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Nights are not Kind

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Days were fine for Tommy. His usual face of indifference got him through meetings and appointments. No one questioned him and no one dared defy him. To anyone looking at him, he was holding it together. He was the picture-perfect façade that everything was going well. To anyone watching, he knew how to get what he wanted. He terrified so many people that he was being likened with the man who met the devil and lived.

Day time made Tommy feel safe. As safe as a powerful man with many enemies could feel. Day time meant people. It meant light. Light illuminated the dark shadows in his mind, making him feel safe from himself. Nothing could get him during the day.

In the daytime, Tommy had a mask on himself. A calm, cool, and collected man. A man who carefully weighed each word that came out of his mouth. His eyes like a scanner, constantly picking up details to be stored and sorted later into useful or useless information. He was a man who clawed his way into a position of power, who could strike fear into the hearts of men. He was a man most acquainted with death.

Nights were not kind to Tommy.

When he lay alone at night, sleep rarely ever took him. When it did, nightmares persisted and tortured him.

Dreams where Grace’s ghost told him he was horrible. Told him he was terrible father. Told him he was a monster for the things he was doing. There were times her ghost told him it should have been him dead, killed by the assassin. He agreed, he should have been the one killed that night, not her.

There were also the dreams where he never saved his family. Even before they were released, he dreamt they died. They hung and he didn’t stop it. He failed them. Their glassy eyes would watch him as they swung in the gallows, he himself trying desperately to fight to get to them, an invisible force holding him back, only to see the lever pulled. Sometimes, as they hung there, they reached out to him, telling him he should be hanging right alongside them. He agreed with the dead.

In these dreams, he felt haunted.

When he woke from these dreams, he would be shaking, drenched in sweat, and his throat raw, like he had been screaming.

With night time came the fear and the monsters that cowered in the shadows during the day. They came out to play. And they came for blood.

***

The first time it happened, neither of them were expecting it. There had been some suggestive remarks on both of their ends for months previous, dating back to before Tommy’s son was kidnapped and before his family almost hung.

The subtle words and things said left both Alfie and Tommy hot with need and half hard in their trousers. Want and desire both coming together, with no mention of how to quell them. Those comments came to a boiling point in the midst of an argument over export prices.

“Tommy fucking Shelby.” Alfie said it as if it was a dirty phrase. “You’re going to forget that name when I’m done with you.”

And Tommy found himself on his back on Alfie Solomons’ desk, trousers and underwear around his thighs, his cock halfway down the baker’s throat.

In reality, Tommy knew it was leading to this point. It was a matter of it actually happening that startled him. The realization that he wanted it as much as Alfie did.

When he came, Alfie’s hand covered his mouth just in time to stop a moan that would have told every person beyond that door what was going on with the two most feared men in London. And for a quick moment, he did truly forget his name, the only one he could muster up was “Alfie,” in a breathless voice.

And that night, when Tommy fell into bed at his hotel room at the Midlands, he slept without ghosts and demons coming for him.

He told himself it was the alcohol he had consumed that allowed him to sleep when he got back from the meeting with Mr. Solomons.

***

Nights were not kind at all to Tommy.

He heard the shovels scraping against the wall. The sounds of voices coming from the other side. Some nights, when Grace’s ghost and his family didn’t come for him, he relived the war, down to every small detail. The mud. The tunnels. And the explosion.

There were ways to distract himself from the wars raging on in his mind. Opium, for a time, kept the demons at bay. Then the shovels were back, beating the rising sun.

When the opium ran dry and his mind still raced, Lizzie was there, bent over his desk, letting him use her to keep himself on the right side of the cliff he was about to topple over. She would whisper “Stay with me,” and he tried, but his mind would often wonder, guilt over his choices that led him to this point.

But after a while, Lizzie wasn’t enough. Tommy was falling apart and not even hearing her under him helped clear the scraping sounds and the voices from his head.

There were times when he woke up in the Midland’s room with a girl or two. He didn’t know their names. He didn’t know what they had done the night previous. But he did know, for a while, if properly fucked, he could fall into a blissful sleep, dreaming of nothing.

Nevertheless, they always come back. The nightmares. They always come, haunting him for what he’d done, for the business he’d created, and for the man he’d become.

Sometimes he thought the ghost of his late wife would actually kill him. Other times, he thought his family, the ones in his dreams, would be the death of him.

It came to a point where sleep was so elusive, not the hardest drugs could knock him into a peaceful sleep. He had begun to wonder if he would die from exhaustion or if the alcohol would do him in.

His family was out of jail. He had yet to speak to any of them besides Michael who, for the most part, seemed content to be helping Tommy with the business. The rest of his family ignored him. And the sad part was, Tommy didn’t blame them. He had done what he thought was right, at the time. Plans for a bigger picture. But he had thought they would have understood why he did it. That he would have a chance to defend himself. Tommy is a detailed man, but even he didn’t foresee this.

***

The second time it happened, a month after their first encounter on Alfie’s desk, they were in a bathroom of a fight ring where one of Alfie’s fighter had a match. There had been glances all night since Tommy had shown up. Watching each other with focused intent. Alfie had excused himself first, a sly look as he left, thrown in Tommy’s direction. Just from the look alone, Tommy was half hard and willing.

It had been a quick affair, both of them understanding they were in a very public space where anyone could find them. Fortunately, neither of them had to say this fact out loud.

They were quick to find each other, Alfie grabbing the shorter man by the back of his neck with one hand, the other wrapped around his waist. Tommy had tried not to make a sound, more from just being stubborn, but when Alfie crowded him into the door, shoved a leg between his thighs, he let out a moan that Alfie covered with a kiss. If they weren’t in such a public place, Alfie would have let Tommy be as vocal as he pleased. Another time, he decided.

They made it quick, Alfie undoing the buttons on their trousers to release their cocks. He licked a stripe up his hands, a rather obscene thing, Tommy thought, and he gripped them both, working them fast and hard. Tommy had a tight grip on the lapels of Alfie’s coat with one hand, the other clutching his shoulder. His head was thrown back in pleasure, his eyes screwed shut. Alfie took the opportunity to lean down and bite just below Tommy’s ear, receiving a moan in response.

Tommy came first, biting down on Alfie’s shoulder as he came, more than likely leaving a bruise. As soon as his teeth made contact, Alfie was following Tommy into ecstasy.

Tommy had slept that night. No dreams, just darkness. He again told himself it was just the alcohol.

***

Tommy’s sleep began to deteriorate as time went on. His purpose was slipping from him, protecting his family. His whole family. He would watch day turn to night and night into day. Sleep became something he was almost fearful of. He hated it. He hated not knowing if he would be able to wake himself from a nightmare. More often than not, he couldn’t. Trapped in a hell of his own making.

Alcohol became more of a crutch. He had been able to manage it before. He knew to control himself especially in situations where there were more variables to be examined. He, for the most part, kept the drinking contained to early evening and into the night. It slowed the monsters from his mind, making it harder to find him.

He stayed in Arrow House more. He usually spent his nights in his office, a bottle of whisky keeping him company. Or, if he had a particularly gruesome day, he would sit in Charlie’s room, watching him sleep, the slow rise and fall of his chest calming him. Tommy hoped to whatever god there was, in that moment, that Charlie was to be safe and never had to go to war. That he would never experience the things his father had to do.

There were, of course, the times when he couldn’t stay at Arrow House. When Grace would haunt him even while he was awake. He would be walking up the stairs with Charlie and see her face looming over him from the pictures on the walls. There were times when he couldn’t physically walk past them. And of course, there were the times that Charlie would look up, see her pale, beautiful face, and he would reach out to her, saying “Momma” and Tommy’s already shattered heart broke more.

Then in the cruel night, he would be reminded he didn’t save her.

***

The first time Alfie and Tommy fell into bed together, Tommy, for a split second, believed in god.

Alfie had been angry when he sat down at the table in the hotel’s second floor balcony. His cane in hand as he approached, but not touching the ground and providing no aid to Alfie. Today, fortunately, his leg was not bothering him.

Tommy was sipping on whisky, the glass half full. On the small table before him was a newspaper. It looked as though he hadn’t opened it. Truthfully, Tommy had been too preoccupied on their meeting to be able to read the words printed on the pages before him.

Alfie had started on without so much as an acknowledgement of the other man, talking in wide arcs about how incompetent people could be. Sometimes, Tommy thought, Alfie might just rant to anyone who would sit through it. He continued on about how straightforward, simple directions seemed to be a challenge for people to follow. Tommy could only hazard a guess that he was talking about the bakery, but he was confident in that guess. It took Alfie near ten minutes to finally come ‘round to the point of their meeting, which was exporting more rum and whisky to America, opening to not only the Boston port but perhaps New York, too. If the price was right.

Tommy was more than aware of what business Alfie wanted to arrange. He knew what Alfie was going to say and how he would argue his case. But it never ceased to amaze Tommy how long these winded rants could take. Instead, he pulled out his cigarettes from his coat pocket, and lit one up.

The familiar feeling of smoking made him feel more at ease. He knew what Alfie being in his hotel could lead to. The idea of it settled in his brain when Alfie had suggested it. While it didn’t make him nervous in the sense of being uncomfortable, he was on edge because he knew this changed the game. In the past several months they had been sneaking around, they had never taken their time doing what they did. Only rushed, in fear someone would walk in and find them in a rather compromising position.

With a whole night to waste, Tommy was nervous about what they would do. What would happen after they had finished, left him guessing.

Because Alfie had been preoccupied with his rants, it took him a moment to process that Tommy had moved. Alfie had watched the other man intently, hand gripping at the top of his cane, as Tommy placed the cigarette to his lips, and lit the end. Alfie could feel himself getting aroused as Tommy’s eyes fell to the lighter as he lit the tip. Then the quick way his hands closed the cap of the lighter and set it down on top of the case of cigarettes on the table. Alfie’s eyes followed Tommy’s inhale and exhale, chest rising and falling as he let the smoke in and out of his lungs. Tommy had Alfie’s full attention.

Tommy took note as Alfie had gone quiet. There were very few things Tommy was aware of that could silence the man. This, he would need to add to that list.

Alfie leaned over the table, scanning the room for listening ears, before focusing back on Tommy, and he tapped his cane twice on the ground. “Has anyone ever told you, right, that your mouth is absolutely sinful, mate?”

It took Tommy approximately ten seconds to process what Alfie had said before he decided on what to do. In those ten seconds, he watched Alfie’s expression go from calm to shameless desire.

Tommy took another drag from the cigarette, making a show of resting it between his lips and taking the case and lighter off the table and placing them in his pocket. Alfie’s eyes did not move from where Tommy’s lips touched the cigarette.

He took the cigarette from his lips, placed it in the ash tray, stubbing it out and cleared his throat. “Perhaps we discuss New York import prices another time, eh?” Tommy stood, fixed his coat and began walking to his room. He didn’t have to turn around to know Alfie was following behind him, more than likely just as hard in his trousers as he was.

Maybe Tommy should have felt wrong. Maybe he should have felt that he was undeserving of moments like these. Moments when Alfie had him on his back, moaning and on the very edge of ecstasy. Maybe he should have felt the guilt rip through him for what he was doing. Perhaps he should have felt guilty when Alfie fucked into him with abandon, single-mindedly focused on watching Tommy fall apart under him. Maybe Tommy should have felt guilty for enjoying it.

But in those moments, shared between the two men, Tommy couldn’t say he felt guilty. He never felt anything akin to it.

Pleasure, lust, need. He felt those. He felt them when Alfie fisted his cock, whispering “Come on, Tommy, come for me,” in a voice that left him speechless, his head bent back, a swell of pleasure coursing through him. He came across Alfie’s fist, one hand desperately reaching out for something to hold onto and landing on a pillow further up on the bed, the other wound firmly around the other man’s neck, pulling him down to kiss him. Alfie’s hips stuttered until he was following Tommy, holding one of his hips in such a tight grasp, he was sure Tommy would have bruises by tomorrow.

They didn’t mean to fall asleep after. But they did.

And during the night, when Tommy’s mind betrayed him and he began shaking in his sleep, it was a solid arm being slung around his waist and a warm chest pressed to his back that made his body go slack. It was the forehead resting against the back of his neck the made Tommy fall back into a light sleep.

That night, it was Alfie who chased the demons and ghosts away, without consciously knowing.

***

Nights became easier on Tommy. Provided they were shared with a certain bearded man.

Excuses were made so they could see each other more. Tommy eventually stopped staying in hotel rooms and began spending the night in Alfie’s home. Of course, Lizzie still booked the rooms, it was just a matter that Tommy never used them.

Over time, the sex became more domestic and gentler. Neither addressing the change, but both welcoming it. There were still times when Tommy’s arrogance annoyed Alfie into bending him over a desk. Or a counter. Or the couch that one time. And they both enjoyed these times, too. Alfie began to think maybe Tommy, on these occasions, purposefully irritated him so he would be treated in such a way. Alfie wasn’t about to complain.

Their business and pleasure never intertwined much. Occasionally there would be a lapse in judgement and Alfie would be fucking Tommy against a wall in his office. But for the most part, neither of them pushed at knowing the other’s business, and they kept their hands to themselves when they had a meeting.

During the nights when Tommy felt like his mind was being torn apart and Grace’s ghost told him he was a failure and his family watched him with glossed over eyes, it was Alfie who held him together. Alfie kept him on the right side of the cliff. Alfie kept him from jumping to his eventual fate. And while it was unspoken, neither of them bringing it up in fear they would ruin what they’ve created, they both understood.

Nights Tommy spent alone were less dangerous than before. When he was at Arrow House, Charlie usually slept in his bed. It made him feel more secure that his child was still present and unharmed. Having him close kept Grace’s ghost at bay.

There were still times he woke, drenched in sweat, shaking like a leaf. There were times the sun couldn’t come up fast enough. And there were times the night sky carried on for an eternity.

Sometimes, if he was lucky, those nights would happen when Alfie was asleep in bed next to him. During those nights, even when Alfie was dead to the world, he knew to pull Tommy close. He knew to hold him and let Tommy listen to the heart beating in his chest, the sound slowly easing the shakes. He knew in the morning, it was best not to ask him about it, but rather to hold him close and fuck him slowly until he was a whining mess beneath him, begging Alfie to come. It got Tommy out of his head, and Alfie liked a good morning wake up call.

Tommy felt the change. A shift from hating the night and sleep for what it brought him, to almost looking forward to the pleasure and silence it brought.