Art by mrsgingles. Leave comments on the art here.
"To Galahad," Merlin says, and Eggsy carefully grips his glass as they all raise the toast and drink. The brandy stings the cut at the corner of his mouth. If anyone should ask about the dampness of his eyes, Eggsy can blame it on that.
No one will ask, though. It's just the three of them here, Merlin and Roxy and Eggsy, the others present only in the shimmering green-blue outlines visible through his glasses. More notable are the empty places, two blank chairs where would have been men, back before Valentine. Eggsy's in Harry's seat, of course, but they're also missing not only Arthur but Kay as well.
They're only toasting Harry.
It had been Percival who found Kay, headless and bled out all over the safe room in his house, just two days ago. He's obviously not yet over the betrayal; Eggsy catches him flicking a glance to Kay's seat as they set their glasses down. Percival looks weary and a bit battered – hell, they all do. It's been nearly a week and a half since V-Day and this is the first time they've all had a moment to spare for the toast, the first time they haven't been elbows deep in cleanup. Eggsy himself feels like he's barely even sat down since discovering that scar on Arthur's neck.
The world outside is still reeling too. Fewer people had died than might have been expected – perhaps because the signal had made people more murderous but not more capable – but there are too many graves to be dug, too many essential jobs to fill. The world will be a long time putting itself back together.
Merlin lets the silence go for a moment, then says, "Thank you, gentlemen. And lady. To business. One of you will need to move up as Arthur, since I'm sure as fuck not going to do it." This gets a laugh all around, though it's a weak one. "You have until the fifteenth to submit your name, at which point we'll meet again and vote. We'll also be needing new candidates, two each. Galahad's position is filled," he says, nodding in Eggsy's direction, "and if you want to quibble with that decision, do please feel free to stick it up your arse." Another laugh, this one a bit louder. Nobody actually raises an objection – not even Bors, who's been giving Eggsy a bit of subtle aggro on the comms over the last couple of days.
"I know we've got a hell of a lot to handle in the next few weeks," Merlin says, going solemn again at last. "We're none of us going to have it easy, not for a while. But I have faith in us all." He lifts his glass again. "To Kingsman."
"To Kingsman," they chorus, raising empty glasses this time.
"Carry on, then, gentlemen," Merlin says. Silhouettes begin to disappear as glasses come off. Eggsy lifts a hand to slip off his own, feeling hollowed out.
But before he gets them more than halfway down his nose something flickers, pale and glimmering, in the corner of his eye.
Eggsy's breath catches in his throat. He shoves the glasses back up, but when he turns his head to look properly, there's nothing there. Just empty air and the polished shine of the table.
Of course it wasn't Harry, Eggsy thinks. Harry's dead. The thought hits him like a bullet. Yeah, it's not like he'd missed the fact that Harry was dead – they'd just drunk a fucking toast in his memory, for fuck's sake – but Eggsy's been so bloody busy saving the world and shuttling all of Valentine's prisoners back to their homes that he supposes it just hasn't sunk in.
"Eggsy?" Merlin says, and Eggsy suddenly realizes that Merlin and Roxy are looking at him, concerned expressions on their faces.
Shit. He shoves the grief into the back of his mind to deal with later, puts on his best cheeky smile. "Sorry. Thought Bors might've been giving me, y'know," he says, lifting a hand to make a vague wanking motion. "'Cause he's a prick." It's at least vaguely plausible as an excuse, even if Bors is probably by far too posh to actually have made that particular gesture.
Merlin sighs at him."Yes, well, if you can stop having a pissing contest with every other male in the universe for two minutes," he says, "I'd like talk about your next mission."
"Aye, Merlin," Eggsy says, sketching a salute, and makes himself get on with it.
Later, on the plane to Germany, he reviews his glasses feed. There's the corner of the room, the naff bronze bust of some bald geezer, the stretch of the table, the line of chairs: empty, empty, empty.
Germany is three days of sneaking, shooting, stabbing, and a variety of other activities within Eggsy's skill set, not all of which even begin with s. He comes home more than a little battered, with a chipped tooth and a spectacular bruise coming up on the left side of his ribs. He's managed to keep his suit unscathed, mostly by virtue of undertaking the actual break-in at night wearing something a damn sight less conspicuous, but he puts it on again for the flight home, taking comfort in the feel of the fabric under his palms, the swishing silk of the lining.
The cab meets him at the airport, takes him home to Harry's instead of to the shop. Eggsy accepts Merlin's order of rest with only the most minimal of protests. He's bloody tired. They drive past remnants of V-Day, burnt-out houses, windows cracked and shattered. There is a large blood stain slashed across the pavement at one corner. At least Harry's neighborhood has power. Half the royalty in Europe had gone home from Valentine's cells to darkness and no running water.
When he opens the front door, the silence of the house feels welcoming. He's been here a few times since Valentine – Merlin had tossed him a spare key and JB's leash and said, "Go home, for fuck's sake," and anyway it's close to the shop and it's empty, which means he doesn't have to explain himself to anyone – but he'd always felt a bit like he was trespassing. Now as he walks in that feeling is gone, replaced with something a little warmer, a little more comfortable. Maybe he's just too exhausted to feel anything but grateful for the peace.
He toes off his shoes in the hall, nudges them into place beside his winged trainers, then hitches the strap of his bag further up his shoulder and heads for the stairs without bothering to turn on any lights.
Something changes in the air, not quite a breath of wind but something nonetheless, bringing with it the faint sensation of being watched. When Eggsy looks up, Harry's at the top of the stairs. In the dim light Eggsy can't quite make out the expression on his face, but he can tell it's Harry for sure, can see the dimpled line of his chin, the wave of his hair, the tidy knot of his tie. It's almost as if he's just home from the office himself, as if he'd not got as far as taking off his jacket before being surprised by the sound of Eggsy's entrance and coming to welcome him. Eggsy smiles stupidly up at him for a moment before he realizes that this isn't how it goes. Harry's dead.
"Harry!" He drops his bag, stumbles up the stairs. His feet feel heavy, stupid, slow. He would swear that he doesn't blink, doesn't look away, but somehow by the time he gets to the top, Harry's gone.
Eggsy stands there for a moment, breathing hard. He turns a complete circle, peering into each of the rooms off the landing in turn, but he already knows what he'll find – nothing.
"Shit," he says aloud. And then, just to himself, Am I going mental, then?
He considers the idea seriously, but eventually discards it. Surely if he were losing it, he'd see other things, would see Jamal (who's been dead a week, killed in the first two minutes of the chip's activation because Eggsy just hadn't been fast enough) or Gazelle or Valentine himself, come back to fuck up Eggsy's life even more. Would see blood or bone or scattered, twisted bodies. Not Harry, who just makes Eggsy feel brave, who makes him feel safe. Or, well.
Had made him feel brave and safe, anyway.
I'm just tired, Eggsy tells himself. It's Harry's house, and I'm tired and missin' him, that's all. I just need to sleep. He scrubs his hands over his face, then turns on his heel and heads for the bedroom, leaving his bag and all the usual before-bed things for the morning.
Still, when he undresses, he hangs the suit neatly in the closet. Just in case.
The next day Merlin sends Eggsy and Percival to Guatemala. There's a base for a drug operation there, a big one, that Kingsman have been wanting to get into for over a year. It's standard stuff – cocaine, heroin – but there have been rumors of a new type of drug being developed, specially designed to be extra addictive. Deaths, too, just a few, bodies found wide-eyed and mangled from the inside out. Everything seems to lead back to this place, but whoever's running it has kept security tight.
Now, though, the top three bosses are dead, all casualties of Valentine's implant, and half the security crew had taken each other out on V-day, so they're short-staffed and reeling. Merlin thinks this is probably Kingsman's best chance.
They spend a day with their two local informants, Diego and Maria, just casing the place, checking out weak spots. The west half of the complex is warehouses, an endless line of corrugated sheet metal squares, one after the other, while the east half is all one low-ceilinged, rambling building that seems to have been retrofitted as a series of laboratories and machine rooms. The laboratory building is much less well-guarded, either because of the staff shortage or because whoever's ended up in charge thinks that locals wanting to poach the product are the biggest threat, or both. There's a security control room nestled in the center of the lab building, the most likely good access point into the computer system, and that's what they're aiming for.
After a bit of consultation they decide on entering through a door designed for garbage disposal. This is the first time Eggsy's worked with Percival but he finds that they pair up rather nicely. Percival actually listens when Eggsy suggests things, and if he ends up overruling him a time or two, he's at least willing to explain why. And when Eggsy cheekily calls him 'Perky Percy,' just to see what kind of reaction he'll get, Percival just laughs and says, "I'll be a hell of a lot perkier when we destroy these fuckers." Eggsy decides that's a good sign. Plus, Percival's the one who'd proposed Roxy, so how bad could he be?
Percival takes point on the way in, picking the decidedly low-tech lock while Eggsy keeps watch. Inside they wade through a room piled high with garbage, then slip out into a blank hallway. It's Sunday morning, early, so the place is pretty empty, but they're both wearing khakis and cheap button-downs and lab coats, just for a bit of protective camouflage. The building is a maze of hallways, all more or less identical, set with unmarked metal doors at irregular intervals. They've both memorized the way, in and out, but Eggsy catches himself wondering how the lab workers manage not to get lost on a daily basis.
They make it to the control room without alarms or even encountering anyone. It's only manned by one guard, who's busily reading a dirty magazine – Sloppy, Eggsy thinks – and he goes down with two silenced shots to the head before he has a chance to do more than look up in surprise. Percival locks and bolts the door, settles into position with his back to it and a wary eye on the bank of screens above the control console, showing the views of cameras in different parts of the complex. Eggsy crosses to the console itself, shifts his gun to his left hand and pulls out one of the flash drives that Merlin had supplied them. He nudges the guard's body out of the seat, then thinks twice and drags it behind a cabinet, out of sight of the door. Percival gives him a nod of approval.
"Ready, Merls?" Eggsy drawls.
Merlin sighs into his ear. "I'm sure with time I'll be able to think of a nickname you'll hate just as much as I hate that one. Should we start with Omelet?"
Eggsy clucks at him. "That's hardly professional, Merls. It ain't my code name."
"I could make it your code name," Merlin says, and then, "Yes, all right, go ahead."
Eggsy sits, skims his gaze over the console slowly, pausing a few times as Merlin says, "Wait," and then, "All right, go on." It's a pretty old-school setup, the kind of thing Eggsy's only ever seen in those videos about the war he'd had to watch in school: the surface is beige metal, a little bit rough to the touch, spattered with switches and dials and little round lights labeled with completely unhelpful strings of numbers and letters. In the middle of the panel is a small, square screen lit in faded black with a green flashing cursor on it. On the right side of the console someone's attached a newer-looking box, sleek and white. Two cords striped red and yellow run from the box into a jagged hole in the main console.
When he's got a good look at the whole thing, Merlin says, "Okay, we shouldn't have any problems. Put the drive in." There are a couple of identical slots on the right side; Eggsy picks one at random and slides the drive in. The familiar green light on the drive lights up right away.
"Five minutes, gentlemen," Merlin says. Eggsy can hear the faint sound of typing in the background. After a few seconds Merlin makes a considering noise. "Ten minutes, then. Slippery little—" Eggsy can't help but snort. His instinct is to flip his gaze up, watch the camera outputs and be ready to kick arse if necessary (and if he's honest, he's pretty sure it's going to be necessary, because when has he ever been that lucky?). But Percival's got that well in hand and it's Eggsy's job to keep eyes on the console for Merlin, to be ready to type if need be. So he keeps his gaze resolutely trained downwards, trying to ignore the crawling sensation that always comes when he's trusting someone that he doesn't know 100% to watch his back.
They're nearly finished with Merlin's promised ten minutes – and it's all beginning to feel a bit too easy – when Percival says, abruptly, "Seeing some action here. West hallway."
"Shit," Merlin says. "I see it. Eggsy, stay. Tell me if you see a red light anywhere."
There isn't time to bristle at being told to stay like he's Merlin's bloody dog. Eggsy sweeps his gaze over the console, but he doesn't see anything that looks red. "Nothing," he says. And then, "Wait, yes, there," as two lights flicker from green to yellow to red all in a split second.
The label above them says, 'XR567J,' which apparently means something to Merlin, because he says, "Shit," again, sounding a little bit more stressed. Eggsy swaps his gun back to his right hand."All right," Merlin says. "Go. Leave the drive. The immediate hallway should be safe."
Percival unlocks the door and they scramble out, heading back the way they'd come. They're barely halfway to the second turning when Merlin says, "Incoming!" and a door slams open. It isn't just one guard this time, or even two, but fifteen or twenty all at once, all in ragged uniforms and carrying guns.
One of them yells something in Spanish. Eggsy shoots him in the chest.
They take out the first wave quickly, dividing the group into left and right by unspoken agreement. Percival's shots are neat and swift, Eggsy's a fraction more flamboyant but still getting the job done. They've barely finished putting them down when the second wave appears, as heavily-armed as the first batch and even more aggressive. A shot pings off the plaster just above Eggsy's head, showering him with a spray of white fragments. He ducks into a roll, lands with his feet against a body and kicks it up into the ankles of the oncoming men, sending them falling back like bowling pins. Then he flips back up to his feet, dodging a grab at his leg and kicking the man in the face. That one doesn't get up. Neither do the ten or so that Percival's managed to pick off. But there are more uniforms coming, boiling out from the open door and now from another one beyond it. There are too many of them and no good cover.
"Get out of there," Merlin orders. "Back past the security room, first right."
A quick spray of bullets from Eggsy buys them enough time to retreat around the corner, and then they're running full out, Percival in front and Eggsy guarding the rear, checking behind him with every third step and letting off an occasional shot to discourage the pursuit. They're barely back to the security room when an alarm blares, sudden and loud.
Eggsy winces at the noise, tries to ignore it as they pass the still gaping door of the control room and then carry on around the corner into an unfamiliar section of the building. Lights near the ceiling have begun strobing red across the white plaster of the walls
"A distraction would be good," Percival pants.
"Working on it," Merlin says sharply, his voice faint and barely audible over the sound of the alarm. "In the meantime, down the hall to the end, take the—"
Eggsy is plucked from his feet by the explosion, flung like one of JB's chew toys into the wall to his right. His head slams against something hard, bright pinpoints of light scattering across his vision. A fraction of a second later a great shower of ceiling tiles and plaster smashes into him, sending his glasses flying. He manages to hang onto his gun, but only by reflex and the fact that his arm's trapped half-underneath him. There's plaster in his mouth, in his eyes, and he jerks his left hand up over his head to shield it as another few bits of ceiling come crashing down.
It takes thirty seconds for the worst of the shaking to stop. Eggsy groans, rolls over, wipes his face with the least terrible corner of his shirt and does a quick self-inventory. His head is aching and he's obviously taken quite a hit there, but nothing is obviously bloody, and though his still-bruised left side is really complaining now, he doesn't think he's broken anything. His hands are trembling a little, or maybe that's just the building.
"What the fuck was that?" he says, mainly for the pleasure of saying it, but once it's out he realizes that he can't hear himself – can't hear anything, actually, except a loud sort of ringing noise that doesn't seem to come from anywhere in particular. Eggsy's had this before, once, when Dean had got a little over-enthusiastic about the friendly relationship between his fists and Eggsy's skull, so he recognizes right away that it's only in his head. "Fuck," he spits.
He staggers to his feet, bracing one hand against a twisted piece of metal, and contemplates the wreckage. The hallway behind them is completely impassable, blocked with debris and something that's giving off an oily smoke. Percival is still on the ground a few feet in front of him, so Eggsy clambers over the debris and puts a hand to his shoulder, shifting aside a chunk of ceiling panel. Percival's head lolls back, his eyes open but dazed.
Shit, Eggsy thinks. This ain't good. Please let him not be— Pushing away the thought, he snaps his fingers in front of Percival's face. This gets no response, so he reaches down to cup the back of Percival's neck gently, trying to gauge what shape his spine is in without moving him too much. But the touch seems to get through where the snapping hadn't; Percival blinks, shakes himself, tries to sit up properly.
Eggsy sighs with relief. Percival manages to lever himself halfway up, but when he straightens out his right arm his face goes even whiter under its coating of plaster dust. A glance tells Eggsy that that the arm is broken, and badly. Percival's mouth shapes a curse, then another as he seems to realize something.
Eggsy taps a finger to his ear, shakes his head, and Percival nods ruefully. Fucking brilliant, Eggsy thinks. They're both deaf. He strips off his lab coat and fashions it into a crude sling, suddenly grateful for the 'emergency first aid' lesson he'd got during training. Percival's expression is strained as the two of them get it on over his arm, but he doesn't pass out and that's probably as good as Eggsy can hope for.
He helps Percival to his feet and they take quick stock of the situation. Percival still has his glasses but the lenses are both shattered. He has his gun, too, though he's using it left-handed now and the way he sways on his feet indicates his aim's probably not going to be 100%. Eggsy's got his gun and two grenade lighters – he's a big fan of those things – plus there are a couple of other delightful little toys they're each carrying, but without being able to hear, without working glasses, they've lost their best weapon – Merlin. The only thing to do is head down the hallway and take what happens as it comes.
Percival lifts a shaking hand and taps the frame of his glasses, says something that Eggsy realizes is for Merlin's benefit rather than his own. Another swift gesture from Percival tells Eggsy he should take point. He nods, and they both take off running.
The running is agony for Eggsy's head, blood throbbing sharply with each slap of his feet against the floor. He tries to focus on the weight of his gun against his palm, solid and familiar, and it helps a little, but by the time he skids to a halt at the T junction where the hall ends, he feels a bit like there's someone very small and very angry inside his head, trying to tunnel out through the hollow of his left eye. Percival stops beside him, drops his head. His arm is clutched against his chest.
Eggsy looks to the left and then the right, but both hallways are as identical as the ones they'd passed through earlier, all blank walls and unmarked doors. There's nothing to tell him whether one or the other is the better option. He thinks one of these hallways will lead to an outside wall, but he sure as fuck can't guess which.
The right hallway seems marginally shorter, though it's hard to tell for sure. Eggsy shifts his weight, ready to choose that one, but he only gets as far as leaning a little when something shimmers in the corner of his eye, off to the left. Eggsy whips his head around, bringing his gun up.
It's Harry – suited, tidy, looking for all the world like he'd just wandered in off the street for a business meeting or something.
Eggsy gapes, lowers his gun automatically and then curses himself for it. But Harry – or whatever this is – doesn't take advantage of his distraction. Instead he just looks worried, and he's obviously shouting something even if Eggsy can't hear a word.
Fuck it, Eggsy thinks. He lifts a hand to tap his ear, shakes his head. Harry grimaces and points down the left hallway.
Eggsy nods. Harry flickers out like a candle flame.
The whole exchange takes only a second or two. Eggsy touches Percival's shoulder, tilts his head left. Percival straightens up and nods.
They go left. There are more turnings here; Eggsy checks each one cautiously before they pass it, gun up as he swings around each corner, but the explosion must have bought them a good bit of time because every hallway is empty. Harry doesn't turn up again so Eggsy just carries on past the turnings; he's not sure where they're actually going, but he's trusted Harry this far and there's no sense second-guessing now.
The hall dead-ends at a series of unmarked doors. Harry reappears with a shimmer in front of the one on the left; he's only there a second, beckoning as he disappears backwards into the door itself, fading into nothingness a little more slowly than before.
Eggsy goes after him, grabs for the doorknob and twists, relieved when it gives under his hand and he can pull the door open. The room he reveals is filled with machinery but empty of Harry – but after a moment Eggsy catches sight of a glimmer of light from behind a pipe and he jerks his head in that direction. Percival just nods wearily.
They lock the door behind them and pick their way hurriedly across the floor, stepping over hastily tacked-down electrical cords and bits of tubing. The flash of light turns out to be from a vent fan, stuck halfway up the wall – Eggsy pries the cover off with a shim he finds nearby and tugs out the fan blades, leaving a neat hole. It's barely bigger than his shoulders and he knows it'll be a tight squeeze. Still, it's the best chance they've got and when he raises an eyebrow at Percival, he gets another tired nod in response.
Eggsy goes first. For one tense moment he thinks he might stick, but then he's wriggling out, gun forward, ducking into a roll as he lands on cracked pavement in the empty yard. It's kind of miraculous how empty it is, actually, a long stretch of pavement giving way to packed dirt and then, distantly, to trees. Where the fuck are all the guards? There's a couple of security cameras here, so Eggsy knows they can't linger, but at least he doesn't have to shoot their way out.
Percival's head appears a minute later, face white from having to squeeze his arm through the small space. His exit from the pipe is a barely-controlled fall rather than a tidy drop, and Eggsy has to hurry to put himself between Percival and the pavement. The unexpected weight sends him sprawling backwards, and he smacks his head against the ground hard enough to see stars once again. Shit, he thinks dazedly, is there a term for 'friendly fire' when it comes to head injury? Friendly concussion? 'C'mon, Eggsy, you don't mind if I give you a nice, friendly concussion, do ya?' 'Sure, bruv, no worries, you have a go if you feel like it.' He manages to wrap an arm around Percival's back, rolls them carefully over. Nah, that don't quite have the right ring to it.
Eggsy's attempts to get Percival back to his feet are fairly hampered by the fact that he's trying to spare half his attention to watching for guards. Eventually Percival shrugs him off and stands up on his own, though it's a laborious process. Once he's up he makes a scan of the sky and their surroundings, then taps his glasses and says something that Eggsy can't make out. Probably telling Merlin – and by extension Diego, who's waiting somewhere around here to pick them up – where they are, which is a bloody good idea.
When he's done they run again, a short jog that takes them as far as the tree line. As they reach it, light flashes off something metal in the leaves. Eggsy lifts his gun – but it's only Diego in the Jeep, displaying the exquisite timing that seems to be characteristic of Kingsman and its associates. They scramble into the cab. Eggsy pulls the door shut, and as he looks back he thinks he can see the outline of a man, just visible through the trees. He wants to think it could be Harry. But realistically, it could be anyone.
Diego slams his foot onto the accelerator, and then they're gone.
"Good job not getting too turned around in there," Merlin says. They've made it home, though it'd taken three days and the private jet and rather more scrutiny from airport security than any of them would have preferred. The ringing in Eggsy's ears has faded to a distant reverberation, still noticeable but quiet enough that Merlin doesn't have to shout his comments for the whole infirmary wing to hear, which is a blessing for all concerned. "What made you try that door, if you don't mind my asking?" Merlin continues.
Eggsy shrugs. "No idea. Jus' instinct, I s'pose." He doesn't say 'I hallucinated Harry showing me the way out,' because he's really fucking sure that he doesn't need the attention he'd get as a result (he's already been poked and prodded and peered at by more doctors than he can stand), but that must have been what it was. Just some part of his subconscious – the part that'd been paying attention to the building plans, apparently – knocked sideways by the blow to the head and manifesting itself as something he trusts, something he relies on. It couldn't have been Harry, not really.
Maybe if he keeps telling himself that, he'll figure out how to believe it.
"You were bloody lucky," Merlin says frankly. "But... you did well." He claps a hand to Eggsy's shoulder. Eggsy can't help but preen a little at the praise. Yeah, Harry – or whatever – had helped, but keeping his cool, taking point and getting them where they needed to be? That'd been all him. "And now you're benched," Merlin says, because apparently he's some sort of sadist that doesn't believe in letting Eggsy have more than ten fucking seconds of satisfaction.
"Aw c'mon, Merlin," Eggsy says. "No need for that! 'm fine!"
"Ah, yes," Merlin says, lifting his hand and moving to pluck Eggsy's chart from the slot at the end of the bed. "Fine, are you? I must have missed the definition of 'fine' that includes dizziness, tinnitus, and occasional vomiting."
"That was only once." It's mainly a pro-forma protest; Eggsy knows it's hopeless.
Merlin raises his eyebrows in a distinctly unimpressed expression. "Be that as it may, you're off for a week at least, perhaps more depending on what the doctors say. I would suggest spending that time trying to stay out of trouble, but that may be too much to ask."
"Oh, that's very nice, innit?" grumbles Eggsy. "Some thanks I get for savin' the world."
Merlin smirks at him, dropping the chart back into its slot. "Yes, yes, saved the world, certainly, but you're a menace to society otherwise. Rest, Eggsy." He gathers up his clipboard, saunters out.
"And another thing," Eggsy calls after him. "That explosion wasn't your idea of a distraction, was it? 'Cause if so, it was shit!" At least the lingering ringing in his ears means he can't hear Merlin laughing.
There's no getting out of the downtime – it's a consequence of the concussion that even Eggsy's best puppy eyes and Kingsman's desperate need for manpower can't get him out of. The first few days he's stuck on base, under doctor's supervision, filling the hours by helping Merlin with paperwork and supervising the relatively low-risk mission that Bors is on – Merlin having apparently decided that the way to get the two of them over their animosity was to force them to work together for six hours. It's not precisely a success – Eggsy still thinks Bors is a tosser and Bors clearly resents being babysat by someone so much younger – but they develop a sort of grudging respect for each other after Eggsy shouts, "Knife him in the balls!" during a key moment, and Bors actually does it. So that's something, at least.
When they let him out of the infirmary Eggsy idles around at Harry's, shifting things around in the closet and taking things off the walls, as if he can make Harry magically appear by mussing up his stuff. Sometimes he almost imagines he can feel Harry watching with faint disapproval, but after a couple of hours without even a glimpse of him Eggsy starts feeling a bit ridiculous and puts it all back. He doesn't even know if he's got a right to be here, not really. Yeah, he's still got the spare key and the cab keeps taking him here, but what if Harry's got family somewhere, what if he had a will? It kind of breaks Eggsy's heart to think of someone else living here: redecorating it to their taste, taking down Mr. Pickle – or, worse, NOT taking down Mr. Pickle – or just waking up here in the morning and going about their business, maybe knowing Harry and that he's dead but not knowing who he'd really been, what he'd done for the world.
And maybe it's just that he's been too busy to really think about it until now, but one minute he's standing in Harry's study staring at a Sun headline that reads 'KUMQUAT MAY' and the next minute he's on his knees, the stupid newspaper page crumpled in his fist, sobbing his fucking heart out and gasping "Shit, fuck, Harry, Harry—"
He thinks, somewhat distantly, that if this were that sort of movie he'd be crying prettily, manfully, with a single tear betraying his stoic expression. But instead it's a wrenching, full-body cry, slobbery and gross, face screwed up in pain that's half physical and half in some part of part of him that even a knife or a bullet couldn't reach. He can feel tears streaming down his cheeks, spit gathering at the corners of his mouth, and he'd like to raise a hand to wipe them away. Instead he can only rock back and forth helplessly, can only take great heaves of breath and weep until he thinks he might die from it.
Eventually the crying winds down, sobs giving way to shuddering gasps and then, finally, to something approaching calm.
The door to Harry's study clicks itself open. JB pads in, a soft patter of feet across the floor. He puts his cold nose to Eggsy's ankle and whines. Eggsy uncurls his hand from the newspaper, smooths it out carefully. "Harry, you twat," he murmurs. "Wish you was still fuckin' here."
He goes and gets his mum and Daisy after that, lets off a bit of steam scaring the shit out of Dean and his surviving mates. It's maybe not Concussion Recovery Approved, but it makes him feel a fuck of a lot better and that has to count for something. Once he's got them settled in Harry's place – "It's jus' temporary, mum. I'm looking after it for a friend. But I'll have a place of my own, soon." – he goes back to Merlin and asks to supervise another mission.
Merlin gives him a long look. "I'm fairly sure I recall you saying you'd rather eat one of Bors' eyeballs than handle someone else's mission ever again," he says, which, yeah, okay, Eggsy had said that, but he'd been fresh off several hours of sitting in a small room forced to do nothing but watch as Bors had all sorts of fun.
He shrugs. "Yeah, but I'm bored. And... it's probably not a bad idea for me to get a little work with whoever I can. 'Specially since one of them's going to be the new Arthur."
"Good idea," Merlin says, raising his eyebrows.
"You don't 'ave to sound so surprised, mate," Eggsy says. "I've had one or two good ideas in my time. Some of them even worked."
Merlin swats him on the back of the head. "They'd better all work, from now on." But he pulls out his tablet, skims through some sort of list until he sees something he likes the look of. "Right, you're supervising Gawain's mission in China starting in ten minutes."
"Ten minutes!" Eggsy yelps. "Fucking hell, Merlin, I ain't even set up somewhere! What'd Gawain ever do to you? Fuck your sister?"
"Down the hall, second door on the left," Merlin says mildly, turning away, and then, when Eggsy has scrambled out into the hallway and is just about out of earshot, "He insulted my jumper. So let that be a lesson to you."
Eggsy smothers a laugh and gets to work.
He sees Gawain through the China mission and then spends the next few days helping Roxy do research for her upcoming trip to Switzerland to put down a pair of bankers with some new and terrible market-manipulation scheme.
A couple of times he gets that feeling like maybe Harry's watching – including once, suddenly, the last morning, when he wakes up hard and aching and has his hand down his boxers before it really registers that he's knocking one out in Harry's fucking bed. The sensation of being watched flickers in and out then, barely more than the blink of an eye, but it makes all the hairs on the back of Eggsy's neck stand up straight and tall. He turns his face into the pillow and breathes in the fading remnants of Harry's scent and comes with a heartfelt groan.
That afternoon he helps Lamorak through a satisfyingly destructive visit to an illegal organ harvesting operation, and by the time he's finished diverting ten blocks' worth of New York City traffic signals so that Lamorak can disappear, the doctors have cleared him to go out again.
Merlin sends him to France, where he takes out a child-trafficking ring that's literally run out of a monastery – what the fuck – and then to Greece to investigate a serial killer. Merlin's got some sort of tech algorithm that has already identified the man, so all Eggsy has to do is locate and eliminate him, which means he's in and out in just 48 hours. He catches himself thinking about dragging it out, wondering if he'll end up hallucinating Harry again if things get dangerous enough, but as soon as he realizes the thought he deliberately turns it away. He wants to see Harry again, yeah, but he's in no hurry for the permanent reunion that would come from getting himself killed. Maybe he's mental. But he's not that kind of mental.
He's extra careful in Greece, extra careful in Italy on the mission that follows, which is why it's immensely galling when, back in London and treating himself to a nice cup of coffee at a little sidewalk café on the way back to Harry's, he's whacked over the head from behind and knocked flat-out unconscious.
Eggsy wakes tied hand and foot to a chair in the middle of a concrete room like some sort of fucking cliché. A pair of fluorescent lights illuminate the space, about as big as Harry's sitting room. There's a man standing in front of him, big and blond and hulking, flexing his fingers around a worn pair of brass knuckles, and two more walls of stereotypical man meat behind him. Eggsy goes wide-eyed, affecting fear and confusion as he scopes out the situation.
"Wh— what's going on?" He tests the ropes as he speaks, feeling the stretch that tells him he's been tied up by someone who was basically competent but not exceptionally skilled. He'll be able to get his hands free, but it will take a few minutes. His feet are a little more difficult, being in plain view of his captors, but not impossible. "Where am I?" His glasses are a heavy and unpleasant weight in the front pocket of his jacket. He'd taken them off while he was having his coffee, because after so many days of constant use they're starting to leave little red marks on the sides of his nose. Which in retrospect was a stupid decision. At least Merlin will be able to hear what he's saying, even if he can't see anything.
"Shut the fuck up," says Blondy. Eggsy doesn't recognize him, though he has no idea if that's a good thing or a bad one. "I'm asking the questions. Who are you?"
Jesus fuck, Eggsy thinks. 'I'm asking the questions,' really? Who even says that? "I— my name's Gary," he says, sticking to his standard cover persona. He twists his hand, starts worrying at the edge of the rope with the side of his thumb. "Gary Evans. Look, bruv, whoever you're looking for, you got the wrong guy! I'm just a tailor's assistant. I'm not even from 'round here!"
"That's for sure," Blondy says. "So why was you watching our shop, eh?"
"I dunno what you're talking about." Eggsy says. "I was just havin' a coffee, I swear. My boss sent me to do a delivery and yeah, okay, I was wastin' time a bit on the way back. Ain't like he's gonna know, right?" He swallows, using the movement to hide the flex of his shoulders as he loosens a loop of rope. "What with everything still all fucked up from a few weeks ago."
"They make you get all dolled up like that just to hand a bloke a suit?" says Blondy skeptically.
"I'm a walking advertisement, bruv," Eggsy says. The first loop slides off, and he starts working on the next. "The client sees that one of these can make even me look good? Imagine what it could do for someone with actual class."
The guy on Blondy's left snorts. Eggsy mentally names him Thug #1, and the other one Thug #2, but he doesn't have time to speculate about their favorite films or taste in girls, because Blondy leans forward and casually backhands him across the face, brass knuckles and all.
"I ain't buying it," Blondy says, as lights skitter across Eggsy's eyes. "The thing is, you got the look."
"What look?" Eggsy says, a little breathless. "The look of someone you fancy, is that it? I don't think you're exactly my type."
The click of a gun being cocked makes his fingers go still. When he looks over, Thug #2 is leveling a pistol at him.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Eggsy says, his panic only mostly feigned. He's wearing his suit so it's good protection, but it won't take them more than a shot or two to realize it's not exactly standard. And then his cover really will be blown.
"The look of someone in the business," Blondy says. "I don't know you, but that don't mean nothing anymore. Everybody's trying to get in on what's good."
"I don't even know what business you're talking about," Eggsy says. He goes back to working on the knot, more urgently this time. "And I don't wanna know. I swear, okay?"
Blondy gives him an unpleasant smile. "That's what they all say." He gives Eggsy another smack to the face and then another, goes at him for a while without asking any more questions. Eggsy lets his head swing with the blows, groaning to try and make it seem like he's hurt more than he is, though the punches are powerful enough that it isn't entirely an exaggeration. Meanwhile he keeps working on the rope tying his hands, slipping off another loop over his knuckles so that only one remains.
After a solid two minutes Blondy seems to get bored with this – which is fair enough, because Eggsy's not exactly having the time of his life, either. "You ready to talk yet?" Blondy asks. "Or do you need a little more persuading?"
"I'm telling you," Eggsy says hoarsely. His face is well bruised now, gums stinging. "I got no idea what you're talking about." This time the fist goes to his ribs, and his eyes go shut tight as he gives a genuine scream of pain.
When he opens them again, Harry is there. He's wearing a suit – a detached part of Eggsy's mind notes that it's the same suit he'd worn to Kentucky – and he has his glasses on. The knot of his tie is precisely dimpled.
Eggsy grins, can't help himself. "Hey, Harry," he says. He can taste blood. "Should'a known you'd turn up sooner or later."
"Hold on for just a few more minutes, Eggsy," Harry says. He goes to his knees beside the chair, stretches out a hand as if to touch Eggsy's face and then pulls back at the last moment. "Lancelot is almost here. I believe you should wait and take advantage of the distraction."
"Yeah, all right," Eggsy says, aiming for casual appreciation of the advice and probably missing it by a mile. He works the last bit of rope loose, curls it up in his fist to keep it from dropping to the floor.
"Who are you talking to?" says Blondy, looking around behind himself as if he expects the wall to have sprouted ears.
Eggsy ignores him. "You just gonna keep coming 'round when I need a hand, izzat it?" he says to Harry.
Harry chuckles, though his expression is worried. "Yes, I suppose you could put it like that."
"Oi!" Blondy says. He steps forward, smacks Eggsy none too gently across the face. "Who the fuck are you talking to?" Eggsy is too busy boggling to reply – Blondy's movement had taken him right into the space Harry was already occupying, so that Harry appears to have grown a second, rather less attractive, torso.
"He's rather tedious, isn't he?" Harry says, conversationally.
"Mmm," Eggsy agrees.
"You can shut him up in a minute," Harry says.
"Tha's what I love about you," Eggsy tells him, a little too woozy to really think about what he's saying. "You know just what I like."
Harry's face goes a little softer, a little sad. "Yes, Eggsy," he says, and then, "You've done so well over the last few weeks. I'm very proud of you."
Eggsy beams at him. It ought to be ridiculous, the way the sound of Harry's voice makes something shiver and go lax in his chest. Eggsy had thought that those cruel words before Kentucky would always be the last thing they'd said to each other – to get these new words, said with such concern, is enough to make him tremble. "Wish you could stay," he says. "I mean... if you're hanging around anyway. I wouldn't mind havin' a chat sometime when I wasn't getting beat up and all."
"I'll see what I can do," Harry promises, and then, "Be ready now. Just listen for her." He slides gracefully to his feet, takes a step back and then fades away with a soft shimmer.
"Oi!" says Blondy again, but he doesn't get any further than that. Something slams against a wall elsewhere in the building. There is a spatter of distant gunshots. Blondy and the two thugs turn reflexively towards the door; Thug #2's gun hand dips, careless.
Eggsy heaves himself backwards, dropping the rope just in time to brace against the concrete as he swings the chair around underneath him and kicks up. The chair catches Blondy right between the legs. He goes down screaming; it's pretty fucking glorious. A second kick tugs Eggsy's feet free of the chair legs and he rolls to the side just in time to avoid the shot that sprays off the concrete.
Thug #1 appears to be even less intelligent than he'd appeared, because despite the shooting from his fellow goon he dives for Eggsy's chest, arms out as if to hug him into submission. Eggsy elbows him in the throat, then pivots his arm sharply around to smash the thug across the face with the back of his fist just for good measure. The attack buys him six inches of space and he uses it to draw back his arm and cold cock the bloke with one swift punch.
In the distance, the banging and gunshots are getting louder. The now-limp body of Thug #1 is a decent shield, at least for the moment, but it reduces Eggsy's maneuverability considerably and so after a split second he gets a foot under the body and shoves it up and sideways. It smashes into Blondy, who's just about recovered enough from the chair to the nuts to think about doing something constructive. He goes down again.
This just leaves Eggsy with Thug #2. A hand braced against the concrete lets him flip quickly to his feet. At this distance even an idiot could hit his mark, and Eggsy takes two shots to the chest – both painful, but deflected by his Kingsman-issue suit – before he can grab Thug #2's wrist with both hands and twist it away. The thug smashes at the side of Eggsy's face with his other hand, hard enough to send light scattering across his vision, but Eggsy just headbutts him right in the forehead and wrestles the gun out of his hand.
Two shots later, it's all over. Eggsy stands woozily for a moment, breathing hard. He plucks his glasses from his pocket, slides them on.
"What the fuck is happening?" Merlin says.
"Calm down, Merls," Eggsy says. "I'm pretty sure Roxy's here."
He manages to get the door unlocked before he passes out.
Later, when he comes to again, it's in the Kingsman hospital wing, with an IV in the back of his left hand and one of those damned heart monitors clipped to his index finger. "I'm gettin' a bit tired of this place," Eggsy murmurs, staring up at the ceiling.
"I'm sure the staff are tired of looking at your wrinkled little face, too," says Roxy, from somewhere off to his right.
Eggsy eases himself up onto his elbows, taking in the rest of the room. He blinks, then turns to her. "Wrinkled?" he says. "Lancelot, you wound me."
"And you can do that perfectly well by yourself, it seems."
Eggsy snorts. "Everyone's got to have a skill or two."
Roxy reaches for the bed controls, tilting the back up so that he can sit upright without having to support himself. Eggsy gives her a smile of thanks. "All right, Rox?"
"If you call worried out of my bloody mind 'all right,'" she says, and smacks him on the shoulder. "Seriously Eggsy, what the fuck were you doing?"
"Oi, I was just minding my business, that's what I was doing," Eggsy says, dropping his head back against the pillow. "How was I to know that shop was next to some paranoid criminal bastards?"
"Only you could accidentally discover a major drug ring that wasn't even on Merlin's radar."
"What can I say?" Eggsy says, giving Roxy a smug smile. "I'm just that good."
Roxy rolls her eyes, but after a moment she sobers, reaches out to touch his arm. She says, tentatively, "Eggsy... are you really all right?" Eggsy furrows his brow at her, and she says, "Only... you were talking to Harry for a bit there."
Ah. Eggsy lets his gaze slide past Roxy's worried expression to where Harry's leaning up against the far wall. He's been there the whole time. But Eggsy doesn't need the shake of Harry's head to tell him not to mention it.
"That blond bloke must've hit me harder than I thought," he jokes instead. "But I gave him what he deserved, didn't I? You should'a seen his face when he got that chair right in the plums."
"I'm sure it was marvelous," Roxy says dryly, and if her expression is still a bit sad, well, Eggsy can deal with that so long as she doesn't ask him any more awkward questions.
Harry stays with him for most of the two days he's stuck in the hospital wing, flickering in and out as if he can tell when Eggsy's bored out of his fucking skull and just on the edge of ripping his IV out entirely. Eggsy doesn't dare speak to him; there are cameras everywhere in here, even beyond the obvious ones, and his glasses are still on the table beside the bed where Roxy had – pointedly – left them. But Harry seems to understand that and doesn't ask him anything. Instead he tells Eggsy stories about his childhood and his early Kingsman days, about the first time Merlin realized he was losing his hair and when Gawain rescued a five year old kidnapped princess and the rest of the Kingsmen called him Prince Charming for weeks afterwards.
Eggsy leans back with his eyes just slitted open and drinks it all in, tries to keep himself from reacting too obviously. He might be going mental. But so far none of this has done him any harm, it doesn't seem like, and he sure as fuck doesn't want to have it picked over and dissected by every doctor within a two mile radius.
Eventually the doctors release him for light duty and Eggsy gets to cast his vote for the new Arthur from the boardroom rather than the bed. The only two candidates are Percival and Bedivere; Eggsy picks a bit of non-existent lint off the cuff of his suit jacket and votes for Percy without a second thought. Bedivere actually looks relieved when Percy easily takes the win.
Percy's first act as Arthur is to tell them that he'll be looking over all of the policies that Chester had instituted and probably throwing most of them out. Bors grumbles at that, but he subsides when Percy gives him a sharp look. Harry watches the whole thing from a corner of the room, smiling inscrutably.
Eggsy gets discharged after that, sent home to recuperate for a couple of days unsupervised. As he's collecting JB, Harry flickers into view again, steps close to murmur in his ear. "I'll see you at home, my boy, and then we can finally talk."
The cab ride back to Harry's is long and silent. The neighborhood cleanup has progressed significantly since Eggsy was last here; some of the boarded up shops have new windows, and the bloodstain on the pavement by the corner has been painted over in white.
At home there's a note from his mum on the fridge, letting him know she's gone out for the night with a couple of her mates and that Daisy's with a sitter. Which means that for the first time in nearly three weeks, Eggsy is alone.
He puts the kettle on. While it's boiling he feeds JB, then takes his glasses off, carries them carefully into the hall, and sets them on the table by the door, making sure that the lenses face the wall just for good measure. He goes back into the kitchen and makes up a cup of tea, milky and sweet. He loosens his tie. Then he goes into the sitting room and shuts the door. He sits down on the sofa, sets the cup and saucer on the coffee table.
Harry appears, a grey shimmer of air against the warm dark wallpaper.
Eggsy says, very slowly, "Harry?"
"I'm here," Harry says. He takes a step forward, sits down at the opposite end of the sofa. He isn't wearing the suit anymore – has changed, instead, into one of his soft cardigans, neatly buttoned up the front. Eggsy's pretty sure that that one's actually still hanging in the closet upstairs. "Eggsy," Harry says. "I'm here." He looks like one of Eggsy's fantasies – not the filthy kind, which usually had Harry half out of a suit, mussed and ruffled under Eggsy's hands, but the more insidious kind, the kind where they slumped together on this sofa, Harry's arm warm and comforting across Eggsy's shoulders as they watched some ridiculously cheesy film.
Eggsy just watches him for a long moment. He doesn't dare move closer. "How?" he says finally. "I mean. Harry, you're dead." The sentence hangs in the air like heated breath.
Harry grimaces. "There are things I am not permitted to tell you, and that is one of them. But I can tell you that I will be here as long as you need me."
"So, what, you some sort of guardian angel or something?" Eggsy jokes, but when Harry's answer comes, it's serious.
"Something like that. There are opportunities offered to certain people, at the moment of death – I don't pretend to know why I was one of them. I was given the opportunity; I chose to take it."
Eggsy blows out a breath. He can tell there's a lot that Harry isn't saying – like just who it is that had offered him this opportunity, for one thing. God? Aliens? Some even-more-secret-than-Kingsman organization with freaky mysterious powers? But he's pretty sure he isn't going to learn the answer to that kind of question, not right off. He settles instead for asking about something a little more immediate. "And you can, what? Appear when I need a hand?"
"I can observe," Harry says. "I can speak to you. But it will do no good for me to step in front of a bullet for you. I cannot pick locks, or even turn a doorknob." His mouth forms into a little pucker of displeasure. "You are the only person who can be affected by me, the only person who can hear or see me, so I have been told. I can warn you of things, at least. I can go places that you cannot go and then come back and tell you about what I have seen. It's little enough, I know, but—"
"Shut up," Eggsy says. "Harry, that's bullshit. You've already saved my arse twice."
Something in Harry's expression eases. "Well," he says. "I suppose I have."
"I reckon Kingsman's pretty fuckin' lucky they got you," Eggsy says.
Harry looks away, then determinedly back to meet Eggsy's gaze. "Not Kingsman," he says. "Just you."
Something small and warm and quivering happens in Eggsy's chest. "'Cause I was your candidate?" he asks.
"My dear boy," Harry says. "You were always so much more than that."
It's everything Eggsy's ever wanted to hear, and it's that more than anything else that makes him pedal mentally backwards, sharp and afraid, like he'd just walked in on one of Dean's private conversations.
He hadn't even really known Harry that well, before Kentucky. Loved him, yes – but loved him for what he'd done, for what he represented. He'd loved Harry for saving him from Dean, for pushing him to be his best self, for believing that he was worth something. When they'd talked it had mostly been about Kingsman, about Eggsy's training, with Harry giving him little tidbits of advice and technique. Harry hadn't talked much about himself – he certainly hadn't mentioned any of the things that he's revealed over the last few days: that he'd been raised by his aunt or that he detested liver or that he'd studied medicine before being recruited.
Eggsy had wanted to know those things, but he'd always figured he'd have to weasel them out of Harry, have to ask casual questions in opportune moments and carry away the fragments he got in reply. He'd never really thought that Harry might just want to tell him things. He'd never really thought that Harry might feel something like what he feels.
Saying, "Yeah, this might not be real, who even gives a fuck?" seemed perfectly fine when it came to shit that got him out of trouble. But if it's this?
"I apologize if I've overstepped," Harry says. His voice is tight, and when Eggsy's gaze snaps back up to his face he can see that Harry looks a bit stricken, though he's obviously trying to hide it.
"Tell me something I couldn't know," Eggsy says abruptly. He picks up his cup of tea, mainly for something to do with his hands. "It's not— fucking hell, Harry. Overstepping don't come into it. I mean, when I said I wanted you to drop by more often, I meant... stay. Just stay. Forever, if you wanna."
"Ah," Harry says. The tight line of his shoulders eases a little.
"Yeah," Eggsy says. "So... tell me something I couldn't know. That way I can be sure this ain't just some fucked up part of my head trying to give me what I want."
"I— All right," says Harry, and then, straightening his shoulders, "On the— no, that won't work. In the top left drawer of my desk in the study, there's a safe."
Eggsy puts the tea down on the coffee table and shoves himself to his feet. They don't speak as they go up the stairs, Harry leading the way. Eggsy closes the study door behind him and crosses to the desk. Everything is just as he'd left it – one newspaper laid out on the desk, still a little wrinkled from being clenched in Eggsy's fist a week and a half ago. He pulls open the drawer, tugs out a stack of papers to reveal the discreet keypad underneath.
Harry leans up against the wall; the newspaper against his back doesn't even rustle. He says, "The code is three eight seven five six three nine eight one three five eight." Eggsy punches it in. There is a faint beep, and then a click as the bottom of the drawer pops up. He gets his fingertips under the edge and levers it upwards. Underneath there is a small black notebook. "Flip to the last page," Harry says. "Or shall I tell you what it says first?"
"Go on, then," Eggsy says quietly. He puts his hand on the cover of the book but doesn't open it.
"Dear Eggsy," Harry says, tilting his head up as if the words might be written on the ceiling. "If you're reading this letter the bad news is that I've died in the line of duty and this has been passed on. I've always written my goodbyes on the last day of every month because violent death is an occupational hazard, and I hope I've taught you the importance of having your affairs in order."
Eggsy huffs out a little laugh. Trust Harry to deliver a lesson even like this.
But Harry doesn't give him a chance to tease, just carries on reciting in a way that tells Eggsy he must have spent quite a while getting the wording just right. "I know that, ostensibly, I've been teaching you in our period together, but on the other hand I genuinely believe that you've been teaching me, too. I taught you all about good clothes and fine wine and foreign languages and nuclear bombs, but you've taught me what was missing from my life." Eggsy sucks in a breath. Harry says, "I love my job and it brings me enormous satisfaction, but at the same time I've been very lonely over the years. I've treasured all the time we've spent talking about the stupid, little things. Can you believe, after all these years, this is the first time I've written a goodbye letter to someone I'm on first name basis with? Thank you for bringing some warmth into my life. Please don't use my death as an excuse to quit or wallow in self-pity. I hope I've proven a man is capable of anything in his life. All we need is a little opportunity and someone to believe in us."
It takes Eggsy a long moment to realize that Harry's finished; he's too busy letting the words seep into him, drip into the place in his chest that's been hollow ever since he'd seen the barrel of Valentine's gun swing up towards Harry's face. "Jesus, Harry," he says finally. "You don't do nothing by halves, do ya?"
Harry gives him a swift, fond glance. "Are you going to open it?" he says, tilting his head to indicate the drawer. Eggsy blinks, then looks down at the book. He'd almost forgotten about it.
"Yeah." He lifts the book out, flips through the pages with their neat, close writing until they give way to blank white. The last page of writing is cool against his fingertips as he reads the words – those same words – all over again from start to finish. When he's finished, he closes the book, sets it carefully aside. "Shit," he says.
It's real. Harry's real.
He sits down, hard, on the corner of the desk, letting its solidity hold him up as he shudders hard, top to toe. When he looks up again, Harry is watching him.
"If you was solid," Eggsy says hoarsely, "I reckon I'd be kissin' you right now."
Harry closes his eyes, and now his face is pained, yearning. "You must know that's mutual. Eggsy..." The name is barely a breath.
Eggsy wants to scream, wants to cry, wants to rage against the whole fucking world for finally giving him this with one hand and yet taking it away again with the other.
But more than any of that, he wants to wipe that horrible expression off Harry's face.
He lifts his chin. "Yeah?" It's as sultry as he can make it. "An' what would'dja do after that, then?"
Harry's eyes snap open and he gives Eggsy a decidedly startled look. "Eggsy— You can't possibly be suggesting—"
"Why the fuck not?" Eggsy says. He clenches his hands on the edges of the desk. "Look, Harry. Maybe we can't have... what we could've had. But that don't mean we can't have something."
"You can't even touch me," Harry says harshly.
"Yeah, well I didn't fucking fall in love with your arse, did I?" Eggsy shoots back, and he nearly laughs when Harry's mouth honest to god drops open. "Don't leave me alone again, Harry," he says, sobering a little. "Not now, not like this."
Harry crosses his arms over his chest, an obvious tell, and it occurs to Eggsy that maybe he's not the only one struggling a little with this whole not-really-dead thing. That maybe Harry had told himself he was only here to keep Eggsy alive, to protect him. That now Eggsy's changing the rules on him, and he might need a moment to recalibrate his expectations. It's an odd thought – this is Harry Hart, superspy extraordinaire, and he's supposed to be able to roll with the punches.
Then again, Harry's dead. Who knows how that changes you.
Eggsy opens his mouth – not to retract that plea, because it's probably the most honest thing he's said in his life, but maybe to blunt the edges of it a little, to give Harry some time – but before he can even get a word out, Harry drops his arms and says, "I'd get my hands in your hair."
All the breath goes out of Eggsy's lungs at once. Maybe – just maybe – he hadn't actually expected Harry to go along with the idea. "Yeah?" he manages.
"Yes." Harry's gaze is fixed on his face, and Eggsy feels himself heat up all at once with a whoosh, like one of the gas burners on Harry's stove as it lights. "That's what I'd do first," Harry continues, "just because I wouldn't be able to help myself. Especially when you're like this, all neat and square. Gentlemanly. I'd want to leave it mussed, so anyone could look at you and know what you'd been doing, know that I'm the one who'd done it to you. And I'd want to keep you close, too, want to just hold you as near me as I could get you."
Eggsy clenches his hands on the edges of the desk to keep from reaching out; his knuckles go tight with the strain.
"Then I'd make myself slow down," Harry says, "just kiss you for a while, looking into your eyes to make sure you were enjoying yourself. I'd want to draw out every moment. I'd cup your cheek. I'd run my fingertips down the column of your throat, feel you swallow."
Eggsy swallows then, helpless to stop himself.
"Christ," Harry says, and then, "Will you do that for me, love? Touch yourself, just there?"
Eggsy doesn't hesitate, just lifts a hand to his throat and runs the tips of his fingers down the length of it, slow as he can. The sensation makes him shiver.
"Good," Harry breathes. "I think I'd take your jacket off, next. Let it slide down over your shoulders and drop to the desk."
"You ain't going to worry about wrinkles?" Eggsy says, shrugging out of the jacket.
"Not when I'm kissing you," Harry says. "My dear boy, give yourself a little more credit than that."
Eggsy snorts, but he can feel his lips quirk up into a smile anyway. God, he's missed this. He and Roxy can throw lines at each other all day long and he's even beginning to get a feel for Merlin's sense of humor, but there's nothing quite like Harry's particular brand of slyness, the way he always manages to make Eggsy feel included even when maybe he's the butt of the joke just a little bit. "Then what?" he says, tilting his head back and giving Harry a look from underneath his eyelashes.
"Your tie," Harry says, sounding a little breathless. Eggsy lifts his hand to his tie without being told. "Slowly," says Harry. "Ease it loose. Yes, like that."
The silk of the tie is cool against Eggsy's fingers as he slips it out of its knot. "Leave it like this?" he says, letting the two ends fall to his chest. "Or take it all the way off?"
Harry makes a considering noise. "Leave it," he says. "The shirt next. I'd take my time with each button, of course. Maybe I'd let my thumbs just brush against your nipples." His hands are pressed flat against the wall. "I'd want to see how sensitive you are, how responsive to my touch."
Eggsy's hands are a little shaky as he fumbles the top button of his shirt open. There's something unmistakably carnal about Harry saying the word 'nipples,' even more so than the fact that Harry is more or less undressing him. With Harry's careful, self-possessed voice this could almost be a lesson – How To Get Naked Gentleman-Style – but nipples? That's definitely proper sex.
His cock knows it, too; he's half-hard already and he can feel the low thrum of his heartbeat pushing through his veins. He dips a quick hand to adjust himself but doesn't let it linger, going back to his buttons and working a second one free, and then a third. He carefully skates one thumb over his chest, teasing himself just lightly, the way he figures Harry would. His gasp is loud enough to echo.
"That's right," Harry says. His eyes are dark, full of intent. "Now the other. Yes, that's right. You are sensitive, aren't you? I'd love to get my mouth on you, love to learn the shape of you with my tongue."
"Finish the buttons," Harry says. Eggsy swallows whatever he'd been about to say and obeys. When the last one comes undone he parts the two halves of the shirt, baring his chest and stomach. "Beautiful," Harry says, his voice reverent. "Oh, Eggsy, if you could only see yourself."
Eggsy blushes. "I'd rather see you," he says. "You know, I think this is prob'ly about as far as I'd let you get with you still all buttoned up like that."
"Oh, yes?" Harry says, clearly a little wrong-footed by Eggsy suddenly taking charge.
Eggsy gives him a nod. "I'd wanna get you out of that jumper, first of all, but I don't think I'd be patient enough for all them buttons. I'd just tug it up and off." He makes a vague gesture, and after a moment Harry reaches for the hem of his jumper, tugging it off over his head.
When he tosses it aside, it flickers out of existence in mid-air. Eggsy boggles for a moment, then pushes the thought aside and says, "The shirt's trickier, innit? I'd try and do the buttons quick, but maybe I'd be trying to kiss you, too, and we'd get all tangled up together. Then you'd pull away and do it yourself, just to speed things up."
Harry huffs out a laugh. His fingers make short work of the buttons, and a moment later his shirt joins the jumper, wherever it is. The sight of him shirtless makes Eggsy's cock twitch. Whatever death's done for Harry, it hasn't softened him. Eggsy wants to reach out, wants to trace the taut stretch of Harry's muscles with his fingertips, learn the feel of every single one of his scars. But he knows better than to try it. He doesn't think he could bear seeing his hands pass through Harry like he wasn't even there.
"What would you do next?" Eggsy asks, leaning back a little on the desk, letting his legs fall open. He's expecting something heated in reply, maybe Harry reasserting control, but instead Harry hesitates, gaze flicking away over Eggsy's shoulder and then back again to his face.
"I'd take you to bed," Harry says, almost tentatively. "I'd want to see you spread out on my sheets, bare for me. I'd want to cherish every inch of you." He pauses, licks his lips. "Would you let me?"
Eggsy has to clear his throat before he can say, "Yeah, Harry. We can do that."
He snags his jacket off the desk as they go. It's only a few steps down the hall to the bedroom, but the soft pat of his socked feet against the wood seems shockingly loud in the quiet of the house.
In the bedroom Eggsy closes the door, then slings the jacket onto the doorknob and shucks off his loose shirt and tie. When he turns, Harry is standing by the bed, still half-dressed, his hands clenched on his thighs and the line of his cock hard and obvious in the front of his trousers. "Lie down?" Harry says.
Eggsy nods. "You, too."
They settle down side by side, each half propped up on an elbow. "Touch yourself again," Harry says, his voice low and warm. "Your chest." His gaze sweeps down over Eggsy's body and then back up to fix on his face. Eggsy swallows hard under the scrutiny.
"You, too," he says again, and then more fiercely, "I ain't gonna be the only one on display here, okay?"
Harry blinks at him. "Yes, of course," he says, and Eggsy's sudden irritation flees as quickly as it had come.
"Sorry," he says. "It's just... maybe it's you over there and me over here but we're doing this together, ain't we? I don't want to feel like I'm one of them bugs you got nailed up all over the fucking place."
"Oh, Eggsy," Harry says. He gives Eggsy a smile with just a hint of something sad in it. "I wouldn't dare try to pin you down."
Eggsy's pretty damn sure there's more to that than the obvious, but now doesn't seem like it's quite the time to puzzle it out. Instead he drags his hand up his chest, thumbs a nipple deliberately. "G'wan, then," he says. "This how you like it? Slow and – ah – all precise? Should'a known."
"I do like to take my time," Harry says, lifting his own hand to mirror Eggsy's movements. "Anything worth doing is worth savoring." His fingertips draw the nipple up into a pucker and then pinch it, sudden and swift; when Eggsy does the same to his own, it sends a dart of pleasure/pain straight to his cock.
"Ah, fuck," he says, panting a little.
"Mmm," Harry says. "I'm sure you can see the benefits." His eyes keep roaming over Eggsy's body, drinking him in, and despite what Eggsy'd said about the butterflies he can't resist putting on a bit of a show for Harry, arching his back a little and giving Harry sly looks from underneath his eyelashes. Harry groans, his cheeks going pink as he teases himself, his breath coming a little quicker. "God, I wish I could get my mouth on you," Harry says, almost to himself. "Feel all that beautiful golden skin against my lips."
"Yeah," Eggsy says, "shit yeah. You could suck on these, get me all worked up." He's pretty worked up already, hips starting to twitch from all the stimulation – he doesn't normally spend this much time on his nipples, and it's almost overwhelming.
Harry takes pity on him, slides his hand down and cups his cock through the fabric of his trousers. "Then I'd touch you here," he says. "Get the measure of you."
Eggsy lets his own hand drift downward and squeezes himself softly, just to take the edge off a little, groaning at the press of his palm. It feels amazing to touch himself at last, even with far too much fabric in the way. "Shit, Harry, you don't know what you're doin' to me."
Harry's eyes flutter briefly closed, and when he opens them again his gaze is burning. "Show me, then," he says, suddenly rough. His hand goes to his belt, jerks the strap out from the buckle. "Isn't that what you'd be doing? You'd be so desperate for it. So eager." The word in Harry's mouth sounds absolutely filthy.
Eggsy fumbles with his own belt, not quite used to doing it one-handed, and after a moment he gives up and rolls onto his back so that he can have both hands free. "Yeah," he says, "fuck, I'd be so desperate. Wantin' you to rub me off good and proper. I'd be beggin' you." Once he's got the belt unbuckled and his zip down he hesitates, then lifts his hips and shucks off trousers and pants in one swift motion, kicking his socks off as well along the way.
When he rolls back onto his side Harry's lips are parted, his nostrils flared like he can get off just from the musky smell of Eggsy's precome and sweat. His hand has gone clenched tight around the end of his belt. Eggsy smirks, glad to see that Harry's not quite as smooth and collected as he sometimes seems, but it's short-lived. Harry growls at him, then scrambles out of his own trousers and boxer briefs, kicking the whole mess off into whatever nebulous realm houses the rest of his clothes.
Now it's Eggsy's turn to stare at Harry's really rather nice cock – thick and full and curved a little to the right, already damp at the tip. "I'd love to suck you," Eggsy blurts. "Get on my knees for you, let you just push into my mouth all warm and waiting." He can imagine how it would feel, the weight of Harry's cock pressing into him, deep enough to make him dizzy.
''You utter tease," Harry says. He wraps his hand around his cock, fingers tightening briefly so hard it must hurt. "Shameless—" The word breaks into a groan as he begins to stroke himself in earnest. "Shameless boy."
"I wouldn't never be ashamed of doing anything for you," Eggsy says. He gets his own cock in his hand, gives himself a slow, warm-up sort of stroke, though it's difficult not to just get himself off hard and fast. "I'd just— ah— ask you what you wanted—" Another stroke, this one a little tighter. "And then I'd do it for you." He rubs his palm over the head of his cock, pressing against the slit and then pulling away again. It comes away wet, sticky with precome that makes the next strokes easier, smoother.
"I'd want to bite you," Harry says. His voice is low, almost a growl. "Bruise you. Mark you. Leave a thousand reminders of me on your skin so that you'd never forget."
Eggsy groans, his strokes speeding up helplessly. "Yes, Harry," he says. Soft, slick sounds fill the air between them, the noise of skin against skin. God, it's good to touch himself, to let his thumb shudder up the side of his cock, root to tip and back again, just the way he likes it.
"I'd want to spread you open," Harry continues. "Run my tongue up the insides of your thighs, taste your sweat." He's stroking himself hard now, eyes darting from Eggsy's face down his body to his cock and then back again, like he can't quite settle on what he wants to see most.
Eggsy finds himself doing the same, trying to take in every inch of the sight in front of him. There's something obscene about watching Harry wank, maybe more obscene than proper sex would be. Like this ought to be private, like no one else has ever known – will ever know – the way the fat, puffed head of Harry's cock pushes up through the circle of his elegant fingers, the way Harry has his bottom lip caught between his teeth as he fucks into his own palm, the way his cheeks are flushed so very red. "Yes, Harry," Eggsy moans.
"I'd want to fuck you," Harry says.
"I'd want to come on your— your pretty face."
Harry groans, a low, desperate noise that sounds like it's been wrenched from somewhere deep inside him. His hand is moving jerkily on his cock, almost careless. "Eggsy—"
"I'd be all yours," says Eggsy. He's getting close now, his heart thumping a mile a minute and his cock throbbing with each thrust into the hollow of his palm. There is sweat all down the front of his chest, prickling under his arms, and he's even hotter wherever Harry's gaze sweeps across his skin. Does it even matter that they can't touch? How could it possibly matter, when Harry is watching him with such a look on his face? "I'd do anything for you, Harry, love," Eggsy says. "Any fucking thing, all right?"
"Eggsy—" Harry sounds properly wrecked, breath hitching in the back of his throat with each stroke. "Oh Eggsy," he says, "darling, oh my darling boy, with me, come with me," and that's it, that's all Eggsy needs.
Maybe it's all he'd ever needed.
Orgasm rolls up from behind his navel, curls over him and crashes down. Eggsy barely manages to keep his eyes locked to Harry's face, too greedy for the sight of him to let go, even for his own pleasure. It's worth it to see the way Harry's expression is stripped bare as he comes, eyes wild, lips bitten red and parted in a soundless O.
When the rush of it passes, Eggsy slumps onto his back against the sheets, sucking in air, his muscles all gone pleasure-slack. "Jesus fuck, tha' was good," he says. He can hear Harry snort beside him at this, but it's a decidedly fond sort of noise.
"Not inaccurate," Harry murmurs, his voice low and close as if he's set his mouth almost to Eggsy's ear. "Though I'd hope 'good' is something of an understatement."
"Yes, Harry," Eggsy says with a smile. His eyes keep slipping closed, lids suddenly heavy with the emotional weight of everything from the past month – Harry, Valentine, the toast, his missions to Germany and Guatemala and Italy and fuck knows where else he's been, the warehouse, the Arthur election, Harry again – all coming down at once. Like it'd all been saving itself up, waiting for the first moment when he truly let his guard down.
But he doesn't want to sleep. Doesn't want to take the chance that maybe when he wakes he'll be alone all over again. Harry had said he'd stick around as long as Eggsy needed him. But plenty of people have said that kind of thing to Eggsy before.
"Harry—" He can't quite figure out how to ask. Can't even turn his head to look in case he has to see Harry slowly fading into nothingness.
"It's all right," Harry says, softly, like he knows just what Eggsy is thinking. "Eggsy. It's all right."
"Yes, of course," Harry says.
Eggsy takes a deep breath in, blows it out again, gives up on trying to keep his eyes open and lets the white square of the ceiling disappear behind his lowered eyelids. He can feel himself beginning to drift in a soft, contented drowsiness – like he's cocooned in something warm and safe.
A hand smooths over his hair, a brief comforting touch, but it's barely there before it goes abruptly still, fingers just touching the top of his ear.
"Mmm?" It's the most Eggsy can manage at the moment, and after a few seconds the hand starts moving again, sweeping down the side of his head and then back up to repeat the motion. A small part of his mind seems to think there's something noteworthy about this, but he's too tired to focus on it.
"I'm an idiot," Harry says.
Harry chuckles. "Nevermind," he says. "Sleep now. I'll be here in the morning."