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the parting glass

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Save the world, get the girl, be home in time for tea.

That's the dream, innit? At least, it always was for Eggsy, who'd grown up with Jack Bauer and James Bond and Mission: Impossible. Any kind of shoot-em-up with a badass and a sexy leading lady, really. That's what the basic happy ending boiled down to, according to Hollywood: the glory and the girl.

He knows better than anyone that this ain't that kind of movie.

This is the kind of movie where he only sort of gets the girl, who's not even the person he really wanted to see at the end of it all, and gets none of the glory because being a spy apparently means he can't go to the local and tell all the drunks that he's just saved the fucking world, and you're all welcome. He's definitely not home in time for tea, because he's passed out on the Kingsman jet, completely knackered and drooling onto a tartan throw pillow.

(He does, however, find and rescue a majority of the British royal family from the prison cells in Valentine's doomsday bunker, which is pretty surreal. And after escorting the bloody Queen herself back to her private jet, he's then fucking knighted . For real knighted, not Kingsman knighted, where everyone just gets a codename and access to mission files and bulletproof suits. It's fucking fantastic, and it makes Merlin unbelievably sour, so he goes around HQ insisting everyone calls him 'Sir Eggsy' for a solid week.)

He moves his mum into their new house and grins when she bursts into happy tears and hugs him sporadically and for long periods of time while they tour the rooms. He definitely laughs out loud at the noise she makes when she sees her en-suite bathroom, complete with claw foot tub.

“My love,” she whispers, cupping his cheeks and staring up at him with eyes brighter than he's seen in years. “Thank you. Now take your bloody shoes off before you get marks on the carpet.”

He laughs straight into her face but he obeys, because he loves her, and he's absolutely buzzing about finally being able to provide for his mum and sister in the way he's always dreamed.

Five months pass.

Eggsy darts in and out of London for five months, sent to the arse end of the earth to hunt down the spindling tethers of Valentine's web of fucking insanity. The world is completely tits up, all the major dignitaries and leaders having lit up like fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night, and anarchy and hopeless confusion abounds throughout the nations most desperately affected.

Eggsy may or may not feel slightly responsible. Depends on the day, really, and if he's had his Coco Pops for breakfast.

He spends his time infiltrating, gathering information, and ultimately snapping more than a few necks, and when he comes back to London he spends as much time with his mum and sister as humanly possible. He makes sure Dean knows fucking well never to come near him or his ever again, lest he wants the thick crystals of a splintered pint glass lodged in his brain.

He ignores the ache that comes with living in the house three doors down from
Harry's.

He and Roxy see each other at Kingsman, and she's ever the immaculate spy, and there's no doubt in his mind she'll be a kickass Lancelot. She's definitely much too smart to not check a chalet for other enemies and wind up split down the middle, so he thinks she's already got a leg up on her predecessor.

He ribs her good-naturedly, winks and flirts and doesn't mean a word of it, and she indulges him with a roll of her eyes, black patent Brogues slipping noiselessly against the hardwood floors. They see each other outside of HQ as well, in the muddled and multicoloured lights of a hazy club, commiserating over vodka-lemonades. Eggsy usually settles into the lush booth where he sits, watching out of the corner of his eye as all types of blokes try to pull Roxy. Her smile is lethal and the dig of her heel into their foot may as well be, for all that their yelps are always audible over the thumping bass.

Sometimes she indulges her libido, writhing on the dance floor with whatever piece of arse has caught her attention. Amelia makes a sheepish appearance one night, but her faked death is never brought up. Roxy's clearly forgiven her, if the way they end the night with tongues in each other's mouths is any indication. Sebastian, one of the first of their round of recruits to go, makes an appearance one evening and spends most of his time blushing under her attention, stammering as Roxy's hand creeps further and further up his thigh. There's yet another night when he finds her pressed into a corner with that posh girl from their NLP mission, and he's admittedly very impressed by Roxy's prowess. He'd ask her for tips, sometime, because, well.

Eggsy never pulls.

He also never even tries.

Roxy confronts him about it over chips one night while they're seated in the dimly lit shop across from the club, plucking at her meal where it's nestled in greasy newspaper. Her hair is slightly damp with sweat from the heat of a hundred bodies in an enclosed space. “Have you even fucked anyone since you bummed that princess?” she asks, with all the subtlety of a bomb. Eggsy knows from experience just how subtle a bomb can be, and Roxy's a damn dirty one.

Eggsy chokes on his battered fish. “Fuckin' 'ell,” he rasps, thumping a fist into his chest. “You don't mess about.”

She raises an eyebrow in lieu of responding. Eggsy rolls his eyes and waits until his throat is suitably cleared before, grudgingly, giving her an answer. “Nah,” he attempts at casual, and the effect is somewhat ruined by the slur in his voice. “An' for the record, I didn't bum no princess, neither.”

Roxy scoffs. “Oh, please. You forget Merlin sees all of the feeds, and has a surprising penchant for gossip considering he's a. Well. You know.”

Eggsy lets out an aggravated grunt and drops his head into his hands, cradling the rough fabric of his flatbill cap. “Fuckin' shit bastard,” he mumbles into the calloused, dry palms, feeling far too drunk for this conversation. “I would have, right, I fuckin' would have, she was bloody gaggin' for it,” he explains hurriedly, feeling his reputation as being ace in the sack slipping quickly away. “Offered her arse up and everything, but s'not like Valentine kept rubbers and lube in his prison cells, and I don' give a flying fuck if she's a princess or no, I ain't sticking my cock anywhere strange without wrappin' up, first.”

Roxy looks vaguely stunned, hands frozen midair. “That's...oddly considerate of you.”

“Oi,” Eggsy says irritably. “I'm rough, not a fucking shitheap.”

The truth of the matter was: he'd pressed her thighs together, close and tight, and rutted between them while his hand was buried in the crux of her legs, letting friction and deft fingers do all the work until she'd come at least twice and he'd been spent. Then they'd pulled themselves together and, with a kiss bestowed upon his cheek, she was running barefoot down the hallway and was gone, gone, gone.

“You're full of surprises,” Roxy teases, popping another chip into her mouth.

Eggsy's heart lurches in his chest and his answering smile is weak.

Harry's reflection glimmers in his mind, all suave and gentle smiles, and everything in Eggsy aches like the ghost of a lost limb.

 

ooo



The thing is, see, the thing is: Eggsy knows how to keep a secret. He's never grassed anyone, right, no matter who's asking, and he's always prided himself on how tight he can keep things locked up. He never squealed on his bruvs, never told Dean the truth about Harry even when that meaty git had a hand twisted around Eggsy's throat. He didn't even think for a second about ratting out Harry or Kingsman when a train seemed ready to splatter him across the tracks of the Underground.

Eggsy knows how to keep a secret.

Which is why he's never told a soul about the way Dean would appear in the doorway, glowering and greasy, and beckon Eggsy forward. Never said a fucking word about the way two crumpled twenty pound notes would pass hands and Eggsy would be shoved forward, hauled away, and then pushed down to his knees.

He's never told anyone about how he endured being smacked around, having spunk splattered onto his face, his throat bruised and raw from brutal thrusts, and the taste of latex sour on his tongue, all because Dean had threatened him, “'f it ain't you, boy, 's your mum.”

Eggsy would rather be spitroasted by Dean's nasty lot than let them get a hold of his mum, so he keeps his mouth shut (except for when it's being forced open) and keeps Dean's wallet fat and happy.

He gets a few funny looks from the birds and guys he's shagged when he staunchly insists on condoms, no matter what, but as far as sexual standards go he doesn't think he's being unreasonable. With the way Dean volleys him about from shithead to shithead, he's taking no chances with anybody's health.

So when Tilde offers up her arse, all heart shaped and pale and fucking perfect, Eggsy swallows down the hefty temptation she presents and asks after condoms and lube. She gives him a confused look and wiggles her bum backwards enticingly, trying to persuade him to make do without.

There's only one person in the world Eggsy would've trusted to go bare, and he's not the one sprawled across satin sheets. And he never will be, because he's—

Eggsy puts his foot down with Tilde and doesn't explain himself, just ruts between her thighs and tries not to think of a lithe body in a bespoke suit.

(He thinks Harry knew. Harry knew everything God damned about him, probably had a dossier on every single shit Eggsy ever took, so it wouldn't surprise him if Harry knew about the time he's spent on his knees, gagging on cocks and his shame, considering the throwaway comment in the pub about finding another rentboy was what set him off. He thinks Harry knew, and never said, and Eggsy misses him and his fucking discretion.)

He keeps his secrets.

 

ooo

 

Five months.

For five months, Eggsy and Roxy and all the other Kingsman agents disperse themselves across the world, going wherever society is crumbling the fastest. He's only twenty-four years old, he's not even officially a Kingsman, and some days he feels weary down into his bones; wonders how Harry did it for so long. Understands, if only in a distant way, why the former Arthur was ground down until his faith in humanity was brittle, and why he was so quick to fall for Valentine's silver tongue.

There's no denying the feeling he gets when he knows he's kept the world from falling apart, at least a little bit. It almost drowns out the voice in his head that sounds like Dean, cursing him and telling him he's worthless, that he'll fail, that he's the reason Harry was gunned down outside a church in the States.

Almost.

He develops what Roxy and Merlin refer to loudly and scornfully as a 'death wish.' Which is just ridiculous, because it's not like he's taking unnecessary risks to his own life. He's not throwing himself into danger without crafting a careful plan, without calculating the odds and taking the ones best in his favour. He kicks arse and takes fucking names, him, and he's fucking good at it.

He's maybe a bit more careless about the wounds he sustains than he used to be, but it's not as if he's running towards death, it's just—well.

He'd rather be with Harry.

At the end of it all, it'd be worth the pain of dying if he got to see Harry again.

Which doesn't mean he's trying to get himself killed (thanks a lot for that vote of confidence, Merlin), it just means that the prospect of dying isn't as scary as it once was. All he wants, honest, is Harry by his side and in his ear and in his bed—

If wishes were horses, his mum used to say, tutting at him. So Eggsy nuts up and goes to Washington, to St. Petersburg, to Mexico City, even escorts a handful of very famous and disoriented celebrities back to Los Angeles and Malibu, and does his job and keeps his mum and sister safe and secure.

So, yeah.

Five whole bloody months.

That's about how long it takes for everything to go to shit.

It starts when Merlin calls him to the dining room, gesturing for Eggsy to follow him from the front of the shop. His shoulders are unusually tense and his spine is straight, so Eggsy follows without complaint or question, despite the look he throws to Roxy over his shoulder. She manages to convey a shrug with just the twitch of her eyebrows, and he's going to have to ask her how she does that, one day.

He saunters into the room behind Merlin, who comes to a stop in front of the mirror, hands tucked around his clipboard. “Eggsy,” he says, voice calm and brogue thick. “Please, close the door.”

The door locks into place with a quiet 'snick' as Eggsy pushes it shut. Merlin sweeps a hand outward, open palm stopping to point at the chair to the right of Arthur's. “Have a seat.”

Eggsy grits his teeth together. His limbs feel heavy and locked into place, but he manages to manoeuvre them into the Galahad chair. He sits down slowly, legs sprawled apart and shoulders slumped, but his body feels tense and coiled, ready for a brawl. “What's going on, Merlin?”

Merlin's fingers splay open and clasp closed again, drumming against his clipboard. It's a pique of nerves that he rarely displays, for all that is face is cool and collected. Eggsy sits up a bit straighter in the chair.

“A new Arthur has been appointed,” Merlin states. “One decidedly less likely to attempt poisoning you, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know.” His eyes go out of and back into focus quickly, and his lips give a small quirk upwards. “But perhaps such unfortunate past events are best left forgotten.”

Eggsy blinks at him, face twisting in confusion. “I thought you was gonna be Arthur?”

Merlin lets out a surprised chuckle and tilts his head with a modest air. “Not exactly my area, Eggsy, and I've no doubt the newest King will lift the mantle back to its former glory. Currently unable to join us, I'm afraid, but he has requested that I make a slight change in roster.” His fingers twitch again. “It's fitting to note that though your father never survived long enough to become Lancelot, in traditional Arthurian lore, Galahad was Lancelot's son.”

A deafening white noise has washed over Eggsy, and he can only watch with sick apprehension as Merlin approaches and lays a hand upon his shoulder.

“Welcome to the Round Table,” he says, eyes glinting suspiciously behind the lenses of his glasses. “Galahad.”

Ain't that a kick in the balls.

Eggsy's body, already tense, locks up completely as all of the air in his lungs leaves his body without so much as an exhalation. He's staring sightlessly up at Merlin, lips trembling where they're pressed tightly together. He can't fucking breathe, can't possibly shoulder the weight of Harry's legacy when the last thing he ever did was let him down. The way he'd deserved the disappointed turn of Harry's mouth, the harsh bite of his words, and how they were the last things Harry ever gave to him.

It haunts Eggsy every fucking time he shuts his eyes, even just to blink.

“Galahad?” he manages to choke around the bile rising slowly in his throat.

Merlin's smile is gentle, unwavering in its understanding, and his hand is an anchor. “You must know,” he says softly, “that Harry would be so proud of you.”

The way he says it is full of quiet confidence, as though he's no doubt of the truth or the weight his words hold, and Eggsy barely manages to keep his shit together.

He squares his shoulders even as the tears bite, hot and shameful, at the backs of his eyes, and he stands. Merlin's hand slips easily from his shoulder. “Thanks for the thought, bruv, but if there's one thing I learnt from Harry before he—” He can't finish the sentence, can't put the reality of it into the world, and so he lets it wither in his throat. He licks his lips and forges on, an attempt at a smirk twisting up his mouth. “It's that Harry weren't ever proud'a me.”

Something in his eyes (probably the fucking tears, Christ) gives him away, because suddenly Merlin looks taken aback. “Eggsy, surely you—”

Eggsy bows his head and turns his body toward the door. He wants to leave this conversation, leave the fucking room, get as far away from this place as he can. “I'll see you at 0800 tomorrow, guv. Need to celebrate with me mum, and all.”

“Eggsy,” Merlin tries again, and only because he respects the wanker so fucking much does Eggsy bother turning back around. The tech agent looks as composed as ever, but there's a pitying look in his eyes that makes his stomach lurch. “Galahad. Make it 0930.”

Eggsy tips his head and exits, hands clasped tightly behind his back. His nails bite into his palms. He nods to Gawain as they pass in the hall, murmurs a farewell to Leodegrance and Kay where they stand in the store front discussing the latest kevlar upgrades, and holds the door open for the elderly woman who delivers their supply of pocket squares.

The temperature outside is shockingly mild for mid-February and actually quite lovely, the sun peeking out in steady measures from where it's nestled between the clouds.

He manages to get off of the street and into a small alley before his stomach revolts and he's sick all over the wall and part of a rubbish bin. “Fuck,” he gasps, pulling in ragged breaths. Coco Pops are fucking awful coming back up. His palms scrape and cut open when his knees give way and he catches himself against the rough stone of the brick. “Fucking, fucking fuck,” he sobs, pulling his glasses off and pressing the bloodied heel of his palm against one eye. The frames clatter to the ground, somewhere by his knees.

There's nothing he's ever felt before quite like the rolling, bitter ache deep within his gut. Everything within him is screaming out about how wrong it is, to be given Harry's place when it's a spot that belongs to Harry, to sit at the Round Table and know that he's disappearing beneath the shadow of fucking ace espionage that Harry's cast over him. He curls into his knees, digs his shaking fingers into his hair, and muffles a scream into the costly fabric of his trousers.

Who knows how long he crouches there, feeling agony bursting in every nerve, but eventually there's the quiet swish of feet on pavement as they approach.

“Stand up,” Roxy tells him, bracing one hand on his bicep and another between his shoulder blades. “Come on, then, up you get. Leodegrance is going to murder you when he sees the state of your trousers.”

“Lancelot,” he bites out. “Roxy, they—Galahad.”

“I know,” she whispers, and steps forward to hug him despite the grime of the alleyway, despite the smell of vomit on his breath. “I know, Eggsy.”

“I miss him so much,” he says, fists clenched at his sides as to avoid smearing blood and dirt across the grey of her suit jacket. “'e's fuckin' dead, and I miss him so much.”

Roxy, bless her, stands there and holds him even as if feels like the last vestiges of his sanity are dripping through the cracks of his fingers and dirtying the pavement further. Eventually, she whispers Come on, let's get you home, and leads him to a taxi that patiently waits outside the tailor. He's exhausted, gutted right down to his bones, and allows the embarrassment of being escorted around like this.

She leaves him in the company taxi with one last squeeze to his arm as she hands him his glasses, and then the busy streets of London are blurring by, colours dull for all their abundance, and Eggsy just barely reminds himself to breathe.

The cab pulls up outside of his house.

He exits. Waves goodbye to Ector. Stands on the curb and watches the tail lights twist around the corner and disappear.

His feet carry him to Harry's house.

He still has the key he'd nicked before he'd gone to confront Chester King, eyes hot and burning and mind screaming at how fucking unfair it was that Harry was gone. Its weight is warm and solid in his injured hand, and it still turns in the lock.

He opens the door, and nearly collapses in the foyer.

Harry's sunk into the walls, the air, utterly and completely.

Eggsy trails his fingers over the framed displays of butterflies, pinned with their wings spread wide. Runs his eyes over the kettle still perched on the stove, waiting for its owner to use it once again. Rolls his eyes at that creepy fucking dog that was perched above the toilet and stifles a laugh, because only Harry was mad enough to stuff a dead pet and leave him in the shitter. As a reminder.

In the toilet.

He avoids that red room, the one splattered with gossip rags, because he still hears the crack of a gunshot when he so much as glances through the doorway.

He wanders throughout the house, smiling at the strange collections that Harry seems to have had, wondering why, exactly, he owns Star Trek collectible plates and put them next to his authentic, original sketch of Winnie the Pooh.

That's a first draft drawing of the famous 'Pooh Sticks' scene,"  he imagines Harry telling him, standing warm and close against Eggsy's side. “E.H. Shepard is so vastly under-appreciated in comparison to that ghastly animation the 70's brought about. I loan it out to Sotheby's every now and again, for viewings.”

Eggsy smiles. “And them plates? Never took you for a Trekkie, guv.”

Ah,” Harry would say, peering closely at the tableware in question. “Well, naturally, I own those because, dear boy, it was a fucking spectacular series. I suppose I will always be disappointed that I never met a Vulcan.”

“Ol' Chester boy doesn't count?” Eggsy asks. He forgets himself and turns his head, fully expecting to see those warm brown eyes glinting down at him, to get a waft of the spice of Harry's aftershave.

There's no one there.

He's just waiting on a ghost.

He shakes off the disappointment and curls a hand over the bannister, making his way up the stairs. He knows that to the right is the spare bedroom. Eggsy remembers falling asleep between the sheets in that room not too long before the entire world went arse over teakettle; he remembers quietly wanking in that bedroom, covers thrown off and skin sweat-slick, biting his lip to hold in the moan and thinking about Harry, just down the hall—

Just down the hall.

He gravitates to the open bedroom door, the one room in this house that he's never before entered. He stands in the doorway and drinks it all in.

Harry's room is a study in blue, white, and beige. The walls are a warm navy colour where the sunlight spills across them, reflecting across the numerous and inexplicable portraits of birds that line the wall behind his headboard. A plush looking armchair sits to the right, all taupe and tartan, with a magazine flipped halfway through still spread across the seat. There are small tables on either side, but only one of them has an empty glass long since forgotten, a remote for the telly, and a small bottle of hand crème.

Eggsy lets out a hard breath through his nostrils, and crosses to the left side of the bed. When he sits, the mattress depresses beneath him but doesn't bounce, and Harry had never really struck Eggsy as a memory foam type of guy.

Come, now,” he imagines Harry saying. “I'm hardly as antiquated as you're imagining. I do in fact live in this century, and I thank Christ every day that it's a century with phenomenal bedding. The pillows are the same, in fact, and they provide an excellent curvature support for your neck and shoulders.”

Eggsy shakes his head hard, willing the voice out of his brain, and then lets his gaze continue to wander. There's a large chest of drawers nestled between two floor-to-ceiling bookcases across from the bed, and that's also where the fucking amazing telly is mounted on the wall. It's the only blatant extravagance in the room, though he wouldn't put it past Harry to have a number of first edition novels scattered about the place.

Also, the drapes manage to make themselves look rather posh.

He stands up, knees wobbling only slightly, and shuffles over to the dresser so that he can run his fingers over the brass handles and the smooth polish of the wood. He pulls open the drawer that's second from the top and finds himself staring down at an impeccably folded and colour coordinated assortment of tees.

“You mad fuck,” he murmurs sadly, affectionately. His gaze is drawn to the battered and worn, but still utterly recognisable, RAMC insignia that stares up from the top layer of shirts. He pulls it out and finds the fabric to be threadbare and incredibly soft, and imagines Harry wearing this shirt as he pads around his house; underneath his posh suit while he's kicking the shit out of a drug kingpin; late at night when he's lying in bed, drinking tea and listening to the news and reading a book, or maybe one of those trashy newspapers he collects.

Eggsy holds the shirt up against his chest. It seems to be about his size, if only a bit tight across the shoulders. He hesitates, but his hands are already moving of their own accord.

When he brings it up to his nose, there's the faint bite of Harry's cologne, and it nearly makes his knees give way again. He leans heavily into the dresser, making the bottles of aftershave and the small pot of loose coins rattle around. That's where he stays, propped up by the sturdy presence of a chest of drawers, until the heat of his breath against the shirt becomes stifling. His arms fall, and after another moment of running his thumb over the insignia, he makes a decision.

He grabs one of the bottles of cologne and uses the shirt to wrap it up safely, and leaves the house as quickly as he can, all the while fighting the sensation that a ghost is following him out.

If he falls asleep that night in Harry's shirt, surrounded by the smell of Harry's cologne, and hugging onto a pillow like it's someone long since out of reach, well.

That's really none of anybody's fucking business.

 

ooo

 

The days pass, as they tend to do, and about a week after his promotion he's sent off to a small village in Costa Rica with Gawain (who was remarkably good looking with his dark skin, bright green eyes, and with the easy confidence of someone who knows it.) Older than Eggsy but still young at only thirty-three, he never fails to promise violent retribution every time Eggsy refers to him as 'old man.' He's handsome enough, Eggsy supposes distantly, but there's also the chance that his standards for attraction have been set too high in light of his most recent heartache. Still, they get on like a house on fire, and the easy snark and quick jabs help Eggsy's emotional equilibrium balance out a bit.

(It helps significantly that Chester King had apparently despised Gawain, the racist and classist old coot, and that the feeling had been more than mutual. It's a sentiment that Eggsy finds he appreciates in a fellow agent.)

Currently, they're mucked up to their elbows in the red clay of the rainforest, shrouded by the detritus of fallen trees as Eggsy peers through the sight of a sniper rifle and carefully tracks the movements of their last target; a man at the top of the exotic meat black market with a penchant for hunting down big cat cubs and selling them to “adventurous eaters” and the occasional megalomaniac as 'security measures.' It's a bit out of their normal purview, but apparently Kingsman had credits that extended towards whatever bizarre favour the client needed doing. So, five head-shots and seventeen arrests later, here they are.

“I'd say I can't fuckin' believe there's a black market for jaguar cubs,” Eggsy murmurs to Gawain, “but I've seen way too much shit on this job to think there isn't a market for everything.”

Gawain hums in agreement. “It does get a bit dodgier when you consider the drastically declining jaguar population here, since the mothers tend to get poached as well. Made into fur coats and throw rugs, all that sort of ugly indulgence.” He peered up at Eggsy over his spotter's scope. “As I recall, there used to be quite a number of panthers in Costa Rica, as well, but I suppose demand outweighed supply in that instance.”

“Should take 'im back and make him into a rug for the new Arthur,” Eggsy says, smirking. “A nice welcome present, yeah?”

Gawain tuts at him. “I don't believe he'd much appreciate that, Galahad. Inspired idea, though. I heard he once wrestled seven tigers and a shark, all at once.”

Eggsy can't contain his snort. “I heard he made the ol' Iron Lady cry.”

“Piloted a single man shuttle to another dimension just to punch an extra-terrestrial.”

“The real reason The Beatles broke up,” Eggsy says, dangerously close to laughing out loud and blowing their cover. “Yoko Ono's just a myth.”

“Gentlemen,” Merlin's voice cuts in over their comms, effectively bringing the conversation to a swift death. “Might I remind you that not only are you on a special assignment as a favour to the President of Costa Rica, but that I am, in fact, still here, and that Arthur will be appraised of this transmission when your objective has been completed? While I'm sure he would appreciate the...confidence you're displaying in his assumed skill set, do try and keep if off my bloody mission report.”

Gawain clears his throat and stiffens his shoulders, far more likely to subside under the glowering countenance of Merlin than Eggsy will ever be. He supposes saving the world together builds a bond that transcends normal agent hierarchy, since Merlin's never called him out on the way Eggsy tends to bite back. “Affirmative, Merlin. My apologies. Galahad, mark at 500 meters, wind speed 2 miles per hour with a north—no, north east drift. Fire when ready.”

“Solid,” Eggsy says, waiting for the poacher to clear the line of trees. His index finger lifts and hovers over the trigger, and once he has a clear view, the poacher's head in the open, he takes the shot.

The crack of gunfire echoes all around them and is accentuated by the explosion of brain and skull that mists red and pink onto the foliage and forest floor. Eggsy wrinkles his nose. “Rank,” he complains, and rids the rifle of the shell casing. “Sorry about the 'Arthur' thing, Merlin,” he adds, tapping a finger against the frame of his glasses.

“Not to worry,” Merlin says, voice prickled with static from where the dense forest obstructs their signal the tiniest amount. “Though for what it's worth, lads, Arthur does currently have over two hundred and thirty kills accounted for under his solo missions alone, so perhaps it's best to keep your idiocy to a minimum?”

Gawain looks so thoroughly chastised, it's as though he's been given a good tongue lashing by a school governess, and he busies himself with tidying up their area and removing any trace of their existence. Eggsy, however, whistles low as he breaks down his rifle. “Two-hundred thirty? Fuck me.”

“Your approval will be noted and, I'm sure, vastly appreciated.”

Merlin sounds amused, maybe more than is really warranted, but he won't let Eggsy in on the joke no matter how much he pokes and prods.

“You'll find out soon enough,” he promises.

Eggsy isn't sure he likes the sound of that.

 

ooo

 

It's a mild Tuesday afternoon near the end of March when things go spectacularly straight to hell.

The day starts off decently enough, with Eggsy and Roxy standing on the stairs that lead out to the back-gardens and the exercise track, watching the recruits for the Lamorak and Bedivere positions try and navigate the grounds with reluctant puppies in tow. JB, perched and panting happily against Eggsy's leg, gives howling little barks every time the gaggle of potential Kingsman jostles past.

Roxy's dog, Churchill, is perfectly poised and silent, eyes bright and attentive, and it's only when his head swivels to the side that they even realize Merlin has joined them. “Lancelot,” he greets, “A moment of your time, please.” His gaze flickers over to Eggsy for the barest of seconds before he trains his eyes on his clipboard. “I'm certain Galahad can handle sole supervision of the recruits for the time being.”

Roxy pulls a face at Eggsy when Merlin turns back to the door, shrugging her shoulders when he raises his eyebrows at her in question. She tilts her chin up and, spine straight, strides after Merlin.

She never returns.

The newbies finish their three mile jog, looking disgruntled and red faced, breath puffing into misty clouds around their hears. A few of them look as if they're going to collapse, and there's one girl who's slung her puppy around her neck like a scarf because the poor little beast is nearly wheezing. “Not bad,” Eggsy allows, putting on an air of nonchalance. “Though all of you need to shave off at least three minutes from your times. Marta,” he directs towards the girl with the corgi puppy panting into her collarbone. His mouth twitches up, thinking of a pocket-sized JB nestled tightly in his body armour. “Good thinking, working around the rules without breaking them despite coming across a problem.” He can't resist the urge to wink at her, and revels in the violent blush that takes over her otherwise stoic face.

Nineteen sets of eyes all redirect their gaze to a spot over his shoulder, almost simultaneously, and Eggsy becomes aware of a presence looming behind him. It's Merlin, looking tired and withdrawn, and he still won't meet Eggsy's gaze, pretending instead to be occupied with his clipboard. “Galahad,” he rasps. He clears his throat. “A word. As for you lot,” he says to the recruits, “consider yourself thoroughly dismissed. Well done,” he adds, then turns and strides brusquely through the doors once more.

Eggsy's gut is churning with worry and anticipation and it makes his chest feel tight in a way that he doesn't particularly enjoy. He nods a farewell to the recruits and follows Merlin through the sprawling manor, breaking into a half jog just to keep up with the magician's loping gait. Their footsteps echo in the empty halls, portraits of British royalty the only witnesses to their walk.

Merlin doesn't say a word, and the knot of unease grows larger.

They come to a stop outside of two large, ornately carved wooden doors. Merlin grips the French style door handles and holds, but doesn't make a move to open. He shuts his eyes tightly and tilts his head over his shoulder. Eggsy can't help but track the frown lines that carve their way next to the down-turn of his mouth, the unhappy clench of his eyelids.

“For what it's worth to you,” Merlin rumbles, voice hoarse and low. “I'm sorry about this.” He throws the door wide open and—

And.

There.

Sitting at the head of a large, circular table with his hands folded neatly in front of him.

Harry.

Eggsy draws his gun between one breath and the next, thumbing quickly at the safety and levelling the weapon at the seated man. “What the fuck is goin' on 'ere?” he demands, the natural rough of his accent slipping into his voice in his distress. “Merlin, what the fuck , who the fuck are you?”

The imposter's mouth thins. “Eggsy—” he begins.

“Shut the fuck up,” Eggsy orders, beginning to move forward with caution. “I asked you a fuckin' question, mate. Who. The fuck. Are you?

The man wilts in his chair, shoulders turning just like Harry's, and Eggsy is going to find whoever sent this motherfucker here and he is going to shoot their fucking kneecaps out before garrotting them, because this bastard is too good, too believable, and it's ripping his heart out. “Please, Eggsy, I—”

“How do you know my name?” he snarls, coming to a stop five feet away from the man. “Ain't nobody but Roxy and Merlin know that name. You been watchin' me, yeah? Finding my weaknesses, yeah?” The visage of Harry is blurring and bright around the edges, and Eggsy can't even concentrate long enough to be embarrassed about the tears gathering quickly in his eyes. “I don't know who the fuck you think you are, bruv, or what you got on me and Kingsman, but this shit ain't funny.”

An arm suddenly winds its way around his throat and pulls him back, pushing down onto his windpipe. He almost drops the gun like a fucking amateur, but it's plucked easily from his grip and he hears the quiet 'snikt' of the saftey being switched on again.

“Eggsy,” Merlin soothes into his ear. “You need to calm down. Breathe, boy. In and out.”

He's hyperventilating, Eggsy realizes distantly, chest heaving and lungs catching and he's scrabbling at Merlin's toned forearm like it's the only thing that can possibly ground him in reality. He thinks he might be embarrassed by all of this, later. He takes sharp, shaking breaths in through his nose and they punch back out through his mouth until the tremors leave his body.

The imposter in the chair is gripping at the armrests, knuckles white, like he wants to get up and cross over to Eggsy and it's taking everything in his body to keep from doing so.

“It's him, Eggsy,” Merlin tells him softly, laden with regret.“It's Harry. DNA will confirm it, but you have my word. For whatever that may be worth to you now.”

He buries his face quickly into the cashmere of Merlin's jumper. “But I saw-!” he protests, voice raw and muffled.

“You saw him take a bullet to the head, that's true,” Merlin agrees. There's a pressure against the back of Eggsy's head, like he's laid his cheek against it. “Luckily for Kingsman, our surveillance glasses are heavily bulletproofed. He was wounded, but he never died, Eggsy. But it was imperative that Valentine believed he had.”

Eggsy takes a few more gulping breaths before he shoves at Merlin's arm. Its grip loosens immediately and Merlin steps back, hands still outstretched and eyes wary, as if Eggsy is a bomb needing to be defused. Eggsy forces his gaze back to...back to Harry.

Harry, whose mouth is still tight and unhappy, his eyes large and slightly damp, looking the least composed that Eggsy has ever seen him. One eye, his left, is milky white and scarred, a line of puckered and recently healed tissue trailing along the outer corner and over his temple before disappearing into his hairline.

“Your eye,” Eggsy says shortly, not knowing what else to say.

“It seems even bulletproof glass is affected at a range of less than two metres,” Harry says, fingers drifting up to rub self-consciously at the scar. “The glass absorbed much of the impact but the proximity to my eye had some...unforeseen consequences.”

“Impact damage to the cornea, conjunctiva, iris, and pupil,” Merlin rattles off from behind them. “Miraculously, with no notable damage to the optic nerve, meaning we'll be able to cosmetically reconstruct the outermost part of the eye without risking permanent blindness.”

“You can do that?” Eggsy asks. He doesn't take his eyes off of Harry.

Merlin scoffs. “We're Kingsman. Of course we bloody can.”

There's an internal wail of sirens going on in Eggsy's head at the moment as he continues to stare at Harry, so he can't bring himself to respond to Merlin beyond a non-committal hum. The rage is ebbing in its wake, resignation settling in and dulling the screaming panic.

When he asks Merlin, “How long have you known that he's alive?” he doesn't turn to face him. The answer will be painful enough without having to see the expression on Merlin's face as he gives it, Eggsy's sure.

There's a heavy pause, and then: “Since the moment he was shot.”

Eggsy feels his shoulders lose their straight line, curving forward with weariness. He doesn't want to even look at Harry, doesn't want to have the betrayal of trust so blatantly seated before him. But God help him, he doesn't want to look anywhere else, for fear that Harry will disappear into the ether yet again.

“Guess I wasn't important enough to know, yeah?” he asks.

Harry's mouth parts briefly before compressing back together. “Have a seat,” he requests quietly, gesturing to the spot to his right.

Eggsy fights the sigh that wants to escape him, fights the way his entire body is aching to collapse into a puddle on the expensive rug beneath his feet, and squares his shoulders back and takes a seat. His spine aligns with the back of the chair and he twists his fingers together, tightly, in his lap as Merlin comes to stand behind Harry's shoulder.

“Eggsy,” Harry begins, looking at him with those mismatched eyes. It's unnerving, for more reasons than the heavy scarring, to have all of that attention laid so thoroughly upon him, so Eggsy trains his eyes to gaze through the two men standing before him. “You must know how truly sorry I am for the deception, for allowing you to think that I—”

Eggsy can't listen to this. He can't. “I understand,” he interrupts smoothly, allowing the shock of the words to silence Harry mid-stream. “It was a delicate matter that needed to be handled with the utmost discretion, sirs. I apologize for my inappropriate outburst, and for drawing a weapon on you, Arthur, sir.”

There's a brief moment of silence, then Merlin goes into a drawling spiel about what Eggsy can expect from Harry as the figurehead of Kingsman, sliding papers across the large oak table for him to sign and swear to, aligning himself permanently with Harry Hart, alias 'Arthur.'

He listens, but the words don't register. He reads, but the letters blur. He drags the pen across them in an approximation of a signature, barely comprehending the stipulations of the contract. It's not as if they can fuck him over any worse than he has been already, he figures.

Harry lets out a small sigh through his nose, regarding Eggsy with those too-keen eyes. Even half blind, he can still see through Eggsy's bluster and bullshit, and it's been so long since he was underneath that watchful, knowing gaze that it's as if all of his nerves are on fire.

When all the T's are crossed and all the I's have been dotted, he stands as quickly as he'd sat down, tugging at the lapels of his suit. His left arm drops and his fingers press into the table, giving him something sturdy to balance against. “Gentlemen,” he intones, voice flowing more smoothly than he thought it would. “If you'll excuse me, I'm afraid I'm going to require a few days off. I find that I'm...” He lets his eyes focus on Harry's for the first time in nearly an hour. There's a level of impropriety he's displaying that he knows, were he any of the other Kingsman agents, would be unacceptable. “Emotionally compromised. Unsuitable for active duty, as it were. I'm sure you understand.”

He pivots on the heel of one Oxford, all of his muscles tensed for flight, but gently calloused fingers slip against the delicate skin of his wrist. Eggsy freezes in place as Harry murmurs, “I was hoping for a word in private—”

He pulls his arm sharply to his side, ripping himself away from that tender touch. He's going to be sick, he can feel it rolling in his gut and threatening to churn into his throat, and he needs to get out of this fucking room as quickly as possible. He strides to the doors, pausing when he's got the handles gripped between sweat-slick palms. He glances over his shoulder, eyes and voice horribly, terribly cold when he says, “That won't be necessary.” He throws open the doors and slips through.

When he turns back around to pull them shut, he glances at Harry, who's standing now with a defeated set to his shoulders and a stoniness to his face.

He can't resist one last petty shot, and he allows all of the malice and hurt he's feeling to seep into the word he leaves them with.

Arthur,” he sneers.

The doors slam shut.

 

 

Chapter Text

The room feels hollow in the wake of Eggsy's exit. Harry presses the knuckles of each hand firmly into the table and bows his head, and regret is a living, breathing thing inside him. “Damn,” he mutters. He sinks into his chair and buries his fingers in the thick waves of his hair. “Fucking shit bugger, damn, damn, damn!”

Merlin heaves a sigh and his clipboard hits the table with a loud clatter when he throws it, dropping his body into the chair on Harry's left. “I told you,” he reminds Harry, but there's little victory to be found in the sentiment. “I bloody told you he should have been made aware from the beginning.” He pulls his glasses off and tosses them onto the table, too, pinching at the bridge of his nose with his two forefingers.

Well, hindsight is twenty-fucking-twenty,” Harry says bitterly, scrubbing his hand across his forehead. The scar on the side of his head throbs tenderly as a headache pools inside of his skull, and shutting his eyes against the grey sunlight is of no use, because behind his eyelids all he can see is the tremble of Eggsy's mouth even as he'd held Harry at gunpoint.

The echo of his accusations, the bitter bite in the way he'd spat Harry's code name, ring themselves around in Harry's ears.

He'll never forgive me, will he,” he says into the quiet of the room, and it isn't a question.

Of course he will,” Merlin says firmly, laying a hand on the slope of Harry's shoulder. “You're completely blind when it comes to that boy, or wilfully ignorant, but the lad adores you, Harry. Why neither of you can see how much you mean to the other is a fucking mystery. You haven't been able to bear witness to everything these past few months, how he was affected when he thought you were dead. It's only understandable that he needs time.”

Time,” Harry informs with a roll of his neck, attempting to loosen the insurmountable strain held there, “doesn't necessarily heal all wounds, Merlin.”

Explain it to the boy,” Merlin urges, not allowing Harry to wallow any deeper in his upset. “Make him listen. Emotions are volatile, but he will come around eventually. Fuck's sake, it's not as if you tried to kill him. Probably for the best, as well, since that didn't work out too well for Chester.”

The usual swell of anger that accompanies any mention of Chester King is increased tenfold by the reminder that the bastard had tried to betray Harry twice over by slipping poison into Eggsy's brandy glass. His only reassurance is knowing Eggsy got the best of Chester, utilizing his sleight of hand the elderly man had so sneered at to give him a dose of his own medicine—quite literally, in fact.

Harry shakes his head, face shrouded by the expanse of his hands. The misery he feels is apparent in the shaking of his shoulders, the waver in his voice. “I'm not sure of a way I can possibly make amends,” he admits to Merlin, finally dropping his hands to the table only to begin worrying at his signet ring. “Our last conversation didn't end amicably. For God's sake, Merlin, I saw your transmission feeds when he told you I was never, and would never be, proud of him.”

Are you?” Merlin asks calmly, and doesn't flinch under the hard, withered glare that Harry levels at him. “It's a valid question. I, for one, never heard you indicate anything of the sort. God knows the boy tried his best to get you to say it.”

Of course I'm proud of him!” Harry snaps, standing from his chair in one fluid movement and using the momentum to carry him to the window that overlooks the back grounds. “How could I not be?” he bites out, and the way his head is moving slightly indicates to Merlin that he's watching someone cross the lawn. Eggsy, if he had to wager. “He is...” Harry pauses, struggling for words.

Merlin waits.

Extraordinary,” Harry finishes, and watches with his good eye as Eggsy disappear from view.

 

ooo

 

Roxy and Gawain catch up to him when he's ten metres past the forest line of the manor's grounds, viciously punching the trunk of a tree with a fist that's long since split open and covered in blood.

Eggsy!” Roxy calls out sharply, ducking under his swinging arm and slipping herself in between him and his makeshift punching bag. Gawain grabs onto Eggsy's upper body, arms winding around and locking his hands together across his sternum, effectively trapping his arms to his sides no matter how wildly they swing.

Eggsy is wild for a moment, the anger and unfounded grief making him want to break something. “FUCK!” he cries out, drawing the word out into a scream. His fingernails bite into the palms of his hands, slicing in and contributing to the already bloody mess at the end of each arm. He shouts again, this time an inarticulate, wordless cry that breaks into a harsh sob, his knees giving way. He sags into Gawain's grip, and together they fall to the decaying leaves and damp soil.

Roxy hits her knees not long after, paying no heed to the dirt, cupping at Eggsy's face and forcing him to meet her gaze. “I'm sorry,” she whispers to him, brown eyes glinting with angry tears. “I am so sorry, Eggsy, I wanted to warn you but they said that I couldn't, and—oh, I can't believe they would do this to you! I could believe they would do something like this, but—you, Eggsy, not to you .”

Eggsy struggles in Gawain's arms, tries to wrench his face out of Roxy's grasp. He feels wrecked , like the world has swallowed him whole and there's nothing left but the scorching, black heat of ruin. The pain in his chest and the throbbing in his head is nothing compared to the ache he feels down to his bones, down to his very soul. How could they have done this to him? Two of the most trusted people in his life, leaving him to fester in guilt and despair for almost half a year for no good fucking reason.

Underneath the agony is a song, a celebration, telling him that Harry's alive! He's alive, he's here, he's alright!

The thunderous sound of his own resentment drowns it out, exploding out of him in another twisted yell. The fight leaves him just as quickly as it overcame him, his chin falling to his chest as the air in his lungs punches out, quick and shallow. Gawain's grip on him becomes less of a chokehold and more of a careful embrace, and Eggsy makes a few weak attempts at controlling his breathing while the wetness gathered in his eyes spills over. He clenches his fingers around Gawain's wrists so tightly that they're sure to bruise.

The three of them kneel there in the deadened grey expanse of the woods, until the hitching sobs quiet into sniffles and the only sound around them is the rustle of the wind in the leaves. Eggsy's unable to stop the trembling, though at least it's not the violent, uncontrollable tremors of before, and he feels shame begin to lick hotly on the heels of his outburst.

What do you need?” Gawain asks him, voice rough and tight. “Tell us. What do you need?”

Eggsy's breath rattles loose on an exhale.

To forget.”

 

ooo

 

For the first time in nearly a year, Eggsy enters a club with a purpose. The churning, gut-thumping bass blasting out of the speakers sounds like a siren's call, inviting him into the foggy anonymity of the dance floor. He's already spotted three different girls and at least two blokes looking at him with interest, boosting his determination.

Roxy's by his side, clad in a slinky purple number that draws more than a few eyes to her, but she assures him with her thrown back shoulders and the purse of her lips that tonight, she's going to concentrate on giving him what he asked for.

Well, technically what he'd asked for was an amnesia dart straight to the carotid artery, but a random fuck with a stranger works just as well. He supposes he can't fault her for choosing to interpret his request this way.

They shoulder their way through the crowd and the sea of bodies parts around them and swallows them whole again, drawing them quickly towards the bar. There's a small sign, lamination flaking apart, that tells them it's three trebles for five quid, and Roxy is quick to pull out a tenner and slide it across the bench. “Three rum and coke and three vodka-lemonades, please!” she shouts to the bartender as his eyes are drawn to her cleavage. She gives him a terribly sweet smile and dips her head, glancing at him from under strands of hair, and when she turns back around to Eggsy, she's holding a platter of drinks as well as four extra colourful shots.

Cheers,” Eggsy says gratefully, and slams back his two. He shudders dramatically and sticks out his tongue when the flavour hits and burns the back of his throat. “Is this fucking peach schnapps?” he demands, swigging heartily at his rum and coke. “Fuckin' hell, Rox.”

It's delicious,” Roxy says primly, seating herself on a plush chair and crossing her legs demurely at the ankles. She throws back her shots like a champ, two at a time, then carefully stacks the discarded glasses. “And free, might I add, so stop whingeing.” The first of her vodka-lemonades disappears quickly as she brings the straw to her mouth, sharp eyes surveying the population of drunk twenty-somethings around them. “Now, onto business. What do you want to do tonight?”

Eggsy takes another gulp of his drink and twists on his seat, not even bothering to disguise his searching gaze. There's a guy standing about twenty paces away from them, leaning in to the girl curled into his side and speaking into his ear, but his eyes meet Eggsy's almost immediately and hold. “What about 'im?”

No,” Roxy says, tone sharp. “Look at the body language. His hand on her hip, hers on his neck, standing intimately close even for a club. If they're not dating, she thinks they are. He's certainly giving you a look, but it's too messy.”

Eggsy tosses back the remainder of his drink, the ice clacking against his teeth. He wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and gestures over Roxy's shoulder with the empty glass. “What about her?”

Roxy's head barely turns over her shoulder before whipping back around. “She's looking at me, not you, most likely because I shagged her three months ago and she never returned any of my texts despite her giving me her number. Sloppy kisser, anyway. I'd avoid it.”

He can't help but snort softly into the fizz of his second—fourth, if he's counting the schnapps—drink. He's starting to feel the lightness behind his eyes that comes with imbibing alcohol too quickly, and it feels bloody amazing, like the weight of Harry and Merlin's deceit has starting to lift from his shoulders, and the second glass doesn't stand a chance.

He and Roxy continue their game of 'What About Them' for the length of three more songs, during which Eggsy polishes off the last of his triple rum-and-cokes and snags one of Roxy's vodka-lemonades for himself, since she's still nursing at her first. He's happily on his way to being well and truly mortal when he registers a presence to his right. Glancing up sharply proves to be a mistake when the world swims a bit out of focus, but the bloke standing over him, face flushed but determined, is well fit.

Sorry to interrupt, mate,” he shouts, leaning into Eggsy's space. His eyes are sparkling and electric blue, hair a mess of riotous black curls, and when he leans in even closer to brush his lips against the shell of Eggsy's ear, he smells of Hugo Boss' cologne. “Couldn't help but overhear and thought I'd save you the trouble. Wanna dance?”

Roxy has a sour, startled look on her face when Eggsy glances over at her. She avoids his eyes, seeming instead to be trying to will away his newest friend with the heat of her glare. It clicks, somewhere in the back of his mind, that she never intended to help him pull tonight; she just meant to get him plastered to the point of oblivion. His stomach turns.

I'll meet you out there in a second, yeah?” he says to the stranger, lifting his drink and rattling the last dregs of alcohol around through the ice. “Just gonna finish me drink first.”

The guy leaves with a pleased, even grin, and once he's out of earshot Eggsy rounds on Roxy. “The fuck was that about?”

Her cheeks pink up ever so slightly. “I don't know what you mean.”

Come off it,” he bites out. “I seen the way you were lookin' at him, tryn'ta scare 'im off. I thought you was here to help me get fucked.”

I never said that,” snaps Roxy, slamming her drink onto the table. The dramatic clatter of it is lost in the deafening roll of bass from the speakers, but the glass splinters. “I said I would be a mate and help you forget, Eggsy, so I'm here to supervise you while you get utterly arsed.”

I don't need no fuckin' babysitter!”

You wanted me to give you amnesia!” she cries out. It's like a dam bursts, and he watches the wreckage of words flow from her mouth, stomach sinking like a stone with every bitter truth. “What Merlin and Harry did wasn't fair to you, Eggsy, but it's the nature of things in our line of work! Our kind of people make a career out of lying, and our kind of people go to churches in Kentucky and got shot in the head and don't die, because none of this is normal! You and I, we're exceptional, Eggsy, and you should do better than put your ankles 'round your ears for the first fit bloke that looks your way.”

Her face softens. “I know how you feel about Harry.” Eggsy bites down hard on the inside of his cheek and turns his face away. “Everyone knows how you felt—how you still feel about him. Of all Kingsman, you've got the most right to be hurt by what he's done.” She reaches out and only manages to brush her fingers against the back of his hand before he yanks it away and stuffs it into his pocket. She sighs loudly, frustrated. The swirling neon lights of the club highlight the exhaustion on her face, and Eggsy feels drunk and dizzy and miserable. “This isn't going to make you feel better, despite what you think.”

Eggsy rocks unsteadily to his feet. He digs his wallet out and tosses a fiver onto the table between them. “You don't know fuck all,” he snarls. He turns his back and stalks towards where the stranger is waiting on the edge of the dance floor, ignoring Roxy's exasperated shout of his name.

He marches up to the man and hooks a hand around the nape of his neck; walks backwards onto the floor, pulling his partner along and forcing himself to make and maintain eye contact even as they're jostled around in the pulsing mass of people. “What's your name?” he shouts as they come to a stop in the middle of the throng.

I'm Liam,” he says directly into Eggsy's eardrum.

Eggsy,” he slurs in turn.

The room tilts. Liam's lips brush down Eggsy's ear, down his neck. His hands curl over Eggsy's waist and draw him in, pressing their hips together. Eggsy's stomach twists. It's the alcohol, he tells himself, tilting his head back and allowing the slide of Liam's mouth across the sensitive spot beneath the cut of his jaw.

The cologne that was a teasing, tempting smell not ten minutes before is now cloying and acidic in Eggsy's nose, on his tongue. Liam knocks their foreheads together, turns their hips against each other, and Eggsy feels sick.

He pushes through it, jaw locked. His teeth grind and ache, but the body against his feels warm and real, and he loses himself in sensation as much as he can while his internal organs are revolting against the unfamiliar touch.

He presses their cheeks together and stares off somewhere over Liam's left shoulder, and forces himself to blink away the ghost of Harry that appears in the darkest corner of the room, face drawn tight with disappointment and his ruined eye stark and apparent in the dim light.

He disappears between one twitch of his eyes and the next, lost in the shadows and Eggsy's imagination.

Eggsy spins around and pushes his arse against Liam's cock, barely registering the pleased groan the movement awards him. An electric synth beat pours out of the speakers, melting from one song into the next, and he concentrates on the rhythm, the words pouring over him and the body behind his almost an afterthought.

'Don't want to have to lose all that I’ve compromised to feel another high, I've got to keep it down tonight' croons the voice, echoing around in Eggsy's skull. There are wet, full lips and sharp teeth sucking and biting into the spot where his neck and shoulder meet, and it's wrong. The wrong mouth, the wrong man, and Eggsy can't breathe for the bile climbing in his throat.

'I was a king under your control—'

He ducks his head to the left, forcing Liam's mouth to disconnect from his neck. A trail of spittle strings between them and drips back onto his collar. 'Fuck me, that's disgusting,' he thinks foggily, wiping a hand against the skin as he wrenches away without explanation. A confused protest and an irritated curse follow his stumbling feet, but he doesn't turn back. With barely a foot off the main floor, he feels more than sees when Roxy's hand circles around his wrist, and then she's tugging him towards the exit, snapping at the bleary drunks that stand in their way.

They pour out into the street together and the fresh air is a blessing, though the wet spot on his neck stings in the cool night air.

Fuck me,” he groans, falling against the door with a thump. “Fuck me, Rox, I'm in love with him.”

I know,” Roxy says, quiet and firm in that steadfast way of hers that makes Eggsy adore her. “It's going to be alright, Eggsy.”

He's alive,” he reminds her, bitter. “He's alive, he didn't tell me, and I'm in love with him. Shit.”

He's alive,” she confirms, reaching up to brush the damp strands off hair off of his sweaty forehead. “You can be happy about it, you know, and still be furious.” She pulls him off and away from the door and drags him to sit on a low wall, rubbing at his shoulder blades when he ducks his head between his knees. “I just don't want you to do something you'll regret,” she tells him softly, running her fingertips across his back, nails catching on the fabric of his jacket.

You're a mate, you are,” he tells her weakly, grasping at her hips and pulling her forward until the top of his head presses against her stomach. “What would I do without you?”

Her hands, small and smooth and lethal, cup his jaw and tilt his face up. “You'd be fucked,” she tells him bluntly, the tone rife with affection and tainted with an edge of sadness. Eggsy frowns up at her, blinking heavily when her face duplicates and blurs. “Let's get you home.”

She pours him into a taxi and then slips in beside him, keeping a soothing hand nestled on the nape of his neck as he buries his face in his hands and tries not to vomit with every bump and bend in the road.

What do I do, Rox?” mumbles Eggsy, phosphorescent lights blooming behind his eyelids whenever he digs his fingers into the sockets. “What do I fuckin' do?”

For a moment, there's nothing but the rumble of the cab's engine and the general, constant murmur of London. Eggsy breathes in and out.

I don't know,” Roxy admits, sounding sorry. “I can't tell you what to do, or how to feel. That's up to you, I'm afraid.”

Eggsy barks out a single 'ha!' “That's me fucked, then.”

Their cab ride continues in silence.

Pulling up to the front of his house feels like finishing a marathon for all that Eggsy senses a tidal wave of relief and exhaustion settle deeply into his limbs. The pleasant buzz of alcohol has officially slid into a sharp headache in his temples, and the sight of his front door nearly makes him weep.

Are you sure you'll be alright by yourself?” Roxy asks him when he's standing on the pavement, bracing his hands on the roof of the cab and looking down at her through the window.

Yeah,” Eggsy says, though in truth he doesn't know if he will. “You're aces, you know that? Go home and get some shut eye; you deserve some time away from my sorry arse.”

He waves her off and watches the cab crawl to the end of his street and indicate to the left before disappearing around the corner, Roxy's head turned and watching him through the rear window until the last moment.

His hand drops to his side. He steels himself for the really, truly awful decision he's about to make.

His feet carry him, one step at a time, to Harry Hart's door. It's nearly quarter to one in the morning, but time means nothing when he's drunk and miserable, so he raps his knuckles loudly against the front door.

A light flickers on in the hall, followed by the gentle sound of feet falling across hardwood floors.

There's a beat and then the sound of a chain being undone, clattering heavily against the door frame. Another quiet click of a lock sliding out of place, the gentle twist and rattle of the doorknob turning.

Harry stands with his usual poise between the dim orange glow of the street lamp and the comfort of his own home, and says nothing. His eyes flicker over Eggsy, assessing and concerned even through the milky scarring of the left, but his mouth doesn't lose its relaxed down-turn.

I'm angry.”

The words are an explosion in the silence of the street.

I am so fucking pissed with you,” Eggsy continues, unable to stop the avalanche of words brought tumbling down by that first confession, “for not tellin' me. How—how could you not tell me, huh? All the shit we been through, you an' me, how—because I didn't shoot JB, zat it? Too much of a fucking disappointment to spare a fucking phone call.”

Harry's eyebrows furrow together and he takes a small step forward. Eggsy lurches back.

Neither of them makes another move.

Why would you do that to me?” Eggsy shatters. “How could you—”

The words shrivel and die between them.

Harry's chest hitches on an indrawn breath. The contours of his face are cast dramatically in the fiery hues of the street at night, highlighting the wrinkle in his forehead and the soft slope of his chin and the silvery pink of his scar.

He's beautiful, and Eggsy loves him.

I miss you.” The confession falls. It lands heavily onto the pavement, cracking into the asphalt. “You're alive, you're right in fucking front of me, and I still miss you.”

His face feels hot and swollen, lips trembling and wet, and it's only when he wipes at his eyes does he realize that he's crying. He stumbles back, embarrassed, suddenly wanting to be back in the safety of his own home.

Harry's eyes close like he's in pain, hands shaking into fists by his sides. His lips part. “Eggsy—”

The slamming of a door three houses down is the only answer Eggsy gives him.

 

ooo

 

In the wake of Eggsy's emotional admission, the weeks that follow are an exercise in Harry's patience.

Since taking up the mantle of 'Arthur,' he's been practically drowning in paperwork; has spent hours upon hours pouring over contracts and incident reports, digging through years and years of records in an attempt to uncover any other times Chester King may have found himself swayed by heady influence.

He loses sleep—to paperwork, to nightmares, and to searing headaches. He loses sleep to the echo of Eggsy shouting under the street light, to the angry twist of his mouth as he pulled a gun on Harry.

He dreams of Chester slipping poison into Eggsy's glass, his own voice saying, 'I've had a lot of fun with this' even as Eggsy convulses, frothing at the mouth, and collapses onto the table, eyes blank and unseeing. A gun that's warm and heavy in his hand, still smoking at the barrel, and Eggsy's body on the ground as bits of his skull and brain create a macabre halo around his head, organ music piping eerily in the background.

Exhaustion becomes him, aching deep within his bones.

Eggsy's stark and unwavering professionalism only serves to make things worse.

Since their emotional, one-sided confrontation in the dead of night, Eggsy's accent has been painfully proper, never missing a consonant and never letting a single swear word nestle itself into every sentence. His shoulders never slouch, his posture never bends, and his Oxfords are never anything but polished to perfection. He's courteous to a fault, respectful of Harry's position as King, and maintains the appropriate distance between employer and employee at all times.

His lips press together in a straight line instead of lilting up and into a smirk at the edges, and the eyes behind the lenses of his glasses never glint with mischief.

He never calls Harry by anything but 'Arthur,' and it's driving Harry round the fucking bend.

He would be able to tolerate the glaring, gaping thing between them—would be willing to let time heal the wound—if it were for the fact that the only area where his careful façade begins to show its cracks is in the field.

Eggsy's fighting style is...lethal in its effortlessness. A force to be reckoned with. His body never stops moving, never fails to twist and bend to fit its environment, and he's truly magnificent to watch. The pride that festers inside of Harry, yearning to express itself, is a real and writhing thing within him, burning him up with its fervent glow.

But he's taking chances that he shouldn't be; risking odds either just to savour the thrill of close combat or send Harry into a cardiac arrest, throwing himself into the line of fire (sometimes literally), and gambling with his own life as if he has more than just the one.

Leaving a solid position of cover while under a siege of bullets in Berlin, running forward into the spray and opening up his body with little to no hesitation, only to wrap his hands around a lamppost and deliver a brutal kick to the gunman's face.

Storming a human trafficker's hideout with only his signet ring and ten bullets left in his magazine, disobeying direct orders to wait for backup, and winding up in medical with thirteen stitches above his left hip and a bite mark on his hand that becomes infected.

Attempting to stand on top of a bloody moving train as though he's re-enacting a James Bond film, and nearly getting blown away into the Italian countryside for his efforts by the strength of the wind that quickly knocks him flat. Still, he digs his fingers into the metal rivets on top of the train and drags his body, inch by agonizing inch, until he can drop into the space between cars and fire a bullet into the window, risking civilian life in order to eliminate his target.

His latest pique of reckless behaviour involves him standing far too close to a live grenade, and when he's brought to the infirmary on a stretcher, looking disoriented, ever so slightly charred, and like tinnitus is going to make him vomit, he looks so much like Lee that Harry finds he needs to excuse himself to his office, just to steady his shaking hands.

It takes nearly an hour to stop the tremors.

He moves slowly through the halls of the manor when he makes his way towards Merlin's office later that evening, eyes lingering on the portraits that line the walls and tracing the intricate pattern of the arches that cross in the vaulted ceilings. The agents have all been dismissed from the premises for the remainder of the day, five o'clock having long since come and gone, and Harry's in desperate need of a finger or two of the hundred and fifty year old scotch that Merlin keeps tucked away behind a series of hollow encyclopaedias.

In an uncharacteristic moment of absent-mindedness, and a true testament to his fatigue, he doesn't even hear the raised voices until he's standing directly outside of the doors to Merlin's office.

“—trying to get yourself bloody killed!”

Harry pauses, fingers hovering over the doorknob, taken aback by the volume of Merlin's voice. He rarely raises it, preferring instead to resort to quiet intimidation, so for him to become irate enough to begin properly shouting is...unsettling. Harry's hand drops back to his side as he tilts his ear closer to the door.

There's the gentle exhalation of a sigh, and then a weighty silence that winds its tendrils underneath the door and around Harry's heart like a vice.

For Christ's sake, Eggsy,” Merlin says after a moment of quiet goes undisturbed. He sounds frustrated and exhausted, two sentiments Harry whole-heartedly identifies with as of late. “Display a bit of fucking professional decorum and get over it. We operate a secret intelligence agency, or has the secrecy aspect eluded you?”

Another pregnant pause trails along after the jibe.

Then, Merlin's voice, infinitely more sombre: “I want you to understand something, Eggsy, so listen and listen closely. Harry almost died. Do you understand that? The statistical probability that Valentine's shot would land in the only two inches of Harry's face covered by bulletproof glass was astronomically small. Nigh on impossible. The fact that he survived even with the glasses is nothing short of a miracle.

If it was so miraculous,” comes Eggsy's voice at last, and oh, how Harry has missed that impudent tone. “Then why th' fuck wasn't I told? Hmm? Ye'd think that of all the people who knew 'im, that maybe I would—”

“It hardly seemed worth placing the extra stress upon your shoulders when we didn't know if Harry was going to make it out of hospital alive,” Merlin interjects, a bite to his voice. “A fortnight to wake up, another for the swelling in his brain to go down enough to barely allow moving him home. No guarantee he would survive the transfer back to England. Would you rather we had given you hope only to have it ripped away?”

Eggsy, for lack of a better term, implodes.

“Yes!” he bellows, and there's the sound of two quick footsteps on the hardwood floors. “Of course I would have fucking preferred it, are you mental?”

“There were more important—”

“Not to me!” His voice cracks, and it's worse than any gunshot Harry's ever heard. Worse than the sound of breaking bones, of structural failings. “You—do you even know what it did to me? To watch 'im get shot, knowing the last thing I ever did was—he said he was going to come back, 'e told me to stay, but he never came back. Do you know what that's like? He never fucking came back.”

Yes.” Merlin's voice is firm but not unkind. “He did, Eggsy. And the sooner you stop treating him like he's from Invasion of the bloody Body Snatchers, the better off we'll all be.”

The tension is unbearable, for all that Harry isn't even in the room, so he raps his knuckles against the door at last. A pause, and then Merlin calls for him to enter. The door opens with a loud creak of ancient hinges, and Harry's left feeling abruptly as though he's walked into a duel. Eggsy's back is to him, but the clench of his fists is visible where they curl by his hips. The line of his back is so straight it makes Harry's vertebrae ache. His head doesn't turn.

Merlin's body is similarly tensed, though he seems substantially happier to see Harry on his doorstep. “Arthur,” he greets with a brisk nod.

Merlin,” Harry responds in kind, eyes still locked onto the nape of Eggsy's neck, the tight expanse of his shoulders. “Terribly sorry to impose, but would you mind excusing us for a moment? I fear I need a word alone with Galahad.”

The crook of Merlin's jaw is contemplative even as he acquiesces with a dip of his head. He takes three long strides forward, stopping to lay a hand on Eggsy's shoulder. Harry can see his fingers squeeze inwards from where he stands, two metres away, and feels the stirrings of envy deep within his gut at not being the one to take such a liberty. He yearns sharply to feel the compact strength of Eggsy's trapezius muscle for himself, cloaked discreetly beneath layers of bespoke bulletproof fabric.

He wonders if the longing is visible in his eyes, given the startled little blinks that escape Merlin before he can contain them. The Scot's hand falls from Eggsy's shoulder, and he disappears from the room with a loping gait and the heavy doors clicking shut behind him.

The sight of the back of Eggsy's head is becoming horribly familiar. Harry clears his throat.

You must know,” begins Harry softly, “that it was never my intent to hurt you. You know I—I care for you a great deal, Eggsy.”

A noise escapes Eggsy and it's disbelief packed into the single, punching exhalation of breath. His head turns to the side, shaking.

It may seem excessive,” Harry continues, clasping his hands behind his back. “But there are protocols in place for a reason. I hope one day you'll forgive me enough to allow me to explain them to you.”

Nothing. Not even a twitch of the hand.

Irritation swells within him. His left temple throbs with a sharp, ringing headache.

That being said.” Harry takes it upon himself to move forward, the sounds of his footfalls loud and abrasive in the strained atmosphere. Around Eggsy, around Merlin's lush leather chair, and he braces all ten of his fingertips against the massive touch screen inserted into the top of the desk. “You are a Kingsman, Galahad, and I am Arthur. And if you continue on with these little...jaunts into unnecessary danger and risk, I will be forced to suspend you without pay.”

It's a low blow, one that he doesn't enjoy taking; he knows how Eggsy's mother and sister depend on his income, and to take it away (even for a short period of time) would be devastating. It's a threat that hits its mark if the way Eggsy's eyes go wide with defiance and fear is any indication. “You can't do that!”

I think you'll find that I can,” Harry informs him, keeping his tone dangerously mild. “And I will, if you don't stop keeping your head so firmly up your arse that you can't see the consequences of your bull-headed actions.”

A clench of the jaw is Eggsy's only response, eyes flicking away from Harry to stare resolutely out of the window. The cut of his bone structure is sharp, the mossy green of his eyes bright with frustration and the dimming sunlight. Even now, his body is tensed and ready for battle, and he looks so perfectly, exquisitely lethal that Harry's breath catches in his throat.

Eggsy is apparently refusing to rise to the bait, won't let Harry goad him into having it out, and weeks of emotional tension takes its hold on Harry and wrings him dry.

The chasm deepens between them, and he fears they'll never cross it.

For fuck's sake,” Harry snaps, banging a fist down onto the table, finally drawing Eggsy's gaze back towards him. “This bloody silence is getting us nowhere. Say something.”

How am I supposed to trust you?”

The questions lands with Harry as sharply as if it had been delivered by a blade.

Never before has a whisper held such a chord of ruin. It pulls taut and sharp between them, anchoring itself somewhere behind Harry's ribcage and ripping at the muscle and sinew that it finds. Heartbreak , Harry hears distantly in the back of his mind. That's what this is.

Words click and die against the soft pallet of his mouth.

You and me, we ain't friends,” Eggsy says, and it's so much worse to hear without any sort of sting behind the words. He sounds tired and resigned, as if giving life to a truth long since hidden. “How can we be, when you couldn't even be fucked to tell me you wasn't dead? When I had to sit there and watch you die, thinkin' I'd never see you again and all I'd have left would be that fuckin' look on your face when we was in the toilet.” He drops his gaze to his feet and shakes his head once, twice. When he lifts his face, the misery there is apparent to Harry, even through the dark and blurred degeneration of his left eye. “Knowin' how much you hated me at the end for humiliatin' you.”

The chord latched onto Harry's ribs snakes back to grip at his spine, crawls up his esophagus to keep him from taking a breath, slithers into the Broca's area of his brain and wipes clean the knowledge of any words he could use to refute such a terrible, horrible claim.

Hate Eggsy? It's so ludicrously far from the truth, so completely on the opposite end of the spectrum of Harry's regard for him, that Harry finds he can't even attempt to formulate a sentence, no matter how desperately he wishes to refute the claim.

Did you even want me to know at all?”

Of course I wanted you to know! Harry shouts, striding forward and shaking Eggsy by the shoulders. If you think I didn't spare a thought for you from the moment I woke up in the hospital, from the instant I set foot back in England, then you're a greater fool than I could have ever imagined for myself. Don't for one moment think I didn't damn the necessary protocols, that I didn't miss seeing your insolent face and your bloody baggy trousers and ridiculous hats every day. He runs a thumb down the heavy bags beneath Eggsy's eyes, then softly tells him, Of course I wanted you to know.

Only, none of that ever happens.

Harry is struck utterly dumb, face locked up tight and no muscle in his body betraying a single twitch despite the desperate yelling of his own mind. The vision in his left eye grows fractionally darker because he's barely breathing, can't even get enough oxygen into his lungs to reassure Eggsy in the way that he desperately wishes to.

He sees the moment that his silence becomes a perceived rejection by the way Eggsy's body crumbles inwards, the stretch of a sickly and miserable grin across his mouth, and how his eyes are bloodshot and bright as he looks up toward the ceiling.

The space between them becomes a canyon.

Wow,” Eggsy breathes out into a strained laugh. “Fuckin' amazing.” Inexplicably, he pulls a folded up handkerchief out of his trouser pocket, then pulls his glasses off of his face in order to wipe at his cheeks where (Harry is horrified to realize) tears have left their tracks. The specs find their way back to their perch on the bridge of his nose, and Eggsy takes a moment to visibly compose himself.

Eggsy fiddles with his cuff links, pulls at the lapels of his jacket, and with one last assessing look at Harry's impassive stare, takes his leave.

Harry's entire body wilts as Eggsy exits and he fumbles behind himself to ensure there's a chair ready for his collapsing limbs. He's seated with a heavy thump, staring through the open door, silently willing Eggsy to turn around and come into Merlin's office again, to yell and rant and rave so that they can have air out their grievances and stop living in the disastrous wake of Harry's deceit.

He runs a hand across his mouth and lets air shudder through his lungs at last.

He doesn't know how to begin to fix this mess he's made.

 

ooo

 

Eggsy's birthday falls on a Wednesday, as smack dab in the middle of April as ever. He's just got home from a mission in Brazil and is enjoying his mandatory twenty four hour rest, even if that means his mum comes bursting into his room at exactly 7:28 in the morning, holding a small stack of cards in one hand and Daisy perched on her hip in the other. Eggsy allows himself to be handed the cards and then the baby, in that order, nestling his younger sister onto his lap and kissing at the top of her head. He blinks sleepily into the wisps of her hair, grinning when she babbles excitedly at him and starts tearing into his birthday cards for herself.

I can't believe you're twenty-five,” his mum mists, pressing a hand over her heart. “My lil' Easter Egg, you've grown so quick.”

Easter was a week and a half ago, mum,” he reminds her, grinning down at the lewd card that Ryan and Jamal left through the post slot. There's a fit, half naked bloke on the front, holding a birthday cake in front of his crotch, the words I've Got Something For You To Blow scrawled in cursive print on the frosting. The inside reads Make A Wish, Birthday Boy ;), followed by his friends' messy chicken scratch writing. He shields Daisy's eyes when she tries to peek over at the front of the card, winces when his mum gets a look for herself and shoots him a set of raised eyebrows. She tries to purse her mouth disapprovingly, but it gets lost in a smile.

It don't matter when Easter was this year, babe,” she tells him, tapping him on the head with Ryan and Jamal's card. “All that matters is that you was born on Easter twenty-five years ago today, and you'll always be my little Eggsy.” She leans over and presses a kiss to his forehead, and he closes his eyes and tilts into her embrace.

The next card is in a garishly blue envelope, and he nearly tears up when he reads it. There's a long, rhyming sentiment typed onto the front and both halves of the inside, declaring him to be special and beloved and unlike any other, the best son a mum could ask for. His mum's beautiful curling script tells him , It's all true, and more. You've made me so proud, babe, you've no idea. Your father would be amazed at the man that you've become, and I see him in you more and more every day. I love you, my little Egg. Happy Birthday xx Mum.

He hugs her, tight and close, for a long while.

Daisy's card is handmade, featuring a scribbly figure clearly meant to be Eggsy, though he's barely more than a colourful series of ovals and scratching lines. There's a figure next to him, hardly any smaller than the first, that's got his hand in hers, and he coos over the drawing like it's a Monet. “This is amazing,” he tells his sister, letting her paw at the card and open it for him. “Did you do this all on your own, my love?” She pats at the inside and he pretends to read the nonsensical scribbles like they're a legible sentiment. He's absolutely going to frame this and put it on his wall. “Oh, my Daiz,” he whispers, playing on the old saying like he's done since his sister was brought into the world and he held her in his arms for the first time, “It's brilliant. Totally gorgeous.” He presses loud, smacking kisses on her chubby cheek until she ducks away from him, giggling like a loon.

There are two more envelopes in his lap, one a dusky grey and one pearl white, his name scrawled across the front in messy calligraphy. A wave of cold comes over him as he examines Harry's handwriting, familiar and dear, and though he taps his thumbs against its seal, he can't bring himself to open it. Instead, he picks up the grey envelope, the Kingsman seal embossed into the expensive paper. He snorts softly. Even their bloody postal supplies cost more than most of Eggsy's clothes.

There's a wax seal keeping the letter shut, so he breaks it gently, feeling strangely as if he needs to be gentle with such high quality stationary. There's a single piece of card stock tucked inside, along with another small envelope, approximately the size of a bank card.

To Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, it reads in an elegantly simple font. A valued employee of Kingsman Tailors. We extend to you the fondest of wishes on your birthday, and thank you for your services and dedication to Kingsman. As a token of thanks and celebration, please find enclosed a cheque which you are free to use in any manner you desire. May your twenty-fifth year be a happy one.

His fingers are shaking when he hands the card over to his mum to read, staring down at the small silver envelope clutched in his other hand. He opens it slowly, slips out the cheque and unfolds it, almost afraid of its contents despite the promise of them.

Fuck me,” he gasps.

His mum swipes at his head. “Oi,” she tells him, plucking the cheque out of his hand. “Language.” She looks down at the number and her eyes go wide, a startled, “ Fuck me! ” slipping out. She claps a hand over her mouth.

Language,” mimics Eggsy with distraction, tilting the cheque back towards himself so he can make sure he's read it right. “Five thousand quid,” he wonders, “What do I even do with it?”

His mum recovers faster than he does, pushing his hair off of his forehead and patting down the spots where it's tufted up from his pillow. “Whatever you want, babe,” she reiterates, handing him the Kingsman stationary. “I think that's the point, innit?”

He twists his mouth and stares down at the numbers. There's a large part of him that wants to tear up the cheque, because such a hefty sum of money just for a birthday seems mental, especially when Kingsman has given him so much already. Though he supposes he could place it into an account for his mum and sister, let the interest collect should anything ever happen to him—

Whatchu thinkin' about?” his mum asks, still running her fingers through his hair. “You've got that look in your eyes.”

Just thinkin' I could put this away for you and Daisy,” he tells her honestly, shutting his eyes when her nails scrape against his scalp.

Don't you dare,” she threatens, gentle and exasperated. “God's sake, Eggsy, you've got us a new home. You spoil your sister something rotten, and me even worse. You take that money, love, and you use it for yourself. Don't have to use it all at once, mind, but at least you'll have it for a rainy day, hmm?”

He hums his acquiescence, eyes still closed, and lets the soothing scrape of her fingers lull him back to sleep.

When he wakes, Daisy and his mum aren't in the room, though he can hear them moving about on the first floor. Blinking away the sleep still weighing down on his eyelids, he glances at the clock. It's closer to noon, now, so he scrubs a hand over his face with a jaw cracking yawn and throws the covers off, wincing when the slight chill of the air hits his bare skin.

He quickly works himself into a pair of jeans and tugs his favourite jumper over the white tee he's already got on, then pulls a pair of Adidas onto his feet. He finds the cheque from Kingsman folded up on his bedside table, and when he goes to grab it, his eyes linger on the single unopened envelope that's propped up against an old picture of his mum and dad. Harry's handwriting is spiked and mocking, so he grabs the card and shoves it into the small drawer of the table, then slams it shut hard enough that the various knick-knacks sitting atop of it rattle dangerously.

Eggsy shoves his wallet and his phone into his back pocket as he trots down the stairs, peeking into the front room quickly. Daisy's enthralled by the episode of 'Kipper' that's playing on the telly and clutching at a snoring JB, and his mum peeks up from her iPad when she notices that Eggsy's standing there.

I'm off out,” he tells her, leaning a shoulder into the doorframe. “Gonna wander 'round, see if there's anything worth splurgin' on. Need anything while I'm out?”

If you wouldn't mind picking up some milk,” she says, “It'd spare me a trip to the shop.”

He winks. “You got it. See you's later!”

He leaves the house and steps onto the pavement, breathing in the crisp spring air, and shoves his hands in his pockets as he manoeuvres down the street. His first stop is to the bank to deposit his cheque, which he hands over with some reluctance. He's never had that amount of money to use as disposable income, before; never had any sort of job where he didn't have to worry about scrounging up enough money from his pay to tide Dean over and keep them in house and home.

The bank teller doesn't even blink when she deposits the cheque. He figures she's seen larger sums of money pass through her hand.

He wanders his way through central London, weaving around tourists and irate businessmen, occasionally popping into shops to have a deek around, but finds nothing he truly wants other than an absolutely mint leather jacket that costs him over three hundred pound. He waves off the clerk's offer of a bag and slips it on instead, the temperature outside cooler than he'd anticipated when he'd first set out this morning.

He walks around for nearly an hour before he finds himself standing outside of Wunjo Guitars, unable to tear his eyes away from a truly gorgeous 1967 Epiphone Bard 12 string that's on display, barely scratched up at all for a guitar that's edging on fifty years old.

When he was fifteen, he'd scrounged up enough cash to make it to a pawn shop and buy himself a beautiful Gibson that was lightweight and well-loved. He'd spend hours plucking at the strings and teaching himself chords and riffs and songs. Recorded grainy audio of his attempts at song writing with the shitty little microphone on his mobile. He'd loved that damn guitar, tuned it carefully, and always had extra strings on hand for when another snapped, biting wire into the skin of his wrist.

He'd come home from the Marines to find that Dean had sold it for a fraction of what Eggsy had bought it for, like he wanted to twist the knife that much deeper.

Eggsy's hand connects with the door before he's even registered his feet moving again.

There are dozens of guitars lining the walls, strung up and sparkling and brand new. Decently priced, as well, and he lets his fingers walk across the neck of a particularly gorgeous turquoise bodied electric number. He can see from where he stands that the shop stretches far back, giving him a hall of mirrors effect of endless guitars.

Someone approaches him from the side after a few minutes and offers him a quick smile, arms folding across their chest. “Got your eye on anything in particular?” he asks, turning to survey the guitars hooked up against the wall.

It takes him a few seconds to make a decision. “Yeah, actually,” he says, and turns his body towards the window. “How much for the Epiphone in the window?”

The shopkeeper blinks in surprise and drops his arms. “The '67 vintage?” Eggsy nods. “That's nearly 1300 quid, mate.”

Eggsy thinks about the heft of a guitar in his hands, the twanging chords and the callouses he'll have to redevelop on his fingertips. Thinks about the thousands of pounds stewing in his bank account with nowhere important to go. “Yeah, good,” he nods, and digs around in his Levi's for his wallet. “I'll take it.”

 

ooo

 

He hitches a taxi back to his house after making a quick stop to a corner shop to pick up some milk, his purchase nestled grandly into the seat beside him. The shop had given him a free case, as well, since he'd spent so much money on the guitar without blinking, but Eggsy can't resist cracking it open every few minutes to gaze proudly down at his gift to himself.

He tips the cabbie extra, just because he can, and hauls the guitar into his house and up to his room. His mum patters along behind him once she knows he's in, jogging lightly up the stairs and leaning into the doorway when he proudly lays out the case on the bed and unzips, throwing the top off with relish.

Oh, babe,” she whispers, coming forward and running a hand down the neck of the guitar. Her nails catch and pull on the strings, letting out the soft ring of notes and a metallic zip as she does. Eggsy's grin falters when he looks at her and sees the wetness to her eyes, the delicate tremble of her mouth. She's no doubt thinking of Dean, and how Eggsy's last guitar was just another good thing in their life that he took away and squandered selfishly. “It's lovely,” she sniffs.

Mum,” he groans, drawing her into a hug. She lets out a single sob into his collarbone, so he runs the flat of his palm down the back of her head. “It's alright, yeah? You and me, and Daiz, we's good now. Ain't no need for tears,” admonishes Eggsy, pushing his mother back enough that he can wipe at her cheek with one knuckle. “Don't want you staining the goods, after all.”

She huffs out a laugh, swatting at him, and pulls away with a watery smile. “Shut it,” she tells him, voice warm. “Now, then, what are we doing about tea tonight? Anywhere special?”

He shrugs even as he lifts the guitar gently from its case. “I'm fine with a bit of Chinese takeaway in the front room.” He runs his hands reverently along the neck, strokes down the body, holding it to him like a lover.

His mum rolls her eyes at him. “I'll leave you two alone,” she teases him, and shuts the door behind her when she goes.

Eggsy spends the next two hours dicking around on the internet with his guitar in his lap, looking up the music for all the songs he's ached to learn in the past four years. His fingers fumble over the chords, smarting at the tips from disuse, but he plays on. He makes his way onto YouTube after forty minutes of skulking around on music websites, and it only takes him two views of a song for his fingers to find their way to the proper spots on the strings and on the neck, and a third for him to get through the entire song without fumbling once.

Roxy told him once that he had an eidetic memory—he hadn't known there was a name for it, just figured he was real good at keeping things locked up and stored away for future use, but she'd put a label on the skill the first time he ever flipped through a dossier and had the entire thing memorized after one glance. She'd sounded right peeved about it, too, like she was jealous.

He supposes it's neat, yeah, to be able to pull things up from ages ago with almost perfect recall, but—but. He still knows every insult Dean's ever given him, still sees every punch flying at his face, can still recall the nasty grunts and swears that accompanied the cock in his mouth, and the smells of piss-soaked alleys and dank pub toilets.

Can still hear with perfect clarity the way a gun sounds when it's fired, point blank, at Harry Hart.

Good for some stuff, he reckons about his memory, and not so good for others.

Now, though, it's definitely come in handy, because he's listening to the soothing twang of his guitar as he picks over the notes for 'Budapest,' and his mind empties itself of everything except the notes that dance between the phosphenes of his closed eyes. He goes over the song once, twice, five times, humming to himself as he goes.

Eggsy!” calls his mother from downstairs, startling him badly enough that his fingers trip, ugly and harsh, into the music. “Could you do me a favour, love, and watch the baby while I run out to pick up the takeaway?” There's the muted thud of slow and heavy footsteps on the stairs, an audible shift of weight between one step and the next; his mum is already carrying Daisy up the stairs, he figures, and the assumption gives way to probability when he hears the murmur of his sister's happy chirping. His girls appear in his doorway, two grins aimed his way though one is with significantly less teeth. “You're gonna sit and stew with big bruv for a while,” Mum says, bouncing Daisy in her arms. “Don't that sound like fun?”

Daisy gives a loud and cheerful shout of his name, reaching out both arms to Eggsy so quickly that her entire body tilts over in their mum's arms. His guitar is lifted carefully from his lap and replaced by a squirming 15 month old, who reaches for the instrument with sticky fingers. “Ah, ah!” he admonishes, tucking her into his body and grabbing onto her chubby palms. He brings them to his mouth for a kiss and tastes the faint traces of Cheerio dust. His mum smiles at the two of them once more before turning and leaving, keys jingling in her palm.

Eggsy waits until he hears the click of the front door opening and closing before he stands, Daisy on one hip. “Now, then.” She strains her body towards his guitar, endlessly curious, and he buries a smile into the sparse curling of her hair. He reaches back behind him and grasps the knob that opens the doors to the small terrace balcony outside of his bedroom. Twists and pushes, and steps out into the tepid spring air. “What say,” he asks her, setting her down into one of the cushioned chairs, making sure that she's secure before darting back inside and grabbing his guitar. “You and me have a little bit of a jam, yeah?” He strums his fingers over the strings, beaming at her when she claps and wiggles around.

Eggsy closes his eyes and sees the sheet music, sees the places his fingers should land and pluck, and begins playing the last song he'd had up on YouTube.

My house in Budapest, my hidden treasure chest,” he sings along, doing his best not to feel self-consciously about his singing voice, though it isn't difficult to sing louder and with an audible smile when he hears Daisy attempting to sing along.

He opens his eyes halfway through the song, confident in the movement of his hands and the pitch and rumble of his voice. “ Give me one good reason why I should never make a change, ” and Daisy is dancing in her chair, laughing uproariously when he starts nodding along with greatly exaggerated dips of his head. Eventually he can't help himself, propping his guitar up against the wall and rushing towards her, still singing at the top of his lungs. He sweeps his little sister up into his arms and twirls her about, relishing in the happy shrieks that sound directly into his ear canal.

Baby, if you hold me, then all of this will go away,” he croons, spinning on his heel, then stops dead.

By some twist of cruel fate, Harry's standing in the small balcony outside of his bedroom, the French windows standing open behind him, curtains gauzy and drifting around his lithe form. The way their houses are positioned, he and Harry have a perfect view of one another, and when their eyes catch together, they hold.

Eggsy swallows around the dry, painful lump in his throat, tightening his grip on his sister as if she can shield him from the devastating look Harry's levelling their way. For the first time in weeks, Eggsy allows himself to look—really look, and feels his stomach burn.

Harry's mouth is the same gentle line as ever, but there's a twist to it—a divot between his bottom lip and chin—that blurs, that holds a shadow of sadness. His head tilts slightly forward, and his eyes—fuck, his eyes.

Even with that mismatched gaze, one eye milky and distorted, Eggsy finds himself pinned under the force of Harry's longing stare. Fondness creases the skin at the corners and draws his brows together, but the heaviness to his eyelids is unmistakable. He watches Eggsy and his sister and his shoulders slump in defeat, like it's all he wishes to be able to join them, to cross over the air between their homes and settle into one of the chairs beside them and simply be.

Eggsy's lips compress together, the briefly forgotten ball of misery in his chest thrumming with life once more. The tension strings between them on the quiet street, humming with potency. Eggsy drowns in the impossibility of Harry.

Daisy lets out a plaintive cry of Eggsy's name and tugs on his ear, breaking the moment into a thousand pieces. He turns his head and soothes a whisper against her brow, feels her dart up and place a sloppy kiss against his chin

When Eggsy turns his eyes back to Harry's window, he's gone.

The doors are shut, curtains shifting into place.

 

Chapter Text

One point of contention that Eggsy has with being a Kingsman agent is that honeypot missions—the only missions where he really has to out and out utilize his best neuro-linguistic programming skills, which is unfortunate because's a silver tongue, him—lack the glamour and thrill that James Bond's films had promised him from a young age. Rather than sophisticated and suave, he always walks away feeling...hollow, and raw. It's not really any different from the way he used to feel as he stumbled up from where he knelt in the grime of a London side street, wiping at his face and spitting the taste of latex condoms from his mouth; the dizzy spin of a room and his stomach churning, vision blacking at the corners, thinking, I knew that champagne tasted shit as the weight of Roxy's body slumped against him.

He thanks the fucking Lord that these types of NLP's are far and few between, and he's sent on a blessed fraction of what missions Kingsman receives under that classification.

Tonight, though, neither he nor Roxy are quite so lucky.

He's dressed posh, though not to the nines, wearing a button down dress shirt and a pair of jeans that cost more money than Eggsy knew could be spent on denims. His shoes are of the usual Kingsman make, poisonous little knife and all, and the worn-in soles help him to feel a bit more at ease. Roxy's looking fit as hell, as per, in a tight little black number, diamond circlets around her delicate wrists. Her shoes, on the other hand, are stilettos that put her near to Eggsy's height, and his toes ache just looking at them. The teetering line of the heel houses a thin spike of metal that's coated in the same fast acting neurotoxin as the knife in the toe of Eggsy's shoes, but there's something about the visible danger of a high heel that sets Eggsy on edge and makes him pull his feet safely out of harm's way.

He pushes his glasses up his nose and glances around the club, making sure the movement is casual, the quirk of his eyebrows disinterested. The pressure against the bridge of the frames activates the tracking screen, illuminating the mark with an iridescent green halo. It's reassuring to know that the nano trackers Percy had slipped into the git's water at a café earlier in the day are doing their job, but his nerves still feel frayed.

Roxy must know it, too, because that's the only fucking reason he can think of for her to lean forward and suddenly announce, “I think I'd quite like to fuck Merlin,” straight into his ear, right as he's taking a sip of his soda. “In fact, I've decided that I will.”

An ice cube rockets between his teeth and down his throat when he takes a quick, shocked inhale, and when he coughs he does it into the drink, sending Coke into a spray that coats his hands and knees. A strangled curse sounds over the comm system in his glasses, followed by the distant crack of a porcelain mug shattering on the floor.

Roxy looks calm and composed when he slams the glass down onto the table, thumping at his sternum with his other hand.

Dirty bomb, he reminds himself violently, and damn near hacks up a lung.

“Fuck me,” he rasps between heavy breaths. The ice cube winds its way through his throat, an unpleasantly cold lump deep within his body. “You couldn't fuckin' wait til I wasn't drinking nothin'?”

She gives him a demure shrug and sips at the water she's had placed into a Martini glass. “You were getting anxious.” Sets her glass down on the table next to his and picks up a few spare napkins, dabbing at the mess he's made. “I thought you could use something to take your mind off of it.”

His breathing finally regulates itself and he takes gulping breaths of too-warm club air. “You and Merlin?” is what comes out next, and he can feel his face scrunch up with incredulity.

She purses her lips into a frown and cocks an eyebrow shrewdly, eyes glittering at the prospect of a challenge, and Eggsy has a feeling that absolutely none of this is going to end well for him. “What's wrong with that?” Roxy demands, hackles rising. “He's incredibly intelligent, we get along famously, and I trust him with my life.”

Eggsy shakes his head, takes a long gulp of his soda, and wishes desperately there were some kind of liquor mixed in. “It's not that. It's...you realize he can fuckin' hear everything we say, yeah? Like, actually everything, includin' that you just told me you're gonna try to fuck him.

“Oh.” Roxy blinks. Her shoulders fall out of tension, and she takes another sip of her water and rolls her eyes. “Well, yes, of course I'm aware of that, Eggsy. I just thought the two of you may appreciate a fair warning.”

Make that three,” comes Harry's voice into their ears. He sounds like he's smiling, and Eggsy's grip tightens on his sticky, slippery glass. Roxy's eyes go large and round at the sound of his voice, finally looking a bit embarrassed. “Congratulations, Lancelot, I dare say I've never seen the top of Merlin's head turn quite a lovely shade of rouge before.”

Piss off,” Merlin growls.

“I'm just sayin',” Eggsy says too loudly, trying to make himself heard over the chatter in his ear and the near-deafening hum of life around them. “Try a bit of subtlety, yeah?”

“You're one to talk!”

If the two of you could concentrate for a bloody minute,” Merlin agitates loudly, “you'd likely note that the mark is headed your way. Look alive, you two, and don't forget: the USB drive he carries on a necklace contains highly classified and volatile information about a cyber terrorism cell we've been trying to get our hands on for months. Whichever of you he chooses to single out tonight, make sure you get your hands on that drive by any means possible.”

Eggsy knows all of this already, thanks, he read the fucking file. Out of the corner of his eye he can see the pale green glow from earlier drifting closer, and takes a long, steady sip at his drink until the ice clinks against his teeth and the last dregs of soda slide down his throat. He wills the mark to slip past him and take the empty seat to Roxy's left, to ignore Eggsy's existence and let him slip into the background, acting as backup for Roxy should she need it.

A hand falls to his shoulder in a brief, soft touch. “Excuse me?”

Fuck. Fucking shit arse motherfu—

“I couldn't help but notice you've just finished your drink,” James Brigford smiles down at him, eyes keen. The ball chain of his necklace glints in the dim lights strung around the room. “I was wondering if you might allow me to buy you another?”

Eggsy feigns shy interest, glancing up at Brigford from beneath his lashes, and wishes vaguely that Roxy would just stab him in the chest with her poisoned heel . “Yeah, cheers,” he agrees. Brigford reaches out and actually—Eggsy is fighting so hard not to punch this bloke in the bollocks already—runs the back of one finger down the arch of Eggsy's cheek.

“Be right back,” he promises with a wink, sauntering away towards the bar.

“Fucking amazing,” Eggsy grits around the pleased smile he's somehow managed to keep plastered on his face. His skin tingles where Brigford's touched him, and he resists the urge to scrub at it with his shirtsleeve. “So bloody happy about this, Rox, let me tell you.” He casts a quick glance to the bar, letting it last long enough that when Brigford turns around and meets his gaze, Eggsy averts his eyes quickly, as if embarrassed to be caught staring. “Didn't even ask what I was drinkin'! Rude bastard.”

“ I'm amazed you didn't bite him,” Roxy murmurs darkly into her drink, so low that Eggsy only hears it over the comms. “I would have.”

“Yeah, well, the night ain't over yet.”

Brigford glows back into his peripheral, a Martini glass in each hand. He passes one to Eggsy, careful not to let it spill out, and then settles onto the small couch beside Eggsy, an arm thrown around his shoulders and lips brushing against his ear. If Eggsy shivers back when his breath wafts against his face, he knows it's harmless—someone like Brigford, with an almost textbook sense of narcissism, will assume it's from desire and excitement, and never even think to consider revulsion.

“I'm not interrupting a date, am I?” Brigford asks, a touch too late for someone who's already bought somebody else a drink.

“Nah,” Eggsy reassures him, leaning into his touch the smallest amount. “Lara's just me friend. We're out on the lash because my boyfriend—well. Ex-boyfriend.” He lets his smile dim and takes a sip from the glass in his hands. Ugh, vodka, clearly shaken. This git really doesn't know what he's doing.

The look in Brigford's eyes goes predatory. “Need help getting your mind off it?”

Eggsy bites at his lip and turns his head, forcing eye contact that lasts too long to be anything casual. “Yeah,” he answers, when the moment's dragged on long enough that hesitation is on the cusp of becoming rejection. “Yeah, you know? I do.” He throws back the rest of his shockingly shit drink, squeezing his eyes shut as the alcohol burns along the line of his throat and settles hotly into his stomach. He stands abruptly and holds a hand out to Brigford; ensures that his face is a mix of determination and nerves as he waits for the other man to take his hand.

Their palms meet, sweat slicked between them, and Brigford laces the digits together. He squeezes uncomfortably into the spaces between Eggsy's fingers as he stands, then abruptly tugs Eggsy out onto the dance floor. Irritation lances up within him when he stumbles over his own feet with the sudden burst of motion, but when Brigford turns around to level him with the most pathetic attempt at a seductive glance that Eggsy has ever seen, he ensures that his face is schooled into an appropriately lustful gaze. He bites his lip, knowing that the action will draw the mark's gaze down to his mouth.

Brigford hauls Eggsy bodily against him, nosing at his hairline. He's a good four or five inches taller, which isn't much, but he seems content with lording the extra height over Eggsy like it will make up for the utter lack of muscle tone on his body.

The sharp jut of his hips presses into Eggsy's abdomen, and Eggsy presses back, arching into the touch. It's easy enough to do when he's got his eyes closed, head thrown back as if in ecstacy when their bodies twist together, and he can pretend that there's someone—anyone, really—else squeezing at his waist.

The music rumbles through the clatter of dozens of bodies in motion, bass grating so deep and loud that his teeth tingle in time with the beat. A kiss smears itself across his jaw, stubble scratching unpleasantly in its wake. Eggsy tilts his face away, as if to offer up his neck for consumption instead, and ducks his way into the space next to Brigford's cheek, eyes open and glasses trained on the simple clasp of the necklace.

And that's our primary object identified,” brogues Merlin into the frames. “Nicely done, Galahad.”

The softly spoken praise does something to balm Eggsy's jangled nerves; reminds him that Roxy's got his six should he need help, that Merlin's watching him closely and no detail will be missed by his keen eyes. The movement of Eggsy's hips becomes more sinuous and fluid, his body warming up to the mission's intent and freeing him of the anxiety that made his movements stilted.

He slips a thigh in between both of Brigford's and carefully nudges upward. His hands smooth a path up his forearms, over his biceps, drifting over the curve of his shoulders before curling together behind his neck. There's a nip at Eggsy's collarbone, sharp and stinging, which earns Brigford a vicious press of Eggsy's hips.

The mouth opens into a humid gasp, and the other man's hips push back. His hands tighten on Eggsy's waist to the point of unpleasantness, and the possibility of bruises dawns beneath the vigorous grip.

Over the mark's shoulder, Eggsy sees Roxy slip onto the dance floor, draped around a guy who's looking at her with his mouth gaped open in disbelief. She levels him with a look and a quick nod before seemingly turning all of her attention to her gobsmacked dance partner, but Eggsy knows she's going to have at least one eye on him all night, not to mention the other two sets monitoring over them from HQ.

One of Brigford's hands drifts down to smooth over the swell of his arse, and he gives a digging squeeze, hauling their bodies even closer together. They're pressed from sternum to knees, grinding together as the heavy beat of the music moves the air around them.

The mouth at Eggsy's neck sucks, licks, and bites its way to the sharp hinge of his jaw, slips up to tongue wetly at the shell of his ear and smear a trail of spittle along his cheek and to the corner of his mouth. Eggsy allows their lips to slot together briefly, the skin just barely catching together, before he pulls away with a shy shake of the head. He presses close, letting his breath drift hotly into Brigford's ear.

“Not here, yeah?” he asks, eyes darting around the room nervously before making contact. Eggsy makes sure his are wide and limpid with desire, drifting down to the wet sheen of Brigford's mouth. “Don't suppose we could get one of those...y'know. Private rooms in the back?”

Brigford's head dips into a series of quick nods, his hands finally unclenching from their spot on Eggsy's waist, and his sides tingle when the blood comes rushing back. His wrist is soon captured in that vice grip instead, delicate bones grinding together, shoulder twinging in its socket when he's forcefully yanked forward. The way he stumbles over his own feet is no act, trailing after the hacker as they move from the bustle of bodies to a doorway that's guarded by a burly man in a t-shirt, standing guard over a thick rope barrier.

Two hundred-pound notes pass between their palms under the sloppy guise of a handshake, and then they're being waved through, the rope unclipped and allowing them passage.

In his ear, Eggsy hears Roxy report, “Visual on Galahad lost, he's off into the privacy rooms. Lancelot reporting for standby.”

Noted, Lancelot,” and that's Harry's voice, not Merlin's, sounding tight and thin and making Eggsy's shoulders tense. “Galahad...be careful.”

He wants so badly to be annoyed by the request, but there's something to the tension of Harry's voice, something about how Eggsy hasn't been able to shake off the feeling in his bones since their stare down on his birthday, and he's irritated to find himself endeared by the concern. His anger ebbs like the tide, pulling back some hours only to come crashing forward soon enough, and he wonders how long he'll be able to keep it up before he's pulled out to sea completely.

Either that, or left to dry to a shell of himself on land.

They're quickly escorted to an empty room by an employee with a ring of keys jangling around her wrist, who spares them any judgement and raises a playful eyebrow before pulling the door shut with a reminder of their hour-long time limit.

As Brigford steps forward and locks the door, Eggsy takes a moment to assess the tiny room. There's a mirror that encompasses nearly half of one of the walls, stretching from floor to ceiling, and it stands directly across from the lush, overly-large sofa that's draped with soft looking throws and cushy pillows. A small table is home to a bottle of champagne left to chill in a bucket of ice, two glass flutes, a small hand towel, and a modest bottle of lube and two condoms.

Eggsy hardly knows what to be turned off by first, if he's being honest.

The sound of the heavy lock being thrown into place is followed quickly by a hand taking hold of his chin and twisting his neck around so that Brigford can kiss him on the mouth. Eggsy can feel the hard lines of his teeth where their lips are mashed together, and then the kiss is gaping wide, as if the other man is doing his best to unhinge his jaw completely and consume Eggsy's head whole.

It's an absolute bastard of a kiss, but Eggsy's got shit he needs to do, so he rolls with it as best he can manage; attempts to gentle it into something moderately pleasant, even 'tolerably enjoyable,' but Brigford wants none of what he's trying to offer, so he resigns himself to being mauled.

The tongue in his mouth is a wet, dead weight, wriggling about between his molars like he's stashed a candy back there; the hands clenched against his head are yanking unpleasantly at his hair, stinging pain along his scalp; there are teeth biting at his lips and making them plump and raw, and Eggsy fucking hates NLP missions, honest, and he's going to hide Merlin's favourite coffee beans for this, guaranteed.

Brigford finally unlatches from Eggsy's face and goes nipping down his neck, sucking and slobbering against the tendons. There's suction and teeth worrying against the delicate skin, no doubt leaving marks in his wake, in spots that Eggsy can't even cover up without wearing a scarf in the middle of April like a twat. He makes eye contact with himself in the mirror and rolls his eyes, giving a two fingered salute that tells Merlin and Harry exactly how he feels about his current situation, thanks.

Brigford somehow manages to realize that Eggsy's attention is caught by the mirror, and he twists his body, wrapping it around until he's plastered against Eggsy from behind, one hand spanning the width of his throat, fingers jabbing into his chin and forcing his face to tilt upwards. He bites at an earlobe and pulls, gnashing at the cartilage. His cock is hard where it rides against the small of Eggsy's back and the crest of his arse. “You're so fucking fit,” he groans into the side of Eggsy's face. “Can't wait to get my cock in you, see how pretty you look when you take it.”

Eggsy lets out a moan, reaching up and back with both of his hands to loop them around Brigford's head and clasp together behind the sweaty nape of the other man's neck. His fingers find the pressure points on the face of his watch.

“Yeah, like that?” is grunted into his shoulder. “Beggin' me like a whore—”

Oh, fuck no. He's had enough of this conceited wanker for one evening.

Eggsy's fingers press down, and his watch fires an amnesia dart straight into Brigford's neck. He hits the ground like a bag of bricks, out cold, and Eggsy can't help but shake out his arms and neck in an attempt to rid himself of the man's touch. “Fuckin' hell,” he grumbles, grabbing the hand towel and scrubbing at his neck and face. “That was absolutely rank.”

He reaches down and hauls Brigford's body upwards and deposits him on the couch, none too gently, then winds his fingers through the chain around his neck and pulls it free with a yank. The USB drive dangles from the end, spinning in tight little circles, and Eggsy brings it up to eye level.

“Objective complete,” he says, tapping a finger against the side of his frames. “Thank fuck, too, that was the worst snog I've ever had in me life.” He steps to the mirror as he tucks the flash drive into his pocket, wincing when he catches sight of his neck. He prods at the angry hickies splattered all over, and resists the urge to dose Brigford with a second dart. “Thank Christ it didn't go much further, honest, can't imagine how shite he'd be in bed.”

Your complaint is noted,” Merlin says, sounding amused. “Rendezvous with Lancelot and make your way back to the manor for mission debrief.”

Eggsy gives an exaggerated wink to his reflection, clicking out the side of his mouth as he shoots a finger-gun at the mirror. He doesn't bother fixing his appearance, figuring he's supposed to be leaving the room looking well fucked, and ducks out without a second glance towards Brigford's prone form.

He finds Roxy easily enough, since she's positioned herself on the part of the dance floor nearest the entrance to the private rooms, and when he passes by her with a nod, she quickly abandons her dance partner, who watches her go with a dazed look and a faint, “Bye?”

Ector's waiting outside to take them to the shop and they throw themselves bodily into the taxi, Roxy smirking and making poor attempts at consolation while Eggsy complains loudly and with fervour about the lack of technique Brigford had displayed in his ardour. Roxy slips off her heels and holds the shoes in one hand, spikes turned carefully away from the both of them, and raises an eyebrow when Eggsy turns and bares the bruised up half of his throat to her eyes.

By the time they make it into the shop and onto the underground train, Eggsy's eyes are feeling heavy with fatigue, feet dragging beneath him as he does his best to keep up with Roxy's determined strides. The door to Arthur's opens to them immediately once she's knocked, and Eggsy trails along behind her as they approach the desk.

They fall in line together, hands clasped behind their backs, and Eggsy does his best not to feel like the mission has left a grime upon his skin. He aches to go home and have a bath, neck twinging as he digs around the deep pockets of his jeans for the drive. He places it Merlin's palm with a hearty clap, glad to be rid of the thing.

Harry's eyes flicker over the both of them as Merlin speaks, but his gaze lingers on Eggsy. It trails over him, assessing, and sticks on the bloom of bite marks and bruised flesh. His face darkens imperceptibly into a scowl, brows furrowing together unhappily, fingers tensing where they're clasped together.

Eggsy watches the shift of expression, brushes his fingers against his neck, and can't help the thrill that shivers up and down his spine.

Harry stares: dangerous, jealous, and lovely.

 

ooo

 

Eggsy's in the fitness centre, deep in the underbelly of the manor, the next time that Harry seeks him out. The remaining twelve recruits are there with him, along with Gawain, who's nursing a broken collarbone and ostensibly supervising their training, but is in reality feeding crisps to JB and shouting out tricks for Eggsy to throw on the trampoline.

He's just come out of a straight back when he sees the door swing open. Harry strides in, hands tucked into the pockets of his trousers, visibly scanning the room until he sees Eggsy on the tramp, bouncing higher and higher and higher, toes pointed and spine straight.

“Gawain,” he addresses the other Knight present, though he doesn't look away from Eggsy. His voice echoes and bounces against the lofty ceilings, drifting into every corner and causing every body—save for one still drifting higher and higher—to freeze and turn in his direction. “Merlin has requested the presence of our twelve hopefuls. I trust it would be no trouble for you to escort them to the firing range for their weapons testing?”

“Yes, sir,” Gawain agrees, trying to discreetly wipe his greasy, salt covered fingers on his joggers. “Come on then, you lot, off you get!”

It takes a few minutes, within which Eggsy somersaults and throws a full in, half out tuck, followed by a half out pike double back tuck, the world spinning pleasantly around him each time his feet connect and leave the trampoline.

“Galahad,” Harry says, once the door has finished swinging shut behind the last recruit and they've been left alone. “Eggsy. Come down, please.”

He resists the urge to sigh and throws one last trick (rudi ball out) before coming to a jarring stop, knees bent and arms outstretched to keep him grounded. The rough canvas of the trampoline dips beneath his socked feet as he walks across and to the padded edge, then sits down with his legs dangling beneath him. His calves twinge. Eggsy flexes his toes.

Harry approaches, looking out of place among the exercise equipment in his three piece suit and Windsor knot. His hands leave his pockets and reach out, one circling Eggsy's ankle and the other cupping at the taut, well sculpted muscle of his calf. He's got a set of gymnast legs on him, Eggsy knows; all thick thighs and solid calves that feel liquid beneath Harry's massage. “You're over extending,” he informs with a murmur, thumb digging in and soothing away a cramp.

Eggsy hums a non-committal sound, transfixed by the expanse of Harry's hand against his leg. His other calf gets a similar treatment, and when the aches have been all but worked away, he extracts himself carefully from Harry's grip and lowers himself to the ground. “Summat you wanted?” he grunts, twisting at the waist. His vertebrae pop satisfyingly, and Harry wrinkles his nose with distaste.

“I merely wanted a few moments of your time,” he tells Eggsy. “A chance to...clear the air, perhaps.”

Eggsy's breath catches. “Yeah, well,” he gestures around the room and then at himself, clad in a sweaty tee and athletic shorts. “It couldn't wait til I weren't in the middle of me daily exercise?”

His attempt at a dismissal lands between them like dead weight, plopping into the ground and going rather exceptionally ignored. Harry's eyes are keen and shrewd, no matter the dismal state of one of them, and they glimmer in the fluorescent lighting with something akin to resignation. “I fear if we wait any longer, Eggsy, the moment may never come at all.”

His throat feels tight. He attempts to swallow down the ball of emotion gurgling up inside his windpipe, and only succeeds in helping it writhe and grow. Harry's gaze becomes too much, and he drops his own eyes down to his sock clad feet, toes clenching beneath the fabric.

Silence stretches out into a ringing, deafening nothing.

Harry's mouth pulls into a moue of disappointment. “Very well,” he mutters, and turns his back to Eggsy.

The act feels devastatingly final, and for all that he's still so angry, it makes panic clicks loudly in Eggsy's throat before he manages a strangled, “Wait.”

Harry pauses, but doesn't turn.

“Just...wait.”

Another shroud of silence descends upon them, this one laden with all the things Eggsy wants to say but can't put into words and shadowed by Harry's expectant air.

The older man exhales loudly through his nose and then, abruptly, shrugs off his suit jacket and drapes it gently over the fold away chair in which Gawain had been seated. JB, who's been dozing on the seat since the crisps disappeared, sniffs drowsily into Harry's pockets, snorting unhappily when he realizes there are no treats to be found. He's rewarded with a gentle scratch against one ear, Harry's fingers soothing over the short hairs of his fur.

Once the dog is mollified, Harry winds a careful path to the wall where their bo staffs are mounted, and pulls two of them down, one hefted in each hand. In a single, fluid motion, he pivots on a heel and tosses one to Eggsy, who catches it with a startled, outward stretch of his hand. Harry rolls up the sleeves of his dress shirt and toes off his Oxfords. He spins his staff, winding it over the backs of his fingers and above his head before coming to a stop with his feet shoulder width apart, staff extended towards Eggsy in his left hand.

Eggsy steps forward and mirrors him, their sticks crossing together briefly before they're lowered to rest against the inside of their right feet. His palm, face down, comes to an open rest by his hip.

A charged moment passes, and then Eggsy sees the corded tendon in Harry's forearm tense. He kicks at the bottom of his weapon, sending it into his ready hand, and he jumps quickly into bo stance and blocks up.

Their staffs clatter together sharply, cracking in the empty room. Eggsy blocks down as the bottom of Harry's staff moves towards him, swift and with intent to strike from below.

Simultaneously, the two of them rock backwards to gain power and momentum, and then strike forward. Their staffs hit together in the middle once more. Harry pulls back and thrusts forward, sending Eggsy backwards into cat stance and forcing him to do an inside block. He retreats again, staff spinning as he's forced into the defensive position, and Harry follows, wind-milling after him.

Eggsy throws his left side forward and swings, but Harry counters, and they're at a stale mate in the middle once more, gazes snared on one another.

Pivoting on his back foot, Eggsy rotates, staff extended, and comes at Harry's neck from his left side. It's a dirty play, he knows, since Harry's peripheral vision in that eye is non-existent. It's the only reason he manages to get as close to Harry as he does before the man blocks and counters, hitting Eggsy in the gut.

He grunts and stumbles back, midsection aching, then drives forward again. They cross together, loud and crashing.

Harry thrusts down and traps Eggsy's staff against the floor mat, then goes straight for his head. Eggsy bends his body at the knees and he ducks backwards beneath the forceful arc, his own weapon clutched tightly in a line perpendicular to his torso. He remembers all too late that he's thrown his body the wrong way, and by then Harry's already crossed from behind and his staff connects with Eggsy's ankles, sweeping his feet from out beneath him.

He hits the mat with a curse. Harry's staff comes down, quick and sure, and stops a bare centimetre from Eggsy's nose. It hovers there, blocking a decent portion of his vision, before Harry pulls back and steps away, tucking the staff against his side. He extends a hand to Eggsy and says, “Your form is sloppy. You need to concentrate, keep your focus.”

He bites at the inside of his mouth and pulls himself up, ignoring Harry's offer of help. He stumbles to his feet and takes a step away, twisting his body so that he isn't left open should Harry choose to attack him yet again. “Keep my focus,” he mocks, and throws his staff down at Harry's feet. It reverberates and rattles woodenly before shuddering to a twitchy stop. “How'm I supposed to fucking focus when it comes to you?”

The words spill out before he can contain them, and they reveal more than Eggsy intended. He'd meant to say—anything else, really. Maybe a shitty little quip about being plenty focused on how pissed he was, something like that. Anything that wasn't the aching, horrid truth of his affections, blurred messily by the sting of deception.

“Thanks for the lesson, Arthur,” he rasps, snatching up his shoes and hoodie and stalking for the door. JB hops down and trots after him, nails clicking gently against the mats.

“I wish you wouldn't call me that.”

He stops in his tracks. “The fuck would I call you, then? That's your name here, innit, boss?”

He can practically hear Harry roll his eyes. “Ah, yes, because you've always been so respectful of the authority figures in your life.”

Eggsy scoffs and shakes his head. JB hoots unhappily beside him.

The other agent's voice softens into a request. “You can still call me Harry.”

Tears spring hotly into the corners of Eggsy's eyes, gathering together quickly and spilling over. “No,” he gasps, hitching into a single, wretched breath. There are footfalls behind him, alerting him to Harry's approach. “No, I fucking can't.”

He bends at the waist and hoists JB into his arms and then he bolts like a damn coward, shouldering his way through the door.

He doesn't even bother with the lift and instead takes the stairs two at a time, lurching upwards through the manor, story by story. There's a distant shout of his name from the landing, echoing between the rails of the bannister and around corners, but no one follows.

He's barely even aware of where his feet have carried him, pounding through the nearly empty halls, until he bursts through Merlin's office door. The magician doesn't even so much as flinch, peering intently through a magnifying glass. “Please,” he intones dryly, not looking up, “come right on in, don't bother knocking. It's not as if I'm doing anything delicate and ingenious, here.”

JB wriggles out from under Eggsy's arm and drops to the floor with a wheezing little oomph, looking up and licking at his snout in a manner that somehow manages to convey betrayal. Eggsy can hardly catch his breath, much less think about keeping JB from trotting over to where Merlin is seated at his work bench, and curling up by the Scotsman's feet. He swallows, a dry and scratching thing that scrapes around his throat.

“What is that?” he manages eventually, taking shaky steps forward. A shoe falls from his grip and thumps against the ground.

Merlin finally peers over at him, running his eyes up and down Eggsy's haggard form. He straightens up in his chair and lays down the thin metal instruments in his hands. He says nothing for a moment, choosing instead to visibly catalogue every nuance of Eggsy's stressed stance. Merlin clears his throat, deliberate and jarring in the silence that hangs around them, and gestures at the round, shining object perched carefully between the metal spires of a clamp. “This,” he answers, and carefully turns the orb towards Eggsy, “is Harry's new eye.”

He jolts. Concern consumes him like a tidal wave, sweeping every other pre-existing emotion or thought out from under him. Anger is lost drowned in favour of the fear that wells up and builds thickly on the walls of his heart. “What's wrong with his eye?” he demands. His hoodie and other shoe join their compatriot on the floor. “I thought you said you was gonna fix it up, make it look same as before!”

Merlin's look is as withered as it is brief, his attention turned to packing away his tool kit. “Unfortunately, there seems to have been a great deal more damage done to the structure of the eye itself, making it nigh on impossible to restore. Harry and I have discussed it at length and decided that a prosthetic is the way to go while the optic nerve is still salvageable. With any luck, and our not inconsiderable resources, we'll be able to restore Harry's vision completely during tomorrow's surgery.”

“Tomorrow?!” echoes Eggsy, and it verges on a shriek. His lungs tighten up with anxiety, frustration bubbles close behind, and anger is swift to follow. He's a veritable kaleidoscope of emotions, vibrant and swirling. “Fuck's sake, Merlin, why is it you and Harry never tell me nothin'? Not that he's alive, not that he's Arthur, and not that he's having fucking surgery with his breakfast? You taking the fucking piss, mate? Or was it you didn't think I'd notice, didn't think I'd—”

“To be honest, Eggsy,” Merlin interrupts, voice pitched low and fraught with a danger. “We didn't know you even cared.”

The fury gusts out of him all at once, and he's nothing but a bereft husk of himself, listless and hollow. He speaks, and his voice is like decay. “What?”

A sigh heaves itself out through Merlin's nose. His hands brace against his work table and his head hangs between his shoulders. Harry's false eye stares back at Eggsy.

“There are plans in place,” he mutters, pulling off his glasses with one hand and pinching the bridge of his nose with the other. He turns around and seats himself on his stool, looking tired and defeated, eyes squeezed tightly shut. “Pre established protocols that neither I nor Harry had the power or the ability to disregard, out of safety for our fellow agents. Only Arthur has that privilege, and at the time, our Arthur was Chester King. Whom, as you well know, had his priorities elsewhere. Mainly, on a jet bound for Valentine's safe house.”

His eyes blinks back open, unfocused. Eggsy wonders, inanely, if Merlin's glasses are prescription.

“We call it the Avalon Protocol,” Merlin confides. He sounds exhausted, and without the distraction of his glasses, the shadows beneath his eyes are stark and bruising. “Have you ever heard the stories of Avalon, Eggsy?” He shakes his head and Merlin grimaces, pushing his specs back up onto his face.

“Legend has it that there was a man named Mordred—who, for one reason or another, despised Arthur and fancied himself King—so much so that when Arthur left Britain, Mordred stole his crown and his wife, and forced him back to Camelot so that they could have their final fight: the Battle of Camlann. That's where most books say that King Arthur met his end, but there are few who favour the version of the tale where the King was merely wounded, and taken to the Isle of Avalon to recover from his wounds and one day return to lead his people against their enemies.”

The pause that follows is purposeful, allowing Eggsy the time to absorb the information. The threads of the story weave into themselves, blending together seamlessly with Eggsy's knowledge of outstanding facts: Harry had been lured to Kentucky. Harry had nearly died. Harry was squirrelled away until his injuries were no longer life threatening, and then Harry had returned.

“Avalon Protocol,” Eggsy murmurs in understanding. Oddly enough, it does make him feel a bit better to have a name—a strategy—with which to lay the extent of his blame.

“Exactly.”

“So...” Eggsy lifts one shoulder into a shrug, eyebrows wrinkling together with confusion. “I get the gist, yeah, but...what does that mean for us, specifically?”

“What it means, Eggsy,” is the answer that Merlin bites out, rising to his feet and stalking forward, “is that when an enemy wrongly believes an agent to be dead—when that belief is transferred as information to all of the enemy's associates and partners until it's nigh on accepted as fact—the agent in question is taken to a safe house and required to go completely underground,” Merlin swipes a hand through the air in emphasis, “totally off the grid, with no communication with the outside world, save for Arthur and their handler, until such a time that they've either recovered from any injuries, or their continued survival can be tactically used against those who look to benefit from their death.”

Two large hands come to rest on Eggsy's shoulder, fingers tipped with ragged, bitten nails digging in. Merlin shakes him gently and stares directly into his eyes, making sure each word lands like a blow. “Harry wanted nothing more than to tell you he was alive,” he insists, grip growing increasingly tighter. Eggsy's muscles protest under the pressure, blood vessels bursting almost audibly as bruises bloom into existence. “But he didn't have a choice.”

His hands fall away.

Eggsy's shoulders ache.

So does his heart.

He thinks of the way Harry's eyes track him, vigilant and shrewd, whenever they're within sight of one another. Remembers perfectly the unhappy line of his mouth and the longing glint of his eyes in the dimming sunlight on their street, Daisy clutched and cooing in Eggsy's arms. He thinks of the way he'd stumbled up to Harry's doorstep at nearly one in the morning, and how the door had been opened a short moment later.

He wonders how often Harry sits at home, alone, and wishes for someone—anyone--to keep him company.

Merlin nods when Eggsy turns his wide eyes his way. “You understand,” he says, “Coming back from the dead is a lonely business. You weren't the only Kingsman agent burned by what Harry and I had to do...but you 're the only one he cares about.”

The truth settles onto Eggsy's shoulders, curling around him like a blanket, soft and consuming. The heat of guilty pleasure he feels at such an admission prickles through his veins, spreading through his limbs and leaving him warm inside in a way he hasn't felt in months.

Merlin's mouth quirks into something satisfied.

Eggsy gathers up his belongings, calls gently out to JB, and floats back towards the door. His hand falls to the doorknob, but before he twists, he turns back over his shoulder. “Merlin?” he calls out, feeling raw and open. Merlin, who had turned away, glances over with a raised eyebrow. Eggsy grins, small and genuine. “You're the gov'na.”

The door swings shut on a cheeky wink.

 

ooo

 

There is someone in Harry's office.

He stands in the deserted hallway, staring at the light emanating from within the room. His door had been locked when he last left, secured with an old brass key he keeps in the pocket of his waistcoat, and he has felt the weight of it with him all day.

His hand slips inside his jacket, palm pressed against his chest and fingers brushing against the grip of his gun. His eyes run along the illuminated crack in his door, left slightly ajar, and he edges forward with wary, silent footsteps. His hand connects softly with the wood and pushes, careful and deliberate, until the door clicks gently against the stopper.

There's a nasal, garbled slurp from a spot by the fireplace, where wood burns with a merry fragrance. JB's head pops out from around the armchair nearest Harry, mouth agape and tongue lolling with the generic sort of happiness all dogs feel when someone new has entered the room.

Eggsy's hair is golden in the fire light, and when he speaks, his voice is so soft it's almost lost to the gentle crackle of burning wood.

“D'you know,” he begins, and a hand drapes over the armrest to scratch at one of the pug's perked up ears. “This is where I were sat when I refused to shoot me dog?” JB licks loudly at the scrunched wrinkles of his mouth, still grinning and panting loudly in Harry's direction.

Harry's fingers twitch at the admission, and it's only then that he realizes he's still reaching for his gun. His hand slips from his jacket and curls into a fist by his hip. Anticipation makes him tremble, and nerves create a tangle of his internal organs. Slowly and with caution, he circles behind where Eggsy is seated, and lowers himself down into the adjacent chair. The leather creaks beneath his weight as he settles, spine flush against the back of the chair and his legs crossed at the knee.

“Tell me,” he murmurs, a request.

Eggsy breathes out heavily, slowly, and watches JB curl into a tawny ball in front of the fire. A moment passes where he watches the rapid rise and fall of the dog's delicate ribcage, and then his hand lifts. His pinky and ring finger curl inwards, towards his palm, and his thumb cocks upwards, morphing his hand into a crude depiction of a gun. His middle and index finger aim themselves straight at the pug.

“I was here,” he tells Harry, and jabs a finger on his other hand into the cushion of his seat, “and JB was exactly where is now, starin' at me with those...fucking eyes, bruv. And Arthur—Chester, the cunt—he wanted me to...” His thumb tucks down, a silent and non-lethal shot. JB continues to breathe, oblivious and content.

Less than six inches of space create the gap between his hand and the dog's minuscule skull.

Harry's fingers tighten on the armrests, and the motion is betrayed by the slip and squeak of the leather. “Are you sure?” he demands, voice sharp. Eggsy raises an eyebrow—the one sliced in half with a scar—and nods. Harry's grip clenches even further.

That bastard , he fumes internally, jaw locked tight enough that his teeth grind together and ache. Chester King, bound and determined to posthumously damn his own memory until there's nothing of goodness left to it. That fucking git-arsed, bloody, buggering, curmudgeonly old toad. Harry wishes keenly that the fucker were still alive, if only to grant him the opportunity to wring his hands around that wizened throat and squeeze until the blood vessels broke in his eyes.

“Eggsy,” he says, and it's truly a wondrous feat that his voice doesn't shake apart and thunder out with the force of his rage. “I believe I owe you an apology.”

“You owe me more than just the one, guv,” Eggsy chides, dropping his hand from its gun formation and carding it through his hair.

“Yes, well,” he grits, “One thing at a time, I'm afraid.”

He pauses, trying to choose the best words with which to deliver his next blow.

“Blank rounds,” he begins, forcing the words out and feeling them grit against his tongue like granules of sand, “are not lethal, as you know. At least, not from a range of greater than a metre. Any closer, and the odds of death and injury increase dramatically.” He looks pointedly at JB's close proximity. “If you had taken that shot, sitting where you are and JB as close as he is now, the concussive force from the air pressure would have...” He can't bring himself to finish.

The implication hangs between them.

“That...wanker,” Eggsy exhales, with more disbelief than outright anger. “Jesus. He was a right bit of evil, weren't he?”

“Quite.” His teeth click together with agitation, biting on the word.

Eggsy reaches down and scratches at the spot on JB's rump, above the stubby curl of his tail. The little dog jolts and twists his body into a 'u' formation, and gives quick little licks to the backs of his fingers. Eggsy's mouth blooms into a close-lipped smile, barely there but breath taking all the same. The licking jump of the flames beside them reflect in the dark green of Eggsy's eyes when he looks to Harry, turning the irises amber and mossy and glinting, all at once.

“Have to say,” is what comes next from that wonderful, smiling mouth, “I'm fucking chuffed you're Arthur, now. Least I don't feel like poisonin'' you and stabbing you in the neck with a pen.” It's...teasing, nearly, though the sentiment seems wary.

A laugh escapes Harry before he can catch it, drifting out of his nostrils and shaking his shoulders. He looks down to his wrist and nervously plays with his cuff link under the guise of securing it. “Considering your palpable animosity towards me in past weeks, that's a remarkable comfort to hear.”

He risks a glance upwards to find Eggsy's eyes fixed firmly on him. A weighty silence follows, and then—

“I missed you,” Eggsy whispers, eyes fluttering shut. His head tilts back to rest gently on the plush back cushion of his chair, leaving his neck elongated and bared. He looks exposed, in more ways than just the submissive extension of his throat. “Every day, man. Like breathin'. Just, like, natural...constant. Yeah, like breathing.”

Harry's throat bobs with an audible swallow.

“It was fucked, you know?” Eggsy asks the ceiling, and his lashes twitch when he blinks. “Didn't have no time at all to properly grieve ya before me, Merlin, and Rox were on our way to stop V-Day. And I thought, well, that's me fucked, then, the world's gonna kill itself twice over. But if I was gonna go, I was gonna go with a fucking blaze of glory, me. Bullets flyin'. Real badass, you know? And I thought, yeah, that's alright, 'cos if I gotta die, at least then I'd get to see...” He trails off and his head falls forward, laying the full force of his intelligent gaze on Harry. “You.”

“Eggsy—” Harry starts, stops. His legs uncross and he leans forward, one arm propped up against his thigh and the other extending itself outwards until he can curl a hand over the bony jut of Eggsy's knee. The nylon of his athletic shorts brush against the tips of Harry's fingers, and the dark blond leg hair is coarse beneath his palm. His thumb swirls, unbidden, in the dip next to his kneecap.

Eggsy appears to stop breathing for a few seconds before his chest hitches back into motion.

“My dear boy,” Harry murmurs, fingers squeezing. “I have missed you terribly, every step of the way.” He licks at his lips. “And, you must know how deeply I regret—”

“Just,” chokes out the young man before him, and there's a strong hand circling Harry's wrist, another slipping up his forearm. “Shut up. Fuck, just—shut up.

He doesn't know which one of them pulls the other—maybe Eggsy, maybe Harry, perhaps both at the same time—but suddenly the two of them are pressed together and kneeling on the oriental rug, thigh to thigh and chest to chest, Eggsy's arms tightly wrapped around Harry's shoulders and Harry's slung around his waist. Eggsy's nose is surprisingly cold and slightly damp where he buries it against the spot where Harry's shirt collar and neck meet. Harry presses his cheek, his nose, into the fine and fragrant strands of Eggsy's hair. His mouth brushes, ever so slightly, against the upper shell of Eggsy's ear.

“My God,” he warbles, and cups a hand against the back of Eggsy's head, hugging him closer. “I am so sorry, Eggsy. Fuck. I've missed you, you have to believe me, I have missed you utterly.”

“Yeah,” Eggsy snots into his lapel. “Yes, fucking shit, yes.

They stay there, bodies slotted and breathing together on the carpet, until the flames die down to embers.

 

ooo

 

Things between them after that are...alright.

Not great, barely even verging on 'good' some days, but definitely better than they were when Eggsy could barely even look at Harry without his tongue going sour with anger and hurt.

Harry goes in for his surgery, looking pale and thin in the hospital gown, fingers knotted together in his lap. Eggsy's there by his bed, watching Jeremy Kyle in mutual silence while the operating room is prepped for use. His hand is curled around the railing when Harry's wheeled away, and he squeezes Harry's ankle one last time before the double doors swing shut and the waiting game begins.

He stays in the infirmary, taking the time to put a dent in his veritable mountain of paperwork, until Merlin is looming before him. There are droplets of blood on his scrubs and Eggsy blanches, shooting up straight and allowing all of his papers to scatter across the linoleum. Merlin rolls his eyes.

“He's fine,” he insists over Eggsy's panicked stuttering. “The surgery was a complete success, and the prosthetic is operating fucking beautifully, if I do say so myself. Harry'll be heavily sedated for the next two days, and unconscious for at least two hours, so go home. Stop cluttering up the infirmary and eat a sausage pasty or something, for Christ's sake.”

Eggsy does not, in fact, go home. He gathers up his papers and skulks away to the cafeteria, picking up a turkey sandwich, a bag of crisps, and a bottle of Irn Bru before briskly walking—definitely not running in any form—back to Harry's hospital room.

Harry, the over achieving bastard, is awake less than an hour later, blinking muzzily at the ceiling. He smiles, drugged and wan and genuine, when he sees Eggsy by his bedside.

The hug they'd shared the night before Harry's eye was replaced had rattled loose a lot of the resentment, and Eggsy had let the feeling fall from him in pieces. A shard here, when Harry hands him a cup of tea without prompt, fixed just the way that Eggsy likes it (lots of milk, lots of sugar, lots of disdainful nose wrinkling from Harry). A sliver there, when he catches Harry watching him from across the room, the eye not covered and healing behind a patch glistening with something considering and fond. An enormous chunk that dissolves into the ether when Eggsy's out with Daisy one day and runs into Harry on the corner, and the bastard has the audacity to kneel down on the pavement and press a kiss to Daisy's hand and then uses his pocket square to wipe away the apple juice that's shining in streaks around her mouth.

Things are better, but not great. Something in Eggsy still feels rotted and bitter, and he can't bring himself to call Harry anything but 'Arthur,' even when he speaks with Merlin or Roxy or Gawain. There are days when Harry's gaze is hunted, days when he hides himself away in his office because of sharp headaches, and days when he hovers over Eggsy so much that he's practically in orbit until one of them walks away with a sharp remark.

But then there are the nights when Eggsy finds himself in Harry's kitchen, tutting over the state of his refrigerator—how the man has survived this long on take away alone is a fucking miracle, swear down—and fixing him a proper home cooked meal. The early afternoons when they gather together in Eggsy's front room and Harry and his mum watch Downton Abbey and Eggsy prays for a swift death before the boredom alone kills him. The days when they sit together in Harry's office, Eggsy's nose buried in a book and Harry's in paperwork, enjoying the simple presence of another human being.

Things are, slowly but surely, getting better between them, which is exactly when fate takes the delicate, new found armistice between them, and lets Eggsy cock it all up by nearly dying.

 

ooo

 

It's a routine surveillance mission.

That's what Merlin tells him a thousand times, over and over and fucking over . Eggsy's got it, thanks, his memory's like a steel trap.

Someone's smuggling heroin across the Scotland and England border and over into the EU, in an area of the country that's nestled up against the North Sea. Berwick-Upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England, sits a bit over four kilometres south of the country line, making it the best spot to try and intercept a shipment and gather intelligence.

With Gawain still out of active field duty until his collarbone heals, and Roxy having just come home from a mission in New Zealand, it falls to Eggsy and Kay to trudge up there and complete the task.

Eggsy's sat in a shoddy little Clio on a small street in Berwick while Kay is ten miles inside of Scotland, monitoring the coastal highway that their intelligence suggests the smugglers have been known to use. They've been at this three nights so far, including tonight, and so far he's seen fuck all. He heaves a sigh and stares longingly over to the golden neon glow of a McDonald's sign, stomach grumbling unhappily.

“C'mon, Merlin,” he coaxes, tapping his fingers against the steering wheel. “I'm starving, bruv, you sure I can't pop over for a Big Mac or summat?”

I'm certain your appetite can hold off for another few hours until sun up. The breakfast menu isn't half bad, besides.”

You're going to clog your arteries,” Harry chimes in fondly, though his voice sounds as if it's coming from further away—he must be seated in Merlin's office, Eggsy thinks, both hovering by the monitors and snatching the microphone out of the other's hand.

Eggsy pats a considering hand against the well defined muscles of his abdomen. “Fuck off, I'm fit, me.” His skull thumps back against the headrest, and he lolls his neck around until he's got the alleged meeting place in his line of sight. Of all the spots he'd imagined a heroine smuggling deal to go down, the parking lot of a Morrison's wasn't particularly high on his list. So far, all he's seen are the odd cars drifting through to get petrol, drivers looking tired and weary but none of whom triggered an alert on his glasses for known suspects. There has been a produce delivery truck that appears towards sunrise, but by then the Morrison's employees are already trickling in, and unless they're stashing all those drugs in pallets of apples, Eggsy's stake outs have come to a dead end.

“I'm just sayin',” he grouses. “I can break into the shop, need be, get some healthy grub.”

Do not break into Morrison's,” Harry advises him. “Wait until you find a Gregg's and steal some sausage and bean rolls; I know how you enjoy them.”

It's a gentle jibe, not unlike the many Harry's tentatively thrown his way since the two of them came to an understanding, but Eggsy doesn't hear it. He's gone still in his seat, all of his attention fixed on the produce van that's just pulled up outside the shop, two hours early.

“Look alive, gents,” he says, flicking at the side of his glasses to bring Kay into the conversation. “I think I've got a bit of action, here.”

There's silence from Kay's side on the second line, and something inside of Eggsy's gut shifts with unease.

The driver's side door to the lorry opens and the delivery man from the past two days steps out with notable caution, hands braced against the body of the car and head swivelling around, ensuring that he's alone. He steps down and moves around to the back of the vehicle, fingers fumbling with his keys, dropping them when a Citroen DS3 creeps round the corner and comes to a stop beside him. The headlights flash once, twice, illuminating his figure as he opens the doors to the storage section.

Two men step out of the DS3, both looking around surreptitiously before crowding around the anxious looking delivery man. Words pass between the three of them, though what they're saying Eggsy can't tell, only able to see the motions of their body language. He wishes he'd had the foresight to bring his eavesdropping equipment, but to be perfectly honest, he hadn't thought this lead was going to get them anywhere.

A cardboard box is retrieved from the back of the produce van and lifted into the driver's arms. One of the burly men from the Citroen lifts the flaps and digs around inside, then holds a bag of white powder up before his face, inspecting it in the dim light provided by the lot. Burly Number One seems satisfied with whatever it is he's looking at, and passes the box off to Burly Number Two.

“You clockin' this?” Eggsy asks, leaning forward in his seat, watching intently.

Suddenly, the truck driver's body goes rigid, save for the hand he points directly in Eggsy's direction. There's recognition and alarm all over his face and he's yelling, frantically, accusingly. “Shit,” he mutters, heart tripping into double time. The two other heads swivel towards him, and he knows he's been made. “Fucking shit, oh, bastard—” he curses, and twists the keys in the ignition as the two men toss the cardboard box into the back seat of their car and climb inside, faces darkened in anger.

The delivery man scrambles away and back into the cab of the lorry, but Eggsy can't stick around to make sure he stays put, not with the way Burly One and Two hit the gas and come tearing after him. Eggsy shifts into gear and floors it, back wheels fish tailing out behind him as he speeds off towards the deserted main road.

“Kay,” he shouts, glancing into his rear-view mirror. “We're fucked, mate, I've been made! Headed your way, and I'm bringin' two friends along with me!”

Noted, Galahad,” Kay responds with a distorted crackle, a good few seconds later. He sounds out of breath, and it's followed by a grunt and the muffled pop of gunfire. “I'm having a spot of bother on my end, as well as malfunctioning eye wear—Merlin, I told you something was buggy—so you may want to do yourself a favour and perhaps take a detour?”

Galahad, I'm tracking you via satellite,” Merlin shouts into his ear, and the frantic tap of his fingers against the touch screen of his keyboard is something Eggsy can almost hear. “It seems you've got another friend headed your way from Kay's direction. Be careful, he'll no doubt try and hit you head on!”

His pursuers roar up behind his Clio, their lights bright and blinding in his rear view, and the swear that falls from his mouth is violent and exuberant. His foot presses the gas pedal to the floor, and the speedometer needle twitches past a hundred miles per hour.; the dark Scottish countryside whistles past and his car shakes dangerously with the speed. There's a gritty, grinding blare of an engine behind him before the Citroen gets so close he can't even see their lights, and the fender of their car bumps purposefully into the boot of his, lifting him off of the road and sending him skittering around when their cars disconnect.

Another set of headlights crest a rise in the road a few miles down from Eggsy, dipping quickly back into darkness as the car careens down a rolling hill. Merlin wasn't lying—they really are headed straight for him.

“Fuck this!” Eggsy bellows, and veers off of the asphalt and onto a grassy field, tires kicking up dirt and tearing through the wild flowers. He nearly loses control, spinning out in more than a full circle, before the wheel stays still beneath his palms and he can manage a straight path. The car behind him zips along at well over 120, and attempts to slam on the brakes when they register Eggsy's no longer on the road in front of them. The sudden change in momentum sends the car into a tailspin, and with a sickening crash and a deafening crunch, the car flips up into the air and slams back down, rolling over and over and over, until there's no more glass to break and barely any metal left to bend. Eggsy hits his brakes, far more carefully, and shudders to a stop not far from a dilapidated old barn.

The wreckage comes to a groaning halt in the middle of the road, and the world goes eerily quiet. Eggsy waits a moment, but no one emerges from the twisted skeleton. Merlin, Harry, and Kay all holler at one another, at Eggsy, over the comms, each one of the three yelling over the other two and barking out questions and orders. His hands drop from the steering wheel and he lets loose a breath of relief.

All too late, he remembers the second car.

It announces itself by flooding every single inch of the Clio's interior with white light, and then slams into the passenger's side.

Eggsy goes weightless, hands floating somewhere above his head, something in his chest snapping and wrenching in agony when the air bag explodes and his seatbelt becomes painfully taut. His temple cracks against the window, leaving a spider web of fissures that's stained with blood. He feels, rather than sees, the instant a bone in his wrist breaks against the door. Everything is white and screamingly, horribly painful, and by the time the two cars tremble to a halt, there isn't an inch of his tie or the front of Eggsy's shirt that isn't soaked in blood. He chokes on the viscous liquid, and then again on his outright fear when he realizes he can barely breathe—his lungs feel wrong, terribly wrong, and from the way his nose and eyes feel, he's willing to bet his nose is broken.

He coughs, and blood spatters and drools heavily out of his mouth.

With the hand that isn't broken, he unbuckles himself. It takes a long while to open his car door, but he manages eventually, and tips sideways into the high grass once it finally creaks open. His ribs grind together, and at least one is definitely broken.

Wheezing, he stumbles to his feet and falls again, this time to his knees. “Help,” he mumbles, staring at the mangled form of his hand, at the rivers of blood pouring down his body from his nose and mouth. “Help.”

No one responds.

There are no voices in his ears, no reassurances over the comms.

He's alone.

Except—

There's the tinkling of broken glass, the groan of a car door being shoved open. Eggsy fumbles for his gun with his left hand, the angle difficult, but he manages. His hand is shaking too hard, however, and the gun trips out of his grip and lands in the ripped up ground beneath his knees. He manages to get the tips of his fingers curled around the grip, barely bringing the weapon back into his hand, when a hand is snared against the back of his head, yanking him back by the hair. His glasses, the frames already bent and nearly broken, fall off completely as his head is wrenched to the side. They land on a patch of dirt, staring up at him from a useless, mangled nest of glass and plastic.

Something presses against his throat, sharp and hard, and slices through the skin.

It's tossed away once it's finished it's jagged, shallow path along his neck, and he sees that it's a large, thick sliver of blue-green glass, stained dark with crimson.

A manic laugh chortles somewhere from above him, and the hands fall away from Eggsy's head. He curls his palm around his throat, desperately trying to hold in the blood that's gurgling out.

A gunshot blares loudly in the dead of the night, and a body slumps down to the ground, an exit wound an ugly, gaping burst between his eyes. Eggsy can't help but do the same, choking and spluttering, face covered in bits of brain and dirt.

Kay shouts out to him, scrambling over and crashing into the grass beside Eggsy's convulsing, rapidly weakening body.

His glasses glimmer in the shattered, dimming lights from the head beams of the cars. Eggsy reaches a hand out towards them, stained red and bruised from the broken bones. The cut in his throat is shallow enough that he's not losing blood too quickly, but deep enough that the world is spinning rapidly away, blacking at the edges. Kay's tie slips against the wet disaster of his neck, looping round and round and pulling tight in an effort to staunch the bleeding.

Eggsy reaches to his glasses, and opens his mouth.

“Harry,” he wheezes, the name bubbling out in a froth of blood and spittle. “Harry.”

His eyes roll up and back, and the universe trickles down to a pinpoint of fractured light, and then disappears completely.

 

ooo

 

The car accident happens in disjointed bursts, Harry only able to gaze on in horror as Eggsy's point of view turns into a blurring, deafening disaster. Merlin's desperate yelling is a distant echo through the ringing in Harry's ears, brogue thickening to nearly indecipherable levels as he contacts Kay (en route to Eggsy's location with less than a minute to arrival) and a medevac team (eta, five minutes).

Harry remains seated, eyes glued to the monitor holding Eggsy's transmission feed, and does his best not to sick all over the equipment.

It's difficult to see what's happening through the static of the busted glasses, but Harry can hear. Oh, how he can hear; the desperate, thick breaths that hold an edge of wetness that doesn't bode well. The small whimpers of pain Eggsy lets out as he crawls from the wreckage. The muffled sob that bursts forth when the angle abruptly changes, glasses on the ground and leaving Eggsy in full view.

Harry's body tilts forward, hand lifting toward the monitor and pressing hard against the blood soaked, broken pixels.

He sees the glass raised to Eggsy's throat. Watches it slide across the skin and leave a red line of blood welling in its wake. Loathes that he isn't the one to send Eggsy's attacker to a slow and grisly death.

A bullet to the brain is far too quick for what he's done; for how he's taken Harry's world and sent it into ruin with a fragment of a fucking window.

Eggsy drops to the ground, not ten seconds later, and reaches out. Kay appears beside him, making a quick tourniquet out of his tie and attempting to stop the younger agent from bleeding out.

Harry,” he chokes, uttering the name for the first time since they were reunited. “Harry,” he begs, the red word spilling from his lips, and then his eyes slip shut with a flutter.

Harry shoves backwards in his chair, sends it to the floor with a clatter. He's barely breathing when he crosses the room, steps jerky and stumbling. His hands shaking as he pours himself a finger of scotch, decanter clicking against the glass.

The liquor burns a path into his stomach. He watches the legs of the alcohol drip down the sides of the tumbler, and then hurls it at the wall.

The decanter is swift to follow.

Glass explodes and scatters, skittering under tables and chairs and becoming invisible against the colourful threads of the carpet beneath Harry's feet. Scotch trickles down, dark and staining.

Harry stands in Merlin's office, and breaks apart.

 

Chapter Text

Eggsy's eyes shiver around behind his eyelids.

There's shouting. Lots of shouting, coming in waves beneath the thunder rolling in his ears.

A pinprick of light pulses behind his eyelids, growing and retracting and then expanding once again, doing it over and over and over until the bright white is a near constant. His eyes slit open to see the fluorescent streaks of hospital lights over his head.

Something in his chest hisses loose like a popped tire and his back arches. Breathing escapes him.

The white lights flare too brightly and then burst, drenching him in darkness once again.

 

ooo

 

Eggsy's entrance to the infirmary is, not surprisingly, slightly more dramatic than necessary. The main reason being that it only takes a handful of seconds for him to burst through one door, and fly back through another, and in those few ticks of time, his heart stops beating.

The medevac team is more than competent, and collectively has seen injuries far worse than what they catalogue from Eggsy. They're also equipped with a prototype Merlin's been working on—a cauterizing gel meant for quick patches in the field, and they soothe it over the jagged line splitting open the skin on Eggsy's throat and put an end to the sluggish pump of blood.

Eggsy's broken nose and wrist are set before the helicopter lands on the front lawn, but there's nothing they dare do for his ribs until they can get him into the medical wing and hooked up to the appropriate fluids and painkillers, and ensure that a lung hasn't been punctured.

Kay spends the duration of their flight shouting with Merlin, who punctuates every other word with a curse, and staring down at the wreck of Eggsy's body. One hand grips at Eggsy's wrist, monitoring his pulse, and the other clutches at his gun.

Harry knows all of this, of course, because he's collapsed into a kneeling, miserable lump on the floor, unable to tear himself away from the monitors keeping him appraised of Eggsy's continued survival. Merlin bustles about the room, shouting and swearing at his subordinates, wandering over to lay his hands on Harry's shoulders and give him a hard shake and a reassurance that it will be fine, Eggsy's a stubborn little fuck, and everything is going to be alright.

But breath does not come easily to Harry, who chokes on the memory of his own name, bubbling and ruined, leaking out of Eggsy's mouth.

Harry clenches his hands into fists and experiences a deep slice of searing pain. He looks down, surprised, at the thin trickles of blood beading up between his fingers. How idiotic of him to forget the shards of glass embedded in his palm, stuck there in the skin from when he'd fallen to his knees in Merlin's office not ten seconds before, body wrecked with tremors, and dazedly began to pull shattered crystal from the carpet.

Merlin grabs by the waist and hauls him back, nearly throws him out the door, and marches him down to—

Harry blinks in the sterile light and glances around at the pristine halls. Ah. The infirmary. That would explain the complacent and vaguely fearful looking young woman prising his hands apart, her own clad in latex gloves and wielding a set of tweezers.

He has no recollection of coming here, which is moderately worrying. Still, he presses his lips into an unhappy grimace and remains quiet as the nurse pulls a particularly large piece of crystal out of the meat of his palm. She's wary, which is understandable—Harry's a dangerous fellow. He once slaughtered over seventy people in the span of five minutes. He has fun utilizing an odourless, remotely controlled poison. He fantasizes frequently about all the ways he could make James Brigford's life utterly miserable—truly, just tortured—for daring to leave those ugly, teeth marked bruises on Eggsy's neck.

Eggsy.

Eggsy.

Harry inhales through his nose sharply and mutters a brisk thanks to the woman as she finishes bandaging his palm, then stands and moves briskly towards the door he knows will lead to the helipad. He must be there when Eggsy and Kay arrive, he has to see—

Almost on cue, the doors ahead are thrown open to make way for the stretcher. Merlin strides in alongside it, long fingers wrapped tightly around the rails of the bed, and Harry's eyes track down the length of his arms and there, with gauze and blood and an oxygen mask obscuring the most definable portion of his head, is Eggsy.

Harry has seen terrible things in his tenure as a Kingsman agent, and some from long before that, when he was known simply as Captain Hart in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Awful things, really. Things like bones broken so severely that limbs needed amputating. Chemical burns that blistered and singed away flesh. The effect poison has on an individual and how the results vary depending on where, precisely, it's been ingested. Skin ballooned and split apart by festering snake bites, the anti-venom too late to make a difference. Bodies missing the heads long since severed from the neck, bodies so broken and tortured that there should have been no life left in them at all and then suddenly a minuscule shudder as the person takes a breath, even if it's to be their last.

Harry has seen men and women taken apart in the most grisly manner imaginable, millions of times more horrific than anything those Hollywood gore mongers could even attempt to imagine.

He's seen the worst dredges of humanity, come face to face with the blackest of souls and stared into the eyes of his own mortality, and come away with barely a blink (though perhaps, missing an eye.)

Nothing in his fifty years of living has ever been so stomach turning as the sight of Eggsy, half dead and completely broken, immobile on a gurney.

His heart rate is dropping!” announces one of the members of the medical team, frantic and focused as they rush past. The news is scored by the shrill alarm of the miniature heart rate monitor, the green line spiking weakly before going flat. “We're going to fucking lose him if we don't get him to surgery, now !”

The tension in his body pulls taut and snaps. Harry's legs burst into motion, and he goes running after the bed.

Merlin hears him, sees him, something—turns around and pushes his hands against Harry's chest, shoving him back, away from the doors Eggsy's just been taken through.

Let me pass!” he snarls, and makes to dodge around his oldest friend.

Merlin pushes him back again, and Harry stumbles. The doors swing shut and hide Eggsy from his gaze, forcing him to meet Merlin's thunderous expression head on.

What do you think you're playing at?” Merlin asks him, dangerous and low. His accent is as thick as the day Harry met him, rippling over his consonants and curling over vowels, Glaswegian down to his core. “You cannae follow him in there.”

Harry tilts his head and blinks twice, knuckles cracking and wounds stinging when he curls his hands into fists by his sides. “Wouldn't you like to try and stop me?” he fairly purrs, body gearing up for a fight.

No,” Merlin bites, “I wouldn't. But I will, Harry, because you're of no use at all to Eggsy when you're acting like this.” Harry gives an infuriated inhale. “It's true, and you know it, so you're going to sit your arse the fuck down , and wait here. Or in your office, I don't give a fuck, as long as I see you nowhere near that operating room.” He jabs a finger into Harry's tie, over his sternum. “Do you understand me, Harry Hart?”

Bitter anger froths up like bile, rancid on his tongue. “I understand,” he confirms, edging closer until he and Merlin are nose to nose. There's a barely noticeable whirring as his artificial eye adjusts its focus, trying to accommodate the sudden shift in perspective. “I understand you perfectly, Ansforth.” Merlin flinches back, mouth twisting at the depth of Harry's ire. Harry persists, moving past the name Merlin finds so insulting, a name Harry only tosses out when he's feeling well and truly enraged. “Just as you would do well to remember which of us is Arthur. And I expect to be updated every hour, on the hour, about Galahad's status.”

He steps back three times, and then rocks forward again. “If he dies—” he starts, a threat with no basis and no consequences. What is Harry to say? If he dies, there will be nothing in the world to keep Harry from exacting his revenge on every single person connected to the drug ring responsible? That he will likely abdicate as Arthur and go rogue to do it? How is he to explain that his heart has become so full to bursting with Eggsy, that if the young man were to die, there would simply cease to be a Harry Hart? “If he—”

Merlin, his closest friend for nearly thirty years, doesn't need to hear the words out loud to see the sentiment bleeding out all over Harry's face. The fight drains from the both of them, as quickly as it flared up, and the Scotsman's shoulders sag and gentle. “I understand,” he sighs, and it's heavier than it ought to be for two words strung together. “Go to your office, Harry. Wait there. I'll come and let you know the moment anything happens.”

Harry's mouth thins in resentment—imagine, being sent to his office like a child, at his age— but he nods, and with one last intent look towards the doors that lead to the surgery rooms, turns and walks away.

The walk back to his office is slow and dysphoric, Harry drifting between rooms with the strange feeling that he isn't actually in control of his body; that the flesh and blood manoeuvring its way through the halls is operating automatically, while his heart and mind have been left to shrivel and bleach under the fluorescent lights of the medical bay.

The paintings blur together on the walls, the ceilings vault and descend without notice, and the antique hard wood flooring smears into expensive carpeting beneath the worn soles of Harry's Oxfords. The familiar scent of his office—some potpourri concoction that Eggsy had purchased and insisted on setting in a marble bowl that was over three centuries old—wafts into his nostrils and brings him careening back into himself.

He realizes, as he turns to shut the door, that his hands are shaking violently.

He twists the key in the lock and presses his forehead to the cool wood, palms braced against the frame. An inhale rattles and chokes up through his nose, and wisps its way back out through his mouth on a low whimper.

His knees give way, and he hits the ground, one hand still trembling against the door and the other braced against the floor. His breath punches out in gasps, leaving faster than he can take them in. Both eyes sting, but tears only well within the right lid, the left too damaged by Valentine's bullet to produce tears enough to gather and fall. As it were, the right knee of his trousers is the only one to gather a wet spot when he collapses further, curled into himself.

His face crumples into a grimace as the first sob cracks the silence of the room. Grief is rattling around in his lungs, threatening to make them collapse and tempting his heart into giving way.

He allows himself this indulgence of emotion, this wave of sorrow, for only a handful of moments. Then he pulls himself together, gathering his wits and his sorrow close to his chest, and stands on shaky legs. His back twinges, his false eye itches, his knees give a sickening pop. He's never felt so old, bent over double and trying to erase the mental picture of Eggsy, cold and still in the morgue, from his mind.

That won't do , he thinks firmly to himself, and takes a bracing breath. Harry straightens up and makes his way over to the portrait that hangs behind his desk. He very firmly does not cast a glance towards the two leather bound chairs at the fireplace, and instead concentrates on finding the two indented pressure points on either side of the picture frame. They compress with some difficulty, and Harry slips the cover from the wall and reaches inside the small hiding space for his bottle of 1939 Macallan. He also pulls his old Waterford crystal tumbler alongside it, and sets about pouring himself two fingers of scotch.

It burns in his throat and sloshes unhappily all way down to his stomach, and the normally pleasant and glowing warmth the scotch brings is too hot, too acrid, and it sets him off balance.

He seats himself, weary, into his desk chair, and watches the rainbow fragmentation of light through the prisms of the crystal. He rotates the glass between his fingers, watching the amber glow.

He nurses the small portion of scotch for the best part of half an hour, before there's a two-knuckled tap against his door, followed by the unsuccessful twist of the knob. “Christ's sake,” Harry hears muttered out in the hallway, then louder, “Harry, it's me. Open up.”

Harry sighs and reaches a hand beneath his desk, looking for the knot in the wood that will remotely unlock his door. It's a neat little thing Merlin had installed for him at the beginning of his tenure as Arthur, allowing him to stay seated at his desk should someone come knocking while he's elbow deep in paperwork.

There's the quiet slide of the lock shifting out of place and then the door jars open, Merlin's long fingers curling round the edges. His head pokes in, followed quickly enough by the rest of his body as he strides forward, clipboard pressed tightly to the cashmere of his jumper. “Arthur,” he greets, eyeing Harry like he's a threat.

Which, considering their stand off in the infirmary not forty minutes ago, Harry is willing to concede as a fair point.

He downs a healthy swallow of scotch and flicks apologetic eyes between Merlin and his drink. “Zeb,” he returns, voice quiet and searching. “I am...sorry, for earlier.”

Something in Merlin's shoulders loosens, if only by a small margin. “Don't you dare,” he says anyway, firm and resolute. “I know how much the boy means to you.” His tongue darts out to press against his upper lip, fingers tightening on his clipboard. “He's stabilized, by the way."

Oh, thank Christ,” Harry exhales, sinking into his seat. Another mouthful of scotch is pulled onto his tongue.

There was air in his chest cavity, likely from one of his cracked ribs, and it caused his lung to collapse.” Merlin pauses, skimming over the board's display. “He stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest, as you know. They had to insert a chest tube and perform CPR, unfortunately causing yet another rib to crack. Which makes for: three cracked ribs, a broken wrist, two broken fingers, a broken nose, one hell of a concussion, and...and a laceration to the throat, resulting in severe blood loss. Not to mention the burns the cauterizing gel left behind,” he adds with a self deprecating tone, sounding frustrated about having added to Eggsy's list of injuries. “Potentially, just superficial and shouldn't leave a scar, but—”

The boy nearly died,” Harry chastises him, though his voice cracks embarrassingly on the last word. “That gel likely is what kept his blood inside his body long enough for him to make it back to the medical bay. If the burns scar, Merlin, I've no doubt that it's a price Eggsy is willing to pay in order to keep his life.” The scotch gets set down onto a coaster with a heavy 'thunk.' Harry plays with his signet ring, careful to avoid the contact point. “What's the recovery time looking like?”

Two months, give or take, for all the broken bones to mend, up to three for the concussion to no longer be an issue. The cut on his throat is sutured shut where the wound was too wide for the gel to knit the skin back together, but the stitches should begin dissolving in a fortnight or so. Talking will be rough on him for a while, but I'm sure we'll all enjoy a brief respite from the manic Unwin charm.”

Harry treats Merlin to a roll of the eyes as he removes his glasses, tucking them into his jacket pocket. Both of them are careful not to mention or acknowledge the way his chin has begun to tremble in relief. Less unavoidable is the way his voice tapers off and chokes when he says, “I'm glad to hear it.” To his dismay, he sniffles, and a throaty gulp pulses down his neck, and hitches into his chest. He groans and leans his head into his hands, palms pushed hard against his eyelids, and lets loose a fervent, “Bugger.”

He hears Merlin as he settles into the chair opposite. “He's alive, Harry,” Merlin reaffirms, and the clipboard is laid down on the desk with a wooden clack. “Eggsy's alive, and he's going to stay that way. And more importantly, it's okay for you to be frightened about how close we came to that not being the truth.”

All Harry can do in response is push and pull thin, reedy breaths through his nose. He's fairly certain that if he opens up his mouth, he'll begin blubbering all over himself again, which would be utterly unbecoming in the presence of another gentleman.

But then...it is Merlin.

Fifty years old,” he mumbles into his hands. “With a prosthetic eye and an intermittent tremor in my right hand, and I'm infatuated with a boy half my age.”

Merlin snorts and reaches out to snag the glass of scotch, downing half of it in one fell swoop. “Infatuated, he says,” mocks the tech agent. “Let's be honest for a moment, Harry, in the wake of Eggsy's near death. You're in love with the boy.”

A hitching breath shakes loose, despite his efforts. “Arse over tits,” Harry confirms with a wet chuckle. His hands draw away from his eyes, the fingers of one curling over the knuckles of the other, and he presses his thumbs into his philtrum. “May the Lord have mercy on my sanity, but I'm in fucking love with him.” A question rises and clicks in his throat, unbidden. “Do you think—”

If you're about to ask me something utterly and moronically obvious like, 'do I think he feels the same',” Merlin interrupts smoothing, and downs the remainder of the Macallan with a satisfied smack of the lips, “I reserve the right to shoot you in the kneecaps. See how old you feel then, hm?”

Something in his chest—his heart, most likely—thrills at the idea of Eggsy reciprocating his feelings, but goes calm and quiet again when he remembers that the subject of his affection is currently intubated, drugged beyond belief and thoroughly unconscious, body wrecked with injuries. The smile that rises to his mouth dims just as quickly.

Merlin bears witness to the mercurial change, and stays blessedly silent except to say, “He's resting up now in room 3, if you'd like to see him now that he's a bit less, well. Covered in blood and dying.”

Always good to know your bedside manner remains an unwavering source of comfort,” Harry quips, wiping the side of his index finger beneath his eyes. His eyebrows lift when he blinks away the remaining blurriness and tries to get his face to feel a bit less tight and puffy, and his glasses find their way out of his pocket to perch on the bridge of his nose once more.

He braces himself, palms flat against his desk, and stands slowly. He feels...tired, bone deep. He doubts that the feeling will go away until Eggsy is hale and whole and smiling at him once again.

 

ooo

 

Waking up hurts.

His eyes feel gritty, like someone has taken a handful of sand and spent five minutes rubbing it into them, and when he attempts to blink them open, it's as if each is bogged down with a physical weight.

He tries to grunt from the exertion, but the noise gets stuck between his chest and his mouth, sending a searing slash of pain across his throat. His back tenses and arches, and the sensation is enough to make his eyes slat open, blurry and unfocused. Slowly—irritatingly slowly—he turns his head, puffing air out through his nostrils as he does so. There's someone beside his bed, dozing lightly in an armchair.

Eggsy makes another attempt to speak, and nearly chokes on the cough that catches instead. His left hand twitches outward and connects with something plastic and cool, and he wraps his fingers around it. The call button depresses and sends out an alert. There's a shrill noise out in the hall as a result, as well as one that emits from a distance far closer; Eggsy tips his head back towards the person in the chair, whose head goes snapping forward as they wake.

Shit,” Gawain breathes, scrubbing a hand over his head and staring at Eggsy with bright green eyes. “You're awake, Jesus Christ, it's about time!”

Eggsy can only wheeze in response.

Gawain fumbles with a pitcher and a plastic cup, filling it first with ice cubes and then with the water, and throws a straw in for good measure. He holds it up to Eggsy, who takes a small but grateful sip.

How long?” he manages, once he's had his fill and the cup is set on the table by his bed.

A little under a week,” Gawain tells him, curling a hand around his ankle and squeezing gently. He grins, blinding and even. “It's bloody good to see you awake, lad.You were a proper mess when they brought you in.”

Eggsy hums and closes his eyes, lets his lips quirk up into as cocky of a smirk as he can manage. “Should see the other guys,” he mutters, and then winces when a new wave of pain lances through his throat.

Behind his eyelids, images flicker. A car, upended and smoking—his own mangled hand, covered in blood and dirt—the crimson shard of glass as it's tossed away from him, his throat slit open.

His hand (the one not set into a blindingly white cast) drifts up and presses in the divot of his collarbone where it meets his neck. “Oh,” he whispers. “Fuck me, that hurts, don't it?”

The door bursts open, nearly off its hinges, slamming into the wall. Eggsy's eyes fly open at the crash of noise and light, and his head lolls away from Gawain and to the other side.

Harry stands in the doorway, tense and breathing harder than usual, cheeks lightly flushed as though he's been running. The alarm blares on in the hallway.

Rhys,” is what he says, inexplicably, his eyes burning into Eggsy. “Thank you. You're dismissed.”

Gawain—Rhys, and Eggsy feels like a twat because how has he never learned the other agent's real name before right now—stands with a respectful, “Yes, Arthur,” and one last squeeze to Eggsy's leg.

The two of them watch him as he goes, the door shutting gently behind him.

The shrill tone in the hall comes to a stop.

Harry takes an abortive step forward and then pauses, gaze wary. His hands go to his cuff links, a nervous habit Eggsy's noticed in the past month or so.

He grins, slow and pained but real. “Heya, Harry,” he slurs happily. His eyelids droop despite his best efforts. “Good to see you, guv.”

Harry sways forward, and it looks like his knees give way a bit as he does. Eggsy frowns at him when it happens and shifts his shoulders around on the pillow, the closest he can get to sitting up further. “You alright?” he asks worriedly, doing his best to search for any visible maladies.

Something in the other agent's face crumbles apart. It's terrifying to witness. “Am I alright?” he repeats softly, approaching the hospital bed with slow and measured strides, eyes firmly fixed on Eggsy's face. “My dear boy, you nearly died, and you're asking me if I'm alright?”

Eggsy's frown deepens. “Well. Yeah?”

Harry's eyebrows bunch together in a way that manages to look simultaneously despairing and fond. He gives a few minute shakes of his head and crosses the room, trailing his fingers along the guardrails of Eggsy's bed as he moves to take the seat Gawain— Rhys , fuck, Eggsy needs to remember that—had previously occupied. The two of them stare at one another for a few moments, Eggsy drowsy but his mind growing clearer with every passing second, and Harry's gaze intent, as though he's searching for an answer in the bruised exhaustion of Eggsy's face.

Whatever he's looking for, Eggsy guesses he finds it, because he reaches out and leans across Eggsy's body, until he can carefully pull his uninjured hand between both of his own. His hands are so large, fingers so long, that they encompass his completely, fingers curling back together over the edges of his palms. His head dips low and over, until he can press the first knuckle on Eggsy's fingers to his mouth.

The ragged, too-long edge of Eggsy's nails catch a bit on Harry's stubble. The older gentleman's eyes drift shut and he breathes in, out, air moving warmly against the skin of Eggsy's fingers. A sigh escapes his mouth and he tilts his head, running the knuckles along the apple of his cheek.

You alright?” Eggsy asks again. He moves his thumb, stroking it along the crows feet by Harry's eye.

A deep breath expands Harry's shoulders. Eggsy might be imagining it since he's up to his gills in pain medicine, but he thinks that maybe Harry nestles further into his touch. “I can say without hesitation,” Harry confides on a murmur, “that seeing you awake is one of the best moments I've had the pleasure of experiencing.”

Eggsy beams at him the best he can around his broken nose. Christ, but he's glad to have Harry at his side.

You sappy fucker,” he tells Harry, giddy and high.

The gentle tightening of long-fingered and deadly hands around his is the only response he gets. He giggles, and basks in the tiny lilt of Harry's smile.

 

ooo

 

Healing is an incredibly tedious process, and by the end of the third week, Eggsy's about to go completely raving mad. He's finally out of the hospital after rotting away with boredom for a week and a half, thank fuck, but he's been firmly sequestered away to his room with explicit instructions to his mum not to let him leave bed rest for two whole weeks. Jamal and Ryan pop by a handful of times to play on his PS4 with him until the pull of the medication becomes too strong and he winds up dozing off, controller listing out of his hands. More often than not they just keep playing without him, the bastards. Christ, but he's missed them.

His mum gets misty eyed and soppy whenever she looks at him, still bandaged up and bedridden, and even though Eggsy had hated keeping secrets from her, there's a part of him that wishes that his hand hadn't been forced and Harry hadn't felt obligated to tell her the truth. About everything.

There's another part of him, a much larger part, that's immensely relieved to be done with the lying. He's not sure she ever really bought the tailor cover story, anyway, because tailors rarely disappear for a week at a time and come back nursing fresh bruises and split lips.

He also loves the way that some kind of internal peace comes over her, once her tears have stopped and she's slapped Harry at least three times, because she never knew what happened to her husband that cost him his life. Eighteen years of wondering, finally done with, and she's lighter and more radiant for it. Closure looks good on her, and he tells her so. She flicks him lightly in the forehead, then smooths back his hair and kisses the sting away.

Daisy's allowed to hang about in his room, but only in short bursts because she has a tendency to climb aggressively, and a propensity for doing it on top of Eggsy. Which he loves, usually, because it means he can grab her close and tickle her and listen to her giddy squeals, but with three cracked ribs, it's just not a good idea.

Roxy comes by at least every other day, bringing with her exasperated tales from the office and the field, and occasionally Rhys comes striding in behind her. He also never misses a chance to flirt with Eggsy's mum, which is not on, bruv, it's so not on. Eggsy doesn't care if they're careful not to do it right in from of him, he's got ears, don't he, and the walls in this house aren't that thick. Rhys, the cunt, just winks at Eggsy whenever he catches him scowling. Which is always, because he's always fucking flirting with his mum.

And Harry...

Harry's there, every day.

Sharing stories about missions long since completed, and sparing details on those almost too classified to even speak of, all because he knows how the boredom eats away at Eggsy and threatens to inspire him to do something dangerous and stupid.

(His favourite thing that Harry's told him, by far, has to do with Merlin. “His real name,” Harry confides, “is Zebedee Merlin Ansforth. His parents were both hippies, total black sheeps from two prestigious families—I believe his father's father is an Earl—and he's lucky to even have that name, to be honest. There were three years between his birth and the two of them getting high on marijuana and watching The Magic Roundabout—that's where they got his name from, you see—where they just referred to him as Sunflower.”

“No!” Eggsy laughs, delighted, and files that information away for future blackmail.

“Oh, yes,” is Harry's earnest response. “It annoys him tremendously. Zeb, for when I'm feeling maudlin. Ansforth for when he's being rotten, and Sunflower when he's too cheeky for his own good. And, of course, Merlin for all the other times.”

“Sunflower,” Eggsy repeats with glee. “Sunflower.”)

And if he can't be there physically, he makes sure to check in with Eggsy over Skype or texts. If Eggsy's asleep or making slow, painful work of trduging his way into his bathroom and can't respond right away, Harry will fucking bombard his mother's phone in a manner that Eggsy should probably find infuriating but instead finds disgustingly endearing.

It's like a switch has flipped in his brain, ever since he fell into the dirt and watched his own blood pool around him, fingers clutched weakly at his neck. The tension between them had eased in the weeks leading up to the accident, but since Eggsy's been reliably informed that his heart stopped twice (once in the helicopter, and once again in medical bay), he's found that there's something humbling about being faced with his own mortality. A something that's made him pause and take a look back at all the time he spent being so angry with Harry, so determined to keep him out, and that brief trip to the light at the end of the tunnel allows him a clarity that inspires him to let all the backed up resentment evaporate from his veins.

His phone chimes on the night stand and he smirks. Bastard's ears must be burning, he muses, flicking his thumb across the screen to get to Harry's text.

Am currently bearing witness to the most insufferable flirtation of all time, Harry writes. Would you be terribly upset if I were to send Lancelot to Mozambique for a week or two? There's only so much of Merlin's bedroom eyes I can take before I'm willing to gut myself with an antique letter opener.

Eggsy laughs, out loud, and sends back Lol because of it. Nothing infuriates Harry more than text speak, and nothing gives Eggsy more glee than infuriating Harry.

I will not dignify that with a response, since you couldn't be arsed to grant me the same favour, buzzes his phone an instant later.

He smiles, and it aches around his bruised eyes and the healing fissure of his broken nose. U comin over tonyt or wat bruv mums gettin chips from gils u kno theyre the best yeah

His phone chirps again, too quickly, but it's just the low battery alert chiming on before the screen goes abruptly black, drained of power. Eggsy lets out a wounded little cry of exasperation, and slowly pulls himself up and over to rummage around in his side drawer for the charge cord.

While he's searching, his fingers brush against the pointed corner of something papery and thick, the feel of it expensive when he closes around it and tugs it free, curious.

A white envelope slips free, his name scrawled on the front in spidery calligraphy. Harry's handwriting, to be precise. Fuck, but he'd forgotten all about this. His fingers drift across the black lines of his own name, and he presses his thumbs against the precise edges. Nearly two months have passed since his birthday, and the hurt that made him shove this card into his table with no intent to read it has long since left.

He drops the letter in his lap and finds his charger, slipping it into the electrical outlet and plugging the cord into the bottom of his phone. An image of a depleted battery blinks up at him, then disappears.

He bites his lip and flips the envelope over and pulls carefully at the seam. It comes apart easily and without tearing—even the glue was fucking high quality, he thinks ruefully, and pulls out the card. It's a sturdy white paper, with hand drawn champagne glasses clinking together scribbled on the front in the same pen that was used to write his name. Eggsy's mouth slants fondly, and he flicks the card open.

My dear boy , it begins. Eggsy wishes he found the sentiment half as egregiously insulting as it probably is, instead of it making him want to hurl his broken body into Harry's arms and never let go.

His focus flickers back to the card in his hand.

My dear boy,
Wishing you the happiest of days, and thinking of you always. Though I am rare to express such a thing aloud, you must know that I am endlessly proud of the man you are. At such a young age—and twenty-five is young, mind you, no need to be insulted—you are exemplary, and Kingsman is honoured to have you in its ranks, and I to have you in my life.
I can only hope to one day be allowed to call you 'friend' once more.
Yours,
Harry x

The card shivers in his trembling fingers, and he props it open on his night stand, staring at the bleeding ink of Harry's drawing on the front. He thinks of the tiny 'x,' that little kiss that Harry had tossed onto the end of his name like an easy after thought, and can't contain the smile that pulls on his sore face.

His phone vibrates back to life, charged enough to maintain the display, and a text notification immediately pops up. He thumbs at it.

I wouldn't miss it.

His smile widens to the point of pain, nose throbbing and eyes tearing from it.

Another chime.

And for fuck's sake, learn to type like an adult.

Eggsy laughs, light and easy, and thinks of inked x's, and texts back a half dozen emojis.

 

ooo

 

It takes nearly two months, but he's eventually cleared to leave his house. His ribs have mended but remain tender, twinging if he laughs too hard or breathes too deep. The bruises on his face have long since faded, his concussion deemed no longer a threat, and the itchy fibreglass cast around his hand and halfway up his forearm will see its miserable end in a few days time. He's all but healed, the doctors say, with a week or two on the outside, and all the bruising eventually turns from black to green to yellow, and fades.

But then—

He stares woefully at his reflection, eyes fixed on the jagged, angry slash across his throat. The scarring is a thicker, brighter pink on the left side, where the glass had dug in deepest, before trailing off into near invisibility by the time it dashes over to the right. The doctors back at HQ, Merlin, hell, even Harry (who Eggsy knows, objectively, is actually a skilled surgeon and doctor but if he thinks about that too long his head might actually explode) have reiterated just how lucky he is not to have had any lasting damage done to his vocal chords, but. Well. He just finds it hard to feel particularly buzzed about it when something so ugly mars the otherwise smooth expanse of his neck, at a height he can't hope to conceal with his dress shirt.

His mouth gives an unhappy twist and he pulls at the fraying bottom of his hoodie, tucking his hands into the pocket and tearing his eyes away from his reflection. It's not his nicest outfit—just the hoodie, a pair of old jeans that are fraying at the cuffs, some black Plimsoles, and the soft fabric of the shirt he'd nicked from Harry's house in February. He's headed over to the shop, though, and everyone there knows him anyway, knows that he's been locked up in his house for nearly two solid months, so he doesn't actually give a fuck what they think about his appearance, thanks.

Except, that is, for the scar.

He hunches his shoulders and ducks his head, nosing at the soft 'v' where his hood connects. Embedded deep within the fabric is the lingering scent of the cologne he'd nicked from Harry's, as well, all sharp and spicy, with a crispness like the ocean air.

He heads back into his room and quickly snags the game that Ryan had left at his a few days prior, then jogs lightly down the stairs, careful not to drop his weight too heavily lest his ribs let out a protest. “'M off out,” he calls, and barely waits for his mother's reply before the front door is clicking shut behind him.

The walk to the Prince is such a refreshing change of pace from only being allowed as far as the corner shop by his house, that he nearly weeps, the warm summer air sweeping into his lungs and filling his mouth. He drinks in all the familiar sights, eager to see them after months of staring at the same walls and going slowly mad. When he arrives at the pub, he ducks in long enough for the game to pass between him and Ryan's hands, and waves off their attempts to get him to join them for an early afternoon pint.

“Another day, bruvs,” he promises with a grin, and he means it—he's missed fucking about with these two, the way they used to before Harry bailed him out of Holborn. They're his best mates, after all, and a bruv's a fucking bruv all the way to the bitter end, no matter what. “'ve got to go round to the shop, yeah, see about getting' back into things soon as 'm all healed up.”

Ryan snorts into his pint of lager but flashes crooked teeth Eggsy's way. “Look at 'im,” he bemoans to Jamal. “Ain't got no time for th' likes 'f us, once you put 'im in a poncy fuckin' suit, yeah? Wassa matter, can't afford to slum it no more, aye?”

Eggsy shoves at his shoulder, and he barely manages to keep a hold on his pint, sputtering all the while. “Fuck off,” he says genially. “As if I could ever turn my back on you lot. I've just got something good going with the tailor, that's all.”

“Right,” Jamal drawls, then takes a pointed sip of his ale, eyebrows ticked up in Eggsy's direction. “The tailor.” He sounds smug and deliberate, loads a double meaning into the word. 'Tailor,' he hears, but 'that posh bloke who's always at your house' is what he means.

So Eggsy shoves at him, too, and leaves them in the pub with a two fingered salute thrown over his shoulder. It's not exactly a short walk between the Prince and the Kingsman shop, but Eggsy's enjoying the scenery too much, as bustling and fast paced as it is, to find it anywhere within him to gripe about the distance.

Eventually, though, the hanging sign glints golden ahead of him, and his pace picks up a little faster at the sight of it.

Leodegrance's eyebrows lift when Eggsy walks through the door, inclining his head in a small bow before turning his attention back to the spools of fabric he's stacking. Were he not a Kingsman agent, he probably wouldn't have noticed the way his hands skim across the underside of the display table, depressing the button that alerts Arthur to the presence of someone who wishes to speak to him.

Eggsy wants to open his mouth and engage the tailor in conversation, but there's a nervous looking bloke poking around the tuxedo section, nattering on to Bors and another bored, young-ish guy about his upcoming wedding, so Eggsy avoids spilling any damning secrets and contents himself instead with running his fingers over the Kevlar weave within reach.

The soft patter of footsteps down the stairs sounds from behind him and he turns, letting loose a happy exhale when Harry's face pops into view. He stops on the last step, foot hovering mid-air, and blinks at Eggsy's grin. His own soft mouth flicks up into a tiny curve, and his foot falls to the ground. “Eggsy,” he greets. His hand reaches out and slips over the jersey cotton of his hoodie, fingers curling and squeezing into the jut of his shoulder. “Had I known you were stopping by, I wouldn't have kept you waiting.”

He shrugs, and Harry's hand doesn't fall away. “Weren't a bother,” he reassures him, and doesn't miss the way that something pleased sparks in the corner of Harry's right eye. It's something he's noticed from spending all this time with Harry in recent weeks—he's mighty expressive, if you know what little tics to look for.

And Eggsy, a truly sad fuck if there ever were one, knows every single one of Harry's little tells and hoards the information jealously.

“What can I help you with?” Harry asks him, genial, but leans a bit too far into Eggsy's space to be truly cordial and professional. His voice is pitched low, an almost intimate murmur, and Eggsy drops his gaze and fiddles with the fraying edge of some fabric. Heat looms up against the back of his neck as it flushes, curling around his hairline to warm the tips of his ears.

“Nothin', honest,” he admits, and tilts his gaze so that he's looking at Harry from beneath the peripheral haze of his eyelashes. “Just, I don't know. Thought I'd see if you wanted to grab dinner or summat. Yeah.” He clears his throat and flicks his eyes down to Harry's pocket square, then his mouth, and then the brown of his irises. “Just you and me, y'know?”

That pleased spark in Harry's one real eye flares brightly again, and his mouth clicks open softly. Before he can respond, however, there's the crash of a door thrown open behind them. Eggsy spins around, hand flying to the spot where he would normally keep his holster and gun, and the world drops out from beneath his feet when he sees who's darkening the doorway.

“Muggsy,” Dean sneers cheerfully, taking a step forward. “I thought that was you I seen at the Prince.”

Eggsy's entire body locks up tight, teeth grinding together beneath the hard line of his compressed lips, and it's like all of his training flies out the window at the sight of Dean so obviously intruding on what Eggsy considers a safe space. He senses, doesn't see, the way Harry straightens his posture behind him, hears the crack of his knuckles as those long fingers clench into fists.

Dean takes a considering look around, mouth twisted into an ugly smirk. He takes another step forward and at this distance, Eggsy can smell the beer on him. He's rat-arsed, he realizes, shit stinking drunk, and beneath the hatching of pale scars on his forehead, his brows are dark with intent.

The last time Eggsy'd seen this look on his face, he'd wound up with a knife to his throat and bruises mottling his cheek, Harry's voice in his ears and his heart hammering in his chest as he'd scrambled out the door.

Dean sucks his tongue across his teeth. “Nice place you got here,” he informs them, then levels a malicious look at Eggsy. “Whose cock you got to suck to get this gig?”

There's a sharp inhale from over Eggsy's right shoulder, and he twitches his cast-encrusted hand out, signalling for Harry to keep back. “What're you doin' here, Dean? Thought I told you never to come near me or my mum and sister ever again.”

The false joviality drops from his face in an instant, like some sort of murderous, abusive curtain has fallen down around him. “You little prick,” Dean hisses. Takes another step forward. Harry presses in close behind Eggsy, enough that he can feel the shape of Harry's handgun against his shoulder blade. “You think you're so fuckin' special, hanging 'round these posh geezers, workin' on Savile Row. You think they'd want anythin' to do with you when they find out what you used to do for a bit o' change?”

Don't,” Eggsy tries, and he knows it's useless. Dean rolls over him like he never said a word.

You think,” he spits, “that anyone would want you after findin' out you used to suck cock for money? Eh?” He laughs, and it's downright evil. “Forty quid a pop and you on your knees, Muggsy, did you tell 'em 'bout that? How they cost me my rent boy when they snatched you up?”

You made me.” Eggsy trembles, all of his muscles pulled taut, his stomach roiling. “You fucking—I didn't want to, you made me.”

Dean leans forward, closing in and bringing with him the putrid smell of body odour and stale beer. “I didn't make you nothin', boy. You's a natural whore, just like your moth —ugh !

A hand knots itself in the collar of Dean's shirt and pulls it tight across his throat. Rhys' stormy face is thunderous and angry over the drunk's shoulder, and his other hand clenches tight over a bicep. “That's enough from you,” he grits out, and marches Dean back toward the front door, and fairly throws him out into the street. When the entrance to the shop closes behind him, all Eggsy can hear is muffled swears and shouting, underscoring the posturing and angry gesturing the other agent engages in with Eggsy's former step-dad.

Harry's still snug up behind him, but hasn't said a word, so Eggsy takes a breath and steps away, turns his head and dreads looking at his mentor's face.

He needs no subtle tics to decipher what he sees there. Harry looks stricken and pale, his lower eyelids twitching in a way that indicates he's trying to process heretofore unknown information. He's breathing heavily through the small slat of his open mouth. His eyes roll down to Eggsy and away again.

You didn't know,” Eggsy realizes, and stumbles back from the speed with which his stomach drops to his feet. “I thought you knew.” Shame curdles his once good humour, leaving it rancid on his tongue. His feet trip back some more. “I thought you knew, ” he says again, desperately now, and drags his left hand over his mouth, muffling the oath he curses behind it.

No,” comes the admission, thin and reedy. “I didn't know.”

Eggsy's barely conscious of having left the shop until he's striding down the pavement, tongue clenched unhappily between his teeth and freshly healed ribs creaking in protest with every pounding stretch of his legs.

He was so sure that Harry had known, the same way he'd known the sordid details of Eggsy's other failings. Had been positive that it was polite courtesy and not obliviousness that kept him from ever confronting Eggsy on it, that had kept him from flinching back whenever Eggsy would make an ill-humoured joke about his time as Dean's cash cow. Fuck, he thinks violently, fuck .

Fuck , he thinks again when a strong hand closes around his elbow, pulling him to an abrupt halt. It doesn't let him free when he tries to rip himself out of its grasp, just tightens even further while an arm loops round his waist and tugs him back against a well-muscled chest. The familiar spice of Harry's aftershave fills his nose as he breathes through it, panting and ragged.

Stop it,” is chastised into his ear. “You silly fool, stop running .”

Thought you knew,” is all Eggsy can think to say, mind oddly blank. “I thought—I thought—”

You thought,” affirms Harry, “but I didn't, and I'm sorry it had to come out this way, against your will. But know that,” his arm winds Eggsy in further, and he can only imagine the sight that they make: Eggsy in his ratty jeans and worn-in hoodie, Harry in his bespoke suit, embracing on the pavement in a tangle of opposites. He lets his eyes flicker shut, knocks the back of his head against Harry's collarbone. “Know that I don't think any less of you.”

He says it like...fuck, he says it like he means it, Harry does, in that way of his where he doesn't do things by halves. Like it's fact that Eggsy shouldn't feel an ugly glint of shame for what Dean had him do to spare his mum the same fate, to keep those meaty fists from sinking into his stomach or the delicate hollow of his eyes.

He reaches down with his good hand and curls his fingers around Harry's wrist, rubs at the bony jut of it. Harry's nose presses into his hair.

Now, then,” he murmurs, when Eggsy's breath has calmed. “I believe you mentioned dinner?”

They wind up picking up a curry take away, despite Eggsy's moaning and protests that Harry needs to learn how to cook a meal for himself, and isn't he worried about his cholesterol? The older man is smiling indulgently, watching Eggsy out of the corner of his eye as they meander down the street, enthusing about the pasta side he'd learned to make, and maybe it'd go good with some grilled chicken, yeah, and a nice salad! Something not dripping with oil or fried or, god forbid, a kebab .

I'd have figured you for the cookin' type,” Eggsy admits, skipping ahead of Harry and turning to face him, plimmies skidding backwards on the pavement. “Like, you's always going on about your wines and spirits, guv, what goes good with what. Figured you had a knack.”

Harry's head inclines, self-deprecating. “I have a passion for the art,” he muses, a faraway look in his eyes as he stares down the road. “An admiration for the skill and the creativity it requires. Believe me, I wish nothing more than to possess such abilities for myself, but as it were, I'm barely able to boil pasta without burning a pot.”

How,” Eggsy asks, closing his eyes and dipping his head with the force of his inquiry. “ How can you fuck up spag bol so bad that you burn the pot?”

One of my many talents,” confides Harry, “right behind ambidexterity and my innate ability to find precious antiques sequestered away in second hand shops.” They round the corner to their small neighbourhood, Eggsy's barking laugh echoing against the houses and bouncing back towards them. Harry's smile stretches into something that shows the top row of his teeth and dimples at his cheeks, eyes crinkling happily.

Eggsy bounces on his toes and turns around, laughing, and careens straight into a fist. It's a weak punch, at least, and only catches the side of his mouth, but his head goes whipping back all the same. Harry catches him when he slips backwards, the cheap shoes on his feet not providing enough traction to keep his ground even on the gritty pavement.

The plastic bag with their dinner suddenly loops around Eggsy's wrist, and it's with a dazed confusion spinning his head around that he watches Harry dart forward and shove Dean up against the stone of a nearby house.

Fuck, he hadn't even realised they were being followed. But then again, neither had Harry.

Eggsy doesn't know what to think about that, the idea that Harry was so wrapped up in listening to Eggsy bang on about cookbooks and sodium levels that he, too, missed Dean, stalking about behind them and darting through alleyways.

What the fuck,” he blurts out eventually, heavy containers of food bumping into his chest as he reaches up to prod at the split skin of his lip. He fumes, silently, over how his face had just finally lost the last smudging bruises from his accident.

Harry fumes less silently, and with far more inherent violence. Dean's face is mottled purple and sweaty above where Harry clutches at his throat.

If I ever,” he promises with lethal quiet, eyes cold and narrowed, “catch even the slightest word that you've come within fifty metres of Eggsy, or his mother, or his sister, then I will personally encase your feet in cement and toss you to the bottom of the Thames. After, naturally, subjecting you to the worst sort of torture that you and your brutish lot have only begun to imagine in the darkest recesses of your sad little minds. I will do all of this gladly, you see, and I will get away with it.” He leans forward until they're practically nose to nose, Dean clawing at his hand and trying to turn his face away, spittle gathering and dripping in the divot of his bottom lip. “I am very good at what I do, Mr. Baker, and I can guarantee that no one in this city will miss you while your corpse is bloated and rotting in the bottom of the river.” He releases Dean and steps away, smoothing down the lapels of his suit and pushing back the gentle wave of his silver-touched hair. “Do we understand one another?”

Eggsy follows the long, deadly line of Harry's body and is so fucking turned on he nearly whimpers, cock twitching to life within his pants. He can't tear his eyes away from Harry, not even when Dean spits at their feet and toddles off, wheezing and choking on the brutality of his coughs.

Harry's as composed as ever when he turns and pries the takeaway out of Eggsy's hand. He sweeps a hand out to the side, the universal sign for 'after you,' and waits for the younger man to move ahead of him. Eggsy manages a single step and pauses.

You don't—” he says, haltingly. “You don't havta do that, y'know. I mean, I 'ppreciate it, guv, but.” He heaves a sigh and scratches at his nose with the rough trappings of his cast. “It ain't your job to protect me from bad shit, Harry. You can't shoot everything that looks at me funny.” He grins, crooked and wry, attempting at levity. He takes a couple more steps, moving past Harry with a nudging elbow to his oblique.

Harry's arm settles carefully across his shoulders, hand curling delicately over his bicep. “I'm flattered you believe I have a choice.”

And that, well.

Eggsy doesn't know what to make of that. Swear down.

 

ooo

 

The cut on Eggsy's lip heals quickly, but not quickly enough for Harry's liking.

There's a deeply rooted, primal part of him that hates to see his protégé marred by any bruise or gash, a simmering protectiveness that's increased tenfold since Eggsy's brush with death mere months ago. He loves the boy, fierce and desperate, and would do anything within his not inconsiderable power to keep him from harm's way, but the nature of their work makes that instinct rather difficult to satiate.

There's another part of him that's relieved the cut heals because Eggsy kept wetting at it with his tongue, leaving his lips glossy and swollen from where they'd pressed between his teeth. His libido, normally a choosy little thing, has been humming near to constantly in recent weeks. If he's being perfectly honest with himself, he hasn't wanked this much since his university days, and he's edging on the wrong side of fifty, for fuck's sake. His refractory period isn't what it used to be but Christ, does his body try.

In a way, it's almost worse when Eggsy turns the full, blinding force of his grin on Harry, because lust he is accustomed to, but the sheer, immeasurable joy that fills his heart to bursting when Eggsy is so profoundly giddy is nothing he's ever experienced before. He smiles softly back and ticks his eyebrows upwards, indicating that Eggsy should turn his attention back to Merlin, lest Harry go into cardiac arrest from adoration alone.

Merlin appears to be withholding the urge to roll his eyes at the two of them and focuses instead on the intel briefing they've gathered together in the dining room to receive.

Harry knows all of the details already, having hand selected the mission himself for Eggsy's first time out in the field since being cleared for active duty.

There's a wistful part of Harry that will miss the reassurance that came with Eggsy squirrelled away in his office, helping Harry re-organize his files, tidy out his desk, and gleefully set flame to anything Chester King appeared to have held dear. Perhaps a desk job would suit him, Harry deludes for a brief moment, before reality jangles itself loudly in his mind.

There's a touch of fingers to the back of his wrist and Harry is brought back to the present, Merlin exasperated and glaring pointedly, and Eggsy practically vibrating in his chair, mouth pursing in an effort to contain his excitement. He doesn't even appear to be conscious of the fingers he's skimming over Harry's cuff link. He aches to slip his hand down, turn his palm up, and clasp Eggsy's fingers between his own.

The younger agent's excitement is palpable and long lasting, and his eyes are still bright and excitable when the two of them crouch behind a low-set wall in someone's back garden later that evening, carefully stalking along behind three well known gangsters. They're the firmest lead that Kingsman has on an arms dealer that's been supplying the more violently inclined locals with the means to a destructive end, meaning London has seen a distressing rise in gun-related violence.

I've fucking missed this,” Eggsy whispers to him in the dark, crouching close enough that his breath wafts over Harry's cheek. He suppresses the silly urge to shiver, and instead tightens his grip on the curved handle of his umbrella. “Fuck, but the last few months were boring as hell. Not a bullet in sight.”

You're a strange lad,” Harry tells him, excessively tender. Eggsy just beams at him some more, so Harry shuffles forward and peers over the lip of the wall, gesturing with two fingers over his shoulder for Eggsy to slip around him. He does so, hopping over the barrier and into the alleyway, light-footed and quick. Harry's not far behind him and the pair of them wind up behind a set of recycling bins, Merlin streaming CCTV footage into the HUD of their glasses. Eggsy's warm against his side, and Harry needs to concentrate, damn it all.

His forceful reminder to himself to keep his mind on the task at hand seems unnecessary, since the next three quarters of an hour are spent discreetly tailing their marks, and nothing terribly exciting happens. Eggsy's enthusiasm finally seems to be dimming, and the beginnings of a pout are starting to wrinkle at the corners of his mouth. Harry prays that those lips don't give in and purse together, because there's only so much willpower a single man may exhaust before breaking down and doing something irrational, like snogging a twenty-five year old up against a grimy rubbish container.

Crouching for such a long while is hell on his knees, so he turns his efforts towards repositioning them into something a bit more comfortable and less constricting to the blood flow below his patella. He shifts his feet around, and the toe of an Oxford connects with a discarded glass bottle, sending it spinning out into the alley. Harry goes stock still, eyes drifting shut in disbelief, and the three voices they've been following immediately cease their conversation for a span of thirty seconds.

D'you hear that?” one asks the others, and there's the faint scrape of his shoes against the ground as he moves closer to where Eggsy and Harry hide.

It's prob'ly a cat, man. C'mon, Dev, th'boss don't like it when we keep 'im waiting.”

I'm just making sure, bruv. Can't be too sure these days. Probably just some punk trying to get in on our deal.” There's the quiet 'snick' of a safety being turned off despite the casual reassurances of whomever is talking. Harry adjusts his grip on the Rainmaker and unbuttons the small strip of fabric that keeps the fabric wound tightly around the barrel.

He reaches out and taps three fingers against Eggsy's arm. 'On my mark,' he signals, waiting as the footsteps draw closer. Three, two, one—

A heavy plume of blue-grey smoke unfurls its way swiftly from the hollowed tip of Harry's umbrella, expanding and rolling in the air until a good portion of the alley is fogged up and barely visible. The three men descend into loud shouting fits, guns drawn and cocked, and Harry waits until the air around them is opaque enough before he stands, fingers twisting deftly at the ammo notch. Three heavy bodies trudge past them, into the thick of the smoke, shouting at one another and swinging their guns around blindly.

Eggsy darts out from under Harry's arms, crouched low, and braces his hands against the floor while he delivers a sweeping kick to the man nearest them, sending him crashing into the ground with a strangled grunt. Harry hears the faint crackle of electricity as Eggsy activates the voltage of his signet ring and presses it into the man's temple, shocking him into unconsciousness. It takes him less than five seconds to accomplish both feats, moving with ease, and if Harry's being honest with himself he feels a shiver of arousal at how fluidly Eggsy moves.

Through the display on his glasses, he can see the heat signature of the three other bodies in motion around him, a helpful little K tracking alongside Eggsy's figure, as if Harry wouldn't be able to recognize him from stature alone. He steps forward and braces himself on the curve of Eggsy's shoulder, his head tucked under Harry's arm and facing away, and the umbrella snaps open to provide the both of them with more cover. It's one pulse on the trigger to fire the hard rubber bullet into the second oaf's hand, causing him to drop his firearm, another pull to fire one into his forehead, and a twist of the hand and a third depression of the trigger to send an electrified cord whipping through the air, twining itself around the man's neck and magnetizing him to a chain link fence. He slumps, out cold.

He barely has any time to feel satisfied before there's the sound of a bullet being chambered behind him, and Eggsy slips out from beneath his elbow and jolts upward.

A gunshot rips through the night, loud and cracking, followed immediately by the slam of a body into his own. Eggsy , Harry thinks furiously, when the young man lets out a choked, “Fuck!” from where he's pressed against Harry's back. Rage, all consuming and red hot, burns fast and heady through him, and he barely registers the dig of his hand beneath his jacket before he's unholstering his gun and firing once, twice, into the third man's kneecaps. He collapses with a sickening yell. Harry crosses over and delivers a brutal kick to his face, and the screaming stops.

He drops his umbrella. Drops his gun. Both fall to the ground with a racket of noise, but he pays them no mind. Merlin's shouting in his ears is secondary to the sight of Eggsy, bent over with one hand braced against his knee and the other pressed into his chest, heaving with gasps.

Galahad,” Harry barks, crossing to him and hauling him upright. “Are you alright?” He doesn't respond, just blinks up at Harry and gapes at him, chest hitching. Damn it all, Harry thinks. "Are you hit?” he snarls, and pulls the curl of Eggsy's fingers away from his lapel. A bullet, crumbled and flattened, glints in the dim light of the street, but there's no blood. Relief rushes through him and threatens to take away the support of his knees.

'm fine,” Eggsy bleats, face scrunching up into a grimace as he straightens out, dusting away the useless bullet. It clinks to the ground and disappears. “Just knocked the fucking wind outta me, s'all.” He peers around Harry's body towards the bloodied, broken man he's just crippled. “That's rank.” His nose wrinkles at the mess of the man's legs. “A bit much, innit?”

Gentlemen,” comes Merlin's voice, projecting out loud from the surveillance in their specs. “If you'd like to take a moment to consider your surroundings, I think you'd find that it's in your best interests to immediately evacuate the area. The police have been called by a couple of curtain-twitchers, mostly likely once they heard the fucking gunfire. Ector's waiting around the northeast corner, if you can find it within yourself to hurry the hell up.”

They scarper away together after gathering up the discarded weapons, Harry still holding onto Eggsy's arm, unwilling or unable to release him, and duck quickly into the taxi. Ector greets them with a nod and puts the car into first gear, drifting slowly down the road. Two blocks away, a police car whizzes past them in the opposite direction, lights blinding and flashing in the darkness.

Home, please, if you would,” Harry instructs, finally unclenching his hand and tucking it into his lap. His knuckles are stark beneath the thin skin, trembling lightly.

Eggsy casts him a wary glance, no doubt curious why they're not following protocol and heading back to the shop to have yet another lengthy conversation with Merlin about why, exactly, missions keep getting cocked up as of late.

There are things Harry needs to say, however, and he'd rather not do them at headquarters. The safety of his own home is alluring, and after the night's excitement, he needs to see Eggsy within the confines of his own walls, assured of his wholeness.

The trip is silent, save for the gentle murmur of London at night and the occasional squeaky grind of brakes on the asphalt of the road.

Ector deposits them on Harry's doorstep, both watching the red glow of the cab's tail lights as it drives away. Eggsy takes a step towards his home, but Harry halts him, fingers catching in the crook of his elbow. “Come inside,” he orders, voice softly pitched. The hesitant look is back in Eggsy's eyes but he nods regardless, and steps close behind as Harry twists the key in his lock and pushes open the door.

They ascend the stairs together, Harry's steps measured and sure while Eggsy's fall slow and dragging, obviously reluctant. When they reach the top of the stairs, Harry leads him into his bedroom, the sheets still mussed from the morning, and into his bathroom. Eggsy hesitates in the doorway, and their eyes meet in the reflection of the mirror.

It's like a hit to the solar plexus, the way Harry's mind travels back to the memory of standing in fitting room one with Eggsy wavering behind him. It's been over a year, he realizes, since that fateful day at Holborn police station when a handsome young man with a strongly cut jaw and Lee Unwin's nose had turned to face him. Over a year since the hurricane force of Eggsy had blundered into his life and settled there to stay, worming into the cockles of his heart without once realizing he'd done so. Oxfords, not Brogues, he thinks, and steels himself.

 

ooo

 

There's blood on your hands,” Harry points out. Eggsy starts and looks down, surprised by the flaking spatters of dried crimson that's crusting beneath his fingernails.

Oh,” he blinks, and steps into the room. He falls into line beside Harry at the double sink, twisting at the faucets, and lathers soap onto his palms. The pink swirl of water comes easily enough as he rubs at the back of his hands, in between his fingers, but he can't get the rusty lines of blood out from his nailbeds.

There's an exasperated little 'tch' of noise beside him. Harry goes rummaging around in a small drawer beneath the sink, and his hand comes away with a small brush like the kind Eggsy's seen his mum use when she does her nails at home. Long, calloused fingers fold over his own, water bouncing and beading on faintly tanned skin. Harry comes to stand behind him, pressed close and arms folded tightly against Eggsy's, and he's not sure he's managing to breathe quite right, honest.

I wish you wouldn't do that,” Harry divulges like a secret, voice impassive but pitched low. “I'm half convinced you're bound and determined to send me to an early grave, what with the way you're constantly throwing yourself into danger.” The words teeter on the edge of biting, and Harry gives a particularly vicious scrub.

Nah, man,” Eggsy ekes out, voice rough. Harry's been sticking close by almost the entire night, and it's not helping the warmth of lust that pools in his abdomen when he's barely within sighting distance of the man. The constant proximity is wreaking havoc on his nerves, and only the steady pressure of Harry's hands against his own keeps them from trembling. “That'd be a bit purpose defeatin', yeah?” He nudges a shoulder blade backwards, bumping it against Harry's chest. Their eyes catch together in the mirror once more. The grin fades from his face in favour of something more serious, more honest. “'ve lost you once before, bruv. I ain't gonna let no one take you from me again, I swear it.”

The faucet is shut off. The brush slips away, Eggsy's hands now spotless, and comes to rest against the stopper in the bottom of the sink. Harry's hands don't leave, though—if anything, their hold on Eggsy tightens, anchoring them together.

What makes you think I could stand to do the same?” Harry demands, eyes bright and frustrated. His mouth is an unhappy line, accentuating the beloved droop of his lips and the furrow of wrinkles between his eyebrows. Christ, but Eggsy is mad for him. “That it's any easier for me to know you would risk your life to save mine?”

Eggsy shrugs and drops his gaze to the wet tangle of their fingers. Gently, as slowly as he dares, he strokes a thumb across the odd stray hairs on Harry's wrist, up the meat of his palm, curling it back around beneath the first knuckle of Harry's thumb until he can stroke between it and the second bend of Harry's pollex. “It's just me, ain't it?” he burbles. “It's just me. I ain't worth your life, Harry.”

A strange noise guts itself out of Harry at that, like a whine and strangled cry of disbelief caught together and left to wisp out on the tail end of a breath. His eyes shutter closed and mouth drops open on a throaty swallow, as pained as Eggsy's ever seen him. The elegant line of his nose nudges into Eggsy's hair and disappears into the fine, dirty blond strands. His mouth is open against the cartilage of his ear. “Don't say that,” he begs, lips skimming across sensitive skin to lavish words against the corner of his jaw. “Don't you dare— never say such a thing,” he pleads, and his lips come together in a moue of a kiss against the nearly invisible hairs between Eggsy's tragus and his jawline. More kisses are dropped, skimming on the surface, soft against the flush of Eggsy's cheek.

Harry's mouth touches the corner of his own, and Eggsy can't help but twitch his face away. “Don't,” he breaks, voice shattered and reverberating back to him in the acoustics of the bathroom. “Harry, just don't— not if you don't mean it.”

Harry's breath is a wavering hummingbird of a thing that puffs into his cheek. A hand releases one of Eggsy's, and two damp fingers rise and press up against the point of his chin. His face tilts, following their pressure, and then his mouth is just where he's always wanted it: lined up perfectly with Harry's.

My darling,” Harry confesses into the parted tremble of Eggsy's lips. “There's nothing in my life I have ever meant more than this.”

His upper lip is soft against Eggsy's philtrum, the scrape of an evening's stubble gentle around his mouth, and he closes his lips around Eggsy's, pressing in and taking what's been his for so very, very long.

A moan punches out of him from somewhere deep beneath his ribcage, and a sopping wet hand flies up to bury itself in the silky strands of Harry's hair. Their faces press closer, mouths opening wide and allowing tongues to pass gently between lips. Eggsy's first taste of Harry is so, just...everything he's ever wanted, and his knees go weak beneath him. He clutches at Harry harder, pushing their mouths as firmly together as he can manage while they're still snugged up front to back, and his tongue delves deeper into the warmth of Harry's pallet. The hand at his throat spreads wide across the bare expanse of skin, cut through by the ugly pink of Eggsy's scar. Harry covers it with his palm, the sensitive line of it raised up and textured. Harry lets out a nearly inaudible whine, and pushes at Eggsy's hip with the wet pressure of his other hand.

He turns with the insistence of Harry's hand, and then they're chest to chest, Harry hunching down and Eggsy rising up on his toes to make up for the four inches of height between them. His thumbs hook into the tender spots behind Harry's ears and dig in, fingers clutching at his head and holding on while their mouths gape wide against each other.

Harry's hand flexes on his hip and the other slips back to stroke against the nape of Eggsy's neck, fingers dipping beneath the starched collar of his dress shirt, tracing around beneath it until he stops at the 'v' of the neck. Deft fingers make quick work of slipping into the knot of his tie and pulling it undone, fabric slithering out from around his neck and dropping to the tiled floor, unnoticed. The small buttons at the apex of his throat are next, slipping from their holes easily under Harry's skill. He slips a hand in, once enough buttons have been undone, and smooths it over the delicate protrusion of Eggsy's clavicle, the beginnings of the hard muscles in his pectorals, nails scraping on the sparse hair.

One of Eggsy's hands falls from Harry's face to fumble with the closure of his suit jacket, pushing expensive and perfectly tailored fabric out of the way so that Harry's hand can drift out from beneath his shirt and pick away at the small white buttons that remain shut. He tugs the tails of his dress shirt out of his trousers, desperate to open as much of his skin as possible to the older man's wandering hand.

The button fly of his trousers is the next to fall victim to Harry's careful ministrations, releasing some of the pressure that's been building against his pelvis. He tears his face away from Harry's with a desperate inhale, leaving the warmth of it to mouth wetly at his chin, his jaw, the lovely flesh of his neck, when Harry's fingers slip up and down his chest, across the light definition of his abs, and into the open flap of his trousers. He cups Eggsy's cock through the cotton of his briefs, bollocks and all. Eggsy arches against him and digs his teeth into the spot where Harry's neck meets his shoulder. “God,” he groans, and bucks into the massaging touch. “Fuck, Harry, s'good,” he slurs, hardly able to do more than ride against the hand pulsing against him and the lean thigh that's inserted between his own two legs.

Harry flexes the hand that's cupping at the back of Eggsy's neck and draws him back up, noses crushing together inelegantly with the ferocity of their kissing.

The elastic of his briefs is pulled away from his sweaty skin, and then there's a large hand wrapping itself around his cock, dragging the flat of its palm up and over the head.

Eggsy's knees lose all of their strength and he sags, held up only by Harry's thigh and the bathroom sink. Desperate, he loosens his hands from their grip on Harry's head and scrambles to shove his pants down to mid thigh, leaving his aching cock open to exploration.

He's not gonna last, he thinks frantically, already feeling the coil of orgasm building inside. He's wanted this too long, too fiercely, for the reality of Harry's touch not to send him over the edge quick as can be. He reaches back and braces himself against the marble of the sink, fingers clenching at the cool stone, before he shoots out a hand to wrap around Harry's forearm.

Bastard's still in his suit , Eggsy thinks wildly, almost amused but mostly turned on as fuck. “You're still in your suit,” he gasps aloud, stuttering his way through every word.

Hush,” Harry chides, and presses his still clothed erection into the crease of Eggsy's hip. He circles his fingers around the thick, red flush of Eggsy's dick, and slips them up and down in a feather-light touch. Root to tip and back again, stopping on his fifth stroke to gently pull down Eggsy's foreskin and swirl his thumb into the droplets of pre-come that have started to gather.

Yeah,” Eggsy breathes against Harry's cheek, then once again into his mouth, “Yeah, fuck yeah, oh shit, Harry.” He sucks on the other man's tongue when it swipes into his the cavity of his mouth once more. His arms drape themselves into a loop round Harry's neck, fingers knotted together while they kiss. Harry's grip on him grows stronger, pace increasing, running the concave center of his palm across the tip and down again, until there's a slightly wet suction noise to accompany Eggsy's ruin.

'm gonna come,” he slurs somewhere against the side of Harry's nose. “So good, Harry, so fucking good, gonna make me—soon, yeah, soon, f-fuck!”

Harry's head has ducked around so that he could insert himself against Eggsy's neck and suck a dark, mottled mark into the thin side of his scar. Smaller but no less brutal bites are littered up and down his throat, spanning from the underside of his chin to the hollow of his collarbone. “ Yes ,” Harry grits out, and his hand becomes a punishing blur on Eggsy's cock. “God, Eggsy, do it, come for me, my love, my darling boy, ” and though the words are lovely, they're spoken with a snarl and punctuated by the bruising pressure of Harry's hardness against his thigh.

Oh, shit, ” Eggsy sobs, yanking on Harry until he can knock their foreheads together and stare dizzily into his fevered eyes. His mouth gapes open and his back bows, body arching away from the sink and into Harry when he feels the first crest of orgasm come upon him. “Harry, Harry, fuck, Harry!” His dick twitches violently in the hand that holds it, come spurting up onto his belly, onto his chest, before settling into small bursts that drip down his shaft and in rivulets over Harry's fingers. The glide of them becomes obscene, slick and smacking as Harry works him through it, breathing heavily against Eggsy's face.

He releases his death grip on Harry's lapels and lifts a trembling hand to the man's brow, smoothing over the silver of his scar, down the edge of his face and across his lips, pausing to tap against his chin.

Harry,” he says again, reverent, and he's flushed and heaving and splattered with his own come. He rubs the line of their noses together and lets his eyes drift shut, eyelashes brushing against the lenses of his glasses. “Yeah?”

He doesn't know what he's asking, but Harry seems to. He takes his hand away from Eggsy's cock, and the loss of friction makes him shiver, and lifts a come-streaked palm to cup, sticky and hot, against his reddened face. Eggsy turns his mouth into the touch, kissing at the skin and tasting himself there, mixed with Harry's sweat.

Harry kisses him on the mouth, then, licking his way in for a brief spell, before he untangles their bodies with easing movements. Eggsy makes to run his fingers against the tented fabric of his trousers, but Harry twists away from his intention. Eggsy frowns at him, too dazed to make sense of the action. “I wanna make you feel good,” he mumbles, nosing forward.

And you will,” comes the firm assurance, “but when you do, I'd rather it be inside of you. Not all of us are in our mid twenties, you see, and I'm inclined to make the most of you as I can for our first time.”

Eggsy's body rolls into a shiver at the thought of Harry in his arse, and he darts forward to steal a kiss. Harry indulges him, then steps away, leaving Eggsy feeling cold and twitchy.

I'm afraid I never truly anticipated this turn of events,” says Harry, smoothing back the hair that's fallen over Eggsy's forehead, “and so I'm rather lacking in...supplies. A trip to the shop seems necessary, don't you think?” Eggsy nods fervently, his body doing its best to rise to the occasion already, despite being five minutes out of orgasm. “To the corner store it is, then. In the meantime, you should shower.” His clean hand runs down the line of Eggsy's back, slips beneath the jacket of his suit to cup at the left cheek of Eggsy's arse and skim two fingers against his hole. Eggsy whimpers and doesn't know whether to arch into Harry's body or into his hand. “Be thorough,” Harry murmurs, his meaning clear.

He ducks in for another brief press of mouths, and then he's slipping from the bathroom, looking utterly unruffled except for the mess Eggsy made of his hair in the back.

Eggsy turns around and gets a look at himself in Harry's mirror: mouth swollen and red, chest flushed and shining with his own spunk, a hickey the likes of which he's never had before blooming wide and misshapen on his throat. His pants are still bunched to mid-thigh, and his shirt and jacket are open enough to miss being ruined by the mess on his torso.

Shower,” he tells himself. “You need it, mate.”

 

ooo

 

Harry's trip to the corner shop is brief, but time feels like it's dragging on his heels with every step he takes away from his house, away from the lush temptation that is Eggsy, fresh out of orgasm. He purchases a modestly sized bottle of lube and a box of condoms, smiling genially at the elderly woman who rings him up. She raises knowing eyebrows at him and bags up his items with a wink and a whispered, “Good luck,” like they're conspiring together.

Thank you,” he returns with a tip of his head, and bustles out of the shop in as quickly a manner as he can without seeming desperate. Her laugh follows him onto the street.

He takes his time walking back to his house, attempting to soothe his jangled nerves. It's unfathomable to him that he's the recipient of the full force of Eggsy's heady desire, that such a lovely young thing half his age could look at him and think, 'That's for me.'

And Christ , the way the boy had looked, wanton and rouged and pulsing into Harry's hand, like every wicked fantasy come to life and whispering his name.

His feet fall a bit faster on the pavement, excitement and anticipation driving him forward. He nearly drops his keys on the step outside his house and thus forces himself to take several deep, calming breaths before he twists the lock open and steps inside.

The sound of water running through the pipes greets him, and his cock begins to harden at the thought of Eggsy, wet and nude, running a soap covered cloth down his body, between the dusky crease of his arse. He's sure to take deliberate, careful movements on the stairs, lest he lose his footing because of his wandering mind and spend the evening in the A&E instead of inside Eggsy's warm and willing body.

His bedroom door is still open, though the door to the en suite has been shut, muffling the sounds of Eggsy's shower. Harry takes advantage of his brief moment to himself to quickly tidy up his room, placing books back on their shelves and stacking stray pieces of paper. He fluffs the pillows and pulls his sheets and covers up, not bothering to tuck them in but making them at least look presentable.

The lube and condoms go on his bedside table, staring at him with the obviousness of their intent.

He pulls off his glasses and sets them on the dresser beneath his television set. The water shuts off. Harry toes off his Oxfords, careful not to jostle the heels too hard. There's the rustle of a shower curtain being drawn aside. He peels off his socks and tosses them into a hamper, tucked into the corner of his room.

Harry slips his jacket onto a coat hanger and places it carefully inside his wardrobe. His guns and holster are tucked safely away, leaving him clad in his tie, shirt, waistcoat, and trousers. He works at the Windsor knot, untangling it, and has just begun to slip it from around his neck when the bathroom door opens, steam billowing out.

Eggsy exits, nude and toweling at his hair. Beads of water trace their way down his body, drawing Harry's eyes across his strong chest, down his stomach, and towards the thatch of dark blond curls at his groin. His mouth goes dry.

The towel falls to the ground with a muted thud when Eggsy catches sight of him, barefoot and still mostly dressed, standing by his bed. The eyes that trace down his body are hot and—dare he say it—tender, as though he can't believe that Harry's really there. Eggsy licks his lips and meets his gaze, mossy eyes narrowing in determination.

He strides forward until Harry can feel the heat of him, can smell his own shampoo and body wash lingering on Eggsy's hair and skin, and promptly sinks to his knees, fingers yanking at the button fly of Harry's trousers.

Oh,” he mumbles, watching dazedly as his trousers and his pants are shoved down to his ankles. “ Oh, ” he says again when Eggsy leans in and nuzzles at the soft swell of his stomach, just above where his pubic hair grows thicker, and laves a tonguing kiss into the space beneath his navel. “Oh,” again, when Eggsy takes him in hand, and then, “ Shit ,” when he swallows him down. Eggsy's mouth glides down, down, down, until its stretched wide around the base of Harry's cock, nose buried in dark, coarse curls. Harry's hands flutter over his shoulders, smoothing across the beauty marks and freckles that create constellations in the universe of Eggsy's skin.

Eggsy pulls back up, breathing controlled if not a bit laboured, and suckles at the head, a hand stroking down Harry's erection to pull the foreskin down and over. Harry does his best not to buck into the sponging heat, but he can't quite refrain. Eggsy peels off with a pop and meets Harry's eyes before slipping his other hand down between his own legs to fondle at the soft flesh of his own dick. “Do it,” he rasps throatily, “Fuck, yeah, do it, Harry. I want it so bad, I want—"

Harry never finds out what Eggsy wants, because the boy's too busy stuffing his throat full with Harry's length. He curls his fingers over Eggsy's ears and holds on gently, hips flexing into tiny thrusts.

Eggsy moans into them, eyes wet and bright when he rolls them heavenward to catch Harry's gaze, and he feels the sound reverberate all the way to his toes. The hand between Eggsy's groin becomes a blur, and Harry fucks a little harder into the willing clutch of Eggsy's throat.

It isn't long before the sensation becomes too much, before his balls are beginning to tighten up in warning, so he gently extricates himself from Eggsy's mouth, fingers pressing into his swollen lips when he lets out a ragged whimper and tries to duck down after Harry's penis.

Come to bed,” Harry says, and it comes out more begging and desperately than he intended. Eggsy nods quickly and lurches to his feet, falling into Harry's body with a kiss aimed for his mouth. Combined, the two of them make quick work of the remainder of Harry's clothes, shucking off his trousers with a kick and hands tangling together as they each fumble at the buttons of his waist coat, of his shirt, before they're shoved off of his shoulders simultaneously to pool into a heap on the floor. Harry walks the both of them backwards, still kissing wet and deep, and twists them so that Eggsy's body is beneath his when they fall to the mattress.

He nudges him up, up, back against the pillows, bodies pressed together from hip to chest and back down to where Eggsy's toes prod at Harry's ankles. He reaches down and smooths his palm over the inner stretch of Eggsy's thigh, pushing the limb back and to the side so that their erections can slip together, finding hollows between each others legs where they can rut.

Eggsy is a symphony of needy, wonderful sounds. The involuntary whines that stretch out from the back of his throat every time their tongues dip together in a brand new kiss. The whisper of his hands against the expanse of Harry's back, sliding and gripping around as if he's determined to touch every available inch of his spine, map out his vertebrae and the various scars that litter his body. The punched out, greedy moans he pours into Harry's neck, his cheek, his mouth, when the friction is just right.

Harry's never loved another person as much as this.

He stretches out his arm and grasps at the bottle of lubricant, clutching it in his hand as he works his tongue down Eggsy's neck, down the sparsity of hair on his chest, the ridges of his abdomen and the trail of pubic hair that curls beneath his belly button. He pushes Eggsy's thighs apart, nuzzling and mouthing at his balls all the while, and gently pushes them up to the young man's chest.

The knees bend easily and Eggsy curls his hands around them, peering down between his legs to see what Harry's doing.

I do hope you heeded my instructions,” is all Harry says, before he darts forward and licks a broad stripe between Eggsy's cheeks, over his hole and up to his cock.

There's a strangled yell somewhere above him, and Eggsy's spine practically liquefies , so he does it again, and again, and again. His nose bumps up against the fleshy stretch between his arsehole and his sack, licking in small, tight circles against the pucker of Eggsy's entrance. He lavishes attention there, stealing kisses and tilting his head into the hand that tucks itself into the sweaty tangle of his hair, licks until saliva is dripping down the curve of Eggsy's cheeks and the needy clench of him becomes too tempting to ignore.

Harry widens his mouth and presses his tongue forward, spearing the muscle until it slips inside. Eggsy tastes of flesh, and soap, and something musky and natural that can be nothing but the purest essence of Eggsy himself, hidden away inside his body. His thumbs swipe down the quaking muscles of the thighs perched above him, and fucks in with his tongue with long, wriggling strokes.

Contrary to the deluge of sound he'd been emitting before, Eggsy goes utterly silent. Harry glances up at him the best he can from where he's buried in the comforter, eating Eggsy's arse out with precision, to see the look of stunned arousal that has Eggsy's mouth drawn open in a silent shout. His hands have lost their grip on Harry's hair and flutter against his skull instead, twitching as his body tenses and his chest hitches up off the mattress before slamming back down.

He can practically see the orgasm that's building inside of him, and it inspires him to drive his tongue even deeper, to press in a slender finger alongside the taut muscle of his tongue.

That, at least, draws a noise from Eggsy at last. “ Yes, Harry!” he cries out, and fucks down, sending Harry's finger inside of him up to the second knuckle.

Greedy,” is slurred into the sweaty crease of where Eggsy's inner thigh meets his groin, and Harry plunges the digit deeper. Eggsy writhes.

More,” he begs, hands leaving Harry's head to rake scratches across the backs of his own thighs, red lines rising in their wake. He curls his hands under the backsides of his knees and hoists them further back, nearly to his chest, opening himself up further to Harry's ministrations. “Two, yeah, I can take it, gimme two, Harry, fuck!”

Saliva alone isn't going to do the trick, so Harry slips his finger free, ignoring Eggsy's moaning protests in favour of fumbling for where the lube has rolled beneath the lad's hip. He pours a liberal amount onto the pointed outstretch of his index and middle fingers, letting the synthetic drip over his knuckles, the back of his hand, down to catch in the hair beneath his wrist. He imparts another sopping kiss to the dusky rose of Eggsy's arse, trailing kisses upwards and pressing his nose into the back of his thigh. He tucks an arm in close and strokes his fingers across the hole, leaving a wet and shining path across it. There, he adds another small burst of lube that he catches on his fingers and spreads around before pushing in, carefully, both of them to the first knuckle.

Yes,” Eggsy sighs out happily, pressing his head back into the pillow. Harry can't take his eyes away from him and continues smearing kisses into the wiry, nearly invisible hairs on the back of Eggsy's thigh.

You are so lovely,” Harry tells him, and pushes his fingers in deeper. “Look at you, my gorgeous boy, opening up so nicely beneath my hands.” He rocks his arm back and forth, drawing himself out of Eggsy's body and back in again, fingers crooking in the heat of him.

Just for you,” Eggsy agrees like a confession, tongue pressing into the corner of his own mouth. He sounds like a lush, drunk on the piston of Harry's fingers inside of him, shivering violently when they crook up and press against the spongy gland of his prostate. His cock jumps against his belly, pre-come pooling into the skin once more. He reaches down and tucks a hand beneath Harry's cheek and his leg, the angle too strange to do anything but skitter the backs of his fingers across Harry's jaw and mouth.

He kisses at them when they press into his lips, and drags a third finger over the mess of lube he's created, and is slow to press it in alongside the others when they withdraw and sink forward again.

God,” Eggsy breathes, and quakes all over. “That is—gorgeous.”

You are,” praises Harry, eyes ducked down to watch his fingers disappear into the greedy swallow of Eggsy's body. He waits until the tension has abated, until the hold isn't quite so tight and strangling, and then begins to finger fuck Eggsy in earnest.

The younger man's entire body snaps to attention, pulled taut and arching up and bowing back, driving himself down onto the tapered length of Harry's fingers. His cock strains against the duvet, hard and leaking into a damp spot on the linen. He draws himself up the line of Eggsy's body, fingers still pushing in and out, and knocks their heads together so he can drink in the gasps of his own name. “Eggsy,” he whispers, burnishing a kiss across a sweat-soaked brow. “Eggsy, I—I want—”

Eggsy's head dips violently into a series of quick nods. “Do it, yeah, get in me, Harry, please. Come on, love, just—fuck me, fuck me, fuck me.

An embarrassing groan wrenches out of him at that, ripping straight from his gut and escaping in a guttural sound the likes of which he's never made before. He pulls his fingers free, much as the both of them despair of the loss, and rips into the box of condoms, pulling a sachet free and tearing it open with his teeth.

He pinches the reservoir between his fingers and rolls the rubber down, smoothing it across the length of his erection, knuckles brushing down Eggsy's cock as he does. He's longer, he notices, which isn't unusual given his height, but Eggsy flares wide towards the middle and fat at the head, thick and lovely. Harry aches to put his mouth on him, to swallow him down and feel him in the back of his throat for days after, but there are more important matters to attend to at present, so he steels his mind away from those thoughts for the moment.

He pulls at Eggsy's hip, encouraging him to roll over onto his stomach, legs a quivering stretch of muscle behind him. Eggsy tucks his hands beneath the pillow under his head and grinds his forehead into the downy plush of it when Harry's hands conform to the swell of his cheeks, thumbs pulling them apart so that he can add yet another liberal dollop of lube to the mess of Eggsy's arse. When he's satisfied, he lowers his body down, hand clutching at the base of his cock, and slips the latex covered head into the apex of his thighs, rubbing up and down until he catches on his hole.

Gently, and with an exquisitely torturous slowness, he presses forward and in, stomach and gluteus muscles straining with the effort it takes not to thrust into the delicious heat all at once. He curves himself over and around Eggsy, the inside of his knees knocking against the outside of thighs belonging to the man beneath him, and bottoms out. His bollocks seat themselves hotly into the damp taint that stretches beneath where his cock is swallowed whole.

Oh, yes,” he rumbles, withdrawing and snapping back in, unable to help himself. Eggsy chokes off a sound beneath him, and Harry presses a hand between his shoulder blades, the other on the mattress, rolling his hips down and back again. The writhe of their bodies together is sinuous and natural, Eggsy pressing back perfectly with every forward thrust and letting out Harry's name on every exhaled breath.

Harry's forearm trembles dangerously, so he lowers himself down and flattens his chest against Eggsy's back, chin hooked over his shoulder and hands slipping across the duvet to curl beneath the clasp of Eggsy's own. He gathers him close and rubs their cheeks together until Eggsy turns his head and meets him halfway into a filthy, open mouthed kiss. 'Kiss' is a generous term, since what they're doing amounts to little more than breathing heavily into one another's mouths and occasionally dipping tongues inside to taste the sound of their own names against the other's teeth.

I'm gonna come again,” Eggsy strains out, gripping tightly at Harry's hands. “Can we—I want to—like, face to face, yeah? I wanna see you when I—wanna watch you when I come for you. Yeah, Harry?”

Fuck yes,” is the growling response that Harry manages, and kicks forward in a half dozen more brutal, charging thrusts that have Eggsy skidding up the mattress before he pulls out and backs off, allowing room for Eggsy to swing his legs over and twist his body around until his back is flat on the mattress.

Harry strokes his cock idly as he watches the compact muscles shift underneath Eggsy's skin, already desperate to return to the clutch of him. Eggsy's eyes drop down, following the tug of Harry's arm, and visibly swallows and holds out a hand when Harry inches forward. “You don't have to...” He gestures towards Harry's erection, still sheathed in a condom. “It's just. I'm clean, I swear it, ain't nobody I've ever been with without protection, and I had to get tested all the time, when, you know—but anyway,” he hastens, no doubt seeing the murderous thoughts that drift through Harry's mind at the thought of Dean forcing Eggsy into prostitution, “It's. I'm clean,” he repeats, but it's more deliberate, and Harry catches his meaning loud and clear.

His breath stutters in his chest, hand pausing mid-stroke. He can barely dare to hope. “You would trust me?” he murmurs, bracing a hand on Eggsy's shin. “Truly? You would allow me to...to—”

Yeah.” Eggsy lets out a nervous laugh and scrubs his hands down his face. “Course, guv, course I would. God, Harry, don't you know?” He reaches out a hand, dents his fingers into Harry's forearm. “Course I would. I love you, don't I? I love you.”

There's nothing, no imagined moments or mindless fantasies of this moment that could have possibly prepared him for the reality of hearing those words fall from Eggsy's lips like a benediction.

Hastily, he strips off the condom and tosses it into the bin next to his bed, fingers slipping on the cap of the lube when he drizzles a sloppy line down his cock. He pushes Eggsy's knees up to his chest, bending him nearly in half, and when he lines up his erection, it's a scorching heat that greets him.

He thrusts in, hard, shoving his shoulders beneath the crux of Eggsy's knees, swallows the boy's startled shout into his mouth and drinks it down. His pace is brutal, hands clenched firmly at the tapered dip of Eggsy's waist, fingers digging in hard enough to leave bruises. Eggsy reaches down and grabs at his own dick, stripping it quickly.

I love you,” Harry pants into his ear, biting into the fleshy lobe of it. “I love you so much, you must know, you have to know. Eggsy, I adore you, you gorgeous thing, come for me. Come for me Eggsy, that's it, darling, I love you. I love you.”

Eggsy's thighs are practically vibrating, his hand a blur and knuckles a nearly uncomfortable source of friction against Harry's belly, and when he comes for the second time that evening, he does it like it's surprised him, mouth gaping open wide and eyes darting sightless around the ceiling. Harry fucks him through it all the while, driving hard and deep until the last tremor subsides and Eggsy's hand falls from his dick, still hard and flushed, and smears a path through the streaks of semen that paint across his body.

Harry can't stop moving, can't stop the pounding of his hips or the litany of curses that drip out of him, slipped in around throaty moans of Eggsy's name.

Jesus,” Eggsy garbles after five or so minutes of Harry's rigorous hips, first to the ceiling and then down in the direction of where their bodies meet and crash together. “ Jesus , fuck, I'm still hard.”

Good ,” Harry hisses, and releases his grip on Eggsy's waist to curl his fingers tightly around the delicate bones of his wrists, slamming them down into the mattress. He kisses him, deep and uncoordinated, mouths not meeting properly with how hard Harry's driving into his body. “I want you to come again.”

I can't,” is whispered up to him, but the straining hardness trapped between them tells a different story. “Christ, Harry, don't think I can, bruv.”

You can,” Harry assures him, tucking his knees forward and arcing in. Eggsy's eyes go wide and glossy when the head of his cock skids against his prostate, again and again and again. “And you will, won't you, Eggsy? You'll come for me again, around my cock. You're mine. ” He proclaims it so, teeth dragging down the gorgeous tendon sticking out in Eggsy's neck, and worries at the love bite he'd lavished there when they were in the bathroom. “All mine, aren't you? And you'll come for me, darling, say you will.”

I will,” Eggsy sobs out, fingers folding down into his palms desperately. “'m yours, Harry, I'll do it, I'll do it, I'll come again. For you. For— fuck! ” He tosses his head back into the pillow, tears leaking out at the corners of his eyes. “God, I'm close again.” He sounds incredulous, despite having just promised Harry a third and final orgasm.

As for himself, Harry's been on the cusp of coming since the instant he slid into Eggsy bare. But he wants that third pleasure wrung out before he does, wants to see Eggsy wrecked and ruined and sore, knowing that he was the one allowed to leave such an exquisite young man in the throes of all consuming passion.

Eggsy,” he gasps.

It's all the other man needs, apparently, since he lets out a tearful shout of Harry's name and his cock sputters weakly between them, untouched, but with barely any fluid left to leak out. The pulse of him on and around Harry proves to be too much, too tempting an offer for even Harry Hart to ignore, and with their foreheads pressed together, he comes, emptying himself into Eggsy's body.

He holds himself there, hips as flush against Eggsy as he can be, and it still isn't close enough. It will never be close enough, because Harry wants to sink into him, conform their bodies into one another until it would be impossible for any outside force to part them ever again.

When the last wave of orgasm washes away like the tide, Harry releases his grip on Eggsy's hands. He pulls out, slowly, carefully, aware of the sensitive flesh beneath him, and collapses to the side. Eggsy shudders against him, so Harry draws him close to his chest, lets his ear press against the lightly furred pectoral that houses his heart. He presses a kiss to Eggsy's hair and closes his eyes.

I love you, Eggsy,” he whispers again.

Eggsy shakes and shakes and shakes, and loves him back.

 

epilogue.

 

There's a delicious smell wafting from the direction of the kitchen when Harry walks through the door that evening. He hangs up his overcoat and his umbrella on the hooks by the door and slips off his shoes, unable to keep a silly grin from spreading over his face.

Eggsy had returned late the night before from a month long mission in Tel Aviv, systematically shutting down a terrorist cell that had been expanding beneath the city's underbelly. Harry had fallen asleep the night before, alone in the expanse of his bed, and woken up with the warmth of Eggsy's exhausted body tucked firmly against him. A quick check of his phone showed a message from Merlin, informing him that Eggsy had only landed at HQ two and a half hours prior, so he'd deemed it best to let him slumber. Eggsy had snuffled into his armpit and frowned, disgruntled, when Harry pulled away, but was soothed with a gentle kiss to his cheek, mouth opening on a sigh.

Now, though, it seemed he was up and about, if the scent of garlic and basil is any indication. “Eggsy?” he calls out, just in case. “I'm home.”

There's the jostling sound of plates being pulled from their cupboards, and then a hearty sounding, “Oi oiii!” is shouted at him from the kitchen. Harry no longer has any hope of containing his grin, and shuffles down the hallway in his socks, leaning into the structural support of the entryway to the dining room. Eggsy's beaming at him from the kitchen, clad only in a pair of skin tight briefs and—

Harry straightens up. “Is that my jumper?” he asks, crossing around the table and coming to a stop in front of Eggsy, fingers brushing against where he's had to fold up the too-long sleeves.

“Yeah,” Eggsy confirms cheerfully, and steps even closer, arms coming up to loop around Harry's neck. “I missed you.”

“And I, you,” is Harry's affirmation, complete with a lovely kiss to the bow of Eggsy's mouth. There they stand in the kitchen of Harry's home, trading kisses soft and slow until the oven beeps.

“I made tea,” Eggsy says into the spot beneath his chin where he likes to nuzzle. “Rented a film, too, if you don't mind dinner in bed. An Affair to Remember.

“You and your bloody Cary Grant.” Harry nips at his mouth and Eggsy grins into the teasing bite.

“Tea in bed?” he asks again

Harry gazes down at him, into the mirthful green of his eyes. Breathes in the combination of his own aftershave, Eggsy's shampoo, and the dinner that's been made for him. Traces his hands down the cashmere of his own jumper, soft and too big on Eggsy's smaller frame.

He leans forward to steal another kiss. “Nothing,” he says, and it's a fact. “Would be more perfect.”

the end.

 

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