BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND A GOOD MAN
'Know that feeling when you think your heart is gonna come right out through your shirt?
I get it a couple times a year but I've been getting it more often with her,
When I'm face to face with death I'll grab his throat,
And ask him, how does it hurt?'
For Island Fires and Family by Dermot Kennedy
Tommy Shelby watched with pride as his soon to be bride danced the night away with his sister Ada. The orchestra in the restaurant had lifted their spirits to an almighty high, with the news of their engagement causing everyone to smile, laugh and forget about their troubles. The restaurant was thriving with all walks of life, the music bouncing off the walls, the floor vibrating beneath his feet, and sound of laughter filling his ears. It was a stark contrast to what he was used to; his world had been filled with silence for so much of his life and though he found comfort in that most of the time, he had gotten used to his world being filled with sound and light.
But Rose had been something he had hoped for, and he didn't even know how much he needed her until she was right in front of him. They had faced trials and tribulations since coming back from war, but they had each other throughout it all. And the future was not going to be smooth sailing for either of them, and whilst they knew that underneath it all, it was still something they were to discuss away from everyone. Tommy loved her, and she loved Tommy with every inch of her being.
Their eyes met across the dancefloor and she moved towards him with a soft smile upon her face. He was sat at the table alone, a glass of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette resting between his lips. As she neared him, she dipped her head towards him shyly, her gaze moving away for just a moment. Tommy removed the cigarette from his mouth and laid it in the cigarette holder.
"I love you, Thomas Shelby," she whispered against his lips. "I can't wait to marry you."
"Always and forever, my love," Tommy whispered pulling her closer to him and shifting her onto his lap. Their mouths explored each other for a few moments before they both had to come up for air; the tantalizing taste of one another dancing on their tongues. Rose stroked his face as her eyes danced around his face; taking in his sharp cheekbones and jaw, his mesmerizing blue eyes and his lips that she couldn't get enough of.
"I'm trying to understand," Rose whispered, solemnly. "And I love you enough that I will understand why you do what you do, but it will take me some time."
Tommy nodded, and her head towards him with his hand. His lips grazed hers and she moved to deepen the kiss. After a moment, she broke away again, but this time was harder to resist his kiss.
"Let's not wait," Rose suggested, her voice trailing off excitedly. "Let's get married as soon as we can. I love you too much to wait another day to be yours forever."
"You'd really do that?" he asked to which she nodded.
"I love you," she whispered. "That should be enough reason to bring it forward. We don't have plans set in stone yet, so why not?"
A smile etched across Tommy's face as he pulled her closer to him. She allowed herself to close the gap between them, her arms wrapping around his neck as their lips met once more. He could taste the sweetness of champagne in her mouth as her tongue danced with his. He held her tightly against him, feeling her heart race against his chest at his touch.
"Let's go home," Rose whispered once their kiss came to an end. "I need you."
Tommy placed a gentle kiss upon his lips before standing to his full height. He held her hand as he led her across the dancefloor and to the coat room. Arthur's eyes fell immediately upon them and a loud cheer erupted from his as he realised where they were heading. Tommy shook his head with an amused smirk upon his face at Arthur's excited outburst which was drawing the attention of his whole family; which only caused Rose's cheeks to turn a vibrant shade of red. Aunt Pol and Ada laughed and waved as they retrieved their coats.
The streets of London were a quiet affair as they ventured further into the darkened streets only lit up by a dim street light It offered little light but enough for them to see a short way in front of them before they were engulfed in darkness until they reached the next stretch of light offered by the carbon arc lamps.
Tommy and Rose chattered through the streets leading towards Rose's home. Laughter filled the narrow streets as they shared memories and experiences that neither of them had ever shared before. Happiness radiated from them both, and Tommy felt happier than he had ever felt in that moment with the woman he loved by his side.
"I don't want this night to end," Rose whispered as he pulled her to him. The warmth that radiated from his body was enticing as a small chill exuded from her own. The dress she wore clung to every curve of her body and breathed in the cool air that the night had to offer as a small shiver emitted from her despite the coat that adorned her body. Tommy felt it and brought her closer to him, as he laid a gentle kiss upon the top of her head.
"Then we don't let tonight end," Tommy countered with a smirk. "Until morning inevitably breaks us away from it."
They walked slower even though morning beckoned for its safe return, to break the night away from the darkness and engulfing them in the warm hue of the golden sunrise. They spoke about the arrival of their wedding day just a few weeks away, the future they would share together, the adventures they would go on, and the children they would bring into the world which had been approached with quiet excitement and wide eyes. Becoming a parent had always been a dream of Tommy's despite his upbringing and tough childhood, but he had seen Aunt Pol go above and beyond for all the Shelby boys when their father abandoned them that fateful eve after the death of their mother. Aunt Pol had been his backbone when he was forced to stand alone in this world, the guiding light in his sibling's life.
And before they knew it, they were stood at the bottom of the steps leading to the house. The house that harbored a lot of firsts for the both of them which flashed and danced in their drunken minds. Tommy pulled away from her, moving his warm body away and causing the cold to seep into the thin material of her dress and reaching for her hand before he guided them up the steps, but Rose stopped at that moment. Tommy turned to her, his height differed from the step he stood upon, and she smiled up at him.
"I'm so happy you came into my life," Rose said honestly, her drunken state sobering for just a moment. "I can't imagine life without you, Tommy."
He stepped down from the step and closed the gap between them. "Maybe it should be counting myself lucky that you are still in front of me, and that you don't look at me differently."
Rose moved her head closer to Tommy's. She leant in, lifting herself to her tiptoes as she pulled his hard body towards her. She felt his chest against her own, as he rested his forehead against hers. Tommy could feel the intake of breath that Rose took against his chest and he felt his heartbeat quicken.
"Thank you," her voice was barely a whisper.
"For what?" he asked, his own voice low and husky.
"For being you, and only you," she whispered. He brought his hands to her face and kissed her, the world falling away. It was soft and slow, reminiscent to their first kiss, and comforting in ways that neither needed to explain. His hand rested just below her ear, and this thumb caressed her cheek as their breath intertwined.
They broke away moments later, the excitement and burning desire glowing brightly in the pits of their stomachs, as they climbed the steps.
The house was quiet upon their return, and as they ascended the steps towards the door, Tommy began to feel unsettled. He couldn't shake the feeling of uneasiness as he watched Rose put the key in the lock only to find the door was unlocked. She turned to Tommy with a furrowed brow and worry coursing through her veins.
"She always locks this door behind me," Rose whispered, her voice shaking. "She never leaves it unlocked… never…"
Tommy nodded and moved in front of her, keeping a hold of her hand as it shook in his. "Stay behind me, Rose."
"It's going to be okay, I promise," Tommy whispered, turning to her. "I need you to stay behind me at all times."
He felt Rose move her hands to the back of his jacket as he led the way into the house. It was dark which even for him was unusual as Hettie always ensured there was light within the house always. The feeling of uneasiness never wavered from him as he slid into the hallway without a sound. As soon as he reached a certain point, that was when he could smell it: the overwhelming tang of blood that hung heavily in the air.
He turned to her then. "I need you to stay here, okay? Let me do this."
Tommy closed the gap between them, reaching his hands up to her face where he kissed her fiercely. He knew whatever he witnessed in the house would forever change his and Rose's world. He rested his forehead against hers as he stared into her eyes; allowing his thumbs to brush against her cheeks.
"Stay here," he whispered, a hint of a warning in his voice. She nodded slowly and tearfully.
"Be careful, Tommy," Rose warned him quietly. He gave her a short nod before he moved away from her and traipsed carefully into the house.
He pulled open the door to the living quarters and the once overwhelming scent of blood became even more so. He closed the door for a moment before he opened them once more, the dull flames of the candles billowing in the breeze of the open door, casting dancing shadows across the wall.
Blood soaked into the soft furnishings, the exquisitely patterned wallpaper that adorned the walls was splattered with the crimson liquid in thick beads, and the rug that had softened her fall soaked most of the blood she had lost. Her body was slumped against the chaise lounge, her head resting against the soft cushion and for a moment, Tommy would assume she was sleeping. But he knew that was not the case, and he closed his eyes in an attempt to compose himself.
As he reopened them, he observed the cuts to her hands that were reminiscent to defense wounds and he knew that Hettie would've protected herself at all costs. He moved towards her and gently brushed his knuckles against her cheek to try and feel any warmth, but when only cold met his skin, he ran a hand through his short hair and released a sigh.
His eyes lifted towards the crisp white piece of paper that was placed upon the blood splattered coffee table; a foreign object in a room that had shed so much blood. He reached for it then and took in the familiar scrawl of Kimber inked into the paper.
THE OLD BAT GOT IN THE WAY. NEXT TIME IT'S ROSE…
Tommy felt anger course through his veins as he tried to analyze the events that had led up to this catastrophic incident.
A guttural scream erupted a small distance away from him and he raised his gaze and watched in horror as Rose stood in the doorway having ventured inside. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth was ajar yet no sound emitted from her anymore. He stood to his full height and closed the gap between them; his hands resting upon the tops of her arms.
"No… you can't see this," Tommy found his voice hoarse.
"Is she…" Rose trailed off, but Tommy knew her question. He shook his head in response and felt her weaken in his grasp.
"You can't see this, Rose," Tommy warned. "I can't let you see her like this."
"I can help…" Rose muttered quietly. "I can try and bring her back…"
"No," Tommy said hoarsely. "It's too late. She's gone."
"I can do something, Tommy…"
He reached for her face then and made her look him in the eye. Her eyes were filled with tears and soft sobs escaped from her. She trembled beneath his hold and he knew he was the only reason she was still standing for if he let her go, she would collapse to the floor in a heap.
"She's gone, Rose. There's nothing we can do to bring her back," Tommy whispered honestly.
He gently pushed her out of the room and she let him take her away from the horrific scene and led her to the stairs where she took a seat. She held onto the bannister for a moment, her eyes closed and body trembling with shock.
"That wasn't a natural death," she whispered. "Someone did that to her, Tommy. Someone killed her, didn't they?"
Tommy nodded faintly, gently running a hand through her hair. "I'm going to find out who did this to her, okay?"
Rose looked up at him with tearful eyes and nodded. No more words were spoken for there was none to say. Hettie had been cruelly murdered for protecting her home and the whereabouts of Tommy and Rose. Her ultimate sacrifice was felt by all in those few quiet moments in the aftermath of them finding her lifeless body. And though Hettie had died not in the way she had hoped for, her memory would forever live on for the bravery and selflessness that prevailed in such a tragedy.
Arthur and John had arrived a short time later, with the former remaining by the side of Tommy as he dealt with the formalities, and the latter took Rose away from the scene under strict instructions to keep any eye on her. Aunt Pol would take control when it came to Rose and protect her with the help of John's presence just in case Kimber came back and tried to claim Rose for his own.
His threat was heard loud and clear, and there was one thing for certain when it came to Tommy Shelby.
An eye for an eye. A life for a life.
Kimber's time was running out and Tommy was hot on his heels.
Author's Note: Huge apologies for the long delay from the last chapter to this next instalment, life just seemed to get in the way and a little bit of writers block didn't help either! Hope you enjoy this chapter, it was incredibly hard to write as I wanted to make it perfect and it took me a long time to actually get it the way I wanted. I hope you enjoy this chapter despite the heaviness of it, and I promise the next two chapters will be up soon. Reviews are always welcome and incredibly appreciated. Thank you for reading!
Reviews are always welcome and incredibly appreciated. Thank you for reading!