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The Road to Lancelot

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Roxy’s instincts were pretty good. She looked around the room at the men surrounding her and pegged Charlie as someone brought up with more money than sense. No doubt he was fit enough, physically, probably intelligent if only because his schools had beaten knowledge into him, but she'd been brought up with an idea of moral fitness, too. She was pretty certain Charlie wouldn't recognize the concept.

Amelia seemed all right: quiet, not easy to draw out. It was telling that she chose a bunk where she couldn't easily be seen from the door. Roxy understood the temptation, especially since, until she'd walked in, Amelia had been the sole woman in the room. Roxy would still have selected the same bunk she had. It had the best view of the entire room, including the door. This told her that Amelia didn't think on military lines. Maybe Amelia came from military intelligence. Her back was definitely to a wall, but cutting off her own sitelines argued against it. Well, they'd learn more about each other during the shakedown process and having another woman in the mix might mean the Hooray Henries would underestimate her.

Digby and Rufus were practically cliches. Everything about them reeked of upper class privilege, their names were probably put down at… Winchester, perhaps, they certainly weren't Eton and they'd probably choke on their tongues if she mentioned Harrow. A few more minutes of listening to them talk and she'd decided it had to be Rugby -- and that their parents still lamented that it had gone co-ed.

She glanced at her watch. It was ten pm GMT, she expected things to start. Time lagged and she had a look at Nathaniel, Piers, and Hugo. They were ciphers. Second class public schools, they didn't even have the artiness of Harrow. Piers could be MI-5 or MI-6 or maybe a Kingsman plant. If she were running this show, there'd be at least one to report back to the training master.

Ten minutes after the hour, the last candidate arrived. She wouldn't even try to guess what school he went to because it certainly wasn't one of the classic public schools. His stance argued some military training, or at least better martial arts training than a local high street dojo would give him: enlisted, not officer she reckoned.

Unlike the others he was quiet and when she smiled, he smiled back. Roxy was going to like this Eggsy.

"Fall in."

***
They slept in sleeping bags on the lawn that first night. Merlin insisted that they lay them out on the tarps in the same configuration as their bunks. The sleeping bags and pillows were dry. Their clothes weren't. Eggsy stripped off, took the pillowcase off the pillow and used it to get his hair as dry as he could before slipping into his sleeping bag. There were catcalls and insinuations from the unholy trinity, but Eggsy just shrugged them off.

"Look, Roxy, you saw the set up. Ain't no modesty allowed here, and tonight's not gonna be warm."

"Well, I can't exactly do the same thing with my hair."

He tossed his damp case to her. "Use that one first to wring the worst of it out, then use your own to get it nearer dry, yeah."

She took his advice, teeth beginning to chatter a bit.

Eggsy unzipped his sleeping bag, stood up -- bare ass naked -- and unzipped hers, too. "The liners will keep the bits apart, if that's what you're worried about, but we'll be warmer. You have to strip off, too, mind or it won't work."

"Body heat, I know." Roxy watched him zipping the bags together and stripped off as well. She slid into the sleeping bag liner and already felt warmer. "You're like a furnace."

"Adrenalin, prolly. All the more reason to conserve heat, right?"

She turned to face him. "Are you gay?"

"'At's a bit rude, innit?" He flipped onto his back and looked up at the stars. "Din't know there was so many, 'til I was seventeen. Beautiful, ain't they?"

Roxy mimicked his posture. "Yes, they are."

He said, very quietly, "It's no business of yours an' all, but I'm bi. You're pretty. You're well fit. But I know how to keep me hands to meself if they aren't wanted."

Roxy said, "You're right, it was rude of me to ask. Me, too, by the way. Bi. And I don't molest men in their sleep. You're lovely. Well fit, is it? But, I want this position and fucking around with you isn't going to get me it."

She saw him grin. "You're honest. I'm fighting for it, too. Prolly means more to me, 'cause I got nothin' else, but I'll win it clean. You help me with somethin' I need. I'll do the same with you. Let the best person win."

Roxy held out her hand, and he shook it to seal the bargain he'd proposed. She shivered as a cool breeze ran over her shoulders. "C'mon, Eggsy, let's do this right." She pulled his arm around her waist as she turned on her side.

He spooned up close behind her. "Look, 'f I get a stiffy in me sleep…"

She rolled her eyes where he wouldn't see it. "I know, a healthy man averages five erections a night. It's just your circulation working. I won't take it as an invitation or a threat, promise."

"I fink you're gonna be a good mate, Roxy." He held her closer and made certain the sleeping bag covered their shoulders. "Sleep well."

"You, too," she said and realized he'd already fallen asleep behind her.

***
They were awakened the next morning by clothes being dropped on their feet.

“I’m fucking freezing,” Charlie said.

“There was no need for you to be,” Merlin replied. He turned to Roxy and Eggsy. “Congratulations for having the sense to get out of your wet things and bundle up. I trust you slept well?”

“Perfectly, Merlin. Thank you for asking,” Roxy said.

“She don’t kick or nothing. It was good.”

Merlin nodded then pointed at a small door at the foundation line of the house. “There’s a large cold water sink and two toilet stalls in there. Be ready for PT and a morning run in ten minutes.”

Eggsy reached down and handed Roxy’s clothes to her before reaching for his own. “Run in, I’ll take care of the sleeping bags.”

“And you?”

“Worse comes to worst, I’ll water the plants.”

She slithered out, got her shoes on and ran to the bathroom area quickly. Eggsy dressed and rolled up the sleeping bags as promised. He saw the line had gone down and went to hit the loo before PT.

Digby said, “You think a woman like that will treat you seriously? You’re just dreaming.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, bruv. I slept warm, and you’ve still got goosebumps.”

Roxy walked up to Digby as Eggsy slipped into a stall to piss. “Digby, I do take him seriously. He’s the one most likely to win this -- after me, of course.”

Eggsy walked out, ran his hands under the spigot quickly, and said, “C’mon Roxy, I don’t think Merlin likes us to be late.”

***
When Merlin ordered them to do push ups, Charlie, Digby, and Rufus began doing variations -- one armed, fists instead of flat hands, clapping between pushups -- while the rest of them did the set number in the set way.

At the end of the set Merlin said, "All right, since you all seem to have energy to burn, I want each of you to do another twenty of the most difficult variation you know."

Roxy went up on her fists, shaking her head as she did so. The others tried one armed. Eggsy sat there for a moment.

Merlin said, “Get started, Eggsy or you’ll be doing thirty.”

“Fair enough, Merlin. Thirty.”

He went into a handstand and did thirty push-ups in that position. Completed, he then piked and lowered himself down to a side split.

Merlin’s lips twitched, “Eggsy, you’re exempt from this morning’s run.”

“Ta, but I could use the exercise.”

Merlin nodded. “If anyone else can do five of those, they’re exempt, too.”

Charlie looked murderous.

“Then fall in. Today will be the only day you run without packs. Today will be the only day when you run without obstacles. Enjoy it.” Merlin ran and said, “I said ‘fall in’!” Roxy and Eggsy were the first after him, and the rest followed.

Forty five minutes later, they were at the front of the house. “You’ll go back to the barracks. Each of you has a week’s worth of underthings, three identical siren suits and two pair of boots in your closet. Those will be your clothes for as long as you’re in competition. You have an hour and a half to shower, eat, and change. I expect you to be lined up in front of the house at the end of that time.”

***
“I noticed they gave you pink, Eggy. Do they think you’re girly?”

Eggsy rolled his eyes at Rufus and said, “I think it just goes well with me complexion.”

“It is very flattering on you,” Roxy said. “Damn, my hair’s impossible.”

“Hand me your comb. Got a baby sister, so I know how to keep it from ‘urtin’.” He deftly got the knots out of the bottom and gave her back her comb.

She looked at him quizzically, and he said, “I can see ‘em, can’t I?”

They finished lacing their boots and ran out with the others to line up.

Roxy stared at the pyramid of cages. Eggsy was having a hard time not just going over and petting all of the puppies, she could tell. She had her eye on the poodle: hypoallergenic and easy to train. If Merlin was going to ask each of them to adopt one, that was her choice.

She was amazed that so many of the men seemed surprised by having to select a puppy. It let her in first to get the poodle, fortunately. Roxy knew she wouldn’t win by brawn -- at five foot two, she couldn’t hope to compete in that area -- intelligence and endurance were going to be her tickets to being the first female Kingsman agent.

Roxy did her best neither to giggle nor wince at Eggsy not knowing a pug from a bulldog. She resolved to help him with JB’s training because pugs were not smart. Besides, casting her bread upon the waters was good policy. There was bound to be something he could help her with later.

***
The intelligence tests were murder. While her maths were excellent for a lay person -- and Merlin had just smiled when he mentioned his doctorate in mathematics before handing them that test -- she hadn’t gotten too far beyond sulphuretted hydrogen making a stink in chemistry. For heaven’s sake, she’d read history at Cambridge.

Eggsy should have been at the greatest disadvantage; his education stopped before A levels. Every week Roxy expected to see him slip in the standings, but every week they were both in the top three and one or the other of them was usually first.

Charlie had proclaimed loudly that Eggsy was cheating somehow. Eggsy had just smiled and nodded, then asked to be paired with Charlie in the next day’s hand to hand training. Much to Charlie’s surprise, Eggsy wiped the floor with him.

Roxy admitted that she shared some of Charlie’s prejudice. She expected him to lead the standings the week they learned pickpocketing, safe cracking, and lockpicking. He had. She hadn’t expected him to lead at chess.

On the other hand, he really was becoming a good mate. He worked with her for hours on the pickpocketing and lockpicking. Said he’d never cracked a safe before, so they were in the same boat on that one. She managed to stay at second in the standings that week thanks to him. Charlie had slipped to fifth.

He also taught her some moves on the men’s gymnastic equipment (they didn’t have uneven parallel bars, so she couldn’t share her skills with him) and then explained how to use them for parkour.

***
The driving course was massive. There was a standard race track, but there were also two different obstacle driving courses she could see, and Merlin had mentioned something about a cross country rally course as well.

Roxy admitted that she’d never ridden a motorcycle or scooter when Merlin had asked. None of the men did. The first two of them who tried ended up in the care unit very quickly.

Merlin stood in front of them after that incident and said, “I don’t mind ignorance.” She swore his accent had gotten thicker with annoyance. “Ignorance is correctable by learning. Stupidity is forever, and not telling me honestly when you’ve never done something or have very little experience with it is bone stupid.” His lips were so tight they’d gone white. “Now, I’ll ask you again. Who here, besides Roxy -- whose standings went up for admitting it, by the way -- has never ridden a motorcycle or scooter?” No hands went up. “Has limited experience on a motorcycle or scooter?”

Eggsy’s hand went up. “Be fair, Merlin. You didn’t ask about limited experience before. I’ve ridden two of the three motorcycles you have there, one only as a passenger, and both the scooters, but I wouldn’t say I was as good with them as I am with cars. Not nearly.”

Merlin peered at him. “Your point is valid. Which one have you ridden before? Not as a passenger, mind.”

He pointed to the Piaggio and said, “Think the one I rode was an older model than that.”

“Everything’s in the same place.” Merlin tossed him the keys. “Use a helmet and twice around the track, please.”

Eggsy rode it around the track. The recorded speed was thirty miles per hour.

“Very good, Eggsy. Leave the helmet on.” Merlin exchanged keys with him and pointed him at the Kawasaki. “This one’s not street legal. You’ll have to lean in more to keep control and you’ll be tempted to go fast. Twice around the track, please.”

Eggsy nodded and said, “May I just ride back and forth on that patch for a moment to get used to it?”

“Of course.”

Eggsy went up the straight strip, slowing it down to try to curve around. The first two times he tried it, he ended up in the grass, though he managed not to fall off. When he finally made it, he rode down to the track and did the laps Merlin requested at a top speed of fifty miles per hour. “You’re right, Merlin. It does want to go faster. It actually felt less safe at the lower speed.”

Merlin nodded. “All right then. Take the scooters and show Roxy the basics of shifting, braking, and turning.” He turned back to the others. “Who’s next, god help you?”

By the end of the day, Roxy was proficient on both scooters. By the end of the week she’d ridden all three of the motorcycles and actually had good lap times. She knew she’d need to make time to practice for the obstacles, but Merlin was pretty good about letting them work on things when they had a free hour.

The following week were cars.

“Is that a deux chevaux?” Digby sounded horrified.

“Yes, Digby, it is.” Merlin tossed him the keys. “Twice around the track, please.”

Digby got in the car and said, “I’ve never even seen this type of gearshift before.”

Merlin raised an eyebrow at Eggsy who gave a curt nod. Merlin said, “Anyone else know how to drive that style of gearshift?”

Roxy raised her hand. “Had one at the farm in France, sir.”

“Give the lady the keys, Digby. Twice around the track, if you please.”

Roxy did fairly well with it, only slipping gears once.

“Reverse back to this point, please, Roxy,” Merlin said, “then give the keys to Eggsy.”

She did so.

Eggsy took it twice around the track and reversed up to the stopping point cleanly.

“All right, you two show the others how to work a dashboard shift.”

At the end of two hours, all of the others had managed twice around the track in the 2 CV, though Piers had burned the clutch.

They progressed onto a sedan, then a couple of different sports cars including a Jaguar coupe. After that one, Merlin said, “Eggsy, you go last with this one.”

Roxy saw Eggsy smirk as he nodded that he’d heard the order. Everyone else looked a little puzzled at the exchange. Roxy just shrugged and got in the car.

After the sports cars a Subaru Imprezza was not exactly enjoyable to drive. It was simple and had a bit of speed, but handled worse than a tank. She completed her two laps, and the others progressed through as well grumbling about the pleb car.

Merlin took the keys from Hugo and said, “Your sponsor told me how you met.”

“You want me to do me laps in reverse, don’t ya?”

Merlin just nodded.

Eggsy took the keys, drove the car onto the track, fishtailed it into reverse and floored it. When he finished, he backed it all the way up to where Merlin was standing.

For the first time since they’d begun their training, they saw Merlin grin. “Fastest track time on this model, too.”

“May not be much good at calculus, but I can drive.”

“Yes, you can. All right, everyone, the Jaguar Coupe seemed to be the favorite. Twice around the track for practice, then two laps at your best speed.”

They cycled through again. Roxy was second, right behind Charlie, when Eggsy took the keys. He beat Charlie’s time by twenty-two miles per hour.

Merlin said, “Just under the track record for that car.” He pressed a button and a garage door opened. He tossed another set of keys to Eggsy. “Your reward for having the top speed is to have a chance to break the track record. This is the car that set it. Three practice laps, and then three laps at speed. We’ll take your best time.”

“Is ‘at a Bugatti Super Sport?” Digby asked.

“Yes,” Merlin said.

“You’d trust him with a million pound car?” Charlie asked.

“Two million.”

Eggsy said, “What?”

Merlin sighed. “The car’s worth over two million pounds.” He watched Eggsy closely and so did Roxy.

The hesitation was minute, but it was there. She saw Eggsy shake it off as he walked to the car. By the time he was behind the wheel, he was obviously focused on the car. His test laps were good; she felt like she could see him getting the hang of the car, its unique handling.

At the end of the third lap, he aligned himself with the starting line and went for it. She’d never seen a car move that fast live, and she checked the speed record for the first lap. She found herself standing next to Merlin and whispered, “He’s good, isn’t he?”

“He’s excellent, lass. Would that he could handle JB so well.” His eyes flicked up to the track’s timer and his eyebrow went up.

Eggsy completed the final lap and drove the car sedately back to its garage. “‘At was beautiful, Merlin, a real treat. Thank you.”

“The track record was 198 miles per hour,” Merlin said.

Roxy gasped. “But…”

“I did say ‘was.’ The new track record is 203 miles per hour.”

Eggsy grinned. “I broke the record?”

“It’s the first time in fifteen years that one of my track records has been broken. Looks like I’ll have to practice.” Merlin looked at them and said, “Dinner’s in an hour. Fall out.”

Roxy fell into step beside Eggsy, Sheba at her heels and JB at Eggsy’s. “What was Merlin talking about? How you met your sponsor?”

Eggsy stopped and let the others get well ahead. “Just ‘cause you’re a mate, right?”

“No one will hear about it from me.”

“The night before I joined the training, I nicked the keys off someone I didn’t like much and stole ‘is car. Made sure he saw it, too. When the cops noticed, I had to get away, but there weren’t nowhere to turn around. Might o’ done five miles through London traffic in reverse, includin’ crossin’ Vauxhall bridge backward. If I hadn’ swerved to avoid a fox, p’lice never would o’ caught me.”

“That was the night before training?”

“Yeh. Called a number I’d been given, got out o’ jail, and met my sponsor. He only made me the offer ‘bout half an hour before I joined you.”

Roxy pealed with laughter. “So you’d only known your sponsor for one day? And you met because…”

“Because I din’t want to do serious time in prison. Eighteen months don’ sound like much, but I’m prolly prettier than most inside. It wouldn’ o’ been easy.”

She sobered up quickly. “No, it wouldn’t’ve been. What I found so funny was that my sponsor’s known me since I was born. He started hinting about his profession when it became clear that I was, well, good at most things. I only had a day for the offer -- all of us did -- but I knew if the opportunity ever arose, I’d be his choice. I’d been groomed for it.”

“He’s right, your sponsor. You are good at mos’ things. Top of the standings.”

“Not this week.”

“No, but I’m sure whatever next week’s task is, you’ll probably be back at the top.”

The following Monday, they were at a training ring for horses and riders. There were some logs laying down in the grass and parallel to them were three different types of jumps.

Merlin said, “I assume you’ve all ridden a horse before. I expect the expert riders to go over the jumps. Those of you who are not experts, but have dressage experience should go over the cavalettis. The rest of you, once around the track at a posting trot so that I can see your form. Is that clear?”

Eggsy’s hand shot up. “Can I just leap over the jumps by meself? ‘Cause I ain’t never been near a horse before.”

Charlie said, “Maybe there’s a shetland pony for him? He has the smallest dog. Maybe he wants the smallest horse, too.”

Merlin said, “Not helpful, Charlie. Eggsy, I’m going to have the rest go ahead of you so that you can at least have an idea of the right way to sit a horse. Then we’ll find a trainer for you.”

“Guess this means I won’t be breakin’ another track record, then.”

Merlin’s shoulders shook with silent laughter. “No, lad.”

Roxy whispered to Eggsy. “You helped me with motorcycles. I can help you with this.”

“You’re a good mate.”

***
The next three months felt like a holding pattern to Roxy. She was positive Merlin must have some reason for having them go through their daily and weekly routines. Every morning there was a five mile run before a shower and breakfast followed by the obstacle course and hand combat. Three days a week they were free until lunch during which time she was teaching Eggsy how to become proficient on a horse or he was teaching her how to improve her driving skills -- including how to strip an engine. Three days a week were spent at the gun range until lunch. Afterward, each candidate had duties in one of the departments which worked to support the agents and the Kingsman organization.

At the end of the three months, Merlin had them fall in after their hand combat class. “From this point forward, you will be expected to maintain your own sharpness at hand to hand and on the gun range. You will be tested on both at irregular and, I hope, unpredictable intervals. Anyone who cannot match the standard set by averaging his or her scores over the last three weeks, will be washed out. For the next two weeks you will be learning the basics of orienteering and living off the land. Depending upon your general standard, there may be a third week of training. This will be followed by a fortnight of nighttime orienteering. There will also be weapons testing with night sights during this time. Once you’ve passed the orienteering test, the next unit will be seduction. As of this moment, you will be allowed to spend Sundays in the village. You may not go into London for anything short of a family emergency, and only with pre-approval. Since a gentleman -- or lady -- keeps his or her word, you will be washed out for ungentlemanly conduct should you break this rule. Are there any questions?”

Eggsy raised his hand. “Not about this, Merlin, you were clear and all, but are we going to learn thrown weapons or knife fighting?”

Merlin peered closely at him. “Meet me at the range after dinner tonight. We’ll get started on thrown weapons. I’ll add knife fighting to your hand to hand work, if you like.”

“I would, Merlin. Thank you.”

Merlin looked at them all for awhile and finally said, “Fall out.”

Roxy wandered back to the barracks with Sheba. Merlin was at his work station.

She stood there, Sheba by her side, thinking until Merlin said, “Yes, Roxy?”

“Were you waiting for someone to ask? For knife work, I mean.”

“No. Most of you have enough military background that I’m certain you can handle a commando knife in a combat situation. Thrown weapons are something I find useful, but I know of only one of the knights who uses it regularly. The best answer I can give any of you is to ask if you think there’s something useful you need to know. If it’s not within my skill set, I can usually find someone who has the ability.”

“It seems to me you’ve been our main teacher. Is there anything you don’t know?”

He smiled. “I have been told that mathematics is not an acceptable conversation topic at a dinner party which is why I don’t lead the social conversation class, that my taste in modern literature is, at best, plebeian, see social conversation again, and that I would do better to embrace classical or rock music rather than be-bop and cool jazz.”

Roxy laughed. “I admit I don’t have a clue about be-bop or any kind of jazz. I agree about the maths, though.” She started to walk away. “The literary tastes… you’re not a Twihard are you? Because that’s the only thing I would consider unforgivable.”

Merlin cocked his head. “You may rest assured that my only knowledge of Twilight is second hand and that, from what I’ve heard, the Buffy meets Edward video is probably the best solution.”

She glanced both ways down the hall before saying. “I’m not certain Uncle Percy would even know that much.”

He nodded. “When you have left my care, ask your Uncle Percy how we met.”

“I will. Um, could I join you and Eggsy for the thrown weapons lessons?”

“If he says it’s all right, I certainly don’t mind. You two seem to keep each other sharp. Now, I must get back to work. I’ll see you at dinner.”

“Of course, Merlin.”

***
Orienteering was fascinating. Roxy’d been hunting both on foot and on horseback most of her life, so, unlike Eggsy and, surprisingly, Rufus, she knew how to read woods and fields pretty well. The others were of varying abilities, although most had similar backgrounds to hers. Eggsy slipped to fourth in that week’s ratings, and it was pretty clear that his weapons and other skills were keeping him high. The following week, though, he’d gone back up to number three. He hadn’t asked her for much help with this one, so she broached the subject with him over breakfast one morning.

“I’m at the top of the standings. You know I’d work with you.”

“‘Course. You been a good mate and all.”

“It goes both ways.”

There was a long silence. Finally she said, “So why not ask for my help?”

“Because you don’t know how you do it.”

She blinked at him. “Explain?”

“You been doin’ it so long, it’s automatic, instinct almost. You never learned it. You … absorbed it. It’s like manners, right? You can tell me when I’m doin’ somethin’ wrong and correct me, but, forgive me, you’re shit at warnin’ me in advance about problems.”

Roxy said, “I’d never thought about it that way. You’re right, though. I can explain why something’s a gaffe after it happened, but I don’t always know how to warn for it.” She patted his hand. “You’re obviously learning quickly, though.”

He nodded. “Yeah, had to be a quick learner.”

***
Eggsy was sitting on his bed reading with JB snoring beside him when Roxy came in looking murderous.

“Where’d they drop you?” he asked.

“Trefeglwys.”

“I was in the middle of a national park in the Lake District.”

“I can’t believe they dropped me in a town where nearly no one spoke English. I thought the number of Welsh speakers was declining.”

“Y’had people to talk to. That’s still one up on me.”

“Water, a compass, a blanket, and twenty five quid. Oh, and a note that said I had thirty six hours to find my way back here.”

Eggsy nodded. “You got money? I had twenty hours, nine of which I spent walkin’ to the nearest town.”

“I thought we all got the same things?”

“I had two sandwiches and a power bar. Sounds like you didn’t.”

Roxy shook her head. “No food at all.”

“So how’d you do it?”

“Went to the local bank manager and asked for a counter check. He called my bank manager and was able to give me enough cash to pay someone to drive me to Shrewsbury. From there I got a cheap train and bought an Oyster card to get back to headquarters. You?”

“Walked nine hours to the nearest train station, hopped the train and kept ahead of the conductors ‘til Euston, then walked another half hour to Savile Row. The tailor called my sponsor who got me on the private line.”

“Thank heavens we have comfortable boots.”

Eggsy nodded. “Sounds like you didn’t do much orienteering.”

“You’re right. I was less than a mile outside the town.”

“Wonder where they dropped Charlie?”

Roxy smirked. “It’s probably too much to hope that the answer is, ‘in the middle of the English Channel’.”

“Shame.”

***
There was no shot from the other room.

Merlin closed his eyes and shook his head. It took him a moment before he said, “Come with me.”

Arthur was sitting in a chair by the fireplace. She noted the plastic sheeting on the floor and realized that Eggsy had failed.

“Welcome to Kingsman, Lancelot.”

***
Merlin looked up from the monitor where he’d been designing her a pair of glasses. They couldn’t be too small with everything which needed to be packed in, but she admitted to feeling relieved at a more flattering pair of glasses.

He pressed something on one of the screens. “Arthur?” He touched the temple of his glasses and said it again. “Come with me, lass.”

Roxy nodded and drew her gun, picking up on Merlin’s wariness. The underground train pulled in and Eggsy stepped out with his hands flat in front of him.

She leveled the gun at Eggsy and saw him nod in acknowledgement.

“Where’s Arthur?” Merlin asked.

“Dead. The stuff in me ‘ands ain’t lethal, though you’ve got only my word for it. The little thing on my left is what I think blew up Professor Arnold’s head. The phone is Arfur’s. So’s the glasses.”

Merlin took the glasses first and clicked something first on their temple piece then on his own.

Eggsy looked between them and Roxy knew that she wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger if Merlin told her to. She also knew that she’d aim for the shoulder, because killing Eggsy without more explanation was wrong.

Merlin took the phone and the wires, and Eggsy raised his hands over his head. Merlin checked something on the glasses again and said, “You can put the gun away, Lancelot.”

As they pulled things out of storage and got on the plane quickly, Eggsy ventured a small smile at her and she grinned back at him. They were off to save the world, and Eggsy, her best mate, was at her side.