The auction hall was large and opulent, though it was entirely likely that the many paintings, sculptures, and other precious works of art added to that lavish effect. And so were the hall’s current occupants, people dressed to the nines in bespoke suits and luxurious dresses, each holding a numbered placard affixed to a simple stick. The auctioneer was at his position at the head of the room, as a group of workers carefully loaded the next item onto the main stage; it was a painting, so large that it required three men to carry it, and judging by how delicately they handled the piece, it was very valuable indeed.
“Our next item,” said the auctioneer, his voice loud enough to carry throughout the entire hall. People ceased their chatter and eyed the painting with varying levels of interest. “A rare painting by Czanne. The Portrait of Madame de Nemours.” He gestured with a sweeping hand towards the artwork. “From the world famous Lance collection, sold by the order of Mr. James Lance himself.”
The auctioneer nodded towards a man seated towards the back of the room, and many of the people in attendance turned to look at him. Mr. James Lance was a handsome man, barely into his forties, who smiled almost consistently, and wore bespoke suits like any respectable gentleman would. He waved genially to the auctioneer, who spared him a small smile before continuing on with the auction.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen… Shall we start the bidding at £200,000?” A number of signs fluttered up in the air, like papers being blown by a breeze. “£210,000. £220,000? £230,000!” The price climbed higher and higher, and even James Lance looked a bit shocked by the development.
James glanced across the crowd, to see that the flurry of activity had not dissuaded many from vying for the piece. He hid his grin behind his fist, pretending to look contemplative, when inside he was near bursting with glee.
When the auction dragged on, and only one bidder remained, the final price was a staggering £515,000. James shook hands with the lucky buyer and received his check, which he tucked safely away in his breast pocket, and he soon set off for home.
He was at his manor within the hour, parking haphazardly in the front, as he knew a servant would come by and take it to the garage for him. His grin widened as he saw a familiar red car also parked in the same manner, which signaled that his son was home.
James had waltzed through the front door, greeting the head butler with a nod and perhaps a happy little twirl, when a throat cleared itself and made a new presence known to the art collector. James turned and saw a young man, who looked somewhat out of place in the affluent manor’s interior in his distinctly urban mode of dress, yet he seemed as comfortable as any high-brow member of the elite. The young man’s arms were crossed over his chest, and his frown indicated irritation. By his feet was a tiny, panting pug, with a silk collar and golden tag identifying him as ‘JB’.
“Eggsy!” James sang, not caring in the slightest for the young man’s expression. “You’ll never guess what happened at the auction today!”
The young man, or ‘Eggsy’, rolled his eyes and walked past James into the sitting room; the pug and the older man both followed him.
He spoke on the way. “I heard. £515,000. New record, innit?”
James paused, apparently disappointed that he couldn’t relay the news himself. “How did you hear?”
“It was on the radio,” shrugged Eggsy. “It’s the talk of the art community right now. Mr. James Lance, the wealthiest art collector in the goddamn country.”
At that, James frowned, and moved to stand opposite Eggsy. “You don’t sound as happy as I’d thought.”
“Happy?” Eggsy gawped. “Dad, that Czanne was a fake!”
“Oh.” James sighed. “Eggsy, not this again.”
“You can’t keep selling off ‘masterpieces’ like this,” Eggsy persisted. JB whined on the floor, sensing his master’s distress. “It’s forgery! You could get sent to prison!”
“Only if I get caught,” said James. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the check, waving it delicately through the air. Eggsy stared at it as though it were the source of all evil in the world. “Look at this, Eggs. £515,000 in less than an hour. I could have sold a dozen Czannes, had I known they were so popular! Perhaps I should get started on another…”
“Another?!” Eggsy reached forwards and tried to snatch the check out of his hands; James stepped back just in time. “When is enough gonna be enough, Dad?”
“Hmm. I suppose you’re right.” James rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Eggsy didn’t dare hope. “I really should finish up that Van Gogh before I take on more ambitious projects.”
“Dad,” Eggsy groaned.
James smiled and placed a warm hand on Eggsy’s shoulder. “Don’t worry so much, Eggs. I’ve got it all under control. You know, I’ve been doing this since before you were born. Your own father was my assistant!”
“Please don’t,” Eggsy replied flatly, resisting the urge to drag a hand down his face in frustration. “I only have so many memories of my da; I’d rather not have you spoil ‘em by telling me he was just as bad as you.”
“Oh, Lee was the same as you. Always warned me against getting too ambitious.” James’ smile became fond, if not a little melancholy. “But he was a damn fine painter. Probably wouldn’t need to forge if his art got the recognition it deserved.”
Eggsy deflated a little. They hardly spoke about his birth father, James’ old partner-in-crime. He found it hard to remain angry when apparently, the crime ran in the family.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t still upset.
“Just… ease up, alright?” he asked quietly.
James squeezed his shoulder. “Alright. No more auctions for… let’s say, a month.”
“You’re killing me, son,” James sighed. “Okay; fine. Two months, no auctions.”
Eggsy’s lips finally tilted upwards in a smile. “Thanks, Dad.”
It was as close to agreeing on the subject as they could ever get. James was practically addicted to forging; he reveled in the knowledge that his works were good enough to be passed off as genuine masterpieces, and hardly felt guilty when some poor unsuspecting collector bought them off for ridiculous prices.
Back when Lee was around, at least James never made any big claims- he stuck to smaller works of art and sold many of those. Lee was like a sort of guardian angel, who sat on his shoulder and told him not to be so stupid. Unfortunately, James was his own demon counterpart, and it wasn’t unusual for him to disregard Lee’s warnings and do a big piece, like a Renoir or a Monet. Really, the longest James had stopped was when Lee and his wife, Michelle, died. At that point, since there was no one to raise their then-seven year old son, James had decided to quit forging and try to be a respectable role model for his new-found charge.
But old habits die hard, as they say, and he was back in the game just as Eggsy turned fourteen. The boy didn’t know, at first, but he was smart, and James eventually told him the truth about all the ‘priceless’ artworks that decorated their home. Like father like son, Eggsy immediately disapproved. But he and James had formed a close bond, and so the argument would reach its head and deflate as soon as James promised to take it easy. A few months later, he would have a new painting done in his workshop, he’d sell it at an auction, and then the cycle would begin all over again.
James and Eggsy, having reached the end of this cycle and were now in the stage of waiting for it to renew, moved to sit down and chatted pleasantly about other things. It didn’t last for long, however, as the sounds of multiple car engines caught them both off guard.
Eggsy immediately jumped up and ran to the window to investigate, JB barking at his heels. To his horror, an entire police patrol was pulling up outside their home. Their sirens weren’t blaring, but it was unnerving to see them nonetheless. Eggsy faced his adoptive father with evident panic in his features. But James kept his gaze on the approaching vehicles. One of them was not a police car, but rather an expensive Aston Martin. When the cars halted, James was only barely aware of Eggsy’s burning gaze; he was too focused on the Aston Martin, and who was to come out of it.
An older gentleman, carrying the air of old money and class, stepped out onto the gravel of the front yard, and James let out an easy sigh of relief.
“No need to worry, my boy,” he smiled reassuringly at Eggsy, though it did no good in calming the boy’s nerves. “That’s Mr. Canton. He’s from the British Museum.” He bent down to give JB a calming pat on the head. Unlike his master, JB quieted instantly.
Eggsy blinked, staring back out the window, to see that ‘Mr. Canton’ was quickly striding towards the house. “Why is someone from the British Museum here…?”
James had the decency to look sheepish. “Well, I… Might have agreed to, uh…”
Eggsy became stern. “Dad.”
“He’s here for the Venus,” he rushed out quickly, wincing away from what was to be a major blow-up. And Eggsy did not disappoint.
“The fucking Venus?!” he shouted. James shushed him by physically putting a finger to his lips. Eggsy was tempted to bite it.
“Look, it’s okay; I’m loaning it free of charge!” James said, trying to remedy the situation. “And if it’s testing you’re worried about, they’ll need my permission to do such a thing. Permission which I won’t give.”
“Won’t that make them suspicious?” grumbled Eggsy, once James had removed his finger.
“Mr. Canton and the museum are used to dealing with high-maintenance art collectors,” he said dismissively. “They’ll be so grateful that I’m loaning her rent-free that they won’t even think to do a technical test.”
Eggsy sighed, looking so reminiscent of Lee in that moment that James had to blink to make sure he wasn’t seeing a ghost. “Dad… have you lost your fucking mind?”
Before James could reply, Mr. Canton was already knocking at the door. The head butler was halfway to answering him, so James only gripped Eggsy’s shoulders and said quietly, “We’ll talk later.”
Eggsy followed James out to greet Mr. Canton, a handsome older man who looked around the main hall with an appreciative eye. James motioned to the butler, who nodded and took JB up in his arms, the little pug wiggling excitedly as he tried to get a peek at the visitor, and swiftly walked away.
When Mr. Canton spotted James and Eggsy, he smiled warmly, opening his arms. James readily accepted the embrace, and one would have thought they were old friends by how they laughed together.
“Mr. Canton,” said James cordially, “I wasn’t expecting you until much later this evening.”
“Oh, you know me, James, I just couldn’t stay away. Especially not with such an important lady waiting for me,” he winked in reply. He caught sight of Eggsy standing behind James and raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, yes,” James said hurriedly, placing an arm around Eggsy’s back and pushing him forwards. “This is my son, Gary. Gary, Kay Canton, Curator of the British Museum of Art and Culture.”
Eggsy, to his credit, sported a brilliant grin and shook Mr. Canton’s hand, as though he hadn’t been arguing with his father in the last five minutes. “It’s an honor, Mr. Canton.”
“Oh, my pleasure, my boy,” he smiled. “You have a charming son, James.”
“Thank you,” the collector replied humbly, shooting Eggsy a grateful look, which the boy promptly ignored.
Mr. Canton coughed, his friendly expression giving way to one of professionalism. “Now, as for the reason I’m here…”
James nodded. “Of course, of course. Follow me.”
He led Mr. Canton, as well as the four men he’d brought with him to secure the Venus, to a spacious room, with Eggsy trailing behind them, his expression doing nothing to betray the apprehension he felt. In the center of the room, placed in an elaborate case, was a small marble statue- the famous Venus, supposedly carved by Cellini himself.
Of course, Mr. Canton and his group were the only ones unaware of the truth. Eggsy and James, however, knew that the Venus was yet another forgery, though this one was a collaboration between James and Lee. It was the only piece Eggsy couldn’t bring himself to view with disdain; after all, James had called it their greatest masterpiece, and it was admittedly impressive. The Venus stood, elegant and demure, a beautiful woman that Mr. Canton probably believed to be some model from Cellini’s time. It was actually Eggsy’s mother, who posed for the statue for hours on end, when she was merely twenty years old. Yet another reason why Eggsy couldn’t hate the statue.
Mr. Canton gaped, uttering words of pure adoration once he laid his eyes on the statue. Eggsy wanted to roll his eyes, but then the group of men laid down a velvet-lined trunk, meant to carry the Venus safely to the museum. As they carefully took the statue from its pedestal and laid it inside, Eggsy briefly considered taking the marble stand it used to rest on and smashing the damn thing. At least James wouldn’t get caught for forgery, that way. But his plan must have shown on his face somehow, as his adoptive father sent him a warning look, so he sighed rather audibly and did nothing else.
Mr. Canton thanked James over and over again, the gratitude lasting for another five minutes at least before he and the Venus were finally out of the house.
Eggsy turned away from the door to fix his dad with a stern glower. James held up his hands in surrender.
“I was going to tell you,” he promised. “But Mr. Canton came early, and then…”
“I am so fucking pissed at you right now.”
James winced. “I realize that. I am sorry, Eggsy, but this is a great opportunity. The Lance Collection will gain notoriety for owning such an exquisite piece, and plus, people will get to see your father’s work and mother’s beautiful form.”
“They won’t know it’s them,” he pointed out flatly.
“Well, you’ll know, and the mere joy that the Venus will bring to so many people will be enough to satiate you.”
Eggsy shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
“I take it, then… you won’t want to attend the gala they’re holding at the museum, to celebrate the statue?” He ended his query on a hopeful note, as though Eggsy would say something to the contrary. No such luck for Mr. Lance.
“Absolutely not.” Eggsy crossed his arms. “I’ll stay home, thanks.”
James sighed. “Suit yourself.”
With that, James turned away and left, going either to his room or his workshop, though Eggsy was betting on the latter. The young man held in a groan, and left to go to his own room. He loved James like a father, really, but sometimes the man was so stubborn… He was going to get himself into serious trouble, and Eggsy would be able to do little more than mutter “I told you so” as the police escorted him to jail. As satisfying as that would be, he didn’t actually want his adoptive father to wind up in prison. Well, perhaps one day he’d manage to convince him.
Eggsy snorted derisively to himself.
Eggsy stops a thief. Sort of. He doesn't exactly stay away.
The opening gala, as Eggsy understood it, was to be a grand affair. The Venus was the centerpiece in a large exhibition about historical art and sculpture, and in the short week leading up to the gala, people were already buzzing about the statue. Eggsy was equal parts annoyed and gratified by this development. For one thing, these people were fawning over a forgery. For another, though, it was a forgery which Eggsy’s own family had a hand in creating, and so it was nice to see their efforts being appreciated, though uncredited as they were.
Still, despite that, Eggsy stuck to his word and remained home on the night of the gala, while his father made one last appeal to him before he went out the door with a sad, kicked-puppy look that people always fell for. Eggsy was one of the exceptions.
It was a little boring, he’d admit, being stuck in their large manor with even the servants gone home for the evening, but at least it was peaceful. After all, he had a lunch date scheduled with his best friend the next day, so it was for the best that he wasn’t out drinking and mingling with his dad and his stuffy art friends. He had a tendency to go over his limits.
Eggsy lay on his bed, propping up his battered copy of Pygmalion on his stomach as he read, eyes beginning to drift shut. JB was already snoring at the foot of the bed, slobbering on the sheets a bit.
Suddenly, a noise from downstairs caused them both to sit up, startled. JB was on all fours in an instant, growling towards the doorway, while Eggsy slowly set aside his book and got up from the bed. He placed a quieting hand on JB’s back, willing the dog to stop growling. When he did, Eggsy left his room and crept down the hallway; the noises continued, like someone shuffling in the dark.
There was a dresser sitting in the hall; Eggsy opened one of the drawers and took out one of his father’s guns- James was as much a gun fanatic as he was an art collector, a fact he kept well-hidden from his colleagues. Eggsy turned off the safety, and continued on his way downstairs. JB was padding silently alongside him, acting the part of a guard dog.
As he tiptoed down the steps, he saw a shadow move across the floor. Feeling anxiety creep up his body, Eggsy raised the gun. When he was down far enough to see into the next room, he got a clear view of what was going on.
A man was standing in the sitting room, holding onto one of James’ paintings- a Rembrandt landscape, completed just before Eggsy’s sixteenth birthday. He could tell it was that very painting due to the large blank space on the wall where it used to hang. The back of the painting was facing Eggsy, so it covered up the man’s upper body, but Eggsy pointed the gun nonetheless.
“Don’t move,” he said aloud, his voice commanding. The man stilled. “Put down the painting and put your hands up.”
The Rembrandt was lowered, revealing an older gentleman’s face. He was only slightly older than Eggsy’s father, it seemed, with brunette hair and a touch of gray at his temples, and thick-rimmed glasses resting on his face, in front of eyes like black coffee. Eggsy’s hold on the gun almost faltered; the man, intruder though he was, was staggeringly handsome.
“Ah…” The man raised an eyebrow, not at all alarmed at the sight of the young man pointing a gun at him. “Mr.… Lance-Unwin, I presume?”
Eggsy said nothing, but tightened his hold on the weapon; of course, his name was common knowledge to anyone who knew his father, but that didn’t mean that hearing it from an intruder wasn’t unnerving as all hell. The man smiled kindly and took a step forward, causing Eggsy to shout. “Stay where you are!”
The man halted, and nodded slowly. He carefully put the Rembrandt down against the wall, maintaining eye contact with Eggsy all the while; Eggsy noted that he was wearing a rather well-made suit, and shiny oxfords as well. When he straightened his back, he held his hands well above his shoulders, like Eggsy had instructed.
It was at this point that Eggsy hesitated. After all, he couldn’t very well call the police; having the authorities so close to a forged masterpiece wasn’t a very good idea. So he only moved closer. “Why steal that painting?” he asked.
The man shrugged his shoulders, his eyes sweeping over Eggsy in what seemed like an appraising manner; Eggsy suddenly remembered that he wasn’t wearing a shirt, as that particular item of clothing was often forgone when Eggsy slept. He felt himself blush under the intruder’s gaze.
“It was the easiest to access,” he said simply, returning his eyes to look at Eggsy’s flustered face. “I do beg your pardon; but you have so many lovely paintings, I thought that perhaps you wouldn’t mind losing just one.” He smiled again. “I’ll put it back.”
“You knew my dad and the servants were gone,” Eggsy said, eyes narrowed. “How?”
“How?” repeated the man. “Well, it’s my business to know. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that you would be here as well, however. My deepest apologies. I thought you would be at the gala, with your father.” The man tilted his head, as if to silently ask why Eggsy wasn’t at said event. “In any case, it seems we’ve both frightened each other, so I’d say we’re even.”
Eggsy let out a huff of a laugh. “You’re kidding.”
The man directed his attention to the gun. “Is that really loaded?”
“Of course it is.”
“Extreme measures, for an art collector.”
“They’re very valuable works of art,” Eggsy snapped.
“Oh, indeed. You have no idea how hard it was to choose only one.”
The man lowered his arms ever so slightly, which in turn caused JB to bark; Eggsy, who was so wound up from the intruder, jumped, and accidentally fired the gun. The man ducked to the right, so that the bullet only wound up nicking his upper arm. He knelt on the floor, holding a hand to his wound, while Eggsy gaped at what had just happened.
“Holy shit,” he exclaimed, quickly turning the safety back on and running to the man. JB was still barking, but the bleeding man called for Eggsy’s attention more than his dog.
He knelt beside the man, close enough now that he could smell the expensive cologne that had been lightly dabbled on his neck. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“Fine, fine,” the man replied. He smirked at Eggsy, despite his wound. “Though I do appreciate your concern.”
Eggsy felt another blush rise on his cheeks. “I didn’t mean to shoot you.”
“Of course. Though, it may not be my place to say it, but perhaps you should call the police instead of holding an intruder at gunpoint yourself.”
He swallowed the lump in his throat and helped the burglar to stand. “I wasn’t gonna call the police, either.”
That comment made the man raise an eyebrow. He looked amused, damn him. “Oh?”
Eggsy coughed. “Well, I caught you before you stole anything, didn’t I? I figured I could let you off with a warning.” It was a weak excuse, surely, but the man only nodded.
“Very generous of you. I am in your debt, Mr. Lance-Unwin.”
Eggsy looked at the man’s bleeding arm and winced. “Don’t thank me just yet, bruv.”
To the man’s surprise, Eggsy gently guided him to the kitchen. He instructed the man to stay where he was, and he gave a similar order to JB, who stood watch over the burglar. Eggsy retrieved a first aid kit from a nearby cabinet and returned to the man, who was seated at the counter. The gun was left carefully in the same cabinet, out of reach of the intruder; just in case, of course.
“Galahad,” he said politely, as Eggsy opened the kit and took out some iodine and cotton swabs. The younger man paused and gave him a confused look.
“My name. Well, it’s not a real name, of course, but you may call me Galahad.”
Eggsy stared at the man- ‘Galahad’, apparently. “Like the knight?”
He quirked a smile of disbelief. “Sorry, mate, but I don’t think a burglar has any business taking the name of King Arthur’s most chivalrous knight.”
Galahad seemed pleasantly surprised that Eggsy knew so much about the famed Arthurian legend. “It is merely an alias, I assure you.”
Eggsy rolled his eyes. He opened the iodine and dabbed it on a cotton swab. Galahad helpfully shrugged off his jacket and rolled up his sleeve, giving Eggsy better access to the wound, which was small, but a lot of blood surrounded it; Eggsy valiantly ignored how well-toned the man’s upper arm really was. Instead, he pressed the swab to the wound- Galahad hissed at the contact, and Eggsy took some delight in finally seeing the man wearing any expression other than civility or amusement. Though he still managed to work out a ‘thank you’, to Eggsy’s astonishment.
“You know, for a burglar, you’re pretty damn polite,” said Eggsy, who wiped away the last of the blood and put the used cotton swabs aside. He reached for a bandage in the kit as Galahad smiled.
“No matter what profession one finds himself in, manners always maketh man,” he replied, as though he were quoting some obscure work.
“Right. A regular gentleman thief, you are.”
“And a very gracious victim are you, Mr. Lance-Unwin.”
Eggsy hummed, placing the bandage over the clean wound. Minutes later, Galahad was standing, with his jacket back over his shoulders, walking with Eggsy to the front of the house. JB had fallen asleep in the kitchen as Eggsy treated Galahad’s injury, as the pug apparently didn’t detect any further threat from the man.
“So…” Eggsy started awkwardly. “Just, um… Take it easy, I guess.”
Galahad smirked, holding up his uninjured hand as though he were swearing an oath. “Rest assured; I shall not be making any burglary attempts any time soon. You’ve made me go straight, as temporary as it may be.”
Every word out of Galahad’s mouth made it seem like he was in on some big joke, and it was annoying Eggsy, no matter how attractive the older man was.
“Okay then. Just stay out of my house and we’re golden.”
“Of course.” They reached the door, and Galahad turned to face Eggsy. Then, to Eggsy’s shock, the thief reached forwards and took a hold of his hand. He pressed a light kiss to Eggsy’s knuckles, and the young man could do little more than stare, his cheeks heating up for the third time that night.
Galahad lifted his head, and gently let Eggsy’s hand drop to his side. He was smiling gently.
“Thank you again, Mr. Lance-Unwin.”
He walked out of the house, leaving Eggsy to stare after him until he disappeared into the dark. Eggsy closed the door and turned around, leaning his back against it. Distantly, he heard a car engine start up, and he wondered if it was Galahad’s car. He slid down against the door to the ground. JB came trotting out of the kitchen and, upon spotting his master, came over to him and plopped, wagging his curled tail expectantly.
Eggsy rested his hand on the dog’s head, but continued staring at the floor. In less than an hour, he’d caught a burglar, shot the damn man, and then treated the very injury he caused; on top of all that, he let the burglar go free! And yet… Eggsy was rather intrigued by the thief, who claimed the name ‘Galahad’.
The back of his head hit the door as he groaned; JB looked up at him curiously. He would have a hell of time explaining this to his father, that was for sure.
After a few minutes, Eggsy brought himself up off the floor, scooping JB along with him, and began a tired walk towards his room. Perhaps he’d have a clearer head in the morning.
Yet, distressingly, the last thought he had before drifting off to sleep was of brown eyes and a bemused smile.
Eggsy awoke very late in the morning, to his distress. He rushed to shower and get dressed before he ran down the stairs; in his haste, he nearly knocked over his father, who was coming up the stairs, still wearing his sleep robe.
“Whoa there, Eggs!” James said, gripping Eggsy by the arms so that neither of them fell over. “What’s the rush?”
“Meeting- Roxy- late,” he gasped out. James blinked and released his arms, stepping aside.
“Oh. Alright then…” James watched as Eggsy jumped the last three steps and smiled to himself. Then, Eggsy turned around on his heel.
“Oh, right, uh… Last night, there was a burglar,” the young man said, still slightly out of breath. “Tried stealing your Rembrandt in the sitting room.”
James was at once alarmed. “What?”
“Don’t worry,” Eggsy reassured. “He didn’t get it. I caught him. Sort of accidentally shot him in the arm, but it was all fine.”
“My boy, are you okay?” James was down the stairs in an instant, cupping Eggsy’s cheeks and inspecting his face for any injury. “Did he hurt you in any way? What happened?”
“I, uh…” Eggsy blushed. “I sort of… let him go. He didn’t take anything, and I didn’t want the police here,” he added quickly, once he saw James’ expression of shock. It placated the art collector only a little bit. “Dad, really, it’s all okay. I doubt we’ll ever see him again.”
James looked at him for a few more moments, before he stepped back with a sigh. “If you’re sure. But please, Eggs, promise me you’ll be more careful. What if he’d been armed, or-“
“Dad,” Eggsy snorted, “we have enough guns in this house to arm the London police. I would have been fine either way. I did shoot him.”
“You said accidentally.”
“Still.” Eggsy’s eyes happened to catch glance of the clock mounted on the wall. “Shit! I’m way fucking late, Dad, can we talk about this later?”
“Yes, yes, go on,” James shooed him towards the door. “Tell Roxy I said hello. And tell her to tell her father the same, yes?”
Eggsy grinned over his shoulder as he made his way out. “Got it. Thanks, Dad!”
He flew out the door and got into his car, a sleek red vehicle that had been Eggsy’s one indulgence using his father’s ill-gotten money. He wasn’t always burdened by a conscience, after all. He drove away from the house and onto the street, and by moving down through the city at barely legal speeds, he managed to just make his lunch date with five minutes to spare.
Roxy, a beautiful young woman of Eggsy’s own age, was waiting for him at their favorite table in the café. She smiled gracefully when Eggsy arrived, though an eyebrow was raised when he was still slightly out of breath. He explained to her that he’d slept in late, and then he went into detail recounting his night before with the thief known as Galahad. Roxy was an attentive listener, and she did not interrupt her friend until he’d finished.
“Well, well.” She leaned back, still smiling. “Sounds like a rather eventful night, even if you didn’t attend that gala.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, bringing his still-warm coffee up to his lips. “How was that, by the way? I didn’t get to talk much to my dad about it before I had to leave.”
“Oh, just as you’d expect; people in fancy dress fawning over the Venus. And the customary longing glances our fathers kept sending each other,” she said, rolling her eyes at the last bit. Eggsy couldn’t help but join in. Roxy’s father, a wealthy businessman named Percival, had been friends with James even before their children were born. As such, he and his daughter knew about James’ ‘hobby’, and while neither of them approved, they were also not as vehemently opposed as Eggsy was. Eggsy couldn’t even be exasperated with them; Percival, by extension of his association with Mr. Lance, had also known Lee Unwin, and he was always willing to share more about the man than James.
But anyway, it became alarmingly clear that, after Percival divorced his wife (a mutual affair, as she still came to visit them every weekend), he and James shared a mutual attraction to each other. It was an endless source of teasing for them from their young children, who loved to embarrass them almost as much as they wanted the two to get over themselves and get together. They were still working on it.
“When are they gonna wise up?” asked Eggsy, shaking his head.
“Oh, I’m sure it’ll happen. Eventually. But never mind that; how did you describe this ‘Galahad’ again?” Roxy leaned forwards, something almost malicious sparking in her eyes.
“Hm? Oh, uh… You know, tall, brown eyes, dressed really fucking well for a burglar… And he was weirdly fit, too, especially for someone his age-… Why are you smiling at me like that?” Eggsy halted in his description when he spotted Roxy’s knowing smirk- though what exactly she knew, he had not the faintest idea.
“No reason. Now, come on, let’s get going.”
Eggsy frowned, but followed his best friend out of the café. They got into his car and drove to the British Museum; on the way inside, several banners proclaiming the beauty of Cellini’s Venus stared at Eggsy, as if daring him to scoff.
The place was swarming with guests, from high-brow art lovers to tacky tourists with camera phones. All of them focused their attention on the small marble statue, which was sitting proudly in the center of the room, protected by what looked like a very high-tech security system; a circle of blue lights surrounded the base of the Venus’s pedestal, and a similar circle was on the ceiling above it.
“She’s very beautiful,” commented Roxy, nudging Eggsy in the arm.
He smiled fondly. “Yeah. Isn’t she?”
They shared conspiratorial looks, and then Roxy excused herself to go use the restroom. Eggsy milled about, glancing every now and again at the Venus, and found his anger dissipating as the marble woman stared back. She was lovely, and it was evident that everyone else present thought so, too. A small surge of pride welled up within Eggsy, which he quickly quashed; not being angry was one thing, but having pride in a felony was another.
A hand pulled on his arm, and he turned easily, expecting to see Roxy there (however quickly it might have been, as she’d only left two minutes ago), but to his shock, a different familiar face was smiling at him.
“What the fu-!”
The thief shushed him gently, tugging Eggsy into a secluded alcove, away from prying eyes; since the young man was so surprised, he only stumbled along after him.
“Hello, Mr. Lance-Unwin,” the burglar greeted, like they were old acquaintances. Eggsy blinked for a few moments before he frowned.
“What the hell?” he said in a loud whisper.
“It seems we meet under only the most artistic circumstances,” Galahad replied, looking about the museum.
“What are you doing here?” hissed Eggsy, making Galahad raise an eyebrow.
“This is a public museum, is it not?”
Eggsy glanced out of the alcove; no one had seen them, apparently. He looked back at Galahad and scowled. “Yeah, but you’re a fucking thief!”
Galahad shook his head and patted his arm- the very one that had been injured, Eggsy remembered, a fleeting feeling of guilt passing through him. “I’m still out of commission, remember? I’m merely here to enjoy the artwork, as anyone else. Especially that particular work over there,” he said, pointing to the Venus. “Your father has only the finest taste, I will admit.”
Eggsy narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you dare.”
“What?” Galahad affected a look of pure innocence. “I wasn’t planning on stealing it, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Good.” Eggsy shifted his feet. “How the fuck did you know I was here?”
“I didn’t,” he replied. It at least sounded honest. “But I am pleasantly surprised to see you.”
“The feeling ain’t mutual.”
Instead of looking offended, Galahad chuckled. “I thought not. After all, I seem to have interrupted your date. She’s a very lovely girl.”
Eggsy’s brow furrowed, trying to discern Galahad’s meaning, before it suddenly dawned on him. “Oh- Roxy? No, we’re not… We’re just friends.” A common misunderstanding, really, since apparently a man and a woman couldn’t just be best friends in this world, so people often assumed that Eggsy and Roxy were dating. It was tiring to keep constantly correcting people, but he and Roxy were both single, and they needed to let others know that they were still ‘on the market’, as it were.
Not that Eggsy wanted to be on the market for Galahad. Of course not.
“Ah…” Galahad’s lips spread into a long smile, and Eggsy was momentarily transfixed by how easily the gesture seemed to come to the thief. “Another pleasant surprise.”
Eggsy’s eyebrows shot up, but before he could say any more, Galahad swiftly left the alcove, disappearing into the throng of people in the museum, leaving Eggsy all alone.
When Roxy returned, Eggsy didn’t tell her why his face was so red, or why he wanted to leave the museum as quickly as possible. It didn’t seem that important for her to know, after all; unless the thief showed up yet again, this was merely another coincidence, and it was one Eggsy was determined to forget about.
Galahad strode purposefully out of the museum, stepping into a black Rolls-Royce once he was out in the open air of London. The car carried him silently from the British Museum to a tall skyscraper. Thanking the driver, he got out and went inside, riding an elevator to the 15th floor.
An elderly gentleman and a bald man of Galahad’s own age were waiting for him. He greeted them each with a polite nod, though he spared the bald man an additional smile, which was returned.
He acknowledged them respectively. “Chester. Merlin.”
The elderly man, Chester, had his hands folded on top of an ancient mahogany desk, looking every bit as imposing as a king would be, though Galahad was hardly bothered by the man’s presence any more than he was a fly’s. Not that he would ever say so out loud.
“Harry,” said Chester, for that was Galahad’s true name. “How has the Lance investigation been going? I heard you got shot.”
“Merely a flesh wound,” responded Harry, shrugging nonchalantly. “I’m afraid it was my fault. I had thought that Mr. Lance-Unwin would be out as well.”
“Lance-Unwin?” asked Chester, eyes narrowed. He turned to Merlin, who was standing faithfully by the desk.
“Gary Lance-Unwin,” the bald man replied. “He’s James Lance’s adopted son, apparently the child of a former associate who died in a car accident. He allowed the boy to hyphenate his name to commemorate his family.”
Chester leaned back, now with a look of understanding- though not sympathy- on his aged face. “Hm. And how was the situation handled?”
“He thought I was merely a burglar. After accidentally shooting me, though, he even went as far to treat my wound.” Harry smiled to himself, which did not go unnoticed by either man.
“Did he call the police?” Merlin asked, and Harry shook his head.
“He said he wouldn’t, as long as I left everything in its place.”
“And… did you?”
Instead of answering, Harry reached into his inside pocket and pulled out a plastic bag, in which lay a few tiny chips of paint; he’d scraped the chips from the Rembrandt painting that night he’d been shot, and was in the process of putting it back when Mr. Lance-Unwin caught him.
Chester smiled broadly at him. “Well done, Harry. When can you have the chips tested by?”
“I’ll send them to the lab shortly,” he answered. “It may take a few days.”
“Very good. Keep me updated, will you?”
Harry’s head bowed. “Of course, sir.”
Chester dismissed him, prompting Harry to walk out of the spacious office, but this time, Merlin was right behind him. Once they were out of earshot, the bald man grinned and sent Harry a knowing look. Harry pretended to be aloof.
“What is it you’re smiling about?” he asked, calmly.
“You’re in an awfully good mood for someone who got shot in the arm,” he said. “I don’t suppose that has anything to do with the shooter himself?”
“You’re delusional, as always, Merlin,” countered Harry, though his face betrayed him as he thought of Gary Lance-Unwin, the boy whose aristocratic name didn’t match his urban, street-style exterior. He was smiling, and he knew it.
“Am I now?” teased Merlin. “Harry, I’ve been your friend long enough to know when you’ve become infatuated. Tell me, is Gary handsome?”
Harry paused. Then, smiling complacently, he gave an elegant shrug of his shoulders. “If you really must know… Yes. He’s a very attractive young man. And he has a wonderful physique.”
Merlin stared at him for two seconds before bursting into boisterous laughter, and Harry shook his head fondly.
It was true that he hadn’t expected to see Gary Lance-Unwin at the museum that day; but upon seeing him, dressed in clothes so fascinatingly different from others in his class, Harry simply couldn’t help himself. He was interested in the boy, and while he might have been embarrassed about their obvious age difference, in this particular case, he couldn’t bring himself to care.
He’d like to see him again, he realized, which was when a pang of guilt struck at his heart. It was entirely likely that the next time he saw Gary, the young man would hold nothing but contempt for him.
After all, Harry had been hired to investigate the man’s father; if James Lance proved to be a forger, than it was Harry’s duty to turn him in to the authorities, and any possibility of a romance between him and Harry was out of the question.
Harry tried desperately not to feel disappointed.
Eggsy has a business meeting. And then surprise meeting. And then just a plain surprise.
After the Venus was unveiled at the British Museum, it was apparent that the statue was the crown jewel of the establishment, and its notoriety was not only giving James the publicity he desired, but Eggsy as well. But in the younger man’s case, the publicity was not wanted at all.
Still, he thought he would be fine, so long as he kept his head down and stayed away from those artist-types that would immediately try and talk to him, if only to get their name passed onto James. Eggsy was not a bloody secretary, and certainly not one for his father. However, some people were more… direct than others.
Take, for example, Mr. Richmond Valentine.
Valentine was an American technology tycoon whose net worth was somewhere in the billions, but on top of developing computer programs and smartphones, he was also a noted lover of the arts. And apparently, he was very well-connected within the art community, for someone had passed on Eggsy’s number to him (damn if Eggsy ever found out who it was, though). He’d called four days after the unveiling of the Venus, asking Eggsy out to lunch in the most innocent tone. So innocent, in fact, that Eggsy was immediately suspicious.
He told his father about the call and James urged him to accept; Valentine was someone he’d been trying to sell to for a while, supposedly, and it had never been said that James Lance didn’t use every advantage he had, including his own son.
So that was how Eggsy found himself sitting in the most lavish hotel restaurant in the city- the hotel Ritz, to be precise. However, he was uncomfortable there, on the white leather booths, as he was severely underdressed. Valentine hadn’t mentioned where they were going to have lunch, and he’d sent a car to the Lance manor earlier than expected, so Eggsy simply threw on a black polo and jeans, since he’d heard that Valentine was a casual man anyway.
It led to most of the restaurant’s patrons staring at him with evident distaste. Eggsy couldn’t exactly blame them; one look and you’d never be able to guess that he was the son of a world-famous art collector. Well, adopted son. But regardless.
To his comfort, however, Valentine showed up wearing equally unsuitable clothes, perhaps even more so than Eggsy- a bright sports jacket and white pants, as well as a matching cap. At least the stares were divided equally among them, and Eggsy soon forgot about the other patrons as he and Valentine began talking.
“Now,” said the tycoon after a while, his mouth still partially filled with the last bite of his sandwich, which added to his already comical lisp, “I’m sure you know the real reason I asked you out to lunch.”
Eggsy left his spoon in his now-lukewarm soup and rested his chin on one hand. “I’m gonna hazard a guess and say it’s not ‘cause of my dazzling smile?”
That earned an amiable grin from the man. “Afraid not. Though it’s very nice, now that you mention it. No,” Valentine leaned forwards, his expression suddenly serious. “This is about the Venus.”
Eggsy was grateful that he’d stopped eating, because Valentine probably would have ended up with a face full of soup at that moment. Instead, he merely coughed in disbelief. “I… Sorry?”
Valentine had the courtesy to look embarrassed. “Look, man, I just… I live for art, okay? And that Venus your old man’s got in the museum? That is like, the epitome of all statues. I need it.”
“I figured I’d talk to you first, since I’ve heard you and your dad are so close. Any chance you could convince him to part with it? After the exhibition, of course?” The tycoon looked very hopeful, and Eggsy almost felt bad for having to tell him no. But not as bad as he would have felt selling a forgery, he reminded himself.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Mr. Valentine, but the Venus ain’t for sale. Even if it was, I wouldn’t have any control over who buys it. That stuff’s all my dad,” he replied, as gently as he could manage. Valentine looked crestfallen, so Eggsy couldn’t help himself. “I mean, maybe if you spoke directly to him… He’s been very interested in selling to you for a while now.”
Valentine nodded slowly, pursing his lips in contemplation. “Yeah… Yeah, I guess that would be cool too. And, uh,” he smiled sheepishly, “I really shouldn’t have used you like that. Sorry, man.”
Eggsy chuckled. “It’s not the worst excuse I’ve heard for a lunch date, believe me.”
They both stood up, shaking hands. Valentine’s cheery demeanor was back in full swing. “We should do this again, I think. Without all the art business hanging over our heads.”
“Sounds fun,” Eggsy agreed, and then Valentine was off. Eggsy let out a small sigh of relief. A close call, indeed.
He turned to walk outside, where he would call a cab and then go home, when a mere two steps later, he froze. His eyes were trained on a lone figure at the restaurant bar. The lines of his body were well-accentuated by a pale grey suit, as long, elegant fingers were curled around the base of a glass of scotch. Only the side of his face was visible to Eggsy, but that was all he needed to see to recognize him- after all, it was very hard to forget the face of the man who broke into your home and then ambushed you at the museum.
As if sensing he was being watched, Galahad turned his head and saw Eggsy. He looked surprised as well, but his shock faded quickly, and he waved to Eggsy- waved, for Christ’s sake- with a warm smile. This action caused Eggsy to snap out of his stupor, and he marched over to the bar with an expression that mixed disbelief and anger.
“Are you following me or something?” he asked accusingly, once he was close enough to speak in a low tone.
Galahad raised a brow. “Nonsense. I happen to be staying at this hotel. Though I am not displeased with seeing you again, Mr. Lance-Unwin.” His lips were still tilted up in that annoyingly charming way, and Eggsy most certainly did not blush. The older gentleman gestured to the empty seat beside him with an expectant look.
With a sigh, Eggsy slid into the proffered seat. The bartender gave him a distasteful look, but when Eggsy glared and ordered a whiskey with a rough voice, he quickly straightened and set to work. Galahad smiled at the interaction.
“So, you’re staying here?” Eggsy braved asking once his drink was in hand. “Thieving business must be good if you can afford this place.”
“It’s a lucrative career, certainly,” Galahad shrugged. “Though, might I ask what brings you here?”
Eggsy paused for a moment. “Business meeting.”
“Dressed as you are?”
The young man blushed again. “It was a very casual meeting. You should’ve seen the other guy.”
“Hmm,” Galahad hummed, draining the last of his scotch down his throat. He looked at Eggsy appreciatively. “I did not take you for a businessman, Mr. Lance-Unwin. You are full of surprises.”
He rolled his eyes. “I have a habit of surprising people,” he said dryly. “And for the love of god, stop calling me that. I hate my full name.” At Galahad’s curious look, he clarified, “It’s way too bloody posh. Just… call me Eggsy, yeah?”
“Eggsy,” tested Galahad. The admittedly strange name rolled off his tongue like silk, and Eggsy was a little more than entranced. “A strange moniker, but I shall endeavor to call you as such.”
“It was my dad’s nickname for me,” he answered, now defensive, as he always was when someone scrutinized his preferred name. “My birth dad, I mean.”
Something akin to sympathy lit up in Galahad’s eyes, but mercifully, he didn’t ask further about exactly what ‘birth dad’ entailed. “I see. From where exactly did the nickname come about?”
Eggsy shifted in his chair, clutching his glass tightly. “It’s, uh… Short for something.”
“That’s hardly an answer.”
He shot him a glare. Then, he sighed, shaking his head. “My dad was big on legends and shit, okay? So, ‘Eggsy’ came from…” he coughed, avoiding Galahad’s piercing gaze. “Excalibur,” he finished with a whisper.
“Excalibur?” Galahad sounded neither amused nor patronizing, merely… curious.
“Yeah. I couldn’t pronounce it when I was little, so I kept saying ‘Eggsy’ instead. It stuck. I liked it. Leagues better than ‘Gary’, anyway.”
“It’s a very sweet origin,” the burglar commented. “And it seems we have a matching theme with our names.”
That comment made Eggsy roll his eyes, and he sipped at his whiskey. “Yeah. If I ever become a burglar I’ll be sure to use ‘Excalibur’ as my alias.”
The way Galahad smiled at that made Eggsy turn away, blushing once again- what was it about that man that made the blood rise to Eggsy’s cheeks so consistently? He stared down into his glass, and was surprised to find it suddenly empty.
“If I ever require a partner, you shall be the first I call,” said the thief teasingly.
“Don’t you dare,” retorted Eggsy, and Galahad laughed.
“Of course not. I imagine your father would be very disappointed if you entered a life of crime.”
Eggsy’s face twitched. If only Galahad knew. “Yeah,” he said slowly. “Wouldn’t want that.”
It then dawned on Eggsy exactly what was happening: he was having a drink with the man that tried to rob him. For a thief, Galahad was infuriatingly charming, and Eggsy had fallen for his polite smiles and elegant decorum. He pushed his glass away and stood abruptly, causing the older man to furrow his brow in concern.
“I gotta go,” he managed to murmur. “Dad’s probably waiting on me.”
“Ah, yes.” Disappointment was laced in Galahad’s tone. “Forgive me for keeping you.”
“’s alright.” Eggsy turned, keeping his eyes to the floor, but Galahad stopped him before he could take his first step.
“Wait.” The older man slid off his chair with grace, leading Eggsy to wonder if he could do anything inelegantly. He swiped a napkin off the bar top and pulled a pen from his suit pocket. Quickly and efficiently, he scrawled a series of numbers on the napkin, and then he picked it up and held it out to Eggsy. His smile was- dare Eggsy say it- nervous.
“I’d very much like to talk to you again, if that’s alright.”
Eggsy stared at Galahad, then at the napkin. It would be fairly easy to just turn around and stomp out of the restaurant without taking it; surely that would get the message across to the thief that he was not interested, and he seemed enough of a gentleman to back off when he was told. But though that was the most sensible course of action, Eggsy found his fingers clutching at the white material and pulling it away from Galahad, who now looked very happy.
He realized what he was doing, but he still pocketed the napkin and mumbled, “Sure.”
Eggsy had never retreated out of a building so quickly.
A day later, as Eggsy was still reeling from his third encounter with Galahad, a man came to the Lance manor with a folder full of documents. He was a representative from the museum, he claimed, and he was there to get James’ signature for the insurance papers for the Venus.
James never had the statue insured, on the claim that it was priceless, but the museum had to take special precautions for safeguard the piece. The Venus would be insured for one million pounds after James provided his signature, protected against all manner of incidents, such as flood, earthquake, storm… and of course, theft. Eggsy tried to not think of brown eyes and an amused smile, to no avail.
James signed the papers without a second thought, partly because it was fairly early in the morning and he was still drowsy from sleep, and partly because he saw no harm in the act.
How quickly things can go wrong.
“By the way, Mr. Lance,” the representative said, tucking the papers away in his folder as James and his son walked him to the door, “would you like to be present during the technical examination?”
Both men halted in their tracks. “That what?” echoed James, his face growing pale.
The representative didn’t appear to notice, and continued calmly. “The technical examination. It is required before the insurance can be finalized, you see. You just agreed to it when you signed the document, sir.”
James and Eggsy exchanged shocked glances.
“It is only a formality,” assured the man. “The museum is flying in a Professor Floberg from Sweden in two weeks.” He bid them a good day and left them standing in the entrance hall, both looking like a bomb had gone off in the next room.
James turned slowly and sank into a nearby chair. Eggsy padded over to him numbly and leaned against the chair, blinking several times, as though he was expecting to wake up from a horrible nightmare. No such luck; this was very much real.
“This Professor Floberg…” Eggsy began, hesitating. “Is he any… good?”
“He invented most of the modern tests,” groaned James. “We’re done for, my boy.”
“Well… It’s not like we’re selling the Venus,” he tried.
“It doesn’t matter,” James replied morosely. “Once the Venus is exposed, everything I’ve ever sold will be examined and discovered as well. We live in a skeptical world, Eggsy, and I was far too careless.”
Eggsy bit his lip and thought for a moment. “… We have to stop Professor Floberg from seeing the Venus.”
“How? I’ve given him my permission to manhandle her in any way he pleases. I’ve not only signed my death warrant; I’ve pressed the gun to my head all by myself.” James looked up at Eggsy, and there was nothing but genuine fear and regret in his eyes. “But it doesn’t have to be that way for you, Eggs.”
“Get out of the country,” he instructed, his mouth set in a grim line. “Find somewhere safe to be, or- Or perhaps Percy would be willing to take you in. But you must deny ever having knowledge of my work, do you understand me?”
“Dad!” Eggsy knelt beside his father. He closed his hands around one of James’ own. “I’m not going anywhere. We’re gonna get through this, and we’re gonna do it together.”
James stared at him for a long while before he sighed, a fond smile coming to his lips. “… You sound like Lee.”
Eggsy smiled back. Then, he stood, dragging James up off the chair with him. “Let’s get you a drink, Dad.”
His father nodded and walked quietly to the sitting room, while Eggsy went up to a servant and tapped his shoulder.
“Bring my father some bourbon,” he asked, “and please call Mr. Percival Morton and ask if he can come over; my father needs someone to talk to.”
The servant nodded and left to do as he’d been instructed. Eggsy glanced at James’ slumped-over form in the armchair in the sitting room and made a split-second decision.
He dashed up the stairs to his room, and picked up the napkin he’d left sitting delicately on his bedside table. JB, who had been on the foot of his bed, sat up with his ears perked. Eggsy pulled out his phone and dialed the number, holding his breath and hoping for the best.
He got put through to the voice mail; Galahad’s rich, smooth timbre instructed him to leave a message.
Eggsy swallowed his nerves. “G-Galahad? It’s Eggsy. I, uh… I need to talk to you. Meet me at the Ritz tomorrow at noon, please. It’s important.”
Eggsy is more persuasive than he thinks. wink wink
Eggsy typically avoided dressing up. He never had cause to, really, since he strayed from formal events, and he only ever went to an art auction with his father if he really had to (which wasn’t often). Still, James had insisted on having a suit made for Eggsy every year on his birthday- and a few more on Christmas and other such occasions- and the result of this insistence was a closet full of bespoke suits that Eggsy hardly ever touched.
Not that he hated them, mind you. He thought he looked rather dashing in a suit, but in his mind, nothing beat the comfort of a good hoodie and well-worn trainers.
However, certain events called for certain dress codes, and Eggsy was not going to embarrass himself again. An hour before his meeting with Galahad, once more at the upper-class Ritz Hotel, Eggsy pulled a navy blue suit out of his closet and put it on. In addition, he tied a pink-and-blue striped tie around his neck, and dug out his pair of black oxford shoes, still shiny in their box. Then he styled his hair in a neat part, and stepped back to admire himself in the mirror.
Rather dashing, indeed.
He was able to leave the house without much fuss, as his father was currently passed out on the couch in the sitting room, leaning on the shoulder of an equally unconscious Percival Morton. They’d spent most of the previous night lamenting James’ unfortunate fate and draining the liquor cabinet. Eggsy spared them a small smile before he was out the door and in his car.
After a half-hour or so of driving, he was once again at the Ritz Hotel, waiting in one of the white leather booths for Galahad. But the minutes dragged on, and Eggsy kept checking his phone for the time. Galahad was late, which wasn’t something he expected from such a gentleman, thief or not. He was just about to call him again, when Galahad’s form walked straight past the booth.
Eggsy found himself staring at the burglar’s back, confused. Galahad was looking around the restaurant, as if he hadn’t seen Eggsy sitting right there. The younger man frowned and cleared his throat, hoping to catch Galahad’s attention.
He had to cough a few more times before the man finally turned around, his expression perplexed. Then his finally caught sight of Eggsy; his eyes widened and his mouth fell open, as though Eggsy were the Venus itself, and the thief’s intense stare was admittedly making Eggsy feel a bit self-conscious. He nodded his head towards the booth and Galahad visibly startled.
“ I…” the older man stuttered as he sat across from Eggsy. “Oh my.”
Eggsy fidgeted in his seat and glared defensively at the burglar. “What?”
Galahad’s tone became soft. “I… hardly recognized you.”
And that caused the younger man to blush- he cursed Galahad and coughed into his fist to regain his composure, willing the red on his cheeks to fade away quickly. “W-Well, yeah. Couldn’t very well show up in my street clothes again, could I? The fuckin’ judgmental stares I got. So I dressed up. Worked like a charm.” He managed a cheeky grin. “Nobody’s looked at me twice yet.”
“I find that very hard to believe,” said Galahad, almost reverently.
Eggsy willed the oncoming blush down, to varying levels of success, and focused his mind to the matter at hand. “Focus, mate. I need your help.”
Thankfully, Galahad understood the urgency in Eggsy’s voice, and straightened his posture accordingly. “What is it?”
“I need someone with your… skills,” Eggsy said ungracefully, barely flinching when Galahad raised an eyebrow. “I… I need you to steal something.”
That earned a surprised look. Then, Galahad smiled, though it was cautious at best. “I thought you didn’t want to be involved in the thieving business?”
“Yeah, well…” Eggsy muttered. “Something came up. You interested or what?”
“Rather depends on what you’d like me to steal, Mr. Lance-Unwin.”
Eggsy did flinch at the use of his full name, and he glared at Galahad for it. But he still held his chin up and looked at the thief defiantly. “The Cellini Venus.”
At once, the older man’s demeanor went from warily amused to downright scandalized.
“Are you mad?” he said harshly, keeping his voice low so that the restaurant’s other patrons would pay them no mind.
Eggsy fought back the feeling of disappointment that resulted from Galahad’s reaction and crossed his arms over his chest. “What? You can’t handle it?” He spoke it like a challenge, hoping Galahad would take the bait.
The gentleman was too smart for that, it seemed. “The British Museum, Eggsy? You must be joking. It’s a fool’s idea.”
“It was my idea,” Eggsy replied angrily.
“My point remains.” Galahad had become cold, his eyes sweeping over Eggsy in a disapproving manner that actually managed to affect some feeling of shame within the young man, though it didn’t last very long. “Besides that, doesn’t your father own the Venus? Why steal it? Why not just wait for it to come back into your family’s possession?”
“Because, I…!” Eggsy snapped his mouth shut; there was nothing he could do to explain himself that would reveal his father, or at the very least cast suspicion on him. “I… Look, I just have to, okay? Dad will be totally cool with it, I promise.” He looked at Galahad desperately. “… I can pay you. Not as much as the statue is worth, but I can give you something.”
“Money is hardly the issue here,” he scoffed.
Anger hit Eggsy again, and he looked the man dead in the eye. “So what is, then? Morals? Big talk coming from the bloke who broke into my bloody house.”
“Do you even understand the gravity of this situation?” groaned Galahad. “This is far more significant than a simple home robbery. This is the most prestigious museum in the country. If you get caught, it could very well mean a lifetime sentence. Are you really willing to risk that, for whatever inane reason you won’t give?”
It was silent between them for a moment, before Eggsy said quietly, “Yes.”
Galahad stared at him, clearly in disbelief. “… Why is stealing the Venus so important?”
Eggsy shook his head with a sad smile. “Look, just… forget it. I’ll find someone else. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.”
He moved to get up, but suddenly Galahad’s hand was on his wrist, stopping him from going any further. Eggsy looked at the man just as he sighed in resignation.
“ … What?”
“ I said, very well. I shall help you.” He held up a finger before Eggsy could open his mouth, though the young man now looked to be the very definition of joyous. “However! You must follow my exact instructions, to the letter, and never question me. Is that clear?” His tone was stern, and left no room for argument.
Not that Eggsy would have offered any. He smiled radiantly at the thief and nodded eagerly. “Yes, of course! Thank you so much, bruv!”
Galahad was caught off-guard by this, and to further Eggsy’s delight, the man blushed. “Yes, well… I shall contact you. When do you need the Venus by?”
“Oh, uh…” Eggsy’s grin turned sheepish. “Within the next two weeks would be ace.”
The thief stared at him for a long while before he groaned, placing his forehead in his palm.
“Good Lord, what am I doing?”
“So you… Agreed.”
“To rob a museum.”
“So it would seem.”
“Not only a museum, but the largest and most heavily-secured museum in the country? And on top of that, to steal said museum’s most prized piece of artwork?”
“Would you like me to tell the story from the top, Merlin?”
Merlin leaned back in his chair, looking both amused and exasperated with Harry, who was seated across from him in the bald man’s office. “This ‘Eggsy’ must be one attractive son of a bitch.”
Harry looked up, something akin to wistfulness in his features. “He did look rather marvelous in a suit.” Then he became serious, leaning across Merlin’s desk with a grim look. “You won’t tell Chester about this, will you?”
Merlin glanced at his friend and sighed. “I’m used to keeping your secrets, Harry. But tell me, honestly… Do you think this young lad is really worth the effort?”
Harry looked away, having the decency to appear embarrassed. “I… rather think so. There’s something about him, Merlin, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Nor can I seem to stay away from him.”
The bald man stared at him, until a smile slowly spread across his lips. “Alright, then. I won’t tell a soul. In fact…” he grinned. “I’ve always wanted to try hacking into a museum.”
Harry’s stare returned to focus on Merlin. “Hm?”
“I can get you blueprints and security details. The actual system itself would be too risky, but I can get you more than you’d need to pull this off.”
Harry looked shocked, his mouth having fallen open as he stared at his friend. “I-... Merlin, good god, are you sure?”
“On one condition,” Merlin held up a finger. “When this lad jumps your bones after you help him, I do not, under any circumstance, want to hear you describe it in vivid detail.”
The other man rolled his eyes. “That happened one time Merlin, you don’t have to keep bringing it up.”
“One time was enough, thank you.”
There was a pause, and then Harry smiled fondly. “Thank you, old friend.”
Merlin smiled back. “Anytime. Now, let’s get to work.”
The plan begins to take shape. Also, Harry flirts shamelessly with Eggsy.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Galahad had called only a day later, and asked Eggsy to meet him at the British Museum at exactly noon. Eggsy, of course, was a little more than apprehensive going to the place they were casing to rob, but Galahad sounded perfectly calm on the phone, and so he was going to trust the burglar for the foreseeable future.
God, he was trusting a man who broke into his house. Though, to be fair, Eggsy did shoot him. So perhaps trust was the least he could do for Galahad.
He walked out of his house with little resistance from his father, who had been unusually withdrawn since the moment he thought his life was over. Percival was a common fixture at their house by now (at least, more so than usual), but while he cast Eggsy a curious glance as he headed out the door, he was quickly distracted by James calling for another glass of bourbon, which he responded to with a soft scowl and a retort that he’d had more than enough.
Eggsy was glad that Percival was taking care of his father. For one thing, the man was a wreck. Apparently, the last time he’d ever been so distraught was when Eggsy’s parents had died, according to Percival. But for another thing, it was best that James was distracted, so that he wouldn’t catch on to what his adopted son was planning on doing.
The young man entered the British Museum, his face betraying nothing but absolute calm. He walked briskly to the outdoor area, where the grass was trimmed immaculately and stone structures that belonged in some Greek garden decorated the space. People were milling about here and there, but thankfully, the bulk of the museum’s patrons were inside. Eggsy settled on a stone bench and waited.
Fifteen minutes had passed by the time Galahad told him to be there, and Eggsy frowned in annoyance. But just as he was about to whip out his phone and call the thief, the very man himself sat down next to him, his motions fluid and elegant. Eggsy would have admired him, but he was far too irritated.
“Are you always late for appointments?” he asked icily.
Galahad raised an unconcerned eyebrow. “I wouldn’t call this an appointment,” he said smoothly. “More of a meeting. A date, if you’d like.”
It was Eggsy’s turn to raise an eyebrow, though he looked more baffled by Galahad’s comment than amused. “Can you please take this seriously?”
Galahad sent him a bored look. “I take all things seriously, Eggsy. Now, on to business.”
The thief stood up and offered a hand to Eggsy. The young man balked, glancing up to meet Galahad’s eyes.
“You serious about this, too?” he asked.
Eggsy stared at the hand offered to him as though it were making a crude gesture for a long while, until he finally sighed, and relented. He slid his hand into Galahad’s with surprising ease and let the older man tug him of of the bench. For a moment, he was stunned by how effortless the action seemed, as though Eggsy weighed nothing. Then Eggsy remembered the thief’s toned arm muscles, and immediately cursed himself for doing so.
In his distracted state, Eggsy did not put up much resistance when Galahad maneuvered his arm so that it rested on the crook of the burglar’s elbow, resulting in the two of them linked together, like they were actually on some kind of date. When Eggsy did notice, he blushed furiously and tried to remove his arm. Galahad’s grip was too tight, however.
The thief began leading him back to the museum’s interior, so Eggsy resigned himself to their position with a glower and a hissed, “Is this really necessary?”
Galahad hummed, nodding politely at the people they passed, who shared knowing smiles with him as they caught sight of Eggsy. “Not strictly necessary, no. But we become less conspicuous if people believe we are simply lovers out on a date.”
“This ain’t conspicuous?” repeated Eggsy, though he kept his voice low, as Galahad did. “They probably think you’re my sugar daddy or some shit!”
At that, the older man smirked. “Perhaps they would be less inclined to believe that if you’d chosen to dress up again today.”
Eggsy frowned, looking down at his body to go over his attire. He was wearing a simple blue varsity jacket and jeans, as well as a navy polo and a matching cap. His sneakers were probably the most expensive thing he was wearing, and even that wasn’t saying much. He glared back up at Galahad, cheeks burning with indignation.
“Museums don’t have dress codes, bruv,” he said. “‘Sides, I only put that bespoke stuff on for special occasions.”
“Am I to understand that you considered me a ‘special occasion’?” Galahad inquired, his lips quirking up again as genuine delight danced in the eyes behind his glasses. Eggsy flushed and looked away.
“That ain’t what I-... Look, can we just get down to it?”
Galahad laughed, a full, rich sound, so much so that Eggsy was almost tempted to forgive him for embarrassing him so much in the past five minutes alone. Almost. Instead, he let the older man lead him throughout the museum, as though he were giving a tour, and listened to the words he spoke next.
“On the night of the heist, we will stay until closing,” Galahad murmured, his voice low in Eggsy’s ear, and to anyone else it would seem like he was whispering sweet nothings to his lover, especially if they took Eggsy’s subsequent (involuntary) shiver into consideration. Galahad, mercifully, did nothing more than smile against the shell of Eggsy’s ear and continued. “There’s a utility closet, just there. Do you see it?”
Eggsy willed himself to not notice Galahad’s warm breath by his cheek and turned his head to see a small, unremarkable door built into a plain wall. “Yeah.”
“We will hide in that closet until the guards finish their rounds. At that time, I will activate the security system-”
“What?” Eggsy voice rose in volume, but only a few heads turned to look at them. “Why would you do that?” he went on, lowering his voice.
“The guards will come running out to see what activated the alarm, of course. Only, I shall be back in the utility closet with you. Once they see that there is no threat, they will reset the alarm.”
“Okay…” Eggsy gave his companion a doubtful look. “How does that help us?”
“Because we will repeat this pattern. What do you think will happen if the alarm keeps going off, but there are no burglars in sight?”
Eggsy paused. “I’d probably shut the damn thing off for good.”
“Precisely.” Galahad looked pleased. “And at that time, we will be able to claim our prize with no fear of discovery.”
As if cued, as they turned the corner from a selection of paintings, they entered the main show room. The Venus sat, pristine and divine, on its pedestal.
Eggsy let himself admire the statue before he forced his head to face Galahad, who was looking upon the work with a look of wonder. The young man smirked.
"Doesn't it seem worth it?" He asked teasingly.
"It's certainly impressive," conceded the thief. "But there's also... No, it couldn't be."
As Galahad leaned in closer to inspect the statue, Eggsy suddenly began to panic. "W-What is it?"
Galahad narrowed his eyes. "Well, there's..." He looked back at Eggsy and then the statue. "There's almost a sort of resemblance..."
Eggsy blinked. "A... resemblance? Between me and the Venus?" Of course, James had said that Eggsy had his mother's eyes and hair color, but there was no way Galahad could determine either from the all-white marble statue. "You must be kidding, bruv," he laughed, shrugging off the foreboding feeling building in his gut. If he acted casually, then maybe Galahad would shrug it off.
The thief let out a small exhale, smiling at Eggsy. "My mistake. I apologize."
Eggsy tried to not visibly show his relief. "It's fine. Now, there's something I'm confused about."
"What is it?"
"You'll be taking care of the alarms, right?"
"So what am I gonna do? Just wait in a closet for hours on end?"
Galahad grinned. "Of course not. In fact, you'll have the most crucial job." He bent down to whisper in Eggsy's ear again, but the boy expected it, so he didn't react. As much. "You will carry the Venus out of the museum."
Eggsy's eyes widened just a fraction before his face returned to a neutral state. "How am I gonna do that?"
"I'll explain, but not here. Come," he ordered. Eggsy merely complied, letting the older man lead him out of the museum and onto the streets outside. A black Rolls-Royce was waiting on the curb. Galahad strode to it, releasing Eggsy's arm so that he could open the passenger's side door for him.
The young man hesitated. "Where are we going?"
"My hotel room. Unless, that makes you uncomfortable?" Galahad looked genuinely worried that that would be the case, so Eggsy shook his head and stepped into the car.
"It's fine. As long as you keep your hands to yourself from now on."
Galahad chuckled. "On my honor." He closed the door and moved around to get into the driver's seat, and within moments, the car's engine came alive as they drove off.
It was a relatively short drive to the Ritz, so little to no conversation was held during the ride. When they arrived, Galahad quickly got out and opened the door for Eggsy. They walked inside and to the elevators, until finally, they arrived at Galahad's room.
It was extremely lavish, with gilded walls and tasteful furnishings. Eggsy walked inside and let Galahad close the door behind them.
"Just so we're clear," he started, "this is a business relationship, yeah?"
Galahad frowned, appearing affronted. "Of course." He picked a paper bag off of his bed and tossed it to Eggy, who caught it easily. "Now take off your clothes."
When the young man's jaw dropped open, the thief added, "In the bathroom. Change into that." He nodded towards the bag.
Eggsy gripped the bag and regarded Galahad warily. "... Okay. Sure." He turned and walked to the bathroom, and before he closed the door behind him, he sent Galahad a warning glare. The thief waved him off with a smile.
"You're fucking with me."
Harry turned around. A few minutes had passed since Eggsy went to the bathroom to change. Now the young man was outside, dressed in the outfit Harry had bought a day prior. It was plain blue and made of cheap cloth, but it was the standard that all janitors nowadays tended to wear. And as a plus, Eggsy's well-toned physique was hidden under the baggy clothes.
"Ah, lovely," he beamed. "Now you don't look quite so tempting."
The art collector's son furrowed his brow. "What?"
He was ignored as Harry chose to instead explain the rest of the plan. “Now, this is what’s going to happen. The museum closes at ten p.m. sharp; by that time, we will be in the utility closet. We will enact our plan at four in the morning. If all goes well, I should have the Venus in hand by five. The cleaning crew enters the museum at five-thirty. With that,” he gestured to Eggsy’s current attire, “you should be able to blend in among them and smuggle out the Venus to the guards’ room-”
“What, the guards’ room?” Eggsy repeated. “Why would I go there?”
“Because, by a certain point, they are going to realize that the statue is gone. We will take advantage of that momentary chaos and use the guards’ room, because the guards will be everywhere except there.”
Eggsy seemed placated a bit by the explanation, though he still looked too weary for Harry’s liking.
“Yeah, okay. But even with all that, ain’t we gonna be stuck in a closet for like, four hours?”
“Closer to six, really. Does that bother you?” Harry tilted his head to the side, his gaze calculating. “You can back out anytime you wish.”
In response, Eggsy threw him a crude hand gesture. Instead of being offended, Harry found himself smiling fondly, especially when Eggsy spoke. “Fuck you. I’m still doing this.”
Harry smirked. “Even if it means having to be in a confined space with me for a long period of time?”
The young man stuck up his nose. “A necessary sacrifice.”
“How noble of you.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
Half an hour later, Eggsy changed out of the janitor’s uniform and promised to meet Harry at the museum the next day at nine p.m. (“And don’t you dare be late again.”). He left shortly after, leaving Harry alone in his now too-empty hotel room.
Harry sighed wistfully, wishing the young man had chosen to stay a little bit longer. If he thought he’d had a simple little infatuation before, now he was certain he adored Mr. Gary Lance-Unwin.
Perhaps, however, he’d been a little too… forward in his advances. Eggsy certainly seemed put off, and Harry cursed himself. He was usually in such good control of his own actions. But around that young man, he could hardly help it.
His phone rang, bringing him out of his reverie. Rubbing his temples, Harry answered it.
“Harry Hart speaking.”
It was quiet for a few moments as he listened to the person on the other line talk. Slowly, Harry’s expression grew stony.
“... Yes, of course. Thank you, Ian. Well done. Just, ah… Let me tell Chester and the others, alright? Thank you.”
He hung up the phone and, in a rather ungentlemanly manner, tossed it on the bed. Harry’s hand came up to run through his hair, and he breathed in and out deeply through his nose.
“Damn it,” he swore softly. “Bloody damn it.”
He would have to make a decision now; Eggsy, or his job. He frowned, thinking of what Chester’s reaction would be- if he ever found out, of course. But then Harry thought of Eggsy. Of how desperate he seemed when he pleaded with Harry to help him steal the Venus. Now, at least, Harry could determine why it was so important.
With a final sigh, Harry moved to leave the room. He’d made up his mind by then, but that wasn’t going to stop him from getting a drink at the bar.
I really really like writing flirty, seductive Harry Hart. I usually make him the passive one and Eggsy the flirtatious one.
Good God it's fun though.
The heist begins!
Eggsy found himself, for the most part, strangely calm in the hours leading up to his future attempt at a major felony. It probably helped that those hours were spent in the company of Roxy, as the young woman usually had a calming effect on Eggsy whenever she was around. Still, Eggsy thought he would feel even better if he could just tell someone about what he was going to do, but he couldn’t bring himself to drag his best friend into this. So instead, he carried on as if everything were completely normal. Roxy, for her part, didn’t appear to notice if he was acting any differently. And if she did, she certainly didn’t say anything.
“Oh, by the way…” Roxy smiled at him from over the rim of her tea cup. “I think you’ll be pleased to hear what I just witnessed not ten minutes ago.”
“Hmm?” Eggsy lifted his head, his fingers still curled around his warm mug of coffee. “What?”
“I went to check on our fathers, to see if they wanted anything to drink- other than alcohol, at least- and what do I happen upon but the sight of them snogging furiously on James’ desk?”
Eggsy’s eyes went wide, and his jaw dropped, but moments later, a large smile bloomed across his face. “Fucking finally.”
Roxy nodded wisely. “That’s what I said. They saw me- I don’t think I’ve ever seen my father or yours turn so red so quickly.” She laughed and took another sip of her drink. “Anyway, I left them to it. Though I did advise them that it was best to move things to the bedroom.”
The young man chuckled in response. “Rox, you’re terrible.”
“I’m just happy for them, that’s all,” she replied defensively. “How many years of pining have we had to endure?” Then, her features turned melancholy. “I just hate that it’s too late.”
Eggsy frowned. He knew that she was referring to the fact that James’ life as he knew it was more than likely over- when the Venus was tested, it would lead to his arrest, and then where would his relationship with Percival be? Well, Eggsy didn’t doubt that Percival (and Roxy as well) would still remain their closest friends, but James would never want to put that social stigma on the man he loved.
“Maybe things will work out,” he decided to say, hiding his mouth behind his mug. “You never know, Rox.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m sorry Eggsy, but that sounds awfully optimistic.”
“You know me. Ever the optimist.” Eggsy glanced down at his phone, which rested on the coffee table, and nearly jolted. It was almost ten to nine. “Fuck!”
Roxy watched him with concern. “Eggsy?”
“S-Sorry, Rox, I just remembered. I have to be somewhere.”
“At this hour? What are you doing?”
“I just- I have to go and see someone, okay?”
“See someone?” Her eyes narrowed. “Who?”
“It’s…” Eggsy swallowed his pride, and luckily, he didn’t have to fake a blush for what he said next. “... It’s a date.”
At once, the young woman’s demeanor changed. She suddenly looked both surprised and delighted. “A date? With who? Do I know them?”
“Er- no, you don’t.” Eggsy hurriedly stood up, leaving his mug abandoned on the table, and all but ran to the door. Roxy was hot on his heels.
“Well, is it a boy or a girl?”
His face burned as he grabbed his jacket. “A bloke.”
Roxy’s grin was predatory. “It wouldn’t happen to be that cute young man from my law firm, would it? What was his name? Charlie?”
Eggsy huffed out a laugh. “No, Rox. I said you didn’t know him.”
“I don’t really know Charlie.”
“Look, I’ll tell you about it later. I promise.” He pulled his jacket on and turned to give her a hug, which she readily accepted. “Provided everything goes well, of course.”
When he pulled back, she was looking at him curiously. “Are you worried?”
Oh, she had no idea. “Yeah.”
“Don’t worry, Eggsy.” Roxy put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “He’ll absolutely love you. And if he doesn’t, I will personally make he knows what an idiot he is.”
Eggsy smiled gently at her. “I’m sure you will. I gotta go. Tell my dad and yours I said bye.”
They bid each other a farewell, and Eggsy quickly called up a cab to take him to the museum. When he arrived, it was fifteen past nine, and to his surprise (and humiliation), Galahad was standing inside, looking amusedly at him.
“I was early, you know,” were the first words out of his mouth. Eggsy glowered and brushed past him, but the older man was quick to keep up.
“Shove off. I was with a friend.”
Galahad only smiled graciously. “Fair enough.” Then, he dropped his voice to a whisper. “Since you seemed so shocked before, I’ll ask this time. May I hold you?”
Eggsy felt the red creeping up his neck, and he bit his lip. Galahad was really determined to see the whole ‘fake we’re in a relationship’ thing. For some reason, it sort of flattered Eggsy. So instead of answering verbally, he only nodded, and felt a strange sense of gratification when Galahad’s features absolutely lit up.
A strong hand came around Eggsy’s waist and pulled him in closer to the burglar. They walked around the museum, which was still densely packed for a building that was closing in an hour. Then, when they came to the display of sculptures just one hallway away from the Venus, the man’s breath was on his ear again- and, for the record, Eggsy did not shiver because of that. He was still cold from being outside, is all.
“I’ve put the bag containing your uniform in the coat check,” he murmured. “We can get it after we get our prize.”
Willing himself to calm down, Eggsy nodded. “Okay. When do we, uh… go in the closet?”
“Just a few more minutes of milling about. That should have off any suspicion.”
Eggsy snorted. When Galahad looked at him curiously, he gave the older man a sardonic smile. “You really care about people being suspicious, or do you just wanna keep holding me for a little longer?”
The thief blinked as a small dusting of pink graced his cheeks. Then, smoothly regaining his composure, he answered. “Can’t I do both?”
To his surprise, Eggsy laughed. “Yeah, I guess you can.”
A few minutes indeed passed, and then Galahad began leading them towards the utility closet they’d spotted the day before. Luckily, the museum had emptied out considerably in that time, so there was no one to see the older man stand in front of the door and pull out a lockpick.
“Why am I not surprised?” mumbled Eggsy, though he looked more fond than exasperated.
“Tools of the trade, Mr. Lance-Unwin,” replied Galahad. The lock gave way fairly easily, and the two slipped inside without anyone noticing.
The inside of the closet was more cramped than Eggsy thought, especially since it was already cluttered with brooms and various electrical pieces. He managed to squeeze himself into the corner as Galahad clicked the door securely shut. Even then, when the thief turned around, they were a hair’s breadth apart. Eggsy kept his eyes on the knot of Galahad’s tie and cursed the blood rushing once more to his cheeks. One false move and the blood would probably be rushing somewhere else.
Irritatingly, Galahad only smiled pleasantly. “And now we wait.”
Eggsy gave him a glare that made him have to stifle a laugh.
Thirty minutes later, as the museum was closing up and the guards were making their rounds, Eggsy found the silence and proximity working hand-in-hand to make this situation as awkward as possible.
Every time Galahad made a move, he could feel it. If his fingers so much as twitched, Eggsy was hyper-aware. And he was sure Galahad could do the same with him. So, to try and relieve the tension (well, it wasn’t really ‘tension’- Galahad still looked far too pleased with what was going on), Eggsy decided to talk.
“So, uh…” He hesitated when Galahad instantly trained his eyes on him.
“How did you, um… Know the schedule, and everything? Have you scoped out the museum before?”
“No. I told you before, Eggsy, that only a fool would try and rob the British Museum.”
“What does that make you now?”
Galahad chuckled. “Well, I wasn’t before. No, I have this... friend.”
“‘Friend’?” repeated the young man.
“He’s a computer genius, of sorts. He got me the schematics and schedules for the museum, including the guards’ rounds and the location of our very useful utility closet. He’s even managed to put a few of the cameras on a loop so that we’re not seen.”
Eggsy gave a low whistle of appreciation. “If he can do all that, why not just have him hack the security system itself?”
“That would be asking a bit much. Besides, there’s always the chance that the breach could be traced back to him, and I don’t want to do that to my friend. We can manage just fine, can’t we?”
“If you say so, bruv… Say. How’d you go and become a thief, anyway?”
Galahad smiled mysteriously. “It’s a rather long story, I’m afraid.”
“We have time, don’t we?”
“Well…” The thief tilted his head in consideration. “I was bored, is the short answer.”
“And the long answer?”
“Perhaps I’ll tell you that later, Eggsy. Provided we don’t get caught and sent to different prisons.”
Eggsy frowned. “You ain’t much of an optimist, are you?”
Galahad chuckled, and then went to check his wristwatch (which was rather difficult to do, considering the lack of space and all). “Ah, it’s time.”
Eggsy startled. “Already?”
The burglar reached into his jacket and pulled out two flat sticks, which were bound together by simple rubber bands. Eggsy gave them a strange look, which he then directed towards Galahad. The older man only shrugged.
“It was all very short-notice, you see.”
“What are those?”
“It’s a boomerang. I bought it during an excursion to Paris. I think it will serve our purpose quite well.”
As he spoke, Galahad adjusted the sticks so that they were arranged in a cross formation. Then, he grinned at Eggsy. “If you’ll pardon me for just a moment.”
Eggsy stepped back as Galahad wriggled out of the closet. As far as he could tell, the museum was totally empty; all the guards would be back in the guards’ room by that point. Suddenly, Eggsy found himself rather afraid for Galahad. What if a guard was late on his rounds, and he caught the burglar before he could even get to the alarm? Eggsy was prepared to accept his fate if he got caught, but he wasn’t ready to force the same on a man he practically forced to cooperate.
Time passed agonizingly slow, the only sounds in the closet being Eggsy’s measured breaths, until finally, a loud blaring alarm ripped through the air, causing the young man to jump, every hair on his neck standing on end. Seconds later, Galahad wrenched open the door and dashed inside, nearly colliding with Eggsy in his haste. Still, he had the presence of mind to close the door, and the sound of the alarm was once more muted once they were enclosed.
“Fuck,” Eggsy whispered harshly. Without thinking, he latched onto Galahad’s front, his hands fisted in the expensive material of the thief’s suit, and his face buried into his neck. He felt Galahad stiffen for a second before he relaxed, and soon, a hand was in his hair, not quite petting him, but acting soothing all the same.
“I’m alright,” he barely heard over the din of the alarm, but it was there. He responded by gripping Galahad’s suit tighter. They stayed like that for a long while; outside the door, they could hear the shouting and confusion of the guards. Then, after a few minutes of enduring the deafening noise, it stopped.
“They’ve reset the alarm,” stated Galahad.
“Jesus Christ,” Eggsy breathed. “Fucking hell.”
“Are you okay?”
“I just… Mate, that was fucking terrifying.”
Galahad looked down on him with amusement etched onto his countenance. “You’re telling me.”
Eggsy took a deep breath and looked up at the thief. “You alright?”
“I’m perfectly well, Eggsy. Thank you for your concern,” he said kindly.
It was then that Eggsy realized he was still holding onto the man like some poor soul hanging onto their long-lost love. He quickly released his grip on Galahad’s suit and did his best to step back, though the closet only afforded him a few inches. For a brief moment, he saw disappointment on the older man’s face, but it was gone before he could look again.
The blood finally stopped rushing in Eggsy’s ears, and he sighed. “Is thieving usually this exciting?” he asked, partly because he wanted to talk again, and also to try and forget the rather risque position they’d just been in.
Galahad, luckily, played along. “It has its moments. Now are you interested in joining the business?”
A snort. “In your dreams, bruv.” Eggsy deflated, looking at the older man with an almost guilty expression. “I do feel kind of bad, though.”
Galahad tilted his head. “Oh?”
“Those guards. They’re gonna get in a lot of trouble if we pull this off.”
The response was a chuckle and a fond look. “That guilt is good, Eggsy.”
His brow furrowed. “Is it?”
“It means I haven’t put my faith in the wrong kind of person.”
Eggsy blushed, and not finding anymore words to say, he looked down at the floor. Galahad was merciful and said nothing more, so they were left to wait until the next time the thief would activate the alarm.
Harry realized exactly ten minutes into their plan that it was very, very stupid idea. Not because the plan itself was foolish, no. In fact, he was rather proud of his and Merlin’s ability to concoct the scheme in such a limited span of time. No, Harry found himself doubting his actions when he closed the closet door behind him for the first time, and he was trapped in the enclosed space with Eggsy.
From so close up, one would have expected to find flaws, but Eggsy was as radiant as he was from afar. His eyes, in particular, almost sparkled underneath the single light hanging over their heads. And Harry could smell him very clearly now, the scent of modest cologne and shampoo mingling with his own. It took all his willpower to not just grab the boy, sod the plan, and kiss the living daylights out of him.
Wouldn’t that be a headline? Would-be thieves caught snogging in a closet.
Brief reprieve came when it was time to activate the alarm. Harry grabbed his boomerang and headed out the door. Merlin, like Eggsy, had expressed disbelief when he showed of the toy, but in the end, it was Harry who had the last laugh. He threw the boomerang with relative expertise, watching with bated breath as it swung around the main showroom and swerved around the Venus itself. Its path cut across the motion detectors guarding it from thieving hands, and the moment it did, the alarm went off.
Harry barely reacted, instead waiting for the boomerang to return to him. Then he tucked it back into his jacket and ran back to the closet, where Eggsy was waiting.
He looked shaken, if anything, but before Harry could utter a word or two of comfort, he was almost knocked back by the sudden added weight of the young man. He was frightened, Harry realized dimly, though that thought was eclipsed by Eggsy’s proximity. His scent was stronger than ever, and with considerable effort, Harry managed to stop himself at just placing a hand on the back of Eggsy’s head. Running his fingers through the soft hair, though tempting, might prove to be too much, so he settled for gently pressing his fingers where they were, and hoping that Eggsy would understand the gesture.
Then the alarm stopped, and Eggsy showed Harry so much concern, he almost forgot that the art collector’s son was the one who proposed the ludicrous plot in the first place. And then, of course, Eggsy must have realized how close they had gotten, as he jumped back with a terrified look. Harry fought off the wave of disappointment that crashed over him and opted to respond to Eggsy’s attempts to lighten the atmosphere instead.
That boy was going to be the end of him.
So there they were, two hours after the alarm activated and was reset, and just as Harry was considering going out and doing it again, Eggsy’s voice picked up in the small closet.
“Uh… Galahad?” During that time, the boy had chosen to sit down on a small step that barely had enough space to support him, so Harry had to look down to see him properly.
“You, uh… Thank you.” Pink covered Eggsy’s face. “I know there was nothing forcing you to do this, so… Thank you. For agreeing to help me.” Those sparkling green eyes looked up.
Harry smiled at that, warmth blooming in his chest. “Nonsense. I couldn’t very well leave your father to be exposed as a forger, now could I?”
Eggsy reacted just as he expected. His jaw went slack, and confusion and fear danced in his eyes.
“I realized it the other day,” he lied, partially. In truth, the tests results of the paint chips he’d gotten from the Lance home came back. The Rembrandt that led to Harry and Eggsy’s meeting was a fake- a very good one, but a forgery nonetheless. And if that was a forgery, then… “The Venus is a fake, isn’t it?”
“H-How did you…?” Eggsy’s voice was small, like a frightened child’s. Harry almost felt guilty, but he needed to push through.
He spoke, keeping his eyes on Eggsy’s. “There were… rumors, let’s call them. About your father’s credibility. I figured, since you didn’t call the police on me that night we met, you didn’t want the authorities so close to a forgery, and it would follow that a few of his other pieces are fakes as well. It does explain why you’re so desperate to steal it; to save your father. Technical tests were scheduled to take place in two weeks, isn’t that right?”
Eggsy finally managed to close his gaping mouth and leveled Harry with a cool look. “... If you knew the Venus was a fake, why did you agree to help?”
Harry adjusted his jacket, and once more pulled out the boomerang. “Oh, do look at the time. Pardon me.”
Harry made his escape just as Eggsy opened his mouth to protest. He did a repeat of his performance, once more activating his alarm, and then he ran back to the closet, where he found Eggsy now standing, his arms crossed and face reading annoyance.
Thankfully, Eggsy waited until the alarm was reset again, so Harry had a few minutes to compose himself.
“Why did you agree to help me if you knew the Venus was a fake?” he repeated, and this time his voice was more even.
“So I was right, then,” Harry hummed. “I must commend Mr. Lance for a job well done.”
He expected Eggsy to roll his eyes, or get angry that he’d technically avoided the question again, but all the young man did was give a small smile.
“He made it with my dad,” he said softly. “My mum posed for it.”
Harry grinned. “So there was a resemblance.”
Eggsy spared him a tired look. “Just… tell me, okay, Galahad? Why are you helping me?”
That made the older man hesitate. “I… I think it’s admirable. How far you’re willing to go to help your family.”
Eggsy didn’t look convinced. “That’s it? You risked your neck to commit a national crime just ‘cause you admire me?”
As he searched the older man’s face, Harry felt all of his resolve crumble. He sighed. “If you want the truth… It goes a little deeper than that, Eggsy.”
“Galahad, what do you-?”
Before he could finish, Harry steeled his nerves and leaned forwards, capturing the young man’s lips with his own. He was quite pleased that they were as soft as they appeared- and to his delight, while Eggsy tensed at the beginning, he slowly relaxed and even pressed back against the kiss. It encourage Harry, so he wrapped his arms around the younger man’s waist and pulled him in closer. Eggsy went willingly, bringing his own arms up to wrap around Harry’s neck. Harry did not attempt to deepen the kiss; he only let his lips slide against Eggsy’s, reveling in the soft gasps that he elicited from his partner in crime.
But he knew he had to pull back eventually, and when he did, he was met with the most glorious sight: Eggsy, lips still parted and cheeks flushed, his pupils blown black and gazing up at Harry.
“Harry,” he said quietly.
“Wha...?” murmured Eggsy.
“My real name. It’s Harry. Harry Hart.”
“Oh…” The boy nodded slowly, and seemed dazed, drawing a frown of concern from Harry.
He blinked in response. The boy bit his lip and glanced sheepishly up at Harry. “Could you… Can we do that again?”
It was Harry’s turn to blink. Then, he raised his eyebrow and smirked. “It would be my pleasure.”
The heist's conclusion, including the daring escape and aftermath.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The next hour and a half was spent, in Eggsy’s mind, wonderfully. At some point, Galahad- no, it was Harry now, he reminded himself- had ended up on the step Eggsy had been sitting on previously, but now Eggsy’s seat was Harry’s lap. They kissed slowly but passionately, and were it not for the potentially dangerous situation they were involved in, Eggsy would have stripped them both right there and then. But, as it was, they both knew the dangers of getting distracted, they settled for just kissing (well, they could afford a little distraction). And besides, the occasional roam of Harry’s hands below Eggsy’s waist gave the promise of continuing their little escapade once the job was done.
Then, reluctantly, Harry had to pull away, for it was time to activate the alarm for the third time. Eggsy was more than prepared for the blare of the alarm now, and when Harry returned, all Eggsy did was throw his arms around his neck and kiss him furiously once more. It helped that Harry responded very enthusiastically.
They heard the angry shouts of the guards, who were probably more than pissed off by that point in the night, and one man even proclaimed: “Just shut the damn thing off! It’s busted!”
And when the alarm stopped ringing, Harry extricated himself from Eggsy’s arms to go and check if they made good on that; indeed, the blue lights that surrounded the Venus were now shut off. Eggsy had followed Harry out of the closet this time, but he stood back by the door as Harry slowly crept up to the statue, his heart beating at a thousand times a second.
It was an excruciating, anxious silence, but finally, Harry reached forwards and pulled the statue from its pedestal- and no alarm gave off a sound.
Harry himself looked stunned, as if he hadn’t expected the plan to really work, but he recovered admirably quickly, and made his way quietly back to Eggsy. He handed off the statue to him, and then he disappeared around the corner. Eggsy waited patiently, and Harry returned, this time carrying a paper bag. He ushered the young man back into the closet and closed it once more- hopefully for the last time.
“Change into your uniform, darling,” he muttered. Eggsy smirked at him.
“I’m ‘darling’ now, am I?”
That earned him a cheeky wink- Harry did cheeky surprisingly well. “If you will allow me to call you so, then yes, Eggsy. Always.”
Eggsy bit his lip to keep in the noise of utter delight that threatened to escape his lips, and opened the paper bag, finding the unappealing janitor’s uniform inside.
As tempting as it was to undress in front of Harry, as mentioned earlier, they didn’t want too much distraction. So Harry stepped back and allowed Eggsy room to pull the jumpsuit on over his clothes. When that was done, he stepped in again and pressed a soft kiss to Eggsy’s temple.
“I thought I didn’t look so tempting in this?” Eggsy teased.
“Now that I’ve had a taste, darling, you will always be tempting to me.”
That charming answer was rewarded with another kiss. Harry checked his watch.
“Another half hour or so, and the cleaners will arrive. You remember what you’re doing, yes?”
Eggsy reached down and pulled a bucket out from the clutter of the closet. “I’m using this to smuggle the Venus out,” he replied. He placed the Venus gently inside the bucket, and Harry moved to cover it with rags and washcloths also found in the closet. Eggsy went on as he did so. “I’m gonna wait until the guards find out the statue is missing, then I’m gonna make my way to the guards’ room.”
“Where I’ll be waiting,” added Harry, smiling.
“And then we make our daring escape through the basement.” Eggsy finished off his sentence with a dazzling grin.
“Very good. Are you ready?”
At five-thirty sharp the cleaners arrived, wearing the same blue uniforms as Eggsy. Thus, he was able to blend in easily, slipping out of the closet with his bucket containing the stolen statue, and a hand brush for added authenticity. They were fortunate that since it was so early in the morning, many of the janitors had dazed, bleary-eyed expressions as they moved about, performing their duties in an almost robotic-like manner. None of them even noticed the bare pedestal in the center of the showroom.
After Eggsy had gone from the closet, he saw Harry sneak away towards the guards’ room. He would wait until the guards all left before moving in and awaiting his partner-in-crime. So until then, Eggsy slowly inched his way away from the closet and towards the hall that would lead to the guards’ room.
But then, emerging from that very hallway, came a trio of guards, all looking haggard and worse for wear. Eggsy nearly jolted at the sight of them, but he managed to contain himself, and he ducked his head in deference to them as they passed. One guard let out a mighty yawn, and collapsed unprofessionally on the steps leading up to the pedestal.
“You would not believe the night we’ve had,” he groaned, complaining to a janitor as he swept the floor. The janitor barely looked up, but raised an eyebrow, which encouraged the guard to go on.
“Three times. The damned alarm went off three times. We woke up the bloody Queen with that racket! The thing’s busted, I tell you. Good for nothing piece of junk.”
“Oh, stop your complaining,” muttered another guard. “We made it through the night, didn’t we?”
“Yes,” said the third. “At least it wasn’t a real emergency. It’s not like there was an actual burglar or anything.”
Eggsy resisted the urge to snort.
“I don’t get it,” the first guard complained. “It’s just a ruddy statue. You can buy something like it from the gardening store down the road, and no one’s built a high-security alarm for that.”
At that point, the guards turned their heads to glare at the Venus. Or, they would have, were the statue actually there. But all that greeted them was an empty pedestal.
There was a long moment of silence as the guards just stared. Most of the janitors still milled about, doing their duties, including Eggsy, but then, one of the guards practically screamed, causing them all to jump.
What happened next was, honestly, all a bit of a blur.
The guards scrambled to call for backup, and within a minute, the loud blaring alarm had been turned on and was resounding throughout the museum once more. It caused the janitors to panic, and soon the main showroom was swarming with guards and cleaners alike, all trying to figure out what to do. Eggsy was able to inch away from this chaos without anyone noticing- after all, who would pay attention to a lowly janitor when a great work of art has just been stolen?
Bucket in hand, Eggsy slipped away into the empty halls, and made his way to the guards’ room, grinning like a fool all the while. He still had the common sense to peek carefully into the room when he reached it, but all that awaited him was the sight of Harry sitting on a chair, legs crossed and looking very patient. When the young man entered, the thief- well, they were both technically thieves now, he supposed- looked up and smiled.
Eggsy raised an eyebrow and held the bucket aloft. “Daring escape?”
Harry stood and crossed the room, greeting Eggsy with a kiss. He grinned down at his young accomplice. “Daring escape.”
Harry took a hold of Eggsy’s free hand, and together, they went out the other door of the guards’ room, taking a flight of stairs down to the basement, and eventually, their ticket out. All the while the Venus sat securely in the bucket, being carried out from right under the noses of the people trying so desperately to find her.
“Earlier this morning, the Cellini Venus, donated by famed art collector James Lance, was discovered to be missing from the British Museum. There was reportedly a bug with the alarm system, or so says the guards on duty last night. We are still awaiting a statement on the current status of the investigation, but many are calling this caper ‘The Crime of the Century’. We’ll have more right after the break.”
Eggsy tried not to smirk smugly as Roxy, Percival, and James all gaped at the television, where a pretty young anchorwoman was giving a report on the missing Venus. They all appeared shell-shocked, to put it simply, as though World War III had just been declared.
“See?” he said lightly. All three turned their gaping looks on him. “I told you lot, everything would work out in the end.”
Roxy was the first to recover. She looked at her best friend suspiciously. “Eggsy… What did you do?”
“Me?” he blinked, innocent as a baby. “I didn’t do anything, Rox. What makes you ask?”
She stared for a few moments more, before she burst out laughing at Eggsy’s far-too-nonchalant expression. Percival was torn between either doing the same or actually scolding the young man for getting involved or something so dangerous, but before he could make up his mind, James snapped out of his trance and crossed the room to get to his son.
Eggsy found himself swept up in a crushing embrace, and James’ voice was soft in his ear.
“Thank you,” his father murmured. “I don’t know what you did, but thank you.”
Eggsy returned the hug, sighing happily. “It wasn’t just me, Dad.”
James snorted a laugh against his son’s shoulder. “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear any details.” He pulled back and gave a teary-eyed grin. “I’m just so proud to have you as my son. And you know, I think Lee and Michelle would be proud, too.”
The young man felt tears of his own begin to well up, so he blinked them back and hurriedly wiped at his eyes.
“Where is the Venus?” Roxy cut in, smiling at the affectionate display. “You must have put it somewhere, right?”
Just as Eggsy opened his mouth to answer, his phone rang, playing a tune he’d selected earlier that morning for that one specific person. He grinned, and held up his finger towards Roxy.
“Sorry, Rox. I gotta take this.”
She grinned. “I don’t suppose that’s your ‘date’ from last night?”
“It might be,” he said flippantly, and stepped out of the room to answer the phone, leaving the other three to celebrate their recent bout of good luck. He smiled to himself and pressed the answer button.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he practically sang.
“Darling,” came Harry’s bemused voice. “I take it your family has heard the news?”
“Yep. I give them three minutes before they pop out the champagne.”
There was a chuckle. “I would like to see you.”
“Of course,” Eggsy grinned. “Just name the time and place, babe.”
“The Ritz? Tomorrow afternoon?”
“Sounds top, Harry. You want me to dress up?” There was a suggestive tone to his voice that he definitely meant to imply.
“You may do as you wish,” Harry said quietly, though Eggsy imagined he was smiling like a fool on the other side of the line. He was so dressing up. “And, I think you’ll be pleased to know, I’ve come up with a solution for what to do with our little lady friend.”
Eggsy perked up slightly. “Yeah?”
“It’s not set in stone just yet. But there is something in mind.”
“Where is she now, anyway?”
“Wrapped up in one of my old shirts, laying right next to me on the bed. You know, I rather think this is the first time I’ve ever shared my bed with someone else’s mother.”
Eggsy laughed. “Good.”
“So I’ll see you at tomorrow, at noon?”
“Yeah. See you, Harry.”
“Until then, Eggsy.”
Eggsy hung up the phone and bit his lip, holding the device to his chest. Looking back into the room where the others were waiting, he saw a bottle of champagne lying on the table and chuckled to himself. Eggsy could definitely use some time to celebrate with his family.
He strolled back into the living room to a chorus of happy cheers.
Harry sat at a booth in the Ritz’s lavish restaurant; it was the very same booth Eggsy had been sitting in when he proposed the idea to steal the Venus. After all, Harry was, at times, a sentimental man.
At his side was a large briefcase, appearing normal to anyone else, but what laid inside it was the topic of conversation at nearly every table- the stolen statue itself. The man hummed a quiet tune to himself as he waited for his guest to arrive. But the guest he was waiting for was not Eggsy- no, not yet. There was someone else he had to focus his attention on for now, but it was for business reasons, not personal.
As he waited, Harry recalled the phone conversation he’d had the day before with his employer, Chester King.
He’d been admiring the Venus at it sat on his bed, partially covered by one of his shirts, when his phone rang. Upon answering, he heard Chester’ frantic voice- a treat, really, considering how annoyingly unruffled the man usually was.
“Harry,” the elderly man muttered, sounding gravely serious. “Have you heard the news?”
He smiled and prayed that Chester wouldn’t be able to tell over the phone. “About the Venus, I assume? Yes. Quite the daring little caper, I must say.”
“It’s remarkable,” commented Chester. “And you’ll never guess who’s just approached me about trying to find it.”
Harry sat up a little at that. “The police?”
“No. Richmond Valentine.”
He frowned. “The… American?”
“Precisely. He’s just offered me a substantial sum of money to try and locate the Venus and give it to him.”
“But… Sir, that would be aiding a felony.”
“I told him as much, but the man was adamant. You should’ve heard the offer he made, Harry. It’s far more than the statue was insured for, I can tell you that.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose. Then, he puckered his lips in thought. An idea came to him almost instantly. “Well then, how fortunate that I happen to know where the Venus is.”
He heard Chester sputter incoherently on the other end, and he had to hold in a chuckle.
“Good Lord, Harry, where? How?”
“I think it’s best if you don’t know those details, Chester. The point is, I know where the statue is hidden,” he said, reaching out and touching the item in question, though Chester didn’t know that. “But I should tell you, Sir, that James Lance is a confirmed forger.”
There was a beat of silence. “The paint chips?”
“Proof of his crime. And if the Rembrandt was fake, I think it's safe to say that the Venus is as well. We can’t very well sell a forgery to a man, now can we?”
“Harry,” Chester said evenly, “Do you have any idea how much money is on the table, here?”
“Are you saying you don’t care about lying to him?” It wasn’t a surprise to Harry, really. He wagered that Chester would sell off the Mona Lisa for the right price.
And so, he wasn’t disappointed with Chester’s answer. “What Valentine doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
“So… You’d like to make the deal, then?”
“He’ll hardly be able to show it off to anyone if he wants to keep it so badly. He gets the Venus, we get a very large check, and everyone’s happy.”
Harry smiled widely. “Yes, Sir.”
With that, Chester had hung up, and an hour or so later, Merlin had called, telling him he had a meeting with Richmond Valentine at eleven o’clock.
Of course, Valentine was running a little late, and so it was eleven forty-five by the time he finally showed up. The tycoon spotted Harry at the booth and grinned at him. Harry waved back, resisting the urge to grimace. Valentine was dressed atrociously. He knew that his style of clothing was similar to Eggsy’s, but while the young man managed to make street endearing to Harry, Valentine only made it seem… Well, American.
“Harry Hart?” Valentine asked, snapping him out of his thoughts as he slid into the seat across from him.
“Yes,” he answered cordially. “Mr. Richmond Valentine?”
“Oh, just Valentine, please.” The tycoon folded his arms on the table. His expression turned deadly serious. “I hear you have something that I want.”
Harry’s hand curled around his glass of scotch. “I hear you want it very badly.” Valentine nodded. “How badly?”
“I’m sure your boss told you how much money I’m willing to pay.”
“He didn’t give an exact amount, but money isn’t the issue here, Mr. Valentine.”
At that, he frowned. “It isn’t?”
“If you go through with this, you will have bought stolen property,” Harry murmured, leaning across the table so that only Valentine could hear him. “You can never show the Venus to anyone. Do you understand that?”
Valentine leaned in as well. “I know all that, man. I don’t care about showing her off. I just love art. Trust me, if I had the Venus, I’d keep her somewhere safe. She’s just-” he cut himself off with a sigh. “I need to have that statue. You get me?”
Harry sat back, staring for a long while at Valentine, before his own lips quirked up in another smile. “I get you, Mr. Valentine. Do you have your phone on you now?”
“Uh- yeah.” Valentine quickly pulled the flat device- one of his own, Harry noted absently- and showed it to the man. “Why?”
“Wire the payment to my employer. And then I’ll give you what you want.”
Valentine’s eyes widened, but then a grin was soon splitting his face. He tapped his finger against the screen a few times, and within minutes, he showed confirmation of the transfer to Harry.
“That good enough?”
“Perfect, thank you.” Harry reached down to pick up his briefcase, which was heavy with the weight of the statue, and placed it on the seat. Then, he slid the briefcase over to Valentine’s side. The American greedily grabbed the briefcase as soon as he was able, looking very much like a spoiled child.
“Much obliged, Mr. Hart,” he said delightedly.
Harry didn’t have to force his calm smile. “It was a pleasure doing business with you.”
Valentine nodded, his attention now entirely swallowed up by the briefcase and what lay inside it. The tycoon stumbled out of the booth and out of the restaurant without another word, leaving Harry to down the rest of his scotch while rolling his eyes. The entire ordeal was almost laughably easy. He wagered Merlin might as well have just hacked into the security system, with how incompetent the guards at the museum seemed. He doubted they would have been able to trace the hacker.
Of course, if they had just done that, Harry likely wouldn’t have spent so much time stuck in that closet with Eggsy. So perhaps it was for the best.
Harry glanced at his watch and read the time- it was nearly noon. Then, as if cued, a dashing figure walked into the restaurant, immediately drawing Harry’s attention.
Eggsy had in fact chosen to dress up again. This time, however, he wore a blue double-breast with a powder-blue shirt and a grey tie. He looked splendid, and since he didn’t have to, Harry did not hide his ogling stare. It made Eggsy grin when he spotted the older man and walked over to the booth.
He slid in close to Harry, pressing against his side. He gave Harry a brief kiss and then smiled up at him. “You been watching the news?”
“Oh, yes. I saw your father’s statement this morning. He looked… quite torn up, actually.”
Eggsy laughed. “Dad’s a good actor. But can you believe it? My first heist, and it’s national news!” The young man looked equal parts disbelieving and delighted.
Harry gave him a fond look, and reached to take a hold of his hand. “Mine, too.”
Eggsy looked at him strangely. “What?”
“It was my first heist, too. First burglary of any sort, really.”
“But…” Eggsy’s brow was furrowed. “But you were in my house.”
Harry nodded. “Collecting paint chip samples under the order of my employer. You see, Eggsy, I haven’t been entirely honest with you.” He waited for most of the shock to subside from his young associate’s face before continuing. “I am not, in fact, a professional thief.”
“Then… What are you?” Eggsy asked, eyes narrowed.
The older man took a deep breath. “I am a private investigator. I wasn’t lying about those rumors. The ones about your father. I was hired to discover if he truly was a forger. Thus, the paint chips.” He smiled gently at Eggsy, who looked like he was ready to run if Harry moved too suddenly. “I found out the painting was fake before the heist, and so I figured that the Venus was as well, especially with how desperate you were to steal it.”
Eggsy was quiet for a long time, before he let out a shuddering breath, accompanied by the soft uttering of, “Shit.”
Harry chuckled. “Don’t worry; I have no intention of exposing your father. In fact, my employer has forbidden me from doing so.”
“Let’s just say a certain American was very interested in obtaining the Venus. He paid a handsome price for it, and it is a price that my employer would like to hang onto. So I won’t be discrediting your father anytime soon.”
“So, you… You were paid to expose my dad…” said Eggsy shakily. “And then you went and helped me rob a museum?”
“Not everything I said was a lie, Eggsy,” replied Harry evenly. “In fact, most of it was the truth. Our meetings after that night in your home were purely coincidence, but I was always glad to see you. And you probably could have convinced me to steal the Crown Jewels, I was so attracted to you.” Suddenly Harry frowned, retracting his hand from Eggsy’s and appearing rather nervous. “Now, I understand if you don’t want anything to do with me from now on…”
That seemed to snap Eggsy out of whatever trance he was in. He reached out, cupped either side of Harry’s face with his hands, which ceased the older man’s rambling, and pulled him in for a kiss.
It was a long, sweet, passionate sort of kiss, and by the time they separated, both were flushed red and panting from exertion. Eggsy rested his forehead against Harry’s.
“You are impossible, bruv,” he said sweetly.
Harry grinned, opening his mouth to reply, when a throat cleared itself abruptly in front of them. They both startled, turning to face the source of the noise, and were met with the sight of James Lance, standing before them with his arms crossed and eyebrows raised. Thankfully, he didn’t look angry. More… amused than anything else.
“Dad!” Eggsy squeaked, turning even redder. Harry merely blinked in surprise.
James smirked. “Interrupting, am I?”
“Mr. Lance,” said Harry calmly, gesturing to the seat space available in the booth. “It’s a pleasure to formally meet you.”
The art collector nodded and sat down across from them. “And you, Mr. Burglar. Though, if I heard you correctly, you’re not really a burglar at all.”
“No. And if you did hear correctly, then you know exactly what I am.”
James sighed, sending a withering look to a very confused Eggsy. “Yes, yes, a private investigator. Just my bloody luck.”
“We have a great number of things to discuss, I should think.”
“Indeed. Like, for example, him.” James pointed to Eggsy. He stared down the investigator with a cold glare. “What are your intentions toward my son?”
Eggsy groaned, embarrassed. “Dad!”
But Harry was far more composed. “I am in love with Eggsy, Mr. Lance. I believe my willingness to commit a major national felony will attest to that.”
James hummed, and his expression warmed just a fraction. Then he turned to the younger man, speaking much more softly. “And you, Eggs? Do you love this man?”
Eggsy, whose cheeks were already so red they would make any cherry envious, flushed even further at Harry’s bold declaration of love, and so his answer came swiftly and assuredly.
“Yes. I really do, Dad.”
Harry beamed at him, and Eggsy figured he must have returned the gesture, for James looked between the two of them and shook his head fondly.
“Well, it looks like it’s two to one. Alright. You win. But you’d better make my boy happy, or-”
Harry slipped his hand into Eggsy’s and nodded at James. “I know. I promise you, nothing will matter more than his happiness. Speaking of which, the other matter we must discuss…”
James immediately held up his own hand and grimaced. “Don’t tell me. You want me to stop forging.”
“Precisely,” Harry smiled, sending a look to Eggsy, but the younger man was staring at his father, waiting for his reply.
It was a long while before he got one. But finally, James sighed. “It’s probably for the best. I nearly had a heart attack because of this mess.” He smiled wryly at the two of them, but his eyes were focused on his son. “I think I can safely say my forging days are done.”
Eggsy’s resulting grin was brilliant. “Dad!”
“I’m sorry for not listening to you before, Eggsy,” said James sincerely. “It seems you always know what’s best for me. Speaking of, I should go. Percy’s waiting for me at home.” He gave them both a wink and stood from the booth. Eggsy quickly followed, and so did Harry, but for the latter it was more out of politeness.
Eggsy and James shared a quick but tight hug. Then, when they parted, James turned around and walked towards the exit. When he looked back, he was just in time to see Harry lean down and give Eggsy a quick kiss, and his boy was positively glowing. James smiled to himself and left the restaurant.
Then, suddenly, his phone rang. He checked the caller id and grinned.
“Hello?” he answered. “Ah yes, Mr. Bors! Actually, I was just on my way home. But don’t worry, I’ve got the Rembrandt all packed up and ready for you.”
I wrote this whole thing in about two weeks because I am the trashiest trash
Anyway. I hope you guys all enjoyed it! How to Steal a Million is probably my second favorite Hepburn movie. Peter O'Toole is so goddamn PRETTY.
also i'm totally gonna write more obnoxiously flirty Harry later it's like a drug now