s on to it in a flash and once he’s discarded the plate, he finds himself face to face with a tabby cat.

‘Shit,’ says Finn.

His brain belatedly figures that it could have been worse. It could have been a fucking rat, for Christ's sake, and to be honest, he hadn’t really been thinking when he’d reached out and caught whatever the hell had broken into his kitchen.

Something’s tickling his face and he realises that it’s the cat’s whiskers; he’s apparently been holding it too close. He puts some distance between them, though still not breaking eye contact because he instinctively feels the need to give it a dressing down. Then his eye catches a growing red stain on its right paw.

‘Shit,’ repeats Finn, but now for a different reason. This is turning out to be one of the weirdest nights ever. He briefly contemplates the absurdity of giving a random feline first aid and wonders whether he’s actually going to go through with it.

Finn looks at the cat. The cat looks at Finn.

Then it meows; a soft, vulnerable sound.

He sighs.


In the morning, Finn goes to work, but remembers to leave out a saucer of milk for his unexpected guest. Apart from throwing dark glances at each other, he and Liz don’t communicate for the entire day.

After work, Finn goes around asking the neighbours to check if anyone’s missing a cat. No one is (and come to think of it, no one also appears to believe he’s actually their neighbour, but are too polite to mention it to his face).

The moment he steps into his hallway, he’s surprised to have something warm and furry, traipsing and purring, around his ankles. For some reason, he finds his eyes welling up a bit.

Any thought of giving the cat away to the RSPCA goes for good.


Soon, everyone in the department notices how okay Finn is with going home at the end of the day, including Liz.

She tries to ignore this by repeating to herself that she doesn’t care – which sounds weaker each time she does it – until Mia brings up the subject when she hands over some files from Finn. This is the unspoken arrangement they’ve come to: everything goes through Mia, whether it be curt disagreements over particular phrasing in a press statement, or the latest updates on City Hall’s attitudes to Inglis and the Met. Or whether they look crap that morning.

‘Are things between you and Finn okay?’ she asks.

‘Perfect,’ replies Liz brightly and far too quickly. She knows she’s as convincing as a sock pocket pretending to be a Great White. ‘Why wouldn’t they be?’

‘Well, all of us know the both of you operate on another realm of physics obviously, but I’ve never seen Finn looking so pleased at going home,’ continues Mia. ‘In the past, we often had to physically extract him from the office, even on days when he was so ill he could hardly stand.’

Liz is about to say something along the lines of ‘that sounds like Finn’ when Mia says, ‘And I thought the both of you preferred hooking up at your flat.’

‘What?’ starts Liz, visibly startled. ‘How did you know that? Has Finn started sharing surveillance footage with you guys?’

Mia laughs. ‘As if we need it with Finn around. He practically follows you to your place after work.’

‘Oh. Right.’ Liz is starting to feel slightly uncomfortable. Not at Mia knowing a great deal more about their relation…no, liaison than she thought which she’s rather fine with, truthfully told. It’s the whole department knowing which is bothering her. If they’re going to continue with whatever this is, a bit of discretion is probably in order.

‘Which is why I’m wondering whether everything’s fine,’ says Mia. She pauses, looking concerned. ‘It’s strange…even by Finn’s standards.’

Liz sighs and bites her lip, the guilt she’s been pushing into the back of her mind finally coming to the fore.

‘I might have said some harsh things to him a while ago. Harsher than usual,’ she adds at Mia’s look of disbelief. ‘Things that I didn’t mean. Like saying I never wanted to see him again.’

‘Oh, no…’ breathes Mia.

‘As if that was possible by any stretch of the imagination,’ says Liz, her voice rising in self-defence. ‘I mean, what the hell was I thinking? We work in the same fucking department for crying out loud…’ She stops upon seeing Mia’s face.

‘Okay…I suppose I shouldn't have said that. I know I shouldn’t have said that.’

‘And I know that Finn is an arsehole, but he’s an arsehole with feelings,’ says Mia.

‘That’s my line.’ They share a small smile and end up looking at Finn’s empty office through the glass walls of the meeting room. ‘Do you think I should try and make up, or whatever people usually do in these cases?’

Please. I doubt my inbox can handle the weight of your combined snark for much longer.’


Liz’s attempts at reconciliation fall flat (mostly because Finn’s never in his office when she goes over; he’s definitely going out of his way to avoid her), so she takes a leaf out of his book and follows him back home. The first thing she learns is that Finn really does live in a house, though clearly it's not in Hertfordshire.

She gives him five minutes before going up to his front door. When he opens it, Liz swears his initial instinct is to slam it in her face. With supreme effort, Finn refrains from doing so and she feels a small rush of gratitude.

‘Liz.’

‘Finn.’

There’s a long, awkward silence which he eventually breaks.

‘Sorry if this is obvious, but how the fuck did you find out where I live?’

‘I learned it from the master. Meaning you. Flattered?’

‘Honestly? Not really.’

‘Aren’t you going to invite me inside?’

‘I don’t make it a habit of letting stalkers inside my house.’

‘Says you, the guy who follows me home on a regular basis.’

‘Not in the past two weeks, Liz,’ snaps Finn. To his surprise, this makes her flinch a little. There might be something wrong with his vision, but she even looks vaguely apologetic now.

‘Yeah, about these two weeks,’ she begins slowly. ‘That’s the reason why I came up. I tried to catch you earlier but you weren’t in your office so…shit,’ she hisses when her phone starts ringing and the sound starts to fill up the street.

At this, Finn sighs and then wordlessly pulls Liz inside, shutting the door behind them. Liz takes the call from Gavin who wants to know whether she approves of the changes to their Twitter account. She tells him that she’ll ring him later.

Once she gets off the phone, she realises that she’s finally inside Finn’s house, or more precisely, his living room. It’s not as grandiose or posh as she’d imagined, which is a nice surprise. Her first impression is that it’s more practical than comfortable, befitting his personality, and there are more than a few pieces of antique furniture lying about, probably family heirlooms. It’s rather spacious but paradoxically it feels smaller, even cramped than it actually is. Perhaps she shouldn’t wonder that he likes to come over to her place.

Somewhere nearby, Liz hears some muttered swearing and what sounds like frantic shooing.

Soon, Finn emerges from the kitchen. ‘So…would you like anything to drink before I kick you out?’ he says in a bored voice, which is at odds with the expression on his face which appears strangely flustered. He’s also got rid of his jacket in the meantime.

‘Depends on what you have in your kitchen,’ replies Liz, looking pointedly in that direction. ‘Were you swearing at your fridge just now?’

Finn stiffens. ‘I thought you came here because you had something to say to me. Not interrogate me chez Kirkwood.’

Apologies don’t come naturally to Liz – she could say the same of Finn – but she really does try her best, and she starts out earnestly, her face softer and gentler than Finn’s seen in…well, a fortnight. On the one hand, his insides are threatening to go all mushy at the sight of her. On the other, he’s horribly aware that there’s a bloody cat wandering around his kitchen and desperately hopes that Liz would just hurry the fuck up and leave. Possibly to let him cry alone in his bedroom, in equal measures of relief and anguish.

Unfortunately for Finn, Liz has become terribly good at reading him and she stops mid-sentence. ‘You’re not listening, are you?’

‘I am,’ says Finn desperately. ‘It’s just that –’ It’s a tired phrase, but he literally does look lost for words at this point. ‘Look, Liz, you haven’t come at a good time.’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘Shall we talk this over at the office tomorrow? Or maybe at your place?’

‘I’m currently here at yours,’ says Liz emphatically. ‘What’s stopping us from talking about this now? Unless whatever’s lurking in your kitchen is so important…’

‘What? No! There’s nothing lurking…’

They both freeze when his jacket comes staggering, unbidden, across the living room floor.

‘Oh, fuck,’ says Finn.

‘Is that…’ starts Liz in disbelief. Unable to do anything else, Finn goes over, carefully picks up his jacket and after shooting Liz a wavering look, reveals the cat trapped beneath it, which as if on cue, meows loudly.

‘It’s a cat.’

He clears his throat awkwardly. ‘Yes.’

It takes some time for her to process this information. ‘I didn’t know you had a cat. Besides, I thought you liked dogs. Namely basset hounds,’ she says conversationally.

Finn grunts in annoyance, mostly at himself for putting that basset hound collectible on such prominent display atop his filing cabinet. Liz hadn’t let it go for months, sending him dog-related emojis at every single opportunity. But even after that, he still hadn’t the heart to hide it away.

‘Well, don’t go haywire with the cat emojis,’ replies Finn tersely. ‘I’ve just had her for two weeks and not out of choice, either. Turns out she slipped through the back door during the night. And I don’t only like dogs…I’m fine with cats, too. Surprisingly,’ he adds and chuckles as the cat bats him around the nose with her paw.

‘How about sharp-tongued heads of PR?’ questions Liz, looking up at him and rather impressed at how laid back he is at the moment.

Finn cracks a strained smile. ‘They’re tolerable, I suppose. But I think I might prefer cats most days.’ At this, she kisses him lightly on the cheek. ‘Or maybe not.’

‘If you didn’t catch what I was saying earlier, I’m sorry. The past two weeks have been a little…hard for me,’ says Liz quietly.

‘I know,’ he says, and they both know it’s as close to him ever saying: I’ve missed you, too.

There’s another long pause, a more companionable one this time. Then Liz says, ‘So, isn’t this the part where you ask me whether it’s okay to bring the cat to my place…sorry, but shouldn’t she have a name by this point?’

He sneaks a glance at her before murmuring, ‘I thought we could decide on it together.’

‘Jesus, Finn, you make it sound like we’re naming a baby.’

Something indescribable passes over his face at this and Liz has difficulty deciphering it. Finn doesn’t care. Because she will…in time.