Eggsy stared sourly at the nondescript door, the shop itself tucked away in one of the tiny laneways, right behind housing that looked as though it had been plucked right off a Game of Thrones set. Starling was one of the coastal towns, not as big as St Agnes, but not a one-street deal, either: it had restaurants, a post office, neat little lines of residential houses with sloping roofs… all picture perfect for the tourists, looking like a snapshot right out of ye Olde Medieval Times, if you ignored the touristy gimracky shops and the gawkers in surfer gear. Starling managed to be quaint, but not quite, in Eggsy’s opinion, entirely functional if tourism was removed from the equation… but at least it had a tailor.
No shop name on the door: apparently, whoever it was who owned the shop seemed to think it acceptable to just print the words ‘Tailor’ in silver over the glass, and ‘Bespoke’ on the bottom: no opening hours, nothing. Eggsy was briefly tempted to break in, steal a pair of cufflinks, then leave the cash next to the register, but good manners persevered, because his mum had been persistent that way, and he sighed, turning on his heel, picking irritably at his flapping sleeves. Maybe it was one of those hipster joints, and the owner would turn out to be a slim, behatted skinny young man in pinstripe with trousers cut high enough to show patterned socks.
God damn terrorists. Who the hell hid out in Cornwall, anyway? What happened to all the terrorists with Caribbean island retreats, or undersea headquarters? At least Valentine had a mountain fastness full of underlings, in the middle of snowy nowhere - that was right proper where villain behaviour was concerned, in Eggsy’s admittedly short experience with people of the villain kind.
Eggsy shoved his hands into his tailored pockets, ignoring the familiar, whispery posh voice in the back of his mind that gently chided him for damaging the seam, and sauntered down the street, trying not to drag his heels.
In his ear, Merlin said, “Eggsy, surely there are more important concerns right now than cufflinks.”
“M’sleeves don’t feel right and this is your fault anyway, aye?” Eggsy muttered. “What with making the little buggers single use.”
“Yes, because having a miniaturised defibrillator that can be contained within cufflinks isn’t in itself already a minor miracle,” Merlin grumbled, sounding a little hurt. “One also has to find a way to make it rechargeable. If I had a penny for each time one of you bloody agents went ‘All right, this gadget is great, but it could be better', I’ll be richer than the Queen by now-”
“Just sayin’. I need new cufflinks. Won’t have been a mo’. If the soddin’ bastard who owned the shop had been in.”
“But the mission-“
“The guy’s gone to ground and we all know he’ll probably pop up again later. He ain’t going nowhere. Google says there’s no other tailor in bloody ages from here. Man’s probably just out grabbing a sandwich. Or woman,” Eggsy added, because Lancelot had started being very firm about gender neutral everything, possibly as a sort of pushback against being the only female Kingsman knight. “It’s a tiny little town. I bet he or she’s just ‘round the corner.”
“Eggsy, I really don’t think-“ Merlin began, and stopped, because at that very moment, Eggsy walked right into a lamp post.
Across the street, at a sidewalk corner cafe, reading a paper, sandwich part-eaten on a plate, sleek, long legs crossed neatly under the table, was Harry Hart.
Harry had always looked a little older without the Kingsman-issue black spectacles, but other than that, he was as impeccable as ever, in a three-piece dove gray suit, this time, a little lavender square in his suit pocket, elegant fingers frozen in the middle of turning a page, and he glanced up sharply as Eggsy swore and fell over, quick as ever on his feet as he folded the newspaper, left it on the chair, and crossed the street briskly to Eggsy’s side.
“Dear me. Are you quite all right?” Harry extended a hand, but Eggsy batted it aside, scrambling to his feet, wide-eyed. Even the voice was… it was definitely Harry, with his cut-glass accent, so neat and crisp that it’d have had given a BBC announcer tears of joy.
“Oh my fucking God. How the hell?”
Harry blinked at him. “Pardon me?”
And Eggsy was ready to punch him, punch that blank, mildly curious stare right off Harry fucking Hart’s handsome face, because God but the sodding bastard had been alive all this while, when Eggsy had buried him, mourned him, honoured him, tried to move on, and Harry still had the balls to act like he didn’t… recognise… Eggsy…
“Eggsy,” Merlin’s voice cracked like a whip in Eggsy’s ear, the way he’d never heard it, and Eggsy flinched violently. “Listen to me. Harry. Has. Amnesia. Because of Valentine. And. Don’t. Try to jog his memory. God knows what damage that’ll do. I’m still analysing the dart. Understand?”
Eggsy took in a deep, stuttered breath, then another, and because, fine, he had learned something about being a gentleman all this while, he forced a smile. “Sorry. Wasn’t looking where I was going. Got a bit of a knock and a scare.”
“Of course,” Harry said, raising an eyebrow, just a fraction, the way he always did whenever Eggsy said something weird, as though Harry was carefully scrubbing off the old memory banks. It used to make Eggsy grin. Now, seeing it only gave him another jolt of vertigo.
“You should be careful. The streets hereabouts can be a little slippery.”
“Um. Sure.” Eggsy briefly, very briefly considered beating a quick retreat, but fascination and horror and disbelief alike had rooted him to the spot. “Er. What’re you doing here?” he blurted out, because, Merlin, amnesia darts and Valentine aside, Eggsy’s mouth sometimes had a mind of its own, particularly after a mild concussion.
In his ear, Merlin let out a loud and exaggerated sigh, but Harry tipped his head a fraction, studying Eggsy more closely. Hastily, Eggsy added, “I mean, you’re in a… that’s a nice suit, pretty sharp, not really a Starling sort of deal.”
“Ah,” Harry smiled faintly. “I could say the same. Savile Row, I presume, for the cut of yours? The material’s a little unusual: I can’t say that I’ve seen the like before.”
“Um. Yeah. My tailor’s uh. Pretty good.”
“But you’re missing a pair of cufflinks.”
“Yeah,” Eggsy said, and tried not to instinctively raise his voice: in the earpiece, Merlin was breathing slowly, which was usually, in Eggsy’s now varied experience, indicative of Merlin counting very slowly from one to ten. Considering that when Merlin reached ‘nine’, he usually started limbering up with his custom automatic, Adeline, Eggsy added, hastily, “Erm, I probably should get going.”
“Nonsense. Your attire is incomplete,” Harry said, a little reproachfully, which turned Eggsy on the defensive.
“They got, ah, broken. By accident. Was trying to buy a new pair, but the tailor up the road is closed. So.”
“Eggsy,” Merlin growled, probably already at eleven or higher, and it took Eggsy a moment to finally put two and two together, even as Harry smiled self-deprecatingly.
“You’ve caught the tailor at his lunch break, I’m afraid. But if you’re willing to have a cup of coffee with me, I’m sure that we can sort something out. I’m very pleased to meet a young man who knows his suits. Harry Hart,” Harry said, extending his hand, and Eggsy shook it limply, vertigo shaking through him all over again.
“I’m, um. Pleased to meet you. But. I actually, um. Really. Have to go.” Eggsy tried, he really did, but what that ended up doing was getting Harry to pack up his sandwich, take a final sip of his tea, and insist on walking Eggsy back up to the shop, Eggsy murmuring increasingly weak protests.
Because… damn, but Wrath of Merlin or not… Eggsy had missed Harry, even this version of Harry, who looked oddly unfinished, like a part-copy of Kingsman-Harry. They were nearly back at the shop when Eggsy finally cottoned on to what was missing: this Harry didn’t have the coiled, carefully groomed calm to him, the sleek, elegant killer’s confidence.
This Harry was relaxed, graceful still, and so very composed, but he was… he no longer walked like a panther, Eggsy thought, as though the world was rearranging itself around him: this Harry was… normal. A civilian.
Unnerved all over again, Eggsy hesitated when Harry unlocked the door and held it open, stared until Harry said mildly, “After you, sir,” and it was the sir that did it, Eggsy would later tell Merlin, said as it was in Harry Hart’s voice, because Eggsy was only human and he had Limits.
The shop was small, no off-the-rack suits for sale, though a large oak set of wide drawers displayed arrays of neatly ironed shirts, ties, and cufflinks, set over rich maroon carpeting, with an oil painting of a hunting hound framed up behind the mahogany cashier’s counter, next to a closed door that presumably led to the backroom storage and the upper levels of the shop. Tall windows facing the street let in warm shafts of natural light, painting over a little potted fern, sitting on the counter next to a locked wooden cashbox and a little steel cardholder with a stack of white namecards. A partly open door next to the oak drawers led into some sort of fitting room, with a tailor’s dummy, three angled mirrors, and a chair set to a side that still had a roll of measuring tape coiled on its cushioned seat.
While Harry’s back was turned, inspecting the cufflinks, Eggsy took a sneaky photo on his phone, and sent it over Snapchat to Roxy, with an ‘omfg’ tacked on for good measure. He was expecting her to call instantly, but all he got was a decidedly suspicious radio silence, and given that Eggsy was fairly sure that Roxy was on break right now and not busy, that was really fucking dodgy.
While Eggsy was still glowering at his phone, Harry pulled out a black velvet tray from a high drawer, and set a few cufflinks in a row. “Perhaps one of these?”
“Um sure,” Eggsy said distractedly, because Roxy had chosen that moment to send him a Snapchat of her shrugging, seemingly curled in her living room with her poodle peering at her phone screen over her shoulder.
Which could only mean one thing. Eggsy was the last one in the know.
He turned his back on Harry, taking a Snapchat of himself mouthing “Traitor” and sent it back, then he shoved his phone into his pocket and forced another smile, even as, in his ear, Merlin muttered something about ‘young people’ and ‘puerile messaging apps’ that ‘contributed to the death of proper spelling’. “Sorry. My sister.”
“Take your time.”
Eggsy made a show of looking the cufflinks over instead of staring straight out at the scar punched over Harry’s left brow, a puckered dip of scar tissue, like someone had taken a pen to Harry’s smooth, pale skin, and all of a sudden Eggsy was angry all over again. God. Valentine had died too quickly.
Harry noticed him trying not to stare, naturally, and his smile grew a little wry. “Souvenir of a misadventure.”
“Really?” Eggsy asked, before he could help himself.
“Oh God, Eggsy,” Merlin muttered.
“Damnedest thing,” Harry said, but didn’t elaborate, looking back down at the cufflinks. “Perhaps the green ones, to match your lovely eyes?”
“Ah,” Eggsy said, very intelligibly, because Harry Hart was maybe flirting. With him. And he wasn’t sure whether to bolt, or stay and watch all the known world burn down. He probably even blushed at that point, because Eggsy had never had any self-control when it came to Harry, be it upending his entire life, taking a beating from his stepfather or being tied to a track, listening to a train rushing over.
And because Eggsy was finally, finally, more or less allowed to stare, he now noticed what else had felt wrong about Harry, this Harry. Harry Hart had been right-handed. This Harry was favouring his left hand, his right already tucked away, back in his coat pocket.
“The green ones it is,” Eggsy said, just to buy time, then asked, “D’you do your own tailoring?”
“Sadly,” Harry said, as he ambled over to the cashbox and the card machine, the only piece of modern technology visible in the elegant room, “I have an assistant who helps me with that. But I do all my own sourcing, and help clients decide on cuts and makes, of course.”
“I wouldn’t mind getting fitted for something sometime. You look like you’d probably do great work,” Eggsy said, watching Harry’s hands keenly as he handed over his Kingsman credit card. And there - there it was. A faint, almost imperceptible tremor, in Harry’s gun hand.
Valentine had died too quickly.
“Call in whenever you like to make an appointment.” Harry placed the cufflinks in a velvet pouch, packaged that in a neat little black box with a silver ribbon, and handed that over with the receipt, his credit card and a namecard. “It’ll be my pleasure.”
There was a faint little emphasis on pleasure, and yes, that flicker: Harry was checking Eggsy out. Harry was checking Eggsy out. “Sure,” Eggsy said, or squeaked, to be more accurate, and fled, before he did something absolutely stupid, like maybe ask Harry out, or go down on his knees, or-
Yeah. He was so fucked.
“You knew about this, didn’t you? Oh my fucking God.” Eggsy had holed up in his rented room, shoes kicked off, suit on a coathanger, tie undone, sprawled across the bed with a whisky on the rocks held against his temple. “You and fucking Merlin. Wait. I didn’t mean to say it that way. Or did I? Are you and Merlin-“
“You’re an arsehole,” Roxy repeated, though she sounded amused this time. “No, we’re not, and even if we were, it’s none of your business. I just do some odd jobs for him now and then.”
“Like checking in on Harry Hart?”
“Look,” Roxy said firmly, “Merlin thinks Harry’s in a bit of a delicate position right now, mentally. It’s not just the dart, see? He did go postal on a whole church of people before he got shot in the head with that dart.”
“I’m just saying,” Roxy said dryly, “That maybe, just maybe, it’s kinder this way. Leave Harry as he is, instead of trying to ‘jog his memory’. Didn’t you see his hand?”
Eggsy closed his eyes. “Yeah. What the hell?”
“Merlin thinks it might be nerve damage. Or brain damage, even. From whatever was in the dart. You really think it’ll be… kind? To have Harry come back? Knowing all that he’d done? Knowing he’d never shoot a gun right again?”
“I’m sure he feels good with both hands,” Eggsy said, and groaned, rubbing his cheek against the pillow as he realized what he’d just said. “I mea-”
“Well damn,” Roxy said calmly, “When Merlin said you had a Thing for Harry I told him that he was pulling my leg.”
“Whatever your problem is,” Roxy continued blandly, “Talk to Merlin, not me. It wasn’t my idea to keep it all a big secret.”
“You could’ve told me,” Eggsy said, still resentful, still feeling betrayed, irrational as that was. If Merlin had told Roxy to keep this a secret, then it wouldn’t have been her secret to give. “We’re friends, aye?”
“We’re Kingsmen,” Roxy corrected, though her voice turned a shade gentler. “Eggsy. You’ve known Harry, what, a few months? Merlin’s known the man for years. I don’t think this is easy for him either. Just saying.”
“Thanks. Now I’m feeling guilty on top of feeling pissed.”
“Don’t mention it,” Roxy said tartly, and hung up.
Eggsy glared at the ceiling of his hotel room, following the faint hairline cracks in the plaster, for all of five minutes before Merlin said, into his ear, “You’re an idiot.”
“Thanks, Merlin, you know your words always mean the world t’me.”
“I was going to tell you eventually,” Merlin said, a little resentfully. “When Harry recovers.”
“And what if he doesn’t?”
“Then he isn’t Harry,” Merlin said, and amended, “Not exactly. Not the one you knew, anyway.”
“People don’t change just like that.”
“Also,” Merlin added. “You’re in Cornwall for a mission. Or have you forgotten about that too?”
“I’m still looking, aite? Relax. Nobody builds a supervillain base in Cornwall. I bet he’s just lying low in one of the towns. I’ll do the rounds and he’ll show up sooner or later. Or pop back up over in London. I mean, he wants to gas the Tube, aye? Can’t do that from Cornwall. Probably.”
“Maybe I should have put Lancelot on this matter,” Merlin grumbled, forever bitchy when things didn’t go his way, and Eggsy grinned to himself for a moment before he sobered up.
“Is whatever was done to his nerves… or brain… permanent?”
“I don’t know. We’re still sequencing the formula in the dart. I’ve been sifting through Valentine’s databases, but it’s slow work, what with everything being so deeply encrypted.”
“Can I help?”
“Just do your job,” Merlin said testily. “I said I’ve been working on it.”
“I mean,” Eggsy said stubbornly, “I bet you’ve been having Roxy check on Harry, aye? So seeing people he used to know obviously don’t hurt none. And look. You obviously met him, right? Where was that?” Eggsy asked, curious. “Did you pick him up in Kentucky or summat?”
“In the mountain, actually,” Merlin said briskly. “I let out the other hostages while you were getting acquainted with the Princess. Harry was one of them - disoriented and… he didn’t even know his own name. He was frightened,” Merlin continued, slowly. “I’ve never seen him frightened before. Up until then.”
“You… could’ve told me.” Eggsy muttered, guilty all over again.
“Had my reasons,” Merlin said shortly. “Besides, I think it’s better for Harry to be where he is right now. He’s made his share of enemies. If everyone thinks he’s dead, he’ll be all the safer for it. Gives him time to recover. And besides, Lancelot says Harry seems content with his current life.”
“Probably because he thinks it’s all that he’s ever known,” Eggsy retorted, because up until he had gone over to Kingsman, he had been more or less content with the life he had known. Sure, it’d had its downsides, but it had its ups, too: there was his mum, there was his little sister, and he had his friends. He’d always thought it could’ve been worse, and he’d been fine with that.
He could never go back to that life now. Not after Kingsman.
“Just let it lie, Galahad,” Merlin said firmly, then hesitated and added, “Or, if you really must interfere… don’t utterly fuck it up.”
“Your faith in me is… really awesome as always, thanks.”