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This War of Mine

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“Just one time, I wish you wouldn’t pay me…”

She looked at Tommy almost pleadingly who gave a halfhearted shrug before he walked out of his office, leaving Lizzie Stark alone again in the office to catch her breath.

She meant it. She wished just for his company, just to share cigarettes with him and talk about the morning. Lizzie appreciated the money since it helped her to eat and live and cope, but she yearned for someone to lay beside after a good shag and feel safe and protected.

That’s what Thomas Shelby made her feel: safe and protected.

She’s experienced her share of violent men, of course, and experienced her share of bruises from drunken men, but Lizzie had been able to deal with them. She stuffed the money into her corset and grabbed he purse before she decided to go to the market and buy fresh bread that she could bring back to her small flat near the Garrison to have for tea.

She knew Thomas’ business and wanted to stay out of it as much as she could so the other Shelby brothers wouldn’t be upset at Tommy for sharing information with her. She told him that she would accept the job as his secretary but he hadn’t actually given her any tasks yet to write for him, and only paid her for her other services to him.

She had to make a living and get by still.

Lizzie spend the rest of the morning and afternoon walking around Birmingham, looking for lonely men who also wanted to share her company. She only found a couple, and by the time she grabbed the bread from the market, she was exhausted and sore; the last customer she had was more than overzealous with her.

She half-limped back to her flat but when she arrived at the door, she saw a familiar face.

“Lizzie, Lizzie… I heard you’ve been busy,” Thomas Shelby remarked with a cigarette between his lips.

She sighed in frustration as she opened the door to let both of them inside. She heard him close the door behind her and didn’t say anything until they had walked up the stairs and reached her small, but cozy living room.

“Do you have your men everywhere in Birmingham, Tommy? You have them spying on me now?”

She glanced over to see an almost disappointed look on his face as she poured the two of them some Irish whiskey in small tumblers and handed one to him before she sat down across from him, wincing slightly.

“Only for safety precautions. Are you in pain?” He asked, concern laced in his voice now as he looked her up and down. “Did I hurt you?”

She shook her head and cursed herself for drawing attention to herself. She lit a cigarette before taking a drag, the bread long forgotten now. Lizzie exhaled before biting her lip.

Thomas leaned in and searched her face for answers. “Talk to me, Lizzie. Did someone hurt you?”

His protectiveness touched her more than she cared to admit. She felt silly for feeling so attached to him emotionally as she found herself yearning for him physically.

“I’m fine, Tommy, really.”

He didn’t look convinced but he sighed softly and leaned back again before taking a drink of the whiskey. “I took you on as my secretary so you could stop all that nonsense, Lizzie… so you could make an honest living.”

Lizzie had to fight back a laugh. Instead, she took another drag of her cigarette. “You took me on as your secretary so you shag me whenever you wanted.”

“That’s not true.”

“Are you sure?” She challenged now. “Because you haven’t had me write a damn thing yet! Every time I go to work there, I find myself either against the desk or on my back!”

Tommy finished his drink before helping himself to another quarter drop. He didn’t say anything for several moments and Lizzie was questioning if the Shelby man had heard her at all until he finally did speak.

“You’re still my secretary. We don’t have to sleep together, Lizzie. This is more than a one way street, you know,” Tommy knocked the ash from his cigarette off into a nearby ashtray. “We can stop this if you want. I just thought you were enjoying yourself as well.”

Lizzie looked down at her glass. He was right; this was consensual as much as it could possibly be. It wasn’t just because he was a powerful Shelby and he always got what he wanted. It was more than that for her. She wanted him to feel good, and he made sure she felt good as well, which was more than she could say about her customers.

“I am,” she confessed quietly. “I just wish you were paying me as your secretary and not your whore.”

He gave another heavy sigh and finished the drink before looked across the table to her with tired eyes. “I’m not sure what you want from me. You know our arrangement, yes?”

Lizzie poured herself another glass and drank it quickly, wishing she could forget. “I don’t see why we can’t be together. We used to be so close, and… I don’t know what happened.”

“A lot of things happened,” he stated, matter-of-factly. “People died, people lied, and people were killed. Everything I do, I do for my family, Lizzie… you know that. If they knew that we were together, then they would definitely not be happy about that, and it could threaten our business and reputation in this city.”

“Because I’m… a whore,” she finished for him.

He looked hesitant at first but then nodded. “Because you’re a whore.”

She willed the floor to open up and swallow her in this moment. She would have given everything not to hear those words come out of his mouth, but knew it was too late to unhear it now. Lizzie felt angry tears in her eyes.

“Stay the night,” she whispered, almost in a begging tone.

“I can’t,” he said simply. “You know I can’t.” He scratched his temple distractedly and put his cigarette out.

“Then just stay for a couple hours.”

He sighed again, but gave a nod. He reached out and gently grabbed her hand, caressing it almost tenderly. Lizzie stood up and undressed down to nothing before she straddled his lap and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, kissing his lips.

She felt her heart swell with love as she felt him kiss her back as she helped him undress. He stood up and helped her into the bed, their bodies dancing familiarly with each other, colliding like waves crashing against rocks until they shared several minutes of euphoria where they were together, sharing pleasure and rocking in respective ecstasies.

When they were lying side by side with each other, sharing a cigarette, she breathed him in. He had his muscular arm around her almost protectively and she buried her face into his shoulder, closing her eyes as she felt peace overwhelm her.

This was what she dreamed of with him, these types of moments.

As if they were a couple that could be seen together. She dreamed of being so close to him night after night, knowing that he was protecting her. Lizzie didn’t mind that he had to protect his family, but she just wished that he could come home to her every night instead of wherever else he was going.

They didn’t talk about that, and she didn’t ask. A part of her didn’t want to know; it was just better that way.

He seemed completely relaxed as well until he suddenly rolled out of bed and started to get dressed again. Lizzie felt cold again as the emptiness began to swim inside her once more.

“You don’t have to leave yet.”

“Yes, I do,” he corrected in his gravelly voice, straightening out his clothes. “I’ll see you tomorrow first thing.”

She sat up and saw him get his wallet out and she gave him a stern look. “Don’t you dare give me money, Thomas Shelby.”

His face looked almost vacant, as if he was going through the motions, but his eyes were soft as he took out two bills and set it on the bed. “Why not? You’re my whore, aren’t you?”

There was a teasing undertone to his voice now but she felt frustrated beyond belief. He waited until she reluctantly took the money and pocketed it inside a drawer.

“That’s why I give you money, Lizzie… because you’ll always take it.”

She swallowed hard and shook her head, hating herself. “If I never took your money, Tommy, I’d be living on the street with an empty stomach.”

Thomas finished getting dressed and then fixed his hair before he turned to look at her. “You should learn to trust me. You really think I’d let you live out there, with naught in your belly? If you think that, then you don’t know me at all, Lizzie. I could take care of you.”

She searched his face, wondering if any of what he said was true. Would he actually take care of her?

“I do trust you, Tommy.”

He gave a humorless smile and put his hat on. He walked over to her and kissed her lips softly, making her heart skip a beat. “Goodnight, Lizzie. Sleep well now.”

“Thank you. You as well.” She watched him walk towards the door and cast one more look back at her before leaving.

She soon found herself alone again with her thoughts of him and her desires. She lay in the place where he had been moments ago and hugged the sheets close to her before she closed her eyes and breathed in his scent on the pillow he had placed his head on.

She decided she would stop taking money from him.

Lizzie Stark would put her trust in Thomas Shelby. She just hoped that he wouldn’t let her down.

Chapter Text

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Lizzie woke up the next morning, chilled from the cool draft in her flat. She felt a rumble in her stomach as she remembered that she hadn’t actually eaten any of the bread she had bought yesterday on her way home.

She got dressed in a long, maroon colored dressed with her heeled boots and walked over to where the bread lay. She buttered some and took a bite, finding relief in her hunger. Of course, she hungered for more than just food nowadays.

She hungered for love.

Lizzie finished the bread quickly and grabbed her purse before starting towards where the Shelby operated their betting practices. It was chilly outside as it threatened to rain so she walked quickly but suddenly felt herself get pulled in between buildings and felt a grimy hand cover her mouth before she felt a man hold her against him as another one started to run his hand up her dress.

She whimpered against his hand and tried to fight against both men. She felt the one bring his hand back and cut her with the knife he had in his hand, and felt pain reach her cheek as a warm substance ran down her face.

If she could just yell loud enough, someone would hear her and come to her rescue.

She felt the same grimy hands trying to pull down her underwear and grab her. She bit her attacker’s hand that was holding her and suddenly screamed as loud as she could.

“HELP ME! PLEASE! RAPE!”

She prayed someone would come to her rescue but instead she was met with a hard slap and the one man let go of her, letting her head hit the wall, instantly causing her dizziness and pain before falling to the ground.

She coughed and when she came to again, she felt her body be turned over roughly as someone hiked her dress up. Lizzie fought again, but she was in too much pain. Luckily, it was that time her prayers were answered and she heard a couple voices behind her.

“You bloody cunt!”

“Come ‘ere!”

Then strong hands helped lift her up onto her feet and then a familiar voice. “You’re all right, now. They’ll take care of these men. Let’s go inside, yes?”

She let Tommy lead her towards the door of the betting building but turned her head just in time to see Arthur Shelby whipping his hat at her main attacker while John was kicking the other man who had been trying to keep her quiet.

There was no doubt that they were only doing those things on Thomas’ orders; Lizzie doubted the two brothers would’ve done it for her if he wasn’t there. She barely registered it when Tommy helped sit her down at the table on the first floor and started to examine her face.

“Doesn’t look too bad… Esme!”

Lizzie flinched as he called for John’s wife who came around quickly, her eyes widening when she saw the cut on her cheek.

“What the hell happened here, then?” Esme questioned curiously. “Where’s John?”

Tommy walked away temporarily before coming back with the cleaning cloth he could find before he started to clean Lizzie up. “He’s out taking care of what caused this here. We were by the doors about to open when we heard Lizzie cry out rape. You know how to stitch, Esme, is that right?”

“Jesus Christ,” she cursed, trying to understand the situation. “I suppose, yes. What does that have to do with anything though?”

He glanced up at her. “That’s a decent sized hole in her face, Esme. We need to stop the bleeding and cover it to make sure it doesn’t get infected. Stitch her up as you would your blouses.”

Lizzie was slightly surprised at the order. She didn’t expect Tommy to show so much concern over her medically in front of his own family, and knew what a risk it was that he was taking in the first place doing so. Seeing that look on Esme’s face, a part of Lizzie thought about running back outside and going back to her flat, but she felt too dizzy still.

Esme’s brows rose in disbelief. “You’re joking, Thomas… I’m no doctor.”

Thomas whipped around angrily now, obviously out of patience and turned on the young woman. “Stitch her up, Esme!” he shouted. “Now!”

She jumped slightly at his yelling but obeyed, hurrying off to grab the needle and thread. Thomas shook his head and walked out to the bar before soon coming back with a bottle of whiskey in his hands and sat down beside her as he started to sanitize the wound.

“What in devil’s name is all this noise?” came the familiar scolding voice of Aunt Polly who stopped in her tracks when she saw the scene before her. “Oh Christ, Tommy… what the hell’s going on now?”

Lizzie watched as only Tommy’s eyes lifted to see the older woman. “Not now, Pol,” he ordered. “Some men attacked her. We’re going to fix her up. Do you take issue with that?” He asked her almost challengingly.

“‘We’?” Who’s ‘we’?” Then she saw Esme hurrying back to Lizzie and sit down on one side of her, threading the needle. “You’re going to stitch her up like a curtain now, Tommy?”

“Of course I’m not. Esme is.”

Aunt Polly gave him a stern look. “Don’t get smart with me. You knew damn well what I meant! Where did Arthur and John run off to?”

Thomas Shelby set his hat down on the table and then lit a cigarette before taking a drag. “They went to take care of the problem. My orders.”

“Thomas…” she said in a warning voice before glancing over at Esme and Lizzie, and then looking back at him. “I don’t want to do this in front of them. Let’s talk in private.”

“No,” Tommy shook his head. “Go ahead and talk, Pol.”

“Fine,” Aunt Polly huffed. “Why are you doing this for a whore, Thomas? You wouldn’t send your men in the street to protect the sanctity of a whore. So why are you doing it for her? Tell me that.”

Thomas stood up now and glanced at Lizzie as she whimpered when Esme put the needle through her skin before looking back at Aunt Polly.

“Because… she’s not a whore,” he said simply. “She’s my secretary, and as we’re trusting her with such delicate issues, she’s also a part of this family. We protect family, don’t we?”

Esme and Lizzie both looked at Aunt Polly who set her jaw and exhaled sharply, frustrated that she couldn’t argue with Thomas, or go against him either. She shot daggers at Lizzie instead before disappearing from the room just as John and Arthur both came inside, blood flecked lightly on their faces and staining their hands.

Thomas looked between them. “Is the problem taken care of, brothers?”

“Ay,” Arthur nodded, looking self-satisfied. “It’s taken care of. I doubt he’ll be attackin’ any more women anymore.”

John gave a small chuckle and a nod in agreement.

“Good,” Tommy looked at them almost proudly. “Go clean yourselves up now. We’re about to open the betting shortly.

He watched as both his brothers walked out to wash up and then walked back over to Esme and Lizzie, watching the young woman work with skillful fingers. He remained quiet until she was finished and excused her, telling her to take the bloody materials with her, and then looked at Lizzie.

“Are you hurt anywhere else?”

Lizzie shook her head, searching his dark, tired eyes. “You shouldn’t have done that, any of it. Now your family will be suspicious and just hate me even more.”

“Let them,” Thomas shrugged. “It does not matter, Lizzie. Now… if you’re not hurt anywhere else, go on upstairs and get to work. There’s a letter I wish for you to write up and send for me. Do you feel up to doing that?”

Lizzie nodded, despite how dizzy she still felt. She didn’t want to let Tommy down, not after what he had just done for her. He watched his eyes dart around the room before he leaned down and suddenly planted a gentle kiss on her forehead and then walk away from her to get the room ready.

She shivered from his affection but smiled to herself before she slowly stood up and started up the stairs.

 

…………. .. ……...

The letter that Tommy wanted her to write was to a man’s name that she recognized. Lizzie knew what Tommy probably wanted from him as well.

The man was a customer that she had slept with for money. He sold guns under the table to anyone who was interested and unlimited ammunition. She felt her heart racing in her chest at the thought of the boys obtaining more guns with the possibility of unlimited ammo, and not in a good way.

It scared her, the thought of any member of this family being hurt by these weapons. It was at that moment when she saw Thomas enter the office where she was typing. He closed the door behind him.

“Still feeling all right?”

She gave a short nod, since it was the truth, and then she put her serious face on.

“Tommy, what are you doing getting into deals with guns and ammunition? Do you realize how dangerous that is?”

He sighed, as if he had been expecting this conversation but walked over and sat down in the chair in front of her desk. He took a long drag of his cigarette and then held the cigarette between his fingers.

“Times are getting tough, Lizzie. Which side would you prefer to have the guns, ours or theirs?”

She knew that ‘theirs’ would include every person that wasn’t the Shelby’s or the Lee’s. It was an easy question with an even easier answer. “Ours.”

“Precisely. I have brothers, sisters cousins, aunts… that I need to protect. Family. You know that I would do anything I had to in order to protect them, and that includes having more guns and ammunition than our enemies,” he explained before taking another drag and exhaling.

She would be thick not to be able to understand this, and a part of her cursed herself for feeling so upset it in the first place. There was still one thing bugging her about it, however.

“Their guns could just come in here and blow us all to hell as easily as yours could to them. What’s stopping them from coming in here shooting?”

Something touched Thomas’ eyes now. Fear, maybe? She couldn’t be sure. He scratched his jaw with the hand that held his cigarette. “You’re right, Lizzie. That could happen, but… I would still do everything in my power to stop that from happening. If something like that did happen, then it would be war on our enemies.”

She nodded now, not doubting any of it. She looked at the beginning of the letter she had typed, about a quarter of what Tommy wanted her to write altogether.

“What about me? Am I included in any of the people you’d like to protect? Or am I just –"

“– my whore?” He finished for her questioningly.

She sighed but gave a small smirk. “I was going to say, your secretary.”

He gave a slight smirk as well before taking another drag, finishing the cigarette off and exhaled, putting it out in the ashtray. He leaned back before taking off his hat and dumping it on the desk. “We have a complicated history, Lizzie… but you helped me after I came back from the war, and I truly believe I would be dead if not for you. I was lost, and you helped me find my head again. I include you as my family, people that I love. Of course I would protect you. I figured what happened earlier to you would have proved that enough to you.”

Lizzie couldn’t help the smile that had appeared on her face now but she didn’t hold too much hope about his version of love. He had mentioned he considered her family, so maybe it was just a fondness he had for her, and of course the sex.

Her smile faded slightly, but not by much. Just hearing him say these words made her heart skip. “I’m sorry for doubting you, Tommy,” he gave a smile and waved his hand dismissively and she watched as he rubbed his eyes. “Didn’t sleep well last night?”

“No. I mean, I slept all right, but… it’s just my Aunt Pol. There’s enough going on and she wants nothing more than for me to throw you out onto the streets,” he replied.

Lizzie typed two words onto the typewriter before she looked back at him. “What did you tell her?”

“I told her you’re my secretary, and no one can fire you but me. I know it’s been chaotic lately, but I don’t need women questioning what we’re doing. Everything we do –"

“ – is to protect us,” Lizzie finished this time for him.

Tommy nodded again and leaned back in his chair. “Can I come by tonight? Sleep over at your place?”

Lizzie was surprised he was even asking permission. Thomas Shelby never asked permission from anyone for anything. That wasn’t the only thing that surprised her, though.

“I don’t even know where to start with any of that. Firstly, you want to sleep over at my flat? As in, actually stay the entire night without leaving?”

Tommy nodded again but now looked as if he were second guessing himself. “Yes, Lizzie. I would like to stay the night, unless business comes up.”

She nodded, taking this in. The idea of having Thomas Shelby in her bed for the whole night excited her, and not just for sex. It was a lot more than that for her.

It was protection.

It was comfort, and meant she wouldn’t wake up alone this time.

“Don’t get me wrong, Tommy; I’d love for you to stay the night at my place, but I wasn’t aware that I actually had a choice. You never give anyone a choice. I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard you ask for permission to do anything.”

He chuckled a bit, smirking again as he grabbed his hat and stood up now.

“Of course you have a choice, Lizzie. What, you think I’ll have you knocked off if you tell me no? Give me a little more credit than that. If I did that, I wouldn’t be any better than those tossers that tried to rape you outside earlier this morning. I’ll always give you a choice, Lizzie,”

She smiled and nodded, watching him head towards the door before he turned back to look at her.

“Finish that letter, mail it out, and then go see Esme to change your dressings so they don’t get infected.”

Lizzie searched his face, feeling touched at his caring tone. “Is that an order, Mr. Shelby?”

He gave her a half smile before he put his business face on again and nodded before he fixed his collar on his coat. “Yes, Lizzie. It is.” With that, he disappeared out of sight.

She started to type again, this time not stopping until she finished and folded it. She slipped it into an envelope and addressed it with the address Tommy had put on the copy he had written. Lizzie stood up and walked down the stairs to head outside when she heard footsteps walking behind her. She glanced around and stopped, seeing a familiar Peaky Blinder behind her.

“What are you doing then, Finn?”

He didn’t waver. “Tommy said to keep an eye on ye, to make sure you’re safe. It’s on his orders to protect you and make sure you get back safe.”

Lizzie liked Finn. He was young and not as hard as his brothers, but he could still prove himself to be intimidating and dangerous when it came down to it. She smiled and nodded. “All right, then. Thank you.”

“Of course.”

She started walking to the post office with Finn looming close behind her. She had to admit; she liked having the extra muscle to watch over her, even if it wasn’t Tommy himself. After this morning’s events, she appreciated it more than anyone could comprehend.

Lizzie questioned things in the Shelby business, and as much as some of it even scared her sometime, she felt like she could get eventually get used to all of it: the danger, the guns, the blood, the close calls, the fighting within the family, the money.

She felt like this was the family she wanted to be in, and the only one she felt the safest in.

Chapter Text

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Lizzie made a simple dinner for Thomas and her but as she ate, she watched as he just took out a cigarette and lit it instead before taking a drag from it, his food going uneaten and getting colder by the minute.

“If… you’d rather have something else, I’ll make it for you,” she offered quietly.

He shook his head and looked almost apologetically at her, his eyes glancing at the fresh bandage on her cheek. She didn’t miss the flash of guilt in his dark eyes, and knew what this was. He was having another bad night, like he’s had since he came back from the war.

“No,” he replied softly. “It looks delicious, truly it does, but… I’m just not hungry. If you are, though, don’t let me stop you.”

She was hungry, but she felt awkward eating when he wasn’t. Anyway, seeing his dark evenings in mental turmoil made her lose her appetite. She shook her head and stood up before taking care of both of their plates. When she got back to him, he was halfway through his cigarette and looking down.

“Is it another Black Day?” She asked, almost knowingly. That’s what he had called them on the nights whenever he cried, had night terrors, or was generally solemn.

Since he came home, he had coined these days as his Black Days because he felt like he fell into a deep, black hole in the ground somewhere and tried and tried but couldn’t claw his way out by himself. She found herself calling those days by the same name as well.

He gave a short nod and if Lizzie hadn’t been watching him, she would’ve missed it. He took another drag before he finally looked up at her, meeting her emerald eyes.

“Aye, it is. I need you to do me a favor and fix me, Lizzie… I don’t want to feel this way anymore.”

She walked over to him and gently grabbed his hand before helping him stand up and led him towards the bed. He had already taken off his jacket and chest by the time they had made it to the bedpost. She reached up and started to unbutton his dress shirt.

When she had finished, she kissed his chest and then felt his hands cup her face gently before he started to kiss her passionately. He wasted no time in taking both their clothes off completely until they were both naked together on the bed.

As they kissed and touched and rolled around on the bed, she could feel the warmness of his tears rolling down his face, but she didn’t care. She had grown used to him being like this, and she knew what he wanted. She let him take her how she wanted, but no matter how he did take her, it seemed as if Tommy made sure it wasn’t too rough.

It was almost romantic, their lovemaking. He didn’t let her feel like a whore, because he needed the emotional aid as well afterwards. He put his head gently on her chest as she ran her fingers through his raven dark hair. It was now when Lizzie could see how broken he was in the glow of the candlelight.

“Does it help you at all?” She asked curiously, her fingers moving to the shaved part of his head.

He planted a kiss between her breasts lightly and exhaled deeply before he finally moved off of her and lay his head on the pillow close to her, searching her face.

“It does help, yes. I don’t know how exactly, but it helps,” he admitted, his voice almost a whisper. “Does it bother you? To help me like this?”

“No,” Lizzie answered right away. “I like being the one to make you feel better.”

Tommy moved closer to her and placed his hand on her unmarked cheek, gently thumbing it thoughtfully. “You don’t just make me feel better, Lizzie. You make me feel alive, more so than anyone else has the ability to.”

She gave a soft smile and kissed his lips softly, feeling a flutter when he deepened the kiss and let his hand wander down her hip slowly. She closed her eyes and felt him rest his head gently against hers. She reached up and caressed his chest.

Despite his usual coldness in front of his family and associates, he felt warm right here beside her. She never wanted this moment to end. She wanted to have Thomas Shelby next to her every night until the day she died. If she had that, then she’d be in heaven.

To live and love a man who would protect her and his family with every fiber of his being and reign hell down upon his enemies with such vengeance was something she wished to experience.

His ideas and violent flares scared Ada and Esme, but never her. She wasn’t scared of him at all. It was quite the opposite, in fact; she felt protected and loved. Everything he did, he did to keep all of them safe and alive, and out of jail. 

She made peace that she didn’t live an ordinary life, and she was just fine with that. Ordinary was boring.

“Say something,” he whispered pleadingly now. “Please don’t leave me layin’ here with my heart bleeding outside of my chest so you can laugh at me.”

Her brows came together in confusion and she shook her head. “Who’s laughing, Tommy? Because it’s not me. It’s brave of you to let your emotions show to me, and I’d never take advantage of that. I’m not your enemy… I’m not going to laugh at you. God help me, Thomas, I love you,” she confessed softly.

Lizzie had no regrets admitting her love to him because she had done this before and she knew what his reaction would be. She knew that he couldn’t say it back to her, for whatever reason, and she knew that her confession each time would simply be lost to the wind.

He looked at her with glassy eyes and he set his jaw. “I know you do, and I appreciate that more than I can say, Lizzie.”

She gave him a small smile. Lizzie was a strong woman and rarely ever got what she wanted in her life, but she had come to accept that. She didn’t even know if Tommy Shelby would ever admit that he loved her in return, more than just family, but she wasn’t holding her breath.

“I know, Tommy.”

He kissed her forehead and wrapped an arm around her body, as he did when he had his bad days. His body felt strong and warm, and safe. At least for now, Lizzie could pretend that he was hers.

 

................ .. …………

 

Lizzie was awoken in the early morning hours to screaming and thrashing and turned quickly to see Tommy’s mouth open in a scream of sheer terror and all his limbs clenched up as he thrashed and caught the sheets around his body.

She did what she always did when this happened with him, what she had always done since he had first come to her looking for help; Lizzie moved behind him and wrapped her arms around him, holding his back against her chest and held him as tight as she could so she could whisper in his ear.

“Tommy… Tommy, can you hear me? You’re home! You’re safe now. You’re with me, Tommy. You’re safe. You’re not still in France,”

She watched as his screaming ceased and only tears remained on his face. He was still thrashing a bit though. She still held him, continuing to gently coo to him.

“You’re safe, Thomas. You’re in England again… you’re back.”

The thrashing eventually stopped as well and he woke up with a gasp, looking around the room with wide, panicked eyes. He moved his body so he could face her now and he ran his hands through his hair, feeling beads of sweat on his face.

He eyed her up and down for any injuries he might have accidentally caused her in his thrashing but then relaxed when he saw none. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath.

When they were first starting out with their arrangement, there had been several nights when he would accidentally scratch or bruise her trying to get away from an invisible entity or attacking an invisible enemy. He seemed grateful to see that she was unscathed this time.

“W-Whiskey,” he ordered shakily. “I need whiskey.”

She nodded and quickly got up from the bed before putting her undergarments on and then walked over to the counter in the kitchen and grabbed a glass and the bottle of whiskey. She poured it halfway and had half a mind to also grab his cigarettes before moving back over to him again, handing both things to him.

Tommy took them and seemed to sigh a breath of relief before he took a long drink of the whiskey. “Thank you, Lizzie.”

She sat down across from him on the bed and reached out, gently touching his leg that had various scars from injuries he had sustained in France. Battle scars.

The soft touch seemed to relax him some more and she continued to caress his skin almost lovingly.

“I know this may not be the best time, but I have something I need to tell you,” she spoke now, lighting up a cigarette for Tommy before lighting one up for herself and taking a drag from it.

He finished his whiskey before taking a drag from his cigarette. “There’s never a good time to tell me anything. Go ahead, then. What is it you have to tell me?”

Lizzie searched Tommy’s face as he adjusted himself back into position in bed. “I know the man you’re buying guns and ammunition from.”

He raised an eyebrow but looked otherwise deadpan at her. “Is that right? Well, no offense, Lizzie, but can’t say I’m much surprised. With your last line of work, I’m sure you know many people around here.”

If he wasn’t having one of his dark days, she might’ve taken offense to his statement but she pretended not to hear it.

“He’s a dangerous man, Tommy. You need to be careful around him. You shouldn’t trust him.”

Thomas searched her eyes with interest now, straightening his body, the wheels in his head turning now as ideas began to form. “You know by now. I don’t trust anyone I don’t know properly. I’m still waiting to hear back from him anyway. Once I do, though, how would you like to help me out?”

Lizzie had a bad feeling. She knew how Tommy worked, and had a good feeling what ‘helping him out’ would entail. It would be dangerous, she knew that for a fact, but as hesitant as she might be about it, she wanted to help Thomas more.

“Let me guess, you want me to sleep with him so you can make a better deal on the guns?” Lizzie asked in a tone that was less of a question and more of a statement.

He took a drag, looking at Lizzie now with examining eyes. “Would you object to that?”

“I’m not sure, to be honest. I’m sick death of being a whore, Tommy.”

“I thought you were sick of being my whore.”

She swallowed hard. “I’m sick to death of both. I want to help you, though. If it will make business easier for you, then I would like to do it.”

“Why?”

She took another drag of her own cigarette. “Why what?”

“Why would you want to do this for me? It’s dangerous, and I’m willingly putting you in danger just to obtain these guns and ammunition. So, I ask again, why are you doing this for me, eh?”

Lizzie felt in her heart that she automatically knew the answer. “Because I know that you wouldn’t let me get seriously hurt, because… I’m also your family, and you love me as such.”

He nodded once now and gave a small smirk. “That’s right, Lizzie. I’m relieved that you’re smart enough to know that. Knowing all of that, you’re still on board with doing this for me?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” he nodded again. “Thank you, Lizzie. The truth is, I was planning on having you help me either way, but I made a promise to you yesterday; I told you that you’d always have a choice.”

She smirked. “It’s not much of a choice if you make me do it either way, is it?”

He stood up and started to get dressed. He glanced over at her once he got everything except his wool vest on. “I suppose not, but you still had the choice to say no, regardless. You’re the only person I know I can count on that aren’t my brothers. You wouldn’t let me down, would you?”

She smiled now, shaking her head. “No, I wouldn’t, Thomas.”

“Ay,” Tommy agreed, his eyes almost smiling with pride. “You’re a special woman, Lizzie. Of course you wouldn’t let me down.”

She watched him fixing his clothes and looked at her disarrayed bedsheets. “I suppose I should get ready as well?”

He took out his pocket watch to look at the time. “You have a bit of time yet. I just have to go see a man about a horse before betting opens. Have some tea, get dressed, and go find Esme to have your dressing changed so it doesn’t get infected.”

“Yes, boss,” Lizzie teased playfully, standing up to walk over to him.

He sighed and ran a hand through his tuff of hair, looking like he’s lived a thousand lives already. Thomas moved over to Lizzie and kissed her lips softly, tenderly before he moved away and walked towards the door, opening it.

He turned to glance at over at her, just as he always did right before he left. “Thanks, Lizzie.”

“For what?”

He seemed to think to for a second before answering. “For helping to get my head back on right again.” With that, without waiting for her to reply, he walked out of her flat and left her alone once again.

She closed the door behind him and bit her lip, wishing she could’ve done more. She needed to take a bath, though, so she grabbed a candle and lit it and took it with her so she could start getting ready to see the rest of the Shelby clan again.

Chapter Text

.    .    .

 

“I really don’t know why Thomas isn’t having Ada do this business. She has actual lessons on tending to cuts and scrapes,” complained Esme as she spread cream over the healing gash.

Lizzie smirked to herself but was careful not to mess the former Lee girl up in her work. “You must have some practice. You seem to know what you’re doing.”

Esme shrugged before she began to place clean dressing over the cut.

“Only from doing this type of thing on my brothers and younger cousins when the adults weren’t around and I had to watch them meself…”

Lizzie leaned back once Esme had finished with her and watched as the young woman started to work on the betting books. There was no doubt as a migrating vagabond, Esme had seen and done a lot; she had traveled her whole life and seen so many new places. Lizzie found herself envious; the only place she had seen has been Birmingham and the stray trips Tommy had taken her on outside the dirty city. For the most part, Birmingham was all she knew.

“Won’t someone open up the fookin’ door? It’s past time to open! Are everyone’s’ legs broken?” Arthur complained as he stormed towards the first ones he saw in the room, which happened to be Esme and Lizzie.

“Are your legs broken, Arthur?” Esme snapped back. “Lizzie and I are busy over here! Why don’t you go on then and open the damned door?”

Arthur rolled his eyes and shook his head in frustration and started towards the front door muttering something along the lines of “busy chatterin’ like finches.”

“Thank you, Esme,” Lizzie spoke as she stood up and fixed her dress. She saw the younger girl nod in acknowledgement and then started to look around for Tommy.

She weaved in and out of busy peaky blinders, young and old, trying her best to stay out of their way. She was growing increasing frustrated after spending no less than ten minutes avoiding collisions with others in the building when she finally found Thomas chatting with Aunt Polly in a less than friendly tone. She stood back and lit a cigarette, trying to give him time to say what he wanted to say to her but when he heard the sound of Lizzie striking a match to light her cigarette, he motioned for her to leave the room.

His expression noticeably softened as he moved closer to Lizzie. “Is it healing up all right? No smell or anything?”

She shook her head and took a drag of her cigarette. “Nope. Esme says it’s healing as it should.”

“Excellent. Lizzie, I need you to check on the mail at the house for me. I want to stay here and make sure everything will be running as it should. Can you do that?”

Lizzie knitted her eyebrows. “Of course, but it’s still too early to receive a response from that ammunitions man,”

Thomas Shelby put a finger to his lips before he gently grabbed her arm and pulled her outside and over to the far side of the building. Lizzie wrapped her coat tighter around her body as a cool wind blew in their direction.

“You haven’t told them about the guns deal, have you?” Lizzie asked knowingly. “Afraid of how they’ll react?”

Tommy glanced around and then searched Lizzie’s eyes. “Not afraid, just unsure. I know for a fact Pol won’t like it, and being shot at in a war will make the others apprehensive about using them as well.”

Lizzie thought for a minute, trying to figure out how to put a spin on the situation. She gave a shrug and a small smile. “At least they’ll know how to use it, and if you tell them what you told me about protecting the family, I’m sure they’ll come around to the idea.”

Tommy gave a smile now and let out a low laugh. “Well thank you, Lizzie. Now I know why I keep you so close, don’t I? Go check the post now, please. Oh, hold on Lizzie –" He looked around and then walked over to one of his own men that Lizzie recognized as Scudboat and motioned for him to walk back over where she was still standing.

“Scud, I would like you to escort Lizzie here to our house to check the post. Before you say anything Lizzie,” he interrupted as she went to open her mouth in opposition. “I realize the house is only about 100 meters away, but these are dangerous times we live in with many enemies. You just never know what’s bound to happen, eh? Go on, Scudboat, escort the lady.”

The fellow peaky blinder gave an obedient nod and let Lizzie lead the way towards the house. She felt silly having muscle just to take her to there, but she knew Tommy was right. Lizzie opened the door and walked inside, surprised to be greeted with a handful of post lying on the floor in front of the mail slot. She knelt down and picked it up before she stuffed the post in her arms and nearly bumped into Scudboat who stood stiffly, glancing around cautiously.

She was careful to move around him in time before walking back to the building. As the two of them walked, she felt a bit awkward having not spoken very much to Scudboat the whole time they’ve known each other.

It wasn’t even a matter of Lizzie not liking the man at all; she liked him just fine. He was good at his job, and he was one of the kinder of the peaky blinders that she knew. They simply hadn’t been around each other very often to have a proper conversation.

When they arrived back at the betting building, she turned to Scudboat and smiled warmly. “Thank you, Scudboat. I really appreciate you doing that for me.”

He nodded towards her. “Of course, miss. If you’ll excuse me now.” He gave her a wink before hurrying off.

Lizzie also hurried to find Tommy again and was relieved when she didn’t have to look long, finding him in the Shelby private meeting room. He closed the doors behind her before she handed him the many letters.

He looked through them, taking turns opening up the envelopes and reading through them. Lizzie put out her cigarette in the nearby ashtray, remaining quiet for several moments before she finally spoke up, realizing that he wasn’t going to inform her what the letters were.

“Is there a reason getting the post was so important, Tommy?” She asked neutrally. “What’s in the letters, then?”

He cleared his throat before laying the letters on the table and then looked up at Lizzie. “Oh, right. These letters are from our friends in Camden town. They’ve agreed to help us fight if we ever need them in exchange for guns and ammunition. We would give them half of our supply that we get from Mr. Smith.”

She was about to ask who Mr. Smith was when she remembered that that had been the name he had given her when they had slept together all that time ago; Mr. Smith was going to be Tommy’s new business partner.

She searched Tommy’s face, getting a bad feeling in her stomach. “Are you sure they’re really our friends, Tommy? These Camden folk…”

When he looked at her again, she saw a flicker of doubt on his face but his nod contradicted this. “Of course they’re our friends, Lizzie. We wouldn’t like to have them as our enemies, that’s for sure.”

She wet her lips in uncertainty. “I don’t know about this…” she hesitated, trying to hide her distaste for the Camden town people, but also trying not to make him angry either.

He saw her hesitation and he lit a cigarette before he moved closer to his secretary until he rested either of his hands on both sides of the table she was standing in front of. He noticed she was avoiding his gaze, even in the close proximity and sighed softly as he reached out and gently lifted her chin up with his finger.

“Please trust me, Lizzie,” he whispered. “I have a plan, yeah? I always have a plan, and when I don’t, I make a plan to make a plan. I don’t trust these Camden blokes as much as I trust my family, but they’re good in a fight, if it ever comes down to it.”

She didn’t feel completely convinced but she did she feel a bit better about it now. Lizzie nodded and gave him a half smile. “Please be careful, Tommy.”

“If I was careful, Lizzie,” he smirked now, taking a drag. “I’d never get anything done,” he exhaled.

She shook her head disapprovingly at his attitude, and she could feel her negative thoughts about the situation creeping back up on her, her crescent smile now visibly faltering.

There was no doubt that he had seen it.

Tommy took Lizzie’s face in his hands now, being careful of the bandage on her one cheek while he caressed her other one softly. “Hey, look at me. It’ll be all right, I promise. These letters are just them telling me that they’re on our side, yeah? They’re here if we need to call upon them ever.”

She nodded again and closed her eyes, his gentle touch feeling like heaven on earth. It was easy enough to get this touch with him in bed, but she rarely experienced it outside of that, so she felt like she should enjoy it when she did.

“All right, Tommy,” she finally conceded, not wishing to discuss this matter any further today. “So what now? I’m bored stiff.”

He thumbed her skin absentmindedly before dropping his hands and taking another drag. “I left some Shelby Company business upstairs for you earlier on your desk. Type those up, bring them to Polly, and you’re free to go home.”

Lizzie raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Free to go? You usually make me stay here until everyone else leaves and today, I’m just free to go back home after that?”

He sighed now before he glanced at his pocket watch. “Yes, that’s right. I thought you could use a break. I’ll see you later, Lizzie.”

She nodded but was still suspicious as she headed up to her office and began to type up bets, income, and supplies for the Garrison. By the time she had finished everything, she had a pile of papers and it was nearly half five in the evening.

She stood up and started downstairs, looking around for Polly but didn’t see her. Lizzie sighed, feeling annoyed now.

Of course Aunt Polly was nowhere to be seen. Typical.

She nearly collided with John who almost swallowed his toothpick in surprise but managed to move out of the way quickly, but no without swearing to himself first. Lizzie gasped and then shook her head in annoyance; she was so wrapped up in her frustration though, that she tripped on a raised up board on the floor and started falling.

She let out a scream, expecting to fall hard onto her side when she stopped falling in midair. She looked up to see a very calm looking Finn who helped her back to a standing position.

“All right, Lizzie?”

She smiled and let out a breath of relief. “Thanks to you. Such a gentlemen, Finn… not like your other brothers. Thank you, Finn. If it wasn’t for you, I would’ve broken my ankle.”

He gave out a nervous chuckle but shrugged it off. “It was no problem. I’m glad I was here. Well, I better get back to work now…”

Lizzie searched Finn’s eyes and saw what looked almost like admiration. He was so young to be living this life, and she could tell that he was nervous because she knew what a crush looked like. Finn obviously fancied her, and that might turn into a problem.

She gave him a small, grateful smile before she waved goodbye as she remembered what her previous task was again. She quickly turned around before Finn had proper time to hurry away.

“Finn! Do you know where Pol is? I have some papers I need to give to her.”

He thought for a moment before he looked back at Lizzie again. “I think she left early, but… I-I can give them to her, if you’d like?”

Lizzie wet her lips in thought and sighed, not wanting to make the tiring trip back to her office. She nodded and handed Finn the papers. “Please, if you don’t mind. That would be great. Thank you, Finn.”

“Of course, Lizzie… anytime.”

She watched as he walked off with the papers and felt a bit of relief before she hugged her purse close and started out of the building to walk down the street to her flat. She wasn’t going to enlist the help of a peaky blinder to escort her anywhere else; she was more than able to get home by herself.

She had just stepped inside her flat when she heard her phone ring. She hurried over to it and picked it up to answer it.

“Lizzie Stark speaking…”

“Oh good, you made it home safely.”

She scoffed and took the phone over to the window to look around. “Did you watch me get home? Where are you?”

“I’m at the Garrison. I just know how long it takes you to get home from the betting shop. I’ve walked you home before.”

“Well, all right then. What do you want, Tommy?”

“May I come over tonight, Lizzie?” His voice sounded tired, drained.

“As long as you don’t pay me.”

“I didn’t pay you last time,” He remarked quietly before he hung up.

She hung the phone back up and sighed. Lizzie walked to her bedroom to take her work clothes off and put on more comfortable clothing. She grabbed two clean glasses and the rest of the Irish whiskey they hadn’t finished off yet.

Once she had set them on the table and put some music on, she heard a knocking at the door. Lizzie walked over to it and cautiously opened it before seeing Thomas in the hallway, and then opened it wider and stepped aside to let him inside. She closed and locked it behind them and walked over to him.

The closer she got to him, the stronger the scent of alcohol and smoke was. She gave him a once over and saw unrest in his eyes.

“You don’t like hiring the Camden men as muscle, do you?” It was less of a question, more like a statement. She had known him long enough that she felt like she could read him.

He looked slightly unsettled by her deduction but he took a heavy breath and let it out. “No, Lizzie, I don’t.”

“Why don’t you just get some Lee boys instead?”

He was quiet for several minutes, and Lizzie was about to repeat her question when he spoke again, breaking the silence in the room.

“Can I get a glass of whiskey?”

Lizzie playfully narrowed he eyes. “Smells like you’ve already had quite a bit.”

“Please, Lizzie. Just… get me a damn glass.” His face was still serious.

She reluctantly walked over and poured whiskey into a glass for him, but didn’t give herself any. Something else was wrong; it wasn't just the Camden men that was upsetting Thomas like this. It was something more, something heavier. She moved back over to Thomas and handed it to him.

He drank the whole thing quickly and Lizzie suddenly had a sinking feeling. “Is someone dead?”

She watched as tears filled Tommy’s eyes now and he sat down on her bed in the bedroom. She sat down beside him and poured more whiskey into his glass before setting the bottle aside.

“Tommy… talk to me. Please. What happened? Who was it?”

He took a shaky breath before he took another sip and set the glass on a table.

“Charlie. Charlie Strong fucking died, Lizzie.”

Chapter Text

.     .    .

 

Lizzie thought she had heard wrong, because it simply couldn’t be true. She hadn’t been very close to the older man, but there had been times when he had come to her rescue on dark streets at night near the Garrison and near Watery Lane.

She knew that he had been Tommy’s Uncle, and she found that she considered him her uncle as well. He wasn’t just an uncle figure for her though; he had been her savior, her protector, and her teacher. Charlie had told her where not to be, and when. He had protected her, despite what she had been. Hearing the news that he had died now made her heart hurt.

She looked over at Thomas who had a tear running down his cheeks but otherwise made no sound. Lizzie swallowed hard and wrapped her hand in his, and he held her hand tightly in return.

“I’m so sorry, Tommy,” she whispered to him.

He gave a nod. “Thank you, Lizzie,” he whispered back.

“How?”

She had been afraid the question might come out insensitive but if Tommy was offended, he didn’t show it. He sniffed and poured himself another glass of whiskey before taking another drink. He glanced over at her and met her eyes with his own watery ones.

“Apparently, he had been killed. Shot…”

None of this was making sense. She shook her head, trying to comprehend what Tommy was telling her. This all felt so surreal. She had memories of Charlie playing with her near the cut and making sure she didn’t fall in accidentally when she had been small.

“W-Who shot him, Tommy? Was it one of your own?” She always hesitated to refer to herself as one of them. She wasn’t a Shelby, she wasn’t a Lee. She was just a woman who grew up in the area on the same street as them.

It was apparent that he didn’t approve of her casting herself out.

Our own, Lizzie,” he corrected softly before he cleared his throat, finishing off the drink. “No, it wasn’t our own. No one has anything to gain by killing him. It was someone else… someone who… came in, unrecognized, unseen. Charlie had been shot in the back of the head; he never even saw his attacker.”

She swallowed hard, trying to wrap her mind around this. She tried to rack her brain, trying to imagine why anyone would want Charlie Strong dead in the first place. He wasn’t one to run his mouth off like Arthur could. He wasn’t prone to violence like John was, but he could still prove himself in a fight if he had to. He wasn’t one to antagonize.

“Is it a possibility this could be one of the Camden town men?” She inquired.

He searched her face. “I don’t even know, Lizzie. I know Alfie is loyal until it’s in his favor not to be. His men and himself wrote to us, though, pledging their allegiance to fight alongside us! Why the hell would they kill one of us? Alfie knows that it would mean war between us. Right now, there’s no reason for him to be benefited by this.”

Lizzie felt baffled, sad, and still in shock. “I’m sorry, Tommy. I wish I could help.”

Her words appeared to suddenly shake him out of his thoughts. He cleared his throat again before he turned to her. “You can. You’re going to help me, Lizzie. We need those guns now more than ever… do you know where he lives? This… Mr. Smith.”

She was getting an uncomfortable feeling inside her. “Yes, I do… what exactly are you asking me to do, Tommy?”

He gently caressed the back of her hand. “I’ll write up a letter, you will go to his house and explain the situation to him. Tell him that it is urgent that he come here so we can get the guns.”

She nodded, having a feeling that Tommy would want the deal to happen sooner. “W-What about Charlie?”

“We’ll have a funeral for him the day after tomorrow,” Tommy declared without missing a beat. “Tell him he needs to collect the guns and ammunition up quickly, and bring them to the designated place I write down in the letter. Once you do all that tomorrow for me, you can come back and then the day after tomorrow, you and I can go together to the funeral.”

Lizzie felt a bit better knowing that he had a plan, even if it involved her seeing that arsehole again. She would do it because it would mean she would be doing it for Tommy, and she felt like she’d do anything for him.

“What do you need right now? Tell me how I can help.”

He took her face in his hands and then pressed his lips to hers softly. She kissed him back and then repositioned them on the bed so they were lying side by side. She started to unbutton his shirt but then felt gentle hands stop her wrists, making her look up at him.

“No, Lizzie, not tonight. Just… be with me. That’s all I want. That’s how you can help.”

She released her hands from his clothing and moved closer to him until he reached over and rested his hand on her waist, just holding her as he lay his head on the pillow, watching her with sad eyes. Lizzie gave him a reassuring smile before she kissed his lips once again and rested her head on the pillow beside his.

They remained like this in comfortable silence, just barely touching each other. Lizzie longed for moments like this; when Tommy’s touch felt electric on her skin. She didn’t get any pleasure seeing him so depressed, of course, but there was just something about laying side by side with the Shelby man that made her feel safe and believe that everything was going to be all right.

It wasn’t even nine but the two of them ended up falling asleep after several minutes like this, Lizzie somehow ending up with her back against his chest, and his arms protectively holding her to him, as if he were afraid of losing her as well.

 

…………. … ……………..


Lizzie was nervous as she woke up the next morning, bathed, and got dressed before walking back over to the bed where Tommy was still sleeping. She was hesitant to wake him, but knew he would be late to work if she didn’t.

She sat on the bed and gently shook his arm. “Tommy… come on, you have to wake up now.”

He groaned softly and rubbed his eyes tiredly. He blinked a few times, trying to collect his bearings and she saw melancholy touch his eyes once again when he remembered last night.

“What time is it?”

“Almost eight. Would you like something to eat before you head out?” She offered. “I can make a bit of toast.”

He shook his head and coughed as he stood up, straightening his shirt out before fixing his vest. He lit a cigarette and placed it between his lips before he poured himself a small glass of whiskey and swallowed it before he walked over to her and kissed her temple.

“Thank you, Lizzie, for last night.”

She shook her head. “I didn’t do anything, Tommy.” At least not what she usually did for him whenever he asked her to help him.

He lingered close to her and let out a sigh before he placed his hands on her waist. “Then thank you for what you’re about to do,” then he looked as if he suddenly remembered something. He took out a small handgun from his side holster that he had taken to wearing and put it in her hand.

“Hold on! What’s this? I’ve never even fired a gun before!” She objected, looking at the cold metal with wide eyes, trying to give the gun back to him.

He held it in her palm with his hand. “It’s very easy, Lizzie. Aim, and then pull the trigger.”

She looked down at it, wondering where she was going to keep it. “I thought you were having me do this in order to get guns. I didn’t know you even had any…”

He took a step back once he was sure that she was going to keep the weapon. “Just two small ones.”

“Where’s the other one, then?”

“With Aunt Polly,” he answered softly, walking slowly towards the door of her flat before he turned around to look at her. “I’ll have Finn give you my letter as soon as I write it up this morning. Remember what to tell Mr. William Smith, though, what I told you last night… and I want you to call me from his place when you get there. We don’t know these people very well, and I don’t trust ‘em. Understand, Lizzie?”

She nodded, feeling a warmth run through her at his order to call him to make sure she got there safely. She must mean something to him if he cared about her safety and well-being. Good to know she wasn’t just an ex-prostitute, or just a secretary to Thomas Shelby.

“Good, then I’ll see you when you come back tomorrow evening. I’ll meet you right here and then you can tell me all about it, yeah?” When she nodded again, he gave her a weak smile and nodded back. “All right, then. See you later, Lizzie.”

“See you, Tommy.” She watched him disappear and let out a heavy sigh before she looked down at the gun. It didn’t feel as heavy as she imagined it would in her hands.

She opened it to see it was fully loaded, and then, with some difficulty, closed it again. She looked around at everything on the gun, knowing basic knowledge about it. She did know about the safety, though, and put it on before she stuffed the gun into her boot where it couldn’t be seen. She grabbed her a coat and put it on before she tidied up the flat and then walked out, heading towards the betting shop to find Finn.

Lizzie entered the building to see everyone hurrying to get things ready but didn’t see Finn anywhere. She was about to ask someone about the younger Shelby brother’s whereabouts when she felt a hand pull her aside and instantly go to work on her cheek.

“I figured I might as well look at it since you’re here again,” Esme spoke before examining it and then taking off the bandage. “It’s healed well enough. You might have a scar, though.”

“I don’t care,” Lizzie sighed. “Have you seen Finn?”

Esme raised an eyebrow. “A bit young for you, isn’t he?”

Lizzie rolled her eyes. “He has something for me from Tommy. Do you or don’t you know where he is?”

“Ask Arthur. I think he was doing something for him last time I checked,” Esme pointed towards Arthur where he was hunched over a desk, writing something down.

Lizzie walked over quickly. “Morning, Arthur…”

He finished up what he was writing and then looked over at her with a small smile. “Mornin’, Lizzie. What can I do ye for today, then, eh?”

“I was just wondering if you knew where Finn was? He has something for me from Tommy.”

“Oh, right. Finn!” Arthur barked. “Finn! Get in here!” No sooner as he had said that, the young peaky blinder made a beeline inside and smiled when he saw Lizzie. “Finn, Lizzie here says you need to give her somethin’ from Tommy.”

“Oh,” he pulled out a folded letter from inside his suit and handed it to her. “There you go, Lizzie.”

She smiled back at him. “Thank you, Finn,” she looked at Arthur. “Thank you, Arthur.” She hurried out of the building before either man could talk to her any further and started to walk down the street.

William Smith lived several blocks away from Watery Street and by the time she arrived at the house he had taken her to a few years ago, she felt exhausted, physically and emotionally. She took a deep breath before she gently knocked, and then the door opened.

“I’m sorry, who are you?”

Lizzie tensed a little. “Elizabeth Stark. I work with Tommy Shelby and Shelby Company Limited. I have something for you from him, and maybe a little more if you let me in?”

A smirk reached his mouth now and opened the door to let her inside. She started to remember the last time she had been here. Not much had changed, surprisingly. She looked around and then felt his hand on her waist, already eagerly trying to get her out of her clothes.

She cleared her throat pointedly before she backed away from him and gave him Tommy’s letter. “Business first. Tommy was very clear on that. Oh, while you read that, do you mind if I use your telephone?”

He took the letter but then nodded and pointed into a room. She followed his finger into the direction where he had pointed and immediately found the phone. It was already ten-thirty now and she was sure that Tommy would be eagerly awaiting her call.

She dialed his number and smiled to herself when he picked up after the first ring. “It’s me. I made it here. He’s reading your letter right now,” she spoke in a low voice.

“Good. When we see each other again, you be sure to let me know if he hurt you, Lizzie, yes?”

She felt her stomach give an uncomfortable tug. “Yes, Tommy… I’ll let you know. Umm,” she brought her voice lower. “I-I’m a bit nervous about doing this.”

There was a beat of silence on the other line, and she could tell that Thomas Shelby might be rethinking this whole plan, hearing her uneasiness about it now.

“You know what to do if you feel like your life is in danger. Don’t hesitate because he sure as hell won’t, if it comes to that. Otherwise, this is something I won’t forget that you did for me, and I won’t let my family forget about it either. I’ll see you soon, Lizzie,” he spoke softly.

“All right, Tommy,” she agreed, feeling her mind slightly at ease.

That was the last thing she needed though, for the whole Shelby clan to remember how she whored her way into bed to get the guns and ammunition. They’d never let her live that down as long as she lived. As she hung up, Lizzie had to remind herself that this was all for Tommy, and if she could just get through the next hour, she’d be okay, and she could see him again.

She took a breath and walked back out to where William Smith was setting the letter on the table and looked up when she walked in.

He cleared his throat and let out a cough. “If everything in this letter is correct, you’re mine to do with as I please. Just like old times with us, isn’t it?” He smirked and started to take off his tie. “It seems like a fair trade off… my guns and ammunition for your body. I say it’s worth it.”

She gave a forced smile, trying to play along, wondering what was in Tommy’s letter to him but knew better than to ask. All she knew was that he had written that this man could sleep with her in trade for the weaponry.

She started to take off her dress and then remembered her gun in her boots. She sat down on the bed, with her back facing him and took off her boots, catching the gun out of sight before she quietly placed the gun under the bed.

A few minutes later, she felt the bed shift and looked over to see him crawling over to her, nearly ripping her dress and undergarments in his eagerness. She felt his rough hands press into her body with every hard thrust, and she had to resist the urge to whimper several times. To her dismay, he was still going strong after half an hour, and then felt him flip her onto her stomach and grab her hips, bringing them up and closer before he continued to thrust into her hard and fast.

She gripped the sheets tightly, biting her lip to cry out in pain at his roughness. He pressed her face into the pillow suddenly, and she gasped as she quickly felt her air running out. He pressed he face into it harder, suffocating her.

She tried to reach for anything that would help, feeling like her life was in danger. She immediately regretted hiding the gun under the bed. She thrashed against him, but it only made him thrust harder into her body until he finally climaxed, and then felt him release her head.

Lizzie gasped and coughed when she felt oxygen quickly re-enter her lungs again and she stood up to get dressed, not eager to stay here any longer than she had to. She watched as William looked at her almost disappointedly but took out a wad of cash.

She reached from under the bed and tucked the gun back into her boot before she tied them up and finished getting dressed. She stood up and looked from the cash back to him.

“I don’t want your money. Just come to Watery Lane with the guns and ammunition, and talk to Thomas Shelby. You and I are finished now,” she declared.

He searched her face with a smirk on his own and he gave a nod before tucking the money away. “As you wish. Tell Mr. Shelby I’ll be there tomorrow, with his guns, and I look forward to seeing the whole family.”

She nodded now and grabbed her coat before hurrying out of the house and started to walk quickly down the streets. She took the long way, deciding she needed time to reflect on Charlie’s death, amongst other things. Mainly, Lizzie wanted to pull herself together before seeing Tommy again.

By the time she arrived back at Watery Lane near her flat, it was getting dark and she saw Tommy standing at her door with the rim of his hat pulled down over his eyes as he smoked a cigarette. As she neared, trying her best not to limp, he hurried towards her and looked her up and down before searching her face.

“All right, Lizzie? How did it go?”

She just nodded and unlocked the door for them both and led him inside her flat. She waited until he closed the door behind him before she started to talk, not trusting anyone.

“It was fine, Tommy. He told me to tell you that he would see you tomorrow with your guns and ammunition,” she took out a cigarette before taking a long drag from it and watched him light the fireplace quickly before he stood up.

“Did he say anything else to you? Anything about Charlie?”

She shook her head, taking another drag. “He’s not exactly a big talker. He tried to pay me, and I refused.”

The two of them were silent for several minutes, quietly smoking but the air was thick with unspoken words, and Thomas could sense it too.

He looked at her expectantly, but there was a glimmer of nervousness and uncertainty in his eyes. “What are you keeping from me, Lizzie, eh? Something else happened that you’re not telling me… I can always tell. What is it?”

She finished her cigarette before putting it out and watched as he did the same, mimicking her motions. She swallowed hard and looked down at her bruised wrists that he had held down earlier. She didn’t want to make trouble for Tommy, of course, but she always wanted to tell him the truth.

“I… I think he tried to kill me, Tommy.”

Immediately, the Shelby man tensed and his body stiffened, his eyes going wide. “Say again? What…. What did he do to you?”

She searched his face, feeling sick as she remembered the scene earlier. “He… he pressed my face into the pillow, as he was… fucking me. He was pressing it really hard though, and I couldn’t fucking breathe, Tommy! I nearly suffocated!”

Thomas ran a hand through his hair and stood up before he grabbed his chair and kicked it away from him, causing it to tip over and fall. “Jesus Christ… so I’m guessing you didn’t kill him, then, since he’s coming tomorrow. Why didn’t you shoot him?”

She expected him to be angry at her, and even though she could see that was indeed angry, Lizzie knew it wasn’t directed towards her; he was angry at the man that he was forced to do this business transaction with.

“I couldn’t shoot him because… I wanted to hide the gun, so I hid it under the bed. I couldn’t reach over and grab it.”

He nodded but ran both his hands over his hair and took a deep breath, starting to pace. “Are you all right? Did he hurt you?”

Lizzie nodded. “I’m all right, Tom. You don’t even know him, or his people. Why are you doing business with them? He just tried to kill me earlier, what if he’s the one who killed Charlie?”

The thought hadn’t crossed Thomas’ mind until she had said the words. He stopped pacing and turned to look at her. “Why… why would they do that, though? They don’t know us. They have no grudge against us, Lizzie.”

“Well I don’t know, Tommy! Who else did it? Maybe… maybe William Smith knew the quickest way to do business with you would be to kill one of… us, and then you’d be interested in getting involved in guns, something he had plenty of,”

She walked closer to him and searched his eyes, seeing a change in his pupils, understanding why he couldn’t stand in one place. “For fuck’s sake, Tommy… you’re doing snow, aren’t you? You’re on it right now…”

He shook his head but didn’t say anything verbally to deny it. He sniffed and coughed once before he walked over to her. “Look, Lizzie… that has nothing to do with anything right now. I can’t tell you how sorry I am that he did that to you but I promise that once this is all over, we’ll hit him, and we’ll hit him hard. He won’t get away with what he did to you, but I need you on my side still. Are you, Lizzie, still on my side?”

As upset as she was about him being high on snow, she could tell he still cared deeply for her and knew he would keep his word. She nodded. “Yes, Tom. I’m on your side, always.”

“Thank you…” He cupped her cheeks and gently caressed her skin with his thumbs before he kissed her lips.

She returned the kiss but then hesitated, unsure if she felt physically or mentally up to the task of their usual nighttime activities together. He looked at her and shook his head before he led her over to the bed and helped her change out of their clothes before he simply lay beside her, holding her close to him.

She knew that he wouldn’t be sleeping right away, but relaxed against him, almost falling asleep right away.