"Maybe they're deciding to have you kill me," Eggsy says, as the plane gains altitude and Stockholm Arlanda shrinks to a speck far below.
"Don't be silly," Roxy says. "Ice?"
She waves the tongs around like she's been on hundreds of luxury jets where the bar includes individually watermarked tumblers for the three available types of whiskey, handcrafted bitters in a smoky glass bottle like something out of the Arabian Nights, and silver ice tongs. Probably she has. She's changed out of her Halo suit and back into her jeans and Sloaney blazer, and she spent the first half of the flight bonding terrifyingly with Tilde while Eggsy sulked on the green tartan loveseat and tried to decide if he's going to be seeing fireworks of exploding heads when he closes his eyes for the rest of his life, or only for the next decade.
"Cheers," Eggsy says, distracted.
"Come on, Eggsy, staring at the door won't make them talk any faster."
"You don't know that," Eggsy says, but he takes the drink she hands him.
Merlin and Harry have been shut up in the cockpit for the entire flight, doing important Kingsman damage control and probably casually deciding the fates of nations in between demolishing fifteen packets of crisps, which Eggsy has been counting because he has to fetch them another one every time Merlin gets on the intercom to bawl, "I'm famished, is there no real food on this godforsaken aircraft," sounding more Scottish every time.
Eggsy had thought it was all in the name of secrecy, but they're still at it even now that they've dropped the Crown Princess off to be mobbed by her adoring public, and the only people left on board are Kingsman agents, or at least Kingsmen employees, or at least prospective--
Balls to the lot of them, Eggsy thinks, throwing back half of the generous triple measure that Roxy's poured him. And especially Harry bloody Hart.
Roxy sits down next to him and bumps his shoulder with hers. They sip for a while in silence.
"You look good," Roxy says finally. "In the suit."
He's looked better. Not even a Kingsman suit can survive being hastily removed, thrown onto the floor, and then even more hastily put on again, without looking a bit roughed up. But Eggsy grins.
"Yeah, look at me. Silver spoon firmly lodged in arse."
"Mmhm," Roxy says.
Eggsy bites his tongue and almost fumbles the glass right out of his hands. "I--I mean--shit."
Roxy smirks and gets an arm around his shoulders, then pulls him down until he's lying across her lap. She nabs his glass neatly with her other hand on the way, and finishes both his whiskey and her own in two quick swigs.
"Steady on, Rox."
"I fell all the way from the edge of the bloody atmosphere, Eggsy," Roxy says. A shudder runs through her legs. "I have the right to get as drunk as I see fit."
"Fair'nuff," Eggsy decides.
Roxy sets down the empty glasses and rests her folded arms on Eggsy's side. Eggsy closes his eyes. She's warm and so's his chest and his belly, from the whiskey, and now that the day's adrenaline is draining away, lying on his side is kind of nice, really. Tilde had some serious core strength going on and she wasn't shy about using it.
He tenses and his eyes jerk wide when the cockpit door opens and Harry emerges.
"Eggsy," Harry says, calm as anything. "If I could have a word."
Eggsy unfolds himself from Roxy, who gives him a bracing pat on the arm as he follows Harry down the body of the jet and into the little munitions room closer to the tail. Harry closes the door behind them and leans against it, clearly setting as much distance between them as he can in the small space; knowing Eggsy's luck he's about to have the it's not you it's me talk from a bloke old enough to be his dad, how fucking embarrassing.
Eggsy plunges ahead anyway, because that's the kind of stupid he is.
"So you heard all of that back at Valentine's, then, with her Royal Sex-toyness?"
"I did," Harry says.
Eggsy can't for the life of him tell what he's meant to be getting from Harry's expression here, whether it's disapproval or apology or what. Knowing Harry, this bland nothingness is just another piece in the spy puzzle, but Eggsy's tired and sore and narrowly keeping himself from going bright red and desperate at the thought of Harry listening, and he's not in the mood to treat his own humiliation like one of Merlin's fucking tests.
"Alright then," he says, lobbing the noncommittal grenade right back.
"Tell me what happened in your Marines training, Eggsy."
"Shall I repeat the question?"
Eggsy blinks, recalibrating jerkily, like one of Merlin's clipboards after you've spilled tea on the thing. "I told you. Me mum went mental--"
"So you just walked out? Just like that?"
Eggsy can already feel his nails digging into his palms. "Harry, what is this?"
Harry says, "I told you I looked up your reports. You had brilliant marks in all the skills domains, but--well, attitude problem covers most of it. Your sergeants were optimistic, however. A few more months and they'd have had you in hand."
"See? I'd have done it," Eggsy snaps. "I'd have done fine. But I didn't want to hurt me mum."
"Surely she would have objected when you first applied."
Eggsy squirms. "Yeah, she did."
"So then why--"
"Jesus, Harry, what the fuck do you want from me?"
It's Harry's turn to blink behind his glasses, leaving the tinny echo of Eggsy's shout to press down on the both of them, above the rattling hum of the plane's engine.
"Why did you leave the Marines, Eggsy?" Harry asks, gently.
Eggsy looks down at his hands and twists the electric signet ring to and fro on his finger, struggling.
"I worked so bloody hard," he says. "I wanted it, I wanted to do well, and I did. And I thought I knew how to cope with people yelling at me all the time, calling me useless, breaking me down, I could see the point of it, yeah? But it was just. It was just like living with Dean all over again. So that, that's why." He takes a deep breath and looks up. Harry isn't quite smiling, but Eggsy takes courage from him anyway; he always has. "All that shite that Merlin put us through, the job interview. You lot were pushing me, tricking me, but it always made me feel better about myself. Not worse."
"And what about shooting JB?" Harry says.
Bloody hell, this is like their disorientation training: blindfolded and knocked around in the back of a van, hands tied. Eggsy grits his teeth and stays as stubbornly silent as he had during that task, because Harry's clearly set some mission outcomes for this conversation and Eggsy's only getting in the way.
Harry sighs. "Part of being a Kingsman has always been the ability to obey orders without question. I'm sure I don't have to explain why that is vital in the field. Understand me, Eggsy, nobody has ever been made a Kingsman agent who failed that test."
"Yeah?" Eggsy glares. "So I should have kept me mouth shut and done what Arthur told me to do, is that it? Guess what, Harry, most of the people in the world would be dead."
"Well, exactly," Harry says, wrenching the conversation round another hairpin corner. "You can see that the organisation now finds itself with something of a dilemma. Eggsy, you are bright, and talented, and caring. And after what you've done today, Merlin and I will both vouch for you as undoubtable Kingsman material. How could we make it so that you would trust your orders enough to carry them out, even if the point of them isn't clear to you at the time?"
Eggsy is miles away from knowing if that question's rhetorical or not. He clings to his anger and to the memory of sodding Arthur's sodding stuck-up, sneering face, as he tried to kill Eggsy with a drink that was meant to honour the best person in Eggsy's life.
"I thought I was joining something good, alright? Something worthwhile. But Kingsman's only as good as the person at the top."
"I think you and Roxanne have already proven that that's not the case," Harry says, with a bit of a smile.
Eggsy slumps against the wall, feeling every bruise like it's new, and tells the truth.
"You want to make sure I jump when I'm told?" he demands. "It'd better be you doing the telling, Harry."
Harry says, looking sad, "I rather suspected that would be the case."
Harry reaches for the door back into the rest of the jet, but Eggsy's not done; no, Eggsy's just remembered what he originally wanted out of this conversation before Harry hijacked it.
Harry turns back, eyebrows raised.
"Are we going to talk about the--y'know," because a gentleman probably doesn't come right out and say: about the fact that I've been dreaming about you fucking me senseless since the day we met, that a nosy Swedish bird with a strap-on managed to drag that fact out of me through cunning use of fingering, and that you apparently heard the whole thing happen.
Harry's throat moves. "I don't know if that would be wise," he says, careful.
And you know what, fuck careful, fuck gentlemanly behaviour, because Eggsy thought Harry was dead and if he's honest he's still reeling from the whiplash of having him here, whole, alive, close enough for Eggsy to reach out and demand the proof of his pulse.
"You don't want me, then, you say it to my face, yeah? Say it."
That magnetic gaze of Harry's sweeps down Eggsy's suit and back up again. And then suddenly Harry's striding forward and crowding him against the wooden panel to kiss him, Harry's hands are cupping his face and his mouth is hard and hungry, so hard that Eggsy's split lip reopens with a glorious sting of pain. Eggsy hears himself make a sound that's at least half pure surprise. The other half of it is a moan a porn star might be proud of, because Jesus, he's never been kissed like this, like he's something addictive and unbreakable, like Harry's trying to short-circuit his nervous system and drive him right out of his mind. He's only just recovered himself enough to clutch at Harry's shoulders and kiss back, as sweet and deep and dirty as he knows how, when Harry pulls away.
"My lovely boy," Harry says, somehow making it sound both deeply fond and like you filthy tart. "That is not what I'm saying."
Eggsy probably looks a right idiot, opening and closing his mouth while most of his higher faculties thump and whir like an engine stalled between gears. A small functioning portion of his brain rages at his body to do something, do anything, to keep Harry in this tiny room and continuing down the path of ravishment. But his palms and fingers have gone numb, as though Harry's firm tongue found some kind of off-switch tucked away in the inner curve of Eggsy's lips, and Harry slips easily away from him and back across to the door.
"Holy fuck, Harry," he manages. "You can't just--and then--"
Harry looks back at him with one hand poised to open the door.
"I suppose," Harry says thoughtfully. "Hmm. All right. There is something you can do for me, Eggsy. As an exercise, of sorts."
God, Eggsy hopes the words mile high club are about to make an appearance.
"I would take it very kindly, Eggsy, if you would refrain from touching yourself."
It's classic Harry: so many words folded delicately around a simple idea that it takes a moment to click. When it does, Eggsy feels his heart rate pick up.
"I can do that," he says, putting a bit of a drawl in it, just because. "Until when?"
"Yes," Harry says, "that is the question, isn't it?"
And he steps back out into the body of the jet, leaving Eggsy half-hard and sucking his bleeding lip and dizzy with what-the-everloving-fuckery.
Once he knocks Dean to the floor of the Black Prince with a well-aimed stein, the rest of Dean's goons--the ones who were there when Harry first exploded Eggsy's world, and who will probably steer clear of toffs in good suits for the rest of their lives--fold like wet fucking tissues. Eggsy has a moment of despair that limp-dicked specimens such as these managed to get through V-Day with no more than minor injuries, but he leaves them be. Despite how much he's aching to deliver a bollocking they'll never forget, he's probably fought enough people for one week. And he's pretty sure Harry would have something to say on the subject of hurting unarmed men who are backed up and huddling in a pub booth with their hands in the air, blathering on about how they're sorry, no harm done mate, no sore feelings, they'll explain it all to Dean when he comes to, yeah?
Eggsy keeps the umbrella in prominent view.
His mum is looking at him with her lips pressed together. That expression means Gary Charles Unwin We Will Have Words About This, and Eggsy was scared silly of it up to the age of thirteen.
"A job with a tailor, you said?" she says.
"Yeah, that's right," Eggsy says.
She steps slowly around the unconscious Dean, glancing from the umbrella to the shoes to the glasses, on Eggsy who's never worn glasses in his life. She's not dumb, his mum. She was there when Harry delivered the news about his dad, and God only knows what Roxy said to her on the phone to get her to lock herself away from Daisy on no more than the word of a stranger.
Eggsy swallows and holds his shoulders firm, because if she asks him straight out...well, he's not going to say anything, because Kingsman is a secret that belongs to other people too, and he promised Harry he'd keep his mouth shut and so he'll take it to his grave. But he's going to feel a right tosser about lying to his mum.
"Well, that's nice," she says finally. "I'm pleased for you, Eggs. Come on then, Liane Bromley's watching your sister, we can pick her up from there."
Once they've collected Daisy, his mum directs them all home, where they pack boxes. Lots of boxes. So many boxes that Eggsy starts to think longingly of his Kingsman training, where he'd turned up with nothing more than what he was wearing.
"The house comes with tables and beds and all that, Mum. And I can buy you new clothes."
"Well that's a kind offer, love, but it doesn't mean I don't want to hold onto the ones I've got. Here--take this, and go pack up Daisy's toys."
Eggsy escapes to a corner of the bedroom, eyes the amount of shit that appears to have been multiplying in the wardrobes over the course of his entire life, and calls Merlin. Half an hour later there's a white moving van parked down on the street, and two burly blokes appear and carry boxes up and down from the house while half the estate peers over their railings and Doris Grainger from next door, seventy if she's a day, puffs interestedly on a fag and shows off her boob job in a singlet top it's at least ten degrees too cold for.
The new house is a terrace in Earls Court, pale green and cheerful on the outside and proper posh on the inside. It's not even the fussy, lived-in, weirdly comforting poshness of Harry's place, but something stern and sterile that makes Eggsy feel both like taking off his shoes and like nicking some spray paint to tag the bare walls.
The burly blokes transfer all the boxes inside and Eggsy's mum drifts around from room to room exclaiming about how they're not even going to be able to sit on that chair, it's so new and so pointy, who the bloody hell can live with things like this? Eggsy tips out a box of toys onto the thick, red-and-amber patterned rug of the living room for Daisy to amuse herself with, leaves JB face-down in a bowl of dog biscuits, and does his own examination of the place exactly the way he's been taught: attic to cellar, making note of exits and locks and awkward corners and blind spots. After ten minutes he stops kidding himself he's not also checking for hidden cameras and bugs, goes back to the attic, and starts over, proper thorough this time. He finds two basic bugs in the bedrooms, another three in the living areas, and a totally pointless but fiendishly neat little marvel of engineering tucked under the edge of the dryer in the laundry.
Then he digs some stationery out of the leather-topped desk in the study (get out--what's Eggsy supposed to do with a study?) and seals the bugs up in an envelope on which he writes THANKS MERLIN along with a sketch of an extended middle finger, because when it comes to turning everything into a teachable moment that man just can't fucking help himself.
When he's done he finds his mum poking through the pantry and fridge in the kitchen, making faces at jars of odd-looking grains, and murmuring in a pleased way at the honest-to-god fruit bowl, full of apples and pears and oranges so precariously arranged that they look like they'd tumble to the ground the moment you nudged one. Eggsy's feeling peckish after all that paranoia; he lifts an apple away with his best sleight of hand, nods in satisfaction when the rest of the fruit trembles but stays in the bowl, and leans against the wall as he bites into it.
"That's more like it," His mum straightens up, kicks the freezer closed, and hoists a bag of oven-ready frozen chips. "Right, beans and chips for tea, then?"
So they eat baked beans heated up and spooned over chips, Eggsy's favourite since he was a kid, and for dessert there's some kind of chocolate mousse thing from M&S which is brilliant, and then they watch the telly with their socked feet up on the fancy glass coffee table, Daisy passed out in a happy, sticky, snoring lump between them.
The bedroom that Eggsy's picked for himself is the smallest one, with the best view of the street and the most handholds available if he ever has to scale the outside of the building. The bed's still enormous. Flushed and blissful from blasting himself under a hot shower, Eggsy burrows himself between the expensive sheets, all slippery and soft, and listens to the sleep-snuffles coming from JB's own little bed against the far wall. Really, Eggsy feels like he should be arranging his body diagonally in order to take best advantage; it's a waste of high-thread-count real estate, otherwise.
Or else he should have someone in the bed with him. That'd work too.
This is fucking cruel. If Harry hadn't gone and dropped that order on him all offhand, Eggsy probably wouldn't even be thinking about getting off. Except--sod it, that's a lie, he absolutely would, now that he knows Harry heard him, knows that Harry wants him, and knows that if Harry fucks anything like he kisses, it's going to be spectacular and brain-melting and leave Eggsy feeling like he's hit the ground from a height.
Eggsy shifts his legs against one another and bites his lip at how this makes his pyjama bottoms rub over the oversensitive skin of his cock. He should've made that shower colder. He's a bloke, he's young, he's easy for a pretty face or a good pair of legs, he's never denied himself the pleasure of a good wank when he's horny or restless or just plain bored. And now he's swimming against the tide of images that his brain seems to be producing out of sheer frustrated confusion: Harry in the plane with his shirt rolled up to his elbows and the skin of his throat visible. The skid of Tilde's hand down Eggsy's side, as he dropped his head between his braced elbows and gasped. Harry's mouth biting at his, confident and overwhelming and good. Harry's thumbs brushing his jaw.
For half a second the thought springs into Eggsy's head that he could do it anyway. His glasses are beside the bed, so he can wake and grab them easily if their alert is activated remotely, but they're facing downwards. He could be quiet, quick. Harry wouldn't know.
But it's pretty obvious that isn't the point of the exercise.
Eggsy rolls onto his stomach and shoves both of his hands underneath the pillow, manfully resists the urge to hump the mattress, and plants his face miserably on top of the pillowcase's embroidered Kingsman symbol.
"Sodding bleeding fucking hell," he says.
There's something very reassuring about the way the city ticks on. V-Day is still fresh in everyone's memory, unpleasant and undeniable as a steaming turd, but the English have always had ways of stepping over that kind of thing in the street. The media is still chewing the words tragedy unprecedented like they're trying to get the last bit of flavour from a bit of gum; the subfaction of UKIP that wants all mobile devices banned has had a screaming row with the subfaction of UKIP that thinks the whole thing could have been avoided if full metadata collection was standard practice and also if Valentine had been denied access to the country on grounds of being rich while black. And there's no denying the fact that a huge chunk of the population--including half of Parliament and a fair number of the royal family--died in various horrid ways, often at the hands of their loved ones
But this is still London. So everyone is bitching about delays on the Central line and what a shame it is that this season of GBBO was cut short because all the contestants went mental and murdered each other, which if you ask Eggsy stood a fair chance of happening even without Valentine's SIM cards.
"It's like the Blitz," says Roxy, who has been reading up on the role of the Kingsmen in World War II. Beneath that petite frame and sleek superior ponytail beats the heart, Eggsy is discovering, of a total nerd. She already speaks three languages and is working on the fourth and fifth, and she's having Merlin teach her about software encryption in her spare time because apparently her idea of fun outside work is more work.
"We've got to get you laid, Rox," Eggsy says.
Roxy lets the door to the tailor shop swing violently shut in his face, for that, and Eggsy's grinning as he opens it.
"Good afternoon, Ms Morton. Mr Unwin."
"Good afternoon, Caradoc," says Roxy. "I'm here to pick up my suit?"
"Fitting room one," says Caradoc, nodding her towards it.
The middle mannequin in the shop window had a red pocket square, which means the shop's doing normal business and strictly no spy talk allowed. Eggsy leans on his umbrella--which Harry has told him at least five times not to do, but Eggsy's cultivating it as a habit because Harry looks even more fit than usual when he's exasperated--and exchanges sympathetic glances with some poor prepubescent sod with a shock of red hair who's clearly been dragged here by his mum for Baby's First Bespoke Suit. The kid stands obediently still, sporting a mutinous expression, as one of Caradoc's minions flutters around him with the chalk and his equally redheaded mother has a nasal phone conversation about someone called Lauren having discovered wheatgerm liver cleanses, and this darling little antiques shop she stumbled across last week, and how much they're all looking forward to Majorca.
Eggsy's fingering a stack of fabric samples and trying to remember something that Harry said about pinstripes when Roxy emerges from the fitting room. Her suit's a lot paler than all of his, a shade of grey like clouds promising snow, and the jacket's cut snug at her waist. The trousers have wide legs and fall straight and neat to her black oxfords, which have a tiny but definite heel. Her tie is bright blue with a silver stripe and her eyes gleam behind the frames of her glasses.
"Rox," Eggsy says. "You look well smashing, honest."
"I do, don't I?" she says. For the first time since he's known Roxy there's something loose and girlish about her, like she might break into giggles.
"I didn't know you'd started dressing women," butts in Mrs Redhead, with an air that suggests she'd rather they'd started branching out into tiny monogrammed coats for dogs. (Which is a top idea, now that Eggsy thinks of it; JB would look wicked.) "I thought Kingsman was a traditional tailor."
"Times change, Lady Walter," says Caradoc calmly. "And it is our honour to change with them. We appreciated the challenge, Ms Morton. I trust you find the suit satisfactory?"
Roxy's mouth curves, sincere and sharp. "A girl could take on the world in this suit," she says.
"Caradoc, d'you mind if we use fitting room three?" asks Eggsy.
All evidence seems to suggest that Caradoc's no more than a superb tailor who knows how to keep his mouth shut, but then, Eggsy wouldn't be surprised if he also knew how to kill a man with a pincushion. He gives a bow and waves them towards it.
Lady Walter's mouth makes a scandalised little shape and she bustles her son into his own dressing room, like she's convinced the two of them are going to start shagging right there in the shop. It's a nice thought and all, but Eggsy decided about thirty seconds after meeting her that trying to get into Roxy's pants was a terrible fucking idea, and now she's his best mate and it'd be weird, and besides: one raging, panting crush on a coworker's enough to be getting on with, yeah?
Roxy looks over the toys--sorry, field gear--in the room behind fitting room three, chooses a watch that looks huge on her slender wrist but which she seems to love, and slaps Eggsy's hands away from the row of signet rings. She's not as quick as Harry, though, so he manages to distract her by getting her to practice clicking her heels and retracting the blade, and pockets a cigar cutter (slash portable EMP generator) mostly for how thunderous and pissy Merlin's expression is going to be when he discovers it's missing. Eggsy leaves the envelope of bugs tucked behind one of the iPads; that'll be explanation enough.
He and Roxy have moved on to picking up a long-running argument about sniper rifle sights, and Roxy's cooing over a weighted throwing dagger like it's her firstborn child, when there's a light knock on the dressing room door and Caradoc calls, "All clear, sir, madam. Ms Morton, the meeting is scheduled to begin in ten minutes."
For once, the Kingsman headquarters above the shop is something more than oppressively quiet. Eggsy spares an interested glance for the knights milling in the dining room--they all look the same to him, well dressed and dull as dirt, but he'd have said the same about Harry once upon a time--before poking his head around the door of Arthur's office, where Harry and Percival are standing near one of the bookcases with their heads bent over a leather-bound book.
"Ah, Eggsy," Harry says, glancing up. "And--Lancelot, good."
"Hello, Roxanne," says Percival.
"Sebastian," Roxy says, warmly. She walks into the room and Eggsy's half expecting them to shake hands, formal-like, or for some kind of posh cheek-kissing thing to occur, but instead they exchange a solemn, slow little fist-bump. "I didn't ask, is Daniel--"
"Alive," Percival says. "A broken arm, three cracked ribs, and he took a glass to the face that's going to leave a nasty scar."
"This feels crass," Roxy says, "but am I allowed to say, good?"
"Are all the knights really here? In person?" Eggsy asks.
"Mostly," Harry says. "Tristan's stranded in bloody Taiwan because the airports are still closed, but he'll remote in through his glasses."
"It's tradition," Percival says, tapping a finger against the open page of the book. "The selection of a new Arthur calls for all active agents to be physically present, where at all possible."
"So it is a vote, like?" Eggsy asks. "Or are there tests, oh, Harry, please tell me there's a duel."
Harry gives a faint smile. "I'm afraid, Eggsy, that deciding on a new Arthur is like the meeting of a church social committee where the person who edits the newsletter is stepping down, and nobody else wants to do it, and they sit around for two hours eating jam sandwiches and making polite demurrals until finally somebody snaps under the pressure and raises their hand."
"That's a rank shame," Eggsy says sagely. "I reckon you should duel."
"Percival, Lancelot," Harry says. He closes the book and hoists it under one arm. "Shall we?"
Percival steps back to let Harry lead the way out of the room, which Eggsy notices without knowing what it means. He's like that, these days: trained into registering the details, but often unable to translate, like someone crash-landed on a bloody alien planet. It's okay when it's just him and Harry, it's easy, it doesn't matter, but around people like Percival all of Eggsy's working-class instincts start to circle in his stomach like awkward sharks.
"D'you want me to--"
"Stay here, Eggsy," Harry says, and somehow manages to give it the same blasé heat as refrain from touching yourself. Eggsy's so startled by it he can feel all of his muscles pause in response. "This meeting is about you, too, you know."
To cover up for the shiver of arousal and nervousness that's still flicking its fingers against his skin, Eggsy strides around to the other side of Arthur's desk and arranges himself in the chair, legs in every direction and hands clasped across his chest. Harry looks at him for a second longer and his eyes go soft behind his glasses.
"Have a little faith," Harry says. "I'm hardly going to let you slip out of my hands."
Percival flicks a sharp glance at Eggsy, looking for something, but Eggsy just presses his laced fingers more firmly over his thudding heart and smirks back.
"Go on then," he says. "Save me a sandwich, yeah?"
It's quiet again once all the proper, official, shot their dog because they were told to Kingsman agents are shut up in the dining room. Eggsy considers putting a glass to the door or fetching a more sophisticated listening device from the toy room downstairs, but...Harry told him to stay, and Eggsy's apparently committing to this embarrassing spaniel routine. It's like he said on the jet: he's got faith in Harry, if nothing else.
Instead he does what any spy worth their salt would do when left alone in a room probably stuffed full of interesting secrets, and sets about seeing how many of them he can find. Picking the locked desk drawers doesn't reveal anything apart from the late Chester King's fondness for Maynards wine gums; Eggsy cracks a fresh packet and picks out all the black ones, which he jiggles in one hand and eats slowly as he inspects the bookshelves. There's a lot of dull poetry and a lot of military history and an unexpected selection of Ray Bradbury and Enid Blyton. Eggsy flicks fascinated through an illustrated volume of The Magic Faraway Tree and considers nicking it to read to Daisy before he notices the faint pencil marks that run through and between the lines of text about the Land of Tempers.
He goes back to the desk, makes himself comfortable, starts in on the red wine gums, and dredges up everything Merlin ever taught him about manual codebreaking.
He looks up sharply an unknown amount of time later, when the door to the dining room opens. Eggsy leaves the book with its unbroken code next to the notepad on which he's been scrawling endless matrices and alphabets and, alright, increasingly rude and violently underlined words, and goes to stand in the doorway as the knights file out of the meeting.
Roxy catches Eggsy's eye and gives him a smile and a tiny thumbs up. She calls over her shoulder, "Do you want to see him now, Arthur?"
"Thank you, Lancelot," comes Harry's voice.
A knot that Eggsy hadn't known existed comes loose at the base of his throat, but a new one twitches between his shoulderblades. He's pretty sure Harry's just done something for him that it's going to be hard to repay.
Harry's sitting very straight-backed at the head of the table in that room full of stuffy paintings, all the founding Kingsmen gazing off importantly into the middle distance and not a casual stance or a laddish smirk amongst them. It's like dressing room three with its black-and-white photos. Even a bleeding moron could tell that Kingsman as an organisation is in love with its own history.
Eggsy kicks the door shut behind him and stands at the other end of the table. He swallows down both congratulations and thank you, and goes with, "So they stuck you with the newsletter, then."
That gets him a tiny glitter of humour but Harry doesn't smile, doesn't unbend even a little. Eggsy takes the hint and stands formally at ease, hands clasped behind his back, waiting.
"It is my honour to serve Kingsman in this new role," Harry says.
"You'll be brilliant," Eggsy says. "Wait, you'll be brilliant sir? Is this a sir thing?"
"Traditionally," Harry says, "and as far the the knights are concerned, yes."
Eggsy's trying, he really is, but he can't help the grin that breaks out on his face. He gets another stern glitter in response.
"Which brings me to the fact that this does, of course, leave the position of Galahad open."
"Is that right," Eggsy says.
He's not actually worried. The suit wraps him up like confidence, they've already given him the house, a week ago he saved the world--kind of--and even though he doesn't know what to do with this version of Harry, the Harry that walked into the room promised not to let him go. And Eggsy won't. He'll handcuff himself to the furnishings if he has to, and scream bloody murder; they'll have to kill him or at least amnesia-dart him into a coma if they want him to walk away from Kingsman now.
Harry stands and comes around the table until he's almost near enough to touch.
"Eggsy," he says, in a not-fucking-around voice that focuses Eggsy's attention entirely. "The other members of the Table have made it clear that your knighthood is on my head. Your obedience is on my head. I proposed you and I have vouched for you, and I will accept full responsibility for you. Do you understand?"
Something about that stings, and there's another part of it that Eggsy can tell he's missing, something important, but he hasn't the time to work it out now.
He says the only possible thing he can say, which is, "Yes, sir."
Harry smiles, finally. Not his proper smile, but halfway there. He holds out one hand.
"Welcome to Kingsman, Galahad."
"What I want to know is," Eggsy says, "are we being punished or something?"
"Nonsense, Eggsy," comes Merlin's voice in his ear, maniacally cheerful as he only is when making other people suffer.
"You first," says Roxy, as they jog to the bottom of the third barrier wall. She clasps her hands together, braces herself against the wall, and Eggsy steps into the bracket of her fingers and jumps, his hands slamming--fucking ow--and catching on the top, where he pulls himself up. Once he's mostly over the top he reaches down for Roxy's waiting hands and feels the muscles of his arms complain loudly as he hoists her up after him, until she's high enough that she can let go and haul herself over the wall as well.
They drop down over the other side in muddy unison, running almost as soon as they hit the ground.
"It's just," Eggsy says, in between gulps of air, "it seems a waste to have us doing the same bloody training all over again, when there's probably hundreds of missions we could be more useful on. The world being in chaos, and all."
"Perhaps you weren't listening to the briefing," Merlin says.
Eggsy rolls his eyes, focusing his attention on the cargo net and the rope climb ahead. He was listening. He's just not thrilled that his first act as a real, proper, codenamed Kingsman was to be packed off to the country to relive the same fucking obstacle course that's been the bane of his existence for the past three months. His muscles remember enough of his gymnast training that his course times were always the fastest of the prospects, and Roxy began dismally but was as almost as fast as Eggsy after spending most of her free evenings for a month throwing herself at the equipment in the half-light. And here they are again. And here Merlin is again.
"There are certainly a number of urgent missions," Merlin goes on, with the smugness of someone whose jumper is mud-free and whose heart rate is sitting at a calm sixty. "But our new Arthur has agreed with something that I've been saying for years, which is that if you're going to deploy agents in pairs then you should train them in pairs."
Eggsy feels his foot catch at an odd angle in the edge of the cargo net as he's climbing free; almost before he can react, he feels it being tweaked clear by Roxy, behind him.
"Why us?" Roxy asks. Through her teeth, sounds like.
"Couples," says Merlin, "are in many circumstances much less suspicious than individuals, and there's only so many places you can impersonate a same-sex couple without attracting more attention than such a subterfuge is worth."
Roxy slips six inches down her rope, hisses something, and shakes her head when Eggsy raises his eyebrows at her. Her knuckles are bloodless as she pulls herself up the distance she'd lost. "So it's because I'm--"
"Absolutely," Merlin says, sharply. "We've never had a female agent before, Lancelot, and don't for a moment think we're not going to use you. You two showed excellent field affinity during selection training, you're close in age, and most importantly, you don't hate one another." He leaves a significant pause. "This is the time to tell me if you hate one another, children."
Breathing hard on the platform above the rope climb, crawling towards the head-down bars, Eggsy and Roxy exchange the glance that they first developed in response to Charlie's more extraordinarily prattish behaviour.
"Up your arse, children," says Eggsy, just as Roxy snaps, "I thought the condescension might stop now we're fully-fledged agents."
"All right, all right," says Merlin, dry.
They stumble across the finish line with Eggsy's hand under Roxy's elbow, and--
"Fifty seconds faster than your best individual times," Merlin says in their ears. "Very good. But as you'll recall--"
"Sod off," Eggsy gasps.
"--you need to slice off a full minute before we stop for the day. Might I suggest less talking, next time?"
Roxy's the one who spins to face the camera attached to the finish line pole and makes a rude gesture. Bless. Eggsy's proud of her.
"Duly noted, Lancelot," Merlin says. "Again."
The obstacle course isn't the the only thing Merlin has for them. After they've whittled their time down, he then has them practice throwing weapons to one another. Eggsy starts whistling circus music after the first two minutes.
And after that, Merlin sends them on a five mile run, because apparently they haven't had enough of the stuffing knocked out of them already.
"Classic ingroup identifier psychology," says Roxy, as they jog at a passive-aggressive pace around the fuckoff gorgeous grounds of the Kingsman mansion. It's not raining, but the air has that glum, dense dampness to it that's nearly as bad. "Uniting us against a common figure of resentment, in order to counteract the fact that we've been trained up to this point to see each other mostly as competition."
"Have we?" says Eggsy, a bit stung. "I mean, yeah, we were, but--"
Roxy punches him in the shoulder. "Don't be an idiot, Eggs. We're friends."
"What if I'd gotten the job and you hadn't?"
The look Roxy gives him is so superior it probably polishes her cheekbones as it glides over them.
"Please," she says, and pulls ahead.
Afterwards they shower and change back into their suits, and Merlin hands them back their glasses from where he's been doing God knows what to them.
"One more thing," he says. "I've created a private communications channel for the two of you: encrypted, and unmonitored. Access it through the usual menu."
"Thanks, Merlin," says Roxy.
"You're going to be fine Kingsmen, the both of you," Merlin says, not changing expression. "Now fuck off. Back to the city."
Roxy falls asleep on his shoulder during the short ride on the (very, very) underground from the mansion back to the shop, and Eggsy's stifling a yawn as well as they head out of the dressing room and into the tailor shop, where the lights are dimmed and one of Caradoc's assistants is brushing down the counter.
Eggsy turns to see Harry, umbrella over his arm, looking ready to leave.
"Alright, Rox?" Eggsy says over his shoulder, and she waves him goodbye as she steps out into Savile Row.
"As your sponsor," Harry says, "I should buy you a drink--a few drinks--to celebrate your success in the selection process and your new codename. It is tradition." His face is tired but it's definitely Harry again, warmer and more relaxed. Arthur-Harry was so professional and buttoned-up, all of his impatience and joy and profanity buried somewhere well out of view.
Eggsy's so happy to see him he manages to wrangle the next yawn into a smile.
"Ain't turning down a free drink," he says.
He wonders if Harry will insist on someplace fancy--and sure, Eggsy's getting a taste for the three pure ounces of chilled gin that’s Harry's idea of a proper martini, even if they do go to your head like being hit with a snowball that some wanker's packed around a hunk of ice--but in the end they try out Eggsy's new local. It's a gastropub on Old Brompton Road that was closed for renovations and empty during V-Day, so it sustained almost no structural damage past a broken window. The surviving owners rushed the job through and reopened a week later.
Old Eggsy would have taken one look at the crush of after-work suits and given it up as a bad job, but he and Harry fit right in.
Harry describes the on-tap selections as crushingly unimaginative, which is rich coming from a man who's never ordered anything but Guinness in the time Eggsy's known him.
"Merely an observation," Harry says. "The kind of place that charges twenty pounds for a steak and offers four mustards plus horseradish would usually pride itself on having a selection of obscure microbrews to go with it. Either the owners have little interest in that side of the menu and are running a restaurant in all but name, or they haven't had time to coordinate with their suppliers yet."
Eggsy sips his own beer and stares in fascination at this unexpected Sherlock Holmesian side to Harry. It's the seeing-without-translating stuff all over again. They did a heap of observation exercises during training, and Eggsy did well on them, but it took effort. Harry seems unable to turn it off. Maybe Eggsy will see the world like that, in a few years' time, but right now it seems a tiring way to live.
"Of course," Harry says, glancing mildly around, "like so many others in this area, this particular public house was a Leather bar, in the 1970s."
"Shut up," Eggsy says, trying and probably failing to hide his grin behind his pint.
"Quite serious, I assure you," Harry says.
When the food comes Eggsy buries himself in his bangers (pork and fennel and cider) and mash (truffled, fucking hell) with all the appetite that comes from crawling through mud on your elbows for most of an afternoon. And even though this is the kind of pub where the bacon butty is all dolled up with twiddly lettuce and homemade chutney or some such, eating it still leaves Harry sucking grease and sauce thoughtfully off his fingers like he's trying to give Eggsy's poor neglected dick an aneurysm.
Harry does the gentlemanly thing and insists on walking Eggsy home after, despite Eggsy pointing out that he's well able to take care of himself, if anyone tries anything, and he's been walking alone on streets worse than this one since before he was trained to kill in a variety of creative ways.
Harry says, "Your first week in a new neighbourhood, Eggsy, do you think attracting that kind of attention would be wise?"
"A gentleman stays out of the papers," Eggsy says, "I got it."
And it's not exactly a hardship to stretch out the evening, to let himself enjoy the simple pleasure of Harry walking beside him all the way back to the green house and then hovering on the street outside. Harry's tall and slim and achingly handsome under the streetlamp glow, like something from an old film, and Eggsy shoves his hands in his pockets and resists the urge to ask Harry in to meet his mum, to have a cup of tea, to make himself so comfortable in Eggsy's life that he never thinks of leaving.
"Well then," Harry says, and gets one large hand in the curve of Eggsy's lower back and pulls him close.
Eggsy goes, awkward at first with sheer surprise, and his heart honestly skips in his chest with the shock of it, that Harry would kiss him goodnight without a thought to who might see, like this was a proper date and they're normal people.
"Open up for me, my lovely boy," Harry murmurs, in a slow-burning voice, and Eggsy does.
And hell, he's so relieved that whatever happened in the jet wasn't just a warning or a freak accident or a quick grab at pleasure before Harry's promotion made it impossible. Something's happening here, Harry's letting it happen, and for now Eggsy's willing to go at whatever pace Harry's chivalry or control issues or pointless age-related hangups need them to go, just as long as they're going. Just as long as he can have this, Harry's mouth taking long thoughtful kisses from his own as Eggsy lets his own hands rest on Harry's chest between them, not required to do anything but relax into it.
It's nothing like the kiss in the jet, which was like being attacked by the Kama bloody Sutra. This is slow and thorough and nearly romantic, the two of them wrapped up in each other, Harry's gloved hand at the back of Eggsy's neck and the other holding him firm and flush against Harry's body. All of Eggsy's nerves are sizzling with it; Harry's leg is so close to being between his; Eggsy gives little encouraging moans, shifts his feet hopefully, and yes, fuck, that's it, hard and so good, something for Eggsy to rub against--
The leg in question moves away and Eggsy makes a noise of broken complaint against Harry's mouth.
No cheating, Eggsy, is implied.
He wants to take a knife to the seams of Harry's clothes, right here on the street if he has to, but even more than that, he wants to show Harry what he can do. Eggsy sighs and disentangles himself, biting his lower lip as the movement sets off more sparks down below.
"Good," Harry practically purrs. "Good," dropping another lingering kiss just beside Eggsy's mouth, and it's a bit pathetic how something in Eggsy both melts ands sits up, eager, at the praise.
"I'm starting to think you don't trust me, Harry," he says.
Which is what they in the business call a strategic falsehood; Eggsy's getting a feel for Harry Hart's ins and outs, and he's not surprised at all when Harry's eyes go dark and vast and deadly in the yellow light, like how Eggsy imagines the beginning of the universe looked.
He's not surprised when Harry says, "My dear boy, it's not you I don't trust."
Eggsy's learning. He ducks his eyes to hide his satisfaction.
"Be seeing you, then."
"Good night, Eggsy," Harry says, and walks away.
"Is that really necessary?" Roxy shouts, leaning over the rail at the top of the stairwell.
Eggsy winces and almost misses the bar he's grabbing for because the earbud side of his head is suddenly louder than the other and it's throwing off his balance.
"I can hear you fine, Lancelot," he says.
"You're a bloody showoff, Galahad."
There's a clatter of feet above him as she starts dashing down the concrete stairs. Only one set of feet though, good.
"Merlin, how're we looking?" Eggsy asks.
"Are you asking for a comment on your gymnastic form, or--"
"Oy, fuck off." Eggsy swings himself over the rail and lands in a crouch, as Roxy gives a traitorous laugh.
"The lifts are still disabled, and they're about to give up on breaking down the upper door. There are only two guards between the stairwell exit and your street exit, but move fast: they've called some friends."
"The more the merrier, eh? Lancelot and I can show them a right good time."
"Galahads," Merlin huffs, and Eggsy stores that one away to be pulled out and prodded later.
Roxy's out of breath and wispy around the edges when she joins him at the base of the stairwell. She adjusts her grip on her gun and narrows her eyes at him.
"Free running lessons," she says. "Tomorrow."
"Jesus, you're a marvel, you are," Eggsy says, because who's thinking about more training on a sodding mission; they're already working twice as hard as anyone else because, to quote Merlin, six months of proposal training does not equal full and proper preparation for the field, plus they've got all the trust exercises and other shit that's meant to be turning them into a working partnership.
"Merlin," she says. "Are we clear to move?"
"As you'll ever be," Merlin says. "Four guards, more on the way."
"Piece'a cake, bruv," Eggsy says.
Roxy flashes him a smile and opens the door, and from there things get busy. Once they've fought their way onto the street they weave through alleys and ditch their suit jackets, Merlin muttering the whole time about how Kevlar-wool blends are worth more than their hides, and how he has a lot of things to say to the new Arthur about investing in GPS tracking via hidden threads.
"Oh, like they put in money," Eggsy says. "What're you--no, Lancelot. No."
Roxy pulls her hand away from where she was about to try a dead poor excuse for a lift, nicking a cardigan from a market stall, and gives him a poisonous look. Eggsy slings his arm around her shoulders and pulls her close, buries his nose fondly in the hair above her ear like they're a couple of young City bankers out for a lunchtime stroll.
"That was shite," he whispers. "Leave it to the professionals, yeah?"
"I can't believe I'm jealous of your background in petty theft," Roxy says. "Free running and shoplifting. Christ."
"Rather them than polo," Eggsy says, because Hugo could never shut his inbred mouth about that, of all the ridiculous sports. "C'mon then, what does a posh bird like you bring to the table? I know you ain't never thrown a punch before our first session of hand-to-hand training."
Roxy's mouth purses, sidelong, which means she's laughing at herself but he's asking for trouble if he joins in.
"Fencing," she says.
"Brilliant," he says, solemn.
"Actual horses, yes, stop laughing."
Eggsy tugs a jacket from its hanger as they're forced to the side of the market aisle by a group of tourists, and has it folded casually over his arm by the time they move away. Roxy takes it from him just as casually and slips it on, pulling the hood up over the honey blonde of her hair. Merlin tells them to sit tight and blend in while he does some kind of magic involving traffic surveillance cameras, and also take off your glasses, Galahad, did I teach you nothing about quick appearance changes?
They end up huddled snug on a bench near the river, sharing an enormous coffee in a sickening coupley way. Eggsy ordered it with two types of syrup as revenge for the showoff comment, and it's hilarious watching Roxy's eyes try to wince through her poker face whenever she takes a sip.
She passes him the cup. Once he's taken it, she puts a hand on his knee.
"Stop," she says.
Eggsy looks down at where his leg's jittering like water on a hot pan, and forces it still.
"Shit," he says, quiet.
"Maybe you should have ordered decaf," Roxy says. Her hand stays where it is, firm and grounding. "What is it? Are you worried?"
"Nah," Eggsy says. "Well, yeah? I still can't believe this is my job now, innit? Feels like they're waiting for me to fuck it up." He blinks. He hadn't known those words were so close to the front of his mouth. "The other knights don't think I should be here, I know that much, what else does your knighthood is on my head mean, and I think my mum's terrified I'm gonna go and die on her just like my dad, and what if I do, and--and Harry still hasn't told me I can have a bloody wank."
Oh, fucking hell. Eggsy shoves the coffee cup against his mouth like it's a gag. Hazelnut-flavoured liquid slops out over his tongue.
Roxy opens her mouth slightly, then closes it. She slants a considering look at him and Eggsy has a mad second of thinking: fuck, what if it's another tradition, what if every new knight has to do it, some kind of medieval chastity thing, what if this silence of hers is sympathetic?
Roxy says, "So it's a serious thing, with you two?"
Eggsy shifts like there's itching powder lining his suit. He's not talked about this to anyone yet, in case it makes it less real. More real. One of those.
"You could've bothered to sound a bit surprised."
Roxy gives him another of those looks that's the equivalent of a scoff. "Trained in observation," she says. "Besides, your eyes go all misty and swoony around him."
"Misty and--fuck right off."
Roxy folds her hands under her chin and flutters her lashes like a total prat. Eggsy leans in, vindictive, and leaves a sloppy kiss on her cheek.
"You didn't answer the question," she says, because of fucking course she noticed that.
"It's serious for me I guess," Eggsy says. "Dunno about him."
Roxy hums, thoughtful. "I can't imagine Ga--Arthur doing anything unless he's doing it fully, can you?"
Eggsy shrugs, but the bones of his leg don't feel like they’re vibrating themselves out of his flesh any more. He offers Roxy the coffee again and she waves it away.
She says, "Wait, he won't let you--"
"He's trying to prove a point," Eggsy says, sulky. "Or I am. Fucked if I know at this point, Rox, my balls're bluer than a Chelsea home crowd."
Roxy lifts her hands like she's going to breathe on them, huff them warm, but she laughs into them instead. Then she leans over and kisses his cheek like an echo, light and friendly.
"Was that meant to help," Eggsy says, "because you--"
"Oh, shut up," Roxy says. She leans her head on his shoulder and Eggsy feels a warm splash of gratitude for her, for everything about her, from her presence now all the way back to that first day: a strange girl extending her hand and baring her teeth for him, aligning herself with him like it was nothing, like she already knew he was worth it. "God, it's like being at uni all over again. I was really looking forward to a higher level of conversation in the professional world."
Eggsy snorts. He takes a gulp of the coffee, which is getting both sweeter and cooler. "Go on then," he says. "Miss Lancelot. What do you want to talk about?"
"Did you know there have been twelve Lancelots, since Kingsman started? I'm number thirteen."
"How many Galahads, then?"
"Sixteen," she says at once. "Henry Leonard Owen Hart held the position for the longest period, by the way, though he's the third Galahad to retire into Arthur's seat."
"What, you thought he was a Harold?"
Eggsy hasn't bothered to think about it at all. Harry is Harry.
"Tell me about the first ones," he says. "I bet they were right ponces, going by them paintings."
"The first Lancelot was called Francis Abney. He was at Cambridge with Arthur Sinclair."
"Arthur's name was Arthur?"
"Definitely a ponce," Roxy says calmly. "Shall I keep going? Francis and Arthur were officers together, too, posted in Belgium. It was Arthur's godfather Lord Ramsey who donated the first of the money to turn Kingsman from a tailor shop into an intelligence agency."
"Where'd you get all this?" Eggsy asks, thinking about Enid Blyton.
"Merlins have always kept records," she says. "It's part of what they do. I asked to have a look, that's all."
She's quiet a moment. "You're not curious?" she says. "About the other people who've had your title?"
It's just a name, is on the tip of Eggsy's tongue, but it dies there. It's not just a name. Galahad still feels like Harry's hand on his shoulder, Harry meeting his eyes in the mirror and smiling.
"The first Galahad was called Thomas Fairchild," Roxy says. "He was a sniper, in the war. You should look up the files. He did some amazing things."
Eggsy's glasses, tucked into his pocket, start to buzz. That'll be their next set of orders.
"So have we," he says. "And we're only just getting started."
Eggsy's not done the dating thing since he was a teenager. His adult relationships have tended to be of the casual, get-pissed-and-have-a-fumble sort; he and Jenna Peyton were teetering on the edge of something more official for almost ten months until she up and decided she fancied Sam Shitrit, most accurately named fuckwit in the whole of the borough. And with blokes he's never even gotten that far.
The point is, Eggsy's not the kind of person who gets romantic goodnight kisses on the street and then goes home and smiles at the walls like an idiot, except now apparently he is, and Harry's clearly working off some kind of deeply confusing game plan which involves both polite courtship and kinky orgasm-withholding, which in Eggsy's opinion is having your cake and eating it and dangling it in front of Eggsy's lips but not letting him have even a lick.
Harry's dates are proper wicked, though. He takes Eggsy to the Imperial War Museum where he mutters hilarious running commentary all the way through the exhibit on the Secret World of Spies, and then back to Harry's for dinner, which turns out to be takeaway curry and something white with German writing all over the label.
"Dry," Eggsy declares.
"Merlin would be so proud," Harry murmurs.
Eggsy waves that one away with the cheer that comes halfway down a glass of wine on an empty stomach. The wine tasting lessons were hands down the best part of proposal training, all of them pissed as newts after two hours despite Merlin tapping his fingers ever more meaningfully on the spittoons, and even Charlie eventually stopped talking nasal tosh about plum notes and oak in favour of telling dirty stories about undergrad at Trinity. Hugo chundered all over himself. It was brilliant.
"It's an off-dry riesling," Harry says. "Some people will say that you should only drink beer with Indian food, but I think you'll find it a good match. Put these in a bowl, please."
Harry's kitchen is full of plates that shine blueish white like half-fat milk, and are delicate enough that Eggsy'd be scared shitless of dropping them if he didn't have faith in his own hands. Harry moves around the space like he could do it blindfolded, steering Eggsy with absent touches at his waist. Eggsy tips greasy onion bhaji into a bowl and tries not to be charmed by how fucking domestic it all is, but he's doomed, isn't he? He's been doomed since Harry's long legs strode him into Eggsy's life with perfect, arrogant assurance, like he'd known all along there was an empty space in it that was exactly his shape. And he's let Eggsy just as easily into his.
"There," Eggsy says. "Where d'you want them, Henry Leonard Owen Hart?"
Harry looks up, sharp. "What on earth--"
"I think Roxy's getting keen on this hacking stuff," Eggsy says, grinning. "You should have a sharp word with Merlin about it, yeah? You--whoa, Harry."
Eggsy's back hits the fridge as Harry crowds him in. His skin tingles with heat, with how close Harry is and how good he smells. If Eggsy moved only a little he'd be able to taste off-dry German riesling on Harry's lips.
"Take them through to the dining table, please. Gary Charles Unwin."
Even his mum knows how to turn Eggsy's name into a threat, but Harry also makes it sound--intense, like a secret. Like every letter of it means something important.
Eggsy catches Harry's lapel between two fingers and glides them down the line of stitching, turned on as hell, biting the inside of his cheek against a needy sound. That's it. There's only so much a man can take. Eggsy's not leaving tonight until he's gotten off, one way or another. He is getting a lick of that bloody cake.
But this is Harry, and Harry always has his own plan. So Eggsy's going to have to be sneaky about it.
"Stop that," Harry says, mild.
"Haven't barely started," Eggsy says. He lets his fingertips duck for the briefest second beneath Harry's suit jacket, soft, could be accidental. He pauses only long enough to be sure of the way Harry's breath stops, and then goes to put the bhaji on the table.
There's enough biryani and jalfrezi for four people, and the riesling does go well with it, not turning over-sour in the face of spice but deepening its flavour instead; see, Eggsy can do wine snobbery with the best of them.
"Pass the raita, if you would be so kind."
"Holy fuck," yelps Eggsy, who's just looked up the price of the wine.
"We put our phones away at the table, Eggsy," Harry chides.
There's a thought. Eggsy turns it over as he tucks his phone away, and again as he feels the sharp taste of a whole clove scrape over his tongue, as he lifts his actual cloth napkin to cover his mouth during the transferral of clove from tongue to fingers to plate, and catches the quick gleam of Harry's approval. Manners. Eggsy knows by now that Harry beating the shit out of Dean's thugs had nothing to do with gentlemanly behaviour and everything to do with seizing the veneer of excuse; what Eggsy really remembers is the lesson in the quiet of Harry's study, Eggsy still raw and tired from the bone-deep anticipation of death that grabbed hold of him on the train tracks. You should have asked me before you took a seat.
He pushes the mango chutney--crystal bowl, tiny spoon--so that it's near Harry's right hand.
"Can I get us some more water?" Eggsy hears himself say.
Harry nods, just distracted enough. Eggsy manages to keep the smile off his face until he's in the kitchen, refilling their glasses.
And after dinner, "Can I help with the dishes?"
He sees because he's watching for it the moment when Harry's instincts about hosting dinner guests collide with the fact that he and Eggsy are--well, whatever the hell they are, even sort-of and not-yet.
"Yes, thank you," Harry says with a smile, and throws him a tea towel.
They take off their jackets and roll up their sleeves, Harry gives him a lazy lecture on the current political situation in South America peppered with his insulting opinions of the major players, and Eggsy behaves himself and follows Harry out into the living room afterwards. It's even more stuffed full of things than the rest of the house, like Harry doesn't feel comfortable without five weaponisable vases, four cast-iron pokers, and three mismatched couches so overstuffed that they'd probably give reasonable shelter from machine gun fire.
"Would you care for a brandy?" Harry says, hand already hovering near the decanter.
Eggsy stares at him and for a second he's dizzy, completely out of place in this house with its framed arrangements of coins and medals and butterflies, with this old-fashioned and deadly man who makes him feel brave, and helpless, and rough as sandpaper. In that second the urge to run away is so strong it's almost a need.
And then it passes.
"Yeah, thanks," Eggsy says. "Can I've a seat?"
He's almost holding his breath, but Harry waves him into an armchair without comment, and brings him the glass--sorry, Merlin, snifter.
"You're welcome to turn the television on," Harry says.
Eggsy takes a single sip of the brandy--he likes the colour and the sweet scent, but the taste of it's not his thing; not yet, anyway--and puts it aside.
"Actually, I was wondering," Eggsy says, "can I have a wank?"
He was hoping for a double-take. Instead Harry's eyes flick onto him like a laser targeting system and don't budge an inch. Eggsy blinks: me, bruv? The picture of demure inquiry, me.
"Eggsy," says Harry, "by any chance, are you playing me?"
Most of Eggsy wants to slump down in surrender, splay all his limbs out in the chair and tell Harry in the most colourful words at his disposal just how fucking unreasonable it would be to make Eggsy wait any longer when he's been so good, when he's a bare few days away from his libido throwing up its hands in despair and producing the kind of wet dream he hasn't had since fourteen. He could tell Harry all about it; he could probably bluff his way through with eyelashes and sheer brattiness.
But Harry's smile is halfway to delighted. Eggsy keeps the innocent expression where it is, keeps his spine straight and his chin high.
"Well, can I?"
Eggsy bites his lower lip and lets it slide out. Yeah, he's got this.
"May I, Harry?"
Harry gives a sudden burst of laughter.
"You little shit," he says. "You gorgeous little shit."
"See, to me, that sounds like yes," Eggsy says.
Harry finishes his brandy. Harry's locked-on gaze finally shifts to the ceiling, to the stairs, and back to Eggsy. Eggsy gives him a helpful wink.
"And that looks like an offer," Harry says. "Or would you prefer to leave and get reacquainted with yourself in the privacy of your own home?"
"No fun in that," Eggsy points out, because fucking really.
"No?" Harry says. He taps a finger against his glasses. "I might ask you to keep these on."
Eggsy freezes at the thought of it: working himself frantically, alone in his stupidly large bed, and Harry on the other end of the video feed, seeing everything Eggsy sees and hearing every noise he makes. Eggsy's cheeks and hands are hot. He smooths his palms down his thighs, fingers finding the sharp crease at the front of each trouser leg. His knees are shifting further apart.
"How am I doing this then?"
"However you want, my dear boy."
Now it's Harry playing the innocent eyes. Eggsy manages to shove aside the demands of his cock, which would be more than happy for him to just pull it out right here, give it a few hard tugs, and let the banked-up roar of his nerves do the rest. That'd be fine, that'd be grand. His groin is clenching at the prospect of relief.
But you inspect a new environment from top floor to ground, and you think about what you're seeing. There are bounds to be tested here.
"I'd rather do it however you want."
In a few strides Harry's standing in front of him. Harry reaches out and tips up Eggsy's chin, and then unfolds his hand until his smaller fingers have slipped below the collar of Eggsy's shirt. His thumb is right in the centre of Eggsy's neck. If he felt like it he could crush Eggsy's windpipe with a sharp push.
"What a kind thought," Harry says.
Eggsy swallows and feels the motion of it against Harry's hand. Even when he's not dialing it up to eleven as Arthur, Harry is closed-off, polished and restful, the danger of him only apparent when he starts to move. This is different. There's something in the careful placement of Harry's hand on his throat that's like potential, like a pulse of energy that shoots straight to the base of Eggsy's stomach and burns there.
Harry licks restlessly over his own lips and Eggsy stands all at once and pushes forward into the pressure, unable to help himself, but Harry moves with him and his mouth is once again out of reach.
Harry says, "Upstairs, please. I think I'd like you on my bed."
Harry's bedroom is oddly bare in comparison to the rest of the place, just a few prints in black frames on the walls, and hardly an ornamental teapot in sight. Not that Eggsy's sparing the room itself more attention than the minimum demanded by his training. Harry knocks his hands away from every attempt to undress and does it himself, letting his fingertips trail over each newly exposed piece of Eggsy's skin.
Eggsy moves as directed, lifts his arms when told, listens to the praise murmuring out through Harry's lips and the loud thud of his own heart in his ears. Harry kisses one of his shoulders, lingering, and Eggsy digs his nails into his own palms so that he doesn't reach out. He was halfway hard at simply getting Harry's permission, and Harry undressing him takes him even further.
"You've done exactly as I asked," Harry says, warm and so approving.
Eggsy bites the inside of his cheek as Harry traces along his lowest rib, Harry's trigger finger caressing the pale raised line that's the worst of Eggsy's new scars.
"Harry," he says, unsteady. Through sheer force of will he drags his voice from the brink of outright begging.
"Good lad," Harry says, his breath hot against Eggsy's forehead. "Now step--yes, there you are."
The house is warm, but Eggsy's still cool enough to shiver as he lies down naked on top of the bedclothes. He seems suddenly to have too many limbs, and all of them awkward. He's been craving this, but it's new, his body is weird and wound-up and tender with the newness of it, like he's been peeled out of a thicker skin and exposed for the first time to the air. He shifts position, traces the stitching on the duvet cover, as Harry removes his own shoes and tie with far less ceremony and goes to put them in the wardrobe.
Harry stops there, with shirt and belt and trousers still on: fully clothed, really. He stands at the end of the bed and doesn't move, just looks. Looking and looking and looking as though Eggsy is art and Harry's a thief considering how best to steal him away, keep him somewhere private, for his eyes only.
Eggsy lets out out a snort of laughter that banishes the worst of his nerves.
"What is it?"
"Thinking about Roger Moore," Eggsy says, baiting. He is, but he won't be for long, not with Harry's eyes raking down his body like fingernails, making Eggsy's cock feel heavier and more urgent. Harry's hand resting in his pocket like it wasn't recently wrapped around Eggsy's neck.
Nah, Roger Moore couldn't hold a candle.
"Is that so," says Harry.
"If I ain't said nothing, downstairs," Eggsy says, "were you just going to have us play happy fucking families all night?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Harry says. "I had thought I might bend you over that armchair and fuck you. Still without letting you touch yourself, of course."
Eggsy's whole face surges hot and incredulous with blood.
"But I've always admired your initiative."
"You could grab a seat," Eggsy suggests, struggling. "Get comfortable and all."
"Do you really think this will take that long?" Harry says, low.
Eggsy bites his lip against a whimpering breath and then thinks, fuck it, and lets it out. He keeps his eyes on Harry the whole time. The heat of his cheeks is spilling down his neck and over his shoulders, like shower spray or the glide of good fabric. His cock is hard and aching between his legs. He has a fair idea of how he must look.
"Eggsy," Harry says.
Eggsy lets out a rough breath, a hurricane that's been spinning inside him for days.
"Yeah," he says, and closes his eyes, and goes for it.
Harry hasn't given him anything in the way of slick, and sure, Eggsy could probably drawl out can I've some lube? with a fair chance of getting it, but he's never minded doing this dry, chasing that edge of pure friction. Besides, it feels so fucking good to touch, finally, that it'd take an honest-to-God terrorist threat or raging house fire to get him to take his hand off his cock now. And even then it'd be a close call.
Eggsy shoves up into his hand and moans, not letting his thoughts catch on anything much, just...feeling. He didn't know it was possible to be this close, this tense, this fast.
"On second thoughts, perhaps you should slow down a tad," Harry says.
His voice comes muffled through the giddy rush of Eggsy's pulse but there's no mistaking his tone.
Eggsy cracks his eyes open and releases a lungful of air that feels like it could parch his lips on the way out. With great effort, he loosens his grip on his own cock. Harry's gaze does that devastating thing again, moving from Eggsy's splayed legs, up his body, lingering on his chest for long enough that Eggsy can feel his nipples tighten, what the fuck, as if they've been subjected to cold air or a hot tongue.
"You'd better not be expecting--two acts and a bloody intermission," Eggsy pants. "S'been fucking ages."
The way Harry's hands rest in his pockets is looking a lot less casual now. That shirt fits him so well, is tailored so fucking beautifully to the breadth of his shoulders, that the tension of his arms is obvious.
Harry swallows twice before he speaks. It pays off; he sounds calm and dark as the bottom of a well.
"Are you telling me you can't do it? Eggsy Unwin, who's done exactly as I said all this time, so keen to prove himself?"
"Fuck," Eggsy says, landing explosively on the k as a release valve for his feelings, but it turns out that it won't take the prospect of fiery death in order to make him move his hands, after all. Just Harry, looking at him as though he's a masterpiece wrapped in a challenge.
"Very good," Harry says. "Now. Slowly."
To be honest, this obedience thing has never been a thing for Eggsy before. Sure, he's fucked a few bossy girls and a few boys who liked his lip, but it's never felt this gut-deep, this all-encompassing. He's never been surprised by something and then needed it immediately, except for Harry.
Eggsy shudders, splays one hand flat on his stomach, and lets the other start to work himself again. Slowly.
Harry talks him through it. His voice is electric: the way it roughens, the way it spreads out under Eggsy's skin and sets tiny fires on the way. Even slow, this is torture, it's so good. There's sweat gathering in the hollow of Eggsy's throat, and the muscles of his stomach clench in uneven rhythms. He hasn't done anything like this before, never been so obviously on display. Somehow the fuzzy edge of shame and vulnerability just makes it hotter.
And all the while Harry instructs him on how tight, how fast, when to rub his thumb in circles over the leaking head of his cock, when to lift up his aching balls with his other hand and squeeze.
Harry who's just standing there, though when Eggsy can be bothered to lift his head off the pillows and focus he can see that Harry's tenting his trousers, and you could drag a pencil along the angle of Harry's elbows and end up with pure geometry. Harry's still got his glasses on, framing his feasting gaze, and the part of Eggsy that's still together enough to be observant wonders if Harry's recording this, recording him, so he can keep it stored away, something to be played back later.
The thought is a challenge. It makes Eggsy tip his head back to lengthen his throat, makes him gasp and shake and want to find new ways to inhabit the words shameless and provocative in order to prove the point. Jesus, this manic sort of competitiveness that Harry's always brought out in him is going to be dangerous, he can already tell and he really doesn't care.
Harry was right the first time: there's no way, good intentions or teeth-gritted effort or not, that Eggsy was ever going to last more than a couple of minutes when he's been on edge for so long already. It builds in him over a few seconds, during which he wonders madly if he was supposed to wait for Harry to tell him to come--in which case, tough luck to the both of them--and then pleasure crashes suddenly and violently out through the rest of his body, his hand going tight to the point of pain around his cock as he comes in hot spurts. It knocks a sound out of his throat, too, though he's not in much of a state to hear it properly.
"Oh, fuck," he manages, when he's through the worst of it and settling. "That was--fucking hell, Harry."
"It certainly was," Harry says. "I--well. If you could only see yourself, my dear boy."
Harry removes his glasses and the look on his face now is like big cats, killer whales, something wrecked and ravenous. Eggsy's head is spinning with the aftermath of orgasm but he's starting to feel shaken, and wistful, and greedy--yeah, that was amazing and all, but he's going to go spare if Harry doesn't touch him soon.
Eggsy struggles upright on his elbows and holds out the less disastrously sticky of his hands, and thank God, Harry gets it, or else Harry's been wanting this just as badly, because Harry's already moving. He takes Eggsy's hand and lets himself be awkwardly tugged forward, fully dressed as he is, and then Eggsy finds himself with his wrists pinned to the bed on either side of his head and Harry looking down at him from a very close distance.
The brown of Harry's eyes turns grey-green at the edges--huh, Eggsy thinks, and then he's being kissed. Harry's kisses are warm and lush and generous and Eggsy opens for them immediately, probably too eager, giving too much away, but if he could split his skin down the middle and let Harry between his ribs, he would.
Harry's still dressed, too, and Eggsy's--not. Eggsy spares a distracted thought for the poor sod who has to dryclean Harry's clothes, though if it's the usual Kingsman place--the ones who've received all of Merlin's stern notes about laundering Kevlar blends--they've probably seen much worse. He'd like to have a go at Harry's belt, and then the rest of it, but Harry's grip on his wrists isn't going anywhere, and when Eggsy bucks and tugs against Harry's hands, experimental-like, he can't budge at all.
"Got it," he says, into Harry's mouth, "no moving," and then whines at the spark of pain as Harry drags his lower lip between his teeth.
When Harry finally does release his wrists, Eggsy's hands tingle with bloodflow; Jesus, there might be bruises there, come morning. It's--it's something else, this is, the single-minded way Harry kisses him into wildness. Eggsy thinks deliriously that he'll never need clothes or blankets again if Harry will stay like this, wrapped around him, fine wool and cotton and huge warm hands everywhere, rubbing dry over Eggsy's arse and teasing over his hole in a way that makes him cling tighter, gasping.
He can feel Harry's cock hard against him, rubbing in the crease of Eggsy's groin and the taut muscles of his leg, where if it weren't for the layers of Harry's clothes it'd be sliding slickly in the mess of Eggsy's come. There's something unfair about that: Eggsy being totally naked, starkly on display, and Harry getting to go off in his pants.
"Going to dirty me up, Harry?" he says. His mouth is so dry it comes out rasped and needy, perfect. "Fuck, c'mon, I want to see you."
That gets him a growl from Harry and another bite for his troubles, this one at the angle of his jaw.
"No talking?" Eggsy tries, not meaning it in the slightest.
"Not at all," Harry says. "Far be it from me to stop you from running your bloody mouth, Eggsy."
Now there's an idea.
"Yeah?" Eggsy says. "Bet you could, but. If you tried."
Harry pulls back and looks at him. Harry's hair is a fright, Harry's mouth wet and red from kissing him, and Eggsy's not close to being hard again yet but his breath still catches, he still feels a shiver of lust spreading out from his throat, at how fucking good this is.
"Fuck," Harry says, precise and rough. He kisses Eggsy again--no body contact now, just his mouth, savage and brief--and then moves away, sitting up against the head of the bed and already working at the buttons of his shirt.
As soon as Harry's tossed his trousers over the edge of the bed, Eggsy's on him, sucking an adoring mark to the skin of his stomach, and another, even lower, making his destination perfectly clear. Harry's cock is flushed and hard and Eggsy wants it in his mouth yesterday.
Harry's abdominal muscles flutter and then Harry's lifting Eggsy's chin, Harry's thumb is pressing firmly down in the centre of his parted lips, considering.
Eggsy gets as far as, "May I," his tongue moving obscenely against the pad of Harry's thumb, before the birth of the universe is back in Harry's eyes, hot and brilliant like a flashburn, and Harry's fingertips dig hard into the underside of Eggsy's chin.
"Tease," Harry says, so fond, so low. "Someone should teach you a lesson."
Harry's bed is even larger than his own; there's plenty of room for Eggsy to lie comfortably on his side, between Harry's legs, his cheek pillowed on Harry's thigh. Harry ends up with one hand on his own cock so he can angle it, feed the hot width of it into Eggsy's mouth, and the other hand tangled in Eggsy's hair as he pushes Eggsy down onto it with steady thrusts. Eggsy holds on to Harry's other hip for balance.
"Christ, you're incredible, look at you, you lazy thing," Harry murmurs, punctuating by holding his cock just at the entrance to Eggsy's throat until Eggsy's eyes begin to water. "I should have made you work for it."
Eggsy coughs and Harry's grip relaxes so he can pull back a little. He gives the head of Harry's cock a particularly hard suck and tries to convey, with an upwards flick of his eyes and a brush of his nails across Harry's inner thigh, just how willing he'd have been to work harder than this. Harry's fingertips are firm in the shorter hair at the nape of his neck, Harry's hand large enough that he can stretch his thumb around to rub at the bulge of his own cockhead in Eggsy's cheek, fuck.
Harry keeps a firm grip on the base of his own cock, short inches from Eggsy's face, and Eggsy uses it as a practical lesson in observation, feeling a thrill of pride in the moments when Harry's fingers form an urgent clamp, keeping his climax at bay.
Eggsy feels half drowsy and half wound up tight, like his body's getting ready for another go. Next time he's going to pin Harry's hips down and get active about it, but right now he's happy to stay here, drooling a little as Harry holds him in place and rocks slowly in and out of his mouth, hissing praise, telling him how fucking good his mouth feels, how filthy his lips look, stretched around Harry like that.
That's enough for Eggsy's own cock to twitch, for him to angle his hips and rub down against the sheets, and moan softly through his full mouth.
"Eggsy," Harry says, and, "fuck," and his body spasms under Eggsy's palms, and Eggsy sucks him through it and manages to take him even deeper as he comes, deep enough that Eggsy's choking and his eyes are smarting, the air constricting in his nose--which, sure, is probably more showing off than anything else, but who's he trying to fool? He's been showing off for Harry's benefit since Harry pushed himself off the wall outside the police station, months ago and worldsaway.
This is more efficient than stealing cars and more personal than saving the world, and the strangled stream of profanity coming from Harry's mouth makes it worth it.
Eggsy's barely had time to swallow before Harry drags him up the bed and kisses him, less forceful than before, gentle with Eggsy's aching lips.
"You're welcome to stay the night, my dear boy," Harry says, and despite the fact that he's just fucked Eggsy's mouth, his voice is so polite that it could just as easily be a pleasantry as a real offer.
Harry must see something along those lines in Eggsy's face, because he clears his throat and firms his grip on Eggsy's shoulder.
"Eggsy," he says. "Stay."
Eggsy relaxes. "Yes, Harry," he says.
Eggsy's not sure what wakes him, but it wouldn't take much. He was a decently sound sleeper before Kingsman, but he's been spy-skittish ever since night one of proposal training, and there's no way that wasn't intentional. As Roxy once pointed out: even if you're an organisation with as much money falling out its arse as Kingsman has, you don't pay for the construction of an airtight underground bunker and replacements for everything electrical or otherwise water-damageable in it, let alone a large pane of one-way glass, if you're not getting your penny's worth of Teachable Moments. So on top of teamwork and initiative under pressure and fucking loo snorkels, that episode of near-drowning taught Eggsy and every other person in the room that sleep is no guarantee of safety and you'd better be able to snap awake with guns blazing if need be.
It also had a useful side effect when it comes to the suitcase of personal belongings that every other proposal but Eggsy was given enough warning to bring--because only Eggsy's sponsor was mental enough to pack him off at the last minute on a mixture of institutional fuck-you and gut instinct, like some kind of deranged fairy godmother who didn't have time to arse about with ballgowns and pumpkins--and that side effect was total, soggy destruction.
Eggsy's not got the same keen eye for human psychology as his field partner, but even he can see the point of that. Merlin's a tricksy fucker, and an efficient one too.
But hair-trigger sleep: that's the kind of lesson your body only needs to be taught once.
Eggsy fumbles the bedside lamp on and looks over at Harry, whose face is furrowed and whose hands are twitching, his head jerking occasionally on the pillow, the tendons on his neck standing out; all-in-all struggling against the quietest fucking nightmare known to man. It's creepy and Eggsy wants it to stop right this second.
But Harry's a spy and trained assassin who, if Eggsy was reading some of their earlier conversation correctly, isn't used to having someone else in his bed while he sleeps. And, given the spy and trained assassin thing, he might be dreaming about all sorts of weirdness that could translate into Eggsy being reflexively throttled or maimed before Harry's brain comes fully online. Guns blazing, that was the lesson. And Harry's been doing this much, much longer than he has.
So Eggsy scoots down the bed and sits, cross-legged, near Harry's feet--well out of reach--before he says, "Harry," loud as he dares.
Harry's eyes open at once. Eggsy wouldn't put money on whether he's awake yet.
Eggsy stays where he is, hands resting in his lap where a pair of sweatpants borrowed from Harry are drowning his feet in fabric. Harry finally sucks in a breath that sounds deliberate, and his eyes move. Eggsy gives an awkward wave as Harry's gaze finds him, and wonders--far too belatedly, snaps the Merlin inside his head--not if Harry Hart sleeps with weapons within easy reach, but how many and where they are.
Harry's exhale sounds awful, closer to a groan, like he's hungover as fuck or reliving his coma, which--oh, grand, fuckin' A, something else to worry about. He scrubs at his forehead with one hand, making the attractive mess of his hair somehow even more attractive, and the covers slip further down his torso as he moves.
Eggsy swallows hard and tries to remind his dick that they've already gotten off, and very nice it was too, but his anatomy's having none of it. He held out for weeks, and one exhibitionist wank session and then another in the shower before sleeping have barely taken the edge off. And Harry's right there, just as shirtless as Eggsy, Eggsy having successfully and with only the smallest amount of shame pouted his way past all of Harry's earlier attempts to button himself into some kind of monk-like neck-to-wrists pyjama shirt.
Right, everyone's probably woken up enough to orient themselves in time and place and suppress their violent instincts by now.
"What is it?" Eggsy asks. "Harry?"
"It's the moment when I wake up." Harry sounds resigned, annoyed, accustomed, Jesus--is this what was lurking behind the armour of courtesy when he said that Eggsy was welcome to stay? "Waking up is like the moment in that fucking church when everything was finally quiet."
Eggsy licks his lips, which are dry, and looks away. Watching that shit from afar was horrifying enough. How much worse being the person not just behind the glasses but committing the acts, lost to your own control, and then coming back to yourself at the end.
For Harry, who collects things in neat frames, pinned down and organised, it must have been unimaginable.
Eggsy has a sudden jolt of guilt about where he's sitting and what that physical distance must be signalling--correctly--to a brain as professionally paranoid as Harry's. He moves, quick as he can, not even bothering to make it look casual, and lies back down within the range of Harry's hands.
"I dunno what to say," he says bluntly. "Can't think of anything that will help."
Harry sighs and reaches out, traces Eggsy's cheekbone and brushes back some of Eggsy's hair. Eggsy holds still.
"You don't have to say anything for me to be glad of your presence," Harry says, which sounds to Eggsy like two lies wrapped so tightly together that they become, weirdly enough, something true.
Eggsy covers Harry's hand with his own and moves it down to his neck, adjusting until he's pretty sure Harry's long and callused fingers are over his carotid pulse. He holds Harry's gaze in the light of the lamp. You can train most muscles to suppress signs of fear, but not this one. This one tells the truth.
Kingsman proposal training, field first aid edition: estimate a heart rate without the help of your watch.
Harry's face shifts through several expressions. He curls his fingers more surely and more gently around Eggsy's neck, and uses them to pull Eggsy close and kiss his forehead.
"As ever," Harry says, "you are full of surprises."
Eggsy blinks at the lines of text on his phone screen, but they still say, That all sounds very nice and I am glad you had finally orgasms but it is time to tell truths like a man and tell him you wish for him to bounce you on his enormous cock until you cry tears like a little girl with pig's tails and no ice cream.
"D'you think maybe she seduced her English tutor before he could get to the lesson on how to make a sentence stop?" he says.
Bounce, though; points for imagery. Eggsy's trousers feel inconveniently tight at the thought of it.
"Tilde?" says Roxy. "Oh, tell her hello."
"Tell her yourself," Eggsy shoots back, because Princess Tilde wouldn't even have his email address if Roxy hadn't given it to her.
It's not like he minds, much. Tilde seems to have decided that Eggsy is perfect for practicing her specific brand of filthy--if erratically punctuated--English, and mostly she tells him stories about her sexual exploits and demands his in return. They've recently started playing a game of Redtube-URL chicken that meant he had to tell his email inbox that Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Sweden is Not Spam, despite all evidence to the contrary. Eggsy has no idea how Tilde's managed to keep this all from her handlers and PR people and general public. Though from the sounds of things she's fucking her way through her general public, or at least the well-endowed and anally adventurous male segment of it, and maybe the Swedes don't go in for phone-hacking their celebrities with the same enthusiasm as the British.
He types, IT'S 'PIGTAILS', and includes a stream of mildly obscene emoji.
"Rox," he says, "where's my--"
"Fucking hell, wo ist meine, um, Cravat? Krawatte."
Eggsy stares blankly at her. "Insect?"
"Your bow tie," Roxy says. "Fliege. In der Seitentasche des Koffers."
"See, this would be famous and all," Eggsy says, "if Tom and Ellie Rutherford were actually German."
"Tom and Ellie don't understand German," Roxy agrees, pulling on her leggings. "So people might be more careless when speaking it in front of them."
Eggsy locates his bow tie in die verdammte Seitentasche and goes to stand in front of the huge gilt-framed mirror, like something from a fairy tale, on the wall of the hotel suite. He turns this way and that, admiring the line of his Kingsman tuxedo. He's getting used to wearing a suit every day, but this one still feels special, from the slim fit of the trousers to the subtle shine of the lapels where they catch the light.
Harry's the one who taught him how to tie a bow tie. Made him do it to a stopwatch, and then in the dark, by touch.
Eggsy's tweaking it flat when-- "No," Roxy says, suddenly beside him, and yanks one end free.
"Oy," Eggsy yelps, "it were fine."
Roxy ignores him and undoes the whole thing, tugging until the black snake of it is balled up in her hand. She undoes the top two buttons of his shirt, folding back the collar, rumpling it almost, her fingers quick and businesslike. Her nails are painted a deep, dark pink.
When she's done she taps one of those nails on the side of Eggsy's glasses, activating the comm.
"Arthur," she says, "would you like to weigh in, sir?"
Then, with the kind of tact that Eggsy will probably never learn even if he exceeds the usual Kingsman life expectancy, she steps away to add some more weapons to the arsenal already strapped to her thigh.
"The youth of today," comes Harry's voice, amused. "No respect at all."
"You on my glasses feed, Harry?"
"I am now," Harry says. "And certainly appreciating the view. Where's your bow tie, Eggsy?"
"Meine Fliege," says Eggsy, showing off with no shame at all, "has probably just disappeared down Lancelot's cleavage."
"No room, Galahad," Roxy calls. "That's where I'm putting my stiletto."
"She nicked it," Eggsy says, meeting his reflection's gaze. "Reckons it looks better without, or something."
"It's unorthodox," Harry muses. "But I can't fault her eye. You look ravishing, my dear boy."
Which is a ridiculous word, but still makes the triangle of skin at Eggsy's throat flush with pleased heat.
"I look ravished, is what I look," he says.
"We've been married for less than a year," Roxy says. "Maybe I couldn't keep my hands off you."
"Could you sound less fucking bored at the prospect."
Roxy flashes him a smile and joins him at the mirror, her hands full of enough black netting to outfit a small fishing village. It's somehow going to turn into a skirt, layered over her Kevlar bodice and the sensible leggings. Apparently Gazelle, despite being vicious and having fuckoff awful taste in men, was inspiring when it comes to Roxy's taste in formal wear that one can yank off and discard if there's going to be violence.
Eggsy's kind of hoping there's going to be violence.
"I've never been to an auction before," he says. "D'they get bloody?"
"Not usually, in my experience," Harry says.
"Agent Galahad's been to at least four, and I reckon the one at Christie's where the gas grenade went off and the Chinese ambassador got knifed was you," Eggsy says, "on account of the word 'fuck' being used thirty-five times in the mission report."
"You've been reading up on old missions?" Harry says. "You counted--never mind."
"The Galahad ones, yeah," Eggsy says. "Ain't nothing to be done about it, Harry. Lancelot here's a bad influence on poor plebs like me. Ow."
Roxy directs a look of faint disappointment at her bare foot. Probably wishing she'd got blades like Gazelle, too, so that when she side-kicks Eggsy in the leg like that it'd do some proper damage. She gives another furious rustle of skirt and starts to tug the whole mess up to her waist.
"That was one of my first missions," Harry says.
"You were proper livid about the CIA turning up, I know that. Thirty-five, Harry."
"I like to think I've overcome the deplorable potty-mouthed tendencies of my youth," Harry says, and Eggsy can just imagine the calm face that goes with that voice and the glint of laughter that Harry can never quite repress, that shines in his eyes like young galaxies.
"Fuck off, Harry," Eggsy says, quiet and smiling. Oh, fuck it. It's only Roxy. "I miss you."
"You've been in Germany all of forty-eight hours, you silly creature," says Harry.
"In 1968, right," Eggsy says, "that's when Galahad's real name was--"
"Dennis Underhill," Harry says, in unison with him.
"--right, yeah, and he was at a silent auction for a biochemical weapon stolen from a secure lab, and he was posing as a Count which is wicked, Tom Rutherford's not even got a title."
"But he does have money," Harry says. "And a beautiful wife, of course."
Eggsy looks deliberately sideways to show Harry that Tom Rutherford's beautiful wife Ellie, short for Eleanor, is currently swearing in a language that isn't German--might be Russian?--as she tucks bits and more bits of wild fabric into the top half of her outfit.
"Dennis was a git," Eggsy says. "Wrote all his reports like he was being paid by the bloody word. Could give her Royal Highness a real run for her money when it comes to sentences."
A pause. "I beg your pardon?" Harry says.
"Um," Eggsy says. "But, he won the auction, killed three of the other buyers and made sure the seller was arrested by Interpol two days later."
"An effective git."
"I don't care what the bearers of our--of your codename have done at previous auctions," Harry says sternly. "This is strictly a recon mission. No bloodshed should be necessary."
"Sir, yes sir."
"Brat," says Harry. "I want you back here in one piece, do you hear me?"
"Aw, you miss me too," Eggsy drawls, obnoxious as he knows how.
"Two pieces at the very most. Now, you should be getting ready."
Eggsy's still smiling as Harry breaks the connection. He looks over at where Roxy's somehow wrangled the hedge of tulle into an elegant explosion of skirt.
"You could hide a bloody rocket launcher under that thing," Eggsy marvels.
Roxy smooths a hand over her hair, swept up into something involving flowery diamond pins which, she's assured him, are tipped with a paralytic substance. There's a girl named Delilah in Merlin's department who's apparently been waiting her whole life for the chance to design sparkly accessories that can also kill people.
"Next time, Galahad, maybe I'll let you wear the dress."
There's a sharp knock on the door of the suite.
"Room service," comes a heavy German accent.
"Did the cellars have the Schloss Schönborn 2009 Riesling we ordered?" calls Roxy.
"I am so sorry. We had only the 2010."
Eggsy exchanges a nod with Roxy and goes to open the door.
"German Rieslings," he says, "are brilliant with a curry."
Amelia's mouth twitches. "I am sure you are right, sir." She wheels the white-covered trolley inside, and waits for Eggsy to close the door before she smiles. "Galahad, Lancelot," she says, accent entirely gone. "I'm glad it's you two, you know. Good job with saving the world and all that."
"Our pleasure," Roxy says, sweeping across the room to kiss Amelia's cheek. "What's the Berlin office got for us?"
One of the consequences of lots of people--lots of rich, influential, property-owning people--having gone all Guy Fawkes Night in Valentine's mountain bunker is a large amount of land being passed on to people who don't know about it, or want to sell it, or...something involving inheritance law that not even Merlin's accent could save from dullness. Harry and Merlin have intel that a single person, acting through various agents, is buying up swathes of property that used to belong to recently-deceased millionaires, and is using them as bases for a huge black market and fencing operation. Gawaine just got back from Moscow with the news that this mysterious person might be branching out into creating training centres for mercenaries, as well.
So here are Eggsy and Roxy, at a black tie party in Berlin that's also a land auction, trying out their handsome-young-couple act for the first time at a major event.
"Please stay under the radar for this one," Amelia says. "I spent a week on these identities, and we want them to be watertight and reusable. You've read the dossiers?"
"Tom and Ellie Rutherford," says Roxy. "Met at university, married last year."
"I," says Eggsy, shoving his accent a couple of rungs up the ladder, "inherited my dad's real estate portfolio and vintage car dealership after he took a mate's golf club to the head on the green of the sixteenth hole, on V-Day."
"And I'm an organisational psychologist for a major investment bank," Roxy says. "We're hoping to buy one of the Italian properties, and build a new villa where we can spend our summers."
"Nice to meet you, Tom, Ellie," says Amelia. "Married just last year? How lovely. Where'd you honeymoon?"
That wasn't in the dossiers. Eggsy reaches out and wraps his arm around Roxy's waist, pulling her as close as her skirt will allow.
"Thailand," he says. "Darling, do you remember that gorgeous little resort--"
"Ooh, yes, our cabin opened right onto the beach," Roxy says, laying her palm playfully against his chest. "Not that we saw anything but the bedroom for the first three days."
"El," Eggsy laughs.
Roxy signals it with a challenging flash of her eyes, but it's still a bit of a surprise when she raises herself on her toes and presses her lips to his, casual and sweet.
Amelia's mouth ticks up. "Nice work. Don't oversell it. All you need to do is keep your eyes and ears open, work out who the buyer's agent is, and plant a bug on them." She hands Eggsy a flat black box the size of a matchbook. "Transparent, waterproof, sticks to almost anything. Don't take it out of the box before you're ready to plant it. We've already lost two prototypes in the lab that way, they're worse than a bloody contact lens when you drop them."
"Got it," Eggsy says.
"We should head down," Roxy says, glancing at Eggsy's watch. "Let me get my shoes on."
"And you," says Amelia, frowning, "where's your tie?"
"Meine Fliege ist--what's German for cleavage?"
"Galahads," says Roxy.
"Mum, you in?" Eggsy calls, tugging the front door shut behind him.
"In here, babe," his mum calls back. "Janet's dropped by, in't that nice?"
Eggsy's got a nod and a greeting for Janet McColl, one of his mum's friends from the estate who'd made a point of coming by with biscuits and friendly gossip any morning after Dean had made more of a drunken ruckus than usual. Right now Janet's looking around their living room with an expression that says: well, this is all a bit naff. That isn't stopping her from sitting bolt upright on the edge of her chair with the air of someone determined to prove that she eats apple teacake off fancy plates with a cake fork every day of her life. Or at least she could if she wanted to.
"Michelle says you're working for a tailor shop, Eggsy. Going to foreign places and all sorts."
Janet's eyes can do laser-sharp almost as well as Harry's. She drinks in all the details of Eggsy's suit, and Eggsy reminds himself to keep his weight firmly centred instead of favouring his left. It's been a quiet day, considering. He spent most of it at the mansion, where Merlin declared his language skills a disgrace, drilled him on German and got him started on Arabic, which is a headache and a half. Roxy got to spend hours practising with some projectile fake nails which are Delilah's latest project. Eggsy's got no lacerations, no visible bruises; nothing to hide at the moment except a slight limp from where he'd turned his right ankle badly in Berlin.
"Yeah, that's right," Eggsy says. "Kingsman's got a lot of clients overseas. And we're trying to break into the Italian market and all that."
He crouches down to ruffle Daisy's hair where she's playing an intent game of dolls and trucks under the table. As he stands up again he pulls a chunk off the cake with his fingers and eats it, grinning when his mum rolls her eyes.
"You in for tea, Eggs?"
"Nah, I'm heading to Harry's."
His mum sighs. "Don't you see enough of him at work, then?"
Janet's pressing her mouth together with such showy restraint that Eggsy's not surprised when his mum sighs again and says, "Eggsy's seeing his boss, innit?" She doesn't sound nearly as disapproving about it as she did a month ago, which is something.
Janet nods, clearly adding 'confirmed poofter with his feet well under the table' to the stash of juicy details about the Unwin family that she's been lasering up to dole out at the hair salon. Well, can't be helped. Eggsy's not ashamed of any of it, and given everything that happened in the Black Prince he doubts anyone'd lay a finger on him even if he strolled down the road hand-in-hand with Harry and wearing a pink mesh shirt with sequins spelling out SWINGS BOTH WAYS.
"It's me day off tomorrow," Eggsy says. "Promised I'd take you and Daisy to the Heath, remember?" He drops a kiss on his mum's cheek. "I'll be back here before lunch."
He showers upstairs, hangs his suit up neatly. Something about the sound of Janet's laughter drifting up from the living room makes him pause, though, hovering in front of his wardrobe with a towel round his waist, water dripping down into his eyes from his hair. He dresses himself in jeans, polo shirt, a warm hoodie, his old kicks with the wings that aren't really old at all, just seem like it, now. He's not ashamed of this, either. And as long as Harry's not planning to take them to a restaurant with white tablecloths and a dress code, Eggsy feels like giving them both a kick of nostalgia.
Harry doesn't take them to a restaurant. Harry, who's got tired smudges under his eyes and a harassed furrow to his brow, reports there's bugger all food in his house, and takes them shopping.
"You're still limping," Harry observes, halfway down the tinned vegetables aisle.
"Ain't nothing," Eggsy says. "Marita from medical said it was hardly sprained."
Harry slants a very Arthur kind of look at him, but Eggsy's already had to sit through the official head-shaking session over the fact that he and Roxy managed to get into trouble in Berlin despite it being, quote unfuckingquote, strictly a recon mission. The buyer's agent was a pert-faced woman with a cascade of blonde hair and it proved trickier than they'd anticipated to get close enough to bug her. Roxy ended up playing drunk and girlishly bonding with the woman in the bathroom while Eggsy created a distraction. A loud distraction.
But the bug got placed, and their covers are intact, so Eggsy doesn't see how turning his ankle in a mad midnight rush across the slippery Gendarmenmarkt during a fake bomb scare counts for anything, really.
"We're gettin' looks, bruv," Eggsy says, more chav than he's sounded in weeks; goes with the clothes, innit? He sways closer to Harry as if demanding attention, all wide-eyed bit of rough, and smiles at the disapproving body language of the gawking middle-aged couple further down the aisle.
Harry raises a faintly murderous eyebrow at Eggsy before shaking off all pretence that he gives a shit.
"At least this ghastly denim is good for something," Harry says.
Eggsy's sartorial protest shrivels in his throat as Harry slides one big hand into Eggsy's back pocket and spreads his fingers, outright copping a feel of Eggsy's whole buttock, proprietary and firm like someone testing the tenderness of a piece of meat.
Eggsy rises half onto his toes with surprise and heat blooms on his face. He bites his lower lip for a moment, then gives in fully to the spark of revenge and turns it from his own mannerism into that of some other working-class twink--maybe the one in the pink sequins--who's bored with the frozen goods section and wants to be whisked away in an expensive car and then shagged silly on the gentleman's thousand-quid mattress.
He should have learned by now that Harry's just as competitive and also a total bastard, because Harry gives his arse another squeeze and uses it to haul him close so he can murmur hotly in Eggsy's ear.
"They're not looking at us, Eggsy, they're looking at you. There's not a one of them who isn't imagining how you'd look on their sheets, all spread out and ready to beg."
Which is utter bollocks, Eggsy's already caught at least three women giving Harry the kind of look that supermodels give chocolate cake, but it still makes Eggsy's body go tight and wanting within his loose clothes.
After all of that, dinner is frozen pizza and a pre-mixed salad which Harry throws into the basket at Waitrose after some guilty circling back to the fresh produce section. Eggsy's starting to suspect Harry is a shite cook, which is actually reassuring because every other fucking thing about him is so intimidatingly perfect that Eggsy sometimes feels awkward around him, still. The time Eggsy turned up to a briefing with Big Macs for both of them, Harry laughed for ten seconds straight, and Eggsy still feels stupidly smitten remembering the way Harry's whole face creased and lit up with it.
There's no keeping Harry from his beloved dining table and nice plates, though at least he agrees with Eggsy that using cutlery on pizza is a waste of time even for a gentleman.
Eggsy can't lie, he's been thinking a lot about what Harry said last time, about what they could have been doing in the armchair. But--
"Jesus, Harry, your living room looks like a filing cabinet exploded." Which Eggsy has actually seen happen, now, so he knows what he's talking about.
"I've been taking work home," Harry says. At least he looks annoyed about it. "I do apologise, I should have remembered to tidy up."
There doesn't seem to be a formal system for Eggsy to fuck up by helping, so he watches for a few seconds and then makes a start on the other side of the room, scooping papers back into their folders and making stacks of them. He's bending down to pick up a few sheets that have slid beneath the couch when his eye catches on a black-and-white photograph of a group of men standing in the shadow of a truck, and he pauses.
"Harry, am I allowed to see any of this?"
"I'm not going to send anyone to kill you in the night if you happen to see a few classified pages while you're helping me tidy," Harry says mildy.
"Not like you'd have to look far for volunteers."
"Nonsense, I'd have to make it a strict order," Harry says. "And even then, Lancelot might stage a coup."
Eggsy smiles. "She would and all."
"Christ, I'd be tempted to let her," Harry says, shoving an armful of manila folders into a box with a vicious papery thump.
"I wouldn't have thought being Arthur involved this much actual paper," Eggsy says. "Merlin's got all them clipboards and holograms and things."
"It shouldn't," Harry says. "But Chester still believed in physical records, and there was no chance for him to condense all the vital and active files into a formal handover. Arthurs don't usually die unexpectedly. Most of them retire, or at least have enough time to set their own and Kingsman's affairs in order."
"I weren't exactly thinking about the bloody paperwork when the arsehole tried to poison me."
"And quite right too," Harry says. He puts his hand on the back of Eggsy's neck as he moves past him with another armful of folders, letting it rest there for a moment. Their eyes meet and Eggsy's lips feel dry, the core of him gone softly liquid.
Armchair, Eggsy thinks, right, and scrambles to clear the rest of the couch once Harry releases him.
"You getting it all sorted, then?" he asks.
"It remains a work in progress," Harry says ruefully. "It's not just the official records and mission reports. Merlin's working on decrypting Chester's private files, and that's a stroke of luck, if a macabre one. He didn't get to pass on the useful information, but he also didn't get a chance to sweep anything under the carpet."
Eggsy looks up. "Like what? Or is that more send-Gawaine-to-kill-me stuff?"
"He made a crack about Lancelot being a girl," Eggsy says. "She'd probably be fine with sticking a knife in him, after her coup."
"Did he now."
"Don't say nothing," Eggsy warns. "She's dealing with it."
"Of course," Harry says. He looks down at the top file of his current stack, fingering the folder's edge thoughtfully. "I can tell you some things. You're doing the work, Eggsy. It's fair to want to know why. But--"
"But the next person to tie me to a train track might actually mean it," Eggsy says. Harry looks at him and he shrugs. "Can't grass you up if I dunno what to tell 'em, can I?"
Harry doesn't insult either of them by saying that Eggsy would never betray him in any case. Eggsy's stubborn but he's not superhuman. Most people talk, eventually.
A lot more carpet and most of the furniture is visible by now. Harry nudges a final box of folders against the wall with his foot and sits down in the centre of the couch.
"Kingsman is entirely independent," he says. "Preserve peace and protect life: that's our mandate. We don't answer to any government. We aren't paid by any government."
"Is Kingsman skint?" Eggsy demands.
"No. Not in the slightest." Harry sighs, sinking more heavily back into the cushions. "But we're outstripping the income from investments and the interest from the original capital. We're still a small operation, but intelligence is a technology game now. We can recruit and train the best," directing a small smile at Eggsy, "and don't get me started on the cost of training eight recruits and then only keeping one of them. But we've got to keep our people in umbrellas and bullets."
"And luxury jets," says Eggsy. He stands in front of Harry, hands in his pockets, awkward. "Where's the money coming from, then?"
"I won't bore you with the details," Harry says.
"Come on, Harry."
"No," Harry says more firmly. "There's blackmail in all but name, and there are favours for favours, as if the knights are no better than fucking mercenaries, and there's probably worse that we haven't decrypted yet. But it's all before your time, and it's my bloody mess of a church newsletter, not yours."
Eggsy keeps behind his teeth, But it's yours because of me.
He says, "You still believe in what we do, though."
"Absolutely," Harry says at once.
Eggsy remembers Roxy's face as she emerged from the dressing room in her first Kingsman suit. He shrugs.
"Then you'll work the rest out. Times change," he says. "You know that, Harry. Years of toffs and then you proposed me, yeah? You saw something in me, and God knows it weren't me manners."
"Loyalty and obedience," Harry says softly. "Do you know one of the first things I ever said to you was an order?"
Eggsy has a flash of Harry as he looked on the steps of the police station, and his own reaction to it, like a slap of bewildered lust through his wariness. But...that wasn't the first time they met, was it?
He touches the base of his neck where he still wears the medal on a chain beneath his clothes, unless he's being Tom Rutherford or someone else who can't be connected to Kingsman at all. Harry's gaze follows his fingers, and Harry nods.
"I told you to take care of if it, and take care of your mum. And you did."
"Didn't always," Eggsy says, with a sourness in his throat. Fucking Dean.
"But you tried. You tried your fucking guts out, Eggsy, if I know you at all."
Eggsy licks over the dryness of his lips and steps closer, until his legs bump Harry's. He wants to reach into Harry's mind and wrap his hands around the weeds of adulthood and stress, pull them out in thorny fistfuls, but he's known since he was fourteen that you can't do that for anyone and no one can do it for you. That's living in the world.
Distraction, though. Connection. They can do that.
He toes off his shoes, one by one, kicks them aside and gets his knees up on the couch, one on either side so he can sit with his bum resting on Harry's knees, enough space between their bodies that he can focus on Harry's face.
"Take care of a medal," Eggsy says. "Not much of an order, is it?"
He slides one hand through Harry's thick hair, from his temple to the back of his skull, and leaves it tangled there, feeling the speed of his own breathing. A clock is ticking somewhere in the room. There are two exits and two windows that could be smashed to create more, but Eggsy's attention won't pin itself to anything but the man in front of him. Eggsy could fall forward for miles, for years. He could stay exactly where he is and never want to move.
He says, "I reckon you can do better than that."
"I'm sure I can." There's a note in Harry's voice like an engine revving almost out of earshot.
Eggsy swallows. "Should we have a safeword, like?"
Harry moves his palms in a soothing motion up and down Eggsy's thighs. "We can, certainly, if you wish," he says. "But I'm not going to hurt you."
Eggsy feels his face change, and a tight warmth spreads out between his ribs.
"Ah," Harry says carefully. "Well. Perhaps we can--revisit that later. But for now: if you say no, I will accept it. If you say stop, I will stop. You can argue, Eggsy. You can ask me questions. Here, between us, you obey because you want to. And only that. Do you understand?"
The words strike up an echo in Eggsy's chest, like the hum of a crossbow string when the bolt's already flying.
He says, "Yeah. Yes," and lets the sir melt to nothing in his mouth. Harry's right. It don't belong here.
If he's allowed to stop things, he's probably allowed to start them, so he leans forward without asking or waiting for permission. Harry's hands move to his hips and Harry kisses him back at once, slow and fantastic. God. Eggsy really could stay here forever, he could kiss Harry in this thorough, unhurried way until his lips are numb and sodden with it.
Harry's hands roam back to Eggsy's arse, and despite the thickness of his jeans Eggsy thinks he can feel each finger individually where it digs into his flesh. Harry delivers a demanding squeeze, two handfuls of denim tightening the pressure of the zip against Eggsy's dick, and Eggsy gives a groan against Harry's mouth that sounds about as slutty as he felt when he was letting Harry steer him around the supermarket by the back pocket. But neither of them is playing for an audience now.
"Eggsy," Harry says. "My shirt, if you'd be so good."
Eggsy pulls his hand out of Harry's hair with a reluctance that vanishes almost at once, and starts to unbutton Harry's shirt. He has to do it blind because all the while Harry keeps kissing him, sucks and mouths at his jaw, pulls him closer in little jerks until their groins are almost touching. The kiss is less patient now, with drags of teeth that make Eggsy feel heady and unwise, like he's trapped in a firefight and about to laugh his way out with a gun in each hand.
Eggsy tugs Harry's now-loose shirt out of his trousers and puts his hands behind his own back, fumbling confidently for Harry's cufflinks, but Harry grabs hold of both of his wrists, faster than Eggsy would have imagined anyone could move. It's so fucking hot that Eggsy's pulse rockets into a new gear and he has to fight the urge to push forward and grind his cock urgently against Harry's through four layers of fabric.
"Shit, Harry," he pants. "C'mon, what's next."
Harry settles back and looks at him, Eggsy sitting astride his lap with his arms trapped behind his back. Eggsy's still buttoned into every item of clothing, but even so, he feels exposed, feels--well, fucking gorgeous. The thrill of it chases lightning up his spine.
"Tell me what to do," Eggsy says.
"You're a menace," Harry murmurs. "Legs to one side. Here."
He releases Eggsy's wrists and moves one of Eggsy's legs until Eggsy's still seated in his lap, but sideways, legs stretched out until they touch the arm of the couch. One of Harry's hands cradles Eggsy's head with the same controlling grip as when he was fucking his cock into Eggsy's throat; gooseflesh spreads down Eggsy's bare forearms and his mouth feels bruised with the memory.
As positions go it's a bit coddling, a bit girly, maybe, but Eggsy couldn't give a fuck. He stretches out one arm behind Harry's neck on the back of the couch. His breath stutters and he presses his mouth to the end-of-day shadow on Harry's jaw, to escape the intensity of Harry's eyes.
"If it eases your mind at all to hear it, my dear boy," Harry says, "I have every intention of fucking you this evening."
"Yeah?" Eggsy says breathlessly. "About fucking time, Harry."
Harry laughs. It's a light and warming sound and Eggsy's heart does something embarrassing on pure besotted reflex.
"I did promise myself I would make you forget your own name," Harry says, conversational, and before Eggsy can choke out anything like what the fuck or yes God please, Harry lifts the hem of Eggsy's shirt with a swift yank and gets his free hand under there.
The shock of skin-on-skin makes Eggsy hiss and bury his face in the side of Harry's neck. There are fingernails scraping lightly across Eggsy's stomach, dipping into his navel and moving across the scar along his ribs, and then Harry's rolling one of Eggsy's nipples between thumb and forefinger, tight enough to be flirting with pain.
"Fuck." Eggsy squirms.
"Eggsy," Harry says then, voice like warm cognac, "I have an order for you."
Eggsy's heart hammers jealously at Harry's palm as if to hold it there. He'd learn how to levitate, he'd go to his knees for Harry in the middle of Trafalgar Square, he'd leave this house tonight and fly to Indonesia and assassinate the president if Harry told him to.
"Let's hear it then," he says, looking Harry in the eye.
"Be very quiet." Harry rubs a firm thumb across Eggsy's mouth. "Be as quiet as you can. Could you do that for me?"
Harry's face breaks into a smile that Eggsy's not seen before, or seen only the edges of, kind and perilous and bright and dark all at once. It makes Eggsy's abdominals clench with the same reflex that held his foot on the accelerator, his hand on the wheel, flying in reverse in a stolen car down a crowded London road. This is gonna be wild, his nerves shout, hold on.
Eggsy licks along the sharp join of his own teeth, and smiles back.
"Of course you can," Harry says, and then his fingers are digging into Eggsy's neck and he's kissing Eggsy, deep and filthy, while his other hand works at Eggsy's fly.
Eggsy makes a choking sound into Harry's mouth when Harry's hand lands on his cock, only not properly on it, just shoved in under the gaping denim and fitted over the layer of Eggsy's boxers, where Eggsy's cock is swelling and aching. Eggsy shifts his hips, encouraging--almost there, come on!--but all he gets is Harry's clever fingers wanking Eggsy through the material, calm and expert strokes alternating with gentle, agonising squeezes.
For his part, Eggsy decides his own shirt is getting in the way. He chucks it halfway across the room once he's wrestled it off, almost winding Harry with his elbow in the process, and then spends some time demanding more sloppy, savage kisses with a hand on Harry's jaw. But eventually he gives in to the fact that this much arousal is weakening, or drugging, or something, because it's too much fucking effort to hold his own head up when he could drop it onto Harry's shoulder instead.
Which is convenient, because Harry's unbuttoned shirt is lying open and the junction of Harry's neck and shoulder is right there, smelling of hot skin and salt and the faint remnants of cologne. All Eggsy has to do is apply himself.
"Shit," Harry hisses, the first time Eggsy bites down.
Along with the word his hand tightens on Eggsy's cock, which makes Eggsy want to bite deeper, and Eggsy's mind snags on wondering if that glorious feedback loop would end with Harry's blood in his mouth; Harry's hand an iron vise for him to scream and shove into.
Eggsy somehow manages to groan silently, his thighs clenching and his blood boiling white-hot for a moment. It seems a bloody miracle Harry isn't scalded by the way Eggsy's panting against him.
"You know, it was sublime watching you do this," Harry says, "but I've always thought there's no better way to learn something than to do it yourself."
Fucking Sherlock fucking Hart, with his powers of observation. Eggsy can't remember much of the masturbatory details of that first night beyond how good it was to get off after so long, and how brazen he felt under the wash of Harry's gaze. Which was--clearly picking up some quality intel, if the methodical way he's working Eggsy's cock now is any indication.
One good thing about this position is that Eggsy can feel every twitch telling him Harry's getting hard too. Sod it, might as well give some back, Eggsy thinks, grinding his arse shamelessly down each time Harry's fingers bring him closer--closer--
--and then release him abruptly, just before he reaches the edge.
The curse is halfway out of Eggsy's mouth before he remembers: be quiet. He stifles the noise by sucking another half-pissy and half-adoring mark to Harry's skin, leaving it red like the burn from a near-miss bullet. His cock is leaking, staining his boxers, and Harry's not gone near the elastic waistband of them even once. It's all friction and frustration, Harry carefully working him to the point of release and then--how? observing what?--backing abruptly off again. Eggsy's got the hang of channeling his noises into teeth and tongue, learning the taste of Harry's skin; Harry's going to look like he's been throttled or attacked by a school of amorous piranhas at this rate.
It's the same maddening pattern until Eggsy's shivering in Harry's arms, feeling vengeful and wrung-out and almost sobbing with need, shoving his hips up into Harry's hand and getting never quite enough.
Harry drops kisses on Eggsy's screwed-shut eyelids which are not, absolutely not, welling up with angry tears. Harry says, "You're doing so well. Fuck--you're beautiful like this," voice ripping through the word beautiful like tarpaulin giving way under a knife.
Eggsy's socked feet are slipping on the couch cushions, trying to find some leverage to push against, not nearly coordinated enough when Harry's forcing him back from the brink of another almost-orgasm and distracting him by fucking his tongue leisurely into Eggsy's mouth. Eggsy can't be arsed to kiss back; he just lies there and shakes and takes it, while his cock smears liquid in a silken patch under Harry's hand.
"That's it," Harry says, relinquishing Eggsy's mouth. "Almost there now."
Eggsy pants and digs his fingernails into Harry's shoulder so hard he won't be surprised if he draws blood, fuck, he'll be glad.
"Alright," Harry says into the hot skin of Eggsy's temple, "you can tell me, now, darling, go on," and even then Eggsy's clenched his teeth so hard, is so far gone, that he has to inhale and shakily exhale twice before he can speak.
"Oh fuck, oh please," rushes out of him like a storm. "Harry, please, oh Jesus, oh bloody fucking hell, you wanker, come the fuck on--"
"You--I fucking hate you," Eggsy croaks, but he's laughing, his ribs aching with it. "Fucking hell, Harry, I'll kill you," and Harry chuckles and moves his hand faster, finally, and Harry's still hot and so hard beneath him, and if Eggsy movesjust right he can get the bulge of Harry's cock lined up along his crack, can slide and shove and imagine it deep inside him, fuck, Harry promised--
Eggsy comes between one firm stroke of Harry's hand and the next, his cock jerking against Harry's fingers and the constraints of his pants. Be quiet must have found its way well under his skin because his throat closes and he shudders his way silently through it, mouthing dumbly at Harry's chest.
"Eggsy," Harry says, soothing, into his hair. "Are you alright?"
"You serious?" Eggsy says, sucking in breaths. "No, I want to--lodge a fucking complaint. What d'you think? Just--help me off with these, yeah?"
Between them they wrangle Eggsy's jeans off and use the boxers to clean him up, which is good, because otherwise that whole coming-in-his-pants situation was going to swing from very hot to very uncomfortable. He pulls his socks off, too, because naked-but-for-socks isn't a great look on anyone.
"There are condoms in the loo cupboard," Harry says.
"Was that an order?"
Harry kisses his shoulder. "Don't be obtuse."
Obtuse, Eggsy mouths incredulously back at him. Harry laughs.
The downstairs loo is floored with tiles which are cool against Eggsy's feet, but the rest of his body's still flushed and tingling, warmly untouchable. He locates the condoms--and lube, cheers, Harry--in the cupboard and straightens up at eye level with Mr Pickles, who's regarding Eggsy's nudity with his usual placid beadiness.
"Ain't a fair life, is it, bruv?" Eggsy commiserates. "He picks you out for something, and next thing you know you'd follow him into a bloody fire."
Mr Pickles declines to chime in. Eggsy grins and takes the supplies back to where Harry's still sitting on the couch, exactly as dressed as he was when Eggsy left. Hasn't even popped the cufflinks on his shirt.
"Is this a thing for you, then, keeping your kit on during?" Eggsy says. "Only I was thinking maybe you'd like to even the field a bit."
"No, thank you," says Harry. Eggsy passes him the condom box and lube in response to a beckoning hand. "Were you wearing any clothes at all during your tryst with Princess Tilde?"
"What," says Eggsy.
"Do I need to repeat myself?"
"No," Eggsy says, off balance. "I weren't dressed."
"Hmm," Harry says, sounding satisfied. "I thought not. Come here, Eggsy."
Eggsy goes. He wonders if he's going to be told to suck Harry off again, and yeah, he could get right into that, the idea of kneeling on the soft carpet at Harry's feet and finding out how many languages Arthur, ex Galahad, can swear in.
But Harry's squeezing lube onto his fingers in a generous stream, and Eggsy's cheeks clench at the sight of it. He gets one awkward knee up onto the couch beside Harry and pauses, waiting for direction; Harry rewards him with a slow, filthy smile.
"Face down," Harry says. "Across--yes, that's it."
Eggsy wraps his arms around a cushion that could stand to be a bit less embroidered, and cranes back over his shoulder, fighting a blush at the way he's sprawled across Harry's lap.
"Anyone'd think you're gonna spank me."
"Don't think it isn't tempting," Harry says, dry, and the blush instantly wins the fight.
Eggsy mutters, "Shit," and buries his burning face in the cushion as Harry's cold, slick fingers glide and tease over his hole.
"I've been thinking," Harry says, "it's only fair that you know what I was doing in Valentine's cells, as I can at least take an educated guess at everything that was happening to you."
"Fuck," Eggsy says, turning his head restlessly to the side. He has to breathe. Harry's got one finger in him, now, a healthy but painless stretch. "You were listening in, yeah? Enjoying the show?"
"Oh, yes. I heard how quickly you got hard again, when she was fucking you. And you're going to do that for me as well," Harry says, his tone all pure confidence, like there's no doubt.
Eggsy believes him.
"But that's not all I was doing," Harry goes on, slowly working in a second finger.
Eggsy gives a heartfelt groan, half at the flare of arousal and near-pain that's whispering up his spine, and half at Harry's words.
"I stayed dressed, if you were wondering," Harry goes on. "I removed my tie. Rolled my sleeves up. But I only undid my trousers enough to take myself in hand."
Eggsy's coming a bit unstuck in time, picturing it: Harry allowing himself those precisely measured portions of release and dishevelment while Eggsy was being worked open, just like this, on the other side of the wall. The muscles between Eggsy's shoulder blades are tight and he breathes, remembering Tilde's voice, you are working hard. Remembering Tilde's slim fingers doing this. Harry's are large and blunt in comparison, and Eggsy's body is melting around them.
He doesn't know how Harry's still keeping it together, given that Harry's cock is now digging unrelentingly into Eggsy's stomach through the caress of the wool, but Harry seems as invested as ever in taking Eggsy apart--twice--before ever dropping trou.
"You must really go in for delayed gratification," Eggsy says, kind of awed.
"I happen to think it's worth the wait," Harry says. "And you are eminently worth looking at in the meantime."
Harry's hand strokes over the breadth of Eggsy's shoulders, the gymnast's muscles he's never quite shed, down his spine and the curve of his arse, lingering at the tender join of his thigh until the word spank elbows its way desperately back into Eggsy's brain like a drunk who missed the call for last orders.
Oh, look at that. He's getting hard again; just as ordered.
"Were you jealous, then?" Eggsy fires over his shoulder. "Listening in and all?"
"If I was," Harry says, low and merciless, "you've only yourself to blame, you wretched tease."
Bollocks, the small, sane part of Eggsy scoffs, but he hears himself moan, hears himself say, "Yeah? Made it tough for you, did I?" as he squirms on Harry's lap.
"Going on like a prize tart about how you wanted a real cock," Harry says, and his fingers angle against Eggsy's prostate and oh Jesus, Eggsy's going to ruin another pair of Harry's trousers at this rate. Harry does it again and something in Eggsy must fucking snap, because his mouth uncouples itself entirely from his sense of shame and just--runs.
"Fuck, Harry, I wanted your cock, alright? Wished it was you giving it to me, telling me how to do it. Still want that. You fucking promised. So come on and fuck me."
After another glorious, punishing twist, Harry withdraws his fingers and turns Eggsy's hips, shoving until Eggsy's weight is off him and he can stand up. Eggsy's feeling brash and drunk, rebellious, but the sight of Harry's face brings him back to earth. Harry's a wreck, his cheeks coloured and his mouth soft, half-open with need, and Harry's eyes pin Eggsy to the spot just as they've always done.
"My darling boy," Harry says, rough as sharkskin. "It would be my pleasure."
Harry's hands fumble as he unbuckles his belt, as he shoves trousers and underpants down together and steps out of them, starts to work on his cuffs. Eggsy gets himself comfortable on his back, the cushion supporting his head; he'll flip over to hands and knees if Harry tells him to, but he'd prefer this. He doesn't want to stop drinking in the ravenous expression on Harry's face, the trim muscles of Harry's body and the geography of his scars, the fucking lovely sight of Harry's cock.
"Fucking hell, Harry," he says, quieter. "I'd have been jealous as hell if it were me listening in on you."
Harry looks up from where he's rolling the condom on and smiles at him, a quick ray of pure happiness, before settling himself between Eggsy's legs and nudging Eggsy's thighs apart.
"Are you comfortable?" Harry asks. He rubs a thumb over Eggsy's knee and then kisses the same place, careful. His gaze drops to the hollow of Eggsy's throat where the Kingsman medal on its chain is the only thing adorning Eggsy's body now. "Do you need a cushion under your hips?"
"Harry," Eggsy says, giving the man an exasperated tap in the kidneys with one heel, "right now this couch could be made of fucking tailor's pins and I wouldn't give a rat's arse so long as you were about to get your cock in me."
"I'll take that as a no."
This smile's got a large helping of smug to it, and Eggsy can't help but find it wonderful, the fact that Harry's always been sure of him, never once tried to persuade Eggsy out of this. In the months before V-Day, before the world changed, Eggsy only had the calm, polite version of Harry to work off, and when he let himself think about it at all he half-expected some protest about Harry being too old for him, or Harry abusing his position, or Eggsy deserving better--blah de fucking blah.
Eggsy didn't know until it happened how much he likes Harry for not bothering with any of that rubbish. For granting Eggsy the sense of a fucking grown adult, and trusting him to know what he wants.
And yeah. Eggsy wants this. He wants Harry, all the time, with a low-grade irritation like a stone in his damn shoe, and right now he wants Harry with a violence like--wild dogs, volcanoes, ground-to-air missiles. Right now, specifically, he wants Harry to stop arsing around with the slow drag of his cockhead over Eggsy's hole, and just fuck him.
Eggsy licks his lips, pulls his knees further up, and gives Harry his widest eyes. Tease? Tart? Fuck it--he can do both. He can do anything, and Harry's the one who made him realise it.
"Harry," he says, letting the desperation into his voice, "tell me what you want me to do."
"You should be fucking illegal," Harry growls, and then lines up, cock in hand, and shoves into Eggsy all at once.
Eggsy shouts, wordless. Shit, fuck, it's so good. He wants to arch back, he wants to clench down, and all he can do is cry out at the feeling of being filled completely.
"That's--ohh," Harry says, a groan shredding his voice, as his balls press snug against Eggsy's arse. He leans down and gives Eggsy a kiss that's graceless and urgent, a clash of teeth, and then braces himself on the arm of the couch above Eggsy's head and starts to move in earnest.
Harry's not pulling any punches now, and show no signs of stretching this out any further. He folds Eggsy nearly in half and then fucks him, fast and hard enough to shove him down into the seat cushions. Eggsy moves his legs from Harry's shoulders to wrap around Harry's sides, chasing the best angle, feeling luxurious and pliant and pleased with himself. It's damn well Harry's turn to lose control.
"God, look at you," Harry hisses, pausing for a moment with his dick most of the way out. He runs his thumb around where Eggsy's stretched around the head of it, and Eggsy nearly bites the inside of his mouth at how dirty that feels, the jolt of lust that runs through him and the lightning-storm look in Harry's eyes.
Harry drags that thumb up the centre of Eggsy's sac and rubs Eggsy's cock, which is fully hard again and leaking. Eggsy turns his head on the cushion and mouths at the heel of his own hand, moans around it, his breath gone too-hot and thin in his lungs with pure pleasure.
"Fuck," Harry swears, and then, "Of course," like he's remembering some obscure point of etiquette, and replaces Eggsy's hand with his own.
Eggsy can taste his own sweat and precome on Harry's fingers. He's dizzy with it, Harry filling him up from both ends, the goodness of having something to suck at while Harry swears again and resumes the kind of brutal pace that speaks to a lifetime of running and leaping and fighting, pushing your body as necessary and paying for it later.
Eggsy knows that when he comes twice in this short a span of time, the second one's never going to be as intense as the first. But it's still amazing: the throb of his arse around Harry's solid dick, and the sluggish pleasure that builds steadily at the base of his spine and fills all his limbs with the promise of bliss.
Plus, he can choose when to wrap his own hand around his sensitive cock to nudge himself towards the edge--none of Harry's agonising games. And his voice comes easily, this time, knocked loose by Harry's permission and Harry's thrusts, and Harry rewards each whimper and curse that Eggsy chokes out around his fingers with yet another long glide of his cock where it's brushing the sweet spot inside. Eggsy's coming apart at the joints, soft and blissful, a whirlpool covered in skin. His arse is slick and aching, wanting Harry deeper, wanting more, every inch that he can get.
"Fuck," he slurs, "fuckfuck, Harry," feeling his orgasm building like opening the throttle on a clear stretch of road with nothing ahead but city lights and sky.
"I've got you," Harry says, leaning down, his mouth pressed hot and adoring to Eggsy's forehead. "Come for me, Eggsy, now."
And Eggsy does, feeling it knock a sound loose from his throat. It's a softer and shallower wave of sensation, but good, because he stays in his body and his mind--not shattered, just enjoying it. Harry stares down at him, still buried balls-deep and with Eggsy's come splashed all over his stomach and chest, still not having come himself.
"This is gettin' ridiculous," Eggsy mutters. His legs are cramping a little, and he eases them down.
Harry adjusts position as well, gets his hands around Eggsy's hips, possessive, tilting them up. He gasps as he moves, sliding slowly out and then shoving back in again, his fingertips gripping so hard that Eggsy might end up with an arc of purple marks on each buttock, something for him to fit his own fingers to, press down and remember.
Out, in, out one last time--"Eggsy," Harry says, hoarse and ruined, and gives a final wrench of his arms which drags Eggsy onto the full length of his cock, just as his eyes clench shut and his whole body shakes and shakes with release.
Descending the stairs the next morning Eggsy sleepily bumps two separate coin displays askew with his elbow, and winces as he rights them. In general he still prefers Harry's place--with its wallpaper patterned in warm yellow, its fussy teapots and its plush furniture that Harry's declared now needs steam cleaning--to the green house. Daisy drew a picture of dinosaurs destroying a boat (apparently) on one of the walls in crayon the other day, and it was instantly the most cheerful thing in the place, so Eggsy picked up a battered gilt frame from a charity shop for two quid and hung it around her knee-height scribbles.
Harry was gone from the bed when Eggsy woke, and now Eggsy's following the sound of a boiling kettle, one of those retro ones that actually whistles, downstairs to the kitchen. It's stupid early to be awake when you don't have to be, but he's hoping that Harry might have breakfast on the go. Shite cook or otherwise, Harry must be able to do something involving eggs and toast on a Sunday morning.
Eggsy shuffles into the dining area. Harry's seated at the table with his laptop, wearing that dressing gown that could serve as at least two bullfighter's capes if you took scissors to it. He's staring so intently at the computer screen that he's ignoring the sullen bubbly sounds as the kettle subsides from its shrill climax, but he does look up as Eggsy enters the room. Can't out-stealth Harry Hart, Eggsy thinks, stretching his arms high and incidentally revealing a wide strip of bare skin that Harry's eyes drop to with the speed of a corpse chucked off a rooftop.
"We've hours yet before I'm taking my family to Hampstead," Eggsy complains. "I think I'm insulted you'd rather be down here watching--what're you watching?"
Harry aborts the movement of his hand to flip the laptop screen down almost before it starts, but too late: Eggsy saw that.
"What?" he demands, moving to stand next to Harry.
"I--well, I actually haven't had the stomach to watch it before now," Harry says. "Isn't that curious?"
Small mercies: he's got the sound muted at least. It still makes Eggsy's stomach turn over to watch it, even though he's seen it before, the jerky carnage of Harry's glasses feed from the church in Kentucky. Death after death stumbles in and out of the frame, a fast and ludicrous succession of brain tissue and splinters and screaming faces.
When Eggsy watched this live--on this same laptop, in this same house--he spent a good minute being impressed despite himself at the incredible, almost graceful economy of Harry's movements. He doesn't reckon Harry's watching it to congratulate himself. Fucking hell, like the nightmares weren't bad enough; Eggsy's going to develop a fucking migraine if this keeps up.
"Curious, my arse," he snaps. "The fuck kind of stupid idea was it to watch it in the first place?"
"Kingsman only condones the risking of a life to save another," Harry says; no, recites, right out of the rulebook.
Eggsy wonders uneasily how many videos like this Harry has on his encrypted, private computer, how many times he's sat here in that dressing gown, drinking tea with a rigid spine and pulling his missions apart like warm bread.
"That weren't you, Harry. Yeah? That was Valentine's mess. They'd have killed each other anyway. You just made it quicker."
"I'm aware of that," Harry says. "Still, I do not appreciate being the sword wielded by such a man's hand."
Blood explodes noiselessly across the screen. Arterial spray, from the looks of it, erupting in the wake of a stab that Harry delivered to the neck of a pink-faced man with limp hair and a brown blazer.
"Delete the fucking footage," Eggsy says. "Wipe it. Harry, don't," and that's it, they're done here, he's not dealing with this bollocks at seven in the fucking morning when they could be dozing still, warm under the covers in Harry's bed.
"Eggsy," Harry sighs.
Eggsy realises belatedly that he's slammed the laptop closed and grabbed Harry's face between his hands, yanking his head around.
"Look at me," he demands. "I'm worth looking at, you keep saying it; alright then. Look at me."
Harry sighs again and Eggsy keeps his hands stubbornly where they are as Harry stands. He smooths his thumbs across the creases of Harry's cheeks, soothing as best he can, feeling suddenly unsure and too young. What if there's a line here that he's crossed?
Harry wraps an arm around Eggsy's waist, leans down and kisses him with a casual and affectionate press of lips. More than anything it reminds Eggsy of Roxy in Berlin: it's a kiss with assumptions behind it, a kiss that says I've been here and I'll be here again.
"I'm looking," Harry says.
For the curious: Roxy's dress looks like this, only even more so.
"I'm in position outside Brooke's house," Eggsy says. "Lancelot?"
"In position," comes her voice over the comms.
"Could freeze a monkey's tit off out here." Eggsy rubs his gloved hands together and watches his breathe puff, eerie in the lamplight. "So much for global fucking warming," he adds.
"You know, Arthur showed me your IQ test scores," Merlin says. "I'm not falling for that uneducated-lout bollocks any more, no matter how many metaphors you mangle."
Eggsy grins into the upturned collar of his anonymous black jacket. "You saying I'm smart, Merlin?"
"Smartarse is what you are, Galahad. Pull your phone out."
Eggsy does as he's told. Kingsman gloves are tipped with roughened weave to allow a firmer grip on knife, umbrella or gun, but they're also dead handy when it comes to navigating touchscreens. Loitering outside someone's house at night is suspicious. Loitering with your head buried in iPhone glow just means you're ordering an Uber or got distracted while trying to walk and text.
Given it doesn't much matter what Eggsy does with the phone so long as he's doing something, he spends an enjoyable ten minutes logged into Grindr as one of his casual aliases, earnestly asking Merlin's opinion on whether he thinks this picture is likely to be of HotHardRomeo's actual dick, until Merlin's humming loudly over the comms and Roxy's rolling her eyes so hard Eggsy can all but hear it.
Eggsy flicks back to his email. Tilde's sent him a sparsely punctuated message more or less congratulating him on getting fucked, including a fond reminiscence about his arse that Eggsy's going to take as a compliment, thanks muchly. It is good he tells you what to do, she finishes, you have inspired me! which Eggsy's not even going to ask about.
He sends her the least attractive shot of HotHardRomeo's purported eight-inch wonder as his reply email. Christ, his toes are going numb. It's coming up on half past ten. Brooke had better not have missed his bus.
Merlin's still humming: long to reign over us.
"Wouldn't have pegged you for a royalist," Eggsy says.
"How little you know me, Galahad," Merlin says.
"He's not," Roxy says. "He just has fond dreams of wooing Lady Mandy with acres of tablet and becoming the next Prince Consort."
Eggsy's attention sharpens. "Incoming, on foot." He hunches over his phone, going for non-threatening, and glances up once as the man comes closer, so that his glasses can capture a facial image.
TARGET IDENTIFIED comes up in a tiny window. MATTHEW BROOKE.
"It's him," Eggsy says. "Lancelot?"
The van engine starts and the headlights blink on where it's parked up the road. "Ready," Roxy says.
Brookes is wearing a scarf thickly draped around his neck, so Eggsy has to angle the dart from his watch--set to SEDATE--to catch the man in the back of the hand as he walks past, and then move quickly to slip Brooke's arm around his shoulders as his eyes glaze and flutter closed. Roxy pulls up in the van bare seconds later, and Eggsy manoeuvres Brooke's limp body through the rear doors and lays him next to the equally unconscious James Smyth, Brooke's compatriot in terrible decision making. The van pulls smoothly into motion again less than ten seconds after halting.
Turns out Harry's a closet chess player; colour Eggsy un-fucking-surprised. It means he likes to watch missions live on the glasses feeds while Merlin snipes at him about micromanaging, but it's more than that. Eggsy's read enough mission reports by now to know that Kingsman agents traditionally work solo a lot more often than they work in groups, and Harry--if they're going to torture another metaphor--has thrown the newsletter template out and started from scratch.
The pieces on the board right now are all in pairs. Harry's got a thing for pairs. Eggsy reckons it stems from the same part of his personality that enjoys the world's most fucking boring hobby--game of kings, Eggsy's arse--and thinks dead insects arrayed in square frames are the height of interior design.
Eggsy and Roxy are in Glasgow, where an increasingly aggressive activist group is planning a sabotage attack on the Torness nuclear power station in order to, funnily enough, highlight the dangers of nuclear power. As though Valentine weren't enough of a nutjob environmentalist for one year.
Brooke and Smyth, ringleaders of this idiot mission to achieve a meltdown, would be bad enough on their own. But there's a bonus cherry on top of this shit sundae in the form of a weapons trafficker and all-around creative fixer in the realm of death-dealing, who's gotten one of his agents to infiltrate the activist group and is subsequently bankrolling the damn operation. It turns out a sabotage mission that's just humane enough to allow time for staff evacuation is great cover for a uranium heist.
Tristan and Bors are the lucky bastards who get to pay the trafficker himself a visit in the French Riviera, where Eggsy bets the weather's a lot nicer than this Scottish rubbish. Before they left, they planted both a tracker and a bug on Ackworth, the fake activist, which seems to be the spy equivalent of wrapping a target in nice paper and sticking a bow on top.
"Who's up first?" Eggsy asks, when they've got both of their moronic would-be enviroterrorists tied to chairs--in separate rooms, because Roxy says if you can Dilemma your Prisoners then why wouldn't you--and he and Roxy are adjusting their black face masks, which are made out of wool shorn from the prickliest sheep in existence. Roxy's still wearing her Kingsman glasses under hers, which looks a bit weird, but someone's got to be recording mission footage for Harry and Merlin and their shared hard-on for archives or accountability or whatever the fuck. "Flip a coin?"
"Brooke," Roxy decides. "He looked like the nervous type."
Brooke lives up to expectations like a champion by freaking the hell out as soon as the antidote to the sedative kicks in. He flails, he shouts, he tugs, he nearly manages to tip both chair and self sideways onto the stained concrete floor of the room, and then his shoulders slump and he starts snivelling.
"Who are you?" he blathers.
"We're the people giving you the benefit of the doubt, Matthew," says Roxy.
"Waste of fucking time, if you ask me," Eggsy puts in nastily, playing with the safety on his gun. They did flip for who got to be bad cop, and he won, because Roxy still hasn't realised he can make a coin land however he wants it to.
"Benefit of the--what?"
"My colleague here does have a point," Roxy muses. "Even if you're not in the business of selling uranium to actual grown-up terrorist cells, you're still prepared to cause an impersonal nuclear disaster."
"I dont know what youre talking about," Brooke says.
"Wow," Eggsy grins. "You're a seriously shocking liar, bruv."
Roxy counts off on her fingers. "Torness station. We know how, we know when, we know who. We even know the projected radius of lethal radiation if your sabotage goes exactly to plan, which I bet you've been trying to ignore. Much better to pretend you're one of the good guys in this little farce, right?"
Brooke looks from Roxy's fingers to Eggsy's gun, looks back again, and then folds like an amateur poker player sitting on a pair of twos. They reel off a weighty amount of threats, leave him whimpering promises to see the error of his ways, and go to try their luck with Smyth, who's got a long face and brown hair that crawls away from his scalp in curls, leaving him looking like a wax cast of a young Jeremy Clarkson that's been left for an hour in the sun. His unfortunate complexion goes blotchy with rage and bravado as soon as he clues into the reason that he's been abducted.
"Nuclear power carries the seeds of our destruction! The world needs this wake-up call!"
"The world's a fucking mess because of the last maniac who tried to save it," Eggsy points out. "It don't need nothing right now."
"Now is exactly the time to strike!" Smyth declares, voice throbbing with outrage like he's trying for the Royal Variety. "The backlash against environmentalism in the wake of V-Day is too dangerous to be ignored! Humanity is undoing its own meagre progress!"
"Yeah, that's noble and all," Eggsy says. "Still doesn't mean you have to poison a whole lot of people and animals with radiation."
"The larger picture--" Smyth tries, but Eggsy's still got the memory of brandy on his tongue from the last time someone tried to sell him on homicide in the name of the larger picture, and he kicks Smyth hard in the ankle to shut him up.
"Get it through your head: this ain't happening," he says. "The sabotage. The meltdown. None of it."
"Then you'll have to kill me!"
"Please," puts in Roxy, bad cop this time around. "It would be my pleasure."
Eggsy offers up silent thanks for the way the mask obscures his struggle against laughter.
"You've been well played," he says. He pulls his phone from his pocket and brings up the audio file, courtesy of Tristan and Bors and their bug. He holds it up and plays it for Smyth, whose expression of martyred anger emulsifies into confusion as he listens.
"--window of evacuation. I'll make sure we take the west exit--Level B, check the schematics--and you'll be able to take your group in through the north. The passes I duplicated last week are still good for full access."
"But that's Lou," Smyth says, and then bites tormentedly down on his lip like he's just given away a fucking state secret.
"We know," Eggsy says, pausing the audio and resisting the urge to fake it out to watch him squirm. "Actually, we know that this person--" phone wiggle "--isn't Louise Durham, because Louise Durham doesn't exist."
"The person speaking is called Julia Ackworth," says Roxy. "And she really doesn't care about saving the planet." She nods at Eggsy, who clicks on to the next juicy soundbite.
"--and their website will have claimed responsibility for the sabotage long before anyone's sent in to check on the reactor itself, so they'll take the fall when the theft is discovered."
"You're lying--this is a trick--" Smyth shoots an imploring glance at Roxy, as if any further proof was needed that he's a shit judge of character. Given Lou-but-actually-Julia, maybe he's got a blind spot where women are concerned.
"How much does that grade of uranium fetch on the black market these days?" Roxy says, over Smyth's head.
"A lot more than James here will make in his lifetime as a shitty accountant, I'll bet."
"Ackworth's ours now," Roxy tells Smyth, smooth and bland. She's one of the best liars Eggsy's ever come across. "She's making a deal with our people as we speak. All the details, and she might see the outside of a prison cell some time this decade. She's trading her skin for her boss's--and yours."
"Who the fuck are you people?" Smyth snarls, but under their eyes his futile anger wrenches around and redirects itself. "Oh my God," he says through teeth that are starting to chatter. "I don't believe--that bitch."
"Okay, you're done," Roxy says, and gags him with a bit of fabric in ten seconds flat.
"That's hot," Eggsy says, approving.
Roxy, because she's twice the professional he is--as she's probably about to remind him--waits until they're back on the other side of a closed door before levelling a flat look in his direction. "I'm going to tell Arthur you need a refresher on that sexual harassment seminar."
"There's no way that seminar existed before you came along, Miss Lancelot."
"It didn't," Roxy says, deadly. "Apparently Merlin enjoyed writing it."
Of course he did, the sadist. Eggsy bites his tongue, impressed, and looks at his phone. "We should show this to Brooke as well. Really hammer it home. Then call it a night, yeah?"
Brooke flinches in his bonds when he sees them, which is bollocks; that kick in the ankle was barely anything. Eggsy's tired and his mask is itchier than ever. His mood isn't improved by the fact that halfway through proving to Brooke that yes, he's been played, yes, isn't it dreadful, women, can't trust 'em--Roxy grabs him by the arm and steers him out of the room.
"Fuck off, Lancelot, I were joking--" He catches the look on her face as she pushes her mask up. "What?"
"It might be nothing. I--put your glasses on, I want you to check something."
Eggsy does it, and Roxy calls up video playback on their shared channel, a greenish image that turns quickly opaque. Eggsy hears his own voice, tinny, saying we'll have every last detail by morning, and Roxy adjusts the playback to zoom in on Brooke's face.
"Microexpression analysis," Roxy orders.
"Something Merlin's working on," Roxy says. "It's still in the beta stage, but--watch."
The recording of Brooke's face plays first at normal speed and then on an ultra-slow loop. Tiny white dots appear in overlaid clusters at the edge of his mouth and eyes, in the grooves beside his nose, like a fine version of that motion-capture thing they use to do aliens and Gollums in movies.
FEAR 78% flashes up at the bottom of his glasses frame. CONTEMPT 93%.
Eggsy frowns. "Can you make it--yeah, again."
It's actually obvious when you're looking for it. Brooke's reaction to hearing that Ackworth has been using the environmental group as cover to steal uranium for her boss is overt, transparent, and just too delayed to be genuine; when he hears she's purportedly betrayed the whole plan to save her own skin, he's pissed.
"Fuck," Roxy says. "We've fucked up."
"Bollocks to that, it wasn't our intel that was wrong," Eggsy says.
"Benefit of the bloody doubt," she says grimly, tapping her comms. "Arthur, Merlin, is someone there?"
"Lancelot," comes Harry's voice on the shared channel. "What is it?"
"I don't think Ackworth's the only plant," she says. "I think she's insurance. Brooke's in on the heist, and he's good. Going by the file Bors showed us, I'd say his cover never slipped, only hers."
"He's been in the group for what, nearly two years?" Eggsy says. "This attack, theft, whatever, must have been really fucking important."
"Are you sure?" Harry says.
Eggsy meets Roxy's eyes. "Yeah."
There's a short silence. Eggsy imagines Harry, miles and miles away, with that precise and considering expression creasing his face.
"Lancelot," Harry says. "Same priority as Ackworth. Take care of it."
"Sir," Roxy says.
Eggsy opens his mouth, then closes it. He gets why Harry was so adamant that what passes between them in private, the orders Harry gives when there's no armour between them in the form of clothes or codenames, should be something based purely in pleasure. A game. It has to be.
Here, now, Eggsy obeys because it's his job.
The soft whip sound of a silenced gun is barely audible through the door, but Eggsy hears it anyway, because he's listening for it.
Harry tells them that a disposal crew is on the way, and they load the thoroughly terrified and freshly sedated Smyth back into the van and deliver him back to his house. Smyth is the lucky winner of a home makeover in the form of being bugged to the point where the mice in his kitchen walls can't take a shit without Kingsman hearing it; if he puts one cruelty-free fake leather boot over the line of legality in the future, he'll regret it.
It's the deep small hours of the night by the time they're done, and the air is like being slapped with chilly wet towels. Eggsy's eyes are gritty with tiredness, and he keeps pinching the webbing of his own hand to keep himself awake as they head back to the apartment. Kingsman owns property most everywhere, it turns out, though Eggsy's sad to discover that most of it is in the nondescript safehouse line rather than an ongoing series of fuckoff fancy mansions.
A bed's a bed, though. Eggsy strips off his combat blacks--his face feels like a dance floor for drunken ants, fuck that woollen mask--and flops down onto it, fumbling his phone into his hand. He's got a text from Arthur's official number: TARGET EXPECTED 0800 BUCHANAN ST SUBWAY.
Eggsy thumbs his alarm on for seven o'clock and glances over to the other side of the room.
"You're quiet, Rox," he says. "Something wrong?"
"No. Well. That was my first kill," she says, "actually."
That can't be right. Can it? Eggsy killed so many white-clad soldiers in Valentine's fortress, as well as Gazelle and Valentine himself and, if he's making a formal list of it, Chester King. His tally's probably well in the double digits by now.
But the most damage Roxy did on V-Day was to a satellite, and though they've been on a good handful of missions since then, it's been obvious that Merlin and Harry have been running the two of them with training wheels. Babysitting over the comms; black-tie parties; recon only. Use force in combat to disable, not kill. Come back in one piece.
Everyone Eggsy's killed up to this point has been trying to kill him right back. He tries to think about the prospect of his first being a gun cool-bloodedly pulled, aimed and fired at a man tied to a chair. He curls up beneath the blankets and his stomach gives a queasy roil.
"Fucking hell," he says, "they really are training you up to be the next Arthur, ain't they?"
Roxy gives him a sharp look, but there's something pleased and tremulous around her mouth.
"D'you want to talk about it?" he asks.
"No," she says. After a moment she adds, "You could buy me a pint when we're done with this one, though."
"Alright, deal," Eggsy says.
He gets two hours of sleep before his alarm's blaring him awake again, and he folds himself into the armoured layers of his suit with bleary fingers. For once he's grateful for Harry's anal-retentive insistence on proper dressing order, because it means the whole suit business is becoming as reflexive as reaching for a weapon or relaxing his gait into the purposeful, I-belong-here stride of spies everywhere.
He joins the morning commuter crowds and takes the subway to Buchanan St, where he leaves the platform and pauses in the main underground concourse, tucked in a corner and reading through stapled papers as though reluctant to head to the office just yet.
He frowns, adjusts his glasses, and opens the comms in the process. "Ready."
"I'm at the street exit," Roxy says. She doesn't add, in case you miss your window, which Eggsy appreciates.
From where he's standing Eggsy can scan the whole crowd, but Eggsy himself sees Ackworth a second or two before his glasses inform him of her presence.
"Bang on time," he murmurs. "At least some of that intel was good."
"Less commentary, please." Harry has the calm tones of someone who's gotten a decent night's sleep on an excellent mattress, the wanker.
Ackworth shrugs her bag higher on her shoulder and steps onto the escalator. Right hand side. Stationary. Like almost any other human being on the planet faced with thirty seconds of forced pause, she pulls her phone out of her coat pocket and glances down at it.
"I've got a window," Eggsy says, tucking the papers back into his briefcase.
"Good. Don't waste time, Galahad. Straight past, keep it smooth, don't look back."
"Copy that," Eggsy says, and steps onto the left hand side of the escalator.
Both of Eggsy's ankles are scored with a mess of scabs like someone's taken a superfine red pen to them. Roxy's are the same. It takes practice to trust that you've gotten close enough to break both clothes and skin, fast and shallow enough that the target won't notice for a few seconds, to do it without tripping yourself up, to work both the heel-click and the rapid withdrawal of the blade into your gait, and to make the whole thing look natural to anyone nearby as well as any CCTV cameras overlooking the location.
Crowds are good. Train stations are ideal.
Eggsy passes Julia Ackworth in almost the exact midpoint of the escalator. He stumbles, mumbles an apology to the air, and nicks her just above the strap of her low heels with a blade coated in the same neurotoxin that killed Gazelle. Then he keeps climbing, step after plodding step, and doesn't look back. He exits the station just as raised voices are starting to echo up from behind him. Roxy's standing on the street and he smiles in greeting, moves his briefcase to his other hand so he can wrap an arm around her waist.
"Hi," she says, smiling in return.
Eggsy feels...nothing much at all. There's the time to be creative and there's the time when you're the tool; it's Arthur's voice giving the orders but it's Harry behind it all. And Eggsy will jump when Harry does the telling: Harry, surrounding himself with paper secrets. Harry with his obsessive care that things are done for the right reasons.
Eggsy tilts a considering look down at Roxy as they stroll, casual as you like, away from the station.
"You ever play chess, Rox?"
"Under-14s champion," she says. "Why?"
"Yeah, that figures," Eggsy says. "Come on, I'm buggered, I want to kip on the train back to London."
He manages it, too, because despite any cash flow morality dilemmas that Harry won't tell him about, Kingsman'll still shell out for first class train tickets, meaning complimentary biscuits and a seat that reclines. Eggsy sleeps for four hours, then drags himself off the train in London and sleeps another four in his own bed, before dashing off his mission report--experience and Merlin having taught him that the longer he leaves them, the more painful they are to write--and then going to meet Roxy at his local for the promised pint.
They down the first round in agreeable silence, and Eggsy rubs absently at his knuckles as Roxy fetches the second. Three of them are red and raw where the skin came off them, must have been in Glasgow, an injury that didn't register at the time. This is odd, this is, like he could be back in his old life: drinking in a pub with a mate, sore and fizzing with the memory of adrenalin. Only back then he was bored, so bored he felt hollow with it, had to chase down anger and distraction and the beautiful speed of whatever car he could get his hands on. And now he's full to the brim with so many things, he's still getting used to not spilling over with them, all the secrets and politics and bombs and plots and webs of almost-disaster spread across the globe.
He fucking loves it. He wouldn't change a thing. But his heart's going fast and his leg is jittering under the table and he feels alight, uncomfortably so, and he wonders how you get used to this, how you cope with it, how Harry's learned to do it over the years.
But maybe Harry hasn't. Maybe that's the gorgeous, leashed violence of him, under the surface. Maybe it does spill over when he's asleep, and in the mornings he watches his own missions and never unwinds, not really, not all the way.
Eggsy closes his eyes and relaxes his leg with an effort. Maybe they'll get around to talking about it, in a year or so. Maybe it's as simple as someone's hands cupping your face.
"Wake up, Eggs," Roxy says kindly. "Here's your beer."
"So," Eggsy says, as Roxy sits down. "Merlin and Lady Mandy, you reckon?"
"Everyone's got to have a celebrity crush."
After the sole living descendant of the late Queen bowed out of the succession to quietly nurse her PTSD somewhere in Kent, a phalanx of historians and paper-pushers squabbled over family trees for a week and finally pointed the finger at Lady Amanda Worthing, a mild and unremarkable-looking Scot who worked as a research chemist and lecturer at the University of Birmingham. Lady Worthing declared the prospect of being the Commonwealth's figurehead a more attractive option than begging for grant money in the face of funding cuts to the sciences, and now she bustles around the city wearing sensible cardigans and displaying a promising glimpse of humour by baiting the bookies on the subject of whether she plans to adopt Victoria or Mary as her name upon coronation.
The tabloids love it. OUR ROYAL SCHOOLMARM, the Sun shouted on the day her succession was announced, while the Mail went with the mean-spirited MEET THE QUEEN(S) IN WAITING. Lady Worthing was widowed five years before V-Day, and though the ten-year-old daughter is photogenic enough to promise years of hysterical speculation about her hair, weight, clothes and virginity, the presumptive Prince of Wales, at fifteen, already wears more glitter than a kindergarten craft project and writes a blog for an LGBT teens website. According to Harry, the Church is floundering around trying to scrape up an objection--half-heartedly, given that the average age of the ranks of the bishopric has just plummeted by about two decades--and Kingsman has already foiled one assassination plot.
"Merlin would make an awful Prince," Eggsy says. "Give it a week, he'd be bored off his nut and there'd be laser grids on the lawns of Buckingham Palace."
"Speaking of celebrities," Roxy says. She jabs at her phone and then hands it to Eggsy, whose groin and stomach flutter in wary unison at the sight of Crown Princess Tilde. A site called Go Fug Yourself has gotten their hands on photos of the princess at a formal event, escorted by a man that Eggsy would probably have described as a silver fox even without the website blurb, which is enthusiastically doing it for him.
"Edited to add," Eggsy reads, "some genius down in the comments has found a tweet about this dude from a Swedish gossip mag--seriously?--and translated it for us. Leo Eklund was once employed by the royal family as a tutor for Princess Tilde and Prince Carl--oh, fucking hell," he says, "how'd she pull that off?"
He fires off an email with his own phone that reads simply YOUR ENGLISH TUTOR??
Tilde replies almost at once. She must have her phone nearby and not be in a meeting or enthusiastically introducing Eklund to the special collection in her overnight bag. Or maybe she is. The woman's exactly that kind of multitasker.
I think I am in love with his penis.
Eggsy stares at the screen, hoping morbidly that something was lost in translation and knowing it totally fucking wasn't. Tilde's vocab around genitalia is perfect, and apparently Eggsy's success with Harry has inspired her to track down the reason why; and, one assumes, show him just how much she's learned in the meantime.
"What is it? Tell me," demands Roxy.
"Oy, I'm not going to be bad-copped by my own partner," Eggsy points out.
"Eggsy," she says, switching to pleading, all moist lips and wide warm eyes like Daisy when she's just woken up.
Eggsy sighs. "Turns out her Royal Highness and I are kindred fucking spirits when it comes to panting after our teachers. Though it sounds like she was proper precocious about it."
Eggsy gets a hot shudder down his spine and right into his cock when he remembers Harry whispering orders at him, somewhere between affectionate and mean. It's got to be something specific to Harry, where Eggsy's concerned, because if he was simply attracted to older blokes with tendency to hiss instructions at him then he'd be springing a stiffy every time Merlin walked past, and that's just--that's not on.
But he wanted Harry right out of the gate, a slow burn that almost scared him, the size of it creeping up on him until that night after the train tracks when he was lying in Harry's guestroom, all warm and buzzed with four gin martinis sloshing inside him, totally failing to work up the nerve to go and crawl into Harry's bed and beg to be fucked hard enough that he'd feel it for two days and remember it forever: a souvenir under his skin to match the suit, because he knew he'd not be seeing much more of Harry Hart if he failed out of Kingsman training at that point.
"What'd you do with Percival during your twenty-four hours?" he asks on impulse.
Roxy finishes gazing half critically and half appreciatively at Tilde and Eklund and glances back up at him.
"I was really stressed about the final test," she says. "Sebastian took me to a shooting range so I could blow off some steam, and then out to dinner. Why?"
Eggsy grins at her and sips his beer. Roxanne Morton, using her time off from shooting things to go and shoot some more things. Classic. "Then what?"
"Then we got drunk at his place," she says, smiling fondly, "and he told me stories about some of his missions, and we gossiped about people our families know. We got through half a bottle of Glenfiddich, I downed a couple of litres of water and slept over. It was nice."
"Slept over, right."
Roxy quirks a prim expression at him and he realises, suddenly, that he's got no bloody clue what his field partner's into, sexually speaking--boys, girls, both, neither?--which, considering she's also his best mate, is just plain unfair.
"Eggsy! Eggs, babe, I was hoping to run into you."
"Mum." Eggsy blinks up at her with a quick blip of nerves, but it's not like there's anything about a pub that screams 'I am a secret agent'. "Didn't know you came round here."
"Oh, I drop in most Thursdays, now, before my class. That Vanessa's watching Daisy," she adds, with an uncharacteristic glow of approval. Vanessa's a tall and friendly Nigerian nursing student who lives with her parents a few doors down and is fast becoming their regular babysitter. Eggsy likes her, mostly because JB does; his pug's a bit of a tart in his own way, and will flop down adoringly at Vanessa's feet for scratches and treats. "Food here's nice, innit? And that bartender, Patrick, you know him? He always asks me to try the new wines for him, though I do tell him it all just tastes like grapes to me. Think he's a bit sweet on me, to tell you the truth. You alright, luv?"
That last is directed at Roxy, whose face, in the ten seconds Eggsy's not been looking at it, has somehow dissolved into brimming eyes and audible sniffles.
"I'm fine," Roxy says, smiling shakily. "My boyfriend's being posted overseas for six months, is all. Eggsy's buying me pints and letting me moan about it. He's a real mate."
"Uh, Mum. This is Roxy. We work together. Roxy, this is me mum Michelle."
"You work for the tailor shop too?" his mum asks. "That's nice, it's nice to meet one of Eggsy's friends from work. And your boyfriend? Army, is he?"
"Air Force." Roxy makes a face. "You'd think I'd be used to it. My dad was military too, we moved around a lot."
And you know what, Eggsy'd put a tenner on that being the actual truth; no more than a tenner, mind.
"I'll just go get that drink," his mum says, and drifts off to bask in the bearded admiration of Bartender Patrick, whose full name and criminal record (if applicable) Eggsy is absolutely going to misuse Kingsman resources to discover.
"How much does she know?" Roxy asks, which means she picked up on the way his mum says the words tailor shop like they're a foreign language.
"More than she'll let on to me she does," Eggsy says. "Just--no work stories, yeah?"
Roxy pre-empts like a pro, asking his mum about her night classes as soon as she returns with her glass of red wine. His mum launches into the saga of how Eggsy's promised them a trip to Italy next summer, and she's always fancied learning Italian, so now she's doing an evening class down at the vocational college.
Eggsy's phone goes off with a call not from Arthur's number but Harry's personal one.
"Harry. You still at the office?"
"I just got home," Harry says, rueful. "Can I extend an invitation for you to join me, if you've recovered from the wilds of the north?"
"Yeah, 'course," he says, feeling the smile spread on his face. "I'll be right round. Can I grab anything from the shop? You got anything planned?"
"Actually, I'm planning to have my cock up your arse less than a minute after you walk through my door, Eggsy," Harry says, sounding calm as ever.
Eggsy digs his fingernails into his thigh and feels something happen to his face.
Across the table, Roxy raises her eyebrows at him.
"It's entirely up to you what state you're in when you arrive," Harry goes on, "but it seemed only polite to advise you of this plan in advance."
"Cheers, Harry," Eggsy says, and hangs up before he can say anything unwise. His lips are numb, like he's four pints down instead of one and a bit. What he actually wants to say would get him a smirk from Roxy and a complaint of language, Eggs! from his mum. He runs it in his head, like a mission: he's got to get home, get prepped, and he's going to make bloody Harry bloody Hart listen in while he does it.
"It just don't seem entirely right," his mum confides to Roxy, like he's not sitting right there. "This Harry being his boss and all."
"Harry's a good sort," Roxy says, which is champion of her because coming from Roxy that is a flat out lie. Roxy likes Harry a lot, but told Eggsy once with alarming bluntness that any sane person would take him for a good ride and then put him down and back away slowly, because he's the equivalent of an unmarked parcel that's started to tick.
Eggsy bites his tongue against the remark he's never letting out, not ever, which is related to fucking Dean and how his mum really isn't one to be casting stones about unsuitable men. Dean's history now, that's what counts.
"For the twelve hundredth time, Mum, I ain't being exploited, yeah?"
"You go, Eggsy, I'll keep Michelle company until her class starts." Roxy directs an innocent smile at Eggsy, along with a quirk of her eyes that tell him he now owes her favours untold for talking Harry up to his mum.
"Cheers. See you at the shop, Rox."
Eggsy scoops his phone into his pocket, kisses his mum on the cheek, and escapes.
"Eggsy, have a look at this."
Roxy crosses from the bookshelf and perches on the edge of Arthur's desk, a thin sheaf of pages in her hands.
Eggsy drops his pen on top of the pad where he's been working on yet another attempt at cracking the Enid Blyton code. Merlin's offered to run it through some software or have a look at it himself, but Eggsy's engaged in a personal fucking battle of wills with this thing now, and he's going to get it himself or die trying.
"Where'd you find them?" Eggsy asks, as Roxy spreads out her papers.
"Epistulae morales, Seneca, this particular edition published 1909. I thought the binding glue must have been rotting, some of the pages falling out, but look--they're handwritten. Must have been folded up and tucked inside."
That's probably one of the oldest books in the collection, from what Eggsy's seen. Roxy finishes gently smoothing out the creases of the top page, which is a letter. Actually, they're all letters, when Eggsy fans out the pile to check, and all in the same sloping and old-fashioned handwriting. Dear Arthur.
"Shit," Eggsy says, impressed, once he's glanced at the name at the bottom of the first page.
"Francis Abney to Arthur Sinclair." Roxy sounds pleased. "What if these are mission reports that nobody's ever found before?"
Nerd, Eggsy mouths, and puts up with the punch she delivers to his arm.
"Though," Roxy adds, "if it was a formal mission report, he'd have signed it with his codename."
They read together, silent apart from the regular tap of Roxy's boot against a leg of the desk.
I'm writing this on a train to New York City and I intend to post it there, but given the state of the Transatlantic postal service I expect I'll beat it home. Whenever it arrives in your hands, you can consider it a personal addendum to my report, which won't be written until I'm back at the shop, obviously.
This is the third letter I've started. There's a nosy old biddy sitting across the aisle from me who's obviously near dead with curiosity about what's on the two pieces of paper I've already crumpled up and shoved into my pockets. If I'd thrown them in a rubbish bin she'd be going through it. Decent spy material, I tell you. She looks exactly like someone put Paulie in a floral cotton sack.
The point is I'm still beastly angry with you, if you must know. But I'm angry at myself too.
Roxy makes an odd sound in her throat and points further down the page than Eggsy's reached. He bats her finger away.
"Probably Paul Whitchapel," she says. "Gawaine."
My shoulder still aches like the dickens when I've pushed it too far, a nice souvenir from Passchendaele, and I know it can't hold a candle to your leg. You were always the first one up the wall when we were sneaking into town, grabbing fistfuls of ivy in the dark and hushing the rest of us so the Scouts wouldn't hear. I keep thinking about you behind that desk in Savile Row and wanting to trudge back through the mud and the years and the fucking sickly boom of the guns, grab you by the arm, pull you away. I know you believe it was worth it. But I'm the one who had to watch them load you into that ambulance, and please, Arthur, if you love me at all, don't ever ask me what I believe.
Now I've written myself into a nice mess of guilt. This isn't an apology, Art. You owe me one of those, for saying what you did. And...perhaps I owe you a small bonfire, just for us, on the fifth of November: we'll start with that cane of yours. I know you hate the horrid thing. We'll find you another, and we'll make this one a swordstick. A poison dart tube. Both at once.
Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis, my friend. Yet I remain, in boyish pranks and tedious train rides, your very own
Eggsy touches the original Lancelot's real name with one finger of his own.
"Fuck, I want to read the others," he says. "But it feels a bit like--"
"--pawing through the rubbish bin?" Roxy meets his eyes. He hasn't seen this smile of hers before. "We are spies."
Good point. There's a personality leaping out of the faded blue ink, and Eggsy has a feeling the long-dead Francis Abney would view their particular nosiness with a professional understanding.
"Good morning, Lancelot, Galahad."
Merlin appears in the doorway of the office and pauses there with a long, showy sigh, like he still can't believe Arthur lets the children play around in the grown-up room unsupervised. As far as Eggsy can tell, Harry giving them free rein in the Arthur office is partly one of his small rebellions against the old Kingsman ways, and partly one of his obscure expressions of trust. It's also related to his transparent training up of Roxy like they're in the fucking Lion King--Eggsy's got a baby sister, alright, he's seen every Disney movie ever made. Everything the light touches will be hers, or something. Eggsy finds the whole thing way too amusing to ever feel jealous about it, and fuck, he doesn't want the job.
"Is Harry back then?"
"In the dining room." Merlin jerks his head. "Come on."
Harry's been off shouting at Kingsman's shadowy pack of financial advisors, or at least deploying politeness at them like a ground-to-air missile, and he's called a meeting of the knights. Just once Eggsy would like to remote in via his glasses for one of these things; maybe in his boxers, to see the look on Gawaine's face. But Harry's been running him and Roxy with a short leash while Merlin's still laying claim to half their time for training purposes, and they spend a lot more time in London than the others. There's no excuse not to be here in person.
"Kingsmen," Harry says, when Eggsy and Roxy are seated with glasses on. The other knights are visible as greenish holograms, most of them with hands folded neatly in front of them. Eggsy resists the urge to slump back in his seat and cross his arms. "Thank you for your attention, especially those who are in unhelpful timezones." He nods in the direction of Kay, who is in fucking Australia and keeps recording video mission reports in which he looks both cheerful and the colour of strawberries. "We have an update on a developing situation, and I want everyone on the same page about this one. Merlin?"
"While we have Lancelot and Galahad to thank for the fact that Scotland is not currently undergoing its own version of Fukushima, information gathered from the surveillance of Julia Ackworth has led us to her boss." Merlin turns with clipboard in hand to flick a series of images up onto the main viewing screen. "Tristan and Bors have had a very enlightening few days in Sainte Maxime. We now have a visual."
Merlin enlarges one of the small images. A woman's face fills the screen and Eggsy sits upright.
"Hang on," he says, "I know her."
"Berlin," Roxy says.
"Yeah, right. Rox--Lancelot borrowed her lipstick."
"And planted a bug on her, while gushing about the pinot noir and pretending to wobble off her high heels," Merlin agrees, reeking of pride. "For everyone else's benefit: this woman was at a land auction, acting--or so we assumed--on behalf of the anonymous black market trafficker who's been treating the estates of the filthy rich and recently deceased like their own personal game of Monopoly."
"Fuck," Roxy says.
"Well put," says Harry, dry.
Eggsy catches on. "Monopoly and uranium heist--same trafficker?"
"And she wasn't acting for anyone," Merlin says. "This is she. Her. This is the bloody trafficker."
Eggsy whistles, gazing at the cascade of blonde hair with new appreciation.
"What's her name?" Percival asks.
"Which one do you want?" says Bors.
"The answer is, we don't know," Harry says. "Or rather, yes, we have a list of them, but Merlin's chipped away at most of them and proved them to be constructed aliases."
"Very well constructed," Merlin says.
"We've still got a tracker on her?" Roxy asks.
"We do," Merlin confirms, "although we lost audio less than twenty-four hours after deployment."
"Percival, Galahad, Lancelot," Harry says. "You'll be handling the next stage of this. We'll brief you on the mission when everything is ready. Percival, how long to wrap things up in Belfast?"
"I can leave tomorrow, sir," Percival says.
"Thank you," Harry says. "Dismissed."
Eggsy stands up automatically with the images of the other knights, and blinks when they disappear. He pulls his glasses down and rubs away the vague ache that he still gets from focusing on three-dimensional holograms.
"Lancelot," Merlin says. He crooks a finger. "You're with me. Galahad, you'll join us at the house when you're done here."
Eggsy groans. "Arabic?"
"Among other things," Merlin promises horribly, and ushers Roxy out the door.
Eggsy turns back to Harry. The smirk and the dirty remarks that have been hovering thoughtfully on his lips dry up when he sees that Harry's still seated at the head of the table. That's as good a signal as any that this is an Arthur-and-Galahad conversation and not one between Harry and Eggsy, who just last week left dubious stains all over Harry's armchair and maybe, possibly, got a noise complaint and and an accusation of public indecency from Harry's neighbour.
"Oh, for--stop leaning on your umbrella."
Eggsy grins and straightens up. "Forgot, sorry. Is this a performance review, then?"
"No," Harry says, warmer than he expected. "You've been doing very well. This is about--a change to the rules, to so speak."
Maybe this is a Harry-and-Eggsy conversation. Eggsy considers sitting, but leans on his umbrella again instead. Harry's mouth twitches.
"As someone recently pointed out to me, " Harry says, "times change."
"And?" Eggsy says, uneasy.
Harry looks down at his folded hands, and then back up.
"Galahad," Harry says. "If you are convinced beyond doubt that I am giving you an order that you should not carry out, you may contact me and challenge it. Once. I will overrule you, or, if time allows, I will consider your reasoning. But in the field you have that option, so long as I have your word that if overruled, you will proceed exactly as ordered."
Eggsy searches Harry's face for information, but gives up almost at once.
"Why're you doing this?" he asks.
"Because even the last Arthur probably thought he was acting for the greater good," Harry says. "And because otherwise you're not a person, let alone a gentleman. You're no more than a weapon misfiring in a crowded church."
"Why now?" Eggsy demands. "Was there something about the last mission, did something--"
"Stop," Harry says, sharp. "I said I would take responsibility for your obedience, and I meant it."
And oh, right: this is what Eggsy missed the first time they had this conversation. Harry is shouldering the guilt, the blame, for anything he tells Eggsy to do. Even if that turns out to be the wrong thing.
"I don't know if I like that," he says.
"Would you prefer me to remove the option again?" Harry asks. It's a brutally sincere question.
Eggsy swallows hard. An unsettlingly large part of him wants to say yes. The part of him that is well on its way to being in love with Harry Hart--huge, terrifying, apocalyptic love--aches, at the quiet of Harry's decision. It makes sense: you wake up with your guns blazing, and you don't blame the gun for the damage. But. But.
"No," he says.
"Then those are the conditions of your employment, Galahad," says Harry.
Eggsy looks down at where he's holding on to the umbrella handle. His skinned knuckles are scabbing over. He thinks about Harry in his dressing gown, watching unblinking as his own hands slaughtered person after person; Harry in the jet saying I rather suspected that would be the case, and then trapping himself in Arthur's seat so that Eggsy would trust in Kingsman again.
"Galahad," Harry says. It's a question.
Harry's trigger finger on Eggsy's scars, like a promise.
Eggsy looks up.
"Yes, Arthur," he says.
"And that's ten minutes," says Percival. "Lancelot, what's your status?"
An orange light flashes at the corner of Eggsy's glasses display: in progress.
"She's almost finished laying the charges," says Harry over the comms. "The last one's taking longer than anticipated, and the guards are circling back to that area. I've told her to stay silent on comms. Stand by."
If Eggsy's got to be stuck skulking on his stomach in the bushy, soil-smelling gardens of a country house rivalling even Kingsman's in size and opulence (tennis courts in place of basejumping target; swimming pool in place of shooting range), there are probably worse people he could be doing it with. It could be fucking Gawaine, for one.
Eggsy's entire in-person experience of Percival up to this point is this: the man like paisley ties, and actually pulls off the Kingsman glasses better than anyone but Harry. He's got the kind of face that needs glasses to save it from worried-rabbit territory, but when they're on, he's pretty fit in a posh schoolteacher kind of way. There's still nothing that Eggsy's seen to suggest that Percival's got much of a personality, but there has to be something there. He's the only knight to have put forward a female proposal in Kingsman history, and according to Roxy he's also the one who suggested that they fly Amelia in from Berlin so that it wasn't so obvious; so Roxy felt less out of place.
"How'd you meet our Lancelot, then?" Eggsy asks.
Percival directs a look at Eggsy like he's not sure whether to accuse him of gossiping on a mission or of using un-Kingsmanlike bluntness in trying to get personal information out of a target.
"Bruv, I am making small talk," Eggsy says. "Don't tell me that's not gentleman-like."
After a moment, Percival cracks a smile. It turns him into a whole different bloke.
"She was dating my younger brother," he says. "Daniel."
"Get out," Eggsy says. "So she was all polite, yeah, meeting his family? And you liked her manners?"
"Not exactly," Percival says. "Daniel invited her to our family's country house for Christmas, and on Christmas Eve she found out he was sending--is the term sexts?--to someone called Priscilla."
"Shit," Eggsy says. His grin gets wider. "Shit. Did she yank his dick off and make him eat it?"
"She pulled our great-grandfather's sword off the wall of the great hall," Percival says, which is a fucking aristocrat of a sentence if Eggsy's ever heard one, "and attacked him with it."
Percival's smile turns nostalgic. Eggsy's getting the impression Percival's never been that fond of his brother. "She chased him into the ornamental lake. It was very impressive. And then she turned around, while he was spitting out pondweed, and apologised to my mother for ruining her Christmas decorations while she was climbing up to reach the sword."
"Listen to that," Eggsy says. "Posh Christmas sounds just like pleb Christmas."
Percival blinks. "Really?"
"Well, it were more Dean pounding the shit out of my mum's sister's husband," Eggsy says. "No swords, mind, but they did knock the tree over."
An explosion shakes the air, and a thin plume of grey smoke appears on the other side of the main house. The two guards within Eggsy's field of vision pause and stare in that direction, and after a quick discussion one of them jogs into the house, hand on his weapon. The other stays put.
"That's me then," Eggsy says. He slaps Percival on the knee, crawls to his feet, and breaks the cover of the bushes.
It's an unseasonably lovely day, the kind of day that Eggsy reckons the countryside comes up with just to fuck with city folk, bright and warm enough that Eggsy is considering taking a shortcut across the gleaming swimming pool and coming up with a tactical reason for it later. Probably not worth the risk of being discovered due to dripping, though.
The remaining guard goes down with Eggsy's signet ring pressed to the side of his neck, and Eggsy lands a sedative dart in him for good measure before pulling the key pass from his belt and activating a new comms circuit.
"Arthur," he says. "You get your hands on that blueprint yet?"
"There's a door down to your left," Harry says. "Straight through and up the stairs."
Eggsy does as he's told: down two stone steps, a door with swipe entry that sings green and friendly when Eggsy uses the guard's pass and shoulders it open, and then he's through into a dim and cool room that--
"Fuck me," Eggsy says, "I think I'm in love," feeling hallowed almost, in the presence of so much beauty.
"Is that so," says Harry, amused.
"You wouldn't understand," Eggsy says, already moving across the garage. "You drive a cab. Even if it has had the Kingsman makeover."
"Is that a Mercedes-Benz W111?"
Fuck, it is, and Eggsy doesn't have time either to run his hands over it (which he wouldn't, anyway, because fingerprints) or to explore the possibility that Harry might know something about cars that don't have yellow TAXI signs on the top, because the second explosion shivers through the concrete floor and into his feet.
"Lancelot?" he says.
"On track." Roxy sounds puffed. "You?"
"I'm going to poke around a bit."
"Gloves, Galahad--that's it," Harry says, as Eggsy pulls them from a pocket and slips them on, before setting a hand to the internal door and stepping out into the house proper.
Eggsy draws a gun and climbs the carpeted stairs, splashed with sunlight from high windows, and finds himself at one end of a long hallway. This property is old but it's been gutted and done up modern on the inside, all brushed steel and white walls and huge, colourful, abstract art canvases. It's very quiet.
The first room he tries is a sparsely-furnished bedroom resting under a thin layer of dust, and it takes him less than a minute to check that the sole chest of drawers is empty but for spare sheets. The second room is a study; the cable of a laptop charger snakes across the desk, not plugged into anything. There's a wifi router tucked away on the top shelf of a bookcase, its lights blinking blue and serene.
"Percival," Eggsy says. "Piggyback me, yeah?"
He stands in the middle of the room and turns, slowly, making sure he takes in everything.
"Is that--yes. I can make that work," Percival says. "Good, Galahad. Move on."
There are voices coming from downstairs, now, and Eggsy's more careful when he slips out into the hall and makes his way to the next room. Might as well be methodical about it.
The third room is a bedroom that actually looks lived in, and the art on the walls is different: smaller, sleeker frames, a mish-mash of photos and prints, all at eye height. Eggsy's about to bend down and open the drawers of a dark wooden dresser when he sees the smudged, cloudy patch edging the bottom corner of a silver frame, like lots of fingerprints overlaid on one another. It's only visible because the light catches it.
He touches the same place with two gloved fingers. The frame, with only a small amount of nudging, swings outwards on a hinge.
"Oh, yes," Eggsy says. "I was hoping to try this one out."
The safe beneath has a textured black surface and an electronic lock with a numbered keypad. Eggsy quickly undoes the strap of his watch and slides a flat transparent disc from the back of it. When he holds the disc against the surface of the safe it sticks fast, as though magnetised there, and its surface fills suddenly with circles of flickering, changing red numbers. Eggsy presses a button on his watch, and waits.
Less than ten seconds later, the safe beeps, then clicks, and the disc goes blank and falls into Eggsy's waiting palm. He grins and pulls the safe open, and--stares.
"Bloody hell," Eggsy says. "Arthur? Do we have face recognition for...enormous fucking jewels?"
"Bloody hell is right," Harry says. "Give me a moment."
Eggsy's foot is tapping against the carpet. He listens, and stares, and thinks. "I'm going to need the wiki page on this thing, or whatever Merlin's version of that is."
Eggsy rolls his eyes. "Leave off. Yeah, cheers," as he scans the holographic text carefully. "Do we know when--March? Ages before the auction in Berlin, then. Good, that's good."
"Galahad," Harry says warningly.
"A Kingsman adapts," Eggsy says.
The soft buzz of male voices from downstairs rises, suddenly, and is joined by a much louder female voice. Eggsy can't make out more than the tone, raised in indignation and fear.
"Galahad," says Percival, a sharp interruption. "They've got Lancelot."
"On it," Eggsy says. He gives the contents of the safe another longing glance, but lets both safe door and picture swing silently closed.
"Silent on comms," Harry says. "We can't risk it in close proximity. Glasses only."
Eggsy follows the noise. He takes a second staircase back down to the ground floor and ends up pressed to the wall, daring glimpses through to a large lounge room, one wall of which is adorned with what Eggsy would have taken for a flat-screen TV, but which seems to be serving as a teleconferencing device. Roxy, her hands raised just above her head, is standing in a semicircle of armed men. Most of them are pointing a weapon at her.
On the screen, frowning in full colour, is their nameless black market trafficker, fencer of stolen goods, trainer of mercenaries, and would-be purveyor of uranium to the highest bidder. She's wearing a black blouse and the tight blonde swirl of her hair snakes over her shoulder like the tongue of a greedy beast.
A trap, then. Of one kind or another.
"If she's here, he's here too," the woman is saying. English accent. "Marcus, sweep the house. Start with--"
"Yeah, don't bother," Eggsy says.
He strolls forward into the room, gloved hands raised, holding his safetyed gun by the barrel for easy surrender--we're all mates here, yeah? Easy, easy.
"What are you doing?" Roxy hisses.
"Saving us some time," he says.
One of the men takes his gun, but nobody bothers to pat him down, which is either a good sign or a very bad one. Eggsy lowers his arms slowly and looks up at the screen. Static photographs don't do the impish, vital prettiness of the woman justice. Her eyes are set far apart in her face and she holds her head like a predator, like nobody Eggsy's ever seen except--sometimes--Harry.
"Eleanor and Tom Rutherford," the woman says, in a voice that's sweet and tart like lemon curd sandwiches. "How nice to meet you. Again."
Words flash at the bottom of Eggsy's glasses: PERCIVAL IN STUDY. HOLD POSITION.
Eggsy doesn't smile. He doesn't relax a single muscle.
"And what do we call you?" Roxy says.
The half-smile widens. "You can call me Em."
"M for what?" Eggsy says. "M for manipulative bitch?"
The woman's face goes blank and thoughtful for a second, her high-definition gaze pinning him to the spot, and every weapon in the place gets lifted an inch higher. Next to Eggsy, Roxy goes tense.
"Let's say, Em for Emily," the woman says finally. "You're a rude little thing, aren't you, Tom?"
"Yeah," Eggsy says. "I'm working on my manners, though."
"Why don't you tell me what you're here for?"
Eggsy and Roxy exchange a look. Eggsy makes a pained face and drops his shoulders. "Might as well," he says.
"Tom," Roxy says, sharp.
"What difference does it make at this point, love?" He turns back to the screen, trusting in Roxy's poker face to get them through this next bit. "The Mogok Ruby."
Em's face goes tight; it's a split-second thing, but Eggsy sees it. His hand wants to jitter against his leg but he forces the urge away.
"Hah," he says, not bothering to hide his satisfaction. "Told you it'd be here, Ellie. You're waiting for the investigation to tail off before you start looking for a buyer, right?"
"Are you in the market?" Em asks.
"Well, my wife here took a fancy to that particular gem," Eggsy says. "I thought we'd have a go at it, you know, as an anniversary date. Only someone got there first. Took us a while to work out who had the sheer bollocks to fence something that hot, but after that, it was easy."
"If you know so much about me, Mr and Mrs Rutherford, you know how many properties I own. You saw me buy one or two of them yourself." She's not dumb enough to have relaxed. Her tone is like a fishing lure, sharp and bright, dangling for a reaction. "If I'm not there, what on earth makes you think the ruby is?"
Eggsy smiles and lets the pause dangle in turn, stalling with all his might, while a couple of hundred miles away Harry types quick lines of text that crawl over his glasses feed.
"You didn't take it to France," he says. "And you own property all over the shop, yeah, but this is where you live. I reckon, half an hour more and I'd have found it."
More words blink into sudden, urgent existence. GOT IT. MERLIN'S IN THE SYSTEM. EXTRACT WHEN READY.
They've practiced this, switching their focus from near to far and absorbing information from the glasses while also monitoring their surroundings, but maybe it's not as invisible as they'd like when they're both doing it at once.
"Nice glasses the two of you have. His and hers special, was it?" Em says. "Jermaine."
The guard nearest to Roxy reaches out and plucks the Kingsman glasses from Roxy's face; Roxy looks annoyed and her hands form fists, but she doesn't resist.
Jermaine puts the glasses on and frowns. He runs his fingers up and down the frame in a way that must be hitting every possible function. Eggsy starts planning in his head: he's got two knives, one more gun, that should be enough to take out the two nearest him, and then he'll have their guns, and maybe he'll empty a clip or two into that fucking screen just to make himself feel better--
"Nothing, boss," Jermaine says finally.
"Do you mind," Roxy says. She snatches the glasses back when Jermaine holds them out.
Em's not smiling any more.
"That charming little bug you planted on me in Berlin," she says. "The one that I made sure to leave in this house, so I knew just where to expect you. I had my people take a good look at it, after we'd killed the audio. That's law enforcement tech."
"You're right. It is," says Roxy. All eyes swing to her. Eggsy's pulse quickens. "By all accounts," Roxy goes on, "MI-6 were very unhappy when someone stole it right out of their R&D labs."
Em pauses, mouth an unreadable shape. "If that's true," she says, "you're very good."
Roxy shrugs. "We are very good. Instead of killing us, you could take this as a job application, if you like. Are you telling me there's nothing you could use us for?"
"You want me to...hire you?"
"I don't want us to get shot," Roxy says, sounding authentically nervous. "Don't pay us the first time, whatever, let us--work it off."
"May I point out that despite how good you claim to be, you just got caught?" Em says.
Roxy smiles. Sort of. There are teeth. "You're very good."
"You're adorable," Em says. "It's an intriguing offer, Ellie, it really is. But I don't accept unsolicited resumés. My employees operate on a need to know basis, and you two already know too much. So I'm going to have to decline." Her voice sharpens. "Kill them."
Eggsy was braced from the word but. His first shot hits the camera sitting atop the screen; he gets Jermaine as the man is wincing away from the small explosion of sparks this produces. Eggsy throws himself into a roll that brings him up in close range to another guard, knocking the man's outstretched gun aside just as he pulls the trigger--the bullet leaves a hot stripe of pain as it sears across Eggsy's shoulder, but doesn't slow him down--and bringing around the knife that he's retrieved from his calf sheath. Blood splashes hot against his hand. He's turning again in the next instant.
It's a fast, ugly fight. Eggsy's faced larger and more trigger-happy odds, but he and Roxy are still outnumbered, and Em's guards are better trained than Valentine's were. Eggsy scores another bullet burn, this one on his left bicep, and takes a blow from a pair of brass knuckles that gashes his forehead deeply. It would have stunned him, maybe killed him, if Roxy hadn't called warning and thrown a knife of her own that buried itself in the leg of Eggsy's attacker and lessened the force of his blow.
Roxy leaps onto the back of another guard and pulls her garrotte wire tight around his neck. The man roars and charges, sensibly enough, at the screen on the wall; it shatters as Roxy's slammed against it, and she gasps and winces but holds tight. Eggsy focuses on the two guards left standing--dodge and kick and grab the arm, dislocate--aim over the man's arched torso at the other one, three shots straight to centre mass, textbook. The cut on Eggsy's forehead is bleeding, matting his eyelashes and stinging like mad. When he swipes at it with his gun hand it leaves a smudge like red ink.
He kicks the last man's legs from under him, and tries not to wince in sympathy as the bloke hits the polished wooden floor chin-fist and goes immediately limp.
Roxy's ridden her man down to a purple-faced heap on the rug. She steps clear and touches her cheek, where a bruise is already blossoming, and then makes a face at where a deep gash on the side of her leg is soaking her trousers in blood. Eggsy's ribs ache when he breathes, but he doesn't think they're broken. He gestures at the blank screen with its jagged remains of glass.
"She's a charmer, ain't she?"
"I think I'm in love," Roxy says.
Roxy's eyes are dreamily narrowed. "We are going to find her," she says. "And then I'm going to beat the shit out of her."
"Jesus," Eggsy says, laughing a bit. "C'mon, Lancelot, she'll have called in the troops as soon as the connection cut. We've got to get out of here."
He starts in the direction of the garage's interior door, but Roxy halts him with a grip on his wrist.
"I've got a better idea," she says.
Out of the building, down a gravel-strewn path, and tucked beside the tennis courts is Roxy's idea of how they're going to make their escape. She lifts the latch and leads him into the shadowed, straw-smelling interior.
Eggsy pulls to a halt.
"Lancelot," he says. "Tell me you're taking the fucking piss. There are cars in that garage, there's a fucking Mercedes--"
"She'll have people covering all the road exits, if she's smart," Roxy says, already busy in the stall of some enormous grey beast with sadistic eyes. "Arthur?"
"Good thinking, Lancelot," Harry says. "The boundary wall at the south-west corner of the estate backs onto woodland, and then you can loop around to the road. That should give you enough of a head start, and Merlin will meet you with the car."
"But fucking horses," Eggsy argues.
Roxy does something with some straps. Eggsy looks down at his oxfords, and then wonders when he became the kind of person to care about the shine of his shoes. It's not the scuffmarks, though. It's the horseshit, implying as it does the existence of fucking horses, which for a city lad like Eggsy are the kind of animal that exists mostly to trot tourists around in carriages, or as a far-off abstract thing that a person might curse loudly in the gutter outside Ladbrokes.
"Come on, Galahad, you're an enthusiastic rider, aren't you?" Roxy says.
Yeah, 'course, Eggsy's about to say, when I was a kid there was a heap of time for horses, in between shooting pheasants and Latin tutoring--but then he snaps his head up and looks at Roxy instead.
"Roxanne," he says.
For a moment her mouth twitches out of spy-neutral.
"Codenames in the field, please," comes Harry's voice, long-suffering.
"Give us a boost," Roxy says, and Eggsy gets a splash of déjà vu in his stomach as her foot lands on his clasped hands and he boosts her up, as she leans down and extends an arm to help him up behind her. At least she doesn't expect him to ride the thing by himself.
Roxy gives a grunt of pain as she adjusts the position of her wounded leg. "Hold on to me," she directs, and then she does something with her feet and they're away, and Eggsy's skeleton starts trying to jolt its way out of his flesh.
Eggsy spends the hideously uncomfortable ride trying to ignore the pain in his forehead and writing a long, expletive-ridden speech in his head about how Roxy's pre-Kingsman skills are less useless than he'd thought, and Merlin should have anticipated that Eggsy might be called upon to canter around like Little Lord fucking Fauntleroy while fleeing the scene of a mission, and trained him up accordingly. He knows exactly how unreasonable the speech is, and he's not suicidal enough to ever deliver it, but just throwing the words angrily from one side of his own skull to the other helps soothe his feelings. Those cars were so fucking beautiful.
"How's your arse feeling, Galahad?" Roxy shouts.
Eggsy spares two fingers from his deathgrip around her waist order to give that the response it deserves, and Roxy laughs.
Just as Harry said, cutting through the woods on horseback brings them around to the main road a good distance from the estate, and barely ten minutes later they've abandoned the horse with a slap on the rump and are sliding breathless and bleeding into the back seat of Merlin's silver Corsa.
"Jesus fucking Christ," Merlin greets them with, as the car roars down the road.
"Nice to see you too, Merlin," says Roxy.
"Professional thieves? Now your secret identities have secret identities!"
"Kept her occupied, didn't it?" Eggsy says. "Worked a charm."
"As did the new retinal lock on the glasses," Roxy says. "Did you see that? He put them on and didn't get a damn thing."
"I did see that," Merlin says grimly. "This job will send me to an early grave."
"Nonsense," says Harry's voice, suddenly loud from the car's speakers. "You've been saying that for years, and we're not rid of you yet."
"I don't know if she'll buy it," Roxy says, "considering we took out eight of her guards."
"Good work aiming for the camera, Galahad," Harry says. "She might suspect you're more than just thieves, but she won't know how you fight. That can be a lot of information, to someone who knows how to interpret it."
"Percival?" Roxy asks.
"He'll extract when it's dark, he absolutely can't be seen leaving--" Merlin starts.
"No, I mean--"
"Ah, yes." Merlin taps the tablet sitting on the passenger seat. "Tristan and Bors were spot on about her data storage. Percival got me access to the wireless router, I worked a little magic on her encryption--a worthy opponent, don't get me wrong--and downloaded the lot. Properties, targets, deals made, people on payroll."
"And?" Rox says.
"It's a hell of a lot," Merlin says grimly. "Much more than we'd anticipated. Her operation is a whole bloody empire, and it's not going to topple overnight."
"But she don't know we've got her plans, right?" Eggsy says. "So we can start, you know. Toppling. Foiling."
"We've already started," Merlin says. "Or did you not notice that we're heading in the wrong direction to be returning to London?" He picks up the tablet one-handed and passes it back to them, not taking his eyes from the road. "Read this, work out how you're going to handle it. You've got the standard car arsenal available plus whatever you're still carrying, and we'll be there in ninety minutes."
"Arthur?" Roxy says. It's the first time Eggsy's heard her sound uncertain on a mission.
"I'll be in your ear. But I'm leaving the planning up to you two," Harry says. "Let's see what you're made of."
The letter is close to falling into four fragile pieces, it's been folded and refolded so many times along its creases.
My lord, my lord, said the champion to the king, one day you will send me to my death. And if you ask it of me, I will even try to believe it worthwhile.
After much calculation, I've timed this perfectly. I anticipate that this letter will take months to reach you, or, given where I'm posting it, a mailbag will fall off the back of a donkey and it will never reach you at all. Time will have passed. I will have returned to London, and I will have left again. I will be safely across another nation's borders by the time your eyes pass over these words. I'm used to it by now. It is oddly comforting to sit in full daylight and imagine you asleep, or just waking, or looking up from your desk in the dying afternoon and trying to catch a glimpse of the sunset through clouds and spires.
Arthur I hate the sun and the Earth and the fucking, fucking distance. For the love of God stop sending me away.
Soles occidere et redire possunt: nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux, nox est perpetua una dormienda. For peace, and for the preservation of life: keep sending me away. I am a Kingsman after all. And before all. We'll sleep when we're done.
All things change, Arthur, except for this shipwreck heart of mine.
"I really need to stab something," Roxy says. Her eyes are dry and hot and fierce.
"Well," says Eggsy.
It seems completely unfair that in a room full of people wearing trackpants, Roxy would insist on both of them wearing the full white-as-snow getup, including knee high socks and fucking breeches, but that's what Eggsy gets for assuming this would be anything other than ridiculous. The hall is full of the clash of metal, quick shouts in a mixture of English and French, and the occasional beep from where two people are hooked up to an electronic scoring system.
Roxy gets waves and nods from various people, including the staff members in their uniforms.
"You're a bloody liar, Rox, you said you used to fence."
Roxy pulls two swords ("Foils, Eggsy.") out of the rack and blinks at him, like butter wouldn't fucking melt, as she leads them over to an empty strip of mat.
"I said I fenced before joining Kingsman," she says. "I didn't say how recently. I'll be rusty, of course, it's been quite a few months."
Eggsy moves his chin, feeling the high neck of the jacket where it's rubbing snug at his jaw. "Let's be having it, then."
Roxy's not a bad teacher. She shows him how to hold the sword and how to position his body, keeping one foot forward of the other; she shows him where to aim with the plastic tip in order to score points, and the basics of how to parry and to lunge. Then she waves over a pimply beanpole with the name Phil embroidered on his club polo shirt, and announces them ready for a proper bout.
"You are fucking joking," Eggsy says.
"Learn by doing, Eggsy," she says, in a passing stab at Merlin's accent.
Phil tears his eyes away from Roxy's face--can't hardly blame the lad, really--and has to clear his throat twice to say, "Fencers salute."
This part, Eggsy's got the hang of. He lifts the guard to his chin and then swishes the blade down, Roxy mirroring him. It's all very Three Musketeers.
"En garde," calls Phil, and then, when they've tucked their masks back on, "Ready? Play."
Eggsy sighs and resigns himself to looking like a total arse. Which he most likely does. But it's not bad fun, actually, to be learning a new skill for zero stakes: no Merlin, no threat of failing out of the job interview, no country's security and nobody's safety riding on the outcome. He's trained with enough weapons by now that his reflexes are good and his eye quick to find an opening, even if he's shite at knowing how to take advantage of it given all the stupid formal rules.
"Fuck," Eggsy says, in the process of tripping over his own feet for the fifth time as Roxy strikes him square in the chest and Roxy's blade bends into a neat arc. "See, if this were a real fight, I'd've grabbed your sword--"
--out of your hands, there, and had me foot at the back of your knee, and you'd be done for."
Roxy pushes her mask up onto her head, lifts her hand and waves at someone. Eggsy turns around and sees Harry, wearing the navy blue suit that always makes Eggsy's mouth dry with the desire to rip it off, leaning against the wall of the club like a modern lord surveying a room of medieval fighters.
Eggsy has a mad second of wondering if he can get away with keeping his mask on and pretending to be someone else, but it's not like he's got a real hope of anonymity. He shoves up his own mask and calls his sunniest, most confident smile onto his face.
Harry, the bastard, simply tilts his head to one side: well then?
"So you're going to let me get a few points in, look good in front of him, right?"
"Aw," Roxy says. "Eggsy. Of course I'm not."
"I'm telling Marita from medical you're using that leg for non-essential exercise," Eggsy tries.
"Nonsense," Roxy says. "You've never snitched in your life."
"Salute," says Phil.
Lift, swish, position.
"Phil," Eggsy says, "if you don't stop smiling like a stunned monkey whenever she scores, I will pull your fucking bollocks off and tie them round your fucking ears, yeah?"
By now Pimply Phil's realised that Eggsy's not going to do more than shake his sword ineffectually in his direction, so he just takes half a step back from the mat and levels a reproachful look in Eggsy's direction. "En garde."
Roxy thrashes him thoroughly for another ten minutes. By the end of it Eggsy's chest is starting to feel tender with blunted stabs and his thighs and wrists, well-trained though they might be in other forms of combat, are starting to ache gently with the strain of holding new positions for so long.
"That's five points and the bout to Ms Morton."
"Thank you, Phil," Roxy says, breathless.
Eggsy removes his mask with a puff of relief, feeling sweaty around the hairline and jaw. Roxy's elastic gets caught and her hair comes entirely loose as she removes her own mask, and the honey-blonde of it swirls down her shoulder like something from a movie. Eggsy sees at least one bout nearby in the process of being lost because someone's frozen on the spot with their mask turned in Roxy's direction, and Phil looks on the verge of proposing marriage until he catches the edge of Eggsy's amused look and scurries away.
"So," Eggsy says. "This Daniel sounds a proper twat."
Roxy's brow furrows, then clears into rueful amusement. "Sebastian told you about that, did he?"
"Seriously, Rox, a sword and a lake?"
"You're right," she says seriously, "it was rather Arthurian, now I come to think of it."
"Speaking of which, you had to know this wasn't going to be flattering for you," Roxy says, waving her hand between them. "I'm surprised you asked Harry to come."
"Me?" Eggsy says. "I thought you might've invited him to this little humiliation session. No? He probably hijacked the GPS in my phone then."
"Wow," says Roxy.
"What? S'romantic, innit," Eggsy says.
Roxy shows him the exact expression she wore at the start of proposal training, when he asked if JB was going to get bigger.
"Felicitations," she says. "You're both barmy."
"Your idea of a good time is apparently beating the shit out of a criminal mastermind," Eggsy says. "You want to throw stones, Rox?"
She steps close, tiny and trim in white, and to Eggsy's surprise she slips her free arm around his torso and squeezes him in a hug. "This was fun, Eggsy. Thanks."
Eggsy hugs back and drops a kiss in her hair, which smells a bit like oranges. "I'll kick your arse next time."
She giggles. "We'll do free running again next time."
"When we're back from--you gotten it out of Merlin yet?"
"No. Mystery location." Roxy steps back, gesturing for Eggsy's foil as she does so. He hands it over. "There has to be some benefit to you shagging our boss on a regular basis, Eggs, what kind of spy are you?"
"Fuck off, I am not honeypotting Harry," Eggsy protests.
Roxy glances over Eggsy's shoulder, flicks a final teasing smile at Eggsy, and then disappears in the direction of the sword racks. Eggsy turns around mostly expecting Harry to be right there, and for some awkward questions about honeypots to come up. But Harry's still leaning against the wall, watching a nearby bout and attracting admiring looks from a range of people up to and including Phil, who's clearly got the kind of equal-opportunity sexuality that Eggsy would sympathise with if it were being directed at anyone else.
Harry's eyes sweep appreciatively down and up Eggsy's body as he approaches, and the jealousy in Eggsy's stomach smooths out into pleasure before it can really take hold.
"I know," he says. "I was shite."
"I was intrigued," Harry says. "Are you finished here?"
"Definitely," Eggsy says, heartfelt.
He leads the way to the changing room and Harry follows him in, which is--no weirder than hacking his phone GPS, to be honest. Eggsy's not going to pretend to care.
"How's your hand feeling?" Harry asks, before Eggsy can reach for the zipper of his jacket.
Eggsy opens and closes it. It's no worse than after a day of handgun target practice with Merlin bawling at him about precision and recoil. He shrugs. "Fine."
Harry takes hold of his hand with an easy possession that shouldn't make Eggsy want to tip forward, like gravity's gone mental, but it does anyway. Harry pinches the webbing between Eggsy's thumb and index finger, and a sound comes out of Eggsy's mouth that he is absolutely planning to deny later. Fuck it. Harry's fingers are like magic, better than hot showers, better than anything, finding aches and small knots that Eggsy hadn't known were there. Eggsy sighs and goes boneless against the changing room wall with how good it feels. Harry works his way up Eggsy's hand, towards the wrist and then past it, brushing his thumb up under the cuff of the fencing jacket. Eggsy inhales when Harry presses down against his pulse, and looks up at Harry who's looking right back down at him, poised but somehow burning hot, so much so that Eggsy licks his lips and licks them again like he's found himself faced with a desert sun.
"Fencing's alright," he says. "Not sure I'm a fan of the getup, though."
Harry's eyes darken and he releases Eggsy's wrist, then moves his hands slowly up the white expanse of Eggsy's chest, to either side of his neck, then down over the curve of his shoulders.
"I'll beg to differ," Harry murmurs. "All that sleek muscle of yours, tucked away, waiting to be revealed."
"Well?" Eggsy says.
Harry's mouth is very close to his, Harry's hands now between the wall and the small of Eggsy's back. "Well what?"
Eggsy smiles and swallows past the desert in his mouth. "Tell me what to do."
"Nothing." Harry moves in for a single bruising kiss. "My dear boy, don't move, don't do a fucking--" and he cuts himself off, in the end, when the kiss starts again. Eggsy's hasn't moved. Eggsy's gone still and pliant and he's clutching at Harry's shoulders, but that's fucking necessary, that's for balance, because otherwise he's going to bury his hands in Harry's hair and pull.
It's a distracting kiss, alright, all tongue and noise and sensations that shoot straight to Eggsy's cock, but Eggsy's not too far gone on it to notice that Harry's hands are doing something behind his back. He realises what's going on a few seconds before it happens: Harry's undoing the tape of the fencing jacket from the metal loop there, and pulling up on it, tightening it between Eggsy's legs
"Fuck," Eggsy says, "Harry," and Harry smiles like a comet's darkly sparkling tail and pulls it even tighter, until Eggsy rises unsteadily onto his toes and gasps at the increasing pressure on his balls.
Harry keeps him dangling there a little longer while he lowers his mouth to Eggsy's neck. Eggsy moans and lets him drop kisses along the thin strip of skin that's available above the jacket's collar. Every time Harry moves, the tape rubs, the V front of the jacket constraining Eggsy like too-tight briefs.
Eggsy lets out a breath that's half relief when Harry releases the tape. "Alright," he says. "I suppose I can see some point in the fucking thing now."
Harry laughs, a reward, and unzips the fencing jacket in a slow diagonal from neck to flank, then pulls it open. Eggsy rests his head back against the wall, giving him access, and doesn't move. He can feel the heat of Harry's body, the infuriating tease of Harry's thumbs where they slip underneath the braces attached to the breeches, and move up, brushing over Eggsy's nipples like the thin white t-shirt isn't even there.
"Harry," he says, breathing hard. "Jesus."
He's got Harry's thigh shoved between his, now, and Harry's big hands beneath the jacket on either side of his ribcage, and Eggsy figures he's allowed to at least move his arms, Harry didn't say a word against it last time. He wraps a hand around Harry's neck and gets the other at Harry's arse, pulling him close and tight, suddenly aware of the subtle bulge of Harry's gun where it's hidden by the tailoring of his suit.
Harry kisses him, savage, properly going for it, until Eggsy's knees are trembling and he's almost fully hard against Harry's leg. And then there's a noise from across the room that sounds half like something banging against the wall and half like someone's trying really hard not to cough.
Oh. Yeah, that's--yeah. Eggsy's halfway to rubbing one out against his boss, through multiple layers of fabric, in the middle of the public changing rooms of the Royal London Fencing Club.
Harry lets out a sigh against Eggsy's cheek that's one of the funniest and most flattering things Eggsy's ever heard. Eggsy keeps his arms warningly where they are for a few seconds and then, when it seems like Harry's not about to reach for a weapon, disentangles himself.
A tall man with receding, gingery-brown hair is removing and folding a suit as nice as anything Kingsman ever made, and making more noise about it than he could be. He waits long enough for Harry to step back, and for Eggsy to note that these ridiculous fencing breeches are too tight to leave anything to the imagination, worse luck, before glancing placidly in their direction.
"Afternoon," the man says, full of vowels you could stick in a Christmas pudding.
"Good afternoon," Harry says in return.
Eggsy opens his mouth to say it in exactly the same tones, and finds himself sniggering instead. He collapses forward and laughs into Harry's shoulder. Harry says, "I do apologise for my young friend's manners," and Eggsy laughs harder before straightening up.
"Fuck off, Harry," he says, and maybe he sounds horrifically fond but he can't do much about that. "I'll meet you out front, when I'm changed out of these stupid things."
Eggsy fires the filthiest smirk in his repertoire at the gingery gentleman as Harry leaves the changing room. He gathers up his things and retreats to the showers, where he has a feverish wank to take the edge off, because unless he's reading things wrong here--and he really fucking isn't--Harry's in the kind of mood where Eggsy stands a good chance of being fucked from one end of the house to the other, and the longer Eggsy can hold off his first orgasm on Harry's dick, the more coherent he'll be by the end of it.
It doesn't take long. He wraps a hand around his cock and thinks about what might have happened a few minutes ago if Harry had just kept on going, unwrapping him like a fucking present, and fucked him here in the changing room--if the bloke out there had walked in while Harry was buried inside him and Harry hadn't even paused, just said good afternoon--
Eggsy's laughing and gasping at the same time as he comes, turning his face into the hot water and not minding when he snorts some up his nose.
He dries off and dresses quickly, then goes to meet Harry on the street. Harry's standing next to the black cab failing at stealth in about ten different ways, starting with the fact that he looks fucking mouthwatering and poised like no cabbie ever. He looks up from his phone with a faint smile when Eggsy approaches.
"Dunno if I can afford this ride," Eggsy says.
"I could say the same thing," Harry says.
He tugs Eggsy closer with a finger bent through his belt loop, then lifts Eggsy's chin with the side of the same finger and kisses him, assured and leisurely, there on the street where anyone could see. Harry's eyes are soft behind his glasses when he pulls away, and for a second Eggsy's jolted back to the day that Harry became Arthur. I'm hardly going to let you slip out of my hands.
Sometimes looking at Harry makes Eggsy's eyes ache like there's a visual illusion going on: he's so very polite, so very exact, but he's not nice at all. He's good manners papered over an endlessly burning fire, butterflies pinned in frames, red walls covered in tabloid victories. Even Mr Pickles, displayed and remembered after death. Harry holds on to the things he wants, and Eggsy's smart enough to realise that Harry's given him more than adequate warning of this fact.
For all that Harry's so careful about Eggsy's right to say no, Eggsy's not sure he'd be allowed to walk away from this unscathed now.
Lucky for him that's the last thing he wants, then, isn't it?
"Should tell you--next time I'm over, I'm bringing JB," Eggsy says, as they're heading for Harry's as fast as the traffic will allow. "Mum's taking Daisy to Cardiff for the week, staying with her sister. I thought JB could keep you company while I'm off in, you know…"
"Very subtle," Harry says.
"C'mon, Harry." Eggsy slumps back in the seat. "Just tell us."
Harry spares him a quick glance. "Cairo."
"Egypt? Pyramids Cairo? Wicked."
Harry reaches a hand over without looking and folds Eggsy's fingers quellingly in his, just as Eggsy's reaching for his phone to text Roxy. "Yes, well, do try to fake some surprise when Merlin briefs you tomorrow."
Eggsy grins and lifts their joined hands to his mouth, so he can suck thoughtful open-mouthed kisses over Harry's knuckles. Harry says, "Eggsy," on a sharp intake of breath, and fumbles his hand back down onto the gear stick as a light turns red ahead of them. Eggsy keeps his mouth shut for the rest of the drive, but fights down a smirk every time Harry shifts restlessly in the driver's seat.
"Go upstairs and run yourself a bath," Harry says, as soon as the front door's shut behind them.
Eggsy's heart skips and he doesn't bother to point out his hair's still drying from the showers at the fencing club. He knows an order when he hears one.
Halfway up the stairs he hears Harry say, "Oh, and Eggsy?"
Eggsy turns. "Yeah?"
Harry pauses as though calling on memory, and then smiles. "I would take it very kindly if you would refrain from touching yourself."
And Eggsy says, "I can do that."
Going by first impressions, Eggsy would have guessed Harry's house to have an old-fashioned standing bathtub, maybe with those creepy metal feet. But the upstairs bathroom is shamelessly two decades newer than the rest of the house, and most of it is the bath. It's a huge block of solid white, standing rather than sunken, and edged with a wide charcoal-grey ledge for wine glasses or candles or whatever it is that people surround themselves with in baths.
Eggsy runs the bath very hot and eases himself into it, letting the heat clutch at his muscles. It's a good fucking thing he did get off in the shower already, because Harry's command--same as the first one he gave, back at the start--is having the same old effect. Not being able to touch, and thinking about what else Harry might be planning, is making him hyper-aware of his own arousal.
Eggsy presses his hands against the smooth inside surface of the bath and searches for distraction. Easy. The last mission's still there, ready to slide to the forefront of his mind given the slightest excuse. He's been trying to keep his eyes on the ground in front of his feet, so to speak, not behind; to set work mentally aside as soon as the mission report's written and submitted. But memories can't be folded and hung neatly in the darkness like a three-piece suit. Eggsy gets, now, why someone would sit down and watch their own glasses footage. If you're going to relive it anyway, might as well be sure you've got the details right.
The first of Em's projects that Merlin's efficiency hurtled them towards, the one that took place a ninety-minute drive from her luxury base of operations, was the assassination of a county councillor. Em was the middleman, connecting someone with money and a toxic grudge about commercial land zoning with one of her contracted hitmen. Roxy had split off and tried to warn the target, and, when that failed, Eggsy found himself perched near a second-floor window, scanning the crowd at a sedate election rally through the sights of his rifle.
Four rows from the back, green cap, Harry's voice said abruptly.
Right, how do you--
Take the shot.
The man wasn't moving towards the stage, and there were no red flags to his body language. The rally had barely started yet. To Eggsy's left was a drainpipe, and it was a ten-second stroll from the building to the crowd on the green. It'd be a piece of piss to get down there and disable the man, or at least get close enough to use a dart.
Challenge, Arthur, Eggsy said, and--Overruled, Galahad, came back at once.
The feeling that flared up in him at the time was...Jesus, complicated, anger and satisfaction and startlement and relief.
This obedience-to-orders thing, let's be honest, is something that the old Eggsy Unwin would have met with extended fingers and dismissed as total bollocks, despite his best intentions and the best efforts of his Marine sergeants, and part of him still wants to dig his heels in, in the field. Up until then it'd been easy, when it was Harry's voice drawing boundaries as firm as the rest of him. But Harry's handed him the ability to push back.
Now, in the worlds-away environment of Harry's polished bathroom, Eggsy inhales and then exhales slowly, steadying himself, watching through drooping eyes the barely-moving surface of the bathwater, waiting for the motionlessness that comes at the end of breath.
He took the shot, of course. Dropped the man neat as a pin.
Roxy, first on the ground, found the remote detonator in the dead man's pocket, and Eggsy was content, at the time, but now he can't help but wonder: did Harry actually know it was there? Could Eggsy have gotten down there in time, saved two lives instead of one, and left a live source for them to question about Em's operation?
It doesn't matter, Eggsy thinks. He's accepted the conditions of his employment. He can push at the boundaries. The fact that they'll stay firm under his hands is how he knows he's safe.
"Eggsy," Harry says.
Eggsy opens his eyes. Harry's stripped down to shirt and trousers, feet bare on the teal-green bathroom tiles, and he looks bemused. His hair is swept back from his forehead as though he's been running his hands through it.
"Harry," Eggsy says.
"I didn't know you were that tired," Harry says. "I'll have to have a stern word with Roxanne about wearing you out."
"You fucking dare," Eggsy says, jolted alert with horror.
Harry pushes his shirtsleeves up, carelessly to his elbows, and kneels on the bathmat. He tests the water with one hand and touches Eggsy's feet, rubbing his thumb over the hairline scabs that circle Eggsy's ankles. The tiny lines are healing and soon won't be there at all.
"I remember this," Harry says. "The Merlin of my day had us practice in pitch dark. There was a rumour that if you fucked up a mission, he'd give your training partner shoes with blades that were properly poison-coated, and back then the neurotoxin wasn't fast at all."
"They ain't going to scar," Eggsy says. "She's delicate, Roxy is."
Harry's hand trails up Eggsy's leg, and just like that, all thoughts of missions and Roxy sweep clean out of Eggsy's head. His skin is pink with the heat and sensitive to the touch, and Harry steers wide of Eggsy's cock, lingers only for a moment at his hip, and then draws delicate fingertips up his stomach, the centre of his chest. Eggsy inhales when Harry's hand is at his throat, and feels his own hands move halfway to fists, braced for danger and dizzy with want.
The exploration of Harry's fingers ends with him tracing the cut on Eggsy's forehead. The stitches came out yesterday and it still itches a little. Harry's expression is peaceful but his eyes are a drawn blade; Eggsy's seen enough of them today to know. It seems like Harry would only have to flick his gaze from side to side to reopen the wound and draw blood, and Eggsy would probably enjoy every moment of it and beg for more.
"That one might scar," Eggsy says. "Touch and go, Marita said. She said it'd be a fucking crime if it ruined a face as pretty as mine."
"She said nothing of the sort."
"Yeah, alright." Eggsy grins and shifts in the water, setting up ripples. "She said I'd look a proper rogue, and then she said it'd be superfluous."
Harry's eyebrows twitch a little at this demonstration of A-level vocabulary. He presses down on the healing wound, not hard enough to really hurt, but enough for Eggsy to feel it, and leans in to work Eggsy's mouth open with a kiss. Given Harry's thing for staying clothed while Eggsy's naked--which is absolutely a thing, no matter what Harry says, Eggsy's been professionally trained in pattern recognition and all--Eggsy wonders if Harry's going to stay kneeling there and and wank Eggsy slowly off. Or get him to do it himself while Harry watches.
But Harry breaks the kiss just as Eggsy's starting to work at remembering to breathe, and then he stands and undresses.
Harry's scars are a map that's been scribbled on, changed, added to, by many different hands over many years. There's one on the back of his right shoulder like a V, and a hand's breadth below it is another, a buckled starburst that means a bullet. A lot of them are nearly invisible thanks to the good work of people like Marita, and can only be seen up close, or else felt like braille by curious fingertips.
Eggsy watches Harry. His heart is thumping to the point where it seems like the water should be disturbed by it, like a video he saw once of plastic wrap stretched over a music speaker, liquid leaping joyously with the beat of the bass.
"You're quiet," Harry says, angling a smile down at him. "It's almost disconcerting."
"Just thinking I'm the luckiest bastard I know," Eggsy says, before he can lose the courage to say it.
Harry's smile appears in stages, a startled flick of his mouth followed by something heated and almost adoring. He crouches down to open a cupboard under the bathroom sink and straightens holding a blue flannel and a stoppered bottle of pale yellow oil, which he sets on the ledge of the bath.
Eggsy's groin and arse clench in pure anticipation at the sight of the oil. He sinks lower in the water, letting it lap deliciously at his upper lip.
"Budge up, there's a lad," Harry says, stepping in.
They settle with Eggsy seated between Harry's legs, Eggsy's back to Harry's chest, which is just about perfect, especially when Harry takes the flannel in one hand and uses it to wash him in long, luxurious strokes.
Eggsy drops his head back on Harry's shoulder, lazy. Every ache from the day's exercise is soaking away with the heat of the water and of Harry's body behind him, the fact of being half-submerged, and the rough massage of the cloth. He's a familiar blend of relaxed and achingly turned on, and it doesn't help that Harry's using the flannel to render every square inch of his skin tingling and alive, except--again--for those few square inches most desperate to be touched.
His eyes keep returning to the bottle of oil. His cock is steadily filling. But he hasn't been told he can touch himself, so he doesn't.
Harry sets the flannel back on the ledge and rests his hands at the crease of Eggsy's groin, one on either side, just his index fingers buried in Eggsy's pubes. He noses at Eggsy's ear.
"I think I'll have you do the next part, Eggsy," Harry says.
"Yeah?" Eggsy says, unmoving. He'll obey, when he's told.
"Well," Harry says, "I had thought I could lick you open, now you're so beautifully clean, and make a space for my cock that way."
Eggsy bites down hard, hard, on his lip. He doesn't make a sound but Harry still laughs, equally silent, against his cheek. Harry's fingers press into Eggsy's tender skin, and Christ, Eggsy knows this trick; he's the one who showed it to Harry in the first place. Fingers on the major arteries. Estimate a heart rate, or at least feel it speed up.
Harry goes on, "But I've so enjoyed watching you today, my dear boy. Observing what your body can do. I'd like to continue with that."
Which is how Eggsy ends up seated on the ledge at the opposite end of the bath to Harry, his arse perched far enough back that he can get two well-oiled fingers in and work at stretching himself open, while Harry watches him like a lethargic tiger and says, "Have you done this to yourself before?" in a voice that doesn't invite lies, not even pretty ones.
Eggsy crooks his knuckles and shudders. He wonders, in a splash of madness like lightning illuminating a room, if there's a proper way to say, I'm bizarrely glad we didn't go with the rimming option today because the intimacy of THIS is a lot to be getting on with, thank you, and we're two fucking yards apart. It's not the most gentlemanly of emotions. It might not be an emotion at all.
"Yeah," he says. "Couple of times."
Harry nods. He's got his composed face on, but Eggsy can see his cock where it's darkened and hard under the water. "What were you imagining, as you did it?"
Eggsy waits for the embarrassment to trip his tongue, but instead he feels--nothing of the sort. He feels strong, perhaps. Eager. That's an emotion. Harry's question is a challenge, and Eggsy rises to challenges automatically, always has.
It's weird. Since day one Eggsy's been on the back foot when it comes to this thing between them. Harry's been the one with more experience, more initiative, unapologetic and frank and fearless in all the ways that Eggsy loves.
But Eggsy Unwin's come a fair way from the scared boy who dialled a strange number in a police station, who stared at himself in the mirror and felt fragmented, almost, with his mother's mouth and a dead man's chin and neither purpose nor direction, just the medal that he wore under his clothes because once upon a time he was told to take care of it.
He's never had much to hold on to, before now. But he isn't scared. And he's coming together, he's whole and growing and comfortable in his skin.
So he says, "There was a time during proposal training, d'you want to hear about that? When there were only a few of us left, and you couldn't count on having the showers to yourself but at least there were plenty of empty beds between you and the next bloke. Worked out okay, if you were quiet, like."
"And you thought about," Harry prompts. His voice has started to fray.
"You, Harry." Eggsy looks at Harry steadily, lets his eyes flutter as he adjusts the angle of his arm to get even deeper. "Fuck, of fucking course it was you. You'd just woken up and I'd seen you and--couldn't get it out of my head, how much I wished I could get my hands on you. I imagined you'd come into that room where we were all sleeping and beckon me somewhere else, one of the training gyms maybe. Or just crawl into bed with me, not giving a toss if any of those stuck-up wankers saw you do it, slick me up and fuck me open."
His voice sounds too loud in this room of hard surfaces. But Harry's eyes are black and his mouth is half-open, and Harry moves, finally, gets close enough to touch, and then Eggsy's grateful for one of those surfaces, at least. The ledge he's sitting on isn't bath-smooth: it's a different, rougher stone. Which means there's more friction and less chance of him slipping off and braining himself on the tiles when Harry--Jesus Christ--starts licking water from the soft skin of his thighs, leaving wet kisses on his stomach, teasing, still avoiding Eggsy's cock, which is aching like crazy and leaking a pulse of fluid whenever he touches the right place inside himself. He looks down at the top of Harry's head and has to pause, two fingers buried past the second knuckle, to take a very deep breath.
"Let me assist you, darling boy," Harry murmurs.
Harry reaches one hand over Eggsy's splayed thigh, around the curve of his arse, and swipes the pads of his fingers through the oil that drenches Eggsy's hole. Eggsy lets out a groan that seems to come from his liver, his fucking spine, as one--no, fucking hell, that's two--of Harry's fingers slide in beside Eggsy's. The stretch hurts for three heartbeats, then spreads out into a good burn like adrenalin in a fight.
Harry moves his fingers, pulsing, in and out. White noise buffets Eggsy's skull and his skin feels simmering hot. He's surprised the water doesn't just rise off him in clouds of steam.
"Could we get you off like this?" Harry asks. "Without being touched."
"Prob'ly," Eggsy slurs.
"If I told you to come?"
"Yeah," Eggsy says. "If you told me to."
Harry pulls his fingers out and Eggsy's go with them, and Eggsy winces a bit at the slow drag against his rim, the sudden emptiness. The next moment Harry's hands are cupping his arse and tugging him off the ledge and back into the bath, creating a lively splash of water that probably drenches the bathmat.
Harry kisses him, and it's one of those kisses that only happens during sex, never before or after: serious and casual at the same time, slick noises and urgent swipes of tongue as though they're trying to catch the rhythm of some other body part.
But Eggsy knows exactly which body part he's after, thanks, and he kneels above Harry's lap and reaches back, gets them lined up. Water laps at his waist and Harry's hands are there too, guiding him down.
"Oh, fuck," he says, as Harry's cock slides in, thick and easy, overwhelming. "Fuck that's good, Harry, shit."
Eggsy grabs hold of the ledge on either side of himself, the roughness of the grey stone working in his favour again. He gathers the strength of his legs and fucks himself on Harry's cock, slow and steady and amazing, sloshing water all over the place, with Harry's hands slippery on his sides and Harry whispering his name in between lavishing bites on Eggsy's neck: "Gary--Charles--Unwin."
"Fuck," Eggsy breathes, because the last thing he needs is to develop a fucking reflex of lust in response to his own name. But if Harry keeps purring it in that black velvet tone, he just might.
Yeah, Eggsy can ride with the best of them, when he wants to, even though the word bounce does pop into his head at one stage and leave him biting his lip against laughter; thanks for nothing, Your Royal Perviness. After a while the unforgiving porcelain is hard on his knees, so he unfolds one leg and hooks it over the edge of the tub, leans back into Harry's hands at his waist, letting Harry balance his weight.
"That's it," Harry's saying, rough. "You feel incredible, you look--Eggsy, bloody fucking hell--"
And then Harry's grip tightens and he's hauling Eggsy all the way onto his cock, balls-deep on every thrust, fucking him violently enough that water's going fucking everywhere, all over the bathroom floor. Eggsy's now at an angle where he can look sideways and see a large puddle creeping towards where the tiles stop.
"Shit," he gasps, feeling a hysterical giggle bubbling in his chest even as his orgasm coils closer and closer. "Harry, your carpet--"
"Fuck the carpet," Harry snarls, and shoves upwards with his hips, and Eggsy comes with an undignified flail of limbs and a loud, wailing, "Oh God oh fucking fuck."
He shakes through it, feeling his arse clench in spasms around Harry's cock, and just as the aftershocks are fading away Harry goes tense beneath him and buries his face in Eggsy's neck with a groan and the scrape of teeth.
About a minute after that, Harry slips his softening cock out of Eggsy and Eggsy notices both that the water level is much lower and the water itself has cooled considerably, almost to body temperature. He doesn't mind. He's full of new aches, better ones, sitting there wrapped in Harry's arms and probably, eugh, leaking Harry's come into the bathwater.
"Eggsy," Harry starts, but he's interrupted by Eggsy's stomach, which gives a growl like petulant thunder.
"I was," Harry says, after a pause, "going to suggest dinner."
Eggsy laughs and heaves himself up and out of the tub, offering Harry a water-wrinkled hand to do the same. They throw on robes and head downstairs, Eggsy mocks Harry about the typically dismal state of the fridge, and Harry calls to have food delivered: floppy injera and spiced stew, which they eat with fingers from blue-white plates. Eggsy's finishing his second helping when Harry fetches a sturdy, silver-edged book from another room and opens it on the table.
"Here," Harry says. "It seems fitting."
"Oh," Eggsy says, and coughs though his last mouthful of sauce-soaked bread. He swallows. "That's brilliant, Harry."
It's a photo album, and Eggsy's looking at a picture of a much younger Harry, school-aged, wearing fencing whites and with a mask tucked under one arm. He's sporting a giddy hedge of curls and an angelic grin.
"Were you a good kid, then?"
"God, no, I was a horror," Harry says. "The words 'incorrigible brat' were used more than once."
Eggsy wipes his fingers and reaches to turn the page of the album, but Harry pulls it out from under his hand, flips it shut and sets it aside.
"I don't think I'm up for a full romp through my childhood tonight," Harry says ruefully. "Certainly not with the questions you would undoubtedly have."
"C'mon, you know everything about me."
"That's not true at all, Eggsy." Harry stands to clear their plates, and touches Eggsy briefly on the back of the neck. "Nor would I want it to be. You constantly surprise me."
"I'm going to ask questions anyhow," Eggsy says. "Let's start easy, yeah? Parents?"
"Dead," says Harry mildly, from the kitchen.
A sister, just like Eggsy. "And is she, did she," Eggsy rambles, because there's still no easy way to say, did she make it through V-Day, even though that's a question that everyone's constantly forced to ask these days. There should be a form for it, probably. Tick a box.
Mercifully, Harry understands. "Judith was hiking in the Lake District. Miles away from the nearest human being, which is her preferred state. Though I understand she struck terror into the hearts of several species of bird, and was most displeased about it afterwards."
Eggsy smiles, imagining a crankier version of Harry in sturdy boots and an anorak, with the same dark hair curling long around her shoulders and a pair of binoculars slung around her neck.
"No, Eggsy," says Harry.
Eggsy snatches his hand back from where it was creeping towards the photo album. Never mind. Collecting secrets is his job, and he's not in any hurry.
"I'm proper beat," he says, finding a yawn in his throat.
And he is, in the best way: he's tired and well-fucked and full of food. When they go upstairs again he spreads out in his half of Harry's bed and rubs his cheek blissfully against the pillow, naked between the good sheets. He'd be up for another round--he's always up for another round, where Harry's concerned--but he'd also be just as happy to melt into the mattress.
Harry suffers from some kind of upper-class weirdness about pyjamas being the mark of a civilised man, but Eggsy's been chipping away doggedly at that--exhibit A, usually his own body--and he fucking loves the nights like tonight when Harry sighs and slides in next to him without a stitch to spoil the view.
Eggsy shifts close enough to see the grey-green rim of Harry's irises, and Harry combs a hand restfully through Eggsy's hair. After a moment he presses down instead on a spot on Eggsy's neck, where it's tender enough that Eggsy can tell there's a mark rising there. Eggsy tilts his head; Harry makes a satisfied, humming sort of sound, and does it again.
"You're a bit of a freak, Harry," Eggsy says around another yawn. "Thought I should mention."
Harry curls one section of Eggsy's hair around a finger and tightens it, almost to the point of pain. Eggsy rolls his eyes; yeah, yeah. "Not complaining, mind."
Harry's hand goes back to the same soothing, combing motion as before, but his gaze is resting contentedly on Eggsy's neck, and Eggsy wonders if Harry's always been this intense about his relationships, wonders with a fascination that's only half jealousy about the people Harry's been with who aren't him.
It strikes him suddenly that they've not talked about this, and the surprise of it, combined with the drugged feeling he always gets from Harry's hand in his hair, is what makes him say:
"You're not, you know, with anyone else, are you?"
Harry's hand stills. "Well, yes," Harry says.
The bottom drops abruptly out of Eggsy's stomach. Before he can say anything, Harry's speaking again.
"It's a Kingsman's prerogative to have a berth in every port, so to speak, and I'm sure you've noticed that I'm flying around the world with the same regularity as ever since taking the position of Arthur. And then there's the lonely young men I meet in my frequent night-time walks in Regent's Park--the boredom of my days meaning that I'm always bright and awake after ten at night, obviously--and thanks to your ex-stepfather's charming employees I now know exactly where to find the rent boys. I'm a busy man, and you know I try to be in the office by eight most mornings, but a professional will be flexible with time for the right price, and most of them are very happy to come to me; it's just like having lunch delivered, really. There was one lovely chap, what was his name, Tyrone? Threw in a free haircut and shave, which I did think was handsome of him. What on earth is the matter, Eggsy?"
"You wanker," Eggsy says, taking an urgent gulp of breath. "Harry, you fucking arse."
Harry finally cracks a smile. "Frankly, my dear boy, I'm flattered you think I have the energy."
Eggsy's shoulders are still shaking. He drops his head back into the pillow and laughs some more; every time he tries to stop he hears Harry's solemn voice saying like having lunch delivered and it sets him off again.
"You didn't seriously think--"
"Nah," Eggsy says, getting a hold of himself. It's more or less true: he can't imagine Harry doing something unless he's doing it fully--cheers for that, Roxy--and Eggsy's well and truly being done on the regular.
"If nothing else, the fact that we stopped using condoms--"
"Alright, no need to harp on."
"Of course." Harry strokes his hair again, firm carding pressure that's so good Eggsy wants to close his eyes and push up into it like a cat.
"What about me?" Eggsy asks. "You ain't going to ask me if I'm shagging half of London?"
Harry raises two superbly unconcerned eyebrows and Eggsy thumps him not very hard in the chest, ducking in for a kiss and dragging Harry's lip between his teeth, vindictive.
"I could be," he mutters.
"Neither," Harry says, "do I have the energy to kill half of London for touching you."
Eggsy's face warms, and something mean and pleased clenches in his stomach. "Shit."
"Though I now have the ability to order someone else to do it for me," Harry muses.
Eggsy takes a deep breath. "Right, got another question," he says. "And Harry, this is not me backing out on you, alright, I am in this, you know that--"
"How very reassuring." Harry's eyes narrow.
Eggsy narrows his eyes right back. Most of him wishes they could just muddle through on sex and assumptions like normal blokes, sure, but--just like the so-are-we-exclusive-or-what conversation; seems like it's the night for this sort of thing--he reckons it's best to get this out the way so it won't be trying to sneak between them later.
"Eggsy," Harry says, more dangerously.
Eggsy blurts, "D'you think this is a bad idea? Us being--and you my boss, and all?"
"There are certainly those who will think so," Harry says.
"You're not going to go easy on me, treat me different to the others. Keep me out of danger, like."
"Eggsy. Have I ever kept you out of danger?"
"No," Eggsy has to admit.
"Still, it's a fair question," Harry says, dropping another absent kiss beside Eggsy's mouth. "I could. And I could have left you in your old life, too, but would that have been any safer? You could have taken a punch to the head in a pub brawl. Worked your way up the drug trade out of boredom and to keep food in your sister's mouth, and died in an alley when a deal went sour. Or, given your driving habits, wrapped yourself and someone else's car around a lamp post one foggy midnight."
Harry takes a breath and raises his eyes briefly, as if calling on whatever saint or spirit looks out for Englishmen who have realised that they appear to be talking about their feelings, and are steeling themselves to continue. Eggsy keeps his smile tucked away in his mouth and waits.
"The damned thing is, I don't want you safe. I love to watch you fight, Eggsy. I love knowing that I can throw you into a fire and you'll do better than you ever thought you could. Our relationship is unprofessional, but this is not a safe profession, and I've already cheated death too many times to be prepared to wait on anyone's permission. You make me happy. I'm afraid I am selfish enough to want to hold onto my happiness."
Eggsy's instincts are good for dangerous people; they were good before he became a Kingsman, even if he did ignore them more often than not, and they're better now. Somewhere behind Harry's mild voice is the pulse of deadly force, and the song of steel being honed to an edge. It makes Eggsy's mouth dry with need, like every moment they're together is an extension of the moment that first night when he was exposed on Harry's silken covers and Harry was gazing down at him, fully clothed and just as watchfully, powerfully still as a sniper at the end of an exhale.
Eggsy's never been selfish in the way that Harry's describing. He's never been able to afford it. But he thinks he'd like to learn how.
He can't think of a way to say that without sounding like a complete arse or tripping over the size of his feelings as they tumble out of his mouth.
He says, "So I guess you were right turned on when I was tied to them train tracks, then."
Fascinatingly, it's not instantaneous. Which raises the question of whether, just like Roxy can turn on the blubbering waterworks in less than five seconds, Harry can blush at will; whether Harry's not embarrassed by this at all, but knows it'd be gentlemanly to be embarrassed.
Eggsy's not going to call him on it yet. He'll get more mileage if he accepts it at face value, anyway.
"Henry Leonard Owen Hart," Eggsy says. "You kinky bastard."
Harry's expression flits through murderous and lands on resigned. "Have I answered the question to your satisfaction?"
"You don't think this is a bad idea," Eggsy translates obediently. "Or you do, and you don't give a shit. Good. Me either." He tucks one of his feet in between Harry's calves. Harry's heartbeat is slow and assured beneath his palm. "Besides, it's not like it ain't happened before. Rox reckons the original Arthur and Lancelot were shagging up a storm."
"I don't suppose you're speaking mythologically," Harry says, sounding put-upon.
"Probably on Arthur's desk, and all."
"Eggsy, if this is an attempt to undermine my rule about sexual relations in the workplace--"
"Tradition, Harry," Eggsy says earnestly.
Harry sighs and rolls on top of Eggsy, pinning him down with a hand at each wrist, the long length of him all delicious pressure and warmth. If this was a good position when Harry was clothed, it's even better now.
"You manipulative little prick," Harry breathes, and there's this about Harry: if he can make lovely boy sound filthy, he can also make an insult sound like a declaration of love.
For a few seconds Eggsy's punched breathless with the sheer size of his luck, that he can make someone like Harry Hart look at him this way, like he's carved out of solid gold. He's got his family, he's got a brilliant job. He's got the best training in the world, the best field partner he could hope for, and a boss he trusts to aim him at the right targets and to absorb the shock of his doubts. Eggsy is as safe as he can be, in all the ways that matter most.
He lifts his head, demanding, until Harry leans down and gives him a single, gentle, unbearably sweet kiss. Eggsy's heart aches like honey and he feels his fingers curl towards his palms: helpless, utterly gone.
"Yeah, alright, fuck tradition," Eggsy says. "Let's shake things up."
(Soles occidere et redire possunt: nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux, nox est perpetua una dormienda. Suns may set and rise again: as for us, when our brief light sets, there is the sleep of perpetual night. Francis Abney read Classics at Cambridge and had a fondness for Catullus, like any young man whose first priority on learning Latin is to seek out the dirty poetry.)
And that's all there is; there isn't any more! It's been fun, guys. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
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