Pairing: Thomas Shelby x Reader
Summary: Thomas Shelby had reasons to stay awake every single night. Until you gave him a reason to sleep.
Warnings: Not angst, but kinda sad? Exploration of character’s psyche. Happy ending tho.
A/N: Get at least 8hrs of sleep kids, don’t be like Tommy and I. This is the product of 28hs of sleep in a week. Enjoy my nighttime deliria xX.
The war leaves scars. Some of them noticeable, cracking skins like old chipping paint; some of them were not, breaking the ones that had them from the inside like a silent disease; some of them are left on the ones that did not step into the battlefield, broken homes and broken people waiting for their loved ones to come back.
And Thomas Shelby was scarred in every single way possible.
His hands were no longer the ones from an innocent boy, the ones that are soft and nice to the touch, that felt like feathers on one’s cheek. They were now rusted and covered in blood, the hardness of the skin resembling the hard shell that now covered his heart. His arms and chest were covered in marks that would no longer heal into the blank canvas they once were and the eyes that seemed to have survived the Great War because they kept their original brightness hid nothing but dullness and fear.
Although Thomas did come back from the war along with his brothers, he still found a way of scarring the remaining loved ones that stayed in the island. It was never intentional, it was just... Fate. Collateral damage.
But Tommy knew that his ambitions would always triumph, regardless of the eventual despair he put himself and his family through.
Before the war, when hopelessness ran heavily in his veins, he would close his eyes and lay his head on the soft white pillow, the coolness putting out the fire burning him down, his longing for safety always projected in his subconsciousness.
After he married Grace, nothing really tainted his sleep anymore. Sure he did not sleep much and the little times he got to be with his wife were very much appreciated. But he dreamed of nothing, as everything he was longing for was already present when he opened his eyes.
After he lost Grace and pushed his family away, every single ghost that used to chase him after dawn seemed to have found him again, weighted down in his place with the lives he took away at his own expense. And in the depths of his sorrow, he found you.
He found a girl dressed in the finest clothes waiting for him when he shut his eyes. A woman with the snarkiest and sly remarks he have ever heard, with the smartest brain and the prettiest face.
You gave him the answer for most of his questions, you explained him the reasoning behind all his ambition. You gave him the love he thought he did not deserve and the crazy idea that he was not a bad man at all.
“When we were just kids, Arthur, John and I had this little game where we fought each other for the best pair of shoes.” Thomas started speaking, the cup of tea you prepared him dissipating in the air like a tiny cloud. You silently sat opposite him, both hands holding the mug, blowing air trying to cool down your drink. “Arthur would always let us win the best pair unless his boots were the ones that were completely destroyed.” He recalled with a nostalgic grin on his face, legs crossed and shoulders relaxed. “You can ask him, he’ll never admit it.” He pointed a finger at you as he cackled and you rolled your eyes.
“You know I can’t ask him Thomas, I’m inside your head.” You reminded him, looking at him through your lashes. He leaned forward and rested his hand on yours.
“I’m sure they’d love you if they had the chance of meeting you.” He rested his body on the back of the chair again and lighted up a cigarette. “Not like they have the option of thinking otherwise.” You giggled.
“I’m pretty sure they would adore me.” You reassured Thomas, raising your shoulders. He shook his head, the smoke released from his lips competing with the steaming tea. Silence fell upon you for a moment before he spoke again.
“When Arthur didn’t need new boots, it was always John boy who got the best pair.” His eyes wandered lost, his presence no longer in the dream but in a memory where a small kid with big crystal clear eyes and a bleeding slit on his eyebrow helped his little brother put on shoes way too big for his tiny feet, old newspapers helping him fill the empty space.
“And you were the one who ended up with no shoes.” You affirmed, sipping your tea.
“What can I say, having nothing forges your character.” He joked around, the bittersweet memory lingering at the back of his mind. “As we grew up we started to pick up fights out of the family, for a pair of boots.” He gestured with his hand. “then for their hats, shirts, belts.” Thomas chuckled. “Funny how it escalated, ey?” He took a drag again, the bitterness easing his chest.
You sat there looking at him silently, your words rolling on your tongue before being released to the wild.
“Have you ever heard the history behind the expansion of Rome, Thomas?”
“Probably have learnt that shit in school, haven’t I?”
“See, Rome was surrounded by these powerful and aggressive tribes.” You lazily drew the shape of Italy on the wooden table, Thomas never lifting his sight from your face. “They were harmless, somehow weak. One day, Etruscans decide to invade the little but prosper city. They win, but Romans manage to win back their land.” You were using little sugar cubes as soldiers, moving them around the surface. “It was then when they decide that in order to be safe... They have to make sure nobody can ever hurt them.” You finger moved a cube. “So little by little, they expand. They conquer their south, they reach their arms to Britannia and their legs to Egypt.” You finally look up at Thomas, who was looking at you with wonder shining in his irises. “Fear and self-survival go hand in hand, and there’s a thin like between self-preservation and ambition.” You stood up, and walked towards Thomas. “The Romans were survivors, Tommy. Just like you. Just a bunch of survivors that ended up owning an empire.” He rested his hand on yours the moment you laid it on his shoulder, the touch of your skin feeling like something real.
“Didn’t the Romans end up in decadence?” Thomas questioned, looking at you with the ghost of a smile.
“They couldn’t handle the differences inside the empire. They lost their trust on each other and starting to betray their own people, making deals with outsiders.” You let your words seep in him, understanding flashing in his eyes. You leaned in, leaving a soft kiss on his lips. “Now, wake up Tommy. You’ve got an empire to build. The world owes you.”
Thomas looked at you once more before opening his eyes.
He found a reason to separate himself from reality again. Although you were not always there for him. And as his desires were fulfilled little by little in real life, he spent less time seeking for your company.
Although sometimes he missed the reassurance your presence brings, your existence somehow tainting him in the most wicked ways possible.
“For someone that claims to be missing me that much you don’t spend much time sleeping.” You said with a lively tone, a smile parting your lips and cigarette in hand as you leaned on the drawer chest. A halo surrounded your body just like every night, the colours of the room no longer dark and dull as a thin veil of brightness covered Thomas’ vision.
He sat up on the bed, leaving some space for you to sit next to him, the ghost of a grin playing on his lips as he felt your weight sinking on the mattress. You slowly passed him the consuming fag, letting him take it between his index finger and his thumb, the filter brushing his lips slightly like a shy kiss.
“Have you ever heard about the Russian Roulette?” He asked you releasing a cloud of grey smoke, his head leaning backwards. You nodded slightly, a soft laugh escaping from your mouth.
“I see everything you see Tommy, I learn everything you learn.”
Tommy looked down at his hands, where the dying cigarette was no longer a cigarette but an unloaded handgun, and the ash that fell on his thigh small bullets waiting to be used. Carefully, he released the cylinder and grabbed the bullets as he talked.
“See, every time I close my eyes, I have something that chases me,” He places one bullet into the cylinder, “that haunts me,” another, “that hurts me”, another, “my family,”, another, “that takes me back to the tunnels.” and another. “But you...” He pointed at you with his empty hand, eyes fixed on yours only millimetres apart as he loaded the gun and spun the cylinder. “You are my empty cylinder. You are the sight that relieves my body, you are the adrenaline rushing through my veins every time I fall in a dream and I see that it’s you waiting for me and not the sound of the shovels against the soil.” You break your eye contact and look down, the revolver long gone. “You might be my safe place, but you’re surrounded by mines, and I’m the soldier who has to find the way back to you.” You laughed at his words, body leaning forward as you brushed your chest on his arm.
“I’m your safe place?”
“You’re my safe place.” Tommy reaffirmed, smile this time prominent in his features. Your placed your hand on his cheek, forehead searching for his.
“I’ll veil for you while you’re with me then.” You whispered on his lips, your warm air warming him up inside as it sneaked into his mouth, the plushy pink pillows you had as lips pressing lightly his. Thomas released a sigh before placing a hand on the back of your head and pushing you forward, your kiss feeling like sunlight on his skin.
“Mr. Shelby.” He heard you say between his lips, making him open his eyes. “Mr. Shelby.” You repeated, this time your voice sounding sharper. “Mr, Shelby.”
And just like that, he was pulled back into reality.
Mary awaited for his response at the end of his bed patiently, looking straight at his sleepy eyes. the white linen was covering him down his hips, his messy hair tickling his forehead as he shook his head, a disappointed sigh escaping his lips when he realised you were nowhere to be found. Sometimes he forgot you only lived in his dreams.
“John and Arthur are waiting in your office.” She notified with a sober tone, waiting for him to allow her to leave.
“Tell them I’ll be there in a minute.” He mumbled as he let his head fall back into the pillow. Mary nodded and proceeded to leave the room, closing the door behind her.
Thomas forgot to tell you that you were like morphine. That everything felt great with you, that you were the calm after his stormy life, but every time he woke up after dreaming about you he had this unsettling desire of closing his eyes again and try and find the way back to you. That after you, he found it harder to leave the bed.
Because it was true that he was getting everything and every single woman he wanted.
But deep down, he wanted you. In flesh and bone.
“Fucking finally.” He heard Arthur huff as he entered his office, buttoning his suit as he made his way to his seat.
“S’alright Arthur, he may have a guest in his room.” John mocked, nudging his oldest brother.
“You two shut up.” Thomas commanded, still annoyed by the way he was woken up. Your image kept lingering in his mind, the sunlight and his brain waking up blurring your image. “Why are you here?” Arthur and John looked at each other.
“Michael is coming back from New York today. You forgot?” John reminded him, his confused look turning into a funny grin at his realisation. “Oh yes you forgot.” He let out a chuckle. “Polly is going to kill you if she knows you fucking forgot about her bloody son.”
“She’s not going to fucking know.” He threatened, standing up and grabbing his coat. “Let’s fucking go then.” He said before storming out, Arthur and John play fighting for a lit cigarette.
Michael was the only Shelby left for the family to be complete. In a matter of a few minutes, all the Shelbys would be back to Small Heath. The ‘royal family’ was back. With a somehow casual demeanour, Polly kept alternating her attention between her watch and at the giant clock hanging on the wall of the station. The status of the name Shelby could be perfectly seen by how the hectic surrounding full of busy people made enough room for them to stand in the middle of the station, no bumps, no shouts at them.
Lizzie was calmly having a conversation with Jeremiah and Ada, as Finn and Isaiah watched with amusement how Karl tried to convince Charles, who had recently learn how to run without falling, to have a ‘big boy’ fight. John Dogs looked at the panorama from afar reflecting about how things have changed and observing how Esme rested her head on John, who wrapped his arm around her arm, pulling her closer. Arthur had his arm intertwined with Linda, whose free hand brushed her husband’s arm calmly.
Train stations had this effect. They let one see the motive of someone’s departure or arrival, they could tell you who was there to run away from their soon-to-be-past or who was there chasing their future. Train stations expose workers, lovers, wanderers, whether they are waiting for someone on the platform or getting down the train. If Thomas looked around, he’d see his brothers with their loved ones, the kids impatiently waiting to grow up, a lifelong friendship doing its magic and a longing mother waiting for her son. If the rest focused on Thomas, they’d just see a lone man with a lost look. Little did they know he was with his lover too, trying to get a grasp of the memory lingering in his head from this morning at least.
“Michael!” Polly exclaimed next to Tommy, pulling him back to reality.
At that moment all the family seemed to move forward, all of them wanting their turn to hug the last puzzle piece that completed the family portrait. Among the turmoil of the station sounded the name of the youngest Gray, laughs and greets announcing his arrival.
“Thomas?” A familiar yet so different voice resounded in Tommy’s ear, making his body stiff but his neck turn. “Thomas Shelby?” His face was pale, as if he just saw a ghost.
There you were, in flesh and bone. Your voice was deeper than the woman blessing his dreams and your body was slimmer, shorter. Your face was rounder, adorned with some expression lines and your skin tanner. But it was you after all.
“Do you remember me?” You asked, your question sounding more like a melody to him. You swayed your suitcase with you as you presented yourself like a lady. “ (Y/n)? (Y/n) (Y/l/n)?” His silent and cold demeanour told you to keep talking. “We went to primary school together. Remember the weird girl that moved to Dover when we were nine? Gosh, you’ve changed so much!” You exclaimed, gloved hand touching his chest. “Where’s the cheerful Tommy that would fight a tree just for the sake of it?” You playfully gave his chest a few punches, receiving no response but a startled look. “Have you conquered the world yet?” You asked, managing to pull some heartstrings and take him back to childhood, where the world was a mere oak in your backyard and conquering it would simply consist on climbing to the top of the tree. His lack of response started to unsettle you. Maybe he didn’t remember you at all. “Where are your brothers? Is that John? Hey, John!” You waved at the blonde man from your spot, capturing his attention.
John was just as startled as Tommy, but he managed to pull out a reaction, calling your name with a questioning tone, not believing what his eyes were showing him. He gestured you to come and pulled you into a big hug. It seemed like Michael would have to share the spotlight with you.
“Of course I remember you.” Thomas whispered to himself, letting out a short laugh. “How would I even forget you.” He turned around and talked towards you, arms wide open. “(Y/n)!” You immediately turned at his call, the brightest of the smalls illuminating your face. “How you’ve been?”
Tommy listened calmly to your ramblings, nodding when he had to and laughing when he was supposed to.
“Anyway, after Boston and New York, I think I’ll stay in Small Heath for awhile. I don’t think I’ll miss the big city at all.” You concluded, grabbing your suitcase again as you looked at your surroundings. “I think I should go, seems like all of the Shelbys were impatient to go back home. Your family has grown so much! You’ve got to tell me about your whereabouts.”
It was then when he turned around and saw that all his family had left, only a few unknown faces wandering around the platform you two were on.
“Anyway, it was nice to see you!” You waved goodbye, already making your way to the exit.
“Nice to see you too.” Thomas mumbled, somehow numb from what just happened. All of the sudden, the image of you laughing at him popped in his mind. Now the dream you was shorter, slimmer, tanner, just like the real you. ‘Go and get me, you silly!’ you commanded him, making him immediately react. “Wait, (Y/n)!” You turned around gracefully effortlessly, looking at him with curious eyes.
“Let me take you out some time.”
A/N2: Aight, I hate doing this because y’know, art is not art if you gotta explain it. But this is the result of 2 sleepless nights and I don’t really know if I wrote it well enough to represent what high-on-insomnia me is trying to represent, so there goes an explanation. Of course, you don’t have to read it, and you can draw your own conclusions because fanficts are just fanficts after all.
There was this conversation I had with my friends that gave me the inspiration to write this piece, where we were discussing about the people we see in our dreams that we swear we’ve never seen before. We thought that the most logical answer would be that the strangers we see in our dreams are people we’ve seen before but completely forgot.
Now, Tommy has this image of a girl that happened to be a childhood friend of his, but it’s sort of distorted as it is the grown up version his head imagined based on the young features he remembered. The woman has the personality of the nine year old girl he remembered, but it also understands, justifies and rules the actions of Thomas, because it not only is the memory of a beloved lost friend, but his own consciousness trying to ease his doubts and fears.
There you go, I hope I didn’t fuck up the entire plot. Love you guys, tell me what you think xX.
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