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Tommy & Charlie

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It was another late night for Thomas Shelby. It seemed that’s how all of his nights went, spent in his office, cigarette between his lips with papers scattering his desk. It was the best way to keep the nightmares at bay since he no longer had Grace. Oh, how Thomas missed his wife. She had brought such clarity to his life and had brought such happiness. It was more so at night than any other time that these thoughts would cross Thomas’ mind and he tried his best to drown them out with the alcohol.

Tonight was one of those nights where Tommy was sitting behind his desk, drinking his Scotch and smoking, thinking about Grace. He was too lost in his thoughts to realize that anyone was at his door until the door was pushed open. Thomas moved like a flash of lightning, drawing his gun and standing, pointing the gun at the stranger who came into his office.

It was Charlie, his 3-year-old son.

When Charlie saw that his father was pointing a gun at him, he promptly burst into tears. Thomas let out a few choice curse words under his breath before quickly putting the gun to the side as well as his cigarette and glass. “Come here, bud.” Thomas murmured, moving past his desk and going to his son. “Daddy is sorry about that. I just got startled.” He whispered as he picked up the weeping toddler into his arms.

Thomas brought Charlie to the window of his office, leaning against the window as he held his son close. It took some gentle words and a bit of rocking before Charlie eventually calmed down. “Why are you awake?” Thomas asked softly then. He didn’t know what time it was but he knew it was way past the child’s bedtime.

“Nightmare.” Charlie whispered, rubbing his nose on his pajama sleeve.

“What about?” Thomas asked in a sympathetic tone. Charlie shook his head and buried his face into Thomas’ neck. It seemed the boy had no desire to talk about whatever had plagued his dreams. Thomas couldn’t blame him. After all, Thomas did not talk about his nightmares. Doing so only made them more real.

“Well, why don’t we get you back to bed, yeah?” Thomas suggested and Charlie furiously shook his head again.

“No, I stay with you.” He declared with such conviction and stubbornness that even Tommy couldn’t say no to him. Thomas pressed a soft kiss to Charlie’s soft hair before nodding.

“Alright then.” He murmured, thinking then. He was nowhere near enough to be tired so he would need to figure out some way to get his son tired. “Well, I’m rather tired anyways so why don’t we call it a night? Perhaps you can get some books and we can read in your bedroom.”

“No, your room.” Charlie said after a moment, having thought about his father’s words. Tommy didn’t have it in his heart to argue with the boy so he put out his cigarette, finished up his Scotch and took Charlie upstairs. They stopped off in Charlie’s room so the boy could grab his stuffed elephant (which Tommy had always thought was ridiculous but Grace had loved it) and some books. Once the toddler had everything he required, they went to Thomas’ room.

Indeed, Thomas did have a bigger bed than Charlie and Charlie was quick to settle into the blankets and curl up. Thomas watched his son with a faint smile before he turned on the bedside lamp. Tommy kicked off his shoes then and climbed beside the boy, letting Charlie nestle up to him. Oh, if only Grace could see him now.

Once he had gotten settled, Charlie shoved a book into Thomas’ face. Thomas frowned and looked down at Charlie with a small, disapproving look. “You don’t just shove things at people, Charlie.” He told the boy. “What do you say?”

“Please!” Charlie said quickly before giving Thomas a big, goofy grin. Tommy could see all his little teeth that the boy was so proud of. It was all he had been talking about for at least a month.

“Right, that’s better.” Tommy declared before looking at the book he had been handed. “The Story of Doctor Dolittle,” Tommy said, reading the title before he opened up the book and began to read to Charlie. They did not often get the chance to read like this simply due to the fact that Thomas was always running around. Even though Tommy found the whole storyline rather ridiculous (a man who learned how to talk to animals? Ridiculous) but Charlie seemed to love it.

Once they had finished that book, Charlie begged for another. Thomas gave in since it was rather hard to say no to that face. He would really need to work on saying no to Charlie since he didn’t need his child to grow up spoiled. They read two more books before Thomas declared it was time for bed and that Charlie needed to sleep. Charlie sat there silently for a few moments before he looked up at Thomas. “Daddy, can you sing? Like Mummy do.” Thomas doubted the boy remembered Grace singing to him since he was so young but Tommy had told him about it.

“I can’t sing, love.” Thomas protested.

“You can! You sing for the horseys.” Charlie protested. “And besides, it ain't hard! I can sing!” He opened his mouth to show Tommy but Tommy covered Charlie’s mouth. He had heard his son sing before and it was not a pleasant sound. Thomas would never tell his son this but his singing sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

“Fine,” Thomas grumbled and Charlie giggled as he snuggled close to Thomas, resting his head on his father’s chest. Thomas began to run his fingers through Charlie’s hair softly as he thought of a song to sing. Eventually one came to mind. One that Grace had sung to him when they first met.

“In a neat little town, they call Belfast, apprentice to trade I was bound. Many an hour’s sweet happiness, had I spent in that neat little town. A sad misfortune came over me which caused me to stray from the land. Far away from my friends and relations, betrayed by the black velvet band. Her eyes, they shone like diamonds, I thought her the queen of the land. And her hair, it hung over her shoulder, Tied up with a black velvet band.”

When Thomas had finished singing the song, his son was still awake but was at least starting to slowly look tired. Thomas gave a soft sigh before wracking his brain for another song. Most songs he knew were not ones for a little boy who wanted to go to sleep. If only Grace was here. She would be good at this.

A song suddenly came back to Tommy, flooding in from his memories. He had been a child, maybe about 10? He had been sick and Polly had nursed him through it all. She had sung a song about the mountains, one that Tommy remembered. Hopefully, he would remember the lyrics.

"Oh, the Spring it is a coming and the trees are softly blooming and the wild mountain thyme blooms along the purple heather. Will ye go, laddie, go? And we will all go together to pick wild mountain thyme all along the purple heather will ye go, laddie?"

By the time Tommy had finished the verses of the song, Charlie was sound asleep against him. Tommy presses a soft kiss to his son’s head before sliding out of bed carefully. Charlie didn’t stir, thankfully, so Tommy got undressed from the day and threw on an old pair of pajamas before he climbed back into bed with Charlie. He turned off the light and then laid there in silence, looking into the darkness.

Charlie’s warm body slowly began to help Thomas relax and he kept his son pressed close. It felt nice to have this. This peacefulness. Tommy knew he was nowhere close to being the father of the year, hell, he had pulled a gun on his child earlier. But still, Thomas Shelby tried. He tried in his own ways to be there for his son. Did Charlie know this? Tommy wasn’t sure. The boy admired his father greatly, even Tommy, who was often blind to human emotion felt towards him, knew this.

Tommy stayed awake for some time after, thinking about Charlie. Eventually, sleep came to Tommy and he had no nightmares. For once, Tommy got the rest he needed and deserved.

Chapter Text

The fated day had finally arrived. Charlie had been looking forward to this day since he was old enough to realize what a horse was. Today was the day that Tommy would take him riding. It was also Charlie’s 5th birthday but he could care less because he was going to ride! Thomas had promised him and Charlie was intent on making sure that promise came true.

Charlie had been imagining himself high up on a large black horse for ages, ever since he had seen his father ride. He was going to be a great horseman, just like his daddy. Charlie had been around horses his whole life so he knew the rules. However, he had never been allowed to ride (something about being too young). But now he was old enough!

Charlie glanced at the little clock next to his bed. The big hand was at 3 and the little hand was at 5. That meant it was 5:15 in the morning, right? Surely Daddy had gotten enough sleep and would be up at this point. Charlie slid out of bed and got on his dressing gown, tying it around his waist before putting on his slippers.

He paused and looked out the window but it was still too dark to see what the weather was going to be like that. Letting out a dejected sigh, Charlie left his room and ran down the hallway to his father’s room. He pushed the door open slowly and stuck his head inside.

It was dark inside but Charlie thought that he saw Thomas’ body sleeping in the bed. Perhaps he was awake too and was laying in bed like Charlie had been doing. Unsure, Charlie snuck up to his father’s side and stood on his tip toes. It seemed Tommy was still asleep...but Charlie figured he should check.

Charlie began to poke Tommy’s cheek, poking harder and harder till Tommy’s eyes slowly began to open. “Charlie?” Thomas asked slowly, voice raspy and still full of sleep. “Whatcha doing up?” He mumbled.

“I just wanted to see if you were awake.” Charlie said, rocking back and forth on his feet, hands behind his back. “Cause, you know what today is.”
“I do?” Thomas asked, still half out of it.

“It’s my birthday!” Charlie exclaimed before launching himself up onto the bed and onto Thomas, landing on his father’s chest. Thomas let out a loud “ooff” as Charlie landed before giving a wide yawn. Yes, indeed it was his son’s birthday. This was one of the days that Tommy looked forward to but also dreaded. It was their son’s birthday and Grace was not there to celebrate with them. “Well, aren’t you getting up?” Charlie asked, his little voice breaking through Thomas’ thoughts.

“What time is it?” Thomas asked with a sigh.

“I think it’s 5:15 in the morning though it’s probably later now cause we’ve been sitting here for a while but I don’t know how long so maybe the time really hasn’t changed.” Thomas gave a sigh at his son’s rambling before ruffling the boy’s hair.

“Hmm, so it is.” He said. “Well, why don’t you get off of me and I’ll get dressed then we can eat breakfast?”

“When do we get to go riding!?” Charlie asked desperately.

“Later.”

“You’re always saying later!” Charlie protested which caused Tommy to chuckle softly.

“Well, the horses are still asleep so it has to be at least after 8.” He answered. He knew the horses would be up now but his son didn’t know that. Besides, the horses would need to be fed and turned out for the day. Charlie hesitated a moment before leaning across Tommy, nearly elbowing his father in the face as he grabbed the clock that sat on the side of the bed. 5:23. Charlie gave a huff of annoyance but nevertheless, slid off of Tommy’s chest.

Tommy climbed out of bed then, running a hand through his hair a few times. “Why don’t you get dressed?” He suggested to his son. Charlie had picked out his riding outfit nearly a week ago. “I’ll meet you downstairs in a bit.” Charlie tore out of the room and Thomas knew it would be a long few hours until 8.

Once he was showered and dressed, Tommy headed downstairs to find Charlie sitting in the dining room, little legs swinging impatiently back and forth from where he sat in a chair. He was dressed in the outfit he had picked out and he looked like a proper little gentleman. He was wearing white trousers (which Thomas doubted would stay white for long), a dark brown jacket with a white shirt underneath. The boy had even managed to put on the tall black boots and tie them properly.

“Right, what would you like for your birthday breakfast?” Thomas asked him as he led the way to the kitchen, his son trailing behind him.

“Cake!” Charlie declared.

“Nice try.” Thomas said with a smirk. “That’s not until tonight.”

“Figured it was worth a try.” Charlie said with a shrug. “Eggs and toast!” He quickly added a “please!” when Tommy gave him a look. Eggs and toast. Tommy could do that.

About 20 minutes later, the two were sitting at the dining table, eggs, toast, and milk in front of them. The milk was for Charlie. The boy nearly shoveled all the food down at once but when Tommy explained that eating quickly would only lead to a tummy ache and that meant no riding, Charlie was quick to slow down.

As his son ate, Thomas nibbled on some toast and read the paper. It was hard to focus however for his memories kept popping up, especially when he did not want them to.

The one that appeared the most in his memory was that of the day that Grace went into labor.

They had been out, walking in the gardens, talking about nothing in particular. Tommy had protested at the walk, saying that Grace should be in bed and resting. She argued that she was not a bomb about to go off and besides, she was not due for another 2 weeks. When Tommy finally conceded, Grace seemed quite proud of her accomplishment.

Grace had felt rather faint so Tom was quick to bring her to a bench and guide her to sit down. That was when she went into labor. Tommy, who could handle bullets, guns, bombs, dead men without a panic, started to panic. It took Grace yelling at him to get Thomas to focus. With his help, Grace made it back to the house and the doctor was called.

After the doctor was called, the Shelby’s were called and soon the house was filled with people. Esme, Ada, and Polly went upstairs to help and support Grace while the men stayed in the kitchen and supplied the whiskey for Thomas. While the three Shelby women were not a massive fan of Grace, Grace made Tommy happy and they all had been through childbirth to know that a woman needed support.

It was a long labor and it was nearly 2:00 in the morning when Polly came down, a grin on her face. “You’re a father, Thomas. Beautiful little boy-” She didn’t finish her sentence before Thomas was out of the room and raced up the stairs to Grace’s room.

That sight of Grace in bed, holding Charlie, was a sight that Thomas Shelby would never forget. His wife was worn out but after talking to the doctor who assured that both mother and child were in great shape, Tommy relaxed. He went over to Grace and sat next to her. “A son.” She whispered, voice sounding worn out but the happiness evident. Thomas too choked up to say anything, pressed a kiss to Grace’s head softly.

When she handed over the tiny bundle, Tommy could hardly believe. His son was asleep and instinctively curled up against the warmth that Tommy provided. He was the most beautiful thing Tommy had ever seen.

His memory was interrupted by Charlie who was tugging on his sleeve. “Yes?” Tommy asked, glancing to look at Charlie.

“Can you read me what’s going on in the paps?” Charlie asked.

“Paper.” Thomas corrected him but he conceded, spreading the paper flat on the table and began to read for Charlie. The boy was just learning to read and mostly relied on pictures and Tommy to explain what was going on. This was good since it allowed Tommy to skip the darker stories that his 5-year-old son did not need to know about.

They spent some time doing this before cleaning up from breakfast. It was now 6:15 in the morning and Charlie was clearly getting antsy about going to the stables. Tommy rubbed his eyes wearily, trying to think about what he could do to amuse his son. Eventually, he decided to take the boy to the library and together they read for a bit.

Charlie struggled to sit still and focus which Tommy expected. At least it passed the time. Eventually, it was time to go and Charlie raced off to the car, grabbing his little cap and throwing it on his head while he ran. He reminded Thomas of a puppy with boundless amounts of energy.

“Now remember, you need to calm down around the horses. I don’t want you to be running around since you might scare one.” Tommy informed his son as he drove to the stables. Charlie nodded, nose pressed against the window as he watched the countryside speed by them. Once they were at the stables, Charlie was out in a flash and nearly took off but Thomas caught his arm and help him firmly. “Charles, what did I say?” Thomas asked, crouching down and looking at his son at eye level.

“I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m just real excited!” Charlie said, neck craning to try to catch sight of a horse. Using a gentle hand, Tommy redirected his son’s gaze to look at him.

“I’m serious. Take a deep breath and calm down.” Once Charlie did as he was instructed, Tommy stood up and holding his son’s hand, led him to the stables. “Hello, May.” Tom said as they walked up to May Carleton.

“Hello, Tom, Charlie,” May said with a smile.

“May! Do you know what today is?” Charlie asked eagerly. May knew of course (Charlie had been telling her for weeks now) but she pretended to think.

“Hmm, is today the horses are getting their new shoes on?”

“No! Guess again!”

“Hmm, is today that your dad is getting a haircut?”

“What? No! It’s someone’s birthday!”

“Of course! It’s the king’s birthday, right?!”

“No, it’s mine!” Charlie declared, clearly losing patience as May laughed.

“Ah, of course!” She exclaimed. “How could I forget?!” She motioned then and two grooms brought out two horses. One was Tommy’s personal horse, a large black stallion who Thomas had trained since the horse was born. The other was a dark brown mare who was named Star. Charlie had named this horse since he declared that she would be a star. Both horses were tacked up and ready to ride.

Thomas nodded his thanks to May who left them and Tommy turned to Charlie. “You ready?” He asked and Charlie nodded so eagerly, Tommy was sure the boy’s head would fall off. Tommy motioned for the groom to bring Star to a mounting block. He went to the other side as he instructed Charlie how to get on. Once his son was secure in the saddle, Thomas showed Charlie how to hold the reins and how to steer.

Once he was sure that Charlie was secure, Tommy mounted his own horse and took the rope that was attached to Charlie’s horse. “What’s that for?” Charlie asked.

“Just going to keep a hold of your horse for a bit till you figure out how to ride.” Tommy answered before clucking his tongue and urging his horse forward with a light nudge of his heels. Charlie copied his father even though it was not needed since the horse had to follow anyways.

The two left the stable yard and headed to one of the large arenas that were present. “What are we doing here?” Charlie asked.

“Well, you want to be able to stop your horse, don’t you?” Thomas asked, glancing down at his son. “We gotta practice that before we go out.” Tommy then taught Charlie how to steer once more and then how to stop. His son picked it up instantly though it was not that hard to do so. After all, it was just pulling on the reins in various directions.

When Tommy felt confident that Charlie had mastered the skills he needed, he led the way out of the arena and out to the miles of trails and open land. As they rode, Thomas stayed quiet, letting Charlie do most of the talking. The boy was a chatterbox, more than normal. He pointed out every little detail to Tommy from the birds that were singing to the long blades of grass that were swaying in the grass (Charlie declared that they were waving at them).

He also asked Thomas all sorts of questions about the horses and the tack they were wearing. Tommy had expected this all and since it was his son and concerned his son, he was more than happy to answer them. Eventually, Charlie did go quiet and Tommy got to enjoy the quietness. It was one of the things he loved about riding. It gave him the chance to get out and leave the world behind him.

“Daddy?” Charlie asked, breaking Thomas’ thoughts once more.

“Hmm?”

“Do you miss Mummy?” The question took Thomas rather by surprise and he looked down at his son. Charlie was staring up at him with those big, blue eyes staring up at him. The same color as Grace’s eyes. Tommy and Grace had playfully fought about that a few weeks after Charlie was born.

“He has your eyes!” Grace was protesting as the two stood above Charlie’s cradle, the infant staring up at them.

“Nu-uh, that blue is your eyes!” Thomas protested. “Besides, if he has your eyes, he’ll be a stunner just like his mum.” Grace laughed and was going to reply but Thomas kissed her before she had the chance to reply. Once they had broken away, Grace spoke.

“Infants eyes often change color anyways, you know.” She commented.

Charlie’s eyes did change but they only got to become a darker blue. More like Grace's.

Thomas realized the horses had stopped walking and it had been some minutes since Charlie’s question.

“Do you want to learn how to trot?” Thomas asked, redirecting Charlie’s question. It was all the boy needed to be distracted and Charlie nodded eagerly. For the next half hour or so, Thomas showed Charlie how to post at the trot, rising and falling with the two pace beat. The boy wasn’t very good at trotting and mostly just flopped around but he was laughing up a storm the whole time so Thomas could care less.

Eventually, though, they did have to turn around. Charlie complained, saying he could ride for “hours and hours and hours” to which Thomas pointed out that the horses were getting tired. When they got back to the stable, May was there to greet them. Once Tommy had dismounted and helped Charlie asked, the boy began to flood May with words, telling her about the whole ride. May listened, asking various questions while Tommy stood there, smiling quietly. His son could talk for hours if left to it.

“Why don’t you come to help me get the horses untacked and brushed?” May suggested to Charlie who nodded eagerly. Brushing the horses was one of his favorite things to do.

“I’ll meet up with you in a bit.” Tommy said as he handed the horses off to May and Charlie. Charlie didn’t question it and May led the way back to the stalls. Once they were gone from sight, Tommy lit a cigarette and left the stables area. He went to the back of the stables, away from the noise and the people. He stopped, leaning on a fence post and staring out into the field. A few horses grazed quietly, occasionally glancing at Tommy to see if he had food.

As he stood there, his thoughts began to drift.

Grace was gone. Dead. Shot right in front of Tommy. The scene would forever be etched into his mind. But what was also there was telling Charlie that his mother was dead.

Polly had offered to tell the boy herself but Tommy had shaken his head. No, this needed to come from his father. Polly had convinced Thomas not to wake the boy and wait until the morning. That morning had finally come and it seemed to take forever since Tommy just sat there in his office, staring out the window at nothing.

He had changed clothes and was wearing an old suit without the jacket. He didn’t remember getting changed. Tommy didn’t have the energy to question how that had happened. When he was informed that Charlie was awake, Thomas slowly stood and headed up to his son’s room, head in a fog. He had no idea what to say to his son. Did Charlie even understand the concept of death?

Entering quietly, Tommy saw that Charlie was sitting by his window, curtains were drawn back to show a beautiful day outside. Was the world mocking him, showing such beauty when it had taken Grace from him? “Daddy!” Charlie said with a grin as he saw Tommy, hopping off the little chair he was sitting in and hurried to his father. “Can you and me go for a walk in the garden later? I wanna pick some flowers for Mummy and I saw the yellow ones were real pretty the other day and those are her favorites!”

Thomas said nothing as he sat down on the bed and motioned for Charlie to sit next to him. Charlie hopped up next to him, looking up at Thomas with those wide, blue eyes. Grace’s eyes. “Charlie, I have something very serious to tell you.” He said and the boy’s smile slowly faded. “Mummy...something happened to Mummy last night.” Thomas said softly, having to pause for his voice broke. No, he would not cry in front of his son. “Mummy was hurt by some very bad people and...she’s gone, Charlie.”

“Gone? Gone where?”

“She’s dead, Charlie.” There was silence after this as the boy slowly began to process what Tommy was saying.

“No...there must be something wrong. You’re joking, right?” Charlie asked his lower lip trembled.

“I wish I was.” Thomas whispered and Charlie began to shake his head.

“No, she...she can’t. She’s gotta come back. She always promises she would! Mummy doesn’t lie!” Charlie’s voice began to rise as he began to panic. “Mummy!” He yelled then, hopping off the bed in a flash and racing down the hallway. “MUMMY!” Charlie screamed as Tommy tore after him. The boy flew into his parents’ room, searching frantically for Grace. Not finding her there, he turned to run out again only to run into Thomas.

“She’s gone, Charlie. She’s gone.” Tommy whispered as he picked Charlie up who at this point, lost it. The little boy began to half sob and half scream, kicking and hitting Tommy with all his might, screaming to see his mother. Tommy sat down silently on the bed, holding Charlie’s face against his shoulder as the boy’s kicks slowly stopped and he just cried. How long the two sat there felt like hours and it very well could have been. Charlie eventually cried himself to sleep and this would become a common occurrence for quite some time.

Tommy was pulled from his thoughts when he felt a tug on his sleeve and looked down to see Charlie standing there quietly. “Why are you crying, Daddy?” The boy asked softly as he climbed the fence posts in order to be at eye level with Tommy. Tommy touched his cheek to find that indeed, they were wet. “Were you thinking about Mummy?” This time, Tommy decided not to avoid the question.

“Yes.” He answered softly, taking a deep drag of his cigarette.

“Sometimes I cry too when I think about her.” Charlie said softly as he looked out at the field before them. “I wish she was here with us today. She would’ve liked Star.”

“She is here with us today, bud. She’s in here.” Tommy pointed to Charlie’s heart quietly. “If you ever feel sad about missing Mummy, come find me, alright?” He murmured then.

“Alright, I will. But daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Can you do the same thing for me? If you’re missing Mummy, come find me. I don’t like sitting alone, feeling sad. This way, we can feel sad together.”

“Alright, love.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

The two sat there for a bit longer before Tommy decided that he had enough and that they had to get going. After all, today was Charlie’s birthday and they had to celebrate. They left the stables then and headed home. The family was due to come over in a short while after all.

The two got changed and cleaned up just in time as Polly arrived with Michael and they greeted the birthday boy with kisses and hugs. Shortly thereafter, other family members began to trickle in and the house was soon filled with voices. Charlie loved being the center of attention and was telling everybody about the horse he had written and how he had gone super fast. Tommy stood to the side, smoking his cigarette with a small smile on his lips. “If only you could see him now, Grace.” He whispered.

The party went well and Charlie got tons of presents and tons of cake. It was around 8:00 by the time everyone left and Charlie was half asleep at that point. Leaving for the servants to clean up, Tommy carried Charlie upstairs to Charlie’s room. He got the boy changed into pajamas and got him to brush his teeth before tucking Charlie in. “I had a really good time today.” Charlie whispered once Thomas had tucked the blankets in around him.

“I’m glad. I had a fun day too.” Thomas murmured, pressing a kiss to Charlie’s soft forehead.

“I love you.” Charlie said before letting out a loud yawn. Thomas smiled gently, stroking Charlie’s cheek with his thumb.

“I love you too.” He pressed one more kiss to Charlie’s head before he got up and went to the doorway, pausing. “Happy birthday, Charlie.” Tommy said quietly before he left.

Chapter Text

Grace had not been feeling well that morning so Tommy said he would take Charlie out for the day to give Grace the rest she needed. Tommy figured that they could go outside for a bit and play, perhaps go to the stables so Charlie could see the horses. Grace had packed them a bag, filled with a blanket, teddy bear, extra diapers and wipes, and a spare change of clothes for Charlie. They were working on potty training the toddler and it had been interesting, needless to say.

Charlie was more than happy to spend the day with his father and as Mary took him off to get dressed after breakfast, Tommy smiled quietly. It would be a good day. The phone rang and he let out a sigh before leaving the breakfast table and answering it. “Shelby.” He said as he answered.
“Tom, it’s me.” Arthur’s gruff voice came from the other side.
“What is it, Arthur?” Tommy asked with a sigh.
“We gotta have a family meeting.”
“Why?”
“We think that a gang from London is going to try to make a move on our racetrack.”
“Which gang?”
“High Rip Gang.” Tommy let out a curse. Alfie had told him about this gang, saying while he thought he had things under control, just to keep an eye out just in case.
“Alright, fine. However, I have Charlie with me for the day so I’ll need someone to watch him while we talk.”
“Well, I’m not sure who since Esme will be staying home with her and John’s kids and you know that my Mrs. won’t come.”
“Right, right. We’ll figure something out. Be there shortly.” And with that, Tommy hung up the phone with a sigh. It could never be a quiet day, could it?

Once Charlie was ready to go, Tommy took the bag that Grace had given him and gave Mary instructions to make sure Grace actually rested before he took Charlie’s hand. “We got to make one stop before we go see the horses.” Tommy said as he helped Charlie into the car. His son grinned as Tommy got into the car and started it.

Then they were on their way to Birmingham.

They stopped a few times to see if Charlie had to go to the bathroom (he did once which Tommy praised him greatly for) and they finally reached the familiar streets. Tommy grabbed Charlie’s toys then left the bag in the car and holding Charlie’s hand once more, headed inside. The family was in the back, in the betting area. Everyone said their greetings and Charlie got passed out, getting cuddles and kisses from all (but especially Polly).

“Alright, alright. Let’s get this started.” Tommy said as he lit a cigarette. “Charlie, love, go play over there for a bit, okay? Daddy has some business, okay?” He gave Charlie his stuffed bear and guided the boy to the next room and helped him sit on a chair before going back to the family. “Right, so what’s happening?” He asked.

Arthur was the one who spoke, explaining how they had heard a rumor about the High Rip Gang getting too big for their own good and how multiple sources had commented on how the gang was collecting men and were collecting guns as well. The issue was, the Shelby clan didn’t know if the High Rip gang was coming for them or someone else. Wasn’t it a bit daring to come to Birmingham when they were in Liverpool? Perhaps except for the fact that Arthur had killed their leader’s son last year in a boxing match so perhaps this was their way of getting revenge.

As they formalized a plan of increasing security at the race track, Tommy felt something tugging at his coat sleeve and he looked down to see Charlie standing there. Tommy knelt so he was at his son’s level. “Me potty.” Charlie informed Tommy who sighed before standing up.

“Right, I’ll be right back. Charlie needs the potty.” Tommy picked up his son then and carried him back out to the house and to the bathroom. He knew his family was snickering behind his back. He great Tommy Shelby was taking a child to the bathroom not to mention he had said the word “potty”. Tommy stood against the wall of the bathroom as Charlie sat on the toilet, legs swinging back and forth as he went. Once the boy was done, the two headed back.

“Have a good trip to the potty?” Arthur asked Charlie when they got back and Charlie nodded eagerly before wandering off to play with his bear.

“Was it a shitty time?” John asked with a smirk as Arthur roared with laughter, getting a few chuckles out of the other members of the family but a scowl from Tommy.

“Look at that. The great Thomas Shelby, taking a toddler to the fucking toilet. Blimey, what if Solomons found out about that? He’d have a field day! People would almost think yer human, Tom!” Arthur said in between fits of laughter.

“Alright, shut the fuck up and let’s get this dealt with.” Tommy said firmly, putting out his cigarette. They did eventually figure out a plan and only a few more potty jokes were made. “I swear they have the humor of a five-year-old.” Tommy complained to Polly as the meeting wrapped up.

“Shit happens.” Polly said with a smirk and Tommy gave a groan and picked up his son. “Bye, Charlie!” Polly called and the toddler waved goodbye as Tommy carried him out to the car.

Chapter Text

It started out as a cough. A simple cough. Nothing to make anyone worry or panic. It was going to be springtime soon anyways so perhaps it was just an allergy to pollen. Besides, Charlie was young, being only 5 at that point so he would jump back quickly even if it was a cold. Charlie kept going to school and kept playing at home even though he did feel rather unwell. Nobody else seemed concerned so Charlie figured that this was normal.

It was not a normal cold though.

It was one of the few mornings that Tommy had actually managed to fall asleep in his bed which is where Mary had found him. Thomas woke with a small frown, rubbing his eyes wearily as Mary waited for him to come to his senses. “What is it?” Tommy grumbled, glancing at his clock and seeing that it was 7:30 in the morning.

“It’s Charlie, Mr. Shelby.” Mary answered, wringing her hands together. Tommy was sitting up in an instant.

“Is he okay? Did someone hurt him?” He asked, eyes boring into her.

“He isn’t feeling well, sir.”

“What is it? Besides that bloody cough of his?”

“Well, that’s just it sir. I think it’s gotten worse. He is coughing a lot now, harder too, and he’s got a fever.” Thomas rubbed his face wearily as he swung his legs over the side.

“Leave me. I’ll see him in a few minutes. In the meantime, call Polly.” Thomas did not want to admit it but his heart was starting to race. This could be something minor, a very bad cold perhaps, or some sort of 24-hour fever. But what if it was worse? What if the Spanish flu had come back? It had taken Freddie Thorne all those years ago...what if it took his son? Tommy shoved those thoughts from his head as he got up and got dressed before heading to his son’s room.

Mary had been sitting with Charlie when Tommy came in and she moved from the bedside to let Tommy sit. Tommy sat and felt Charlie’s forehead with the back of his hand. Once, when Charlie had been sick as an infant, he had seen Grace do that to the boy. Even without much knowledge of medicine, only what he had learned in the war and from life, he knew Charlie felt far too warm.

“Charlie, love, can you open yer eyes for me?” Tommy asked in a soothing, tender tone, one that was reserved only for his son and for his horses. Charlie’s eyes slowly flickered open as he gave a rough cough, one that did not stop for several agonizing moments. “Where does it hurt?” Tommy inquired in the same tone, brushing some hair from his son’s face, noting his glazed over eyes. Charlie pointed to his throat before giving a few sniffles. Runny nose, fever, and sore throat...Thomas thought for a moment before he glanced at Mary. “Could it be the flu?” He asked.

“Possibly.” Mary answered. “That was what I was thinking. He was shivering earlier too, when I first came in, even though he had a fever. That’s what made me think something was wrong.” Thomas let out a deep sigh, rubbing his face wearily.

“Call the doctor. I want to be sure.” He ordered. “And when you’re done with that, bring me a cold, wet cloth, a few extra pillows, another blanket and a glass of whiskey.”

“But sir, it’s not even 8:00 in the morning!” Mary protested but Tommy shot her a stern look, Mary’s protest died on her lips and she slipped out of the room to fulfill the requests. After the door closed, Tommy looked back to his son whose eyes were closed once more.

“Don’t worry, bud. We’ll get a doctor here shortly and you’ll be up on your feet before ye know it.” Tommy whispered. He stayed next to Charlie’s side, not moving as Mary brought him the supplies he requested. Mary propped Charlie up a bit so he would hopefully have a better time breathing and added a blanket to him since the boy had started shivering again. Mary had always taken such good care of Charlie and it was clear that the woman cared for the boy.

Mary read to Charlie as they waited for Polly and the doctor though, it seemed that the boy was not paying the least bit of attention. His eyes were closed and his breathing was a soft wheezing sound, only interrupted with breaks for cough. How could Tommy have let this get so bad? He had brushed this aside cough aside, thinking it was just a cold. What if something did happen to Charlie? What if his son didn’t make it? It would be Tommy’s fault for not being a good enough parent and not knowing his son was sick.

Tommy wanted a smoke so badly but he was worried that the smoke would harm Charlie even more.

It felt like forever till Polly showed up. Polly came in, hurrying over to Charlie’s bedside and feeling his head. “Poor boy has quite the fever.” She murmured, pressing her hand to his cheek and then to his forehead. “Cough?”

Tommy nodded.

“Wheezing breath?”

He nodded again.

“Chills, I see, even though he has got blankets on and is sweating.” Polly murmured. “Looks like your son has got the flu, Tommy.” Polly announced.

“I was afraid you would say that.” Tommy muttered, putting his head in his hands with a heavy sigh. Polly patted Thomas’ shoulder gently in a sympathetic manner.

“All kids get sick.” She reminded him gently. “Despite how much power you got, Tom, you can’t stop a sickness. I’m sure he’ll bounce back in no time.” Tommy said nothing in reply and Polly joined their group in waiting for the doctor.

Thankfully it did not take much longer for the doctor to arrive. After examining Charlie and asking Thomas the same questions that Polly asked, the doctor confirmed that it was most likely the flu. “Not much we can do about it, Mr. Shelby.” The doctor said as he pulled a thermometer out of Charlie’s mouth, reading the temperature.

“What do you mean there’s not much you can do!?” Tommy roared, jumping up from his spot and lunging at the doctor. The two stumbled from the force and Tommy pushed the man against the wall. “There must be something you can give him! Medicine! Anything! You’re a fucking doctor, aren’t ye!?”

A few things happened then at once. Charlie, awoken due to the shouting, began to cry before throwing up on himself. Polly at the same time, raced forward, pulling Tommy off of the doctor. “Compose yourself!” She snapped sharply at Thomas before looking at the doctor. “Mary, take the blanket that Charlie just threw up on out and get it in the wash. Show the doctor out and pay him well for what Thomas here just put him through. I can handle it from here.” Mary gathered up the blanket as Tommy dashed over to his son. Charlie looked up as Tommy came over, reaching his arms up to his father. Tommy leaned down, picking Charlie up and holding his boy close.

“Shh, shh. I’m sorry, love. I didn’t mean to frighten you like that.” He murmured as he rocked side to side with the boy as Charlie sobbed into his father’s shoulder.

“You need to get better control on your temper.” Polly hissed at Tommy. “It is not the doctor’s fault they have yet to find a cure for the bloody flu. It’s the flu, Tommy. Not the plague or something horrible like that. It’s a common thing.”

“But people can die from it, Pol!” Thomas hissed back, hand moving to Charlie’s back where he began to rub soothing circles as Charlie began to cough harshly once more. “And if he dies…” Thomas could not finish his sentence and instead turned his attention to Charlie. Tommy continued to rock Charlie, rubbing the boy’s back as he got Charlie through the worst of the coughing and got him calmed down enough so he was no longer crying.

“There really is not much we can do for him.” Polly said gently as Tommy laid his son carefully back into bed. The boy was worn out from the crying and the coughing. “We just need to get water into him as much as we can and try to break the fever. If it gets too bad, we can give him a bath in lukewarm water. Besides that, we just need to let this take its course.”

“I want you to call the office and tell Lizzie to cancel all my meetings for today. Scratch that, for the whole week.” Tommy ordered, his voice now coming out in a controlled and calm manner. Tommy Shelby was back in control of his emotions.

“For the whole week? Don’t you have-?’

“I know what I had but I don’t care. I would just be worried about Charlie the whole time anyways. I’m staying here.” There was such determination and forcefulness in his voice that Polly did not bother to argue and left. Once she had left, Tommy made sure that Charlie was tucked in and was as comfortable as he could be, given the circumstances.

“Daddy?” Charlie whispered a few minutes later. His voice sounded so weak and hoarse. The sound broke Tommy’s heart.

“Yes, bud?”

“Read.”

Tommy reached over to where Mary had left the book and picked it up, clearing his throat a bit. He had bought the book for Charlie last time he was in London and figured since the boy had been out of it before, it would be best to start at the beginning. “Chapter One in which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some Bees, and the stories begin.” Tommy began. Tommy read for a short while, only getting about a chapter into the story before he noticed Charlie had fallen asleep. Mary had come in at some point, leaving breakfast on a tray for Tommy as well as toast and water for Charlie.

“You calmed down now?” Polly asked as she came back in, carrying a chair. Tommy didn’t bother to answer as Polly put the chair next to the bed and Tommy moved to sink into the chair with a deep sigh. “He’ll be alright.” Polly assured Tommy as she placed a thermometer next to Charlie on his bedside table. “Doctor said to take his temperature every time he wakes.” She informed Tommy before standing behind Tommy. “You know, there’s a bear that goes with that story.” She commented, motioning to the book.

“Get it for him.” Tommy requested and Polly nodded silently, resting a hand on Tommy’s shoulder. He reached up a hand and squeezed her hand softly in return.

“Doctor said to try to get him to drink as much as he can but do not force him to eat until he can keep water down. If his fever does not break within the next few days or gets above 103, put him in an ice bath. Besides that, don’t be surprised if he has aches, sweating, chills...basically everything he has so far.” Thomas replied with a single nod before Polly left him.

The next few hours were spent in a pattern. Tommy would sit at Charlie’s side while the boy slept. Charlie would wake, generally to vomit, before collapsing back into his bed and proceeding to shake. Sometimes he would cry and Tommy would hold him, pressing the damp cloth that Mary had brought onto Charlie’s forehead. Other times the fever seemed to put Charlie so out of it that the boy called for Grace. Tommy didn’t speak during those times and just held Charlie as the boy cried and called for his mother. The few times when Charlie was not crying or throwing up, Tommy would read to him trying to distract the boy from feeling so unwell.

As per the doctor’s instructions, Tommy would also try to get the boy to drink some water every time he woke up. Sometimes Charlie was able to keep it down but for the most part, Charlie would just vomit it up. Tommy also would take Charlie’s temperature which steadily grew worse.

It was around noon when Polly came back to check in on them, carrying a yellow bear with her. At this moment, Charlie was awake and he looked up wearily as Polly came in. “Look what I got for you.” Polly murmured, sitting down on Charlie’s bedside and tucking Pooh next to the boy. “Pooh is here now and he’s going to make you feel so much better.”

“Pooh.” Charlie whispered as he rested his cheek against the bear’s soft fur, closing his eyes again.

“Any improvement?” Polly asked Tommy softly. He shook his head. “Figured as much. It’s too soon, really. Still vomiting though which isn’t ideal.” She pressed her lips together in a thin line before shaking her head. “He’s young and strong, like his da.”

“Like his mum.” Tommy corrected and Polly patted his knee.

“Go get some fresh air. You look like hell. I’ll sit with him.” It took a few minutes of convincing before Tommy left. His feet led him to his office where he took a seat, lighting a cigarette and blowing out the smoke. He desperately needed this smoke.

As he sat there, smoking, Tommy allowed his thoughts to wander which quickly turned into a mistake. “What if” statements flew into his head and Tommy let out a few curses, putting his head in his hands. What if Charlie did die? People were known to die from the flu. What if he never got better? What would Tommy do if his son died? It was all he had left of Grace. These thoughts wouldn’t stop. They just kept flying around Tommy’s mind.

This needed to stop. Tommy stood then and went to his liquor cabinet, opening it up and pulling out a bottle of whiskey. He drank straight from the bottle, taking a few big gulps before setting the bottle back down. While Tommy would love to get flat out drunk, he had to be there for his son. Tommy then finished up his cigarette and then went back to Charlie. Nothing had changed.

This was how Tommy spent the rest of the day, splitting his time between Charlie and drinking. Polly managed to get Tommy to eat a few pieces of toast but every time he tried to eat anything else, Tommy’s stomach would clamp up and he couldn’t manage it. Charlie showed no sign of improvement which Polly assured Tommy was expected.

Neither Tommy nor Charlie got much sleep that night. Polly had eventually gone home and Thomas had sent Mary away so it was just father and son. When Charlie was awake, he was often just coughing and occasionally throwing up. At this point, there was really nothing left to throw up so it was even more painful for Charlie. There were a lot of tears shed that night by Charlie.

Out of all the nights of hell that Tommy had spent in his life, this was near the top of them. His son was in pain and there was nothing that Tommy could do to help him. Tommy hated doing nothing. He hated doing nothing, even more, when someone he loved was in pain.

The next day eventually came though Tommy hardly realized it had come until Mary came in with fresh breakfast. Tommy ignored it, not wanting to eat. Charlie was asleep at this point so Tommy settled back into his chair and slowly drifted off. Tommy figured he had not slept much the night before so it made sense for him to fall asleep now. He slept for an hour or so and was only waken by the soft sobs coming from Charlie. When the sound broke through to his brain, Tommy’s eyes flew open and he moved to sit next to Charlie.

“What is it?” He murmured, feeling the boy’s cheek softly, frowning with concerning. He was burning up. Charlie did not answer. Tommy grabbed the thermometer and slipped it into Charlie’s mouth, watching as the number climbed before resting at 103.5. Thomas let out a colorful choice of swears, ones that would have made a sailor blush. It was too high. Hesitating for a moment, Tommy left Charlie’s side and went to the door, opening it up and yelling to wherever Mary was in the house, ordering her to draw a cold bath for Charlie.

Once she had responded, Tommy went back to Charlie and got his son sitting up. “Alright, Charlie, we’re going to need to get you into a bath.” Tommy murmured as he began to unbutton Charlie’s nightshirt, sliding it off of the boy. Charlie instantly began to shiver and Tommy picked him up, getting Charlie to stand for a moment so he could take off the rest of his clothes. The boy hardly put up a fuss which Tommy was not surprised about, seeing how the boy had little energy.

Tommy rocked Charlie gently in his arms until Mary called that the bath was ready. Thomas went out and went to his room where Mary had gotten a cold bath ready in his bathroom. “Leave us.” Thomas demanded to which Mary did. Kneeling by the side of the tub, Tommy placed his hand in quietly, making sure it was not too cold. Hopefully, this would work. He moved and began to place Charlie in the tub but the boy began to whine and shift, trying to get away from the cold water. “Charlie, you need this. It’ll help you feel better.” Charlie continued to fight though, his whining growing louder as he started to cry. Tommy rubbed the bridge of his nose with a heavy sigh, trying to figure out what to do. After a moment, he stopped trying to get Charlie into the tub and stood up, shushing his son softly.

After racking his brain for ideas, one finally came. “Mary!” He called as he put Charlie on his hip and began to undo his vest. His maid appeared quickly. “Take Charlie for a moment.” Tommy said once she had come into the bathroom, handing the boy over to her. Charlie gave a whimper, reaching out for Tommy. Tommy ignored his son for a moment as he took off his shirt and set it to the side before climbing into the tub. Mary, understanding what Thomas was thinking, and handed Charlie to Tommy. The boy still fussed as he was given to his father but quieted as Tommy held Charlie against his chest. “Thank you.” Tommy said in a quiet tone to Mary as Charlie rested his head against Tommy’s chest.

Mary gave a nod and left them once more to sit there quietly in the tub. As they sat there, Tommy was reminded of when Charlie was first born and when the boy would lay on his chest. He had been such a tiny baby then. Charlie’s whole head could fit in Tommy’s palm. God, he had grown so much in that short amount of time.

Tommy made sure that Charlie stayed awake since he was trying to get the boy to also drink some of the bath water. Tommy would wet his hand and then rub the water on Charlie’s lips softly to which the boy would lick it. This was a good sign at least. They stayed in the bath for no more a half hour before they were joined by Polly. She felt Charlie’s head and then gave a nod. “Fever is down some. Still there but the bath helped.” Tommy, who had grown quite cold at this point, nodded and Polly took Charlie, wrapping him up in a towel as Tommy got out.

As Tommy went to get change, Polly got Charlie dried off and into fresh pajamas and back into bed. Charlie was once more asleep by the time that Tommy had come back, his little hand grasp tightly around Pooh Bear. “He seems to love that bear.” Tommy commented as he sat back down once more in his familiar spot in the chair.

“Children attach themselves to toys quite easily. Here, drink.” Polly gave Tommy a piping hot cup of tea to which Tommy took and sipped quietly. The warm drink did help a bit. “Least his fever is down. Hopefully, when he wakes, we can get some water in him.” Polly sat next to Charlie then, running her fingers through his damp hair gently. Evening came about and Polly left, saying she had business to attend to. Mary brought up dinner for Tommy which he managed to eat about half of it before pushing the rest away.

The evening went by slowly for Tommy. Each hour passed by and Tommy did nothing but sit there. Mary had brought him a few books and Tommy tried his best to focus on the words but without much luck. Oh, how he missed Grace desperately at this time. Grace would have been able to take his mind off of this all and would have reassured him that everything would be fine. She was not here though and it was just Tommy and Charlie.

It was early in the morning and at some point, Tommy had fallen asleep. Once again, Charlie’s tears woke him up. Tommy rose groggily and went to sit next to Charlie. He helped his son sit up and rubbed his back as Charlie struggled to get fresh air into his lungs. “There, there.” Tommy whispered as he grabbed the glass of water and got Charlie to drink some of it which was a good sign.

Once the boy’s tears had dwindled and the boy had drunk some water, Tommy got Charlie back into bed and tucked in. “Let’s go back to sleep.” Tommy murmured. Charlie gave a soft cough, resting his head against Tommy’s thigh. Tommy leaned against the pillows and began to run his fingers through Charlie’s hair. The boy couldn’t get comfortable it seemed, for he kept tossing and turning, trying to find a way to properly breathe. Tommy was running out of ways to help Charlie calm down and settle.

There was one way left, however. Tommy thought for a few moments before a memory came to his mind of his mother, singing a soft lullaby to Tommy one night to get him to settle. Perhaps this would work for Charlie.

Tommy cleared his throat then began to sing softly. “On the field there stood a birch-tree,
on the field there stood the curly birch-tree, Lyuli, Lyuli, there it stood. Lyuli, Lyuli, there it stood.” He sang softly, voice coming out gruff at first before slowly becoming smoother sounding. “Nobody shall break down the birch-tree, nobody shall tear out the curly birch-tree,
Lyuli, Lyuli, break down, Lyuli, Lyuli, tear out.” Charlie slowly began to still and Tommy hoped that this meant the boy was falling asleep. Tommy didn’t know what the meaning of the song was but he had always liked it.

When he finished singing, Charlie was still awake for he whispered for Tommy to keep singing. Again, Tommy wished desperately for Grace. She had a beautiful voice and knew tons of songs. With that in mind, Tommy began to sing the song that Grace had first sang for Tommy, all those years ago in the Garrison. For perhaps a half an hour or so, Tommy sang for Charlie. Thankfully the boy drifted back to sleep before Tommy ran out of songs.

The days slowly slipped by for Tommy to the point where he no longer knew what time it was or what day it was. Not that he cared. All that matter was Charlie. Charlie was growing worse. Much worse. He no longer was able to keep anything down, including water, and it had been nearly a day since the boy had had anything to drink and at least 3 days since Charlie had eaten. He was growing thinner and weaker, hardly able to lift his head. Sometimes, at night, Tommy only knew Charlie was alive was because of the shallow breathing he heard.

After the second day of absolutely no water, Tommy had enough. He was taking his son to the hospital. He had Mary alert the family before he picked up his son (and Pooh) and carried the two to the car. Tommy swore he had never driven so fast. When they got to the hospital, Charlie was instantly put into the children's ward but was moved to his own private room when Tommy mentioned his name. This was when Tommy was glad that people feared him so.

The doctors got an I.V. started for Charlie to get liquid back into his body. That was a start at least. They got another I.V. started then with aspirin and salicin, both were there to help break the fever and reduce the pain and discomfort. An oxygen mask was also placed on Charlie's face to help him breathe. Once the doctors had set everything up, Tommy stuck Pooh underneath his son's arm gently. There was not much else the doctors could do other than make the boy comfortable. The family was quick to show up and they all ignored the doctor's protests as they went in. Tommy was sitting in one of the chairs by Charlie's side and he said nothing as his family came in.

They were all speaking in hushed tones but Tommy ignored them, eyes simply focused on the small figure in the bed. The hospital bed made Charlie seem even smaller. Tommy felt a hand on his shoulder and guessed it was Arthur's but he continued to ignore the other. There was nothing to say. The Shelby clan continued to talk among each other for a little bit before they left. Polly was the last one to leave and she stood at the door for a few minutes, watching Tommy with a downcast gaze. Tommy was hurting so much. Everybody knew it too.

Once he was alone, Tommy finally moved his eyes from Charlie's body to look upward at the ceiling. "Dear God..." Tommy began softly before pausing. Polly had always crossed herself before praying, didn't she? Tommy felt a bit too ridiculous doing that so he just continued, clearing his throat. "Dear God...I'm sure you really don't want to hear from me...seeing how I'm not a good person. But please...I'm beggin' ye, don't take my boy. Don't take Charlie. He's innocent, done nothing wrong in this life. So please, don't take him. I need him more than ever. He's my whole life..." Tommy faltered for a few moments and took a few deep breaths before continuing. "Look, if there is such a thing as Hell and Grace is with ye...she'll tell you how much I need Charlie. So, God...if you're even real, don't take my son."

It took another three days before Charlie started to improve. Various family members stopped by to see Charlie and Tommy was quite strict with them all, declaring that no cousins would be allowed in since he didn’t want them to get the flu as well. He also limited each visit to no more than a half an hour for he didn’t want to strain Charlie and tire him out too much. Charlie's fever finally broke on the fourth day and Tommy felt so relieved that he wanted to scream it from the top of the roof. Color started to return to Charlie’s face and he was able to keep more food down now.

The relief that Tommy felt as Charlie got better was unable to be put into words. As Charlie rested and worked on getting his strength up, Tommy still didn’t leave his side. They spent a lot of their time reading together in bed and Tommy ordered a whole new of selection of books for the boy after they had read almost all the books in the house that were Charlie’s. They were released from the hospital on the 6th day of being there with strict instructions for Charlie to take it easy.

Now that he was starting to get better, it meant that Charlie had more energy and wanted to do things other than reading. Tommy finally gave into the boy’s begging to go outside and the two went for a walk. Tommy wanted to play it safe so he only let Charlie walk for a short time before bringing the boy back in. Polly and Mary knew that Tommy was being overprotective but neither commented on it. It was the sort of parent that Tommy was.

It was the night before Charlie was supposed to go back to school and Tommy was sitting at his son’s side right before bedtime. “Now, if you feel unwell at all, I want you to tell your teacher, okay?” Tommy instructed firmly as Charlie nodded. “If your cough gets worse or you feel dizzy or anything like that, you tell her, alright?”

“Yes, Daddy.” Charlie said before reaching out for the book at his bedside table. “Read, please?” He asked, clearly more focused on the book than his own health which was to be expected. Tommy let out a sigh before he took the book from Charlie. “Where’s Pooh?” Charlie asked as Tommy opened the book. Tommy paused and proceeded to look around for the bear for a few minutes till he found Pooh in the bathroom. “What’s he doing there?” Charlie asked as he took his bear and snuggled into the bathroom.

“Perhaps he needed to go pee.” Tommy commented and Charlie giggled before he leaned against his father. Tommy made sure Charlie was settled against him before opening up the book. “Reading this again?” He asked and Charlie nodded.

“Well then. Chapter One in which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some Bees, and the stories begin.”

Chapter Text

Today was Charlie’s 15th birthday. He had been waiting for this day for quite some time since today was a big day. Today, Charlie was going to ask his father if he could go to a boarding school rather than continue to be tutored at home. There were various reasons that Charlie wanted to go to a different school and he had spent nearly an entire month writing out each idea so he could practice his reasoning. Charlie had one chance to ask his father and it felt that everything was riding on this.

Charlie woke up an extra half hour before he normally got up that morning. He wanted to be wide awake and sharp on his feet for this day. Getting dressed in the outfit laid out for him the night before, Charlie then headed downstairs and to the dining room. Nobody was there. Good. Exactly what Charlie wanted. It did not take long before a maid brought in the breakfast, wishing Charlie a happy birthday to which the boy nodded his thanks before breaking into his egg. As he sat there eating, Charlie went over the reasons, again and again, his mind. No longer a child. Wanted new friends. Would be good for him socially. Not challenged enough with his tutor. So much was riding on this and Charlie prayed it would go well and that Tommy would listen.

After sitting there for maybe about fifteen minutes, Charlie heard the sound of his father’s footsteps approaching and he quickly set the food aside and sat up. He would conduct this as a business meeting, speaking the language his father knew so well. Tommy looked a bit surprised to see Charlie there that early at the table but he didn’t comment on it as he took a seat at the table. “Happy birthday.” Tommy said after he had sat down.

“Thank you.” Charlie answered before clearing his throat. “Father, I-”
Tommy interrupted him then.

“Hand me the paper, yeah?” Charlie handed the paper over before trying again.

“Father, I want to ask you something.” Tommy didn’t reply as he picked up the paper, scanning the front page with little interest. This was not helping Charlie’s case. “I want to go to a boarding school.” There was silence for a moment before Tommy turned the page of the paper.

“No.” Charlie had figured that this would be the answer but it still hurt to hear.

“You haven’t heard my reasons.”

“I don’t need to hear your reasons. The answer is no.” Tommy was still staring at his paper, eyes never leaving the page. His voice was firm and commanding, a tone that Charlie knew meant he would not be wavered.

“But Father!”

“Charlie, I said no and that’s it.” Charlie sat there for a long moment before he stood up angrily.

“I hate you!” He snapped. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! You never let me do anything for myself! You never even let me explain my reasoning! You think you always have to protect me but I’m 15 now! I’m not a baby anymore! I can take care of myself!” This finally got Tommy to put his newspaper down and for a second, Charlie swore that he saw a glimmer of pain flash across his father’s eyes before they turned back to their icy blue.

“I do this to protect you.” Tommy answered, voice cool, calm, and collected which somehow only aggravated Charlie even more. He wanted his father to yell back at him, scream at him. Show him that he cared. “You know I have enemies-”

It was Charlie’s turn to interrupt. “Yes, I know you do! You never let me forget it! But you know what? I don’t want to hear your reasons as to why you must protect me since you won’t listen to my reasons for going to a fucking school!” With that, Charlie stormed out of the dining room and went to his room where he slammed the door shut and locked it behind him. Vexation filled Charlie to the max and he began to pace about his room, mind rushing about with thoughts.

Leave it to his bloody father not to listen to a word Charlie had to say but expected Charlie to listen. People always bowed down and moved aside for Thomas Shelby but Charlie had had enough. He had always been protected and shielded as a child and even as he grew into a teenager, he had continued to be treated as if he was porcelain and would break at the smallest nudge.

Charlie had a few memories from his childhood of being in true danger but they were always brief, flickers and the rest had been filled in by stories told by various family members such as when he had been kidnapped by a priest. “I have never seen your father so panicked before.” Polly always told Charlie when she told him that story.

Besides that, Charlie really had not had many adventures. Thomas had demanded that Charlie be homeschooled by a variety of tutors (all who had been interviewed and screened quite thoroughly). He had not allowed in Small Heath without someone from the family until he was 13 and that was only because he had demanded it and got Polly to back him up.

Even once he was in Small Heath, nobody talked to him. They all knew who he was and nobody wanted to get on the wrong side of his father. It left Charlie feeling isolated and alone. His only friends were his cousins and while they all got along well enough, Charlie wanted friends outside of his family. That was one of the many reasons he wanted to go to boarding school. Granted, his father was now a member of the bloody Parliament for Small Heath, people might recognize his name.

Charlie had been kept out of the spotlight as well as his half-sister, Ruby. Charlie and Ruby were not overly close and Charlie always had bitter feelings towards her mother, Lizzie. Thinking about Lizzie now made Charlie even angrier and he lashed out, kicking his dresser which did nothing but give him a sore foot. He could not stay in this house for one more minute. He had to get out.

Charlie grabbed a pack of his and began to fill it. In went a spare pair of clothing, a picture of Grace and Charlie from when Charlie was born and then after a moment of hesitation, a family photo that included all 3 of them. He put all of this in before changing into his riding boots. He was going to leave. Charlie then went to the kitchen which was thankfully empty and grabbed what he could. Some bread, fruit, and other small snacks ended up in Charlie’s bag which was now almost over filling. With all of this on his back, Charlie proceeded to storm out of the house.

Seeing how he did not know how to drive and he was not about to ask to be driven, Charlie headed out on foot to the stables. It was rather a long walk which gave Charlie plenty of time to continue his thinking from earlier. Tommy was being incredibly unfair, Charlie felt. He wouldn’t even listen to what Charlie had to say. Charlie had made this whole elaborate plan but he had not even had a chance to say what he had wanted.

Charlie had run through every scenario that he could imagine, trying to come up with a way to counteract what Tommy would say and reply with logic. Part of Charlie’s mind had thought about what if Tommy refused to listen but he refused to go down there, wanting to give his father the benefit of the doubt and believe that Tommy would listen to him.

What a fool he had been. What a bloody fool.

As he continued to walk, his animosity stayed firm and unwavering and the more he thought about his father, the more Charlie began to despise him. He had never really hated Tommy before. He had been mad, of course, but never had he truly hated Tommy Shelby until now. Charlie kicked a stone that was on the road and with each kick, he cursed his father. He cursed his father for the death of Grace. He cursed his father for never being around. He cursed his father for fathering another child. He cursed his father for not trusting him enough and always needing to protect him.

Charlie eventually reached the stables and breathed in the familiar scent of the horses. He went to a specific stall where his horse, Jackson, was. Jackson had been a gift to Charlie from his father for Charlie’s 11th birthday. Jackson was a thoroughbred so he was built for speed, making him thin and lean. Rather like Charlie. Jackson had been 3 when he had come to Charlie and Charlie had finished off his training (under the watchful eye of Tommy and May). Because of that, the two had a strong bond.

“Hello, boy.” Charlie murmured as he set his bag to the side of the stall and grabbed a brush. Jackson let out a soft nicker in greeting before going back to munching on his hay. Charlie was quick to groom Jackson, making his chestnut coat glow. Jackson was well taken care of by Charlie and by the staff at the stables. Charlie then left and got Jackson’s tack and proceeded to tack up his horse. Instead of using his normal saddle, Charlie went for a larger, western saddle which was meant to hold multiple things. He stole one of the blankets from the tack room and rolled that up, tying it to his saddle. He then grabbed a canteen, filling it with water and added it to the saddle as well. Charlie finished by getting food for Jackson (a mixture of grain and apples) which he stuck in a side bag and set it on the saddle.

Jackson watched Charlie out of the corner of his eye and nudged the boy gently, causing Charlie to pause and pet the horse with a tender hand. “We’re going out for a long time, Jackson,” Charlie whispered. “I can’t go back to that man. I’ve had enough.” Once Jackson was tacked up, Charlie led the horse out of the stable.

Nobody stopped Charlie or questioned him since this was a normal sight and this was his horse after all. Charlie mounted and with a slight nudge of his heels, the two headed out of the stable. Charlie directed Jackson down the long driveway and Charlie settled into the familiar rhythm of the horse’s gait. Once they had left the driveway, Charlie directed Jackson onto the trails. The two had explored these trails a bit so Charlie figured he knew his way around.

They rode for about an hour going between a walk, trot, and a small gallop. Occasionally they found a small stream and Charlie would stop for a bit there, letting Jackson drink and taking a few sips of water himself. Charlie began to grow hungry so he grabbed some of the bread from earlier and nibbled on it, wanting to ration out the food.

His plan on running away had seemed smart at first but now Charlie was starting to doubt it. What was he going to eat when he ran out of food? He didn’t have a gun on him so he couldn’t shoot a deer or rabbit. Perhaps he could live off of berries and bark. People had done that, hadn’t they? Charlie told himself that he would be fine. Anything was better than living with his father.

With his mind once again determined, Charlie guided Jackson down a new trail. Perhaps exploring would take his mind off of his hunger.

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After Charlie had stormed off, Tommy had sat at the table in silence for a while, staring at his paper but not actually reading. Charlie’s words had affected Tommy more than he expected them to. Being told by someone that they hated Tommy was nothing new. His family members had said it to him so many times that the words were as familiar to Tommy as his drinks. But from Charlie?

Something was stirring inside Tommy’s chest and as hard as he tried to push down these feelings, he was unable to. Tossing down his paper with a frustrated sigh, Tommy got up and left the dining room table. He was not due in the office for at least another two hours but Tommy couldn’t stay in this house. So, grabbing his jacket and a fresh pack of cigarettes, he left.

Tommy got to the office and while people gave him a few surprised looks, nobody questioned it. Polly was there and while she too, stayed silent, her eyes followed Tommy until he went inside his office and shut the door. Something was wrong but Polly was not sure what.

The day passed by slowly for Tommy. He did his best to focus on his work and while work got done, his thoughts often wandered to Charlie, the scene replaying over and over in his mind. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. It was around noon when there was a knock on his office door and Polly came in. “Tommy, Charlie’s missing.” She said.

Tommy looked up with a frown. “What do you mean?” He asked slowly, eyes narrowing a bit.

“His tutor just called. They can’t find Charlie anywhere in the house. Has something happened between you two?” Polly’s knowing gaze met Tommy’s cold gaze evenly and unwavering. Tommy sat there for a long moment before sighing, his body losing its rigid position and his shoulders slumped forward.

“We had a fight this morning.” Tommy began.

“On his birthday? Jesus, Tommy. What about?”

“He wants to go to school. A real school rather than be tutored at home. I said no, that it was too dangerous. I couldn’t protect him if he was off at school and with the number of enemies I have…” A weary breath escaped from Thomas’ lips. “I said no. And he was not happy with that answer so he proceeded to tell me that he hated me and then stormed off. He’s probably just somewhere on the grounds or at the stables. Send some men to look for him though. Just to be safe.” Polly continued to stare at Tommy for a long moment before she left, returning a few minutes later, closing the door behind her.

“There’s a few men heading out, Arthur too.” She said as she went to the chair in front of Tommy’s desk and sat down, taking out a cigarette and lighting it. “Now, tell me more about this fight. Your son is a loving boy so he wouldn’t say that he hated you unless he meant it.”

“Not helpin’, Pol.”

Polly ignored him and continued. “Did you give him a chance to explain why he wanted to go to school?” When Tommy shook his head no, Polly groaned. “You bloody idiot.” She grumbled, taking a drag of her cigarette. “That’s why he got so bloody pissed at you! You didn’t give him a chance to explain why he wanted this! What if it was a valid reason?”

“What reason could he have given!?” Tommy snapped then, head shooting up to glare daggers at Polly. “Huh? Because as far as I’m concerned, he is not going to any fucking school where I can not protect him! I do not want him to end up as Grace did! Dead! Because of me!” Tommy shook his head, a deep frown engraved on his lips. “He’s not going. He can be tutored at home by people vetted by me.”

“Tommy, he’s 15! He needs to start living his own life!” Polly protested and continued before Tommy could interrupt. “Most 15-year-olds have friends! Perhaps a girlfriend even! Charlie doesn’t! He has his cousins, yeah, but they don’t fucking count. Of course, he would want to go to a bloody school away from home. He’s never had the chance to do something on his own without you hovering over him! I know you have enemies but you can’t protect Charlie from everything. I would have thought you would have figured this out by now.” Polly shook her head in disappointment as Tommy lit a cigarette, puffing angrily on it.

“Do you not remember all the times that people I have loved have gotten hurt, Pol?” He asked after a minute, voice now bitter and cold. A dangerous tone. “Grace. Dead. John. Dead. Charlie kidnapped as a toddler. Arthur turning to drugs. Michael shot numerous times. Ada almost raped...the list goes on and on! All because of me! So forgive me if I do everything I can to protect the boy, my only family left!” The silence was deafening for a minute before Polly spoke.

“You still have a family.” She said before standing up, putting out her cigarette on the ashtray on Tommy’s desk. “You still got me, you got Ruby and Lizzie. You got Arthur and his fucking wife. Ada and Karl...Esme and all of John’s kids. If you aren’t careful though, you will lose Charlie. I can tell you from experience, losing a child is the most painful thing a human can experience. Especially if that child leaves rather than dies. Because you know that kid is still alive but there is nothing you can fucking do about it. So go find your damn son and listen to what he has to say before it’s too late.” With that, Polly stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind her.

Tommy sat there for a long moment before getting up, his whole body filled with such a rage, such anger, that for a moment, his vision went blurry. Screaming in frustration, Tommy dragged his arm across his desk, sending everything flying, glass smashing to the ground. Tommy ranked his arm across the other side, sending the other half of his desk onto the ground.

Tommy then stood there, hands resting on the edge of the desk and his head hanging, chin nearly touching his chest as his chest heaved. Polly’s words had hurt almost as much as Charlie’s had but the worse part of Polly’s words was that she had been right. That if he wasn’t careful, Charlie would leave him and he would lose his son forever. Grabbing a fresh cigarette and lighting it, Tommy grabbed his jacket and stormed out of his office, yelling for someone to clean up his office.

Tommy proceeded then to drive home where he found Arthur with a handful of men who had just finished searching the grounds. Arthur shook his head as Tommy came over. “No sign.” He said as his brother came over and Tommy let out a few soft curses. “We’ll check the stables next.” Arthur said and Tommy gave a nod in silent confirmation before he got back into the car and drove to the stables.

Once there, Tommy went straight to Jackson’s stall and cursed when he saw that the horse was out. He stopped one of the grooms who told him that Charlie had come by that morning and had taken Jackson out. That was nearly 4 hours ago so unless something happened to Charlie, he should be back shortly.

Tommy let the groom go and stood there in the stables as Arthur joined him. After relaying the news to Arthur, the two stood in silence. Arthur had enough sense not to ask what had happened since he could see that Tommy was experiencing a wide variety of emotions. “You know, I once told Ada that I was emotional...I just don’t know what fucking emotion it is.” Arthur commented after a minute or two of silence.

“Arthur, what the fuck is that suppose to mean?” Tommy asked, voice sounding weary and worn out. Arthur gave a shrug as Tommy rolled his eyes. “I’m going to give Charlie one more hour and if he doesn’t come back by then, I want you to get as many men as you can and start to search the trails. He knows that Jackson can’t go out for too long and if he isn’t back…” Tommy trailed off but Arthur knew what was implied. If he isn’t back something might have happened to him.

The next hour passed agonizingly slow for Tommy. He spent his time pacing around the office in the stables, yelling at anybody who dared to make a noise. When the clock at the stables struck 2:00, Tommy had had enough. “Saddle my horse.” He ordered a passing groom who raced off to do so. “Arthur, get every available man and start searching. He is most likely on one of the main trails.” Arthur nodded and left, secretly rather pleased to be leaving the bloody office.

Once his horse was ready, Tommy mounted his horse. “I’m going on the turkey trail and then on the whiskey.” He told the groom. “Tell the others.” And with that, Tommy urged his horse forward and they trotted down the road. Once they were on the trail, Tommy pushed his horse as fast as he could. The two trails he went on were accessible only by horse and he knew had always been a favorite of Charlie for the trail often had trees that were down and could be jumped over. The boy loved to jump.

Tommy searched for nearly two hours but had no success. He had to turn around eventually for his horse was getting tired. By the time he got back to the stables, it was after 5:00. Arthur and his men also had no luck. Tommy dismounted and handed his horse to a groom before he went to the office. There Michael, Polly, Arthur, and a handful of other men were waiting for him. “Get lanterns and lights. We need to keep searching.” Tommy ordered them. “Shortly it’ll be too dark to ride so we will need to do this on foot.” Tommy’s eyes were hard and he refused to look at anyone directly. “Go!” Tommy yelled and the group dispersed. As Polly passed him, she reached out to put a comforting hand on Tommy but he pushed her off and stormed out.

Their search proved to be fruitless. It got to the point that it was too dark and people were tired. Promising that they would come back tomorrow and continue to search, everyone left except for Tommy. Tommy decided to stay at the stables that night and rather than sleeping in the office, Tommy decided to do something he had not done since he was little. He decided to sleep in the actual stables.

As he expected, Tommy was unable to sleep a wink that night. He was constantly tossing and turning, the worse case scenarios running through his mind. Every time he closed his eyes, the image of Charlie laying on the ground, covered in blood, dead, flashed before his eyes. Tommy eventually gave up on sleep and just spent time grooming the horses. It was the only thing that seemed to keep his mind from wandering to the worst.

__________________________________________
Thankfully, the worst had not happened. Charlie was safe though rather uncomfortable. While he had brought a blanket for himself, he had not thought about a pillow or anything to lay on other than the hard ground. By the time it had grown dark, Charlie had stopped and dismounted, untacking Jackson who seemed relieved that they had stopped. Charlie let the horse graze while he ate the bread and an apple. He didn’t feel full enough though so Charlie debated and eventually, the hunger won and he finished the bread.

Charlie had not to think to bring matches or flint so he was unable to make a fire. Charlie told himself that he would be fine and he curled up on the ground, trying to stay warm and get some sleep. Like his father that night, Charlie did not sleep much and he too was tossing and turning.

When the sun rose the next morning, Charlie woke, feeling incredibly stiff and sore. Sleeping on the bare ground would do that to a person. He ate an apple for breakfast then saddled up Jackson and mounted once again. They were farther into the woods than Charlie had gone before but since they were still on a trail, Charlie figured they would be fine.

Charlie continued to ride for the day, staying at a walk at this point since he did not want to tire Jackson out too much. Panic was starting to knaw at Charlie but every time he thought about turning around, he remembered Tommy and the feeling was instantly gone. About midday, they came across a rather large and deep river. Figuring that they could cross it with ease, Charlie urged Jackson forward, despite the horse protesting.

Jackson took a step forward then let out a whinny, shaking his head and stepping back a few steps. “Walk on,” Charlie instructed, nudging his horse forward. Jackson continued to step back so Charlie kicked him harder. “Walk on, Jackson!” He ordered but the horse continued to back up. Charlie dismounted then and grabbed one of the reins and began to pull Jackson forward but the horse was too terrified of the rushing water.

Jackson reared up, his hoof striking out as he did so and smashing into Charlie’s arm and sent the boy tumbling backward, landing in the water. The water was numbingly cold and much deeper than Charlie had expected. Due to the absolute shock of landing in the water, Charlie struggled under the strong current, fighting to get his head above water as he was swept downstream. He was finally able to get his head above the water, Charlie spotted a bulky branch and clasped it, gradually pulling himself up onto the shore.

He collapsed, trembling and shivering, arm pulsing in agony. Charlie laid there for some time, unable to do anything other than cough and vomit up water. When he finally got his senses about him, Charlie gradually stood. He had lost his pack in the water and Jackson was nowhere to be seen. Not knowing what else to do, Charlie undressed and wrung out his clothes the best he could before getting dressed again. His riding boots were soaked and after trying to walk for a few minutes, Charlie eventually just tossed them to the side and walked barefoot.

Charlie made his way back, following the river until he found the spot where he had lost Jackson. The horse was gone. Charlie cursed as he sat on a rock and thought this through. His arm was not broken that was for sure, but a nasty bruise was growing and the whole arm was hot to the touch. That was not good. Charlie was also freezing and the fact that it was a gray day did not help either. He had no food and no shoes, no way to hunt or to make a fire. He was properly fucked.

________________________________
Tommy was getting ready to head out on the trail again to continue his search when he heard yelling coming from the stables. Leaving the office, he went to investigate and found Jackson in the stable yard. The horse was sweating and had a few nasty scratches but seemed alright besides that. Tommy said nothing as he looked at this riderless horse. His son was now out there without a horse, most likely lost. He probably had fallen off of Jackson, meaning the possibility of Charlie being dead had heightened greatly.

Saying nothing to nobody, Tommy proceeded to head out. He had packed proper supplies for himself and for his horse and he had planned to go out farther this time. Arthur was in charge as Tommy left and proceeded to search for Charlie.

Tommy searched all day for his son but had no luck. He eventually stopped for the night and took care of his horse before settling down for the night. Using the matches he had brought, Tommy made a warm fire and began to cook some beans and meat that he had packed. Tommy knew what he would need for the night, having spent time with the caravan as well as his time in France. As he sat there, staring at the fire, Tommy sat there gloomily, hoping. All he wanted was his son back safe and sound.

________________________________
Charlie had been walking all day and his feet were cut up and bloody because of the rocks and what not he had stepped on, despite how much he tried to avoid them. Charlie was also still trembling and shaking, due to the damp clothes and the lack of food. Hunger gnawed at his stomach and he managed to find some berries but those caused him to throw up so Charlie didn’t try to eat after that.

He had settled down for the night underneath a large tree and was curled up, hugging his legs close to his chest. He doubted he would be able to sleep since the hunger and the chills were too much but Charlie did not know what else to do. Charlie was almost asleep when he suddenly smelled the smell of smoke. Smoke meant fire. Fire meant someone was out here in the woods. Charlie sat up, sniffing again. The smell was there. Charlie pushed himself up and proceeded to follow the smell of smoke, stumbling and tripping every few steps since he couldn’t see very well.

Charlie didn’t even know how long he stumbled about but he eventually saw the fire itself and his feet sped up until he burst into the small clearing. The figure who was sitting by the fire was up in an instant, gun pointed straight at Charlie. The horse who was with the man let out a loud whinny from the surprise, taking a few nervous steps. Charlie’s gaze went to the animal who he recognized as his father’s horse.

The flames flickered across Tommy’s face then as he recognized his son. The gun fell to the ground as he raced to Charlie, wrapping his son up in a tight hug. Relief washed over both of them and Charlie collapsed to the ground, Tommy supporting him in his arms. “Thank fucking God,” Tommy whispered as he hugged Charlie firmly. Charlie was too relieved to say anything and they just sat there, arms wrapped around each other. “What happened to you?” Tommy asked finally, pulling away to look over his son.

“Tried to cross a river back there and Jackson spooked,” Charlie mumbled, gesturing with his good arm back where he had come from. “I’ve been wondering all day then, trying to find my way back.” Tommy nodded as he moved Charlie closer to the fire and wrapped his jacket and then blanket around the boy.

“You gave us all a fright,” Tommy commented as he went into his saddlebag and got out another thing of meat and beans.

“That wasn’t my intention,” Charlie answered as he put his hands in front of him, a sigh slipping from his lips as the heat touched his hands. Tommy gave a grunt in reply as he got food cooking and they said nothing. Charlie no longer felt the hatred or anger towards his father he had felt earlier. Instead, he just felt fatigued. “How long have you been looking for me?” Charlie asked after a few minutes, his eyes staying focused on the flames that were dancing in front of him.

“Since yesterday.” Was the answer he received. “I had Arthur check the house first and when we got to the stables and saw that Jackson was missing, I went out on horseback while the others searched on foot. I planned to camp out here for the night when Jackson came back without you.”

“Is Jackson okay?”

“He’s fine.”

“Good.” By that time, the food was ready and Charlie took the can of beans from his father, wincing as he moved his injured arm the wrong way.

“What is it?” Tommy asked, his keen eyes picking up instantly on the wince.

“When Jackson reared up earlier, his hoof got my arm. Didn’t break it or anything but it’s swollen.” Tommy motioned for Charlie to give his arm which Charlie did, using his free hand to start to wolf down the beans.

“Not broken,” Tommy confirmed as he examined the arm, his touch surprisingly gentle. “Just badly bruised.. What happened to your shoes?”

“Fell into the river and my boots got ruined,” Charlie answered in between bites of food. “So I ditched them and walked barefoot.” Tommy pursed his lips before grabbing his canteen and motioning for Charlie to give him his foot. Not thinking much of it, Charlie complied and Tommy opened up the canteen, pouring alcohol onto Charlie’s foot. The pain was excruciating and Charlie nearly shrieked from the pain. Tommy said nothing as he wiped down Charlie’s foot then tore off the sleeve of his shirt and wrapped the boy’s foot. When he motioned for the next foot, Charlie shook his head but Tommy just reached over and grabbed Charlie’s foot, ignoring the boy as he struggled and proceeded to clean and wrap that foot as well.

Once it was over, Charlie scrubbed at his face, letting out a few heavy breaths. “Bloody hell.” He muttered to which Tommy chuckled faintly at. The two then sat in silence for a bit, both lost in their own thoughts. Tommy was surprisingly the first one to speak.

“The fear I’ve felt these last two days,” he began and Charlie glanced over at his father. “I haven’t felt that fucking terrified in so long. The thought that I could actually have lost you...and the last thing we said to each other was...well, it was shit.” Charlie raised an eyebrow, unsure of how to respond since his father was being well...sappy. Tommy never spoke about his feelings and because of that, Charlie had learned how to read people’s expressions quite well, perhaps too well. “I’m glad that you’re okay.” Tommy cleared his throat before growing soundless again.

“Yeah...well, it would have been shit if our last conversation had been telling you that I hate you,” Charlie said, setting aside the now empty can of beans and the small plate he had used, the food long gone.

“It would have.” Tommy lit a cigarette then after a hesitation, he offered it to Charlie. Charlie had never been allowed to smoke before and of course, had never been given a reason as to why. Charlie reached out and took the cigarette before inhaling the smoke. He promptly began to choke and gag a bit while Tommy watched, chuckling softly. “Let me show you how to do it properly, yeah?” Tommy said as he lit his own cigarette then and proceeded to show Charlie how to smoke without hacking up a lung. It took some time but Charlie gradually was able to get the hang of it. They sat in silence some more, the two puffing away quietly on their cigarettes.

“So, school, huh?” Tommy asked, breaking the silence. “Why don’t you tell me a bit more about it, eh?” Charlie’s face flickered with astonishment but after a nod from Tommy, he began, just as he had rehearsed all those times in his room.

Charlie explained the strains he was facing socially, how he had no friends but his cousins and how they didn’t even feel like true friends (“It’s like we have to be friends because we’re a family”) and how hell, he had never even had a crush on a girl before. Tommy assured the boy that not having a crush was a blessing but besides that, he did not interrupt. He also explained how bored he was with his tutor and how he wanted to study more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic, not to mention that all of these came easy to him and that his tutor could care less. Charlie finished then with how he also wanted to experience life, truly experience it that is. He wanted to fight his own fights, make mistakes, get hurt and so on but how he could not do that if Tommy continued to baby him in such a way as he had been doing so.

When Charlie finished, they once more fell into silence, cigarettes long burnt out. Charlie wished for another one though but he didn’t want to ask. He guessed correctly that Tommy was in deep thought at this point so Charlie was left with nothing to do but sit there and wait. Finally, the silence was broken by Tommy’s voice. “I will look into some boarding schools nearby if this is what you truly wish,” Tommy said finally and Charlie’s face brightened like a firework and he launched himself at Tommy, hugging his father tightly. Tommy chuckled as he was hugged, patting Charlie’s arm lightly. “I didn’t say yes completely.” He pointed out.

“You said you would consider it though which is better than what you said this morning.” Charlie pointed out as he continued to hang off his father’s thin frame. Tommy gave a hum in agreement as Charlie settled against him. The day seemed to be catching up to Charlie it seemed for the boy slowly started to doze against Tommy, something he had not done since he was a toddler.

“Do you really hate me?” Tommy asked Charlie, almost hoping the boy was actually asleep since he did not want to hear the answer to the question. It had been nagging his mind all these hours, especially since Charlie had gone missing. It was Charlie’s turn now to be quiet and think. It only took him a few long pauses to answer.

“No, I don’t. You were unfair though, you know. Didn’t even let me explain why I wanted to go. Just said no and refused to listen to anything else. It made me feel like you didn’t value anything I had to say, that I was just some fly that you brushed away and didn’t give a shit about.”

“I was unfair, wasn’t I?” Tommy mused as he lit another cigarette and tossed the match into the fire then that was starting to grow low. “I suppose too that I haven’t been the best father either, huh?”

“No, you really haven’t.” Charlie acknowledged. Tommy was expecting the words but they still hurt to hear. He had been afraid of that and he felt the unfamiliar feeling of tears prick at the back of his eyes. He had let Charlie down and he had let Grace down. Grace would be so disappointed in him if she could see Tommy not.

“Let’s get some sleep,” Tommy said and Charlie gave a nod. Tommy rolled up a blanket for Charlie to use as a pillow and then made sure that Charlie would be warm enough. Charlie curled up then as fatigue washed over him and it did not take long before he was out like a light. Tommy stayed awake for some time, long after the fire went out.

The next morning they had a quick breakfast and got Tommy’s horse saddle up again. Tommy helped Charlie mount since he didn’t want the boy walking with no shoes. Charlie didn’t comment on Tommy’s hollow eyes or how his hand was shaking from exhaustion. Once Charlie was secure, Tommy took hold of the reins and guided the horse back to the stables.

They got back midday and were greeted by a very relieved Polly and the rest of the Shelby clan. Tommy began to usher Charlie into the waiting car but Charlie objected, saying he had one thing to do before they left to go home. Tommy followed his son as Charlie limped into the stables (wearing a pair of spare boots) and found Jackson. He spoke to his horse softly as Tommy looked on. Aye, Charlie was his son.

Once they were home and Charlie was given a proper bath, a doctor was called to examine his feet. The doctor spent some time there, pulling out the small pebbles that had become lodged in his feet. Charlie did his best to act confident but when Tommy sat down next to him, Charlie wordlessly took his father’s hand. After being ordered to take it easy for a few days and stay off his feet as much as possible, the doctor left. “Get some rest,” Tommy said as he helped Charlie lay down. Charlie was in no state to argue, still quite worn out from the past two days. Tommy paused as he stood before he reached down, pulling the blankets over Charlie and tucking him in. Before he leaned up, Tommy placed a soft kiss on Charlie’s forehead then left.

A week later, Charlie was reading in his room where there was a knock on the door and Tommy came in with a folder of papers. He joined Charlie on his bed and handed the boy the folder. “Here are some schools I’ve been looking at for you. None of them are too far away, close enough that you could come home if needed. Take a look and tell me what you think. And once you’re able to walk properly again, we can go take a look.” Charlie set aside his book and took the folder, flipping through the various brochures that his father had collected.

“Thank you, father.” Charlie murmured, voice coming out in a hushed tone. He was rather taken aback, having expected Tommy to do nothing about finding a school.

“And, since I never was able to give you your birthday present the other day, I figured now would be a good time.” Tommy took from his pocket a small package wrapped in brown paper and gave it to Charlie. Charlie took it and opened it up to find a gold pocket watch gleaming up at him. When he opened it, a picture of his mother smiling, stared back at him.

“I love it,” Charlie whispered, thumb stroking the miniature portrait of Grace. “Thank you…” He paused, looking up at Tommy. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Charlie.”

Chapter Text

It was finally happening. Charlie Shelby was going on his first ever date. There had been a girl in his class who had moved to Small Heath that year and when she came to Charlie’s school, he had befriended her. She was the first one who was not afraid of him or who did not treat him any differently because of his family. Granted, the girl probably did not know who his family was but Charlie was not about to tell her.

Charlie hadn’t told anyone in the family except for Finn since he knew he would get teased to no end. Finn only knew because Charlie was unsure of who to ask to get advice on asking a girl out. Finn understood though and promised not to tell anyone, especially Tommy and Arthur. Tommy might not be happy and Arthur would be the worst with the teasing. Finn had agreed to drive Charlie to the movies where he would be meeting the girl, Annie, and then pick him up at midnight.

Charlie had been fretting about this date all day and since it was Saturday, he did not have school to occupy his mind. With an hour before he was due to be picked up, Charlie took a proper shower and then spent probably far too much time combing his hair just right. He then put on the outfit he had chosen out. It was a three-piece suit and Charlie hoped that it was not too showy. It was a brown suit with a white undershirt. Charlie had debated about a tie but felt that a tie would make this too formal. So, Charlie went with the suit, his now brightly polished black shoes, and his typical Peaky Blinders cap.

Checking his pocket watch that his father had gotten him for his birthday, Charlie tucked it away before he headed downstairs. Finn was due any minute and Charlie hoped to avoid questions from his father. Charlie stuck his head out of his room and checked the hallway. No one. Good. Charlie slipped out and hurried down the main staircase, passing his father’s study without an issue.

Finn was waiting in the car and Charlie climbed in, telling Finn to drop him off at the movies.

He reached the theater before Annie did which was good since Charlie didn’t exactly want to be seen being dropped off by his cousin. When Annie arrived, she took Charlie’s breath away. The girl was jaw-droppingly beautiful. Her blonde hair was wrapped up in a bun and she wore a dark blue dress with white polka dots. As he approached her, Charlie noticed she was wearing makeup which he had never seen her wear before. However, it was just the right amount, Charlie decided as he drew closer. “You look beautiful,” Charlie said after greeting her.

“Thank you,” Annie said with a bright grin as she took Charlie’s extended arm and the two headed into the theater. The movie that was being shown was a Charlie Chaplin that Annie had never seen.

They got to the theater just in time and were able to get good seats as well as free popcorn. When Annie asked how they got free popcorn, Charlie lied and said that his father was friends with the man who owned the theater. It certainly was not because he was a Shelby. As the movie started, the two got comfortable in their seats, eating the shared popcorn. Occasionally their hands would brush and Charlie was glad that the theater was dark so that Annie couldn’t see his cheeks which Charlie knew would be red. After all, this was his first date.

As the movie ended, Annie and Charlie left, discussing the movie. Annie had declared that she was in love with Charlie Chaplin which caused Charlie to chuckle. “I’m named after him, you know. Chaplin, that is.” Charlie mentioned to Annie as they wandered the streets.

“Really? Why’s that?” Annie questioned curiously.

“Well, my mum always really liked Charlie Chaplin and my uncle is also named Charlie and he took care of my dad and his brothers while they were growing up so I think it worked out that way.” Charlie paused and looked around them, realizing that they were nearing the Garrison. While he wanted to spend more time with Annie, he didn’t want her to take her to the Garrison. It didn’t seem proper since she might not have grown up in such a lifestyle. Plus, it was Saturday night so Arthur and John were probably there…

“What’s that?” Annie asked, pointing to the Garrison as they turned the corner to come face to face with the building. Shit. Seemed like Charlie was too late.

“Oh, that’s the Garrison. It’s a pub, nothing special about it.” Charlie said but Annie was keen to tug him towards the pub.

“I’ve always wanted to go in but never been allowed to!” She told Charlie with a giggle. “Come, please! Let us go in!” What choice did Charlie have? He let himself be led in and Charlie just prayed that they could blend in. The pub was crowded and people were milling about, talking, laughing, smoking. Some were dancing as a band played off to the side. Charlie scanned the crowd and felt comforted when he didn’t see anyone from his family.

Charlie led the way through the crowd and found them an empty table which he pulled out Annie’s chair for her so she could sit down. “What do you want to drink?” Charlie questioned her.

“Scotch will be fine,” Annie said as she looked around, smirking when she saw Charlie’s surprise face. “There’s a lot you have to learn about me, Charlie Shelby.” She kidded. “This isn’t the first pub I’ve been in.” Charlie gave a quick nod and hurried to the bartender who gave him two glasses of Scotch before bringing them back and sitting next to Annie.

“What do you think about Birmingham so far?” Charlie asked as he took a small sip of his Scotch, struggling to control his face at the taste of the sour liquor. He wasn’t allowed to drink at home but he had done so a small handful of times with Finn but normally that was just beer.
“I like it!” Annie said as she drank her Scotch with ease. “It seems a nice enough town, bit loud and dirty though.”
“You get used to it though,” Charlie replied. “You seem used to the taste of Scotch.” He commented then.
“I am. We always had it lying around the house so I tasted it and got used to it from a young age. Don’t worry, I’m not a crazy drunkard or anything.” Annie teased Charlie who let out a feeble laugh.
“I’m glad.” He told her as the band switched to a slower song. Swallowing the rest of his Scotch for liquid courage (even though it scorched his throat), Charlie cleared his throat. “Would you like to dance?” He asked Annie who gave him a delicate smile and nodded. Charlie extended her his hand and Annie took it, Charlie leading her out to the dance floor.

Once there, Charlie placed a hand on Annie’s waist and her arm went around Charlie’s shoulder and Charlie gently grasped Annie’s free hand. The two began to sway with the music along with the other couples. Neither of them spoke but the silence was rather comfortable between them. Charlie’s heart was thundering and he prayed his hand wasn’t sweaty. Annie seemed perfectly composed which did nothing to help settle Charlie’s speeding heart. As they danced, Annie pulled herself closer to Charlie and rested her head on his chest. Great, Charlie was sure he would have a heart attack now with how fast his heart was racing. If Annie noticed his rushing heart (how could she not?) she didn’t comment.

Instead, Annie lifted her head to look up at Charlie who looked down and met her eyes. She was so gorgeous, it took Charlie’s breath away. God, he wanted to kiss her so badly. So why not? Well, he had never kissed a girl and- Charlie pushed these thoughts from his mind. He bent down and right as their lips were about to touch, the doors of the Garrison burst wide open and in came Arthur and John.

“Play some fucking music!” Arthur roared and the band instantly picked up a lively beat and the mood changed. Charlie ducked his head but it was too late. His uncles saw him and came over, clearly both quite intoxicated. “Charlie! What are you doing here!?” Arthur shouted as John clapped him on the back.
“I’m a bit busy, Uncle Arthur,” Charlie said, trying to hold back his frustration.
“Who are they?” Annie asked curiously.
“Why, Charlie m’boy, are you on a date!?” Arthur bellowed.
“I do believe he is, Arthur!” John said with a snicker. “Aye! Drinks on us! Our boy here is on a date!” John then yelled to the whole pub who responded with a cheer.
“Christ, I’m sorry.” Charlie apologized to Annie who he was sure would be humiliated. Instead, she just laughed.
“Don’t worry about it!” Annie assured him.
“These are my uncles, Arthur and John,” Charlie said, introducing the two. John gave Annie a dramatic wink before he went off to get more to drink.
“Miss Annie,” Arthur said, giving a small bow and kissing Annie’s hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you. How did you meet my nephew then?” He asked, grabbing Charlie and giving the boy’s hair a ruffle with a booming laugh,
“We go to school together,” Annie responded.
“Perfect! You both can be smart together or some shit!” Arthur said before glancing around. “Hurry up with them drinks, John!” He called. John waved his hand as he grabbed two drinks and brought them over.
“None for you, mister. Too young to be drinking.” John kidded Charlie before stretching across and grabbing a drink from a passing server, handing it to Charlie. “Who am I kidding? I was drinking way before I was your age! Drink!” John announced as he swallowed his drink in a single gulp. “Besides, we won’t tell your da!”
Charlie shook his head and set the drink to the side. “Want to dance?” He asked Annie who agreed and once more the two went out onto the dance floor. This time with the music being faster, they lacked the intimacy from the dance before. This dance was just as entertainment so really, Charlie didn’t mind. Annie’s face was filled with bright merriment and she seemed to be having the time of her life so everything seemed to be going just fine. Except for when the doors opened and in walked Thomas Shelby.

All the blood fell from Charlie’s face at the sight of his father and he let out a few curses, dropping to the ground out of instinct. “Charlie?” Annie asked in a bewildered tone as she was jerked to the ground.
“We need to leave, now,” Charlie said, eyes darting around the occupied pub.
“Why?”
“I’ll explain later!” Charlie spotted Arthur and grabbed Annie’s hand, tugging her over to his uncle. “Arthur, you gotta help me.” Arthur looked up as he finished snorting a line of coke, his eyes looking wild from the drugs and alcohol.
“What is it?” Arthur inquired, rubbing his nose with a sniffle.
“Dad is here and he doesn’t know I’m out with a girl and if he-”
“Say no more. John and me, we’ll cover for you. If you need a place to hide, go to the office.” Arthur replied and Charlie agreed. “John!” Arthur shouted and seized his brother before the two ambushed Tommy. As Charlie heard his uncles call out for Tommy, Charlie pulled Annie across the crowded pub floor towards the door only to see his father turn towards their direction.
“Fuck!” Charlie blurted before changing directions frantically and pulling Annie towards the other end of the pub. Panicking, Charlie pulled Annie into the office and shut the door immediately before looking around for a place to hide. Annie seemed to understand for she pulled him into the tiny supply closet in the corner and pulled the door closed.

“I’m so sorry about this,” Charlie muttered as they were smushed together in the closet, bodies pressed against one another.
“Don’t apologize, Charlie,” Annie said, reaching out and squeezing Charlie’s arm. “I haven’t had this much fun in ages! Your uncles were a hoot and hiding from your dad...it feels rather naughty and bold.” Charlie couldn’t help but chuckle as he placed his hand over hers and squeezed back.
“Well, I’m glad you think so. I didn’t tell my dad about taking you out because I didn’t want him to know. He can be rather...controlling so I didn’t want him to mess this all up.”
“I understand. I’m sure he’s controlling because he’s worried about you.”
“I...it’s complicated,” Charlie said, not wishing to talk about his very complicated relationship with his father. Annie seemed to pick up on that and changed the subject.
“So, do you always hide with girls in a supply closet?” She asked and Charlie snorted.
“No, not really. What about you? Something you often like to do?”
“Oh, yes! It’s my favorite thing, actually.” Annie said, snickering behind her hand. Charlie laughed softly too and leaned against Annie noiselessly.
“I’m sure that this isn’t the ideal first date so what do you say about next Saturday I take you to someplace where my family can’t interrupt?”
“Hmm...on one condition.”
“What’s that?”
“That you kiss me.” Charlie needed no other encouragement and he leaned forward, kissing Annie’s lip. This was his first kiss so Charlie really had no idea what he was doing. Annie did, however, so she quickly took control which Charlie did not mind. The one kiss quickly turned into more kisses and then abruptly tongue was added. Both were so lost in their kiss that neither heard the office door open and then suddenly the supply closet door opened.
“Ay, look! Charlie’s getting some action!” John exclaimed and Arthur hurried over, cheering and howling.
“Well, it finally happened! Fucking hell, I thought you’d be a lonely sod for the rest of your life!” Arthur declared. When the supply door had opened, Annie and Charlie had hastily pulled away and scrambled out of the closet.
“Is my dad gone?” Charlie asked as his cheeks flushed red, keeping a strong hold of Annie’s hand.
“No, seems he’s going to drink himself silly tonight,” Arthur said with a shake of his head. “Don’t worry, we got a plan to get you out,” Arthur added, tapping a finger to his skull with a grin.
“Well, fuck,” Charlie grumbled but nevertheless listened to their plan.
_______________________________________________
“How the fuck did I let you talk me into this?” Charlie asked a few minutes later. Annie was next to him, wearing an apron that Arthur had stolen and was holding a few glasses on a tray. She would be a waitress and casually make her way over to the door. Charlie, on the other hand, was dressed as an old man. Well, that was what John had said but seeing how they lacked all supplies, the brothers just threw on a bunch of different things that they had found in the office Arthur and John were sniggering to each other as they stared at their nephew. Charlie was wearing a different hat, a wide brim cowboy hat, with a rather large overcoat on. He had no idea who it belonged to but the sleeves were too long for his lanky body. Arthur had grabbed a pen and drawn a mustache on Charlie, despite Charlie challenging him on it. Charlie knew he looked ludicrous and Christ, what Annie must think of him. Again, she just had a wide grin on her face.

“There we go, no one can recognize you!” Arthur declared.
“Who is he?” John asked jokingly and the two brothers burst into fits of laughter for a few moments before Charlie brought their attention back.
“Let’s just get this over and done with so I can continue this date, please,” Charlie said and Arthur nodded.
“Right, sober up, Johnny-boy,” Arthur announced. He and John would cause a distraction in a few moments and that’s when Charlie would make his way to the door as would Annie. Arthur and John made their way out of the office then and Annie followed shortly afterward then Charlie.

Charlie did his best to blend in but he felt so ridiculous that it felt nearly impossible to do so. He would kill his uncles for this. He tried his best to keep his eyes on Annie but he lost her in the crowd. Suddenly, the sound of Arthur yelling and John yelled back, causing everyone to turn to look at them. This was his chance. Charlie started to make his way to the door as did Annie. It was taking longer than he liked for everyone was crowding around, trying to see what was happening and Charlie was fighting to push through. He ditched the coat and the hat since they were delaying him when he suddenly heard a loud smack and turned to see that John had hit Arthur.

“The fuck!?” Arthur screamed as he got up, holding his bloody nose. He could hear Tommy ordering his brothers to stop. “You weren't supposed to hit me! It wasn’t part of the plan!” Arthur yelled.
“What plan!?” Tommy shouted, quickly thinking something had gone awry. He drew a gun and people scattered which was good and bad. It meant that Charlie would be able to escape easier but it also meant that Tommy would see him. “Charlie!?” Tommy called when he saw a flash of Charlie’s blonde hair. Charlie made a mad bolt for the door, meeting Annie there and the two burst into the cold night air. They ran down the streets of Birmingham, laughing until their sides hurt too much to keep running.

“That was one of the best nights I think I’ve ever had!” Charlie declared as he leaned against a wall, wheezing from lack of air. “I can’t believe we were so fucking stupid! My dad totally saw us!” Annie was laughing too and she leaned against Charlie, her shoulders shaking next to him.

“I can’t believe you let them draw on your face with a pen!” She teased him.

“Christ, I know. There’s no escaping those two nutjobs when they’re drunk.” Charlie stated which just caused the two to burst into more giggling. Once they finally had calmed down, the two wandered around the area, chatting and giggling together until they eventually ended up at Annie’s house.

“I had a wonderful time, Charlie.” Annie murmured and leaned up to kiss him softly.

“I did too. I’m glad you did but like I said, next time I promise to take us somewhere less exciting.”

“Can’t wait.” She whispered before slipping into her house. Charlie stood there for a few moments before giving a content sigh and making his way back to the Garrison. Finn picked him up there and drove him home. Charlie slipped out of the car, thanking his cousin and then looking in his father’s window. The curtain was drawn so he had no idea if Tommy would be awake or not.

Hoping for the best, Charlie slipped in through the front door and closed it behind him with a soft click. He gradually made his way up the stairs and when he got to his room, he let out a sigh of relief and went in. Charlie was drained so he didn’t bother washing up and just changed out of his clothes and fell asleep.

The next morning, still half asleep, Charlie wandered down to breakfast and sat down next to his father who was reading the paper. “You have something on your lip,” Tommy commented a few minutes later without looking up from his paper. “Care to explain?”

Charlie cursed.

Chapter Text

What would a family dinner be without drama thought Charles Shelby as he sat there, picking at his turkey as his aunt, Polly, scolded his uncle, Arthur for something or another. Charlie wasn’t really paying attention for his mind was rather crowded with thoughts about his girl, Annie. They had been seeing each other for a few months now but last night Charlie had asked her to be his girl and Annie had replied with an enthusiastic yes. Charlie hadn’t told anyone yet and really didn’t plan to. Perhaps his cousin Finn since he and Finn were close but nobody else since they would just tease Charlie about it.

He was so lost in his thoughts that it took Tommy nudging him roughly before Charlie realized that Polly had asked him a question. “What was that? Sorry, Aunt Pol.” Charlie said, looking to his aunt.

“I asked you how school was going.” She repeated.

“Ah, it’s going well, thanks,” Charlie answered.

“Anyone you need us to beat up?” Arthur called which earned him a slap on the arm from Linda. Charlie gave a light chuckle. Typical Arthur.

“No, I’m alright.”

“How’s that girl of yours?” Polly asked. His family now knew about Annie. How could they not after what had happened when Charlie and Annie had tried to escape the Garrison that night a few months ago. His family had kept the teasing to the minimum though there certainly was teasing.

“She’s doing well.” Charlie had learned that the shorter the answers he gave, the less likely they were to persist in their questioning. Polly fixed Charlie with that gaze. That gaze always made Charlie feel like she knew something that he didn't or she knew that he wasn’t telling the truth. And often this was the case that it was both.

“Have you asked her to be your girl yet?” Arthur asked and Charlie hesitated, unsure if he should lie or not. While he didn’t want to be teased...he also didn’t like the idea of lying to his family.

“Actually, yes. Last night. She said yes.” Charlie said, unable to control the smile that broke out onto his face at the mention of the recent memory.

“Aye, look at our little cousin, he’s in love!” Arthur declared and the table naturally burst into question.

“Have you met her yet, Tom?” Polly asked which caused the table to go quiet.

“No, I haven’t,” Tommy answered, glancing over at his son for a moment before taking a bite of his turkey. “Charles has never brought her to the house.” Well, there was a reason for that. Charlie had brought her to the house but Tommy was never there.

“You should have her over for dinner, Tommy,” Linda commented. “Meet her and see what she is like.” Tommy glanced expectantly towards Charlie. What could Charlie say?

“Uh, sure, I’ll bring her around tomorrow for dinner,” Charlie said. “If she isn’t free tomorrow then we can find another time.” Charlie prayed that Annie would be busy the next night.

Alas, he was not lucky. Annie was free and was willing to come to have dinner with Charlie and Tommy. It wasn’t that Charlie was afraid that Tommy would embarrass him like Arthur might or tell embarrassing stories like Polly. No, it was the fact that his father was such an imposing figure and well, Charlie did not want Annie to be frightened by Tommy and thus not like Charlie.

So, the next day 6:00 sharp, Charlie picked Annie up and the two went back to his house. Along the way, Charlie told Annie what to expect. “He’ll probably mention France a lot. He does that fairly often. He also has a habit of being blunt...so let’s hope he doesn’t do anything like that.”

“Charlie, I’m sure he’s fine.” Annie assured her boyfriend, laying a hand on his arm.

“I take it you’ve heard the stories by now? About him that is.”

“Aye, I did but I prefer to make my own judgments about people. And besides, you turned out alright, didn’t ya? So I’m sure it will be just fine.”

Charlie hoped Annie was right.

They arrived at the large house and Charlie helped Annie out. The two went up to the front steps and went in, Charlie hanging up Annie’s coat for her. She looked stunning. She wore a modest forest green dress with matching heels. To Charlie, she looked perfect. He led her upstairs to the drawing room where Tommy was waiting. Thomas stood up as the two came in. “Ah, you must be Annie. Pleasure.” Tommy said as he walked over to Annie and offered his hand to shake.

“Mr. Shelby,” Annie replied as she shook Tommy’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“Pleasure is all mine,” Tommy answered before motioning for the two to come in. “Can I get you anything to drink? I’ve got whiskey, Scotch, gin among other drinks.”

“Water will be just fine,” Annie said as she took a seat on the hardly ever used couch.

“Ah, yes, of course.” Tommy looked unsure for a moment before he left a room to call a servant.

“He doesn’t seem too bad,” Annie whispered as Charlie sat next to her.

“Just wait.” Tommy came back in and poured himself a drink.

“Your water will be here in a moment,” Tommy commented to Annie as he sat down, whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

“Thank you, Mr. Shelby,” Annie said and silence fell in the room for a few pauses before Tommy cleared his throat.

“So, you and Charlie met at school, right?” Tommy asked and Annie nodded.

“Yes sir, I moved here about six months ago and Charlie was the first one to introduce himself to me and first to befriend me.”

“Where did you move from?” Tommy inquired.

“Bath.”

“Never been.”

“It’s very pretty and there is a lot of history in the town.” With that, Annie began to talk about Bath and the history of the town. As she talked, Charlie watched his father, trying to figure out what he was feeling and thinking about Annie. Tommy didn’t seem to dislike Annie so that was a start at least. His eyes were trained on her face and while some might get uncomfortable with the intense gaze of Thomas Shelby, Annie seemed to do just fine under the pressure and in fact, meets Tommy’s gaze. Annie was a people's person, that was for sure. Everybody liked her and she was good with people, no matter who they were. A story from Annie’s childhood is put on hold as a maid came in and told them that dinner was ready.

Tommy led them to the dining room and Charlie pulled out Annie’s chair for her, something that made Tommy smile when the boy wasn’t looking. The food was brought out and placed in front of them. Fish was tonight’s dinner it seemed with a side of various vegetables and bread on top of the fish. There was silence for a few minutes as everyone ate their food. “This is wonderful, Mr. Shelby,” Annie commented as she paused to swallow.

“I should hope so. I only hire the best chefs.” Tommy answered and Charlie held in a groan. His father loved to flaunt his wealth like so. “So, Annie, what are some things that you like to do?” Tommy asked her. Now, Annie had told Charlie that she loved horses and in return, Charlie told Annie to bring it up instantly with his father. It seemed that either Annie was ignoring this advice or had forgotten.

“I like to read, write, especially poetry. I’ll read anything I can get my hands on bt I do prefer poetry.” Annie began and Charlie recognized the look of boredom crossing his father’s face. “I also have always loved horses. Used to ride back in Bath but unfortunately haven’t been able to do so since we came here.” At the mention of horses, Tommy sat up a bit and seemed to be suddenly interested once more.

“What kind of horses did you ride?” Tommy asked curiously as he took a quick drink of his whiskey.

“Thoroughbreds.”

“I take it Charlie has told you that I own horses, specifically racehorses?”

“Aye, he has. Said you treat them like children which is something I admire.” Granted, when Charlie was telling Annie that, he was saying that the horses were treated with more love than he ever was.

“Well, if you ever wish to swing by the stables, please feel free to do so.” Charlie and Annie both looked at Tommy in shock and Annie was quick to thank him and assure him that she would visit soon. The rest of dinner was spent talking about horses which Charlie did not mind at all. After dinner, they retired to the sitting room where Tommy left them to go do some work.

Charlie waited until the door had closed before speaking. “So, do you like him?” He asked his girlfriend, turning so they were facing each other on the couch.

“I do...he is rather an odd man, I suppose, but yes, I do like him,” Annie answered. “Do you think he likes me?” Annie asked then, playing with the hem of her dress. Charlie reached down and took Annie’s hands in his gently.

“I honestly don’t know...but if he doesn’t, he would be insane.” Charlie brought her hands up to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss to them. “I don’t care if he doesn’t like you. I like you and that’s all that matters.”

“I know, Charlie...but I would like him to like me. He is your father after all.” Charlie gave a soft hum as he squeezed her hands.

“So, when do I get to meet your parents?” Charlie asked and Annie laughed.

“Anytime you like.” She announced. The two chatted for a little longer before Annie announced that she had to go. Her father would be picking her up. Charlie led Annie to the door and was helping her put her coat on when Tommy came down. “Thank you for dinner, Mr. Shelby,” Annie said as she buttoned the coat.

“Of course, thank you for joining us,” Tommy answered with a faint smile. Charlie walked Annie outside where the two shared a brief kiss before Annie’s dad arrived and she left. Going back inside, Charlie closed the door behind him and let out a huge sigh of relief as he leaned against the door.

“Alright there?” Tommy asked, causing Charlie to jump and his eyes to flash open.

“Oh, yeah, fine.” He answered. He was just relieved that the dinner had gone fine. “So, what do you think of her?” Charlie dared to question. Tommy took his sweet time answering but finally he did.

“She seems quite nice. I like her and I think your mum would have liked her too.” Tommy said before turning and heading into his study. Charlie felt like he had won the lottery.

Chapter Text

The day had started just like any other day. They had started by opening up the Grace Shelby Institute for Orphaned Children. Things were going fine. Until Tommy had handed his son off to a nanny without really thinking about it. It was discovered later that his son had been taken. Tommy was instantly on the war path, swearing to bring down whoever had taken his son.

True to his word, Thomas Shelby indeed did this and so much more. The day had finally ended and Charlie was back with them. The family dinner was over and Charlie was growing tired so Tommy took him upstairs to put him to bed. “Dada?” The boy mumbled as Tommy carried Charlie to his room.

“I’m here, Charlie boy. I’m always here.” Thomas whispered in reply, rubbing Charlie’s back soothingly. Once in the boy’s room, Tommy got Charlie changed into a warm pair of pajamas then got him tucked in. The boy looked so small among all the blankets but Tommy wanted to make sure he was warm. Normally after tucking Charlie in, Tommy would kiss him goodnight and leave. This time was different. Tommy couldn’t bring himself to leave. He didn’t want to leave. The fear he felt at the thought of losing his son again made Thomas’ chest tighten and his pulse quicken. Perhaps he would stay the night with his boy.

“Dada?” Charlie had begun to speak more, Tommy had noted. Grace would have been so happy.

“Yes, little one?” Tommy murmured, reaching out a hand to stroke Charlie’s hair.

“Song?” Thomas hesitated for a moment before giving a small nod in reply.

“Of course. And how about Daddy stays with you through the whole night?” The boy nodded eagerly at this and waited for Tommy to get into bed next to him before curling up against Tommy’s chest. Searching his mind for a song, Tommy eventually settled on one and began to sing.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. So please don’t take my sunshine away.” The lyrics hit Thomas like a ton of bricks and he had to pause in order not to cry right then and there. Tommy managed to finish the song and Charlie was asleep. Thomas had never really thought or considered the lyrics to that lullaby.

It was a silly child’s song after all, wasn’t it? This time it felt so much more. Charlie was his sunshine. Charlie made Tommy happy, so incredibly happy. The boy had no idea how much of an influence he really did have on his father. Thomas had started looking forward to coming home and seeing his son, hearing about what he did during his day, what he saw and had learned. The final line about asking not to have your sunshine taken away was the worst part for Tommy. He knew what it was like to have his sunshine taken away, his heart ripped from his chest. That was his son who had been taken. His only son. His only lasting connection to Grace. Tommy had been stupid. Oh so stupid! He had been cursing himself throughout the day but as he laid there with his son, the self hatred cane flooding back in. Clutching his son against his chest, the great Thomas Shelby finally allowed the tears to come. They had been building up for the last 24 hours and finally could no longer be held back. His shoulders shook violently as tears rolled down his face like raindrops on a window pane. His sunshine had been taken from him all because he was a fucking idiot.

Thomas was not one who normally wallowed in his feelings like this but how could he not when the pain was so fresh? It was a wound that would never close. A wound that had salt being poured on it every hour so you had no chance to escape the pain or forget about it.

It was late into the night when Thomas decided he had had enough. He carefully pulled Charlie away from him and tucked the boy back in before leaving. Tommy didn’t even have to pay attention as his feet moved on their own accord, leading him back to his old friend and enemy. Entering his study, Tommy locked the door behind him and went to his liquor cabinet. Liquor did not hurt anybody. Liquor was there, always waiting with open arms like a whore. And that was exactly what Thomas Shelby needed. With a heavy sigh, he grabbed a bottle of Scotch and took a long sip of it. Alcohol would never leave him or hurt him. Alcohol was his safety net. A safety net that would catch him when he fell and Tommy Shelby fell a lot.

Chapter Text

When people told Thomas Shelby that time flew by when you were a parent, he didn’t believe them. Time would move just as it regularly did and Charlie would grow up in due time. Tommy had been wrong, however. The time darted by and the next thing that Tommy knew, his 5-year-old son would be starting school for the first time tomorrow.

Tommy had been in his study, working on some papers when Charlie’s nanny came in, notifying him that he was wanted by Charlie. Setting aside his glasses, Tommy stood and followed the nanny up to Charlie’s room. “You can go now, I’ll take care of him,” Tommy told the nanny before entering Charlie’s room. The boy poked his head out from under his blankets, face breaking into a grin when he saw his father.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Charlie cried, scampering out of bed and speeding towards Tommy, flinging his arms around his father’s waist and hugging him tightly.

“Why aren’t you asleep yet, Charlie?” Tommy asked as he tousled his son’s hair.

“I don’t wanna sleep.” The boy answered and Tommy gave a silent groan. When questioned, Charlie gave a small shrug, looking down at his toes. “I don’t wanna go to school,” Charlie mumbled and Tommy gave a nod in understanding. He knelt down in front of his son, tilting Charlie’s chin back till the boy was staring at him.

“You know, I didn’t want to go to school when I was younger either. But you have to go to school to become smart.” Tommy said, touching the side of Charlie’s head. “You can also make friends and play on the really big playground we went to the other day. And when you come home, I’ll be waiting to hear all about your day.” Guiding Charlie back, Tommy helped to tuck the boy into bed. “Would you like a story?” Tommy offered and Charlie nodded enthusiastically.

“The Kissing Hand!” Charlie exclaimed, pointing to his bookshelf. Tommy took the book and went back to the bed, sitting next to Charlie.

“The Kissing Hand.” Tommy read as he opened the cover. The story followed Chester, a raccoon, who did not want to go to school and would rather stay at home and play with his toys. Nevertheless, his mother said that Chester had to go to school. Chester’s mom told her son all about the new friends he would make, the new toys he would find, and the new books he would read. As Tommy read this section, he pointed out that Charlie would also get to explore these new things at school.

As the book drew to a close, Chester’s mother kissed her son’s paw and told him that if ever felt lonely or sad during school, Chester should put his paw to his face and his mother’s kiss would jump onto him and make him feel better. When Chester went to school, he put his hand to his cheek and felt better.

After the story, Tommy sat with Charlie for a bit longer before wishing his son goodnight and turning the light off.

The next morning, Charlie was up and ready to go to school. He seemed chipper enough, Tommy thought as he drank his morning tea as Charlie chatted about this and that. Tommy would be driving Charlie to school since it was his first day. The drive to the school was simple and Tommy parked, helping his son out of the car. When Charlie’s eyes landed on the school, however, he froze. “Daddy...I can’t!” Charlie said, voice growing in panic as he turned and tried to climb back into the car.

Tommy knelt, drawing his son into a hug as Charlie began to cry. “Shh, Shh,” Thomas whispered to his son, rubbing circles on Charlie’s back. “Remember Chester last night? Do you remember how much fun he had?” Charlie gave a tiny nod as he pulled away, wiping his nose on his sleeve. Tommy thought for a second then reached out, taking his son’s palm and kissing it. “Whenever you feel sad or you miss me, put your hand to your cheek and you’ll feel that I’m there with you.”

“Just like in the book?” Charlie asked as he pressed his hand to his cheek.

“Just like in the book,” Thomas confirmed as Charlie took Tommy’s larger hand, kissing Tommy’s palm.

“In case you get sad or miss me, Daddy, you’ll always have my kiss,” Charlie announced. Tommy had to smile and he pressed his hand to his cheek.

“I feel better already,” Tommy said, standing. “Shall we go in?” Charlie took Tommy’s hand and gave a nod before the two went into the school. Tommy left that day, feeling rather emotional. His wife had missed this. Grace would have been so excited to see Charlie off to school. She probably would have had his outfit picked out weeks in advance. Tommy got into his car and sat there, eyes on the front of the school.

His little boy was growing up. There was no way to stop time. Time just kept on ticking by. Eyes closed for a moment, Tommy pressed the hand that Charlie had kissed up to his cheek. Perhaps it was his imagination but he did feel a little better.

Chapter Text

Tommy had not thought anything about it when Charlie’s nanny went home early, feeling unwell. There were cooks to make the meals and Charlie went to bed early so that was all that Tommy had to do, right? Wrong. He had to give Charlie a bath. Giving a bath to a four-year-old shouldn’t be too hard, correct? Wrong again.

The first step was to get Charlie undressed. No big deal, Tommy thought as he went into his son’s nursery. Charlie was playing with his horses and Tommy paused for a few moments to watch, a bit of a smile on his face. “Daddy!” Charlie exclaimed when he noticed his father. “Ponies!” He said, holding one up for Thomas to admire.

“Very nice, Charlie. However, we’ve got to put the horses to bed and get you into the bath.” Tommy instructed, going over and helping Charlie put the horses into their play barn. “Alright, come on, let’s get you undressed,” Tommy instructed then. Charlie grinned up at his father then.

“You gotta catch me first!” The boy yelled before he raced out of the room. Tommy groaned, standing up as he heard the sound of his son’s footsteps echoing down the hallway. What else could he do but follow? “Chase me, Daddy! Chase me!” Charlie called before disappearing down another hallway. Tommy made his way after his son, silently cursing the big house.

He was eventually able to corner his son and picked Charlie up, carrying him back to the bathroom all the while Charlie chatted. Since when did his son talk so much, Tommy found himself wondering. Once in the bathroom, Tommy helped Charlie get undressed and turned the water on. “Daddy, you gotta get the soap ready!” Charlie said.

“The soap is ready,” Tommy said, pointing to the bar of soap that was on the counter of the sink.

“No, not that one! That one is for my hands!” The boy said as he went over to the soap on the other side of the sink. “That one!” Tommy moved and got the soap that looked exactly like the other bar other than the fact that it said “bath” on it. Charlie then instructed Tommy to get out the toys and which ones he wanted. Finally, when the tub was filled enough, Tommy turned off the water and motioned for Charlie to get in. “You gotta feel it first!” The boy protested.

“Why?” Tommy asked, completely clueless.

“What if it’s too hot!?” Thomas let out a heavy sigh before rolling up the sleeve of his white shirt and felt the water.

“Feels good to me.” He announced then and Charlie stuck his hand in the water before giving a nod in agreement. Tommy helped him in and Charlie instantly picked up his toys to play. Tommy sat in front of the tub, letting Charlie play for a few minutes before he grabbed the cup and began to wet his son’s hair. As he did, Charlie began to sing some song that Tommy was only half paying attention to. Something about a bus and wheels…

“Daddy, do you like to sing?” Charlie asked and Tommy glanced over at his son. “Cause I do! Me and Ms. Annie are singing tons!”

“Singing isn’t really my thing,” Tommy answered as he grabbed Charlie’s shampoo and put some on the boy’s hair.

“Don’t forget to cover my eyes when you wash the shampoo out!” Charlie said before he continued to talk about music. “Me and Ms. Annie are learnin’ ‘bout music and the instruments! I really like the drums!”

“Really now?” Tommy muttered as he finished with the shampoo.

“Yeah! Did you know you have a drum in your ear?” The boy said. “Don’t forget to wash my ears too!” Tommy paused to look at the little boy in front of his. He looked just like Grace...with the blonde hair especially.

“I didn’t know that,” Tommy answered as he covered Charlie’s eyes so the boy wouldn’t get shampoo in his eyes. “What else have you learned about music?”

“Ms. Annie is teaching me a song ‘bout my body!” Charlie said. “It’s really fun but tirin’!” With that, he began to sing. “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes! Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!” While doing the motions to the song. Tommy watched this silently but there was a small smile once more on his lips. He had to admit...bath time was not as scary as he originally thought.

Chapter Text

Parenting is loaded with thousands of memories, some of them make parents feel comforted while others do not. While Charlie Shelby was only 7 months old, so new to life. Tommy had an abundant memories of his son. The first time he held Charlie. The first time Charlie smiled at him. The first time Charlie crawled. They had yet to hear Charlie’s first word but Tommy was sure that would be happening soon. His son was considerably bright (not that he was prejudiced or anything) and Tommy expected nothing less.

Alfie was working in the kitchen that night, cooking dinner while Tommy laid on the floor in the sitting room, Charlie laying next to him. Well, the baby was crawling around more than sitting still. It seemed that all Charlie did was move. Tommy was able to keep the boy occupied with a diversity of toys. “Charlie, do you want the octopus?” Tommy murmured, shaking the toy in Charlie’s direction.

The boy turned his head, beaming before crawling over and jerking the toy out of Tommy’s hand. “Bah, bah!” The boy shrieked, waving the octopus before shoving it into his mouth.

“Yes, yes,” Tommy said as he tickled Charlie’s stomach carelessly, causing the boy to squeal with laughter. The boy loved to chew on everything and Tommy was not a fan of pulling numerous items out of his son’s mouth. Charlie continued to babble to himself as he pulled the octopus out from his mouth and dumping it to the ground. “I’m not picking that up for you,” Tommy told Charlie. Charlie returned in his baby language before grabbing the toy again, dropping it once more.

“Da!” The boy exclaimed, causing Tommy to stand up with zeal .

“What was that, Charlie?” Tommy asked, rapidly picking up his son. “Da, that’s right. Dada.” He pointed to himself and Charlie giggled.

“Dada!” The boy declared and Tommy’s face broke out into a massive grin.

“Alfie, Alfie!” Tommy called and his partner came running in a few moments later, looking bothered.

“What is it!?” Alfie asked as he came over, examining Charlie to see if he’s hurt.

“Charlie said his first word!”

“Dada!” The little boy squealed, stretching out for Alfie. Alfie let out a booming laugh, taking the baby into his arms.

“Look at you! Talking!” Alfie exclaimed, whirling around with Charlie while the baby screamed with delight. “I can’t believe he said ‘dada’.” Alfie declared, turning to look at Thomas.

“I can’t either,” Tommy admitted, stroking Charlie’s cheek tenderly. “I was convinced it was going to be ‘fuck’, with how much you use it.”

“Oh fuck off!”

Chapter Text

Once again, Charlie Shelby was furious at his father. They had gotten into a fight because Charlie had refused to skin a rabbit that his father had shot. The family was with the caravan which was the life that Charlie preferred. He had the independence to do what he pleased. Every day was something unique to explore or to do.

The only issue he had was the fact that they had to hunt for food. Charlie knew it was part of life and that they had to eat but the boy refused to go on any hunting trips or to have anything to do with the dead animal until it was cooked. His father had been pestering him for some time to help with skinning and cooking the animal but Charlie had continually refused.

It seemed that today had been the tipping point. Tommy had come back from a hunting trip, a dead rabbit slung over his shoulder. Charlie was playing with some toy soldiers near the fire when his father walked over, dropping the rabbit in front of Charlie and a knife. Charlie slowly set his figures down to look up at his father. “Today’s the day, Charles,” Tommy told him. “Put away your toys and I’ll show you how to skin the rabbit.” Charlie gawked at the animal in front of him and it silently stared back with its lifeless eyes.

“I can’t,” Charlie replied, shaking his head. “I can’t, Daddy.” Tommy knelt in front of his son, putting his hand on Charlie’s shoulder.

“It’s part of life, Charlie. You need to do this. You need to get over this…fear or whatever it is. It’s just a fucking rabbit.” Charlie shook his head harder as he began to scoot backward.

“I can’t!” He objected feebly as Tommy’s hand grabbed his shoulder, keeping Charlie in his place. “I can’t! That rabbit…he’s looking at me! He shouldn’t have died!”

“We need to eat, Charlie.” Thomas pointed out as he began to lose patience. “Blood is all around us in this fucking life and the sooner you understand that, the better. Now, you’re going to skin this fucking rabbit or I’m sending you home.”

“No!” Charlie screamed which brought people’s attention to the scene, including Lizzie and Ruby.

“Tommy, what is it?” Lizzie asked as she came over, Ruby holding her hand.

“I want Charlie to skin the rabbit,” Tommy answered.

“Make Ruby do it!” Charlie yelled. “You like her better anyway so why don’t you make her do it all!?”

“Charles!” Tommy’s voice grew darker and Charlie knew he was right on the edge of his father’s exploding temper. But Charlie didn’t care.

“I’m not doing it! Mummy would’ve never made me do it! I wish she was here!” Charlie pulled himself from his father’s grasp, grasping the knife on the ground and throwing it, nearly hitting Ruby. That was enough to set his father off and before Charlie had time to think, he was slapped across the cheek by his father, resulting in Charlie breaking into sobs.

“Don’t you dare throw knives!” Tommy snapped, standing up and grabbing Charlie’s shirt, pulling him up too. “You almost hit your fucking sister!”

“Tommy, please.” Lizzie began, stretching out and touching Tommy’s shoulder. “It was just an accident and he didn’t hit-” As Lizzie spoke, Charlie used this chance to wrench himself free from Tommy’s grasp, tumbling to the ground. Scrambling up, Charlie raced off, ignoring the sound of his parents calling him, screaming to come back.

“Come on, Cyril!” Charlie yelled and his best friend bounded after him and out of camp. Charlie ran through open fields before reducing his speed to a walk. While he could still see the camp, it was still a decent distance away. Charlie walked with Cyril by his side for a little bit longer until the camp had simply disappeared.

This was when Charlie sat down in the tall grass and cried. He didn’t want to skin a rabbit! Why couldn’t his father just accept that fact? There were plenty of other people who knew how to skin a rabbit so why couldn’t they do it? “It’s not fair,” Charlie mumbled to Cyril as the dog laid next to him, resting his head on Charlie’s foot. “I like Lizzie and Ruby…for the most part but Daddy does like Ruby better. He wouldn’t make her do anything she didn’t wanna do.”

Once Charlie had cried himself out, he got up and continued to walk. By now he was growing thirsty and hunger was starting to knaw at his stomach. They had been in this area for a few days now so Charlie was able to navigate himself to a small stream. Once he had drunk his fill and eaten some berries off of a bush, Charlie sat on the bank, watching the water trickle by. What was he to do now? He certainly couldn’t live out here by himself but the thought of going back made Charlie want to scream.

So, the boy started to walk again. Charlie wasn’t quite sure how much time had passed but it was beginning to grow dark. By now, Charlie was starving and he found himself wishing that he did have a rabbit to eat. Charlie wasn’t paying much attention to where he was going and it wasn’t until Cyril barked that Charlie stopped. A figure was approaching them on horseback and Cyril bounded off to meet the rider as Charlie stood there wordlessly.

His father reined in his horse at the edge of the field, dismounting hastily. “Charlie! Do not move!” Thomas yelled at him.

“You can’t tell me what to do!” The boy shot back as he took a step forward.

“Charles! Don’t! You’re in a fucking minefield!” Tommy pointed and indeed, at the edge of the field read a sign, stating that this was a minefield. It had been created in case the Germans did come over to England during the Great War but nobody had cleared it out since. Charlie stared at the sign, his eyes wide like a startled animal. “Okay, so now, Charlie, don’t move. I’ll come and get you, alright?” Charlie just nodded, fear had taken away his voice Tommy tied his horse to the post, ordering Cyril to stay before he drew out a knife.

Charlie stood as still as he could as Tommy laid down on his stomach and began to lightly poke his knife into the dirt. It was a gradual process and the longer Charlie waited, the more distressed he became. Tears began to slip down the boy’s cheeks and these quickly turned into sobs. “Shh, shh, Charlie. It’s alright now.” He heard his father call. “You’ll be safe very soon, I promise.”

By the time that Thomas reached his son, it had grown to be dusk. Tommy wrapped Charlie up tightly in a hug and Charles returned the hug, crying noisily into his father’s dirty shirt. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you,” Tommy whispered, rubbing Charlie’s back soothingly. “I’ve got you, little one. You’re safe now.” Charlie didn’t remember the last time that Tommy had called him that little pet name. All he was called now was Charlie and Charles.

When Charlie had calmed down enough to breath properly, Tommy hoisted the boy up onto his back before treading consciously back to the horse and Cyril. Charlie clutched his father tightly, eyes squeezed shut until they hurt. But they made it to the other side without an issue.

Charlie was hoisted up onto the horse and Tommy climbed up behind him. As Tommy urged the horse into a nice walk, Charlie leaned against his father’s chest. It was Charlie who broke the silence first. “’M sorry for runnin’ off.” The boy muttered, just loud enough for his father to hear. Charlie felt Tommy sigh and he prayed that Thomas wouldn’t be mad.

“You shouldn’t have run off like that, Charles…but perhaps I shouldn’t have forced you so harshly. ” Tommy let out a sigh that Charlie felt. “We can talk about this all tomorrow, alright?” Charlie nodded silently in agreement and the rest of the ride back was spent in silence.

After getting a proper dinner, Charlie went off to bed. He climbed into the wagon he shared with Ruby, finding his little sister already asleep. Once he got changed into pajamas, Charlie slid under the blankets with Cyril curled up next to him. Charlie tossed and turned but getting comfortable proved to be impossible. Tommy had heard Charlie moving about in the wagon and went to investigate.

“Can’t sleep?” Tommy whispered as he opened the flap of the wagon to see his son sitting up. Charlie shook his head no. Charlie watched as his father climbed in and crawled over to Charlie’s side. “Come on, lay down,” Tommy instructed and Charlie did as he was told before Thomas pulled the blankets over the boy, tucking him in. Once Charlie was settled, Tommy began to sing in a low voice. Charlie didn’t recognize the tune but he was able to pick up on some of the Romani words. There was something about horses and sleep…Charlie was asleep before the song ended.

Chapter Text

“Do you think he needs a coat?” Tommy asked for what was probably the tenth time that morning.

“Tommy, honey, I love you dearly but if you ask me that one more time, I swear to fucking God-” Alfie began but Tommy cut him off.

“Don’t swear!” Tommy scolded his husband as he packed Charlie’s jacket into the little bag they had for the toddler.

“He isn’t even here.” Alfie pointed out but Tommy shook his head.

“Doesn’t matter. He’s at the stage where he repeats everything so we have to be careful.” Tommy announced as he pulled on his long black coat and then his hat. “Charlie!” He called and the sound of tiny feet and claws could be heard, scraping against the wooden floor.

“Dada!” Charlie exclaimed as he raced over to Tommy, reaching up his arms to be picked up. Tommy did so, kissing his son’s cheek.

“You ready to go to the park?” Tommy asked and Charlie nodded so enthusiastically that Tommy was sure his head would fall off. Alfie got Charlie’s shoes on and a light sweater since the air was just starting to grow crisp with autumn fast approaching. Clipping Cyril’s leash on, Alfie led the way out onto the street and the small family made their way to the park.

“Where to first?” Alfie asked Charlie as Tommy set the boy down. Charlie didn’t answer and instead took off like a rocket, making a beeline to the slide. The slide was his favorite thing on the playground at the moment. The two father’s made their way over and Alfie stood at the bottom while Tommy watched from the side. Charlie scampered up the stairs and then sat at the top of the slide, waving at Alfie.

“Papa! Wee!” The boy screamed before sliding down the slide, squealing with joy. Alfie caught him and set him on his feet. Charlie raced back up again, pausing when he saw Tommy. “Dada!” The boy said, beckoning his father. Tommy climbed up the stairs and sat behind Charlie.

“Ready?” Tommy asked before gently pushing the boy down the slide. Once more, Charlie slid down, squealing and giggling the whole time. When Charlie arrived at the bottom, he jumped off and ran off to the larger slide, his parents following once more. Charlie needed help getting up the stairs and across the bridge before getting to the slide. Tommy went down with his son on this slide, holding Charlie close as the boy screamed, the screams echoing from inside the slide.

They did this for a handful of times before Charlie ran off once more. “Do you think he ever gets tired?” Alfie commented to Tommy as they watched the boy banging on toy drums.

“Honestly, I don’t,” Tommy answered with a shake of his head. “If I had just half of his energy, the amount of shit that I-”

“Oi, I thought we couldn’t swear!” Alfie said, nudging Tommy with his shoulder.

“Charlie isn’t near though.” Tommy objected.

“He wasn’t near me when I swore!” Tommy rolled his eyes at his husband, leaning against Alfie. Alfie gave a huff of annoyance but nevertheless, wrapped his arm around Tommy’s shoulders.

“Still, if I had just half his energy…:” Alfie hummed softly in agreement as Charlie bounced from instrument to instrument.

“Least he’ll sleep well tonight,” Alfie whispered. “And perhaps if he does, we’ll get a bit of alone time, eh? Just the two of us…haven’t had you beg for me in a while, have I?” Alfie’s hand slid down, squeezing Tommy’s bum.

“Alfie, stop,” Tommy said, playfully swatting at his husband’s chest. “That’s if I have the energy for it all.” He said as Charlie called for him and pointed to the slide. “Well, duty calls.” He murmured, pulling away from Alfie but the other man grabbed his hand, stopping him. Alfie pulled him close and whispered into his ear.

“The slide isn’t the only thing you’re going down on today,” Alfie whispered before giving Thomas a gentle shove. Tommy groaned but followed his son. After the slide, Charlie moved onto the swings. They were working on teaching Charlie how to pump on his own to keep his swing going but the boy had not quite gotten the hang of it which meant it was up to his fathers to push him.

Alfie managed to get Charlie to stop playing long enough to eat a few crackers and drink some of his juice before the boy went off to the sandbox. Alfie and Tommy sat on a bench, watching Charlie and Cyril dig in the same. Cyril had been wonderful since the day Charlie was born, accepting the baby into his life without an issue. They were lucky.

By the time they had to leave, Charlie had exhausted himself, having played with or on everything at the park. The boy seemed dead on his feet so Tommy carried him home. “Just in time for his nap,” Tommy whispered as they got home. Alfie took off Charlie’s sweater and shoes before the two of them took the sleeping toddler upstairs.

“I’ll take care of him,” Alfie whispered and Tommy nodded, shifting Charlie into Alfie’s arms before leaving. Alfie undressed Charlie until he was down to his diaper. Tucking him in, Alfie made sure the blankets were secure around Charlie before kissing the boy’s head and heading downstairs. “So, where were we at the park?” Alfie asked as he walked into the living room but paused to see Thomas passed out on the couch, his jacket and shoes still on.

Shaking his head to himself, Alfie carefully removed Tommy’s shoes and coat before guiding the other so he was laying down on the couch. Tommy did not stir. “Sleep well,” Alfie whispered, pulling a blanket around Tommy before leaving his sleeping husband on the couch.

Chapter Text

Silence. That was what Thomas Shelby heard that night as he stared out the window, looking out on the darkened fields before him. The house was silent, Lizzie probably having taken the children somewhere. And just for a moment, Tommy’s mind was silent too.

Finishing his glass of whiskey, Tommy set it on his desk before he lit another cigarette. Taking a seat before his papers, Tommy began to get to work. The paperwork never seemed to end and it just piling up and up on Tommy just like the dirt used to do if a tunnel collapsed. Piling up and up until you could not breathe anymore.

Tommy worked silently for some time and it felt that the stack of papers before him only grew rather than shrink. There was a lot here...too much for one man. Tommy began to feel his throat tighten up as a sense of panic began to overcome him. There was too much. How was he supposed to get this done? He could never finish this all.

Tommy’s eyes squeezed shut as he tried to regain control of his breathing but with little success. Fucking breath! He told himself as his hand blindly reached out on his desk, finding the familiar blue vial. Tommy uncorked it and drank but there was nothing left in there for him to drink.

Opening his eyes, Tommy began to search frantically for his stashes. All he found were empty bottles. All gone. Not a drop left. Perhaps upstairs or somewhere else. Tommy sprung to his feet, rubbing his hands across his sweaty face before clutching the desk to hold himself steady. What was happening to him?

Tommy moved his first leg, but it gave out from underneath him, causing him to topple to the ground with his whiskey glass falling. The glass landed next to Tommy but as Tommy struggled to pull himself up, he only grabbed onto glass, slicing his hand.

Somehow Thomas pulled himself up and got himself out of the office. Bathroom. That was the next step. Tommy began the long trek upstairs, muscles in his legs screaming from the effort. When he reached the bathroom, Tommy searched but had no luck. As he was about to leave, the man paused, staring at his reflection.

He looked like a ghost, with his pale and sweaty skin and sunken in eyes.

Tommy forced himself out of the bathroom as the sound of scratchy violin music became present. The noise pierced Thomas’ skull, and it felt as if a thousand pins were being shoved into his head all at the same time. “Stop that.” He mumbled repeatedly as he got himself to the room.

“Stop that!” Tommy roared as he opened the door, finding Lizzie and Ruby sitting together while Charlie played the violin. “Stop that fucking noise! Stop that fucking noise or I will shoot your brains out.” He spat. “I am trying to run a God damn fucking business here! And how the fuck am I suppose to get any fucking work done if I have to listen to that shit excuse of music?” His eyes searched wildly around the room, scanning for any stash of drugs he might have hidden. “Unless of course, you want to be kicked out of this fucking house, I suggest you shut the fuck up.” Tommy rubbed his nose with his hand, leaving a trail of blood across his face.

He stayed silent for a moment, noticing Charlie was trying his best not to cry. “Don’t cry. It’s unmanly.” Tommy mumbled before he made his way out the door, slamming it behind him. As Tommy leaned against the wall, he heard one of the children crying and Lizzie speaking.

“Oh, Charlie.” She said. “I’m so sorry that you had to witness that. You’re a wonderful violin player and despite what your father says, I want you to play more, alright? Are you alright, love?”

The next words broke Thomas Shelby’s already broken heart.

“I’m alright, Lizzie. I’m used to it.” The boy answered.

Chapter Text

Beep. Beep. Beep. Thomas Shelby woke with a sigh, blindly reaching out for the phone was on the side table next to him. “Fucking hell.” He mumbled as he tried to turn the damn thing off. By the time Tommy could unlock his phone and turn the alarms off, he was awake. Leaning back into the hotel pillows, Tommy closed his eyes, letting out a heavy sigh.

Today would be miserable. Today was Thomas’ birthday.

Tommy was not a fan of his birthday. He couldn’t care less about the day. It just meant he was one year older and why was that something to celebrate? His family had tried to hold various parties for him but they all ended poorly. Once, they had even held a surprise party. When they had tried to hold one and Tommy walked into a room with people yelling “surprise!” well...he reacted poorly and might have almost shot someone.

Alfie made Tommy’s birthdays worth it because well...Alfie was Alfie. Alfie always seemed to have unique gifts picked out for Tommy but it was always the night that Tommy looked forward to with him rather than the actual presents. And Charlie...that boy was always so excited when someone mentioned a birthday. Charlie’s favorite food was cake, so it was only natural that birthday cakes made the boy jump for joy.

Alas though, Tommy was not with his family on this day. Instead, he was in America on a business trip. Ah well, there was always next year. Tommy’s phone began to buzz, and he reached for it again, finding that Alfie was requesting a face time call.

Tommy sat up, pressing down his bed hair quickly so he didn’t look like a complete mess before answering. He was greeted by singing.

“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Daddy, happy birthday to you!” Alfie and Charlie sang to Thomas. It was rather horrid sounding, with Alfie’s deep voice and Charlie’s high-pitched but it made Tommy smile.

“Thank you, you two,” Tommy said, laughing as Charlie readjusted the pointed birthday hat on his head.

“Are you doing anything fun, Daddy? Like eating cake!?” Charlie asked, trying to grab Alfie’s phone from Alfie’s hand.

“Ah, no, you little bugger. What do we say if we want something?” Alfie asked, holding the phone up so Charlie couldn’t reach it.

“Please!” Alfie handed the phone over and Tommy was face to face with his son’s nose. Charlie still wasn’t the best at Face Time but it was worth it.

“No, I don’t think I am,” Tommy answered his son as Charlie dramatically groaned.

“That ain’t fun!” Charlie protested with a frown. “And what about presents? You gonna get some of them?”

“I don’t think so, Charlie. I’ll get it all when I come home, all right? We can go out to dinner, cake and presents, all of that. Remember that Daddy’s here for business, eh?” Charlie seemed to consider this for a few moments before nodding.

“Alright, that’ll work.” The boy declared. “Do you want to say hi to Cyril?” Before Tommy had any chance to reply, the phone was shoved in front of the large dog. Cyril lifted his head for a moment to stare at the phone before putting it down on his paws. “Say hi, Daddy!”

“Charlie, I’m not saying hello to a dog,” Tommy said and Charlie turned the camera around so Tommy could see his face. The utter sadness and disappointment on his son’s face were too much and Tommy let out a quiet groan. “Hello, Cyril,” Tommy said, and the dog didn’t react.

“He’s real tired! Got Papa up this mornin’ cause he threw up! It was real smelly!” Charlie said, pinching his nose and giggling.

“I’m sure that Papa loved that ton,” Tommy said, unable to hide a bit of a smirk.

“Yeah, it was a real utter joy, let me tell you,” Alfie called from somewhere behind Charlie. “Alright now, you go get some lunch, alright? Lemme talk to your dad.”

“Bye, Daddy!” Charlie said before kissing the phone screen. “I love you!”

“I love you too, Charlie.” Tommy murmured and watched the boy run out of the room before Alfie took the phone. “How are you doing?” Tommy asked him.

“Hmm, well, I’d be doin’ a fuck ton better if you were fucking here, ye know?” Alfie commented as he leaned back against the pillows. “Though, happy birthday.” Tommy rolled his eyes at his husband. “Don’t roll your eyes at me. I got you somethin’ though, you must wait and see what it is.” Alfie told him. Tommy knew what it was though, having spotted the picture before he had left for his trip.

It was a picture of Alfie, Tommy, Charlie, and Cyril at the beach together, with Charlie buried in the sand except for his head and his parents kneeling next to them. Smiles were plastered across everyone’s face.

“I also got you a little something else too.” Alfie murmured and Tommy raised a questioning eyebrow. “You’ll have to wait and find out...though, I can assure you, I think you’ll like it.”

“Can I get a hint?” Tommy asked and Alfie smirked, shaking his head no.

“You’ll have to wait till you get home, kitten,” Alfie said, using his pet name in bed for Tommy. “Though, I can say that you’ll only get it if you’re a good little boy.” Tommy groaned, his cheeks turning red which caused Alfie to laugh. As Alfie was laughing, they heard something loud drop from downstairs which quieted Alfie down. “Probably should go see what that is, eh?” Alfie said with a sigh, getting up.

“Aye, knowing Charlie, he’s made a massive mess.” Alfie shook his head, scratching his beard.

“Well, I’m sure that I’ll talk to you shortly,” Alfie said. “Happy birthday, Thomas.”

“Thank you, Alfie. I love you.”

“Love you too. Oh, also make sure to give your aunt a fucking call so she can get off my back. Keeps pestering me, asking why you haven’t called her yet.” Alfie rolled his eyes. “Good luck with her.”

“Good luck with Charlie,” Tommy replied.

“Aye, I’m going to fucking need it.” And with that, the phone call ended.

Chapter Text

It was the first Christmas that Filippo would be spending with the Shelbys. He had been in England for several months now and took care of his business alongside Tommy. Christmas was fast approaching though and Filippo was interested to see how things went. For him, Christmas had never been that exciting. His mother could never afford to buy him any massive presents and by the time that she died, Filippo was rather over the whole present thing.

It was the night before Christmas and the house was silent except for Filippo, Ruby, Charlie, and Tommy. Lizzie had gone to visit her sister but would be back the next day. Filippo was keeping the children entertained as Tommy read quietly by the fire. It seemed to be the perfect scene.

Except for Charlie.

Normally the little boy would happily play with trains for hours but tonight he didn’t seem that interested. Filippo watched as Charlie dragged a train around the tracks without much enthusiasm. Filippo began to wonder what was on Charlie’s mind when Rosie announced she needed the potty. Setting aside his book, Tommy got up and took her, leaving the two alone.

“Charlie?” Filippo began after the others had left. “Everything alright?” Charlie shrugged. “You don’t seem real happy to be playing with trains.” Charlie shrugged again. “Is something on your mind?”

“I guess so.” The boy mumbled. “I just...I miss mummy.”

“You mean Lizzie?” Little Charlie shook his head no. Filippo knew who he meant. Polly had told Filippo about Charlie’s mum and he had seen pictures of her all around the house. “You know, I lost my mum too when I was young.” He commented, scooting over next to Charlie.

“Where’d she go?” Charlie asked, glancing up.

“She went to Heaven, I think. I have a feeling that your mummy and mine are both up there right now, watching up.”

“Daddy says there’s no such thing as Heaven.” Filippo motioned for Charlie to stand and the boy did. Filippo led Charlie outside and the two stood in the cold winter’s air.

“Look up, Charlie. Look at all the surrounding stars.” Filippo murmured as he picked up his nephew. “All those stars are people who have died but are looking down at us, watching us. Your mummy is up there, watching you.” Charlie stared up at the night sky, eyes wide as he stared at the millions of stars before him.

“And your mummy’s there too?” Filippo nodded. They stood in silence for a few minutes before going back inside. Charlie seemed to be in happier spirits and Tommy didn’t question where they had gone. Later that night, as Tommy was putting the children to bed, Charlie stood by the window of his bedroom, looking out.

“What are you looking at, Charlie?” Tommy asked as he went over to his son.

“Mummy...she’s up there, y’know.” Tommy said, pointing upwards at the sky. “Filippo said that she’s up there and watchin’ over us all.” Tommy rested his hand gently on his son’s shoulder.

“Do you miss her?”

“A lot.”

“I miss her every day too,” Tommy whispered. Charlie turned and lifted his arms up to be held. Despite the boy being bigger, Tommy lifted him up and hugged the boy close. They both had tears in their eyes. They had lost a mother, a wife, a friend...but she was still up there, watching them with a smile on her face, Tommy was sure of it.

Chapter Text

The weather could not have been more perfect Grace thought to herself as she finished getting Charlie’s shoes on. It was a mild springtime day and the small family would be going for a picnic ride. Grace had considered a picnic the other week during dinner and Charlie had clung to the idea ever since. Charlie had a way with his father for he got Tommy to agree to come along as well which rather startled Grace.

While she loved her husband profoundly, he was a workaholic and persuading him to take a weekend off was not always the easiest.

“Alright you, go run and find Daddy.” Grace murmured and Charlie nodded, flying out the door as fast as his tiny feet could carry him. As Grace made her way downstairs, she could hear Charlie’s voice, urging for his father to hurry up with his breakfast so they could go.

“Morning, Grace,” Tommy said as she came into the room, lighting a cigarette.

“Morning, Tommy. You ready to go?”

“Aye, and it seems that this one is ready too,” Tommy commented as he stood, picking Charlie up as the boy nodded enthusiastically.

“Go! Go! Go!” Charlie yelled and his parents obliged, taking him out and to the stables. Grace was sure that Charlie would erupt from excitement. Charlie led the way to the stables and would rush ahead only to run back to his parents and then race off again.

Once they arrived, Tommy had their three horses tacked up with his horse carrying sacks that contained their food. Charlie was the first to mount his pony and then Grace and then Tommy. When everyone was settled, Tommy spurred his horse forward and they all headed out.

Tommy had told them that he had a specific place in mind and wouldn’t elaborate anymore. Grace was inquisitive but she also was savoring the scene before her. Charlie proceeded to ask and ask about where they were going and Grace could tell that Tommy was regretting saying it was a surprise.

Tommy eventually gave in to Charlie’s persistent asking and told the boy that they would be riding to a stream that Tommy knew and that was where they would have their picnic. It took perhaps an hour before they reached the picnic spot and after promoting Charlie too dismount, he came for Grace. “You chose a good spot,” Grace commented as she slid off her horse and into her husband’s waiting arms.

“Aye, I thought he would like it,” Tommy said, keeping Grace close in his arms for a few pauses. “Plus I figured you would enjoy it too.” Grace leaned forward, cupping his cheek and pressed a loving kiss to Tommy’s lips.

“Is Thomas Shelby a romantic?” She teased when she pulled away. Tommy rolled her eyes, letting her go and went off to take care of the horses while Grace went to play with Charlie. She watched her son kick off his shoes before wading into the stream. It was not long before Grace had a collection of rocks before her feet that her son deemed to be to "pretty".

Tommy joined Grace on the ground and she watched him toss his cap and jacket to the side. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen Tommy looked well...relaxed. He leaned back, hands supporting him as he let the sunbathe him in its golden rays. There was even a small smile on Thomas’ lips.

This is how they spent the morning that day. Charlie never seemed to weary of the water and his clothes ended up on the side of the stream for he had gotten them soaked. Nobody minded though. They were clothes just after all.

Lunch proved to be a challenge since Charlie was not willing to sit and eat. It took Tommy letting Charlie sit in his lap for the boy to be willing to eat. As Grace watched her two boys play together after lunch in the water, her heart swelled with utter love. Both faces were filled with giggling and smiles.

In the afternoon, the family took a stroll along the stream. Charlie was still naked so he was quite happy to walk through the water, giving his parents more rocks that he wished to bring home. “Charlie, love, we’ve run out of room in our pockets,” Grace said as Charlie tried to hand her some more rocks. The boy frowned and Grace could see his mind working to solve this problem.

Charlie did come up with a solution to the problem.

He proceeded to stick the rocks up his nose.

“Charlie!” Tommy groaned, rubbing his face. “Take the rocks out of your nose!”

“Why?”

“Because rocks don’t go up your fucking nose,” Tommy answered. Charlie’s nose wiggled and they watched him struggle to get the rocks out. The next ten minutes was one of the most peculiar things Grace had ever seen. Her husband, the famous Thomas Shelby, was trying to get rocks out of a three-year-old’s nose.

They ultimately did succeed and the walk continued. “I never thought I would ever have to take stones out of someone’s nose, let alone our son,” Tommy commented as he offered Grace his arm which she took. “I suppose life is full of things you never thought you would have to do.”

“Are you being philosophical?” She teased him and Tommy rolled his eyes at her once more. They continued their walk but Grace began to pick up on the signs that Charlie was growing tired and casually mentioned turning back. On the walk back, Charlie had to be carried by Tommy for he was far too sleepy to walk another step. Grace held Tommy’s hand as they walked and she stopped for a moment to look at her two boys.

Charlie looked so much like his father, with his hair and his nose. And his eyes too though Tommy argued that Charlie had Grace’s eyes. And Tommy...Grace could not recall the last time he had looked this carefree. His eyes no longer held a distressed look that had become common to glimpse. And was that color Grace saw in his cheeks?

“What?” Tommy asked, eyes searching her face when she stopped them.

“Nothing.” She answered and they continued back. When they reached the horses, Tommy woke Charlie just enough to get the boy to mount his pony before he fell asleep in the saddle.

“What did we do to make this kid fall asleep?” Tommy asked, attaching a rope to Charlie’s horse before mounting. “He’ll be fine though. If he falls off...well, it’s a short distance.” Tommy added when he saw Grace’s concerned expression. By some miracle, Charlie did not fall off and when they reached Arrow House, Tommy dismounted and pulled his son off the saddle and into his arms.

“Here, let me.” Grace murmured after dismounting, taking Charlie into her arms. She held him close for a moment, hand pressed against his head. She would never tire of holding her boy. With Tommy’s hand on her lower back, Grace headed into the house to put Charlie asleep in his bed.

Chapter Text

Little Charlie Shelby wasn’t sure what had woken him that night. Had someone been shouting? The little boy’s eyes opened, scanning his room half-asleep, looking for what had caused him to wake up. There was a sudden crash from downstairs that had Charlie instantly up and out of bed. He raced downstairs and went to his father’s study to find his father on the ground, broken glass scattered about.

“Charlie?” Tommy mumbled as the boy stuck his head in. “Charlie, it’s you.”

“Yes, it’s me, Father.” The boy went in as Tommy beckoned him in. Charlie stood then, looking at his father. It smelled of alcohol in here but Charlie wasn’t sure if that was due to the bottle being smashed or the amount his father had drunk.

“C’mere, Charlie.” Tommy once more motioned for Charlie to come to him. The boy hesitated before moving around the broken glass the best he could to make his way to his father. One of his bare feet got a small shard of glass in it but Charlie kept mute about it. When he was in front of his father, Tommy sat upon his knees and pulled his son into a hug. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” He kept whispering to Charlie, cradling the boy’s head.

“For what, Father?” Charlie asked, wrapping his own tiny arms around Tommy’s thin frame.

“For this. For everything. Your mother. This life. Everything. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Did Charlie just hear a sob? Unsure of what else to do, Charlie gave his father a light pat on the shoulder.

“It’s okay, Father, I forgive you.” The little boy whispered as the door opened and Lizzie came in, wrapped in a nightgown.

“Tommy?” She asked, making her way over to the two. She had been smart and had worn slippers. “Is everything alright?” Kneeling down next to the two, Lizzie examined the scene before her. She knew Thomas was drunk but why was Charlie here? “Charlie, is everything alright?” Lizzie asked then.

“I think so...I heard a massive crash so I came to see it. Lizzie, I think my foot got hurt.” Lizzie looked down and cursed softly. Charlie’s foot was covered in blood. She nodded and moved forward to take Charlie but Tommy pulled Charlie away.

“I’ll take care of it,” Tommy announced as he stood, picking Charlie up, rocking backward for a moment before regaining his balance. “It’s my fault anyways.” He brought the boy over to the couch and sat down next to Charlie as Lizzie went to get supplies. “Y’know, sometimes I still see your mum.” Tommy murmured then. “She’s always...right there.” He pointed and Charlie looked but naturally, saw no one. “She told me to do it, the other night...to jump off that bridge. But I didn’t…” He trailed off as Lizzie came in.

Soon enough Charlie’s foot was cleaned and bandaged. “Alright, Charlie, why don’t you go back to bed?” Lizzie suggested and the boy nodded, hobbling out of the room.

“Goodnight, Charlie!” He heard Tommy yell but the boy didn’t respond. It wasn’t a good night. Why did adults always say that Charlie wondered as he climbed into bed. How could that have been a good night? The boy wasn’t exactly sure what his father had meant by the bridge or by seeing his mum but that night, as Charlie stared up at the blackened ceiling, he prayed.

Mama, if you’re up there in Heaven with God like Aunt Polly says you are...please come and help Father. I don’t think he’s ok...I’m not sure what he is anymore. So please, come and help him, Mama. I miss you.

Chapter Text

The day had been just like every other day for Tommy. He woke up, had a quick bite to eat with Lizzie before heading off to work. So, when his son Charlie called at work that day, Tommy didn’t think anything of it.

“Mr. Shelby, Charlie’s on the phone!” His secretary had called to him as he entered his office.

“Thank you, Louise,” Tommy responded before entering his office. He went to his desk and picked up the phone. “Hello, Charlie.”

“Hello, Bunic,” Charlie said and Tommy frowned.

“What was that?”

“I said hello Bunic.”

“That’s ‘grandpa’ in Romani. Why are you calling me…” Tommy trailed off as he connected the dots. “Charlie…”

“Aye Dad, you’re going to be a grandfather.” Tommy sank into his chair, rubbing his face against his hand.

“Oh...Charlie…” For once, Tommy Shelby was lost for words. “Congratulations.” He finally managed to get out, voice cracking. “Can I come ‘round tonight to see you both?”

“Course. Louise is home for the day as am I so come by whenever.” Charlie answered and the two hung up.

That was 9 months ago. Tommy had received a call much like the one he had first received the first time but this was one was Charlie telling him Louise was in labor. Tommy dropped everything and raced to the hospital. He sat with Charlie through it all. Others had asked to come as well but Tommy shooed them away.

It felt like the birth stretched on for hours but in truth, it wasn’t that long. The doctor came out and Charlie jumped up, instantly alert. “Is she okay?” Charlie asked.

“Come and meet your daughter, Mr. Shelby.” The doctor said and Charlie raced into the room. Tommy stayed outside to give the two some privacy. He remembered Grace’s labor like it had been yesterday. How she screamed and begged for it to be over. How it felt to hold Charlie in his arms. The boy had been so small then, his head fitting into Tommy’s palm. And now look at him.

Charlie was a successful businessman with a beautiful wife and now his own daughter too. “You’d be so happy, Grace,” Tommy mumbled as tears pricked in his eyes. Sometime later, Charlie came out and invited Tommy in. The baby girl laid in Louise’s arms, sound asleep.

“How are you doing, Louise?” Tommy murmured, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

“Alright, tired and sore,” Louise answered as Charlie leaned forward, taking the baby girl from his wife.

“Meet Grace, Dad,” Charlie whispered before sliding Grace into his arms. Tommy stood there, holding Grace. His grandchild.

“Hello, Grace,” Tommy whispered, stroking the girl’s cheek lightly with a finger. “Welcome to this world, one where you will always be loved.” Tommy pressed a kiss to the girl’s forehead and cried.

Chapter Text

Charlie, Ruby, and Cyril were playing in the front yard that morning as a car pulled into the driveway of Arrow House. As Cyril ran off barking, the two children went into the house. “Daddy!” Charlie called. “There’s a car in the driveway and it’s a stranger!” Tommy appeared in a minute, gun out of his pocket.

“Charlie, Ruby, go inside,” Tommy ordered. The children didn’t need to be told twice and Charlie grabbed Ruby’s hand, the two rushing off to do what had been asked. They snuck into the room next door that gave them a good view of the driveway where they peeked out at the scene before them. Cyril was going crazy, barking and jumping at the man, refusing to sit still for even a moment. Tommy had put his gun away and was shaking hands with the man.

“Who is he?” Ruby whispered and Charlie shrugged as the two men and Cyril made their way into the house. The small group made their way into Tommy’s study, closing the door behind them.

“Be quiet,” Charlie whispered to his sister before creeping out of the room and going to his father’s study, Ruby close behind. Pressing his ear against the door, Charlie listened the best he could. The sounds were muffled but he heard Cyril’s name thrown around a few times and something about being a bad shot.

Charlie pressed his ear even more against the door, straining to hear something, anything that could help figure out who this man was. There was the sound of footsteps and Charlie froze, trying to figure out if the footsteps were coming towards the door or away. Coming towards! Charlie fell backward, knocking Ruby to the ground as the door opened to reveal his father and the man staring down at them.

“Charlie Shelby!” His father scolded, leaning down and grabbing the boy’s shirt, lifting him up onto his feet. “You know better than to eavesdrop,” Tommy added, giving the boy a quick boxing on his ear. Ruby stood up quickly too but Tommy ignored her.

“We just wanna know who he is,” Charlie said, looking up at the man with the scarred face. “And why’d Cyril act so happy to see him.” Charlie knelt and the large dog came to the boy’s side, licking his face a few times.

“This is Alfie, Charlie and Cyril is his dog. I was looking after him while Alfie healed.”

“Does this mean he’s gonna take him?” Ruby piped up and Tommy nodded. “No!” The girl exclaimed, throwing herself at Cyril and clutching him. “You can’t!”

“Please don’t!” Charlie added, throwing his arms around the dog as well. “Please! He’s our best friend!” Tommy was beginning to grow annoyed and his children could tell.

“Both of you…off that fucking dog or I swear you will not leave your room for a week.” The children did not budge. Tommy reached down then and grabbed Ruby, pulling her off the dog as she began to cry.

“Now, now, Tommy.” The man called Alfie said once Ruby started to cry. “Why don’t we talk about this, yeah?” Once Ruby was back on the ground, Alfie knelt in front of the two children. “So, you two have been looking after my Cyril for me while I’ve been gone?”

“Aye, sir, we have! We walk him every day…though someone has to come cause he can pull a lot…but we feed ‘im and play with him. He sleeps on our beds too!” Charlie answered as Alfie rubbed Cyril’s head.

“Well then, so you know that takin’ care of a dog is no easy thing, yeah? He does look well cared for and he certainly is spoiled fuckin’ rotten by the looks of the extra weight he’s put on.” Alfie rubbed his beard slowly with his hand. “Now, let’s say I was to leave Cyril with you-”

“Please! Please do!” The children exclaimed but Alfie held a hand up, silencing the two of them.

“Let’s say I left him, yeah, you two would have to promise me somethin’. Promise me that you’d take care of this old mutt till the day he dies. Treat him exactly like you’ve been doin’ though perhaps lay off the treats a bit. So, can you two promise me that?” Both children nodded eagerly. “Shake on it,” Alfie announced and in return, both children shook Alfie’s hand. “Good, he’s yours then.” Alfie stood with a soft groan, giving Cyril a final scratch on the ears.

“Go play now you two,” Tommy ordered and the children took off, Cyril bounding off after them. “Fucking hell, Alfie. Your dog is the last fucking thing I need.” He lit a cigarette as Alfie smirked.

“Good, I made the right decision then,” Alfie answered with a smirk before giving his hat a small tip in Tommy’s direction before he left.

Chapter Text

It was a week after Grace died that Charlie asked about her. “Where’s mama?” The boy asked Tommy one day over breakfast. Well, Charlie was eating and Tommy was smoking a cigarette.

“She’s gone, Charlie.”

“Gone where?”

“To Heaven.”

“Where’s that?” Tommy pointed upwards and Charlie nodded and finished breakfast in silence. Later that night, when Charlie was supposed to be in bed, he snuck into his father’s room.

“What are you doing up, Charlie?” Tommy asked, looking up from the bed where he was sitting. His little boy waddled over, dragging his teddy bear behind him.

“Where’s mama?” The boy asked once he had stopped in front of Tommy.

“What? I told you this morning, she’s upstairs. Now Charlie, please go to bed.” Tommy lacked the energy at the moment to deal with his son, let alone questions about his now-dead wife.

“But I looked upstairs, all over, and she wasn’t there, Daddy.”

“She’s dead, Charlie! Fucking dead! Gone! Never coming back! She was fucking shot by a bullet meant for me!” Tommy roared, jumping to his feet. “Now stop asking questions and go the fuck to sleep!” He snapped. Charlie raced off, dropping his bear behind him in his hurry.

Tommy went over and picked up the small bear, running his thumb over the well-worn ear that Charlie would carry the bear by. Grace had made the bear for Charlie for his second birthday. She had made it out of mismatched fabrics and when Charlie asked why, she responded, telling him that this bear was just like him. “You’re a mix of so much, Charlie. Me, Daddy, Aunt Polly, Ada...each of these fabrics represent parts of you that, put together, make you.” The metaphor went over Charlie’s head and he was quick to point out that he was in fact, a boy, and not a bear.

Tommy’s thumb moved across the bottom of the bear’s paw. Grace had stitched in Charlie’s initials on the bear. “Oh, Grace.” He mumbled, making his way to the window, leaning against the cool glass. “What am I going to fucking do?”

That night passed slowly for Tommy and it was after 12 that he left his room. Making his way down the hallway, Tommy made it to Charlie’s room and opened the door quietly. The boy seemed sound asleep, curled up among his stuffed animals.

Entering, Tommy went over and knelt by his son’s side. “I’m sorry, Charlie,” Tommy whispered as he tucked the bear back under the boy’s arm where it belonged. After pressing a kiss to Charlie’s forehead, Tommy stood, leaving the room.

“Daddy?”

His footsteps stopped and Tommy turned to see that Charlie was lifting his head, eyes still half-closed. “Daddy?” The boy repeated. Tommy went back and knelt by Charlie’s side.

“I’m here. You left your bear in my room.” Tommy whispered and Charlie gave a small nod, snuggling in closer with his bear.

“Sit.” Charlie requested, causing Tommy to hesitate before he nodded, sliding in on the other side of the bed. Charlie rolled over and tucked himself into Tommy’s side. “Where’s mama?” Charlie asked once he had settled. “Whatcha mean she dead?”

Tommy took a massive breath in before exhaling through his nose. “Dead means she is no longer alive. That she’s gone onto another place that isn’t this world.”

“Is that Heaven?”

“It is.”

“Is it nice there?”

“I imagine so.”

“Do you think Mama’s happy then?” Tommy stroked his son’s hair gently.

“I hope so, Charlie. I hope so.”

“So she’s never comin’ back?” Tommy shook his head no, pointing to the bear.

“She might not be here in person but we’ll always keep her close to our hearts so she’s never forgotten. Every time you see your bear, it’s a reminder that your mother loved you more than anything else.” Charlie nodded, eyes starting to close as he gradually fell back to sleep.

Tommy stayed with his son the rest of the night, keeping the boy secure and close to him.

Chapter Text

It was a perfect day for apple picking Alfie decided when he woke up that morning. The air that was coming in from the open window was crisp and despite the early time, the sun was shining. Now, Alfie didn’t really care too much about doing “traditional” things with his family around holidays and such. The only tradition that Alfie did keep was to go apple picking. It had been his mum who had always taken Alfie and his sister and they would spend all morning picking apples. It was only when he was older did Alfie realize they had been trespassing.

Never the less, Alfie wanted to this with his family...legally.

When he broached the subject at breakfast, Charlie instantly wanted to go. Tommy seemed about to protest but Alfie shot him a look and the other man closed his mouth and nodded. So, that morning, after breakfast, everyone got dressed and they headed out. When they reached the orchard, it was rather packed with other families but they were able to get a bag with ease.

“Alright, Charlie, what apples should we go to first?” Alfie asked the boy as Tommy took Charlie’s hand.

“Red ones!” Charlie yelled.

“Which red ones, Charlie?” Tommy asked and the boy gave a shrug. Tommy looked to Alfie, rolling his eyes. “Let’s just go,” Tommy muttered and they headed off. When they arrived at the first set of trees, Charlie stared up in awe.

“They’re like 500 feet high!”

“That is an exaggeration, Charlie.” Tommy pointed out as he reached up and grabbed a ripe, red apple.

“What’s that?” Charlie asked as he scrunched down and then jumped, trying to grab an apple but with no success.

“That means you’re not telling the whole truth.” Tommy tried as Alfie reached down and picked the boy up, setting him on his shoulder.

“But I was tellin’ the truth.” Tommy gave up trying to explain and instead deposited an apple into the bag. As they wandered down the rows of apple trees, Tommy slipped his hand into Alfie’s, giving it a light squeeze. They spent the morning picking apples, Charlie directing them to all the trees he deemed fit to pick.

“See, this isn’t so bad,” Alfie commented as Charlie stood under an apple tree, gazing up at all the apples to find the perfect one.

“I never said it was.”

“You had that look on your face.”

“What look?”

“The look of ‘oh shit, my husband is right but I can’t say anything because I’m Thomas fucking Shelby and I have to be right all the time’ look.” Tommy couldn’t stop the warm smile that slid onto his lips.

“How do you know me so well?” Tommy murmured as he leaned against Alfie’s arm. Alfie didn’t answer and instead pressed a soft kiss to Tommy’s head. When the bag was full, Alfie took it to the car while Tommy and Charlie went off to find “the perfect pumpkin” according to the boy. This took some time and by the time they got home, Charlie was cranky and tired. Tommy went to go put the boy down for a nap while Alfie got out ingredients to make an apple pie.

When it came time for dessert, Charlie jumped off his chair and ran to the fridge, pulling it open. “Where’d the apple go?!” He exclaimed.

“What do you mean, love?” Alfie asked as he brought the pie to the kitchen table.

“They’re all gone!”

“There’s still some in there!”

“Not enough!” Charlie announced before he began to cry. “The apples are gone!” Tommy heaved a sigh and got up, heading over to Charlie and picking him up.

“Shh, shh now. Charlie, the apples were used in the making of the pie.” Tommy explained as he swayed side to side. “They’re still here, we just get to eat them a different way.” Alfie cut a slice of pie and Tommy nudged Charlie to look. And indeed, there were his apples. Charlie settled down after that and Tommy kept the boy in his lap while the family enjoyed the pie.

Even Cyril got a bite.

Chapter Text

When Charlie’s fathers told him that they were going to be getting another child, Charlie was perplexed. “How?” The boy had asked as they sat at the dinner that night. The five-year-old didn’t know much about life but he was pretty sure that his daddies couldn’t swallow a baby.

“We’re going to be adopting,” Tommy explained and proceeded on, seeing his son’s bewildered look. “Somebody else is giving up their baby and we’re going to take her. She’ll be part of our family.” Charlie still wasn’t entirely sold on the idea and despite his arguing, his fathers told him that it would be occurring.

So, nearly 6 months later, Alfie and Tommy left Charlie with Polly for a few days. When Charlie asked why his aunt said that they were bringing home his new baby sister. “Yeah, but why can’t I be there?” Charlie had asked her.

“It’s a lot for a little baby to take in so they didn’t want to overwhelm her even more.” Ordinarily, Charlie adored staying with his aunt but now all he desired was to be home. When it came time to go home, Alfie was the one to pick him up. “You’re gonna love her, Charle,” Alfie said as he drove the boy home. “We decided with the name Julia. What do you think of that, eh?” Charlie wasn’t given a chance to respond before Alfie launched back into chatting about the infant. He gazed out the window, observing all the houses rush by.

When they got home, Charlie was the first one in. “Cyril!” The boy shouted at the top of his lungs, beaming when he heard the dog speeding towards him along with the sound of wailing.

“Charlie!” Alfie scolded the boy. “You need to be quiet. Julia needs a lot of sleep so you can’t be waking her.” Alfie left the boy and went to Julia’s room, Charlie trailing behind him. Tommy sat in a rocking chair with a bundle in his arms, rocking back and forth and trying to calm her. “How has she been doing?” Alfie asked as he unobtrusively entered the room.

“She’s alright.” Tommy murmured as he got the baby to quiet down. He glanced up and saw Charlie at the door, motioning with his head for Charlie to come in. “This is your new little sister, Charlie,” Tommy said as the boy came over, gawking at the girl before him. Her eyes were closed and she almost looked like a doll…

Charlie reached out and pinched her cheek, causing the girl to stir and start screaming once more. “Charlie!” This time it was Tommy who scolded him. “What did you do that for!?” When Tommy got a response of a shrug, he glanced at Alfie and nodded.

“C’mon you,” Alfie took Charlie’s hand, escorting the boy out of the nursery and to his own room. “You can’t be mean to Julia, Charlie. She’s your sister and part of this family, whether you like it or not.” That was the thing, Charlie didn’t like this. Charlie sat on his bed, staring out the window as Cyril wandered in.

“Least I’ve got you.” The boy mumbled as Cyril hopped up onto his bed. Dinner was a lonely time for Charlie that night since it seemed to take two people to feed Julia. At least Charlie got away with not eating his veggies.

During the next few days, family members trickled in, all wanting to see the new baby. They brought gifts for her, new toys and clothes, all while Charlie stood there, observing this all silently. Charlie didn’t understand what was so appealing about the baby. All she did was poop, cry, eat, and sleep. She couldn’t even talk!

It got to the point where Charlie couldn’t handle it anymore and he went outside to the backyard with Cyril. “C’mon, Cyril. Let’s go in the woods. I bet they won’t even notice we’re gone.” The two ventured into the woods, investigating here and there but mostly walking. “I don’t get they all like her,” Charlie muttered to Cyril, kicking a rock. “Least I’ll always have you.”

Eventually, Charlie grew peckish and headed back to the house. As he arrived in the backyard, his aunt Ada was standing on the porch. She was the first to notice him. “Tommy! He’s here!” Ada hollered into the house and Charlie paused, watching as his father ran out of the house and over to him.

“Charlie, you scared us!” Tommy scolded as he picked the boy up, hugging him tightly. “We thought you had gotten lost or taken. You need to tell us where you’re going and you know better. You can’t go into the woods alone.” Charlie disregarded his father’s words, wrapping his arms tightly around Tommy’s neck. He refused to let go until dinner time.

Months passed quietly in the house but Charlie didn’t warm up to Julia. He still didn’t see why everyone wanted to hold her and look at her. She was just a stupid baby. His parents did their best to try and get Charlie to associate with her but Charlie was not having it.

Thankfully, school was in session so Charlie was gone for most of the day. He liked this, despite it being school. It also meant that when he came home, at least one parent would be there and sometimes Charlie was able to get the one on one attention he desired.

Today though was not one of those days.

Charlie came home from school that day with a painting he had spent days on. It was his daddy’s newest horse “Justice”. Charlie had even spelled the horse’s name on the paper (though his teacher helped him to spell it). Tommy was home when Charlie arrived that day and Charlie grinned.

“Daddy!” The boy said as he ran into Tommy’s open arms.

“Hi there,” Tommy said, hugging his boy before standing. “Come, let’s go get a snack.” The two went into the kitchen and Charlie started to tell Thomas about his drawing while Tommy got together some biscuits and milk. Charlie was about to pull his drawing out when Julia started to cry. “Hold on one second, Charlie,” Tommy said and he left to get the girl.
As Charlie sat there, arms crossed, he watched the clock as the hand moved with every second. It felt like hours later that Thomas returned with Julia. “Sorry, buddy. What were you saying?” He asked as he sat down next to Charlie, Julia sitting in his lap, leaning against Tommy’s chest.

“Well, I was sayin’ how today, the paint had dried enough and Ms. Lanners let me bring it home!” Gingerly, Charlie pulled the picture from his bag, placing it on the table.

“Wow, Charlie, this is amazing.” Tommy murmured and Charlie beamed, watching Tommy lean forward to study it in more detail. As he did so, Julia reached out, her hand hitting Charlie’s cup of milk and this resulted in milk being spilled all over the painting.

Charlie had never felt so angry in his entire life. He turned slowly to look at his baby sister before reaching out and pinching her arm as hard as he could. “Charlie!” Tommy scolded as Julia burst into tears. “That was an accident!”

“No, she did it on purpose!” Charlie screamed. “She ruined my drawing! She ruined everything!” Charlie raced from the kitchen and out the front door, hot tears sliding down his face. He went to Polly’s house down the street, using the key under the mat to let himself in. Polly was finishing a cup of tea when her nephew raced in.

Polly didn’t say anything but set aside her teacup, opening up her arms for Charlie who threw himself into her open arms. “Shh, shh,” Polly whispered, picking Charlie up, swaying with the boy in her arms. “Come, tell aunt Pol what’s been happening.”

“I hate her! I hate her! I hate her!” Charlie said voice muffled from where he had his face buried in Polly’s shirt.

“Your sister?”

“She’s no sister of mine!” Polly sat down, shifting Charlie so he was resting against her chest. She sent a quick text to his parents before turning her attention to him.

“What happened?”

With that, Charlie spilled everything. Everyone was ignoring him and nobody had brought him any presents when she got home. Daddy and Papa were never around and when they were, Julia demanded their attention. “Papa was reading a book with me the other night and he suddenly stopped. He had fallen asleep! I tugged on his beard to wake him up and then he got all mad at me! He was the one who’d fallen asleep! Then-then the other night, they both were gonna read me a bedtime story but they were asleep in their bed! With her! That’s always been my spot! My mummy would never have done this!”

Furious tears poured down Charlie’s face and he had reached the point where he was sobbing too hard to form words. Polly continued to comfort her nephew until Charlie had quieted down enough.

“Now, listen here, Mr. Charlie Shelby. Your papa and daddy love you very much. You have no idea how much they love you. But they have been busy with Julia. Taking care of a baby is a lot of work since Julia can’t look out for herself like you can. But you know what? I think you could help them take care of her.”

“Whatcha mean?” The child mumbled, wiping his runny nose on his sleeve.

“Well, perhaps you could help your papa fix her bottle? Or help daddy read her a story. This way, you can spend time with them but also Julia. You may like her. You need to give her a chance. She’ll be looking up to you, Charlie, as you get older and you need to show her how good of a big brother you are.” Polly pressed Charlie’s head against her shoulder, pressing a kiss to his head. “Come, let’s get you back.”

When Charlie and Polly arrived at home, Charlie said nothing, running to the top of the stairs to hide but halted when he heard his name. Hiding behind the wall, Charlie listened.

“We don’t know what to do, Pol,” Tommy said with a sigh. “We’ve tried everything. Anytime Charlie gets close, he lashes out. The poor girl is covered in bruises from him. We’ve tried giving him things to do around the house to help but he refuses. Instead, Charlie just goes around in a horrid mood, breaking her toys and hating her. We’ve tried reading stories with the two of them but Charlie just hits her. And at this point, Alfie and I are too bloody exhausted to try and fix this all. We’re hardly getting by ourselves.”
“You can’t ignore him, Thomas.” Polly scolded.

“We’re not! He’s just making this all very complicated.”

“Well...why don’t one of you take care of Julia and another takes care of Charlie? Tonight, for example, you help Charlie with his bath and draw with him or whatever the hell he wants to do while Alfie takes care of Julia. And if Alfie really needs something, he can call for you.” Polly watched Tommy run a hand through his hair, looking completely worn out.

“I’ll try,” Tommy muttered.

And that night, Tommy did try. He got Charlie to help make dinner and gradually throughout the night, Charlie’s spirits began to rise as he spent the much needed time with his daddy. But all good things must come to an end. Tommy had finished drawing a bath for Charlie when Alfie called for him. “I’ll be right back,” Tommy said, kissing the boy’s hair before leaving.

Charlie sat there in the bath, half-heartedly playing with the toys in the tub. By the time Tommy came back, the water had gone cold. “I’m sorry about that, buddy. Julia threw up and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t her being sick.”

This gave Charlie an idea.

That night, as everyone slept, Charlie sneaked downstairs and grabbed packets of oatmeal and a bowl before running upstairs. He dumped the oatmeal into the bowl, adding water from the bathroom sink before going back to his room. Charlie sat under his blankets until it became intolerable and his forehead was drenched in sweat. Now, he had to act quick.

Charlie began to spread the oatmeal on his pajamas before covering his bed with it (just a little bit though) before running to his parent's room. “Papa!” Charlie said, waking up Alfie by shaking him. “Papa! I exploded!”

“Ye what?” Alfie mumbled, still half asleep.

“I puked!” That was enough for Alfie to open his eyes and turn on the light. He groaned at the sight of Charlie, touching his hand against Charlie’s forehead. The boy did feel a tad warm.

“Alright, let’s go get you cleaned up,” Alfie mumbled and got out of bed. The two went into Charlie’s bedroom and Alfie halted, turning the light on to inspect the room. “Charlie?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you really throw up?”

 

“Yes.”

“Are you really sure? You know what happens if you lie.” Charlie abruptly wouldn’t meet Alfie’s eyes and the older man sighed, rubbing his face. “Charlie, kiddo, this is not cool. You need to stop this. We have been trying our best but as Aunt Polly said, Julia needs a lot of attention.”

“So do I!” Charlie yelled. “You don’t ever play with me! You and daddy do nothing with me! It’s all about her! That baby! She can’t do anything! I hate her! I wish you had never gotten her! Go return her!” His screaming had woken Tommy who came in, looking troubled but it also caused Julia to start crying. Charlie crossed his arms, a scowl across his small face. Tommy scanned the room and seemed to understand what happened.
“Come on, Charlie, let’s go get you changed,” Tommy said, nodding at Alfie before the other man left. Tommy helped Charlie get into new pajamas before picking up his son. They could deal with the ruined sheets in the morning. Tommy took Charlie into the nursery where Alfie stood, swaying with Julia in his arms.

“No, I don’t wanna be here!” Charlie protested but Tommy didn’t yield. Charlie began to hit and screech, striving to squirm out of Tommy’s grasp but he had no luck. After wearing himself down, Charlie gave up and just laid his head on Tommy’s shoulder. Slowly Tommy had moved closer to Alfie until the siblings were face to face. Charlie sought to reach out and hit her but Tommy kept the boy far enough away that he couldn’t reach.

The room was silent as the two siblings stared at each other. “Lee!” Julia said suddenly, stretching out for Charlie but he pushed her hand away.

“I’m not Lee! I’m Charlie!”

“Lee!” The girl answered.

“No! I’m Charlie!” The boy was becoming frustrated as Julia giggled.

“Why don’t we read a story?” Alfie asked, taking a seat in the rocking chair. He grabbed Charlie’s favorite book and Tommy moved next to the chair so Charlie could see better. “Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?” Alfie read. Charlie leaned over, needing to see the pictures but the way Tommy was holding him, he didn’t have the greatest view.

Frowning, Charlie wiggled out of Tommy’s arms and went to stand by Alfie. As Alfie read, Charlie was prompt to fill in the answers, calling out what animals were next. When Alfie completed the book, he picked up another one. “A told B, B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree. Wee said D to E, F, G, I’ll beat you to the coconut tree!” As Alfie read this book, Julia reached out and wrapped a finger around Charlie’s hand. While the boy felt in, he wanted to read the book more so he stayed silent. Alfie read them two more books before announcing it was time to go back to bed.

Julia whined as she was picked up, forced to let go of Charlie’s finger. Charlie stood, watching as Julia was put back in her crib, fussing. “Come on, Charlie.” Alfie murmured but the boy didn’t move.

“Maybe...maybe I could read her ‘Goodnight Moon’ so she can sleep.” His parents looked at each other in astonishment but nodded, leaving the boy. They stood at the edge of the room, listening as Charlie got the book from the shelf and sat down next to her crib.

And from that night onwards, Charlie read Julia a book every night.

Chapter Text

No one had ever said that parenting was easy. In fact, people said it was a walking nightmare. And for once, Grace had to agree. It was half an hour past Charlie’s bedtime and the boy was already quite grumpy. However, he refused to sleep because he was missing his stuffed elephant, Mammy. Grace had been gifted the elephant before Charlie was born and for whatever reason, Charlie hooked himself onto that damn elephant.

Mammy went almost everywhere with them whether it be on a walk, to visit someone, to visit Tommy at work. Mammy always came with them.

That was why Charlie was refusing to even enter his bedroom unless he had Mammy. Grace had gotten Francis and another maid to help her search but they were having no luck. “What if she’s gone?” Charlie asked before he began to cry when he saw his mother return without his beloved friend.

“I’m sure she isn’t, Charlie.” Grace murmured as she picked him up, rubbing his back soothingly. “I’m sure she’s just playing a little game with us. Why don’t we go ask your daddy?” Charlie sniffled but gave a small nod in agreement so Grace headed downstairs and to Tommy’s office. Balancing Charlie in one arm, she knocked lightly before entering.

Thomas naturally was at his desk and on the phone. He looked up when Grace entered, eyebrows furrowing in question before giving a questioning gesture towards Charlie. Before Grace had time to answer, Charlie turned and spotted his daddy. “Daddy!” The boy wailed. “We lost Mammy!”

“Charlie, shush.” Grace scolded lightly, pressing the boy’s head into her shoulder to try and stifle any tears that might come. “Daddy’s on the phone.”

“But...but...Mammy!” Charlie exclaimed and Grace sighed, swaying back and forth to try and get her son to calm down a bit. Charlie wasn’t having it though. His tears began to fall again, his sobs growing louder despite his mother’s best attempts to keep them silent.

“Alright, look, Arthur, I’ll have to give you a call back, yeah? Charlie’s lost his toy or something so I need to go look for it.” Tommy said into the phone. Grace didn’t hear the response from Arthur but she imagined that the other was laughing. Tommy hung up the phone and went over to his wife, taking Charlie from her arms. “Now, what seems to be the issue, eh?” He asked, balancing Charlie on his hip.

“Mammy’s gone!” Charlie informed him. “We looked everywhere! No Mammy!” Tommy brushed some of Charlie’s hair lightly from the boy’s eyes, glancing at Grace who gave a helpless shrug.

“Hmm, well then...what did you get up to today?” Tommy asked to which Grace answered. They had gone on a walk in the morning where Charlie had “fallen into” one of the large fountains (Grace knew he had done this on purpose). They came back, Charlie got changed and then they had lunch before heading out on a few errands.

“Could Mammy be in the car?” Thomas asked Grace and she shook her head no. “Alright, what else did you do?”

“Mummy and I played hide n seek for a bit.” Charlie piped up and Grace’s eyes widened slightly. Of course! She had forgotten about that.

“Where did you hide?” Charlie shrugged in response to his father’s question. Of course, the boy forgot at this point.

“I was the one seeking so I might be able to remember,” Grace commented and so the three of them headed out in search of a stuffed elephant. They eventually did succeed in their mission and Charlie quite happily crawled into bed.

Afterward, Tommy and Grace sat in Tommy’s study on the couch, Grace curled up in Thomas’ arm. “What did Arthur have to say?” She asked, glancing up at her husband.

“He just laughed and said something about how I’m not so fearsome after all.” Grace had to laugh at that.

“Aye, Thomas Shelby. Feared gangster and finder of lost stuffed animals.”

Chapter Text

It was the first time that little Charlie Shelby would be meeting his uncle, Charlie. Charlie had met his uncle before but he had never been old enough to quite grasp who the man was until now. As Tommy drove his son to Charlie’s yard, he glanced back at his three-year-old son who was staring out the window. “You alright there, Charlie?” Tommy asked and the boy gave a small nod before looking out the window again.

Tommy didn’t speak again until they arrived at the yard and he parked the car. “Alright, out you get,” Tommy said, going around to the other side and opening up Charlie’s door. He helped the kid out of his seatbelt and out of the car, closing the door. “Come on,” Tommy began to walk but then paused when he saw his son wasn’t following. “Charlie?”

“Yeah?” Charlie said, looking down at the dirty ground before him as if this was the most fascinating thing.

“Why aren’t you walking?” Tommy received a shrug in response. “Charlie, you’ll like your uncle.” Thomas went back and knelt before his son. “He’s a good man and you can also meet Curly, yeah? And then see the horses. How does that sound?” At the mention of horses, Charlie did look up, hesitated a moment then nodded. “Good boy.” Thomas stood, ruffling Charlie’s hair before taking the boy’s hand.

The two made their way over to a barrel that was crackling. Tommy reached out his hands, warming them by the fire. Charlie wasn’t quite sure what his father was doing but he copied him all the same. “Ah, there ye are.” Uncle Charlie announced as he came out with another man and a large black horse. Thomas was about to speak but then he felt Charlie move behind him, holding tightly to his trousers.

“Charlie, come say hi.” Tommy murmured, resting a hand on his boy’s head but Charlie shook his head furiously. Opening his mouth to speak, Tommy stopped when Uncle Charlie spoke.

“Did ye know my name’s Charlie too?” Uncle Charlie began. “And this is Curly.” He added, motioning to the man next to him. Little Charlie stuck out his head just a tiny bit to look at the two men before him. There was silence for a few moments before the boy spoke.

“Why’s his name Curly if he ain’t got any hair?” Thomas had to laugh and even Uncle Charlie had to hold back a chuckle.

“That’s a very good question.” Uncle Charlie began but little Charlie spoke up once more.

“You and me got the same name.” Charlie pointed out and Uncle Charlie nodded.

“Aye we do. But I think your father mentioned you like horses, yeah?” When little Charlie nodded, big Charlie motioned for him to follow. After a pause, Charlie grabbed his father’s hand and they followed the two. For the rest of the day, Charlie spent it with his uncle and Curly. He learned about the horses from Curly and the boats from Charlie. They even let him steer a boat! By the time Thomas came back for his son, the boy was exhausted but now he didn’t want to leave. Charlie and Curly promised the boy many visits for the future and made other ridiculous promises until Charlie finally got into the car.

The boy slept the entire ride home.

Chapter Text

Charlie had been begging for weeks, literally weeks, to go to the aquarium. The closest one was in London which would be nearly a 3-hour train ride but Charlie didn’t care. The boy had come home one day with a collage he had made that had fish as the theme. They were learning about sea life in class, Charlie had said and he had fallen in love with the ocean.

When they went to the library, Charlie chose books about the ocean and its creatures. When it came to family movie night, Charlie requested Finding Nemo and then Planet Earth. What 7-year-old boy wanted to watch documentaries? None was the answer.

Despite the pestering, Tommy ultimately gave in which was how he was sitting on the train to London with a very excited Charlie. Tommy was glad that he brought along Charlie’s bag since the books inside kept Charlie occupied, allowing for his father to snooze for a bit. All too soon he was being woken by a hand patting his face and Charlie announcing they were there.

As they left the train and made their way towards the aquarium, Thomas kept a firm hold on his son’s hand. He could just feel the energy coming off of Charlie and Tommy just prayed today would go smoothly. They stopped outside of the building and Tommy snapped a picture of Charlie with the aquarium sign in the background.

Charlie’s grin was so wide in that photo and afterward, it stayed Tommy’s lock screen for some time.

They went in and bought tickets before getting a map. “Alright, Charlie, listen up.” Thomas led his son to the side so they were out of the way of the crowd. “You need to stay with me, alright? This is a busy place and I don’t want you to get lost. Now, I know you’re excited but-”

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“You aren’t gonna...work or anything, right?”

“What do you mean?” Charlie suddenly wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Just...sometimes we go out and you’re gone a real long time cause of work.” Tommy ruffed his son’s hair lightly.

“No work today. I promise.” Once more grinning, Charlie snatched the map from his father’s hand and declared that he wanted to see the penguins first so off they went. The penguin enclosure was filled with penguins. Some were swimming, others were sleeping or grooming themselves. “Daddy! It’s the emperor penguins like the one we saw in that movie!”

Aye, Thomas remembered that movie. Charlie had watched March of the Penguins and afterward had cried for nearly two hours because the “baby penguins didn’t deserve to die and it was real mean of the animals to eat them”.

Struggling to see, Charlie stood on his tiptoes in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the animal he had studied for so long. Eventually, Tommy picked Charlie up and the boy was able to see properly. They stayed there for the next half hour or so and it was only when Tommy pointed out there were other animals did Charlie agree to move on.

The next place they went to was the touch tank. Charlie was able to touch stingrays, hermit crabs, starfish, and even a lobster. Tommy was able to catch Charlie’s reaction on video when the boy touched a stingray swimming by. Charlie’s reaction was a mixture of squealing and giggling. Once more, Charlie didn’t want to leave but after his father pointed out the main attraction, Charlie was quite willing to go.

When they reached the tunnel and entered, Charlie stopped, mouth dropping in awe. The main attraction was a long tunnel that when one looked up and to the sides, you could see into the massive tank. Inside that tank, hundreds of fish swam about, some quite small while others were bigger than Charlie. There were sharks in the tank too and sea turtles. If Tommy had, to be honest, he was eager to see the sea turtles.

Standing there with the ocean life surrounding him, Charlie seemed unsure of how to react and it showed on his face. Tommy smirked in amusement before guiding his son over to the tank. Charlie pressed his face right up against the glass and Thomas was about to tell him not to be so close because of germs but decided against it. The awe on Charlie’s face was too much.

For the next two hours or so, Charlie wandered about, never once losing that look of awe.

They eventually left and got lunch in the cafe. Charlie got a turtle-shaped lunch and begged his father to take a picture before he ate it to which Tommy obliged. Charlie also thought it was quite fun to be eating a waffle in the middle of the day. After a quick stop off at the bathroom, the two ventured out once more, this time to the smaller tanks that held other sea life.

As they walked about, Charlie had to stop at every sign to read it or have his father read it. However, there was one that Charlie was puzzled on. “Daddy, why do people throw trash in the ocean?” The boy asked. “Don’t they know that hurts the animals?”

“I don’t think many people care about the ocean as you do.” Tommy murmured.

“What’s that?” Charlie pointed to a sign that read “Coral bleaching”. Tommy read the sign out loud for his son. The sign talked about the risks of coral reefs dying off because of all the pollution in the ocean and how the ocean was growing hotter because of climate change. Tommy continued to read about the oceans and the other troubles that it faced. When he finished, Charlie let out a loud wail, surprising Tommy.

“What is it, Charlie?” Tommy asked, kneeling in front of his son as Charlie began to sob, throwing his arms around Tommy’s neck.

“P-p-people h-hurt the o-o-cean and if...if we don’t do...s-s-something then it’s all gonna be...gone!” Charlie managed to get out before he went back to wailing. Thomas lifted his son up and gently pressed Charlie into his shoulder, swaying with the boy in his arms.

“I know, it is quite sad, aye.” Thomas murmured. “But there are things we can do to help the ocean, you know? We can stop using plastic bags. Use reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones. We can walk or ride a bike somewhere rather than taking a car or bus. There are lots of ways for us to help, Charlie boy.” Tommy’s fingers tickled at his son’s stomach as Charlie began to calm down.

“I just wished people loved the ocean,” Charlie muttered as he rested his head on his father’s shoulder. Tommy pressed a light kiss to Charlie’s head then before taking Charlie to look at more fish. They stayed there the entire day and only left when they had to. Naturally, they stopped off at the gift shop.

Charlie got a grey sweatshirt that when the hood was raised, it made him look like a shark. They also got a few more books on the ocean and Charlie was able to choose out a reusable water bottle that would be his. On the ride home, Charlie fell fast asleep in his father’s arms.

Chapter Text

“Hello there, Thomas.” Dr. Gold said as Thomas arrived for his daily appointment. Tommy grunted in response as he sat down on the all too familiar couch. How long had he been here? Weeks? Months? He lost track. “How are you doing?” Gold asked.

“Fine.” The common answer for Thomas.

“I heard that you didn’t want to take your medicine yesterday.” Dr. Gold commented. “It’s critical that you take them…” He began to talk and Tommy ignored him, eyes darting around the room that had also become all too familiar. Dr. Aberama Gold…Ph.D…Yale Unversity…How many times had Thomas read those words? And those books. Last time Tommy had started counting them, he had gotten to 58 so why not continue? It gave him something to do. “Thomas!” The tone pulled Tommy from his thoughts.

“Yes?”

“Were you listening?”

“No.” Dr. Gold sighed, rubbing his nose for a moment before nodding.

“Thank you for being straightforward at least. I have a question now if you don’t mind me asking?”

When don’t you have a question Tommy thought bitterly but held his tongue.

“Do you know why you’re here?”

“Because I keep seeing my dead wife everywhere. That I have PTSD from the war and that I have an addiction to morphine and coke.”

“Do you want to fix any of those?” Dr. Gold asked and Tommy gave a shrug. “What about your son?”

“What about Charlie?” Immediately Tommy was on edge. He could be persuaded here and there to open up but he would not discuss his son. “Do you want to get better for him?” Tommy’s eyes gravitated to the window, gazing outside. It was a fine day, bright and warm.

Charlie would be at school now…possibly having recess and running around with his friends. Then he would go back, finish up the school day and go home to Aunt Polly. She would sit with him as he worked on his spelling and numbers. Later she would make dinner. Maybe a family member or friend would come over for a bit. Was it bath day for Charlie? If it was…Polly continuously chose the best toys. If not, Charlie would be in bed, curled up in Polly’s lap as she read to him. What book had they started reading? Ah, that’s right. The Magic Treehouse. Polly would tuck Charlie in and kiss the boy goodnight. Charlie would ask the question he asked every night.

“When is daddy coming home?”

“Soon.” Was the answer he always received.

Tommy was missing that. All of that. While he despised being in this psych ward he had done it by court order. It was that or to lose Charlie. Charlie was his world. It had been Charlie who had called the police when he found his father passed out on the bathroom floor from an unintentional overdose. But it was an overdose nevertheless and the judge stated that Tommy could either clean up his act or he would lose all claim he had to Charlie.

So he had agreed to come here.

“I would get better for him.” Thomas lastly answered.

“Would?”

“I’m past help.”

“Why’s that?” Tommy chuckled even though it was without any amusement.

“Look at me,” Thomas said, motioning to his face. “Look at me!” Somehow he had ended up on his feet as if to give the doctor a better view. “I’m a fucking psycho who drinks and snorts too much snow and sees his dead wife all the fucking time!” His eyes flickered to the left of Dr. Gold for indeed, Grace was standing there. Tommy knew that if he suggested that he still saw Grace, Gold would prescribe even more drugs and that he would stop seeing Grace altogether. He couldn’t do that. “I’m past help.” He grumbled, descending into the couch once more.

“I don’t think so.” Dr. Gold said after a few moments of silence. “You’re off the drugs. Have been for a while.” Thomas remembered going cold turkey. He would rather have fought in the war again than face the withdrawal. “You haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since you came here.”

Yeah, that’s because you lot won’t give me any.

“You’re on the way, Thomas. You’re on your way to healing and getting better. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your son. Do it for Charlie.”

I tried! And look where it got me? My own fucking son is scared of me!

The doctor’s eyes watched Thomas wordlessly as the man fidgeted with a piece of string hanging off his shirt. Tommy was twisting the string around his finger tighter and tighter, cutting off circulation.

Thomas was in his own world though. His world with Grace. She stood there, next to Dr. Gold and gave Tommy one of those smiles that had made his heart race and make his insides all fluttery. “Tommy, you need to get better,” Grace said.

“But if I do that, I’ll lose you,”

“I know that you will but I’m not really here, am I? I’m just here because of you.”

“I know…but what if you never come back? What if this is the last I see of you?”

“You need to focus on Charlie, Thomas. That’s what you can do. You can see me through, Charlie. Raise him to be a good boy and eventually a good man. You’re his father and even though I’m gone, he still needs you, perhaps more than ever. So, will you please try? Please, Tommy. Try.” The string fell from his finger and Tommy looked down to see that the tip of his finger had turned white. Still, he felt the need to fidget so he began to pick at his knuckles.

“What if I fail, Grace? Huh? What if I’m stuck in this shot hole of a place with this fucking arse who thinks he knows me. Because if I fail, Charlie will be taken from me. Forever.”

“I know you, Thomas Shelby, and I know that you do not fail.” Rubbing at his face with a groan, Tommy felt the feeling of blood trickling down his hands. Must have opened a scab once more.

“Do you know often I want to end it, end it all?”

“I do. But something stops you every time.”

“It’s you.”

“No, think harder.” Thomas’ eyes closed and he remembered the last time he had considered pulling that trigger. Grace had appeared, holding Charlie’s hand. “You would be leaving our son alone in this world if you had pulled that trigger.” Thomas groaned, unable to stand still anymore and began to aggressively pace.

“Don’t you think he would be better without me though!?” He asked. “Because I am just like my own fucking father! I said I wouldn’t but I fucking have!”

“Have you hit our son? Beat him with a belt? Forced horrid treatment upon him because he answered back or didn’t make it to the toilet in time?”

“No, but that’s because you were there!” At this point Thomas was shouting and unbeknownst to him, orderlies had arrived but Dr. Gold was holding them off…allowing for Tommy to work this out for himself.

“Do you remember when Tommy was taken? Kidnapped by the priest? You told me you had never cried or been that scared your whole life.” Grace made her way over to her husband, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t know your father but I’m guessing that he would never have felt like that about you. So already, you’re better than him. Please think about it, Thomas. Do it for our son. At least try.”

Tommy took Grace’s hand in his, thumb stroking her knuckles, brushing over her wedding ring. That felt like a lifetime ago…

“I’ll do it.” Tommy finally whispered. “I’m not makin’ making any promises, Grace…but I’ll try.” His eyes turned to Dr. Gold and he blinked, now realizing the orderlies were in the room as well. “You don’t need them here.” He announced, jerking his head towards the two. He and the orderlies did not get along seeing how often Tommy had to be restrained. Thomas had what Gold called “a fiery temper”.

“Were you talking to your wife, Thomas?” No answered. “But you want to try and heal, for your son?”

“I suppose so.” After that, Tommy refused to say anything else so Dr. Gold ended their session a tad early. It had been advised that he go outside but Tommy chose to retreat to the sanctuary of his room.

As he laid in bed, Tommy gazed at the photos he had been allowed to bring (though, no picture frames of course). The pictures had begun to wear from how often Tommy held them. One of the pictures had been taken mere minutes after Charlie was born. He looked so small, wrapped up in a blanket, that beautiful, innocent face resting against his mother’s chest. And Grace…she looked so worn out but the smile on her face was one of simple, pure joy. Tommy was in this picture too, next to Grace. His own smile was as wide as could be.

Another was the three of them at the beach when Charlie had been around three or four. Thomas remembered that day fondly. It was the first time that Charlie had been to the ocean and the boy had been terrified of the waves. But with a little bit of coaxing, Tommy was able to get his son into the water and shortly afterward the boy was having a blast, all fear forgotten. The photo was of Charlie, holding his parents’ hands as they swung him in between them.

Tommy put the photos aside, unable to look at them any longer. The beach photo was the last photo they had of the three of them as a family. Five days later, Grace had been “hit” in a hit and run. Thomas knew that it had been murder though. Payback. Squeezing his eyes shut, Tommy grasped for anything, anything at all to think of other than Grace’s death.

He found himself recalling the first time that Charlie had visited him.

It had been when Tommy was a week into going cold turkey and had been a mess. A mess was an understatement. He had chills despite the sweat on his forehead. Everything was too bright or too harsh for his liking. When had been the last time he had slept? And the aches too…the aches that he felt in his bones. When he was notified that Charlie would be visiting that day, Thomas had nearly refused, not wanting his son to see him like this but decided against it.

What a blunder that had been.

Charlie was accompanied by Polly who explained that she had told Charlie that his father was sick and needed to stay in the hospital for a bit. Charlie asked if Tommy had a cold or the chicken pocks “like that boy Danny from my class.”. Polly said it was another kind of sickness and Charlie said he understood. Tommy doubted the boy really did.

So, that afternoon, Charlie was led to a tranquil room used for visiting. It was a tad sparse but there were toys lying about along with books. Tommy paced the whole time while he anticipated Ch for Carlie’s arrival, causing him to sweat even more profusely. When Charlie came in with Polly, Tommy halted his pacing and looked at his son. Charlie’s eyes met his and…Tommy wasn’t able to read his son’s expression. Was he cross? Frightened?

Polly guided Charlie to a table where Tommy met them, the three of them taking a seat. “Hello, Charlie.” Thomas began.

“Hello.” Charlie answered in a soft voice. Tommy’s eyes flickered to Polly’s but she denied to meet his gaze.

“How are you, Charlie?”

“I’m okay, I guess.” The boy’s eyes drifted down to look at the table. Once more Tommy looked to his aunt for some sort of explanation but he received nothing. “Daddy?”

“Yes, Charlie?”

“Can I ask a question?” He paused a moment as his father nodded. “How are you sick?” Thomas had been suspecting that would come up.

“Pol, could you leave us for a moment?” Tommy asked and his aunt complied, going to the other side of the room. Wiping his sweaty face on his sleeve, Tommy began. “I’m not well…in my head, Charlie.”

“How so?”

“I see things that aren’t there…I see your mother sometimes.” Tommy’s eyes flashed over to where he saw Grace, sitting next to Charlie. She had such a tender smile on her face…but it was only his fabrication. “I also took some medicine that wasn’t good for me.”

“Was that why you were sleeping on the bathroom floor?” Thomas nodded. Charlie chose up a crayon from the box on the table and started to color a picture of a dog.

“Do you have any other questions?” Tommy asked as he observed Charlie color the dog’s ear.

“How long are you gonna be here? Aunt Polly doesn’t really say.”

“I’m not sure.” Charlie paused in his coloring but nodded before going back to coloring.

“What color should I do for his collar?” Thomas smiled weakly before recommending red. The two of them colored for a little bit but as time went on, Tommy was starting to get more troubled. The chills were getting worse and the pounding in his head had become as noisy as drums. He began to scratch at his arms as well and when Polly mentioned it in concern, Thomas snapped at her.

“Thomas, come, let’s take a break.” When had Dr. Gold arrived?

“I don’t need a break,” Thomas muttered.

“I think you do.”

“No, I fucking don’t!” Thomas snapped, springing to his feet. “I am going to stay here and color with my fucking son!”

“Thomas!” Polly snapped and Thomas spun to snap at his aunt.

“Tommy, I need you to take a break now.” Dr. Gold said as he went over, placing a hand on Tommy’s arm. That was enough. Thomas whirled, fist automatically lashing out at Dr. Gold. Everything seemed to occur at once. As Thomas’ fist connected with Gold’s face, another man seized Thomas, securing him into a tight grip. Tommy resisted, crying and howling as he head-butted the man in the nose. More people showed up and Tommy discovered himself on the floor and something sharp pricked his neck.

The next thing Thomas knew, he woke up in his room, handcuffed to the bed.

Thomas took a harsh gasp of air, bringing him back to the present. That had been a month ago and he hadn’t seen Charlie since. Polly had come twice, telling Thomas that Charlie had seen it all and now he didn’t want to come to visit because he was…scared. Scared of his own father.

The rest of the day passed by quietly enough for Thomas and the next day, at 9:00 sharp, Thomas appeared once more at Dr. Gold’s office. “Hello, Thomas.” Dr. Gold said as the patient walked in, taking a seat. “I didn’t realize we had a session today.”

“We don’t,” Thomas admitted, fidgeting for a few moments before he got up and began to pace.

“Is there something you want to talk about, Thomas?”

“Charlie.” Dr. Gold motioned for Tommy to continue then. “After that day that Charlie visited…I haven’t seen him since. Polly told me…that Charlie was scared of me.” He paused in his pacing, picking at his knuckle. “Me…his father.” He returned to his pacing. “His mother is gone. Dead. I’m all that he has…my family is fucked up. You know this.” Thomas glanced over at Dr. Gold. “I don’t want him growing up…in…” Thomas couldn’t complete his sentence. Rubbing his face wearily, Tommy leaned against the window. The glass felt cool against his sweaty face.

“I hate medicine…all of them. They make me…numb. I just…feel numb.” Thomas waved his hand in the air as if this explained it.

“You also stop seeing your wife when you take them. Something you don’t like.” After a few moments, Thomas nodded and Dr. Gold wrote this down. “However…”

“However, I know that I need to take those fucking pills and all of that shit so my son won’t be scared of me.”

“Well, I believe I can help with that.”

And so, that was what transpired. Thomas ultimately allowed himself to receive the help he needed. He began to take his medicine and while his visions of Grace ceased, he did still see her in his dreams. And in a way…Tommy found it to be a good thing that he no longer saw Grace. He could move on…focus on things ahead. Focus on Charlie.

Charlie did come back though it took some coaxing before the boy was willing to visit again. The first visit had been a difficulty, Charlie not even desiring to look at his father. After Charlie left, Thomas trashed Gold’s office, screaming how this was all for nothing.

The second meeting did go a tad better though. Charlie had been willing to sit at the table with Thomas.

In the third visit, Charlie brought the book that he and Polly had been reading. About a half-hour into the visit, Charlie asked Tommy to read to him.

Months dragged on. Some days were good where Tommy almost felt like his old self again…no longer haunted by the nightmares or his own thoughts. Other days were a nightmare. Tommy would refuse to take his medicine and questioned everything if this was really worth the fight.

But eventually, Tommy was told he could be released. There would be conditions he had to do, doctors he had to see but Thomas couldn’t care at the moment. He was being discharged. And when Tommy stepped out of the door and into the lobby, Charlie and Polly were there to meet him.

When Charlie saw his father, he let go of Polly’s hand and rushed to his father. Dropping his bags, Thomas bent and caught Charlie as the boy tossed his arms around his father’s neck. “You’re back, Daddy!” Charlie whispered into his father’s ear.

“Aye, Charlie, I’m back,” Tommy whispered and held his son tightly to his chest. “And I won’t ever leave.”

Chapter Text

Charlie was awakened by a sensation of small hands rocking him and when he opened his sluggish eyes, he could see an outline of a small person next to him. “Charlie!” Ruby whispered, shaking him again. “Wake up!”

“I’m up.” The boy mumbled though this was slightly the truth. “What is it, Ruby?”

“There was a loud bang or somethin’ from downstairs,” Ruby explained as she glanced at the door to the room. “It was scary.” Charlie was about to console his sister that it was going to be okay but they both detected the sound of a gun firing and a woman’s voice laughing. Ruby seized Charlie with a faint whimper and he enveloped her in a protective hug.

“It’s okay, Ruby,” Charlie whispered as Ruby whimpered at the sound of another shot. Charlie detangled himself from Ruby’s arms and climbed out of bed, his bare feet plodding noiselessly across the carpet to the door.

“Charlie!” Ruby called but he ignored her, opening the door. Ruby hurried after him, dragging her teddy with her. The two of them crept down the long, dim hallway that brought them to the main hallway with a railing all around, enabling the children to stare down at the scene beneath them. They recognized their father, standing on the stairs wearing nothing but trousers. The woman though...Charlie did not know. She was naked, wandering around the area, gun waving about carelessly. She was saying stuff, well screaming it, but Charlie couldn’t understand what it was, her words slurred together sounding like a jumbled mess.

“Who’s that?” Ruby whispered and Charlie gave a shrug, watching his father go to the woman, stretching out for the gun. Instead of delivering it over, she just laughed and spun around, firing another shot. The bullet hissed through the air, hitting a post with a splintering crack. Ruby shrieked and Tommy’s eyes shot up to look at the noise, his eyes widening when he saw his children.

“Get out!” Thomas yelled at the children who hesitated. “Get out of here!” He roared. “Go back to your fucking room or else!” The children didn’t wait to hear what that “else” was and sprinted back to Charlie’s room. After that, Ruby laid in Charlie’s bed, clutching him tightly while she cried. Thomas had never yelled at Ruby in such a manner like that before and she was now frightened of him. It took time but ultimately, Charlie was able to get the girl to calm down enough to fall to sleep.

Charlie, on the other hand, could not fall asleep, staring at the black ceiling above him. Was that how his father had treated his mother? At some point, the door opened and Charlie glanced over to see his father’s silhouette in the door, watching as he came over. “You still, up, Charlie?” Tommy whispered as he sat down next to Ruby, stroking the girl’s hair.

“Yeah.” Thomas let out a heavy sigh, running his hands over his face for a moment before speaking.

“Look, Charlie, what happened before...it’s all taken care of, alright? There’s nothing you need to worry about.” His father gave another heavy sigh. “I’m sorry about this.”

“It’s okay,” Charlie answered. “I’m used to it anyways.”

Chapter Text

Today was going to be a long day, Tommy thought wearily as he packed up his son’s things for the day. His nanny had called in sick and nobody else was around to watch the boy (that Tommy trusted anyways) so Tommy was bringing Charlie to work. The boy was unable to sit still during the entire breakfast, wanting to know every little thing that he could find out about Tommy’s work. Already it was draining Tommy.

When they got to work, Tommy grabbed Charlie’s diaper bag and took the boy’s hand, heading into the building. Polly was the first spot him...well, that was thanks to Charlie. “Aunt Polly!” Charlie screamed and tore loose from his father’s grip to run to his aunt. Polly turned, a grin on her lips as she caught Charlie in her arms.

“Hello there, you! Ready to help your daddy do his work today?” Polly asked, tickling Charlie’s stomach which made him giggle in delight. “You have to be on your best behavior, alright?” She reminded the boy as she set him on the ground. Charlie nodded before rushing off to find his uncle Arthur to show him the new toy car that he had gotten. Tommy watched the boy for a moment before retreating to his office to get started on paperwork and such. It only took a short time before Charlie was back in Tommy’s office.

“Whatcha doin’?” The boy asked as he stood on his tiptoes to look at the papers on Tommy’s desk.

“Paperwork.”

“Sounds borin’.” Tommy had to chuckle because well, his son was correct in that.

“It’s nothing that you would like,” Tommy said before glancing over to his son. “Here now, Charlie. I’ve got a very important task for you.” The boy perked up as Tommy handed over some papers. “Go run those to your aunt, alright? Then you can go play out in the center area, alright?” Charlie took the papers and rushed off to do as instructed.

And that was how Charlie spent the morning at the office. It got to the point that Arthur and Tommy were writing notes to each other so Charlie would have something to do.

Polly took Charlie out to lunch which gave Tommy and Arthur a chance to get some actual work done. However, when Charlie came back...he had quite a lot of energy. “Aunt Pol let me get ice cream!” Charlie told his father and Tommy could see that evidence around the boy’s mouth. “Whatcha workin’ on now?” He asked, reaching up to try and grab the paper with his sticky fingers.

“Charlie, come here, lad!” Arthur called and Charlie raced off. Watching through his open door, Thomas watched as Arthur sat on the ground with Charlie playing with his cars. Charlie continued to giggle up a storm and a small smile crossed his lips as Arthur put his Peaky cap on Charlie. When his son met his eyes, Charlie pointed to his new hat and Tommy nodded.

“Do you like it, Daddy?” Charlie called.

“Aye, you look very dashing!” Despite the hat falling over his eyes anytime, Charlie moved his head. Arthur kept Charlie occupied for a tad longer before the boy got bored and rejoined his father. It seemed that it was Tommy’s turn. As Charlie wandered in, still wearing Arthur’s cap, Tommy was waiting for him. “C’here you.” Tommy lifted Charlie up onto his lap and the boy looked at Tommy’s desk.

“Me! And Mummy!” Charlie exclaimed, pointing a figure at the photos that sat on Thomas’ desk. “Dada, can I get photos of mummy on my desk?” He was referring to the desk that Thomas had gotten him last year for his birthday after the boy asked for one so he could “look like daddy”.

“Of course you can.” Tommy pressed a kiss to Charlie’s hand and reached forward, picking up the photo. “Do you want to give Mummy a kiss?” The boy nodded and kissed his hand before putting it on the picture. It was their little tradition every night to kiss Grace goodnight. “Right, I have a job for you now.”

Thomas helped Charlie slip off his lap before grabbing paper and a pen for the boy. “I want you to draw Aunt Ada a picture and we can send it to her in America.” Charlie took the pen with a very serious expression on his face and got to work. Well, that would keep him occupied for a while...hopefully.

And that was how the rest of the day was spent in the Shelby Company Limited. Their one and only goal for the day? Keep Charlie occupied.

That night, as Tommy tucked Charlie in bed, he placed a photo of Grace on his son’s desk before going to tuck him in. “Goodnight, Charlie.” Charlie grinned up at him, wearing his brand new Peaky cap that was his and only his (with no blades of course).

“Night, Daddy!” Charlie snuggled in close with his Pooh Bear and after Tommy left, Charlie looked at the photo of Grace that sat next to his bed. “Look, Mummy. I’m part of the Peaky Blinders now.” He whispered to the photo, pointing to his cap. “I hope you’re proud.”

Chapter Text

“Alright, Charlie, come say goodbye to your father!” Aunt Polly called from the doorway where Tommy stood, suitcase in hand. It took a few moments before Charlie arrived and Tommy could tell his son was not pleased with this. Charlie stopped in front of his father and looked up at Thomas for a long moment before he spoke.

“Daddy, do you promise to come back?” The question took Thomas by surprise and he blinked for a second before glancing at Polly who looked as clueless as him.

“Yes…? Why wouldn’t I come back, Charlie?” Thomas asked. “I’m just going to America and I’ll be gone for a month, at max. You’ve stayed with Aunt Polly before too.” He reminded his son who just shrugged at this reminder.

“Yeah, but Mummy left that night and she never came back.” Thomas took a deep breath before releasing it through his nose and knelt in front of his son.

“Charlie, you have my word that I will be back,” Thomas promised his son before opening his arms for the boy. Charlie hesitated for a moment before he rushed forward and hugged his father.

Chapter Text

It was a quiet day that afternoon at Arrow House. Tommy was home for once and was sitting outside, watching Ruby and Charlie play in front of him. The two were playing with their model horses though it was more Charlie direction Ruby what to do. The girl was two after all and seemed content to listen and do as her brother said.

“Ruby, that horse goes there, ye see?” Charlie said, pointing to a small wooden stable that had been created for their horses. “Yeah, cause that one’s Beauty and he needs to be cared for real nice.” Ruby nodded and put Beauty where he belonged. She reached for another horse then, accidentally knocking over a few other ones.

“Fuck!” The little girl said with a giggle, causing Tommy’s head to shoot up and look at the girl.

“Ruby, what did you say?” Thomas asked her. Ruby repeated her word and Thomas groaned. “Right, yeah, we don’t say that word.” He told her.

“Why? You and Lizzie say it lots. And Aunt Polly, and Uncle Arthur and Uncle Michael.” Charlie pointed out and Tommy rubbed his face with a soft groan.

“Right, yes…but that’s an adult word, alright? Just, neither of you say it again, okay?” The children seemed confused but nodded and went back to playing with their horses. Sometime later, Lizzie joined them, sitting down next to Tommy.

“Mama!” Ruby exclaimed, grabbing one of her horses and bringing it to her mother. “Look! Fuck!” Lizzie’s eyes narrowed and she turned to look at Tommy.

“I’m going to kill you, Thomas Shelby.” Lizzie declared.

Chapter Text

The funeral for Grace had ended and people had slowly made their way back inside the church until it was just Tommy and Charlie. Charlie rested in his father’s arm, his head on his father’s shoulder. The boy was young, too young, to understand what happened but he had been rather quiet since Grace’s death.

Thomas stood there, looking down at the gravestone that marked his wife’s grave. “It’s just you and me, Charlie.” He muttered to his son, turning his head to press a kiss to Charlie’s head. “It’s just you and me. Mama is gone…but she’ll always be with us, yeah?”

“Mama?” The boy raised his head, glancing around, most likely searching for Grace.

“No, Charlie. Mama isn’t here anymore. It’s just you and me.” Thomas repeated, resting a hand on his son’s head as Charlie continued to fuss, searching more frantically now for his mother, calling her name. No matter what Tommy did or say, Charlie refused to quiet or settle. Thankfully Polly appeared as if sensing the issue and took Charlie from his father.

“How am I suppose to do this?” Thomas whispered to Grace’s grave after his aunt and son had left.

Chapter Text

You woke to the sound of crying and you rolled over, your ears knowing what the sound meant. Your son, Charlie, was awake and hungry. Glancing at the clock that rested on the bedside table, it was thankfully after 7:00. Charlie had let you sleep in. “I’ve got ‘im.” You turned to see your husband, Tommy, slide his legs out of the bed and stand.

“Thank you,” You mumbled before curling up in an attempt to trap the warmth from the blankets. As you laid there, half asleep, you could hear Charlie’s giggles coming from the nursery. Thomas always knew how to get the boy to laugh. Tommy was a natural at being a father, despite his worries though it had taken quite some time for Tommy to figure out how to properly change Charlie’s nappy.

Just as you were about to try and fall back asleep, you heard the sound of Charlie blabbering to Tommy and they were coming your way. While Charlie had only learned a few basic words, he loved to babble. Charlie continued this as Tommy came back into the bedroom, your son stopping his babble long enough to cry “Mama!”.

The bed sank as Tommy sat down, Charlie reaching out instantly for you. Sighing, you pushed yourself up, leaning against your pillows before you took the boy. “Hi there,” You cooed, tickling Charlie’s stomach to which Charlie let out a peal of laughter, trying to grab onto your finger. “Did he need to be fed?” You asked Tommy, fingers continuing to tickle your son.

“Nah, just needed to get his nappy changed. And yes, I put it on correctly.” Tommy rolled his eyes as he settled down under the sheets with you. His added body warmth combined with the blankets was enough to make you feel quite warm and quite content.

“Dada!” Charlie said, reaching out for his father to which you passed the boy over. Tommy took Charlie with a soft groan before raising his arms with Charlie in his grasp.

“Vroom vroom!” Tommy said, making airplane noises as he moved Charlie above his head. The squeals of laughter that Charlie made warmed you most of all and you laid down once more, facing your small family so you could watch. Thomas’ arms grew tired and he placed Charlie down in between you two.

“What, couldn’t continue any longer?” You teased lightly. “I thought Thomas Shelby was a big, strong man.” You traced one of Tommy’s large arm muscles before your finger trailed upwards, tracing the sun tattoo on Thomas’ chest.

“Oh hush,” Tommy told you, meeting your eyes with a small smirk before reaching over to his bedside table, pulling out a small model airplane. How that thing got there...you weren’t quite sure. Toys seemed to be everywhere in this house. “What’s this, Charles?” Tommy began to make plane noises, moving the plane around Charlie’s head as the boy tried to reach up and grab it, making a mixture of squeals and giggles as he did. After only a few minutes of this, Charlie got distracted and began to explore the bed.

“Tommy,” You said with a sigh as Charlie neared the edge of the bed. Leaning forward, Tommy grabbed Charlie before the boy could fall before climbing out of bed.

“Come on you, let’s go get some food, eh?” Tommy told Charlie and once you had gotten your dressing gown on, the three of you headed downstairs.