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Lagavulin and Guinness

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“Sh, sh,” said Eggsy, bouncing Daisy on his hip. She was wailing, the kind of loud cry that reverberated in the ear. Her face was red and blotchy, and she kept waving her fists, nearly smacking Eggsy in the face a few times. His mum was somewhere – Eggsy had no idea where, really – and Eggsy was stuck with the two-year-old. She was being extra fussy tonight, and there was only so many times that Eggsy could bounce her before his hip decided to give out, Kingsman or no.

“I’m going barmy from all that crying, bruv. What’s wrong with her?” Jamal didn’t look too inconvenienced, sitting next to Ryan while flipping through the channels on the telly. He grumbled when he couldn’t find anything worth watching, not even sparing Eggsy a second glance.

“Probably wants her mum,” Eggsy replied. “She’s just being finicky.”

“Could you buy something for it? Considering how filthy rich you are, now.” Ryan grinned at him from around Jamal, his trainers scuffing at the green carpet. Even after months, his mates were still a little overwhelmed with the relative richness of his new flat. It wasn’t much, all considering, but it was more than either of them had ever seen. Plush carpets, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and rooms that were definitively separated by walls. For them, it was a mansion.

“I don’t think she gives two shits about money.” Eggsy set Daisy on the ground and plopped down next to her, sorting through her toy pile to hopefully find something to amuse her with. “Plus, I’m not that stacked.”

“You’re a fucking tailor, mate. A tailor. I’m sorry, let me repeat that, you’re a tailor and you wear bloody suits. You’re officially better off than every other person coming from the estates.”

“And he only had to suck a couple of cocks to get that position,” said Ryan. Jamal and Ryan cackled together and fist-bumped, grinning and twisting around in place to see how Eggsy took the insult.

“Oi, not around the kid,” said Eggsy. He had long given up trying to convince them that he hadn’t cock-wrangled his way into a job. They knew he had to’ve done something amazing to get the job – well, really, a poor kid with no prior work experience suddenly scoring a gig at a posh tailor’s shop? Not in this world.

“Where’s your mum, anyway?” Jamal’s grin faded a tad. “She not with Dean, is she?”

“I dunno,” said Eggsy. That was quite the problem, wasn’t it? Things looked like they should’ve been solved real simple. He could afford a nice little flat now, one where Daisy could even have her own room, decorated with yellow flowers. His mum and Daisy had moved in quick once he gave them that invitation in the pub, but his mum never seemed to be at the flat. Eggsy suspected she was still with Dean, a suspicion he had shared with his friends in one of his alcohol-soaked moments.

The problem with abusive relationships was it was never as simple as moving to a new place. Eggsy knew this, because there were still moments he woke up at night to Daisy’s crying and felt his heart speed up, waiting to hear Dean’s footsteps and angry shouts at being roused so late at night, waiting to hear him heading to Eggsy’s room to take it out on someone easy.

He didn’t share those thoughts with his mates, but he knew that they would understand if he did. Ryan enjoyed coming up with far-fetched stories about where he got his black eyes – including one memorable tale involving three circus elephants and a clown – while Jamal was terrified of commitment because his mother had walked out on his family (not that he would admit it, of course).

Daisy finally seemed to be calming down, snapping Eggsy back to the present. She began to slobber on a rag doll that Eggsy had bought her with his second payday. Eggsy smiled, thankful for the distraction from dark thoughts, and patted her head.

“She better? Then come over here, bruv, and watch this fucking show. Pretty sure that lady is about to take her top off.” Ryan waved the remote control triumphantly.

“We don’t get those kind of channels, bruv,” laughed Eggsy, but he obediently walked over and sprawled on the coach, his legs nudging his friends over. They protested, pushing and shoving, until everyone had a (mostly) equal portion of the couch.

Eggsy’s cell chose that moment to ring. “Bollocks,” he muttered, standing up. That was his Kingsman ringtone. One non-perk of the job was being on call all the fucking time.

“Don’t answer it,” Jamal advised. Eggsy nodded and picked up the phone anyway. They all knew he would.

“Better be life or death,” was his greeting.

“Like I’d want to talk to you if it wasn’t,” scoffed Merlin. “Got a mission for you, Eggsy. Need you for it.”

“Why me?” Eggsy turned and signaled his friends. They sighed and began to rustle about, readying themselves to leave. Ryan began to grumble when he realized that Daisy was now drooling on his coat, awkwardly trying to maneuver around the toddler.

“Need you for a recon mission in East London.”

“Ah,” said Eggsy, bitterness in his throat. East London. Of course he’d be the only one cut out for a mission in the “poor” part of London.

“You’ve got thirty minutes to get here.”

The problem with cell phones, Eggsy mused, was he couldn’t even hang up angrily. He could chuck it across the room, but then it would just break. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – Valentine had made them all paranoid about technology now – but considering this was a Kingsman phone, he would be taking a good chunk out of his paycheck.

“It’s weird you gotta go in for emergency fittings this late at night,” said Jamal. There was no judgment in his or Ryan’s eyes. They knew something wasn’t quite right, but like the excellent mates they were, they weren’t gonna push the issue.

“People at the shop really bollocks things up sometimes,” shrugged Eggsy. “I gotta go. Oh fuck – my mum isn’t here to watch Daisy.”

There was a long, awkward pause before Jamal said, “Fuck you, Eggsy, you fucking owe me!”

“Thanks, bruv, I do owe you,” he said. He glanced down at Daisy. “She’s gotta be put to bed in about a half hour, if my mum isn’t home by then.”

“How the fuck do I put her to bed?”

Ryan shrugged into his coat. “I wish you luck, bruv. I ain’t gonna be no help. I’m out.”

Jamal swore and took a swing at him, but Ryan ducked away, laughing. He ducked out the door and Eggsy could still hear his laughter, even while he was walking down the street.

“You’re a lifesaver,” said Eggsy. “I gotta go, okay? I trust you.”

“What? Eggsy, I don’t know what the fuck to do!”

“You lay her in the bed!” said Eggsy. “Really, it’s quite simple. Gotta go, bruv.”

“Jesus, your mum better show me her tits when she gets home for this,” grumbled Jamal. Eggsy laughed and ducked out of the door too, hustling towards the tailor shop.

About halfway there his smile began to fade. It had been nearly six months since the world had almost ended. It had been a turbulent six months – at first, because no one quite knew whether or not Eggsy could still become a Kingsman after failing that final test but ultimately defeating Valentine, so they put him on clean-up duty while they debated his fate. For a heart-pounding two months, Eggsy went on missions designed to block corrupt leaders from taking over whole countries while Roxy got the exciting missions, like disarming bombs and dismantling terrorist groups. It was a nice chance to practice his posh accent, but otherwise, it was mostly just talking to people and pretending to care about politics.

Then, at month two, after an unnecessary amount of squabbling, they finally decided to give him the Galahad position, since Harry Hart was dead. They didn’t want to go through another selection process when they already had to find another Arthur.

This was made exponentially more complicated when, two weeks later, Harry Hart arrived at headquarters looking fit and fine, a new-looking scar splitting his face, but otherwise healthy. He sauntered into the round table room, smiling, and said, “I do believe I’ve used enough vacation time for this year.”

No one – not even Merlin – had been aware he was alive. Eggsy nearly shit his pants.

When Eggsy suggested Harry take the Arthur place, Merlin explained it to him. “That’s not how it works, lad. Arthur isn’t a field agent. He oversees the agents, deals with the finances, schmoozes up to our backers… Harry would kill himself in an instant.”

So, the Kingsman voted – again – about the Galahad position. Eggsy – surprise! – lost. He was, however, still a Kingsman agent. He just didn’t have a cool codename.

“We don’t just make up codenames on the fly,” said Merlin, rubbing the bridge of his nose when Eggsy whined for one. “We’ll just give you aliases. It’ll be fine.”

It was a weird dynamic. Eggsy was constantly left feeling like an extra, sitting in an extra chair at the table when all the knights met. What made the entire situation more surreal – if it could get that way, with a dead man striding through those dining room doors – was the commotion that the new Arthur was making in his life.

Eggsy met Victoria Willoughby the first time by accident. He was unaware of her recent hire as Arthur, and, at that point, he was just returning from a rather dirty mission.

Not in a sexy way. He was covered, head to toe, in soot. This was caused by an unfortunate need to escape through a chimney. His suit jacket had been torn to shreds by the brick and mortar, and his hair was a fearsome, messy nest. He was bee lining towards the showers, though he was technically supposed to debrief with Merlin first.

He was walking down the hallway, leaving black footprints behind him, when he turned the corner and nearly ran into her.

“Fuck!” he said, reaching out to steady her before aborting the gesture, since he would have gotten her crisp, tan blazer dirty. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m a little out of sorts, what with being a bit of a mess.” He gave her his best roguish grin.

Her mouth twitched, clearly disapproving. Here were the things that Eggsy noticed first about Victoria Willoughby:

She was tall, mostly due to the sky-high heels she had on. They weren’t trendy heels, but ones that looked like they could possibly kill someone, if the wearer could survive walking in them.

She had iron-grey hair pulled severely back into a French braid. The French braid, despite its austere nature, complemented her face well. What did not complement her face was the whore-red lipstick she had donned. The rest of her make-up was tasteful, but Eggsy had a hard time pulling his eyes away from her lips.

She was extremely, extremely thin, almost waifish, but waifish did not truly describe someone so tall.

The final thing he noted, on that first meeting, was her eyebrows. She had expressive eyebrows, which were then climbing into her hairline.

“And you are?” she asked, her accent clear like a bell and her voice the kind that you didn’t disagree with. It made Eggsy suddenly aware of his Cockney accent, but like Harry had said before, the accent doesn’t make a man. Though Eggsy’s posh accent was much more polished now, it took too much concentration to maintain on a casual basis. He stuck with what he knew when he wasn’t out on a mission.

“Eggsy,” he said. “Eggsy Unwin, ma’am.” He minded his manners and held out his hand, a smile still on his face, though he said, “I doubt you want to shake, ma’am, my hand is a bit out of commission.”

“Axley?” she said, a frown contorting her face. She ignored his hand, so he congenially let it drop, unconcerned. “Are you an agent?”

“No, Eggsy.” He emphasized the ‘s’ sound. He ignored her second question – he wasn’t allowed to disclose stuff like that to strangers walking about. Most of the techs and support staff knew who the agents were, so if she didn’t, there was a good chance that she was a guest of someone.

“Eggsy,” she repeated, and the eyebrows climbed higher. Her lips curved upwards, in an, ‘someone is having a joke at my expense’ sort of way.

“Yes ma’am,” he said. “Do you need some help? Directions or anything? Otherwise, I have to excuse myself. I’m dripping soot on the carpet.”

“Of course,” she said, stepping around him. Her eyes widened at the trail he had left behind him.

“I’ll be sure to clean it up later,” he laughed at her expression. “Ain’t fair to the cleaning staff, innit?”

“So you’re part of the cleaning staff?” she asked, almost hopefully.

He gave her a jaunty wave – he wanted the conversation to be over with, mostly because he felt unkempt and gross and was pretty sure there was some soot in his eyes – and sauntered off. He had other things on his mind and didn’t care about the grey-haired lady he had met who raised her eyebrows in such a disbelieving way.

The second time he met her, Merlin introduced her. Eggsy was elbows-deep in an automobile engine. He doesn’t know the first thing about cars – though he’s ace at driving them, thank you very much – but one of the mechanics had asked for a helping hand. Since he spent the first twenty-four years of his life overlooked and disregarded by posh assholes, he figured he owed it to every person to treat them like humans. Thus, helping out.

He hadn’t wanted to get his suit dirty, so when Mike asked for help, he hopped into a pair of jeans and a tank and started helping. Within minutes his hands were covered with grease, mostly because Mike kept directing him to hold such-and-such part while he made some wicked-looking repairs.

His hair, which had been perfectly coiffed that morning, now fell in his face. When Merlin said, sharply, “Eggsy,” he had to blow a few strands out of his face when he glanced up, laughing.

He saw that lady standing behind Merlin, now in a pristine white suit. He had never before seen a lady wear that color pantsuit, and he blinked, wondering how she possibly ate food in that getup.

“Hello ma’am,” he said, straightening up. He ignored Mike’s curses as he stepped forward. “I still can’t shake your hand, I’m afraid.” He outstretched his hands, grinning at their grease.

“Eggsy,” said Merlin, ignoring his statements, “this is Victoria Willoughby. The new Arthur.”

“Oh!” said Eggsy, surprised. Who knew that Arthur would be an old bird? “Congratulations, and welcome to the Kingsmen.”

“Charmed,” she said, her voice flat. Merlin, who was typing on his clipboard, glanced at her sharply. He looked between her and Eggsy – Eggsy, hands full of grease, Arthur, nose upturned – and blinked.

“You’ve met?”

“Just once,” she said, airily. She did not offer Merlin details.

Eggsy’s smile was beginning to sour. He did not like her attitude. He didn’t like authority figures in general, and she wasn’t making a good first impression.

“Are we to meet the rest of this department, then?” asked Arthur. She surveyed the floor, with mechanics scurrying around cars and the cleaning crew trying to get oil off of the floor, and her nose wrinkled again. She lifted her chin up, pursing her red lips, and raised an eyebrow.

“I’m just introducing you to Kingsmen agents, for the moment,” said Merlin, already back to making some sort of notation on his clipboard.

“I don’t understand,” she said.

Merlin, who never had time for people who needed told twice, had already moved on. “Eggsy, I have a mission for you, when you’re done here.” He tapped twice on his clipboard. “It’s one you’ll like – you might get to blow a few things up.”

“Brill,” he said, grinning. “I’ll be round shortly to collect that, yeah? Just gotta help Mike finish up.”

Merlin gave a sharp nod and turned to leave. Arthur stayed for half a second, staring, before she turned sharply on her too-high heels and clicked away.

The third time that Eggsy saw her was at a full Kingsman meeting. Those meetings happened quite often, actually, not just when someone dies. There’s quite a bit that the Kingsmen need to be fully aware of.

He strolled in. He was not the first, and was not the last. To fit all the seats in with Eggsy’s extra chair and to keep it symmetrical, they had moved the person at the end and instead squeezed them in on one the sides. Therefore, the only head of the table was now Arthur.

He took his seat, which was nearly at the other end of the table. Arthur didn’t notice him at first; instead, she was flipping through a green folder, her forehead creased in concern.

Eggsy was in full gear, this time. His hair was perfect, his glasses impeccable, his suit immaculate. He was fresh off of a mission, no injuries, and was more than ready for his next one. He nodded at Roxy, sitting in her middle seat, and winked at Harry, who looked debonair. Eggsy was fairly sure that he was using make-up to minimize the look of the scar.

Kay was the only other person who could be physically present, and he was the last to arrive, right on the dot. He took his seat next to Eggsy and pretended to be exasperated when Eggsy gives him a hello nudge. Kay had a soft spot for him, though. Eggsy could see through that spy exterior.

“All right, let’s get this meeting started,” said Arthur, shutting her folder precisely. Eggsy was politely looking at Arthur, which was why he caught it when her eyes scanned the table and she did a double take when she saw him.

Far from giving Eggsy satisfaction, he felt something ugly rise in his chest. He hated that double-take look, that surprised twitch when people realized that you were more than they thought. He hated it.

Arthur did not comment on the lapse, and no one called her on it. “I wished to formally introduce myself to the group of you. My name is Victoria Willoughby, though you will now know me as Arthur.”

She paused as everyone gave a small, polite round of applause. “Thank you. Now, I’ve been reviewing past missions, and there seems to be many that were unnecessary. Risks have been taken that needn’t have been. And, of course, the amount of injuries this group has sustained is unacceptable. We will be reevaluating the way we give missions and the protocol surrounding them. In addition, there appears to be a new position that has been added?”

There was a long, pregnant pause. Arthur wasn’t looking at him, instead fixing her beady gaze around the table, like seeking an explanation for why, exactly, he was here.

But since no one else seemed to be answering, Eggsy delicately cleared his throat and said – in his poshest accent – “Yes, my position was recently added.”

He saw Roxy, still a bit of a novice, hide her smile. His speech always amused her so. He knew the other spies were inordinately amused too, but they had the years of training that allowed their faces to stay stone still. Everyone knew his Cockney accent.

“Hm,” she said, flipping open the green folder again. Eggsy, with a start, realized it had to be his file. “Well, your position is terminated until further notice.”

Excuse me?” said Eggsy, anger now fully ignited. “Why the –”

Harry, ever the gentlemen, cut Eggsy off before he could start cussing. “I’m rather confused,” he said, blinking innocently at Arthur. “We spent two months deliberating over Eggsy’s addition to this team. I don’t believe we’ve regretted it yet. Is there a reason why you’re revoking a decision agreed upon by the vast majority of this table this early in your career?”

Dangerous, thought Eggsy. Harry was so dangerous. He was sitting, trim and at ease, his legs perfectly crossed, just blinking at Arthur like he could wait the entire day to hear her answer. But the real danger was in the words – why are you already challenging the Kingsmen?

Victoria Willoughby was many things, but an idiot wasn’t one of them. She scanned the table again, taking in Roxy’s tight lips, Percival’s failure to make eye contact, Caradoc’s politely raised eyebrow. And then her eyes landed on Eggsy, who was flushed with anger and his hands were gripping the armrests compulsively.

“I must have been misinformed,” was her only response. “I revoke my prior statement.”

“Oh, very good,” said Harry, lounging back on his chair. “I do hate miscommunications.”

“Moving on…”

Things had not improved since that day nearly a month ago, Eggsy mused, and he wasn’t sure what to do to change it. He always had on his best suits when he met with Arthur, affected his best accents. But her lip always curled when she saw him.

And now this, thought Eggsy, still headed toward the shop. A mission in East London. Again. He had been getting some truly terrible missions. They all required him in jeans and a hat, with his Cockney accent in full force. He had been given roughly thirteen missions since the new Arthur had been assigned. She was the one tasked with handing out missions, as it was an official duty of the Arthur position.

When Eggsy cautiously brought it up to Merlin, he simply shrugged. “She’s new, lad,” he said. “Give her time to get used to your skill set. Pretty soon she’ll realize your driving skills and calm head. Then you’ll be where you should be.”

“Fuck that, Merlin,” said Eggsy. “I don’t want to keep doing shitty assignments. I’ve done shitty fucking assignments from the start. I want some good ones now, yeah?”

“Get the chip off your shoulder, lad. You’re a green agent. And you’re lucky to even have this job.”

Lucky to even have this job. Eggsy would be bitterer if it wasn’t true. As it was, he was still obediently trekking down to the shop at nine o’clock at night, leaving his baby sister behind with a crappy babysitter (no offense, Jamal). What he’d really like to be doing is tracking down his mother and punching the shit out of Dean. But no. He was about to don a hat and jacket and pretend to be a tosser to get some fucking information.

There was no one in the shop when he arrived – a pity, he loved the chance to sit a moment by Dagonet and shoot the breeze with him, he was such an interesting man for someone who ran the front of the shop – and he headed straight for dressing room two. Minutes later, the bullet train was pulling in to the Mansion.

Eggsy had a terrible habit of getting sidetracked on his way to Merlin. People would pass him by, and of course he needed to ask after Scarlett’s sister – “Still in the hospital with that broken arm, luv? She doing any better? Give her my best wishes,” – or Daniel’s kid – “Already talking? Ah, man, my sister didn’t start talking till she was way older than that, mate. You’re gonna have a smart kid,” – and, when he saw Gawain slinking away from him, he couldn’t give up the opportunity to give him some good-natured ribbing – “Oi, I heard that you let a mark tie you to the bed and leave you there. Leave you there. Gawain, you’re an agent, not an actor in a bad porno,” – until, finally, he was outside the dining room.

Five minutes late.

“Cor,” he said, slipping into the room. “Sorry I’m late, guv. I don’t have an excuse.”

Merlin gave him a sharp, searching look while Arthur’s mouth twitched, presumably in disgust. Eggsy ignored it in favor of sitting in his usual place, adjusting his glasses on his face. “Mission? East London?”

“We’re reassigning you,” said Arthur, a slight hesitation in her voice. She did not look at Merlin, but Eggsy had the sudden sense that it had not been her idea.

“You’re going on a honeypot mission instead,” said Merlin. He typed something on his clipboard and a picture of a lady popped up on screen.

Could be worse, thought Eggsy, looking at the woman’s picture. In his experience – and from the stories of the other Kingsmen – honeypot missions were rarely with people who were actually good-looking. And, Eggsy thought slyly, he doubted that this bird would be tying him up and leaving him.

She had an abundance of orange, curly hair, with a concentration of freckles around her nose and cheeks. He could tell that the freckles continued down her chest. She had a gap-toothed smile, but kind eyes. Eggsy could work with it.

“Objective?” he asked, flipping open the folder Merlin slid over to him.

“She’s Diana Yates, the sister of Timothy Yates, a corporate mogul we believe is secretly a hitman. It’s suspected that he’s begun to target royalty, which is why we need to confirm that he is a threat and eliminate him accordingly. Your objective is to make a connection with her, using any means necessary – that does include sexual relations – and then mine data from her computer, in case she has any information on his activities. You are to mine the data without her realizing, as we intend to use your connection to later potentially target Yates himself.”

“Is she dangerous?”

“We believe that Yates may have taught her a few techniques, but we’re not overly worried,” said Merlin. “If you don’t blow your cover, that shouldn’t be much of a problem anyway.”

Eggsy inclined his head, still scanning the documents. “Sounds simple. I’ll do my best, guv. Where’s this gonna be at? I didn’t change into my suit because I thought I’d be in East London.”

“It’ll be at a higher-end club, so you’ll need your suit,” said Merlin. “Good luck, ‘Paul.’”

Eggsy flipped a page and discovered that, yes, his codename would be Paul for this mission. Paul Smith. Because that didn’t sound suspicious.

“Cheers,” he said, saluting the two with the folder before standing up. Merlin nodded in dismissal, already turning back to his clipboard. Arthur said and did nothing, simply staring at Eggsy until he retreated from the room in silence.

He took the opportunity before his ride got there to change into a new bespoke suit. Soft black with barely-there off-white pinstripes, paired with a crisp white shirt and an eye-popping metallic purple tie, and, as always, a pair of oxfords (no broguing). He settled his glasses on his face while he ran some product through his hair, smiling at his reflection. Not his best suit, by far, but he couldn’t help but love the feel of brand new suits.

Harry, he was sure, would wince at his tie. Harry preferred understated ties, often turning his posh nose up at Eggsy’s metallic colors. But, honestly, sometimes Eggsy had to wear them. Had to sneak something that wasn’t stifling into his wardrobe. His favorite was a rubber duck-yellow. Bit of an eyesore, but it was worth it for the look on Harry’s face when he first put it on.

A soft beep on his glasses announced the arrival of his car, so Eggsy gave himself one last wink in the mirror before setting off on his mission.

He reread the case file on the way over, mouthing through his alias and trying to commit it to memory. Roxy, he thought in a surly manner, was often given missions hours before she had to leave, giving her ample time to memorize necessary information. Not that she needed it – her eidetic memory often took care of that for her. But Eggsy was usually given the space of a car ride to get down what he needed. Without the convenient eidetic memory (though he was still brilliant, don’t doubt him on that!).

“All right, Eggsy?” asked Jeeves, his driver. When he had first introduced himself, Eggsy had said, “You havin’ me on, mate? What the fuck is your real name?”

But he had simply smiled and replied, “Jeeves.”

Eggsy was 85% sure it wasn’t his real name, and that he had a driver codename. But, until he learned otherwise, Eggsy called him Jeeves. He also knew next to nothing about him, which made conversations sparse and awkward.

Eggsy usually tried talking to him anyway, but, other than a mutual guilty love of McDonald’s (Jeeves was always willing to drive through, even if he harrumphed about it), Eggsy couldn’t connect.

“Yeah, mate. Just trying to get these details down. I’m supposed to be sugaring up some bird named Diane.”

“Ah,” said Jeeves, sounding disproportionately wise for only saying one syllable.

“You got a partner at home?”

Jeeves smiled vaguely in the mirror. “We’re almost to the club.”

“’Course, mate. ‘Course.”

Jeeves stopped in front of a building set slightly apart from the others on the strip. Painted a tasteful tan with a blue cursive sign reading Lavinia’s Lounge, there was a long line winding out the door and almost down the block.

Eggsy had a heart-stopping moment where he wondered how he was going to get in, before he remembered that his alias was on the VIP list. Old habits die hard, and he would never forget the time when he was twenty-two and ejected from a semi-posh club for having his hat “too askew,” even after waiting the majority of the night to get in. Ryan and Jamal had faithfully followed him out, but the night had been ruined, and Eggsy had sworn off clubs and lounges and stuck to bars instead.

“Good luck, sir,” said Jeeves as Eggsy left the car.

“Thanks, mate. I think there’s a McDonald’s nearby if you want to kip off for a bit.”

Jeeves smiled vaguely and pulled away.

Eggsy, feeling distinctly out of place despite his bespoke suit, put all of his bravado into his walk and sauntered up to the front bouncer. “Paul Smith,” he announced, his voice over-loud, and he gave a look to the two women standing at the front of the line like they should recognize him. They tittered, but otherwise didn’t engage him.

“Right this way, sir,” said the bouncer, gesturing to the door.

Eggsy took a deep breath and entered.

Despite calling itself a “lounge,” the place was clearly a club. Music was pounding, and Eggsy could feel the vibrations through his bespoke shoes. There were women in cocktail dresses scattered throughout the club, both seated at tables and relaxing on overstuffed couches. Almost all the men were in suits, except a few who were clearly drunk and had lost their blazers somewhere between buzzed and smashed.

It didn’t take long for Eggsy to spot Diane. Her hair gave her away rather quickly. She was also surrounded by the most raucous group in the joint. They kept cheering, encouraging each other to down shots, and occasionally would get up and dance frenetically on the dance floor.

Eggsy surveyed the group while he settled down at the bar area. He hated approaching huge groups like that – who wouldn’t? – and it was clear Diane was out for a night with friends, not to find companionship. But, judging on appearance alone (always dangerous to do), Eggsy could guess that she didn’t have too many male suitors attempting to take her home each night.

Eggsy tilted his head and ordered a martini. Salomea, his typical handler when Merlin was otherwise occupied, muttered in his ear, “Any idea what you’re going to do?”

“Fuck her,” said Eggsy succinctly.

“Well, yes,” said Salomea, laughter in her voice. “I meant, how are you going to get her in your bed? She’s out of your league. Like every other woman on this planet.”

“I resent that,” said Eggsy. “I banged a princess once, you know.”

“Everybody knows about your victory anal,” said Salomea. “She was clearly fucked in the head.”

“No, she was fucked in the ass,” said Eggsy, congratulating himself on his wit.

“Really?” said Salomea, but Eggsy could hear the reluctant laughter in her voice. “If you’re not careful, I’m going to invite everyone over to watch when you gotta perform.”

Eggsy shrugged. “Had worse, mate. Not much into voyeurism myself, but I dated this girl once that loved –”

“Don’t finish that statement!”

“Yes ma’am.” Eggsy saw his opening – Diane, standing up, stretching, preparing to go to the bathroom. She was with two friends, but Eggsy could work with a smaller number of them.

He moved fast – one moment he was at the bar, the next moment, he was bumping gently into Diane, spilling his martini on her shoes (not on the dress, he didn’t want to piss her off).

“Oi! What the fuck!” said Diane, in a surprisingly thick Cockney accent. It threw Eggsy for a loop for half a second, because the papers hadn’t listed her accent.

“Sorry, ma’am,” said Eggsy, politely. “Oh dear. Here, let me buy you a drink to make up for that.” He looped his arm effortlessly around hers, tugging her an inch away from her friends. Her eyes narrowed ominously, making it clear the manhandling was unappreciated. Instead of making a big deal out of it, Eggsy simply dropped her arm, smiling his best innocent smile. “I can grab you some napkins to take care of those shoes, yes? I hope I didn’t damage them. They’re quite lovely.”

Her eyes unnarrowed, just slightly. “Thank you,” she said grudgingly. “I’m drinking straight whiskeys, but for your fuck up, you get to buy me an Irish car bomb. And you gotta do one with me, because I ain’t doing one by myself and my friends are all fucked.”

Eggsy let his lips turn up, just slightly. “An Irish car bomb?” he said, like it wasn’t in his usual repertoire. The number of times he had slugged those back, Jamal and Ryan cheering him on…

“Never had one before? You’re gonna shit your pants, guv,” she said, smirking. “Make you regret spilling your foofy drink on my clean shoes.”

It was that simple. The next thing he knew, his head was tipped back as the beer poured down his throat, Diane next to him, doing the same. Her friends surrounded them, cheering and whooping as they slammed the glasses down in tandem.

Eggsy turned to Diane, planning on making some comment about making it through the car bomb, when he caught her expression. Predatory, looking him up and down, her intentions written right across her face… plus just a tad bit of insecurity, the insecurity that Eggsy had suspected from the start. The why-is-this-attractive-man-here sort of insecurity.

The rest of the night passed in a whirlwind, a blur of color, sight, sound, and sensation. There were highlights –

Eggsy, leaning towards Diane, slipping a skilled hand around her waist, whispering, “You’ve got a wicked sense of humor, dear,” and her corresponding smile.

Diane, pulling him aside, her smile lighting her face, saying, “You ain’t no gentleman, Paul, even if you’re pretending to be. You’re too cool to be posh…”

Walking to the bathroom, needing to piss rather badly, only to have been followed by Diane into the (thankfully) empty bathroom. Salomea’s shocked laughter when Eggsy took Diane right up against a stall door.

And, of course, the moment that Eggsy and Diane go back to Diane’s friends, both thoroughly messy, and telling them that they were quitting for the night, thank you, and see you guys later. They ignored their catcalls as they slipped out into the night.

Eggsy held Diane’s hand while they were in a cab, headed to her place. She kept leaving small kisses on his neck. Diane wasn’t really Eggsy’s type, but she had charm, and he had certainly slept with worse. People with no personality.

Plus, she was just so eager. It was wonderful to have such an enthusiastic partner. She kept panting into his neck, or letting out these breathy moans anytime he would do something pleasing. Her orgasm face, while a little over-the-top, made Eggsy feel like he was doing a spectacular job.

And Eggsy had to admit, the little gap-toothed smiles she kept shooting up at him were actually rather pleasant.

The taxi pulled up in front of a spacious, looming, three-story house. It was an imposing brick building, with an impressive gate surrounding it. Said gate creaked open when Diane peered out of the window and smiled at a camera, probably hidden. Eggsy was a little distracted, on account of Diane rubbing her hand on his balls.

They pulled in and the driver dropped them off at the front door. Diane threw some cash at the driver. Eggsy didn’t have to be a genius to know that she had overpaid, but the driver simply inclined his head in thanks as Diane pulled Eggsy up out of the cab.

“C’mon, baby,” she said, grinning at him. “Gonna rock your world.”

“Oh yeah?” said Eggsy. “You’re going to have to prove that, dear.”

Stepping into the front room, Eggsy didn’t have a moment to take stock of his surroundings. Diane pushed him, hard, against the now-closed front door, kissing for all that she was worth. There was a little too much tongue and not enough finesse, but Eggsy wound his hands through her crazy hair all the same, trying to give as good as he got.

“I don’t think posh fuckers kiss like that,” Diane said, leaning back to gasp for air. She drew in deep breaths, her eyes scanning his face like a shark scenting blood in the water. It was not particularly attractive to see that on a sexual partner’s face.

“Just wait till you see the posh fucker fuck,” said Eggsy. In his ear, Salomea chuckled.

“You’re so unbelievably sexy,” said Diane, her fingers digging deep grooves into his arms. “Fuck, I don’t think I’ve ever fucked someone with a face like yours. Fuck. The things I’m going to do to you, Paul, you don’t even know.”

Eggsy wasn’t sure what response Diane was looking for there, so he just leaned forward, capturing her lips again. In his ear, Salomea whispered, “Don’t forget the data, Paul. Get her asleep as soon as possible and then move on, yeah?”

Eggsy gave an affirmative sound as he ripped his lips away from Diane’s, like he liked what they were doing. He started peppering her jawbone and neck with light kisses, fumbling a little with her shirt.

“You wanna try something different?” Diane asked as Eggsy finally freed her from her shirt.

“Uh?” said Eggsy, distracted by a pair of perfectly good tits.

“I can put my feet behind my head.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. But I ain’t never had a one night stand before. You’re my first. Everyone else has been people I know, or keep seeing. So I can’t be adventurous, yeah? But you’re so fucking hot. And I’m thinking, why not try a new position with this hot fucking man?”

Eggsy considered this, and then figured there was nothing wrong with that. “Okay, yeah. I’m down for that.”

Diane’s face lit up. “Fuck yeah.” She pushed at his blazer demandingly, and Eggsy let it drop to the floor.

“We gonna make it to a bed?” he asked when his shirt also joined his jacket.

“Eventually,” said Diane. “I want to see your cock first.”

In a matter of moments, Diane had Eggsy completely naked. She swept eyes over him – top to bottom – in a way that almost made Eggsy feel self-conscious. But then Diane was toeing off her pencil skirt and throwing a pair of cotton panties at him. They weren’t even remotely sexy – they seemed like knickers that had been bought in a pack of six at Asda rather than selected for an adult – and they had childish purple flowers decorating them. Eggsy had to tamp down on the urge to laugh.

Diane, clad only in her bra now, reached out and petted Eggsy’s cock. Eggsy wished he could come up with another term to describe that motion, but literally – she petted it, almost like it were a dog or something. Her face looked feral, and Eggsy was beginning to wonder if there was something up with this girl when she grabbed his cock and began to tug on it, backing away.

Holy shit. This girl was leading Eggsy to the bedroom by his cock.

There were so many weird elements to this picture – Diane, still in a bra, Eggsy being led by the cock, and their clothes discarded nowhere near the bedroom. But Eggsy rolled with it. He was mentally flipping through past sexual encounters, desperately trying to find one that he could call weirder than this.

When they reached the bedroom, Diane finally released him. She sauntered over to the bed and unclipped her bra, throwing it somewhere across the room. She turned and cupped both breasts, grinning at him. “Like what you see?”

“Fuck yeah,” said Eggsy, no hesitation. Her breasts were easily the best part of her, excuse his indecency.

Diane grinned at him and scooted back on the bed. “Depending on how often you can get it up tonight, you can titty fuck me too.”

“I ain’t gonna say no to that,” said Eggsy.

“Huh,” said Diane as Eggsy crawled onto the bed and climbed over her. “Your accent changed a bit.”

“What’s that?” said Eggsy, pretending not to hear her. He felt his erection flag, just the slightest, at knowing he had slipped up. In his ear, Salomea sighed and said, “You’re getting too into this, Paul.”

“Nothing,” said Diane, unsurely. “Just thought… it’s nothing. Hey, how do you feel about spanking?”

It took several rounds of surprisingly kinky sex to finally wear Diane out. As her eyelids drooped, she splayed herself over his chest, making these tired murmurs. She let out a long sigh and said, “Hey, if you’re still here in the morning, we can have morning sex. I bought some anal beads the other day, never thought I’d use them on anyone but me, but… we can try them, if you want.”

Eggsy patted her head, still reeling from the other stuff they had already done.

Within moments, Diane’s started snuffle-snoring. Eggsy stared up at the ceiling, feeling – not traumatized, that’s not the word… perhaps off-kilter? He wasn’t sure how to describe it. Shocked, maybe. He definitely hadn’t expected sex quite like what Diane had provided.

Eggsy gave it about a half an hour before he gently extricated himself from the bed. Padding quietly out into the hallway, he eventually located his suit jacket. He got out the usb and headed back into the bedroom. Checking to make sure Diane was still asleep – she was – he stuck the usb into her computer and lounged while Salomea said in his ear, “Okay, give me a moment…”

It took five minutes for Salomea to give him the all-clear. He returned the usb to his jacket and then headed to the bathroom. Shutting the door firmly behind him, he was finally free to talk back to Salomea.

“So,” he said as he peed – handlers saw much worse, really – and washed his hands, “that was the kinkiest sex I’ve ever had.”

“I didn’t want to say anything in case that was what you were into,” said Salomea. “You were such a trooper, rolling with the punches. But I’m not going to lie. I almost shit my pants when she actually got her feet up behind her head. And I’m sorry, but what was that with the gag? For someone who’s apparently never tried any of that out, she sure had a lot of ideas.”

“Not saying any of that was weird,” said Eggsy. “Cause honestly? It wasn’t – I mean, I’ve had some pretty kinky birds and blokes before. Wasn’t sure if the situation was weird or if it was her, or just me maybe…”

“I dunno,” said Salomea. “But I think you should get an employee of the month award. Also, I’m so sorry, protocol broke a little there…”

“What?”

“Well, okay, you know the regular honeypot protocol. The handler is located at a station separated from the rest of the handlers, in order to protect your privacy. But you know there isn’t any guarantee that someone might accidentally see a thing or two…”

“Who saw?” asked Eggsy, his skin prickling uncomfortably.

Salomea was silent for a moment, before admitted, “Well, it was Gawain. I didn’t notice him watching at first. But then he called over Caradoc, and when I told them off, they weren’t really scared of me.”

“How long did they watch, the perverted wankers?!”

“Not long. They came in about halfway through the feet-behind-the-head thing, and they left sometime around the titty fucking.”

“Cor,” said Eggsy. “I’m going to get so much shit about this.”

“That’s what they were saying,” said Salomea, a little glumly. “Gawain was particularly triumphant. Something about payback for a bondage comment?”

“What a prick,” said Eggsy without any real heat, because honestly? He was kinda asking for it. He had given Gawain quite a bit of shit over a private honeypot mission.

“Eggsy, I’m so sorry,” said Salomea. “It was really inappropriate of them, but I couldn’t get them to leave, and I didn’t want to draw more attention to you or else I would’ve called Merlin over…”

“You’re fine. You did the best you could,” said Eggsy. Jesus. He had his glasses on the entire time they were fucking (Diane insisted, and official Kingsmen rules were that honeypot missions should be recorded as much as the agent is comfortable with, just in case they need the evidence). If they saw the titty-fucking, then they had had a nice, up-close view of Eggsy’s dick.

Kingsmen were close to each other by necessity. Even though he had only been working there for six months, he had already seen Percival, Bedivere, Lamorak, and – for some odd reason – Merlin completely nude. Roxy he got to see nude almost daily during training, on account of the complete lack of privacy in those close quarters. Yet, seeing them showering after a harsh mission is entirely different than being treated to someone’s erect penis sliding around a random girl’s tits.

Eggsy grimaced into the mirror so Salomea could see it before saying, “It’s whatever, bruv. I’m going back in there to get some sleep, yeah? I’ll have the morning sex – hopefully without the anal beads – and keep my rapport with this girl for future missions, and then I’ll report in tomorrow morning, yeah?”

“Beautiful. I’m online with you for the next five hours, and then shifts change. I think either Merlin takes over, or maybe Quentin?”

“Prep them either way,” said Eggsy. “Don’t want them surprised if they get treated to my anus tomorrow.”

“I’ll do my best to prep them,” said Salomea dryly, clearly aware of his double meaning.

“Night, babe.”

“Sleep well.”

The next morning Eggsy did have to contend with the anal beads, though they actually turned out to be a fairly enjoyable time. If he had Merlin cackling in his ear while it happened, then shit happens, yeah?

When he slunk into headquarters at seven in the morning, his suit rumpled and in need of a serious dry cleaning, he was hoping not to run into anyone. He was limping, just the slightest – he suspected that Diane had maybe got a little too enthusiastic with the beads, or misused them some way – but otherwise, the only outward sign he had had such a wild night was his disheveled clothes. Regardless, he was in desperate need of a shower. He stunk of sex and sweat. No one needed to smell that on him.

Of course, that was the moment that he ran into Harry and Arthur.

“Mornin’,” he said, giving a lazy salute.

Harry’s lips quirked into a grin. “Good morning, Paul. Successful honeypot?”

He was nothing but polite, but Eggsy hadn’t told Harry he was going on a honeypot or what his codename had been for the mission. So. It had already spread around. He was going to fucking kill Gawain.

“Got what I needed,” is all Eggsy replied with.

“In more ways than one,” said Harry.

“Fuck you,” said Eggsy, laughing. Harry could always be depending on to make sly, inappropriate jokes.

Harry opened his mouth, ostensibly to respond, but Arthur cut rather aggressively in. “I see you have kept Galahad apprised of your mission. I was unaware it was policy to reveal individual missions before actually going on them.”

Eggsy was thrown for a loop for long seconds. Thankfully, Harry, as ever, had a response: “I heard from someone else, actually. It was an accident it got out. I apologize for the breach in decorum. I had no idea that my lighthearted jest would make you so uncomfortable.”

Eggsy mentally cheered in his mind as Arthur blinked once at Harry before ignoring his statement entirely. “Well, Eggsy, this is perfect timing. We need to call an emergency Kingsman meeting. Come with us, please.”

“Oh,” said Eggsy, startled. “Uh, it might be better if I grab a shower beforehand, really, I’m a bit of a mess…”

“Nonsense,” said Arthur briskly. “To the room.”

Eggsy fell into step beside Harry, grimacing. The shit he would get from Gawain would be legendary. Or, well, at least the other agents. Gawain was fairly reserved. Kay might have a field day, though. He glanced at Harry, only to discover Harry poorly disguising a grin. Since Harry was a professional spy who had been doing sneaky work for years, Eggsy knew that he was letting Eggsy see him laughing on purpose.

Eggsy nudged Harry’s arm. Harry slanted a look at him, barely turning his head, and Eggsy had to clamp his mouth shut in order not to laugh at loud. Okay, so he had a weird mission with some kinky sex. But honestly? With Harry looking at him like that, he could only see the humor in the situation.

Even walking into the dining room didn’t take the shine off the morning. He sat down in his regular seat, before subtly adjusting so his ass wouldn’t ache so much. Kay, Bedivere, Roxy, and Harry were the physically present members. Kay – who sat next to Eggsy – doesn’t miss the motion, and says primly, “Rough night?”

The smile twitching across Kay’s face gave him away. Eggsy said, flippantly, “Bruv, you should’ve been there for the morning bout. I’m lucky my ass is intact.”

Gawain, in hologram form (he must’ve taken a mission in the morning), said, “You seemed to be quite enjoying yourself.”

Kay allowed a grin to spread across his face. “I’ve never heard of a honeypot quite as… flexible.”

“She was creative. Not creative enough to tie me up and leave me, though.”

Gawain frowned.

“What’s going on?” Roxy leaned forward. She raised one perfect eyebrow, eyeing his rumpled suit.

“Eggsy had a rather strenuous mission last night,” said Kay.

Holograms began to appear in Eggsy’s sight. Caradoc, from down the table, grinned at Eggsy and gave him a nod. Caradoc could always be depended on for a grin and chuckle; he was, without a doubt, the most easy-going of the Kingsmen.

Across him, Bedivere frowned. “I understand what you are insinuating,” said Bedivere, “and I think it is most inappropriate to discuss it in this manner.”

Eggsy, deciding the gentleman thing wasn’t for him today, said, “Bruv, I just had anal beads in my arse less than two hours ago. I literally cannot sit through your political correctness.”

Just as Eggsy said that, Percival’s hologram appeared. He blinked twice, and said, “Sounds like we’re all having a lovely morning.”

Roxy slapped a hand over her mouth. Caradoc, foregoing formality, tilted his head back and let out a long, belly-shaking laugh. Harry coughed delicately and schooled his face into a passive expression. Various expressions ranged across the other Kingsmen’s faces – the only two people missing so far were Gareth and Tristan – but mostly they were amused. After years in this business, it was hard to shock such a seasoned crowd, but they took enjoyment where they could get it.

There were only two people who looked unamused. Bedivere, who hated to be the butt of jokes (and, of course, hated Eggsy for a reason that Eggsy had yet to discern). And, of course…

Arthur frowned. “Mr. Unwin,” she said, her voice cracking like a whip. Instantly, the expressions slid off of everyone’s faces like magic, leaving everyone looking impassive and professional. “I request that you keep your interactions with fellow coworkers appropriate. We have yet to debrief on your most recent mission. This is an unacceptable broach of protocol.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” said Eggsy, conceding the point. Gareth popped into view as Eggsy turned to Bedivere and said, “I apologize for the inappropriate image of my arse that I put in your head.”

Gareth’s expression didn’t even change. These agents were good.

“Thank you, Mr. Unwin,” said Arthur. “We are now only waiting on – ah, yes, Tristan, welcome. I called this emergency meeting to address a communication we just received from MI6. Apparently, there has been a leak somewhere in our agency, and MI6 have been made aware of chatter about the Kingsmen.”

Immediately, any lingering humor in the room instantly evaporated. There was a knock on the door, and, with perfect timing, Merlin slid into the room.

“The chatter indicates that these people – whoever they might be – have little to no knowledge about what Kingsmen actually is, or what we do. However, they know of our existence, and they are under the impression that we are a covert intelligence agency. How they got this information is our primary concern.” Merlin fixed each agent with a beady stare. “As you are all aware, our organization was recently breached after the incident with Richmond Valentine.” Merlin gestured to the mirror, so Eggsy and the others adjusted their glasses accordingly.

On the mirror, Merlin had an image of Valentine projected, along with the late Arthur. “Our leak was taken care of. However, we aren’t sure if Chester King revealed our organization to other people, or if a new leak exists. We are informing you in case you come across any information – during any of your missions – that might indicate why or how this has happened.”

“We wish for you to keep an eye and an ear out,” interjected Arthur. “We cannot have aliases or covers blown. It is imperative that we bring Kingsmen out of the spotlight.”

“Have all departments undergone polygraph testing, to ensure that the leak does not originate with any hired help?” Percival asked smoothly, addressing Merlin.

“Yes, everyone underwent it this morning. We are also going to request that each of you undergo similar questioning,” said Merlin.

Polygraph testing was a required entrance exam to the Kingsmen, so this was not troubling to Eggsy.

“We also are going to request that each of you undergo psychiatric testing,” said Arthur. “Just to be sure that you are all emotionally and mentally fit to be in the field.”

Was it just Eggsy, or did Arthur’s eyes linger on him when she said “mentally fit”?

“Questions?” asked Arthur. When no one raised any, she said, “All right. Dismissed.”

The holograms promptly disappeared, ostensibly sending their likenesses off to complete missions. Harry stood from his chair immediately, while Kay and Roxy were slightly slower to move.

Merlin said, “Eggsy, if you have a moment? I’ll debrief you on your titillating mission.”

Kay, finally, full-out laughed.

By the time that Merlin finished debriefing him and Eggsy had completed the necessary medical tests (required after each honeypot to ensure no sexually transmitted diseases), it was nearly noon. Eggsy still had paperwork he needed to finish, but he slipped off to get home and change his clothes.

Walking into his flat, he was treated to the smell of burning food and human feces, along with the wailing of a child. Wrinkling his nose, he dealt with the first one: turning off a small pan on the stove that had once been making grilled cheese, but was quickly burning the sandwich. A few more moments and it probably would have been on fire.

The next source was clearly Daisy. He found the young girl, crying to the point of screaming, sitting on the floor in the sitting room. The telly was on, with some reality program on the screen. His mum was nowhere in sight.

It was old hat for Eggsy to swing Daisy into his hands and trot over to the changing station. It only took a few moves on his part to get her cleaned up and ready for the day. “We’re going to have to potty train you soon,” said Eggsy, but it was lackluster at best. Daisy was developing rather slowly. She was behind on both language skills and her walking skills.

The burning food and crying child did not prepare him for the sight of his mother.

“Eggsssy!” Michelle Unwin, grinning broadly, held out her hands for a hug when she stumbled out of her room. She reeked of alcohol and her hair hung scraggly in her face, unwashed. “My son! Where you been?”

“Work,” he said, testily. He dodged her outstretched hands, ignoring her resulting pout. “Where were you last night?”

“Last night?” She was slurring slightly and nearly stumbled as she began to trot over to the kitchen. “Oh, I was with a friend. Oh bollocks! My lunch is burned! Eggsy, why did you let my lunch burn?”

“When did you get in?”

“Just a few hours ago, I think. Your one friend was still here. Lovely boy, that Jared.”

“Jamal. You were out the entire night?”

“Eggsy,” said Michelle, finally cottoning on to his tone. “I don’t need a lecture right now, okay?”

“Are you still drunk from last night, or did you start this morning?”

“Excuse me?”

“Had’t’ve started drinking this morning,” pronounced Eggsy, eyeing his mum, “if this were still from last night, you’d’ve passed out by now. What happened, mum? Came home and realized you fucked up? Wanted to forget?”

“How dare you talk to me that way!” Michelle wobbled towards Eggsy, her eyes flashing. “I’m your mum!”

“What about Daisy, huh?”

“She was fine!”

“She was crying!”

“You fixed her!”

“Fixed? Fixed? Mum, you’ve gone mental! She ain’t a tool!”

“Listen, Eggsy,” said Michelle. She tilted precariously. Eggsy reached out to steady her but aborted the movement, suddenly hyper-aware of Daisy still in his arms. He bounced Daisy once, twice, before heading to her room. “Eggsy! Where the fuck are you going?”

“Putting Daisy down for a nap,” he snapped. “Give me a moment, and then we’ll talk, yeah?”

Once in Daisy’s room, Eggsy used the moment to strategically gather himself. Taking a few deep breaths, he tickled Daisy’s stomach while he ran through the facts. Michelle was drunk. Unfortunately, this wasn’t anything too new. Michelle had a propensity to get a little drunk or high, but Eggsy hadn’t seen her get this bad since they lived with Dean. And it had always been when Eggsy had been around to watch Daisy. Never once had Michelle gotten twisted when someone else couldn’t care for the child.

Eggsy had been suspecting for a while now that Michelle was still seeing Dean. Why, Eggsy himself couldn’t fathom, but the book on spousal abuse that he nicked from the library explained that the relationship was more tangled than that. So, it wasn’t too surprising Michelle was back him. Even if it did make Eggsy’s heart hurt a little.

Was Eggsy just not good enough? He had a job – a fucking awesome one – and he bought a flat for Michelle and his sister. He was the one going out and getting groceries. He was sitting down, like an adult, and paying all the bills and balancing the chequebook and taking care of things. He vacuumed the other day and wiped down the counters and organized Daisy’s toys by color.

Eggsy took another breath. Enough of that talk. He knew that it wasn’t that he wasn’t enough, he needed to stop thinking like that. His mum was just a little wonky, is all. Things weren’t all going to be fixed with the wave of a magic wand. He needed to be here, supportive, understanding. Yelling wasn’t going to fix this.

Making a decision, Eggsy liberated Daisy from her crib. She didn’t look too tired anyway. Collecting her things, Eggsy trotted out to the sitting room. He found Michelle, on the couch, nearly dozing.

“I’m going back to work,” said Eggsy. “I’m taking Daisy with me. I can’t leave her here with you.” Eggsy dumped Daisy on the floor near some of her toys – bought with Eggsy’s money – and headed to the kitchen.

“What’re doing now?” asked Michelle, leaning forward drowsily.

Eggsy didn’t respond. Instead, he opened up the liquor cabinet and took out the tequila. He dumped it in the sink.

“Hey, what’re you doing!”

Eggsy continued to ignore Michelle as he dumped out half a bottle of vodka next.

“Eggsy, those cost money! You’re pouring money down the sink!”

“Let me be clear,” said Eggsy, and wow, he had never heard his voice quite that cold before, “it’s my money I’m pouring down the sink. In my flat. There’s to be no more alcohol in this house, not around Daisy.”

“You can’t do that!”

Eggsy turned to the refrigerator. There were bottles of beer lined up that he pulled out, popping the tops and pouring them out too. “You’re not in a position to disagree. Go to sleep, mum. Get the alcohol out of your system. And you better be ashamed of yourself when you wake up.”

He heard a rustling and a long pause. When his mum spoke, her voice was thick with tears. “You can’t talk to me that way.”

Eggsy, finished now pouring out the alcohol (that he could see, but he doubted that his mum would have bothered to hide any), finally turned to look at her. She was blinking back tears, her mouth pinched and her hands wringing wrinkles into the hem of her shirt. She snuffled pathetically.

“I shouldn’t have to talk to you that way,” said Eggsy, quietly. “I don’t want to see you drunk around Daisy. Ever. Do you understand?”

“You can’t talk to me that way,” she repeated.

“Never again, mum. I’m serious. Daisy deserves better.”

Michelle sniffled once more. “I’m going to bed.”

“Good idea,” said Eggsy. “We’ll have this conversation when you’re sober.”

Michelle ducked her head as she stumbled away. Eggsy sighed before collecting Daisy again. He wasn’t sure he was allowed to bring his sister into work, but he didn’t have much of a choice. If this behavior continued, he was going to have to arrange for daycare. But that didn’t account for his missions after hours…

Eggsy pondered his predicament as he walked to Savile Row. Daisy was cooing as he walked, and he arranged her carefully so he wasn’t wrinkling her polka dotted dress. Thankfully, today he was only supposed to be doing paperwork after his honeypot mission. The downside that no one told him about being a spy is the ridiculous proliferation of paperwork after every mission. Every decision, every thought on a mission needed to be justified, explained, and documented. It was a bitch, especially for longer missions. Even the one last night would take a few hours.

The worry was that a mission would come in for Eggsy during the afternoon, and then what could he do? He didn’t have a babysitter. Michelle wasn’t employed, and in the past, it was always either him or Michelle looking over her. This wasn’t like JB, who could be left on his own for a day or two, provided that he had a stock of food and one of the other agents could swing by to let him out. Daisy was a human. She needed more attention than that.

Eggsy reached Savile Row. He hesitated for a few moments in front of the shop before sauntering in, like he was sure that bringing his sister to work was an acceptable thing.

From behind the counter, Dagonet looked up. His face didn’t change when he saw Daisy. “Bring family to work day?”

“Cheers,” said Eggsy, passing him by.

The great thing about the mansion was that it was so big that every agent got their own office. Eggsy had to admit, when he found that out and was led to his own office, he peed his pants a little. He never thought that he would have his own office, you know? He used to figure pushing drugs in a safer neighborhood was the biggest promotion he would ever have.

So maybe he went a little wild when he was faced with his own office. He researched office decorating ideas. Researched. Eggsy never researched anything before, not even when he was in school and required to.

He went out and bought an artificial plant, because a lot of websites noted that plants were common in offices. But, since he wasn’t going to be around to regularly water it, he figured fake was the way to go. He carefully put it on the windowsill, to make it seem like it was real. His window. With an awesome view of the countryside. He grinned when arranging his fake fern.

Another website recommended getting a scent diffuser. So he went around to various stores until he finally located one with a vanilla scent, because vanilla smelled excellent and wasn’t too girly. He plugged it in and set it to diffuse every half hour.

In case headquarters was ever compromised (it had never been in its history), it was discouraged against bringing in any personal affects. So instead of hanging pictures of him and Daisy, or him and his mates, he instead hung up pictures that Daisy had drawn for him. Still personal, really, but Eggsy figured it headquarters had been compromised then they probably already knew that he had a younger sister.

Finally, he brought in interesting knickknacks that he collected on missions. When he went to New Zealand, he bought a little kiwi bird keychain and a thimble that had a picture of Wellington’s cable car on it. He arranged these two things on the little shelves in the corner. After a mission in Chicago, he got a miniature sculpture of the Willis Tower (even though locals insisted it was still the Sears Tower). This went on the shelves, too. From Taiwan, he nipped into a ship in Taipei and came out with a fake calligraphic scroll that pictured Taiwan’s geography on it. This went next to the sculpture. Other places he went – Nigeria, Argentina, Tuvalu – also had similar souvenirs. These got placed, lovingly, on the shelves.

He knew that the other agents had books on their shelves. But Eggsy figured that he didn’t really have a collection, and he didn’t much want books anyway. He’d never read them while at work. But he could glance over to the kiwi bird and remember that he smooth talked New Zealand’s Acting Prime Minister into leaving their Parliament building, therefore avoiding his imminent assassination.

He tried to have other touches on his office, too. Things like a quirky lamp filled with seashells that he bought from a flea market down in the estates. He brought in a green stapler with a little dog cartoon painted on the top, because he figured every office needed a stapler.

Roxy, when she first walked into his office, took a long glance around. Eggsy was a little anxious – he tried so hard to make it real – but a little knot released in his chest when she simply raised one eyebrow and made a thoughtful, “Hm.” It sounded approving. Eggsy would take it.

Roxy hadn’t done anything to her office. When asked, she simply shrugged and said, “Don’t see the point. I don’t want to sit in an office, anyway.”

Eggsy took comfort in the homey nature of his office when he set Daisy down in it. He dropped her nappy bag by the mahogany desk and pulled out her favorite doll, which he had deliberately placed in the bag to make sure she was amused throughout the afternoon.

Daisy squealed when she saw the doll and made grabby-hands at it. Eggsy happily dropped the doll into her hands before retreating to his desk.

He quickly got into a routine – fill out paperwork, glance to Daisy, fill out paperwork, stop Daisy’s crying, fill out paperwork, change Daisy, fill out paperwork, feed Daisy, etc. It was actually a rather soothing routine.

“Hey, Eggsy –”

Gawain stopped, raising an eyebrow when he laid eyes on Daisy.

“A gentleman always knocks,” said Eggsy, pertly. He grinned at Gawain. “What’s up, bruv?”

“Wondered if I could borrow your stapler,” said Gawain. “Mine’s on the fritz.”

“Of course,” said Eggsy. He picked up his stapler and chucked it at Gawain, who caught it smoothly. Still smooth, he snapped some papers together before trotting to Eggsy’s desk and replacing it in its original spot.

“What’s with the kid?”

“What kid?” asked Eggsy, just to be contrary.

Gawain ignored him and scooped Daisy up. Daisy cooed and tugged on Gawain’s glasses. Gawain, who looked professional as always, simply plucked his glasses off his face and gave them to Daisy. She promptly put them in her mouth.

“Merlin’s gonna kill you, mate,” said Eggsy, finally giving up on paperwork for the moment.

“What’s her name?”

“Daisy.”

“Hello, Daisy,” said Gawain, seriously. “How are you today?”

Daisy giggled and waved Gawain’s glasses.

“I see,” said Gawain, like Daisy had seriously replied. “That’s lovely to hear.”

Eggsy smiled. He loved watching people interact positively with Daisy. It was always refreshing to get her some new socialization with good influences.

“You need someone to watch her for a bit while you finish up?” asked Gawain. “I can take care of her.”

“Sure, mate,” said Eggsy, not looking a gift horse in the mouth. “I already fed her just a bit ago, so she shouldn’t be hungry for a while. If she starts crying or gets to be a bother, just drop her by again, yeah? I’ll be here.”

Gawain nodded. He placidly collected Daisy’s doll before trotting out of the room.

Eggsy shook his head before returning to his paperwork. It took another two hours to finish everything up, because he unearthed some unfinished reports from a few earlier missions that he quickly knocked out while he was there. By the time he was done his back was twinging from laboring over the desk for so long, so he stretched, yawned, and gathered Daisy’s things, locking up the office behind him.

It didn’t take long to find Gawain. He was hunkered down in the tech department. Eggsy could tell immediately, because there were a circle of techs surrounding a madly giggling two-and-a-half-year-old. Eggsy could see Salomea in the pack, along with a couple of other handlers that he had worked with a few times. Merlin was hovering over one of the screens, bravely ignoring the group at his back, while a few of the techs working at the computers kept glancing over longingly, like they wanted to join.

Walking over, Eggsy could also see Lamorak in the group. He wasn’t sure how Daisy had attracted such a crowd, but she sat in the middle of everything, laughing. She was wearing a pair of glasses – a quick glance confirmed they were still Gawain’s – and she was surrounded by toys. Her doll was in the pile, along with a bunch of toy cars, a train, and (oddly enough) a stuffed parrot. She was currently pushing the cars around, making an incorrect whistling sound, while Gawain calmly pushed a car along with her and one of the techs pretended the train was cutting off their route.

When Daisy spotted him, she cackled and waved the car in the air. “Eggy!” she screamed. She stood up and took a few unsure, tottering steps towards him. While she was getting better at walking, she was a bit of a late learner and struggled to get the steps down.

“There’s my princess!” said Eggsy, sweeping her up into his arms easily. She squealed and pressed the car against his face, making the whistling sound as she pushed the car up his cheek and into his hair.

“Thanks for watching her, bruv,” said Eggsy, squatting down next to Gawain, Lamorak, and the techs, all of whom seemed absolutely enamored with Daisy.

“It was a pleasure,” said Gawain, and he sounded like he meant it. There was a level of warmth in his voice that Eggsy had never heard before. “If you ever need someone to watch her, let me know.”

“Thanks,” said Eggsy, a little thrown. “Oi, where did all these toys come from?”

“Well, I saw that she just had a doll,” said Salomea, a little shiftily. “And I figured that wasn’t fair. What if she wanted some other toys? All little girls should have some cars and trains, too. So I went out for a bit and picked a few up.”

Eggsy smiled. He did have a set of cars at home for her, but these looked much nicer. “Thanks, mate. I can pay you back –”

“Oh, no, it was bloody awesome just to see her playing with them. Really broke up the day.”

“Aight,” said Eggsy, letting it go. He turned his head toward Daisy, who now was running the car up and down his arm. “Did you have fun, princess?”

Daisy only knew about twenty words, but she grinned at him and said, “Eggy!”

Eggsy grinned. “Sounds like a wonderful day, yeah?”

“Eggy!”

“Wonderful,” said Eggsy. He grinned at the rest of them. “She behave herself?”

“She was an angel,” said Gawain. “She’ll be a real delight when she’s older.”

“That’s nice to hear.” It really was. Coming from the estates… He wanted to give Daisy more than what he had. He wanted her to be a “delight.” He wished he was a delight.

The group began to reluctantly shuffle, a few of the techs forlornly returning to their stations. Eggsy supposed it was a nice break for them, something innocent to interrupt the bloodbath that some missions turned into.

Lamorak walked over and peered into Daisy’s eyes. “You have a nice day, okay?” he said, patting her on the head.

Daisy gave him a happy grin and said, “Hi!”, another word that she knew.

“No, Daisy,” said Eggsy, beginning to bounce her lightly on his hip. “We’re about to leave. Can you say ‘bye’?”

Daisy’s smile began to fade, because she understood what bye meant. But she waved the car in the air and said, “Bye!”

“Bye, Daisy,” said Lamorak.

Gawain and Salomea also came over. “Bye, Daisy,” said Gawain, clearly.

Daisy stared at him. Her lower lip wobbled. She had clearly taken a shine to Gawain in the two hours. She didn’t want to leave him.

Eggsy bounced her. “What do you say, Daisy?”

Daisy sniffled.

Eggsy, sensing what was about to happen, said, “Ah, shit,” just as Daisy began to cry. He said to Gawain, “Thanks, again, mate.” He gave Salomea a jaunty wave as he jogged out of the tech room, so as not to disturb the techs with Daisy’s crying.

It took a good ten minutes to get Daisy to calm down. He spent that time on the bullet train to the store, rocking her and waving the stuffed parrot at her. It didn’t really work, but she finally fixated on Eggsy’s pocket handkerchief, which she mussed up and drooled on.

Eggsy arrived home at five on the dot. He could hear his mother’s snuffling snores from her room. Daisy had turned fussy, probably a result of missing her afternoon nap. He put her down for a bit, despite knowing she might have some difficultly falling asleep that night, and started work on a basic dinner.

By the time the spaghetti was ready, his mother had shuffled out into the main room, her eyeliner streaked across her face. She was a sight for sore eyes, and she was holding her head, looking unforgivably hungover.

“Good morning.” Eggsy gave her a snarky grin. “Glad to see you joining us.”

“Fuck you,” said his mum without any heat. “What are you making?”

“Spaghetti. Enough for both of us.”

His mum made a sound of approval as she rooted in the cabinet for a glass. She filled it to the top with water and began sipping at it, her face looking green.

“You gonna be able to manage it?” asked Eggsy, banging about for the strainer.

“I think I’ll survive,” said Michelle dryly.

The rest of the evening was awkward and stilted. Eggsy didn’t want to bring up what happened, and Michelle seemed grumpy and unwilling to talk. Clearly the wrong time to bring anything up. The only other highlights were Eggsy reading to Daisy before bedtime – he had watched a documentary when no other program was on about the importance of reading to kids – and sang softly to her when that didn’t seem to calm her down.

He also took JB on a walk around the block. The pug was quite delighted to be out of the house, and so he took an extra-long time snuffling at one of his favorite fire hydrants before triumphantly peeing on it. Eggsy didn’t want to admit it, but JB did have a certain charm to him.

At one in the morning, Eggsy received a call from Merlin. Time to go in.