Three months after Harry Hart is shot outside a church in Kentucky, but five months before he shows up in the shop unannounced, a young man jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge.
See, here’s the thing; people who are dead are supposed to stay dead.
You get shot in the head, and that’s a one way trip to the morgue.
Eggsy knows this, clear as day, yet that doesn’t stop him from standing in front of the empty grave with Harry’s name on it and begging him to come back, to prove them all wrong and fix everything. He spills out all the unsaid words, the apologies for messing everything up, the what ifs and could haves spilling from his lips as though they could change what had happened.
Harry doesn’t come back. (Not then.)
And Eggsy goes on with his life.
He does his job, sinks down into the suits that been made for him, stares in a mirror until his face looks less like his own and more like the ghost of a dead man.
He becomes Galahad and wonders sometimes if he’s doing it right, if Harry would be proud.
Of course, nobody notices the way his gaze lingers in the mirror, the subtle shifts in his habits until they think it’s too late.
Staring at a screen long after the feed has gone dead, his handler will confess, “He had never said anything that would indicate...” before falling silent once more.
Contrary to popular belief, Harry did not die that day in Kentucky.
One of the advantages of being shot by a rookie megalomaniac with a weak stomach is the lack of any semblance of aim.
He wakes up in a dingy hospital decorated in garnish green streamers, and with the sounds of an American news station coming from a television on the wall.
It takes three minutes for somebody to realize he’s woken up.
It takes three weeks for him to remember his name. Everything comes rushing back at once as he stands in front of a bathroom mirror, washing invisible blood off his hands for what feels like the hundredth time that day.
Remembering who you are doesn’t necessarily mean wanting to have it all back, so when the nurse comes in to ask him the basics once again, he puts on that charming innocent smile he’s used on too many missions and replies, “There’s still nothing in here, I’m afraid.”
“Perhaps, that’s for the best.”
“Perhaps it is.”
There’s a man standing before a payphone, fingers hitting familiar keys, and the sound of almost labored breathing, before he mumbles out “Oxfords, not brogues.”
The voice on the other side sounds confused as they reply, “What now?”
“Sorry, wrong number.”
Eggsy’s barely free of his latest mission, bruises still littering his body as he gets back to his flat. Everything feels a bit like he’s going through the motions – bruise cream rubbed into the aches on his skins, tea kettle set to boil only to be forgotten a moment later when a finger of whiskey is poured out, voicemail absentmindedly pressed to play.
The first is an altogether unremarkable message from his mother, asking if he could bring round some eggs the next time he comes to visit. The second is a reminder from Merlin to actually listen to his doctor’s instructions and try to rest. And the third-
It only lasts for a second, just two words in a familiar voice that has him freezing in place. A voice so familiar that he aches at the sound of it.
Then again, there’s not much that doesn’t hurt anymore.
He listens to the message a hundred more times, as if hearing it yet another time will somehow change the message, will make this all more real.
“You’re a right bastard,” he says to the empty room, pressing play on the recording again.
He takes the next mission that will put him in the States without a second thought.
“It’s been forty-eight hours. Do you want to call it?”
“Two Galahads in less than a year,” the man replies, standing to get the customary decanter from its place on the mantel. “Figures that boy would follow Harry down.”
“I had hoped he’d last longer.”
There’s a man that lives in the farmhouse down at the end of the street. The neighbors have long learned to steer clear, eyeing the rickety gate with a sense of apprehension. The fields are left to grow wild, the barn empty of animals.
It takes barely a week before the first wife sitting in her pew insists, “It ain’t natural,” before the congregation begins to sing.
Rumors start up, predictable in a small town such as theirs where the outsider is an oddity meant to be wary of. Children dare each other to run up to the porch and ring the bell, but they never make it up the steps. Half the time people don’t even believe there’s anybody living in the old farmhouse.
The town’s pastor insists he met the man once, being a good neighbor and all that, but saw the makings of the devil in his eyes.
Only one person that makes it to the door. She works at the hospital two cities over and tells her neighbors that he’s just an old man who can’t remember his way home, though nobody listens to her.
The kind nurse pushes her tea cup across the table, “Surely there’s something you want to do, even if you can’t remember nobody?”
“I’m exactly where I want to be,” the strange man insists, and though the words are clearly a lie, she doesn’t push the issue.
“To Galahad,” he says, not for the first time that year.
“To Galahad,” the table echoes, not for the last time.
It should be a simple mission; get in and get out. Nimue’s voice is in his ear, softly directing him towards the extraction point, but he’s only half-listening to her.
Eggsy pulls the glasses off his face at the same time as he tells the cabbie to stop. They’re on the middle of the bridge, but it doesn’t matter with the slow crawl of traffic, the cab is already immobile and easy enough to escape from.
His feet move of their own accord, weaving between cars, on an unstoppable path. He shrugs off his suit jacket, toes off his shoes, and steps onto the ledge.
There’s a cacophony of voices erupting all at once, people walking along, cars slowed by traffic, somebody shouting at him to get away from the edge.
And amongst it all there is a moment where he almost doesn’t do it. Where he stares down at the water below, the dark swirling of the waves, and thinks about stepping back onto the solid ground, making it to the extraction point, going back to London-
But then he hears those two words in the back of his head, an echo of a ghost of a memory.
The water beneath the bridge is icy cold.
“No, no, you people don’t get to do this to me again.”
“My apologies, ma’am, I wish I didn’t have to.”
Making that call had been a risk.
He’d worked hard to build up this new life, a new existence away from the rest of the world, away from the man he used to be. And he was willing to risk losing all of that, if only to keep tabs on the one thing he had left behind in the world.
Never had he imagined how his boy might react to those words.
He hears the story too late, sitting in his breakfast nook as the world news plays comforting before him. The latest story of interest for the American public is a man falling off a bridge. Clearly a suicide, though that doesn’t stop the rampant speculation regarding the mysterious businessman who took his final plunge.
For a while the man in the bridge even trends on twitter, not that he follows such trends.
It’s there though, staring at a grainy picture taken by a cell phone, that he realizes he recognizes the pinstripes on that suit jacket and the part of that hair – it’s a look he had worn too many times in years gone past to ever be able to forget.
His fingers shake as he opens the plastic bag filled to the brim with green bills, “One train to Kentucky.”
“That’s a long way,” the bored employee behind the desk says. “It’ll take you about two days.”
“I’ve waited this long. A few more days ain’t gonna make much of a difference.”
It’s a rainy day in May when the funeral takes place, a week from when he took the plunge, and four days since the Kingsman extraction team gave up on their search of the waters under the bridge.
She stands in the back where nobody can see her, hunched down in her seat because she shouldn’t even be here. There were protocols and while Lancelot and Galahad may have worked together, technically as far as public records were concerned Roxanne Morton and Gary Unwin would never have known each other.
“I can’t believe they had it engraved with Gary,” she says, stepping up to pay her own regards, a flower on a headstone, “you hated that.”
A bitter laugh rolls up in her throat as she looks at the empty grave and its twin beside it. Merlin’s planning no doubt, a testament to the boy who followed his mentor to the stone.
“Do you remember those body bags, Merlin made us fill out on the first day of training?” she asks the freshly covered dirt, doing her best not to think about the empty casket below the surface. “You wrote Eggsy on that, stuck with the name too, even while Charlie and his goons teased at you, and now,” she trails off, her throat suddenly feeling far too tight.
She barely even notices the umbrella over her head until its owner speaks up, “This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.”
“Oh, I’m not quite sure it’s over yet.”
“Could I buy a stamp?”
He feels a bit crazy, standing in some hospital with bags under his eyes and a stolen jumper draped over his shoulders. The receptionist looks at him like he’s crazy as he tries to explain the man he’s looking for.
Figures that mentioning the whole ‘being shot in the head but not dead’ thing would be a bit off putting, but the last hospital had directed him here and this has to be the place. He just knows it in his bones.
Still, the receptionist tries to send him off, insisting that plenty of people came around after Valentine’s Day and she can’t get him all the files, can’t narrow it down when all he has is a vague description and a look of desperation in his eyes.
It’s not until a nurse returning from her lunch break happens to hear his crazed rambling, asking simply, “Your friend, what’s his name?”
They’re packing up the house, preparing it for the next person to take up the helm, when his eyes settle on the blinking light of the answering machine.
As soon as the saved message finishes he curses under his breath, “For fuck’s sake, Harry.”
Reunions seldom go the way they are planned.
Ever since he made that call he had imagined how this would go. Would there be anger in the young man’s eyes, soft hurt, or perhaps something greater than that? Would Eggsy drag him out the door and all the way back to London, or would he drag him into a kiss that was long overdue?
Faced with Eggsy on the other side of the open door, he’s not certain which outcome he would rather have.
“You grew a beard,” are the first words out of Eggsy’s mouth, and compared to all the other alternatives this one isn’t quite so bad.
“I was attempting to blend in with the locals.”
“Go shave that fucking thing off, yeah? Looks like a drowned cat.”
“You would know all about drowning, wouldn’t you?”
The romantic reunion with hurried fingers and gasping breath happens later that evening, crowding together on a bed that’s really meant for one and creaks with each movement.
The less pleasant one happens days later, over lukewarm tea watered down by angry tears.
Hours later, with moonlight streaming in through the windows and casting shadows about the room, he says the words that he’d first heard on an answering machine over a month ago.
They kiss like it’s as natural as breathing.
They make love as though they have all the time in the world.
He imagines that he could get used to this life.
There is something about the slow countryside that fills the corners of the world, slowing everything down until all he can think about is Harry and how perfect it is to be here with him, to be alive.
It’s different from the city he had grown up in, with the sounds of sirens and the screeching of tires. Quiet in a way the world had never been before. The taste of stale beer is long forgotten, in its place the taste of lips against his own.
He begins to understand the pastoral poets, as they make love in the middle of a field with stars overhead.
Perhaps this is their personal Elysium.
There’s a postcard in the mailbox from San Francisco, a simple message in a familiar handwriting from beyond the grave, I’ll be home soon.
He is a selfish man.
This he has known for years, hoarding precious things in his London townhouse, pinning down butterfly wings and putting them on display in glass cases.
He imagines that he could do the same with Eggsy, hold him here in this moment, where everything is slower, where the past is behind them. Where he isn’t jumping at the shadows in the corner of his eye, or out of an airplane, or off a-
But the past does not do a good job staying away.
He wakes up more nights than not fingers itching for a gun that isn’t under his pillow.
Or to the sensation of soft fingers hunting for his pulse point, and a broken, “Please be real.”
“What’s the deal with the neighbors?”
“Most of them think I’m a shut-in who’s lost his mind.”
He laughs at that, “And who says you ain’t?”
Most people avoid him; no matter how many times Eggsy flashes them a smile, they seem to view him with apprehension. He blames Harry, that antisocial git, for his part in that.
He runs into the pastor’s wife in the grocery.
She smiles at him with a fake pearly white smile saying, “It’s good you came into town. We were all worried about your father, living alone and all.”
“Oh ma’am, he ain’t my da,” Eggsy says with a wink, before grabbing the biggest box of sugary cereal off the shelf, and tacking on a blatantly suggestive, “If ya know what I mean?”
She looks appropriately scandalized, as Eggsy points out as he regales Harry with the tale later, doing his best to make his face into the expression he’d last seen on the woman’s features. Harry looks amused, and he counts that as a small victory.
The next Sunday the pastor preaches on the sin of sodomy.
Which is considerably a larger victory.
“Have you ever thought of going home, going back to Kingsman, to London-“
“You know I’m staying wherever you are.”
He tries to pack their lives into boxes one morning, putting everything he needs to keep with him into cardboard containers.
The pressed leaf that had fallen into Eggsy’s hair, the bible that had appeared in their mailbox the morning after one of Eggsy’s grocery trips, that coffee pot that he’d chipped when his hands shook too much and he thought he’d seen the blood coating his fingers again.
He’s nearly finished the first box when a mumbled voice greets him, “What are you up to?”
Eggsy has never been a morning person, probably never will be. His hair sticks up over his face, a soft tired grin on his face, and this is the man that he fell in love with.
To think he had once considered a life without him.
“Packing,” he replies. “Come help me.”
“We going on a trip?”
“We don’t have to go back,” he says one late night, fingers mapping out the gentle slope of his lover’s shoulders. “We’re both dead men, nobody will ever come looking for us.”
“I came looking for you.”
“That you did, my darling.”
It’s a late October evening when Harry Hart steps into the Kingsman tailor shop with his boy by his side and asks, “Could we get a fitting?”