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the fire of love is true

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When Grace is four months gone with his child, Tommy insists that she comes to live with him in the house on Primrose Hill. They’ve told her husband of her condition more times than Tommy ever thought they would have to, Grace determined the first time that she do so alone, with Tommy waiting downstairs with the car. Clive is of yet to accept the truth, the man staunchly refusing to allow Grace a divorce. He booked them tickets back to New York and gave one to Grace the third time she told him once again that she was pregnant with another’s man child, that she loved that man deeply, but Grace had merely ripped her ticket up in front of him, letting the pieces fall to the floor. The only reason she will ever return to New York is to obtain a divorce and collect the few possessions she truly wishes to hold onto. Her life is here, with Tommy. It always has been.

Tommy suspects it will be considered a scandal, Grace living with him when they are unmarried, but he’s never been one to really mind scandals. The safety of the woman he loves and the child they will share is more important to him than anything else ever will be, and he cannot guarantee Grace’s safety unless she is close by. Besides, if she were not near him, he’d miss her. They’ve spent two years apart, and now that he has been given another chance at being with her, he isn’t going to let that chance go as easily as he did the first.

Polly slapped him square across the face when he told her of Grace’s condition and his plans, one of her rings cutting him lightly above his left cheekbone. Arthur furrowed his brow, but said nothing, his brother newly weaned off the substances he’d depended on for so long and stoic in his sobriety.  John laughed, shaking his head, but conceded it was Tommy’s choice to make. But Ada, his fiery sister so determined to not be considered a Shelby anymore, Ada had smiled and hugged him tightly. She does the same to Grace when she arrives, her condition now visible, a small bump straining against her dress. “I’ve always liked her Tom,” Ada told him moments after he shared his news, a cup of tea in her hands. “She’s strong. And a man like you…God knows you need a strong woman.”

He’s made sure to tell Grace everything that has occurred within the two years an entire ocean had separated them, of the business successes he’s made, the personal events the family has endured, so when Ada greets her on a chilly Tuesday morning, he isn’t surprised to hear Grace murmur a soft apology for Freddie’s death into his sister’s ear, Karl lingering by his mother’s side. Ada merely nods as she gently ruffles Karl’s hair, his nephew looking more and more like Freddie every day. He knows it isn’t fair, and if he could, he would bring Freddie back, no matter how distant they had become. Whereas he and Grace have been given another chance at happiness, Ada and Freddie had their chance taken away from them, and he suspects his sister still feels the pain. Karl, no matter how much he looks like Freddie, will never meet his father…and Tommy is determined to ensure the same does not occur for the child growing in Grace’s belly. He knows death will always be waiting for him, knows he is lucky to not only have survived the war but everything afterwards, but for the sake of Grace and their baby he is determined to evade a grave for as long as he can.

His bedroom within the house, once a place he came only to sleep, quickly becomes their bedroom, Grace’s toiletries forever scattered on the dressing table and her clothes hanging beside his in the wardrobe. He makes sure to kiss her before leaving every morning and falls asleep with her in his arms every night, her belly growing more and more each day.

“We’ll have our own house soon,” he promises her, his contacts in New York making short work of locating her husband for him. “A grand house.” He has an address, and as soon as the baby is born and Grace is agreeable, they will travel there together and demand a divorce. He may be content to continue living like this, content with almost anything as long as Grace is by his side, but Grace deserves to be properly recognised as his wife. Their child deserves to be considered legitimate.

“But only one bedroom,” Grace sleepily demands, turning slightly in his arms to look up at him. The baby moves under his palm, making its presence known, and Tommy can only nod. 

---

When Charles is nine months old, they are halfway to New York, their son surprisingly happy to spend a prolonged time on board a ship. Charles has his dark hair but Grace’s eyes, and whenever he manages to watch Grace sing their son to sleep Tommy feels as if he cannot fathom just how lucky he is. He has a woman who loves him, a healthy, thriving son, a grand house and a rapidly expanding business. His family are all alive and happy, even if Polly still makes a point of scorning Grace whenever she possibly can, and soon enough Grace shall be officially part of that family. 

Grace shows him around New York with the ease of someone who has lived here before, pushing their son along the streets of the city, Charles taking in the sights when Grace’s movement has not ensured he is dozing in the pram. Here, there are no immediate business concerns, no apparent danger, and Tommy delights in just being, returning one afternoon with an ornate engagement ring that Grace swears shall soon adorn her hand.

They leave Charles behind in their hotel suite when they go to see Grace’s husband, Grace’s maid given strict, slightly threatening instructions from Tommy to take care of their son. They are both not entirely sure what is going to occur that afternoon, and if things are to go sour, they don’t want Charles there.

He’s glad they left the baby behind when they arrive at the address, for Charles is far too young to see a dead man. He isn’t sure he ever wants his son to see a dead man.

Grace had sent a note the day before, confirming that she would be coming with Tommy. A courtesy, she’d called it, although Tommy had thought Clive had been given more than enough time to prepare for such a visit. A weeping maid, one who refuses to call Grace anything other than Mrs. Macmillan despite Grace’s visible discomfort at such an address, tells them that Clive had been found dead in his bedroom that morning, having shot himself repeatedly. Grace’s note, so delicately written and pried from Charles’ reaching hands, had been in his jacket pocket. Grace stumbles somewhat at the news, Tommy’s arms immediately coming to grip her tight, and when they’re safely back inside the car she turns to look at him, brow furrowed.

“Tommy,” is all she says. He lights a cigarette, inhales. Waits for her to speak, knowing exactly what she is going to ask. “You didn’t…”

“No.” She nods, exhaling and unclenching her hands. He’d thought about it, especially when he looked at Grace holding Charles and remembered that technically she was still married to another man, their son illegitimate, but he had dismissed the thought quickly. Grace may not have loved Clive, and he may have proven to be insufferable in his obstinate refusal to divorce her, but he’d taken care of her for the two years Tommy couldn’t, and he wasn’t about to kill the man for such an action. He stretches out a hand to grip hers, stroking a thumb over her palm. “I was with you and the baby,” he tells her.

“I know,” she murmurs, offering him a weak smile. “It’s just, I don’t understand. It was just a divorce.”

There is nothing more he can say, no words of comfort he can offer. He starts the car, desperate to get Grace away, the lingering remnants of her past gone so quickly it is as if the issue of her marriage has not plagued them for two years. And he’s cannot be sad about what has occurred, because with Clive gone, Grace is free to marry. He’s not going to push the issue, not when she’s surely shaken by the news of his death, but for Charles’ sake and the love he has in his heart for her, the love he’d so often feared he’d never feel again when she left, he plans to marry her as soon as she’ll allow him.

Grace scoops their sleeping son up into her arms when they return to the hotel, Tommy’s own coming to wind around her and the baby. “It’ll be alright,” he murmurs into her ear, her hair soft against his cheek. She presses a kiss to Charles’ forehead, runs a hand down his back and leans back into Tommy’s embrace, letting him support her.

---

When Tommy has been pretending to be a widower for eighty-three excruciating days, Grace and Charles are returned to him from Wales. The Italian threat has been dealt with, John severely reprimanded for such folly, and there is no need for him to sleep alone in their bed any more, the bed far too large for only one person. Perhaps it would be safer for them to stay away until his business with the Russians is finished, but he cannot wait any longer. And, as he watches the caravan pull up in front of their home, he's glad he chose not to wait any longer. Charles has grown even more in the two and a half months he has not seen him, and Grace looks just as radiant in the gypsy attire Esme had secured for her as she does in the designer clothes she brought back from New York. He extinguishes his cigarette and go to help them out of the caravan, wedding ring on his left hand like it has been for the last eighty-three days, no matter how odd it looked that he was still wearing it when Grace was supposedly dead. 

"Never again," he murmurs into Grace's ear, holding their son tight between them. She smells of the earth, of the sky, and Tommy knows she'll soon discover he took to smelling her perfumes at night when he could not sleep, just to remind himself that she was okay, she was safe, that she'd be back in his arms soon. And now they are, their son more a boy than a baby, and he's never going to let them go again. "Never." 

Grace presses a tender kiss to his jaw, lacing her fingers within his. "No, I should think not," she tells him with a laugh, Charles peering up at Tommy with the wide eyes of a son who has not seen his father for eighty-three days. "But we're home now. We're safe, aren't we Charles?"

Tommy nods, issuing a soft thank you to Johnny Dogs for their safe return, before ushering his family inside. The Russians are still a serious threat, and the knowledge of what Churchill could do to not only him, but to all of his family, still hangs over his head whenever he considers trying to get out of this mess. But if the last eighty-three days have proven anything, he's more much capable of dealing with it all if Grace is by his side. 

---

When Grace has been Mrs. Shelby for four months, returned to him for one and half, she comes to Tommy in his study early one morning, most of the servants still abed. He’d left her sleeping, placed a lingering kiss on her temple before heading downstairs. Despite the early hour, there’s business to be done. There’s always something to be done, and he’d prefer to do it early so he can spend at least a few hours each day with his family, Charles now able to talk and Tommy desperate to hear him. His days revolve around trying to please both the Russians and Churchill himself, and yet the idea of missing any momentous occasion in his son’s life is what scares him the very most.

Grace stands in the doorway watching him for a moment before making her presence known, her dressing gown tied loosely around her waist and her hair still crumpled from sleep. Tommy knows there’s a bruise from his mouth on the nape of her neck, but the neckline of her robe keeps it out of sight. She comes to stand behind him, hands resting gently on his shoulders and papers spread across his desk, legitimate and not mixed together. He exhales at her touch, and that is when, without preamble, without ceremony, she tells him.

“I’m pregnant Tommy.” Out of the corner of his eye, he can see the wedding ring he bought for her in New York sparkling in the morning light, a ring Grace only takes off to bathe their son.

Tommy pulls her into his lap, business be damned. Her lips quirk into a smile as he holds her tight, and he runs his thumb over her jaw gently. “A baby, Grace,” he says.

She nods, unable to contain her grin. “Yes, Tommy,” she replies, pressing a kiss to his lips so that he may share in her joy. “Another baby.”