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The Thief Who Stole Tommy's Heart

Chapter Text

'Tommy, I didn't know you were coming.' Ada Thorne looked in surprise as her impeccably dressed older brother materialized in the lavish living room of her London house.

'I was passing.'

'Did you have work in London?'

'You can say so.'

She pursed her lips at his reticence but didn't prod further. She was well-versed with the book called Thomas Shelby to.

'Let's get you a drink, then.' She ushered him towards the bar. When they were in the room filled with people, both of them with a glass in their hands, Tommy said,

'Looks like you're hosting a party.' He gestured at the small crowd with his half-filled glass.

'It's a meeting. Of intellectuals.'

'With communists?' He gave a derisive snort.

'Brilliant writers, poets and artists who believe in equality for all.'

'Call it what you want, Ada. I couldn't care less.'

'Could you ever?' She raised her eyebrow at him.

'I need to make a call. Where is your telephone?'

'Use the one upstairs. It's in the room right in front of the stairs.'

Thomas Shelby walked in to one of the many rooms of his sister's mansion. He was happy she had settled in her new place. With Campbell back in town, he couldn't afford to take any risks. The family needed to be protected.

Reaching for the phone, he called his office to let them know he would be in London till tomorrow.

Keeping the phone back on at its place, he turned to walk out of the room, when something moved in his peripheral field of vision. He kept walking slowly, not wanting the supposed intruder to know he was aware of him. Because it had to be a him, what would a woman be doing alone in a closet while a party went on.

Lily Peyton wanted to bite off her traitorous arm. Not only had it got tangled in the horde of furs in Ada Thorne's closet, disentangling it had made her almost stumble into the room which was no longer empty.

If she had known a person was there, she would have let the arm sleep off, possibly petrified herself into a statue. The members of the Guild, a company of art collectors she had worked with for twelve years lauded her ability to disappear in the shadows, hide in the open. But not today. Today she had lost her footing and would possibly be caught if the man didn't stop his foray.

She knew he had seen her, the hunch of his shoulders was evident enough. and still he pretended to remain oblivious. Did he plan to ambush her and catch her off-guard? Or was he calling the police right away?

The suspense might kill her before the man did and she couldn't bear that anymore. Taking a deep breath, she peeked out into the room, hoping her black mask and black clothing would camouflage her in the dark. Boy was she wrong. Because at that very moment, something hard crashed on the side of her skull. Letting out a muffled groan, she sucker-punched the man straight in the face. He definitely didn't see it coming, because he paused for a moment long enough to let her kick him in the gut and make a dash for the window. But she wasn't fast enough. At the sill, when she was about to make a jump, a hand grabbed at her head so forcefully that a chunk of her hair ripped out along with her woolen mask.

Turning back to look at him venomously, her hair flying in different directions, she flung her legs at him to push him away from her. She caught a glimpse of his medium yet strong silhouette before she turned to jump from the window, not caring about where she landed. She reached or rather fell awkwardly, half-sitting and half-sprawled. Apart from the nasty bruises on her behind and a concussion, she knew her ankle wouldn't be the same for a fortnight. All because of a nosy bastard who didn't even live in the mansion. Keeping her bitter thoughts aside, she got up from the dirty ground and made a dash for a safer spot. There would be someone coming after her now that he had seen her face. FUCK. No one had ever seen her, let alone her face. If the Guild had a written list of rules, the first one would be to Never Show Your Face, in bold. Breaking it meant deportation and leaving the Guild forever. And considering Gerard, he would send her away in a blink of the eye.

She couldn't leave the Guild, she thought as she limped hurriedly. Not when she was so close to earning a fortune. No, Gerard couldn't know. She would hide it with her might and tell him a vagrant attacked her before she reached the painting. Yes, it would work.

A car was parked when she came out of the narrow alley. The driver, a man reading a newspaper (At this time of the day? Edward had zero creativity.) opened the door without looking at her.

'Where is your mask? And where is the painting?' Edward asked as he started the car.

'Some vagrant bastard attacked me in alley. Couldn't get to the painting.'

'God! Are you alright?' This time he looked at her.

'Yes. My head hurts that's all. And my ankle.' And my pride, she added in her mind

'One strong vagrant.'

'Tell me about it.' She said bitterly.

Chapter Text

'You were attacked in an alley?' Gerard asked for the umpteenth time. And for the umpteenth time broke into a fit of laughter.

'Yes I was Gerard.' Lily replied as calmly as possible with the compression on her head and a makeshift bandage on her swollen ankle.

When he finally stopped, he looked down at her in disappointment.

'Honey, you expect me to believe that?'

'It is the truth, Gerard. I apologise for not getting the painting.'

'Oh, you got the painting all right. But a certain someone caught you.'

'I never got there.'

'Shut the fuck up, kid.'

She crossed her arms across her chest, looking like a petulant child.

'I know exactly who hit you. And it wasn't a drunk drifter.'

'How?'

'I had a man there, in the party, to make sure things went smoothly.'

'You sent a spy?' Angered bubbled inside her.

'Look, it was for your protection. I didn't realise they were big people.'

'As if we steal from the working class.'

He raised a threatening eyebrow at her.

'All right, collect. But how big can they be?'

'All you need to know is that those people are dangerous. And that's why you are going to Greece. You have a house there, you will be safe.' He said with a finality in his voice, as if he had thought of it beforehand.

'No! You can't send me there. It was only one job.'

'One job big enough to blow your cover.'

'He didn't see me. It was dark and my hair hid my face.' She touched her unconventionally long brown hair, which reached past her shoulders and presently missed a small chunk.

But Gerard shook his head regrettably. 'I'll miss you, kid.' He reached to pat her head.

Strange tears spouted out of her eyes, but she kept her voice strong. 'You can't send me, Gerard. You need me here. I get the work done, I got us the sword from Clive. Not James, not Emmett. I, Lily Peyton.'

'Your life is in danger. The man who attacked you is their leader.'

Sputtering, she said, 'Well, for a leader, he has some lousy moves. Grabbing the hair? Come on, now.'

Gerard laughed despite himself.

'You win, kid. I won't send you to Greece. But before you start jumping, let me tell you that I have yet to punish you.'

'You mean you will stop my salary?' She asked, not at all concerned about a cut. Money was definitely not a concern, as long as she was with the Guild.

'Nah, you need something worse.'

'Whatever you say, Gerard. Just don't remove me from the Guild.'

'Go away, now. And don't empty the bottle tonight. I need you sober for the job tomorrow.'

Chapter Text

The next morning, she wore her black shirt and a pair of dark straight legged trousers for her meeting with Gerard. Her hair was tied in a severe bun and there was no trace of make up on her face. Every year, she spent a part of her Christmas bonus for having her clothes stitched by an old man in London, since no shop sold clothes of her liking in her size. Which was alright, since she liked the feel of clothes stitched just for her. No one could have them, because they were made just for her.

Gerard walked in his office, in his usual collared shirt and a pinstriped suit. His salt and pepper beard was scruffy and he hadn't combed his hair today. For a man who earned and spent so much, Gerard was the least worried about his appearance. He had a sharp-eye when it came to  clothes, but only because they were a form of expression of art. For him, it was the mind which was important. Looks didn't matter.

And perhaps that's why she had embodied his persona. Even in her teens, she hadn't mulled over her looks like the other women in the Guild. She knew she was fairly attractive and her figure was athletic without being manly. But she couldn't care less. For their clients, all the women were mistresses of the men of the Guild. They didn't know that women carried out the major part of the 'collection'. Their bodies had the litheness and delicacy the men lacked. It was one of the reasons she loved the Guild so much. It didn't discriminate between men and women.

'All right kid. Ready for your punishment?' Gerard said as he sat of the chair next to her.

'Yes Father.' She said in mock innocence.

'Don't get cheeky with me.'

'Go on, then. I can't wait anymore.'

'You are going to Birmingham.'

She puckered her lips in distaste, but didn't say anything.

When he didn't elaborate, she prodded, 'That's all?'

'You have to get an antique figurine from Elizabeth Gray.'

'Since when did people in Birmingham buy precious art?'

'Since her family got hold of the city.'

'Good. Give me the address and I'll be off.'

'She is a widow. Her kids were taken by the Parrish some fifteen years ago. Currently she is the treasurer of –'

'That would be enough. I'll get packing.'

He sighed at her impatience but didn't stop her. She might be the best he had, but she needed to learn things. Business would suffer with her gone, but this Birmingham trip might turn out to be beneficial for him and her in the long run.

'Edward is coming with you.'

'Why?'

'Because you'll be there for a month. And a single woman in a town like that will turn heads. You both will pretend to be a married couple from London who lost their money and are starting a new life in the city.'

'Wow, Gerard. you should become a writer.' She sniggered.

'Shut up.'

'Alright. Will that be all, sir?'

'Meet Jessie on your way out.'

'Why her?' Jessie Crane was another member of the Guild, who had tricked many Lords with her country girl charm and beauty. But behind her innocence was a woman for whom stealing  was as mundane as picking out a new dress.

'Because you will be Edward's wife. Not his husband.' He said in exasperation.

'I won't wear a dress.'

'You either follow the punishment or pack up to Greece.'

'You are bloody evil. You know that, don't you?'

'Keep your tongue in control because the people there wouldn't hesitate to cut it in a second.'

'Let them try.'

'Go on, now. You have a train to catch in a few days.'

'Goodbye, Gerard.' She smiled tightly.

'You take care of yourself, kid.' He said as he gently patted her head.

'You know I will.'

 

Chapter Text

Decked in an emerald green dress with a velvet border, Lily Peyton or rather Mrs. Sheffield, waited with her purse while her much older, yet handsome husband carried out their luggage from the taxi.

They had reached their lodgings, a small house with a hall and kitchen and two rooms upstairs. To anyone else, they would look like a posh couple down on their luck but still unable to part with their life of extravagance. The woman's dress was expensive but faded and the man's three piece suit showed signs of shabbiness.

After heaving their bags inside, since Lily was a woman after all, Edward sprawled out on the sofa, exhausted.

'You carry the bags upstairs.' He pointed from the sofa.

'Of course, my dear husband.' She replied sweetly, 'And get your arse in the kitchen, I am starving.'

She placed the bags in their respective rooms. Opening her suitcase, she looked for the shirts she had surreptitiously put inside while Jessie had searched for old dresses in her closet. She would die if she spent her entire day in dresses. They made her thighs chafe, and the constant threat of a wayward wind always loomed. Apart from that, there was a proper way of sitting when you wore a dress. And then there was the goddamned pantyhose. Its elastic constantly made her want to adjust it, something she wasn't supposed to do.

Still, she was glad to have her shirts with her. But first she needed a bath.

Ten minutes later, she put on her checked shirt and realised though it was comfortable, she couldn't be living with a man and wear something so revealing. Even if the man was Edward.

Sighing, she put on a plain long skirt and hurried downstairs.

'Dinner is almost ready. Can you take up while I freshen up?'

'Yeah, sure. Go on.'

She watched over the food and when it was ready, carried it to their table and set up plates.

So this is how life was to be for the next month. Wearing pretty dresses and having dinner. It was almost as if Gerard was making her live a life she had vehemently denied.

'The food smells delicious. I hope it is enough for us.'

'We'll manage.'

After they were done, Lily brought out a bottle of whisky.

'I hope this place has a pub. Because this is the only bottle I brought.'

'There are many here. I have a map of this place.'

'Let's start then. We have an antique to steal.'

'So, Elizabeth or Polly Gray lives here, in Watery Lane.' he circled a square on the map.

'She is the treasurer of the Peaky Blinders. Professionally known as the Shelby Company now.'

'Wait, Peaky Blinders?'

'Yes, didn't you know?'

She remembered something Gerard had been trying to say when she had cut him off. Like always. And now she had to pay.

Her silence was enough to answer his question.

'Come on, Lily. Not again. At least hear him out when he speaks.'

'Continue please.'

He shook his head in disbelief and said, 'The Peaky Blinders own lots of businesses in this town. Our plan is to get on friendly terms with the family, so they'll let us be near the antique.'

'We can get a job in their company.'

'That's what I thought, too. I will apply for an accountant's position tomorrow.'

'And me?'

'Well, Tommy Shelby isn't known for hiring women.'

'He is the main man?'

'Yes. Though he holds a third of the business, he is the boss of all.'

'But his aunt is in the company.'

'Only the women of his family are involved. Oh! And a former prostitute is his secretary.'

'Smart man.' she said sourly.

'You won't believe what I've heard about-' Edward's excitement was brought on hold by the look on Lily's face. 'Another time, then.'

'What am I supposed to do?'

'You can go to the church. Polly Gray is a devote Catholic.'

'Never.' She shuddered.

'All right. Then you go to the Garrison. The family owns it and Polly makes frequent visits. But the town won't like a woman going out to drink alone.'

'What do I do then?' she raised her hands in exasperation.

'Live out your punishment?' he suggested and got a punch in his side for that.

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The next morning, Edward left for his job interview while she unpacked her bags. This was so unlike her. She was never idle enough to hang clothes. Since the age of fifteen, she had been always working. Initially, it was petty jobs which a young girl just out of an abusive foster care could handle. Slowly, she had learned the tricks and traps, all the while training with experienced fighters of the Guild. She had cut her lip so many times she had lost count and bruises became her rouge. Her back used to ache and her knuckles had permanent cuts on them. But soon her hits gained vigour and the men were out on their backs a lot sooner.

Her biggest job came on the day before her 20th birthday. The man had just gotten back from India with a horde of jewels. The task was simple, get everything you can get your hands on. And Lily had made sure her hands got on everything. It was the largest collection Gerard had seen since his retirement and he had gifted her one of the emeralds on her birthday. The first time he had kept something from their collection.

That day, she had let the tears stay. And at that day, she had realised the Guild was the closest thing to a family in her life. And she would die rather than leave it.

But was the Guild leaving her? She had lost out on a painting. A fucking painting, for God's sake, which wasn't even by a known artist. A Russian at that.

And now she was in Birmingham of all places, folding clothes and cooking food. All because of some meddlesome bastard.

She was done with food when Edward arrived. His smiling face stated his success in getting the job and she asked, 'What did you find out?'

'These people are making some serious amount of money. Legally and illegally.'

'And?'

'We need to be careful of Thomas, he is a cold-hearted bastard. Won't even wince as he cuts your eyes with his razor blade.'

'Too gruesome for dinner table conversation.' She winced herself.

'And since I am the accountant, he is probably running a background check on me.'

'That won't be a problem, right? Emily is in Glasgow.' Emily was Edward's wife of 10 years and the mother of his three children.

His face looked somber at that, 'We don't know that, yet. This guy has powerful connections.'

'Don't worry. He'll check up on us in London and Paul will inform him about the tragedy we lost our hard-earned money in. Simple.'

'I hope it is, Lily.' He said as he took a forkful of the potatoes.

'Now eat and praise my cooking like a good husband.'

'There is no salt in it.'

'Do you want another punch, dear hubby?'

'Which reminds me, there is a small get-together in the pub for the staff. Spouses are invited.' He winked at her.

'Thank God. Finally some fun.'

'Don't get any ideas. You are a refined woman from London who drinks champagne. Not a hill-billy who curses like a sailor after two glasses of whisky.'

'Three.'

He looked her down.

'I'll be alright. Just pass me the whisky.'

Chapter Text

The next few days, Lily became the perfect housewife. She cooked food, cleaned the house and ran small errands. It took time, but it was her job and she always put a 100% in every task.

A few people had talked, rather grilled her about her sudden residence in Birmingham. They had heard her pitiful story about suffering losses in their business with an occasional look of disdain at her expensive clothes. Still, they were kind enough to call on her from time to time.

But she didn't need their kindness, she wanted Polly Gray. And that woman was either in the office or the church. Both of the places barred her. One due to her gender and other due to her religion. Or rather the lack of it. For her there was no God or Almighty. Only the Force decided her fate.

Edward's work was going well and Tommy Shelby had bought Paul's story without any hesitation. Today was the day of the party in the pub. She had to make sure she kept her best foot forward. She couldn't have Shelbys doubt her. And for that she had to keep off the whisky. The posh accent would vaporise like the drink if she didn't keep a check on herself.

She chose a lime green dress with a woolen hem for the evening and put on a light brown coat which reached her knees. She applied a light coat of pink lipstick and smoothed her hair again before calling for Edward.

'My God! You look good.'

'Tell me something I don't know.'

'We're late?'

'Come on then, husband. We have a long way to walk.' She said as she hooked her arm in his.

'No, we don't.' he said as he pulled out a pair of keys from his pocket.

'A car? How?'

'Gerard had it sent for us. And he made sure it was banged enough to look ancient.'

'Well, I can't complaint. I hope the people don't get suspicious though.'

'Don't worry. We'll say your family bought it for us.'

'Smart.'

'Let's go.'

The pub was small and honestly, cheap. But Lily wasn't the posh woman of London. She was an art collector out on a mission.

'I've heard the Garrison is much better.' Edward told her as they walked inside the musty pub.

'Where is it, then?'

'I heard it was bombed.'

'What is this place.' She muttered, not expecting an answer.

'Let's get a drink, then.' He tugged her arm towards the bar where three couples were already seated.

'Edward Sheffield! How are you, man?' one of the men rose to greet Edward while everyone else scrutinised her.

'You must be Mrs. Sheffield?' a woman in a dark coat asked her as she eyed her dress.

She wondered if she was overdressed. And looked at the other two women in coats long and dark enough to hide their dresses. Yes, definitely overdressed.

'You can call me Lily.' She smiled at her.

'I am Jenny. This is Fiona and this is Anna.'

'Nice to meet you.'

'So what brings you to Birmingham?'

 

And so began the tiring questions about life in London and Birmingham. she wished she had spent more time in the streets of London during the daytime. The questions were getting difficult to answer day by day. Still, she was out on a job and nothing could stop her from being the perfect wife.

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Tommy Shelby was rarely found wandering the streets of the town at such a late hour. Not since he had bought himself a car. But he had killed a man tonight and he needed to burn off the heat. He made his way into the nearest pub and gave his order. Like always, there was a silent hush in the pub at his entrance. Except for one woman whose back faced him. She was wearing a long brown coat and had kept her head uncovered, letting dim lights shine on her hair.

'I always wanted to have a house in Mayfair but my husband wanted to live in our ancestral home. Five generations of his family had lived there and – Oww!'

The man, his new accountant Edward Sheffield grasped her upper arm forcefully and whispered in her ear.

He could hear an outraged, 'So?' from her mouth from the distance but she quieted down after something Edward said. While Tommy watched on.

When they were done, the woman still kept her back turned.

'Good evening, Mr. Shelby. This is my wife, Lily.' He nudged the woman to turn around with a complacent smile on his face.

'Hello, Mr. Shelby.' She spoke as she turned to look at him. And Tommy almost jumped in shock. There was makeup on her face, but the almond shaped brown eyes were the same. So was the narrow jaw and the long brown hair. It was that woman from London. The one who had broken into his sister's house and given him a bruise-inducing punch. Why was she here?

He nodded back politely then turned away from the couples.

Her bored yet sincere expression had told him she hadn't recognised him. And he was more than happy to keep it that way. For today, that is. Tomorrow he was sending a professional man to dig out every small detail about this 'posh couple' from London. And overmorrow, this woman would wish herself dead.

Because no one messed with Shelbys and got away with it.

Taking a quick swig of the whisky, he got up to leave from the bar.

'See you tomorrow, Sheffield.' He said before he walked out. And looked at the woman next to him, 'Mrs. Sheffield.'

She smiled back at him, her full lips curving prettily.

Smile all you want now, Mrs. Sheffield. Because if my man finds anything incriminating about you, and he will, it will possibly your last one. He thought as he made his way out.

Chapter Text

‘What do you think of him?’ Edward broke the silence as they drove back to their lodgings.

‘Cold, calculative and surprisingly good-looking.’ She replied in a monotone.

Edward chuckled at her description.

But Lily’s mind stayed on the brief meeting she’d had with Thomas Shelby. His eyes had caught her attention before the strong jaw, the bladed cheekbones. They were the lightest colour of blue she’d ever seen, almost like ice. And he might as well be the coldest man she’d ever met. His gaze held no lechery when he had taken her in at the bar. Instead it was mostly focused on her eyes.

You must beware of a man who looks straight into your eyes. For he wants something you don’t want to give.

Gerard had told her that one night after they’d both downed substantial amount of whisky to forget their position. And they had become what they were 12 years ago. A man who had lost his family and a girl who never had a family. Both were incapable of love, and perhaps that’s how they saved each other. By becoming each other’s comrades.

She had drunkenly replied by saying ‘Like you, old man?’

He had given a short laugh and said, ‘Like me. I want to love you because you’re the closest thing to a family I have. But I can’t because you don’t want to.’

And they had quieted down for a while. Then suddenly burst out laughing. As if erasing the sad words with made up happiness.

Another detail about him had caught her attention and she asked Edward.

‘What was the horrible cut on his cheek?’

‘I don’t know it well, but they say he was attacked by his rivals one night and they sliced his cheek.’

‘God.’ She whispered in distress.

‘Told you how brutal they were.’

‘Then why do they this kind of job?’

‘They are trying to turn their business legal. Racecourses, automobiles and other stuff.’

They were silent again for a while, when she asked

‘Is there any update on the figurine? Did you find it somewhere?’

Edward sighed wearily. She had asked the question ever since he had started his job. And the answer remained the same.

‘It’s not anywhere in the office. Polly must have hidden in somewhere.’

Lily supressed her sigh. She had ignored the lack of progress for the past week because she herself was adjusting to her role. But Edward had been in the same place as the antique for too long. Didn’t his fingers itch to take it away?

She wondered if he had taken a liking to the mundane life. Working for fixed hours, having someone cook for him, drinking out with friends. She knew he was in the Guild out of helplessness. But was he seriously considering leaving it?

‘Do you think about life away from the Guild?’ she asked finally.

‘Everyday. And being here intensified the feeling.’ He said truthfully, as if he knew what she was thinking.

‘I get it Edward. You are the only sane one amongst us. And you have a family, after all.’

He laughed a bit at her distaste in saying the word family.

‘Thank you for understanding, Lily. I know how much the Guild means to you.’

‘But I want you to do this task properly. I’ll talk to Gerard and make him rescind your contract. Just do this last one.’ she almost pleaded.

He didn’t say anything, just nodded.

For her, it was more than enough.

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The next day, Edward came back early from work. At her confused look, he said, ‘I have to leave for Stratford upon Avon today. The Shelbys are expanding their business to the city.’

‘Are you going alone?’

‘Yeah, it seems.’ The doubt in his voice was clear.

‘Why is he sending you? What can an accountant possibly do?’

‘Calm down, Lily. It’s nothing. His brothers are busy and I am the only one available. That’s it.’

She could smell something fishy alright. But Edward could handle his own. So could she.

‘Any update on the figurine?’ she asked even though she knew the answer hadn’t changed.

‘No. But before you shed tears, I have some news.’

‘I hope it is not some gossip about Tommy Shelby.’

He narrowed his eyes but continued, ‘Polly Gray is getting a new house.’

Her eyes brimmed with delight. Because a new house meant moving. And that was all they needed to get to the figurine.

‘That is great. You could volunteer to help her move. They would refuse first, out of respect. But don’t bow down. Feed them some shit about them being your saviors and you owe it to them.’

‘Noted, captain.’ He said dryly.

‘Be careful.’ She said firmly.

‘I’ll be back tomorrow. Nothing to worry. And don’t forget to take your injection. It’s been a week.’

Lily had had asthma all her life and she had just managed before the epinephrine injections had come in market. Now she just had to self-administer a shot once a week. Still she kept a pack of ‘Asthma Cigarettes’ in every coat pocket in times of emergency.

‘Always a caring husband.’ She said fondly as he walked to his room.

And so Lily had the house to herself for two days. As much as she wanted Edward to be safe, she couldn’t wait to wear her shirts.

 

At night she put on her checked shirt which reached her mid-thigh and walked around the house with a glass of whisky in her hand. Soft music was playing in the background and she let her body loose. Maybe this is what salvation felt like, she thought. No worries about the future, no dwelling on the past. Just you and the alcohol and the music.

She was far too young to think about leaving it all, but still she wondered how life would be if she had a loving family and a stable job.

‘God, the alcohol is messing me up.’ she thought as she shook herself. She was never leaving the Guild, especially for people. Because she couldn’t trust anyone expect Gerard. And even he was hiding something.

Chapter Text

Next morning, her slumber was broken at the sound of mad knocking on her door.

‘Who the fuck is knocking like a mad dog?’ she mumbled angrily, even though her allegory was not quite right.

She looked down at her state of dishabille and concluded the person at the door had to wait for a while.

She rummaged in her pile of clothes and grabbed a skirt to go with her shirt. And put on a coat for added protection.

Just she walked out of a room, she heard voices coming from her hall.

‘Come out now, Mrs Sheffield.’ A rough voice ordered from below.

What the hell.

She ran to her room and took out the gun she kept in the bottom drawer. Keeping the gun close at her side, she walked towards the stairs.

But the men were already making their way upstairs.

She could see the top of two heads from her position, both of them with undercut similar to the one she had seen the day before yesterday on Tommy Shelby.

‘Are you ready to go, miz?’ The rough voice asked, belonging to the man with slightly longer hair and a bushy moustache.

Sticking close to the wall, she yelled, ‘Who are you?’

‘We are the Peaky fucking Blinders. Now come down!’

She tightened her grip on the gun and walked till she was in front of them. ‘Get out of my house. I’ll call the police!’

‘Fucking hell.’ The other man whispered loudly, reaching for something inside his coat.

A gun. Damn it.

One of them, the quiet one, with closely cropped hair walked while Lily gripped the gun tighter and pointed it at him.

‘Drop the gun.’ He said quietly.

‘Move out of my way and no one gets hurt.’

He kept walking closer.

‘Stop! Or I’ll shoot.’

‘Listen, miss, all I need you to do is to come with us.’

‘Over my –‘

Her last words were cut off when something hard shut her mouth close. A hand. A fucking hand.

She kicked at the man behind her and the other one snatched the gun from her. She bit the hand hard. The man groaned but didn’t loosen his grip.

‘Come on, John. Get her in the car before she cuts me arm off.’

John. Was he a Shelby brother? And it would only make sense if the other one Arthur. What did the Shelby brothers want from her?

John bent down to pick her legs, while the other man shifted his hands to under her shoulders and carried her out of the house.

‘Let go of me, you god-damned fools!’

To her surprise, they both chuckled. At her.

‘Wait till everyone comes out of their houses.’

She said as they unceremoniously took her out of her house. But was shocked to find no one in the street.

‘Mrs. Hancocks!’ she yelled nevertheless for her next door neighbour.

‘Call them all you want. They won’t be coming to your help today.’

‘Fucking hell.’ She said as she thrashed one last time before they put her into the car.

‘Let’s go, John. This woman might kill us by her tongue.’

And they laughed again. While she struggled in her seat between the them.

‘At least tell me where I am going.’ She said in the silence.

‘We heard a lot about you, Mrs. Sheffield. And we don’t need no thieves in our town.’ Arthur responded.

‘I am not a thief.’ She protested.

‘Then why are you here?’ it was John who asked.

‘My husband suffered loss in business. So we had to sell everything and come here.’

They laughed even before she had completed her sentence.

Crossing her arms across her chest she said, ‘Laugh all you want. But it is the truth.’

A short ride later, they were in Watery Lane. The brothers reached for her arms but she brushed them off.

‘I am not some bloody criminal. I can walk by myself.’ She said calmly.

They let her go and pointed the door that led to Tommy’s office.

‘In you go, miss.’

Lily calmed her nerves and walked in the office with her head held high.

Conversation

‘Mrs. Sheffield.’ Tommy Shelby nodded as she made her way in the run-down office. He had asked his brothers to get her in the office by any way possible.

And there she was. What would he do without his brothers? Though he’d never admit it to their faces.

She nodded back at him in greeting  and settled down on one of the rusty chairs in front of him.

She said nothing, squashing his belief that she might want to start the conversation, considering the unceremonious summons. All she did was gaze back at him, her face impassive.

Clearing his throat, he said, ‘How are you liking Birmingham?’

‘Oh, it’s lovely, if you ignore the smoke and the smell.’ She said as if they were two acquaintances having tea. Not two people who had brawled the first time they met.

With a upturn of a side of his mouth, he pulled out a cigarette and offered it to her.

She shook her head in refusal, as if she had grown tired of people offering her a smoke.

‘London society doesn’t approve of smoking now?’ he asked as he ran the cigarette along the inside of his lips.

‘Nah, my lungs don’t.’ she said simply, brushing away a few dark tendrils from her forehead, along with the image of him moistening the cigarette.

He paused momentarily, the flame of the lighter casting a glow on his harsh face.

She chuckled slightly and continued, ‘I don’t have consumption, Mr. Shelby. The smoke just irritates my lungs.' 

Lily knew she shouldn’t disclose her disease in front of strangers, especially  strangers who seemed to own Birmingham, but she wanted to see the revered Thomas Shelby to lose that conceit. And she wasn’t disappointed. 

‘Do you want me to put it out?’ he said with uncharacteristic solicitousness.

‘No, I am planning to leave the moment the smoke reaches my nose. Which might remind you of the purpose of this meeting, as you don’t appear to be the kind of man who would concern himself with a newcomer’s opinion of the city.’

He rose from his seat and walked towards her. ‘You seem to know a lot, Mrs. Sheffield. Perhaps you would know the purpose of this meeting, since we’ve met before.’ At her blank look, he added, ‘At Ada’s place.’

Her eyes darted sideways, a small furrow forming between her brows. Finally, she looked up and found him looking down at her with his icy blue eyes, ‘You?’ She asked, but it came out as a squeak.

He didn’t reply, only blew a puff of smoke into her face. She begin to rise up from her chair but he pulled her down and tightened his grip on her wrist.

He leaned further, while the ominous tickling threatened inside her throat. ‘Yes, me. But you are not Mrs. Sheffield. Because she is in Glasgow, looking after her three kids while her husband has a dalliance with a thief.’

Suddenly, she felt her lungs swelling up, suffocating her with every breath. She reached for the packet she kept in the coat pocket and brought it out, only to have him snatch it from her clumsy fingers.

With a strangled wheeze, she lunged for the packet, ‘Mr. Shel-’the words were lost in a deep breath-‘please.’

‘Not before you tell me who you are. And why are you here?’

At that moment, she hated herself even more than Thomas Shelby. Why hadn't she taken the epinephrine? She wasn’t afraid of death, but the idea of dying because of her weakness made her blood crawl.

Another deep breath, of exertion or endurance she didn’t know, she wheezed, ‘Please, I promise.’

‘Speak.’

Even in extremis, Lily was sane enough to not divulge more information than necessary.  ‘My name is Lily Peyton. I was sent here because I miscarried my last operation.’ And broke into another bout of wheezing.

Tommy looked into her watery eyes in menace. He wanted to ask more, but he needed her alive for that. He looked down at the pack of ‘Asthma Cigarettes’ and flung it back at her. Tommy looked on as she take out a cigarette and lit it with shaking fingers. She took a deep inhale and let the smoke collect in her mouth. After a few seconds, she swallowed the smoke into her lungs. Taking another deep breath, she stubbed the stick in his ashtray and let it stay there.

‘Now, you tell me what you are doing here?’

She looked at him through glassy eyes, the stramonium already working through her brain. She needed to wake herself or else she would babbling away the Guild’s secrets in front of the shrewd stranger.

‘I need water.’ She tried to keep her sentences simple, lest she slur and confirm his suspicions.

He inhaled sharply, irritated at her dawdling. He pointed at a glass on his table, ‘Pick it.’

She reached for the glass and dunked its cold content over her head. Not the best tactic, but it would work.

‘What the fuck are you doing?’ He looked at her more in curiosity than in anger.

‘I am here to serve my punishment for not completing my job.’ She spoke through the wet curtain of her hair, ignoring his last question.

He took a puff of his forgotten cigarette but this time blew away from her. With his back turned, he said, ‘Why do you expect me to believe that?’

‘Because it is the truth!’

‘No, it is not. And I know exactly what will make you spill.’

He looked on at her, his face impassive save for the imperceptible glint in his eyes.

‘You can go now, Lily. I will send for you when I am certain of your motives.’

She scoffed slightly and got up from her chair. Tugging her coat tighter around her wet shirt, she walked up to him, ‘Good day, Tommy.’

And left the dark of his office.

Chapter Text

Lily walked on the Birmingham streets with a firm resolve. The kind you get after you decide to leave the place which almost made you die of breathlessness. She was calling Gerard and he was freeing her from the undertaking. Tommy Shelby knew her name, her profession and had caught her in the act. He knew more about her than anyone not associated with the Guild. She couldn’t live in this city anymore without having her cover blown. She needed out.

She unlocked the door with excessive force and stomped towards her room. A harried looking Edward came out from the hall.

‘You’re back?’ Of course he was, Lily thought in her mind. Tommy Shelby had needed Edward out of the way to get the work done. It made complete sense now.

‘What happened?’ he ignored her as he took in her panicked expression.

‘We can’t stay here anymore.’ She moved past him and made her way to her room.

Edward went behind with her and when he reached her, he grabbed her by her shoulders to calm her down.

‘Tell me what happened.’

‘Tommy Shelby knows about Emily and the kids.’ At the mention of his family, Edward’s eyes widened in panic. ‘What! How?’ he sat down on the bed with a thud and rubbed his face.

‘I don’t know. He also knows that I am a thief.’

‘How can he possibly know that? No one knows that. The Guild is the most protected underground company.’

Taking a deep breath, she wrung her hands as she sat down on the floor beside him. ‘You know last month I was at Ada Thorne’s house?’

‘I know. Don’t worry too much about that.’ he said distractedly.

‘Tommy was there. He saw me, damn he would’ve almost killed me.’

He hit you? You said it was a vagrant.’

‘I didn’t know who he was then. Just today I found he is Ada Thorne’s brother.’

‘You know kid, it would help you if you pay more attention to the minutes of the assignment.’

‘I know. And I apologise. But first we need to get out.’

He nodded. ‘Yeah, you’re right. We can’t risk it anymore. I’ll call Gerard.’

‘No, you stay here and pack your stuff. I’ll call him. it’s my fault anyways.’

He looked at her in sympathy and went to his room.

5 minutes later, she waited while the operator connected her to the conspicuously hidden telephone of Gerard Davis.

‘Quick. You have 1 minute.’

‘We need to come back. Shelby knows about us.’

‘No, he doesn’t. He knows about you, and it will stay that way until I have my figurine.’

‘That man is the King of this place. And Polly is his aunt.’

‘Trick him, charm him. Kill him, for all I care. I need you to do your work. You were the one who asked for it.’

She knew it was moot to argue with Gerard, still she put down one demand. ‘Let Edward go. his family is not safe.’

Sighing, he agreed to it, confirming her fears that they were definitely in trouble.

‘And I’ll get a 75 on the figurine. That man is out for my blood.’

‘We’ll discuss it when you do your job.’

’75 or I leave for Glasgow with Edward.’

‘Done. Now hang up.’

Letting out a deep breath, she put the phone back at its place.

‘What did he say?’ Edward bellowed from upstairs.

‘Keep your voice down, husband.

He chuckled and trampled down the stairs. ‘When do we leave?’

‘You are leaving for Glasgow. I have business here.’

‘No, you don’t.’ Rage filled his voice, ‘If he is letting me go, we are in serious danger. You are coming to Glasgow with me.’

‘No. I am going to get that figurine from under Polly Gray’s nose and take a 75% cut on it.’ She smirked while her insides squelched.

‘One day, you will realise that this blood-rush and money is not worth it.’

Stung, she bit, ‘I will when you do.’

‘You know why I do this better than anyone.’

Suddenly, her heart felt an ache. Rubbing her hands over her face, she said, ‘I know and I apologise for being a bitch. Go, pack up and we’ll go to a pub before you leave.’

‘I don’t think-‘

‘We need a fight to justify your leaving of the city.’

He looked down at her through his rimmed glasses, ‘And what will our friend Tommy Shelby think about this convenient arrangement?’

‘He won’t be there.’

He narrowed his eyes at her.

‘What? His diary was open for anyone to see.’

‘Anyone who reads inverted words, that is.’

‘Fine. Now hurry, we only have an hour to stage our fight.’

Lily smoothed the skirt of her dark blue dress which had paired with a wool coat of the same colour. The dress reached just below her knees and had black rhinestones beaded around the neck and the hem.

With a red lipstick and rouge the only plop of colour in her outfit, she was seated on a table with Edward by her side. To any outsider, they would look like a couple trying to hide their row from the public and doing a poor job of  it. The thinned lips, the blazing eyes and the occasional thump of fists and glasses were dead giveaways of an impending doom.

‘And then you had to punch her only son.’

‘Well, you were the one who insisted on paying back.’ she jabbed her finger at her partner.

‘What are you saying?’ Edward almost got up from his chair, his voice reaching a notch too high for private conversation.

She reached for his hand, not needing to fake her anger this time, ‘Are you crazy? We need to have a silent row so no one interferes. One loud word and these people will throw us out.’

He nodded, while maintaining the look of anger on his face, and said, ‘I apologise. It got out of hand.’

‘Good, now pretend I said something which hit your fragile masculinity. Yeah, good, work up that red, you pig.’

A roar resonated deep in his throat. Gritting his teeth, he said, ‘You pathetic burden-‘

Her voice softened, ‘Goodbye, Edward.’

And then, mustering up every ounce of mock anger, she got up and looked at her quasi-husband with absolute fury. Picking up her glass, she emptied its contents on his handsome face. ‘Go live with her, you god-damned fool.’

She left the pub in a huff with the half empty bottle of whisky, leaving her partner to deal with the looks of disgust and disdain from the neighbours. Edward would leave for Glasgow straight from the pub and she would keep their car.

She walked out of the pub, silvery moonlight bathing the almost empty streets. As she walked with a golden bottle in her hand, a man in long black coat and a cap that nearly hid his face from the people looked at her from across the street. He had had a meeting to attend and was making his way out of the building when he saw Lily Peyton leaving the pub.

She walked like someone who had spent more time in pants and shoes rather than dresses and heels. Taking long steps and putting her heel before her toe. This might be the only thing he would be able to find about her

So far, he hadn’t found anything incriminating about her. He had barely found anything about her, to be honest. The woman was like a shadow, going everywhere without leaving a trace. Which confirmed his suspicion that she was indeed dangerous.

And  there he was, ogling the woman like a fucking peeping Tom. He needed to know about her affiliations. Whether she was with the Sabinis or another one of Campbell’s undercover copper. The woman had broken into her sister’s house for fuck’s sake. And now she was in Small Heath, in his place. There had to be a connection.

She had realised the Shelbys weren’t to be messed with and had had her partner despatched. He knew the man playing the part of a desolate husband was chugging whiskey to corroborate the story. He would squeal the secrets in a heartbeat if Tommy as much as uttered his wife’s name. But he knew that the woman outranked him in their covert business. That’s why she was here while he moved off to family. And she would tell him a lot more than the sad excuse of a man sitting in the pub. She had to, or he might have to kill her.

Until then he would watch her from the window. He saw her settle on the seat of the ancient Bugatti, and drive off.

‘Ay, Tommy. What you looking at?’ Arthur’s voice boomed from behind as he walked towards him.

He continued to look at the woman as he blew smoke. ‘Nothing Arthur, just a newcomer in Small Heath.’

‘Oh that one. She’s something, now. First time I saw a posh woman swear like that.’

'And a fucking good shot too.' John added.

He turned up a corner of his mouth, remembering their meeting in his office. He had almost killed her, yet she hadn’t told him anything he didn’t already know and had still managed to walk away, getting the last word at that too. And then there were the stupid asthma cigarettes. Didn’t she know they fucked up the brain? Fucking drenching herself in cold water to keep off the sleep. It had been fun to watch though, the water seeping through the fine cotton of her shirt, offering him a generous view of her bosom. 

‘She is something.’

Chapter Text

 

The wheels of Lily’s brain churned at astonishing speed. With Edward gone, she was alone now. In a foreign city. In the midst of people who stitched razor blades in their caps. Whose leader had almost killed her and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. And she had to steal from his aunt, the only person he trusted in the entire world.

But then she thought about the major cut and the blood rush of theft. Pushing away the wayward curls, she revved up her car. She was all for a deadly challenge.

When she reached her lodgings, she walked straight to the kitchen and opened the bottle of whiskey. Filling the glass half with the brown liquid, she carried it to her room and settled on the bed.

Tomorrow would be the first day of her job and she needed to formulate a plan as soon as possible. Taking a swig of the burning whiskey, she made a list of possible strategies.

With Edward gone, the Shelbys would keep an eye on her. She needed to convince them that she was not here to steal.

Then she needed to get close to Polly Gray’s figurine. The woman would soon be moving into a new place, she would need a maid there.

Could she become a maid? And wouldn’t Tommy Shelby hire the staff?

Her mind kept churning foolish ideas about getting in Tommy Shelby’s good books and she brushed them away.

Charm him. Bloody Gerard. Asking her to step into the lion’s den, she thought as she took another swig of the whiskey.

It was all too much to think now. She had more than two weeks, she’d come up with something tomorrow. And went to sleep in her rhinestone ladled dress, the whisky still in the glass.

 

The next morning, Lily Peyton parked herself near the small river of Small Heath. Tired to her bones, she hadn’t been able to come up with any plan that would bring her closer to the figurine. This was the first job she was doing in full disclosure. People had seen her and there was no way she could steal and not be the prime suspect. A restless sleep later, she was up at an ungodly hour and suffocating in the small house. Back in London, she would drive to the Thames and let the peace of the river calm her bones. At present, the only place close to the river was the Canal.

Dressed in her yellow midi skirt and white cotton blouse, she had shrugged on a dark blue cardigan to fight the morning chill. She jumped out of the car as neatly as her skirt would allow and locked the car. Looking at the canal, she raised her hands to stretch the kinks in her body, her heels almost sliding off her feet as she stood on tiptoes.

‘Good morning, Lily.’ The sudden deep voice knocked her off-balance, and she would’ve been all right if she wasn’t in the intricate position. Her heels trembled, sending her crashing down on her left arm on the muddy ground.

Getting up from the awkward position so she was sitting on the ground, she made a disgusted face as she saw the dirt on her hands and clothes.

‘Do you need a hand?’ Thomas Shelby stood before her in a dark blue three piece suit, his cap hiding half of his face and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

Getting up with the grace of an ungainly hound, she said, venom coursing through her veins and words, ‘No, I don’t need a hand, Mr. Shelby. All I need is for you to stay away from me.’

‘Perhaps you have forgotten the circumstances leading to our acquaintance,’ was his smooth reply.

She ignored his gibe and continued, ‘Whenever you are near me, you try to kill me. I hope you now understand what I meant, Mr. Shelby.’

‘I thought we were past these formalities, Lily.’ He walked closer, so the distance between was less than what propriety insisted upon.

‘I don’t think so.’ She sneered, trying to keep from inhaling the woodsy scent wafting from him.

Taking hold of her arms by his hands, he dropped his voice, ‘Tell me the truth and I’ll let you go.’

‘The answer hasn’t changed. I am here to lay low.’ She said coolly.

‘Why did your partner leave then, eh?’ At her silence, he continued,  ‘He was scared, wasn’t he? Because he knew more about the Peaky Blinders than you do.’

‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’

He reached down and said in his emotionless voice, sending a chill down her back, ‘I would’ve killed you for lying way back if I didn’t need you.’

‘Let go off me.’ She squirmed under his hold.

He pulled her closer to him, their chests touching, her soft arms supple in his hands, their lips almost touching.

‘What do you want, Lily? Money? Medals for catching the Peaky Blinders? Or are you just a fucking high-class whore?’

She moved  back so she could look straight in his eyes, she said in a harsh whisper, ‘Yes, I was going to steal from your sister’s place. And I am here to pay for that. But never call me a whore again, Thomas.’

Pushing at him one last time, she turned and made her way towards her car, only to have a pair of strong arms pull her by her waist.

‘You think you can threaten me in my territory and get away with it?’ His breath was ragged and warm in her ear.

‘Let me go.’ She gritted her teeth as she tried to loosen his hold.

‘Not unless you promise to leave Birmingham today.’

‘Where will I go? I have nothing.’

Chuckling darkly, he murmured, ‘I’ll give you the money and never call you a whore.’

‘You sick bastard. I don’t want your rotten money.’

‘Then what do you want? This?’ He asked as his hand inched closer to the bodice of her shirt, cupping her breasts.

All of a sudden, she saw red. And no amount of self-control would quell it. Letting out a shrill scream she began to thrash about but his grip didn’t loosen. The dock might as well be abandoned, with no sign of life in her sight.

No, she couldn't let it happen. Not again.

‘Please let me go, Thomas.’ A near sob broke out of her.

He abruptly let go her, so abruptly that she almost fell on the ground, but he held her wrist and let go of it as soon as she regained balance.

Lily gripped the cardigan around herself, as if she were naked underneath, mechanically walking to her car. Her back was turned towards him, hiding the plethora of emotions running across her face.

‘I apologise for my misdemeanor.’

She paused at his words, nodded woodenly and continued to walk towards the car.

Chapter Text

Lily couldn’t shake off the thoughts of Thomas Shelby from her brain.

He had crossed his limits today for sure. But she couldn’t work up the anger. Nor could she forget about it like the others. She had learnt to combat unwanted advances like a professional in her twenty-seven year long life. First those nasty priests at the orphanage, then her foster father and later men she encountered while out on a job. Today, however, when Tommy had manhandled her in broad daylight, all she had done was whimper like a fucking coward.

Please let me go. The words echoed in the mind relentlessly to the point she wanted to blow her head off.

But Tommy’s words of apology kept her from doing it. Why had he said that? She knew he was a man who never did something he didn’t want to. And he had surely pre-planned scaring her off with the threat of rape to send her away. So why the apology?

Emptying the whisky glass in a single swig, she tumbled into her bed and slept till the throbbing in her skull subsided.

When she woke up, it was almost dark. She had slept for most of the day and was as close to getting the antique as she was a week ago. Shaking away the thoughts of Tommy Shelby and her own volatile emotions, she got up to wash her face and change into evening clothes. She didn’t know where she was going but she needed to get out.

She put on a maroon dress with a frilled bottom and covered her bare arms with a woollen shawl. As much as she missed her pants, she had to admit the dresses were growing on her. Perhaps she’ll ask Jessie to let her keep some. Picking up her keys from the table, she walked out of her small house and  into her car. With a final adjustment of her maroon hat, she revved up her engine and decided to go to the pub after all.

What stopped her was a woman with stringy brown curls and in a long red coat walking across the street towards a lit up house. Was that Polly Gray, scurrying like a thief in her distinct walk? Where was she going?

Looked like the  pub had to wait. Polly Gray had been dropped into her lap by the Force itself.  As much she hated the idea of religion, she couldn’t deny the chance.

She made her way to the house, waiting five minutes till Polly got in. she realised it was the house of the woman who claimed to see dead people. And was most probably the biggest scam artist. But who was Polly seeing?

She walked into the room oozing confident she was far from feeling, probably the most over-dressed person in the room. Everyone was seated by the time she reached the table, and the clairvoyant looked up at her in polite confusion.

‘My name is Lily Sheffield. Would you mind if I joined today’s session?’

‘No, of course. Please take a chair.’

A pair of women scooted to give her space so she was sitting across Polly, her hardened expression masking the barest hint of interest at her presence.

‘Let’s begin. Hands on the table.’

She kept her ringless hands flat on the table, reiterating the story in her mind. She couldn’t fumble, not in front of Polly Gray of all people.

‘Tonight we have two new pilgrims joining us. So let’s welcome them.’

Lily watched Polly’s eyes look at the older woman, probably cursing her for drawing attention to her. But the medium merely gave a sugary smile to her. And then she looked at Lily.

‘Starting with you.’

Lily looked up in acknowledgement, hoping her diffidence was disguised as reticence.

‘Who is it that you are seeking to reach?’

‘My-my baby.’ Lily felt Polly turn to look at her and continued her story, ‘He was born premature and died two days later last June. I met Mrs. Breach’ – the medium Lily had heard about once from Fiona's mouth slipped out of her tongue like slime- ‘but she said my baby doesn’t hear me.’

‘Don’t talk about Mrs. Breach in this house. She is an unsanctified charlatan.’ The medium said with contempt.

She saw Polly put a finger under a nose and sniff. Was she smiling? Did she know the woman was a fake?

‘And you?’ the medium looked at the other woman. ‘Who do you seek?’

In the next few moments, Lily knew all about the family of Polly Gray. Her dream about her daughter brought chills even to her thick skin. These Shelbys had a great deal of dishevel in their lives. And still they were alive.

‘You’re wearing Black Madonna. You’re Gypsy?’

‘The part of me that dreams is Gypsy.’

There was sudden silence in the quiet of the room and Lily looked on as the medium said some words, probably in a language privy only to the two women.

‘My maiden name is Shelby.’ At that moment, she witnessed the influence of the Peaky Blinders. ‘So…Perhaps you could do me first.’

A most painful and a sham of a séance later, Lily saw Polly’s shoulders tremble and she got up from her chair with a enough force to knock it off. Throwing a pound on the table, she left the house shaking violently.

Lily left behind her, hoping she could talk to her. Hurrying outside, she found Polly crying with enough force to make her chest rattle.

‘Mrs. Gray?’

‘Go away.’ Her sad voice screamed.

‘I think I can help you.’

‘I don’t need any help.’

‘I can drop you home. It’ll help you calm down.’

Polly sighed slowly, then in a voice cold enough to freeze all the blood in her body, said, ‘Just leave me alone, girl. I don’t want to be near anyone.’ 

Time for me to adopt Sister Henrietta from Father Paul's Orphanage, Lily thought as she walked closer to the older woman.

‘It is not safe for you to walk in this condition. I promise I won’t bother you, just let me get you home.’

She knew the firm yet gentle tone had worked on Polly, but being the matron of the Peaky Blinders, she couldn’t let it show.

‘Just because I feel pity about your babe.’

‘Let’s go, then.’

The ride was uneventful, with both parties silent during the journey. There were occasional sniffles from Polly’s side but Lily didn’t interrupt except for passing a tissue to her. She had made a promise and this time she needed Polly to trust her.

When they reached her residence in Watery Lane, Polly got out immediately, not even letting her turn off the car. Lily begin to leave, not wanting to be anywhere near Tommy Shelby at this hour but Polly rounded to her side.

‘One word about this to Tommy and I swear I’ll cut you.’

‘Why would I tell Tommy?’ She furrowed her brows in bafflement.

‘Because he will ask. Because he’s seeing us as we talk.’ Without looking away from her, Polly commanded, ‘Now leave.’

Chapter Text

 

The next afternoon, when Lily was flipping pages of a dreary book, the telephone rang.

She hurried downstairs, grateful for a distraction.

‘Hello, Lily.’

The clipped voice was unmistakable.

‘Mrs. Gray?’

‘Meet me at Charlie Strong’s yard in one hour.’

She was stumped at the order, but replied in affirmation. You don’t refuse the golden hen which walks in your yard. Or whatever it was.

Going back to her room, she drew a bath. Quickly drying her body, she picked out a simple mustard yellow dress with a piping of small white flowers at the collar.

She was ready to leave when her gaze fell on the gun. She knew the Yard was close to the canal. The same canal where Tommy had threatened her yesterday. Knowing the Shelbys, the meeting might as well be a ruse to kill her. As important as the figurine was, out in the dirty canal was not the way she wanted to die.

Placing the gun in the inside pocket of her coat, she left the house. Here I come, Polly.

When she reached the Yard, the noisy bustle was loud enough to shroud any conversation.

‘So you came.’ the woman behind her said.

‘I hope you’re all right now.’ She said as she turned to look at her. Polly was wearing a hat with floral print and a long red coat. But, it was her faded pair of leather boots which made Lily know that Polly Gray was not a force to be reckoned with. Despite the sorrow surrounding her, she was a deadly woman.

‘You must be wondering why I called you. You’ve been the talk of the town since your stunt at the pub.’ She said as she lit the slim black cigarette in her hand.

‘I didn’t know that.’ she said carefully.

‘Tommy wanted to kill you after our meeting yesterday, but I stopped him. There are some things only women can understand. Like the loss of a child.’ Polly stared into her eyes, as if she wanted to snatch the truth out.

‘What do you want me to say?’ 

‘The truth.’

‘You Shelbys and your truth. Asking something a million times won’t change the answer.’ She said, exasperated.

‘No, not about you breaking into Ada’s house. That is your and Tommy’s business.’

‘Then what about?’ she whispered.

‘About your child. Did you actually lose him?’

‘I-‘

‘Because if you didn’t, I’ll let Tommy cut your eyes out. Then shoot you myself.’ She stubbed the cigarette under her boot.

Sighing, she said, ‘I lost a child. But not in June.’

Polly’s eyes narrowed, ‘Why did you lie about that?’

‘You don’t need to know that.’ she said firmly.

‘Listen to me. You might not realise it, but you’re here on borrowed time. One piece of evidence against you and you’re six feet under.’

‘Because Peaky Blinders are the law enforcers.’ She scoffed.

‘Speak up, I am waiting.’

This was out of character for her. She didn’t bow down to women in garish clothes or men with awful haircuts. But since she had dug her grave, she might as well prepare to lie in it.

‘I was fifteen. I couldn’t keep it.’ She said, even though it made her heart ache. But it was all Polly was getting out of her, gun or no gun.

Polly stood quietly for a while, then in the same commanding voice, said-

‘You can go. Drive carefully.’ With that, Polly walked away. Leaving Lily to wonder about what the hell had just transpired. She had given up the biggest secret of her life for that.

The Shelbys were all kinds of messed up.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

‘You can stop your investigation. She is all right.’

Tommy looked up in part suspicion and part anger when his aunt declared her judgement on Lily Peyton.

‘Why do you say that?’ he leaned back in his chair.

‘Because I met her today. And she told the truth.’

‘The same one she’s been feeding us?’ he asked in derision.

‘No, the one that matters.’

When she didn’t elaborate, he said, ‘That girl is dangerous. She is a bloody fraudster.’

‘Dangerous because she punched you?’ Polly asked with a mocking laugh.

‘I need her out of the town. Before she causes any more trouble.’

‘And what trouble is that? You have the Irish on your tail. Stop wasting your time on her.’

‘Maybe she is with the Irish. Or the Sabinis. We don’t know.’

‘Stop projecting your past failure in the present. What she did was unforgivable and you need to move on. Or you’ll die of your cynicism.’

‘All the better way to die.’

Polly took a long breath, ‘Look, you almost died that day. Focus on what is there in front of you, don’t go searching for trouble.’

After she had left the office, Polly hoped Tommy let go of the girl. They were treading on uncertain ground and him looking at every new woman in the town as a threat would only deter them. As for Lily, she knew she had her secrets, but she wasn’t here to cause trouble. Rather, she seemed like someone who wanted to slither away as soon as she could. And she would find out why. It was time to take over Tommy.

Chapter Text

Sleep didn’t come easy to Lily that night. The meeting with Polly had worried her, but it was the rush of past memories which kept her awake. In the last twelve years, she had buried the event in deep recesses of her mind but today it felt as if she were fifteen again. She hadn’t wanted the baby, but getting rid of it hadn't made it any better. She had been in a dark place for weeks, with gruesome nightmares of a small baby swathed in blood troubling her.

One night, when she was unable to take it, she had ran from the children’s home and to the nearby river. She had looked down at the dark water and hesitated for second, her silhouette small and weak. But she had closed her eyes and warded off any deterring thought or happy memory. She wasn't surprised when nothing memorable came to her mind and it reinforced her decision. When she was about to make her jump, a pair of hands had pulled her back. Gerard Davis’ agile hands, who was out on a job for the Guild, collecting stolen art from vain Lords.

And that day, he had taken in the skinny, foul-mouthed girl who was more damaged than him under his wing. The rest was history.

She slept fitfully the entire night, anticipating a knock on her door. Or a break in. In Small Heath, anything was possible.

And a knock did come. Next morning at seven. But not the boorish one from a few days back, rather a polite, almost nervous one. Maybe someone other than the Shelbys was calling on her. Putting on a faded robe, she hurried down the stairs to open the door.

‘Hello, miss.’

‘And who are you?’ she asked the tall teenager in front of her through blinking eyes.

‘I am Finn Shelby.’ He said self-importantly.

Of course he was. She should’ve known from that awful haircut.

‘What brings you here, Finn?’ She asked and kept her hand on one side of the door, lest he force his way in.

‘Tommy wants to see you.’ 

‘Tell him I don’t. Have a nice day, Finn.' She said as politely as possible. In no way was she going to that murderer's office.

She moved back to close the door but the boy quickly pulled out something from his waistcoat. Pointing the narrow end of the pistol at her head, he said, a glaze of sweat breaking out on his forehead, ‘Come out, Lily.’

‘Oh, for God’s sake. How old are you, little Finn?’

He flushed under his flat cap. ‘Don’t waste my time.’

‘Don’t you have any shame? Pointing a gun at a pretty girl like me.’ She huffed in mock outrage.

He flushed again, but this time not out of embarrassment. And Lily used that moment to kick his elbow (lightly, considering he was a small boy) and reach for the gun.

Finn grunted at the kick but picked himself up quickly, ‘Lily, please give me my gun.’

‘No, you shouldn’t even be touching this.’ She said as she tossed it from one hand to another. It was a little light, maybe it was empty. 

With an exasperated sigh, he said, ‘I apologise, Lily. Tommy told me to take it out when you refuse to come. It isn’t even loaded.’

‘Well, now I am offended. You think an empty gun is enough to scare me?’

‘Well I-', The helplessness in his voice became clear and Lily decided to cut the poor boy some slack. He was only following his arrogant fucking brother’s orders.

Taking a deep breath, she said, ‘I’ll come with you, if you promise to never to point a gun at a woman again.’

‘Even if she wants to kill me?’

She smiled at him, ‘Now, would a woman want to kill you?’ Before he began blushing again, she said, ‘Well, I need to get ready. You can wait in the hall if you want.’

He nodded sheepishly and entered her place.

Fifteen minutes later, Lily was decked in a yellow dress which reached mid-shin and her dark brown wool coat. Adjusting her black hat, she made her way to the hall.

‘Alright, Finn. Let’s go meet your brother.’

He nodded and went to the door. When he opened the car door for her, she asked, ‘Your car? Then how will I come back?’

‘Tommy said he’ll have someone drop you back.’

‘Will he, now? Fine, then.’ She had learnt how tenacious Tommy Shelby was and currently she wasn’t in a mood to haggle. She had other things to focus on.

 

A knock on the door made Tommy look up from the papers he was signing.

‘Come.'

In came his youngest brother, followed by Lily Peyton. If that was her real name. But he was pleased with himself for choosing Finn for the job. Sending Arthur or John would have only ended in a battle, so he had asked Finn to go. He had seen his brother blush like a fucking bride the last time she came to his office. And she wouldn’t try to shoot a young boy like Finn. Win-win for all, but mostly him.

As she walked towards the chair. he took in her bare face and slightly damp hair. He had never known a woman her age to be so careless about her appearance. But she looked a lot better than she had the last time she came to his office. 

He took in her silent form with mild consternation. He had wanted to unnerve her at the Yard, but her reaction had made him grow cold. Her body had grown tense and the fear in her voice was chilling even for him. 

When she looked at him in mutiny, he was reminded of the task at hand. Clearing his throat, he closed the log book and gave her his full attention.

‘Lily, I must say I am surprised to see you here.’

He was more surprised at her indifferent answer, ‘How could I refuse? The gun was too tempting.’

‘Good job, Finn. Go talk to Arthur now, will you?’ Tommy looked at his younger brother with a meaningful glance and Finn nodded as he left the office.

‘What do you want now?' She asked, mildly irritated at being summoned at his every whim.

‘Today, is Polly’s birthday.’ He said calmly.

‘Happy birthday to her?’

‘I heard about your meeting.’

‘She called me. I went. End of story.’

‘You went to a medium with her.’

‘I went there alone. She was there too. Like three other people.’

‘John’s wife told me what happened there. I know what happened with Polly. But your story still lacks conviction.’

‘What I do in my life is none of your concern.’

‘It isn’t. But when you strategically target the Shelbys, I have a right to know.’

‘Are we still on about that? I told you London was a mistake and I am here for a month to keep low. I swear on my dead father’s grave.’ She added for good measure. It was the truth in a way. Only her father was most probably alive. Living in America, maybe.

He raised his eyebrows in doubt.

‘And that baby you supposedly lost?’

Sighing and cursing him for reminding her of it again, she said, ‘That has nothing to do with you or your family.’

‘You expect me to believe that?’

‘Is it just me or you ask too many questions?’

Taking out a cigarette, he pointed it at her briefly, ‘I can tell you one thing, I rarely answer them.’

‘Is this a repeat performance of our last meeting? Because I don’t want to spoil this dress.’ She replied snobbishly, as if she actually liked the dress.

‘We have Grand Reopening of the Garrison tomorrow. Polly wants you to come.’

‘What?’ 

‘You heard me.’

‘Will you send someone with a gun if I refuse?’

‘Most probably. And this time the gun will be loaded.’

She put a hand on her chest, ‘Thank you, I am so flattered.’

‘Come around at six.’                                                            

Her face took on an incredulous look, ‘I don’t get a written invitation?’

‘Special guests require special attention. And my secretary didn’t know who to send the invite to, Miss Peyton or Mrs. Sheffield.’

‘And you would’ve missed troubling me.’ She retorted.

‘I’ll see you tomorrow, then.’

‘Fuck off.’ She muttered under her breath and got up from the chair. Leaving his office, she couldn’t ignore the suspicious expulsion of breath behind her.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Tommy shook his head a little as Lily left his office with her head held high. The woman was asking for it by meddling with his family. 

He didn’t know what to make of her story about losing her baby. There was enough reason to not believe her, considering past encounters. And it was probably a ruse to meet Polly. But what was her purpose of meeting Polly? His aunt had never spent an extra dime for things she actually needed, let alone something extravagant enough to catch a thief's attention. 

But Polly was right. It was time he stopped bothering with her. He had more pressing concerns at the moment. Like the IRA. Like Darby Sabini. Like Chester Campbell. And the letter in his coat from Poughkeepsie which was burning his side. 

And he also needed to find Polly’s family or she would go on knocking on every medium’s door, holding séances and what not. He had lost his mother, he couldn’t let that happen to Polly too. He had to go to Sheffield today, where his cousin and Polly’s son Michael lived with his foster family. He knew he couldn’t just take the boy away, but if he was a Shelby, then nothing would stop the boy from coming back to his mother.

Lily Peyton could relax for a while.

Chapter Text

Back at her house, Lily shrugged out of her coat and hat and walked to the telephone in the hall.

When the operator transferred her call, she found herself gripping the handle tighter.

'Hello?'

‘Mrs. Gray?’

‘Lily? What can I help you with?’ Polly was going to help her? She must be in deep trouble then.

‘Nothing. I wanted to wish you. Happy birthday.’

‘So many people remember my birthday today.’ She could tell the words weren’t meant for her ears.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Thank you, Lily. I hope you are all right now?’ 

‘Yes, about that. What did you tell Tommy?’ She asked, trying to keep the impatience out her words.

‘Nothing that should concern you. But he won’t trouble you anymore, I promise.’

‘He invited me the reopening.’ 

‘Did he, now?’ 

Lily swore inwardly, she had known Tommy was tricking her.

‘He said you wanted me to be there.’ 

‘Yes, I do.’ Polly replied and Lily wanted to bang her head against the wall. An uncomfortable silence later, she faked some enthusiasm in her voice, ‘So I’ll see you tomorrow then. Enjoy your birthday, Mrs. Gray.’

‘Call me Polly.’ And she hung up.

Strange fucking family, Lily muttered as she went back to her room.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lily pulled out the third outfit from her rack of clothes in frustration. For someone who had spent her whole life in breeches and men’s clothes, this newfound obsession with dresses was beyond her understanding. So far she had rejected a metallic silver dress with tassels and a velvety black dress which had almost bared her breasts. This last one was her only hope and she hoped it didn’t disappoint.

Putting it on with care, she hurried to look at herself in the mirror. The dress was icy blue in colour, with sequins running across in an intricate detail. It reached her knees and had a boat-necked neckline which showed off her collarbones. What she loved the most about the dress was its colour, cool and calming. And she vehemently ignored the pair of icy blue eyes which suddenly invaded her thought.

Instead, she focused on make-up. Now, Jessie hadn’t had the time to teach her much about makeup, but Lily had at least learnt how to put on lipstick. Rubbing the rose pink colour on her lips, she decided it was enough colour for today. She didn’t need to give wrong ideas to anyone. Her husband had left her, for God’s sake. Which reminded her, who was she going to talk to at the party? She couldn’t be there while people looked at her pity for being the scorned wife or in disgust at her unaccompanied arrival.

And she hated herself at that moment. When had she let the opinion of people matter to her? She was Lily fucking Peyton. Grade A Art Collector. Potential President of The Guild. Owner of a manor in Crete Island. And she was worried about the opinion of Peaky Blinders? Shame.

Shrugging on her black coat with undue force, she marched out of her lodgings and drove off to The Garrison. It was already seven, and she was pleased to know she was more than an hour late. Take that, Tommy Shelby.

Music blared outside the street leading to the pub and a throng of people bustled into the door. Must be a huge affair, after all, Lily thought as she made her way inside the pub.

And boy, it was. She had to literally close her eyes against the bright of the room. It didn’t look like a run-down pub, it was a bloody casino. Albeit without the stuff casinos had. The tables were covered with expensive red cloth and golden light spilled across the room. The place was loaded with men and women, enjoying themselves in fine clothes. All she had to do was get herself a drink, find Polly, wish her and leave the place.

‘Lily!’ she turned suddenly at the voice, almost spraining her neck. Finn Shelby, looking dapper in a black suit smiled broadly at her from a corner table.

‘Hello, Finn. John.’ She nodded at his older brother who was sitting next to him.

‘Mrs. Sheffield.’ He nodded back with his hooded eyes cast down. Looked like the Shelbys had decided to forget the past. Her afternoon conversation with Polly had hinted at a minor truce and if the brothers agreed to keep off her back, her task would be much easier.

‘Oh, please call me Lily. God knows how long I have to keep that abhorrent name.’

He gave a sly smile and took of sip of his whisky.

‘The place looks great. Lovely.’

‘Aye, Brenda get the lady here a drink, now. What would you like, Lily?’ John turned to ask her.

‘Whisky, please.’

‘Alright. And Finn, no stealing.’ He shook a finger at his brother.

‘Come on, John. Tommy isn’t even here.’ The grumbling hinted at a conversation she wasn't privy to but she got the gist alright.

‘But I am, fucker.’

‘Tommy didn’t come?’ She asked with mild interest. Actually a lot of interest, but she hid it well. And also disappointment, but why, she didn’t know.

‘Nah, he’s just hiding somewhere.’

‘Oh, I see.’ As if she understood everything.

‘He’s probably thinking of Grace. He does that sometimes.’ Finn whispered in her ear.

'Grace?' She asked, thinking she was probably another Shelby sibling.

'She was an undercover policewoman. And she almost killed us by sending Billy Kimber here. But Tommy loved her a lot. Because he didn't kill her.'

‘Enough now, Finn. Here you go, Lily.’ John interrupted his brother as the barmaid put a glass of whisky on the table.

Lily tried to take in the information. Tommy loved someone? And she'd betrayed him? Thinking about this shit is hurting my head, she thought as she reached for the glass.

Raising her glass, she said, ‘To Garrison.’ And gulped the glass in one go.

‘Fuck, Lily. Are you alright?’ Finn reached to pat her back.

Spluttering, Lily raised a finger at the barmaid, ‘One more.’

And it went on till she had downed another 2 glasses of whisky. At a point, John had asked her to stop, but she had put him down quite brashly. ‘Fuck off, John,’ were her exact words. Then he had left to greet Ada Thorne, leaving her with the kids.

‘I drank an entire bottle of whisky on my 18th birthday and still managed to walk back home in one piece.’

No one around her had the gall to challenge her liquor holding capacity or to ask her about her interesting birthday.

‘And no one found out about it. Ever. Gerard still doesn’t know where his single malt Scotch went.’ And broke into a fit of giggles. In a surprisingly quiet room. She looked up to find every single person looking at her with either interest or anger. No, the only one who looked angry was Tommy Shelby. Tommy Shelby who was standing in the corner, looking absolutely delicious. Yes, definitely him.

‘Oops.’ She sniggered into her glass.

In a moment, Tommy Shelby was by her side, standing tall in his three piece suit and a red tie.

‘I think you’ve had enough for the night.’ He declared as he reached for the glass in her hands.

‘No, it’s mine.’ She held it tighter in her hands.

‘Finn, hold her arms.’

When he didn’t move quick enough, he said, ‘Fucking hold her, or are you drunk too?’

Finn gingerly put his hands on her shoulders as Tommy leaned down to look at her. In a menacing whisper, he said, ‘If you as much as think of ruining my brother’s night, I swear I’ll have you sent off the next morning.’

‘Go to hell.’ She slurred and shook off Finn’s hands from her shoulders. Taking the last sip of the whisky before putting it back on the table, she got up from her seat.

‘Good night everyone, except you,’ She said as she pointed her finger at Tommy’s red handkerchief and went out of the pub.

 

It was rather late outside, with the streets empty save for the prostitutes and vagrants. Walking stealthily, she tried to keep herself from falling in the abominable heels. She had drunk a lot. And it was all Tommy Shelby’s fault, what gave him the right to occupy in her thoughts when she barely knew him?

She was fumbling with the keys when a hand snatched it from her. She looked up and prepared herself to attack the man but stopped when she saw him.

‘What, now? I can’t even go home?’

‘You can’t drive home.’

‘Go ‘way, Tommy. I know all ‘bout drivin’.’ She pressed her back against the car door, so he couldn't take her car away from her. In the process, her chest thrust out towards him and Tommy looked down for a second before declaring,

‘You can’t even speak properly, Lily.’

‘So? Don’t you have someone else to care for?’

He paused momentarily and looked down at her, his blue eyes boring into hers with intensity.

‘You’re crying?’

‘No! I never cry. It’s the alcohol. Makes my eyes go glassy.’ She brushed off his words. But she knew if Tommy Shelby didn’t stop looking at her like that, she might do something far more enjoyable and regrettable than crying.

‘I’ll take you home.’ The word brought clouds of misery over her, just like it did everytime she was drunk.

‘No, you won’t. I don’t have a home.’ She said glumly.

‘Sit in the car, now.’ He said with a gentle touch on her cheek.

‘Why do you hate me so much? I never did anything to you.’

‘Except give me a nasty bruise, eh?’ Was he smiling? And was his hand still on her cheek? The Irish whisky was definitely messing with her head.

‘It was self-defense. You gave me a concussion. And tore my hair.' She complained, her honey brown eyes locking into his.

She noticed how close they were, with barely any space between them. She licked her lips slightly and raised herself to press her lips against his. Before he could recover from the shock, she pulled away, a little breathless.

Tommy was stunned for a second, then placing a hand on her waist, he bent his head to kiss her again. She pushed herself against his body, liking the feel of his solid body.

‘Let’s get out of here.’ 

She nodded and moved to let him sit before her. His intentions were clear and while she didn't jump at every available offer, it couldn't hurt to have some fun. It had been a long time for her and Tommy was not so unattractive. She could do much worse, she thought as she peeked a glance at his profile. He wasn't handsome nor did he look rugged. But he was good-looking with his hollow cheeks and hard jaw. And the longer she looked at him, she found him to be better looking. Thankfully, he didn't interrupt her perusal for the entire ride.

When they reached her lodgings, he got out and walked her to her door, not uttering a single word. She, on the other hand, counted her steps and wondered if he’d come inside uninvited or ask.

‘Good night, Lily.’ He said from the threshold after she had walked inside her house.

‘Don’t you want to – ‘

‘I think we should call it a night.’

‘I won’t tell a soul.’ She whispered and put a finger on her lips. Then giggled loudly.

Tommy crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. While he had had every intention was taking off that sparkling dress, he knew she was drunk. Drunk enough to get in bed with him of all people. And he didn't want any trouble the next morning, especially when they had just had a 'truce'.

'You're drunk.'

'No, I'm not. Don't be a bore, Tommy.' She teased and stripped off her coat, ostensibly to hang it on the rack. As he took in her figure, he decided if she was willing enough, why should he stop her? She didn't like him enough to pursue a romance and in a fortnight, she'd be gone forever. It wasn't like he was planning to go to bed alone tonight anyway. Lily was attractive and more importantly, interesting.  

'All right, Lily.' He said as he took off his coat and pushed her against the wall, while she smiled in victory.

Chapter Text

Lily woke up with a throbbing headache the next morning. Getting up gingerly, she looked at the sheets around her and remembered the events of last night. She had slept with Tommy and had actually liked it. Surprising how two people who hated each other could have so much fun in bed, she thought as she went to the lavatory to wash herself. It was quite early, so Tommy mustn’t have left long ago. Shrugging on the man’s shirt she kept on the hook, she padded downstairs to make herself some tea, because whisky wasn’t the answer today.

She was tying her hair in a loose bun when the sight before her made her stop.

Tommy Shelby was reclining on her sofa, naked except for a pair of trousers from last night.

‘Morning, Lily.’ He said without looking at her.

‘Why are you still here?’

His eyes widened imperceptibly at her question but he didn’t answer. Instead, he got up in sitting position and slid is gaze along her body, pausing at her bare legs.

‘Whose clothes are those?’

‘Mine.’ She said, crossing her arms across her chest before dropping them. The shirt was faded and almost see-through, which did nothing to quell the fact she was naked underneath.

‘You wore this when Edward was around?’

He walked towards her, stopping when he was inches away from her. Lily felt her insides tighten and steeled herself to reply in articulate voice.

‘No.’ Before he continued with his questions, she said, ‘Would you like some tea?’

Tommy heard himself echo similar words from two years ago, ‘Yes, I would like some tea.’

‘I’ll go and make it.’ She walked in the kitchen, hoping he wouldn’t come there, only to have him follow her.

‘I need to talk about last night.’

She didn't interrupt him and put the kettle on the stove. She knew he thought of her as a 'fast woman' because she had made the move and brought him to her place. It felt a little degrading but she was prepared for his 'warning'.

'Are you alright?' 

Some colour flew from her face and she waited for the kettle to whistle away quickly, so she didn't have to answer him. Or ask why he was asking something so personal?

‘Yeah.' 

Sensing her reticence, he didn't prod further. She looked alright to him and eager to get him to leave. It was a shame she wouldn't be here for long because he had liked their time together. He had wanted to leave the moment they were done, but he had fallen asleep nonetheless. When he woke up, he had found her still asleep, covered by the blanket from head to toe. He had smiled a bit, then moved to put on the only pieces of his clothing in her room. By the time he had reached downstairs, he had realised he didn't have his car. Then he had to call for a car and had lain down on the sofa to wait.

He hasn't expected her to come down, that too in something so risque. It looked like it belonged to a former or current lover, he deduced as he took in her restless form. He had never known a woman who wore a man's shirt as nightgown. But the elusive Lily Peyton managed to confound him.

When the kettle whistled, she hurried to pour the tea in the cups and handed one to him. 

'Here.' She smiled and picked her own cup.

Making a face at the strange taste, he said. ‘It tastes like mud.’

‘Yes. But it is a great cure for headache. Reminds me to control my alcohol.’

‘About that. What happened last night?’ He placed the bitter tea on the counter and leaned against it, crossing his arms.

‘The whisky was too good.’ She replied sheepishly, trying not to stare at the prominent bulge of biceps. Or the tattoos on his chest and bicep.

‘Uh huh.’ He looked at her, waiting for her to elaborate.

‘And I was missing home.’ She added for good measure. Under no circumstances was she telling him that he was the reason why she'd drank like a fish.

‘You said you didn’t have a home.’

‘When?’ When did I get stupid enough to say something like that? Lily thought and mentally reprimanded herself.

‘Last night.’

‘I have a home alright. I just...don’t have people.’ 

‘I knew you were an orphan.’

‘Of course you did.’ She said wryly.

‘You left the orphanage quite early. Fifteen, I suppose. After that, it’s like you’re dead.’

‘What can I say, I am a wandering artist.’

‘Is that what you are then? An artist?’

‘Till the time she is not caught, a thief is an artist. And that is all you’re getting out of me.’  

‘Why aren’t you scared of me, Lily?’

She gave him a blank look. Not a question she had expected, but he was Tommy Shelby.

‘Because I have nothing to lose.’ She shrugged.

‘Everybody has something.’ 

‘Not me. Like you, I don’t have a family to care for. Neither a man to love, nor any children to protect. You could kill me now and I wouldn’t complain.’

‘So why haven’t I?’ He dropped his arms and leaned towards her.                                                 

‘You tell me. I have given you enough reason to.’ She joked, nervously fiddling with the buttons of her shirt.

He eyed the movement and reached closer, replacing her hand with his and unbuttoned the top button.

She moved back and murmured, ‘Thomas, I don’t think-‘

‘Shh-‘ he placed a finger on her lips. And then kissed the full lips, almost crushing them.

Letting out a moan, she ran her hands along his bare chest, all the while pressing equally hard as his tongue probed into her mouth.

His hand reached her breasts and he fondled her through the soft cotton. She arched against him, wrapping her arms around his neck. He pulled her up and carried her to the hall. Then deposited her none-too-gently on the sofa.

‘Oww, you-‘

He joined her before she could continue, covering her mouth again with his. Her hands went down his shoulders, feeling the contours of his back.

His hand inched up her thighs, stopping only when it reached the apex. His fingers teased her, building up the heat between her legs.

She whimpered against his mouth and scratched his back with her nails. Tommy groaned and heaved himself up, reaching for his zipper. Then in a smooth moment, he entered her, making her arch at the invasion. He covered her exposed neck with kisses, letting her get used to his length.

Tommy began to move when she pressed against him, slowly at first, then increasing his pace as her moans increased. With a guttural moan, he pushed one last time, hard. The waves of pleasure hit her body and she relaxed into him, deciding that if drunken sex had been good, sober sex with Tommy Shelby was phenomenal.

Tommy collapsed on top her and she loved the feel of his weight on her. If only they could stay like that forever.

Her sleep heavy eyes widened at her mindless musing. She shouldn't be thinking like that...ever. For anyone. She suddenly shifted under him to get him to move.

‘Move only if you want me to fuck you again.’

‘What language?’ she said disparagingly.

‘You didn’t complain before.’

Before the detestable blush came over her, she said primly, ‘All right then, get up now. You’re crushing me.’

He pulled out and straightened up, zipping up his trousers, his back to her. He picked up the clothes thrown across the floor from last night and got dressed mechanically. As if he were doing it in the privacy of his bedroom, not in unfamiliar surroundings with a woman in the same room.

When he was fully clothed, with his coat in his arm, he turned to look at her while she was buttoning up her shirt.

'I'll be off, a car is waiting for me.' He said flatly and began walking towards the door.

'Uh, Tommy?'

He turned back, slightly startled that she was stopping him. If her intention to make him leave wasn't clear before, it would be after the recent 'occurrence'. So, why was she walking towards him, her face reddening with every step?

'You have something-'  She made a vague gesture with her hand and ran that hand in her hair, hoping he would understand.

He looked over his shoulder, and sure enough, there was something hooked at the shoulder of his waistcoat.

Now, who would have thought Tommy Shelby would end up having a woman's brassiere hanging on his waistcoat, and wouldn't even notice it?

Lily cheeks flamed as she reached to disentangle it while Tommy looked on.

'Goddamn it.' She muttered when it refused to budge, hooked deep in the fabric of the coat. 

Despite himself, Tommy let out a chuckle at her distress. When she glared at him, he tried to purse his mouth shut. But the laughter bubbled out.

'You are enjoying it?' she accused. 

When he didn't reply, she let go of her garment. 'Fine. Keep it then.'

Still smiling, Tommy reached for the brassiere and ripped it in one tug. Then placed it in her hands. 

'I think it suits you better.' 

Chapter Text

In the solitude of her room, the actions of the night came crashing down. She had slept with Thomas. Twice. Told him she was a thief. And possibly muttered away secrets in the haze of alcohol. This job with the Shelbys might be the end of her, after all. She wouldn’t be surprised if Gerard handed her a letter of termination when she went back to London. Thomas Shelby knew too much about her. And he’d seen her naked. Always a lethal concoction.

What do I do now? She thought as she nibbled on her thumbnail. And Gerard was the first person (and the only) who came to her mind.

The conversation was going to be long enough so she walked out to the telephone booth. Saving the dime was not on her mind now.

‘Who is it?’

‘It’s me. Lily.’

‘What’s wrong, kid?”

‘I fucked up.’

There was an expulsion of breath. ‘You slept with him.’ he said with slight reproach.

‘Yeah. And I told him some things.’

His voice grew frantic, ‘What things?’

‘About me running away at fifteen. And that I am a thief.’

‘He knew about that.’

‘No, he speculated it. Now he knows it, which means he has evidence now.’

‘I am worried more about the other thing.’

‘The other thing? We just had sex.’

‘And? He’s a target.’

‘His aunt is the target. He is in the side-lines.’

‘Just don’t do that again.’ He said, sounding a little uncomfortable.

‘Fuck him?’ She said, just to spite him.

‘God’s sake Lily. Stop. And focus on the job. You’re not there on a holiday.’

‘I know. That’s the reason I called.’

‘What happened?’

‘I am too distracted. This is the longest I’ve spent in a place without getting something.’

There was silence on the other side.

‘Hello? Gerard, are you there?’

He cleared his throat a little, ‘Yeah, I am. Just do it quickly and avoid that Shelby.’

And hung up without preamble.

 

After the call, Lily went back to her lodgings to get dressed. She chose a simple rose pink dress which reached just below her knees and had a shallow V-neckline. The color brought out the rose of her cheeks and she admitted she looked quite fetching.

Probably a reminder of what great sex could do. Stop now, Lily.

Since she hadn’t met Polly yesterday, she reversed her car out of its parking spot and went to her house. The plan was to give her a gift and have some tea. And find out the exact place where she kept her figurine.

She climbed out of her car and smoothed her skirt in its place. She knocked on the door but found it unlocked. Still, she waited for her to open the door.

‘Who is it?’ her voice sounded irritant.

‘It’s me, Lily.’

‘Come on in, then.’ Did she here annoyance in her voice?

‘Hello, Polly. I apologise for not meeting you yesterday, the whisky had gone over my head. Oh, you have company.’

Seated at the table were Polly and a young boy in a checked brown suit. Before she could say anything else, distant voice of Arthur boomed outside.

‘Run for the hills! It’s the Digbeth Kid!’

‘Get out of town kid or I will shoot your fucking head off!’ was John’s reply as they both bustled in the house, followed by the one and only Thomas Shelby.

John leaned back against the wall when he saw the new occupant, not her for she was near the door, next to Tommy. Who had looked at her for a moment before turning his attention on the young boy, a smile on his face.

‘Time’s up! You’re dead. Go down. John!’

At John’s lack of response, Arthur followed his brother’s gaze and looked at the boy with a snicker. Before she intruded on a Shelby family meeting, she muttered a ‘I’ll be off, then,’ to no one in particular but saw Tommy nod slightly. Silently going out of the door, but not fast enough to avoid hearing Arthur’s crude, ‘Who is this, Polly?’, she made a dash for her car.

Settling in, she wondered who the young man was. As broad-minded the Shelby men were, the boy could only be Polly’s son, Michael. Now another Shelby to beware of. How would she get her hands on the figurine with five Shelbys in vicinity? Did the Force not want her to do her job?

‘Fucking hell.’ She muttered as she revved up her car.

She grudgingly went to her place, its silence heaving on her. She was actually looking forward to meeting Polly.

 

The next few days, Lily saw little of anybody. For she didn't leave the house. Instead she spent her time wallowing in self-pity. Not once in her life, she had been so alone. There were always people around her. Be it the orphans, the neighbors of her foster family or her colleagues at the Guild . And she'd mostly sought for privacy. But now, in this dreadful city, she wanted company. And a certain Shelby with the lightest blue eyes, who apparently loved someone else. The fate had its ways. When she used to run away from love, men would offer it wholeheartedly. And now when she was feeling something unfurl inside her, it was for a man who hadn't even bothered to look at her properly, let alone call.

Her appetite for whisky had surprisingly diminished, and she found herself cooking up new recipes. At least one good thing out of this disaster, she'd thought bitterly.

One day, when it was either living on mashed potatoes or nothing, she left the house to get some supplies. Since it was at walking distance, she put on her barely touched boots and a light pink dress with flowers on the hem. 

On her way, she saw Finn Shelby loitering on the street.

‘Oi! Lily!’ He said when their eyes met.

‘Finn! How are you?' She said, feeling happier than she had in the last days at the sight of the youngest Shelby.

‘Good, yeah. Where have you been? You just disappeared after the opening.’

‘I need time to go back to normal. After that.’ She shuddered a bit, not needing to fake it.

He laughed at her supposed joke.

‘I was going to the stables. You want to come?’

‘No, thank you.’ She declined politely, when she almost wanted to jump at the offer.

‘It’ll be fun. Curly will show you some horses.’

‘All right then, let’s go.’ She agreed, even though horses were not her forte.

When the pair reached the stables, Finn showed her around the stables. And introduced her to every horse. 

'How do you know so much about horses?'

'It's in Shelby blood. We used to ride horses before the cars came along.'

'Nice.'

'Can you ride a horse?'

'I did ride one, in 1913. And it bruised my ribs.'

'Are you scared of horses, Lily?' The boy looked at her with intellect beyond his years.

'A little.' She said sheepishly.

'Don't be. They are quite intelligent animals.' 

Taking her closer to the horse on the other side, he said, 'Touch his muzzle.'

She reached for it gingerly.

'Come on, don't be scared.'

At that moment, they heard faint voices from the Yard.

‘So what time is your box van coming?’ It was Tommy's voice.

‘Midday.’ A woman replied.

‘You’ve got time to take the lady to the Garrison. Show her the spa and the tea rooms.’ Was an older man’s suggestion.

‘I’d like that. Why not?’ The woman said.

‘Looks like Tommy is here. With the woman from auction.’ Finn said as their sounds became more pronounced.

‘Oh.’ Why was it always Finn who told her about Tommy's interests?

‘They are coming this way. Hey, Tommy!’ He exclaimed as two people came inside the stables. Tommy, looking dishy as always in a three piece suit and a peaked cap along with a woman close to Lily's age.

‘What are you up to, Finn?’ Tommy looked at his brother and Lily in slight surprise.

‘Just showing Lily the horses. She's a little scared of them.'

'Finn!' She admonished.

'Hello, Lily. How are you?' Tommy asked out of politeness.

'Good.' She said with indifference and looked at his companion with side eyes. The woman was pretty with short curly brown hair and clear skin. Her clothes were expensive and she had boots on her feet, like an equestrian. Tommy broke the silence.

‘This is May Carleton. Mrs. Carleton, this is Lily, Finn’s friend.’

‘Hello.’

Lily smiled a little, ‘Carleton? Any relation to Sir Ian?’

‘He was my husband. How do you know him?’ May asked, obviously thinking how a woman in the stables knew her rich husband. She wasn’t telling her that she had collected an art piece from them a few years ago.

‘Heard about him, in London. He was a good man.’ She added sincerely, even though she barely remembered his face. But she could hardly say they had a good collection of art. 

‘Thank you.’ Was May’s equally sincere answer.

Cutting in the uncomfortable silence, Lily said cheerfully, ‘Carry on, you two. It was nice to meet you, May.’

They both nodded and most likely went to the Garrison, for the spa and tea rooms.

As she saw Tommy’s receding back, she thought acidly, ‘You don’t wait, do you?’

Chapter Text

Finn walked her back to the lodgings after their foray in the stables. After Tommy had left with May, she'd found it hard to concentrate on what Finn was saying. And she felt guilty for faking a headache so she could go back and wallow like she'd been for the past few days. Poor Finn, he had apologised, bloody apologised for boring her with the horses. 

She had petted his head and ruffled his hair. After which he'd blushed red and to her relief, stopped talking.

Back at her place, she realised she hadn't bought the supplies for food. Time to go out again, she thought as she looked out of the window and found it was still not dark yet.

She was leaving when the phone rang. 

'Hello, Lily.'

'Polly?'

‘I heard you met Finn today.’

'Yeah, he was kind enough to show me around the stables.'

'I couldn't talk to you that day. Michael is back.' It was the happiest sentence she had heard from her mouth.

'I saw. I hope I didn't intrude.'

'Don't fret. You can come by if you want.'

'Sure. Your old place?' And immediately bit her tongue. Polly didn't know that she knew about Polly's new house.

But Polly either didn't notice or chose to ignore the glitch.

‘Come to Sutton tomorrow afternoon. We’ll chat.’

Lily hesitated, Polly Gray didn’t seem like a woman who chatted. But she had to see the antique.

‘Sure. See you tomorrow.’ 

 

Lily wore the emerald green dress she'd worn on her first night in Birmingham for her afternoon tea with Polly Gray. Her heart was pounding with trepidation. And she cursed at herself for losing her guile. You are already in deep shit, Lily.

She parked herself in front of the huge house and went up the stairs leading to the door.

A maid answered the door for her and let Polly know about her presence.

'Please sit in the living room, Mrs. Gray will be there in a moment.'

'Thank you.'

She walked patiently, not giving away any signs of nervousness. In the hall, her eyes flitted over every rack and table. Then she finally saw it. The antique figurine, known to the world as The Sorrow, sculpted by a revered Russian artist. Lily walked swiftly towards the mantelpiece where it was kept. It was beautiful in an understated way. You didn't like it at first glance but after a few moments with it, you lost yourself in it.

‘Ada gifted it to me, last month.’

Polly's voice interrupted her thought and she replied, slowly turning back.

‘It’s beautiful.’

‘Sit.’

‘I hope it’s not trouble.’ She sat and tried not to sink in the sofa.

‘Michael has gone out. I could use the company.’

‘The house is lovely.’

‘Drink?’ She asked as she picked a flask of brown liquid.

‘No, thank you.’

Polly looked at her in slight surprise but said nothing. She was out on job. And alcohol had been reason why she’d failed so far.

‘Tell me about London.’ She said as she settled on the sofa.

‘It’s good. I live in a flat with two more girls.’ Almost truth. She had lived with Kate and Rose in the initial days.

‘What do you do?’

‘I study art.’

Polly raised an eyebrow. ‘How long have you been stealing?’

‘I don’t steal. I just hand over the paintings to their rightful owners.’

Polly chuckled. ‘We should get along mighty fine, Lily Peyton.’

Not when you realise why I am here.

 

The next two weeks, Lily had ample opportunity to take the antique. But she couldn't bring herself to. Michael was working and Polly regularly called on her for a chat. But mostly to hear about the stories of pompous Lords and politicians. She didn’t think of Polly Gray to be the kind of woman who’d like to talk, much less about self-important men of power. But she didn’t let her doubt show. Instead she patiently heard stories of the Shelby family. About the boys, the war, their business. She knew a lot more about Tommy now. And the mysterious Grace too.

Apparently, Polly hated the woman with passion. Because of her, Tommy had almost lost his life and business. But Polly knew Tommy loved her, more than anyone who wasn’t blood. He’d forgiven her betrayal for God’s sake. Tommy, who forgot nothing. It got depressing to hear about a woman who held Tommy's heart when her own feelings were wayward.

And during those moments of weakness, she steeled herself. The antique was the priority, not Tommy Shelby, who was regularly visiting a place sixty miles from Birmingham. And she only knew it because Finn had told her. After she'd smiled and let her dimple make a rare appearance. Finn was also checking up on her, which was odd since he was barely fourteen. But she liked his company and almost wished he was twenty years older than her. Before gagging in disgust at herself.

When she'd been in the town for over a month, it was Gerard who called her.

'When are you coming back?'

'As soon as I get the antique.'

'Have you at least seen it?'

How did she tell Gerard that she had seen the antique enough times to draw it from memory. But every time she got closer, her hands froze. She was not afraid of being caught, because that never happened.  Except once but she wasn't anywhere near the painting then. She was afraid of breaking Polly's trust. Even when she had known the truth, she had allowed her to be in her house, sometimes unattended. And that killed her. This was perhaps the most brutal punishment she could've ever gotten. 

'I have. Just give me some time.'

'It's been over a month.'

'Well, it's not like I asked you to give me the Peaky Blinders. You could've sent me to any other place.'

'Don't turn this on me. You said you would go anywhere.'

'But why here of all places?' She wailed, not expecting an answer.

‘To teach you a lesson.’

'Huh?’

‘You are the best one in the Guild and that has gone over your head. You don't listen properly or take necessary precautions. When you almost got yourself killed, I knew I had to send you to Birmingham. After being with the Peaky Blinders, you would understand the importance of careful execution.'

Stupefied at his observation, she didn't say anything.

'But I didn't expect you to get on so well with the Shelbys.'

'It's nothing like that.'

'Then why aren't you in London, haggling with me about your cut?'

‘Good bye, Gerard. I have work to do.’

 

The conversation with Gerard stayed in her mind for a long time. Was she actually getting attached to Polly and Finn? And the strange reaction to Tommy Shelby, as if he were a fucking Lord. If what Gerard said was true, then she should be running away from Birmingham. But she couldn't help but put off the task. Another week had gone by and she hadn't left for London

Then one day, she was reading when she heard a knock.

‘Polly? Finn?’ She looked at the pair in puzzlement. But Polly's livid expression kept her from asking anything.

‘Keep him here until I come back. Don’t let any one of the bastards take him.’ No prizes for guessing who the bastards were.

Knowing Polly would be irked at more questions, she only said, ‘Be careful, Polly.’ 

She nodded.

After Polly left, Lily escorted Finn to the hall. 'Sit down. And tell me what’s happening?’

‘Arthur and Michael were arrested last night.’

‘God. Why?’

‘Arthur for the charge of killing Billy Kitchen and Michael for helping in burning the Marquis.’

‘Are the charges genuine?’

‘Arthur and John did burn the pub. But Tommy says he didn't kill Billy.’

'Arthur is in London.' She stated for herself.

Finn nodded. 'Alfie Solomons betrayed us.'

'The Alfie Solomons of Camden Town?' Lily asked in puzzlement. The man was a gang leader. But so were the Shelbys, now that she thought about it.

'We were doing business with him. And Billy Kitchen was the head from our side.'

'But why Michael?'

'It's the copper from Belfast.'

‘Is this the same copper who –‘

‘Yeah, that one. He’s out for Tommy’s blood.’

‘And Polly?'

He shrugged, ‘I don’t know, she just said she was getting Michael back.’

‘Poor Polly. It must be breaking her. Are you all right? Would you like something to eat?’ She touched his cheek motherly.

‘Do you keep whisky?’

‘Finn!’

‘I am just pulling your leg. But I would like to eat something.’

‘I’ll make you a sandwich.’

‘Thank you, Lily.’

A few minutes later, the loud bang on the door almost made Lily drop the plate of sandwich she was holding. Fucking hell.

‘Finn! Lily! Open the fucking door!'

‘Tommy is here.’ Finn said as she put his plate on the table.

‘I’ll get the door. You stay here.’ She ordered.

Walking to the door lazily, she let Tommy curse some more before opening the door. 

‘Well, well. Tommy Shelby. How can I help you?’ She said as she crossed her arms, almost sad at his disheveled appearance.  

He pushed his way inside, careful not to hurt her.

'Tommy, wait.'

'Finn? Come out now, brother.'

‘Polly is coming to take him.’ She said as she walked behind him.

‘She went back to Sutton. Ada called to let me know.’

‘She said she’ll be here.’ Lily’s brows furrowed.

'Well, she won't be. Now, come on, Finn.' He yelled.

‘I’ll drop him at Polly’s. You can go back.’ Lily said firmly.

‘Don’t try to fucking meddle in family business.’ Tommy said coldly.

‘What I am doing is keeping my side of the promise. So you don’t call me a liar later.’

‘Fucking hell, Lily.’ He sounded weary, as if he couldn't deal with it anymore.

‘I’ll have him at Polly’s place and call you from there to let you know. Is that all right?’ She kept her voice gentle, wanting to kiss his worries away.

He didn't reply, just kept looking at her.

She reached for his shoulder and patted it. ‘It’ll be all right, don’t worry.’

Chapter Text

Reluctantly, Tommy left without Finn. He looked like he was working his way around the problem and a solution was just in progress. Lily hoped it ended well for them, and this alien solicitousness stunned her.

After Finn had inhaled through two days' worth of food, Lily reached for her keys.

'Come on Finn, let’s go.’

‘Can't I stay for a while?’

‘No, it’s getting late and your aunt is worried sick about you.’

‘She didn’t come to take me.’

‘There must be something to it. Otherwise, Polly wouldn’t do something like that.’ She said gently, almost to herself.

He agreed after some more grumbling and they both left. The car made a hacking noise when she started it. Lily ignored it, thinking it was probably from disuse and drove straight to Polly's place.

When they reached Sutton twenty minutes later, Lily decided to go in with Finn to meet Polly.

Inside, the hall was completely empty. Stifling a yawn, Finn yelled, 'Aunt Polly?'

'You go to bed, Finn. You're probably tired.'

'Yeah, I am.' He admitted shyly. 'Thank you for dropping me, Lily.' He smiled.

'It's all right. Good night.' 

Finn left to sleep, leaving her alone in the hall. Looking around the empty room, she was contemplating leaving when she heard an alarmed voice,

‘Who are you?’

‘I am Lily Peyton. I came to drop Finn.’ Lily said as she turned to look at the person.

Recognition came dawning on the woman's lovely face.

‘You are that woman from Garrison. The one who cursed Tommy.’ Amusement lit up her face.

‘It was the whisky.’ She said apologetically.

‘The look on Tommy’s face was absolutely lethal. I am surprised you’re alive, no offense.’

‘None taken. You must be Ada Thorne.’

‘And you are one of the first people to not call me by my maiden name.’ Ada noted in wonder.

‘In London, you’re known as a Thorne.’

‘You’re from London? Where do you live?’ She asked, surprised.

‘Paddington Street.’ Lily said the first place that came to her mind. She wasn’t disclosing her residence to the woman who was popular in the communist circle in London.

‘I live in Primrose Hill. Now, anyways.’ She said with a brush of her hands.

‘I know.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘I heard from Polly.’ Lily rectified her mistake

Before Ada could ask more questions, Lily asked one herself.

‘How is she? She didn’t come to take Finn.’

‘She had at least six glasses of rum at a pub. You can meet her, if you want to.’ Ada added.

‘Yeah.’

‘Go on, then. She's in her room.’ Ada pointed her finger at a door.

‘Thank you, Mrs. Thorne.’

‘Call me Ada. Anyone who can put my brother down deserves to.’

Her words were mocking but there was no doubt that Ada Thorne loved her brother as much as he loved her.

‘Ada, then.’

‘Well, I am off to bed. Can you tell the maid to lock up after you?'

'Sure.'

'Good night, Lily.’ Ada said as she left for her room.

'Good night.’ She muttered behind her.

 

Lily walked towards Polly’s room uneasily. Her stomach churned as she knocked on the door, something didn’t seem right to her.

She let herself in after Polly's assent. Polly was sitting on the edge of her bed, her face turned away.

‘Hey, Polly. How are you?’ She asked carefully, as if one wrong word and the mines would blow up.

‘Just had a lot to drink.’ She sounded tired, not by physical burden but emotional strain.

She walked closer, ‘Don’t take too much on yourself. Michael will be safe. He'll be home in no time.'

‘He’ll be out tomorrow.’ She said flatly.

Lily stopped. Out tomorrow? From what she had gathered from Finn, Michael's release would've been difficult, considering it was under that copper's charge. The man held a personal grudge against Tommy, after all. Then a lightning fast thought hit her and all made complete sense. Her hurried exit, drinking out, forgetting about Finn. Not to mention her current demeanor. 

‘Polly?’ She asked, horrified but sympathetic at the same time.

‘I had to do it, Lily.’  Her painful reply hit at Lily's heart.

Lily reached for her but she stopped her. ‘Leave me alone.’

‘Take care, Polly.’ She turned and left Polly's room.

When back in the hall, Lily had forgotten all about the essential purpose of visiting Polly’s place. She looked at the figurine, placed on the mantelpiece in it's glory, then thought of the pain in Polly’s voice. She knew she couldn’t take it. Who would understand Polly’s pain better than her? She would live in Birmingham for an eternity but wouldn’t steal from a person who had suffered that.

 

She left the house after informing the maid to close up and settled down in her car. Which didn’t start. She tried again, with more force but to no avail. Apparently, Gerard’s car was battered enough to work only for the stipulated amount of time, which she had over exceeded.

‘Fucking hell.’ Getting out of the car, she opened the bonnet and looked at the problem. Getting her hands black with grease, she had the car started in ten minutes.

It would work, for today. Tomorrow she was getting it repaired.

There would have been no tomorrow if you had done the job tonight. A bitter voice whispered.

Shaking off the voice, she revved the car to start and drove to Small Heath.

Just ten minutes to her destination, her car stopped again. And she knew no amount of maneuvering would help to turn it on again.

'Looks like I am walking tonight.' Lily muttered

Pushing herself out on the road, she adjusted her dress and began her walk to the destination. It was dark all right. But she had walked in enough narrow alleys and secluded streets to worry about this small district. 

Nothing could scare her.

Chapter Text

Lily had walked on many secluded paths at a much later hour, but the streets of Small Heath were downright spooky.  She tried to keep her walk relaxed, taking longer strides as she neared the lodgings.

She could do it, yeah. In five minutes, she would be home, downing a glass of whisky. She remembered she hadn't had whisky since the incident at the Garrison. Tonight was the end of the abstinence.

At that moment, she heard gravel cracking behind her.

No need to panic, Lily. Everyone has a right to walk on the streets. She continued her carefree walk when all of a sudden, a hand clamped on her mouth.

‘What’s a pretty wench like you doing on the streets?’ A hot voice whispered in her ear. And gripped her tightly by the waist.

Caught by surprise, Lily struggled to get out his hold, but he stayed undeterred.

Taking a deep breath, she kicked him hard on his shin. Then as he bent a little in surprise, aimed for his gut with her elbow.

His hold on her waist loosened but he didn’t let go. Cursing, the man pushed her towards a wall in the alley. Lily was trapped between him and the wall, her arms manacled behind and his leg between hers. 

Fucking bastard.

She let out a scream but it was like screaming in an empty space.

The man hit her head against the wall, and Lily saw stars. No, she couldn’t lose consciousness, she willed herself to stay focused. 

Then mustering all her strength, she pushed at him with her shoulders and his grip on her hands loosened for a second.

Using the moment of weakness to her advantage, she pulled out her hands and turned around. First she kneed him between his thighs, then hit his nose again, leaving him groaning. As a final touch, she alternated between punching him the gut and face until he was sprawled on the ground.

‘You goddamned fucker.’ She said as she continued to kick is prone body, until her voice broke down in sobs. ‘You fucking bastard.’

Suddenly a pair of arms encircled her waist, just like the man had done and she writhed. ‘Let go, you pig.’

‘It’s me, Lily. Tommy. Now calm down.’

Lily tried to bring her breathing back to normal as she stopped struggling. ‘Please let go of me.’

He dropped his arms from her waist gradually and walked to her side. ‘Come, I’ll take you to your place.’

‘There’s no need. I can manage.’ She replied, sniffling slightly.

‘Yes, you can.’ He looked down at the unconscious man in amusement. ‘But I need to talk to you about somethings.’

She only shrugged casually and walked with him to his car.

When they were settled in the car, she rested her head against the metal, waiting for him to say what he wanted to. But he remained quiet, occasionally clearing his throat.

‘The man was a factory worker. I’ll deal with him.’

‘Can we please not talk about it?’ She closed her eyes wearily.

‘It was not your fault.’

She put her hand on her forehead and felt something warm and wet. The fucker had given her a cut.

When they reached her place, she hurried to get down and go into her house as quickly as possible. But Tommy was already waiting for her.

‘Thank you for dropping me, Tommy. But it’s better if I stay alone.’ She lightly touched his hand.

‘You’re bleeding.’ He said as he tugged her hair behind her ear.

She felt her eyes sting and she looked down to hide the evidence from him.         

‘Hey.’ He said softly and placed a hand on her cheek. 

The tears streamed out her eyes freely and he reached for her shoulder, just like she had a few hours ago.

‘Come, let’s go inside.’

Indoors, Lily found herself sitting on her sofa with a filled glass of whisky in her hand. Tommy settled adjacent to her, with a glass in his hand too.

‘You’re all right?’

‘I will be.’ Her hand touched the dressing he’d put on her forehead.

‘Don’t touch it.’

‘How did you find me?’ She asked as she put the glass on the table. She felt nauseated from the smell, a first for her in several years.

‘I was coming to check on you, since you didn’t call me. I heard your voice from the street.'

She nodded. They were quiet for a while when Lily spoke up, looking at the brown liquid in the glass before her eyes.

‘He was my foster father.’

Tommy looked up sharply.

‘He used to call me a whore whenever I wore dresses or played outside. One day, his wife had gone to her in-laws for two days. And he-‘ She squeezed her eyes, as if in pain.

‘Lily.’ Tommy was standing next to her, his hand on her shoulder.

She shook her head. ‘I was fifteen. But I knew if it had happened once, it would happen again. So I ran from the care.’

He pressed her closer to his waistcoat and she wrapped her arms around him.

After a while, she extricated herself and wiped her eyes. ‘Forgive me. I never do this.’

‘It’s fine. You should get some sleep.'

'Yeah. Thank you, Tommy. For everything.' She looked up at him, her eyes red-rimmed with tears.

He only nodded, an unreadable expression on his face.

When he left some time later, Lily lain in her bed, staring at the ceiling realized something groundbreaking.

She was in love with Thomas Shelby. And she had to leave Birmingham as soon as possible, perhaps tomorrow morning.

Chapter Text

'I am coming back to London.’

‘Did you get the antique?’

‘I didn't.’

‘Why?’

‘I just can’t do that to them, Gerard. I don’t think it’s right.’

‘I fucking knew it would happen.’ His voice was surprisingly jubilant.

‘What would happen?’

‘You would grow a heart, after all.’

‘It is not like that.’

‘It fucking is. Now take the next train and bring your arse back to London.’

And he hung up like always.

 


Lily dumped the clothes in the bag with lightning fast speed. She was leaving tomorrow morning and didn’t want to leave any trace behind. It was what she did, disappear without a trace. But this time, she was leaving empty-handed, unsuccessful for the second time. Rather she was leaving behind a part of her in Birmingham. For a man who didn’t love her. And whose memories brought a stab of pain in her chest.

Fuck you, Tommy Shelby. You made me pity myself.

But she didn’t regret her love for him, because it had made her a stronger person. She wasn’t scared of love anymore. Some years later, when she found someone who loved her as much as she loved him, she would remember the blue-eyed gangster and thank him.

The next morning, she was ready to leave when the doorbell rang.

And outside stood Polly Gray, looking haggard in her floral hat.

‘Polly? I didn’t expect to see you.’

‘I was one my way of getting Michael. Didn’t see your car.’

‘Oh, I had an accident.’ She said awkwardly, pointing at the bandage on her forehead.

‘What happened?’ Polly asked.

‘It hit a tree.’ She lied easily, not wanting to relive the events of the night before.

‘Stay for a bit. You could use some tea.’ She interjected before she asked about the accident.

Polly walked inside, taking a look at her packed bag.                                   

‘So you’re leaving.’ She stated.

‘It’s been more than a month. My punishment is long over.’

‘Still you overstayed.’ She said as she took a cup from Lily.

‘This place is not so bad.’ Lily spoke into empty space, swirling the tea inside the cup.

‘It’s horrible.’

‘The tea or the place?’

‘Both, actually.’

They laughed at that. Lily looked at Polly warmly , ‘Thank you Polly, for letting me in.’

‘Nonsense. Since I knew you would be leaving soon, I brought you a parting gift.’

‘Why, thank you.’

And her eyes widened at the beautiful piece Polly Gray took out from her coat pocket.

‘I can’t take it, Polly.’

‘I saw the way you looked at it. And I knew one day you’ll take it.’

‘So, why are you-‘

‘Because you didn’t. I thought you would use my moment of weakness, but you didn’t.’

‘Oh, Polly, I-’

‘Keep it. I thought it was ugly anyway.’ She said dismissively.

Lily suddenly wrapped the small woman in a hug, ‘Take care, Polly.’

‘And you too.’

Just then, the phone rang.

‘I’ll get it, you wait here.’

‘No, I’ll be leaving. Michael’s waiting.’ Her voice became bleak again.

‘Yeah, all right then.’ Lily stopped and nodded before she left to attend the call.

Meanwhile, the empty cup of tea left by Lily Peyton caught Polly Gray’s eye. She would’ve ignored it any other day, but Lily's sudden departure was niggling her.

Looking at the pattern of the tea leaves, she felt herself stiffen.

This couldn’t be- shouldn’t be happening. Lily was with child. She didn’t look any different so it couldn’t be more than a month. She had been in Birmingham for more than a month.

Who could be the father?

‘Polly, you’re here.’ Lily said in confusion.

‘Whose is it?’

‘What?’

‘The baby.’ Polly said impatiently.

‘What baby? Polly you are confusing-‘ She stopped, her hand touching her belly. She had been late but dismissed it as the change and the stress of the new place.

‘You didn’t know?’

‘I-‘ But her expression said it all.

‘God. Who is the father?’

Lily swallowed. It could only be ‘Tommy,’ she whispered.

‘Tommy?’

‘That night, on the reopening.’ Lily felt a wave of dizziness but she wadded it off.

‘Jesus Christ.’

‘Fuck. This can’t be happening.’ She sat on the chair, her head in her hands.

‘I know a place in Cardiff.’ Polly suggested quietly. But Lily shook her head.

‘Even though I didn’t want it, I can’t do that again.’

Polly was all businesslike in a second. ‘Well then, we’ll talk to Tommy. You both can get married.’ 

Lily considered the prospect of being married to Tommy. She would be with the man she loved, whose baby she was carrying. Then she remembered Grace, the woman she had never seen, the woman he loved. And there was May Carleton.

Tommy would never let her keep the child. And even if they got married for the baby, it would be a loveless marriage of convenience.

‘No, Tommy cannot know.’ She declared.

‘Are you crazy? Keeping a man’s child from him? A Shelby's child?'

‘He doesn’t know it’s his. And he wouldn’t remember me.’ Each word felt like a shard of glass in her throat but she kept her voice firm.

‘Promise me, Polly. You won’t tell him. He would never be happy.’

Polly looked at her in amazement.

‘You astound me.’ 

‘I am not doing it for him. I am doing it for myself. And my baby.’ The word felt foreign from her mouth as she reached to touch her flat belly.

A baby was in there. She felt a sting of tears in her eyes.

Polly reached for her hand, ‘I can’t convince you any more after that. But take care of yourself and this baby. He’s a Shelby.’

‘He?’ A boy? She would have a son?

‘I don’t know. It feels like a him.’

‘I will tell my daughter all about Elizabeth Gray.’

‘Great-aunt Polly.’ She corrected gently.

Lily smiled at her through the tears. Polly got up with abruptly.

Clearing her throat, she said, ‘I will be off then, Michael must be waiting.’

‘Good bye, Polly.’

Chapter Text

 

PART II - 1924

ARROW HOUSE, WARWICKSHIRE

Polly Gray sat down behind Tommy's desk and picked a pen from the stand. Tommy’s depression was getting worse day by day and the added pressure of the robbery was not helping at all. To top it all, he had taken off to Wales with Charles and Johnny Dogs.

While she knew he was grieving and could do nothing about it, they needed help.  She needed to call her here. Though they hadn’t talked in a while, she knew Lily would understand and come back to Birmingham. She had to, because Polly knew her secret.

Bending at her desk, she wrote all that had transpired in the last few months. Beginning with Grace’s death and Tommy’s involvement with the priest. Then she wrote about the topic of interest, the reason why she was calling her. The robbery and the Russians. Ending the letter with a polite warning about their secret, she sent the help to dispatch the letter.

And hoped she got here before their condition worsened.

CRETE, GREECE

If you ignore the letter, Tommy will come for you.

Lily re-read the last line until the pounding in her heart got under control. More than two years since she had heard from the Shelbys and this was how Polly reached her. With a bloody threat. She tried to refrain from uttering her favorite words by gritting her teeth. Since the birth of Oliver she had promised herself to never swear again, at least when he was around. But the current circumstances were making it hard for her to keep it.

‘What are you thinking, latria mou?’

She looked up from the letter and found Alexander, her friend and associate ambling towards her with Oliver in his hands.

‘We need to leave for Birmingham.’ She declared.

Concern shadowed his sun-bronzed face and he took the letter from her hands.

After a while, he shook his head in disgust. ‘These people, Lily.’

‘It’s all right, Alex. I knew the letter would come someday. Just not like this.’

Lily hadn't thought Polly would use her like this. By threatening to take away Oliver. And it hurt more than the events of the past. She had heard about the Russians from her colleagues at the Guild. She might have taken early retirement but the Guild was still her family. And the members kept her updated with news from England. 

What had surprised her was Tommy's involvement. He was heading into dangerous territory and if he knew that, he was in even more trouble. 

‘Ma.’ Oliver reached for her and she took him in her arms.

‘Looks like you’re going to meet your father, Ollie.’ She whispered to her son as he tugged at her long braid.

‘Let’s get ready, then. We have a long journey ahead of us.’ Alex said, even though his skepticism was evident.

‘You don’t need to come with us, Alex.’ She said, only half-heartedly. She needed all the support she could get for going back to Birmingham.

‘What will I do in this godforsaken farm, Lily? And travelling alone with Oliver is not safe.’

Lily felt a tug at her heart for the handsome Greek in front of her.

‘Thank you, Alex. It means a lot.’

‘Mostly because I want to see the bast- the man who caused you so much trouble and punch him.’

‘He didn’t do anything, it was all me. And remember, he’s just lost his wife.’

‘Lily, you of all people? What happened to your fire?’

‘It’s there all right. But it isn’t about me now.’ 

‘I doubt that. You still love him.’

‘It’s a memory of the past.’ She said dismissively.

‘You would leave everything behind for any other person from the past?’

‘It’s the order of Peaky Blinders. You don't ignore that.’

The three of them walked into the manor, which had been Lily’s home for more than two years.

After leaving Birmingham, she had visited Gerard and asked for an indefinite leave of absence. She was going to be a mother and wanted some time off. Lily had expected contempt, even anger. But his reaction had stumped her. For the first time in twelve years , Gerard had hugged her and kissed her forehead. And she had cried in front of him, after almost seven years.

He had arranged for her to live in a cottage in the country, with a maid and one or two members of the Guild coming to visit every day. Being in the Guild had quelled all her worries about being an unwed mother. If you weren’t seen by anyone, then there was no one to make judgements. And her child would grow up in the midst of rational and clever minds, possibly follow their footsteps. 

The initial months had been good. Her belly had swollen and she had to stop wearing pants. Spending the days in the country in loose frocks with members of the Guild and regaling stories of the art they’d collected had been one of the best moments of her life.

One day, when she was almost three months along, she and Jessie had gone to watch a movie in London. It was dark by the time they got out, and she’d been gazing out from the car when she saw a proud Tommy with a beautiful blonde. She had to blink her eyes to make sure she’d seen right. And she had, because the undercut was unmistakable. And the woman in the stylish clothes had to be the gorgeous Grace.

That night, she had cried again. She had thought she’d be able live without Tommy. And she had been living. Until she’d seen him, with Grace of all people. The one man she’d given her heart to, loved a woman she could never be.

Wiping her tears, she made a promise to herself. She may love Tommy but she was done crying after him. She had his child and that was enough for her. Tommy and Grace could live their fairy tale.

She had decided to leave for Crete Island the next day, ignoring Gerard’s pleading. She needed a fresh start and after some convincing, he had reluctantly agreed. On the condition that someone accompany her. Or she could forget all about it. 

And so began her life in Crete. The place was breathtaking and in the vast seas and snowy mountains, Lily found herself. The heartbreak was there all right, but she had learnt to make it an event of the past. Her present and future involved her baby and the farm around her mansion. There was no space for a man who didn't love her. 

She had been so wrong.

 

Chapter Text

‘We just got here. Why do you want to leave now?’

‘It’s better to deal with this sooner rather than later.’

They had arrived from Greece in the early hours of the day.  And Lily wanted to leave for Arrow House just hours after they had settled in the small house arranged for her by Polly. She knew she won’t be able to sleep until she knew all about Polly’s arrangement. Getting it done with was a safe alternative. But it wasn’t as if she had an alternative.

Someone must have informed Polly about her arrival because sometime later, a car had been sent for her with a note requesting, rather demanding Oliver’s presence along with hers.

Alex looked at the car and its chauffeur then at the note in her hands. 

‘Aren’t these people grand?’

‘Looks like I am going anyway.’

 

Lily rummaged in her bags for an item of clothing which was not crumpled from the journey. Then stopped. She didn’t need to look presentable for the Peaky Blinders. She might as well go in the bohemian clothes she wore nowadays. Putting on her patterned skirt and white shirt, she kept her hair open with a small clip at the crown. She didn’t bother with make-up, knowing well her hand was no longer deft in that section.

Months in the Mediterranean sun had added a golden tint to her pale skin and her wavy hair now reached her waist. A nuisance, but she couldn’t get around to cutting it. Besides her braid was like a plaything for Oliver.

‘We’ll leave now, Alex.’ She said as she walked towards him.

‘You don’t want me to come?’

‘No, she only called for me and Oliver. And it’s better if you stay away from the Shelbys.’

She reached for her son from Alex but he transferred him to his other  arm.

‘What now?’

‘You’ll tell me everything that ensues there.’

‘I will. Now let me go.’

 

After half an  hour, the car came to a stop in front of a sprawling bungalow.

‘My, my. How much do racecourses pay?’ Lily muttered inaudibly as she took in Tommy’s house.

‘This way, ma’am.’ The chauffeur said as he led her inside the manor.

As she walked inside the lavish manor house, she noticed the enormous portrait of Shelby family, man woman and child. Tommy looked the same, happier even. She was seeing Grace after 2 years and she looked exquisite even in paint. What made her catch her breath was the little boy. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Suffering at such a tender age.

It could have been your son.

She pushed away the ugly thoughts and focused on the task at hand. Like finding the woman who had called her here. She was walking to one of the many rooms when a familiar voice stopped her.

'There you are, Lily Peyton.'

'How could anyone ignore that warm invitation?' She replied tartly, adjusting Oliver back on her hip.

'I'll deal with you later. First let me hold the baby.'

Polly easily extricated Oliver from her arms and the boy looked at her with wide eyes.

'He has your eyes. The rest is Tommy.' Polly observed as she nuzzled his nose lightly.

'What is this about, Polly?'

'Let's talk over tea.' She said as she walked away with Oliver, gesturing for Lily to follow.

'I need whisky.' She mumbled behind.

Thirty minutes later, Polly had reiterated every detail about their current business to lily, whose reaction had alternated between sympathy and incredulity. Mid-way Oliver had started to struggle in her arms and Lily had to take him from her. In the end, all she could say was,

'What do you want from me, Polly?'

'Your contacts. I know you have worked for the Russians before, you can bring a lot of information.'

'When did I tell you anything about that?'

'The tales of lords and politicians? You once mentioned a Russian painter. I deduced from that.'

'So that was all for extracting information.' She said, a touch hurt.

'In the beginning, yes. But I understood you later.'

Lily sighed.

'Even if I wanted to, I can't. I have retired from all sorts of Guild-related activities.'

'You don't have to steal. Just help the boys with information.'

'Fine, then. But only because you forced me to.'

'Good. Now let me look at my grand-nephew. What is his name?' she said as she gave him a wide smile.

'Oliver.' Lily smiled for the first time.

Polly's surprise and distaste for the name was not well-concealed.

'Please tell me he has another name to go by.'

'I call him Ollie.' Lily replied.

'Oliver it is, then.' She said as she continued to tickle him, leaving Lily to look at them both with disbelief.

'Go look around the house, it is magnificent.'

'Yeah, I noticed.' She said as she looked up at the chandeliers. With a final look at the laughing Oliver, she walked towards an empty room.

Inside the vast but largely empty room, she noticed a tea pot on a small table and made her way to it. Tea in Thomas Shelby's home? Interesting.

Filling the cup with hot water, she added the tea leaves and swirled it around. Just when she was bringing the cup to her lips, she heard footsteps.

Fuck. No, hell. Bloody-ugh stop.

She hid behind the curtain of the large room, hoping the intruder didn't notice her. Why? She didn't think. The thief/artist in her was very much alive after all.

And who would the intruder be?

Thomas Shelby.

The deja vu was undeniable.

From what she could see from his cap, there was a slight whisker on his square jaw and his always impeccable hair had over-grown a bit.

Hoping he would leave, she held her breath and pressed herself closer to the wall.

But he, in his twisted sense of mind reached for the cup. He took a small sip and looked as if he were sick. 

‘It’s tastes like-‘

She couldn't hide after that.

‘Like mud?’

Tommy turned to look at the source of the voice and staggered at the sight before him. An exotic looking woman in garish clothes stood before him, smiling broadly.

He paused at her eyes, brown eyes which had once looked into his with venom, with lust and on their last encounter, vulnerability.

She could only be-

‘Lily?’

Her smile widened. ‘You still remember me, I am impressed.’

‘Why are you here?’

‘Ease up, I am not here to take anything. Though I’ve heard that has become your line of work.’

‘It has been good to see you, but I need you to leave.’ Tommy said smoothly.

‘I can’t.’ She actually looked upset.

Polly emerged at the moment with a baby in her hands. ‘She’s here to stay, Tommy.’

He knew the look on Polly's face. It only meant she had taken charge and a decision without consulting anyone. He sighed shortly, then looked back at Lily.

‘Why don’t you sit in the study? I’ll be there in a moment.’

Polly cooed to Oliver as Lily took him back.

‘Why is she here, Pol?’ He said as he watched Lily leave with the baby. Who was that baby?

‘Because we need help.’

Thoughts of Lily and the baby vanished and all Tommy saw was red.

‘I told you no fucking outsiders.’ He said coldly, only the glint of his eyes betraying his actual emotion.

‘Considering she has your child, she’s hardly an outsider.’

The air around them tensed. And Thomas hoped he had misheard her.

‘What?’ He said icily.

‘That baby is yours.’ She whispered harshly as she pointed in the direction Lily had gone.

‘I am not in the fucking mood to joke.’ He said as he pulled out a cigarette and a lighter from his coat.

‘Didn’t you sleep with her?’

He stayed silent, the wheels of his mind churning.

‘That’s what I figured.’

‘How can you say he's mine?'

‘I read her tea leaves two years ago. And she told me about your little  business.’

Tommy scoffed. ‘As if I were the only one.’ He inhaled and blew smoke from the cigarette.  Try as he might, it was getting harder to ignore the possibility.

‘It is the truth, Tommy. Believe it or not.’

‘I might believe it when she tells me.’

‘She won’t tell you. That’s why she’s here.’

Tommy looked at her with narrowed eyes.

‘I gave her an ultimatum, she could either come back or I'll tell you about all him.’

Tommy shook off his cap and covered his face in his palms.

'Fucking hell, Polly.'

Polly continued, 'She has worked for the Russians before. She can provide a lot more than you think.'

'We don't know her.'

'I'll vouch for her. As the company treasurer.'

'Go on, then. But don't you fucking blame me when she betrays us.' He said as he stubbed out the cigarette, walking out of the room.

'She won't. Just don't mention anything about the baby.' Polly called from behind him, then collapsed on the chair with a hand on her head.

 

Chapter Text

Tommy walked back to his study where Lily was seated, using every bit of his willpower lest he burst out in flames. He didn’t know what game Lily was playing, but she would face dire consequences once he knew the truth. He had men in places one couldn’t think of and finding about Lily would no longer be as difficult as it had been almost three years ago. But first he needed to hear her side.

Lily had the baby resting on her shoulder when he flung open the doors of his study. She looked up at him and gave him a half smile.

‘How are you, Tommy?’

He nodded as he took out a cigarette from its case.

‘I am sorry about Grace.’

He sat down behind his desk, lighting the cigarette.

‘Where were you all these years?’

‘I was in Crete. It’s an island in Greece.’

Tommy continued looking at her with cold intensity.

‘How old is your son?’

She paused for a second.

‘He will be two in January.’

Like hell, he hadn’t seen much of the boy, but he had looked older than Charlie and Charlie was barely 18 months old.

‘Yeah?’

‘Yes. I know the Russians you’re doing your business with. I can call some people and you’ll have every small detail about their mansion. And I brought some equipment which will help you, with the collection. ’

Tommy was momentarily diverted from the topic at hand. The Russians and the priest had become the priority ever since…ever since he lost Grace.

‘Good thinking, it’ll be helpful. But don’t call anyone , the Secret Service might be listening.’

‘Trust me, I won’t have any trouble.’ she said jauntily.

‘Am I the father, Lily?’

Lily’s face lost all animation when she said the words he was waiting to hear with bated breath.

‘He was a Greek man. He died before Oliver was born.’

‘If you’re saying the truth, my condolences. But if I find out otherwise, you must be prepared for the consequences.’

‘I’ll take leave if all is done.’ She replied coolly.

‘I want all the information by tomorrow.’

‘It isn’t that simple. Give me three days, at least.’

‘Tomorrow you’ll walk in with a map of the mansion.’

‘What is wrong with you Tommy? I am kilometres away from my associates, it will take time.’

‘You will leave for London today and tomorrow evening I’ll have the map in my hand.’

‘Fu-’, she paused mid-way and awkwardly got up from the chair, considering she had a baby in her arms.

‘At present, only you and Polly know about the robbery. I’ll tell the boys later. I want it to stay that way.’

Her words sounded sincere, when it was evident all she wanted to do was run away screaming, ‘You have my word, Tommy.’  

Lily was trembling with anxiety when she got back to the house with Oliver. The meeting with Tommy had been exhausting despite its short duration. She had had to control the nervous jiggling of her legs as well as maintain her composure when he’d asked about Oliver.

Of course he would’ve thought about his parentage. And though it had crushed her, she knew she couldn’t tell him the truth. Especially now, when he’d just lost his love. It would break him. His words of threat didn't scare her, because there was nothing that said Thomas Shelby was Oliver's father. The people in Greece had accepted Peyton as her married name so when she had named him Oliver Peyton, there had been no issue. If only Tommy didn't get his hands on his birth records, everything would go on smoothly.


But what was the deal about sending her to London? A bloody car was on its way to take her there in some time. She couldn't take Oliver with her, travelling again would put a toll on his health when they'd just returned from Greece.


She was setting Oliver in his crib when Alexander sauntered in the room.

‘I hope you told him about Oliver.’

‘What are you saying?’ She whispered angrily and went to close the door. The house was owned by the Shelbys and she couldn’t have anyone eavesdropping. ‘Tommy can never know. That’s why I am here instead of in Crete.’

‘But he deserves-‘

‘He deserves nothing. He has a son who has lost a mother. Knowing about Oliver is only going to make things tougher.’

‘What about your son? Doesn’t he deserve to know about his father?’

‘I’ll tell him when the time is right. Which isn’t now. We just need to help them and leave for Crete.’

‘Help in what?’

‘They need some information about a former client.’ She said evasively.

Alexander shook his head in disbelief. ‘You’re protecting him. After everything.’

‘He is the father of my son. And at some time, I loved him.’ She said as offhandedly as she could.

‘Help the criminals. But I will not let you drag Oliver in their business.’

Anger got better of her and she said scornfully, ‘Who are you, Alexander?’

She regretted her words immediately but Alexander's face had already contorted with the pain of hurt.

‘I am someone in love with a woman who still loves the man who left her pregnant and alone. Yeah, that’s what I am.’

And walked out in his loose limbed walk, only this time his shoulders were hunched.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 23

‘Alexander, will you take care of Oliver? I am going to London.’ Lily called from outside his locked room. And heard his sudden voice, filled with anger,

‘Have you fucking lost your mind?’

‘We’ll be off the hook sooner if I agree to Tommy’s every whim. And don’t curse.’ She admonished.

‘Do whatever justifies your love, who am I to care?’ He said caustically.

Lily sighed in dejection, ‘I apologise now and I’ll apologise for that everyday. Just let me be done with this.’

‘Fine then, go.’ He barked.

‘Take care of yourself and Oliver.’

She was walking away when she heard a low ‘Be safe, Lily.’

 

Lily’s visit to London was uneventful at best. It was extremely easy to get her hands on the map of the mansion. She had informed James about the task at hand in their cryptic language just after her talk with Alexander. Her former colleague had sent their newest member at a local pub with the information and Lily was to meet him there. There, Colin, the newest member  was bursting to give her two more maps he had gotten his hands on, but she had politely turned down his offer. No need to carry more burden than necessary.

Since she couldn’t leave at the late hour and going to the Guild was out of question with the Shelby driver escorting her everywhere, she decided to spent the night in the Ritz. Tommy Shelby was paying for it after all.

When she had settled in the lavish room and devoured a fancy meal, she sprawled across the feathery bed and looked up at the golden ceiling.

One week ago, she was weeding the soil for the next crop and today she was in a luxury hotel. Life has it ways. Thinking about Oliver, she reached for the telephone and gave her new number to the operator.

‘Hello?’

‘Alexander? How are you? Is Oliver all right?’

‘He was crying after you left. But I fed him and he quieted down. He is sleeping now. Must be tired.’

‘I know. You had dinner?’ She asked, her mind still on Oliver.

‘Yeah, I did. Listen Lily, don’t dwell on what I told you before. It meant nothing.’

Lily wrapped her finger on the cord. ‘Alex, you are my dearest friend in this world. But I don’t want you to wait for me. You are young, and you have an entire life ahead of you. Don’t waste it on a woman with a child.’

‘Forget I said anything, all right? And enjoy your stay. Oliver is in safe hands.’

‘Don’t give him sweets.’

‘Good night, latria mou.’

Lily smiled at the nickname. So he had forgiven her.

‘Good night, Alexander.’

She hung up, feeling slightly guilty for taking Alexander’s help when it was obvious he wanted something more, something impossible. But he didn’t love her.

She wanted to shake him and tell him it wasn’t love, it was sympathy for an unwed mother. But she had no right to mock someone’s feelings. Someone so dear to her. He knew little, but still enough about her past and had supported her during her pregnancy as well as after Oliver’s birth. If she had seen the same look in his eyes that she had seen in Tommy’s eyes for Grace that night, she might have agreed, even though she didn't love him. But she hadn’t left one man to be with another who didn’t love her. She deserved better.

But she did think about Alexander’s words. Did she still love Tommy? If not, then why had she agreed to help him?

She shook her head a little.

No, it was plain sympathy. He had lost his wife and was dealing with a dangerous crowd. His appearance told her he hadn’t slept in days. The lines of stress, light grey just barely threading his hair and the aura of sadness around him were betraying signs of his grief. As much as he wanted, he couldn’t hide it. At least not from her. But  his eagerness in agreeing to her help pointed at an emotion she couldn't quite understand. It seemed like guilt, but why did he feel guilty? Had Grace died because of the Russians? Or was he keeping things from his wife?

The questions were infinite and currently the only answer in front of her was whisky. Taking a healthy slug from the flask, she kept the it down and jumped on her bed.

Tommy Shelby could fuck off if he wanted, she didn’t care.

******************************

The car left for Arrow House the next day despite her reservations. She had to check on Oliver; it was the longest she had been away from him. But the driver refused her with ‘Mr. Shelby said it is crucial for you to meet him before you go back.’

On her way in, her gaze fell on the silver Bentley. It wasn’t Tommy’s car. Then it had be…Lily’s eyes widened slightly. Who rode Bentleys? The Russians, among others of course. But Tommy was doing business with them. Could it be the Russian Duchess? She would soon find out.

In the vast mansion, she realised Tommy didn't expect her to get the map and be back so soon. Because there was no sign of him in the house, as far as she could see.

A maid with short bob looked at her in inquiry.

‘I am here to see Thomas Shelby.’ Lily said before the maid could ask anything.

‘Mr. Shelby is in the study. He has company, though.'

‘Oh, may I ask who is it?’

‘A lady and Mr. John Shelby.’ Lily noticed the maid’s skirting around.

‘Please inform Tommy about my arrival. And tell him I will leave in the next ten minutes.’ She said coolly.

‘Yes, ma’am.’

Lily waited for a few moments after the maid left. Curious as she was, she followed her to the study, keeping her steps light to avoid any suspicion.

But Tommy was already out of the room, closing the door behind him. He was in his usual three piece suit with a grey Henley shirt.

‘Give me the map.’ 

‘Is it the Duchess?’

‘The map, Lily.’

His side-stepping was all the answer she needed.

‘Are you sure? Because I’ve heard-‘

Her ‘hearsay’ was interrupted by the maid who had escorted her in.

‘Call for Miss Peyton.’

Lily turned to look the maid and asked, slightly worried, ‘Is it a man?’

‘Yes, miss.’

‘Can you please tell him I am on my way? And to warm some milk for Oliver?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘Thank you.’

‘So where was I? Your map, here.’ She hurriedly took out a piece of paper from her coat pocket and gave it to him. Tommy slowly reached for it.

‘Good. I’ve yet to check its authenticity though.’ He said, his eyes boring into hers as he kept it inside his own coat pocket.

‘Do whatever you want to.’ She waved her hand impatiently. ‘I’ll leave then.’

‘There’s a meeting tomorrow in Small Heath. I want you there.’ He continued to look at her with intent. 

‘I will be.’ She said already turning slightly. Oliver's crying must have gotten out of control or Alexander would've never called here of all places.

‘Along with your boy and the man on the phone.’ He added in the same tone.

She looked at him in disbelief.

‘You didn’t want me yesterday. Now you're inviting a complete stranger to your 'family meeting'?

‘He lives with you, so he knows things.’

‘He knows nothing. Keep him out of it.’

‘Why, is he another fake husband with a wife in a faraway country?’ He said mockingly.

Lily gritted her teeth, ‘He is a friend. And you’ll do nothing to trouble him.’

‘A day with the Peaky Blinders won’t do him any harm if he is uninformed.’

‘Go to hell, Tommy.’ She said at last, turning her back on him and walking out in her long stride, burning with irritation.

Bloody Tommy Shelby. The Duchess will show him his place, all right. She thought darkly as she settled in her car.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 24

‘How is he?’ Lily shouted from the door as soon as Alexander opened it. But he didn’t have to answer it, because the moment Oliver saw her his wails increased.

‘My baby, I’m so sorry I left you.’ Lily murmured as she took him in her arms. Gently rubbing his back, she let his head rest on her shoulder. She walked inside her room, the one she shared with Oliver and cooed his favorite poem until he quieted down.

When she felt his body get heavy with sleep, she laid him on the bed. Looking at his sleeping face, she murmured inaudibly, ‘Mommy’s back, Ollie. She’ll always be with you.’

Wiping back the sudden tears, she went inside the bathroom for a hot bath. The travelling had made her muscles sore with disuse. And she needed to wash off the tension. When she was almost done, she heard a knock on the door. 

‘Just a minute!’

Putting on her blue housedress, Lily hurriedly dried her hair with a towel and went to open the door.

‘I made dinner. You must be hungry after the journey.’ Alexander said.

‘I am famished. Thank you, Alexander.’

‘We need to talk too.’

‘Actually, I am not so hungry anymore.’

‘Stop stalling. It is important.’

‘Fine, but I need whisky.’

Seated at the table, Lily heaped the delicious food on her plate. If Alexander wanted to talk, she needed the armour of a full stomach. But he was quicker. Because before she had taken her first bite, he said ‘You’re getting too much involved in the Shelby business.’

‘I told you it’s only a few days.’

‘You left Oliver alone for an entire day. In Greece, you would walk across the fields every fifteen minutes to check on him. Today, his wails pricked my eyes.’

‘You think I don’t know that? I am not doing it for myself.’

‘So what if Tommy finds the truth? You can’t make your child suffer for another’s well-being.’

‘Do you think Tommy will let us go once he knows the truth? He’ll take Oliver from me. Not because he loves him but just because he is Tommy’s. And Tommy takes things which aren't his to begin with.'

‘You think your friend Polly hasn’t told him yet?’

‘Certainly she has. But Tommy needs to find it for himself. And by the time he does, we’ll be on the ship to Greece.’ She said complacently.

‘I hope we leave with our faces unmarked.’

‘Which reminds me, he wants to meet you tomorrow.’

‘Fucking no.’ He almost spat his food.

‘It is nothing, just make small conversation. Admit you know nothing about his covert business.’

‘Will his razor blade make an appearance during our ‘conversation’?

‘Hopefully not.’

‘Too much hope from a cutthroat gangster.’

 

**************

 

Tommy looked at the guests seated on the sofa with mild discernment. The woman was wearing a pink blouse with the sleeves rolled up and pleated skirt printed with flowers along with a dark wool coat. Her son was playing with her unfashionably long wavy hair, which reached her back and were left open. He looked at the boy for a moment, who had dark brown curls and Lily’s eyes. His man was taking longer than ever in finding about Lily’s life in Crete, considering it was not a place people usually ran off to. But he would find out, they always did.

Presently, his attention was on the man accompanying the mother and child. He was holding the baby, and his eyes never left Lily as she blabbered on. If he were the father, why wasn’t he married to Lily? And if he weren’t, why was he living with them?

He needed to crack the man’s case fast. But first he needed to talk to the women. Or the executive committee of the union of bookies and allied trades. He didn’t want any distractions when they were stepping into dangerous territory. He knew it was Linda who had instigated the women into rioting with Jessie Eden. It was something she would do.

Lily gazed in the direction where Tommy’s shadow disappeared away. She had seen him leaning against the door, hidden from everyone. But not from her.

‘What did you do in Greece?’

Finn, who looked older and more handsome in his three piece suit, brought her out of her reverie.

‘Farming. The south of Crete had very fertile soil.’

Finn snickered.

‘What is so funny? You get the food on your table from the all the hard work farmers do.’

‘It’s not that, Lily.’ And again burst out laughing.

‘Then what?’

‘You pointed a gun at every brother except Tommy. Whom you cursed and punched. And now you plant crops?’

‘People change.  Just like you did, so I’ve heard.’  She leaned back on the sofa and turned to face Alexander, ‘You should’ve seen him before, perspiring while pointing a gun at my head.’

‘I don’t blame you. For putting a gun on her head.’ Alexander gave his godly smile.

‘Speak more, and you shall find yourself dead.’

Alexander groaned in annoyance.

‘Not again. But still, enough said.’

‘Well, you made your own bed.’

‘I am out.’ He said at last.

Lily gave a bark of laughter and looked at Finn again, who looked at her as if she'd grown two heads.

She noticed their little game had amassed a small audience, the entire Shelby family to be precise. Plus Lizzie Stark. And a blonde with curly hair.

It was Arthur who spoke up first.

‘What are you doing here Lily?’ And with a glance at Alexander, ‘Is he the real one, eh?’

Clearing her throat grandly, she got up from her seat.

‘Hello everyone. Let me formally introduce myself. I am Lily Peyton and this is my associate, Alexander. And this’-taking Oliver in her arms-‘is Oliver. My son.’

‘Fucking hell, Lily. Last time you came with a husband. And now with a baby.’ John quipped.

‘Please no cursing around him. I had been called for some business and it will be helpful to know what I am supposed to do.’

Everyone looked at Thomas, who was leaning against the doorway, a cigarette in his hand.

‘I would like to talk to your associate first.’

‘Go on.’ Lily whispered to Alexander, gesturing him to stand up. To her annoyance, he leaned back further on the sofa.

‘I think we can talk here, Mr. Shelby.’

‘All right, then. Are you fucking Lily?’

Polly took a sharp intake of breath, Finn gave a nervous snicker but sobered up when he realized Tommy wasn’t joking and Lily became blind with fury.

But Alexander was quicker and in a moment, the room broke out in chaos. He uncoiled like a cat from the sofa and lithely sprinted towards Tommy, only to be held back by Arthur and John. Tommy ground his cigarette under his foot and walked towards him.

‘I admire your courage, Alexander. But pouncing on me in my house is a touch foolish.’

‘No one talks about Lily like that and gets away with it.’ Alexander ground his teeth.

The hold on Alexander tightened and Arthur said, ‘Say the word, Tommy. And he’ll be missing something precious.’

Linda’s outraged ‘Arthur!’ was drowned when Tommy raised his hand in refusal and walked closer.

‘You have proved your loyalty. Let him go, boys.’

‘Are you sure, Tommy?' John asked.

‘If he can fight when outnumbered for her, he won’t risk her life by revealing our secret.’

Alexander looked at him in puzzlement.

Tommy took in Lily’s outraged form and walked in her direction. ‘Come with me.’

‘No.’ She looked away from him, afraid she might hit him.

‘If you want him alive, then come with me.’

‘Bloody – Fine.’ 

‘Give him to Polly.’ He gestured at Oliver.

‘No. Either he comes with us or we don’t go anywhere.’

He took, rather snatched Oliver from her hands.

‘Tommy!’ 

Walking towards the door with Oliver, he repeated, ‘Come.’

Chapter Text

Outside, Tommy motioned Lily towards a grey Bentley, the one she had seen yesterday. Lily smiled acidly. So he had spent the night with the Duchess. And thus the ill disposition towards her.

He gave her Oliver when they had settled in.

‘Did you have fun playing Russian roulette last night?’

Tommy’s finger paused above the button and he looked at her strangely.

‘Everyone knows she has a knack for the game.’ She said nonchalantly.

The car started and Tommy drove through the better part of the district and stopped when they reached a deserted place.

‘Where are we?’

‘I have people following me. No one knows about this place.’ He got out of the car while Lily remained seated.

At his questioning glance, she said in resentment, ‘What you said there was exceedingly insulting and uncalled for.’

‘I gave him the alternative. He made the decision.’ He pulled out a cigarette and offered one to her. Then took it back before she could refuse.

‘And you forcefully took Oliver from me.’ She said crossly, but noticed he remembered she didn’t smoke.

‘I gave you an alternative, too.’ He pointed the cigarette at her before lighting it.

‘Reasoning with you is equivalent to breaking my head.’ She reluctantly moved to exit the car, placing a hand on Oliver's head and back. It became difficult to move out and Tommy reached for Oliver.

She narrowed her eyes in vexation. But relented when he said, 'Please.'

'All right.' Tommy took care as he placed Oliver on his arm and it was evident he had lot of practice.

She carefully got out of the car, making sure her legs didn't spread wide.

‘Why doesn’t he speak?’ Tommy asked as she took Oliver back from him.

‘Of course he does. Say ‘ma’ Ollie.’

‘Don’t call him that.’

‘I’ll call my son whatever I want to.’ She pulled Oliver up as he slid off her arms.

‘I’ve never heard him say anything.’

‘Maybe he doesn’t want to. In the midst of people like you.’

‘As if you were any nun.’ He scoffed as he inhaled the smoke.

‘I’ve left that life behind. And no one is harmed during our collection.’

‘Where did you get the map from?’

‘Huh? From a colleague.’ She said distractedly. It was hard to keep up with him.

‘Why did he have it?’

‘We were planning a robbery but the men we were stealing for backed out at the last moment.’

‘Can you tell me about these men?’

‘I can ask. But it will take time. Hush, baby.’ She said as Oliver’s writhing converted to soft mews.

‘Tomorrow, then.’

‘It isn’t that easy. Give me some time. And is that all?’ She said impatiently.

‘No.’ he said as he ground the cigarette stub. And kept walking towards her until she was pressed against the car. And there was no space between them.

‘Then, what?’ She said, trying to keep herself collected. He was too close, so close she could smell him, and smoke that clung to him.

‘Your friend didn’t answer my question.’                                            

‘That is none of your concern.’ Keeping her breathing under control was getting harder when his lips were almost touching hers.

‘Isn’t it?’ He spoke against her lips. Lily swallowed visibly, her eyes wide, ‘No-‘ She pushed him away suddenly when she heard Oliver cry out.

Tommy turned his back to her, already walking to the other door.  ‘Get in.’

In the car, Oliver continued to cry. Lily attempted to mollify him by pointing at random things on the way.

‘Oh, Oliver, look at the car. See there’s a tree. A factory!’                                

She started making clicking sounds to distract him, but to no avail.

When they were on a secluded road and Oliver became breathless from crying, she knew she had to take the last resort.

‘Tommy?’

He looked towards her suddenly, his face tense.

‘Can you stop here for a while?’ she asked tentatively.

He braked suddenly and got out of the car, and was on her side in a moment.

‘I need to-‘ A sudden blush took over her face and she was grateful that Tommy understood it. How? She didn’t know. But he immediately shrugged out of his coat and placed it over her shoulders so it covered her chest.

‘Thank you.’

Lily deftly unbuttoned her shirt and brought Oliver closer to her exposed chest.

She had stopped breastfeeding him long ago, but a woman in Greece from the minority community had told her it could be used when your child got uncontrollably restless. Close contact with the mother made the child calmer.

She winced as his teeth bit her and unfortunately Tommy turned back at that moment. She looked down in embarrassment, hoping Oliver would fall asleep sooner. She peeked under the coat to check and relaxed when she found his eyes drowsy with sleep. Gently removing his mouth from her, she buttoned up her shirt and removed Tommy’s coat from her shoulders. Holding the coat in her hand, she called him in hushed up voice.

‘Tommy, he’s asleep now.’

He came towards her and took the coat from her hand. His gaze fell towards her shirt and he cleared his throat. Lily looked down and gasped, horrified. She had missed a button and a substantial amount of her skin was visible through the gap. Hurriedly tugging at the coat, she buttoned up its entire length.

He came back to sit in the driver’s seat and cleared his throat again before starting the car.

Through the haze of her embarrassment, she realised he hadn’t asked for anything other than an information she had disclosed to begin with.

‘What did you want to talk about?’

‘Nothing. Just wanted to meet your friend.’

‘Have you no shame? My child almost died crying.’ 

‘I didn't think it would get out of control. I apologise.'

'Why can't you take my word, Tommy? I told you he is innocent.'

'This is fucking dangerous business, Lily. The fucking Priest threatened to kill Charles.’

The words were scary but the shock of hearing Tommy reveal so much overshadowed it.

‘Oh, God. How did you get involved with him?’

‘It was not going to be so fucked up. One thing led to another and I was caught in this shit.’

‘Is there any way you can –‘

Tommy sighed. ‘There is a plan. But it’s risky.’

‘Be careful, Tommy. I don’t know about the Priest, but the Russians are wild.’

‘I know.’

They were quiet for a while. When she noticed they had crossed Small Heath way back she asked in alarm,

‘Where are we going?’

‘To your house. I have to visit Arthur’s place and it is close to yours.’

‘What about Alexander?’

‘A car will drop him.’

‘In one piece?’

‘You have my word.’

When the car halted at her temporary residence, Lily placed Oliver on her shoulder and walked to the door. Tommy accompanied her in and unlocked the door.

‘Thank you.’

Tommy lingered for a moment and Lily feared he wanted to come in.

‘What I said about you was very wrong. I apologise for that.’

‘Two apologies in a day. Is everything all right, Mr. Shelby?' She teased.

Surprisingly, he gave a small smile, 'Good night, Lily.'

‘Good night, Tommy.’

Chapter Text

Lily spent the next two days calling her colleagues about their aborted mission. Tommy hadn’t reached her since their peculiar meeting near the woods. Which was fine, staying away from him was best for her. She had seen his tender side and try as she might, she couldn’t erase that image. It was easier to justify keeping Oliver from him when he behaved like an ogre.

She was writing down the name of one of the clients when Alexander came in the room.

‘I am leaving for Greece.’ He declared.

She looked up in confusion. 

‘What’s wrong, Alexander?’

‘I got a telegram from Mum about some urgent work at the farm.’

‘Why didn’t Lydia reach me?’

‘It’s a trivial matter. Maybe she thought you were busy with the Shelbys.’

‘Why are you going if it isn't important?’

‘I have to, Lily.’ He answered in a decisive voice which refused any other objections.

‘When will you be back?’

‘I think you will be in Greece before that.’

‘I hope so too.’

‘My ship leaves tomorrow morning.’

‘Tomorrow? You didn’t mention anything about it.’

‘It was sudden and you were busy, anyway.’

She bit the inside of her cheek and said, ‘Well, tell me if you need any help with packing up.’

‘Yeah I will, thank you.’

‘Send a letter when you reach the Island. And keep me posted about the farm.’

‘Yes ma’am, I will.’

 

Lily walked in the kitchen to prepare dinner for Alexander. It would be lonely here without him, but she was relieved he was going. The events of the other day made her worry about his safety.

She was washing the vegetables when the phone rang. Wiping her hand on the apron she made her way towards the telephone.

‘Hello?’

‘Lily, it’s me.’ Tommy’s voice came weak and laborious through the phone.

‘Tommy? What’s wrong?’

‘I need you in Warwickshire. To take care of Charles.’

‘What happened?’

‘Please. Just for a few days.’

A hundred questions crossed her mind, but somehow she knew it wasn’t the time to investigate.

‘All right. I’ll be there tomorrow morning.’

‘Thank you, Lily.’

'Take care of yourself, Tommy.'

She hung up and looked up to find Alexander at the door.

‘Who was it, Lily?’

‘Tommy. He wanted me to bring the names of the clients tomorrow.’

‘You will be alright? With me leaving?’

‘I have lived in Small Heath before.’ She said in a miffed tone.

‘But you have a Shelby with you now.’ He prodded further.

‘He is a Peyton.’ She said with undue assertion.

Alexander’s gaze sharpened.

‘You know, I used to think you were doing this for Tommy and his son. But now I realize you are doing it for yourself. You want to keep Oliver for yourself.’

Lily eyes flashed with a sudden burst of anger.

‘Yes, I want to. Because he is the only one who is mine in this entire world. I don’t have a huge family like you. Or Tommy. So forgive me for keeping my child for myself.’

‘Lily, I didn’t mean that.’

She sighed wearily.

‘I know. But please don’t say that again.’

‘By hurting you, I have nothing to gain.’

She smiled a little. ‘But your words caused me pain.’

‘You can hit me with a cane.’

She made a face at that.

‘I would love that.’ 

***

Waving goodbye to Alexander the next morning, Lily and Oliver left for Arrow House in the car sent for them. She didn’t know what had happened to Tommy nor the purpose of her stay in his house. But she knew he needed help. And she could take out some time for Charlie. She would’ve wanted that for Oliver.

Reaching the mansion, the maid, whose name was Mary greeted her.

‘Mr. Shelby notified me about your arrival, Miss Peyton.’

‘What happened to him?’

‘He had a terrible accident. He was admitted in the hospital yesterday night.’

Lily felt as if the floor had been snatched from underneath her feet. 

‘God! Is he all right?          

‘The doctors are treating him as we speak, but we don’t know how long will it be.’

Just yesterday he had called her. He must be -Then realisation hit her and she understood the reason behind that call. 

‘Poor Tommy.’ Lily muttered under her breath.

‘Would you like something to eat?’

‘No, thank you. I would like to see Charles.’

Mary nodded and gestured for her towards the staircase. ‘He is sleeping right now. Would you like to settle in your room till then?’

‘Sure.’

Lily was ushered in a room completely empty except for a bed and a wardrobe. 

'Excuse the lack of furnishing. It was a short notice.'

'It's fine, Mary. Just a lamp and a crib would do.'

'We can prepare a nursery for your son.' Lily couldn't help but notice the slight deprecation in her voice.

'No, it won't be necessary. The crib will do.'

'I'll have it here.'

'Where is Charles' room?'

Mary smiled a little at her persistence and said, 'This way, please.'

She led Lily towards a smaller room across from hers.

‘There he is.’ She said and left Lily and Oliver alone with Charles.

Lily walked inside the nursery and looked at the sleeping boy. Her heart tugged as she took in his cherubic form.

Oliver struggled in her arms, happily pointing at Charles, ‘Gah!’

‘He’s your little brother, Oliver.’ She said softly as she kissed his forehead. 

Chapter Text

 

Lily settled in Arrow House with ease.

A week after her arrival in Arrow House, she had sent a letter to Alexander, informing him about the change in their plans. He could come back if he wanted to because she wouldn’t be able to leave the country for a while. His reply had been understanding though a little sceptical. But he wrote he would come back after the harvesting was over. And take her back. A sentence he had vehemently underlined.

She spent her days looking after Oliver and Charles, who was initially in tears, longing for both his parents. But soon he got used to her and began to get along with Oliver. She was happy to find Oliver saying more words in his presence. She had initially dismissed his silence as speech delay but ever since Tommy’s remark, she had been waiting for him to speak. He was still slow but there was progress.

Sometimes at night, when she would find it difficult to sleep after putting the kids to bed, Lily would climb down the lengthy staircases and wander around the huge mansion. And sometimes, despite herself, she would find herself looking at the beautiful portrait of Grace Shelby. And her hand would unconsciously touch her long braid. And she would compare Grace’s slender figure with her curvy one. Or her sparkling blue eyes with her plain brown ones.

Occasionally, Polly and Ada paid visits with updates about Tommy’s health. They had accepted her presence in the house and were grateful that someone familiar was with Charles. Lily had gathered from them that Tommy's skull was fractured along with massive internal bleeding. He had had various operations and his recovery would take time. But he was making good progress.

One afternoon, two months into her stay at the mansion, when Polly was visiting and the kids were playing around them, Polly asked abruptly, ‘Does he know?’

Lily narrowed her eyes, ‘It was you who told him.’ 

‘Does he believe it?’ She corrected.

‘Not yet. But I don’t know for how long.’ Lily said sadly.

Polly nodded in sympathy. She knew what Tommy would do after he found out. And she wished she didn't.

‘So tell me about the artist you’re spending time with.’ Lily asked teasingly.

‘Oh, he’s just painting me.’ Polly blushed, something Lily never thought she would witness.

‘Elizabeth Gray, don’t you lie.’ Lily said in mock-admonishment.

And so the rest of the day went in Lily extracting information about Ruben Oliver, while trying not to dwell on Tommy’s impending return.

 

3 months later

Early morning, Lily dressed in a yellow dress with flowers printed at the sleeves and hem and a neckline that just covered the top of her breasts. It was a bit risqué, but it wasn't as if she was expecting anyone today. Putting on her brown coat, she hurriedly went down the stairs.

‘Mary, I have some important papers to collect from the old house. Can you take care of the children for a while?’

‘Of course. Miss Peyton?’

Lily turned at her voice.

‘Mr. Shelby came back last night.’

‘All right. How is he?’

‘He is sleeping. He’s taking a lot of medicines.’ She replied, a little perplexed at Lily's reaction.

‘Well, I’ll leave then. I’ll be back in an hour.’

Suddenly Lily felt uncomfortable on hearing about Tommy’s arrival. The past three months she had started to believe she lived in the house. And now Tommy was here, sleeping upstairs. The situation couldn’t get odder.

 

She hurriedly picked the list of the clients she had forgotten when she had left last time. She had been stalling for a while, three months to be precise. But today, it had felt as if the Force was telling her to get it. The very same day Tommy had been discharged. Looked like Thomas Shelby was the Force himself. 

And now came the difficult part. She knew she couldn't avoid meeting him, but the strange feeling in her gut was terrifying the life out of her.

Making her way inside the mansion, Lily heard a murmur from the dining room. The deep baritone of Tommy’s voice was unmistakable. But who was he talking to?

She walked towards the room, only to find a harried looking Mary leaving the room. Lily looked at her dubiously but she didn’t respond to her presence.

‘Good morning, Lily.’

‘How are you feeling, Tommy?’ She walked closer, searching for any changes. He looked thinner and his eyes seemed sunken. But the icy menace was there, along with his dark humour.

‘Like I had my skull broken and joined together.’ He said nonchalantly as he lit a cigarette.

‘All better, then.’

‘How are you?’ She noticed his gaze momentarily drop towards her exposed neck and back up.

‘Good. I have the list of all our clients with me.’ She took out the paper from her coat and placed it in front of him.

He barely looked at it, keeping his eyes on her with a slight smile on his face.

‘What?’

‘How long were you planning to keep him from me?’

‘Sorry?’ Though she had heard it accurately.

He took a deep inhale from the stick and continued.

‘You see, on the morning of my accident, one of my men sent me the birth record of Oliver Peyton.’

‘Tommy-‘

‘And told me the exact date of his birth.’

‘It doesn’t prove anything.’

‘Maybe not to you, but your friends in Greece had never heard of your Greek fiancé. They said you claimed to be a widow from London.’

‘Your man talked to the wrong people.’

‘Admit the truth, Lily.’ He said with a finality in his voice.

‘I admit nothing.’

‘We’ll deal with this later, then.’ He got up from the chair, ready to walk out.

‘We will deal with nothing. I am leaving for Greece today, with Oliver.’ She said from behind him.

‘You won’t.’ He paused and turned towards her.

‘You don’t make decisions for me.’ She took a step backwards as he walked closer.

‘My men are posted at the docks and station. If you make any attempt to leave, they will let you go, only without Oliver.’ He stopped when there was no more space between her and the wall.

Taking another drag of the cigarette, he continued to look at her. She had lost some of the golden shade but still looked exotic. Maybe it was the long hair or her fuller figure, but she didn’t look like the woman who had disrupted his life, though for a short while, three years ago. He may have forgotten about her, but not the time he had spent with her. And now they had a son together. A son, goddamn it.

‘Why are you doing this, Tommy?’ She was barely audible and he wondered if her asthma was back.

He walked in her direction, pressing her to the wall, all the while looking for any signs of distress.

‘Because he is my blood. And I won’t be kept away from him anymore.’  He spoke closely, his breath warm in her ear.

Tommy paused to look at the complete misery on Lily’s face. He didn’t want to threaten her, but she had given him no choice. He didn’t know her reasons for keeping him away from Oliver. All he knew was Oliver was his and he would have him back. It had killed him to be in a fucking hospital when his child was living under his roof, unaware of his existence. But not anymore.

When he didn’t move, she turned her face up so there was barely any space between them. Her breath became shallow, and Tommy’s gaze dropped to her breasts encased in that damned dress. And stayed there.

A light slap on his face made him stiffen.

‘Bloody lecher.’ She murmured as she walked away, her tousled hair bouncing with every fierce step.

Chapter Text

Lily stayed with the children for the rest of the day, avoiding Tommy Shelby like the plague. Now that Tommy was back, it was implicit that her time in Arrow House was over. Which would have been a blessing had Tommy not dropped the bomb in the morning. Now she was caught in a limbo; she couldn’t leave but she didn’t want to stay either.

Luckily, he kept out of her way. He was out in the grounds after breakfast, then visiting his brothers and a man who called himself the ‘Wandering Jew’. But she knew he was Alfie Solomons of Camden Town. She had heard enough about his 'bread' in London.

After putting Charles to sleep for his afternoon nap, Lily went to her bedroom with Oliver, who refused to sleep. He shrieked as soon as they entered the room, his small hand pointing at the window.

She walked towards the window and looked out. The sky was clear with light shades of orange sieving through the clouds. And it appeared as if a mild wind was blowing.

‘I know what you’re thinking, partner. Let’s go,’ she said conspiratorially.

A few minutes later, the mother-son duo was in the vast estate of Arrow House. Lily settled on the slightly damp ground and raised Oliver in her arms.

She nuzzled his belly as he laughed, eliciting a louder response. Making her laugh. They continued the action until Oliver began to writhe in her arms.

Setting him on the ground beside her, she touched his head and pointed a finger at him. ‘No running away.’

He laughed, the imp that he was and began pulling at the grass.

Lily leaned back on her elbows, looking at the scene around her while keeping an eye on Oliver. The house was magnificent but the garden area was beautiful in its simplicity. Life must have been good for the Shelby family here. And now Oliver was a part of it. 

She wondered what Tommy was planning to do about their ‘situation’. She wouldn’t let him keep Oliver and living with him was out of question. All she could comprehend was that Tommy would deal with his other child, the one not out of his perfect Grace’s womb later and until then she was to be at his beck and call.

Oliver tottered towards her and began playing with the buttons of her dress. She mindlessly rubbed the space behind his ears, thinking about her uncertain future and cursing the day she had offered tea to Polly Gray.

 

From the window of his study, Tommy Shelby watched Lily and her son, his son play in the garden. He had wasted too much time when the truth had been right in front of him. A part of him had initially wished Oliver wasn’t his, because it would have absolved him of the guilt of not asking after Lily. But he had known he was son, even before his man had brought him the evidence. Oliver’s cries that day had almost scared him to death and he had wanted to bang his head for being so reckless. And he would make up for everything, but after he was done with the Priest and the robbery.

His gaze shifted to Lily, who was now leaning on her elbows with Oliver playing beside her.

He had noticed she no longer swore like a sailor or reacted with volatility. But the humour was still there, along with the fearlessness, he thought as he remembered their morning conversation. He had almost smiled at her words. No one was unwise enough to call him something like that, but she had almost spat the word at him. And all he had done was watch her go, in her long-limbed stride, shaking her head slightly. His eyesight wasn't the only thing damaged by his accident then, after all.

He had to deal with her too. But before that, he had to make sure she didn’t run away.

Chapter Text

That night, Lily found it difficult to sleep with Tommy in the same house. She kept turning restlessly, unable to quell the unease. When all failed, she decided to take a walk around. Just like she did before Tommy came back. He was probably sleeping under medication, so she wouldn’t have to worry about running into him.

She padded downstairs in white housedress, careful not to make any unwanted sound. She was on the last step when her ankle twisted and she fell clumsily on her hip.

‘Bloody hell.’ She muttered as she rubbed her behind and began to get up. Only to hear footsteps coming in her direction.

‘Lily.’ 

‘Tommy? Why are you still awake?'

‘Couldn’t sleep.’ He replied and exhaled shortly.

‘Didn’t you take your morphine?’ She almost sounded like a mother, she realised belatedly.

‘It’s better if I don’t.’

No need to ask the reason why, she thought as she surreptitiously rubbed her hip. But nothing escaped Tommy, even when he was in excruciating pain. Gesturing towards her behind, he said, ‘You will probably have a bruise tomorrow. Do you want a drink?’

‘You aren’t supposed to drink.’

‘I asked you.’

‘Why not?' She said, finally. A drink wouldn't hurt, considering the ongoing distress.

Lily sat behind the table as Tommy turned to open a bottle of whisky and tried to ignore the way the undershirt clung to his body. Or the flex of his muscles.

As he poured the drink into a glass, thankfully oblivious to her imagining, he asked, ‘When did you leave for Greece?’

‘I had bought some land there in 1920. When I found I was expecting Oliver, I decided to shift there. Thank you.’ She said as he gave her the glass and sat down across her.

‘And your associate?’

‘His family used to look after the farm. I realised he was out of job and offered him one there.’

‘You both seem close.’ He remarked as he leaned back in his chair.

She took a sip from the glass and said, ‘He was the only one who was of my age and spoke English. It was either him or the animals.’

‘Did you fuck him?’ He asked as if it were an ordinary question.

Lily’s jaw hardened at his brusque tone, but she said, ‘No. He is just a very dear friend.’

‘But he wants more.’ 

‘He’s deluded.’ She said as she took another sip of the burning liquid.

‘I take it you haven’t been with anyone since-‘

‘Since?’ She asked politely, even though she wanted to hit him.

‘Since you and I-’

‘Well, there was Oliver’s father, but-‘

He reached for her wrists and held them with unyielding force. ‘Don’t say that.’

‘Say what, Tommy?’ She asked as she looked into his icy blue orbs, which were burning with fury.

I am his father. You get it?’ He stated, emphasising each word.

She tried to keep herself from blowing up and said harshly, ‘You are the man who impregnated me. That’s it.’

‘I didn’t know you were expecting,’ he said, fervently wishing for a cigarette. Or whisky. Or a gun.

She laughed humorlessly.

‘Did you even care? After that night, you barely saw me. You were mostly at May’s. And then with Grace.’

She knew she had hit a weak spot and his grip on her loosened.

‘Why didn’t you fucking tell me?’ Tommy buried his face in his hands.

She got up and walked to where he was sitting.

Putting her hand on his head, she said, ‘Because I could live without your love but couldn’t let the same thing happen to my child.’   

Tommy abruptly turned and  hugged her waist tightly, reminiscent of a night almost three years ago in Small Heath. Some moments later, he let go of her. Only to pull her down on his lap. He ran his fingers in her long hair, then pulled her head down to lightly touch her lips.

Lily hesitated for a moment, then muttering ‘Fuck it,’ moved so she was straddling him on the chair.

She looked down at him and kissed his lips gently. He kissed her back harder and pulled her closer. His tongue probed in and her lips parted in surprise, letting him in. She put her hands on his face, deepening the kiss. His hand, which was resting on her exposed thigh, inched upwards and she ground her hips in response. 

A crying noise interrupted them. Lily hastily disentangled herself and smoothed down her dress. What the hell was she doing?

Tommy got up too and they both climbed the stairs to the nursery. A maid was patting Charlie to put him back to sleep but to no avail.

‘May I?’

She took the crying Charlie from the maid and rubbed his back as she hummed softly, avoiding Tommy's gaze.

‘Mama.’

Lily felt her throat tighten at his painful wail. He had done that many times when she put him back to sleep at night. But tonight, with Tommy in the room, it was heart breaking.

‘Shh, baby. It’s all right.’

She rocked him slowly until his cries quieted down and she felt his head on her shoulder. Carefully placing him in the crib, she put a blanket on him.

She looked up to find Tommy was no longer in the room.

Chapter Text

‘Good morning, Miss Peyton.’ Mary greeted Lily as she walked downstairs the next morning, wearing her printed red dress which buttoned up to her neck. After yesterday, she wasn’t taking any chances.

‘Good morning, Mary.’

She wished her back and walked in the dining room for breakfast. On her way, she almost collided into a rushing Tommy Shelby, dressed immaculately in his dark suit and cap.

‘Good morning, Lily.’ He appraised her outfit, a small smile tugging at his lips.

‘Good morning, Tommy. Going somewhere?’ She said civilly.

His expression became distraught as he said indifferently, ‘Yeah, we’re meeting the Russians today.’

Her eyebrows shot up, ‘Good luck.’               

He nodded, and took a step to move forward.

She interrupted him, ‘Tommy, last night-‘

He hesitated for a bit and said, ‘It got out of hand-’

She shook her head, ‘No, it’s about Charlie.’

‘What about him?’

‘He has called me that before, but he is only asking for Grace. Don’t think otherwise.’

Tommy swallowed, looking at a far space, ‘I didn’t.’

Lily smiled a little. ‘So I was wondering if I could leave today?’

His refocused his eyes on her, ‘Why?’

‘Well, you are back. I am no longer needed.’

He looked around them and said, ‘Let’s talk it over breakfast, eh?’

‘Sure.’

When they were seated on the table with a variety of food before them, Tommy said, ‘I need you here for a while. With the robbery, I won’t be able to be with Charlie. You take good care of him.’

‘And you pay the nannies for that.’

‘They are employees. They work for the money.’

‘But I am an outsider too.’

‘Oliver is Charlie’s brother.’

She dismissed the warm unfurling in her heart and said, ‘Tommy, I care for Charlie too. A lot. But staying here with you is hardly appropriate.’

‘Since when did you care about propriety?’ He asked as he reached for a cigarette from his coat pocket.

She knew she had to say it out loud.

Sighing, she said, ‘It’s not about me. People talk. They know I am not married. And Oliver is -‘

He paused with the lighter lit in his hand, ‘Who talked?’

‘No one. It’s just an expression.’ She said, trying to divert him.

‘Was it Mary?’

‘Everyone,’ she said finally. ‘So instead of reprimanding them, let me go.’

‘I won’t ‘reprimand’ them. I will sack them all.’ Tommy tried to restrain himself from hitting whoever had called his son a bastard.

‘It is hardly fair, Tommy.’

‘No one talks shit about my son and gets away with it.’

‘Why do I bother with you?’ Lily murmured as she got up to leave the room.

Tommy got up too, leaving his food untouched, ‘I expect you to be here when I come back tomorrow.’

‘Oh? You’re spending the night with her then.’ She said coldly and wanted to bite her tongue after she saw the shocked expression on his face.

Walking away, Lily wondered why she had said that. They were not in any relationship for her to reproach his dalliances. Was she bothered by his perverse sexual life? Or by his lack of reaction about last night?

Whatever it was, living in Tommy Shelby’s vicinity was disrupting her sanity.

 

~~~

‘There is a man to see you, Miss Peyton.’ A maid informed her that afternoon, judgement dripping from her voice. The staff had been reserved in their behaviour since the beginning but last night’s incident had added fuel to the fire. Now, they were certain she was Mr. Shelby’s mistress who had an illegitimate child.

‘I’ll be there.’ Lily said as she left the kids in the nanny’s care and went downstairs. She had received his letter a few days back, informing her that he was preparing to leave for England.

‘Lily!’ Alexander bellowed as she reached the hall and abruptly lifted her off her feet, spinning her around in his arms.

She suddenly became aware of the watchful eyes of the maids. ‘Put me down, Alex.’ She hissed.

He put her down quickly and searched her face for any sign of distress.

‘How was your journey?’

‘I am fucking tired to my bones. And lifting you probably broke a couple of them.’

‘Then go take a nap. Don’t bother me.’

‘Here?’

‘I am not to leave Arrow House until Thomas Shelby’s further orders.’

‘Fuck.’

‘Stop swearing.’

‘Well, I will take that nap now. After that, I have some news to share.’

‘Good or bad?’

‘I’ll tell you when my eyes are no longer scratchy.'

‘Bad, then.’

‘Don’t worry. I’ll tell you.’ 

Chapter Text

An hour after Alexander went for his nap, the maid notified her of another caller. Thankfully, female.

‘How are the little babies?’ Polly asked as she entered the drawing room where the children and Lily were sitting.

‘Irritable and bursting with energy.’ Lily replied as she coaxed the toy from Oliver’s mouth while trying to keep Charlie from running outside.

Polly patted their cheeks and said, ‘I heard Tommy knows our little secret.’

‘Yeah, he does. And he has behaved almost gentlemanly regarding the revelation.’ She said as she gave a toy to Charlie.

‘How?’

‘He hasn’t tried to snatch him away from me. Or shoot me dead.’

‘He has been busy.’ Polly said offhandedly.

‘You know Polly, you’re supposed to be on my side.’

‘I want the family to be together.’

‘Then why did you let me go?’ Lily asked testily.

‘Because Tommy wasn’t grieving. This baby can help him heal.’

She looked at her in disbelief, ‘Is that what he is? The harbinger of Shelby family’s peace?’

But Polly ignored her and went to a more interesting topic, ‘I heard your associate is here. Don’t you want him gone before Tommy comes back?’

‘He had a long journey. And Tommy won’t be coming back tonight.’

‘Are you getting even?’ Polly gave her a sly smile.

Looking at Polly in open-mouthed revulsion, Lily said, ‘No. That’s disgusting. He will leave after dinner. It’s the least Tommy can do, after making me stay here.’

Polly got up from the sofa and smoothed her skirt, ‘Well said. I’ll take leave now, my painting is ready.’

Lily gave a small whoop, defusing the tension, ‘Be good, Polly.’

‘I won’t.’ Polly smiled back.

 

The boys were so tired that they happily agreed to their afternoon nap. Which left Lily idle and wanting to jostle Alexander awake. But he refused to budge, snoring slightly in the guest bedroom. 

 She tried again in the evening, after the children had had dinner and were put to bed.

‘Wake up, Alex.’

‘I’ll tell you before Shelby comes back. Just let me sleep.’ He mumbled, not even bothering to open his eyes.

‘When will you tell me?’

‘At the crack of dawn. Even before the sun rises.’

‘You’re putting me in so much trouble.’ She muttered.

He said nothing, just smiled and snuggled deeper in the covers.

Lily left his room to get ready for bed, sulking a bit at his immaturity.

It was risky for him to stay the night. But hopefully Tommy won’t return till afternoon. And with Alexander back, she could live in the old house. Tommy wouldn’t want him in Arrow House.

 

 

‘Morning, princess.’ She said as Alexander trudged downstairs, dragging his bags. She had been waiting for him to come down for too long in her flower- print green dress whose skirt reached her knees and full sleeves covered her hands.  

‘No matter how early you go to bed, it is a crime to wake up at this  hour.’

‘It is two hours past sunrise. Now quickly tell me what is the bad news?’

‘Can I get something to eat? I haven’t had anything in the last twenty four hours.’

She knew he was dawdling, but said, ‘I’ll ring the maid. And you’ll be here in the next ten minutes.’

Half an hour later, Alexander sauntered in the hall, rubbing his flat stomach.

‘Tell me fast.’

He gulped and burped impolitely.

She looked at him in revulsion, ‘Say it.’

He said in a single breath, ‘I sold the farm.’

‘What?’

‘You heard me.’

‘Are you out of your fucking mind?’ She roared.

‘It was a great offer. Almost double of its market value.’ He said nervously.

‘Money is not the issue. Why did you sell in the first place?’

‘Lily, you know the situation there. A military overthrow is imminent,’ he said calmly.

‘And what about Lydia? And the rest of the farm workers?’

‘I compensated them.’

‘And you?’

‘I’ll find something. Maybe here, in England.’

She put her head in her hands in resignation.

‘Your letters mentioned nothing about this.’

‘I got the offer on the day before I left. The man was extremely interested in buying that land.’

‘And you agreed?’

‘Listen, things won’t be easy for you in Greece, considering you are a foreigner. It’s better if you don’t go back.’

‘That is my decision to make. God, I loved that house.’ she said miserably.

‘There will be others. You have a lot of money.’

‘I was safe in Greece. In England, there is always a threat looming.’

He reached to put his hand on hers.

‘If he doesn’t know the truth, what can he do?’

‘He knows.’ She said morosely.

‘Then you both can reach an agreement.’

‘Agreement?  Tommy is not letting me go and everyone thinks I am his mistress.’

Alexander’s face contorted with repulsion, ‘Who would make you a mistress?’

‘What?’ she asked sharply.

‘I meant who would ever think that a woman like you can become a mistress.’

‘Not making it better.’

‘You are an intelligent woman. You are not supposed to be a mistress.’

‘Slightly better. But what do I do now?’

‘You can go back to London. Your former employer will take you back, right?’

‘In a heartbeat. But do I want that life, with Oliver?’ she asked uncertainly.

‘It is a part of you, Lily. Just like Oliver. And they both can co-exist.’

‘You are such a sweetheart, Alexander.’ She smiled.

‘Just not your sweetheart.’ He stated, but this time not in heart-breaking pain rather sad acceptance.

‘Again? We have had this discussion before.’

‘I know. It’s just that you were my first love.’

‘No, don’t go there. I am not in a mood to wipe your tears when mine are on the brink.’

‘Then we’ll wipe each other’s tears.’ He said as he pulled her in a friendly hug. Lily put her arms around his waist and snuggled closer to his woollen sweater.

‘I wanted Oliver to grow up around the fields.’ She sniffed a little.

‘London is not so bad. He’ll like it.’

A harsh clearing of throat made Lily look up.

‘Tommy?’

He wasn’t supposed to come so early, she thought as she took in his suited form.

‘I said I’ll be back today.’ He said, clearing her doubts, his eyes still on the both of them.

She separated herself from Alexander and said, ‘Alexander came back yesterday. He was just visiting.’

‘And is on his way?’ He asked as he looked at his bags.

‘Yeah, he is.’

Alexander picked up his bags and walked towards Tommy.

‘Good to see you, Thomas. I heard about your accident.’

‘I hope all your matters in Greece are sorted.’ Tommy said, barely looking at Alexander.

Alexander’s face blanched a little, ‘Yeah,’ then turning towards Lily, he said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, then.’

Lily frowned slightly but nodded, ‘Good bye.’

And he left, leaving Lily and Tommy alone. She broke the silence with a hurried, ‘I’ll go see if the boys are still sleeping,' and walked away briskly.

Chapter Text

Tommy left for work few hours after he got back, leaving her alone with the children and her thoughts. He hadn’t gotten around to his threat of sacking the staff and she was inwardly pleased. Their presence reminded her to keep it under control. She didn’t blame herself for kissing Tommy that night, it had been too long; three years to be precise. Before Tommy, she had had a couple of relationships with men who were available for a good fuck but kept a tight rein on their hearts, just like her. And she bemoaned the fact that she no longer wanted quick sex. Rather she craved for intimacy, things that involved embraces and holding hands.

Motherhood does change you, she thought as she folded some clothes, sitting on the floor of the living room. The boys were circling around her, playing a game she had yet to understand. All she could discern was they changed positions and touched her back after each round.

‘Weewee!’ Charlie tapped her shoulder. She had taught him her name and he had invented a new pronunciation. But it was far better than what he had called her two months back. Being with Oliver, he had picked up ‘Ma’ and it had taken her a while to keep him from saying that. Thank God he hadn’t called her that in front of Tommy.

‘Dad!’ Charlie stopped suddenly, making Oliver crash into him and fall on the floor. In no time, his face puckered and before Lily could reach for him, Tommy lifted him up.

‘All right, nothing happened.’ He murmured while Oliver looked on wide-eyed, all pain forgotten. Just like Lily, whose hands were comically in the same position as they had been when she had reached for Oliver.

She adjusted her posture as Tommy moved to sit down on the sofa, still not letting go of Oliver. He looked down at Lily, who was still sitting on the floor, her hand almost touching his leg. She extended her arms towards Oliver, who sprang out his hands.

‘Dad.’ Charlie said as he tottered towards Tommy, calmly taking in the whole scene. Sometimes, Lily was disarmed by his calm scrutiny, so much like Tommy’s.

‘What did we do today, Charlie?’ He asked as he lounged on the sofa in his brown three piece suit.

‘Owie!’ he pointed at Oliver, who was tracing Lily’s face with his chubby hands.

‘You played with Oliver, eh?’ he reached for his blonde head and smoothed his hair.

Oliver looked up at the mention of his name, gazing at Tommy and Charlie with reserved interest.

‘What did you do, Oliver?’

He smiled toothily, and tapped his hand on Lily’s shoulder, imitating the game he was playing.

‘You played with Mama?’

‘Ma!’

‘Weewee!’ Charlie interjected.

Lily watched on as the boys continued their conversation and marvelled at Tommy’s patience. He listened to their inarticulate voices and replied in his soothing voice. When they began to become restless, he said, quite redundantly since they were already running away, ‘Go play, boys.’

‘How are you, Lily?’

‘Good, yeah.’ She replied, folding her white housedress in excruciating detail.

‘Are you available for an hour?’

Lily furrowed her brows a little but didn't look at him, ‘I am here.’

‘Good. Because I need to sack the maids and employ new ones.’

She looked up from the clothes, ‘No, you don’t.’ 

‘I am not asking.’

‘Employing new maids will not put an end to the whispers.’

She knew he had no reply for that and added gently, ‘Let me go, Tommy. It’s the best for all of us.’

‘Can’t believe I am losing against my fucking staff.’ He murmured as he looked at the boys.

‘It’s not their fault.’

He looked down at her, his eyes harsh.

‘They talk about everything that happens in the house. It’s part of the job.’ She said, quite hastily.

‘Not in my house. Even if you don’t stay here, I am sacking the maids.’

‘No, you are not. They are poor women working to make ends meet. So what if they talked about a guest? They are not the first ones and it won't be their last time.'

‘I need you here, for Charlie.’ He said, trying to keep his voice as cool as possible.

‘You have a huge family and the Russian business is almost done. He’ll be fine.’ 

He needs a mother. The words were on the tip of Tommy’s tongue and he steeled himself to not say it. Grace was Charlie's mother. No one could replace her.

‘Where are you going to live, then?’ He asked instead, knowing there was no way he could convince her otherwise. It would do him good if he stayed away from her. The kiss between them hadn't been like the others. He wasn't seeking release, he was fucking enjoying it.

Lily smiled a little. ‘I am thinking of going back to London.’

‘To your stealing business?’ He said derisively.

‘It’s not stealing business. It is a philanthropy, of sorts.’ 

‘Such euphemisms.’ He muttered as he reached for a cigarette.

‘I’ll take the train tomorrow, then.’ She said as she got up from the floor.

‘The inauguration of the orphanage is in a few days. I would like for you and Oliver to be there. Can you stay till then?’

She smiled at his invitation but asked suspiciously, ‘Stay at Arrow House? Or in Birmingham?’

‘Wherever you want.’ He blew a puff of smoke in the air, away from her.

‘I’ll go back to the house Polly arranged for us, then.’

He didn’t say anything, just stared into space, reminded of the events of last night. And pledged to never let Oliver get away from him.

Chapter Text

The next day, Alexander came to Arrow House with the intention of taking Lily and Oliver. Luckily for everyone, Tommy was at his Small Heath office when he arrived.

‘I am here, latria mou.’ He sang as he settled on the chair.

‘Wait in the living room. And take Oliver. He isn’t letting Charlie sleep.’ Her harried voice ordered from upstairs. 

While Lily took Charlie to his nursery, Alexander made Oliver say random words. He was teaching him 'bat' when his gaze fell on the car which stopped at the gates of the mansion. And out came Thomas Shelby.

Alexander smiled a little as he saw him walk inside. An idea had stuck with him ever since he had been in Birmingham and it couldn't hurt to try it. A little maybe, as he would realise later.

‘Oliver, can you say it?’ He asked loudly, making sure Tommy stopped to listen to him.

‘Bah.’

‘Say Dad.’                                                                   

‘Duh!’ Oliver raised in hand in triumph.

‘Da-ad. Call me Dad.’

‘Fucking get away from him.’  Tommy pushed Alexander, who was kneeling in front of Oliver.

‘Shelby? What’s wrong?’ He asked innocently as he got up.

‘Stop your fucking bullshit right now.’ He pointed his finger at the tall Greek.

‘Don’t swear in front of the baby.’ He put his hands on Oliver's ears in mock concern.

‘I’ll say what I want to in front of my son.’ Tommy roared.

‘Is he though?'

And a split second later, Tommy’s fist made contact with Alex’s cheek.

‘Fuck! Are you out of your mind?’ He asked as he gingerly touched the burning skin.

‘Cross me one more time and I’ll fucking cut you.’ 

‘Alex?’ Lily panted from the door, alerted by the sudden noise.

She walked hurriedly towards the pair as she saw the blood on Alexander’s cheek.

‘What’s going on?' She asked Alexander, a little out of breath.

‘Tommy Shelby was teaching me some throws.’ He smirked and ambled away.

‘What was that about, Tommy?’ She demanded.

‘Get him the fuck out of here.’ He said as he took out a cigarette, completely oblivious to the mess he'd created.

‘We were just leaving.’

‘You are not going anywhere.’ 

‘Just yesterday you said-’

‘Dad!’

They both stopped and looked down at Oliver who was happily slurring.

Tommy picked him up in a second and said frantically, ‘Say that again. Call me Dad, Oliver.’

Oliver looked at Lily and she smiled, ‘Say it, Oliver. Dad.’

‘Dad.’

Tommy hugged him close and buried his face in his shoulder. Oliver began to writhe at the sudden contact and he reluctantly loosened his hold. He saw Lily looking at them tenderly, then suddenly her face became bereft of emotion and she looked lost.

‘I am leaving your house today.’ She said as she reached for Oliver, who jumped right back in her arms.

 

Lily was putting ointment on Alexander’s cheek when Mary appeared at the door.

‘Mr. Shelby wants you in his study.’

‘I’ll be there, Mary.’

After the maid left, Alexander said innocently,

‘I wonder what he wants to say.’

‘Shut up! It’s all because of you. You know how Tommy feels about Oliver and still you pestered him.’ She said in irritation and hit his shoulder.

'Good luck.' He said as he rubbed his shoulder.

 

A few minutes later, Lily’s head popped in Tommy's study.

‘You wanted to see me?’

Tommy looked from his books.

‘Yeah, come.’ He closed the accounts book and gestured her in.

She settled on the chair in front of him, ‘So, what did you want to talk about?’

‘I want you to stay here.’ He said as he pulled out a cigarette from the box.

‘Why?’ She crossed her arms.

‘John Hughes has been keeping an eye on us. He knows that you live here.’ He declared as he lit the cigarette, even as his hands shook slightly at the realisation.

‘What will he do? I am not associated with you.’  She said coolly.                                                                       

‘He sent a note about Charles. He can send one to Oliver also.’ He inhaled the stick and tried to keep the panic out of his voice.

‘But he doesn’t know Oliver is your son.’

Tommy clenched his teeth at her indifferent tone.

‘What will it take for you stay here?’

‘Nothing. I want to leave.’ She deadpanned.

'How about I let you go back to Greece, after all this is done?'

'You will?' Her mouth gaped open.

He shrugged a little, 'If you want to.'

‘There is some trouble in Greece.’ She said uneasily.

Tommy scrutinised her under his cold gaze, waiting for her to elaborate.

‘Alexander thinks there will be an overthrow there soon, so he sold all the land and came here.’ She said, sadness creeping in her voice.

‘Didn’t it belong to you?’ He asked with little concern, opening another book.

‘Yes. But he could take decisions.’

‘And the money?’

‘The money is here, he brought it with him.’

He closed the book when it began to give him a headache and leaned back in his chair.

‘Thus, the trip to London.’ He mused.

She ignored his gibe when a startling idea hit her, 'Can you give Alexander a job?'

He scoffed, ‘What can a fucking farmer do for me?’ 

‘He has work experience. He used to do office work in a company in Greece.’ She insisted.

Tommy sighed.

‘Well, there is an opening in our Boston branch. Can he work there?’

Lily sat up straight, ‘God, you are actually considering him. But it’s a great offer, yeah.’

‘He has to leave by the end of this week.’

‘Isn’t it a bit soon?’

‘Does he want the job?’

‘Fine. I’ll tell him.’ She got up and made her way to the door.

‘Wait, Lily.’

She stopped and turned to find him getting up from the chair.

‘Since you are going to be here for a while…’ he cleared his throat as he walked and stood behind her. He ran his hands down her bare arms, while she stiffened at his touch.

‘…I thought we could be useful to each other.’ he shifted her hair and kissed her smooth neck, making her shiver.

‘Are you cold?’ He pulled her closer, wrapping his hands around her waist.

‘No.’ she replied, twisting her neck to look at him. He moved forward and kissed her lips, revelling in their softness. And in a moment, he bent her against the desk and pulled up her skirt. Only to hear her mocking laugh.

He paused and watched as she got back up. ‘I think your desk is dirty, Thomas,’ she said scornfully.

‘Learn some manners first.’ She said as she walked out of his study.

Chapter Text

‘So what did he say?’ Alexander asked as soon as she came back to her room.

‘We can’t go back until the ‘thing’ is done.’ She declared as she sat down on her bed.

‘And?’ He prodded further as he pushed Oliver's crib.

She looked at him and gave him a wide beam, ‘And I got you an amazing job opportunity. In Boston.’.

To her surprise, he didn’t jump in excitement. He barely smiled. Rather, he looked tormented.

‘Why did you do that?’ He asked.

‘I thought you would be happy.’ She asked, puzzled at his reaction.

‘It’s not a matter of my happiness.’

‘Then, what?’ She asked in concern, 'You don't want to work with him?'

Alexander sighed, ‘He called me in his office yesterday, late at night.’

‘What?’ She exclaimed.

‘He found out about my past rebellious days. When I was working in that company in Greece.’

‘You mean organising strikes? Revealing classified information?’

He ignored her correction and continued, ‘He said I’ll have to go far away from you. Or he will inform every company in England about my trouble-making past, making it impossible for me to get a job.’

‘Then why did you come here?’ It was getting difficult for her to comprehend the situation. Tommy had threatened to leave him jobless only to hire him at her request.

‘I told him I would stay with you, since you wanted to leave his house. And when you were safe, I would go back to Greece.’

‘Oh, Alex.’ She reached to touch his cheek tenderly.

He didn't pay attention to the rare event when she looked at with such warmth and continued, ‘Yeah, he thought so too. So he offered me a job in Boston.’

‘And you took it?’

He shrugged and said, ‘Of course. It’s not like I had things to do in Greece.’

‘What about your family? England is a lot closer than America.’

‘You know how they feel about me, Lily. I am the black sheep.’

‘They’ll miss you.’ She said softly, knowing it was not the exact truth.

To her lack of surprise, he scoffed, ‘I’ve seven siblings and eighteen nieces and nephews. I don’t think they will have time to miss me.’

‘Why don’t you get it? They all love you.’ This she knew was the truth but he shook his head, motioning her to stop with the sympathy, ‘I only regret irking him. He probably wants me to leave by this week.’

She didn’t need to correct him this time.

‘I feel so stupid. And angry at Tommy. Why is he so..?’ She fisted her hands, unable to find the right word.

‘Manipulative?’ He suggested.

‘Somewhat that. But mostly a prick.’

He snickered as he said, ‘And you’ll have to live with him.’

‘No. I’ll talk to him and tell him I know all about his deceit.’ She stated firmly.

‘Argue all you want, your life is in danger if you live elsewhere. This all,’ he gesticulated with his hands, ‘might be a blessing in disguise.’

‘I hope I get the blessing soon. Oliver is getting attached to Charlie and he said Dad today.’

‘He did?’ He asked, uncharacteristically happy.

Lily’s eyes narrowed at his fake amazement.

‘You taught him that? No wonder Tommy hit you.’

‘I did it for him.’ 

‘No, I think you did it to provoke him.’

‘No, I did it for Oliver. I wanted to see if Shelby actually deserved him or not.’

‘Aww. You didn’t expect the punch, though?’ She asked sweetly.

‘Definitely not,' was his grim reply

Alexander had to leave empty-handed and Lily felt sad at seeing him go. He had been a strong pillar, just like Gerard had been in London and Polly in Birmingham. And it hurt to see him so lonely. Hopefully he’ll find a good American woman in Boston, she thought as she walked back in her room after bidding him goodbye.

She was dressing the boys for bed after she had fed them dinner when Mary knocked at the door.

‘Miss Peyton?’

‘Yes, Mary?’

‘Sir wants you to have dinner with him.’

She looked on, totally flummoxed at the request. She hadn’t expected dinner after that afternoon’s incident. She had been shocked but more offended at his callousness. He had treated her like a faceless woman he could sought his release in. It was an achievement that she hadn’t slapped him.

‘At what time?’

‘After the boys have been put to bed.’

‘All right. I'll be there.' She said tightly.

 

Half an hour later, Lily looked at her plain clothes and dishevelled hair. She wasn’t eating dinner like this, even when it was with Thomas Shelby. She drew a bath and undressed quickly, almost jumping in the tub. When she was done and smelling of roses, she dried herself and took out a solid red dress which flattered her curves.

Putting it on, she looked in the mirror. The dress was simple enough with a round neckline and sleeves which left her arms bare. She brushed her long hair into silky waves, putting a small hair clip at the crown. She had never tried the popular finger waves or applied pomade and it showed. But when she washed and combed her hair, they were as good as new.

Her gaze fell on the lipstick on the table. And she looked at her face. A little colour won’t hurt, she thought as she applied a single coat and rubbed her lips.

Yeah, it looked good without trying too hard, she decided as she went out of her room and hurried downstairs to have dinner with Thomas Shelby.

Chapter Text

Tommy was already in the hall when she reached. He looked at her for a second too long and Lily wondered if she was overdressed. A bit, she realised as she took in his grey vest and blue shirt. Thank heavens she hadn’t applied the rouge.

‘Good evening, Lily.’ He greeted and offered her his hand.

‘Good evening, Tommy,’ she replied warily as she put her hand out. Was he taking her words seriously?

‘We’re having dinner here, in the house.’ He looked at her meaningfully.

Apparently not.

‘Well, I decided to dress up. I haven’t gone out in almost four months.’ 

‘Do you wanna go out?’ He asked in confusion.

‘No, just forget I said anything.’ She wrung her hands.

‘I’ll try to.’ He murmured, obviously referring to her words in his study.

‘Shall we have dinner? I am starving.’

 

When they were seated on the table, just adjacent to each other, Lily asked, ‘Why did you offer dinner?’

‘I thought you might need company. Since your friend left.’ He reached for the whisky.

‘Tommy, I know what you did.’ She said solemnly.

He paused and looked at her.

‘Do you?’

‘Yes! I know you played me. And him.’ 

He gave a small sigh and filled two glasses.

‘And he is the most innocent man in the world, right?’

‘No. But you hit him.’

‘He was making my son call him Dad.’ He said, his voice rising a notch.

‘And you didn’t like that?’

He didn’t answer, just took a sip of the whisky.

‘It’s all right. He was doing it on purpose.’

‘Remind me to give him the porter' job in Boston.’

Lily burst out laughing, and continued till she was breathless.

‘Calm down. Or you’ll be wheezing in a few moments.’ He smiled a little into his glass.

‘Oh, my God, Tommy. You are so bloody nettled.’

‘I thought you were starving.’

‘I apologise. Let’s begin,’ she removed the glass lid from the plate and looked around to find the room empty except for them.

‘Where is everyone?’ she asked.

‘I gave them the night off.’

‘Why?’ She asked, this time suspiciously.

‘Because I can.’ he said plainly.

‘I am not one of your women, Tommy.’

‘You can say the word, I won’t mind.’

‘See? You don’t even respect the women who let you –‘

‘I’ve always asked for their consent. I thought you wanted it too, after that night. But apparently you didn’t and I didn’t force you to think otherwise.’

She didn't answer him, just picked up the glass, feeling unreasonably attacked by his sanctimonious tone.

‘Shall we start?’ He asked.

‘Yes, of course. Just don’t drink too much. Otherwise you’ll have a headache tomorrow.’

 

Thirty minutes later, Lily reached for her fourth glass of whisky.

‘I think that’s enough.’

‘I’ll drink as much as I want to.’

‘Not tonight.’ He said as he got up from his chair and took out a cigarette.

'I drank an entire bottle of whisky on my 16th birthday and still managed to walk back home in one piece.’

‘I thought it was your eighteenth birthday.’ He said as he took a puff.

She furrowed her brows a bit, then said, ‘Both of the birthdays then.’

‘Well, it’s been almost a bottle. You’ve had enough.’ He said in his no-nonsense voice and she smiled.

‘All right, take me to my chamber then.’ She put her hands up for him to hold. Tommy looked down at her for a second, then stubbed out his cigarette , ‘Yes, ma’am.’

He put one hand on her back and the other behind her knees as he bent to lift her.

She stayed quiet for a while, when they reached the staircase, she asked, ‘Did you have your food?’ 

‘I did, yes.’ He replied, panting a little. She had looked like a lightweight.

‘Good. Good boys eat good food.’ She touched his collar in appreciation.

‘Of course.’

‘And they should eat green vegetables.’

‘Noted.’

‘And they shouldn’t drink whisky.’

‘I am not a good boy then.’

‘I knew it. You are a bad boy, Thomas Shelby.’

‘Nothing new in that.’ He kicked open her bedroom door and laid her on the bed.

‘You smoke too much and you kill people and you don’t love me.’ She counted on her fingers.

‘I apologise.’ He said as he began to get up and paused when he realised what she had said.

He was even more unnerved when she asked, ‘Don’t you like to look at me?’

‘I-‘                             

She got up on her elbows and looked at him, ‘Hmm? Don’t you think I am pretty?’

‘You are very pretty.’ He said, beginning to feel uncomfortable.

‘But not beautiful, like Grace. That’s why you don’t want to see me when you fuck me.’

‘I didn’t mean that, Lily.’ He sat down beside her wearily.

‘You only want her, I know you see her everywhere.’

‘I don’t.’ He didn’t know which part was he lying about.

‘Yes, you do. You didn’t even come for your son because you had Grace.’

Tommy suddenly felt a sting behind his eyes.

‘It wasn’t like that.’ He clenched his jaw.

She put her hand on his cheek and said softly, ‘You can say the truth. I won’t remember.’

‘All right, then fucking listen. You think I’ve had it easy? With losing Grace and almost fucking dying, I didn’t know how I would survive. And then you came, pretending like nothing had ever happened, feeding me lies about Oliver. I swear I wanted to shoot you when I found out about Oliver, before I shot myself. But I wanted you when you were playing with the boys, when you wore that damned dress and I would’ve fucking taken you right then when you hugged that Greek.’ He exhaled, feeling like one of the many weights had been lifted off of him.

He waited for her to drift off or slap him again, but she gazed back, her almond eyes wide.

‘Who’s stopping you?’ She pulled him towards her by his collar, pressing her lips against his.

Tommy kissed her back, caressing her cheek, then he stopped and extricated himself from her grasp.

‘Not like this. I want you awake when we do it.’ He said as began to leave.

‘Don’t go. You can sleep here.’ She grabbed his wrist, her words slurred.

‘I won’t be able to stop myself.’ He gently removed his hand from hers. Then, bending down, he placed a kiss on her forehead. ‘Good night, Lily.’ He smoothed her hair as she closed her eyes, a smile on her face.

He covered her with the blanket and was going out her room when he saw the pictures on her night stand. There were two of them. One was of her with a full, eight month stomach and shorter hair, smiling widely at the camera. Smiles were rare in pictures, since it took so long to develop the film. But she held on the smile naturally. And the glow on her face was evident even in black and white.

The other one was with an infant Oliver who was sitting on her lap. There was a scarf on her head and she was wearing a shirt and a long skirt. Looking back at her sleeping form, he picked up the frame and took it with him.

He didn’t know why he took it. Nor did he know where he would keep it. But it felt right. The mother of his child deserved a place in his life, even if he still mourning and would love Grace until his last breath.

Chapter Text

Lily woke up late the next morning, a first time in a long while. She got up panicked and found she had slept in the last night’s clothes. The soreness in her head reminded her of last night’s indulgence. Keeping a hand on her head, she cautiously got up from the bed, deciding to keep her alcohol in check, forever.

She made her way to the lavatory and washed up, soaking in the warm water of the tub. When she was done, she brushed the tangles out of her hair and put on her periwinkle housedress. Her headache was making it impossible for her to think. Which was a good thing, she didn’t want to relive the embarrassment of last night. She remembered bits of last night, which involved Tommy lifting her and it was enough for her to stop her foray into memory lane.

I hope the children haven’t gotten up yet, she thought as she made a way towards the nursery. Only to see Tommy there, holding a crying Charlie in one hand while patting Oliver to sleep with his other.

‘You should’ve woken me up.’ She said as reached for Charlie and tried to calm him.

‘I thought you needed rest.’

‘How long have you been here?’

‘Just for a while.’ He said, even though his eyes said another story.

‘Oh, Tommy. You should’ve called a maid.’ She smiled sympathetically, humming slightly to Charlie.

‘I didn’t want to.’

‘Well, you can go to sleep. I’ll take care of them.’

‘It’s eight already. And we have the inauguration today.’

‘It is today?’

’Yeah, I forgot to tell you.’ 

‘It’s fine.’

He cleared his throat, ‘There will be a lot of people at the event.’

‘Don’t worry, Tommy. I won’t tell them about Oliver.’ She said coldly.

‘I meant-'

‘Save it, Tommy. You obviously can’t have people talking about your illegitimate son at your wife’s institute.’

She carried the quieter and roused Charlie out of the nursery with her. She had moved Oliver in the nursery after seeing Charlie all alone. But now she thought it was Oliver who was alone.

‘Why can’t you keep a hold on your mouth?’ Tommy muttered as he stared at her receding back.

 

Sometime later, when both the children were awake and playing, Mary knocked on the door.

‘Miss Peyton?’

‘Yeah, come in Mary.’

‘Sir sent this for your son.’ she said as she put a package on her bed.

Lily wrinkled her brows as she removed the cover and found a beautiful blue coat with wide buttons. Is that what Tommy wanted to tell her about?

‘Thank you.’

‘Do you need help in getting the children ready?’

‘No, I'll manage. Thank you.’

‘I’ll bring Charles’ clothes too, then.’

When the children were all dressed up, Lily put them under the care of the nanny to get ready herself.

She looked at her clothes hanging in the wardrobe consisting mostly of housedresses and summer dresses, nothing appropriate for a social event. Then she saw the lavender chiffon dress she had bought before going to Greece. It was three years old but looked stylish enough, with a flared skirt and cape sleeves. She checked the dress for any creases or tears and hung it on the hook.

Undressing, she took a look at her chemise-clad form in the mirror. It would be better to pin my hair today, she thought as she picked up the comb and tied her hair in an intricate bun which left her hands aching, but looked elegant. And the pull of the pins helped with her headache too, acting as a painful catharsis.

Half an hour later, she was all ready for the inauguration. The dress was a good fit on her despite the pregnancy curves. She had applied her maroon red lipstick and ignored the rest of the complicated stuff. After going to London, she was meeting Jessie without delay, who was now married to James.

As she rubbed perfume behind her ears, she knew after today, her time at Arrow House was over for certain. And as much as she wanted to leave, she knew she would miss Charles and Tommy. If only things weren’t so complicated. If only she was still in Greece.

She stopped and went to the room far across from hers, cursing herself for being so foolish.

‘Tommy?’ she knocked at his door.

‘Come in, Lily.’

She found him putting on his black waistcoat over his shirt, looking dapper even without the coat.

‘I was wondering if Alexander could come too.’ She said in one breath.

‘Doesn’t he need to leave?’

‘It isn’t the end of the week yet.’ She said blandly.

‘All right. But keep him away from me.’ 

‘Of course.’ She smiled and was leaving when he stopped her.

‘Is that what you’re wearing?’

She looked down her dress and said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty old but it works.’

‘You look good.’ 

‘Thank you. So do you.’ She said, feeling herself blush a little for no reason whatsoever.

‘Did the clothes fit Oliver?’

‘Yes, thank you for that.’

‘You don’t need to thank me. He’s me son.’

Before the uncomfortable quiet took over, Lily declared, ‘I’ll take Oliver with me to the Institute.’

‘How are you going?’ 

‘With Alexander.’

You’ll come with me, Tommy wanted to say, but knew he couldn’t.

Living with you is enough, I can’t make a public appearance with you. I know it is bad for your image, Lily replied silently.

Lily walked out of the room, only this time her hair didn’t bounce, confined in a complicated bun.

So she doesn’t remember anything yet, Tommy thought as adjusted his tie. All the better if only one person was troubled with last night’s memories. He knew Lily was a good mother and she had treated Charles like her own, not letting the past overshadow her compassion. She had agreed to give up everything and come here, just for him. If times were different…he shrugged off the thoughts as he put on his coat. Today was an important day and in a couple of days, he would be done with the dishonest work. Just as he had promised Grace. There was nothing else that mattered.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

‘Lily, is your friend married?’

Lily tried to dissect Ada's words as she looked at her. Back in the main hall, she had been seated between Alexander and Ada and she had lost count of the number of times Ada had turned to look at him and when caught, pretended to tickle Oliver. Had she finally decided to get out of mourning?

‘No.’

‘Are you both together, then?’

‘No, he’s just a friend.’

‘He seems good with Oliver.’ She said as she took him in, imitating noises at the boy.

But all Lily saw was Tommy’s watchful eyes never leaving Alexander’s while he continued talking to the eager women.

‘He is a natural. And he’s going to be in your Boston office.’ She added for good measure.

‘What?’

‘Yes. Tommy offered him a job there.’

‘Did he? Surprising, since I’ll be there too.’

‘Why surprising?’

‘Have you seen the way Tommy looks at him? Did they both brawl over you?’

Lily looked at Ada in shock but she only smiled and went off to ‘mingle’.

Alexander decided to join her at that moment.

‘Where is Oliver?’ she asked.

‘There, flirting with the women.’

‘Bring him back. Those women are positively ruthless.’ She said as she watched Tommy listen patiently to an older blonde.

‘Here he comes.’ Alexander gestured as a plump woman brought him back towards him. He reached for him while the woman sought Lily.

‘We haven’t been introduced formally. I am Katherine Fielding.’

‘Lily Peyton. Pleased to meet you.’ Not, she thought as she took in the cloying smile of the woman.

‘Your son is such a charmer. Every woman wants to hold him.’

‘Thank you.’

‘And is this gentleman his father?’ The woman looked at Alexander suggestively.

‘No.’

‘No? Then who-‘

‘He’s dead.’ Lily said as took another bite of the cake.

‘My apologies. Is it difficult being a single mother?’

‘No, not at all.’ She replied with her mouth full.

‘The Shelbys must be taking good care, then.’

Lily’s eyes blazed at the woman’s tone.

‘You know –'

‘It is actually the other way round, ma’am. Lily has been taking very good care of Charles. I don’t know how she does it with a child of her own.’ Tommy interrupted her tirade.

‘Mr. Shelby, such a lovely event you have organised.’ The woman went back to sugar-coating Tommy, unaware of his jibe.

‘Thank you, Mrs. Fielding.’

He took the woman away with a final glance at Alexander and Oliver.  As Tommy had his pictures clicked, she fed Oliver some cake and listened to Alexander moan about going to Boston. Tommy came back sometime later, his voice laced with worry.

‘Lily, have you seen Charlie?

‘No, what’s wrong?’ She almost got up from her seat.

But he went away without answering, this time asking Lizzie. She looked at Alexander in alarm and found him mirroring the same look.

An agitated Polly crossed her and Lily held her arm.

‘What’s wrong, Polly?’

‘It’s Charlie. Someone took him.’ She said distractedly.

‘Oh, my God.’

Polly looked at Oliver who was giggling, oblivious to everything.

‘Take Oliver and come with me to the office.’

‘It isn’t needed. Right now, you need to focus on Charlie.’

‘That boy is our blood. And I am not taking any chances.’

‘You’ll be fine going back?’ she asked Alexander in defeat.

‘Yeah. Don’t worry.’

>>>> 

Lily and Oliver sat in the privacy of Tommy’s old office while the Shelby family meeting went on outside. She had seen the panic on Tommy’s face and had taken Oliver away with her, lest he witness the same. She wondered how Charlie was, the poor baby, caught with such a horrible man. It felt as if her own child had been taken from her and she couldn’t help but blink back the tears.

There was a sudden quiet outside and the door of Tommy’s office flung open.

‘Did you tell anyone about our robbery?’

She knew he would ask that and she replied with utmost sincerity.

‘I was with you all this time. I never talked to anyone.’

‘What about your ‘secret friends’? They must have asked questions.’

‘We don’t ask questions. And my colleagues don’t mingle with the Economic League. A robbery like this is trivial for them.’

‘Trivial, eh? Even when it involves Faberge eggs?’

Lily closed her eyes in restrain. She knew Tommy was panicking and would think of anything, which looked suspicious.

‘Your friend. Where is he?’

‘He went back to the house.’

‘You know what he used to do? He was a communist. Is he retaliating because I am sending him away?’ His franticness became evident as he walked to the other corner.

‘Tommy, you are being unreasonable. He never knew anything. And neither did I, about the Faberge. You have to take my word.’

‘You’re lucky I have a hunch about someone else.’

‘Go and find Charlie. You’re wasting your time here.’ She said bitterly as he turned the doorknob. He paused and pointed at Oliver.

‘Keep him safe.’

 

THE NEXT DAY

Tommy hurried to get to Charlie’s nursery. His son was back. He hadn’t left him.

He found Lily beside his crib, with Oliver in her arms. Lily, who had his other child, Oliver. But first he had to see Charlie.

‘Charlie.’ His voice broke as he bent to pick him up. Hugging him lightly, Tommy let himself cry.

Lily’s eyes filled as she looked at the two. Her heart had burst when Michael had brought Charlie back and she had taken him back to Warwick. She hadn’t been able to sleep the entire night, watching over the boys with a terrible dread filling her.

Oliver suddenly said, ‘Dad!’ and pointed at the father and son.

Tommy paused for a moment and looked at Oliver in agony.

‘It’s all right, Tommy.’ Lily said softly as she walked closer to him.

Tommy reached for Oliver’s cheek with his other hand and brought his head closer to his.

Taking a deep sniff, Tommy let go of him.

‘Lily-‘

‘Rest for a bit and then we’ll talk.’ She said gently.

‘No, we’ll talk now.’

‘I will be here when you wake up.’

‘Now, Lily.’ He said as he walked towards the sofa, after putting Charlie back in the crib. Lily reluctantly followed, knowing well Tommy won’t relent.

‘What kind of ring do you want?’

She sighed in defeat. She should have expected an offer like that. And while living here had somewhat rekindled her feelings, she wasn’t backing out of her promise of marrying for love.

‘Tommy, don’t make decisions in a haste.’

‘I’ve thought this through. Charlie needs a mother and Oliver needs a father. It’s an equally beneficial situation.’

‘And you? What do you need?’ She asked sharply, offended that he was treating marriage between them as a business deal.

‘I need to keep me family safe.’

‘You need to heal. You’re grieving.’ She retorted.

Tommy exhaled forcefully.

‘I won’t let my kin be in danger again.’

‘I was safe all this years in Greece. Ever since I came back, I am seeing murders and kidnappings.’

‘That is a thing of the past now. There won’t be any trouble, now. Oliver is a Shelby.’

‘I’ve longed for many things, Tommy. But I never regretted keeping him from you.’ Her voice broke a little.

‘I tried to keep things simple, but you leave me with no option.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The Parrish has been alerted about your ‘circumstance’, that you are a single mother with no source of income. They are on their way to arrest you.’

‘Have you lost your fucking mind?’

He got up from the sofa and declared, ‘I’ll be back in an hour. If you change your mind before that, we’ll announce our engagement to them.’

‘How can you do this Tommy? He is your bloody son!’

Tommy’s jaw hardened.

‘Then fucking let him be!’

‘If you think I’ll let you near him after this, you’re mistaken.’

‘You don’t have an alternative.’ He said, bluntly.

‘You don’t know me, Tommy.’ 

He ignored her and gave a parting order as he left, ‘I want you waiting in my study when I come back.’ 

 

Chapter Text

 

PART III

CHRISTMAS EVE, 1925

A blood-spattered Thomas Shelby reached for the telephone and dialled his brothers' and cousin's residence. The war had begun and he needed the family together before the fucking Changrattas reached them.

Tommy waited for John but he didn’t pick it up. After calling Arthur, he called Michael and passed him the information and told him to check on John.

All taken care of, for now, he thought as he went to take Charlie from his room.

Fuck.

Turning back, he ran for the telephone and dialled the number he had been sworn off from calling.

‘Can I get Lily Peyton, please?’

He tried to control his anxiety as he waited for Lily to come.

‘This is Lily Peyton, the Queen of England.’

Tommy swore. All of the days, she had chosen this one to get drunk.

‘Who is this? And don’t you know it is wrong to curse?’ 

‘I need you and Oliver in Small Heath.’ He said as calmly as possible, even though it was useless.

‘What?’ She asked more in incomprehension than shock.

Hanging up, he knew there was no way she would come on her own. He had to go and get her.

Carrying the sleeping Charlie on his shoulder, he made a dash for his car. Only to revert when Charlie said, ‘Mummy.’

Pocketing the photo frame of Grace in his coat, he left Arrow House. Not for Small Heath. But a small town midway where the mother of his child temporarily lived.

 

Tommy took Charles with him as he climbed the stairs leading to her lodgings. Leaving him out in the car was too dangerous even if Johnny Dogs was accompanying him behind.

There was a hushed noise coming from the flat which suddenly quietened as Tommy rang the bell.

A young man with blonde hair answered the door. Fucking Lily, all surprises in one day, Tommy thought as he pulled Charlie up.

‘Yes?’ He asked as he took in Charlie and assumed Tommy to be an irritated father.

‘I need to -.’

‘The party's over. No one is here.'

‘Listen, -‘

He was cut off when a drunken voice intruded, ‘Tommy! What a pleasant surprise!’

And Lily, lovely in an emerald silk dress, wrapped his body in a perfumed hug. And Charles’ too, who woke up confused.

‘Come on in.’ She said as the man behind them said, ‘It’s Lily’s friend.’

She took his arm and led him inside the house, while he tried to control his trepidation.

About fifty people were in the large hall, some of them singing while most of them with a glass of gin or whisky in their hands. Lily stopped in front of an old man, dishevelled in an expensive suit, ‘Guess who?’ she asked as she wiggled her eyebrows at him.

‘Lily, please-’

‘Thomas Shelby, OBE. And the adorable Charlie Shelby too.’

‘Hello, Mr. Shelby. I am Gerard Davis, Lily’s boss.’

As she reached to tweak Charlie’s cheeks, Tommy gripped her wrist and leaned down to whisper harshly, ‘I need you to come with me, now.'

There was another ring and Lily sighed and gestured everyone to quiet down.

‘Turn off the lights. It’s the third bell of the night.’

The same man went to answer the door as a hoarse voice asked, ‘Is there a party going on?’

‘No. Everyone got drunk and went home.’

Lily giggled, and everyone else broke out in an improvised song. Tommy went inside a room and put Charlie to bed, who was getting terrified by the crowd.

He walked out and found her filling another glass. He made his way towards her, taking in her shorter hair, which reached her neck and the diamond on her ring finger. She smiled as she saw him and offered him the glass.

‘How are you-‘

‘Lily! James and Jessie are leaving.’ An emaciated man yelled at her.

‘The baby is all alone.’ The said couple told her apologetically.

She looked at them in understanding, ‘Good bye, then. And Merry Christmas.’

And so every time he tried to get her to listen, another guest came up to her. It took all his self-control to not pull out his gun. It could send everyone on their way but would arouse suspicion. And the people in room, while not the strongest could possibly be the brightest ones. So he decided to wait till everyone left. There was time. A little.

As he walked across the hall, his eyes watchful of anything suspicious, considering Lily could be a target too. The Changrattas could be here but a look at the blasé crowd, dressed too casually for Christmas proved their absence.

His gaze fell on Lily, who had jumped on the table while everyone around her cheered.

When did she become so happy? He thought and almost felt jealous as he saw her playing a pretend flute. She had kept a father away from his son and she was fucking laughing.

As the night went on and Tommy’s apprehension increased, most of the guests left. Gerard Davis came up to him with a glass of whisky.

‘Heard a lot about you.’

‘So you are the one who sent Lily to Birmingham. The one who made her steal from us.'

‘Yep. I am also the one responsible for your other son.' He said in good humour while his eyes scrutinised him.

‘Yeah? Now get out.’

To his surprise, the man only laughed.

‘All right, fellas. Looks like party is over. Let’s go.’ Gerard gestured at the remaining five guests.

As the people began clearing up and wished Lily goodbye, she looked on in confusion. Taking her hand, Tommy led her into an empty room.

‘Come with me.’

In the privacy of her room, he said, ‘Pack some clothes for you and Oliver. We are going to Small Heath. Now.’

‘What happened?’ She asked as she sat on the bed.

Clenching his jaw, he pulled out the letter from his pocket, ‘Did you get this?’

She blinked her eyes to focus her vision, ‘Changrattas? Aren’t these the ones who killed Grace?’

He closed his eyes at the reminder that he was in a way responsible for this.

‘Yeah. That’s why I need you and Oliver in Small heath.’

‘Why would they come for me?’

He looked at her in disbelief, his patience hanging by a thread. ‘Because Oliver is my son. And they are after the Shelby family.’ 

‘No one knows that. He is a Peyton.’

He had to give her that even under the influence, she reached for the truth.

He cleared his throat as he turned his back and said, ‘I had set up a trust fund for him. For when he turns eighteen.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘I don’t need to. Just like you don’t need to tell me about that ring.’

He waited for her reply, annoyed at his own interest, only to hear a soft snore from behind him. 

‘Fucking great, Lily.’

He picked up her prone form and walked downstairs to the car, finding a flummoxed Johnny Dogs waiting for him.

After he had hurriedly deposited her on the front seat, he said, ‘Stand here. I’ll get the boys.’

‘Boys, Tom?’ He put out his cigarette in surprise.

‘Yeah. My boys.’

Back inside the house, he carried her small bag to the threshold and went to get the boys. Charlie was thankfully awake, but not alert enough to ask questions so he only needed to carry the sleeping Oliver.

He hesitated as bit as he reached for his sleeping form, taller since he’d last seen him. But he picked him up nonetheless, calling for Johnny Dogs to pick up the bag.

After he had placed the boys in the backseat, Johnny said, stupefied at the scene before him, ‘Tommy, I didn’t know you had another son.’

‘Consider it a Christmas surprise, Johnny.’ Tommy said as he settled behind the wheel.

‘And the woman?’

‘She is his mother.’ And my possible murderer if she woke up before they reached Watery Lane, he thought as he pushed the button.

Chapter Text

 

The ride to Small Heath was quiet, considering everyone except Tommy was asleep. He noticed Lily snored a little, probably due to her asthma and he wondered how she would cope with it in Small Heath. But she had to deal with it, for he wasn’t letting her go this time, he thought as he looked at her sleeping form. She looked different, just like she had when she came back from Greece. But this time, she wasn’t an exotic country girl with wayward curls in cotton housedresses.

She was polished. She might’ve looked like the upper-class women of London, but her lips were too lavish and her figure too curvaceous. And he didn’t mind that at all, he thought as he glanced at her one more time, trying to ignore the swell of her breasts and her parted lips.

Since it was either thinking or getting into an accident, he let the memories revisit, despite his reluctance.

In the initial days of her disappearance, he had had his men posted in every city, every county and every town of the country. He wasn’t letting her get away so easily.

Two weeks later, when his men were without any updates and one of them was even on his way to Greece, he got a call from a London phone booth.

‘If you don’t stop with your tailing, I swear I’ll go somewhere even your men haven’t been.’

‘Where are you?’ He had almost gotten up from his chair at the sound of her voice.

‘I am in London, as you probably know. And if you even think of calling the police, I’ll come and kill you.’

‘How is he?’ He asked, ignoring her empty threat.

‘He is good. I’ll send a picture every month, but you won’t come any close to him.’

‘You’re playing with fire.’ He had hoped the warning in his voice was evident, but she retorted back.

‘You called the Parrish to arrest me, put your entire family in prison and I saw a man looking at my bedroom window yesterday. Forgive me for my impudence.’

She had hung up after that, probably slammed the phone down and Tommy almost threw the phone across the room. But he had picked it up again and called Andrew who was stationed in London. After he had got hold of the address of the house he was looking at, he had sacked him. And told him if he were ever seen near that house again, he would’ve to face criminal charges.

He had every intention of barging into her house and taking his son away, but decided against it. He was on his way to getting an OBE and she was the one who had ran away. She was the weaker party, with a son and no husband. It was only a matter of time before she came back, asking him to take his son back.

But she didn’t and over the year, he put it behind him. He no longer concerned himself with the fact that his family wasn’t speaking to him. Or a woman was keeping him away from his son.   

He became so occupied with work that he had stopped bothering with Lily and Oliver. They were now a part of a dream which had no place in his nightmarish life. The time they’d spent together in Arrow House was good and he had been almost happy, living under the pretence of a family. But he had accepted he wasn’t entitled to happiness, that he had to keep on going in life, for there was no settling down for him.

He had Charlie and he could barely take out time for him. Oliver was lucky he wasn’t near him, that he had a mother who would fight against the world for him. But he still kept a watch on them.

He knew she lived in a surprisingly grand house in London and worked at a general store, possibly a cover since tonight proved that she was with her company. He had also known she was coming to Birmingham and where she was living while in the city. But he wasn’t going to see her. He had become numb to everything, indulging in whores and whisky sours, trying not to think how fucked up his life was. He had a thriving business, a good position in the society and a child, who was the last reminder of Grace. He wasn’t going to dwell on the shortcomings.

If the ‘sous chef’ wasn’t out cold, he would probably be in Warwick right now, signing letters and checking the accounts. And the next morning, he and Charlie would’ve celebrated Christmas. But here he was, driving busily to his home with his ‘family’.

Chapter Text

Lily Peyton was on swing, which was going higher and higher and making the contents of her stomach churn. When the pressure moved upwards, she opened her eyes in the dark and looked around. Tommy was driving and…What was she doing with Tommy?

‘Calm down, Lily.’ He said, his eyes not leaving the road as she grew frantic.

‘Tommy! What are you-’ But before she could complete, the wave of nausea hit her hard and she put her head outside the window.

A hand rubbed her back as she expelled the contents of the night, mostly whisky.

‘You seem to have a drinking problem.’ He noted as he pulled out a white handkerchief.

She took the handkerchief he was offering and wiped her mouth, trying not to think that she had just vomited her guts in front of him.

‘Where are you taking me? And where is Oliver?’ She asked, panic hitting her as she looked at the backseat. She breathed in relief as she saw the boys sleeping in the backseat.

‘We are going to Small Heath.’

‘Why?’

‘I told you everything before you passed out.’

She held her throbbing head in her hands, trying to remember what all he had said. Something about a letter from Changrattas, a trust fund and…ring?

‘Where will we stay?’ She asked finally, the whisky already compromising her ability to make decisions.

He paused for a second.

‘In Watery Lane.’

‘Where in Watery Lane?’ she demanded.

‘With me. There is an extra room.’

‘What about Polly?’

‘She already has Michael and Ada. It’ll be better for Oliver if he’s closer to me.’

‘No. We’ll stay with John and Esme.’

‘Good luck with that.’ He said with a raise of his eyebrows.

‘Look Tommy, there is a reason why we aren’t together.’

‘For a few months, can you fucking forget about that? Our son’s life is at stake.’

He knew she couldn’t argue on that. And wasn’t surprised at her accession. Which sounded more like a grumble.

 

They reached Tommy’s house at midnight, both of them carrying a sleeping child. She looked around the streets of Small Heath which hadn't lost their gloom despite the festival.

‘You can take the room across from the hall.’ Tommy pointed at the dark room and went inside his own room.

She nodded and walked towards the room. Opening it with one hand, she kicked it open and turned on the light as she walked inside. The room had seen better days, she thought as she looked at the cobwebs and tattered sheets. She was awkwardly keeping a cloth on the chair to put Oliver down when Tommy coaxed him out of her hands.

‘You should’ve called me.’

‘It’s all right.’ She said as she hurried to strip the bed and looked for another bedspread.

‘It’ll be in the cupboard.’

‘Yeah.’ She walked to get the sheets, feeling gauche under Tommy’s scrutiny.

She spread the sheet on the bed and went to take Oliver, hoping Tommy would leave.

‘You’ll be all right here?’ He asked as she laid Oliver on the bed and sat down herself.

‘Yeah, it’s good.’ She said as she patted the mattress, sending out dust which made her cough. But not like before, she had been regular in her injections.

He sat down on the bed, just next to her and gently rubbed her back, for the second time in a night.

‘Is your asthma any better?’

‘Yeah, I just need to be away from dust and smoke.’

‘Then you are in the right place,’ he said sardonically and asked, ‘You're taking your medicines?’

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Good.’ He said as he rubbed his thighs and began to get up.

‘Wait, Tommy,’ she said as she touched his neck.

He stiffened and she showed him her red finger. ‘There was some of it left,' she said softly.

He sighed and put his arm around her shoulder. She didn’t resist and touched his hand, deciding the resentment could wait for a while.

‘Will you keep the boys safe?’

‘I will.’

‘And yourself too?’

He didn’t reply, only squeezed her shoulder.

She found it difficult to sleep that night, still unable to take in everything. Just hours ago she was singing on the table and now Oliver’s life was in danger. Despite the fear looming, it was Tommy who scared her more. There were more greys than there had been last year and the lines around his eyes were more prominent. But it was his eyes, once lively despite their chill which looked blank and tired. It was funny; when Tommy was a gangster with a razor stitched in his cap, she had cursed at him and now when he was a 'respectable gentleman', she was fearful of him.

 

The next day, early morning, the phone rang and Tommy reached for it before she could. Perhaps she wasn't the only one having trouble sleeping.

‘Hello?’

‘Where are they?’ His voice became panicky.

‘I’ll be there.’                         

She tugged the robe close around her, watching the play of emotions on Tommy’s face. She knew it was bad news but didn’t want to get in his way.

‘John’s dead. And Michael has been shot.’ He said it mechanically, like he hadn’t adjusted to the news and was only reiterating the words.

‘My God.’ She said, almost blown by the shock of the news.

‘I’ve to go.’

She nodded and said, ‘Go, I’ll take care of the kids.’ 

Chapter Text

After Tommy put on his coat and left for the hospital, Lily looked around the house for the lavatory. John was dead and Michael had been shot. The situation couldn’t get any more devastating. So the threats were real, she thought as she undressed and stepped into the tub. It was the second death Tommy had witnessed in two years and despite their past issues, she sympathised with him.

She might not have known John that well and was most probably not going to his funeral, she felt his death deserved proper respect. As she put on her only black clothing she’d brought, a wool dress with a boat neck and full sleeves, she couldn’t help but the think the last time she had been in Tommy’s vicinity.

The first few days had been difficult, with the constant fear of Tommy looming. Running away from Arrow House hadn’t been hard, she had only needed to beware of the maids. Living there for almost four months, she knew all about the back doors and car keys. Away from the eyes of the chauffeurs, she had driven straight to London, not even stopping for food or water. Oliver had slept through most of the journey and she had been extremely grateful for that. When she got close to the general store which led to the underground building of The Guild, she had parked the car and walked towards the company, shrouding Oliver from anyone who crossed her path.

Gerard had almost fainted at the sight of her and Oliver, considering he hadn’t seen her in three years. He hadn’t wanted her to get back in the business with Oliver so small, but had agreed to let her do the ‘office work’ and accounts of the Guild. It had been going smoothly for her. The pay was good and most of the work could be done from home, allowing her to stay with Oliver.

But when she had seen the red-haired man standing below her window, she knew she had to call Tommy. She had been coarse and nowhere near forgiving him then, still reeling from his betrayal. It wasn’t as if she had outright refused his proposal, she had only asked him to wait. But he had to have things his way.

And now she was back in Birmingham after more than a year. While she had had no intention of coming back, she needed to see Polly after her strange letter in response to the one she had sent. The only good thing had been the party her colleagues were hosting on Christmas Eve, driving from London just for her.

But Tommy had to ruin that, she thought bitterly as she combed her hair, which just reached the top of her shoulders now. The time with the women of the Guild had taught her a lot about the current fashion. They had taken one look at her bohemian clothing and ordered her to burn all her clothes. In good humour of course, they hadn’t forgotten her. But Lily had agreed. It felt good to restart everything, as if beginning a new life. Her clothes were now of the most exquisite taste, ranging from silks and linens and furs. The housedresses were a thing of her past now, just like her shirts had been. The sale of the farm combined with her past savings from the Guild had made her a rich woman and she would comfortably live the rest of her life without bothering about threats from Thomas Shelby.

But it wasn't as if he were after her anymore. Current situation notwithstanding, she hadn't had a run-in with him ever since her hostile phone call. Which had been a blessing, though she was a touch disappointed at his indifference.

 

She was sitting on the round table, looking at the photo album she had discovered in her ram-shackled room when Tommy came back, still shaken and silent. He was walking towards his room when she got up, almost at his side.

‘I drew you a bath in your room. Do you want anything else?’

‘No.’

Even though she hadn’t forgiven him, Lily reached for his hand and clasped it in hers. ‘It’ll be all right soon.’ And she left his side to go to her room.

‘There is a meeting today. I want you there.’ He called from behind, his tone businesslike.

‘What will I do? I am not a part of your family.’ 

‘We stay together, Lily. You can skip the funeral if you want. Stay with the children.’

Since he was at least giving her a choice, she nodded, ‘Yeah, that’ll be okay.’

***

In the old office of Shelby Company Ltd., Lily tried not to squirm under the gaze of Linda and Lizzie. It wasn't a dead-on stare but an almost snide, side-eyed look. Every other member was still reeling from the news and Tommy had yet to come. He had asked her to leave before him, since it would take him time to get dressed.

The lack of response from the people standing behind her surprised her a little, maybe Tommy had told them.

Her anxiety was brought to an end when Tommy walked-in in his determined gait. And declared abruptly, possibly after noticing her discomfort.

‘Before we start the meeting, there is something I would like to share. I am the father of Lily’s son, which makes her and Oliver a target. And that’s why she’s here. Any questions?’

‘But why is she on the table? She isn’t a part of the family.'

'Or associated with the company.’

‘So you have finally decided to get your son back. Four years too late.’ Polly said in her worldly voice.

There were also a few gasps around her but she didn’t look up until Arthur said, ‘Go on, Tom,’ while Linda probably crucified her in her head for being an unwed mother.

As the meeting went on, Lily noted Polly’s frenetic behaviour. The noose had done her, all right.

‘Take a vote.’ Tommy ordered.

‘Peace.’ And it went on until it was Polly’s turn. Lily wasn’t surprised by her decision, she had wanted Michael to leave Shelby Company.

‘Lily?’

‘Peace.’

She pretended she didn’t hear Lizzie’s scoff and turned a deaf ear to the entire meeting until she heard Tommy’s ‘All right, then.’

She knew the uncomfortableness was short-lived and soon she would be in London. And years later, when Oliver got older, she would tell him all she had had to bear for him.

Since Polly had turned her back after her vote, Lily walked towards Ada. And honestly, she was a little afraid of Polly’s new sixth sense.

‘I am sorry about your loss.’

Ada’s eyes teared up as she said, ‘I miss him so much. I just hope he’s resting up there.’

‘He’s in peace.’

‘How is Oliver?’

‘He’s good. I take it Alexander told you.’ Lily had been surprised that Tommy had let Alexander keep his job. But she knew he had interrogated relentlessly about her disappearance. And he hadn’t told him anything, because even he didn’t know her whereabouts until she had contacted him. Almost a month after getting his address from Lydia. He still held that against her.

Ada nodded. ‘We became friends in Boston.’

‘He writes about you in his letters.’

‘We’re not in a relationship. But that doesn't mean Tommy should know.’

‘Considering him, he probably knows.’

Ada gave a sardonic smile and said,  ‘We should leave for the funeral. Are you coming?’

‘Listen, Ada, I’ll stay here with the boys. It’s your family and I don’t want to interpose.’

‘Did you talk to Tommy?’

‘Yes. He agreed.’

‘All right. But be careful. Do you know how to use a gun?’ She asked, suddenly worried.

'Yeah, I do. Don't worry.'

Chapter Text

Oliver and Charlie woke up sometime after Lily came back from the meeting, both of them  unfamiliar with the change of surroundings. While Oliver was taking in the new place with interest, Charlie, unsurprisingly, didn’t remember her or Oliver and looked at them wide-eyed. Anticipating tears, Lily began cajoling him.

‘Charlie, it’s me, Lily. And Oliver, you used to play with him.’

But he didn’t cry, rather asked in his polished voice, ‘You’re my new nanny?’

She looked on, slightly stunned, ‘Yeah. You can say that. Would you like to play with Oliver?’

He looked at Oliver, who was reaching for the glass on the table and decided, ‘Yes, I would.’

‘M-m-mum, I wanna play. ’

Charlie looked at Oliver in wonder, probably unused to hearing someone stutter.

‘Very well, boys. Go in that room.’ She said as she took them in Tommy’s room and gave them some toys to play with.

Thankfully, they didn’t bicker and Lily went in her room. The day went by and she busied herself with making food for the boys. After they were fed and back to playing, she began unpacking, when there was a knock on the door.

‘Who is it?’ She yelled from inside.

‘Mr. Shelby sent me, to keep you safe.’

She looked at the boys, playing with the toys on the floor of the room.

‘You both play, I’ll get the door.’ She warned the boys and locked the door behind her for good measure. Opening the drawer where Tommy had left the gun, she picked it up with trepidation. It was probably a blinder, but she wasn’t taking any risks. She made her way towards the door and slowly opened it, only to jerk backwards and fall when someone pushed in forcefully. The gun slipped from her hand and a man in a suit came in.

Landing on her hip, she reached for the gun on the floor, only for the man to keep his foot on her hand.

‘Mrs. Shelby, don’t try to be clever.’ The man’s Italian accent became prominent as he pointed the gun at her head.

With all her strength, she raised her leg and hit him between his legs. As he bent to groan, in a split second she grabbed her gun and shot him in the stomach. He pointed the gun at her again and she shot him, this time in the chest. She rolled away before his bloody body could fall on her, panting from the blood rush. And pulled the trigger at the back of his head.

‘Fucking hell.’ She muttered as she looked at the body on the floor and the blood on her. The entire family was at the funeral and still the Changrettas had come here. And she couldn’t even call anyone. She was all alone with a body while two little boys played inside. Looking at the blood on her dress, she felt nauseated and wanting to cut it off her.

She was not going stay here for a moment more. Tommy could fuck off with his threats and warnings. The moment he came back, she was telling him about her plans.

But first she needed to move the body, the children couldn’t see that. The man seemed close to seventy kilograms and even if she moved him, where would she keep the body? She looked at the carpet on which he was sprawled. That would have to do for now.

***

Tommy had just finished his conversation with Aberama Gold and his welterweight son when a resident of Watery Lane come running towards him.

‘What’s the matter, Bill?’

‘My wife heard shots in your house.’

Every hair on his body rose as he picked up his pace.

‘Why didn’t you fucking go there?’

‘I was at me factory.’

‘Fucking hell. Arthur!’

‘Yeah, Tommy?’ Arthur came running towards him, suspecting something was wrong.

‘Someone fucking got inside Watery Lane.’ He walked to his car, almost shivering with fear.

‘In our home?’

‘Yeah, where the boys and Lily are.’

‘These fucking wops are a step ahead from us.’

Tommy hurried to sit inside, wishing he were nearer. And he hadn’t let Lily stay, more than that, he wished he hadn't brought her back. But now that she had been a target, he wasn't letting her out of sight for a second.

‘This is the last fucking time they cross us. If anything happened to Lily, I won’t let those bastards live.’

Arthur took in Tommy’s words and nodded, ‘Go, Tommy. And take Johnny Dogs with you.’

 

A harried Tommy pushed open the door, blood rushing inside his head.

‘Lily?’ He yelled as he looked around the house.

He breathed in relief when found her on the sofa, in her bright silk robe and a glass of whisky in her hand.

‘Where are the boys?’

‘In my room. They are sleeping.’ She replied, her voice clear and calm.

He walked towards her and sat next to her, ‘Are you hurt?’

‘Only my hand hurts.’ She said as she showed him the back of her hand, bruised black and blue.

He swore. ‘Where is the man?’

‘There.’ She pointed at the corner, where the carpet was rolled up.

‘Johnny! I want you to get rid of that bastard right now.’

‘All right, Tom.’

He watched as Johnny  moved the body out of his home, almost an everyday task for him now. After the house was free of Changretta’s man, Tommy said, ‘You can sleep in my room. I’ll sleep here.’

‘No. I am leaving this place today.’  She replied in her frustratingly calm voice.

‘You’re being irrational.’

‘I almost died today. In spite of your tribe of heathens and protection.’

‘It won’t happen again.’

She shifted violently, dribbling the whisky on the carpet.

‘Again? It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.’

‘What happened was unforeseen. I promise I will keep you safe.’

‘I was safe in London. Just like I was safe in Greece.’

‘Fucking shut up. You are not going anywhere, and that is final.’

‘You didn’t have to shoot the man when the children were in the next room. You didn’t have to clean the blood from your clothes and move that man’s body. So don’t go around giving orders to me.’ She said, trying not to let the tears fall. But they did and Tommy wrapped her in his arms.

‘Shh. It’s all right, you dealt with it and came out unscathed.’

‘Who would’ve taken care of Oliver if something happened to me?’ she sniffled into his coat.

‘Nothing will happen to you.’ He hugged her closer and kissed the top of her head.

‘I was so scared, Tommy.’ She looked up at him, her eyes rimmed.

As he took in her anguished self, he was reminded of that night in Small Heath. She had fought a bastard that night too, when she had a baby inside her. She was a fighter, and today, because of his stupidity he would’ve taken away Oliver’s mother. Just like he had done with John’s kids.

He put his hand on her face and bent to kiss her, revelling in the feel of her plush lips. She hesitated for a second, but wrapped her hands around his neck, kissing him back with feverish need.

While she continued kissing him, his hand reached for the belt of her robe. And his eyes stayed glued to the bare skin he had uncovered.

‘What are you thinking?’ She asked as she moved to touch his jaw.

‘Nothing.’ He said and kissed her back.

‘We don’t have to do this.’ She stopped again and said softly.

‘Trust me, there is nothing else I want to do. Except kill that bastard again.’ He removed her robe and laid her on the sofa, before asking, ‘Is the door locked?’

‘Yeah.’

He kissed her while unzipping his pants and entered her in one thrust. She grew rigid at the sudden entry and bit her lip to keep from crying out.

‘Shit.’ He muttered as he kissed the rest of her face, trying to take the sting away.

‘Don’t stop, Tommy.’ She said, her voice a little strained.

He began to move slowly, cursing himself for being brutal with her and she urged him in, putting her hands on his face.

As he neared his release, his thrusts grew frantic and she whispered, ‘Pull out.’

He continued pumping, kissing her smooth neck. She cried out as she reached her release and he followed suit, burying his head in her shoulder.

Some moments later, when their breathing was back to normal, she shifted a little under him. He looked up at her blankly and she slapped his left cheek. Then his right. ‘Why don’t you fucking listen?’

He got up to readjust his clothing, and kissed her after carefully placing the robe on her body. ‘You go and sleep in my room.’

Chapter Text

‘Mum, I dr-dr-drink my milk.’

‘Very good, sweetie. Do you want anything else?’ she asked as she wiped the moustache from his face.

‘No.’

‘Charlie, do you need something?’

‘No, Lily. Thank you.’

She raised her eyebrows a bit at his manners. ‘Alright, then.’

She was breaking an egg for the omelette when Tommy left his room in his impeccable suit and a briefcase in his hand. He sat down on the vacant chair and opened the case to take out a bunch of papers.

‘Aren’t you late?’ She asked as he put on his gold-rimmed round glasses.

‘Two of Aberama’s men are coming. They will be outside at all times.’

‘Like yesterday?’

‘Dad, I finished my breakfast.’ Charlie interrupted her tirade.

‘Good boy, Charlie. Did you too, Oliver?’ Tommy realised he hadn’t taken a good look at him ever since he had been back. His hair were unruly and curled, unlike Charlie’s neatly parted hair. And he was a bit taller, his body lankier than Charlie’s. Was she even feeding him properly?

‘Y-y-yes.’

Tommy stared at him through his  glasses then looked at Lily in question, who didn’t meet his eyes.

‘The doctor said it’s temporary. He’ll outgrow it.’ She said as she put the egg in the plate.

‘Dad, can I go play with Oliver?’

‘Yeah, go.’ He said distractedly.

When the boys ran into the other room, she wiped her hands on the apron and walked where Tommy was sitting.

‘Tommy, I wasn’t joking yesterday. I am leaving.’

He answered without looking up, signing his papers, ‘It isn’t safe for you to be out in open.’

‘That man thought I was your wife. If I wasn’t here, there wouldn’t be any suspicion.’ She said as someone knocked on the door.

‘Now that you’ve been a target, it puts you in more danger.’ He got up and went to get the door, while she gripped the table until her knuckles turned white.

He dealt the visitors from outside and she heard low murmurs of their conversation in the kitchen.

‘I need both of you here at all times. Don’t leave this house unattended for even a second.’

‘Yes, Mr. Shelby.’

He came in and was reaching for his overcoat when she said, ‘Have something before you go.’

‘No.’

She shook her head a little, annoyed at his detached behaviour. He had been quiet after last night and had probably slept in his office upstairs. As if he had any reason to be annoyed. She was the one who could be possibly pregnant, all because he wanted to prove a point. And she couldn’t even work up the anger. Last night was a sign that he was drowning in grief he couldn’t express, and he had her complete sympathy.

‘Fine, then.’ she said as she put the plate down with unnecessary force.

‘I’ll be back late. Don’t wait for me.’ He put on his overcoat and then his grey cap.

‘Why would I?’

‘Because I want you to.’ He said and left, leaving her stunned.

 

Tommy’s thoughts were elsewhere as he watched Bonnie punch the life out of Billy. The boy was a strong arm, no doubt, despite his appearance. But images of Lily and her honey brown eyes plagued him. Almost five years since he’d had Lily. And he hadn’t even given her the luxury of a bed. He had all but rutted into her like a fucking bull, not even looked into her beautiful eyes, touched her lush body. She was traumatised and he had used her weakness to bury his grief. Even talking to her made him feel guilty, an emotion he wasn’t proud of feeling. And it was heightened when she pretended like nothing had happened.

She was fucking asking him to eat breakfast when there could be a possible child inside her. Their child. And as much as would like to make up for missing Oliver’s birth, he was not ready for another. There were more pressing concerns to deal with. Including a particular Jessie Eden, the Changrattas aside.

 

That night, when he went back home, he was still reeling from his meeting with Luca Changratta. His vendetta against the Shelbys was all too powerful and he needed to be alert at all times. But at least the war was amongst the men; the children won’t be harmed. He was relieved to find the men still near the door and he nodded at them as he made his way inside.

For the first time in a while, he saw proper lighting in the house. The house looked cleaner than he had ever seen, with the lamps lit and curtains drawn.

‘You’re back earlier than I thought.’ Lily said from the sofa, a book in her hands.

‘You did all this?’

‘Don’t look so shocked. I did it because I was bored to death. It’s like I am in a prison.’

‘You didn’t go out much in London, too.’ He said as he settled on the sofa, next to her.

She raised one eyebrow at his knowledge but didn’t question it further, ‘My neighbours were my friends. Here it’s only two little boys.’

‘It’s good they’re getting along.’

‘Yeah, it is. I think Charlie is a little lonely.’

‘I told you he needed a mother.’

She ignored him and continued with her perusal, ‘Even you seem lonely.’

‘I was always like this.’

‘You’ve changed, Tommy.’

‘So have you.’ He said as he touched her sheared hair.

‘I am not talking about the greys or the glasses. You act like you don’t have a heart.'

‘Maybe I don’t.’

‘Why do you have to be so cynical?’

‘When you’ve seen what I have, everything seems bleak.’

‘I might not bear the ravages of the war. Nor have I lost a loved one. But I never had a loved one to begin with. I have lost a child and raised another on my own. Do you know how it was to raise him? People used to ask me who his father was at every occasion, men used to seek excuses to get closer because I was alone and you didn’t make it any easier. So don’t tell me you’re the only one who has seen everything.’

She began to get up, only for him to hold her wrist and pull her down towards him.

‘Why do you always want to combat me, eh?’

‘What are you saying?’ She didn’t look into his eyes, trying to move out of his grasp.

‘At Ada’s place. When it comes to Oliver. In bed.’

‘In bed? Need I remind you about last night?’ His grip on her loosened, and he shifted a little. She took sympathy and said humorously, ‘Don’t answer that, your guilt is radiating in all directions.’

‘Is it possible that you could be pregnant?’

‘I don’t think so. But you never know.’

‘Tell me if there is anything to worry about.’ He began to get up.

‘There is, actually. Have you been using opium?’

‘Not yet.’ He said, almost to himself.

‘I found your pipe while cleaning. There are children in this house, Tommy. I don’t want them to see it.’

‘That’s why you’re here.’ He said and went upstairs, possibly in his study to brood.

Chapter Text

 

One night, after the boys were in bed, Lily was looking at the small statue she had unearthed while cleaning. It was old and damaged and probably not of any importance, considering how the Shelbys lived. But it wouldn’t hurt to verify its origins, she thought as she scraped the greenish rust from it. Maybe it could be a relic.

‘What are you doing?’

She fumbled to hide it from Tommy, not wanting to raise any suspicions. It wasn't as if she was ashamed of her profession, but it was Thomas Shelby. He always thought ahead.

‘Nothing. I was just reading.’ She said as she got up, biting her tongue at her blatant lie.

‘Give me that.’

‘What? And why are you here? Don’t you know a man shouldn’t be with an unchaperoned woman.’

He didn’t answer her, only reached for her hands.

‘Stop, Tommy. You’re hurting me.’ She lied easily this time as he divested her of the statue.

‘What's this?’

‘Nothing. It’s just a keepsake from my mother.’ She said solemnly; it was obvious he didn't know about its presence.

‘You found it here, didn’t you?’ His icy gaze penetrated every cell of her brain.

She sighed, ‘Yes, I did. And I was only looking at it.’

‘Were you planning to run away with this?’

‘Seriously? You’re accusing me of stealing this piece of scrap?’

‘Won’t be the first time.’ He muttered, remembering the ugly antique she was after.

‘This could be a valuable piece of art. I just want to, you know, be informed.’ She said with a slight shrug.

‘You won’t stay in the house anymore.’

She smiled suddenly, ‘Of course, that’s what I have been saying.’

‘You will go to the betting shop from tomorrow. Polly and Lizzie will be there to keep you company.’

‘And the children?’

‘They can go to Sutton. Karl is there too.’

She made a non-committal sound, her eyes still on the statue. 

‘Luca Changratta was in my office the other day.’

‘How are you still alive?’ She was actually shook by the news and angry that he had kept it from her, but he had just called her a thief. Which she was, but not presently.

His jaw hardened and she realised her mistake.

‘I mean, what did he say?’ She asked hastily. 

‘This vendetta is between the men. No children will be harmed.’

‘And you trust him?’

‘He wouldn’t be a man if he went back on his word. Nonetheless, we are prepared if he does.’ He sighed as he leaned against the wall.

‘Fine. But I’ll be back by afternoon.’

‘Inform me before you leave. In person.'

She scoffed a little, ‘Yeah, sure.’ 

‘I am not joking, Lily.’

'Good night, Tommy. Unlike you, some people need to sleep.'

 

After a morning of hearing gunshots which almost made her drop the plates she was holding, Lily was in the betting shop of Shelby Company Ltd. While she wasn’t too keen on being in the company of Lizzie and the ‘new’ Polly, she also didn’t want the children to witness gunshots. 

Inside, she saw Polly and Lizzie in a jail-like office (if that was a thing) and they looked at her in surprise.

‘Lily? Why are you here?’

‘By order of Thomas Shelby. He said I was to come here after I unearthed something of his past during cleaning.’

‘You were cleaning?’ Polly asked, knowing her aversion to even putting things back.

‘Desperate times, Polly.’ She said as she took off her gloves and sat on the empty chair.

‘But what will you do here?’

‘I can take bets. Or check the safe.’ She added light-heartedly.

Polly pursed her lips a little, but relented, ‘You can take that table.’

Another slam of the door alerted the women and in came Linda Shelby.

Polly made her way towards Linda while Lizzie followed, murmuring ‘Another mother bored at home.’

‘I said to Arthur while I’m in this fucking place I want something to keep my mind busy.’

‘What? You’re going to take bets?’ Polly asked in disbelief.

She continued to tease Linda while Lizzie looked at Lily with side eyes, already deciding that she was an outsider among the Brummies.

The door closed one more time and Finn Shelby announced, ‘The rule is that the door should always remain locked until 9 am.’

'Right, boy. Boy. Where are you going?' Polly walked towards Finn, already burdened with the sudden rush of newcomers.

'Well, Arthur’s not coming in today. He’s taking the day off. So-'

'So, what?'

'So, Tommy said I’m in charge.'

'Sorry, you’re in charge?'

‘Finn, aren’t you like 12?’ 

‘That was six years ago, Lily.’

Setting the telephone on Linda's table, Polly walked towards Finn and said craftily, ‘Ladies, let’s give our new boss a first day he’ll never forget.’

 

Lily laughed as the women cajoled Finn into divulging about his sex life, or lack thereof. But her eyes stayed on the clock, waiting to leave and check on the boys.

After some time, when Finn was in Arthur’s office, Polly declared, ‘I think he should lose his precious gift of virginity today.’

Lily almost choked on empty air while Linda surprisingly got excited.

‘Oh, yes. Maybe Lizzie can help. With finding him someone.’ She added sweetly while Lizzie’s mouth twisted bitterly.

‘Lizzie, do you know someone who is available?’ Polly asked, disregarding Linda's jibe.

‘I’ll have to check.’

'It will be fucking fun.' 

Lily wrinkled her eyebrows at the strange placement of the word, even stranger coming from Linda's prudish mouth but went on with the work. When it became apparent that work was out of question, Lily picked up her purse and coat.

‘All right, ladies. It’s been a fun day but I must leave now. Can you call someone to drive me back?’

‘You are in Watery Lane.’ Lizzie said without looking up.

‘I have been requested to inform your boss when I leave. More like threatened.’ She rolled her eyes.

‘How is life with Tommy, Lily?' Linda asked with her cloying smile.

‘There’s nothing to tell. He’s barely home.’ She said as she put on her coat, hoping she wouldn't ask more questions.

‘And Charlie? Does he like his new Mum?’

She looked at Linda and replied firmly, ‘I am not his Mum, Linda. But I don’t mind looking after him, either.’

‘He had you on his desk yet?’

Did everyone have a stick up their bums today? She had been polite for too long.

‘No, Lizzie. Have you been keeping him occupied?’ 

‘I have always been available. Did he tell you he fucked me after Grace died? That I kept his heart from breaking.’

While the words were meant to show superiority, they were bitter and self-deprecating. And Lily couldn’t help but feel compassion for her. She had been in the same place once, hungry for Tommy’s love while he sought after Grace.

‘I didn’t know, Lizzie. But you helped him when he was hurting and that is something.’ She said calmly.

Lizzie looked at her for a second then scoffed, ‘There is a girl from Aston.’

‘Call her, then.’ Polly said, pleased to have a change of topic.

'How do we pay her?'

‘Use the petty cash, Lizzie. And you, there's a car waiting outside. Hurry.' 

 

‘I am leaving for Sutton. Thought I would tell you.’ She said from the door, not wanting to enter inside.

‘Got bored so soon?’ he asked as he shifted some papers, then motioned her in, 'Come on in.'

‘No. It was fun. They found out Finn is a virgin and are arranging a girl for him this afternoon.’ She walked in briskly, already wanting to leave immediately.

‘I thought Linda was there?’ 

‘She is. She loved the idea.’ She settled on the chair after seeing a black and white photograph on his desk. It wasn't visible from where she was sitting, he had kept a file in front of it.

‘Keep an eye on her.’

‘I am leaving. Call Lizzie or Polly.’

‘Does Finn know what they have planned?’

‘Of course not.’

‘Do they have someone?’

‘Yeah. Some girl Lizzie used to work with.’

‘Is she nice?’

‘How am I supposed to know? She’s from Aston, whatever that means.’

He got up from his chair, leaving her confused about his intentions.

‘Well, call 'em and tell them to get someone nice.’ 

Since he was being so pompous, she decided to tell him about her finding.

‘I heard about your affair with Lizzie.’

‘Are you jealous?’

She looked at him in contemplation, then said, ‘Nah, but I wish I knew your heart was breaking.’

He walked away from the desk, mentally cursing himself for his choice of words.

‘Come on.’

‘Where?’

‘Somewhere I haven’t been in a long time.’

Chapter Text

‘We used to come here. She’d wait hours for me, when I couldn’t make it. And I’d wait for her when family kept her.’

‘That is so sweet. Who was she?’ She asked, trying to work up the interest in her voice. Being in a secluded place with Tommy always led to catastrophe. Be it the Yard, the woods or where she was presently. The current place was eerily calm, even with the persistent chirp of the birds and the chilling air. And it was somewhat frightening to see Tommy take in the place with such nostalgic interest.  As if he were recreating everything of the past, remembering it bit by bit. His next words told her the reason behind her presence too.

‘Some girl. Some girl before France. I’ve not been here since. Wanted to come here with you.’

He walked closer and stopped in front of her, looking down at her with rare tenderness. Tucking the flicks of hair behind her ear, he bent down to kiss her. His motive was evident, but her teeth were chattering and she could use the warmth. So she accepted him, revelling in the touch of lips. But when he pulled down her coat, she put her hands on his chest, motioning him to stop.

‘Okay, I know what you’re thinking. And as much as I want to do it in the open, where anyone can catch us, I can’t.’

He looked at her in question, impatiently waiting for her paltry excuse, his eyes searching.

She closed her eyes, took a breath and opened them again, mortified at having to tell him, ‘It’s that time of the month.’

He paused for a bit, then moved closer to her again, ‘It doesn’t matter.’

She pushed him again and made a sound of disgust. ‘It does to me. And seriously?’

‘Fuck.’ Tommy muttered.

‘Oh, Tommy. I hope you understand.’ She gave him a saccharine smile.

He noticed a small dimple in her cheek. He had never seen it before, may be because she barely smiled widely at him. And when she did, it was fake and contemptuous, like the one she was presently flashing at him.

‘So that means you’re not pregnant.’

‘Do I hear disappointment? You should be counting your blessings.’

‘There aren’t a lot.’ He said as he took out a cigarette and lit it.

‘Since your purpose of bringing me here won’t be fulfilled, can we go back? It’s freezing in here.’

‘Let’s sit here for some time.’ He sat next to her on the hay and asked, ‘Does your fiancé know about us?’

‘There is no us. And no fiancé.’ She said, slightly surprised by his observation.     

‘Why do you wear this?’ He gestured at her hand with his stick.

‘Because I like this. It’s a rare diamond.’ She put her hand up for him to see. He held it in his own and touched the sparkling gem. It did look rare and expensive.

‘Did you steal it?’

She snatched her hand back and bit out, ‘I bought it. With my money.’

‘You refused a ring when I offered.’

‘You weren’t offering, you were making a deal. With no way out.’

‘Same thing. I still don’t know why you refused.’

She decided he deserved that at least, as the jilted one.

‘I promised myself to never marry just because I was supposed to.’

He scoffed, ‘Do you think any good man would marry a Shelby’s mother?’

‘Tommy, I’ve lived a life bereft of love and affection. Don’t I deserve my chance at a happily married life?’

‘Happiness is overrated.’

‘Then why did you bring me here, the place where you used to meet your lover? You can deny it, but deep down you want to be happy too.’

‘I can’t undo a war, Lily.’

They were silent for a while, looking at the river flowing by and the fog rising from it, then he said, ‘I want you to do something for me.’

‘I’ve done so much for you. You should start giving me a salary.’ She sat up straight, slightly disgruntled.

‘Shelby Company is increasing non-taxable charitable contributions to local charities by 25%. I’m gonna build two new institutes for destitute children. One in Saltley, one in Digbeth. I’ve already identified the buildings. Two former workhouses. And I want you to be in charge of the project.’

She felt warmth spreading inside her heart. It was as if Tommy knew she would want to do something for orphaned children.  ‘Wow, Tommy, that is-’

‘I know. I thought you would want to do it.’ His voice grew gentler and he touched her cheek.

‘May I ask why?’

‘I promised someone I would change the world.’

‘That’s generous of you, but I won’t be here for long.’

He sat up from the stack of hays and brushed the few strands straw from his coat. Offering her his hand, he motioned his head at her, ‘Come, let’s go. The boys must be waiting.’

And they left hand in hand, a man who had lost every woman he’d ever loved and a woman who had never been loved.

Chapter Text

They went to Sutton to get the children, both of them lost in their thoughts. When they were returning back to Watery Lane, Oliver and Charlie were quiet too. Which was surprising, considering their relationship was straightforward and friendly, unlike the adults.

‘What did you do today, boys?’ Lily turned her head to look at them.

‘Oliver hit me with my toy car.’ Charlie declared.

Her eyes widened, and she realised it would’ve been better to let them be.

‘Why did you do that?’ she admonished Oliver, who looked at her in defiance

‘He t-told me to sh-shut up.’

‘Charlie?’ Tommy jumped in the conversation, protective of his one son while being gentle to the other.

‘He won’t stop mumbling.’ Charlie complained.

‘He-‘

‘Okay, stop. We’ll talk when we get home.’

 

Back in Watery Lane, not surprisingly, Oliver wanted to sleep because he was ‘sleepy’ for no reason. And Lily wasn’t surprised in the least, he had been with the Guild for a dangerously long time.

‘Before long, you’d be making me sign all my property in your name,’ Lily murmured as she put him to bed.

Charlie, on the other hand was sitting patiently on the sofa, waiting for judgement.

‘Do you want to play with your toys?’

‘Yes, I do.’ He smiled and went to get his toys.

When only she and Tommy were in the hall, he announced, ‘I’ve some work to do. I’ll come for supper.’

‘Okay.’

Guess it’s just me now, Lily said as everyone went to their respective stations. The betting shop was definitely better.

Which reminded her of Finn and his sexual escapade. It sounded strange to think about Finn and sex in the same sentence, she still thought of him as the thirteen year old who had shown her the horses.

She busied herself in the kitchen, trying not to think about Tommy. He probably wouldn’t come and if he did, he would leave in five minutes.  Sometime later, when she was peeling vegetables, Oliver’s pretence of sleeping came to an end and he went to Charlie. She waited for some noise but was relieved to find them playing together albeit silently.

The sudden door knock put an end to her thoughts about the statue Tommy had seized from her.

‘Hey, Lily.’

‘Finn?’ she said, slightly disappointed to see the youngest Shelby. But she should've known, Tommy never knocked.

‘I thought I would see you.’

‘Yes, how are you?’ she asked, trying not to think about his recent endeavour.

‘I’m good.’

‘We haven’t talked a lot since I came back.’

‘Since you told me about you and Tommy?’

She looked at him kindly, ‘Nobody knew that.’

‘Aunt Pol knew. And Ada did too.’

‘I didn’t want them to know, they found out.’

‘You don’t need to justify yourself, Lily. I know I am not important.’

‘Who told you that? Everybody loves you the most.’

‘I don’t want their love. I want them to stop thinking about me as a kid.’

‘You are barely eighteen. And Tommy is involving you, in whatever shady business you do.’ she pointed out.

‘But-‘

‘But nothing. Taste this soup and tell me it’s the best you ever had.’

She waited for his comment while he tried to school his expressions, not wanting to tell her the truth.

‘It’s different.’

‘I know.’ She smiled complacently.

‘I’ll leave then, Isaiah and the boys are waiting for me.’

‘Enjoy your night.’

 

‘Charlie, Oliver, it’s time for supper. Come out.’

After they were fed, Lily waited for Tommy to come. But it soon became apparent he wasn’t coming and she set a plate for herself. The soup was definitely too salty. Poor Finn, she thought as she put the plates in the sink.

She changed into her nightgown and went to check on the children, only to see Oliver running towards her.

‘Mum! He t-t-took my c-car.’

‘Okay. Both of you, come here.’ The boys rushed to huddle her. She sat down on the sofa and made both of them face each other.

‘Now, apologise to each other for what you did.’

‘I w-w-will not.’

‘Neither will I. He hurt me.’

‘Wait, Lily.’ The new voice startled everybody and Lily looked at Tommy in irritation. Not only had he skipped supper, he was interrupting her.

‘What do you want to say?’

He walked towards them and looked down at the boys.

‘No one will apologise.'

'Tommy, they're only kids.' She stopped him, knowing he was going to give a long philosophical talk.

'Charlie, you will not make fun of your…friend. This is how he speaks and you’ll have to learn to be patient.’

‘But he hurt me.’

‘Yes, he did. But he’s your friend and he didn’t like that you laughed at him. Would you like if anyone laughed at you?’

‘No, Daddy.’

‘And Oliver, hitting back is not always the answer.’

‘Look who’s talking.’ Lily muttered.

Tommy continued, ignoring her interruption,  ‘Charlie is your friend, isn’t he?’

Oliver only nodded, taking in the soft-spoken, slightly intimidating man who was Charlie’s father.

‘You shouldn’t hit your friends. But if any other person misbehaves or makes fun of you, you tell me.’

‘Wh—wh-what will-‘

‘I’ll find that person and hit him for you.’

‘Wh-why?’

‘Because I am –‘

‘Okay, boys. Time to go to bed. You’re already way past bedtime.’

‘Mum, story.’

‘Yes, sweetie. I’ll read you all the stories. But first go to your room.’

‘I want to hear a story, too.’

‘Oh, of course, Charlie. You can go with Oliver.’ She touched his cheek and smiled tenderly. Then rushed them to her room, avoiding Thomas.

 

Trying not to yawn after retelling the story of Mother Penguin and her Baby for the third time, Lily continued,

‘One day, the mother Penguin went to bring fish for her baby. When she was coming back, heavy rains and thunder started. She hid under a tree, to keep herself safe.’

Lily paused to look down when no one interrupted her and was pleased to find the boys were sleeping. In the same bed.

‘Looks like I’m sleeping on the sofa today.’ Lily carefully climbed down from the bed and picked her pillow. She reached the door only to find Tommy leaning against it.

‘Told your story?’ He mocked.

‘Yes. And I would like to sleep now. Please excuse me.’ 

‘It’s barely nine o’clock.’

‘I am tired. And why do you care?’

‘I need to talk to you.’

‘Why?’ She asked evasively, because she knew 'what' he needed to talk about.

‘You have to tell him.’

‘I’ll tell him. Soon.’

‘Tomorrow.’

‘I can’t go and declare it like that. He needs time to adjust.’

‘The sooner he knows, the better.’

While Lily understood Tommy’s concern, she didn’t like his nagging one bit.

‘Why don’t you tell him? He would have questions only you can answer. Like why don’t you live with us? Why don’t you come to see him? Why-‘

‘You are the reason behind it all.’

‘Oh, yes. Because all you did was threaten to send him to an orphanage.’

‘Fuck off, Lily.’

She gritted her teeth at his brusqueness, ‘You will not speak to me like that.’

‘Or else?’ He moved closer towards her.

‘I’ll leave.’

‘That threat is getting old. Get a new one.’

‘I don’t need to threaten you to leave. I am only hear because Charlie is alone.’

‘Go to sleep. I have other things to deal with.’ He said dismissively.

‘With pleasure.’ She pushed past him and put her pillow on the sofa.

‘Why are you sleeping here?’

She didn’t answer him and laid down, hoping he would go away; he was beginning to annoy her.

‘Lily?’

‘My bed is occupied.’

‘Then sleep in mine. I won’t be sleeping there.’

‘Where will you sleep?’

‘I’ve some work to do.’

‘Don’t you ever feel like sleeping? Or eating?’

‘My room is there.’

She grudgingly got up and went to his room, having no intention of sleeping in his bed again. All his clothes were in that room and she didn’t like to wake up at an ungodly hour to give him privacy. And sleeping there was too personal. Something she didn’t want to feel with Tommy.

When she was sure he was upstairs, she came outside and settled on the sofa and snuggled deeper in the covers, warding off the cold.

The next morning when she woke up, she was in Tommy’s bed.

Chapter Text

Lily got up from Tommy’s bed and rushed to find him. He was so not getting away with his meddling this time. When he wasn't found in any of the rooms, she stood near the door of the lavatory and when she heard the water running from the faucet, she pushed opened the door, heedless to the fact that he could be unclothed and therefore unreceptive to her barging.

‘What was I doing in your bed?’

‘Fuck.’ Tommy swore as the razor blade cut through his damp skin, making the blood spread rapidly.

‘Oh, my God. You’re bleeding.’

‘You think so?’

‘Wait I’ll get some cotton.’

‘Never mi-’, But Lily was already opening the ancient looking medicine box. Finding the ointment and cotton, she gestured for him to go outside.

‘Sit down.’ She instructed gently, as if he were Oliver or Charlie.

‘Give me the cotton, Lily.’ He ordered, feeling like a child with her standing in front of him.

‘This is a lot of blood.’ She said as she wiped his cut with the cotton.

‘And whose fault is that?’

‘It’s your fault your hands shake while using a razor.’

He didn’t feel like correcting her, not when her silk—encased bosom was so close to his face. He had noticed her enticing nightgown last night but couldn’t do anything about that with the children around. At midnight, when he was carrying her and could feel every inch of her body, it had taken all of his self-control to just lay her down and leave. But now, when she had barged inside and was applying the ointment by her free will, who was he to refuse?

‘Tommy?’

‘Yeah?’

‘I asked if it’s stinging.’

‘No.’

‘Good. Now tell me why I was in your room?’

‘Maybe you sleepwalked.’ He said flippantly, already getting up.

‘I don’t sleepwalk. If I could, I would sleepwalk out of here.’

‘You were shivering. And I didn’t want you to die here.’

‘So much concern.’

‘And why does it matter?’ He asked finally, annoyed at her everyday pestering.

‘Because it isn’t appropriate.’

‘We are living under the same roof. People have already formed their opinions.’

‘It isn’t about them. It’s about me. And Oliver. What would he think of me if I slept in some other man’s room?’

‘He’s too young to think like that. And I’m his father.’

‘But you’re not my husband.’

‘You act like my wife.’ He was hoping for another retort but she left without replying, at a markedly brisk pace.

Shrugging a little, he went back to shaving, carefully avoiding that fucking cut.

 

In the privacy of her room, Lily tried to control her nervousness. Was she behaving like his wife? She had entered the lavatory while he was there, for fuck’s sake. And had cleaned his cut in near state of dishabille. Not to mention the routine things she did for him, like ironing his clothes and cooking food. To top it all, she had slept with him.

The thoughts plagued her as she washed herself and dressed in her lilac dress with peasant sleeves and round neckline.

Dear God, I’ve become his wife, Lily thought in trepidation. And took an oath to find herself a man when she went back to London. Any man would for now except if he is too old or too rude. Or too fat with an unpleasant countenance.

‘You are so fucking vain, Lily,’ she muttered as she put some perfume behind her ears.

‘I thought you didn’t swear.’

The bottle of perfume almost fell from her hands as Tommy’s deep voice intruded.

‘You’re a bad influence.’ She ignored pointing out that it was inappropriate for him to watch her as she got ready; it would only add fuel to fire by making things obvious. 

She proceeded with applying her cherry red lipstick as he cleared his throat,

‘Do you want me to drop you to the betting shop?’

‘The boys are still sleeping.’

‘Not now, Lily. After breakfast.’

‘I can go on my own, it’s just across the street.’

‘Suit yourself.’

She groaned a little in frustration, it was as if he was baiting her. But she was done pretending to be his…wife. Even thinking about the word made her uneasy.

And so she spent the next few days avoiding Tommy. Like she didn’t bother with him when he came late. And stopped putting his clothes in an organised manner. She worked at the shop, brought the kids back and prepared dinner. That was all she did and thankfully, he didn’t question her either. Because he didn’t care. And neither did she.

But one day, early morning as Tommy was going to Charlie’s Yard, Lily went back on her word and stopped him.

‘I heard about your plan.’

‘Who told you?’ He asked coolly.

‘Does it matter?’

He exhaled, hoping it wouldn’t be a long conversation, ‘What do you want to know?’

‘Nothing. But are you certain about this?’

‘I would suggest you don’t concern yourself with our business.’

‘Fine, then. Don’t get yourself hurt.’

A smile threatened on Tommy’s lips. The past few days, Lily had been surprisingly quiet. And he hadn’t prodded her either, knowing she would lash out.

‘I won’t.’

‘And be careful.’

‘I’ll be careful.’  He agreed, trying not to smile. But she saw the change all right.

‘What?’

‘You’re worrying.’

‘I’m not. I’m only asking you to be careful.’

‘You won’t care if I died. Shot straight in the head.’ He nudged her.

‘Shut up.’ She turned to go away but he stopped her and held her face in his hands, caressing her smooth cheek. ‘It needs to be done, Lily. Or they’ll kill us all.’

‘I know. It’s just – I don’t know.’

He nodded and moved towards the door, ‘Good bye.’

‘Wait, I want to give you something.’ She reached inside her coat pocket and took out a long wool thread.

‘What’s this?’ He eyed the black thread in her hand with suspicion.

‘When anyone went out on a job, Gerard gave this to us for good luck. To ward off any evil.’

‘I didn’t see it on you.’

‘Because I never needed it.’ She laughed.

‘I don’t need it either.’

‘Wear it for your children. It won’t cause you any harm.’

‘All right.’ He said reluctantly.

‘Give me your hand.’  Taking his solid wrist in one hand, she tied the thread by the other, ‘Tell me if it gets too tight.’

He moved his wrist a little, already disliking the superstitious ritual, ‘Perfect.’

‘Good luck, Tommy.’ She fidgeted a little. He turned to face her and looked into her eyes.

‘Are you alright?’ he asked softly, feeling strangely touched by her concern.

‘Yes. It’s just that everything seems real now. That there are people after you.’

‘You met them on your first day.’

‘But it’s you.’

All affection vanished as he asked her, trying not to bite the words, ‘What do you mean?’

‘I’m not saying that you can’t, but it has been a long time.’ She said kindly.

‘I can handle it on my own.’

‘Are you upset?’ She smiled as she tried to fathom his expression.

‘I’m getting late.’ 

‘Goodbye, Tommy. I hope it turns out well.’ She said sincerely this time and kissed him on his uninjured cheek.  

'Yeah, all right.'

Chapter Text

Lily watched as Tommy bustled inside his office in betting shop, looking tense but thankfully unharmed. She lingered near the table in front of his office until he gave Charlie Strong instructions regarding an impending ambush and when he hung up, she moved off. There was no reason for her to ask about his ‘clash’ and it would do her good to be away from him.

‘Here you go, Patrick.’ She said as she gave the young bookmaker a stack of notes.

‘Thank you, Lily.’ He smiled like she had given him the elixir of life, something he did every time she went to his table.

She smiled in response and turned to go back to her seat, only to pause when he called her, ‘Can I ask you something?’

‘Yeah, sure.’

‘Are you and Tommy married?’

‘No.’ She said shortly, wondering why he thought that. Just because two people had a child together and lived under the same roof didn’t mean that they were married. Or did it?

‘I thought since you had a baby together-’

‘No. It isn’t like that, I am only here for a while.’ She waited for him to look scandalised but he only grinned sheepishly.

‘So, would you like to have dinner with me?’

He was actually asking her out on a date. And if he were not a decade younger than her, she might have agreed. Or not been so shocked. But she didn’t want to break his little heart and said politely,

‘Look, Patrick. I am extremely flattered by your offer but I am thirty one.’ She looked at his beardless jaw pointedly.

‘It is all right for me.’ He said cockily.

‘It’s not for me, sweetie.’ The word was all it took for men to back off and she had learnt to use it in face of every unwanted advance.

‘I understand, it was worth it though. I got to talk to you about something other than horses and betting.’

She chuckled, ‘You don’t need an excuse like that to talk to me. I’m here.’

‘Thank you. So did you hear about what Jessie Eden did in the factory?’

 

Tommy looked on as Lily laughed at the idiot Patrick’s dumb joke. He had just come unscathed from a potential shootout and she was there chatting with a boy almost ten years younger than her. And the boy wasn’t even being subtle about his adoration, looking at her as if she were a fucking angel. But she did look fine in that light blue dress which showed her smooth shoulders and long neck. And her hair were pinned behind, possibly to ward off the curls which flew all over her face. It made her look younger, highlighting her large brown eyes and clear skin.

What the fuck I am thinking, Tommy muttered and was disgusted at himself for noticing her so much. She was his son’s mother, for fuck’s sake. And the woman who had been avoiding him for as long as he had known her. Be it the first time she came to Birmingham or now, when she didn’t even look up after he came home. But she had given him that ugly thread for his safety. Of course, before doubting his ability to shoot the wops. She always did as she pleased and he was surprised he let her live after all she had done. Maybe it was because of the envy she incited in him. Along with the tightening in his balls. But mostly envy.

She was as guarded as he was and still she managed to keep herself sane. Except that drunken dinner in Arrow House, she had never shared her sentiments with him. She didn’t even open up during sex, using it as just another chore. She probably had a lover stashed away in London or she wouldn’t be behaving like that in his vicinity. Maybe it was her old boss…Gerard something.

‘Mr. Shelby?’ David’s voice brought him out of his reverie and he looked up with a scowl.

‘Yeah?’

‘Are you here for the day?’ he asked timidly.

‘No. I am leaving.’

He got up to leave the betting shop but gave a final look in Lily’s direction, who was looking at him in gentle patience, like she did when Oliver spoke to her. As if she was expecting him to burst out with his bottled up emotions.

Why should he think about her? It wasn’t as if there was a dearth of women who wanted to be with him.

But you pay them for sex. He swore he heard Lily’s jibe in his head.

***

‘How was your day?’ Lily asked him when he came back that night, smelling of horses. Must’ve gone to the Yard, she thought as put his dinner plate before him. While she didn’t want to be his ‘wife’, she wanted to tell him some news he wouldn’t initially agree to. And she needed to put her best foot forward to convince him.

‘Good.’ He said as he took in the food on the plate.

‘Is Michael alright?’

When he looked at her in question, she said, ‘Pardon me, I just overheard your conversation.’

‘He’s alright. Are the kids still fighting?’ He asked casually as he picked up the fork.

‘No, they made up a week ago.’ She said, slight disdain in her voice.

‘Good.’

Taking a breath, she said, ‘I am going back to London on Saturday.’

He took her words in and she continued, using the pause to complete her sentence, ‘It is Gerard’s –‘

In a second, all his pent-up frustration burst out and he got up with enough force to make the chair fall back. Lily flinched at the noise and he shouted,

‘What the fuck is wrong with you? You don’t even realise the fucking severity of the situation. I almost got bloody shot today. So get it inside your thick head that you won’t be going back anytime soon.’

She didn’t say anything, only furrowed her eyebrows to ward off the stupid tears threatening to slide down.

Sensing her hurt, he walked towards her to touch her face, ‘Listen, Lily-’, only for her to push his hands away.

She pointed her finger at him, her watery eyes blazing, ‘You don’t get to talk to me like that. I’m not your bloody property. And I don’t need your permission to go anywhere.’

Lily stomped inside her room, leaving Tommy alone in the dark. ‘Fuck.’ He muttered as he went out to go to the Yard, slamming the door behind him with force.

In her room, the boys were already playing on the floor. Paying no heed to them, Lily settled on her bed, feeling angry at Tommy but more at herself for allowing him to speak to her like that. And crying because of something he did.

Few minutes later, Oliver tugged her arm,

‘Mum, wh-wh-when will we g-go for Grampa’s b-b-birthday?’

‘We will go soon, sweetie.’ She touched his face, hoping he wouldn’t notice her crying.

‘Wh-wh-why are y-you crying?’

‘I’m not.’ She smiled weakly as another wave of tears fell down her cheeks.

‘Lily, did you get hurt?’

‘No, Charlie. I’m not hurt,’ She bit her lip to stop the tears.

‘When I fell at my home, I cried.’

‘I just have something in my eye.’ She tried to keep her voice steady, but the words were swallowed in her sobs.

‘P-please don’t c-cry, Mum.’ Oliver put his hands on her eyes, trying to stop the tears from falling down.

‘She is crying because Daddy scolded her.’ Charlie told Oliver in a loud whisper.

‘Mum, y-you tell G-Grampa about h-h-him. He’ll b-b-beat him.’

She laughed, ‘I’ll tell him. And both of you go to bed. It’s very late.’

Maybe it was because of her sad situation, but both of them agreed at once.

‘Good night, Mum.’ Oliver jumped up on the bed and snuggled next to her.

‘Good night, Lily.’ Charlie rose and kissed her on her cheek, taking her by surprise, ‘Your cheek is wet.’ He trotted off to his room but came a few minutes later, just after Lily had wiped her tears and changed into her nightgown.

‘My room is scary.’

‘Is your Daddy not there?’

‘No.’

Typical Tommy, couldn't even wait until his son was in bed.

‘You can sleep here, Charlie.’ She picked him up and laid him next to Oliver.

Since there was no other place to sleep except the sofa or Tommy's bed, which were both equivalent to her, she decided the chair would've to do for tonight. Her back would probably hurt like hell tomorrow but at least she would be away from Tommy. And that was the first thing on her priority list.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the Shelbys and the Peytons had a quiet breakfast. Lily pointedly ignored Tommy, just as he had expected. But the children were quiet too, Charlie didn’t give him his morning kiss and Oliver, who was already shy around him, didn’t even meet his eyes. Tommy ignored the strange behaviour, focusing on reading the newspaper. Occasionally, he looked at Lily from the top of the newspaper as she put butter on the toast and gave the boys a glass of milk. She looked normal except her eyes were swollen and every so often, she rubbed her back, as if in pain.

He knew she had slept on the chair, because he had searched for Charlie in every room only to find him on Lily's bed. While he had wanted to pick her up from the uncomfortable chair, he didn't. No need to anger her to the point she disappeared again. He knew that bastard Gerard had probably called her to do his dirty business and she had agreed immediately, out of love. But he wasn't letting his son stay in the company of thieves anymore. And the sooner Lily understood it, the better. 

When she continued staring at the toast until it burnt to ash, he got up and walked towards her with his hands in his pocket.

‘Lily?’

‘Yeah?’ She said without looking up, picking the burnt toast and dumping it. He realised how tired she was, with her eyes barely open and her movements slow.

‘Are you alright?’

‘You’re getting late.’

He took a deep breath and asked, ‘Is that how it will be from now?’

‘What will? There’s nothing between us.’ Her words were bitter but tired and he wanted to shake her for her stupidity.

‘What about him, eh?’ He surreptitiously pointed at Oliver, who was gargling with the milk.

‘I honestly don’t want to talk to you right now.’ She sighed and went to admonish Oliver.

He sighed and glanced at his pocket watch, ‘We’ll talk at night.’ And he left for work.

Lily wiped Oliver’s mouth and muttered, ‘No, we won’t.’

 

That day at the betting shop, Lily heard some shocking news. Something she might not have if Polly hadn’t left in such a hurry after a phone call, worry marring her features. When she came back, Lily went inside her office.

‘What happened?’

‘Nothing. Just went to see Tommy.’

‘Is everything all right?’

‘I wanted to inform him about a prize-giving ceremony. He wasn’t there, though.’

‘Oh.’ She said and turned to leave. Only to stop when Polly called her from behind,

‘May Carleton is visiting.’

‘Is she?’ She asked indifferently.

‘He probably won't be coming back home tonight.’

‘All the better. I want to be as far from him as possible, for my sanity.’

Polly only laughed, which irked her more.

After a stressful day, made worse by her aching back and Polly’s revelation, Lily skipped out of the shop as she went to Sutton to get the children. At least she had them, Tommy could do whatever he wanted with May Carleton.

‘Lily, I want to play with Karl.’ Charlie declared.

‘All right, Charlie. Do you want to stay too, Oliver?’ She looked down at Oliver, who wrapped his arms around her knees.

‘N-no. I w-want to come.’ Her eyebrows wrinkled at his behaviour and she asked Charlie again, ‘Will you be alright here?’

‘Yes.’

‘Your father will pick you up at night. Is it okay?’ She asked him again to confirm, feeling strange about leaving without him.

‘Yes, Lily.’ He answered patiently.

 

On the ride back, she asked the surprisingly quiet Oliver, ‘Are you missing Charlie?’

He nodded sullenly.

‘Do you want to see the horses?’

He bobbed his head in enthusiasm.

‘All right then, let’s go to the stables.’

At the Yard, she tried not to step in horseshit and kept a handkerchief to ward off the smoke.

‘Mum, the h-h-horses.’ Oliver tugged her coat.

‘I know, sweetie. But we need someone who can ride with you.’

‘The man in the s-s-stables.’ He pointed at the rotund man in a hat, whose name, Lily had learned was Curly.

‘Let’s ask him.’

‘Hello, miss. Did you want something?’ Curly asked amiably.

‘This young man here wants to see one of your horses. Can you show him?’

‘Of course, anything for Mr. Shelby.’

Lily pursed her lips at the name but didn’t correct him. It would only make Oliver curious.

‘Do you like this horse, Oliver?’ She gestured at a giant horse with a velvety black hide from a distance. But his thoughts were elsewhere.

‘Mum?’

‘Yeah, sweetie.’ Lily said as she looked at the overpowering horse, hoping he didn’t insist on riding on it.

‘Th-that man’s here.’

‘Who?’ She asked as she coughed a little as smoke blew inside her nose.

‘Charlie’s f-f-father.’

She stopped coughing and looked right to find Tommy walking towards them.

‘Showing Oliver the horses, Curly?’

‘Yes, Tom. He likes horses like you and Charlie. Must be in the blood.’

Tommy gave a slight nod as he ran the cigarette stick along his lip.

‘Why are you here?’ She asked, annoyed at his presence.

‘I am working. And you shouldn’t be here, I saw you coughing.’

‘You don’t need to worry about me.’

He looked around the Yard and asked, slightly concerned, ‘Where’s Charlie?’

‘He wanted to stay with Karl. And I thought I would spend some time with Oliver.’ She ruffled Oliver’s hair.

‘He’s your son, after all.’ He said, a touch derisively.

‘I asked Charlie. He didn’t want to come.’ She hated the defensiveness in her voice.

‘He’s three, Lily. You don’t ask him.’

‘Then go and bring him. He’s your son.’ 

‘I thought, since you’re here,’

‘I could keep the children out of your way so you can meet women.’ She completed cuttingly.

‘Mum! Horse.’ Oliver shouted at her.

‘Yeah, yeah. Look at him, isn’t he pretty.’ She pointed at the most placid looking horse.

He looked at the young foal, still a little malnourished, in doubt.

Chuckling a little, Tommy called, ‘Curly, bring Golden Boy around.’

‘Tommy, I would prefer if you leave.’

‘Shut up.’ He pointed the stick at her.

‘You don’t get to ‘shut up’ me. You shut up.’

Anticipating a fight, Tommy took a last drag of the cigarette and flicked it away. Then reaching for her hand, he said,

‘Take care of my boy, Curly. I need to talk to the lady.’

‘Let’s go, Mr. Shelby.’ Curly cajoled Oliver, who looked at Lily in question.

‘Mum?’

‘It’s all right, sweetie. I will be back in a minute.’ She kissed his cheek and he made a big production of wiping it.

When they had walked some distance, she crossed her arms and demanded, ‘What?’

‘Go in.’

She rolled her eyes at his orders, but relented. She wanted a closure after all the trouble he had been giving her. And she was all ready to battle him to dust. The place is like a fucking distillery, she thought as she went inside and looked around in fascination.

‘This is what you do at night?’ she asked as she took in the barrels and cartons and bottles. Behind her, Tommy filled a glass with his gin.

‘Take a sip.’ He offered her the clear liquid and she took it but didn’t taste it, only regarded him with her sharp gaze, ‘Your guest left?’

‘Who told you about her?’

‘You need to stop thinking that I live in a cage, with no contact with the outside world.’

‘How do you know May?’ He amended.

‘I met her, here to be specific', she gestured at the place and continued, 'When I was pregnant and you took her to Garrison for spa and tea rooms. Possibly more.’

He clenched his jaw and resigned himself to the fact that she wouldn’t let go of her grudge till the day he died. Changing the topic, he said, ‘I thought you were scared of horses.’

‘Yeah, so?’ She snapped.

‘Then why does Oliver like them?’

‘As much as you don’t want him to be, he’s your son too.’

‘He behaves like he knows his way around them.’

She sighed, losing some of her fire at his interest, ‘I showed him some in Greece. And in London. I thought just because he doesn’t meet his father, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t know about him.’

While he was pleased that she hadn’t entirely wiped him out of his son’s life, he was still angry at her for keeping him away, ‘What else did you tell him? That I’m dead?’

‘I said he’s in a faraway land and he’ll come back soon.’

‘When?’

‘You tell me.’

‘Mummy!’ Oliver’s shriek boomed in and Lily’s face became comically alarmed as Tommy looked at her in question.

‘Oh, God!’

‘What?’

‘Are there rats near the stable?’ she asked, panicked.

‘Yeah. Is he scared of them?’

‘No.’

‘Then what?’

 

They reached the stables to find Oliver running behind a hideous looking rat with bloodthirst in his eyes.

‘I am sorry, Tommy. He wouldn’t stop chasing that scary animal.’ Curly said apologetically.

‘It’s all right, Curly.’ Tommy pacified him and took in the strange sight of his son running after a rat. He had thought Oliver was hurt but what he was seeing was puzzling to the point it became amusing.

‘Oliver! Stop or I’ll call Grandpa Gerard.’ Lily screamed beside him. And before Tommy could comprehend her words, he found Oliver in his range.

‘No, y-y-you won’t. H-h-he’s in L-London.’

Speaking required his attention and he slowed down, allowing Tommy to pick him up, ‘All right, boy. You need to stop.’

‘Mummy!’ He writhed in Tommy’s arms.

‘Didn’t I tell you not to go after rats? They are dirty.’

‘I w-w-want to touch it.’

‘No. You don’t.’ She shuddered in disgust and pulled him in her arms.

‘I. Do.’ He screamed.

‘Let’s go back home.’ Tommy said wearily.

‘Yeah, Oliver. Your father needs to lick his wounds.’

‘Who?’                  

Fuck, Lily thought and looked at Tommy, who seemed extremely interested in his pocket watch.

‘You smell of horses Oliver, I’ll give you a good scrub when we get back.’

Chapter Text

When the trio reached Watery Lane, Lily saw a familiar man standing near Tommy’s door, surrounded by the guards.

‘Lily!’ Colin yelled in help when she came in his line of sight.

‘Colin? What are you doing here?’ She got out as soon as the car came to a stop, leaving Tommy to glower at the blonde-haired man from Lily’s Christmas party.

But before she could ask more, Oliver burst into tears, ‘You c-c-called-‘

‘No, sweetie. I didn’t call Gerard,’ she turned to appease him and took him out of the car, ‘Don’t ask.’ She muttered to Colin.

‘He saw a rat?’

‘Yeah,’ she said with a weary look at the howling Oliver, ‘Let’s go inside, this will take time.’

‘Are you sure? Because that man is ready to murder me with his eyes.’

She knew who he was talking about without even looking back, ‘Don’t mind him, that's how he looks.’

‘Let me take Oliver. He is a good enough shield for now.’

‘Thank you,' she said gratefully and turned to look at Tommy, only to find him right behind her, 'Are you coming in, Tommy?’ He hadn’t answered her about May’s departure, maybe she was waiting in Midland Hotel for him.

‘I live here, Lily.’

‘Yes, you do.’ She muttered as she opened the door and led Colin inside the house. Taking Oliver back, she instructed him to sit on the sofa,

'Sit here, I'll put him to bed.'

‘I don’t want to be alone.’ He said through gritted teeth with a sideward gaze at Tommy, who was taking off his coat.

She looked at him in exasperation, ‘He won’t kill you. Just don’t talk to him.’

 

‘Who are you?’

‘I’m Colin Davis.’ He sat up straight as Tommy offered him the glass of whisky.

‘What brings you to Small Heath, Colin?’

‘I’m here to take Lily.’ And to check if she is alive, Colin thought as he took a sip of the whisky.

‘She isn’t going anywhere.’ 

‘It’s only for a day, Mr. Shelby. It’s my uncle’s 60th birthday.’ He pleaded.

‘Who?’

‘Our boss. Gerard Davis.’

‘Is he Lily’s lover?’

Tommy had expected him to become enraged, even embarrassed. But the young man only sniggered, ‘You are a funny man.’

He looked at Tommy’s impassive expression and sobered up, ‘No. It isn’t like that. But he loves Lily and even though she wouldn’t say it, Lily loves him too.’

‘Why?’

Does anyone needs to justify their love, Colin thought as he considered Tommy's question, but he still replied, ‘He says she looks like his daughter who died thirty years ago. And she because, you know.’ Colin gave him a knowing look as he took another sip of the whisky.

‘I don’t.’ Tommy shook his head a little.

‘Then you should ask Lily.’

‘Do I look like a man who likes to talk about other people's business?'

You actually do but in an entirely vicious way, Colin observed and he knew Tommy wouldn’t let him get go until he opened his mouth, ‘Gerard saved Lily’s life some sixteen years ago, when she was about to drown herself in the river.'

Tommy paled a little, but didn’t stop his interrogation.

‘Why?’

‘I don’t know and Lily has forbidden everyone from talking about it.’

‘You follow a woman’s orders?’ He snorted a little, wondering why he respected Lily so much.

‘Well, Lily is going to become the President soon. She is technically my boss.’ He said modestly.

‘President?’

Colin was amused on seeing Tommy’s unmasked surprise, ‘She would’ve become the President five years ago, but she left for Greece suddenly. And cut all contact with us.’

‘Why did she leave?’ Tommy prodded and Colin’s voice became intense with emotion, ready to regale his story,

‘Some bastard broke her heart. I was only seventeen then, but it was the first time I saw her look so crushed. We all were ready to go and bash that fucker’s head; Gerard even loaded his rifle. But she stopped us. Jessie says she still loves him, even though she thinks he deserves to be bludgeoned to death. If I were to meet him, I would smash his head with the first antique vase I collected in 1922.’

Tommy took in his words one at a time. He had unearthed more information about Lily than he had in five years. Along with the fact that an army of thieves was hungry for his blood. Guess death followed him where he went. But if his potential murderer was to be believed, Lily had loved him once. And she still did, apparently. Something the woman who wanted him dead had stated.

‘Do you know why Lily is here?’ Tommy asked finally, after a brief pause.

‘No. But I presume it’s for another robbery.’ He shrugged it off, like it was a routine thing. And it was, Tommy realised belatedly.

‘I think you shouldn’t drink anymore, you have a long ride ahead.’

‘You’re right, I got carried away.’

Lily sauntered in at that moment, taking in the men with slight edginess. She hadn’t thought Tommy would talk to Colin after his chilly reception of him.

‘What brings you here, Colin?’

‘I’ve come here to escort you, my lady.’ He gave a mock-curtsy, making Tommy almost roll his eyes.

Tommy watched as Lily’s face clouded and she said, ‘I am-’

‘You must leave now. It’s a long drive.’ Tommy told Lily, who almost snapped her neck as she looked at him in shock.

‘Tommy, I thought-’ 

‘Polly will take care of Charlie. You both can go.’

‘Hurry now.’ Colin clapped his hands to get her frozen form to move.

‘I'll get ready.' She almost skipped to her room, her happiness radiating everywhere.

'She's a child, all right.'

'That she is.' Tommy muttered as he lit a cigarette. He didn't completely understand why he was letting her go, when there was a chance she wouldn't return. But after knowing her past with her 'company of thieves', he felt a slight respect towards them for being her family and staying with her through thick and thin.

Lily came out some time later, in a royal blue dress and her black coat. He paused mid-inhale as he took in her dressed-up form. There was little makeup on her face but she still looked pretty. And he coughed as the smoke got stuck in his throat, something everyone chose to ignore.

'Wow, Lily. People will think it's your birthday.'

'I don't know if you're complimenting me or saying that I'm overdressed, but go and bring Oliver. And try not to wake him up.'

'Yes, ma'am.'

She walked towards Tommy, with a genuine smile on her face,

'I'll leave now, Tommy. We'll come back tomorrow, so don't worry about Oliver. And don't forget to bring Charlie from Sutton.'

‘Good bye, Lily.' He smiled back and bent to kiss her. Only to stop when the idiot interrupted, 'Did you buy him a gift?'

 

When Lily was on her way to London in Colin's car after an awkward good-bye, he asked suddenly.

‘Why did you ask for his permission?’

‘His family is in danger, the New York mafia are after all of them. They just killed his brother.’ She gave her well-versed answer.

‘Where do you fit in all this?’

‘Well, Oliver is his son.’

All colour flew from his face and he screamed, ‘He’s that bastard?’

‘Don’t be so loud.'

‘Fuck. I’m dead, Lily.’ 

‘What’s wrong?’ She furrowed her eyebrows.

‘I told him what we did after you cried that night.’

Lily put her hands on her face in distress, embarrassment and annoyance, a strange amalgamation of emotions she'd never experienced.

‘You didn’t. That’s why he was acting so strangely.’ 

‘I even told him what Jessie said.’

‘Why can’t you hold your tongue?’

‘I apologise. I thought you were helping him with a robbery.’

She knew it couldn't be undone and she placated him,  ‘It’s not your fault, I shouldn’t have kept it from you and everyone. But how will I face him again?'

‘Pretend like you don’t love him. You have been doing a good job of it for five years.’ He said, cockily.

‘Very funny. Jessie doesn’t know anything about me, I loved him but that was a long time ago.’

‘Then why are you worrying? He can think whatever he wants.’

If only that were easy,  Lily sighed in resignation.

 

‘Happy Birthday Gerard!’ Lily wished Gerard loudly in his lavish home and walked towards him for a hug.

‘Oliver! I am so happy you came.’ He ignored her and put Oliver in his lap.

‘Seriously? You’re ignoring me?’

Taking her hands in his, Gerard looked at Lily like she was a guest, ‘Thank you for bringing Oliver, Lily. I know how busy you are.’

‘God! This is not fair. You know about the mafia.’ She added in hushed up voice.

‘I also know you that you’re living with the man you love. Naturally, your priorities have changed.’

‘You don’t know what I’ve to deal with.’

‘So much that you couldn’t even wish me.’

‘Charlie’s f-f-father made M-M-Mum cry.’ Oliver, who was taking in the onslaught on his mother, piped up.

The ears of every person in the hall pricked and they proceeded towards her.

‘Are you alright, Lily?’

‘Did that bastard hit you?’

‘I swear I’ll clean his entire fucking mansion tonight.’

‘Shut up! It isn’t like that, he was just being protective…of him.’ She pointed a finger at Oliver, who was busy playing with Gerard’s cravat.

‘What women do for the men they love.’ Jessie said, with an affectionate smile in James’ direction.

Ignoring Jessie, she said, ‘It’s nine already. Can’t we celebrate our dear Gerard’s birthday?’

Everyone murmured in approval and agreed to let Tommy Shelby’s mistake pass. For now.

As Richard sang the worst rendition of ‘My Old Man’, Gerard sat next to Lily, who had just heard Robert’s recent run-in with an MP.

‘You’re not drinking?’

‘If I were staying, I would. But I have to leave tomorrow.’

‘Try the stout at least.’

‘That disgusting thing? Never.’ She gave him a nauseated look.

‘How have you been?’

‘Everyday is like getting in a warzone. But some days are good.’

‘You’re starting to like Birmingham, I suppose.'

‘It’s not the place. It’s the people. Some people.’ She added pointedly.

‘I doubt Thomas Shelby is one of them.’

‘He has a long way to go. But sometimes, when he would carry Oliver or help me with the chores, I can’t help but think what life would’ve been like.’

‘Marriage involves a lot more than holding your child.’

‘I know that, Father. And I don’t want to be his replacement wife. I just wish times were different. He were different.’

Gerard took in her words for a moment and while he held nothing but contempt for Thomas Shelby, he couldn’t deny the tragic life he had led. Like him, Tommy had lost his wife and turned his illegal business into an empire. He knew he would regret it later and Lily was the person he was closest to in the entire  world, but he had to say it,

‘Why don’t you give him a chance? It cannot hurt.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You always thought of him as the man who broke your heart and who loved another woman. I want you to see him for what he is.’

‘You’re officially senile, Gerard.’

‘No, don’t belittle my words. Consider it for once.’

‘I know what he is. He is a man who is ready to face adversity after adversity but won’t accept that he is in pain.’

‘He sounds like someone I knew.’

‘Tell me he is still alive.’

She is sitting right in front of me. And I’ve had the fortune of watching her grow into a sensible and compassionate woman.’

‘When was I so self-destructive?’

‘Beating men triple your weight to punch, always looking for the thrill and blood-rush, almost dying while out on a job. Need I say more?’

‘I was young.’ She tried to deflect his analogy.

‘You were a kid. And that makes it all the more worse.’

‘So, you are saying I should help him. For what in return?’

‘Think of it as a payback. He made you realise that there was a heart beneath that stone. And he gave you Oliver. He is a powerful man, Lily, he could’ve taken him away with a snap of his fingers. But he didn’t. And it is evident he cares for him.’

Lily couldn’t help the sudden sting of tears behind her eyes. ‘But what about me?’, she asked, the hurt in her voice clear.

He gave her a side-hug and patted her back, ‘He’ll love you, Lily. Just give him some time.’

She sniffled and he asked her the most important question, 'And what was Oliver saying about him making you cry?'

Chapter Text

Meanwhile in Watery Lane, Charlie returned to an empty home. While Karl was his cousin, he had missed playing with Oliver and was looking forward to give him the chocolates his father had bought for him. He also wanted to see Lily, who read him stories and played peekaboo.

When he found the house sans Oliver and Lily, he looked up at his father in question, ‘Where is Lily?’

‘She’s not here, Charlie.’ Tommy said as lightly as possible. And hoped he wouldn't ask more questions about her.

‘Did she go back?’ Charlie's face suddenly lost all expression.

‘No, she’ll come tomorrow.’

‘Oliver too?’

‘Yes, he will.’ He gently patted his hair.

Tommy waited for Charlie to say more but he went to his room, presumably to play with his cars. He looked around the empty hall which looked dark and lonely despite the fact that only two people were missing, who weren’t even there always. Feeling strange in the house, he hoped Charlie would go to bed and he could leave for the Yard. There was no Lily to admonish him now, he thought in relief and went to his room to get his coat. Only to find Charlie sitting in the corner.

‘What’s wrong, Charlie?’

‘Who will play with me?’

His heart clenched at the sadness in his son’s voice and he sat on his haunches, ‘I’ll play.’

‘You will?’

He nodded and chose to forgo his plan of going back to the Yard. It was the least he could do for Charlie.

 

The next morning, he was putting on his overcoat when Charlie came rushing in his nightsuit.

‘Dad! Oliver didn’t come.’

Tommy tried not to sound impatient as he adjusted his tie, ‘He'll come in the afternoon, Charlie.’

‘Can I talk to him?’

‘Yes, you can.’ He sighed. ‘Get ready, Charlie.’

Some time later, in Polly's Sutton house, Tommy hoped Lily was at home and not frolicking around London with her 'friends'.

‘Hello?’ Lily’s voice floated towards him, slightly wary but he could still feel her smile.

‘Charlie wants to talk to you.’

‘Tommy?’ He didn’t answer her and helped Charlie hold the phone.

‘Lily?’ Tommy kept an eye on Charlie, taking in whatever he said.

‘I’m fine. Why didn’t you take me?’ His voice broke a little and Tommy felt angry at Lily for no definite reason.

‘I promise.’ A smile broke out on his face and it widened after something Lily said, ‘Good bye.’ 

He took the phone from him before she could hang up and demanded, ‘When are you coming?’

‘There is some work pending. I’ll leave in the afternoon.’

‘Call me when you leave.’

‘Is Charlie alright?’

‘He’s missing you, it seems.’

‘I’ll try to come as soon as possible.’

‘How is Oliver?' He asked before she ended the call.

'He's missing everyone too. I'll go now, he spilled his glass of milk.'

He smiled a little, remembering how he used to gurgle his milk, 'Good bye.' And put the phone back in its place.

'Are you smiling?'

'Why are you still here?'

'It's too early. Do you want some breakfast? Considering your 'wife' isn't at home.'

'Check on the kids, Ada.'

 

 

On the ride back to Birmingham, Lily’s thoughts shuttled back and forth between her own promise and Gerard’s words. While she agreed with the similarities between her and Tommy, she was sceptical about being with him forever. Tommy was different, he hadn’t changed for better since she’d known him, only gotten worse. Hardships had been numerous but he hadn't stopped, ruthlessly climbing the social ladder.

How could she live with a man who was so blind in his pursuit of the unnamed? And it wasn’t as if he were waiting for her with a ring in hand. Just yesterday he was courting May Carleton and had probably gone to visit Lizzie after she’d left. But who could sway Gerard? He had sworn her to at least give Tommy a chance. Or he would put a hold on her promotion.

‘Did you sleep well?’

‘Yeah. And why are you asking me that?’ She looked at Colin, who'd agreed to drive her back only if she told Gerard to give him the next big theft. And if she kept him away from Tommy.

‘I thought I’d engage you in conversation. You are looking tense.’

‘I’m not tense.’

‘You’re biting your thumbnail, Lily.’

‘It’s nothing, Colin. I saw your last collection details this morning. Impressive.’

‘I learnt from the best.’

‘Sycophant.’

‘Nail biter.’

She laughed and her tension cleared for a moment.

‘Mum, wh-wh-what did you get for Ch-Ch-Charlie?’

‘I got him a big chocolate bar.’

‘I w-w-wanna give him.’

‘Yes, you will. Now go back to sleep, we’re still away.’

‘Where is m-m-my Daddy?’

Her face became sombre and she told him her revised answer, ‘He is in Faraway Land.’

‘When w-w-will I meet him?’

‘Soon, sweetie. He’s buying your favorite toys.’

‘Where are your chocolates, Oliver?’ Colin distracted Oliver from his sudden interest.

As he became occupied with checking his chocolates, Lily spoke in a low voice, ‘He hasn't asked about his father in a very long time.’

‘He’s growing. And he’s been seeing a boy with a father for too long.’

‘What do I do now?’ She muttered, knowing the answer and not wanting Colin to state it.

‘I think you should reconsider Gerard’s advice.’

 

 

‘Charlie!’ Oliver yelled at the top of his lungs that evening as Tommy lit the fire in his room.

‘Dad! Oliver is back.’

'Looks like that.' He said as Charlie ran out of the room and yelled, 'Oliver!' 

‘You’ve gotten taller in one day, Charlie.’ He heard Lily from inside and got up to go and see her.

‘I brung chocolate for you, Oliver.’

‘What a coincidence. Oliver brought some too.’ 

When she had done complimenting Charlie on his tooth-brushing habits and told Oliver not to keep all his chocolates for himself, Tommy walked towards her.

‘You’re back.’

‘Yes, I am.’ She got up and the boys ran away, making her yell, 'Don't eat them all today!'

‘Who dropped you?’ He asked after his ears had stopped ringing.

‘Colin. He was already late, so he left.’

‘Good.’

She made a face but let his surliness pass. She needed to talk to him. ‘I wanted to tell you something.’

‘Go on.’

‘It’s about Oliver.’

‘I’m listening.’ He said, trying not to get irritated when she was looking like a fucking flower in that flimsy red dress. Was this how she went about in London? No wonder only men came to pick her.

‘I think we should tell him.’

He raised his eyebrows and took out his cigarette, ‘At least one good thing came out of your visit.’

‘You don’t mind?’ She asked with slight disappointment. She had expected him to refuse, until the Changrattas were done with, of course.

‘Why would I?’

‘You’re busy.’ She said weakly.

‘When do you want to tell him?’

‘Talk to him for a few days, so he can know you better. I know it’s trouble, but-’

‘I’ll talk to him today.’

‘Thank you.’ she smiled forcefully, not at all thankful for his assent and he went back to his study, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

It wasn't like she wanted to keep Oliver away from him, but she didn't want to give him false hopes either. The plain truth was that she didn't want Tommy as the father of her child. His life was too dangerous and he himself was too fucked up, for lack of a better word. But Tommy was Oliver's father and she couldn't change it. 

She went inside her room after preparing dinner to change into simpler clothes. While rummaging in her cupboard and bemoaning her lack of clothes, she felt someone's presence. And looked up to find Tommy leaning against the door. She raised an eyebrow at his presence, only for him to walk inside.

‘I heard your friends want to ‘bludgeon me to death’.’

Fuck, Lily cursed Colin’s unruly tongue. No wonder Tommy was agreeing to everything she said, she thought as she got up, so she was facing him.

Laughing easily, she said, ‘I didn’t know that. And Colin is always joking.’

‘Is that so?’ He walked towards her.

‘Yes. Why would I lie?’ She gave a nervous laugh, taking a step backward.

He didn’t say anything, only moved forward, a hint of mischief in his eyes.

She swallowed and took another step backward, only to meet the wall.

‘That boy interrupted me when I was doing something.’

She opened her mouth to ask only to feel his lips on hers. She moaned a little, enjoying the warm pressure of his mouth and the feel of him against her body. But when his hand inched towards the bodice of her dress, she pushed him a little.

‘What are you doing? The children are in the next room.’

And before he could give his justification, she went out of the room.

Chapter Text

After supper, Lily took Charlie in her room, ostensibly to show him the toys she’d brought from London, so Tommy could talk to Oliver. She was extremely apprehensive about how it would end and after Oliver they’d have to explain it to Charlie too. It couldn’t get more complicated. If only Oliver wasn’t so keen on knowing his father, she thought as she pulled out the box of toys. While she was feeding him, he’d asked about Faraway Land again, making Charlie inquisitive about the place too. She had diverted him by  showing him the toy trains and horses and hoped everything went well in the other room.

 

Oliver’s Mum had asked him to sit quietly in a room so they could surprise Charlie with the toys. He was playing with his toy horse when Charlie's father walked towards him.

‘What are you doing, boy?’

He didn’t respond and shifted away as Tommy walked closer. He was a little wary of Charlie’s father who had made his Mum cry.

‘You’re playing with toys?’ Tommy asked and sat next to him.

‘My t-t-toys.’ He pulled them closer so Tommy couldn't take it.

Feeling slightly on edge in front of his own son, he asked, ‘Do you like horses, Oliver?’

He looked up and nodded, slightly interested.

‘I’ll show you the horses at our home. Would you like to see?’

He nodded again, but didn’t shy away from informing Tommy about his own riches, ‘Mum w-w-will buy me a h-horse on m-my birthday.’

‘That’s good. Do you want another?’

‘I h-h-have to dr-dr-drink milk to g-g-get a horse.’

‘Yes. That’s good.’ He repeated, unable to find the right words and slightly unsettled by his stammer. He didn’t blame his toddler son for his flaw but it nagged him that he couldn’t fix it.

‘I d-d-don’t like m-m-milk.’

 He relaxed a little and smiled, ‘It’s alright. I don’t like it either.’

‘Y-y-your Mum d-doesn’t scold you?’

‘My Mum is not with me.’

‘Do y-you miss her?’

‘I do.’

‘Is she in F-f-faraway Land?’

He considered his son’s question for a moment and said, ‘Yes. She is.’

‘My D-d-daddy is in F-f-faraway Land, too. I miss h-him too.’ He said sadly.

He knew he had told Lily he’d wait for a few days but after hearing Oliver’s dejected words, he couldn’t stop.

‘He is not there.’

‘Wh-where is he?’ He said, his eyes gleaming with excitement.

‘I am your Daddy.’

Tommy had expected him to get silent or hug him right away. But he hadn’t thought he would burst into tears.

‘No, y-y-you are not. Y-y-you made Mum c-c-cry.’

‘I am sorry for that.’ Tommy said futilely because his wails only increased.

‘Uncle P-P-Paul said he’ll c-c-clean your f-f-‘

‘Oliver! What did I tell you about that word?’ Lily shouted at the moment. Alerted by the cries of Oliver she had hurried to make sure everything was alright. But the scene before her showed her it couldn’t get worse.

He cried louder, ‘I d-d-didn’t tell it, M-M-Mum.’

‘Don’t shout, Lily.’

She walked towards him and hugged him closer until he stopped crying, ‘Go play with Charlie, sweetie. He’s all alone.’ She gently wiped his cheeks and he tottered away.

‘What the fuck, Lily?’

‘What? They were just joking. And finish what you were saying.’

‘I’ll talk to him later.’ He walked to leave the room.

‘No, you don’t get to leave in the middle. What will I say to him?’

‘He doesn’t look too keen on having a fucking father.’

‘He’s three, Tommy. He doesn’t realize what he’s saying.’

‘I need some time.’ He said finally, his head aching from the failed proceedings.

‘You were the one who wanted to tell him. Now you’re backing out.’

‘I said I’ll fucking talk to him. Let it go.’ His ire rose and Lily wanted to smack his head.

‘You are so-’

‘Keep it for tomorrow. I’m going to the stables.’ He said dismissively.

‘It’s a Sunday, Tommy.’

‘Do you want to go to the Garrison? So we can fucking drink and sing while the Changrettas kill another member of my family.’ 

‘All I’m saying is that you can spend some time with your children.’

‘What’s the point, Lily? Your fucking company has taught him enough already.’

‘You will not say anything about them. They are my family.’

‘Your family is keeping my family away from me.’

‘It was them who asked me to tell Oliver the truth.’

‘You expect me to fucking believe that?’

‘Go and talk to him.’ She said gently and touched his shoulder.

‘Some other day. I’m not as ready as I thought I was.’

She relented at that, knowing he was a touch hurt after Oliver’s outright rejection. It was peculiar to see Thomas Shelby, who always stayed a step ahead of his adversaries and always came out a winner, lose against his own child. And she couldn’t help but feel her heart go soft for him. They were leaving the room when Charlie came running.

‘Dad! Oliver said you’re his Dad.’

‘Oh fuck.’ Lily muttered in distress beside Tommy, who wondered how he would tell his son about his 'new' brother.

‘Yes, Charlie. I’m his Dad.’

‘But you are my Dad.’

‘I am. I’m his Dad as well as yours.’

‘Why?' He asked, unable to comprehend his father's words.

Lily walked closer to Charlie, completely unhappy with Tommy's method of explaining.

‘Charlie, do you like Oliver?’

He nodded readily.

‘Would you like if he became your brother?’

‘But he takes away my toys.’

‘Can’t you give one to your brother? I’ll tell him to give you his toys too.’

‘I guess.’

‘See? You both will have so much fun together. You can play and ride horses.’

‘Will you read us stories?’

‘Of course. Whenever you want me to.’

'Now?' He asked happily.

'All right, let's go and bring Oliver.' She left the room and Tommy chose not to bother with explaining the relationship dynamics for now.

 

When Lily took Oliver inside her room, he asked, ‘Mum, is Ch-Ch-Charlie’s Dad my D-D-Daddy?’

‘Yes, he is.’

‘Wh-wh-why doesn’t he l-l-live with me?’

Lily had known what his question would be and she told him as gently as possible.

‘Because when you were born, your Daddy was in Faraway Land. And he came back just now, so he could be with you.’

‘But he m-m-made you cry.’

‘He got upset because I didn’t bring your horse to Small Heath. And he said sorry later and brought me flowers.’ Oliver was mollified at the not-so-real gesture and didn't question or cry anymore.

She put them both in bed and sat at the edge to tell them the story of The Rabbit with Red Nose. Before she could began, Charlie said, 'You're my brother, Oliver.' 

'I'll not g-give you m-my toys.'

'Boys! No quarrels. Or I'll not tell you the story.'

But they became embroiled in their discussion, leaving Lily to act as the reluctant mediator.

Tommy watched from the door as she answered their every question in a way they understood and didn't get antagonised against each other. Listening to them gave him a headache and he marvelled at Lily's ability to keep her cool. If only he had been a little patient and not so straightforward.

 

 

‘The children went to bed?’ He asked a while later, when she unexpectedly came inside his room. 

‘Yeah, after a long talk about horses and toys.’

‘It must have been difficult for you.’

‘Don’t be silly. Children are tricky, you never know what they will say.’

‘I need to know them better.’

Before his melancholy took over, she asked, ‘Do you have work at the Yard?’

‘Yes. Why?’ He asked as she sat down on his bed and crossed her legs.

‘I was just wondering. Because the boys are sleeping in my room and I could use some company.’

He turned and looked at her with a blank expression on his face.

‘Company, eh?’

‘Yes, Mr. Shelby.’ She bent and removed her shoes, one at a time, ‘But if you have work, I won’t keep you.’ She said considerately and played with the flimsy sleeves of her dress.  

‘It can wait.’

‘Then what are you thinking?’ She tried to keep the bite out of her words; it was obvious he was deliberately stalling.

‘Why Lily?’

She gave him a sour look. ‘Can’t I ask for anything from you?’

‘You don’t need to ask. But you did refuse in the evening.’ He leaned against the wall, taking in her bare shoulders.

‘I changed my mind.’ She said airily.

‘So did I.’

‘You’re refusing me?’ She gasped in outrage.

‘No. I think you should put more effort.’ He gave her a small smile.

‘Effort my foot! This is the best you’ll get.’

‘I don’t compromise.’

‘Then go find someone else. I’m tired anyway.’ She put her feet up on the bed, making her dress ride up.

‘You’re giving up? So quickly?’ He held his ground and willed himself to stay where he was.

‘I’m not in a mood to beat around the bush. If you want it, say it.’

Tommy tried to look scandalised at her words but came up short. He had been shocked at her offer, even more when she had begun undressing before him. As much as he was willing, he wasn’t letting her get away with her direct refusal. But when she stated it so frankly, he couldn’t work up the dissuasion.

‘I want it.’

‘You are a-’ 

‘Keep it for tomorrow. I’ve work to do tonight.’ He said and joined her on the bed after shrugging out of his coat. She smiled and traced his stubbly jaw with her fingers.

‘I’m sorry.’ He said suddenly and Lily got up a little.

‘What’s the matter, Tommy? Is everything alright?’ She asked, surreptitiously peeking a glance at his trousers.

He gritted his teeth at her concern over his virility and said as sincerely as possible, ‘For making you cry.’

‘Aww. You’re such a sweetheart.’ She raked her fingers in his hair and kissed him passionately.

He paused for a second to declare, ‘I’m going to ignore that.’ and went ahead with divesting her of the damned dress.

Chapter Text

Tommy looked at the ceiling impassively as Lily snored, her hair spread across his chest. Given  the limited space in his narrow bed, she had made herself comfortable on top of him, keeping her arm around his waist. He had every intention of leaving the bed to her after they were finished but he had stayed, enjoying her expensive scent and supple body and musing about the events of the night. Something he hadn't done in a long while, even before his return to Small Heath.

Last night had been satisfying and he wondered if it was her way of agreeing to his old proposition. She might be interested now that he was a full-fledged businessman and not a working man. But if the Changretta’s won, he wouldn’t even be that, he thought darkly.

While he wasn’t so keen on being bound by holy matrimony, he had to keep his family together. Even more now that Oliver knew about him and wasn't particularly happy about the revelation. He was grateful to Lily for making his task easier but he had to work on it, too, despite his vehement reluctance.

When his thoughts began to wander in an entirely different territory and she still showed no signs of waking up, he carefully extricated himself from her naked body and made his way to the lavatory. Not before placing the threadbare blanket to cover her.

Some time later, he was all ready and putting on his waist coast when he sensed movement on the bed.

‘Morning.’ She stretched a little, her eyes barely open.

‘I’m leaving soon, you can have the room.’ 

‘Oh, no. I’ve been sleeping for way too long.’ Lily got up, careful to keep the sheets in place and avoiding his piercing gaze.

He walked closer to her and firmly ordered, ‘It’s early. Go back to bed.’

She ignored him and continued her hunt, ‘I just can’t find my-’

‘This?’ He asked as he picked up a particularly racy piece of silk she had kept hidden under her dress. The sight of it had made him regret the time he had wasted to teach her a lesson, but he had made up for that, if her cries of passion were to be believed.

‘Yeah, that.’ She hastily took it from him and put it on without removing the sheet covering her, leaving him a little disappointed. When she had fluffed her hair and made a big production of rubbing her eyes, he realised she wanted him to leave.

Clearing his throat at the obvious snub, he said, ‘You can come to the office with me today, I’ll ask Lizzie to help you with the paperwork of the institute.’

‘Yeah, sure.’ She said, making no move to get up from the bed.

‘Are you alright?’

‘Why wouldn’t I be?’

‘You seem…quiet.’

‘What do you want me to say?’ She asked, a touch annoyed and looked towards the window. ‘I think…there’s someone in your lane, Tommy.’

He walked to look at the intruder and felt an emotion only a certain Jew from Camden Town managed to illicit. It wasn’t alarm and definitely not happiness, but it lay somewhere between resignation and reluctance.

‘That’s Alfie.’ He muttered.

‘Alfie Solomons? Is he here to buy your gin?’

He shrugged on his overcoat, surprised that she knew about Alfie’s clandestine business. But if she knew about the murky private life of the Duchess, Alfie’s distillery was hardly a big deal.

‘There’s a fight between Bonnie and Alfie’s nephew Goliath. He’s here for that.’

‘A fight? Am I invited?’ She asked eagerly.

So fights catch your interest, Tommy thought in amusement.

‘You are, if you can stay away from the kids for a while.’

She chuckled and he looked at her for a second longer, taking in her dewy face and swollen lips. She grew flustered under his gaze and turned towards the window again, avoiding him again. Her eyes narrowed in bemusement at what she saw outside.

‘Is Goliath that tall man who’s relieving himself on the wall?’ 

‘Fuck.’ He looked through his spectacles at the trio again and Ischmael honked at that exact moment.

‘Enjoy your meeting.’ She smiled and relaxed back on the bed, probably relieved that he was going.

He raised his eyebrows in the irony of her words and lowered his head a little to kiss her at last. Only for her to jolt backwards at the terribly loud horn.

‘Fuck. I’ll go deaf if I hear it any longer.’ She said with her hands on her ears.

Tommy hurried to get to the door, not wanting the kids to wake up from that noise. Also because it was the third time someone had interrupted him when he was with Lily.

***

After Tommy went to greet his guest, Lily went out of his room with lighting fast speed to wash herself. She had hoped Tommy would understood her dillydallying and get out of his room but he had lingered himself, trying to coax words out of her. Literally.

The reason why she had brought out her inner ‘temptress’ last night was entirely selfish. But a little altruist after he became somewhat dismal at Oliver’s reaction. And also  because he had apologised for his boorish behaviour, in proper words.

Unfortunately for her, he was behaving like she was a deflowered maiden who would break at the slightest touch. He probably thought she was madly in love with him and awaiting a proposal. And while she had promised to give it a try, she didn’t feel the need to do so at present. Especially when Oliver was in such a difficult predicament. And Charlie too, she realised, remembering how he had told Oliver they would share a bed in Arrow House. She had done an improvised job last night and it would take time for all of them to get used to the revelation. She could only hope that Oliver didn't question her about his name and Charlie didn't ask why they had different mothers. But she liked to think that it was a lot for a young mind to grasp and with luck, it would be smooth sailing. A lot of luck, actually., Lily thought gloomily and decided it was a good thing Tommy was so busy or he'd mess everything up again.

 

Chapter Text

After a tense breakfast, where Oliver hadn’t said a word around Tommy and Charlie had asked his father to buy his new brother a flat cap, Lily found herself in Tommy’s car. He was taking her to his office as promised and she couldn’t be less enthused about it. While she had agreed to head the project, she couldn’t deny the circumstances leading to its occurring.

‘What did you do in London?’

‘Celebrated Gerard’s birthday. Completed the pending work. Slept like the dead in my bed.’

Keeping the images of Lily in a bed at bay, he asked, ‘Are you the President of this shady business?’

‘What else did Colin tell you? And no.’ 

‘Why not?’

‘There will be an interview, followed by an election.’

‘Even thieves follow rules?’ He asked scornfully.

‘We’re not thieves. Don’t you ever wonder how no one is in jail?’

‘You must be good or the coppers must be in your pocket.’

‘While you aren’t entirely wrong, the greater truth is that whatever piece we collect is stolen anyways. Those who don’t know that are too rich to be bothered. And those who do can’t complain.’

‘What are you? The Robin Hood of London?’

‘I like that name.’ she mused, deliberately ignoring his sarcastic tone.

‘I still don’t approve of it.’

Her ire rose at his words and she said scathingly, ‘I don’t remember asking for your approval. Have I ever criticised what you do? The cutting, the shooting-’

‘You kept me away from my son.’

‘What you do isn’t the reason behind it and you know that.’

‘If it makes you feel better, I never called the Parrish.’

Incredulous at the revelation, she replied in a forcefully even tone, ‘It doesn’t. But at least you care a little about him.’

‘I do. A lot.’

‘But you still don’t love him.’

‘I never said that.’

‘You don’t have to. I have seen the way you look at him, Tommy. Like you want to force the words out of him. Like you’re running out of patience.’

‘I want to be with him and know him, Lily. What else do you want me to say?’

That you want me too. The thought came out of the blue, leaving Lily gloomy and detesting herself for wanting the one thing she couldn’t have.

 

‘You can wait in my office.’ Tommy told her after they were inside.

‘Got yourself another secretary?’ Lizzie asked from her desk, taking in the expensively dressed woman who was looking at the ugly paperweight as if it was hiding something.

Before Tommy could intervene, Lily rejected the suggestion with a dismissive gesture, ‘Oh, no. I can’t bear to be with him for so long. How do you stand him?’ She asked and surreptitiously picked up the paperweight.

‘Wait inside, Lily. Please.’ He told her, not before taking the weight from her hand. After she grudgingly went in the office, he looked at the object of her attention for a moment too long and kept in back on Lizzie’s table in defeat.

‘I want you to help her with the paperwork of the orphanages.’

‘Why’s she going to head that? She’s a fucking outsider.’

‘She is the mother of my son. And stop antagonising her at every moment.’ Tommy said in a level voice, feeling strangely protective.

‘You actually care for her?’ She asked, more in disbelief than envy.

‘Give me the fucking papers.’

With a sarcastic look, Lizzie took out the file from under her desk, ‘There you go, Mr. Shelby.’

 

‘Why are you in my chair?’ He asked after he’d locked the door behind him and found her spinning on the chair. She stopped when she saw him, but didn’t get up.

‘I was wondering what you saw when you sat on this chair.’ She said, lightly patting the arms of his chair.

‘Do you like it?’ He asked, not at all interested in her answer.

‘Not much. It looks shiny from away but when you get near, it’s dull and dead.’ She got up from the chair, her gaze lingering on Grace’s photo frame.

‘I’m relieved you are not after my chair.’ He walked towards her, so they were face to face.

‘I’ve my own chair to worry about.’ She muttered as she leaned against the table and gestured at the file in his hands, ‘Tell me, Tommy. Why are you bothering with all this?’

‘I already told you.’

‘And you remembered about it after we had shared a bed. Is it my gift for keeping you company?’

‘I don’t 'gift' women for that.'

‘You can’t obviously pay me, it’ll be too unpleasant.’

He crossed his arms as he took in her bitter form, ‘Did I do anything wrong, Lily? Because it was you who came to me, not the other way round. And it wasn’t a first time for either of us.’

‘You couldn’t even look at me after the last time we were together. But this time, since I initiated it, you have something to worry about. So tell me, what’s worrying you?’

‘Since you asked for it, I’ll say it. Do you want to get married?’

‘I fucking knew it.’ She said in indignation and began to walk away, only for him to keep his hands on  the table, locking her in between. He moved closer, taking in the quiet fire in her eyes. Tommy was unable to understand why she was angry. She had asked him to say the truth, so she should’ve been prepared. He wasn’t so callous to treat her like a whore but it would do them good to have it out in the open. Only it hadn’t gone as he had planned.

‘I’m going back. Give your ‘gift’ someone else.’ She declared, pushing him lightly so she could move away. He was too caught up in his thoughts to stop her until she was walking away from the table.

‘Wait, I’ll drop you.’ He said.

‘I can manage. Unlike you, the betting shop isn’t that distant.’

‘This isn’t fucking London. Let me drive you.’ He stopped her by reaching for her wrist.

‘You don’t own me.’ She gritted out as she twisted her wrist to make him loosen his grip.

He relented, not before giving her a firm look, ‘I don’t. But I’m still going to drop you.’

 

 

The betting shop was unusually quite that day, considering everyone’s attention was on the woman who was irrationally angry at every customer. Like the nervous Jimmy, who always found it difficult to choose the horse he wanted to bet on. And Lily had long exhausted the limited quantity of patience she’d brought in with her.

‘Can’t you decide on one horse!?’ She yelled.

‘I apologise, Mrs. Shelby.’ He said timidly, not wanting Tommy to come after him. But his words made Lily clench her fists and break the nib of her pen.

‘Don’t call me that!’ 

‘Lily, come in for a second.’ Polly Gray, who had been taking in the scene for way too long, ordered from her office.

Lily got up from the table before giving a withering look to Jimmy, who hurried to find another table.

‘Someone is fairly angry today.’ Polly said, gesturing her to sit down.

‘Who?’ Lily asked, still thinking about Tommy and his 'proposal'.

‘Someone who has denied her feelings for a certain Shelby for too long.’ Polly leaned back and put her hands on her hips.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ 

‘You should’ve been prepared for that. He is not like other men.’

‘He asked me if I wanted to marry him. Because we had sex.’ Lily burst out, fed up with being treated like she was weak and alone.

‘I’m surprised he offered marriage.’

‘He didn’t. He asked if I  wanted it.’ She pointed a slim finger at her chest.

‘What did you say?’

‘I said, I fucking knew it.’

Polly grimaced, ‘That must have been painful.’

‘He wanted me to head his new project.’ Lily added, like Polly was her mother and Tommy the boy who had pushed her in the playground.

Polly lowered her eyebrows in confusion, ‘I thought he offered it to you long back.’

‘Yes! And he remembered it just now. After I took off my clothes for him.’

Polly smiled and wondered why her nephew had to be so tactless. That too with a woman who had let her child bear the brunt of being an illegitimate so he could have his happiness. While it had saved Lily’s life in a way, Polly wanted her to be happy too. For that, she would either have to forget Tommy and stay away from him forever or learn to find her happiness in whatever dregs he offered.

‘Do you want to go out for a bit?’ She asked finally, taking kindness at the angry woman who wouldn't admit the heartache she was going through.

‘There’s work to do.’ Lily gave her weak excuse.

‘Darling, if you stay here for a moment more, we would have no work left.’

She finally gave a reluctant smile and got up from the chair, ‘Fair enough. I shouldn’t have yelled at that poor man.’

‘And the ones before him. Come, you look like you need some fresh air and whisky.’

‘I couldn’t agree more.’ 

Chapter Text

On a rare occasion, Tommy found himself in the company of Oliver. Since Lily hadn’t arrived from the betting shop, he had to get the boys from Sutton, all the while wondering why was she so late. The thought of Patrick had come to his mind, but he had ignored it. She wouldn’t do something so trivial just to get back at him. She attacked when one least expected it, like she had this morning. He had asked a simple question which had a simple answer. The answer which would be in the affirmative because she loved him and wanted to marry for love anyway. It might be first selfless thing he had done in a while and she had chucked it away like it meant nothing. There was no need for her to get riled up and slam every door she opened.

Sometime after they had arrived, Arthur had come to take Charlie with him to keep Billy engaged, much to the discontentment of both Oliver and Tommy. Both of them were uncertain of each other and hadn’t yet adjusted to the roles assigned to them.

Tommy chose the easier way out and left Oliver with his toys and went to his study, hoping Lily would be back soon.

While in his study, maybe it was because of what Lily had said in his car or the wary look he had seen on Oliver’s face whenever he was in vicinity, Tommy couldn’t focus on the simple task of adding up numbers. Getting up with a sigh, he walked out of the room and climbed down the stairs. He went inside Lily’s room, only to find it empty. Trying not to get panicked, he went to check in his own room and found it vacant too.

He was about to leave the house when he found him in the kitchen. Letting out the breath he didn’t know he was holding, he strode towards his older son, who was reaching for something on the counter.

‘What do you want Oliver?’ He asked from behind, a little louder than he wanted.

He shook a little on his toes and Tommy hurried towards him. ‘What do you want?’ He repeated, looking down at Oliver. He looked up at Tommy, trying to achieve the same scowl but failed miserably.

He then closed his eyes and puckered his mouth, as if he was putting his all energy in a generally simple act.

‘B-b-b-‘ He pointed at the box of biscuits on the counter.

‘Say it.’ He said gently, trying to keep the steel out of his voice.

‘Bee-‘ He put his hands around his mouth, as if forcing the word out. And when he couldn’t, tears of frustration sprang in his eyes. His frustration reminded Tommy of the time when they had struggled to make ends meet, when food was only bread and jelly, divided among five hungry children and a young Polly. Oliver's struggle for speaking was similar to his own struggle, it was smooth-sailing with little or no hardships for everyone but he had had to work extra hard for it.

Tommy's throat closed up and he kneeled down in front of him, ‘It’s alright, son.’ He said gently, wiping the tears in his eyes and wanting to take away all his pain.

Oliver’s eyes widened at the close scrutiny and he said, ‘I am s-s-sorry.’

Tommy abruptly wrapped him in an embrace, feeling hot tears on his cheek.

‘You will not apologise, you get it?’ He said gruffly, enraged at himself for not being a good enough father, for ignoring his blood like his own father had.

Oliver didn’t respond, a little overwhelmed by his ‘Dad’s’ reaction. Tommy loosened his hold on him and moved back to look into his son’s eyes.

‘I am your Dad, you don’t need to be scared of me. All right?’ 

‘You are my d-d-daddy?’ 

‘Yes, I am.'                                                                     

‘C-c-can I call y-you Dad?’

‘You will call me Dad. Always.’ Tommy whispered as he hugged him again, gently ruffling his curly hair.

 

Lily tried not to make any noise as she walked inside Tommy’s house. She had had four glasses at some pub which was not Garrison with Polly and she tried her best to watch her step. She was not in the mood to see Tommy nor did she want Oliver to see her like this. But all alcohol rubbed off when she saw them both on the sofa, with Tommy patting Oliver to sleep.

‘What?’ she whispered, trying not to scream.

Tommy only put a finger on his lips, gesturing her to ‘fucking shut up’.

After that, Tommy picked Oliver up and carried him inside, all the while ignoring Lily’s scowl. When he was back, she blared, ‘What is going on, Tommy?’

‘Where were you?’

‘I was with Polly. We had some work.’

‘Did the work involve whisky?’

‘Look, I needed to unwind after your ‘offer’. And where is Charlie?’ She asked, looking around the house and hoping he would let her go.

‘Don’t blame your weakness on me. You need to switch to something mild, you cannot handle the hard stuff.’

‘I can handle everything. I don’t need your help in raising my son.’

‘He’s my son too.’

‘I know how much you love your son.’ She said with a sarcastic smile.

Tommy knew he had to say it or he wouldn't be able to let go of his guilt. Exhaling heavily, he leaned against the wall, ‘I love him, Lily. And you were right, I didn't like that my son wasn’t perfect. But now I know him and I’m ready to do the needed.’

‘What will you do, Tommy? Just feeling pitiful about your child doesn’t make you a good father.’

‘I’m getting a speech therapist for him. He’ll be speaking normally in no time.’

‘I told you he’ll outgrow it. Wait till he’s six or seven. After that he’ll speak ‘normally’. 

‘Am I supposed to watch him suffer until then?' He retorted, angry that she didn't see their son's hurt.

‘No one’s asking you to watch him. I’ve been doing a good job for a very long time.’

‘Are we back to that again? I’m not in a mood to fight.’ He moved to go back in his room.

‘Neither am I.’ She stressed. She had wanted to fight, because it felt good to hear him talk about Oliver. Like Oliver was more than just his blood, like he actually cared for him and wasn’t doing it out of obligation.

‘Are you coming to bed?’ He paused and turned to look at her.

And then he had to say that, Lily mentally shook her head. ‘It was one night, Tommy. Don’t get any ideas.’ 

‘You sure? Don’t come asking like yesterday.’

He hoped she was irked by his gibe because he wanted to irk her, so she wouldn’t stop talking. It felt good to talk to her, she didn't treat him like an OBE nor did she fawn over him like some women. If only she didn't look at every thing like it was a stolen piece of art.

To his mild surprise, Lily gave him a slow, wide smile and walked towards him. When she was close enough that he could smell her expensive perfume, mixed with whisky and her own scent, she ran her hands along his lapel and said, her smile still warm and loving,

‘I’m going to ignore that. Because if I don’t, you’ll have to cover your face tomorrow. And it wouldn’t seem right for a man of your position to do that.’

 

 

Chapter Text

‘I d-d-don’t wanna drink th-th-this.’ Oliver said on a Saturday morning after Lily had chided him for not even picking up his glass of milk

‘Why, Oliver?’ Lily asked calmly.

‘D-d-dad doesn’t like milk.’

Lily looked at Tommy in resentment, who didn’t look up from the papers he was arranging. She cleared her throat loudly to catch his attention but he continued to ignore her.

Her frustrated, ‘Tommy-’ was cut midway when he said, without looking up,

‘If you don’t drink milk, you’ll have to wear these.’

He turned to look at Oliver and pointed at his glasses, and he nodded, not from the fear of getting himself a pair of glasses but from the hold of Tommy’s light blue eyes.

‘You’ve the prize-giving at the institute today?’ 

He paused at her question, then gave a distracted, ‘Yeah.’ 

‘Can you bring the boys on your way back? I was thinking of buying some food supplies.’

‘Why don’t you take the day off today? Stay with the kids.’ He said as he put on his overcoat over his grey corduroy suit. While Lily didn’t mind being with the kids, Tommy’s behaviour seemed different today. He looked deep in contemplation, and Lily couldn’t fathom why he was being so…odd.

‘Why?’ She asked finally, putting down the knife in her hand.

‘I would like if you didn’t question me.’

She was reminded of another time by his cold words. Walking closer to him so Oliver didn't hear them, she said, ‘Is everything alright?’

He looked at her for a second, as if trying to decide if she was trustworthy. But she seemingly failed his test because he said lightly, ‘It is. Do you want me to get something?’

‘No, it isn’t important.’ She said distractedly, her eyes uncertain. 

‘I'll leave then.' He moved to go, gently ruffling Oliver's hair.

‘Be careful.’ She said softly but he heard her alright. And turned to kiss her worried face before going out of the door, leaving her terrified.

****

Tommy’s heart beat frantically as he drove away from Artillery Square. Luca Changretta had gotten away but he wasn’t returning empty handed either. He had singlehandedly killed three men and would’ve killed Luca too if the coppers hadn’t intervened. He might’ve been dead himself but he didn’t dwell on that. Right now, he wanted to reach home as soon as possible. And he wondered if Lily would shoot him the moment he walked in. He had asked Polly to tell her about their plan, so if things went wrong, she would know what to do. Charlie was attached to her and Tommy had wanted her to look after him, if he didn’t come back. But things had worked out for now. And she probably would not blow the situation out of proportion. He had been a cold bastard to her in the morning when she was asking about his troubles. Looking into her worried eyes, he had almost decided to tell her the truth but he had stopped himself. Fewer the people who knew about it, the better. 

He entered the house to find Lily sitting directly in front of him with her hands on her head. Polly was sitting beside her, looking stoic and awaiting his arrival.

‘He’s back.’ Polly told Lily in a quiet voice as she took in his appearance.

Lily looked towards the door and got up hastily, ‘Tommy!’

She hurried towards him and jumped in his arms, her arms around his neck. Tommy stiffened at the sudden warm feel of her against him, shocked to his core at her reaction. But he regained his composure soon enough to embrace her slim waist and kiss her shoulder. He closed his eyes to remind him that was no longer in the Square, with a possible assailant at every step. Rather he was in his home with a gorgeous woman in his arms.

‘Are you hurt?’ She moved back to examine him for injuries, her face ashen and her hair dishevelled.

‘I’m alright.’

She kissed his entire face, carefully avoiding his mouth and whispered, ‘I’m so glad you’re back.’

‘Me too.’ The words slipped out of his mouth and he realised how true they were. He bent forward to kiss her lips, deepening it by running his hands in her hair.

Polly cleared her throat and Lily suddenly became aware of how unacceptably close she was to Tommy.

Extricating herself from his slightly immobile hold, she muttered, ‘I’ll go and check on the children,' and left the room so Tommy and Polly could talk in the privacy, making sure she didn't look at either of them.

 

Lily fluttered about in the kitchen, putting the kettle on the stove and struggling to calm her nerves. The rest of the Shelby family had arrived with their associates and she tried her best to keep out of their way, especially Tommy. She had hugged him only because she had been worried for him. He had initiated the kiss and it would make sense if he were trying to ward off the flaming blush, not reiterating the details of the gory event in his calm and collected voice.

She had suspected something was wrong in the morning and when Polly had arrived unannounced, her suspicion had been confirmed. But she hadn't once thought that Tommy would be rash enough to go behind the Italians all by himself. Nonetheless it was the truth and she was unreasonably angry at Polly for letting him use himself as a bait. While waiting for him, a myriad of emotions had crossed her, ranging from anxiety to anger to fear. She had wondered if he would be back unharmed or wounded, but death hadn't once entered her mind. As much as she didn't want to admit it, she knew Tommy wouldn't die by the hands of the Italians.

Pouring tea for whoever wanted it (though she doubted even Linda drank tea now), she walked towards the room where the family meeting was going on. She heard Charlie Strong's fairly accurate toast of 'Well, I drink to you Tom, you mad bastard,' followed by raucous laughter around the table. 

She halted at the threshold when she saw Tommy carrying Charlie from the side and looked for anyone who caught her eye to take the tray from her. Only to have Polly take it from her and pull her inside the room with surprising strength.

She glared at Polly to let her go but Tommy ordered, ‘Come here, Lily.’

Hesitating a little, she muttered, ‘I don’t think-’

‘The boys are here, Lily. You don't have any excuse to give.’

‘There is some work to do.' She said, slightly unnerved at being in the company of the Peaky Blinders.

‘Come.’ He said.

‘You’re a Shelby now.’ Arthur said, a little powder still stuck on his nose. 'Tokyo' seemed to be a family speciality of the Shelbys, she thought in slight reproach, knowing Tommy kept it too, even though she had never seen him use it.

‘No, I am not.’ She firmly denied Arthur's declaration.

‘You don’t kiss a Shelby like that and deny your allegiance.’

‘Polly!’ Lily turned crimson at Polly’s disclosure and tried not to look at anyone. Especially Tommy, who probably wasn’t in a good condition himself, judging from Arthur’s, ‘Come on Tommy, don’t look at the roof now,' before he walked towards Tommy and said, 'Pretty soon you're gonna get the shakes when your blood cools down. Let's go get a drink.'

Charlie asked at that moment, ‘Dad, you got three what?’

'I got three shillings for a two shilling horse. Now, my boy, you come with us, eh?'

Lily waited for Tommy to leave with the rest of the blinders, but he walked towards Polly and reached for Oliver's hand, taking his son with him. All the while Lily tried to contain the tears threatening to fall down at the sight for Tommy holding Oliver's hand for the first time. 

‘Looks like you’ve found Mrs. Thomas Shelby number two, Polly.’ Linda gloated.

‘We’re not getting married.’ Lily said quietly, all emotion vanishing at the reminder of Tommy's uncouth proposal. 

Polly's eyes widened at her words and she said, ‘Still? Even your boy knows about Tommy.’ 

‘And he understands. We don’t have to get married for him to know his father.’

‘We Shelbys are a little old-fashioned compared to your London standards, Lily.’ Linda said and Lily wondered why she was so keen on getting Tommy married.

‘Why don’t you ask him? Both the sides are required to give their consent.’ Lily retorted finally.

‘You love him more than I thought.’ Polly shook her head a little.

‘I don’t love him.’ Lily gritted out.

But they all only laughed, making Lily lament her indecent display of affection.

Chapter Text

Lily was reading a musty, almost torn book she had found in the house when Oliver and Charlie came running towards her. She had initially been surprised to find a book, but relaxed when she realised it was a women’s handbook to nursing school. It was possibly Ada’s, though she hadn’t known she was a nurse.

‘Mum, what is a w-w-wop?’ Oliver asked and Lily wished she hadn’t let him go with Tommy.

‘Where did you hear that?’ She asked, already knowing the answer and the source of the new word in Oliver’s dictionary.

‘Uncle Arthur said it when Dad took us.’ Charlie added.

‘What else did he say?’ She asked subtly, keen on knowing everything that went down at the Garrison. Not for her sake but for the kids. Who knew what they’d seen and learnt with the Peaky Blinders. A curse word. Tokyo. Any difference in Tommy’s behaviour.

‘He a-asked me to c--call him Uncle. C-C-Can I call him that, M-M-Mum?’

She paused, a little dissatisfied by his answer but still nodded, ‘Yes, you can. Anything else, boys?’

Charlie scrunched his eyebrows, trying to remember something, anything so he could tell Lily. He jumped when he remembered, making Lily almost fling the book away.

‘Dad asked me not to tell you he drank whisky.’

‘Why?’ She smiled a little, feeling a little revered that Tommy wanted to hide his drinking from her.

‘Because you would take it away from him and drink it and then everyone laughed.’

‘You t-t-told her, dummy.’ Oliver whispered loudly in Charlie’s ear.

Pouting a little, Lily went back to her dull book, nodding at Charlie’s request to not tell Tommy that he had told her.

By the time Tommy came back from his office, the boys were fast asleep in her bed and she had acquiesced herself as the rightful holder of Tommy Shelby’s bed. She heard him take off his coat in the room and leave after standing still for a few long minutes. It had been a tough day for him but she didn’t know how to approach him, especially after her outpouring of emotion. As much as Polly and Gerard and Alexander and the rest of her friends believed it to be, she didn’t love him, more importantly, she didn’t want to love him. But at that moment, when she had seen Tommy, standing ramrod straight despite the ordeal he was going through, she had wanted to hug him like she hugged Oliver when he got scared of the dark. She had wanted to tell him he was safe and nothing would harm him.

Only it had gotten a little out of hand. Because Polly had told her about the seamstress in Paris who designed amazing wedding dresses. It had taken a while to quiet down the wedding talk and Lily had grown increasingly uneasy, more after seeing Lizzie’s bitter face. But soon, the Shelby women would realise the were building castles in Spain. Because neither did she love Tommy nor was he going to marry her; despite his so-called ‘solicitude’.

Keeping her unpleasant thoughts away, she pulled the cover up to her face and focused on sleeping. It was more rewarding than Thomas Shelby, who had called her a whisky thief in front of the children.

 

Lily padded out of her room sometime after midnight, her throat parched and crying for water. She went straight inside the kitchen and filled a glass from the pitcher, deciding it tasted a thousand times better than the single malt Scotch Gerard hid in his cabinet. With her mouth full of water, she turned to walk back to bed and choked on water when she saw Tommy, looking grave and still in his shirt and waistcoat.

‘God! You scared me.’ She said after she had almost hacked up her lungs.

‘What the fuck are you doing?’ 

‘Drinking water, people do that. Why are you here?’ She asked, hoping he wouldn’t ask her to vacate his bed. Or worse, suggest they share it.   

‘I need a drink.’

‘Go on, then.’ She motioned for him to get his drink and moved to walk back, only for him to stop her.

‘I also needed company.’

Feeling a rush of tenderness, she moved towards him, ‘It’s been a hard day. Are you alright?’

‘I don’t think I am.’ He muttered and Lily was almost stumped at hearing him say that.

‘Sit, I’ll get you a drink.’

Making no move towards the chair, he leaned against the counter and said, ‘I got three.’

‘I know.’ She said gently, cautiously pouring the whisky in the glass along with her words.

‘And one of them point-blank.’

‘I’m happy you’re safe, but you already know that.’ She said lightly as she gave him the glass. She knew she was being a little indifferent, but she had learned it long back that brooding never did you any good. Tommy didn’t know it, but the moment he let himself get away from the blood rush, he was plagued by a dark state of mind.

‘Point black, Lily. And he looked up at me.’

He was piecing it all together and she couldn’t help herself from saying, ‘I know you wouldn’t agree with me but sometimes, it’s okay to let go.’

She prepared herself for his cold yet despairing words about the war and death and struggle, but he only exhaled and with the barest of misery, said, ‘I don’t know how to let go.’

‘It is fine, Tommy. It takes time.’ She said softly, keeping her hand on his.

Tommy looked down at their hands and realised there wasn’t much difference in what they had done to survive in this world. Both had killed and stolen, but still looked different.

Hers was dainty and adorned with the enormous diamond while his was callous and scarred. He looked up into her kind eyes and touched her cheek with the hand which had shot a man and said,

‘You know Lily, I never apologise. It makes you weaker and inconsequential. But when it came to you, I never hesitated. I couldn’t think of a reason for that exception so I settled with pity because of your past. But now, I know it’s because you are stronger than anyone I know. You’ve been through hell and didn’t even blink. I think you even winked at the fucking devil.’ He added with an upturn of his mouth.

Lily smiled at him with watery eyes and abruptly leaned forward to kiss him. He held her face with his hands, cursing Polly for interrupting them in the evening. She closed the space between them with her arms around his neck, while he moved his hands to caress her through the silky bodice of her nightgown. She ran her hands down his shirt and began to unbutton it. Feeling a bit like the naïve one under her experienced hands, he stopped to ask,

‘Are we going to fuck today?’

Lily grimaced at his choice of words and moved back to look at his complacent face, patiently waiting for her response.

‘I’m not in a mood today. Maybe some other day.’ She said kindly, patting his face. As if he were a crying child who had lost his toy and she was wheedling him with the promise of another in the near future. She turned to walk away only to feel him behind her, touching her through the silk and peppering kisses on the exposed skin of her neck. Her shoulders hunched at the sensation and she leaned against him despite herself.

‘Don’t deny yourself of the worldly pleasure, Lily.’ He said as he played with the slip of her nightgown and pulled it down.

She tried to twist out of his grasp but he held on, pulling up the skirt of her gown dexterously. Trying to suppress the moan which threatened as he inched his hand along her thigh, she said, ‘It’s hardly a pleasure if you call it something so crude.’

‘It's getting hard to keep up with your refined tastes.’ He whispered, touching her ring with his free hand.

‘I always had refined taste. Birmingham brings out the worst in me.’ She turned to look at him meaningfully.

He placed his finger on her puffed-up lips and said, ‘Hush, you wouldn’t want our son to hear your thoughts about his father.’

Feeling a genuine smile threaten on her face, she finally moved out his grasp, ‘I’ll let you win this one. But don’t think I’m ready to jump your bones yet.’

He picked up his glass and emptied it in one gulp. Drawing a breath at the sharp taste, he muttered, ‘And people call me crude.’

She gave a small laugh and said, ‘Goodnight, Tommy. Hope you manage to sleep tonight.’

‘You are in my bed.’ 

But she ignored him and walked away, bursting with happiness for a strange reason.

Chapter Text

 

Tommy conveniently didn’t mention their conversation from the other night, which didn’t surprise Lily at all. Tommy Shelby didn’t like to remember moments of his weakness, the moments where he actually became a human. She was amazed he didn’t ask her to disappear into thin air, so he could erase all witnesses of the night before.

Instead, he asked her not to visit Ada for a few days, a command which left her even more suspicious about the nefarious activities that went down at Shelby Company. She had gathered that an impromptu boxing ring was installed in his office, but he refused to tell her anything else and bade her from asking around. Still, she didn’t give up hope and continued prodding him. 

One morning during breakfast, when they were on the only ones on the table, she said casually, ‘I heard there’s a strike going on in your factory.’

‘Not our factory.’ He said distractedly.

‘The union convener is a woman, isn’t she?’

He paused for a moment, her actions becoming clearer to him. She had been doing that for a while now and mostly in the morning, when he would be in a hurry and distracted as she moved around. Before, she would make breakfast in her formal work clothes but since the past few days, she had been wearing her nightgown and it reminded him of his inability to undress her out of it. And it wasn't a good move to abase Thomas Shelby, something Lily would soon understand.

Until then, he could only ask, ‘Where is the toast?’

‘I heard about her the last time I was in Small Heath. Something about a Bull Ring, I remember.’ She recollected, not at all interested in answering him.

‘The toast, Lily. Some of us have actual work to do.’ He knew it would work and she rolled her eyes at him.

Huffing a little, she put it on his plate with extra force, ‘As if you’re going to eat it.’

‘Are you coming?’ He asked as he put on his overcoat, the toast untouched.

‘Where?’                            

‘To the betting shop.’ He said and immediately regretted after seeing her get agitated. 

‘About that. It’s been more than a month, Tommy. And I still haven’t received my salary.’

‘You said it would be ‘unpleasant’ if I paid you.’

'That's what you tell other women at the betting shop?' She asked scornfully.

‘I’ll write you a check.’ He exhaled and didn’t delay in pulling out his chequebook, not wanting another 'discussion'. As he leaned forward on the table to write, her eyes widened and she looked at him in disbelief.

'What is this?'

‘That’s the standard rate.’ He said as he put his pen back in his pocket.

‘No wonder the workers are on a strike.’ She looked at the cheque and then at him, who was clenching his jaw, trying not to work up his anger.

‘I don’t have time for your nonsense.’

But she wasn't ready to let him go. Sitting in front of him on the table, she said, ‘I think I should tell you how much I deserve. I’ve had to leave my actual job, kill a man, sleep in terrible conditions, almost miss Gerard’s birthday and of course, live with you. You've caused me financial, moral and social trouble. I think it’ll be a lot more than what you’re offering.’

He leaned forward a little to disconcert her and asked, ‘Are you done?’

She gave him a mocking smile and got up, ‘I wouldn't want to keep you from work. Or the boxing ring. I am happy you only watch the matches. What would happen to your 'women' if you broke your nose or your head in the ring?’

‘Mind your own business and I might give you a promotion.’

‘I don’t need your money. And my work is suffering because of you. You are almost like Scrooge.’

‘I think I hold more credit than a thief.’ 

‘He’s not a real person. He’s from that book, A Christmas Carol. He is a cold-hearted miser who underpays his workers.’ She explained whatever she remembered from the book she hadn't read in more than ten years.

He raised his eyebrows and asked, ‘You can read?’ 

‘What do you mean?’ She asked, more offended than she had been when he had called her a whore.

‘I thought since you left your….’ Tommy said and looked around, slightly uncomfortable in talking about her past.

But she dismissed his pity and continued, ‘Gerard made me read books so my education didn’t suffer. When I refused, he would threaten to call the orphanage. And his threats are always real.’

Tommy tried not to think of the man who kept his rifle loaded and asked, ‘You lived with him?’

‘For a few years. Then I found myself a house with my two friends.’

‘Interesting.’ He said, taking in her bare face and leaned in to kiss her, only for her to move out of his way, a complacent smile on her face, ‘You can’t have it all, Tommy.’

‘You shouldn’t give yourself too much importance.’

To his annoyance, she only laughed and walked away, declaring,  ‘I’m going to meet Ada today.’

‘Enjoy your meeting.’ He said mechanically and then remembered what he’d told Ada  after her run-in with Ben Younger. While Tommy wasn’t someone who worried about anyone's opinions this time he strongly hoped Ada wouldn’t open her mouth around Lily. The prying aside, the past few days had been going smoothly and she hadn’t once threatened to leave Birmingham. He knew her days here were numbered and soon she would go back to London. But he didn’t want her to leave. It was selfish of him to keep her waiting on him but when she was around, he forgot about the future troubles. She was like a diamond in the coal of Small Heath; an analogy which made Tommy swear at himself in disgust and he didn’t bother with what the women were going to talk about.

If he were lucky, it would be about trivial matters. But knowing Lily, he knew he should prepare himself.

 

Lily and Ada drank tea and watched the boys as they played around them, an image which would’ve been serene were it not for the gravity of the situation they were talking about. Ada had had a particularly distressing incident with the police and she had Lily’s complete sympathy.

‘I wanted to cut the eyes of the fucking coppers.’ The only Shelby sister gritted out.

‘I would want to too. But it’s all Tommy’s fault.’ Lily added. She had been incensed that Tommy would use Ada for his advantage. It was a relief she wasn’t or hadn’t been a communist; she would be the next on the list. Or perhaps the first.

‘He didn’t know they were such fuckers. He apologised. And the Colonel was alright.'

‘I still don’t understand what he’s planning to do with the communists. His workers are all non-union.’

Ada looked at her in confusion and said, ‘I thought you would know Lily.'

'Know what?' Lily asked, taking another of the tea.

'Tommy has a date tonight.’

Lily almost choked on her tea and asked through watery eyes, ‘Tommy Shelby?’

‘It’s with Jessie Eden.’ Ada said as she handed Lily a napkin.

‘Is she that female-?’

‘Yeah, she is.’ Ada confirmed.

‘Why is Tommy going out with her?’

‘It’s about the fucking revolution. He’s going to stop it with his cock.’

‘What does that mean?’ Lily somewhat knew what Ada meant but hoped she’d misheard her.

Over the next half hour, Ada told Lily everything about Tommy’s ‘dinner’ plans. Everything which wasn’t confidential, that is. But Lily had gathered enough and she tried not to show her hurt at Ada’s words. He was going on a date with Jessie Eden, ostensibly to gain her trust. It did occur to her that there were many other ways to gain someone’s trust and none of them involved getting in bed with someone who was harming your business. She also noted that he had never asked her on a date. Because she was only for looking after the kids. And the occasional sex.

‘Is she pretty?’ She asked at last. To her annoyance, Ada gave her high-pitched laugh and patted her shoulder.

‘Don’t worry, Lily. My brother may be cold-hearted but he has a heart as much as he likes to think otherwise.’

‘I don't care about Tommy's private affairs. I was just a little curious to know the woman who shut down all factories.’

‘She is young.’ Ada supplied.

‘Well, Ada, take care of yourself. It has been a pleasure. I’ll go back to the betting shop. Can you keep the boys for a while? I know it’s a lot of trouble, but I’ll make it up to you.’

Lily hoped Ada wouldn't 'cut her eyes' for her hurried departure and for leaving the boys with her but she only smiled, ‘Don’t ask Polly. She’ll take you both to the church in a second.’

‘This entire family is strange.’ Lily muttered as she turned her back.

‘I heard that.’

 

Chapter Text

It was a wonderful dinner in Watery Lane for the children that night. Because no one reproved them for dropping the food on the table, playing with the spoons or soiling their clothes. And the ‘no one’ was Lily, who tried not to kill the lamb she’d cooked for dinner.

‘Lily, can I eat chocolate before bed?’

‘Yes, you can.’

‘Mum, I w-wanna sleep w-w-with Dad today. Ch-Ch-Charlie always gets t-t-to sleep on his b-b-bed.’

‘He has to come back for that, Oliver.’ 

'He w-w-won't come b-b-back?’

‘No, he just has some work.’

‘Is he b-b-back in F-F-Faraway Land?’

‘No, sweetie. He’s just in the stables.’

After they were done with dinner and were playing in Lily's room, Lily brought out the metal tub to wash the dishes. She was so deep in thought that she didn’t even hear the door open and close. Or if she did, she ignored it.

‘Mum, D-D-Dad got me a n-n-new cap.’ Oliver squealed and tugged her black skirt.

‘I hope it doesn’t have a razor attached to it.’ She deadpanned.

‘W-what?’

‘Go to bed, boys.’ Tommy said, already sensing a fight.

‘I wanna hear a story.’ Charlie whined.

‘Tomorrow. I promise.’ Tommy said gently.

‘Come on, boys. I’ll tell you a story.’ Lily ignored Tommy and took them to bed.

 

It was late by the time they fell asleep and Lily decided to sleep in her office clothes. It didn’t feel right to put on her nightgown, now that Tommy was with another woman. She had been a fool to think Tommy felt something for her too when it was obvious he did everything for his benefit. He had been alone that night and she was the only one at his disposal, so he had said some words to persuade her into staying. Now, all she wanted to do was go back in her London house and never come back to Birmingham.

‘Why are you here?’ She asked when she found Tommy in his room.

‘I was waiting for you.’

Rolling her eyes, she turned her back, ‘I’ll sleep on the sofa.’ 

‘You know what I’ll do.’

‘All right, then. Do you wanna fuck? Because I would hate for you to waste your precious time.’ She exploded.

‘It’s for our fucking good. Our company’s good.’ He emphasised.

‘I don’t remember asking anything about your business.’

‘The British Army came to me, Lily. And the fucking King wants me to do it.’

‘The King asked you to sleep with a woman?’ She asked finally, hating the words that left her mouth.

‘Go to bed. I’ll tell you everything tomorrow.’

‘I don’t want to know anything.’ She began to leave but he held her hand. He took her cold and wrinkly hand in his and noticed her nails weren’t painted like other women.

‘You don’t deserve this.’ He said as he rubbed some warmth in her hands.

‘Fuck off.’

‘You don’t deserve to work like a maid for me. I’ll buy you a diamond necklace when all this is done.’

She looked up and smiled at him; he hated that smile. ‘I can buy my own necklaces, Tommy. I don’t need your token of appreciation. Give it to someone who cares.’

‘Nothing happened.’ He told her, hoping she would stop.

‘Let go of this delusion that I care who you go to bed with.’

‘Then why are you acting like I fucking betrayed you?’

‘The only reason I’m upset is because you are treating me as a pastime. Someone you can fuck when no one else is at your disposal.’

‘Stop.’

‘No, I won’t. You don’t -‘

His lips crashed on her and in reflex she put her hands on his chest. But he didn’t stop, even though she was pushing with surprising force and he had to grind his heel to stand. He closed the space between them and enfolded her petite body in his arms.

She pulled away from him, her body on flame and her voice breathy, ‘No, Tommy,’ she whispered into his shirt collar.

‘You don’t have to punish yourself.’ He smoothed her hair.

‘Then let me go. Please, I can’t stay with you anymore.’

He let go of her suddenly, making her feel the cold, ‘Goodnight.’

 

 

Lily didn't sleep for the greater part of the night. When she did fall asleep, she was plagued by distressing thoughts of Tommy and a woman she had never seen. The image had filled her with so much disgust that she immediately jumped out of her bed and drew a bath for herself. At five o'clock, she was dressed up, sleep-deprived and sickened at herself. The fact that she could hear Tommy upstairs did nothing to put an end to her misery. 

When it all got too much to take, she had busied herself in the kitchen and cooked everything which was available. Two hours later, the entire house was smelling of eggs, bacon and sausages, a particular smell which had been the reason behind her nausea in early months of pregnancy. But this time, it only made Oliver wake up and Tommy came down the stairs, half worried the the house was on fire after seeing the smoke waft everywhere.

'What're y-y-you doing, Mum?'

'Nothing, go back to bed.' She said without looking up, searching for anything else in the godforsaken kitchen of Shelby household. 

'It s-s-smells.' He scrunched his nose as he walked closer.

'Then take my handkerchief. And go to bed.'

Lily pretended not to notice the scowl Oliver gave her and began cutting the pear she had found to transparent slices.

'What is wrong with you?'

'Please don't disturb me, Tommy.' She motioned with her knife and he walked closer, looking down at her through his glasses, 'You're starting to test my patience.'

‘Good. Bear with me for a few hours, I promise you won't have to see me again.' She said and began to walk out of the kitchen, only for him to stop her.

‘Where are you going?’

‘I am going to London.’

‘Here we go again,’ Tommy muttered. ‘This can wait.’

‘Why don’t I ask Oliver?’ Lily said, crossing her arms.

‘He doesn't want to come with you.’

‘He’s my son. He can’t live without me.’

'I'm warning you.'

‘Oliver! Come here, boy.’

As he came out his room, Lily put on her smile and bent to sit near him.

‘We’re going to London. What do you want to wear?’

‘Is D-D-Dad coming?’ He looked up at Tommy.

‘No, he has some work. But we’ll go to the beach and see the horses.’

‘I w-w-wanna stay.’ Oliver put his feet down, reminding Tommy of how Lily used to do the same. Guess stubbornness was in the blood, he thought sardonically.

‘I’ll buy you that trainset you wanted for Christmas.’

‘No, I w-w-wanna stay with Dad. He doesn’t sh-sh-shout at me.’

‘All right, Oliver.’ Tommy interjected.

‘No, Tommy. Please stay out of this.’ She said sharply.

‘You s-s-scold Dad. I h-hate you.’ Oliver shouted and Lily looked down with tears in her eyes.

She tried to keep her lips from trembling and whispered, ‘Congratulations Tommy. You took my son away from me.’

‘Lily, wait.’ Tommy said, already burdened with the family problems and it wasn't even nine yet. To think he had the New York Mafia and Communists after him when his family could give them a run for their money. And Lily wasn't even his family. Yet.

‘Why is M-M-Mum crying?’

Tommy considered it for a moment and bent down so he was face-to-face with Oliver.

‘Because you made her sad.’ He took off his glasses and pointed them at Oliver.

‘I d-d-don’t.’

‘Your Mum wanted to take you to the beach.'

Oliver's face became downcast and he looked down.

'What's the matter?' Tommy asked, suddenly becoming aware that his son was barely four. 

‘Will y-you go b-b-back to Faraway Land?’

‘No, my boy. I’ll never leave you.’

‘You p-p-promise?’ He asked and Tommy agreed that he was a cold-hearted bastard. 

‘I promise. Now go say sorry to your Mummy.’

 

 

Tommy was dressed for office when Lily came in his room, her eyes red-rimmed. He hadn't known what Oliver had said to her and her present appearance wasn't reassuring at all.

‘Lily, what happened?’ he asked with strange solicitude. The events of last night had left him feeling a tinge responsible for her condition.

But she didn’t reply and burrowed in his coat, softly crying.

‘I’m sorry, Tommy. I got scared.’

‘Hey. It’s alright.’ He gingerly touched her hair, finding himself speechless at her reaction. It might also be the first time she was apologising to him.

‘He is the only one I have. And I didn’t want to lose him.’ She said and her cries got harder.

‘I won’t take him away from you.’

'Do you promise?' She looked up at him, her eyes warm and hopeful.

‘Yeah.’ He said and kissed her with passion, all the while a thought nudged him. I won't let you go.

'Dad!' They broke apart at Charlie's bellow and found the boys coming in.

‘Mum! How d-do I l-look in th-this?’ Oliver asked, his new cap a little wonky on his head. Charlie walked to stand near his father, who picked him up.

Lily smiled at him and bend to adjust the cap for him, ‘You look like a Shelby.’ She said and looked up at Tommy and Charlie.

‘Can I w-w-wear it in L-L-London? I’ll show G-G-Grampa and uncle P-Paul and u-u-uncle James.’

‘We’re not going today. Maybe someday later?’ She asked, holding her hand out.

Oliver gave her a wide beam and fell into her arms, ‘I love you, Mum!’, he said in one breath, making Lily know that he actually meant it. He stammered mostly when he was piecing his words together and sometimes, she felt hopeful that his stammer was receding.

‘I love you too, sweetie.’ She said, the tears threatening to fall again.

Charlie and Tommy watched on as Lily kissed Oliver's cheeks, both of them reminded of the barely faded memory of the woman who was the greatest part of their life. She wasn't with them but her memories were. Long ago, through silent agreement they had decided to keep her with them forever. But now, they couldn't help but ignore the light stab in their heart. Charlie was the braver one and he struggled out his father's arms to walk closer to the mother and son and Lily showered him with her kisses, while Tommy looked at the scene for a moment and then left the room. He was not ready to be the braver one yet.

Lily watched as Tommy left the house, knowing the myriad of emotions he was going through. She still didn't wish to live under the same roof with him but Oliver wanted to be with him. And her son was the person she loved the most in this entire world. Tommy Shelby could sleep with every woman in the world for all she cared but if Oliver wanted him in his life, she would bear it. She was ready to nurse her heartache if it meant Oliver would be happy. For now. The moment the Mafia left, she wasn't going to breath in Small Heath for another second.

 

Chapter Text

‘The fight is tomorrow.’ Tommy declared on the breakfast table early morning.

Lily gasped loudly, as if the coppers were on their way to arrest her company of thieves, ‘Tomorrow? But I don’t have a dress.’

‘Wear this. It’s not a big event.’ He said as he gestured at her cotton housedress which buttoned up to her neck, a dress Lily particularly disliked but had worn since she was running out of clothes. And also because her nightgown was definitely out of question.

‘Very funny. I know everybody is dressing up.’

‘I’m not.’ He said as he got up from the table.

‘You want a dress? I don’t think you’d be able to fit in it.’ she said, looking at his waist pointedly.

‘It’s a good thing that you’re my son’s mother or I would’ve long cut your tongue off.’

‘You still do that? I thought you were all for the modern way.’ She said with a look of mock confusion on her face.

‘I’m already exhausted.’

‘You’re getting old, Tommy.’ She said sympathetically.

‘All right, I’m done.’ He closed the space between them and kissed her unsuspecting mouth.

She pulled away from him, all out of air, ‘What are you doing?’

‘It’s the only way you’ll keep quiet.’ He said blankly and continued.

‘Stop! The boys will see us.’ She giggled as he pulled her by his arms.

‘I’m only kissing their mother.’

She stiffened at his words but he didn’t stop, putting his hands on her face. When she didn’t respond, he pulled back to look at her.

‘What’s wrong?’

She shook her head and tucked her hair behind her ears, ‘Nothing. You’re late for work.’

‘Still mad about that night?’

‘Your tie is all askew.’ She dodged his question and reached for his tie.

‘It never is.’

‘Well, there’s always a first time.’ She boasted and straightened the knot.

‘What are we doing, Lily?’

She knew he didn’t want her to state the obvious and she busied herself with his perfect tie, ‘Shouldn’t I ask you that?’

‘I think we’re ignoring the truth.’

‘Which is?’

‘We have been living like spouses. Let’s make it official.’

She stopped and looked up, completely unprepared for that, ‘Are you proposing marriage?’

He cleared his throat, as if preparing himself for his next words, ‘Yes.’

‘I don’t think I made myself clear last time. You know I wouldn’t-’

‘Who are you lying to? I know you love me.’

‘Do I? What should I do to make you believe otherwise?’ She asked, her anger rising by the second. He was stating it like it was an item on list of things for a family meeting.

‘There’s no need to argue.’ He said calmly and she wanted to drive the knife straight in his stomach.

‘Tommy, I don’t love you.’ She said slowly, so he wouldn’t miss any word.

‘Not even a bit? Then why did you leave the country? In a condition where most women refuse to get up from their beds.’

Incensed at his callous words and lack of emotion, she blurted, ‘Yes. Yes, I loved you. But you were too busy with your Grace. And while I don’t blame you or her, I would like if you don’t bring it up every moment to celebrate your win. You don’t know how much it hurts to see someone you love with another women. But I know it and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.’

‘I didn’t mean to-’ He began but she didn’t let him complete.

‘I admit I loved you before. But long ago, I decided to let you be with your true love and never come in between. That’s why I kept Oliver with me, so we could be happy in our worlds. That’s how much I loved you, Tommy. But you never thought of me as anything other than a diversion.’

‘I’ll make things right, you won’t have to be an unwed mother anymore.’

‘I would rather live alone than take your charity, Tommy.’ She stomped away to her room and he waited in the hall.

She came back five minutes later, in a different dress and putting on her coat with excessive force, ‘I am going to the shop on my own. You will take the boys to Sutton.’

'Yes, ma'am.' He muttered as he took out a cigarette. 

 

The day of the boxing match, she and Tommy were the only ones in the house, since all the children were in the care of nannies for the day. She had successfully managed to avoid Tommy but he was busy with his work anyway. He did come back some time before the fight began and chose to enter her room when she had just put on her dress.

‘Is that what you’re wearing?’

‘It looks good, right? I almost sold my car for this dress.’ She confessed as she smoothed the glittery dress and checked her behind in the mirror.

‘It’s a little indecent.’ He said, looking at her back, which was bared till the middle and trying not to look her behind.

‘I’m a single woman, I can wear whatever I want.’ She retorted, emphasising ‘single’ for good measure.

‘You’re a mother.’

‘Linda is wearing a similar dress.’ She pointed.

‘Don’t remove your coat.’ 

‘Fine, Father Thomas.’ She rolled her eyes and hated that he gave a small ironical smile at that.

‘There will be all sorts of men at the fight.’ He said as he walked closer.

‘Won’t you come and protect me? My knight.’ She said sarcastically and she heard a suspicious expulsion of breath.

‘Come on, we are getting late.’

‘I’m coming with you?’ 

‘Who else will you go with?’

‘I thought Polly or Ada.’

‘Can’t hurt to have a pretty lady by my side tonight.’ He said as he pulled out a cigarette from his coat. 

‘Is this how you compliment?’

‘I don’t remember complimenting you.’ He said as he lit the cigarette and paused to ask her, 'May I smoke?'

'Have you ever asked before?'

'I'm asking now.' He said and blew smoke towards the door.

Narrowing her eyes, she crossed her arms behind her back and leaned against the wall, ‘Say something nice. And I’ll come with you.’

‘We’re getting late, Lily.’

She clucked her tongue, ‘Not at all nice.’

‘You look beautiful.’ He said in mild exasperation.

‘Not sincere enough.’ She frowned as she shook her head. He took a step closer and she looked up at him.

Keeping his hand on the wall, just next to her head, he murmured, ‘I want to tear this dress apart.’

‘I admire your honesty but it’s unsatisfactory. Moreover, I’ll kill you if you even touch this.’ She moved out of his beguiling hold and picked up her lipstick.

‘You look like you did at the reopening of the Garrison.’ He said as he watched her reflection in the mirror.

Her face immediately softened and she paused with the stick in her hand, ‘You remember?’

‘It was blue.’ He added, exhaling smoke again.

‘A very light shade of blue.’ She corrected him but was strangely pleased that he remembered.

‘All right.’ He gave a mild roll of his eyes.

‘That night changed my life.’ She said softly.

He walked closer and put his hands on her bare shoulders, ‘I know I’ve caused you hurt.’

‘No, Tommy. I never regretted the time we shared because it gave me Oliver. He’s the best thing that happened to me and I don’t want you to pity me for a second. And try not to stub this cigarette on my dress.’

‘Are you reconsidering?’

‘I never said that.’

‘Then let’s go. There’s a fight waiting for us.’

***

 

Lizzie was already in the powder room when Lily walked in. ‘Hello, Lizzie.’

‘Did Tommy pay for that dress?’ She asked.

‘Why would he do that? Do you think he has enough sense to buy something so fancy?’

‘Do you even love him?’

‘I know you do. And have been for years.’

‘Fucking shut up.’

‘It’s not something to be ashamed of, Lizzie.’

‘Is that boy even Tommy’s or are you trapping him?’

‘I could’ve trapped him five years back, if I wanted to.’

‘Now that Grace is dead and Tommy is an OBE, you are of course more interested.’

‘Ladies, we don’t need another fight.’ Polly declared from the lavatory and Lily wanted to check if the room was empty before announcing, ‘If I were interested, I wouldn’t have refused his proposal.’ 

‘Tommy proposed?’ Lizzie’s head snapped up.

Before they could recover, Ada walked in, ‘Pol, this fight is fixed, isn’t it? Poor Gypsy boy’s getting battered out there.’

‘Lily has some interesting news to share.’ Polly said mischievously.

‘Polly!’ Lily chided her.

‘Well, tell her. She deserves to know, as his sister.’

‘What did he do now?’ Ada asked as she made herself comfortable on the counter.

Lily opened her mouth, only to hear the door open and in walked Linda Shelby. Another woman to witness my pathetic love life, Lily thought in despair.

'Hey, Linda. Welcome to the extraordinary general meeting of the Shelby ladies club.'

'Is there spit on my back? There were men out there spitting. It's fucking disgusting.'

'No, there's no spit on your back. Don't let us stop you doing what you came in to do.' Polly said as Linda took out a blue bottle of Tokyo.

'What? It's helped me get through the fucking nightmare of being stuck in this city.'

'Lily, tell me the news.' Ada said, growing impatient by the second.

‘Tommy proposed.'

'That's great news. Why the long face then?' Ada asked.

'Honestly, he said something like, ‘We’ve been living together, let’s make it official.’

‘Oh, he can be romantic.’ Polly said with a dismissive wave.

‘And you refused the raffle?’ Linda asked, slightly in disbelief.

‘I said I’m waiting.’

‘Waiting for him to find himself another woman?’ Polly asked.

‘If he does, all the more better. But I’m waiting for someone who loves me.’

‘Bonnie Gold losing that fight today is more likely than Tommy ever loving someone again.’ Ada stated.

‘Then I have no use of such man.’

Giving a small whoop, Ada said, ‘Let’s talk some sense into Tommy, Polly. We need her.' 

Lily laughed and said, ‘I’m flattered, Ada. But love can’t be forced.’

‘Nor can Tommy.’ Lizzie muttered.

 

Some minutes later, Tommy watched Lily from across the ring, laughing and sharing the bottle of gin with the other women. There were more pressing things to think of but he let himself look at her; if only for a moment. She had removed her coat despite his warning and he wanted to punch the bastards who were staring at her. But he couldn’t blame them, she was looking stunning, with her hair pinned and cheeks rosy from the alcohol. There hadn’t been many women who had refused him and he knew many daughters of Lords and Dukes who wanted him in their beds; women who once looked down on him. But Lily had been brave enough to refuse him twice. He hadn’t expected her to say no now that Oliver was so close to him. Guess she was firm in her absurd promise.

He hadn’t wanted to say it like that but he hated the way she had looked when he was kissing her, sad and lost. He was in no better position than her in the matters of heart, but it couldn’t hurt to get married again. He no longer yearned for Grace like before, albeit the occasional glimpse at her photos and his wedding ring. And Lily was good for Charlie despite the fact that she was poles apart from Grace. He had seen the way Charlie beamed around Lily, as if he was looking for her approval and she tried to give him everything she gave to Oliver, sometimes even more.

He was initially doubtful of his plan, but now he was more willing than ever. Tonight, when they got back home, he was going to ask her properly and he would agree to her every ridiculous demand. He was going to lie too but it was for a greater good and Lily wasn’t scrupulous enough to care. Also, his hands had been itching to tear her dress apart. Yeah, everything would be alright by the end of the day.

Chapter Text

 

Between sips of his surprisingly strong gin, Lily watched Tommy from across the ring. He didn’t look like someone who had just asked for a woman’s hand in marriage. And he hadn’t, now that she thought about it. He wanted to make it official; as if they were a company. But he was unlike any man she had ever known and as much as she disliked the terms, she wasn’t the epitome of femininity or a woman from a good family. She had no family to be exact and along with that, she was an unwed mother too. Tommy was right in a way when he’d said no good man would marry her.

But she didn’t want to marry someone who lit a lamp for his dead wife either. It was the last thing on her list of men she wanted to marry. And she had her Guild to worry about too. Her days in Small Heath may have been interesting but they were still unproductive. Currently, her life was directionless with neither a man nor a profession. Feeling as if she were trapped in a dark room, she wondered why she had to have a baby with someone so dangerous? Even after she got married, Tommy would be a part of Oliver’s life and indirectly hers too.

She was cursing herself when she saw Tommy get up and walk in her direction. But he didn’t turn and continued to walk straight. Arthur had left sometime before and she hoped nothing else was happening tonight. She had too much on her mind anyway.

A few minutes later, Polly turned and asked, ‘Where are Tommy and Arthur?’

‘I saw them go there.’ Lily pointed vaguely, trying to discern the reason behind Polly’s anxiety. They could’ve gone for a smoke or drink or chat. But slowly, it made lesser sense and she grew concerned as Polly got up and went in the same direction Tommy had gone.

‘Polly?’ Lily turned to look at her, her eyes worried.

‘Stay here.’ She said firmly.

Soon after Polly left, the hall echoed with the shouts of victory and triumph. Bonnie Gold had won the fight and Tommy had yet to come. In the midst of the chaos, Lily looked around the hall, finding herself flustered and terrified for no reason. It was Tommy. Nothing could happen to him but the unease was still difficult to quell. She continued her search for his dark suit and breathed a sigh of relief as she saw him in the throng of people.

She hurried towards him, almost running. ‘What happened?’ She asked as her eyes widened at the blood on his cuffs.

He touched her hair and bent towards her to whisper, ‘Arthur’s dead, Lily.’

‘Oh, my God.’

‘Go check on Linda.’

‘Be careful, Tommy.’

He nodded in between his rapid breaths, ‘Yeah.’

 

After the hall was cleared after a thorough check on everyone present, Tommy had told the harrowing details of Arthur’s death. Lily had stayed despite everyone’s unwilling consent that she could leave. It didn’t feel right to be away at such a fragile moment and it was dangerous out there. The women had all huddled around Linda, who was still in shock after hearing the news. Lily was too, it had made her fear of the mafia all too real.

It was after midnight when Lily and Tommy left for Watery Lane in his car. It was a quiet ride with Lily looking at the window and Tommy busy with his thoughts. His brother might not be dead but he could've been. He knew he was treading on an unsteady ground with his plan but he had to do it. It was the only way to get the fucking wops off his back and he was willing to take every risk to make sure he didn’t lose to them. Only two more people knew the truth and he wanted it to stay that way. Only he had work extra hard on masking his anxiety and presenting it as suppressed grief and betrayal. It didn’t make things better that he was living with Lily who always looked at the intricacies. As he saw her bare back, he remembered what he was planning to do with her tonight and it was a shame he couldn’t complete it. While he had planned on lying a little, he knew if he proposed under the pretext of Arthur’s fake death, she was going to kill him. And he felt no shame in admitting the fact.

 They were mid-way when Tommy heard soft sniffling sounds beside him.

‘What’s wrong?’ He asked as he saw her wipe her nose with her gloves. Fucking expensive dress, he thought in derision.

'Tommy, Arthur is dead. You don’t have to hide your feelings.’ She said between her sobs, her accusation subtle.

‘It doesn’t seem real.’ He said, trying to keep his hands from shaking.

She nodded, crying even more loudly, ‘I know, just now I saw him across the boxing ring.’

‘Don’t cry.’ He said gently, feeling oddly touched by her outpouring of emotion.

‘I know I didn’t know him that well. But he asked Oliver to call him Uncle. That poor child is going to be so heartbroken.’

‘I’ll talk to him.’

‘Thank you.’ She said as she took his offered handkerchief.

‘Why are you crying?’ He asked after some time, a little puzzled by her reaction.

‘I feel so sad right now. I shouldn’t have answered back when he said I was a Shelby.’

‘Do you want to fulfil his last wishes?’ He asked, trying to lighten her mood. And his as well.

But an appalled expression took over her face and she almost reproached him, ‘Tommy, how can you smile? A man is dead. Who also happens to be your brother.’

‘I know. It’s like I said before, I’m numb to everything.’

‘No, you never said that.’ She said and he swore he smelled her suspicion.

‘I am saying it now. And please, I can’t fight right now.’ He touched his forehead as if he were in pain. And she again burst out in tears.

‘I’m sorry. I’m being so cruel.’

‘The boys are probably sleeping. Do you want to take them or let them be.’

‘They’ll be in a grouchy mood. Let’s go straight to your house.’

‘Fine by me.’

‘Do you want me to drive? You don’t have to.’

‘It’s alright. Takes me mind off.’ And you are the one I should be afraid of behind the wheel, Tommy thought as he watched her wipe her face.

At Tommy’s residence, Lily was in a better condition but she still felt a heaviness in her chest. Which was made worse when she remembered how she had tried to shoot Arthur five years back. She got up to take out her night dress only to hear Tommy.

‘Are you sleeping?’

‘No. I was just about to undress.’ She said quietly.

‘Need any help?’

He walked closer to her before she could respond and hugged her from behind.

‘Are you feeling alright?’ She asked and tried not to let her sarcasm show. 

‘I don’t think I am.’ He said as he rested his chin on her shoulder.

‘This is a lot for you to bear. Would you like a drink?’

‘May I sleep here?’ He asked impassively and while Lily knew where it was going, she tried to stay unaware.

‘Of course, I’ll go in your room.’ She began to move out of his grasp only for him to gently tighten his hold.

‘Stay. Please.’ He entreated.

Sighing, she turned to look at him, ‘Is this going to be like last time?’

‘No, I won't hurt you again.’ He tried not to wince as he remembered how he had been with her after John's death.

‘Are you saying this because you can’t find anybody else?’

‘I only want you.’

‘Yeah, right.’

‘Please, Lily. I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future or if I’ll even be alive to see it. Can we set aside our differences for a while?’

Lily had a retort ready on her lips but she couldn’t deny the pain he was in, even though he had a strange way of expressing it. He had lost another brother to the Changrettas and he had yet to shed a tear. She wondered how he went on with so much grief bottled up inside him, even she had cried more than him.

‘I guess so. But don’t think anymore of it.’ She added.

‘I wouldn’t.’ He said calmly.

‘And you won’t use it against me later.’

‘Wouldn’t dare to.’

‘And you’ll-’

She was stopped when he kissed her with burning need, pulling the sleeves of her dress down in one tug. She put her arms around his neck, reminding herself to not think of it as anything more than a chore. She was merely helping him with his grief just like she’d done a few months back, because she was a good human being who cared for others. She wasn't seeking pleasure and if she were religious, she would beg for forgiveness for being promiscuous when a man was out cold.

He bent to kiss the exposed skin as she arched at the sensation and ran her fingers in his hair. They almost fell on the bed, with Lily's hands touching his stubble.

'Tommy, is this wrong?' She asked, her hands travelling down his collar.

With his hands already on their way to her sheers, he paused as he took in the innocence of her face. She had never looked so vulnerable, so fucking sweet. 'No. Not at all,' he said as he kissed her forehead.

'Will you stop if I tell you to?'

'I wouldn't want to. But I would.' He said with all sincerity he could muster, even though his trousers were beginning to strain. 

She smiled a little and said, 'I know I'm a bad person but I was relieved that you weren't hurt.'

'You aren't a bad person.' He said and felt a wave of tenderness wash over him.

'Will you kiss me again, please?' 

'Yes.' He replied and reached for the hem for her dress, all the while kissing her neck.

'And tomorrow you won't act like we're strangers?' She breathed, with her dress bunched at her waist.

'No. But times are going to be difficult, Lily. I don't know if I'll be alive tomorrow.' He stated, all the while hoping the Changrettas agreed to his call for 'truce'.

She put her hand on his mouth, 'Shh. Don't say that. And try not to wrinkle my dress.' 

Chapter Text

 

Sometime later, when Lily was snuggled close to him with her head on his arm, he asked, ‘Why did you name him Oliver?’

She looked at him in distaste, ‘You’re talking about children. Now, of all times?’

‘Tell me.’ He prodded, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

‘I was reading the book Oliver Twist when I was pregnant and I liked it.’

‘You couldn’t find a better book? Or a better name?’ 

She continued as if he hadn't interrupted, ‘He was an orphan and I wanted to give him a better life. I know it’s funny but-’, she stopped and made a vague gesture in the air, afraid he would laugh at her.

'It's not.' He shook his head.

‘It is a good book. You should read it.’

He made a dismissive sound and bent forward to take out a cigarette from his coat.

‘All this smoking is extremely harmful.’ She said, trying to keep the sheets in place as he lit the stick dexterously.

‘Stop being my mother.’ He pointed the stick at her. 

‘Who was your mother, Tommy?’

‘She was a good woman.’ He said and wished she wouldn't ask more.

‘Do you still miss her?’

‘Sometimes.’ 

‘I think you have her eyes.’ She said as she made herself more comfortable on his chest. 

‘How do you know that?’ He looked down at her.

‘Well, Polly has brown eyes so I thought your father -’

‘I got it.’ He stopped her family tree expansion, trying not to focus on the swell of her breasts which were resting on his chest.

‘They are beautiful.’

'Yeah.' He said distractedly.

'Tommy! I'm talking about your eyes, they are beautiful.' She laughed.

‘Not a word a man of my age would like to be described by.’

‘It is the truth. Ask anyone.’ She said as she wrapped herself in the sheets and searched for her chemise. Only for him to pull it out from under his back and suspend it by his fingers, his face bereft of any expression. 

'Thank you.' She muttered and hurried to put it on, hoping he didn't see her bare skin. Which was a little ridiculous considering she had just slept with him.

‘Do you know your mother?’ He asked after she was back in her position on the narrow bed.

‘I know about her. She was a priest’s daughter. Fell in love with the wrong man, bore his child out of wedlock and died during childbirth.’

‘I didn’t know that.’ He lowered his brows; he hadn't expected her to answer it.

‘The nuns told me when I disobeyed them.’ She said nonchalantly.

‘What did you do?’ He asked, wondering how she would've been as a child. If she had the same pugnacity, same sharp-tongue.

‘I refused to pray. Because if there was a God, I wouldn’t be an orphan. And living with those vicious creatures.’ She gritted out and he decided her anger at his threat was justified. She obviously had a tough life in the orphanage or she wouldn't have named their son after something so tragic.

‘If there was a God, there wouldn’t have been a war.’

Her face softened and she kissed his cheek, ‘I know death’s the worst thing that can happen to anybody but you have to stay strong. For your children, for your family.’

‘Do you know your father too?’ He asked, not wanting to talk about Arthur's death. Because it made him feel slightly guilty and her sympathy didn't make it any better.

‘No. But I think he’s alive, living with his family in America.’

‘He was an American?’ He looked down at her in surprise, wondering what else went on in her life.

‘I don’t know. I just formed an imaginary story in my head to stop thinking of every old man as my father.' Which is almost sad, Lily thought in self-pity and wished he would stop with his questions about her family. But she didn't blame him; he was obviously trying not to think of his own family.

‘Wish I could do the same with my Dad.’ Tommy muttered.

‘You don’t love him but you still call him Dad.’ She said 

‘Can’t call him Arthur since I already have-’ He was going to complete his sentence and perhaps reveal the secret but she stopped him with a small gasp,

‘Oh, Tommy. I’m so sorry.’

‘Yeah. It’s all right. I need to take me mind off for some time.’ He said as he ran circles on her back.

 ‘Hmm. What do we do, then?’ she asked as traced his tattoo, possibly trying to cheer him up.

‘Are you up for it?’ He asked and she yawned at the same time.

‘No. I’m too tired and I need to wake up in three hours.’ She said sheepishly.

‘Yep, we have a funeral to arrange and I need to do some paperwork. A lot actually.’

‘Why don’t you rest for some days?’ She smoothed his hair and let himself revel in the feel for a moment.

‘If I rest now, I’ll be resting forever.’

‘Are you going to kill them?’ 

‘No. It isn’t going to work this time, they’re too powerful.’

‘What will you do?’

‘I’m sending Michael to New York.’

‘Why?’

‘Don’t ask.’

‘Fine. Don’t tell. But if you need anything just tell me.’ She said as she kissed him and began to get up from the bed, only to be pulled back.

‘Do you want to get married?’ 

‘You know how much I hate that question.’ She said mildly, trying not to get angry when it was obvious he was under a lot of pressure.

‘Another time, then.’ He said as he lit another cigarette.

‘You’re giving up? You won’t even make an effort?’ She asked incorrigibly.

‘I’m too tired.’ 

‘Close your eyes and go to sleep.’ She said as she took the stick from him.

‘I will.’ He took the cigarette back from her and took a deep inhale.

‘When Oliver wouldn’t sleep I would gently pat his chest and hum. Do you want me to do that?’ She asked, only half-joking.

‘Please, no.’ He closed his eyes in pain.

‘Do you want me to go?’ 

‘No. You smell wonderful.’ He pulled her closer and buried his nose in her hair.

‘I’ll give you my perfume. Keep smelling it.’

‘Do you know you snore while sleeping?’

‘I don’t snore.’ She got up with excessive force and looked at him in petulance. 

‘Yes, you do. Very loudly.’ He declared in pain, as if he had gone deaf from the snores.

‘Well, you imagine naked maids reading the Bible in your sleep.’

‘Who told you that?’ He asked as he took another drag of the stick, not at all interested in finding out.

But she only laughed, ‘It was so funny. I could never look at Mary the same way after I found out.’

‘Neither could I.’ He gave a short laugh despite himself.

‘Poor woman. Is she still there?’

‘No. I found myself another one. Just like I said I would.’

'Is she good?' She asked, slightly pleased that he had bothered with it.

'She's good. Kind of like you, always bothering me.' 

'How does she look?' She asked subtly.

He raised his eyebrows and smirked. 

'Don't flatter yourself. I was only curious. And go and sleep in your own bed. We have to wake up soon.'

'I'd like to sleep here. With you,', He said and pulled her back in bed.

'I hope everything goes back to normal.' She whispered and he kissed her shoulder in response.

Chapter Text

 

For the next few days, Tommy worked day and night, his eyes blank and the weight of the world on his shoulders. He didn’t miss a single day at the office, going through stacks of papers mechanically; not letting himself stop. He had sent Michael to New York and Lily was almost happy. When she had found that Michael hadn't told Tommy about the ambush despite meeting Tommy on the very same day, she had felt an emotion stronger than anger. It was abhorrence for a man who didn't bother to inform his cousin that his life was in danger. While she understood his reservations, a small tip-off couldn't have hurt. Tommy had been alright without it but it was a definite expression of disloyalty, an observation she kept to herself, knowing how much Tommy loved his family.

On some nights, he sought her to liberate himself of the strain he heaved throughout the day. And she would let him, accepting his troubles as her own and trying to conceal the rekindled emotions. Maybe it was the melancholy surrounding him or the time they had spent together but Lily found herself falling hard for Tommy Shelby, again.

It hadn't helped that she had said it one night, just before finding her release and satiating in the afterglow. The three words had hung in the air for a second but he had kissed her and continued to thrust into her. She had consoled herself by believing he hadn't heard her even though the sudden frenzy in his body said otherwise. 

He had told her that night, when she was busily drawing patterns on his chest, trying not to meet his eyes, ‘I can’t promise you anything.’

She had looked up in his eyes and said, ‘I know. And I don’t want anything either.’

‘This doesn’t mean anything to you?’ He had asked and she detected a note of anger in his voice but she didn’t know where it was directed.

‘Maybe. But I can’t compel you to love me.’

‘You can always marry me.’ He had said, as if trying to appease her.

‘There’s that.’ She had said lightly, interested in the ink on his chest.

‘You’ll have to wait for a long time, Lily.’ He had touched her hand and Lily knew he wasn’t talking about their wedding.

‘I’m ready to wait if you’re ready to give it a chance.’ She had confessed and was waiting for his response. But he had only gotten up from the bed, still in his trousers and had touched her face, ‘Go to sleep. The boys will wake up any moment.'

               

Lily went to Tommy's main office a day after the funeral and Audrey Changretta's visit. She had been extremely saddened at her terms and had tried to be there for Tommy, but he stayed stoic and unresponsive to her. She tried to uplift him but he was too busy with settling the paperwork and businesses to hear her. He hadn't been with her since the night of their discussion and she was almost relieved. Her monthly cycle was untrustworthy at best and it wouldn't do them any good to have another Oliver when things were so fragile. A part of her craved for his touch and feel but she knew it was not the time to think about the pleasures of the body. Rationally, she should've left for London since the vendetta was 'won', but not once the thought of leaving had entered her mind and Tommy hadn't said anything too. Maybe it was a sign and he felt something for her too. She knew he couldn't be more upfront about it amidst the tragedy and foreboding, but she was ready to wait. For him, for the children.

She had asked to help Tommy with some work and he had reluctantly agreed and she walked in one early morning, finding Lizzie on her desk. 

‘Hello, Lizzie.’ Lily greeted chirpily as she walked across her desk.

‘Why are you here?’ She asked, a more polite way of asking 'What the fuck are you doing here?'                      

‘I thought I would help Tommy with  some work.’ Lily answered, ignoring the bottle of gin in the secretary’s hands.

‘Have you slept with him enough to entitle yourself to the big promotion?’ Lizzie sneered.

Lily crossed her arms as she leaned against the opposite table. ‘Is something wrong, Lizzie? Or have I done something to offend you?’

‘You think he loves you?’

‘No, I just-’, She said in defence. Of her or Tommy she didn’t know, but Lizzie interrupted her.

‘He is not a good man. So when he does good things like letting you sleep on his bed or holding your child’s hand, you think he’s the best man in this whole world.’

‘I think you got him wrong, Lizzie.’ Lily stated firmly.

‘What did he do for you? Ever?’

Lily found herself frantically opening the book of memories to remember her every meeting with Tommy. And was astonished to find herself coming up short. He had been her first love but hadn’t loved her back. He had been there for her twice during difficult times but had never saved her or protected her. On the other hand, he had been downright spiteful when she had met him and domineering after her return from Greece. Only now he had begun to warm up to her and that was after losing two of his brothers and living with her in cramped space.       

‘He accepted my son.’ She said weakly, hating herself for saying it out loud.

Lizzie laughed in scorn and asked, ‘How does it feel to love a man who still sees his dead wife?’

‘I don't-'

‘Oh, fuck off. You love him more than your pride. That’s why you always come back. Not because of fear but because of love for that bastard.’

‘I think you shouldn’t drink.’ Lily said as she tried to wrench the bottle out of her hand, ignoring the words which were hitting too close to home.

‘Will you tell Tommy? So he will fuck you one more time and pretend you’re Grace?’

‘It’s nothing like that.’

But Lizzie’s face softened and she looked at her in sympathy, ‘Leave. As a woman who lost the two men she loved for a heartless bastard, I advise you to leave.’

‘But he’s a changed man.’ Lily insisted for her benefit.

‘He let me get raped by a soldier.’

Lily’s face paled at her words. She knew nothing about it but she knew Lizzie was telling the truth. She had been in her shoes and she knew it took all your dignity to disclose this horrendous crime.She hadn't even told Gerard or Polly about her rape and she had never been able to spell it out like Lizzie. She didn’t know the details nor did she know if Tommy was to be blamed for it. But she knew Lizzie had been where she’d once been. 

‘I’m sorry, Lizzie. I’ve been unkind to you for no apparent reason.’ Lily touched her arm and walked towards the door.

‘Where are you going now?’ Lizzie asked in drunk confusion.

‘I’m going back to Watery Lane to stay with the children.’

 

That night, after Tommy returned from his office, he found Lily with the boys, showing them a coin trick. As she made the hidden coin reappear, Charlie and Oliver squealed in astonishment and asked her to repeat it.

'Why aren't they in bed?' He asked as he loosened his tie knot, slightly displeased at what she was teaching them.

'Play here. I'll get your Dad some dinner.' She told the boys and walked to where he was seated.

'How was work?'

'There is nothing left to do now.'

‘I’ll get you something to drink.’

‘I don’t want a drink.’

She still brought out the whisky flask and a glass, knowing he needed it. After filling his glass, she  said, 'I was thinking of going to Polly's tonight.'

He knew he should've been happy since he was going back to Warwick and couldn't find the proper words to tell her about it. He had too much to deal with and having her around made it difficult for him to concentrate. It didn't help that she was always looking after him and had stopped with her retorts. She was convinced that he was under a lot of stress and he felt a little guilty for lying to her. But he had gone too far and couldn't tell her now or she'd accuse him of comprising her. And he wasn't willing to get in her bad books again, not when he was about to bring the Changrettas down.

But her prior notice made him reply coolly, 'I'm going to Warwick tomorrow. I'll drop you.' 

Trying not to let the tears fall at his brusque tone, she continued, ‘No. Polly asked me to come right away. She’s probably missing Michael.’

'And what will you do?'

‘She is alone. I thought I would keep her company.’

‘What about my company, eh?’ He said as he ran his thumb across her lips, remembering how she kissed his neck when they were both spent and lain on the bed. 

‘You’ll find someone.’ She said casually and he moved back swiftly, taking a quick gulp of the whisky.

‘Yeah. I will.’ He said in an aloof manner, brushing away every memory of the past days.

‘I’ll leave, then.’ She got up and smoothed her skirt but she knew she had to speak up. So she paused and told him, 'I know you don't like to share your emotions but you can mourn, Tommy.'

‘What?’ He looked up and asked, slightly alarmed.

‘Your brother just died, Tommy. And I know you both had a contentious relationship but he was still your brother.’

He sighed and leaned on the chair, ‘He’s not dead, Lily.’

So he is more hurt than I thought, Lily thought tenderly and said, ‘Of course. It’s the body that dies, the spirit is immortal.’

‘Are you quoting the Bible?’ He smirked, the small smile lighting up his tired face.

‘I remembered a little.’ She waved off his sarcasm and focused on his next words.

‘Arthur didn’t die that night. He’s alive. His body is alive.’ He added for more emphasis.

‘How?’ She asked as she took his words in and felt as if her heart was being strangled. All those nights when she’d thought he was letting her in, he was only using her. In the most demeaning way possible.

‘The Changrettas are over taking every business in England. And they are ready to take us over too. So we decided to fake his death. So they would think we’re weak.’

‘Oh. What do you plan to do?’ She tried to fake her interest, when all she wanted to do was scream and run amok.

‘You’ll know soon.'

Her jaw hardened and she picked her next words with caution, trying not to cry, ‘Tommy, you tricked me into having sex with you. I thought you were grieving and you used me.’

‘I didn’t use you.’ He said in quiet denial which made her want to cry her heart out.

‘Maybe you didn’t. But I won’t stay here anymore.’

'How will you go?'

'I'll go barefoot if I have to. But Polly sent a car.' She said and went to take Oliver, who thrashed at her for interrupting his game.

'I w-w-wanna play.'

'Tomorrow. All right?' She said calmly, not wanting to take out her anger on her son, he was the only one she had.

'B-B-But Charlie?' he asked as he looked at his brother who was looking at the proceedings in confusion.

'We will meet him tomorrow, so you can show him your new car.' 

'I-I-I didn't t-t-tell him.' Oliver replied in conspiratorial tone.

'You're a good boy, Oliver.' She smiled and wished she had been so prudent herself; that she hadn't told Tommy.

‘Good bye, Tommy.’ She said as she carried Oliver up again from her slipping arms

‘B-b-bye, Dad.’

Tommy smoothed his curly hair back and gave a small smile, then went back to the open bottle of whisky. When she was at the door, with Charlie walking behind, Tommy called,

‘Lily?’

‘Yeah?’ She turned suddenly and found him filling a glass.

‘Tell Polly to meet me tomorrow.’ He said before downing the burning liquid.

‘I will.’

‘Mum? Is D-D-Dad coming w-w-with us?’

‘He’ll come soon, sweetie.’

‘Can I come too, Lily?’ Charlie asked quietly.

Lily’s eyes filled and she pulled Charlie in a one-handed hug, ‘Your Dad will be all alone then, Charlie. I’ll come in a few days.’

‘Do you promise?’

‘I do. And go to bed early.’ 

Chapter Text

 

After the ride from Watery Lane to Sutton, Lily found Polly in her expensive silk robe, nursing a glass of whisky.

‘Take the room on the left. It’s been unoccupied since three months.’ She said from the sofa.

‘Yeah.’ Lily nodded and went inside the room, hugging the sleeping Oliver closer. After she had laid him on the bed and changed into her gown, she walked to the hall where Polly was seated.

When she saw her, she filled another glass.

‘Thank you, Polly.’ Lily said as she took the glass in her hands.

She nodded and said, ‘Drink it. It’ll help you.’

‘You don’t keep gin? Your dear Tommy’s gin?’ Lily asked, her mind occupied by Tommy and his parting words.

‘We’re handing it over to the Changrettas.’ 

‘You don’t need to lie, Polly. I know about your secret.’

‘He told you about Arthur?’ Polly asked, slightly stunned.

But Lily didn't answer and continued, ‘Did he tell you he slept with Jessie Eden to stop the revolution?’

Polly's voice hardened, unable to bear with her misery, ‘You knew what you were getting yourself into. So don’t go around moaning and crying.’

‘He said he’ll find someone else to keep him company.’ Lily added, still lost in Watery Lane.

‘He's under a lot of pressure.’

‘I know and I think it’s best I leave. Forever.’ She sighed.

‘Where is this coming from?’

‘I met Lizzie today.’

‘For God’s sake, what did she say?’

‘Something I should’ve realised long back. He doesn’t feel anything for me, Polly. He never did and he never will. I’m only a woman who happens to be at his disposal and spreads her legs at his every call.’

‘He cares for you.’ Polly said firmly and she knew it wasn't a lie.

But Lily smiled at the ceiling, holding the tears at bay. So much for deciding not to shed a tear after Tommy Shelby.

‘Well, you can stay here as long as you want. If you promise not to make tea.’ Polly added in a lighter tone, realising her pain ran deeper this time.

‘Thank you, Polly.’

‘Nonsense. You are a Shelby’s mother which means you’re a Shelby too. A part of our family.’

‘If Arthur was actually dead, I might have agreed to Tommy’s half-hearted offer. But now, all I want to do is run away.’

'You can never escape him.'

‘He never did anything for me.’ Lily said in the same emotionless voice.

‘Give him some time.’ Polly said gently, taking her hands in hers.

‘I can’t do it anymore.’ Lily said with a defeated finality in her voice and got up to sleep in her new bed.

 

 

Lily stayed in Sutton for the remainder of her stay, spending time with Oliver and playing the old gramophone in her new room. Tommy hadn’t visited her once, not even to see Oliver. Something she had expected now that he was back in Warwick with Charlie. He was settling back in his old life while she was still stuck in Birmingham,even though there was the important interview coming up. But Polly had asked her to stay until the Changretta business was over, her reasons still inconclusive. She said she didn’t want to be alone in the large house but deep down, Lily wondered if Polly was hoping for Tommy to come with a ring in his hand.

She wanted to say he was yet to give her the diamond necklace and Oliver was still waiting for his speech therapist. But she knew Polly loved him and would give a paltry excuse to mollify her. Like the Mafia, Economic League, Russians and of course, Grace. The days were somewhat difficult to live through when she was reminded of the days she had spent with Tommy. And the nights, when she had convinced herself that he loved her too. What a fool she'd been. If a man couldn't love her in five years then how could a few nights in the same bed change his feelings? She tried to brush away Tommy from her memories but couldn't. So she decided to keep him locked away in the deep recesses of her heart and never open it. It wouldn't do her any good and she wasn't humble enough to love a man without wanting anything in return.

Gerard had called one day and she was well acquainted with him to question his ability to get Polly’s number.  

‘Where the fuck are you?’ He shouted.

‘You tell me.’ She replied calmly.

‘The Changrettas are all over London. And I know your Tommy is the next one in line. So why are you still in that shithouse?’ He shouted even more loudly and she hoped he didn't burst a vein.

‘I’m coming tomorrow.’

There was a brief pause on the other side and Lily asked, ‘Gerard?’ And heard his baffled and worried voice, ‘I thought since you stayed there..’

She laughed darkly, ‘I married Tommy? No, I would never do something like that without telling you.’

‘Is he coming too?’ He asked expectantly.

‘No. It’s better if we don’t talk about him.’

‘What did that bastard do this time?’ He roared.

‘Nothing.’ She said truthfully.

‘Well, then do you want me to send a car?’ He asked in concern.

‘No. I booked us a train ticket.’

‘I won’t let my grandson travel like that.’ His voice rose again and she said, ‘Good bye, Gerard. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Polly came back soon after her call and Lily sensed her trepidation even though she insisted everything was going according to plan. Tomorrow was an important day and despite the animosity, Lily hoped they all came out of it unscathed. Physically  and mentally.

They were having dinner when Polly noticed her moving the food around her plate,

‘You need to eat properly.’ Polly commanded.

‘I’m not hungry.’ 

‘Eat. You don’t need to punish yourself because he is a fool.'

‘He has nothing to do with this.’ 

‘I saw your train ticket.’ Polly said as she took out the cigarette.

‘I’ve work in London.’ Lily said evasively, feeling slightly guilty for hiding things from Polly when she had stuck with her.

‘It can wait. There’ll be a party to celebrate our win.’ Polly said as she lit her cigarette and blew the smoke.

‘You are certain everything will go as you planned?’

‘Stop projecting your lack of enthusiasm. It’ll bring bad luck.’ 

‘Good luck for tomorrow. But i’m not interested in the party.’ Lily said with a half smile.

‘Tommy will come to see you tomorrow.’

‘I’ll be long gone.’ She said, suppressing the sudden hope with all her strength.

‘He’ll not let you go before he sees you.’

‘Then let him come. I'll say my good bye.' Lily said finally and left the table.

 

 

Tommy went to Sutton after the Changrettas had finally left. For good. He should be feeling a myriad of emotions, ranging from relief to fucking ecstasy at being able to keep everything safe. But all he wanted to do was get back to work and may be stop the revolution after all.

He walked inside and looked for Lily. Polly had given him the cold shoulder whenever he asked about Lily and after Small heath was cleared of the Changrettas, he’d asked Polly to wait in Watery Lane so he could talk some sense into her. The past days had been extremely busy and until the bullet had fired through Luca Changretta’s temple, he hadn’t released the breath he had been holding. But now, he had time on his hands and he was going to use it to finally convince Lily. He was not going to let his son suffer anymore.

He found her in the kitchen, gently humming as she poured the hot water in an empty cup. She was out of tune and her tea was the equivalent to drinking a steaming pile of mud but he couldn’t stop looking at her. Her white silk dress looked a little looser and her hair had grown to reach past her shoulders, tied in a haphazard bun, a few wayward locks framing her oval face.

He leaned against the wall and continued to take in her wide almond eyes and full lips. It wasn’t a conventionally beautiful face, but it was a face a man would want to see every day. Waiting for him until he came back from work, running in the fields with his children, making love to him every night.

And he couldn’t let another man have all that pleasure.

‘When do you want to get married?’

‘Tommy?’ She looked up and smiled a little, his question unheard by her ears.

‘I think this Sunday would be a good day. What do you think?’ He said confidently.

She wiped her hands on her apron and walked towards him, ‘I am leaving, Tommy. I won’t come back.’

He looked in disbelief and she continued,

‘I was coming to say good bye but it’s good you came.’

‘Another threat, Lily?’

‘My train ticket. I’ve to catch it in an hour.’ She said softly as she picked up the paper from the table.

He looked at the scrap of paper and wanted to tear it into pieces.

‘Don’t leave.’ He ordered and she gave him a weak smile.

‘I’m too tired, Tommy.’

He walked closer to her until there was no space left between them. Then wrapping his arms around her waist, he said quietly, ‘I know I’ve been difficult and I’ve caused you trouble. But I’ll make things right.’

Her face contorted and she pursed her lips, as if holding back tears, ‘I am not ready for this. And you aren’t ready for anything.’

‘Is there another man then?’ He asked, unable to comprehend her sadness.

She shook her head slowly and said quietly, ‘No, there is no man.’

‘Then say you love me. I know you do.’ he ordered as he pulled her closer, his hold tightening.

‘I can’t, Tommy.’ She whispered against his lips, her words painful to his ears.

‘We’ll get married.’

She touched his face and said soothingly, ‘You’ve had a tough day. Go and get some rest.’

‘You want to be with me.’ He declared.

‘Our paths differ, Tommy. I don’t want your life.’

‘Things will change.’

‘You have everything you want. Use this time and find yourself a beautiful woman.’ She said with all her courage and moved out of his grasp.

She was walking back to her room when he said, his words straightforward and without an ounce of emotion.

‘I love you.’

Lily stopped, not because of the gravity of the words and how much she’d yearned for him to say it. But because of the sheer lightness with which he’d said those sacred words. He was using the chink in her armour for his benefit. It felt like a sword had been pushed straight into her healing heart, leaving it bleeding and battered. She had kept a strong hold on her emotions, not letting him see the heartache but he was making it increasingly difficult for her to stay calm.

She heard his footsteps and when he stopped a few steps behind her, she said, ‘It isn’t love. It’s your pride that’s hurt because I refused the revered Thomas Shelby.’

His hand reached for her face and she turned away, unable to look into his intense eyes.

‘Please, please, please, Tommy.’ 

‘Stay.'

‘You’ll be alright and won’t even remember me in a few days.’ She said, unable to swallow the lump in her throat.

‘What about our son? What about Charlie?’

‘We’ll take out time for them.’ She said and walked away again but he held her wrist,

‘If you leave today, I’ll never forgive you.’

‘I can live with that. But I can’t live like this anymore.’ She at last let go of her sob and ran into her room.

 

Chapter Text

‘Then go and live with the fucking criminals!’ Tommy shouted after her and turned to leave.

He heard her retort, ‘You aren’t any better yourself!’ which was followed by a bout of sobs and the slam of her door.

Clenching his jaw, he reached for the vase on the table and began to throw it on the wall with all his force only to feel a tug on his overcoat.

He looked down and found Oliver, a questioning look on his young face. Swallowing back his anger, he kept the vase back on its place and asked him, 

‘Going to London, boy?’

He nodded gravely, ‘Mum s-s-said we’re g-g-getting you a g-g-gift.’

‘Yeah? What is that?’ Tommy asked as he sat on his haunches, on eye level with his son.

But he kept a finger on his lips, ‘It’s a s-s-surprise.’

‘Alright.’

‘Will y-y-you come to L-L-London?’ He asked hopefully.

‘I will.’ Tommy said as he ruffled his curly hair.

‘I’ll sh-sh-show you my t-t-toys. B-But I won’t g-g-give Charlie.’

Tommy pulled him in a hug and kissed him lightly on his cheek.

Letting him go, he put his hands on his face,  ‘Now, you go and enjoy, eh? I’ll come soon to take you.’

‘Bye, D-D-Dad.’

On the ride back, Tommy hands tightened on the wheel as he tried not to think about Lily. If she was playing hard to get, she had picked the wrong man. Tommy Shelby never went after women even if the woman was Grace.

While his intentions towards her might not have been honest, they were solicitous. Of course a man would feel humbled after such a rejection. But she had to make things about herself and her ridiculous promise. Well, he was done with her and her demands. He didn't need her anymore than she did; he was a busy man with things to do and none of them involved her. She could go and become the president of her fucking shady business for all he cared.

 

‘So you’re back?’ Gerard asked when Lily arrived in his office, straight from the station with a sleeping Oliver in her arms. She looked tired, her eyes were swollen and he wondered if she had cried for the entire journey.

‘I’ve a company to look after.’ She said, trying to bring back the swagger in her voice.

‘You didn’t give him a chance?’ He asked and looked at her with his old eyes, which didn’t miss anything. And she knew better than to lie.

‘I did. He isn’t the one, Gerard.’

Sighing, he got up from his chair and walked towards her, ‘Come, I’ll show you around.’

‘What about my interview?’ She asked in surprise and he took Oliver from her.

‘It was a consensus that you would be the best one to succeed me. So we decided to change the rules.’

‘You can’t do this. This is unfair.’ She snapped.

‘No one wants to stand against you.’

‘Where’s the fun in that?’

‘Don’t worry. You’ve a lot of work to do.’

‘That is what I need.’ Lily muttered, unable to bring the enthusiasm in her words. She should've been dancing and running across the office, but all she could think about was the day when Tommy had returned from Artillery Square and she had hugged with her life.

‘Before you bury yourself in work, I’ve organised a party to celebrate your promotion. So wear something good.’

‘Party? But I’m too tired.’

‘Come on, I don’t want a frumpy old lady as my successor.’

‘You shouldn’t have said that.’ 

 

That night, Lily’s house was chockfull of the members of the Guild. While she was looking forward to a lonely night with her Scotch after putting Oliver to bed, she didn’t resent their presence. It was good to be with them. They had been there for her in her tough times and didn’t expect anything out of her. Except of course their wages. They all went back to singing after wishing her congratulations and Jessie sidled up to her with two glasses of champagne.

‘So, what did that bastard do?’ She asked as she handed Lily the glass.

‘He said ‘I love you’.’

Jessie choked on her champagne, ‘Then why are you here?’

‘Because he’s not for me.’

‘He is the one for you. You both are fucked up and perfect for each other.’

‘You wanted to bludgeon him to death.’ Lily retorted.

‘I changed my mind. On Gerard’s birthday, you were beaming with happiness. You complained about him fondly as I do with James.’

‘He’s a much different man than James.’

‘Of course, no one can top that male beauty. He’s prettier than me.’

‘I hope you didn’t tell him that.’

‘Every night and he shows me how wrong I am.’ Jessie purred and Lily winced at the image.

‘Tommy has no regard for my feelings. He treats me like a pastime.’

‘Did you give him any reason to think otherwise?’

‘Don’t blame me.’ She said testily.

‘Love involves sacrifice and a lot of understanding. If you run away every time he oversteps, how will he trust you? He doesn’t take you seriously because you never stay.’

‘I know you want me to be happy but you don't know the half of what Tommy Shelby is.'

‘Enjoy the party but one day you’ll realise how true my words are.’

 

 

 

Lily came running in Gerard's office the next day, a bundle of papers in her hand. She had been searching for a distraction and the Force had dropped it in her lap. She had stayed up the entire night after everyone had left, trying to build up her idea. And if everything went well, she might be able to turn things around after all. 

‘Slow down, I plan to live for the next ten years at least.’

‘I went through our banks and made a startling discovery.’ She said, trying to catch her breath. 

‘The amount doubled in two days?’

‘No, we aren’t that lucky. But, I found we’ve enough money to venture into different businesses.’ She said excitedly, waiting for him to jump.

But he only said, unsatisfied at her discovery,  ‘I know you’ve lived with the Peaky Blinders but we can’t become murderers now Lily.’

Ignoring his jibe, she continued, ‘I meant that we could start an art gallery and museum and support new artists.’

‘Where did that come from?’ He asked, slightly stunned.

‘I know you always wanted to be an artist. This is your opportunity.’

He gave a small chuckle and said, ‘I’m too old, my hand shakes now.’ 

‘Who cares? It’ll be our gallery and we’ll support whichever artist we want.’

‘Favouritism?’ He cocked an eyebrow at her.

‘Consider this for once. If the museum hits off, we won’t have to hide anymore.’

‘I like living like this. And I thought you did too.' He said, a little disappointed.

‘Okay. We won’t have to worry about getting caught every time.’

‘We don’t worry.’ 

‘I am the President.’ She put down her veto, knowing it was the only thing which would work.

And he gave a dismissive wave,  ‘Take a vote with the others.’

‘What about you?’ She asked, regretting her arrogant demeanour.

‘Have I ever said no to you?’

She smiled widely and got up from her chair, ‘All right. I’m already seeing a brighter future.’

 

 

 

‘Good morning, everyone. I apologise for disturbing your slumber on a weekend but we’ve an important decision to make today.’ Lily said in their hidden office, where most of the members were in night clothes and trying to keep from yawning.

‘Are we finally going to Arrow House?’ Paul asked, getting up from his seat in excitement. 

‘Not today. We all have money which will sustain us and our coming generations very comfortably. I came up with the idea of having art galleries and museums set up across the city which will add to our incomes and also let us lead a normal life.’

‘We’re living normally, Lily.’ Jessie said complacently and Lily wanted to kick her for telling everyone about Tommy's proposal. She had become the villain which was made worse when Oliver refused to stop telling everyone about him. 

‘I know. But do you want Rosie to lead the same life? We all come from broken families, isn’t it our moral duty to provide them with a better family life? Think about it.’

‘Even if we agree, where will we get the artists from? We can’t sell the pieces we collect.’ Georgia chimed in. 

Smiling a little, Lily opened another file, at least she had their attention. For now, that is. ‘I’ve come across the works of many men and women who are struggling to get their next meal. They are passionate to the point of renouncing everything we live for. We will help them and make them the most successful artists of this world.’

‘How, Lily? We don’t have that much money.’ 

‘Come on, Georgie. We know every blue blood in this country and we hold a lot of leverage against them. it is time we use it for our benefit.’ Lily said cheerfully.

‘I don’t understand.'

‘We make them patrons of our artists. And in return, we’ll give them a small cut along with the promise that their secret is safe with us.’

‘You’re talking like that Shelby. We never bother our clients.’ Richard said righteously, as if he hadn't taken away a little boy's silver rattle when all he had to bring was a painting.

‘No, I am talking like the President of the Guild. In order to get work done, you have to pull some strings.’

‘If the pompous lords turn their backs on us?’ James boomed and she tried not to think about what Jessie told him.

‘We have good friends in the Times and they are always looking for some meat. And if the police ever bothers us, we don’t have anything to worry about. Our assets are documented and no one can point a finger at us.’

‘You’ve thought it all out. My only question is, what about the work we have been doing for the past thirty years?’ Danny asked. And she wanted to pat him on his back for his question.

‘We don’t have to do it. But if the need arises, we can always put on our uniforms.’

‘See, that’s the problem. Once we become the curators, we’re out in the open. We can’t go back to our routine life after that.’

‘What do you want?’

‘What?’ He looked at her in doubt. 

‘Do you still want to work like before or are you ready for a change?’

‘Of course I want to do this museum shit. But the past’s in my blood, I can’t change it.’

‘Of course you can. I breathed the Guild for twelve years, but when circumstances changed, I left it all. And came back to talk to you about the change.’

‘You’re different, Lily.’ Close to five voices said in unison.

‘How am I any different?’ 

‘You can suppress your emotions. We can’t.’

‘This is nonsense. I’ve never hidden my emotions.’

‘Then why aren’t you with him?’ Jessie asked.

‘We can talk about my personal life some other time.’ She emphasised, hating them for rubbing salt on her wounds. 

‘No. We all know you love him. Your son loves him. Then why are you here?’

‘I am going to say this for the last time. I don't want to hear Tommy Shelby's name. He is the father of my son, that’s it.’

‘Then why aren’t you married?’

‘Is getting married everything? I can lead a happy life without a man.’

‘You’re still waiting for him, Lily.’

‘If I were, I wouldn’t have refused his proposal.’

‘You want him to suffer like you did.’

She gave a dark laugh and said, ‘I think we should dismiss the idea of the art gallery and become writers.’

‘People, we’re digressing.’ Gerard's voice resonated from the back.

‘Now you speak up.’ She put her hands up in annoyance.

But he continued, ‘A show of hands for all those in favour of sticking to our old ways.’

Some fifteen hands went up.

‘A show of hands for all those in favour of Lily’s idea of art gallery and museum.’

Some forty hands went up and Lily yelled at the cheaters, ‘Hey, you can’t vote twice.’

‘I’m okay with both.’

‘A show of hands for those who think Lily loves the gang leader.’

Every hand went up and all Lily could say was, ‘He is not a gang leader. He’s an OBE who’s a very successful businessman.’

But her words were ignored amidst the howls of laughter, making Lily stomp her foot and leave.

Chapter Text

Lily buried herself in work for the next three months. There was a lot to plan and a lot more to execute. They all were so busy with work that they put everything on hold. Food, sleep, pleasure all came a distant second to the dream they were designing. The dream which would put an end to their thrilling life of art collection. They had made many memories but it was time to put an end to that chapter and jump into the next one. One which was legal and still kept them close to their world of art. There were some tears, some outbursts but everyone decided it was best to let go. And they put in their blood and sweat into making the museum a success.

And it was, Lily admitted as she took in the magnificent Gothic building with a hint of modernism, designed by the well-known architect Simon Hunt. A mild-mannered, soft-spoken man of thirty-five who was a distant relation of a Baron and liked to read Dostoevsky in his London apartment. Everything a certain man in Birmingham wasn’t and on their last official meeting, the day she had seen her art gallery in concrete, Lily had agreed to his proposal for a dinner.

A dinner which was spent talking about writers and artists. And which ended in her bed, something Lily hadn’t done in forever. She had lain still after they were done and he had understood her reservation and left. After her bed was empty, Lily had stared at her miniature chandelier and felt hot tears running down the corners of her eyes, into her hair. It was her decision but it left her with a bottomless yet hollow feeling. Like she had lost something huge and it had left behind a void. 

Tommy was no longer the last man she’d been with and while she knew she should be rejoicing, all she could do was wipe back her tears.

Simon had surprised her and sent her flowers the next day, lilies to be specific with a small note thanking her for the wonderful evening and awaiting many more. She had carefully dumped them in the bin after an hour long contemplation of her recent actions. While she had been prudent enough to let Jessie keep Oliver, he could’ve seen Simon and formed all sorts of assumptions about him. She couldn’t behave like a loose woman when her son was still coming on terms with his separation from Tommy. And if she didn't answer Simon back, her escapade could harm her business as well as repute. No one would want a woman who slept around as the President of a gallery.

Since she had dug her grave, she decided to might as well lie in it. Simon might be a little insipid but he offered stability. Moreover, she hadn’t been with another man in five long years. It couldn’t hurt to give him a go and with the art gallery complete, she could use another distraction. Or she would go back to moping around and revisiting her days in Small Heath.

So there she was, a week later, in her light pink sleeveless dress which had ruffles along the hem, taking in a painting with Simon by her side. The inauguration was almost over and only Guild members and a few guests were left but Lily was still waiting for someone.

‘I love how this has turned out, Lillian.’ Simon said as he took in the building. She had learnt that he had an aversion to nicknames and had asked if he could call her Lillian. Which was her birth name but no one had called her that, ever. Because she never let them.

‘It’s beautiful,’ she conceded and looked around for the certain guest. ‘I’ll go and check with Colin. Do you mind if I leave you for a moment?’

‘No, not at all. Go, it’s your night.’ He said amiably.

‘I’ll be back soon.’ She smiled back and tried not to stumble on her high heels as she strode to the gaggle of girls surrounding Colin.

‘The opening is going excellent. They love every single painting and sculpture.’ He declared, wobbling a little from the wine.

‘Yeah. It’s amazing.’ She said, her eyes still searching.

‘What are you looking for?’

‘Nothing. The Duke gave his confirmation, right?’ She asked but Colin raised one eyebrow at her.

‘Are you looking for a forty something woman with sheared hair and an amazing figure?’

‘How did you know?’

He waved her off and said,  ‘She’s there. Flirting with Paul.’

‘Our Paul?’ Lily said in surprise. She didn’t think Paul of all people would be the one to charm the matriarch of Shelby family.

‘Go or he’ll take her to the altar.’

As Lily went to greet her shady looking guest, Gerard, dressed in his best suit which was still wrinkled cornered Jessie.

‘Why is that architect still here?’ he asked in suspicion.

‘He’s Lily’s suitor.’ She said blankly.

‘He’s a good one. Much better than that gangster.’ He grunted in approval.

‘I wouldn’t be too happy if she married him.’

‘Why?’

‘It’s evident she’s hurting. She lets him call her Lillian.’

Gerard's eyes widened and he almost yelled, ‘What? She’s still mooning over Thomas? She told me he wasn’t the one.’

‘She is angry with him because he isn't forthcoming with his feelings, I suppose.'

‘If he has enough sense, he would realise his mistake.’

‘They’re both too proud.’

‘He’ll come. Or he’s not the one.’ He said wisely.

‘Why don’t you talk to her before she puts on her veil?’

‘She doesn’t listen. All she talks about are the paintings. Or my drinking. Or Oliver.’

‘I can only hope it ends well for both of them. The poor child is suffering.’ She said in distress.

 

‘Polly Gray. How are you?’ Lily greeted the woman in a expensive fur coat happily.

‘Look at that magnificent woman. How does it feel to break my nephew’s heart?’ Polly replied back as she took in Lily's dress.

‘You look amazing. Is this from Paris too?’ She said, diverting her attention.

‘Yes it is. How have you been?’ Polly asked, pursing her lips at her reticence.

‘Tired, mostly. I’m sleeping for the entire day tomorrow.’

A voice interrupted them, ‘Lillian, there you are.’

Polly watched as a tall man came running towards them and put his arm around Lily’s waist.

‘Simon, this is Polly Gray, my dear friend and the company treasurer of Shelby Company. Polly, this is Simon Hunt, he is the architect behind this beautiful building.’

‘Pleasure to meet you.’ Polly said, not letting her surprise show.

‘Pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Gray. I always look forward to meeting Lillian’s friends.’

‘So, when is the wedding?’ Polly asked and hoped it wasn't too late.

‘We’re not engaged.’ Lily said hastily.

‘Yet.’ Simon said with a secret smile and Lily wanted to hide behind James, who was still looking at Simon as if he couldn’t place him.

‘We have been together for a week.’ Lily said dismissively, hoping he would stop.

‘But when I marry this beautiful woman, I want you to be there.’ He said as he kissed Lily's hair.

‘Of course. I am the aunt.’ Polly said smoothly.

Before the look of confusion dawned on his face, Lily said sweetly, ‘Simon, why don’t you get Polly and me a glass of wine?’

‘Your wish is my command.’

‘What is going on, Lillian?’

‘I have found the love of my life.’ Lily said darkly, trying to discern Simon’s words. They had been together for a week and during that time, she’d been warding off his offers of dinner and more by using Oliver. Who was in the care of a nanny Lily didn’t trust at all and she was leaving just after she’d seen Polly off. He hadn’t met Simon and she was hoping to keep it that way. No need to trouble him with his mother’s brazen behaviour.

‘In one week?’

‘He’s temporary, Polly.’

‘He isn’t when he is ready to propose you.’

‘Look, I slept with him and he sent flowers. So I said, why not?’

‘What did Tommy do to you?’ Polly asked as she rubbed her temples.

‘Not everything is about him, Polly. I’ve moved on,’ Lily stated, wishing for a glass of whisky.

She then finally asked the question which had plagued her for months, ‘How is he? Sleeping with a new woman every day, I suppose.’

To her surprise, Polly didn’t smirk. Rather her face grew solemn, ‘He isn’t well. I came here to see a doctor for him.’

‘What’s wrong?’

‘The doctor said it’s because of the war. Or nerves. Or the alcohol.’

Lily gave a soft gasp, ‘Is he going to be all right?’

‘He cut his hand on glass.’

‘What is wrong with him? Can’t he enjoy a holiday like a normal man?’ Lily said, feeling a sudden burst of anger.

‘If he were normal, you wouldn’t be frolicking around with that man.’

‘Did you talk to him after I left?’ Lily asked as she crossed her arms.

‘He avoided it. Even after I threatened to take him to church.’

‘He does that best.’ Lily said with raise of her eyebrows.

‘He won’t say it but he needs you.’ Polly declared firmly and Lily scoffed,‘He needs everything but not everyone needs him.’

‘Lillian, I think this wine is the best I’ve ever had. You are an excellent hostess.’ Simon interrupted them and she schooled her expression.

‘Thank you.’ She smiled.                                                                              

‘Can’t wait to have you by my side when we entertain our guests.’ He added and she took a large gulp of the wine.

‘Are you living together?’ Polly asked, her wine untouched.

‘Oh, no, Mrs. Gray. I'm a little old-fashioned.’ He gave a hesitant chuckle.

Lily clenched her jaw as Polly gave a knowing smirk in her direction, 'I'm impressed. It is hard to find old-fashioned people nowadays.'

Chapter Text

 

Polly Gray looked at her nephew in heart-breaking concern. It should’ve been a peaceful holiday for him, away from the dark side. He had been suffering for so long. Poverty, war, enmity, vendetta; he had fought against all and came out a winner. Only to lose against himself. And the worst thing was that he wasn’t ready to accept that he was normal too, that he could feel things too. He would blame it on the drinking or the drugs but wouldn’t talk about it. Perhaps that’s why he had let Lily go and it was all because of him she was with that daft man. And she didn’t blame her; now that she was doing things legally, the society would point fingers at her and her son. It hurt to see her blood who belonged to a line of pure bloods bear the torture of the unsparing world. 

She had to do something or they both would continue with their pain.

‘I met Lily. Her art gallery looks wonderful.’

Tommy looked up from the newspaper he had been trying to read, ‘Did she say anything?’ he asked regardless of what Polly would think or say. It had been difficult to make her back down but he hadn’t said a word about Lily’s departure.

‘She’s getting married. He’s an architect, very handsome too.'

‘She didn’t wait,’ he muttered and folded the paper. Then, clearing his throat, he said in a louder voice, ‘Well, tell her I won’t let that bastard adopt my son.’

‘Don’t you want to see her?’

‘No. I’m happy for her.’ He took a drag of the cigarette and blew away every memory of Lily.

‘She was asking after you. Wanted to know if you were alright.’

‘Like hell. She probably said I was fucking a new woman every day.’ 

‘You both deserve each other.’ Polly said in defeat. It was clear he was going to avoid everything.

‘What’s his name?’ He asked without looking up.

‘Simon Hunt, as I remember.’

‘How is me son?’ 

‘I didn’t see him. But he might be getting a new father after all. One who is there for him.’

He didn’t reply but Polly noticed the imperceptible tightening of his lips and the clench of his jaw. 

'Shit. Maybe it's in us. It's with Shelbys. It's in our Gypsy blood. We live somewhere between life and death, waiting to move on. And in the end, they accept it. We shake hands with the devils and walk past them.'

 

Tommy Shelby had an idea. An idea which could prove to be very beneficial if he used his cards right and for that he needed Jessie Eden's trust. He had wasted his time in the fucking holiday but there was no stopping now. After Polly had left, he had pulled himself together and forced himself back to the routine. Quite unsurprisingly, his 'sickness' was brought to an end the moment he had taken the reins in his hand. 

His intentions weren't honest with Jessie and she had realised that he wasn't the average man after they had fucked. She had left in a disappointed huff and he didn't blame her in the least. All he could think about was Lily's reaction when he had arrived from his dinner with Jessie. He had felt as if he had done something wrong, just like he had after he had slept with Tatiana for the first time. An uncharacteristic reaction as far as he was concerned and he couldn't remove her out of his head. 

After Polly had told him about her marriage, he had wanted to bash open the bastard's head who had dared to take his son away from him. But he hadn't made any attempt to find about her and buried himself in the months of paperwork. She didn't want him in her life so why should he bother her?

But now, all he wanted to do was call her and ask her to come back. For their children.

On the day he was leaving for his meeting with Arthur Bigge, he found Charlie playing in a corner. It had been tormenting to let Charlie witness his moment of weakness and he would give anything to erase the memory from his boy's mind. Except of course Oliver. He had missed him a lot and he wondered if he would ever call him Dad again. Shaking the thoughts, he walked closer to Charlie, ‘What are you doing, Charlie?’

He didn’t reply and Tommy sat down next to him on the sofa.

‘Are you missing Oliver?’ He asked quietly.

He nodded glumly and shifted closer to his father.

‘Can you bring him back? And Lily too? I like her.' He entreated and Tommy pulled him close.

‘I think I like her too.’ He said finally.

‘She isn’t my nanny.’ He stated and Tommy gave a small nod, wondering why Lily had said something like that.

‘No, she isn’t.’

‘Will she be my Mommy?’ Charlie asked and Tommy couldn't quite discern his emotions.

‘Do you want her to be?’

‘I miss Mummy.’ He said sadly and Tommy nodded again, this time with a sting behind his eyes.

‘I miss her too, Charlie. But she is in a happy place and she’s looking after us.’

‘Did she send Lily?’

Tommy began to think of a logical response, then stopped to contemplate his question. Over the years, Lily had returned in his life despite the improbability of them ever meeting after their last meeting. Maybe, she was supposed to stay after all.

‘Maybe.’

‘Will she stay with us?’ Charlie asked, almost jumping up.

‘You’ll have to ask her that.’

‘Can we see her?’ He asked again and Tommy smoothed his hair.

‘Someday, Charlie. Soon.’

’When, Dad?’ He asked, growing impatient.

When she stops running away, Tommy thought in frustration and after a while, left Arrow House in his Bentley.

He was about to start it but his finger paused above the button and he hurriedly searched in his pockets for a coin. Taking the coin between his thumb and forefinger, he tossed it and set it back. Opening his palm to look at it, he felt a rush of blood in his limbs. A coin toss was never wrong.

 

 

 

Tommy cleared his throat for the third time as he climbed the stairs leading to Lily’s flat. He knew he was a little late and she would be snoring away but he needed to talk to her. He had been successful in his meeting with Arthur Bigge and since he was in London City, he thought of paying her a visit. And of course, because of the coin toss.

With some toys for Oliver in one hand, he knocked her door. only to get no response. He knocked again, this time harder and heard the knob twist.

And there she was, her hair falling around her shoulders, dressed in her emerald silk dress which seemed a bit loose. He wanted to crush her in his arms and take her to bed at that moment but he didn't. He wasn't planning to bed her tonight. Tonight was only for talking things through.

‘Tommy? Why are you here?’ She asked angrily with a hint of timidity.

He opened his mouth to answer, only to hear someone yell from inside. Someone male.

‘Who is calling at this hour?’ 

Clearing his throat and keeping his face impassive, he asked, ‘You’ve got company?’

‘Yes. Now is not a good time.’ She said and began to close the door but he pushed it back open.

‘Let me meet him. I need to know what kind of men you bring around in front of my son.’ He said coolly.

‘He’s a good man. So if you’ll please leave-’ She hissed impatiently but the voice got closer, taking form of a young man with green eyes and dark hair. Someone Polly would say was handsome.

‘Who is it, Lily?’ He asked as he took in Tommy's expensive suit.

‘No one.’ Lily said stonily but didn't make an attempt to send him off. As if she was showing off her fiance.

‘Hello, I am Thomas Shelby. Oliver’s father.’ Tommy extended his hand and the man shook his hand with his.

‘Who?’ The man, who was supposedly Simon Hunt asked in bafflement.

‘You must have heard of Shelby Company Limited.’ Tommy stated, disliking him more by every passing second.

‘I know you. But who’s Oliver?’ 

Tommy looked at Lily who didn’t meet his eyes and stared down at the detail on her sleeves, her jaw clenched.

‘No one.’ He echoed her words with a slight shake of his head.

‘Well, I am leaving. You both can continue. And Lily, I’ll pay you tomorrow.’ He winked and went out of the flat, giving a slight nod in Tommy's direction.

‘Get lost,' she gritted out and gave him a push. 'Do you want to come in?' She asked finally, now that her 'guest' was gone.

‘Who the fuck is he?’ He asked as he walked in while she continued to walk in front of him.

‘He’s a friend.’

‘You sleep with all your friends?’ 

Taking a deep inhale, she asked, ‘Why are you here? You left Charlie all alone, didn’t you?’

‘He’s with Frances. I don’t suppose you know where Oliver is.’

‘He’s sleeping in my bed.' 

Trying to keep his voice even, he said, ‘You invite men while my son is sleeping in the next room?’

‘Nothing happened. Nothing was going to happen.' She emphasised.

‘I don’t care.’ He muttered as he shrugged off his overcoat.

‘Then why are you here?’ She asked as she took his coat and hung it on the rack.

‘I was in the city. And I thought I’d see Oliver.’ 

‘You’re a little late for that. He’s a deep sleeper, thankfully.’ She said in relief.

‘Is there something to eat?’ He asked now that the first excuse was sleeping.

Lily shook her head and said, ‘I’m going to bed. Take all you want from the kitchen.’

‘You wouldn’t want me to do that.’

She sighed and went inside while he got up and looked around the house. It was comfortable with a huge hall and at least three rooms, but he couldn't deny his son was missing out in the city. He needed to be in the fields and breath in fresh air, not smoke. His gaze fell on the wall and he was taken in by the number of photo frames on it. Almost the entire wall was decorated by their photographs, none of them in paint though. He looked at each one of them, Lily carrying Oliver on her shoulders, making him cut his birthday cake, both of them sticking their tongues out at the camera.

'I love this one.' She said as she gave him a glass of champagne, observing his interest in the playful picture.

‘There are a lot of pictures.’

‘I wanted him to remember what he did as a baby.’

Because I don't. Tommy completed for her in his head and gestured at the wall with his glass, ‘It’s good. How did that man not know who Oliver was?’

She gave a dismissive wave of her hand, ‘He was only baiting you. He’s a member of our company.’

‘Is he the only one or are there more?’

'There are close to thirty men in our company.' She said slowly.

'You know what I'm talking about.'

‘Why should I tell you?’ She asked blankly.

‘I deserve to know.’

‘You deserve nothing. You were sleeping with three women while I was pregnant.’ She said, unable to quiet her anger down anymore. If Paul hadn't made a show, she would've easily sent Tommy off to his women. But the fool had to ruin everything just because she refused to let him go to Arrow House.

‘You kept a count?’

‘Fuck off.’

‘Polly told me about your gallery. Congratulations.’ He said quietly and she remembered what Polly had said about his health. 

‘Thank you. How are you now?’ She asked, mollified a little. But he used her kindness and asked again,

‘So why was he here?’

She made an annoyed sound at the back of her throat. ‘It’s Saturday. We’re having a  get together and Paul refused to leave. I’m almost happy you came, something I didn't think I'd ever say.’

‘Why wouldn’t he leave?’ He asked in suspicion, all the while wondering who the fuck was Simon Hunt. And where was he.

‘Because he’s enamoured by Polly and wants to meet her.’

'I'm sorry.'

'Come. I made you a sandwich and I'll not let you go until you eat it.'

He felt a smirk beginning to form but she retorted, 'Because I don't like to waste food.'

 

Lily set the food on the table and started to walk back into her room. But he reached for her hand and stopped her, ‘Sit down.’

‘What is it?’ She asked as she sat adjacent to him.

‘I came here to talk.’

‘About?’

‘About us.’

‘There’s nothing to talk about. It’s best we keep things the way they are.’ She began to get up but he held her hands in his.

‘Things have changed, Lily. You aren’t doing secretive business anymore and you know how cruel those bastards are. I can’t let that happen to my son.’

‘You’ve come to give me an ultimatum?’ She asked testily. 

‘What the fuck do you want, then?’ 

‘I want you to want me for who I am. Not as an asset who’ll look after your children or a liability who gave birth to your bast-’

His grip on her wrist tightened in reflex and he pulled closer, ‘Shut up, Lily. He is my son. You will not call him that.’

‘The world calls him that.’ She said and broke down into tears. 

‘And whose fault is it, eh?’ He said through clenched teeth, wanting to shoot anyone who had dared to trouble his son.

‘You know your marriage with Grace wouldn’t be possible if I had told you about him. Or are you admitting that you would marry a woman while another bore your child?’

‘You need to let go of the past.’

‘No, I want you to answer this. Because everytime I see Charlie, I wonder what you would’ve done if I had told you about Oliver instead of going to London.’

He didn't reply and it was all the answer she needed.

‘I know you can’t answer me. Because you would’ve sent me to a ‘woman’ or hidden me from the world. You would’ve killed my baby.’ She buried her face in her palms and let the tears she had suppressed fall down.

‘I would’ve made sure-’, He touched her shoulder gently and she brushed him away.

‘Just don’t say it. I don’t think I can bear that.’

‘Lily, think in the present. I’m about to become a member of Parliament and the business is all clean. We have two boys stuck with an incomplete family...’

She got up from the chair with excessive force and said in her broken voice, ‘Why can’t you for once say what you feel? Why is everything a profit and loss statement for you?’ And went inside her room, leaving Tommy alone on the table.

To be continued....

Chapter Text

 

Lily slammed the door of her drawing room, angry at herself for loving a man who still loved his dead wife. She had been pleased inwardly about his concern now that her occupation was legal and public and she was beginning to warm up, only to unleash the ugly feelings she didn't know she was capable of having. She had insulted a woman who was no longer in this world and blamed a little boy for his father's shortcomings. She might've been rude but his silence that proved that she was right about him. Just like she was five years ago. But her traitorous heart refused to agree. She had thought that with a new man in her life, she wouldn't think about Tommy. But it had turned out to be just the opposite. In the weeks following Polly's visit, she had grown increasingly testy and depressed. Simon's everyday pestering hadn't helped either and yesterday, she had ended their period of courtship. And even though he was not the man she would ever want to be in the same room with, she couldn't deny how luckless she was when it came to the matters of the heart. 

It was as if she was supposed to be with Tommy despite their differences. She couldn't deny that Tommy had never forced himself on her unlike a certain man. And he had talked to Oliver when she had cried. He had also offered dinner once, now that she remembered. He wasn't bad  but he wasn't the best either. He had made her cry but she had been strangely happy in the cramped lodgings of Small Heath. A feeling she couldn't recreate in her London flat despite the luxuries. Not for herself and definitely not for Oliver, who was a lot quieter now. She had been blaming it on the sudden change but after more than three months, he didn't speak until it was absolutely necessary. 

She was looking at the photograph of Oliver she kept on her table when the doorknob twisted and Tommy came inside.

‘I thought I'd talk to you.'

‘I don't want to talk.' She said stonily and he moved a chair to sit in front of her. Heaving a sigh, he said, 

‘When I saw you at Ada’s place five years ago, I was taken back. You had long hair and the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen, something I hadn’t expected. After I’d recovered from that kick, I looked down from the window only to find you running away, even though you were limping like hell.’

‘So, what?’ She asked bitterly. 

‘I thought how strong you were and how you went on despite the pain. When I met you, you proved me right. I wasn’t the best person to be around but you didn’t bend.’

‘You tried to kill me.’ She chided but he replied, ‘And you didn’t even wrinkle your brow.’

‘What good have you ever done for me?’ She asked even as she remembered that he had changed the staff.

‘I haven’t. Because I’m not a good man, but Lizzie already told you that.’

‘I know what happened with her.’ She said quietly, wondering how he would react.

‘I hold myself completely responsible and it’s one of the sins I won’t be absolved of.’ He said sincerely.

‘You have lots of sins.’ She continued, deciding to make use of this rare moment of candour.

He exhaled but didn't falter, ‘And one of the biggest one is not being there for you. If you had told me about Oliver, I don’t know how I would’ve reacted. But I would’ve respected your wishes and married you.'

As she opened her mouth to reproach him, he added in a louder voice, 'And you’ll have to take my word on it. I could never live with myself after abandoning my only child. I couldn’t be like my father. But it was you who walked away with my son.’

‘But you didn’t love me.’ She said, two tears falling down her cheeks. 

He wiped her cheeks and said, ‘Maybe I didn’t. But I would’ve tried, I was cold but not unfeeling.’

‘Then what changed, Tommy?’

‘I’m not you, Lily. I can’t let go.’

She didn't reply but took his hand in hers.

‘These three months, I realised I wasn’t made for a simple life. I have to keep going or I’ll go mad. And I need you by my side because it was you who kept me from drowning in Small Heath. But I’d understand if there’s another man.’

‘He isn’t a part of my life anymore.’

‘You were getting married.’ He wrinkled his eyebrows.

‘I was with him for a month. I think it takes longer than that to get married.’ She said offhandedly.

‘Five years?’

‘It shouldn’t take that long.’ She said snidely.

‘Why did you end it?’ 

‘We had a row.’

‘Why?’

‘I think we should talk about you. I'm learning so much today.’ She said and moved her chair closer to his.

‘If there’s another man waiting, my presence is here redundant.’ He deadpanned with a hint of disappointment.

‘He won’t be coming back, I promise you.’ 

‘You killed him?’ 

‘No. I told you we had a row.’

‘About?’

‘About how I wouldn’t sleep with him again.' She sighed and continued, 'I said I needed time but he wouldn’t relent. And then he-’

His eyes darkened and his hold on her hand tightened. ‘No. He didn’t do that,' she said hastily. 'He just called me something insulting for having a child out of wedlock.' She said casually, trying not to remember that day. Which was yesterday.

'Tell me where he lives.' Tommy said, getting slightly worked up but she didn't indulge him, even though his words made her heart race. A feeling much more suitable for a teenage girl not an almost thirty-two year old woman with a son.

‘I threw him out on his arse. And to be fair, I love someone else.’ She added, a blush rising on her cheeks.

‘Who?’ He asked in mild confusion.

‘As if you don’t know.’ She said as she got up from her chair, slightly disgruntled.

‘I don’t know anything. As far as you are concerned.’ He looked at her and reached for her hand.

Standing closer to him, she touched his jaw, the feel of his stubble comforting. Slightly licking her dried lips, she whispered, ‘Tommy, I can’t compete with a dead woman for the rest of my life.’

She looked in his eyes, for his face was unreadable and he didn't speak for a long minute. 

'Come here.' He said as he got up from his chair and walked with her to the sofa.  'Sit.' 

'What am I, your dog?' She asked acidly and he sat opposite to her on the chair. 

'We could've talked there itself.' She said, slightly nonplussed.

'Shut up and let me speak.'

'Go on.'

‘After Greta and France, loving Grace was not easy for me. I had loved her nonetheless and she left, mere weeks after our wedding. You know how I was after her death and I haven't been much better. When I see you, I feel like there's a chance for me after all. I could only wish for things to be the same again. Lily, what I feel for you can be called love, but that part of me which is capable of love is dead.’

She leaned forward and touched his face, ‘But I am not going anywhere. Why can’t you get it inside your thick head?’

‘You leave every time, Lily.’ 

‘I only left because you were in love with Grace. And still are.’

‘I can’t forget her.' He stated and she knew better than to question him.

‘I am not dismissing your love for her, but doesn’t my love deserve the same respect?’ 

‘I will try but for that I want you by my side. Will you stay with me?

‘I’ll try. But you'll have to-', she stopped as he got up from the chair. 'What are you doing?’ She yelled as he sat down. On one knee.

He took out a small box from his pocket and opened it.

‘Oh, Tommy. It’s beautiful.’ She said softly, unable to believe if it was actually happening.

‘I know. I thought it was your favourite colour.’

‘It is.’ She said as she took in the emerald perched on the gold band of the ring.

‘Will you marry me, Lily Peyton?’

She beamed and he wanted to reach for the rare dimple which was looking even deeper this time. 

‘No.’

‘I told you everything you asked for.’ He proclaimed, feeling out of sorts in the position and a little insulted by her outright rejection.

‘You’ll have to ask Gerard.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he’s my father.’ She said as if he were dense.

‘He’s not.’ He said, furrowing his eyebrows.

‘He’s the one I know. You’ll have to ask him.’ She said firmly even though her smile didn't falter.

‘Anything else?’ 

‘You’ll never sleep with another woman. Or I’ll tell everyone you tried to kill me and then kill you in a duel.’

Slightly confused at her strange warning, he said, ‘I don’t think that’s necessary. I'll stay faithful.’

‘Didn't you sleep with Jessie Eden?’ She asked sceptically.

‘Did you sleep with that bastard?’ 

‘I asked you first.’

‘You did.’ He stated, feeling uncharacteristically angry. 

‘One time. And more than a month ago. Because I wasn’t thinking straight and a little angry at you.’ She said defensively.

‘I forgive you.’ He said even though he wanted to chop that bastard into pieces.

‘I don’t need your forgiveness. And I know you met Mr. Bigge today.’ She said, narrowing her eyes at him.

‘Fuck them all. Are you saying yes?’

She held her chin in contemplation, ‘I don’t know. You’re a bit dangerous. And you never danced with me.’

‘I’ll dance with you. If my knee is all right after this.' He said, wondering why he had gotten down on one knee. Then remembered the coin toss.

‘Do you promise to be honest and caring? And you’ll never put yourself or the children in danger just for the sake of winning?’ She asked softly.

‘I promise to be honest and caring. I’ll die before I let someone harm my boys. But I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, let alone in the next fifty years I’ll spend with you.’ He said, feeling slightly pleased at his romantic gesture.

But she looked at him in petulance, ‘You’ll divorce me when you’re eighty-six?’

‘At eighty-six, I’ll marry you again and remind you about your list of demands.’

‘You won’t even remember then.’ She said airily.

‘I never forget.’

‘Then tell me what I was wearing when I came back from Greece.’

He closed his eyes and said, ‘It was very ugly, very wrinkled.’ 

She interrupted his tirade, ‘Enough. And aren’t you going to propose now?’

'Finally. Say yes.' He said as he took her hand in his and brought the ring closer to her finger.

She pursed her lips for a moment but smiled at last. ‘Yes.’

He slid the ring on her finger and promptly got up, kissing her at the same time.

‘Now I’ll take you to bed.’ He whispered against her lips.

'You can't.' She sighed as he touched her breasts through the silk.

'Why?' He asked, not interested in her answer for he was ready to take her then and there.

'Oliver is sleeping.' She said and kissed him again.

'This looks alright.' He said as he laid her down on the sofa and took off his coat and vest. He joined her on the sofa, all the while reaching for the top of her sheers. 

‘There’s one more question I need to ask.' She said as she unbuttoned his shirt and ran her hands across his chest. 

‘What?’ He muttered as he touched her through the silk underneath her dress.

‘That night at your sister’s house, what did you hit me with?’ She sighed and arched as he kissed her neck.

‘It was a vase, I suppose.’ He said and pushed the dress up to her waist. 

‘Was it brass?’ She asked and got up a little to pull the dress over her head so she was in her lacy white brassiere.

‘I don’t know.’ He said impatiently and unbuttoned his trousers, relieving himself of them deftly. Then he pulled down the straps of her brassiere, bestowing himself with the sight of her bare breasts. 

‘Could’ve been....worth a lot.’ She said as she felt the warm heat of his mouth on her breast, leaving her panting. But he didn't respond and shifted to her other breast. 

‘Yeah? How much?’ He asked after he was done with his ministrations. He divested her of her remaining clothes and settled on top of her, while she kissed his cheek with all her love, ‘Expensive enough to bring you in my life.’ She whispered and he tried not to get overcome by emotion, which brought a sting behind his eyes. 

And that night, two lost souls found themselves. It was a long way to go for them, but for now they had each other and it was enough. There would be fights and battles between them, against the world and even with their inner selves. But they would withstand it together.

Chapter Text

The Night Before Poll Count Day

Arrow House

 

Thomas Shelby was seated behind his desk, cross-checking the new power structure of Shelby Company Ltd. Tomorrow, he would no longer be an ordinary businessman, though some years ago even that might've been a monumental thing for a young bookmaker. He was sure of his victory, just like he had been sure that his wife would accept his proposal. Lily might've been a hard nut to crack but he had been able to bring her in his life. He had proposed four times, even though she considered the unsuccessful ones to be business propositions. 

Their marriage had even bettered his chances in the election. She was an attractive and successful woman with a tragic past and though he never admitted it loudly, she had been a part of his 'sympathy' quota. While Grace had been beautiful and of royal blood, she had come out as an untouchable, a woman much above the plebs of Small Heath. Lily was the opposite, she had grown up in streets like theirs and had stayed with the Shelbys in their difficult time.

The biggest irony was that while Grace hadn't been a favorite, especially of Polly, Tommy had loved her unconditionally. And in Lily's case...

He walked upstairs towards the room he shared with Lily and went inside to find the boys huddled around her with Ruby in her lap. He stopped before they could see him and leaned against the door to watch them.

‘I want ice c-cream, Mum.’ Oliver said, his stammer barely noticeable now. Tommy couldn't deny the pride and relief he felt when he spoke fluently. Lily had argued with him but he hadn't budged in his decision of getting him a speech therapist. 

‘It’s a little late. Maybe tomorrow, after we come back and celebrate your father’s win?’ Lily cajoled him and he gave a smile.

‘I wanna go to the zoo.’ Charlie chimed in and Lily touched his cheek gently.

‘Next Sunday, Charlie. We'll have a picnic too.' 

‘It’s a relief you can’t speak yet, Ruby.’ She muttered as their daughter cried loudly. 

‘Mum, is D-Dad going to b-become the King?’ Oliver asked as Lily gently patted Ruby's back.            

‘No, we already have a King. Your Dad is going to help the people of the country in solving their problems.’ She explained and Tommy felt a little overwhelmed on hearing her description.

‘How?’ Charlie asked, his eyes wide in attention.

‘By listening to their problems and telling the Parliament about them.’

‘What’s that?’

Lily paused for a moment, wondering how to describe it. Then settled with, ‘A place where laws are made.’

‘Enough. Go to bed, both of you.’ Tommy declared as he came in and took off his waistcoat.

‘But Lily didn’t tell us a story, Dad.’

‘Tomorrow night? Your Dad has an important day tomorrow and he wants to sleep early.' Lily told him gently and he agreed at once. He went back in his room with Frances after wishing everyone Goodnight but his other son didn't budge.

‘I wanna s-sleep here.’ Oliver set his demand and hid behind Lily.

'I told you, Oliver.'

Lily interrupted him and said, ‘Your sister will cry at night. And then you’ll have to put her back to sleep.’

‘I won’t d-do that.’ He refused vehemently.

‘Then give me a kiss and go to bed.’ She brought her cheek closer to his face.

‘Good n-night, Mum.’ He kissed her cheek and wrapped his small hands across her neck, then left the room without a glance in Tommy's direction.

‘Why’s he ignoring me?’ He asked in confusion as he unbuttoned his shirt cuffs.

‘Because you always try to send him away.’ She said as she put Ruby in her crib, which she insisted on keeping in their room despite his reluctance.

‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ He unbuttoned his shirt with excess force, making some of them fly.

‘Tommy, you do remember how you shouted at him last night.’ She stood back up and faced him.

‘When we were fucking?’ He walked closer to her and she continued, even though her neck was beginning to flame. While they weren't supposed to have sex, something here and there couldn't hurt. Only it didn't involve clothes and Oliver has walked in without a knock. He was scared and Tommy hadn't been tactful in dealing with the situation. It added fuel to the fire for Oliver, who still hated going to speech therapy. 

‘We weren't having sex. He gets scared alone. He always slept in my bed before our marriage.’

‘Well, it’s time he grew up.’ He said as he put his arm around her waist, a little soft after the pregnancy and he liked to think it was his child she'd carried in that lush body. 

‘He just turned four.’ She  rolled her eyes and looked away, hating his touch on her body. She had changed and while she didn't like to admit it, she looked fat. Especially next to him.

‘Charlie is younger. But he never did something like that.’

‘They’re different. They’ve grown up in different environment.’

He narrowed his eyes, as if trying to see a distant object, ‘How? Charlie lost his mother. Oliver had it all.’

‘Do I have to die to make you love Oliver more?’ She whispered sharply.

‘Fucking shut up.’ He gritted as he took her face in his hands.

‘I never treated them any different. I love Charlie as much as I love Oliver and Ruby.’

‘Never mind. I’m not the best company.’ He said and turned away but she held his hand.

‘Are you worried about tomorrow?’ She asked as she rested her cheek on his chest.

‘No.’ He said firmly.

‘Are you worried about what’ll happen after tomorrow?’ She looked up and he tucked her long hair behind her ear.

‘Do you mind that he still calls you Lily?’

‘We talked about it, Tommy. He’s still adjusting to everything and I don’t mind it at all. Just like I don’t mind the paintings and the photo frames.’ She added, feeling a little spiteful.

‘When is your gallery starting?’ He asked as she sat down in front of the mirror and began to brush her hair. 

‘It never shut down, I stopped going. Gerard called this morning too, there are many things to do.’ She said quietly, trying not to sound whiny.

‘And you want to shift to London?’ He sat down on the bed, both of their backs facing each other.

‘I would like to, now that you’ll be in Westminster anyway. And I miss them.’ He heard her and wondered if she had planned everything.

‘Ruby is only a month old.’ 

‘I’m not saying tomorrow. A couple of months maybe.’

‘A year. At the very least.’

‘That’s too long. I love your house but it's lonely here. And the staff is nosy and omnipresent.’ Her voice grew closer, until he felt her chin on his shoulder and her arms across his chest.

He held her wrist and said, ‘If you come, then the kids come too. I might as well sell this house.’ He gestured around their room.

‘London is not too bad. And we can spend the weekends here.’ She said cheerfully and kissed his cheek.

‘I should’ve known.’He pushed away her arm lightly and got up to light a cigarette.

‘Known what?’ She asked, befuddled at his reaction.

‘You wouldn’t be able to leave them behind.’ He said with a flick of the cigarette.

‘I came to Birmingham for you. I gave up my position in the company.’ She said, unable to bear his grouchiness.

‘I don’t think it was something to cry over. Your ‘father’ gifted it to you to help you heal.’ He said as he exhaled a stream of smoke.

She didn't yell nor did she give a sassy comeback. She only reached for the sheets and said, ‘I’m going to bed.’

‘Aren't you missing something?' He asked, certain she was angry enough to murder him in cold blood.

'Poison?' She asked and he laid down next to her, putting an arm across her waist. She didn't respond at his touch and he said, 'I need all the luck for tomorrow,' and inched his hand towards her bountiful breasts.

'I'm not feeling well. Good night, Tommy.'