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Four weeks after the world went to hell and back, Harry wakes up in Kingsman's infirmary.

"Hello there, sleepin' beauty," Eggsy says in a shaky voice. He watches Harry's eyes blink slowly, and thinks please, please, please. "I was wonderin' if I'd have to get a prince in here to kiss you awake."

Harry turns his head to look at Eggsy, who can't bring himself to move from his chair just yet. The very idea of Harry failing to recognize him, of Harry recoiling from his touch, has Eggsy paralyzed in his seat. He’d rather face down Gazelle again than have Harry reject him.

There is an eternity where Harry just looks at Eggsy, and oh god please--

"A gentleman doesn't take advantage of a person who can't say no, Eggsy," Harry says, and Eggsy releases the breath he didn't know he'd been holding, the tension escaping him in one big exhale. 

Eggsy moves from his chair to sit on the edge of the bed, pressing the emergency button to alert Merlin, and smiles down at Harry, who still has bandages covering the right side of his head. "Aw, but if we're all gentlemen, how's Snow White goin' to ever wake up?"

"Did you just compare molesting me in my sleep to necrophilia?" Harry huffs at him, looking at Eggsy with that begrudgingly amused look that always lights up Eggsy's insides like a fire at the hearth, all warm and glowing, and oh, Eggsy's missed this with an aching ferocity he didn't know he was capable of before. 

He feels fingertips on his cheek and jerks back to realize his vision is blurry. 

"Eggsy," Harry says, and he sounds concerned, like he cares, and the relief, the regret, it all crashes into Eggsy with the force of a tidal wave.

"I'm so fucking sorry," Eggsy hiccups through the tears that just won't stop. He wipes at his eyes with his shirt cuffs, but he can't get a hold of himself. "I'm so sorry, Harry, I said shitty things to you before you left. I let you down, and you got shot and all I did was fucking watch—”

He's tripping over his own words when Harry puts a hand on his knee. He looks sad, his lips a loose, downward curve and his eyes regretful, and it twists Eggsy's gut, seeing Harry like this. Almost as awful as Harry's angry, tight-lipped look of disappointment. "I said unkind things to you as well. I owe you an apology for saying such things. I'm sorry." 

Harry’s hand moves from Eggsy’s leg to his face, cradles Eggsy's jaw, thumb wiping away runaway tears, and the fire in Eggsy's belly is a crackling roar, the words bubbling out of him before he can stop them.

"Harry, I—”

The infirmary door slams open and Merlin strides in, a doctor in tow, and Eggsy yanks himself away from Harry’s hand and pretends he hasn’t been crying. 

“Harry,” Merlin says, his eyes flickering to Eggsy’s red face. “Eggsy.”

Eggsy’s heart is in his throat when he stands up and moves back to stand by his chair, too keyed up to sit, the adrenaline thrumming through his skin. He feels itchy under his clothes, like his skin is too tight. “Hey, Merlin.”

Merlin, mercifully, just nods and directs his focus back to Harry, who’s allowing the doctor to flash a light into his eyes, checking his pupils. The doctor keeps examining Harry while Merlin starts talking, something about Valentine, how the bullet just grazed him, medical things. Eggsy can hardly hear any of the words over the sound of the blood pounding in his ears. His face is so hot it’s a miracle his skin hasn’t burned off.

Fucking hell. He almost told Harry. If Merlin hadn’t come in, Eggsy would have just blurted out I love you, and fuck, Eggsy needs to get his shit together. Harry just came out of a coma. They’ve barely recovered from their last argument. It’s awful timing to just go vomit his feelings all over someone who might even have brain damage, for christ’s sake, what is Eggsy thinking? 

But—is there really going to be any good timing for letting Harry, super spy, sex on legs, posh and fit as fuck Harry Hart, know that the chav he bailed out wants Mr. Modern Knight to fuck his brains out?

If it were just a matter of Eggsy wanting Harry to fuck his face so hard he couldn’t eat solid food the next day, he would have gone for it back when Harry curled those long fingers around his wrist and said that’s not how you hold the shaker, my boy. The thing is, Eggsy wants all that and more. He wants Harry to keep calling him his boy, never mind that Eggsy’s never had a daddy kink or shit; Harry could call him his anything and Eggsy’d be gagging for it. He wants to be Harry’s, in every sense of the word. He wants to wake up next to Harry and find out if the man actually has morning breath or if he’s somehow conquered human nature with sheer gentlemanly will and smells of tea even with his teeth unbrushed. He wants to eat Harry’s cooking and do his dishes and go buy groceries with him. He wants a future with Harry. 

Eggsy's so far gone it ain't even funny.

“You can’t be serious,” breaks through Eggsy’s inner crisis and he snaps to attention, his body attuned to the note of frustration in Harry’s voice. 

“Wait, what’s goin’ on?” Eggsy asks.

Merlin and Harry both turn to look at Eggsy and hey, the doctor is gone. Must’ve left while Eggsy was mentally picturing what Harry would look like with sex hair. Some great spy Eggsy is turning out to be. Not that he’s officially a Kingsman knight yet, but still. He’s been trained.

“As I was saying," Merlin says, "the Queen's health has been deteriorating in the past month. We need someone to take over the throne until Prince George is of age."

"Why don't we use this opportunity to transition into a democracy?" Harry says. Eggsy has never heard him sound so waspish before.

"Harry," Merlin chides. "Her Majesty requested that you be brought to the palace as soon as you're fit to move."

"Hang on, what?" Eggsy is tired of being excluded from this conversation.

There's this chagrined look in Harry's eyes when he glances at Eggsy, which just raises Eggsy's hackles even more. For all that Harry is a spy, he's never been the secretive type, especially in front of Eggsy. The idea that there are things that Harry doesn't want Eggsy to know, that there are parts of Harry that Eggsy has no right to access--it digs a little too deep into the hollow space between Eggsy's ribs.

Merlin clears his throat. “As you know, most of the royal family perished thanks to the exploding chips,” which makes Eggsy wince the tiniest bit, because as terrific as saving the world was, blowing up people's heads still leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Even if they were right twats for agreeing to Valentine’s plan. “The Queen and her husband were kept in Valentine’s bunker, but Prince Philip passed away from a heart attack before we were able to rescue the hostages. And Prince George was not chipped, considering his age. So we have two royals, one is dying from old age and the other is a baby. You see the problem.”

“Ye-es,” Eggsy says, slow and hesitant. He still doesn’t see where this is heading.

“The only other surviving heirs to the throne are Prince Edward—who has been irreparably brain-damaged—and Princess Anne’s grandchildren, who are all minors. The next in line is Lady Amelia Windsor, who stands at thirty-sixth in the line of succession.”

“Let her have the throne,” Harry sniffs.

Merlin tuts. “And have a nineteen-year-old juggle a nation and the next heir? Why do that when we have the seventeenth in line who can do a much better job?”

There is no way this conversation is going where Eggsy thinks it’s going, but he has instincts and a proper brain, and he didn’t manage to kill Arthur out of sheer luck. “Merlin, when you say seventeenth in line…”

And Merlin, that bastard, must have been waiting for this, because he grins all too widely and says, “Eggsy, did you know that Harry is Queen Elizabeth’s oldest nephew?”

-

So Harry Hart turns out to be Harry Armstrong-Jones, who had never taken to the royal life and had left it at a young age to join the Royal Army Medical Corps under a new name and identity. The forgotten royal, presumed to be toiling away abroad when in fact he was recruited by Kingsman at the tender age of twenty-three. And of course, nobody remembered a heir who had sixteen in line before him.

Until Valentine pulled a Pied Piper and led off more than half the world’s leaders and heirs.

“You’re a prince,” Eggsy says, possibly for the sixth time.

“I assure you, I’m not.” Not even a desert is as dry as Harry’s voice. “Technically, I’m an earl. Not that I would ever want to live with such a title.”

“You don’t have much of a choice,” Merlin points out. “The Queen knows you were shot in the head. She thinks it’s a sign for you to settle down. Preferably at the palace.”

Harry sighs, his hair falling into his face, and as elegant as the man always is, there’s nothing really royal about him, in this moment. He’s just Harry, tired and swathed in bandages and somehow having to save the country one way or another. 

“She might be right,” Merlin says, in a way that’s not as joking anymore. His voice goes quiet and soft, like he’s easing Harry into sleep, into a dream that Harry doesn’t want. Or maybe he’s easing Harry into reality, into a future that has less to do with espionage and more to do with bureaucracy. 

“This is a terrible idea,” Harry mutters.

Eggsy can tell when Harry’s on the verge of giving in, the resigned yes, fine, alright on the tip of his tongue. It’s in the way the edges of his mouth soften, his head dipping forward just a little, the look in his eyes less sharp and more wry. It’s a look Eggsy has wrung out of Harry a few times over the course of his training, the one he always wants to see the most. It’s the one he imagines seeing if he were to reach up and trail his fingers down Harry’s cheek, if he brushed his lips against the corner of Harry’s mouth and whispered please.

It’s not something that seems likely to happen now, though. Not with Harry looking up at Merlin, his eyes never straying to Eggsy, saying, “Looks like I’ll have to pay my aunt a visit, then.”

-

Once Harry is deemed fit for travel, it’s a whirlwind of getting Harry dressed and into a wheelchair, having him ushered into a standard Kingsman cab that will take him to Buckingham Palace. Eggsy stands around, useless but unwilling to leave Harry’s side if he can help it.

Harry doesn’t even glance at Eggsy the entire time. It shouldn’t feel like somebody is carving Eggsy’s intestines up and putting them in the blender, but Harry has a knack for making Eggsy feel with an intensity that knocks the breath out of him. 

“Go home and get some rest,” Merlin says to Eggsy as he settles into the driver’s seat. “Report back in for duty at nine tomorrow." 

Eggsy hesitates, his hand still on the cab door that he was about to close. He’s standing right next to Harry, who’s sitting in the back seat with his head turned away from Eggsy, and it’s almost like they’re back in Harry’s place. Surrounded by dead animals and Eggsy saying sorry, Harry saying you should be. Harry leaving, again, with Eggsy left behind. It tastes too much like goodbye.

“You’re coming back, right?” Eggsy asks, and there’s a part of him that cringes at how pathetic he sounds. 

For a moment Harry doesn’t say anything. Then he turns his head to look up at Eggsy, his eyes kinder than Eggsy has ever seen them. 

That’s how Eggsy knows Harry is lying when he says, “Of course.”

He wants to say something, wants to grab Harry by the shoulders and say you’re a terrible liar, I bet Pinocchio would be a better liar than you. And you call yourself a spy. He wants to tell Harry that he’s holding him to his word. He wants to kiss Harry and keep him, even if only for a night. 

Instead, Eggsy wordlessly nods and shuts the cab door. He steps away, standing on the front steps of HQ while the cab drives away. A modern chariot taking a monarch in the making.

Eggsy never knew kindness could cut this deep.

-

Back when Eggsy was still a fresh recruit, the ugly duckling amongst the other posh snobs and Roxy, he used to take JB on walks through HQ to catch glimpses of Harry whenever he could. He’d stroll down the hallways in hopes of seeing perfectly coiffed hair and long fingers holding an umbrella, listening for the sound of Harry’s voice with his neatly rounded vowels and crisp consonants. Sometimes he’d see Harry turn a corner, tailored suit just slipping out of sight, and when Eggsy turned the same corner, Harry would be gone.

It was a game, the kind you could laugh off and treat like a form of training, a way of testing his skills as a spy. Eggsy would turn corners and run down staircases and hold onto JB while jumping his way from one balcony to another. Harry would always be one step ahead, just out of reach.

Sometimes Eggsy would manage to catch Harry, hurtle into him and grab hold of him, his heart racing, his fingers gripping Harry’s sleeves. Sometimes Harry would give him the slip, and when Eggsy'd feel a tap on his shoulder, he’d turn to see Harry standing behind him.

Those breathless ten minute chases used to be the best part of Eggsy’s training days. Knowing that Harry would let Eggsy catch him; the surety of Harry, with his indulgent half-smile and smoky cologne, at Eggsy’s fingertips. The fleeting fantasy that maybe, just maybe, Eggsy would one day be able to grasp Harry’s lapels and not let go, ending the game once and for all.

The game is over now. Just, not the way Eggsy wanted it to be.

-

Eggsy stays in HQ, just in case.

He pretends he doesn’t notice Merlin’s look of pity when the cab comes back without Harry.

-

“Incredible,” Roxy says as they watch the news. She has a shiner on one cheekbone, courtesy of the drug lord she threw off a cliff in Greece just yesterday, but she looks much better than how Eggsy feels. “How did we manage to have royalty in an independent agency like ours?”

“The previous Tristan met him during RAMC training. Little to no prior media coverage, the RAMC as a cover, and very unlikely to inherit the throne at seventeenth in line. We figured that there was no reason not to accept him as a candidate, and he earned his seat at the table on his own merits.” Merlin looks like he needs at least four more cups of coffee. “We didn’t expect the majority of the royal family being wiped out at the time.”

The screen now shows Harry seated by the Queen’s wheelchair, and he’s doing a mighty fine job of looking like someone who wasn’t just shot in the head a couple months ago. His posture is picture perfect, his RAMC uniform—where the fuck did that come from, by the way, because Eggsy does not need another image of Harry as wank material at the moment—neatly pressed, and he looks every inch the man Eggsy wants to get on his knees for. 

Harry must already be walking, because there’s a cane surreptitiously leaning against the wall, and he’s seated himself at an angle that gifts the cameras with a very nice view of his profile while concealing his right side of his face. 

“Won’t the media coverage eventually bring up the fact that he hasn’t exactly been working an honest job for the past however many years, though?” Roxy asks.

“We’ve kept a fabricated record of him for the past several decades as a safety net. Our contact in MI6 has agreed to fill in any questionable blanks, and I’ve been reviewing his past missions to double-check for past targets potentially recognising him. Most of them are dead.”

On the screen, flashes go off in Harry’s face. Eggsy watches Harry’s hands clench and thinks of the red office, full of headlines, of Harry’s voice saying three times. Birth, marriage, and death.

This isn’t the life Harry wanted. 

“They’re gonna make him miserable,” Eggsy says.

Merlin makes an angry noise in the back of his throat. His fingers tap away on his keyboard, relentless and steady. “Not on our watch.”

-

“Red, watch your left. The big bad wolf has his teeth out.”

Eggsy swears and pivots just in time to slam a knee into yet another mercenary’s ribs, the serrated blade missing Eggsy’s throat by inches. He grabs hold of the mercenary’s vest and rolls with the momentum in midair, using him as a shield while shooting at two other guards heading his way. He hits the ground, rolls, and stops at a crouch, listening for footsteps. 

“All clear. Time to deliver the goods to Grandma,” singsongs the voice in Eggsy’s ear.

Eggsy straightens up and starts down the corridor at a silent jog. “Min, if you call me Little Red Riding Hood one more time, I’m askin’ Merlin to erase your Netflix queue.”

Min’s laughter tinkles through his earpiece. “Try it. I bought Merlin a new coffee machine last week. I’m his favourite minion until at least the end of the month.” She hums an unfamiliar tune before cheerily saying, “Hey, Goldilocks. Papa bear seems to be on his way down to the cargo area. Move faster.”

“Goldilocks? Seriously?” Eggsy complains, bursting into a sprint and hauling his arse down the stairs. 

“You don’t have a codename yet,” Min says. “If you dislike it so much, just give up and take Galahad’s seat.”

“Like hell I will,” Eggsy says, and breaks down the first door he sees. “It’s not mine to take.”

“Oh, Little Red,” Min says in that sad, disapproving voice that girls seem to use a lot when they talk to Eggsy, because his mum and Roxy and Min all talk to him like this these days. “You’re a romantic, aren’t you." 

Before Eggsy fell down into the Wonderland of spy training and bespoke suits and exploding heads, he never really thought that of loves that last lifetimes and happy endings. He was more preoccupied with surviving on a day-to-day basis. 

Sure, it might’ve sounded like the perfect setup. Bastard of a stepfather, shitty home life, and a tragically lost dad that was the love of his mum’s life? Sounded like a perfect backdrop for one of those, life-changing scenarios to happen. My Fair Lady style. Someone comes and saves the day, offers Eggsy a better life, and maybe he even finds out what it’s like to fall in love. Cheesy as fuck, but. It was a nice idea.

Too bad Eggsy’s life just wasn’t that kind of movie. Authority figures just sniffed and turned their heads away from him. The closest thing he had to a makeover was filching his mum’s concealer to make Dean’s souvenirs on his face less obvious. Eggsy never even had a proper crush on anybody, let alone felt anything like love.

Yeah, so Eggsy sure as hell didn’t expect his life to turn out even remotely nice, let alone have Harry fucking Hart stride in like the goddamn knight he was, obliterate Dean’s lot and Eggsy’s convictions against romance, and take up permanent residence in Eggsy’s lungs and brain, in his blood and bone. So much for it ain’t being that kind of movie.

Eggsy spends his entire time in training and twenty-four hours with Harry with his foot permanently stuck in his mouth, dumb as a rock, because gentlemen like Harry don’t love you back. They don’t want to cut out their hearts and give them to you because that might just show even a fraction of how much they want to be yours, how they just might die if you don’t love them back. Eggsy might just as well let that goddamn train run him over for real if he reached for Harry’s hand and Harry pulled away.

So Eggsy spends the whole time doing a little mermaid act where he clams the fuck up and goes mute about his feelings for Harry, just hoping that maybe the script will include having Eggsy’s white knight making a move on Eggsy first.

And now Eggsy’s knight is a prince—no, a king, and what the fuck, what the bleeding fuck, this isn’t a movie at all; it’s a fucking fairytale. Probably one of the Grimm ones, because Eggsy’s luck is shite like that. At this rate some crazy lady is going to take him and Roxy prisoner and fatten him up, like Hansel and Gretel. Or maybe he’ll get diabetes. 

Reality is a bitch.

-

Except, reality bitchslaps him with this.

“A ball.” Eggsy must have dropped his jaw somewhere in the underground bunker, because he cannot shut his fucking mouth. “You want me to go to a ball.”

Roxy is standing next to Eggsy with a manila folder identical to the one in his own hands. There’s a telltale quirk to her lips that means she’s laughing on the inside. Merlin’s not even laughing on the inside; he’s just laughing, very loudly, while Eggsy tries to remember how to pick his jaw back up.

“Yes,” Merlin finally says after he’s done guffawing. “Although Harry announced at the last press conference that he plans to abdicate when Prince George is of age, and therefore does not see the need to produce an heir, he’s still receiving pressure to marry,” Merlin’s voice cracks, “and settle down.” He starts laughing again.

“A ball for only the prestigious and royal, though? I thought Harry wasn’t classist?” Roxy pipes up. “He’s not allowed to marry a commoner?" 

Merlin clears his throat, his lips still twitching. “Finding a potential spouse is an excuse; the real reason for the ball is to strengthen international ties and reassure the remaining nobles that he can be a satisfactory ruler for the meantime.”

“So what are we doing there?” Eggsy asks.

“Lancelot will be attending as herself, since she’s invited as Viscount Morton’s only daughter. You’re her plus one, as a friend.” Merlin gestures at their folders. “There’s intel that a few of the lords and ladies would like to sabotage Harry during the event, and their details are in your dossiers. We’ll also use this opportunity to have Roxy establish a public acquaintance with Harry as an eligible bachelorette.”

“Eligible—you mean, Roxy? And Harry?” Eggsy splutters. “Roxy is the next Kate Middleton?”

Roxy snorts and crumples into a quivering, giggling mess. 

“Only as a last resort,” Merlin says, his voice bland. “As scandalous as the age gap might seem, her background is impeccable and having a young wife is hardly new practice in royalty." 

“Rox,” Eggsy says, “You can’t be okay with this. Marrying the bloody king of England for a mission is a bit much, even for a Kingsman, yeah?”

“Oh, Eggsy,” Roxy says, and there it is again, that knowing tone. “You know that our job isn't exactly fair.” And Eggsy must’ve let something show on his face, because she takes pity and squeezes Eggsy’s shoulder. “Besides, maybe Harry will find someone else and marry them instead.”

The thought of Harry with a faceless, nameless posh woman, kissing her bejeweled fingers and smiling that fond half-smile Eggsy never got to see in full bloom, slices a cold long cut down Eggsy’s spine.

“Yeah,” Eggsy says, numb. “Maybe he’ll find someone else.”

-

The night before the ball, Roxy and Eggsy twirl around in HQ, refreshing their formal dance repertoire. 

“Remember when Hugo dipped Rufus and then dropped him on purpose?” Roxy asks, her eyes shining and her smile bright. She leans back into Eggsy’s support as he dips her and pulls her back up in a single fluid motion. “It was hilarious.”

“I remember,” Eggsy says, and it’s not exactly a lie. 

-

He does remember, how Rufus had been a right prick to Hugo about their scores from the sniping task, and how Hugo had promptly dropped his dance partner onto his arse. He remembers learning to waltz for the first time, Merlin overseeing them while Eggsy apologized every time he stepped on Roxy’s feet.

A starker, more vivid memory takes hold of him, though. After two failed martinis and a successful one, Eggsy had sat in Harry’s living room, dim-lit and awash in a warm amber hue, his stomach warm with a buzz not entirely to be blamed on alcohol. Harry, with his sleeves rolled up and his holsters undone on the arm of the couch, his edges softer, more relaxed, standing by the window. There’d been music playing, slow and crooning, like a lullaby, like a siren song.

“I heard Miss Morton’s toes suffered from your dance lessons,” Harry had said, his half-smile there again, tinged with mischief. 

“My ego suffered more, thanks. Especially during the foxtrot.” Eggsy had been warm all over, drunk on not just martinis, but on Harry’s attention, the proximity. The tilt of his lips and the bare length of his forearms, his guard finally let down, his defenses tucked away. “But I’m aces at all the waltzes.”

“Are you, now.” Harry’s long fingers, idly tracing the rim of his glass. Eggsy’s heart, beating in time with the music.

“Come here and let me show you,” Eggsy had said, leaning forward, daringly in a way he’d never attempted before, dizzy with the possibility of it, a held breath ready to be expelled.

Harry had met his gaze, and for a second Eggsy thought he saw a consideration, the yes on the tip of his tongue, the possibility fulfilled with everything Eggsy ever wanted.

Then the music had changed, the song transitioning into something lighter, quicker, and the moment slipped past. 

“Perhaps another time,” Harry had said, and Eggsy had slid back, his neck hot against the couch cushions, his courage dissipating. His pulse repeating Harry’s words at double-time, like a wish, like a promise. Another time. Another time.

-

Eggsy is on the verge of recognising his jaw as a permanent lost cause, because he goes slack jawed first when he tries on the terrifyingly posh-looking tux, and then a second time when he actually gets a good look at Roxy in a burgundy floor-length gown with her hair done up and suspiciously sharp earrings. They get in a limo—also Kingsman issued, how the fuck is that even possible—and the sight of Buckingham Palace looming right in front of him, gates opening for them, pretty much has his jaw hitting the floor and staying there for good.

“Eggsy, stop gaping,” Roxy hisses, but her eyes have gone a little wide, too, because however posh Roxy’s folks might be, this is a whole new level for her as well. It’s like Peter Pan showing you Neverland for the first time, or Aladdin taking you on a magic carpet ride.

Roxy gathers her wits much better than Eggsy does and presents her invitation to a guard, who promptly directs the pair of them to the ballroom. There are other well-dressed people milling about, whispering and chatting, and there’s a small orchestra playing on the small stage at one end of the room.

Eggsy feigns pushing his glasses up his nose while activating the zoom function, catching Lord Springston, one of the potential threats, entertaining a group of ladies. He tightens his arm around Roxy’s waist, tilting his head just so that she knows where to look without any other indication. “Dark green tie. Doesn’t suit the bloke.”

“It’s olive,” Roxy says. “And your suit is midnight blue. How on earth does anyone believe your cover as a tailor when you can’t even get colours right?”

“Mum knows I ain’t a tailor,” Eggsy reminds her. “That cover went outta the window when she saw Harry on the morning news.”

“Fifteen minutes until the dance,” Merlin says into their ears.

Eggsy scopes out the room again, noting the presence of two more potential threats. “Host ain’t here yet.”

Before Merlin can even answer, Harry strides in, the Queen beside him in a wheelchair, and the whole room goes quiet.

Harry looks devastatingly handsome, his hair styled and his scar, now a white stretch of a nebula on his temple, only adding to his regality. He’s dressed in an unbuttoned black dinner jacket and a waistcoat that’s the colour of melting dark chocolate, the exact shade of Harry’s eyes. 

It’s been more than two months since Eggsy’s been in the same building as Harry, and his heart kind of turns to stone and drops to the pit of his stomach, because he can’t do this. He can’t

“Eggsy?” Roxy whispers as he pushes himself away, blindly stumbles to the other end of the ballroom as fast as he can, because if he keeps looking at Harry—who Eggsy still loves as much as a human being can possibly love another without imploding from the sheer hurt of it, the magnitude of it, who will never belong to Eggsy—he’s going to start bleeding out between his fingers now matter how hard he tries to keep himself together.

There’s tables laden with refreshments against the wall, and he tries to calm down before he humiliates himself by sobbing into the bowl of punch.

Just as his breathing is evening out, he hears a feminine, familiar voice behind his shoulder. “Excuse me?”

Eggsy turns to see Princess Tilde looking at him curiously, her expression brightening as she recognizes him. “It is you. What a surprise!”

“Um,” Eggsy says. He isn’t sure what the proper etiquette is when speaking to a princess who offered him bareback anal sex and instead ended up cuddling him while he had a belated—and completely useless, in hindsight—panic attack over realizing that the love of his life was dead. He defaults to the most benign greeting his training gave him. “Hello, your highness.”

“Hello, agent,” Tilde says, all sweetness and grace, unbothered by his secret identity and his inability to get it up while having an emotional crisis. “Is there anything you can tell me about why you’re here?”

Merlin, who’s been oddly quiet since Eggsy just up and left Roxy, immediately says, “Say you’re here for recreational purposes.”

“Just escorting a friend, this time,” Eggsy lies, searching out Roxy’s shimmery dress and finding her being accosted by Springston. He gestures in her direction with his chin. “She thinks our new upcoming king would make a good dance partner.”

Tilde makes a vague, assenting noise. Harry is speaking, his voice ringing clear in the quiet ballroom, and she has an assessing look in her eye. “He could be a good partner in more ways than one.”

Eggsy whips his head around to look first at Harry, who is graciously kissing the back of the Queen’s hand, than to look back at Tilde, who, therapeutic cuddling abilities aside, is a fucking princess, the kind who could marry the upcoming king of England, the kind of person who could be Harry’s someone else.

“You in the running for that partnership?” He jokes, but his heart isn’t in it.

“Agent,” Tilde chides, and oh fucking hell, she’s using that exact tone Min and Roxy use whenever they’re talking about Harry, the tone his mum takes with him when she catches him re-watching Harry’s last press conference. It’s the tone of a bird who knows that Eggsy’s in love with a man who can’t love him back. “Of the two of us, I’m not the one who wants to dance with that man.”

All the words dry up in Eggsy’s mouth.

“The man who was shot in the head, the one you talked about.” Tilde says, her voice hushed, her eyes kind. “It’s him, isn’t it?”

“Don’t tell him,” Eggsy pleads, half to her, half to Merlin on the comms. 

Tilde smiles, her body turning away from him, and she’s going to be a hell of a queen someday, Eggsy knows this, no matter how badly it will hurt if she becomes Harry’s. “Tell him yourself.”

Then she faces forward and dips her head towards Harry, who’s standing right there.

Harry dips his head to Tilde in greeting. “Your Royal Highness, it’s a pleasure to have you here.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” Tilde says.

“If I could be so bold to steal this young man from your company,” Harry says, and Eggsy’s knees almost buckle. He hasn’t heard Harry’s voice from up close in so long.

“Of course.” Tilde steps away, and then Harry’s eyes flicker to Eggsy.

“You should bow,” Merlin murmurs into Eggsy’s ear, which kicks his brain online. He quickly executes a formal bow, exactly the way he practiced with Roxy last night, and straightens up to Harry looking at him with that fucking curve to his lips, a smile teetering on the edge of full bloom, and Eggsy can hardly breathe.

“Your Royal Highness,” Eggsy says.

Harry’s shoulders roll back, and his entire spine unfolds into a straight line, his chin tucking in as his head cocks to the side, just the slightest bit. He looks dangerous, like a knife poised against a jugular. Eggsy’s seen this before, just the once, right before The Black Prince became a warzone. It’s the look of a man ready to step into battle. Ready to make an impression.

Harry extends a hand to Eggsy, and the whole world is silent around them.  

“May I have the first dance?” Harry asks.

Merlin makes a small noise in Eggsy’s ear, and he might be saying something important, but Eggsy can’t hear him at all. This is the final nail in the coffin, Eggsy’s fate doomed and sealed, because this might be the end of everything. In this moment, Kingsman could tell Eggsy to leave the room and Eggsy would sooner eat a bullet than turn his back on Harry right now.

He takes Harry’s hand.

-

“Relax,” Harry says into Eggsy’s ear. It’s quiet, the music about to begin, a vast empty space opening around them. People might be muttering, pointing fingers, but Eggsy can’t hear a thing over the sound of his blood rushing through him and Harry’s words. “It’s time for you to show me your waltz.”

“Harry,” Eggsy says, helpless. He’s back in Harry’s office, watching Valentine pull the trigger. On the stairs of HQ, watching Merlin climb out of the cab, nobody in the back seat. 

A warm hand settles at the small of Eggsy’s back and his world violently crumbles, restructuring itself in between one breath to the next. 

“Follow me,” Harry says. And Eggsy does. 

-

Harry’s fingers brush down the length of Eggsy’s arm as he leads Eggsy in a slow spin in time with the swell of the music. There’s no way Eggsy could feel the fleeting heat of Harry’s fingers through his jacket and shirtsleeves, but the touch is scorching, a brand on his skin, all the same.

Right now, there's only Harry, who still smells like cedar wood and musk. Eggsy is hyperaware of every inch of Harry, touching Eggsy, separated by a hair's breadth, the slow inhale-exhale in his chest. There's a sense of intimacy in every moment between them that wasn't present for any of Eggsy's dancing lessons. 

Eggsy matches Harry’s movements, step for step, and they dance like they’ve been doing this forever. Harry telegraphs his every movement with the squeeze of his hand, the tilt of his head, the quirk of his lips. Following Harry’s lead comes as easily as breathing. There’s so little space between them.

He should say something. They’re close enough that a whisper will be loud enough, and nobody will hear. 

Harry’s eyes stay on Eggsy’s, every step, every turn, and Eggsy can’t say anything. He’s a fucking coward. He doesn’t whimper when Harry dips him, gentle and breathtakingly elegant, but it’s a near thing. He doesn’t say I’ll never love anyone again, not after you. He doesn’t look away and save himself from the impending end, the moment when the music will die down.

Instead, he looks Harry in the eye and lets himself drown.

-

The music stops.

Harry and Eggsy release each other, giving each other short bows and straightening up. Which is precisely when Merlin clears his throat in Eggsy’s ear and the spell breaks.

What was he thinking? Eggsy has clearly gone insane. He was supposed to be keeping his eye on potential threats, on Roxy’s back, not waltzing with the next king. He’s not Belle dancing with a beast prince who just needs someone to love him. Eggsy’s a chav, an impostor in a roomful of nobility and royalty, and Harry’s going to be a king, already on unstable ground with the public, and it’s going to be a fucking media circus. Harry doesn’t deserve this. Eggsy isn’t going to ruin this for Harry. Christ, maybe he already has.

“Eggsy,” Harry says, and Eggsy bolts.

-

There’s only one fairytale that Eggsy doesn’t think about, doesn’t dare compare his life to.

It’s the only one that sounds too true, and he can’t let himself think it or else he’ll start to dream of it. It’s the only one that could truly shatter him.

-

Eggsy has the blueprints of the palace memorised, as he does with any relevant building he goes on missions to, and he knows the fastest way out of the palace from the ballroom. He ignores Merlin shouting in his ear and takes off his glasses, clutching them in his hand while he sprints to the grand entrance as fast as he can.

What he fails to account for is how bloody big this palace is, and by the time he’s exiting the East Gallery and about to throw himself down the staircase, he’s been caught up and yanked backwards, crashing into a broad chest behind him, the glasses skittering away on the floor next to them.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” 

The smell of cedar is overwhelming, and Eggsy hates how badly he wants to turn and bury his face into the hollow of Harry’s throat.

“Why the fuck are you out here?” Eggsy snaps back, twisting to look at Harry and shakily getting to his feet. “You’re the whole reason everybody’s dressed up. Go back.”

Harry stands as well. “Which is why I told everybody to excuse me and enjoy themselves in the meantime. I trust that her Majesty will take charge in my absence.” He heaves a sigh and looks less like a king, more like Harry, asking mildly if Eggsy’s ever heard of knocking. “Also, aren’t you dressed up for me as well?" 

There’s nothing mocking in Harry’s tone, just neutral fact-checking, but the question still hits Eggsy where he’s tender, still bruised from promises unkept. 

“Fuck off,” Eggsy says, his voice thick and cheeks hot with humiliation. 

Harry looks at him, and he has the balls to look a little hurt, as if he didn’t break Eggsy’s heart on the stairs of HQ and Eggsy hasn't been bleeding out ever since. “Eggsy.”

“You didn’t come back,” Eggsy says, the words dragged out of him before he can think better of it. “You liar. You said you’d come back.”

“Oh, my boy,” Harry says, and he sounds so sorry. “My dear boy.” He reaches out to cup Eggsy’s cheek, and it isn’t fair how all of Eggsy’s willpower is dust and ashes at such a simple gesture. “I did intent to come back, one way or another. I’m so very sorry for taking so long.” 

“Don’t lie to me,” Eggsy says, reflexive, because hope is the worst kind of torture, the fastest way to break someone.

Harry’s thumb brushes the corner of Eggsy’s eye, as if wiping away tears. “Eggsy, darling, tell me: do you wish I didn’t catch you, just now? Do you wish I’d have let you leave?”

It’s a diversionary tactic. It must be. “Doesn’t matter. You caught me.”

“Did you want me to?” 

If Eggsy says no, then Harry will let him go. That’s the way Harry is. Gentlemen don’t push when someone says no. 

But Eggsy remembers chasing Harry down corridors and staircases. He knows Harry has chased him down, leaving the rest of the world in his wake. They’ve been playing this game a very long time, of catching each other and then letting them go, promising another round. Eggsy thinking every time, not yet, I won’t tell him yet.

It means something, right? It means something damn important for Harry to choose Eggsy right now, right here.

“Of course I wanted you to, you wanker,” Eggsy says, and pulls Harry down and kisses him.

Harry kisses him back, no hesitation in his lips or tongue or hands. He winds a strong arm around Eggsy’s waist and presses close, licking into Eggsy’s mouth like Eggsy is the only thing keeping him alive. Eggsy dizzily thinks his knees might be going weak.

“Darling,” Harry says, his teeth tugging at Eggsy’s lower lip briefly before he continues. “I’m dreadfully in love with you.”

Eggsy bursts into delirious laughter, which is probably not the exact response Harry was expecting to his confession of love, but fuck it, this is the best moment of Eggsy’s life and it’s fucking hilarious.

“Yeah, I love you too,” Eggsy giggles madly. He forces himself to explain when Harry shoots him another puzzled look. “I can’t believe I’m fucking Cinderella.”

Harry catches on. “It’s not midnight yet.”

“And you were supposed to be the fairy godfather,” Eggsy says, laughter leaking through his words.

“That would be Merlin, in this case. Though I think he intends to lord it over me for the rest of my life, asking him to set this up.”

Eggsy stops laughing and gawks. “You mean—oh shit, Merlin knew? Wait, was the mission a set up?" Then, another revelation that is obvious in hindsight: "So that’s why Roxy made me practice the girl’s part for the waltz!”

“I was supposed to introduce you to my aunt,” Harry says, and apparently this is Eggsy’s life now. Having other spies set him up for ballroom dances with royalty. Getting introduced to the Queen of England as a son-in-law of sorts. Saving the world and getting the guy.

This is turning into one hell of a fairytale.

"So I don't have to leave an oxford on the staircase?" Eggsy teases, running his fingertips down Harry's cheek, lingering at the corner of Harry's mouth, watching the edges of that mouth soften into a familiar look, feeling Harry give in to Eggsy entirely.

"It's not that kind of fairytale, love." Harry kisses him, a sweet lingering moment of warmth. “And thank goodness for that. Eggsy, darling boy, if I were your fairy godfather, I would never have let you go. How could I send you to someone else when you could be mine?”

Eggsy shivers, his blood running hot, his hips against Harry’s. “Good thing I don’t want to go anywhere else, yeah?”

-

Harry takes Eggsy by the hand and leads him back to the ballroom. It should be terrifying, the faces of all these people, people who have power and money and the potential to destroy everything Harry has to build from here on out, judging their twined fingers, a future full of cameras and paparazzi and Harry’s reputation dragged through the mud.

But here, by Harry’s side, Eggsy feels invincible. He’s right where he belongs.

He catches Tilde’s approving grin and a delighted Roxy smiling at him. His glasses are back, perched on his nose, and Merlin’s voice is a comforting hum in his ear.

They come to a stop in front of the Queen, imposing even in her wheelchair, and Eggsy bows down. “Your Majesty.”

She smiles at the both of them, her hands outstretched as she beckons him closer. She smiles like all the other incredible women in Eggsy’s life do. Proud and welcoming. “So you’re the young man Harry is so taken with.”

Sod fairytales. Reality is so much better.

-

“What with your gentleman schtick, I was kinda expecting us to take it slow,” Eggsy says, maybe a bit late, considering that he’s not wearing anything but his underwear anymore. “Didn’t take you for the type to put out on a first date.”

Harry, who’s already naked and has a cock befitting of a king, looks up from where he’s kneeling between Eggsy’s legs on the mattress, his expression a cross between chagrined and concerned. “We can wait until you’re ready, if you like.” Wait, is he smirking? “My princess.”

“Oh hell no,” Eggsy grouses, hooking a leg around Harry’s back and pulling him in. “You were sleeping beauty first, so you’re the princess.”

“We can both be princesses,” Harry says with a straight face, the wanker. One day Eggsy is going to figure out how to make him splutter. “And I am perfectly fine with going slow.”

“I could make an old man joke right there.”

Harry peels Eggsy’s briefs off and gives his cock a good hard stroke that has Eggsy’s elbows abruptly giving out beneath him, the back of his head hitting the bed as he gasps. He can hear the smugness in Harry’s voice when he says, “I’m sorry, this old man can’t hear you very well. Would you mind repeating yourself?”

Eggsy whines in response, the sound escaping him involuntarily as Harry works his cock roughly in punishing strokes. The tension ratchets up his spine, his toes flexing in anticipation of his orgasm, and he’s almost there—

—and Harry fucking stops.

“What,” Eggsy manages to wheeze, and then feels Harry’s hands lifting his arse up, spreading him open. The bottom half of Eggsy’s back is suspended in midair, supported by Harry’s hands and Eggsy’s feet planted on the mattress, and his whole body heats up when he feels Harry’s breath against somewhere the sun definitely does not shine (and oh fuck, Eggsy is definitely not thinking of The Lion King right now, what is his fucking life and Disney movies).

“You took a shower, before the ball.” Harry isn’t asking. He’s confirming something that he already knows. Probably just to watch Eggsy squirm. Bastard.

“Yes, I fucking did,” Eggsy says. 

Harry hums, his breath curling over his hole and making Eggsy shudder all the way to his toes, and then he dives in, tongue first.

“Oh fuck me,” Eggsy decidedly does not beg, as Harry goes to town on eating him out, like a man starved and Eggsy’s arse is a fucking buffet. Harry licks a broad stripe up across his opening, then screws his tongue in, opening Eggsy up in wet, dripping increments. He can feel Harry’s nose pressed hard against the soft skin under his balls, and the sounds Harry makes are filthy, slurping and moaning like tonguefucking Eggsy is the most pleasurable thing in the world. 

And god, does that make Eggsy go all hot and bothered, feeling Harry’s spit dripping from his skin, his long fingers tattooing bruises into Eggsy’s hips and arse. Eggsy’s cock is so hard it's almost painful. He’s so close, almost on the brink of release, but he fists his hands into the bedsheets and pants, “Harry, too close.”

Harry pulls away, grinning, his chin and lips wet with saliva, and fuck, Eggsy loves him so much. 

“Get up here and kiss me,” Eggsy says, scrabbling at Harry’s arms, shoulders, every part of him that he can reach. Harry laughs, his half-smile now a full-blown curve on those reddened lips, and its everything Eggsy ever wanted. 

Harry kisses him, slow and wet, taking his time until Eggsy’s arousal is less of a tornado ripping through him, more of an insistent buzz of heat in his veins. Then Harry moves downward, trailing indulgent open-mouthed kisses down Eggsy’s jaw, his throat, his collarbone. He lavishes attention to both of Eggsy’s nipples, licking and kissing until Eggsy whines and pushes his head away. Harry’s chuckle is a pleasant vibration against Eggsy’s sternum. He mouths a wet trail down Eggsy’s stomach, bypasses his cock entirely, and presses a wet kiss to the inside of Eggsy’s left thigh, scraping his teeth against the flesh there. 

By the time Harry pulls back again, settling between Eggsy’s sprawled knees, Eggsy’s spreading his legs, shamelessly begging. “Harry, please, fuck me. I need you inside me right now, Harry.”

Harry pushes lubed fingers into Eggsy and keeps saying things like it’s alright, my love and we’re almost there, darling boy and just a little more, sweetheart, and the endearments just make Eggsy flush hotter, his spine melting with every word, every twist of those long, fantastic fingers.

Then Harry’s fingers are gone, the absence a cold, empty space in Eggsy’s core, and he blinks dazedly down to see Harry rolling on a condom and squeezing more lube onto himself.

“I miss you,” Eggsy says stupidly. 

And Harry, ever still the fucking super spy who can read minds, understands him. He crawls up over him and kisses Eggsy’s mussed hair. Says, “I’ll never leave you behind again.”

Eggsy isn’t sure if his eyes are stinging because of what Harry said or because Harry’s cock is breaching him, splitting him open, but either way, he thinks Harry won’t judge him for the tears.  

Harry bottoms out, waits until Eggsy nods, and then rocks out and in, repeating until his thrusts gradually grow stronger, slamming into Eggsy in a slow rhythm punctuated with Eggsy's name and I love yous. 

He hits Eggsy’s prostate on a particularly harsh thrust and Eggsy sees fucking stars, so bright that he could make a wish on them, and he does. He says Harry’s name, over and over and over. Harry is Eggsy’s wish come true, the only thing he wants to keep. 

“Come for me,” Harry growls, his pupils blown and his breath hot against the juncture where neck meets jaw, below his ear. Eggsy’s blood is liquid fire, burning him inside out, and he screams when Harry bites down.

-

The bite mark is probably going to be in the tabloids.

Eggsy feels incredibly stiff in front of all these reporters and cameras. The cameras are huge. Eggsy didn’t know cameras could be that huge before. He didn’t know press conferences could be more intimidating than mad scientists with machine guns.

Oh god, the BBC is filming this live. His mum is probably watching.

Scratch that, the whole country is probably watching.

Harry is doing most of the talking, with the Queen interjecting once or twice, giving her blessing and all that, while Harry calmly and eloquently explains that Eggsy here is his partner and Harry intends to marry him as soon as the law passes. Which Harry has every intention of browbeating into passing. 

Eggsy sits as still as he can, with his best, harmless smile, and keeps his hands folded in his lap, as if he isn’t itching to cover up the bite mark above his shirt collar.

-

Harry and Eggsy had a quick conference call, over creamed eggs and fruit in bed, with Merlin and Roxy, confirming that Springston et al. were harmless. 

“The other knights have agreed that for now, as unstable as the world is, it might be a better idea to temporarily create ties with the government. I will be taking on part of the previous Arthur’s duties as will Gawain and Percival, but it would be a waste if we let the opportunity to have a real King at the head of the table slip by,” Merlin had said. “So, are you on board?”

“Why not?” Harry had replied dryly. “At least it won’t be as boring as taking tea with politicians.”

“Good to have you back, King Arthur." Merlin had smiled, his joy genuine, before turning to address Eggsy. "Eggsy, you’re now officially assigned as Arthur’s bodyguard. And whatever else he wants you to do that I want to know nothing about.”

Roxy had snickered and said, “So guess what your codename is?”

-

Harry heaves a sigh, the frustration palpable in the tension of his shoulders, and Eggsy leans a little closer to him. He feels rather than sees Harry turning to him, his mouth close enough to Eggsy’s ear that his voice can be pitched at a low, private tone that sends pleasant thrills down Eggsy's spine.

“My dear Guinevere, I’m afraid extreme measures are in order.”

Eggsy blinks. “Okay.”

And then Harry hauls Eggsy over by the front of his jacket, kissing him in front of the Queen and bloody England. 

There are flashes going off, as well as a lot of raised voices from the journalists, which reminds Eggsy that his bite mark is really going to be the least of his worries about tabloid fodder now. He really can’t find it in himself to give a fuck.

“You just kissed me on national telly,” Eggsy points out after they separate.

“Had to let everyone know you were off the market, darling,” Harry says. And yes, this is the Harry that Eggsy loves. The Harry who doesn’t give two shits about what other people think, who doesn’t have time for snobbery, who loves Eggsy and isn’t ashamed about it. This is the Harry that Eggsy is going to follow for the rest of his life. 

It's not a guaranteed happy ending just yet, but Eggsy isn’t scared. Not of the reporters and front pages. Not of guns and knives. Not of the whole fucking world, as long as he’s got Harry. The Commonwealth better be fucking ready for them.

“You can do better than that,” Eggsy says, and kisses him again. 

Harry laughs into the kiss, and it sounds like a promise. Like happily ever after.