Chapter 1: Bought the Brothel
Tommy frequents a brothel you work at, and decides to take control of it in order to take control of you.
DISCLAIMER: mentions of sex work, prostitution.
“Don’t act a fool, Mister Shelby.” You scoffed, turning from the man and straightening out your blouse. “You know money makes the world go ‘round.”
Thomas hummed in agreement, lingering in the doorway for a long time before finally entering. The door creaked shut with a deliberately slow guide of the gangster’s foot.
“I mean it, Y/N.” He pressed, eyes falling on the ruffled sheets of your bed. “This is a filthy place,” his icy blue eyes pierced yours and you were stunned, “full of filthy men.”
Laughter bubbled in your chest, “Forgive me, Mister Shelby, but this is where we crossed paths.” Those intense eyes darted back and forth between yours and you couldn’t help but stare when his lips parted. He noticed, mouth curling in a smirk.
“Pack your things, we’re leaving tonight.” Thomas commanded, somewhat amused. “I’ll be doing no such thing.” You frowned, growing irritated. “You offend me, Mister Shelby. I think you should leave.”
Brushing past him and to the door, you opened it and motioned for Thomas to leave, but he didn’t make a move, he just stared at you. More time passed and the two of you continued to stare, then glare.
“You misunderstand, Y/N.” His face was intimidating, his features sharp and breathtaking even now. “This particular brothel has been sold to new owners,” he leaned over you, hand pressing flat against the door. It slammed shut and you were pinned in a second.
“I-I know this, what difference does it make? Elizabeth has been talking about selling for years.” You sputtered, heart racing in your chest. Not once had Tom Shelby ever harmed you, not even by accident. So, why would he now?
“So, you’re lookin’ at the new owner.” Brows furrowed, Thomas waited for your reaction and laughed obnoxiously when he received none. “And as the new owner, I’ve decided it’s best if there are some cuts around here. For business, of course.”
Your heart dropped into the pit of your stomach and so did your mouth. “You..”
Thomas let his hands fall onto your petite shoulders as if to comfort you, “You’re taking my job? Why?” Tears welled in your eyes and you moaned, “Why would you do that to me, Mister Shelby? This is all I know!”
The brunette smiled, cupping your face in one hand and pulling you close with the other. “You can’t tell me you actually like working here. All the scum that comes walking through those doors, I know you hate them.”
Tom’s voice trembled and he shook you gently, “Come with me and you’ll never have to sell yourself again.”
You thought hard about it. He was right, you hated the entire concept of selling sex just to avoid being on the streets of London, but this brothel, as horrific as it may sound, was the only home you’d ever known.
“Mister Shelby, I - “
“Tommy.” He corrected in a low whisper. You blinked and felt his breath hitting your face, too frightened to look at his eyes. You knew the man intimately, you knew when he was about to kiss you.
“Tommy..” Eyes closed, you sighed and shook your head. “This is ridiculous.”
And then, just as you predicted, he kissed you.
Chapter 2: Longer
Thomas takes comfort in your presence late at night.
DISCLAIMER: mentions of anxiety, PTSD and panic attacks.
Thomas didn’t seek out affection often, if at all, after returning home from the war. He was a changed man for the most part, only small glimpses of what once was surfacing on the rarest occasion. This was such an occasion.
The man had asked for you in a fit of fear, an episode of sorts. His pale blue eyes were wide and glassy, shifting anxiously across the features of your face as you entered the home. Polly took your coat and thanked you for coming before quickly leaving the kitchen.
“Thomas?” Your voice pulled the man from a trance like state and he looked up at you once more, lips parting slightly as he mouthed incoherent words. His trousers were moist with sweat, as was his brow, and he looked almost delirious.
“Thomas, Aunt Pol asked me to come.” You approached him slowly, heart beating unevenly. “Are you having another - ”
“Attack. Yes.” Thomas quickly croaked, his throat barely allowing the words to escape. “Alright, okay,” your tone shifted to a softer, deeper one that for whatever reason Thomas took comfort in. His lids lowered and he let you loop his arm over your shoulders.
Together, you walked through the home and to a back bedroom that you believed to be John’s at the time. A simple double bed with a wardrobe, desk and a small fireplace in the far right corner. Thomas pulled away from you and headed towards the unlit pit and to your astonishment, sat down cross legged.
Seeing him in such a state both amused and distressed you. Without a word, you pulled a comforter from the bed and draped it over him. He was sweating, but cold to the touch.
“Just focus on your breathing, Thomas, like we practiced.” He nodded and unbuttoned the first few buttons of his shirt, loosening the collar. “In through your nose,” you clumsily sparked the fireplace and it came to life with an enthusiasm you appreciated, “out through your mouth.”
The room was toasty warm in a few minutes and while Thomas was coherent enough to understand what you were saying, he didn’t feel much like talking. He sat and watched the flames dance for a long time, and after growing weary of the same scene, you began watching the shadows across his face dance from the corner of your eye.
Even now, in this state, he was beautiful. His eyes were the first thing you noticed when you met him as a child, but over the years he went from a lanky, gap-toothed babe to a handsome, distinguished young man. His cheekbones were high and sharp, giving him an almost androgynous appearance, his face was defined no matter the complexion and his jaw was rather sharp. You began admiring his lips without even thinking when he spoke.
“I hope Aunt Pol didn’t trouble you too much on my behalf.” You blinked, coming back to the present. “I just..”
Your hand met his and you pulled him close, wrapping an arm around him affectionately. “You know I’d do anything for you, Tommy.” You kissed his brow and felt his body relax. Thomas seemed to melt into your touch.
“It’s different with you.” You laughed out loud, knowing exactly where this was going. Thomas had expressed the unique relationship the two of you had and how he could find a peace with you that he couldn’t find in the company of anyone else.
“My brothers, they mean well but they don’t understand. They understand that we’ve all got our demons from darker days, but what they don’t understand is that they’re not all the same.” Thomas explained, voice gravelly and low.
Slowly by slowly, his posture shifted until his head was across your lap, back to the hard wood floor. Uncomfortable, probably, but you’d mention that later. “Demons come in all shapes and sizes, I remember, Tommy.”
He nodded, lips curling up in a soft smile. “Sometimes I forget you weren’t there with us.”
Your heart, which had been given a brief moment of rest, was now beating at a painful rate again. Your face dropped and so did Thomas’s. The entire atmosphere changed.
“Sometimes I can’t remember what’s in the past. Sometimes I get confused.” His eyes closed but a tear travelled down his cheek. You quickly wiped it away and began caressing his face gently as he continued to speak.
“I can’t be one of those men,” the gangster gritted his teeth, eyes opening so that more tears could fall. “I can’t afford to lose myself, Y/N - I’ve got too many people depending on me.” He watched you carefully, waiting for a response. “You’ve not lost yourself, Mister Shelby. You’re right here,” you took his hand in yours again and guided it closer to the fire, “with me.”
Thomas was immediately distracted by the warmth and that was what you were counting on. His breath, that had become quick and shallow again, was slowing to a deep, consistent rhythm.
Your fingers laced together with his and you traced your free hand through his dark, thick hair. The sensations were grounding Thomas and you knew it, so you continued to poke, prod and massage. You wanted him to feel your hands, you wanted him to feel the fire, you wanted him to know he was at home, not serving as a Digger in the military again.
The door creaked open and John’s face popped through the crack. He gnawed away at a toothpick and as his line of sight found you, he grinned from ear to ear. “I’m tellin’ Aunt Pol.” He snorted and you shushed him, motioning to his sleeping brother.
“Tellin’ Aunt Pol what?” Arthur’s voice yelled from the corridor, his head sticking through the door right above John’s. You slapped a hand over your mouth the stifle a laugh at the ridiculous two when the woman herself emerged from the shadows, hands pulling the brothers from the room for a thrashing.
Thomas shifted and you immediately froze, afraid the commotion had woken him up. He was a very light sleeper and once he was up, he was up. Thankfully, he must have been drained, because he simply shifted his head to face the fire, fingers unconsciously squeezing yours.
You knew you’d have to get him from the floor to the bed somehow and that his back was going to dearly pay for it the following morning, but chose to appreciate Thomas in such a peaceful element.
You’d stay like this with him, for a little while longer.
Chapter 3: You Are
Thomas comforts you through an episode triggered by depression, but wishes you could see the situation the way he sees it.
For any lonely souls in need of comfort, like mine.
It was so hard all the time. Every morning was a struggle to get out of bed, the day dragged on and on and on with seemingly no end in sight, and finally when night came, you couldn't sleep knowing the next day would be exactly the same as the one you'd just endured.
You sat in a satin gown, clammy hands barely keeping a grasp on the drink Thomas had poured you upon arrival. He sat across from you with one leg folded across the other and his hands in his lap. He was examining you, something you'd come to wave off as simply Thomas being Thomas. You were covered in sweat and cringed every time your thighs stuck to the leather of the couch. The room was silent save for your laboured breathing and the occasional slurp - until Thomas lit a cigarette and began speaking.
"I know that look," he started, lazily pointing his cigarette at you and raising his brows, "you can't sleep." You nodded meekly, afraid that if you responded verbally, your voice would break. "What's on your mind?"
You looked up at him, gaping like a goldfish, and Thomas chuckled lightly, blowing a ring of smoke at you before offering you your own cigarette. Normally, you were well against smoking and drinking, often scolding Thomas and his brothers for such unhealthy habits, only to instantly apologise for making such criticisms. This time, you were eager, snatching the little white stick from the packet and leaning forward, letting Thomas light it for you.
Of course you coughed a lung up, taking a much too large inhalation. Thomas would've laughed at you any other time, but could read the atmosphere well, he knew now was no time for jokes. You were in pain. "I just feel like every single day something has to happen," you started, knowing full well you wouldn't stop, "I try so hard to stay positive, like my doctor says. It's just so hard when life just keeps.."
You trailed off, unable to continue as tears rolled down your puffy, red cheeks. "Shovelling shit at you." Thomas leaned forward, putting out his cigarette in the glass ash tray and stepping around the coffee table to take a seat next to you. He wrapped an arm around you and rubbed your shoulder with his thumb. "I know how it gets, Y/N. I know how hard it is to find the strength and the will to keep shovelling when you've been doing it so long."
You took a smaller drag and while the smoke made you light headed and slightly nauseous, it was somehow helping, much like a cup of tea would. You continued to cry but the noise settled back into silence, "I'm so tired." You admitted quietly, almost shamefully. Thomas turned and pressed a kiss to your temple, "You can't stop shovelling, not ever. It's what we were born on this earth to do. Shovel through all the piss and shit and blood until you find something else." You relaxed, soothed by the tone of Thomas's voice in your ear and his lips gently tickling your face, noting the lack of stubble - he was always immaculate when it came to personal hygiene and grooming.
"But how do we know there is something else? What if there's only more piss and shit?" Your eyes widened at the daunting thought, so panicked at the possibility that you found it laughable. You did, you laughed hard and the tears kept flowing. You must have looked like a demented person gone astray, but your feelings were so overwhelming and so emotional that you couldn't contain them.
Thomas didn't have an answer for that question and you laughed harder when he snatched the cigarette from your hand and pressed it between his lips. "We'll just have to find out."
"I don't want to fucking find out, Tommy. I'm sick of waiting for something to change, something to give - because it never does!" Thomas leaned back into the couch, pulling you with him and humming in agreement with your statement. You appreciated Thomas's lack of judgement when given insight on the workings of your mind. He never shamed you, and acted as a safe space. "I just feel powerless, like my life has no direction. My family, my friends, my love life, my occupation, it's all fucked."
Thomas pulled your leg across his lap and held it there, allowing you to rest your head on his chest, the crisp white fabric tarnished by your tears. "Don't do that. You always do that. Stop basing your self worth on what you have or haven't done in life, that's where everyone else is making a mistake." You raised your head and blinked at him, "What do you mean?"
Thomas sighed, clearly beginning to lose patience, but continued for your sake. "You need to do things in life for you, Y/N, not for other people's approval of you. No one else fucking matters, no one but you - and you've got a lot to work with."
You felt ridiculous, but compelled anyway, "What do you mean?" You repeated, and Thomas simply cupped the back of your head and pressed your face into his chest, gently smothering you. "I've never met someone who was as hard on themselves as me. You haven't succeeded in the ways you want to yet because you're so afraid of failure."
You pondered his words, trying to connect the dots in your mind, while Thomas continued his take on your current situation. "And after a while of procrastinating out of fear, it becomes failure anyway. I know how much that scares the shit out of you, just like being judged by the people you care about scares the shit out of you - and that's what's holding you back, Y/N. You're capable of so much."
His button-up was drenched in tears and drool, but Thomas ignored the moist sensation gathering against his flesh, simply running his right hand up and down your back, unable to feel the soft fabric beneath his calloused fingers. He continued to jump back and forth between comfort and lecture, but Thomas made himself clear - and despite all the pessimism swirling around inside your mind, his words touched your heart and made it beat double. Your eyes squeezed shut while you hiccuped, pulling your other leg off the ground and laying straight between Thomas, too tired to care about his hipbone digging into yours. The day's events, the emotional turmoil, the melt down, it was all so energy consuming and you were utterly spent.
Your head shook but Thomas stilled it with his hand, pressing his free one on top of that and holding you against him. "You are."