“Rox. Roxy, baby, light of my world love of my life greatest thing to ever happen to an arse like me. Please.”
“I – Rox!” Eggsy whines and stamps his foot. He realizes how ridiculous it looks while he’s wearing his newest suit but at the moment he doesn’t much care. “You won’t even consider it?”
She gives him a quick, flat look with a single raised eye-brow then returns her focus to the tablet in her hands. “I can’t do this mission for you. You know that.”
“I’m not asking you to do my mission. I’m begging you to find a way to bugger off yours. Because I’m the only one who could fill in for you last minute and then that means I won’t have to go on this one.”
After almost half an hour of the same argument and only making it through one page of the dossier she was supposed to have memorized by the next morning Roxy has had enough. She carefully places her tablet on the coffee table – her coffee table, in her flat, which Eggsy had barged into like a raving lunatic – and stands. In a few steps she is standing in front of her best friend with her hands on his shoulders and puts on her best pout of exaggerated sympathy.
“Eggsy, I’m going to tell you what to do. So listen closely.”
“Right. Good. ‘M listening.”
She takes a deep breath. “Woman up. Put on your fucking big girl knickers and deal with it.”
For a moment Eggsy looks offended. But eventually he sags and just looks resigned. “This is a terrible idea. Worst mission I’ve ever been handed.” The look of utter defeat in his eyes almost makes her feel bad for him.
“I know baby boy.” She pats his cheek before giving him the lightest of kisses. “At least it isn’t the end of the world.”
Eggsy steps back and falls into the love seat with a sigh, dropping his head back. “No, no. Give me the end of the world. That, I could deal with!”
“I’m not convinced this is the best course of action.”
The computer screens in front of Merlin all freeze with the quick press of a button before he turns slowly to address Harry. He pinches the bridge of his nose and takes a deep breath to steel himself for this.
He heard it coming the second he saw where their target was heading.
“Arthur. We don’t have the time to wait. He leaves in two days. He will be there the entire week. Our deadline is the day after his return. There is no choice.” Not that he would want to offer up another one if there was. He’ll never admit it to Harry, but Merlin is having way too much fun pressing the matter.
For his part, Harry hides his frustration extremely well. To an outside observer he would look completely composed. But there’s a small, barely noticeable tic in his eye and he’s got his thumb tucked under his index finger and held tight down at his side. If several decades watching the man has taught Merlin anything, it’s that Harry is a nervous wreck at the moment and in the process of denying it to himself.
Harry visibly swallows. “Lancelot –“
“Leaves for her own mission tomorrow afternoon. Besides, she wouldn’t exactly blend in.”
There are more arguments Harry has, Merlin can see it - can almost hear every one of them. But he doesn’t make them. He remains quiet, standing tall and too proud to beg though Merlin would put money down that he’s closer right then than he’s ever been in his life. “Arthur, you and Galahad are the best team this organization has ever seen. You practically share a mind you work so well together. There are others here who could do this with you, yes.” Merlin watches Harry’s eyebrows go up slightly, a sad sort of look in his eyes that makes him even surer that this is the best course of action. “But think about it, Harry. Is there anyone but Eggsy you’d rather have at your side?”
The only sign that Merlin’s words affect him is the way that Harry’s chest deflates with the smallest of sighs. He closes his eyes and his lips press together in an almost reluctant smile. “No. No there really isn’t.”
Fog rests heavy over the estate, thick and damp, filling Roxy’s lungs with harsh, cold mist as she breathes harder on her early morning run. At her side Merlin keeps pace, not even breathing heavily. The bastard.
“Please tell me that the Pavus mission is your doing.” They’re finally far enough away from the building that she feels comfortable that Arthur might not have ears out here.
Merlin’s laugh is sudden and loud. “No. God do I wish it was though. That’s entirely Arthur’s doing. Poor bastard didn’t see it coming even if he should have.”
His laughter dies down, though he is no less amused. “He made contact with Sir Whitehall a few years ago as a person of interest in an unrelated mission. They met at a – gentleman’s – club for more distinguished men with certain interests in much younger men.”
Roxy frowns. “How much younger?”
“Not young enough to be an issue.” He assures her and she breathes a little easier. “But the point is, Whitehall knows Arthur. Well, he knows Marcus West anyway. And when you have an in, you use it.”
They run a little further while Roxy thinks it all over, no more sympathetic for Harry than she was Eggsy the previous evening. “So let me get this straight. Because Arthur has an in with Sir Whitehall, he’s the one who has to make contact.”
“And he has to make contact and get the information we need in the next six days or it will be too late.”
“Of course.” Merlin gave her a smug grin because he knew what came next.
“And in order to do this, he has to spend the week at a retreat for extremely wealthy business men and their unconventional younger male lovers. But it’s couples only. So he has to take someone.”
“The one and only.”
For a long while Roxy is silent, but then, finally - and freely - Roxy laughs. She laughs until she can’t properly run or even really catch her breath between her laughter and how long she’s been running. She leans down, resting her hands on her knees until she can speak clearly, looking up to see that Merlin has stopped just a few feet away. “They are either going to kill each other – “
“Or come back so thoroughly fucked that neither of us will have to listen to them complain about the other ever again.”
With an amused sigh, Roxy shakes her head. “I feel you are severely underestimating Eggsy’s capacity to complain about Harry Hart.”
In answer, Merlin shrugs. “If it helps, I know I’m underestimating Harry’s.”