''You see, I've got a bright future…"
It was often that Michael Gray would wake up to the sound of his own words ringing in his ears, the irony of his incarceration (for the second time, he'd have to remind himself) not lost upon him.
There was time for painful reflection after all, a bit too much in his opinion, but what else could he do while confined within these dank stone walls?
Reflection that didn't culminate in him retching from shameful remorse at the thought of having taken two lives within a single day. It so remained that he contemplated the possibility of remorse only perfunctorily.
For no one willingly walked into the lair of the Peaky Blinders with any intention of holding onto their moral scruples. Michael knew what he was in for when Tommy took him under his wing, even as his mother held onto the mistaken belief that he was only required to look the other way.
What he hadn't anticipated was their boss turning on them, every single one of them.
And so Michael would pace the length of his sordid cell, bitterly aware of his conversion to the gang's true methodology – a lethal mix of intoxicating power and force – as the realisation that normal, ordinary life wouldn't sate him henceforth began to sink its teeth into his very being.
The door to his cell opened, forcing Michael to snap out of his usual reverie, as he heard a brusque command emerge from the shadows followed by the sound of heels clicking against the stone floor, the silhouette of a woman darkening the doorway.
He looked up as Charlotte Murray lifted the veil off her face, offering a strained smile by a way of a greeting. Michael rose to his feet, astonishment etched in his features, and gestured to the mourning attire she was dressed in. "Did someone…?"
Charlotte shook her head. "It's a disguise. Your lot has considerably lost favour with the city."
"It's all part of a plan," he sighed in response, echoing Tommy's words, albeit hollowly. She shook her head yet again, this time in disbelief.
Michael stepped closer, tentatively reaching out to cup her face. "That night…was it taken care of?"
Charlotte momentarily leaned into his touch before pulling back abruptly. "It was taken care of," she affirmed, locking her gaze with his, and he sighed again, conveying the apology he couldn't bring himself to express in words.
She stepped back as he continued to appraise her, murmuring, "Why are you here, Charlotte?"
She looked away, unsure of her answer. It lay somewhere between her impending engagement to that cavalry officer stationed in Ceylon and her increasingly inability to stay away from this dangerous, dangerous man.
A man who both was and wasn't like the bunch of gangsters he called 'family'. A man almost the father of her almost born child.
Instead, she simply said, "You killed a man."
Michael stared back at her with affected equanimity, taking a moment to register that his formal charges listed only Father Hughes, that blasted priest. "I would explain, but it won't matter, would it?"
How was he to explain to her the strangely liberating feeling of hacking away at his childhood abuser's throat, a yet unacknowledged thirst for vengeance fulfilled at last?
His silence spoke for him, and Charlotte could barely hold herself together as she turned around and started to walk away.
Michael didn't try to hold her back, choosing to call after her instead. "But you wanted me to be like them, didn't you?"
She didn't look back, and in a single moment of permitted frustration, he punched the wall before him.
"Well, here I am, a fucking Peaky Blinder."