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Angels and Archangels

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                        Everyone in Camden Town always greeted Alfie. Whether it was a tip of the hat, a polite greeting, or simply keeping out of his way. Hardly anyone caught his eye though. He merely grunted in brief acknowledgment to those who greeted him. There were only a few people he truly interacted with on his walk from his flat to the bakery.

            His elderly neighbor who knew his mother, the postman, and the boy at the corner who gave him the daily paper.

            “Morning, Mr. Solomons.” The boy greeted with a bright smile. The gangster was his best customer. Always consistent and always gave a little extra.

            “Morning, Timothy.” Alfie reached into his pocket to retrieve a few coins. “How’re the headlines?”

            “Going on ‘bout all the strikes, sir.” The boy handed him the newspaper. “Communists.”

            “Fucking hell,” Alfie muttered and bid Timothy a good morning before moving along. He glanced up from the front page of the paper and noticed possibly the biggest dog he’d ever seen. Previously it had been Cyril but this dog had to be more than ten stone. An absolute sucker for dogs, he decided to go over and ask about him.

            Standing beside the massive Newfoundland was a petite woman with a thin cane in hand. She kept the dog’s leather lead gripped tightly in her hand. Her ashy brown hair was pinned up and partially hidden beneath a dark maroon cloche hat.

            “That’s quite a beast you’ve got there,” Alfie said as he approached the woman.

            Her head tilted slightly toward him but her eyes remained straight ahead. Still, Alfie could see a smile form on her face. “Thank you.” She spoke softly.

            “Fucking hell, like a horse.” He remarked and took in the dog’s heavy black coat and bushy tail. “A Newfie, innit?”

            The woman still didn’t turn to look at him. She nodded slightly. “Yes, his name is Pilot.”

            “That right…I’ve got a bull mastiff. But he ain’t nearly this big.” He chuckled and reached out his hand for Pilot to sniff. Instead, the dog remained absolutely still, ignoring him just as the woman appeared to be. Alfie frowned. Cyril could hardly contain himself when a stranger came to pat him. “Don’t like people?”

            “He’s trained not to lose focus.” The woman replied and slightly turned her head in the direction of his voice. That’s when Alfie noticed her eyes were clouded over. It wasn’t a foreign sight to him, it was exactly the way his young cousin’s looked.

            “Sorry, didn’t realize…” Alfie cleared his throat and felt embarrassed. Such an unfamiliar feeling. “Me cousin is blind. She’s got a dog too. A nice Labrador.”

            The woman didn’t seem to mind his mistake. She merely smiled and nodded.

            “Name’s Alfie. You from around here?”

            “Yes, I’m Caroline. I’m Julia’s niece.” The woman said and gently rested a hand on Pilot’s head that stood just above her hips.

            “Oh right, yeah…” He ran a hand over his beard. Julia was a big figure in the Jewish community. Especially when she began a charity for the blind. The woman had told Alfie the reason for starting the charity, citing her niece who was born blind. But he’d never met Caroline before.

            “You donate a good sum of money to her charity.” She spoke so gently but had steady confidence behind her voice. She wasn’t timid or afraid of the world despite her disability.

            “Right, well, think is great what she does, innit?” The gangster began to realize he was staring at Caroline. She was beautiful, a beautiful Jewish woman, the kind of woman his mother always wanted him to find. He swallowed hard.

            “Of course.” Caroline nodded. “She speaks very highly of you, my aunt. What is it that you do?”

            He furrowed his brow and glanced down at Pilot for a moment. “Me? I own a bakery. One down the road, end of Bonnie Street.”        

            “I didn’t picture you being a baker.” She admitted with an amused smile passing over her pink lips. “My aunt makes you out to be a big scary man.”

            Alfie chuckled sheepishly and shook his head. “Don’t believe everything you hear, love.”

            “I tend not to.” Caroline reached out an arm. “You could escort me. I’ll be traveling past Bonnie Street. You can tell me about your bull mastiff.”

            He raised an eyebrow. Most people were too intimidated to be close to him. They were afraid of the reputation he held. What they saw scared him. What they heard about him scared them even more. “Sure.” He carefully took her arm in his, escorting her down the street.

            Pilot began walking to her left, the large dog plodding along dutifully. He didn’t care if Alfie was there or not, he would guide Caroline, his job was never done.

            “What’s his name?”

            “Cyril,” Alfie answered. It was strangely relaxing being in her presence. She soothed him and it felt like the world around them was muted. “S’an idiot.”

            Caroline laughed. “Oh, I’m sure that’s not true.”

            “Nah, tripped, right, on his own fucking feet this morning.” He told her. “Would be the worse seeing-eye dog. Would lead me right into the fucking cut.”

            It was lovely listening to her laugh so genuinely. “But you love him.”

            “’Course. Had him since he was just a little runt. Found him tossed on the side of the fucking road. All ‘lone in the rain.”

            “Oh, how awful.” Caroline frowned. “How could someone abandon him?”

            “Fucking soulless person, that’s who,” Alfie grunted in agreement. “You’ll hafta meet him though. He’s a love, ain’t as well behaved as Pilot is.” He could hardly believe how silent and subtle such a large dog was.

            Caroline smiled. “I would like that.” She disagreed with her aunt who said Alfie was crooked. Julia respected the man for donating to the charity but she sure as hell didn’t trust the man. But Caroline couldn’t imagine a man who rescued a puppy from death would be crooked. There was so much she didn’t know but there was so much she wanted to know.

            “Yeah? I’ll bring him ‘long to work tomorrow. Will you be out for a walk?” He wondered hopefully.

            “I was planning on it.” She stopped when she felt Alfie standstill in front of a building. She heard the sounds of men shouting back and forth inside.

            “Then I’ll see you ‘round. Try to make sure Cyril’s on his best behavior.” Alfie smiled and reluctantly let his arm slip away from her.

            “I’m looking forward to it.” Caroline smiled. “Have a good day, Mr. Solomons. Come along, Pilot.”

            Alfie stood by the doors of the bakery, watching her walk off with Pilot, her cane tapping on the ground. How wonderful it was to not be judged based on appearances. It was an interesting concept and he wanted to explore it further with Caroline.

 

Chapter Text

            When Alice met him, his eyes were as blue as the clear summer sky. His smile brightened her life and she was the reason he breathed. They wed when they were eighteen. Out among the vardos, bright-eyed and innocent. Breathless from dancing all night together with the fires roaring. Eager to discover how life would be now that their souls were intertwined.

            When they were twenty-one, Mary-Anne came along. Red-faced and screaming like a true Shelby. Everything was meant to be perfect from that moment on. Husband and wife. Father, mother, and daughter. Tommy was a wild soul but he was a loving man and would never do anything that would bring harm to his wife or daughter.

            When war struck, Alice desperately tried to hold onto the family she had formed. Tried to block out the chaos the world had devolved into. But Tommy was ripped from her arms before she could even try to make him stay. She was left five-months pregnant with a three-year-old who sobbed for daddy to come home every night.

            But there was no way of going back to the way they once were. The hardest part of Alice’s life was seeing the change in her husband when he returned from France. A change that would stick, would become a permanent part of the man she loved.

 

            “Daddy!” Mary-Ann screeched when she saw Tommy in the thick crowd of soldiers and their loved ones.

            Tommy’s face lit up. He picked up his daughter. “Look at you.” He kissed her cheek. “You’ve grown twice as big since I saw you last.”

            Alice already felt the tears sting her eyes. She’d been crying off and on the entire day. It took all the patience in the world to wait for him. She’d been waiting so long. “Tommy.” She cried softly.

            “Hello, love.” He murmured softly. His eyes fell to the young boy in her arms and his heart stuttered. He peered up at his father with the same piercing blue eyes.

            “This is Robert.” His wife said shakily. How did you introduce a father to his son who was already three years old? “Bobby, this is your dad.”

            The boy smiled shyly but clung to his mother. He buried his face in the crook of Alice’s neck.

            “Hello, Bobby.” Tommy smiled warmly. “I know you don’t know me.” His throat tightened. It was unbearable to watch his son grow through the occasional photograph he received in the sparse letters that actually made it to him in the trenches. But it lifted his spirits and gave him a reason to keep fighting. There were three very good reasons to make it back to Birmingham. Two little children who needed their father and a woman who needed her husband.

            “Bobby’s three,” Mary-Anne explained and promptly held up four fingers.

            Tommy chuckled and gently lowered her pinky finger. “That’s three.”

            The little girl stared at her hands for a moment, mentally counting, her lips mouthing the numbers she was just starting to learn. “Oh right!” She smiled and held three fingers right in her father’s face.

            “That’s right.” He kissed her hand and reached to pull his wife close. The four of them stood there on the train platform, Tommy’s arms wrapping around them and keeping them safe.

            Mary-Anne chattered on the entire way back to Six Watery Lane, telling her father about all he’d missed. He listened intently, nodding and making noises of agreement. He held his wife’s hand tightly, reassuring her he was there and not a dream. Robert continued peeking out behind the curtain of Alice’s hair to look at Tommy. When their eyes met, he’d giggled shyly and buried his face again.

           

            The flat was still the same. The cramped, but cozy space they’d made into a home. Finn excitedly greeted his older brother and Tommy was amazed to see how big he’d gotten. He could hardly even pick him up and throw him over his shoulder like he used to. From there, he was passed from family member to family member. Arthur and John returned home and announced a celebration at the Garrison, the pub that Arthur swore he would own one day.

            Tommy decided to stay behind for a bit though to spend more time with his family. Overexcited, Mary-Anne quickly crashed and fell asleep in the room she shared with Robert. The little boy also went down for a nap, giving Tommy time alone with Alice.

            “Oh God, I thought you’d never come home.” Alice gasped and ran into his arms once they were in their room with the door closed.

            “Never stopped thinking ‘bout you,” Tommy promised and held her tightly.

            She knotted her fingers into his hair that had grown a bit longer than how it usually was. But it appeared that he’d attempted to clean up before he returned home. He was freshly shaved and someone had recently given him a haircut. “I never did either. You have no idea how happy I am now that you’re back.” She laughed tearfully and nuzzled his cheek.

            “Ali, it’s alright.” He soothed and felt her hands trembling. His thumb swept the tears away from her cheeks.

            “I know, I know, I know.” She felt like her entire bloodstream was electrified. Shockwaves passing every nerve each second she was with him. “I’m just afraid it’s a dream.”

            “Well, better make sure it isn’t, aye?” He smiled cheekily and pressed a kiss right below her earlobe. “Want to get out of this fucking uniform.”

            He didn’t need to drop another hint. Alice immediately started to unbutton his shirt and he reached up to undo her hair and let it loose.

            “I love you.” Tommy murmured and backed up to the bed, bringing him with her.

            “Love you too,” Alice replied breathlessly and brought him into a deep kiss.

 

            After reuniting on an intimate level, Alice began to get dressed again, knowing the kids would wake up soon and Tommy would head off to the Garrison. But her husband idled. He tugged on his boxers but lay back in bed to smoke a cigarette.

            Alice picked up Tommy’s uniform off the ground and began to fold it up. “Want me to store this away?” She asked, carefully smoothing over the slightly weathered material.

            “No.” He shook his head. “You can toss it.”

            She looked at him and for the first time, noticed his eyes had gone cold. They were far from the summer sky that she once knew. The warmth disappeared the moment she mentioned the uniform. It made her pause for a moment. She wanted to ask what was wrong but of course, it was obvious. Many men had been coming back severely damaged. Some had lost limbs and some had been so deeply emotionally scarred.

            Alice had hoped, maybe naively, that when Tommy returned everything would be perfectly fine. But the things he’d seen, she would never understand or be able to help him though.

            “Okay…” She placed the pants and shirt on the dresser, setting the coat on top. “What about your medals?” Her fingers grazed over the cold metal and ribbons pinned to the front of the coat.

            “No.” He repeated and stared ahead. There was no way he was going to keep any physical memory of that damned war around his house. It was bad enough he couldn’t scrub away the mental memories.

            “Are you sure, I mean don’t you think it would be nice to show Mary and Bobby when they’re older? Show them how brave…”

            “Alice, I said no.” His eyes flicked to her. The severe blue had gone so cold. Detaching himself from the horrific things he’d seen.

            His wife bit her lip and nodded. “Alright.” She whispered quietly.

            The room went silent but was soon interrupted by a small knock on the door. Alice opened it and smiled when she saw Robert holding his stuffed bear. “Up from your nap already?”

            Tommy released some of the tension in his shoulders and stubbed out his cigarette in the ash tray on the side table. “C’mere Bobby.” He said gently. “Come say hi.” He held out his arms.

            The young boy smiled but looked up at Alice for reassurance.

            “Go on.” She murmured. “Go see daddy.”

            He wandered over to the bed and let Tommy scoop him up. “What’ve you got there, aye?” Tommy murmured and wiggled the arm of the bear.

            Robert giggled and reached over to touch his cheek. “Daddy.” He recognized the man from the photographs that his mum showed him. Now he was there in the flesh.

            While Alice lingered around the door, she heard more footsteps running down the hall. Rejuvenated after her nap, Mary-Anne came dashing into the room and catapulted herself onto the bed. “Hi, daddy!” She scrambled onto his lap, jostling for space.

            “Easy, easy.” Tommy chuckled and wrapped his arms around them both. “There you go.” He kissed her forehead and then Robert’s.

            Alice smiled and watched him talk softly to his children. His son warming up to the man he had been waiting his entire life to meet. The chill in Tommy’s eyes had seemed to melt. But it would return. More often than Alice would’ve liked. But she was reassured that the warmth she grew to love was still there, even if hidden behind a thick wall of ice. The war had changed everything. And whether she liked it or not, things would continue to change. Tommy Shelby was about to make a name for himself.

Chapter Text

 

            “I’m in love with Teddy Solomons.”

            Arthur Shelby was far too old for this shit. He couldn’t handle the scares that he used to be able to experience every day. Normally, he was pretty quick on his feet, maybe less so than his younger self. But the announcement from his niece completely caught him off guard. So much so that he spat out his whiskey.

            The eldest Shelby was sat with his brother at the Garrison, a few hours before it was due to open for the night. It was a little odd because Tommy seldom visited Birmingham. He was far too busy in the Commons to visit Small Heath. Likewise, Ruby rarely traveled back and forth. Either she was in London or in Warwickshire.

            “Solomons?” Arthur sputtered, his face already turning red.

            Tommy stood behind the bar much calmer than his brother. A hint of a smug smile crossed his face. He knew almost instantly that the two young adults were going to spark up something. The way Teddy could hardly speak clearly in front of her and the way Ruby’s fair complexion turned bright red under his eyes.

            “You’ve met up with him again?” Tommy asked.

            Arthur was practically spasming with anger. “As in Alfie Solomons?!”

            “Yes.” Ruby held her head high, her lips pursed. She looked just like her mother when she gave him that confident look. “Several times, in fact, and I love him.”

            “Tom!” Arthur erupted. “You knew ‘bout this?”

            “Easy, brother,” Tommy replied coolly. “The two met when I was going to see Louise’s new foal. He’s a very respectable young man.”

            Ruby was a little surprised by her father’s steady demeanor. She expected there to be an issue, like the issue her uncle was clearly having. “Well-well, yes he is.” She hesitated and narrowed her eyes suspiciously. Why on Earth was he being so nonchalant about the whole issue. When she was younger, Ruby had declared her love for one of the Lee boys. Granted she was only fourteen and it was simply because the teenager could tame any unruly horse. When Tommy heard the news, he had a fit and threatened the boy to stay far, far, far, away from his beloved daughter.

            So that was that. Ruby never saw the boy again. But now she was confessing her adoration for the son of an old colleague. Rival? Friend? The details were murky.

            “Louise said he served during the Second War.” Tommy poured himself and his brother another glass of whiskey.

            Arthur gave him a flustered glare. Like Ruby, he was bewildered by Tommy’s reaction.

            “Yes.” Ruby nodded.

            Tommy beckoned for his daughter to sit at the bar and poured her a gin and tonic. Warily, she sat down beside her uncle. “Where did he serve?”

            “France. Like you.” Ruby replied. “He was hurt by a grenade. You should see the scar, nearly lost his entire leg. He’s so brave.” She chewed on her lip when she thought of the handsome young man who had won her over.

            “You’ve seen the scar?” Arthur demanded. “On his leg? Under what fucking circumstances!?”

            “Pral.” Tommy hushed him.

            “We went swimming behind his home in Surrey.” Ruby lifted her chin again, pretending not to be bothered. “It isn’t 1920, Uncle Arthur.”

            “Fucking…kids these days!” He threw up his hands.

            “I’m not a kid!” She argued. “I’m an adult and so is Teddy. He almost died serving our country just like you lot did so you shouldn’t treat him and fucking differently! He goes to university and he’s fucking smarter than any of you. And he loves me.”

            Arthur grimaced but shut his mouth, for the time being, downing the fresh drink Tommy put in front of him.

            “And he loves horses,” Ruby added, her blue eyes glancing over to her father.          

            Tommy nodded in acknowledgment. “I know. Mrs. Carleton told me he’s a very gifted rider. Perhaps we ought to invite him on a hunt at Arrow House.” He suggested. “We can see what sort of a shot he is.”

            Ruby’s eyes lit up. “Really?” She jumped up and reached over the bar to hug her father tightly. “Thank you, daddy, I’ll call him right now!” She left the Garrison so quickly that she nearly tipped over the stool she was sitting on.

            Arthur pouted in his seat. “I don’t like it, Tom.” He muttered.

            “He’s nothing like Alfie.” He assured his brother. “And it doesn’t matter what either of us says anymore. She’s going to see him whether we like it or not.”

            Arthur grumbled his discontent but just shook his head. "Shelby women, aye?" 

            "I'm afraid she won't be one for much longer." Tommy sighed and briefly wondered what Alfie would've done if he were still alive. A Shelby and a Solomons. Perhaps he would assume the world was crumbling. 

Chapter Text

            Teddy thought it was such a good idea. His brother-in-law had suggested he bring along the mare on the hunt. Apparently she was a gift from the Lees and she was very green, hardly broken in at all.

But Charlie said he would be more than capable. And Teddy did not want to shy away from such a task. He’d only been married to Ruby for a little under a year, they’d been engaged for six months and dating for three years. Despite that amount of time, Teddy was still slightly terrified of the Shelby boys. He wasn’t too keen on Arthur unexpectedly grabbing him by the shoulders and jostling him around, he sweated under Tommy’s icy eyes, and didn’t care for Finn’s scathing remarks about his university studies. But it was all in love, at least that’s what Ruby said. Charlie was perhaps the hardest on Teddy, but as the older brother, it was to be expected.

Moments after the engagement at a family event, Charlie hugged Teddy, only to whisper in his ear.

“If you ever break her heart, I’ll fucking gut you and make you eat your intestines.”

All in good fun.

~~~~~~~~~

“You think you can handle her, Teddy?” Tommy asked as they began down the trail.

“That’s what he was asking himself when he proposed to Ruby.” Isaiah jeered and exchanged grins with Finn.

“Oi, enough.” Tommy glared at them. “Fucking beautiful day out, don’t want you idiots ruining it. Now jog on.” He shooed them off and began walking side by side with Teddy.

The young man’s face had gone a little pink. “She was steady on the cross-ties, didn’t fuss much when I tacked her up. Erm, not Ruby I uh-meaning the horse.”

Tommy chuckled and lit up a cigarette. “I knew your father very well. Not as well as your mother of course. But I did see a different side to him.”

A hint of a smile crept onto Teddy’s face. Before, he only used to get sad when Alfie was brought up. But as he grew into a man, he learned to accept the wisdom. Accept the things he never knew about the mysterious man. To listen to the people who had a clearer memory of him. They were his key to getting closer to his late father. “Mum said he was rough around the edges.”

“We were raised very similarly. Raised poor on the streets so we grew to have a rough side.” Tommy agreed, his eyes on the trail ahead of them, steadily moving along with his horse’s smooth walk. “He was fucking clever though. Never could underestimate him ‘less you wanted to get cut.” He let out a sigh, exhaling smoke into the foggy air. “I remember when he told me you were born. Just a little bit before Ruby was born. There was something in his eyes that I’d never seen before. He cared about your mother and you very deeply. That night he was willing to risk his life for you both.”

Teddy listened with bated breath. He wanted his father-in-law to tell him everything. Describe every interaction with Alfie. What was said, what they did, what he looked like, what his emotions were. He wanted to shed more light on the man in the photographs and the man in his dreams.

“You’re not much like him. Not in the way he conducted business.” Tommy clarified before the young man wilted in shame. “But I see the way you look at my daughter. It’s the same look that your father had. I know you would risk your life in order to save her.”

That was a no brainer for Teddy. If it came down to himself or Ruby, he wouldn’t have to think twice about it. “Of course. I would never let her be hurt.”

Tommy smiled slightly and nodded. “That’s how you and Alfie are alike. And it’s a good thing too. Loyalty is well-liked in this family.”

Before Teddy could say anything else, they came across a glen with tall grass. Isaiah, Finn, and Charlie had gone ahead and began hunting through the grass. Without warning, one of them shot wildly into the air.

The young horse under Teddy spooked and began to buck. He did his best to stay on but soon found himself thrown into the ground.

For a moment, he hadn’t even realized what happened. His thoughts became a little fuzzy. All he could process was the sound of the mare galloping off without him. Then, Tommy’s voice found his ears. He was ordering someone to catch the horse as he dismounted and jogged over to Teddy.

“You alright?” The Blinder knelt down and tried to assess any damage. “D’you hit your head?”

Teddy blinked a few times. “Don’t think so.” He groaned when he tried to move. “Can’t feel my fucking arm.”

“Think you landed on it.” Tommy reached out. “I’ll help you sit up. Easy then...”

“Fuck!” Teddy shouted when the movement caused a sharp pain shoot up his arm and into his collarbone.

“Easy, easy. Try to stay still.” Tommy stood. “Curly! D’we have any wraps for the horse’s legs?”

There were a number of footsteps that came running over. Arthur had managed to wrangle in the spooked mare while Isaiah, Finn, and Charlie came to see what the commotion was.

“Couldn’t handle her, Ted?” Charlie chuckled when he saw his brother-in-law sitting in the mud, clutching his arm.

“Oi!” Tommy grabbed his son by the back of the neck. “You fucking warn us when you’re going to shoot, you know that.” He scolded. “Now you can go back to the house with Teddy and explain to your sister what you’ve fucking done to her husband.” He smacked him on the face and went back to tend to Teddy. He did his best to create a makeshift sling with the leg wraps Curly had brought over. “And you better fucking hope that horse isn’t injured either. Now go.” He ordered.

Charlie grimaced but threw his rifle over his shoulder. “C’mon.” He held a hand out to Teddy to help him up.

~~~~~~~~~~

The two walked back down the muddy trail, Teddy clutching his arm, the wraps loosely supporting it.

“I didn’t mean to get you thrown, mate,” Charlie said after a few minutes of silence. “I really did think you would be able to ride her. Rubes always talks about how great of a rider you are.”

“It’s alright,” Teddy replied gently. He didn’t blame his brother-in-law for the incident. All in good fun, right?

Charlie shoved his hands into his pockets. “We’re all just tryna wind you up, you know that right?”

“Oh no, I…Ruby mentioned it wasn’t in malice.”

“Thing is, you’re Alfie Solomons’ son. Y’know people still talk about him? Talk about what he was like and you’re just-you’re very different.”

Teddy might’ve been irked had if not been for the conversation he just had with Tommy. Perhaps he wasn’t capable of the violence his father inflicted. But he would protect his own no matter what.

Charlie chuckled, interrupting Teddy’s thoughts. “You should slug Isaiah for what he said ‘bout Ruby.” He mentioned. “We all want to see if you can throw a punch.”

‘Oh, I’d rather not.” Yes, he’d never been in a fight before but none of the Peaky Blinders needed to know that.

Disappointed, Charlie sighed. “Alright then, I guess Ruby’ll handle it. She’ll never let me live this down.”

“She doesn’t have to know any details.” The two young men exchanged smiles, agreeing to secrecy.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ruby was outside on the lawn reading with her mother when her brother and husband came walking back. She was shocked to see the state Teddy was in, shooting up out of her chair and running towards him.

“What happened?!”

“I got thrown off,” Teddy admitted. “I’m alright, though.”

Ruby glared at her brother. “You put him on that wild mare, didn’t you?” She demanded. “I told you not to fucking do that, you fucking idiot!” She emphasized every word by smacking Charlie with her book.

“Hey, hey!” Her brother tried to bat her away. “Lay off!”

“It wasn’t his fault, love, I was too confident.” Teddy intervened, holding out his good arm to stop the literary assault.

Her forehead wrinkled and she pouted. “Oh, you must be in so much pain. Come inside, romer, I’ll take care of you.” She kissed his cheek and ushered him into Arrow House.

Charlie laughed and shook his head. “I’ll get you to throw a punch one of these days, Solomons!”

All in good fun. 

 

Chapter Text

            “Finn fancies the florist’s daughter!” Isaiah ducked to avoid a sloppily aimed punch from Finn. The youngest Shelby attempted to stop his friend from bursting into the betting shop and announcing the news, but Isaiah was persistent.

The shop was closed so it was only several family members and a few employees left lingering.

John and Arthur both burst into laughter almost instantly. Finn’s face went completely red and he shoved Isaiah. “I do not!” He attempted to save face but it was too late.

“Yes, you do.” Isaiah grinned and pulled the younger boy into a headlock, tousling his hair roughly. “He’s been hanging ‘bout the storefront all day. She came out and said hi to him and he nearly came in his fucking pants.”

“Shut up!” Finn wrestled away from him. “That’s not what happened.”

Tommy looked amused but gave his brothers a look to settle down. “The florist’s daughter. Lucy’s her name, right?” He asked in a gentler tone.

Finn looked at his shoes and nodded sheepishly. “Lucy Welch.”

“Look at him.” Arthur stood up and wrapped an arm around his brother. “Little Finn’s gone off and found himself a bird.”

“He’s growing up so fast.” John pretended to wipe tears from his eyes and clutched his cap to his chest.

“Fuck off!” Finn grumbled.

“Want us to help?” Arthur didn’t let up. He felt it was his duty as the oldest to give him a hard time. “Say she’s gotta go out with you by order of the Peaky Blinders.” He teased.

“No!” Finn could never tell if he was serious or not. “Don’t do that!”

“M’just yanking your chain.” Arthur chortled. “Sure she’d love to go dancing with ya.”

“He can’t fucking dance.” John was laughing so hard he nearly tipped backward out of his chair.

“Alright, alright, leave him be.” Tommy used the newspaper in his hand to whack John in the head. “How about you ask her out to dinner, you can take the car.”

Finn’s eyes widened. “You mean it?”

“As long as it comes back in good condition, of course.” Tommy agreed. “Just let me know and I’ll give you the keys.”

 

Finn swiped a pack of Tommy’s cigarettes before walking down towards the Bull Ring where the Welch’s florist shop was. He smoked every so often, normally when he was with family just to fit in. But he brought them along just to give him that Peaky Blinders image. Maybe it would win over Lucy.

As luck would have it, the young woman was arranging a few flowerpots outside of the store. She had striking red hair that had caught Finn’s eye a few weeks back. Ever since then, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his head. She’d said hi to him a few times in passing and it had made his day.

Finn was a nervous wreck by the time he reached the store. But he did everything in his power to try and come off calm. He’d seen his brothers attract the attention of the opposite sex many times before. They were confident and level-headed without a lick of anxiety to be seen. It was a trick he hadn’t quite gotten down yet. His palms were sweating and he couldn’t ignore his heart pounding in his chest.

Lucy looked up and smiled when she saw him. “Hello.”

“Hi.” Finn’s voice cracked and he could already feel his face heating up with embarrassment. He cleared his throat. “Sorry, uh, hi.”

“It’s Finn, isn’t it?” She continued adjusting the arrangement of lilies in the ceramic pot by the door. “You’re Tommy Shelby’s brother.”

“Oh, yes.” He nodded. It wasn’t completely surprising that she knew him. Most people in Birmingham were familiar with the Shelby family. He just didn’t think he was that important that people knew him by name.

“I’m Lucy.” She responded politely.

Finn knew that already. He’d asked around to get her name but didn’t want to admit that. “Think my brother knows your family.” He nodded.

“Yes, my father places bets with your brothers often. A very loyal customer of yours.”

Finn laughed a little nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well…I’ve got me brother’s car for the night. Or I mean, s’the family car. Not just his…”

Lucy smiled and bent down to scoop up the watering can by her feet. “Everyone knows you Shelby boys are trouble.” The playful glint in her eyes grabbed hold of Finn.

“Small Heath has always been full of trouble.”

She laughed softly and studied the youngest Shelby. He was dressed to the nines just like his brothers always were. With the signature flat cap, he was growing right into the role of a gangster. “Well, I don’t want my family’s shop getting blown up like the Garrison.” She smirked and raised an eyebrow at him.

“N-no, no, you don’t hafta worry about anything like that. Don’t feel like you need to say yes or…”

“You’re sweet. Not like your brothers.” Lucy interrupted him she didn't want to make him have a heart attack over her coy remark. “I’d love to go out with you.”

Finn’s eyes widened, the answer completely taking him by surprise. “You would?”

“Pick me up at eight?” She nudged open the shop door. "Bring that car of yours." 

He nodded eagerly. "Yeah, I will." The two exchanged shy smiles before Lucy was called back into the shop. The youngest Shelby grinned and started to walk away, a new skip in his step. That'd show his brothers and Isaiah. 

 

Chapter Text

            “I’ve left you a note upstairs by the telephone.” Tommy adjusted the collar of his coat and reached for his hat.   

            Emma Houseman had been working for Tommy Shelby for going on two years. She’d been hired to be Charlie’s nanny right after Grace passed away. The first few months, the young woman didn’t see much of Mr. Shelby. He was more of an apparition tied to the old estate. He always seemed to be out and would only come back at strange hours without much rhyme or reason to his visits. When he returned to spend time with his son, Emma was shut out of the room. He hardly spoke more than three words to her at a time. If Charlie was napping, he’d sulk through the house sometimes locking himself in his office or pacing up and down the upstairs hallway. Emma could tell he was around by the smell of cigarettes trailing after him. It was easier to just avoid him. 

            But eventually, he worked through his grief for his late wife and became a little more cordial with Charlie’s nanny. After all, his son adored Emma always spoke about the things they did together. According to the little boy, she was very in tune with nature. She loved to take Charlie for walks on the grounds and to the stables. Often times she’d catch bugs to show Charlie, pointing out how unique they all were. She taught him to be gentle with everyone and everything. 

            If Tommy was around at night, which was rare, he’d sometimes linger in the hallway outside Charlie’s room. He waited until Emma was finished telling his son a bedtime story before he went to say goodnight. He listened to her tell fantastical tales of knights and dragons, mermaids and sailors, fairies and trolls. They reminded him of the whimsical yarns he and his siblings would spin around the fire to pass the long summer nights out on the road. 

            That’s when Tommy realized he had a soft spot for the woman he knew very little about. 

 

            “I’ve written down dates that I’ll be away in London on business.” 

            Emma tensed up a bit. “Oh, I uh...Mr. Shelby.” She chewed on her lip and debated whether she should confess or not. 

            Tommy raised an eyebrow. “Is there an issue with that?” 

            “Well, I-no issue. I just can’t exactly…” The nanny wrung her hands together and looked at the ground. 

            “You can’t what?” 

            “I can’t read.” Her face went red and she tried to cover up her shame and maintain her professional appearance. But it was too much. How stupid she felt to be standing in front of her employer, confessing that she couldn’t read. 

            Tommy paused. Emma seemed like an intelligent enough girl. She didn’t really have the wit that his sister or aunt had but hardly any women did. She certainly wasn’t slow and sounded articulate in the brief conversations they’d had. “You read Charlie stories every night. I’ve heard you read to him.” 

            Emma tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “I don’t read them, I’ve remembered them. They were stories my mum used to tell me. Some I’ve made up though.” She laughed nervously. “Charlie doesn’t really like it when I retell one story too often.” 

            Although it was out of the blue, it wasn’t as if she was confessing to a murder. “Well, s’pose that’s fine.” He nodded and shrugged. “Have Mary read it to you.” Simple solution. Tommy went to leave but paused. There was a nagging thought tugging at him. He remembered how embarrassed Finn was when he struggled with reading. His younger brother always went bright red in the face whenever John or Isaiah teased him about it. He recalled the look of frustration when Finn tried to silently sound out the words he didn’t know written on the chalkboard. 

            Tommy sighed and turned back around. “I’ll send around a tutor to teach you to read.” He decided. 

            Emma’s eyes went wide. “Oh, Mr. Shelby, that wouldn’t be necessary. I wouldn’t want you to waste your money…” 

            “Money isn’t an issue, Miss Houseman. Tuesdays, Mary will watch after Charles and someone will come to help you along.” He decided. 

            Her lips parted in shock. “Thank you, Mr. Shelby.” Her voice was soft. 

            He nodded and finally took his leave. 

 

            It took months, but the tutor Tommy hired said Emma was a fast learner. Tommy was a little too busy to really keep tabs on her progress every day. But often he would inquire about how things were. Emma was still a bit shy about it but her confidence grew as she learned to read and write. 

            Soon, Tommy began to hear new stories coming from Charlie’s bedroom at night. And when he glanced inside one warm summer night, he saw Emma reading from a storybook instead of conjuring the story from memory. 

            Then, Tommy began to invite her to read in his study after Charlie had gone to bed. Sometimes he left her alone to enjoy the comfort of the warm, cozy room. Sometimes he silently did paperwork at his desk while she read on the sofa near the fireplace. As the months passed and the seasons changed, Tommy realized his gaze was lingering on Emma. There was something about her gentle nature that made a part of him yearn for her. The way she curled up reading, her lips mouthing the words. Soon, Tommy found himself smiling slightly whenever he saw her. 

            One night, Tommy met Emma by Charlie’s door as she left. “Oh, Mr. Shelby.” She startled a little when she ran into the man. “Excuse me, I didn’t see you.” 

            “Is that a new one?” He nodded to the book in her hand. 

            “Oh, yes. Charlie enjoyed it. I’m afraid he’s gone right to sleep, he was so tired after our walk this afternoon.”

            “I’ve heard your writing has improved.” 

            Emma’s cheeks went a little pink. “Oh, well I’m much better than when I started but I’ve got a long ways to go.” 

            “Well, perhaps once you’re more comfortable you’ll write your stories down. ‘Cause to be fucking honest your stories were a lot better than the ones in books.” He smiled slightly. 

            “I don’t know about that, Mr. Shelby…” Her blush deepened. 

            Tommy stepped towards her and touched her cheek, guiding her eyes to meet his. “Call me Tommy.” He murmured before leaning in to kiss her. 

 

            That night changed everything from then on. Emma wasn’t sure what Tommy was expecting out of the relationship that was suddenly sparking to life between them. But she had enough sense to follow her heart and just go with it. Nothing about it felt wrong, although they did sneak around a bit to maintain their own privacy. Yet, when Tommy kissed her, Emma felt like they were the only two people on the planet. 

            She began reading romance novels and found herself laughing at the flowery language. Although her heart leapt to her throat whenever he touched her, Tommy wasn’t one to talk openly about his feelings. Perhaps it was his past that kept him closed off. He’d only just begun to tell her a few things about the earlier years. His family, his time in the war, and Grace. 

            They fostered something special between them for quite some time. Then, one morning, Tommy was leaving for London. Emma met him at the door with a smile. 

            “Don’t be long.” She said affectionately. 

            He ran his thumb over her cheekbone. “As long as you’ll still be here when I come back.” 

            “When have I ever kept you waiting, Mr. Shelby?” She wrapped her arms around his neck to kiss him deeply. 

            He smiled against her lips, sinking into the wonderful way she made him feel. When they parted, he gave her a coy look. “I’ve left a note for you by the telephone.” 

            “Oh?” She giggled softly. “What’s it say, then?” 

            “S’pose you’ll have to read it.” He gave her one last kiss before heading out to his car. 

            Emma watched him drive off before heading upstairs to find the note. She expected something mundane, perhaps a reminder of the charity dinner they were meant to attend that coming weekend. 

            Instead, there were three words written as clear as day. 

 

 

 

I love you.

 

 

Chapter Text

            “Richie Morris says he doesn’t have a mum.” 

            The statement was quite out of the blue. Halfway through a quiet dinner, eight-year-old Charlie was fiddling with his carrots when he spoke. 

            Tommy lowered his fork and glanced up at his son across the table. “Yeah?” Only a moment ago they were talking about what story Charlie was reading in school that morning. “Did his mum pass away?” 

            It was a tricky subject but one that Tommy had to address. There were pictures of Grace all over the house and clearly Charlie noticed his friends had mothers. When he asked after Grace, Tommy had to explain that she’d gone to heaven. That’s what Polly told him to do, said it might be easier on the boy. 

            Charlie once said he felt sad that he didn’t have a mother, but tended to keep those feelings to himself. Sometimes, Tommy would notice him lingering in the den where most of the pictures were kept. Charlie would pick up the frames and study the woman in the photograph, almost as if he were trying to remember more about her. It broke Tommy’s heart but he couldn’t bring her back. 

            “No.” Charlie continued to scoot his carrots around his nearly empty plate with his fork. “He said he’s got two dads.” 

            Tommy had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. Instantly, he thought about Alfie, his boyfriend of nearly a year. The tough, brash, man who Tommy had met by chance. The two had bumped into each other at a cafe and Alfie was struck by how blue Tommy’s eyes were. Although the Brummie was guarded, Alfie charmed the socks off of him before their coffees were even ready. 

            But Tommy didn’t tell Charlie. In fact, he didn’t tell the boy he was even dating. There was no telling what his reaction would be to the news. 

            “Two dads?”   

            “Yeah, I didn’t know boys could marry each other.” Charlie shrugged but didn’t seem bothered by the idea. 

            “Mhm, they can. You can love whoever you want doesn’t matter what gender they are.” Tommy explained gently. There was a pause and he got uneasy. “Do you...do you agree?” 

            Charlie nodded. “Yeah, why not?” He looked up from his plate. “S’not wrong.” 

            A wave of relief washed over Tommy. Of course, he knew prejudice was usually inherited so he didn’t think there’d be much of an issue. “You’re right, it’s not. Not at all.” 

 

            “I think I want you to meet Charlie.” 

            Alfie’s eyes widened in surprise. “Erm...you think?” 

            He and Tommy were tucked up in bed, sharing the weekend together because Charlie was visiting Ada and Karl. It was getting late and Alfie was half asleep before Tommy dropped the bombshell. 

            “I thought we were serious enough that…” 

            “Oh, no, love, ain’t like that.” Alfie shook his head. “I love you, you know that. S’just I...well I don’t have much experience with kids. Got me nephew but that little fucker was a terror. ‘Sides me sister-in-law didn’t much appreciate me being ‘round. Said I were a bad influence.” 

            “Well, I don’t,” Tommy said firmly and reached up to touch his cheek. “I love you.” 

            Alfie was such a sap for him and those blue eyes. “Alright, well, s’pose I ain’t that awful.” 

            “You treat Cyril like he’s your child.” Tommy pointed out. 

            “Dogs are easier than human kids.” 

            "I guess I can't argue that." He laughed softly. “I just wanted you to think about it.” And with that, he rested his cheek on Alfie’s chest. 

            A hint of a smile crossed Alfie’s lips and he gently ran his fingers through Tommy’s dark hair. He allowed himself to think about having more with Tommy. Having a home and a family together. Hell, he might even marry the man if things went well. It would just take time, and Alfie knew he needed to enjoy every second of it. 

 

            One afternoon, a few weeks later, an official meeting was set up. Alfie arrived at Tommy’s a little nervous, to say the least. Even though he’d been there many times before, it was different knowing Charlie would be there. 

            Tommy opened the door with a smile and gave Alfie a peck before letting him in. “Charlie? Alfie’s here.” 

            The father and son had a discussion the night before about the occasion. Tommy explained that although he would always have love for his late wife, sometimes people had a second chance at love after a loss. Charlie appeared to understand although he’d only really known Tommy as a single father. It was a good thing he had Richie Morris to use as an example because Charlie didn’t seem fazed that Tommy said he was dating another man instead of a woman. If anything was strange, it was that Tommy was dating. Nevertheless, Charlie said he would like to meet Tommy’s boyfriend. 

            Alfie took a deep breath and Tommy touched his arm reassuringly. Charlie came downstairs and shyly gravitated towards his father. “Hey, Charlie.” He smiled but was worried he sounded like someone who was trying too hard to be nice. “It’s nice to meet ya, mate, your dad’s told me a lot ‘bout you.” 

            The little boy rocked back and forth on his heels and peered up at his father. Tommy nodded encouragingly.  “Hi.” He said in almost a whisper and ducked his head. 

            Alfie cleared his throat and perked up when he remembered what he’d brought. “Oh! Erm, your dad said he’s been reading you the Harry Potter series. So I brought ya something, maybe your dad and I could help you set it up.” He pulled out the Lego set of Hogwarts that he’d bought earlier under Tommy’s guidance through texts. 

            Charlie’s eyes lit up. It had been the set he’d been eyeing ever since his father began reading him the book. 

            “What’d you say?” Tommy prompted gently. 

            “Thank you.” Charlie smiled. 

            Alfie began to relax a little. “Yeah, sure. Want to start to set it up? There somewhere with some space?” 

            “Here, let’s do it in the den.” Tommy offered and gave Alfie a heartening smile. 

           

            After clearing a bit of the floor, Charlie tore open the box and began sorting through all the little pieces. He handed Alfie the directions. 

            “Right, let’s see then, what’ve we got here?” The man pulled out his glasses so he could read the diagrams. 

            Charlie giggled. “You’ve got glasses like daddy.” 

            Alfie chuckled. “Yeah, I do. What’d you reckon we look old in ‘em, aye?” He teased. 

            “Yeah, my teacher wears glasses and she’s like a hundred!” The little boy grinned and tucked his knees up to his chest. 

            “Well, I ain’t a hundred yet, but I’m close.” Alfie laughed and shook his head. “Cheeky, just like your dad.” 

            Tommy smiled and sat back watching the two slowly open up to each other. Alfie began to read out the instructions, helping Charlie find each piece and placing it in the right spot. Eventually, he stepped out of the room for a moment to get all of them a drink and something to snack on while they were building. 

            When he returned, Charlie was chattering away about horses and his friends at school. Alfie was listening intently, asking little questions to show he was paying attention. It was everything Tommy could’ve hoped for. He leaned against the doorframe, watching the two interact cheerfully. It was as if he were gazing upon his future. A loving husband. A family. 

            Charlie glanced up and beamed. “Daddy, come help!”

            “Alright, I’m coming.” Tommy went to sit back down on the rug with them and Charlie resumed talking about horses. 

            Alfie leaned over to kiss Tommy’s cheek. He could see it in his blue eyes. They were both thinking the same thing, this really was exactly what they were looking for. Stability and a loving home. They suddenly had a foundation to build off of and when they stole glances, they saw the future in each other’s’ eyes. 

Chapter Text

            Tommy wasn’t much of a sleeper. He didn’t need too many hours of shut-eye to be productive. But he soon knew that the scarce sleep he managed to get would be cut in half very soon.

            It began one May morning when his husband asked, completely out of the blue, about babies. Charlie was turning six that summer and according to Alfie, the house was far too big for just the three of them plus Cyril.

            Tommy requested he get to the point. So Alfie explained that he wanted a baby. He’d raised Charlie since he was about three. Grace had passed away and Tommy began to confide in his business partner about his hurt. Alfie was surprisingly a good person to talk about emotions to. Unlike the rest of his family, the Jewish man was a little franker with his feelings. If he was upset or happy the world was damn well going to know.

            So prolonged business meetings turned into chats which turned into going out to dinner which turned into dinner at each other’s’ homes, which turned into sex. The relationship developed and soon, not soon enough according to Alfie, the two were married. Alfie adopted Charlie and they became a happy family. Charlie adored his papa and often times would gravitate towards him even over Tommy.

            Now, Alfie wanted to raise a baby, from the very beginning this time around. It took some convincing and finding a surrogate. A friend they met from Charlie’s school was more than happy to take on the role and before they knew it, she was pregnant.

            Alfie was thrilled to find out they were having a girl. “A boy and girl, Tommy that’s fucking perfect ain’t it?” He beamed as they put the ultrasound picture up on the refrigerator.

           

            Now, their daughter was due any day and Tommy was getting in as much sleep as possible in preparation. He wasn’t sure Alfie was quite ready for the sleepless nights, the man slept like a hibernating bear.

            But Tommy wouldn’t be getting any extra sleep that night. At two in the morning, Alfie shook his husband awake.

            “Tom, Tommy, Deb texted me.” He jostled him until the man batted his hands away.

            “What? What?”

            “Deb texted me saying her water broke!” Alfie exclaimed with a hint of joy and absolute terror. “We’ve gotta get the things in the car. Wake up, Charlie!”

            Tommy sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Alfie, if her waters just broke it’ll be hours before the baby actually starts to crown. You’ve put it in the GPS a million times, it only takes us ten minutes to drive to the hospital.” He mumbled. “Get a few more hours of sleep.”

            “I can’t go back to sleep, the fucking baby is coming!” He retorted sharply. “Now get your arse outta bed. I’ll call Polly to come watch Charlie.” He rushed out of the room texting away.

            Tommy yawned and sighed. Sure, he was excited that his daughter was coming, but he’d been around the block before. Grace was in labor with Charlie for over six hours. It was a waiting game and he wasn’t about to show up at the hospital at two in the morning with a frazzled Alfie. It wouldn’t do Deb any good. So, he would try his best to stall.

 

            Two forty-five in the morning and Tommy had managed to keep Alfie from bursting at the seams. He slowly packed the car with all the bits for their newborn while his husband was shouting updates from Deb. Not that any of the updates were different, just timing between contractions.

            Charlie was well awake and still in his pajamas. He wandered back and forth asking Alfie and Tommy when the baby would come.

 

            Three in the morning and Alfie couldn’t stand not being at the hospital for another minute. Polly wasn’t answering as it was the dead of night, so Alfie put some shoes on Charlie, dressed him in a coat and packed him into the car as well.

            “Alfie, we agreed that he would stay here…” Tommy protested when he saw their son half asleep in the car seat.

            “It’ll be sweet, aye?” Alfie frantically double checked that they had everything. “He’ll get to see his baby sister. Don’t you want to see your baby sister, treacle?”

            Charlie yawned and mumbled an incoherent response, his head lolling to the side.

            Tommy sighed. “Can you just wait another half…”

            “No!” Alfie exclaimed and got in the passenger side seat.

            “Alright…” Tommy went to get the car keys. “Here we go then.”

           

            It was a wait, although not as long as it had taken Charlie to arrive. Alfie was a nervous wreck in the waiting room and could hardly stay still. Tommy slept in the corner with Charlie in his lap. Eventually, Alfie woke him up and said the baby was crowning and Deb said they could be in the delivery room.

            Tommy left Charlie with a nurse and headed in with his husband. As they agreed, Alfie cut the umbilical cord when Ruby came out.

            Alfie was breathing unevenly as the nurse came out with their cleaned and swaddled daughter. She smiled and gently placed the little bundle in his arms.

            “Fucking hell…” The hardened man was reduced to nothing but tears of joy when he first saw his daughter’s pink face. “Look at you, yeah? Tommy, love, look.”

            Tommy came to stand next to his husband, wrapping an arm around his waist. “Little’un, aye?” He chuckled and reached up to graze his thumb over Ruby’s soft cheek.

            “Dark hair like her daddy.” Alfie choked out a laugh. “Our little gemstone. Our little Ruby.”

            Despite the chaotic early morning, the dust settled and things were unimaginably calm at that moment. Alfie and Tommy were fixed on how absolutely perfect she was.

 

            A few hours after she was born, Charlie was brought into the room. Tommy took his hand and led him over to the bassinette where Ruby was half asleep. “See?”

            Charlie stood on his tiptoes, pressing his face to the plastic side of the bassinette. The little thing wriggled and waved a hand in her swaddle. “Hi.” He said very quietly.

            Alfie smiled and smoothed Charlie’s hair back. “What’d you think, then?” He asked.

            “She’s small.” The little boy shrugged. There wasn’t much else to say.

            Ruby squirmed and started to scrunch up her face in discomfort. Without much prompt, she began to wail. Charlie jumped and pressed his hands over his ears in shock. He wasn’t sure how such a little bit could be so loud.

            Alfie scooped Ruby up and patted her back. “Sh, sh, love, s’alright.”

            Charlie frowned and decided to leave, hands still blocking his ears. Tommy was a little amused but went to follow his son. “Where’ya going?” He asked.

            “She’s so loud,” Charlie whined in protest. “How’d you turn her down?”

            Tommy laughed softly and knelt down. “Not like the TV, Charles, you can’t lower the volume. You can get that loud too, you know.”

            His son looked disinterested. “I’m bored.”

            “Alright, well, your aunt and cousin’ll be here soon,” Tommy promised. “Papa wanted to get pictures of you and Ruby together though. Maybe you could hold her?”

            “No, I don’t wanna.” Charlie shook his head and went to the waiting room to find some toy to tinker with. Tommy sighed. So the sibling uniting wouldn’t be as easy as they assumed.

 

            “Easy, easy.” Alfie cringed at how Tommy lifted the car seat carrier into the car.

            “Oh boy.” Tommy chuckled and buckled the carrier in. “She’s alright, Alfie, I promise.”

            Charlie hopped into the car and got himself buckled into his own seat. He leaned over to peer into the blankets that Ruby was nestled into.

            “Now, Charles.” Tommy leaned over into the backseat. “You’ve got a very important job to do on the way home. Do you want a job?” He asked.

            Charlie perked up. He always loved helping out his dad and papa. “Yeah!”

            “Good lad. I need you to watch after your sister on the drive back. Make sure she’s okay. This is her first car ride. Can I trust you?”

            He nodded eagerly and reached over to place a hand on the car seat.

            Tommy smiled and tousled his son’s hair. “I believe in you.”

           

            On the drive back, Charlie kept his eyes intently fixed on his sister. Every time she moved, he made note of it. When she opened her eyes, her brother smiled and shook one of the toys attached to the carrier in front of her.  

            Halfway home, Tommy slammed on his brakes to avoid a car cutting in front of them.

            “Jesus Christ, Tom!” Alfie snapped and braced himself against the dashboard.

            “Daddy, not good!” Charlie barked at his father.

            Tommy’s eyes widened at the criticism immediately thrown at him. “Sorry, I didn’t want to hit that person, it were their fault!” He protested.

            “Is she alright?” Alfie twisted around in the front seat.

            Charlie nodded. Ruby hadn’t even stirred. “Yeah, papa, she’s alright.”

            Alfie smiled. “Good, thank you, treacle.”

            Tommy checked in the rearview mirror and couldn’t help but smile too as he watched Charlie adjust Ruby’s blankets to cover her little sock-covered feet. Maybe he was too quick to judge. Maybe the two would get along after all.

Chapter Text

            Tommy remembered receiving letters from Finn during the War. Granted, the boy didn’t know how to write so they were written in Polly’s handwriting. But they were utterly Finn’s words.

            How are you?

            Where are you now?

            You must have a lot of guns.

            Polly sent sweets.

            Miss you.

           

            Tommy cherished the letters and did his best to keep them from being destroyed by the rain and mud down in the trenches and tunnels.

            It was extraordinary how much the boy had grown. Even in years, Tommy spent fighting. When he came back, Finn was much taller and did his best to act the man of the house. After all, that’s who he had to be while his brothers were away.

            Once the family business took hold, Tommy noticed how much Finn tried to emulate his brothers. He and Isiah would frequently go out looking for trouble and women. They’d don their caps just to send a message. Tommy had to scold his baby brother a few times. Men who got too big for their britches were shot on the streets of Birmingham. Never mind that the young man made for a good target. Those who knew the Peaky Blinders knew that they were a tight-knit family. If an enemy was able to corner Finn, he could easily be used as ransom.

            Still, Finn was a Shelby man and they were never too fond of staying still and quiet. Being the youngest, he wanted to make a name for himself. According to his older brothers, he wanted to do it in the worst way possible.

 

            It just so happened it was a day where both Tommy and Arthur were in the betting shop. A rarity now that Tommy was an MP and spent more time working in London. Both brothers were discussing ledgers when the doors to the shop were opened.

            Isiah hauled Finn inside. The youngest Shelby clutching his side and relying heavily on his friend’s support. “Arthur!”

            The men came out, shocked to see Finn in such a state. “What happened?” Arthur demanded and hurried over. He helped Isiah get Finn sat down.

            “Some Irish fucker came outta nowhere and stabbed him,” Isiah explained. “Had to drag him down the block.”

            Tommy snapped into battle mode. Keep his fellow comrade alive and retaliate if necessary. “Arthur, go find the man.” He commanded. “Isiah, call for an ambulance.”

            Arthur was shaken. “Tom, he’s bleeding bad.” After losing John, the man was not prepared to lose another brother.

            However, Tommy was stuck in tunnel vision. He didn’t want to see the dark red blood seeping through his baby brother’s shirt. That would only distract him. “Do as I say!” He barked.

            Isiah hurried off to the phone while Arthur left the shop.

            “Tommy…” Finn gasped in pain. His face scrunched up and beads of sweat began to trickle down his temple.

            “Easy, brother,” Tommy said steadily and hurried to gather any pieces of cloth or towel he could find around the shop. He knelt down and tore open the shirt to get to the wound. With his heart pounding in his ears, he methodically applied pressure to the injured area.

            Finn hissed and flinched away from him. Tears formed in his eyes and he tried to keep his torso from jerking away. He had to be brave. He was a Shelby. Shelbys didn’t cry when they were hurt.

            “Hold that,” Tommy instructed and placed Finn’s hand over the makeshift bandages. He went back to his office to retrieve a bottle of whiskey. “Drink.” He popped open the bottle and gave it to his brother.

            Finn took a few swigs, making a face at the taste. “I didn’t see him coming, Tom.”

            “I know.”

            “I woulda cut him if I’d seen him coming. I tried to get him but he ran off like a fucking coward.” His voice broke from the aching pain.  

            “Sh, pral, you did good. It’s alright.” Tommy assured him. “Just keep breathing, ambulance will be here soon then we’ll get you stitched up. Arthur’ll find the man and he’ll be dealt with.”

            Finn took another drink of whiskey. “I want to do it. I want to kill him.” His chest heaved with anger and pain.

            “Arthur will do it.” Tommy shook his head and replaced some of the cloth that had gotten too saturated with blood. “We need to focus on getting you better.”

            “But he came after me, I deserve to finish him!” Finn explained, his face turning red.

            “What did Arthur and I tell you, aye? You’re a general, Finn.” Tommy grabbed him by the face so he was looking at him. “You don’t kill anyone, someone comes after you, you have men who finish the job for you.” He replied firmly. “Never forget that.”

            Finn wiped the tears and sweat from his face. He began to feel dizzy from the blood he was losing. Although he didn’t want to agree with Tommy, he decided it wasn’t the right time to argue. And most likely, by the time he was stitched up, the man who stabbed him would already be found floating in the canal. He wouldn’t get his own retribution.

            Isiah returned from calling for help. “They’re on their way. How much blood’s he lost?”

            “He’ll be alright,” Tommy answered. “Go wait outside for them. Keep your gun on hand.”

            The young man nodded and followed orders. A soldier listening to a general. Finn groaned and closed his eyes. It hurt being a foot soldier. But how else could he prove himself? He didn’t fight in the war, like his brothers. If he didn’t fight on the streets, then what more could he do?

            “You’ll be focusing on the football bets from now on,” Tommy said as if he could read his younger brother’s mind. “I’ll have no more of this.”

            Finn wiped his face again and kept his mouth shut. It hurt being a soldier.

Chapter Text

            Marianne Clark was very lonely. She had been for quite some time. Her parents were lost to the Spanish flu quite a while ago. Her husband, a wealthy heir to a family of shrewd businessmen, was killed in the War. She inherited a good sum of money and property but decided to sell the land. Everything sold except for a gorgeous manor in Margate. There she hid away from the rest of the world, curled up in her grief and sadness.

            As the years passed, Marianne found herself peeking out from behind the steel wall she’d put up between herself and the rest of the world. She’d managed to work through some of her grief although it was slow going. As long as she always heard the ocean at night, she knew the world was still turning.

            Soon, it came to her attention that she had a neighbor. Granted, their homes weren’t right next to each other, rather some ways down the gravel road. Marianne only noticed this because she saw a man returning to the home, she previously thought had been empty for quite some time. So, either he had just moved in or she’d been blissfully unaware of his presence.

            Deciding it was a good step to reintroducing herself into the human world, she baked some treats and walked over to the stately home. Her knocks were met with silence for a good while until heavy footsteps and muttered grumbles approached the door.

            Marianne wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but the man who answered the door certainly wasn’t it. Instantly, she was startled by the state of his face. Intense scarring covered the upper left side of his face, leaving a mangled mess of skin and areas that were still healing from stitches that had just recently been removed. The light caught his face and Marianne saw his left eye had been completely clouded over.

            “Yeah, didn’t always look like this, just so you know.” The man’s gruff accent interrupted Marianne’s impolite staring.            

            Her face turned red and she averted her eyes. “I’m sorry I…”

            “Nah, it’s gruesome, innit?” He mumbled and waved off her apologies. “Have we met? Me brain's been a bit muddled up so forgive me if I've forgotten who you are."

            “No, we've yet to meet. I’m uh-I’m your neighbor.” The woman pointed towards the direction of her home.

            “Oh yeah? You’re the phantom that haunts that place, aye?”

            Marianne looked alarmed. What on Earth was this man talking about? “Phantom?” She stammered. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

            “Me maid says that there’s a phantom woman that lives there. Yeah, lost her love in the war, right? So, she’s locked herself in that ol’ house, walking 'bout hoping her beau will return to her.” He pointed in the direction of her house.

            She cleared her throat and shook her head. A heavy feeling pressed against her chest. “I assure you I’m quite alive.”

            “Yeah…don’t look it, love.” Her neighbor peered at her with his good eye. “But I’ll let you in on a little secret, I was dead too, not to long ago.” He winked and opened the door wider, gesturing for her to enter. “What’s your name, love?”

            The invitation was such a strange juxtaposition to how he was speaking. Was he a mad man? Or was he simply hinting at something she didn’t understand? Either way, Marianne wasn’t sure it was wise to step inside. “Oh I-well, it’s Marianne.” She answered. “But I can’t stay I-”

            He was already walking back inside. “How’d you take your tea then?”

            “My tea? But I-”

            “Margo?” He called into the house. “Put the kettle on, would you? We’ve got company.”

            Marianne cautiously stepped in although she didn’t plan on staying long. “I’m afraid I can’t stay for tea, Mr…” She traced his steps down the hallway to a sitting room. It was cluttered with odd artifacts and pirate-like treasures. French doors opened out to a balcony with a view of the churning ocean.

            “Oh, where are me fucking manners? Alfie Solomons.” He introduced himself. “Marianne, that’s a lovely name, innit? Now did ya keep your husband’s name or have you returned to your maiden name?”

            She blinked and stood stock-still in the doorway. “Why do you ask?”

            With a grunt, Alfie sat down in an armchair. “Just making conversation.”

            Well, at least the man was upfront. “I kept my husband’s name.”

            “Yeah, figure he’s dead, right, but that don’t mean the name’s dead. Name’s a name, innit?” He glanced at her. “Well go on, have a seat, then.”

            Marianne wasn’t sure why she sat down across the room from her neighbor. Intelligence would tell her to leave because the man clearly suffered brain damage from whatever happened to cause the scar around his eye. But there was a strange charisma to Alfie Solomons that lured her in. Perhaps it was her loneliness. She was willing to entertain even a raving lunatic.

            Alfie cracked his knuckles. “So, you gonna be polite then and just not ask?”

            She raised an eyebrow. “Ask what?”

            “’Bout this?” He gestured half-heartedly to his injured eye.

            “That would be rude of me.”

            He scoffed. “Rude. Well, I’ll tell ya anyway because I know you want to know. Everyone wants to fucking know, s'just human nature, innit? We're fascinated by the macabre and unnatural.”

            Yes, Marianne did want to know. Of course, she did. So she nodded meekly.

            “See, some fucking cunt, a dear friend of mine, Tommy Shelby, shot me right in the fucking face. Meant to kill me. Told him to, right, but he done this instead.”

            It was a lot to take in. Luckily. Alfie’s maid came in with tea, giving Marianne a chance to mull over what Alfie had just rambled off to her.

            “So, you asked a man to kill you?”

            “Yeah, well, got skin cancer.” He fixed his tea, plopping in two sugar cubes. “S’fucking painful. Not as painful as being shot in the fucking face, granted, but there you go.” He shrugged.

            “I’m sorry.” She gave her sympathy but apparently the man didn’t care for such things.

            “Ain’t enough time in the world for apologies, love. Best you keep on living how you please.”

            Marianne paused as she lifted the teacup to her lips. “Is that how you live?”

            Alfie rubbed his hands together. “You looking for a story, then?”

            “A story?”

            “Lonely phantom looking to the living for a story?” He cocked his head. “Is that what’ll bring you back to life?”

            Marianne returned her cup to its saucer. “I apologize, Mr. Solomons, I must’ve interrupted you…” She went to stand up to leave.

            “What’d I just fucking say ‘bout apologies?” Alfie waved at her to sit back down. “Where d’ya want me to begin then?”

            She looked to the door. It was simple enough to walk out the door and forget she ever met her odd neighbor. She could return home and shut the world out again. Curiosity got the better of her though. Her eyes returned to Alfie who was waiting expectantly for her answer. Slowly, she sat back down. “I suppose you can begin whenever.”

            He smiled slightly and leaned back in his chair. “That hat behind you?” He pointed over her shoulder.

            Placed delicately among the oddities in Alfie’s sitting room, was a black wide-brimmed hat. It looked well-worn and had gathered a bit of dust from its spot on the cabinet.

            “Go on, you can pick it up, read the inscription.” He nodded.

            Marianne leaned over the chair to carefully pluck the hat out of the objects, pointedly ignoring the taxidermy owl behind a glass dome nearby. She turned it over and looked inside the band of the hat.

            This hat is a kettle in which to boil up your wicked dreams and make a soup of your soul.

            She moved her thumb over the faded letters. Her eyes flicked up to Alfie for an explanation, not sure if he had written the inscription or there was another background.

            “That were me father’s hat.”

            Marianne set the hat down on the coffee table between them. She picked up her teacup again and got comfortable. From there, she was lead on a tour of the life of Alfie Solomons.

 

            The story couldn’t be told in one afternoon. Before Marianne knew it, the sun had dipped below the ocean’s horizon. She bid her neighbor goodnight and returned home in the twilight. She tossed and turned in bed most of the night. Alfie’s story haunting her and consuming her mind. And they hadn’t even gotten to his first murder.

 

            Marianne spent a substantial amount of time with Alfie from then on. As he told her his story, he intermixed random conversations about whatever crossed his mind. Despite his vernacular, he proved to be very intelligent. Referencing philosophy and the Classics. Although he admitted that he reserved most of his reading for the Torah because it was such a strain now that he was half-blind.

            When he spoke of his time in the war, she noticed the faraway look in his eyes. He smiled when he spoke of his mother and siblings. His eagerness was palpable when he spoke about all the dogs he’d owned in his lifetime. Recounting their various mixed breeds and names.

            Marianne had gotten so accustomed to his company by the time he began on his life of organized crime. In fact, she would even venture to say that she had never had quite a friendship before. It had been ages since she laughed with another person.

            So, when he told her about what he’d done in Camden Town, she was thrown for a loop. It was reasonable that the man had a temper. Marianne had seen him at some of his lowest points when the pain and migraines had caused him immense discomfort. His mood was severely affected when those days came around. He tried to remain friendly but was irritable. But to learn that he was conniving enough to create an empire? It caused Marianne to pause and consider Alfie as a person. He was kind underneath all the thorny layers he’d built up over the decades. And yet he admitted to ruling Camden Town with an iron fist.

            But she continued to see him. She couldn’t imagine turning her back on him, even if for selfish reasons. His company had filled her with life again. And so, the story continued.

 

            “Felt the tide come in, woke me up. Always forget how fucking cold that water is, aye?” Alfie glanced outside to the ocean. It was summer. His brief installments of his life, paired with their long discussions about everything from the tides to politics, had taken about six months. By then, the two knew each other better than anyone else in their lives. Marianne was sure she hadn’t known nearly as much about her husband than she did about Alfie.  

            The man was an open book and overtime began to coax Marianne out of her shell. Even though she didn’t tell her entire life story as Alfie had, she did tell him a good deal about herself. She spoke about her husband and parents for the first time in years. She cried and Alfie had gotten up to hand her a handkerchief. She looked up at him as she accepted the token of solace. Their eyes met and there was a long pause before Alfie cleared his throat and retreated back to his armchair.

            That was when Marianne realized how she truly felt about Alfie. She was long past questioning herself. So, what if she found company in a man who seemed like the least likely companion? What mattered was the fondness she felt for him.

 

            “So, I dragged meself back up here and called for help.” He clasped his hands together.

            “And?” She prompted.

            “And?” He chuckled. “Not much else to say, love, they removed the bullet and stitched me back up. I woke up completely blind until I regained sight in my right eye.” He explained. “Came back here to watch the ships pass by. Then, one day, a beautiful stranger knocks on me door.”

            Marianne blushed. “And so, the story repeats.”

            “So, it repeats.” He nodded and smiled. “Tell you what though, these past few months have flown by.”

            “Is that your way of saying goodbye to me?” Marianne was only half-teasing. She was worried that Alfie would grow tired or bored of her once his story was complete.

            “Goodbye?” He frowned. “Mari, you’ve only just arrived.”

            Her heart skipped a beat. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow then?”

            “After you’ve passed me that oil.” He requested. “And a mirror.”

            Marianne stood up and did as he asked but neglected to grab the mirror. She chewed on her lip. “Can I?” She asked quietly.

            He raised an eyebrow. “Erm…yeah.” He was shocked that beautiful thing like her would want to keep his company, let alone touch his mangled face. But he didn’t oppose it either. He was a man, after all, a man who had spent enough time with her to become undeniably attached.

            Marianne was comfortable with him, but she was afraid of overstepping his boundaries. Cautiously, she perched on the arm of Alfie’s chair. She uncorked the oil with rosemary and lavender, designed to alleviate his pain and headaches. Dabbing some on her fingertips, she carefully began to rub the scented oil onto the scars. Passing over the deep lines permanently gouged in his skin and massaging into the scar tissue.

            Alfie closed his eyes, losing himself in her gentle touch. Marianne took her time, smiling when she saw the wrinkles around his eyes and forehead relax. The tension in his muscles slowly easing up.

            After a bit, she let Alfie relax for a little longer while she went to the kitchen to grab a towel. She returned, wiping the oil off her hands. She sat back down next to him and dabbed carefully at his face to clean up any excess of the liquid.

            He opened his eyes and found her face.

            “Bit better?” She asked softly.

            “You have no idea, love.” Maybe it was just her presence but the constant pounding in his head had diminished enough for him to notice.

            She gazed into his eyes and felt her face going red. “Well, I’m glad. You deserve some peace.”

            He reached up to touch her cheek. “Will you stay with me?” His voice was gentler than Marianne had ever heard it before.

            She nodded silently and dipped down to press her lips to his.

            How wonderful it was to be added to Alfie Solomons’s story.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

            Alfie peered up from his newspaper. He and Tommy were sharing a peaceful morning together before they headed off to work. The two had only been living together for a little under a week. Of course, the transition in their relationship was stalled by several disagreements. Alfie flat out refused to live anywhere in Birmingham, meanwhile, Tommy grumbled about having to drive all around Britain. But once he landed his seat in Parliament, the move to London seemed a little more feasible. 

            Thus began their time as live-in partners. And when Alfie actually realized how much Tommy drank and how little he ate in a day. 

            “Tommy, love, when’s the last time you ate something, aye?” Alfie asked. 

            The man across the table raised an eyebrow and jerked his chin towards the muffin on the table next to him. The muffin that Alfie had brought in fresh early that morning from the bakery a few doors down. The one that had been sitting in front of Tommy for a good half an hour, maybe more. The one that was most likely stone cold. The one that was barely touched except for a few pieces Tommy had picked off. 

            “I meant like an actual fucking meal, not a squirrel’s breakfast,” Alfie responded. 

            “We had dinner together last night.” Tommy finally spoke, his eyes going back to the paperwork he’d brought to the table. 

            Cyril wandered into the kitchen towards Tommy. The bullmastiff was tall enough to rest his chin right on the table, his sad eyes fixed on the intact muffin. 

            “No, that weren’t last night. Last night you came in late after I’d already eaten. You’re thinking of Wednesday.” Alfie argued. 

            Tommy broke the muffin in two and fed Cyril one of the halves. The dog happily scarfed the pastry down and eyed the second half, his tail wagging. Tommy was usually a surefire way to get table scraps. 

            Alfie grimaced. “So Wednesday was the last time you ate?” He demanded. 

            “No, I ate yesterday.” Tommy didn’t seem too concerned with his partner’s disapproval of his habits. 

            “Yeah, what’d you eat, then?” He set his paper down, a sign that he was going to see this argument through whether Tommy liked it or not. 

            The Blinder subtly rolled his eyes and stood up. “You done with this?” He reached for the newspaper. 

            “Ah, ah, ah.” Alfie batted his hand away. “Answer me.” 

            “I’m perfectly healthy.” Tommy sighed and glanced at his watch. “I’m heading to my office. Call if you need to, I’ll have my secretary answer me calls if I’m in session.” He headed towards the door. 

            Alfie made a noise of frustration and stood up. He needed to make some calls alright, but not to Tommy. Once the two men were out of the kitchen, Cyril patiently waited by the table for a minute. Once it was clear they weren’t returning, he snatched the rest of the muffin off the table. 

 

            When Tommy came home, it was late as per usual during the weekdays. By then, Alfie had either retired to the bedroom or was up reading with Cyril at his feet. But instead, the entire flat was lit up and filled with savory aromas. Tommy frowned and followed the scents into the kitchen. 

            There, Alfie was sitting at the table with his arms crossed over his chest. Across the table was an empty spot with an entire Jewish style dinner set up. The food still warm. 

            “What’s this?” Tommy paused by the doorway. 

            “Sit down,” Alfie commanded like the retired military Captain and gangster boss he was. 

            “Why?” 

            “Tommy, sit the fuck down.” 

            He considered putting up a fuss but clearly Alfie was not in the mood. So Tommy took a seat in front of the food and waited. 

            “Well go on.” 

            “M’not hungry,” Tommy replied. “But thank you, it looks delicious.” 

            “It is, had a few of the best cooks in Camden bring you something. Grandmothers, all Jewish, most of them from Russia and came here ‘cause they were being hunted by soldiers. Still, they hold their traditions very close, yeah, and that includes food. They take offense to two things. An uncircumcised cock and anyone who don’t eat their food. 'Cause I tell ya what, they put love into everything they make.” 

            Tommy laughed quietly and shook his head. “So you’ve backed me into a corner, aye?” 

            “Love,” Alfie leaned over the table, resting against his forearms. “You ain’t nothing but skin ‘n bones these days. And I should fucking know I see you naked ‘lmost every night.” He let a small smile slip through but his eyebrows set firmly. 

            “I’m fine, Alfie.” 

            With an annoyed sigh, Alfie leaned back in his chair and stroked his beard. “Can’t believe you try to fight anyone who tries to fucking look after your wellbeing. S’like you want me ‘n your family to worry. I don’t get it, Thomas, I really don’t.” 

            “I don’t want you to be worried about me.” 

            “Too late.” 

            Tommy saw the true concern in Alfie. His partner wasn’t trying to be a pain in the ass just because. He was genuinely worried about his health. “Can I tell you a story?” He asked. 

            “Only if you tell me between bites.” Alfie pointed to the food again. “‘Cause it’s getting cold.” 

            “Fair enough.” Tommy agreed and began to eat. Alfie was right, the food was delicious. When the man across the table looked a little more at ease, Tommy began to tell him about his childhood. “We’d go to bed hungry more often than not.” He explained. “Got better when I was older because Arthur and I could make money. But when we were younger, I gave up my food so John, Ada, and Finn could eat. Dad was useless, never made enough money and there was only so much me mum could do.” 

            “Tom…” Alfie was heartbroken. Of course, he was aware of some of the similarities between his and Tommy’s childhoods. Although they came from different cultural backgrounds, poor was poor. And he could recall many nights where he couldn’t sleep because of the hunger pangs in his stomach. Most of the grandmothers of Camden wanted to take care of Alfie and his mother, but she was too embarrassed to accept the help more often than not. 

            “I suppose I just never had any interest in food,” Tommy concluded. “Things are different now but…” He shrugged. “What can you do?” 

            Alfie rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, m’only tryna make sure you ain’t starving yourself on purpose. If you just don’t like food, then that’s fine. But you can’t go days on just whiskey, Tom, you’re smarter than that.” 

            His jaw clenched when he realized how silly he’d been for making his partner worry so much. “I’m sorry. I’ll be better about it.” He promised. 

            “C’mere.” Alfie stood up and met Tommy halfway in the kitchen. The two embraced and Alfie softly kissed the Blinder’s dark hair. “I might’ve opened a can o’ worms though.” He admitted. 

            “What do you mean?” Tommy subtly inhaled his welcoming scent. Rum and a touch of something woodsy. 

            “Pretty sure every little grandmother is gonna come bring us food. Told ‘em you were nothing but skin and bones.” He confessed. 

            “Is there any way to politely tell them we don’t need any food?” 

            Alfie groaned and perched his chin on Tommy’s head. “‘Fraid not, love, ‘fraid not.”