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First Mile's Always Harder

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Their first mission after preventing world-wide genocide is a milk run, has training wheels written all over it. Roxy's trying not to take that personally.

Eggsy, however, is excited. “Egypt, Rox,” he says, elbowing her while they watch the plane descend above the pyramids, childlike glee in his tone. “Our first official mission’s in Egypt, how sick is that?”

Roxy doesn't dignify that with a reply. She was seven the first time she'd been to Cairo with her parents. They went again when she was twelve, and then again at fifteen, and by now she doesn't require a guided tour anymore. She could lead one. Eggsy, on the other hand, has probably only ever left the city for class trips on a rented bus. He's beside himself: grins like a lunatic from the moment they leave the plane, swats her arm and points at some random tourist trap every other step, and gives a running commentary on their surroundings the whole way from the airfield to their hotel. Under different circumstances, she might find that adorable.

They're on communication blackout with HQ, and they're supposed to find and snatch a rogue government employee, thus preventing him from selling delicate state secrets to the highest bidder. Why that's a Kingsman mission and not an MI6 one is anyone's guess. Roxy wouldn't put it past Merlin to have bribed someone into letting them handle this, so they can learn, but she knows better than to voice her suspicions.

“Hey,” Eggsy says, interrupting her train of thought, and nods his head towards a hole in the wall fast food place they just passed, “you hungry?”

Roxy has a clear memory of the stomach cramps and nausea the first time her delicate English stomach met traditional Egyptian food, and she has no intention whatsoever to nurse him through the after effects of that assimilation process. She shakes her head and drags him along.

 

***

 

An hour later, they're settled in their hotel room, have changed into less touristy attire, and are waiting for time to pass until nightfall. Their target set up a string of meetings with potential buyers. The first one is scheduled to go down in a bar here in Cairo tonight, and it's their job to make sure that won't happen. Roxy spent the whole plane ride memorizing the file. She's as prepared as she possibly could be. Eggsy hasn't touched his since Merlin shoved it at him, she's rather certain.

She's well aware that her and Eggsy will never have the same approach to things, and usually that’s fine with her. If she's perfectly honest, she likes it that way. Being paired with the male version of herself would be boring. And yet...

“Shouldn't you go over the file at least once?”

Eggsy, who’s lying on the bed with his ankles crossed, lowers the comic book he's been immersed in and raises his eyebrows at her. “I've read it.”

“Okay, in that case, I'm sure you can tell me the name of our target's former superior officer.” She sits up a little straighter in her chair to glare at him from just the right angle.

He squints. “Are you quizzing me?”

Roxy's tired and she's annoyed and she hates waiting, and yes, that's exactly what she's doing. “Just answer the question.”

With a sigh, Eggsy puts the book away altogether. “Our target is Paul Carter. He was a communications officer at the MoD, overseein' weapons productions and coordinating with contractors. His superior's name is George Frampton. He bailed three months and fifteen days ago, hasn't been seen for two months and twenty-nine days until he cropped back up in Manila. MI6 then followed him to Dubai, where they intercepted information about today's meeting. It'll take place at the Si Omar at 9 o'clock tonight. We're supposed to observe and document his contact, and then capture Carter before explosive Commonwealth secrets get revealed. Satisfied?”

She is, but she'd swallow her tongue before admitting that. Instead, she stands and wanders over to the bed, picks up the comic book he left open on the coverlet, sits down and starts reading. He shrugs, leans over to where his bag has been stashed and pulls out another one.

 

***

 

The Si Omar is an upscale, outdoor establishment. It mostly consists of blocky and colorful lounges set around a pool, which makes their task easier and harder at the same time based on one simple fact: everyone's going to see everything. It won't be difficult to observe the proceedings, but they could also easily be spotted.

Roxy’s reserved them a table for half past eight, and they're both sipping their third soda when Carter arrives, not a minute too early, clutching a notebook and looking like he's about to have a heart attack. His contact is nowhere to be seen yet, but it's likely he's a little more seasoned and knows what he's doing, won't signal his presence as clearly as Carter does. They watch him be led to his table, order what turns out to be a bunch of shots, and wait for the contact. Ten more minutes pass, and Roxy's starting to get antsy, thinks maybe they've been made and the contact won't show. But just when she's about to suggest they consider apprehending their primary target and making a break for it, someone slips into the seat next to Carter. He's wearing a hoodie and a baseball cap, telegraphing the fact that he's up to no good to everyone who'll bother to pay attention, and she might have to reevaluate his suspected level of experience.

She casually puts her hand on Eggsy's and smiles, and he gives a small, near-imperceptive nod. They're on. He puts his arm around her and pulls out his phone, and they pose for a selfie that conveniently includes both Carter and his contact; in this light and at this distance, they can't make out much of his face, but maybe Merlin will be able to enhance the photo later. Then Roxy snatches the phone from Eggsy's hands and springs to her feet, rushing over to Carter's table, Eggsy trailing after her.

“Excuse me,” she says, holding out the phone. “Can you please take a photo of me and my fiancé? It'll look so much nicer if someone else does it.”

Carter looks up, blinking at her. “I uh.” He hectically glances towards his contact, who lowers his head further and steadfastly stares in the opposite direction. Left to his own devices, Carter nods. “Okay. Yeah, sure.”

As soon as his fingers touch the phone, Roxy moves her hand to bring her ring in place and elegantly slips onto his seat, holding him up when he passes out from the electro shock. She hears Eggsy gasp, and when she looks up, it's directly at Carter's contact, the tell-tale pressure of a gun muzzle pressing into her rib cage.

She knows Eggsy can't draw his gun without the whole bar watching. She knows she can't move to retrieve her own without her captor sensing the shift of her upper body. Considering that, she decides to be bold; she loosens her hold on Carter's limp body and swings around, elbow connecting with her captor's jaw, knocking the gun out of his hold. It raises a few glances their way, but she smiles and rolls her eyes, hoping any onlookers will see little else than drunken brawl. In the few seconds she needed for her maneuver, Eggsy has moved as well, now standing behind the contact, and from the way his body tenses, she suspects he's now the one with a gun pressed into his body, this one courtesy of her partner.

Due to the ruckus they caused, a waiter is making his way over with stern glare, and Roxy gathers the still unconscious Carter and rises to her feet. She gives the waiter an apologetic wave, Eggsy at her side, and together, they head for the exit. Extraction is set for an hour from now, so all they have to do is get back to their hotel room and keep these two under control until then.

They barely make it for a couple hundred meters before a car stops next to them, and the guy swinging open the passenger door is no one else than Merlin.

“Get in here,” he hisses, underlining the words with an impatient snap of his fingers, and Roxy hurries to comply, torn between being grateful and feeling like they've managed to botch an incredibly easy mission.

 

***

 

A mere couple of hours later, after a shower and a change of clothes but before they're dismissed to get some sleep, Merlin shepherds them into the conference room for their debrief. He waits until they're both squirming a little, and only then does he activate the screen and pull up the file on Carter's contact.

“You've not only succeed in bringing in the traitor, you also caught a known terrorist in the process, and MI6 now owe us,” he says, though the sour expression on his face doesn't quite make that seem like a compliment. “However, this could have easily gone south.” He glares at both of them. “Because the two of you didn't take this seriously. There's no such thing as run of the mill, in our line of work. If you expect a walk in the park, someone will trip you up. Stay sharp at all times.”

Roxy nods, eyes downcast. He's right. “Yes, sir.”

“So I'm guessin' the communications blackout was a bluff, right?” Eggsy asks, arms crossed in front of his chest, apparently not that concerned with looking properly apologetic. “You’ve been watching the whole time.”

“Of course it was. As if we'd leave you two unmonitored on your first mission.” Merlin sighs. “And despite the result, I would suggest that both of you be a little less cocksure in the future.” He glares some more, but Roxy's sure she's not mistaken when she sees his lips lift a little; it helps take the sting out a bit. “Alright, dismissed. Off you go. Get some sleep.”

They hastily stand and exit the conference room, and in the hallway outside, Eggsy pulls her aside, hooking his arm underneath hers. “He were smirkin' at the end, weren’t he?”

“Yes.” She glances back at the closed door. “Pretty sure he was.”