Eggsy having twice the normal number of mentors was already strange; Eggsy being in love with at least one of them was even stranger. The other Kingsman recruits had solitary mentors to whom they reported, but Eggsy had to put up with twice the criticism, twice the censure and twice the affection.
The affection was worse than the criticism, and infinitely more dangerous, because it made Eggsy hanker for approval like a whipped dog, and he hated that about himself, sometimes. He hated that the absence of his father and the abusive violence of his stepfather had made him so desperate for validation that he performed like a circus monkey at the slightest hint of fondness from his mentors. He hated his childhood for twisting him up so much that he kept interpreting that platonic, paternal fondness as—
As lust, damn it, as a perverse facsimile of guardianship that nonetheless had Eggsy masturbating furtively at night, in the dubious shelter of his dormitory bunk, hoping that he wouldn’t be careless enough to whimper the names he shouldn’t be whimpering.
Yeah. Names, plural.
Galahad and Galahad were the notorious twin operatives, whose skill at infiltration and subterfuge was off the charts, because their teamwork was flawless, bordering on telepathic. Additionally, they could be in multiple places at once, appearing and disappearing like djinns, confusing their opponents with apparent double vision. Their individual kill counts were formidable, but as a pair? They were unstoppable.
And irresistible. And terrifying, because they were irresistible, in their matching bespoke suits and razor-sharp smiles, in their elegance and their competence and their seemingly endless knowledge of everything Eggsy. It was as if they were instinctively tuned into Eggsy’s innermost workings, a fact that went past terrifying and into horrifying, given that Eggsy’s innermost workings were... what they were.
Pathetic. Disgusting. And not liable to go anywhere.
Was it really his fault, though? The Galahads, called Harry and Henry Hart, respectively, had a co-parenting style that resembled courtship. Henry bought Eggsy lavish clothes, which was unnecessary as the agency provided plenty of clothing, and Harry took him dining at five-star restaurants, which was unnecessary as the agency provided frequent etiquette lessons in equally luxurious settings.
It wasn’t Eggsy’s fault that he was receiving mixed signals. Was it? Those sodding twins were just as responsible for it.
Harry, especially, was—
He was kind, and stern, and that combination did things to Eggsy, things that Henry’s comparatively permissive instruction didn’t. Harry didn’t constantly hide his savagery behind a veneer of impenetrable polish, like Henry did, and Harry withheld praise until it was truly earned, which made Eggsy fight to earn it even more.
Eggsy’s crush on Harry had reached nuclear proportions, and Eggsy’s nerves were frayed after months of living on the brink of a meltdown.
He didn’t expect that meltdown to arrive on Christmas Day, December 2015, at two p.m. in the afternoon.
Eggsy had aced firearms practice in the shooting range, gotten thoroughly trounced by Roxy at karate, miraculously avoided getting into the millionth pissing contest with Charlie, deposited a glum J.B. in the kennels, and escaped Merlin’s concluding lecture on cryptography ten minutes early, so he could catch the bus to the Hart home in time for lunch.
He’d promised to have lunch with the Harts on Christmas, as a celebration of completing his training. Eggsy was nineteen years old, and starting from next January, he would officially be a Kingsman. He couldn’t wait.
And if a part of him was forlorn at the prospect of not having Harry and Henry as his mentors, anymore, of not having an excuse to hang around in their house as if it were his—to hang around with them as if they were his—he was determined to disregard it. He was being an idiot. Graduating into an agent was a cause for rejoicing, not regret.
So he rang the bell of the white townhouse on Gloucester Road, apprehensive because his ambivalence might be picked up on and misconstrued. Or correctly construed. Fuck.
Eggsy could have disarmed the Hart security system; it was a game he often won. But this was Christmas, and he’d been invited, and Eggsy’s usual saucy confidence had deserted him. After all, this might be the last lunch he had with the twins.
Henry ushered him in, into the lounge with Mr. Pickles’ portrait in it, and poured Eggsy a tumbler of whiskey. “Harry isn’t here, yet,” he said, and there was an odd slyness to him, his eyes hooded and predatory. “He got caught up in—ah, it’s classified.”
“Isn’t it always?” Eggsy sipped his whiskey, his apprehension mounting when Henry drifted closer to him like a cloud. A disturbingly sexy cloud. Henry had Harry’s face, but that was where their similarities ended. They even wore their signet rings on opposite hands. They were both carnivores, but Henry was serpentine where Harry was lupine, roundabout where Harry was frank, and Machiavellian where Harry was direct. Harry loped where Henry slunk, and Harry’s suits were armor while Henry’s were cloaks. If life were a chessboard, Harry would be the knight and Henry the bishop. No wonder they were Arthur’s favorite pieces.
“Hm,” said Henry, draining his cognac and discarding it on the coffee table. His refined, elusive cologne encompassed Eggsy as he cornered Eggsy against the mantelpiece. What on earth was going on?
Eggsy gulped nervously, and Henry’s gaze dropped to his Adam’s apple.
“As of today, Eggsy, you’re an adult in the secret agent world. Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” Eggsy said, pulse racing at Henry’s proximity, because Henry’s beauty was compelling in a sleek, deadly way. There was a forest-green shadowiness to him, a coiled sibilance perpetually poised to strike from the undergrowth. He could make amiability menacing, and that—that struck a flint of desire within Eggsy, a flare that was entirely different from what he experienced with Harry.
“Of course, adulthood has its… perks,” Henry said, and Eggsy froze, disbelieving, as Henry prowled unmistakably into his personal space. Beyond what was professional. Beyond what was appropriate.
Henry’s jacket was off, tossed casually across the chaise, leaving him in an embroidered sable waistcoat and a midnight-blue tie. Eggsy realized belatedly how significant that informality was, particularly given Henry’s meticulousness when it came to fashion.
Jesus Christ. Henry Hart was propositioning him.
Eggsy had been tutored in flirting with targets, but it only just occurred to him how young and defenseless he was, how clueless in handling a Hart on the hunt. This was no governor’s daughter in a pretty frock. This was Henry, gorgeous and charismatic Henry, and he fancied Eggsy.
He fancied Eggsy back.
Eggsy’s heart began pounding, astounded and overwhelmed.
But Harry wasn’t here, and this felt unnatural, like a trespass Harry wouldn’t forgive. Not that Harry fancied Eggsy like Henry did, but Eggsy got the impression that Harry would disembowel Henry like a toad for encroaching on Eggsy’s chastity. It was mortifying, that Eggsy was still a virgin at nineteen, but he hadn’t—he hadn’t been attracted to anybody except the Harts ever since he’d been recruited by them, in a tiny pub in South London.
Henry’s palm cupped Eggsy’s nape, his ring cool against Eggsy’s flesh.
A ring on the wrong hand.
“You want Harry, don’t you?” Henry commented, mildly. “How curious. Most people want us both.”
“It’s not that I don’t want you. It’s just that...” Eggsy floundered, uncertain of what to say.
“It’s just that, if we were to have you, you would want him to have you first.”
God. That image—
“I could hold you open for him.” Henry’s tone was cajoling, seductive, as if he had sensed Eggsy’s subcutaneous shiver, his incipient surrender. “With your back against me, my hands on your knees, spreading them for him. Watching him enter you, slow and easy, as you cling to my arms and writhe.”
“You’re a fucking artist,” Eggsy gasped. “Some type of pornographic painter of words.”
“Ha,” said Henry. “An artist of fucking, indeed. And as for words... My brother’s more prone to action, which is why his inaction regarding you is so mysterious.”
“You—you think he wants me?”
“Oh, you charming creature.” Henry laughed lowly. “Yes, he wants you. Feverishly. Stupidly. I’d wager that he’s afraid of turning into a dumb beast, when he’s with you, and rutting into you thoughtlessly. That’s why he’s scared to take you, Eggsy. He’s scared that he’ll hurt you. That he’ll like hurting you.”
“How can you know all that?” Eggsy challenged.
“Because, my dear, I feel the same.”
And then, Henry kissed him. Deep and slick, smooth and honeyed, and Eggsy quivered, a fly caught by that unexpected sweetness. By the feral heat hidden in that sweetness, an acid that smoldered and intoxicated, like the poison that laced Snow White’s apple.
Eggsy had meant to kiss Harry first. He’d meant—
“You’re a cheat,” he accused, dizzily, weakly, as his legs threatened to give out.
“You’ll find that neither I nor my twin play fair,” Henry said, “when it comes to something we both covet.”
“I don’t reckon you play, at all.”
Henry chuckled. “Yes, well. It’s more like an amiable war.”
“A war I do not recall waging,” said an identical voice, ringing where Henry’s was hushed.
Eggsy whipped around, alarmed and guilty, as Harry stepped into the room.
But Henry wasn’t phased. He studied his twin with equanimity. “Don’t you?” he said. “Would you feign ignorance as to my interest in the boy?”
“Would you feign ignorance as to the tenets of common decency?”
“Come, now, Harry,” Henry said, dryly. “There is nothing decent or common about what you wish to do to Eggsy. I can imagine the debaucheries you have planned in your mind.”
“And you’re a paragon of virtue, are you?”
“Uh, lads?” Eggsy squeaked. “Maybe you could talk to me rather than over me, like I’m a prize to be won?”
“If you aren’t a prize to be won, then you’re a treasure to be shared.” Henry quirked an eyebrow. “Which are you?”
Eggsy gawked at him, gobsmacked. Was Henry honestly suggesting—not just fantasizing, but suggesting—
“Ignore him,” Harry said, sharply. “Eggsy, do not be pressured by him, or tricked into an arrangement you are not amenable to. You don’t have to accept either of us, let alone both of us. Henry is merely a trickster that sees his only path to you is through me, given that you prefer me, and he seeks to exploit that preference to his advantage, by planting unsavory ideas in your psyche.”
“How unjustly you malign me, brother,” Henry said, mock-mournfully. “Am I so despicable in your estimation? And must you be so pitiless as to outright state that Eggsy prefers you? I am painfully aware of that.”
“I don’t—” Eggsy was torn. “I’m not—”
“Go home, Eggsy,” Harry said, gently. “Spend this precious holiday with your mother and your sister. You won’t get another leave for months.”
Henry scoffed at Harry incredulously. “Surely you jest,” he said. “Here I am, practically unrolling the welcome carpet for you—for us—and you send him packing like an errant child? What self-respecting wolf returns Red Riding Hood unmolested? How ridiculous is your code of honor?”
“As ridiculous as your code of depravity,” Harry retorted. He approached Eggsy and guided him away from Henry, toward the door, with a protective hand on Eggsy’s lower back. “Goodbye, Eggsy. Please forget about my devil of a sibling and his harassment of you, which I apologize for. Enjoy Christmas with your family.”
That... was it? Eggsy tried not to be disappointed. Perhaps it was those filthy images Henry had conjured up, or perhaps it was the kiss, but Eggsy was keyed up and restless, his appetite whetted for a meal that seemed it would never be delivered. A meal that he had thus far thought belonged in his wildest dreams.
So Eggsy did what he invariably did—he flew by the seat of his pants. He grabbed Harry by the lapels of his suit, dragging Harry down for a kiss even as Harry’s eyes widened in surprise.
Harry resisted for all of a moment, before Eggsy was thrown against the door, pinned to it as if by the weight of a tiger, as Harry mauled at him and snarled into his mouth. “I can taste ash on you,” he said, viciously, angrily. “From my brother’s dirty habit of pipe-smoking, no doubt.”
Harry’s possessiveness went to Eggsy’s head like a shot of liquor. He hung onto Harry, mewling, because this was what he craved, Harry needing him as much as he needed Harry, Harry claiming him like Henry had done—
“There’s nothing dirty about it,” said Henry, and Harry sprang back, dismayed, as if he’d forgotten that Henry was there. “Don’t stop on my account,” Henry protested, observing them avidly. “Prime him for us, Harry. Groom him into our obedient pet.”
Eggsy shuddered, abruptly and blindingly hard, but Harry was retreating, his features contorted in self-recrimination. “I’m sorry,” he rasped, taking his hands off Eggsy, even though Eggsy had never yearned for them on him as badly as he was doing, now. “I’m so sorry, Eggsy. You should go.”
“No,” Eggsy said, stubbornly. “You’re going to kiss me. And… and f-fuck me.” He stumbled over the phrase, cheeks aflame at his own daring. “If you don’t, I’ll—I’ll let Henry fuck me first.”
“As opposed to letting me fuck you second?” Henry said, hopefully, and Eggsy’s blush intensified.
“Henry,” said Harry, warningly. And, “Eggsy,” with a broken sort of wistfulness. “You don’t understand what you’re asking for. I’m not a gentleman in these matters. I’m—”
“A dumb beast, yes, he knows that, Harry,” Henry said, impatiently. “I told him. Eggsy, Harry will ravage you and mark you and rend you to shreds, in spite of your virginity.”
Eggsy’s cock twitched noticeably in his tented trousers, and Henry grinned.
“But that doesn’t frighten you, does it? Or, it doesn’t just frighten you.”
“Stop bedeviling him, Henry,” Harry said, tiredly. “He deserves better than me.”
“You’re right. He deserves us. One to wound him, and one to bandage his wounds. One to destroy him, and one to mend him. One to scar him, and one to heal him. I’m your perfect antidote, brother mine. Your balancing element. The yin to your yang. I can be tender with him, after you’ve been ruthless. I can put him back together, after you’ve taken him apart.”
Eggsy was leaking by now, seeping humiliatingly into his underwear, dampening the crotch of his trousers. He fidgeted against the door, breaths getting faster, as Harry simply stood there, paralyzed. Harry’s pupils were dark and blown, as if he was considering this, as if he was genuinely considering letting himself have Eggsy, and—
“Please,” Eggsy whispered, just as broken and wistful as Harry had been, and Harry... snapped.