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Patience and Sheer Determination

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Harry thinks he should be offended by how easily he’s accepted as a sleazy, wealthy benefactor into Frank Gainly’s band of miscreants. He doesn’t have to do much to change, though; keeps his hair the same, keeps his suits, keeps his glasses, even keeps his accent. The only thing that does change is his easy sprawl, the way he lets his gaze drag like a man who’s had one too many at the local.

It’s disarming, he knows for a fact, because it’s the same persona he uses for honeypot missions. He gives off the kind of aura that makes men and women turn their heads and take notice. It makes them want to be him, to be with him. It, strangely, makes people trust him, which is why he has no issues when trying to arrange a meeting with Mr Gainly himself.

Merlin is truly the one to organise it, the one who leaves a trail of cash that even good men would have trouble ignoring. There’s no information on Harry Hart, except what they plant, and by then it’s almost too easy.

Harry strikes a deal to help fund Gainly and in exchange he gets transparency. He gets to sit in on their late night lounges with a tumbler of 1975 Ardbeg sherry cask single malt scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He blends as well as anyone, maintains conversation and quirks his lips at the crude jokes Gainly’s second, Henry Billet, cracks.

They’re all jokes at the expense of the public, as the reason Harry is there at all is due to men like Gainly using their wealth and name-dropping abilities to manipulate. They have their grubby little hands in too many pockets to be comfortable and they know they’ve only brushed the tip of the iceberg, which is why Harry is undercover and not putting them down like the dogs they are.

They have police officers, one or two dukes, a princess, fifteen leaders throughout Europe, and enough magistrates to keep everything quiet. Harry knows it runs even deeper, but they need more solid evidence to take them all down in one fell swoop. Which means Harry must have patience.

He must sip his scotch and burn through cigarettes like he used to as a teen, and he must pretend to be one of them, to want to watch the world eat itself from the inside out.

*

On his first night, he doesn’t learn much of anything, except that Billet has a nervous tick. The second and third nights are not much better, though Gainly himself does pour Harry’s drink and toasts to him — or rather the £3 million Harry deposited into their not-so-secret corporate account for generous donations. Harry doesn’t know where Merlin got it, but it loosens up Gainly and his cohorts, and by the fourth night, he has a new name for the record: Shelby Trevors.

He doesn’t learn who she is until the fifth night, which is when he learns that Gainly also likes to dabble in a casual side of human trafficking.

Penny Gainly, who he’d thought was Frank’s wife, is actually a mail-order bride from the Ukraine in the wrong place at the wrong time. The deadness in her eyes, that he originally interpreted as cool indifference, puts the taste of bile in his mouth, which he washes down with a 1996 Bollinger. He’s afraid of who else he may be introduced to.

On the sixth night, Gainly offers Harry a bride of his own — in his words, one of the best in the litter, like the women are a breed of pups. Harry smirks, takes a draw of his cigarette, and taps the ashes uncaringly onto the floor as he exhales slowly through his nose.

“Generous,” he says, “but I’m afraid a wife does not interest me.”

Gainly doesn’t blink, just lets Penny pour him another glass of brandy and then grabs her arse when she turns to set the bottle down.

“You may have the right idea,” Gainly tells Harry. “This one’s getting too old anyway.”

The woman can’t be more than twenty-three; it’s sickening and the end of Harry’s mission can’t come soon enough. It’s all being recorded through his glasses anyway. He’ll take the bastard down come hell or high water.

On the seventh night, Harry would like to say that, like God, he rested, but that’s not the way it goes, because on the seventh night, Harry meets Eggsy.

*

“He’s Dean’s boy,” Gainly tells Harry and Harry happens to know that Dean is a man he’d rather see squashed like a bug on a windscreen. He only really seems to be there to control his hounds, by which Harry means the collection of burly men that don’t seem to mind getting their hands dirty. Gainly probably has them doing something illicit, though Harry’s not privy to it yet.

“He’s not mine,” a voice calls from the right side of the room, from Dean himself. “He’s just earning his mum a nice little bit of cash, aren’t you, Eggsy?”

The boy in question is a lad no more than nineteen, a young face with cold, hard eyes that don’t even try to flick in Harry’s direction. There’s an old, yellowed bruise high on the boy’s cheek, but a split in his lip that looks fresh. Dean must think he has a mouth on him, though the boy—apparently named Eggsy—is smart enough not to rise to Dean’s taunts in front of Gainly.

Harry glances at Gainly, feigning boredom, while Gainly gestures loosely at Eggsy.

“He’s yours,” he says, setting his elbows on the armrests of his chair, interlocking his fingers.

Harry’s heart may skip a beat or two, but he’s almost certain there’s no sign of surprise on his features, maintaining his composure easily.

“Mine?” he questions and Gainly nods.

“A present from me to you,” Gainly explains. “A sign of goodwill.”

“Instead of a wife?” Harry asks and Gainly bares his teeth in something that’s probably meant to be a smile.

“You don’t seem the sort to want to settle down,” Gainly reasons. “I thought you’d like a plaything instead.”

Keeping up the façade, Harry glances over at Eggsy, running his gaze down the boy’s body as though sizing him up.

“Is he clean?” he asks and when he trails his eyes back up to Eggsy’s face, there’s a barely contained fight in his expression.

Gainly beckons Eggsy closer, but Dean has to give the boy a shove to get him moving. Up close, Harry can see the dark circles under Eggsy’s eyes, the unhappy lines around his mouth. He keeps his face smooth as he takes the boy in, but Eggsy has no clear qualms about showing how much he despises everyone in the room.

“When were you last tested?” Gainly asks Eggsy as though it’s normal, which rather says something about him.

There’s a long pause, as though maybe Eggsy is thinking about just spitting in the man’s face, but instead he blinks and meets Harry’s gaze.

“Last week.”

“And you were clean?” Gainly replies.

“As a fucking whistle.”

“You little shit,” Dean snaps, striding towards Eggsy, hand raised as though to beat him “I’ll teach you some fucking manners.”

Harry waits just long enough for Dean move closer, at which point he reaches for his umbrella, curling the handle around Dean’s forearm and yanking it down roughly. He could easily break the man’s arm, but he saves it for another time; something to look forward to in the future.

Dean whirls on him like a kicked dog—even has his teeth bared like one—and snarls, “What the fuck do you think you’re playing at?”

Harry barely even blinks, acting unaffected.

“You were about to touch my property, whom I’m quite capable of teaching manners myself,” Harry tells him. “I didn’t give you permission.”

If anything, that seems to make Dean angrier.

“This shitstain is mine,” Dean snaps, to which Harry raises an eyebrow.

“Did you not just say the boy wasn’t yours?” Harry asks. “Something about him only earning money for his mother?”

Dean appears ready to hit him, but Gainly interrupts, clearing his throat gently.

“Dean,” Gainly threatens and Dean immediately deflates, taking a step back. “I gave the man a present. It is not yours to reclaim.”

Harry takes great pleasure in the way a vein on the side of Dean’s face seems to throb with the anger he can’t take out on Harry or Eggsy. Dean moves back towards his goons and Harry gestures Eggsy even closer with his umbrella. He tucks the point of it under Eggsy’s chin and tilts his head up, pretending to check the boy over. It clearly pisses Eggsy off, but he remains quiet, though his jaw tenses as though he’s clenching his teeth.

“He’ll do,” Harry tells Gainly, who smiles the smile of a very sick man playing a very sick game.

Harry lowers his umbrella and reaches for his drink, knowing that owning Eggsy will be a lot better for the boy than if he didn’t. Unfortunately, as Eggsy stares down at him, like he’d very much like to punch a hole straight through Harry’s face, Eggsy doesn’t know that.

He swallows thickly and hopes he isn’t in too deep this time.

*

The full extent of what’s been done doesn’t truly hit until Harry returns to the flat.

Eggsy had sat with him in the back of the Kingsman taxi, saying nothing and barely doing more than just breathing, his arms folded, his eyes down. Harry can’t even debrief Merlin as he usually does during his trip home, but he’s sure Merlin has seen why he can’t talk; not yet, anyway. He’ll need to earn the boy’s trust.

He’s not sure how deeply rooted Dean’s beatings have become in Eggsy’s life and he isn’t about to push his luck on the first night. Eggsy can continue believing that Harry’s just another rich wanker with zero morals for a few days longer. It shan’t hurt.

But Harry is entirely unprepared for the responsibility of Eggsy, which he realises the moment he shuts the front door behind them and Eggsy lingers silently in the foyer. He has nothing for Eggsy; no clothes, no toiletries, nothing. The spare room is made up, of course, but only because it is never not made up.

Harry stares at Eggsy for a long, quiet moment, trying to read his expression, but there’s nothing there.

“Are you hungry?” Harry asks for a lack of anything better to say, knowing full well how ridiculous is it. It’s past midnight and he’s sure the boy just wants to rest.

“No,” Eggsy grunts, which may be a lie, but Harry hasn’t learnt his ticks yet.

“Tired?” Harry tries instead and the boy shrugs. “Let’s go upstairs then.”

Eggsy’s shoulders tense and he seems to go a shade paler, but he follows obediently, climbing the stairs slowly behind Harry.

The master bedroom is at the end of the hallway and halfway down there’s the spare room and a bathroom, but Harry pauses, turning to Eggsy.

“Would you like to wash first?” he asks and Eggsy meets his gaze, his face unnervingly blank as he nods and slips past Harry, heading into the bathroom.

The door clicks shut quietly behind him and Harry waits just long enough to hear the tap turn on.

“Help yourself to whatever you find,” he says through the door, but there’s no response and Harry isn’t there to babysit, so he heads into his own room and begins shedding his clothes.

It takes a decided amount of effort to become a scumbag and he drops everything into a pile by his washbasket, uncaring if it’s creased or ruined. He’ll buy another if he needs to, but the less he has to deal with it, the better. When he’s in his underclothes with a robe over the top and he hears the sound of Eggsy stepping into the shower, he slips his Kingsman lenses back on and buzzes for Merlin, who picks up after only a moment.

“It seems we didn’t plan as meticulously as we should have,” Merlin says, which is an understatement.

“What do we do with him?” Harry asks, rubbing his forehead in frustration. “We should have predicted this with the range of Gainly’s work.”

Merlin sighs quietly and there’s the faint sound of his tapping away at his keyboard.

“Keep the lad,” Merlin tells him. “I’ll have Francesca stop by with provisions. He may be able to provide an inside look at Gainly’s business. Earn his trust, Harry, and he could be invaluable.”

“And how do you suppose I do that, Merlin? I’d need to cut my age in half for a start.”

“Small steps, Harry. The boy has been through a lot. We ran a background on him while you were heading home and it’s not pretty.”

Harry sighs and glances in the direction of where he can hear the water turn off.

“I won’t have privacy for much longer,” he tells Merlin. “I need to keep an eye on him, so HQ is out of the question for the time being. I’ll stop by the shop and we can use it as a front to rendez-vous instead. I’ll check in when I can, so keep comms open.”

“Roger,” Merlin replies. “I’ll send through the relevant information, Harry. Stay out of trouble.”

The line clicks off just as Harry hears the bathroom door unlock and he’s quick to set his glasses in the top drawer of his nightstand for safe keeping. He heads to the door, ready to show Eggsy to his own room and make sure he’s settled, except as he steps into the hallway, Eggsy is already there waiting, entirely nude.

Harry blinks, thanks the heavens that he thought to take his glasses off, and then struggles for words when his brain finally kicks online again.

“What are you doing?” he asks, keeping his eyes above Eggsy’s collarbone, refusing to become the pervert Eggsy thinks he is. “There were towels in there and a spare robe.”

Eggsy doesn’t even falter as he says, “Easier like this, isn’t it?”

“Easier?” Harry questions, because he’s not sure easier is what he’d call it.

“For you to fuck me.”

Harry feels as though he’s missed the last step of the staircase as his stomach drops.

“What?” he asks. “Why would you say that?”

“I washed like you said so’s you can use me like you want,” Eggsy tells him like he’s being deliberately dense. “That’s the point of this, isn’t it?”

Harry’s whole brain grinds to a slow and painful stop.

“Eggsy, put a robe on,” Harry orders, but Eggsy is defiant, chin raising as he meets Harry’s eyes. “Eggsy.”

It takes a long minute for Eggsy to give in, but he slips back into the bathroom and when he returns, he’s tying the material belt of Harry’s favourite robe around his waist. It’s ill-fitting as Harry has significantly broader shoulders and longer legs, but Eggsy is less naked and that’s all that matters.

“I am not going to touch you, Eggsy,” Harry tells him, but Eggsy doesn’t look convinced.

“Heard that one before,” he replies and Harry can only imagine the sort of men Eggsy’s dealt with.

He tries not to think about it as he takes a step sideways, gesturing to the guestroom with one hand.

“This is yours,” Harry tells him. “If you need anything, just let me know.”

“What if I need to piss?” Eggsy says, and Harry rather suspects it’s a joke, though judging from Eggsy’s expression it may not be. He’s definitely not dealt with anyone nice.

“You’re free to use the bathroom,” Harry says after a pause, hating that he has to set such boundaries. “The kitchen is downstairs on the left.”

“I saw,” Eggsy replies and Harry doesn’t doubt him. Someone like Eggsy has to be well aware of their surroundings.

“Well, feel free to wander.” Harry hesitates for a long, obvious moment, unwilling to say what he knows must be said. “Don’t—”

Eggsy quickly cuts him off.

“You think I don’t know what will happen to me if I try to bolt?” Eggsy asks. “I might be a third of your age, but I’m not fucking naïve.”

Harry reasons he should probably chide the boy for language to keep up pretenses, but if he’s honest, he’s had a long day and he didn’t plan on bringing work home at all, so he supposes he can be excused.

“Wake me if you need anything,” Harry says instead and Eggsy’s gaze is stubborn, watching Harry long enough to make him nervous, before he turns and heads into the guest room, shutting the door behind him.

Harry hears the telltale sound of the lock clicking into place and there’s a soft thud as though Eggsy is leaning against the frame. He waits just long enough for Eggsy’s footsteps to begin walking away before he pads back to his own room, feeling rather less tired than he did before.

He leaves his door cracked just enough to be an invitation should Eggsy need something and then switches off the lights and allows his bed to swallow him whole.

*

The clock on his nightstand says it’s 2:38AM when he wakes to the sound of thudding feet in the hallway outside his door. Living alone for so long means he’s sensitive to noises in the flat, and he sits upright, ready for an assault. Except it never comes.

There’s a slam of what sounds like the bathroom door and then the faint, wet sound of someone being sick.

It’s around the time he remembers he’s not alone any longer and he remembers Eggsy.

He slips out of bed, body protesting as it is want to do now he’s passed the half a century marker in his life, and he quietly makes his way out of the bedroom.

There’s another retch from the other side of the bathroom door and a muffled groan of discomfort.

Harry gently taps twice on the wooden frame, announcing his presence.

“Eggsy?” he asks. “Are you quite alright?”

The toilet flushes, but there’s no answer, just the creak of the tap in the sink as it turns on. It takes a few minutes, but then the water switches off and there’s a rustle before the door Harry’s practically leaning against swings inwards.

Eggsy doesn’t look impressed about being disturbed by Harry’s concern.

“Bad dream?” Harry asks, even as Eggsy ignores him, heading back towards the spare room.

His face is wet, a mix of water and sweat, and he doesn’t appear well at all.

“Reality,” Eggsy replies and it hits Harry like a heel to the jaw, rendering him speechless as the door shuts behind Eggsy, lock clicking into place once more.

He stares for a long moment, trying to understand what Eggsy must be going through, but nothing comes close. Harry wants to go out, right then and there, to find Dean and put a bullet between his eyes, because no boy deserves to be so hollow inside, so broken and tormented.

He knows lingering by Eggsy’s door will only make things worse, so he sighs quietly and heads back to his own room.

The clock reads 2:47AM, but he doesn’t think he’ll be falling back asleep any time soon.

*

Harry feels like shit.

He’s no longer made for late nights and his body wakes him without fail at eight AM every morning, this morning being no exception. He’s slow to rise, even slower to wash and dress, but when he passes Eggsy’s room there’s no sound within and he hopes the boy is getting some well deserved rest.

Downstairs, he makes himself breakfast and the first cup of tea of the day. He savours it while he reads the paper and then drags himself into his office to check his emails.

Most are from Merlin—details about Eggsy (real name: Gary Unwin) and a few new things about Gainly—two are from the newest recruit, Roxy, with field reports with remarkable accuracy, and one is from Percival, which is entirely tasteless saying, finally got yourself a live-in boytoy? News must have spread quickly about Eggsy, especially since Percy’s email is followed up immediately by another one stating my apologies, galahad; just heard who mr unwin is and what your current mission is.

He’s glad for the apology, but it’s about time HQ did another round of sensitivity training anyway, so he’ll book a session for when he’s back—something long and painful that will drive Percy crazy.

As is turns out, Eggsy’s past seems even worse than he’d imagined. There are multiple police reports for the boy, ranging from minor assault to soliciting sexual favours. Harry suspects Dean is to blame for every one of them, though it seems he was worth enough to bail out each time.

Surprisingly, Eggsy has a short history of military training. It only seems to have lasted a few years, but he suspects they were better years than any he’d had before. There’s not much else, unfortunately, which means Harry has nothing to go on in order to try to win the boy’s trust. There’s no sign of hobbies or life goals and Harry hopes he can change that.

After reading through Roxy’s lengthy reports and sending a few replies, he logs out, noticing that it’s already almost noon and he’s yet to hear anything at all from Eggsy.

He climbs the stairs slowly, finding Eggsy’s door still shut. He refuses to try the handle because Eggsy needs his own privacy, though a fair amount of horrific images flash through his mind at the thought of Eggsy perhaps deciding that he’s had enough and ending it all with a quick leap and a messy fall to the concrete below his window. As much as he wants to check on the boy, he forces himself to head to his own room as he hears the familiar chirping from his phone, which sits atop his nightstand.

“Merlin?” he answers as there’s really no one else who would call, and Merlin’s familiar grunt says enough in answer.

“What do you think?” he asks and Harry peers out of his window, the day surprisingly sunny for how miserable he feels, with no visible sign of Eggsy's crumpled body on the pavement.

“Not good,” Harry tells him. “Definitely needs time.”

“What about the shop?” Merlin questions and Harry pauses.

“What about the shop?” Harry asks and Merlin hums quietly.

“Bring him in; show him a few things.”

“And risk infiltration?”

“No, I mean, show him the shop. Buy him a suit, treat him well for the day. Who knows, maybe he’ll be easily won over if you start throwing money his way.”

“I very much doubt that,” Harry says with a sigh.

“Well, you won’t know unless you try,” Merlin argues, which really isn’t a good enough excuse to have Harry give in, but he does anyway.

“Send a car over,” Harry tells him and Merlin makes an agreeable noise.

“Document the trip,” Merlin tells him before hanging up, and Harry sighs again and grabs his glasses, slipping them on as ordered.

As he turns to leave, he almost startles at the sight of Eggsy standing in the hallway wearing the same clothes he’d been in the day before.

“Who was that?” Eggsy asks, which is none of his business and Harry feels he should know better than to ask, but it’s only fair for Harry to answer since he’s trying to nurture trust anyway.

“An employee,” Harry tells him. “My car will arrive in a few minutes, so be sure that you’re ready.”

Eggsy doesn’t move and Harry wonders if he’s ready to go just as he is.

“Thought you would wake me,” Eggsy tells him however. “That’s what other—”

He pauses and Harry knows well enough how that sentence was going to end.

“I told you, Eggsy. I am not like those other men you know.”

Eggsy smiles sourly and replies, “That’s what they all say, guv.”

Harry has no doubt that’s true, but he needs Eggsy to understand he’s telling the truth.

“You’re a young man,” Harry tries instead. “You can decide for yourself when you wish to rise.”

Eggsy doesn’t argue any further, but he doesn’t seem convinced.

“Where are we going?” Eggsy asks instead and Harry gestures for him to head downstairs, following him into the front hallway and plucking a light coat from the rack. Eggsy has a hoodie, so he suspects he'll be warm enough.

“Kingsman,” Harry tells him, to which Eggsy raises an eyebrow, asking a question he doesn’t need to vocalise. “A tailoring shop.”

“Why there?” Eggsy asks even as Harry holds the door open for him, locking it behind them and heading towards the taxi which is pulling up at the curb that second.

“Because I own it and you could do with a suit or two.”

It may be a few exaggerated truths, but Eggsy doesn’t question it, just slips into the taxi after him, keeping a steady distance between them in the backseat. Harry needn’t tell Yves, an agent and their current driver, where to go; he suspects Merlin has already filled him in on the matter.

Harry takes a moment to glance over at Eggsy, who’s staring pointedly out of the window at the passing scenery, clearly knowing Harry’s watching him. He looks pale—probably a side effect of a lack of sleep and also getting sick in the night. The sharpness of his cheeks hints at possible starvation at some point—perhaps withheld meals for bad behaviour according to Dean—but he’s soft in the thighs and waist. His posture belies the toned abs he has below his hoodie and shirt that Harry caught a glimpse of the night before.

However, for all his strength, he holds himself like a man too weary to fight.

Perhaps it’s another tactic, Harry wonders. The boy seems to have plenty of fight in him yet, but maybe he knows the best way to disarm someone is to be what they least expect. Perhaps one day soon Eggsy will catch him with a right hook, trip him with a well-timed kick to the ankle, and take him down as though it’s nothing. There’s no knowing what could happen.

He looks away finally, and out the corner of his eye, Eggsy seems to relax just a little.

It’s quiet at the shop when they arrive, but Merlin greets them at the front, acting the part while throwing Harry knowing glances whenever Eggsy’s back is turned. They run through suit materials for Eggsy to pick from, though he’s not sure Eggsy knows at all what they’re talking about, just seems slightly overwhelmed, still looking as pale as ever.

Merlin eventually takes pity on the boy.

“Never mind,” he tells Eggsy, reaching for his arm to give a comforting squeeze, though Eggsy flinches away violently, almost tripping over his own feet in his haste to move out of the way, accidentally knocking into Harry. Merlin falters, quickly retracts his arm, and says, “I’ll put something together that I’m sure you’ll like.”

Merlin doesn’t meet Harry’s gaze this time as he turns away and heads into the back room, where Harry knows they keep suits for agents. The boy clearly deserves the best after all.

Eggsy seems agitated after the encounter, even going so far as to apologise to Harry.

“No harm,” Harry tells him, when all he wants to do is comfort the poor boy and convince him he’s no longer in danger of being hurt—at least not if Harry has anything to do with it.

He gestures for Eggsy to slump down into the nearest chair and sits beside him in silence.

After a few long minutes, Philip enters the room, setting out sandwiches—tuna and cucumber—a few biscuits, and a pot of tea for them to help themselves to. Wordlessly, Harry immediately does just that, but though Eggsy eyes it up, he doesn’t reach over for anything, just quickly lowers his gaze to the floor. It wouldn’t surprise Harry if he wasn’t hungry at all. It’s been a stressful day for the boy.

As Harry sips his tea, Merlin returns, a few suits in one hand and a box of pins in the other. He knows the suit will have to be tailored for Eggsy, but he’s not sure what Eggsy will do if someone has to touch him while they pin it in place.

“Is Roxy in?” Harry asks, trying to seem casual. “Perhaps she can take Eggsy to fitting room one and get things sorted. We need to chat privately anyway.”

“I’ll go find her,” Merlin tells him, disappearing and Harry stands, gesturing for Eggsy to follow him to the fitting room.

One day Eggsy will find out that it’s no ordinary fitting room, but until then, he doesn’t seem to suspect a thing, just glances nervously at Harry in the mirror while Harry lingers in the doorway.

“Roxy can get you anything you need,” Harry tells Eggsy. “Anything you may need at the house too. Just let her know.”

“A toothbrush?” Eggsy asks and it’s so basic that Harry almost feels ill.

“Of course,” he says. “Perhaps I should give her a list.”

Eggsy nods and glances away, shoulders still hunched as though waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Hello there,” a voice says from behind them and Roxy steps past Harry, holding her hand out to Eggsy, who shakes it after a moment of hesitation. “I’m Roxy.”

The fact that Eggsy offers her a small smile is a good sign and Harry touches Roxy’s shoulder gently.

“Make sure Eggsy gets the true Kingsman treatment,” he tells her. “Be careful with the pins.”

He has no other way to tell her to be careful with him, to treat him as though he could break at any moment, but she seems to get the hint when she nods. Harry shuts the door behind them, knowing Roxy can handle it if something goes awry, but also knowing she will also treat Eggsy with the respect he deserves.

He finds Merlin back in the waiting room, helping himself to a biscuit or two.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Merlin says and Harry couldn’t agree more. “He may be a lost cause, Harry.”

That Harry definitely doesn’t agree with.

“He’s not,” Harry tells him. “He needs time and we need a better plan.”

“This mission needs to be your priority,” Merlin says. “I’ll divide all others between the rest of the agents until we’ve taken Gainly down.”

“And how long might that be?” Harry asks. “A week? Six months? There’s no way of knowing. You can’t just—”

“I can and I have, Harry. This needs your focus. This is what you were trained for.”

“To be a professional childminder?” Harry suggests, regretting it almost immediately, but Merlin’s lips thin.

“You exist to protect the people of this nation and the world when necessary,” Merlin points out. “You may hand in your resignation at any time.”

“That was unfair of me,” Harry admits and Merlin nods.

“You’re fucking right it was. That boy needs protection and you’re going to give it to him. He could be the key to everything. If we can charge Gainly with human trafficking, it will buy us some more time to figure out the rest.”

Harry rubs his face and sighs heavily.

“He just needs to trust us.”

“Which is why I need you to be at your best, Harry. I’ve seen you charm your way into the lives of many marks. This is no different.”

“They were hardly young boys.”

“And neither is Eggsy. Treat him like the adult he is and get some answers. And treat the poor man to a takeaway. He could use a good meal or two.”

Harry nods and takes a sandwich for himself, chewing quietly as he tries to come up with ideas for what to do with Eggsy. He’ll have to start with the basics and work his way up.

He gets through two more sandwiches and another cup of tea before Roxy and Eggsy finally emerge. Eggsy looks a great deal more relaxed, though it seems to be short lived as he tenses up while heading towards where Merlin and Harry are sitting.

“Everything sorted?”

“We’ll send the suit over when it’s ready,” Roxy tells him with a smile, but she gestures across the room with her eyes in an obvious way that means she wants to talk.

“Merlin, please show Eggsy out to the car. l just want a quick word with Roxy about stock levels.”

It's a lie, but he waits for Merlin to lead the way and as the door to the shop closes behind them, he turns to Roxy expectantly.

“He’s hurt,” Roxy tells him and Harry immediately tenses. He hadn’t seen anything on Eggsy’s body the night before, though he hadn’t exactly been looking that hard. “Not physically, so far as I can tell, but there’s been serious psychological abuse, Harry. He’s hand-shy, too, going by how much he flinched throughout the fitting.”

“Anything else?” Harry asks and Roxy nods.

“He has some sort of mark on the bottom of his foot. I couldn’t get a good look, so you’ll have to find another way to see it. It didn't look natural.”

“Thank you, Roxy,” Harry says quietly and she nods, seeming to want to say something more. He gestures for her to continue and she glances away briefly before meeting his gaze again.

“You need to be careful with him,” she tells him.

“You think he’s dangerous?” Harry asks and she shakes her head.

“Not for your sake, Harry, for his. He’s clearly been through a lot. He’s doing this to protect someone.” His mother, Harry thinks to himself, but it’ll be worth looking into. Perhaps he can help her as well. “I don’t think he has many limits to keep them safe.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Harry tells her, but he’s not at all surprised. Eggsy does seem strong-willed and he doesn’t think there’s much he wouldn’t do to help someone he cares about. “I appreciate your help today. He seemed to relax with you.”

“Slow movements,” Roxy tells him. “And don’t treat him like a child. That’ll only make him hate you more. Good luck.”

Harry thinks he’ll probably need it.

“Thank you, Roxy,” Harry says.

“Message if you need anything,” she says and Harry nods before turning and heading for the door.

Outside, Merlin’s waiting by the car, but Eggsy already seems to be inside.

“Report back as much as possible,” Merlin tells him. “Take it easy on the lad.”

Harry doesn’t deign him a response, just slips into the backseat of the car beside Eggsy, who shifts a little further away from him. Yves doesn’t have to be told where to go, he just pulls smoothly away from the pavement, leaving them in silence.

“Did Roxy sort things out?” Harry asks Eggsy, who glances over at him warily.

“Sure,” Eggsy replies, which is a non-answer.

“That’s all?” Harry asks gently and Eggsy stares out of his window again.

“Felt like My Fair Lady,” Eggsy mumbles, taking Harry by surprise. He wonders if he should ask Merlin to look into theatre tickets; maybe Eggsy would enjoy it.

“Decidedly less singing,” Harry jokes and Eggsy snorts quietly.

Harry is pleased to have amused Eggsy, though it goes quiet again after, but it’s progress at least, even if just a babystep. Harry keeps to himself for the rest of the trip back to the house, not wanting to upset Eggsy, but Eggsy seems strangely subdued and Harry wonders if Roxy was more of a help than he even realised.

Eggsy even seems mellow when they finally get back to the flat and head inside and Harry wonders if maybe he’s just tired from a long day.

“Go make yourself comfortable in the living room,” Harry tells him. “It looks like the housekeeper dropped off a few things for you.”

Eggsy nods and heads into the other room while Harry goes into the kitchen, where he can see a stash of paper bags on the countertop. Inside said bags is a collection of items that Eggsy may need, ranging from socks and underwear to deodorant and toothpaste. He takes them all upstairs and leaves them just inside Eggsy’s doorway, not wanting to breech Eggsy’s privacy, but needing him to know they’re his.

He goes back downstairs to where Eggy’s curled himself into a recliner and takes a seat on the settee beside him. Eggsy, who had had his head tipped back and eyes shut, opens his eyes again and shoots Harry a look of suspicion, clearly wondering why Harry’s there at all.

“There are some new belonging upstairs for you,” Harry tells him and Eggsy nods. “Is there anything you’d like to pick up from home?”

It’s a delicate subject, he knows, but it needs to be addressed.

Eggsy shoots him an uncertain look and says, “What, like you’d let me?”

“As a matter of fact,” Harry says softly. “I would.”

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of you owning me?”

Harry draws in a quiet breath and lets it out slowly.

“Eggsy, my dear, no one owns another human being.”

“Don’t call me that,” Eggsy snaps. “And tell that to Dean and the woman he works with because they don’t fucking believe that.”

“My apologies," he says in regards to the term of endearment. "I am not them, Eggsy. No matter what you might think of me.”

“You lot are all the same aren’t you?” Eggsy tells him angrily and Harry enjoys the fight he has in him, but not that it's directed towards him, and not that it's clearly upsetting Eggsy. “You posh wankers who can only find someone to fuck by buying them. Isn’t that right?”

“There was no money exchanged for you,” Harry reminds him and he’s not sure how, but Eggsy seems to get even paler. He thinks it’s white-hot anger.

“No, you’re just forcing me, aren’t you? Is that what gets you going? Someone young and unwilling?”

Harry lets the silence hang between them, not rising to the bait Eggsy throws.

After a moment, when Eggsy has reined in his temper a little, Harry tries to lighten the heaviness in the air by saying, “I suppose these are the manners Dean hasn’t yet taught you.”

He sees Eggsy swallow and there’s a look in his eyes that seems to be the beginnings of regret over his outburst. Slowly, under Harry’s steady gaze, Eggsy starts to come apart at the seams, curling in on himself in the chair, physically cringing away from Harry, though Harry doesn’t move an inch. He’s not even angry, but he’s beginning to suspect that Eggsy doesn’t know that.

“I didn’t mean nothing by it,” Eggsy tells him. “I’ll keep my mouth shut, I promise. Please don’t—”

He doesn’t know how Eggsy’s going to end that sentence, but he suspects he won’t like it, whatever it is.

“Eggsy,” Harry says softly. “You’re not going to be punished for this. I know you’re upset, but you have every right to be.”

Eggsy clearly doesn’t believe him, his gaze darting around the room as though he’s searching for the nearest exit.

“Eggsy,” Harry repeats, this time holding his palms up to show he means no harm. However, Eggsy flinches as though Harry’s about to hit him, and practically slides out of the chair.

“I want to go upstairs,” Eggsy tells him, chest heaving as though bordering on a panic attack. “Let me go to the guest room.”

Harry wants to keep him downstairs, tell him there’s nothing wrong, and maybe fill him with Chinese takeaway from the nice place down the road. Instead, he nods, hating that Eggsy feels he needs Harry’s approval before doing anything.

“Go on up, Eggsy,” Harry tells him. “Nothing will happen to you.”

Eggsy’s gone almost before he’s finished talking, heavy footsteps thudding up the stairs, followed by the sound of the guestroom door slamming shut. Harry knows Eggsy’s probably already locked it, perhaps even moved something in front of the door to block it just in case, and there’s a heaviness in Harry’s heart that almost hurts.

He sighs, knowing next time he’ll have to steer the conversation a little better, but for now he’ll leave Eggsy be and let him cool down on his own. He at least seems to feel that his room is a safe haven and Harry will do his best to maintain that.

The rest of his night is quiet. He tries to tempt Eggsy down for dinner just before seven, but there’s no answer when Harry knocks gently on Eggsy’s door. Harry eats alone in his study, checking his emails once more, before he retires to his own room to shower and settle into bed. It’s been a long day, but unfortunately, he suspects it’s only just the beginning of many like it.

He’s not quite sure how he’s going to manage; perhaps patience and sheer determination.

*

It’s another silent morning when Harry wakes. He has breakfast, checks in with Merlin, and receives an invitation from Gainly for dinner and drinks the following evening. Gainly not-so-delicately suggests that Harry bring his boytoy, a word that grates at Harry’s already frayed nerves. But Harry accepts, as need be, and ends the call, fighting the urge to find something large and heavy with which to destroy the phone.

Eggsy doesn’t emerge until past noon, after Harry’s finished lunch and has settled in the living room with the TV on, but the sound muted. There are dark circles under Eggsy’s eyes as though he hasn’t slept a wink and he still looks pale, almost like he’s coming down with something.

Harry will keep an eye on him for the time being and if it gets worse, he’ll send a request to Merlin for one of HQ’s GPs to stop by.

Eggsy slumps into the seat furthest away from Harry and cards his fingers through his hair. He’s still wearing the same clothes that he has for the past few days, so he thinks he’ll try to get Eggsy to pop home for some extras that evening. Eggsy watches the TV in silence while Harry continues working on a crossword from the morning’s newspaper.

After a moment, Harry pause and offers the remote to Eggsy, who stares at it as though not trusting it at all.

“I’m not really watching it,” Harry explains. “Put the sound on and find something you’re interested in.”

A few minutes later, it seems Eggsy’s settled on watching a repeat of Countdown, the familiar music of it distracting Harry away from the paper.

“Terrace,” Harry suggests as the timer counts down, the contestants scribbling down their own answers on-screen.

A few moments before the music ends, Eggsy says, “Cratered.”

Harry blinks and turns to look at Eggsy, who doesn’t even seem to notice the stare. The boy is clearly smarter than anyone has ever given him credit for. There is definitely potential in him.

On the TV, they run through various different answers and then the conundrum pops up, and Harry watches Eggsy silently mouth words to himself before he settles back in his chair, obviously having solved it.

“I want to apologise,” Harry says, catching Eggsy’s attention immediately. “For last night.”

Eggsy blinks at him owlishly, lips parting.

You want to apologise to me?” Eggsy asks and Harry nods solemnly.

“I said some things that I could have been more tactful about.”

“You—uh—you’re not mad about what I said?” Eggsy questions cautiously.

“As I said, Eggsy; you have every right to be angry and I don’t expect you to be able to hide it, not after all you’ve been through.”

Eggsy seems taken aback by that and he blinks at Harry again before narrowing his eyes in suspicion.

“Is that what you say to all your rent boys? Some sort of good cop, bad cop routine?”

Harry tilts his head slightly.

“I wouldn’t know,” he tells Eggsy. “You’re the first.”

Eggsy doesn’t look convinced.

“Well, what the fuck else do you do with your money then? Snort it? Drink it?”

“I’m partial to a good pint of Guinness, but I don’t think I overindulge. As for drugs, the worst I’ve done is oxycodone at the discretion of my dentist after a tooth removal.”

He hopes a little information about him may help Eggsy open up, but Eggsy just gives Harry a confused look.

“Then what the fuck do you do for fun?”

“I enjoy walking, a daily crossword puzzle, and krav maga.”

Eggsy’s eyebrow twitches in question as he asks, “Krav maga?”

“A form of self-defense originally developed in Israel,” Harry tells him, at which Eggsy laughs.

“You?” he asks, voice full of scepticism. “You’re into self-defense?”

“I could teach you a few things.”

Eggsy still doesn’t seem to believe him, but he nods and says, “Right.”

So, Harry sets his paper and pen aside, and stands, gesturing for Eggsy to do the same.

“What?” Eggsy asks and Harry waves again for him to get up.

“I’ll teach you something.”

“Now?” Eggsy questions, sounding incredulous.

“Why not?” Harry asks as Eggsy finally stands, though he seems to wobble as he does so. Harry passes it off as a little imbalance from him having only just woken up and Eggsy shoots him another questioning look.

“Why would you teach me how to fight? I can use it against you.”

Harry smiles indulgently and says, “Eggsy, I’ve been training for some time now. If you can disarm me, I’ll be very impressed.”

“Impressed enough to let me go?” Eggsy asks, voice light, but words heavy.

Harry clears his throat softly and says, “Eggsy, I’m not sure I can promise that.”

“And why the fuck not?” Eggsy snaps and Harry sighs quietly, sadly.

“We both know the sort of men Frank and Dean are, Eggsy.”

“So what? You know krav maga; just take them out! Why are you even working with them?”

Harry can’t divulge the truth yet, not knowing exactly where Eggsy’s loyalties lie, so he just repeats, “I can’t promise anything.”

Eggsy huffs out a loud breath and says, “Worth a try.”

Harry hopes he never loses that fight.

“I can help you protect yourself from anything though.”

“Fine,” Eggsy says, though he doesn’t sound happy.

Harry teaches him a few basic tackles right there in the living room, showing Eggsy how he can use his weight to throw attackers off guard and how to incapacitate them with just a few short hits. He also gets Eggsy to hold the TV remote like a gun and shows how to disarm quickly and neatly. Eggsy seems to enjoy practicing on Harry when it’s his turn, barely pulling his punches, which will leave a few bruises on Harry later.

He also picks things up quickly and Harry doesn’t have to tell him anything twice. He would actually be the perfect candidate for a Kingsman trainee. If things go well for them, maybe he’ll make a suggestion to Merlin.

It’s when he’s teaching Eggsy how to escape from a chokehold that Eggsy stumbles again. At first he thinks it’s just the momentum, but it’s as Eggsy steps away from him, hand reaching out as if to grab for the nearest surface, except there isn’t anything there. Harry offers him a helping hand, curling his fingers around Eggsy’s elbow to keep him steady.

“Are you alright, Eggsy?” he asks and Eggsy doesn’t reply, but shakes his head as though to clear it. “Eggsy?”

“M’fine,” Eggsy tells him, though Harry isn’t too sure about that, so he leads Eggsy over to the settee and lets him sit down.

“You don’t look well, Eggsy. You’ve been pale since yesterday. Have you come down with a cold?”

“Cold?” Eggsy asks, looking up to stare at Harry as though he’s grown a second head. “Not likely.”

“You know what’s wrong with you then?” Harry asks and Eggsy looks at him like he’s trying to figure out if he’s joking or not.

“Like you don’t?” Eggsy replies with a humourless laugh.

Harry has no idea what he’s talking about, unless it’s something stress-based, in which case, he completely understands.

“It has been tough for you,” Harry sympathises, and Eggsy laughs again.

“Sure, and the food thing.”

Harry pauses, staring at Eggsy in confusion.

“What food thing?”

Eggsy’s eyebrow jumps.

“Where you starve me until I start doing what you want. Oldest trick in the book.”

Harry’s heart begins to pick up speed as he tentatively asks, “What do you mean, Eggsy?”

This time Eggsy frowns as though Harry has the same amount of brain cells as a brick wall.

“You haven’t let me eat since you got me,” Eggsy tells him and Harry’s stomach plummets.

“Eggsy, I never—” Harry stammers. “The kitchen is right there.”

Anger seems to take over Eggsy’s expression.

“And I was meant to just help myself?” he asks and Harry feels lost.

“I thought it would be common sense, Eggsy,” he apologises, even as Eggsy snorts loudly.

“Common sense? In this job? The last time I took food without getting permission first, they broke two of my fingers. What the fuck was I meant to think?”

Harry quickly drops into the seat beside Eggsy, his head falling into his hands. How could he have been so stupid?

“Eggsy, good god, I’m so sorry. I had no idea,” he apologises and Eggsy doesn’t look impressed.

“You lot never do.”

Harry feels infinitely guilty and can’t imagine how it must have felt for Eggsy, wondering when his next meal would be, if he would even get one. And Harry never gave him anything. There was food available, but Harry never explicitly offered any to Eggsy. He thinks back to the sandwiches in the shop; how Eggsy had eyed them hungrily before averting his gaze as though trying to stop himself from hoping, already knowing Harry wouldn’t offer anything.

He’s off to a bad start and Harry has no idea how he can possibly make it up to him.

“When was the last time you ate?” he asks after a moment’s pause and when he looks up, Eggsy shrugs loosely.

“Dunno. Morning of the day you got me?”

Harry lets out a shuddering breath, guilt rising inside him like bile, and he immediately stands, grabbing Eggsy’s arm and pulling him up. Eggsy resists for a second before Harry puts his true strength into it and leads Eggsy into the kitchen, where he sits him down at the table and quickly fetches him a glass of water.

“Drink,” Harry orders. “You’re free to refill it if you need to. Is that clear?”

Eggsy nods his understanding and thankfully paces himself as he begins drinking, clearly not wanting to throw it back up immediately.

In the meantime, Harry quickly puts together a ham sandwich, but pauses as he goes to set it down in front of Eggsy.

“Allergies?” he asks. “Any religious restrictions?”

Eggsy shakes his head and says, “Not that I know of.”

Harry slides the sandwich towards him and Eggsy doesn’t stop to ask if it’s okay, just grabs it and buries his teeth straight into the soft bread.

“You’re welcome to any food in this house,” Harry tells him. “No one will stop you, no matter the time or day. You can join me for meals or you can make your own, but either way, you must eat something. Understood?”

Eggsy nods again with a mouthful of sandwich and Harry allows himself to sink down into the chair opposite, fingers carding through his own hair as guilt eats away at him steadily.

He should have been more observant; it’s a Kingsman basic to know the surroundings, to notice habits. Most of all, he should have realised Eggsy was literally starving before his eyes. He should have paid attention to Eggsy’s pallor.

“Is there anything else I’ve missed?” Harry can’t help but ask, watching Eggsy hungrily finish off his sandwich in just a few bites; Harry stands and makes another for him while Eggsy licks his fingers and thinks about Harry’s question.

Eggsy eventually shrugs, accepting the plate of more food from Harry when it’s passed over.

“Dunno,” he says. “Clothes?”

“New?” Harry asks. “Or would you like to pick up things you already own?”

Eggsy shrugs again and Harry decides it may be nice for Eggsy to visit his home, though hopefully they’ll be able to avoid Dean. It may also give him some time to slip a few surveillance bugs into the house; he has some spares he can take with him.

“I’ll call for a car,” Harry tells him. “We can go when you’re finished eating.”

He leaves Eggsy alone as he heads into his office for the audio recorders and to let HQ know that he needs a driver. There’s one apparently already lingering in the area, which means they can go almost immediately, and Harry slips back into the kitchen, finding Eggsy at the sink, rinsing off his plate and refilling his glass of water.

“I’m sorry,” Harry apologises again before he can help himself.

Eggsy swallows his mouthful of drink and says, “Sure.”

It doesn’t sound entirely sincere, but he hopes Eggsy understands he didn’t mean it and that it wasn’t done on purpose. That’s the last thing he wanted to do to the poor boy.

Eggsy finishes his water, setting the glass beside the sink for later, and follows Harry as he heads for the front door.

“You’ll have to give the driver your address,” Harry tells him gently, letting Eggsy slide into the taxi first.

The location Eggsy gives is one of the rougher parts of the city and Harry can only imagine what it must have been like growing up there. He doesn’t say a word and Eggsy doesn’t offer anything, preferring to stare out of the window as they swiftly make their way there.

The flats all look the same, but Eggsy clambers out of the taxi when it pulls up to the kerb outside, and leads the way through a maze of concrete and iron grating. Behind Eggsy’s back, Harry gestures for Yves to hold his post with the engine running, just in case things go tits up.

Eggsy doesn’t knock on the door to number 415, just twists the handle, giving it a quick jiggle as though he knows exactly how to get it to work, before he lets himself inside, holding it open for Harry, but not looking over his shoulder to see if he follows. Harry shuts it quietly behind them, the scent of smoke and stale booze hitting him immediately. It seems to be business as usual for Eggsy as he doesn't even wince, which turns down the corners of Harry’s mouth.

Nonchalantly, Harry slips a bug behind the fridge as he walks in, pressing it firmly into place to activate it. He then follows Eggsy further in, glancing around at the disarray.

“Mum?” Eggsy calls out. “Daisy?”

It’s quiet for a long minute, and then there’s quiet babbling as a small toddler staggers into the living room, mouth open wide in a grin directed at Eggsy.

"Hey, sis," Eggsy says, immediately scooping her up and pressing a kiss to the apple of her cheek, and Harry’s heart almost stops. That’s Eggsy’s sister and he hadn’t even known; it hadn’t shown up in Eggsy’s report. It’s not just his mum Eggsy’s trying to protect and there’s a heaviness that refuses to leave Harry’s stomach.

“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do,” Eggsy murmurs into Daisy’s hairline and Harry has to glance away, unable to witness such a tender moment. He’s not worthy of it.

Instead, while Eggsy has his face pressed to the curve of Daisy’s shoulder, Harry leans over and slips another bug under the shade of a nearby lamp. He’s unsure if he’ll be able to get one closer to the master bedroom.

“Where’s mum?” Eggsy asks Daisy, who finally notices Harry is there. Her gaze follows him, almost as suspicious as Eggsy’s own at any given time.

“Sleep,” Daisy says and Eggsy doesn’t seem surprised by the answer. He also doesn’t seem to be as concerned as Harry feels about a young toddler being left unsupervised.

Eggsy nods and sets her down, finally looking over at Harry.

“Get her a cup of juice,” he orders. “I’ll go pack.”

Eggsy must feel braver under his own roof, but Harry doesn’t argue. He holds a hand out for Daisy, who doesn’t take it—Eggsy snorts on his way to where his bedroom must be—and eventually moves into the kitchen by himself. There’s a child’s cup in the drying rack with a no-spill lid that Harry grabs and then moves to open the fridge door.

Inside, there are three or four bottles of cheap, store-brand vodka, six cans of lager, and a jug of orange juice that is probably just a mixer. He pulls it out anyway and fills Daisy’s cup before handing it over to her. She takes it, her eyes never leaving Harry’s face, and drinks as though almost as starved as Eggsy had been. He certainly hopes she isn’t.

Harry doesn’t dare touch anything for fear of interfering too much, but he does help Daisy when she tries to get into a chair at the kitchen table. She sits, swinging her legs as she drinks and Harry listens to the muted sounds of Eggsy gathering belongings in the other room. He’s just about to sit down himself when there’s the quiet noise of a hinge creaking and soft footsteps like someone barefoot is padding towards the kitchen. It doesn’t sound like Eggsy and Harry tenses up.

The woman who emerges looks almost more surprised than Harry.

“Who the fuck are you? What the fuck are you doing in my house?” she accuses, immediately moving towards her daughter, who drops her cup and looks visibly upset.

Harry takes a step back to appear less threatening and thankfully hears the sound of Eggsy hurrying towards them.

“Mum,” Eggsy says, bursting into the kitchen, but he doesn’t need to offer an explanation for Harry because she seems shocked to see him instead.

“Eggsy!” she cries, grabbing Daisy with one arm while she quickly moves to Eggsy to wrap him up in a hug. “God, Eggsy. Where have you been?”

Harry suspects she doesn’t know what Dean’s been making Eggsy do and he takes it upon himself to speak.

“He’s been with me,” Harry tells her and Eggsy pales, clearly expecting Harry to tell the truth. “It’s part of a work experience programme.”

“Work experience?” Eggsy’s mum asks. “With you?”

Harry nods and tells her, “Yes, ma’am. It began a few days ago.”

“Eggsy?” she questions, looking at her son and clearly doubting Harry.

Eggsy nods his head and says, “It’s true, mum. Dean got me the job.”

She pauses, but seems to believe him.

“That was nice of him,” she says with a soft smile and Harry feels sick when Eggsy puts on a happy face for her in return. She turns to Harry and spares him a quick once-over. “I should be thanking you, too, then?”

“Harry Hart,” he says by way of an introduction, even as guilt eats away at him. “But thanks isn’t necessary.”

“Michelle Unwin,” she says in return, before adding, “but be sure he has enough time to stop in for dinner with me.”

“Of course,” he says, nodding dutifully. “This Sunday?”

Eggsy turns to stare at him, shock clear in his expression, but Michelle doesn’t notice, just smiles and nods.

“Good,” she tells him. “Isn’t that nice, Eggsy?”

Eggsy nods, offering his mum another smile before dipping his head down.

“I gotta go finish packing,” he tells her and heads into the hallway, leaving Harry in an uncomfortable silence.

“My Gary is a good lad,” Michelle tells Harry, who nods, smiling tightly. “You won’t have much trouble with him.”

“He’s already made a good impression, Ms. Unwin,” Harry tells her and her expression of pride hurts him. “He’ll have no trouble at all.”

“Is this a boarding facility too then?” she asks and Harry nods.

“Yes,” Harry says. “Eggsy has his own room and facilities, and has access to the entire house.”

“And what sort of experience is it?”

Harry grabs for any explanation.

“Business ownership. I have my own tailoring shop. Eggsy will learn from an owner’s point of view, as well as from the tailors themselves at a later time.”

Michelle’s smile falters as she says, “Mr Hart, I—we’re not the sort of people that will ever own a business. I’m sure it’s a great opportunity, but—”

Harry offers her a sympathetic nod.

“I understand, Ms. Unwin, but there is a very good chance Eggsy may be offered a job with us at the end of his experience. He shows potential.”

That puts a healthy glow on Michelle’s face and Harry can only hope it’s true. He’s still not sure if Eggsy will be amenable to the idea of Kingsman. Only time will tell.

There’s a brief moment of silence, but then Eggsy returns, a duffle bag over one shoulder and a backpack on the other.

“It was lovely to meet you, Ms. Unwin,” Harry says. “I hope it’s not the last time.”

“Same to you, Mr. Hart,” Michelle replies before she pulls Eggsy into a long hug, murmuring into his hair, “Take care.”

Eggsy nods and kisses her cheek before stooping down to Daisy’s height where she’s tucked against Michelle’s leg. She giggles at something Eggsy whispers into her ear and then leaves a smacking kiss at the corner of his mouth. Seeing Eggsy smile the way he does at his sister makes Harry feel lower than dirt, even more so when Eggsy turns to face him, eyes falling dull at the sight of him.

“Ready?” Harry asks, gaze moving anywhere but at Eggsy.

“Sure. See you soon, Mum. Take care, Dais.”

Harry leads the way out, letting Eggsy pull the door shut behind them, before they head back downstairs to where the taxi is still waiting for them.

Eggsy doesn’t bother putting his bags in the trunk, just hops into the back and tosses them onto the floor in front of them. Harry follows suit, slipping in beside him and closing door.

“Back home please, Yves.”

The car pulls away smoothly and though Harry plans on letting silence fall between them, Eggsy stares over at him.

“Your name is Harry Hart?” he asks, incredulous, and Harry can’t quite believe he didn’t already know that. He nods and Eggsy snorts. “Sounds like a fake name.”

Harry reaches into the inner pocket of his coat and pulls out his wallet, opening it to remove his licence, offering it to Eggsy. Eggsy takes it, but doesn’t look down.

“You do realise anyone can forge one of these, right?”

“Do I seem like the sort of man who would?” Harry asks and Eggsy stares hard at him, as though not quite sure.

“You’re right,” Eggsy tells him. “Too straight-laced.”

He finally glances down at the licence and snorts at Harry’s photo. It’s fairly old now and Harry had fewer grey hairs at the time. He’s been told he looks rather handsome in it, but Eggsy just passes it back, uncaring. Harry puts it away with his wallet and settles back in his seat.

“How did you even get caught up with those wankers?” Eggsy asks out of the blue and Harry drums his fingers on his own knee.

“I think they have a chance to change things,” Harry lies, at which Eggsy’s lip curls in clear disgust.

“For the worse,” Eggsy argues and Harry shrugs.

“The country is stale. Perhaps what it needs is a good shake.”

“Shake something as old as this country and you won’t be able to see past the dust.”

It’s surprisingly accurate, which is why Harry is actually trying to stop the shaking from ever happening. Unfortunately, Eggsy can’t know that yet.

“Don’t worry,” Harry tells him, tapping the frame of his glasses. “I have these. There won’t be any dust in my eyes.”

Eggsy turns his face away at that, clearly angry.

“That’s because the people who can afford it don’t have to worry, do they? It’s the rest of us that’ll be left in the rubble.”

Eggsy falls silent and Harry doesn’t try to push it any further.

It doesn’t take long to return home, and when they do, Eggsy follows Harry inside obediently.

“You can unpack if you want,” Harry tells him. “Take as long as you need.”

Eggsy doesn’t need to be told twice, clearly eager to leave Harry’s company as he slips upstairs with his bags without a word.

With a heavy sigh, Harry heads into the kitchen and sits at the table, feeling older than he has in a long while. He’s not out of his depth yet, but he’s never felt so close to drowning; over a teenager no less.

Quietly, he taps his glasses, sending out a call to Merlin who picks up after a brief pause.

“Harry?” he asks and Harry rubs his forehead.

“Two bugs have been placed at the residence of Mr Dean Anthony Baker,” Harry reports and Merlin makes a happy noise.

“Well done,” he tells Harry. “Was that your plan all along?”

Harry snorts softly.

“Merlin, have I said how overwhelmingly underprepared I am for this?”

“You’re doing well, Harry. As well as any of us could hope in this situation.”

“It’s hard to get a read on the boy. How long do we keep him in the dark about this?”

“As long as need be,” Merlin replies smoothly. “Keep him happy and nip any suspicion in the bud immediately.”

There’s the sound of feet on the landing above and Harry drops his voice even more.

“Have to dash, Merlin.”

He’s just cut the feed on his glasses when the kitchen door swings open slowly and Eggsy stands there staring at him.

“Were you talking to someone?” he asks and Harry lies, shaking his head and smiling sadly.

“Just myself, I’m afraid. I’m an old man used to living by himself.”

Eggsy grunts noncommittally and moves to take a seat opposite Harry. He doesn’t say a word, but Harry can guess what he wants.

“Chinese?” he asks and Eggsy tilts his head.

“Nice folk,” Eggsy remarks and Harry laughs, taken by surprise.

He passes Eggsy a takeaway menu and clarifies, “For dinner.”

Eggsy shrugs and says, “Sounds fine.”

“Pick three things,” Harry orders and Eggsy’s eyebrows raise before his eyes fall on the long list of items, searching—sadly rather aptly—like a starved man.

It’s the least Harry can do.

Eggsy takes his time, seeming to weigh his options before finally giving Harry his choices. He waits at the table as Harry calls in the order, adding another three dishes for himself. It’ll be far too much food, but he’d rather have too much than too little. Though by the time it arrives and he pays the delivery boy, he feels rather like he could demolish the lot.

He briefly considers getting them plates, but thinks better of it. Instead, he sets the bags in the center of the table and heads for the cutlery drawer.

“Open it up,” Harry tells Eggsy, who quickly does as he’s told, the delicious smells soon filling the room.

He comes back with chopsticks for the both of them, though Eggsy gives them an uneasy glance when Harry passes a set over to him.

“Have you used these before?” he asks and Eggsy shakes his head. Harry wonders if he should just grab Eggsy a knife and fork, but instead, holds his own chopsticks up and attempts to demonstrate how to use them. Eggsy can’t seem to get the second one to move right, so Harry moves behind his chair and leans over him. “Like this,” he says, but Eggsy flinches forward, clearly uncomfortable at Harry’s closeness.

Harry takes a step back and apologises quickly, not realising how he could be misunderstood.

“I’m sorry, Eggsy,” he says. “I didn’t meant to startle you.”

Eggsy shakes his head and draws in a slow breath.

“S’fine,” he tells Harry. “Show me how these work.”

Harry keeps a fair space between them, but gently moves Eggsy’s fingers where they should be, until Eggsy’s able to pinch a nearby piece of pak choi between them. Eggsy grins around them and Harry moves back to his seat, settling in with a tub of beef in oyster sauce.

Eggsy seems to have fun eating, alternating between seeing how much he can pick up in one go and seeing if he can scoop up individual grains of rice. He makes a fair dent in his food though, even taking some of Harry’s when he offers it.

“Stop it,” Eggsy eventually says and Harry blinks, accidentally dropping a baby sweet corn back into the container. “Stop staring at me like you’re going to apologise again. I get it; you didn’t starve me on purpose. It’s done. Move on.”

Harry lets his gaze drop to the tabletop.

“If I’d known—” Harry begins, but Eggsy jabs his chopsticks at him, dangerously proficient with them already.

“And what’s that going to change?” Eggsy asks. “It’s already happened.”

“I just don’t want you to be in that situation again,” Harry tells him and Eggsy levels him with his stare.

“And I won’t be, I can guarantee it.”

“Why’s that?” Harry asks and the corner of Eggsy’s mouth curls up with a dark sort of humour.

“Because you won’t let yourself forget.”

It’s surprisingly true. Harry knows he’ll be watching Eggsy like a hawk for any signs that he’s hungry.

“Eggsy—” he tries again, but Eggsy gestures at the prawn crackers.

“You gonna eat those?” he asks and Harry shakes his head, letting Eggsy grab what’s left in the bag while the conversation falls flat.

Harry picks lethargically at his chow mein and eventually Eggsy sighs.

“Look,” Eggsy says. “The fact that you even give a shit says something, okay. You’re still a posh wanker, but maybe you’re not as bad as the rest of them.”

“Thank you, Eggsy,” Harry replies, layering on the sarcasm and making Eggsy pause and crack the briefest of smiles.

“Still a wanker,” Eggsy reminds him and Harry nods.

“Noted.”

Eggsy crunches into the last prawn cracker and Harry feels the slightest bit better as he digs back into his noodles.

*

The conversation apparently shifts things, because the next morning at nine on the dot when Harry usually makes himself breakfast, Eggsy stumbles into the kitchen, sleep-rumpled, but dressed in an outfit Harry hasn’t seen before. He plops down at the kitchen table, takes the mug of tea Harry passes over, and promptly buries his face into it.

After three rounds of toast—and Harry’s sudden realisation that he’s going to have to buy a lot more food with Eggsy in the house—Eggsy makes it all the way to full sentences and even gets up for a refill of tea.

He’s soft when he’s tired and makes Harry feel off-balance; even more so when Harry finds himself tracking the way Eggsy sucks jam off his thumb, his lips tight and pink. Harry, instantly feeling guilty, excuses himself under the pretense of having to make an urgent phone call.

It’s not urgent really, but he does call the shop to see if any of Eggsy’s suits are ready, or will be ready, before their dinner out with Gainly that evening. Philip informs him that the darker of the two suits is complete and that he’ll have it sent over immediately. Harry thanks him, realises he’s only been gone for a few minutes, and scrolls through his email for a second time, just so he doesn’t have to go back and make more of a fool of himself.

When he does eventually make it back to the kitchen, Eggsy’s already washed up and is drying his hands on a decorative-only towel.

Harry doesn’t mention it, but he does say, “I have a housekeeper for that.”

Eggsy scoffs and says, “Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean up after yourself. You’ll get fat and lazy.”

He gives a pointed look to Harry’s body and Harry stifles a grin. He knows exactly what state his body is in and he’s almost certain Eggsy would be just a little impressed by it if he could see.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Harry tells him and Eggsy tilts his head like he doesn’t believe him.

“What are you making me do today?” Eggsy asks, with only a little bite to his words. “More poncy suits? Trip to the Bahamas?”

“Is that what you’d like?” Harry asks. “A holiday in the Bahamas?”

“Mate, if I were as rich as you, I would do whatever the fuck I wanted.”

“And you think I don’t?”

“I think you don’t like being judged,” Eggsy tells him. “Nobody is as far up your arsehole than you are; it’s just a fact of life. Once you learn that, the rest is easy.”

It’s surprisingly poignant.

“The only person worthy of judging me is myself,” Harry tells him gently and Eggsy cocks an eyebrow at him.

“What about God?”

“If God had something to say about me, I think he would have stepped in already. I’ll save the theatrics for someone else to believe in.”

Eggsy seems surprised by the admission.

“You want to support wankers like Gainly and you don’t believe in God? This country is fucked.”

“You think a fear of God is enough to give people morals?” Harry asks and Eggsy shrugs.

“If that doesn’t then nothing will.”

“And what about you, Eggsy?”

“What about me?” Eggsy asks, shoulders straightening as he grows defensive quickly.

“Does the belief of a higher being keep you on the straight and narrow?”

Eggsy snorts loudly.

“I can’t afford that,” Eggsy tells him. “Though it’s like you said, isn’t it? If God wanted to help someone like me, he would have stepped in already.”

Harry wonders how long it took Eggsy to believe that; how many nights in Dean’s care Eggsy spent praying to a God that refused to listen before he stopped believing entirely. It sours Harry’s stomach.

“Perhaps not the best topic for us,” Harry tells him and Eggsy folds his arms, slipping away from the gentleness he’d given Harry a glimpse of earlier.

“Is anything?” Eggsy mutters to himself and Harry pretends not to hear him.

Unfortunately, there is a matter they need to discuss, which Harry isn’t looking forward to.

“There’s a dinner tonight,” Harry tells him and Eggsy’s face shutters, becoming expressionless from one blink to the other, and it’s unnerving.

“With Gainly,” Eggsy says, not a question, and Harry nods.

“At his estate.”

“Estate?” Eggsy asks, not looking impressed.

“A family inheritance and a holiday home, I believe, near the Cotswolds.”

“How we getting there?” Eggsy questions and Harry leans against the nearby granite counter.

“As with anything: Yves.”

“What’s that?” Eggsy asks and Harry can’t help but smile.

“The name of my driver.”

“That’ll be a fun journey,” Eggsy tells him, sarcasm layered on thickly.

“I hear I-Spy is all the rage,” Harry retorts and it actually gives Eggsy pause.

“Funny,” Eggsy says without a hint of humour, but he does uncross his arms.

“Unfortunately,” Harry begins, getting to the part he’d been trying to avoid. “There are certain expectations.”

“Expectations,” Eggsy repeats and Harry nods.

“You were specifically invited as you are now—” Harry stutters over the word, “—mine.”

“Yours,” Eggsy repeats again.

“They will expect us to be intimate.”

“Intimate,” Eggsy says and Harry finally snaps.

Eggsy,” he emphasises. “I need you to understand this.”

“What’s there to understand?” Eggsy asks coldly.

“I want you to know that this is not what I wanted.”

“You want my permission,” Eggsy infers, voice hard and unwavering. “You want to feel okay with the fact that you’re doing exactly what these arseholes want. You want me to tell you it’s okay that you’re touching me even though I never asked for this—any of this. As long as—at the end of the night—you can come home and sleep soundly in your own bed without a guilty conscience. Is that it?”

“Eggsy,” Harry implores gently, but Eggsy shakes his head.

“I’m not giving you anything, Harry fucking Hart. You know when you told me that you’re not like the other guys? That’s a fucking lie. You’re exactly like them. But what’s worse is that you’re passive. You’re letting it happen; letting it in with open fucking arms.”

There’s a heaviness in Harry’s stomach that refuses to shift.

“Eggsy, it won’t be anything untoward.”

“What,” Eggsy questions, voice loud with anger, “just going to cop a feel or two? Nothing untoward for you. But I just have to grin and bear it, right? Lie back and think of England?”

“I could be a lot worse,” Harry snaps in retaliation, but he regrets it the second it’s out.

Eggsy latches onto the words, face darkening with a clear fervor to fight.

“A lot worse?” Eggsy asks. “Well, aren’t you a fucking paragon of virtue? What do you want, Harry? A medal of valor?”

“Eggys, that’s not what I—”

“No, Harry,” Eggsy interrupts. “Tell me about how you’re a good person ‘cause you haven’t fucked me. How you’re practically Mother fucking Teresa for not using me like some warm hole to put your dick in.”

“I’m sorry, Eggsy,” Harry interjects, but Eggsy’s anger isn’t to be trifled with.

“No, no,” Eggsy says, holding his hands up. “My mistake. I didn’t realise you were a stella fucking bloke for accepting another human being as a gift.”

Harry takes a step towards Eggsy, who takes two back, and Harry thinks it’s rather fitting for their lives in general.

“We can have a code,” Harry tells him, though Eggsy just narrows his eyes. “A safeword.”

Eggsy is silent for a long minute, but his anger seems to diminish slightly before he asks, “Safeword?”

“Something for you to say if you want to stop or go home.”

“And you actually will?”

Harry nods and says, “That is the point of a safeword. It’s something to maintain trust between individuals.”

“I should just take your word for that, yeah?”

“I was also planning on giving you pepper spray.”

Both of Eggsy’s eyebrows jolt upwards in disbelief.

“Is that even legal, guv?”

“If the police found it on you, it would be the least of your worries.”

Eggsy smiles crookedly and tips his head.

“What sort of code?” he asks and Harry thinks about it briefly.

“Manners maketh man,” he tells Eggsy, who frowns.

“How am I meant to slip that into conversation? They’ll know as soon as I say it.”

“The point of it is to be something you wouldn’t usually say,” Harry tells him. “I’m sure you’ll find a way to tell me if you need to.”

“And what do you expect me to deal with at this dinner?” Eggsy asks.

“Just touching,” Harry explains softly. “All above the waist.”

Eggsy doesn’t seem pleased, but he nods.

“And I can use that safeword whenever?”

“Whenever,” Harry agrees and Eggsy nods again.

“Why are we even pretending?” Eggsy asks. “Can’t we just show up together and be done with it?”

“I’m afraid men like Gainly have certain expectations,” Harry tells him. “If you’re given a gift, you’re expected to use it. Anything less would be seen as a snub of Gainly’s business, and if I were to snub Gainly, I would have to start watching my back.”

“He’d kill you over not fucking a rent boy?” Eggsy asks incredulously before pausing. “No, you’re right; he would. Fine, but if Gainly even tries to touch me, I’ll blast him in the fucking face with pepper spray.”

“He may not like that,” Harry tells him and Eggsy shrugs.

“Don’t give a fuck, do I?”

“Suppose not,” Harry says, hiding a smile.

There’s a pause between them and Harry thinks about telling Eggsy he can go and relax in his room until it’s time to get ready. However, Eggsy speaks.

“Never been up north before,” he tells Harry, who immediately accepts any information Eggsy readily gives him.

Harry smiles politely and says, “It’s quieter in the Cotswolds; cleaner air too.”

“Will we get to see any of it?” Eggsy asks, though he acts blasé about it.

“We can go earlier if you’d like,” Harry says. “See some sights.”

Eggsy shrugs and says, “It’s not my choice.”

Harry pauses and then makes up his mind.

“Go wash up,” he tells Eggsy. “We can leave as soon as your suit arrives.”

Eggsy nods, keeping a wide berth around Harry as he slips from the kitchen, his footsteps sounding on the stairs soon after. Harry can’t tell if it’s progress or not. He’s lost count of how many times he’s put his foot in his mouth, though Eggsy doesn’t seem afraid to call him on it anymore. At least it will keep Harry humble.

He’s broken from his reverie when the doorbell rings gently and he goes to answer, knowing it must be Eggsy’s suit.

Merlin is there when he opens to door and Harry wordlessly lets him in.

“Where’s the boy?” Merlin asks quietly, hanging the garment bag in the front hallway before letting Harry usher him into the living room.

“In the upstairs bathroom.”

“You’ve told him of your plans then?”

“He’s never been to the Cotswolds,” Harry tells him. “I’ve decided to make a day of it.”

“Is that a good idea?” Merlin asks and Harry shrugs.

“Suppose we’ll find out.”

“Do you need a hotel for the night?”

“Perhaps just in case,” Harry tells him after a moment’s thought and Merlin nods in understanding.

“I’ll send reservation information to your phone later. How’s he holding up today?”

“He’s understandably angry,” Harry explains and Merlin grimaces.

“Maybe the fresh air will do him good.”

Harry cards his fingers through his hair and sighs heavily.

“I should clean up,” Harry tells him. “Else Eggsy will be ready before me.”

“Keep an eye on him,” Merlin says. “We need him back in one piece.”

“I will try my best and then some,” Harry promises, offering Merlin a sad smile before showing him back to the front door.

“Keep comms open. We’ll check in periodically.”

Harry nods and Merlin slips out, letting Harry shut the door behind him. He almost thinks about banging his head right against it. All he wants is for the trip to go well, though maybe he’s asking too much.

He sighs and heads upstairs, hanging Eggsy’s suit on the door handle of the bathroom, before the call of his shower becomes too tempting to ignore.

*

Harry enjoys taking care of himself. He enjoys a good shave, taking the time to moisturise after and finishing with a touch of cologne. He likes styling his hair and gelling it into place with a few savvy twists of his fingers. However, what he enjoys most of all, is slipping into a crisp, freshly pressed suit.

For Gainly’s dinner, he picks something current with a sharp cut that makes him look long and sleek. He pairs it with a silk tie and modest cuff links. When he ties his Oxfords and slips on his Kingsman-issued glasses, he feels the part, like he’s pulled on his armour and is ready for whatever Gainly and his men may throw at him.

What he’s not prepared for, is the way Eggsy looks in his own suit.

It’s tightly fitted to accentuate the right places and Harry almost forgets how his legs work as he makes his way downstairs and finds Eggsy already waiting for him in the foyer. The boy is devastating. Especially so with his hair slicked into a gentle wave and his jaw smooth and freshly shaven.

Harry blinks, once, twice, and Eggsy shifts from one foot from the other, eyes glancing around as though he’s uncomfortable and not quite sure where to stare.

“Whad’ya think?” he mumbles. “Don’t look at good as you, but—”

“You look perfect,” Harry interrupts and Eggsy’s head snaps up, gaze meeting Harry’s own.

“You really think so?” Eggsy asks and Harry nods.

“You could catch the eye of anyone you wanted, Eggsy,” Harry tells him and Eggsy runs a hand down the front of his jacket, clearly not used to compliments as he turns a faint red colour and fails to meet Harry’s gaze. Harry can’t help but think that it’s a shame the sight will be wasted on people such as Gainly and Henry.

If Harry had his way, he’d take Eggsy out alone, treat him to an extravagant meal, and see how many people would follow Eggsy with hungry gazes.

“Saw the taxi pull up just before you came down,” Eggsy tells his shoes, still not looking up, and Harry moves to grab his coat.

There’s nothing for Eggsy, so he grabs one of his spares, knowing that even if it’s too big, it’ll be better than nothing.

“Are you ready?” Harry asks him and Eggsy nods, heading for the door when Harry gestures towards it.

He locks up and heads to the kerb, watching the familiar sight of Eggsy sliding into the back into the furthest seat, while Harry sets their coats in the boot. When he’s settled in beside Eggsy, Yves pulls away from the flat and Harry spares it one last glance before casually mentioning the best way to sit to avoid creases. But Eggsy slouches a little while later and Harry supposes that looking rumpled will work in their favour for this night, so he leaves Eggsy be and doesn’t correct his posture.

Eggsy must’ve grabbed his iPod from home, because a few minutes after they slip onto the motorway, Eggsy puts his headphones in and settles back into his seat, casually glancing out the window as they pass by the scenery. Harry is more than happy to let him relax and leans back himself, knowing they have a long while to go.

*

When they reach the outskirts of Chipping Norton, Harry casually leans over, making sure to be slow with his movements before he taps Eggsy on the shoulder. Eggsy startles nonetheless, but tugs his earbuds out and levels Harry with a questioning look.

“I promised you defence,” Harry says, which changes Eggsy’s expression into interest.

“You said mace,” Eggsy tells him and Harry nods.

“I did. However, a bottle is rather hard to hide, especially in a suit such as yours.”

He’s referring to Eggy’s ridiculously tight trousers, which means the slightest thing in his pocket will draw attention—probably not the best attention either if they’re not careful.

“So you don’t have it,” Eggsy says, disappointment clear in his eyes, but Harry shakes his head.

“No, I have something you might like.”

He draws a watch from his jacket pocket, one he slipped in after he’d gotten dressed, and Eggsy doesn’t look impressed.

“You think you can pay me off for every cock up?” Eggsy asks and Harry shakes his head yet again.

“This isn’t an ordinary wristwatch,” Harry tells him. “From the outside it looks like it, but inside I’ve fitted a little something for you. May I?”

He holds out the watch and after a moment’s hesitation, Eggsy offers up his arm, letting Harry slide it onto his wrist. He clips it in place and then adjusts the face until the word spray appears in tiny letters. Eggsy’s eyebrows immediately shoot up in surprise.

“What is that?” he asks, moving his hand up as though to touch, but Harry carefully nudges him away.

“I wouldn’t recommend using it in here,” he tells Eggsy gently. “It’s a custom order. Something easy to use and easy to hide in plain sight. Just twist the face to the right to arm it and press in the crown on the side to detonate. Be sure to not point it at yourself.”

Eggsy blinks and lets Harry disarm it again.

“This is some James Bond shit,” he says and Harry can’t hide his smile of amusement.

“If I were James Bond,” Harry replies, “I wouldn’t own a tailoring shop.”

“Could be a front,” Eggsy retorts and Harry nods solemnly.

“Very true,” he agrees. “Though what was it you called me? Uptight?”

“Straight-laced,” Eggsy corrects before he slouches and nods. “Yeah, true; no way you could be 007.”

He sounds saddened by the fact, as though his hope of Harry really being James Bond has been dashed. He supposes if he were in Eggsy’s position, he would be too. James Bond could rescue Eggsy, but now he’s just stuck with a tailor; nothing special at all.

“It’s a one-time-use dosage,” Harry says, changing the topic, and Eggsy nods. “But that should be enough to take down anyone attacking you. Be sure to try to cover your own nose and mouth, though. Trust me, it hurts.”

“You got one too?” Eggsy asks and Harry shakes his head.

“Just my fists,” Harry teases and Eggsy snorts.

“Could be James after all,” Eggsy says, but turns his head to stare out the window, his mouth a firm line.

Harry watches him for only a moment before turning to look out his own window, hating the fact that there’s nothing he can do. Not just yet, anyway.

*

The first thing Eggsy says when Yves pulls up to the kerb and lets them out is, “Holy fuck, mate.”

He turns in a full circle, taking in the town before staring at Harry.

“Who the fuck lives here?”

“Trust fund children,” Harry jokes, but he’s not sure Eggsy hears because he’s moved away to stand by the window of a nearby estate agent.

Harry lets his eyes linger only momentarily on the width of Eggsy’s shoulders before he steps closer, just to the right of him. Eggsy spares him a quick glance before pressing his finger to the glass, smudging it under his fingertip. He’s pointing at a home listed at a few million pounds and his eyebrows are somewhere near his hairline.

“Can you afford a place like that?” Eggsy asks.

Harry can’t, but he says, “A gentleman doesn’t reveal his own worth.”

The corner of Eggsy’s mouth curls up in amusement.

“You totally can though, can’t you? Why the fuck would you live in London if you could be out here?”

Harry allows him to make the assumptions and shrugs loosely.

“I like my shop where it is.”

“I would move in an instant,” Eggsy tells him, though he almost seems to be talking to himself. “Mum and Daisy would love it.”

“Time to start playing the lottery,” Harry murmurs and Eggsy snorts.

“Got no money to waste on gambling. Maybe one day I’ll be on Heir Hunters and they’ll give me a fortune.”

Harry humours him with a smile and wonders how badly Merlin will hurt him if he requests a getaway home as a treat for Eggsy. It’s a dangerous thing to want to give him everything, but he can’t help thinking that Eggsy deserves it all. He deserves a lavish home for his family and himself; he deserves someone to love him and treat him well. He doesn’t deserve to be part of some undercover act; a pawn in a dangerous game where one or both of them is bound to be hurt.

“How about tea for the time being?” Harry suggests and Eggsy turns towards him, attention begrudgingly given it seems.

“Tea?” he asks and Harry gestures to a small shop across the road.

“We can have drinks and something to eat,” Harry suggests and after a moment’s hesitation, Eggsy nods.

“Yeah, alright,” he agrees.

Harry leads the way over and they don’t look at all out of place in their suits, which seems to be something Eggsy is uncomfortably aware of.

“Different league,” Eggsy mutter, glancing at a table of ladies chatting, dressed to the teeth in finery.

They’re seated near the back, giving them much needed privacy, and Eggsy looks a little lost when he regards the menu.

“Where the fuck is the regular stuff?” he asks quietly, his eyebrows drawn into a frown. “What the fuck is acai?”

He butchers the pronunciation, but Harry doesn’t correct him.

“It’s a berry,” Harry tells him. “Apparently good for weight loss, but can also help with erectile dysfunction.”

Eggsy blinks and looks at Harry with concern.

“The fact that you know that worries me, bruv.”

“Merlin went through a phase,” Harry jokes and in his ear, there’s a faint spluttering from the man himself, clearly monitoring their conversations.

Harry will happily suffer the wrath of Merlin a thousand times over because the joke makes Eggsy laugh, his eyes crinkling pleasantly in the corners.

When the server stops by again, Harry orders a pot of Darjeeling oolong for them to share—a flavour he thinks Eggsy may enjoy—and lets Eggsy order a handful of cakes to snack on for a late lunch.

It’s pleasantly quiet between them while they sip their tea—Eggsy lets out a quiet noise of appreciation after the first taste of it, which Harry considers a job well done—and Harry picks at a currant bun while Eggsy polishes off two slices of lemon cake.

“Where is this thing anyway?” Eggsy asks eventually, setting his cup into the saucer as he pours another serving.

“A ten minutes drive from here,” Harry tells him. “But there’s a nearby pond I thought we’d stop at first.”

“A pond?” Eggsy questions. “When dressed like this?”

“We won’t be swimming in it, Eggsy, just looking.”

Eggsy snorts, clearly not impressed with Harry’s sarcasm, but the fact that he not-so-stealthily hides a smile behind a jam tart says a lot about him.

“Gonna feed the ducks?” Eggsy asks instead and Harry shrugs.

“I’ll order some bread to take away.”

Eggsy rolls his eyes as though he doesn’t believe him, but half an hour later, when Eggsy looks faintly ill from too much sugar, Harry sends Eggsy on ahead to the car as he stays to pay and requests a roll or two from the kitchens be added to the bill. It’s well worth it for the hint of surprise and delight on Eggsy’s face when he passes one over as they slip back out of the car at the pond Harry mentioned.

The sun is warm overhead and Eggsy looks calm and almost happy as he breaks the bread up and tosses it into the water, watching ducks and fish eat it alike. Harry stands beside him, quiet and observing, waiting for Eggsy to run out before he passes the remaining roll to him.

Their fingers brush, which isn’t a surprise, but Eggsy doesn’t recoil, which is. He seems to be too focused on the feeding frenzy in front of him. He knows it’ll change the minute he says they have to head to Gainly’s estate, but for the time being he savours it.

“There was a duck by the flats once,” Eggsy says, breaking the silence without being forced to. “Got one of those plastic Coke rings around its neck and Ja—my friend and I caught it and cut it off.”

“I’m sure it was very thankful,” Harry tells him gently and Eggsy scoffs and chucks the last of his bread into the pond.

“Little bastard turned around and bit the hell out of us.”

Harry smiles genuinely and enjoys the way Eggsy grins in return. It’s a good look for him and he only wishes it was always that simple to bring it out in him.

They make themselves comfortable on a nearby bench for the time being, and Harry lets himself relax beside Eggsy. They need to enjoy it while it lasts because he’s sure Gainly won’t make it easy for them.

*

By the time they finally make it to Gainly’s dinner, Eggsy has a splash of colour on his cheeks from the sun and he’s relaxed enough that Harry’s first touch doesn’t startle him. In fact, there’s almost an imperceptible feeling of him leaning into the arm Harry casually winds around his waist.

Harry doesn’t react, just reaches out with his free hand to greet Gainly and Henry Billet, while they pretend Eggsy doesn’t even exist.

The fact that Henry seems half-cut already doesn’t bode well. The fact that there’s a faint white residue around his nose makes it even worse. Harry politely ignores it and accepts the tumbler of scotch that’s pressed into his hand. Eggsy isn’t offered anything, but when they’re lead through into the dining room, there are already glasses of water laid out, and Eggsy helps himself with a nod from Harry.

Gainly sits at the head of the table to Harry’s left and Henry sits opposite them. Gainly’s wife isn’t present, but there’s another boy across from Eggsy and it’s clear that he’s not just there as decoration.

“A present from Shelby,” Henry says when he catches Harry staring, and his voice is smug and unnerving, and Harry doesn’t like it in the slightest.

However, he plasters on a polite smile and nods. Henry leans in to the boy afterwards, whispering something into his ear that makes the poor boy look uncomfortable, but puts a grin on Henry’s face. Harry spares a quick glance at Eggsy, but he’s staring at the tabletop, the poster boy for good behaviour, with his hands folded carefully in his lap.

“I see we are a few short this evening,” Harry says casually and Gainly smiles and tips his head.

“Unfortunately, my wife and I are thinking of separating,” Gainly simpers and Harry swigs his scotch trying to wash away the taste it leaves behind. “We’ve actually had a little good news, though, and I thought it only fair that our most generous backer be part of the celebration.”

From the glasses comes Merlin’s voice in his ear saying, “If he spills enough we can end it tonight.”

Harry rather hopes that’s the case, but nothing is ever that easy in life it seems.

“Good news?” Harry presses and Gainly nods and glances at Henry with a grin that doesn’t bode well.

“You’re looking at the new candidate for prime minister.”

Harry’s stomach sinks like lead, but he plasters a smile onto his face as he says, “Remarkable.”

“All we need to do is pull the right strings and we’ll have complete control,” Henry admits, which is going to bite him on the arse when he goes to trial. Unfortunately, as it doesn’t come from Gainly himself, they still need more evidence.

“I’m impressed,” Harry says, toasting him with his glass though all he wants to do really is smash it against his head. “What’s the next step from here? Do we need a little extra to sweeten the pot? For your campaign perhaps?”

Gainly shakes his head and says, “We cannot ask for more from you, Mr Hart. You’ve already given so much.”

It’s a careful tactic meant to imitate humility, but Gainly wouldn’t know that even if it bit him on the arse.

“I’ll make a quick phone call after dinner,” Harry tells him and it’s clear from Gainly’s smile that it’s the right thing to say.

“I’m afraid I cannot tell you more, Mr Hart. We are still ironing out a few kinks. I want to ensure all is in order before rumours start.”

Harry suspects it’s actually because Gainly doesn’t trust him entirely—though he’s unsure how he’s meant to gain that last inch of it—but he smiles politely over at him.

“Of course,” Harry replies. “Wouldn’t want that, would we?”

It’s at that moment that the door to the dining room opens and Harry has to fight to keep himself calm, expecting the worst. Instead, it’s just an assortment of staff carrying in plates ladened with food, ready for them to eat. Whatever it is smells heavenly and he can see that it’s caught Eggsy’s attention too.

“I do hope you don’t have any allergies, Mr Hart,” Gainly says and Harry smiles at him.

“None that I know of,” Harry jokes as a plate is set before him. “Perhaps we’ll find out.”

“I rather hope not,” Gainly says, though he doesn’t succeed in sounding entirely genuine. He’s probably only hoping that Harry can first make the call to his financial advisor—in this case, Merlin—before dying. “Please, dig in.”

Harry makes sure to nod at Eggsy to help himself to his own food before taking up his cutlery and doing just that.

It turns out to be a lamb dish, perfectly seasoned and probably made by one of England’s best chefs. It’s followed by a half-dozen assorted pies to choose from—he’s sure Eggsy turns a little green at the sight of more desserts—but they both choose a rhubarb crumble with a generous dollop of custard.

Afterwards, Gainly has a bottle of Ouzo brought in, pouring them a glass each—even Eggsy, though he doesn’t touch it—and he toasts them.

“To good health and lasting friendship,” he says, which Harry doesn’t quite believe, but he drinks to it and then sets down his glass.

“If you’ll excuse me a moment,” Harry says. “I need to make that phone call.”

Gainly nods, but Henry seems too enraptured with the young man he’s been given. He meets Eggsy’s gaze, trying to make it known that it will be okay, before he excuses himself from the room and slips into the foyer, where he quickly calls Merlin, using his mobile to ensure the staff doesn’t grow suspicious of him talking to himself in the hallway.

“A couple million?” Merlin asks instead of a greeting and Harry agrees.

“Should be enough for now,” he says, before lowering his voice. “What do you think the plan is?”

Merlin hums in thought quietly. “Gradually gaining power, it seems. If Gainly is going for PM, we’ll need to keep an eye on the house. That may be his next target.”

“How do we get a foot in with Trevors?”

“Bug the boy,” Merlin suggests and Harry closes his eyes for a moment.

“We’re not going to like what we find,” Harry tells him and Merlin makes a noise of agreement.

“Downside of the job, Harry,” he says. “I’ll have Roxy and Percy follow up on it. We’ll need to take it slowly. We can’t risk anything until we can get numbers on the amount of captives they have.”

Harry grunts his assent and reaches into the inner pocket of his coat, where he put one or two spare bugs for emergencies earlier. He’ll have to be quick, but he should be able to slip it under the boy’s collar as he passes when he heads back into the room.

“I’m going to get us out of here soon,” Harry tells him. “Make sure Yves is ready to go.”

“Roger that,” Merlin replies and the line cuts out, leaving Harry to slip the phone into his pocket and head back towards the dining room.

It’s easy enough to press the bug onto the other boy’s collar, hiding the act by picking up the bottle of Ouzo off the table and topping up their drinks.

“This is what we have staff for,” Gainly tells him when Harry pauses by his shoulder to fill his glass up, but Harry just screws the lid back on and takes a seat again.

“I propose another toast,” Harry says. “To business partners and overabundant inheritances.”

Gainly grins at him and drinks to it, and Harry drains what’s left in his glass and settles back, his hand casually making its way to the back of Eggsy’s chair to keep up appearances.

Gainly picks up on the movement and he glances between them, sipping at his drink again.

“Are you satisfied with your present?” he asks Harry and Harry remains composed the best he can when he casually looks at Eggsy and nods.

“It was very generous of you,” he says.

“Is he good at getting you off?” Gainly asks crassly and Harry knows it’s meant to throw him off. Thankfully, he’s been trained to dodge whatever may be tossed his way by scum like Gainly.

“He has a talented mouth,” Harry lies, feeling Eggsy tense beside him. “And he has an arse as tight as a virgin.”

Gainly eyes him coolly as he says, “He’s better behaved now; you’ve trained him I take it?”

Harry shrugs and puts on his best smirk. “If he’s good, he gets to come. It’s surprisingly effective.”

Gainly laughs and turns his gaze to Eggsy, “Is that so, boy?”

Eggsy doesn’t even skip a beat as he says, “Sure thing, guv.”

Harry knows in that moment how good Eggsy would be as a Kingsman agent. It would be a pleasure to train him.

“With such praise, perhaps I should take him for a test ride myself,” Gainly says, eyes raking greedily over Eggsy, who spares a brief glance at Harry.

“I’m afraid I find that rather rude, Mr Gainly,” Harry says. “I was under the impression that Eggsy here was mine and mine alone. You see, I’m not very good at sharing toys. I was an only child growing up.”

“You know what they say,” Eggsy pipes up, his eyes on Harry, not Gainly. “Manners maketh man.”

Eggsy wants out.

“Quite,” Harry agrees. “I have to thank you for your gracious hospitality, Mr Gainly, but I’m afraid we’ve stayed out far too late already. I have important business to attend to back in London at an early hour tomorrow.”

Gainly pauses for a long moment, carefully regarding them before pushing out his chair and standing.

“Thank you for giving us the pleasure of your company,” he tells Harry. “Forgive me for stepping out of line. I hope it won’t affect our work relationship.

“Of course not,” Harry replies smoothly. “The donation should be available in the morning. I hope we can reconvene for another tètè-à-tètè soon.”

Henry pays them no mind, his mouth fixed on the throat of his unlucky company, but Gainly shows them to the front door, holding it open and offering Harry his hand, which Harry has to force himself to shake.

“Enjoy the rest of your evening,” Gainly tells him. “And you, Eggsy.”

Eggsy nods, but keeps close to Harry, seeming ready to sprint straight down the long driveway. Thankfully, that’s not necessary, as Yves pulls around with the car and they’re able to hop into the back without a word.

Harry watches Eggsy rub his hands over his face, his whole body seeming to tremble.

“Are you alright, Eggsy?” he asks. “That was not something I expected.”

Eggsy lets out an unsteady breath and shakes his head, worrying Harry further.

“You lied to him,” Eggsy says, turning his head to stare at Harry with a wild, lost expression. “You told him you’d been fucking me.”

“If I’d told the truth, he would’ve taken you back, Eggsy. He would have given me another present and would have probably beaten you within an inch of your life.”

“Why not?”

“Why not, what?” Harry asks gently and Eggsy’s face crumples.

“Why haven’t you fucked me? Why won’t you just put me out of my fucking misery and get it over with? The waiting is worse than anything you could do to me, trust me, guv.”

Harry’s mouth drops open in surprise and he stares at Eggsy, the periodic streetlights giving enough light to show how upset Eggsy is.

“Eggsy, I’m not—”

“Just do it!” Eggsy yells, scrambling across the seat towards Harry, one leg sliding over Harry’s thighs as he attempts to straddle him. “Don’t lie for me!”

Harry has no idea what’s brought it on, but in that moment, regardless of all his Kingsman training, he doesn’t know what to do. He refuses to give in, but he also refuses to hurt the boy. Carefully, he turns the face of his watch until it shows the selection he wants and he holds it level with Eggsy’s face.

“I’m sorry, Eggsy,” he murmurs gently before deploying a quick dose of fentanyl that knocks Eggsy out almost immediately.

The boy slumps forwards bonelessly into Harry and Harry is quick to shift enough to spread Eggsy out across the back seats, watching his unconscious face for any signs of distress. It seems to have been a clean hit however and Eggsy is sleeping soundly. It’ll keep him out for only a short while, but if Yves breaks every rule in the driving handbook, it may be enough to get them back home.

For the time being, he slips off his jacket and folds it up, sliding it under Eggsy’s head as a makeshift pillow. He also carefully pulls Eggsy’s left arm up to activate the heart rate monitor on his watch—something Harry failed to tell him earlier, though only because he’s sure that would be enough to blow his cover. It gently beeps in time to Eggsy’s heart, letting him monitor it, just in case the drugs cause any side effects.

Eventually, Harry sits heavily on the floor and raps on the partition between him and Yves. Yves slides it open immediately and quickly glances back.

“Yves, I’m afraid I’m going to need you to break every speed limit in England.”

Yves nods and says, “Of course, Galahad. To the flat?”

“Please,” Harry answers and Yves nods again. “Merlin can cancel the reservations he made. Home will be the safest place for Eggsy right now.”

The taxi quickly picks up speed and Harry slumps back, his eyes never once straying from Eggsy’s sleeping face.

The worry eats away at him and the beeping of Eggsy’s heart only sets him on edge. It’s going to be a long ride, but all he can do is wait.

*

By the time they reach the flat, Eggsy is conscious, but isn’t responsive to Harry’s questions. His eyes roll back more than once and he slumps into Harry a few times. Thankfully for both of them, Harry’s constant training means that he’s able to lift Eggsy onto his shoulder in a fireman’s carry to move him from the car into the house.

It takes a fair amount of time and balance to get Eggsy upstairs, but he manages eventually. However, instead of invading Eggsy’s privacy to set him down in the guest room, Harry carefully lays Eggsy out on his own bed, knowing it will be easier to take care of him there.

Eggsy blinks at him, not seeming to realise where he is or who he’s with, but he slowly rolls himself onto his side and burrows into Harry’s pillows. After a long moment of quiet breathing, Harry realises Eggsy’s fallen back asleep and he hopes it’ll help with some of the lasting effects from the spray. He quickly removes Eggsy’s shoes and then drags up a decorative throw from the foot of the bed and drapes it over Eggsy, hoping he won’t be too disorientated when he eventually wakes.

Harry suspects he won’t appreciate being watched constantly, however, and he takes it as his cue to leave, slipping from the room, but leaving the door open so that he’ll be able to hear if Eggsy wakes again.

He heads downstairs to make a quick cup of tea before slipping on his Kingsman glasses and calling for Merlin.

“This better be good,” Merlin threatens, voice gravelly as though he’s been asleep.

“I had to drug the boy, Merlin,” Harry tells him with a sigh, sprawling into his favourite armchair.

There’s a faint noise like Merlin sitting up in bed and then the soft sound of him clearing his throat.

“And why was that?”

Harry rubs his temples and lets out a long breath.

“He seems to be operating under the belief that because I’m not touching him now means it’ll be worse later on.”

“So you drugged him?” Merlin asks, clearly confused.

“He tried to force me upon him,” Harry explains with a sigh. “He was becoming violent and agitated and I took a risk.”

“Where is he currently?”

“We’re back at the flat. He’s upstairs sleeping off some of the side effects.”

“He’ll be feeling that when he wakes,” Merlin says and Harry can’t help but agree.

“I think we’ll be out of commission for a few days. I’ll let you know when things improve. In the meantime, I suggest you get some of the other agents to look into Shelby Trevors’ side of the business. The bug is in place.”

“Already on it,” Merlin tells him and Harry nods. “We were actually hoping you could send us a scan of the mark on Eggsy’s foot. We believe it may be a brand of some kind. It seems Shelby may have left a trail throughout Europe that could put her away for life. She marks all of her victims to keep track of them, but it’s about to backfire on her.”

“Of course,” Harry tells him. “Perhaps now is the best time to get that. Pull up the video feed.”

There’s a quiet beep as Merlin does just that and Harry pushes himself out of his chair before heading upstairs. Eggsy has managed to tangle himself up in the blanket, but he looks comfortable, his cheeks a healthy rosy colour and his mouth slightly open.

“I didn’t know he was staying in your room,” Merlin mutters and Harry tenses.

“It’s only temporary,” he explains. “I didn’t want to go into his room without permission first.”

“It’s your house, Harry,” Merlin reminds him.

“And he needs a place to feel safe, Merlin. Need I remind you of that?”

Carefully, Harry slides Eggsy’s feet free from the blanket before gently sliding his socks off.

The mark is small and on the ball of Eggsy’s right foot, which Harry adjusts to make sure Merlin can get a good shot of it. It’s a number—48—followed by a symbol that must be Shelby’s own. He can only imagine the pain Eggsy must have gone through during the healing process, how it must have ached and blistered for weeks.

“That should be enough,” Merlin tells him. “I’ll have Percy look into the symbol and see if we can directly link it to Shelby’s other victims.”

“Let me know what you find,” Harry says, setting Eggsy’s foot back down, which is when there’s a soft snuffle from above and when he glances up, Eggsy’s peering down at him with a confused expression on his face.

“T’fuck?” he slurs, blinking tiredly at Harry.

“That’s my cue,” Merlin says before the line beeps to let him know it’s been disconnected.

“I was only trying to make you more comfortable,” Harry tells him, but he’s not sure Eggsy hears because he’s too busy glancing around the room.

“Where am I?”

“We’re back in London,” Harry explains and Eggsy frowns.

“This ain’t my room,” he says and Harry nods in agreement.

“That’s because it’s mine.”

It seems to take Eggsy a moment to process it, but then his face crumples and he looks at Harry aghast.

“What the fuck did you do to me?” He pats at himself as though looking for evidence of what might have been done to him, but when he glances down and sees he’s still in his suit, he seems to calm a little. “Why do I feel so sick?”

“Eggsy do you remember what happened?” Harry asks gently, watching Eggsy’s eyes turn unfocused. It takes a moment, but then Eggsy rubs his face and glances guiltily at Harry. That’s apparently a yes. “I was hoping you’d be able to sleep off a little more of the side effects. I’m afraid it’s not the gentlest of drugs. Do you need a bucket?”

Eggsy seems to catalog his feelings before shaking his head.

“No,” he tells Harry, who thinks he might grab one anyway. “M’still tired.”

Gently, trying not to spook Eggsy, Harry reaches for the ends of the blanket, covering Eggsy’s bare feet once more.

“Go back to sleep,” he urges. “You’ll feel better for it.”

Eggsy looks like he wants to argue, but after a heavy sigh, he relents, settling back down into the pillows and eyeing up Harry.

“Thanks,” he mutters, and Harry wants to tell him not to thank him, that it’s just basic human kindness, but Eggsy’s already shut his eyes, ready to drift off again.

Instead, Harry settles one hand on top of Eggsy’s left foot and squeezes gently. The fact that Eggsy doesn’t pull away means a lot, but he pushes himself up and heads for the door, ready to leave Eggsy in peace again.

He pauses in the doorway, glancing back at Eggsy, but he looks peaceful for the first time in what could be forever for all he knows. He’s going to make them all pay for what they’ve done to Eggsy, he swears it.

But for the time being, he leaves Eggsy to sleep, hoping his dreams are a lot nicer than the reality he’s stuck in.

*

Harry wakes on the settee to the sound of the creaky plumbing from upstairs. He doesn’t know what time it is, but it’s still dark outside. He’s got a crick in his neck and he’s still mostly in his suit—though he’s missing his jacket and tie, and his sleeves are rolled up to his elbows—but he heads to the stairs, wanting to check on Eggsy now that he’s awake.

He passes the bathroom almost the same time Eggsy opens the door and peers out looking rather green.

“Alright, Eggsy?” he asks quietly and Eggsy shrugs, not looking at all okay.

“‘M sick,” Eggsy murmurs, which Harry takes to mean that Eggsy has fairly recently been reaquainted up close and personal with the loo. There’s sweat on his brow and his hair is standing in all directions.

Reaching out carefully, Harry takes a hold of Eggsy’s arm and leads him back into the bathroom, much to Eggsy’s apparent confusion.

“Wha—?” he asks, even as Harry lowers the toilet lid and sits Eggsy on top of it.

“A bath may help,” Harry tells him, ensuring his sleeves stay up as he leans down to stopper the drain and start up the taps.

When he glances back at Eggsy, he’s frowning and staring at the tub.

“What?” he asks, finally looking over at Harry. “You want me to take a bath?”

“The warmth of it may make you feel better,” Harry reasons, gesturing for Eggsy to stand. When he doesn’t do so immediately, Harry reaches down and curls a hand around Eggsy’s elbow and pulls gently.

With Eggsy standing, it’s easy to help slip the jacket from his shoulders and hang it behind the door with the robes. When he turns back, Eggsy is staring at him looking vaguely uncertain.

“You’re staying?” he asks and Harry nods.

“Only to help clean you, Eggsy. If that makes you uncomfortable, I can leave. I just thought you may like a hand when you’re not feeling well. I understand if you don’t want that.”

“I’m not a child,” Eggsy complains, folding his arms and Harry meets him with a steady gaze.

“I never said you were,” Harry tells him gently. “I’m just trying to treat you as well as you deserve.”

“And you do that with just any old person?” Eggsy argues, to which Harry shakes his head.

“No, Eggsy. You’ve been the only worthy one in rather a long while.”

Eggsy doesn’t seem to have anything to say about that. He stares at the floor for a long moment before finally reaching for the button of his collar, beginning to unbutton the rest of his shirt. It drops to the floor and Harry lets it lie. Housekeeping will have it cleaned and pressed again. Eggsy slips off his undershirt next and then pulls his belt loose and adds it to the pile on the floor. When he unfastens his fly, Harry directs his eyes the opposite way and lets Eggsy finish undressing without his heavy gaze watching.

When Eggsy moves towards the bath, Harry keeps him stable with a hand on his arm, listening to the hiss Eggsy lets out at the heat of the water. Harry turns the hot tap lower and helps Eggsy sink into the water.

“No bubbles?” Eggsy asks when he’s finally sitting down, his knees drawn up to his chest.

“You want the full Vivian Ward experience?” Harry jokes, which Eggsy doesn’t seem to understand. “I’m afraid bubble baths aren’t my forte.”

Eggsy snorts and glances sideways at him, rubbing one hand along his own shin.

From within the set of drawers under the sink, Harry pulls out a towel and a flannel, setting the towel on the toilet lid for later and taking the flannel as he lowers himself down beside the bath. He’s definitely getting too old for it as his knees aren’t what they used to be, but he dunks the flannel under the water and soaps it up with shower gel before holding it up near Eggsy’s shoulder.

“Is this alright?” Harry asks, waiting until Eggsy finally nods before moving again.

He smooths it over Eggsy’s skin, scrubbing lightly and lathering up the soap. He moves it across Eggsy’s shoulders and down the line of his back, washing the skin he can reach. Eggsy slumps against his own knees and lets out a faint noise of happiness when Harry rubs the cloth along the back of his neck.

“I’m sorry for what happened, Eggsy,” Harry murmurs quietly, hand gentle along Eggsy’s hairline.

“Don’t wanna talk about it,” Eggsy grunts, which is about what Harry expected.

Harry nods and stays quiet, just cleans Eggsy up, tracing along the line of moles that are dotted across Eggsy’s back. His skin is smooth and looks soft enough that Harry wants to put his hand on him, but Harry doesn’t touch him except through the flannel.

“Arm up,” he says eventually, nudging Eggsy’s left arm until he gets the hint and raises it.

Harry washes his armpit and then does the same for the other one, and he’s isn’t sure if Eggsy is ticklish there, but there’s a faint smile on his face that disappears as Harry moves away again.

“Would you like to wash your hair?” he asks and Eggsy pauses before shooting a look across at Harry.

“Would you?” he asks and Harry almost laughs. It seems Eggsy has no issue asking for what he wants when still tired and feeling sick.

“Of course, Eggsy,” he replies. “Sit back for me.”

Eggsy does as suggested, stretching out his long lean legs as Harry tries to avoid staring directly between them, though, from the brief glance he gets, it seems he’s not exactly underendowed. Harry keeps a glass beside the sink for drinking, but he grabs it and tilts Eggsy’s head back as he scoops up water and carefully pours it over Eggsy’s hair. When it’s wet enough, he grabs the shampoo and lathers it into Eggsy’s hair, loving the way Eggsy leans into his touch, how he almost rumbles with happiness.

He takes his time massaging Eggsy’s scalp, scratching his blunt nails through Eggsy’s hair, removing dirt and gel alike. When he glances at Eggsy’s face, it’s slack and his eyes are shut in relaxation.

“How’s that?” Harry asks gently and Eggsy hums quietly.

“S’good,” Eggsy tells him. “Nice hands.”

Harry smiles to himself without responding and tilts Eggsy’s head back again as he begins to rinse out the shampoo. He then rubs conditioner into his hair and leaves it for a moment while he scritches the short hairs at Eggsy’s neck.

“Would you still like to go to dinner with your mother on Sunday?” Harry asks, watching as one of Eggsy’s eyes opens, his bright stare tracking Harry.

“You’ll still let me?” Eggsy asks bluntly.

“I always keep my word, Eggsy.”

Eggsy’s eyes shut again and says, “Sure.”

“That’s settled then,” Harry says, rinsing the conditioner from Eggsy’s hair. “Yves can give you a lift.”

Eggsy hums again and Harry runs his fingers through Eggsy’s hair, making sure it’s clean.

“There,” Harry says, “All done.”

Eggsy leans against the back of the bath and stares at Harry, his face flushed from the warmth of the water. For the briefest of seconds, Harry imagines what it would be like to have Eggsy in his bath on a regular basis, not as someone given to him against the their will, but voluntarily, as his lover. He imagines what it would be like for Eggsy to laugh and suggest they share the tub together, how water would get everywhere, but Eggsy would smile at him with affection in his eyes and would lean in for a kiss.

Just as quickly, it feels as though ice water has been dumped down his back as he realises he has no right to think about Eggsy like that, not after everything he’s been through. The last thing he needs is Harry being an lecherous old man.

“You’re not coming with me?” Eggsy ask as Harry stands, keeping his face turned away and holding out a towel for Eggsy, who eventually drags himself up and lets Harry drape it over his shoulders.

“Not this time. I won’t interrupt your family dinner.”

Eggsy doesn’t argue, but Harry suspects it’s because he doesn’t know Harry will bug his jacket before he leaves, just to be sure everything is okay. Instead, Harry rubs his hands across the towel, helping to dry Eggsy’s skin.

“Feel a little better?” Harry asks, supporting Eggsy’s elbow as he steps out of the tub and Eggsy shrugs loosely.

“Suppose,” he says. “Maybe a little.”

“Good,” Harry says. “Even if it’s only a little.”

Harry leans over to let the water out of the bath and then gently ushers Eggsy out of the bathroom and towards his own room.

“Go back to sleep for a few hours. You’ll feel better for it.”

“Again?” Eggsy asks and Harry nods.

“Again,” he confirms.

Eggsy shifts his gaze in the direction of Harry’s bedroom and he opens his mouth as though maybe thinking about asking to return there, but eventually he shuts it again and says nothing at all.

“Sleep well,” he tells Eggsy who nods, tugs the towel tighter around his shoulders, and disappears into his own room with a gentle click of the door behind him.

*

Eggsy complains of a headache in the morning, but apparently a fry-up by Harry—the full works; eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, tomatoes, and even a handful of mushrooms—seems to be part of the cure. Eggsy munches through it happily, downs two paracetamols, and then spends the day beside Harry watching repeats of panel shows on the TV.

Harry taps away at his laptop, emailing Kingsman via code to ensure Eggsy can’t read anything important.

According to Merlin, Roxy has made significant headway on infiltrating Shelby Trevors’ trafficking ring. They almost have the location of almost fifty hostages, who they’re slowly identifying, and they’re beginning plans to figure out the best way to keep the body count low.

All in all, the mission is going better than expected, which means it’s inevitable for something to go wrong.

*

Yves picks Eggsy up on Sunday evening just after six. They have a bargain that Eggsy can stay as long as he likes, so long as once he’s returned, he stops in and lets Harry know he’s home, even if Harry happens to be asleep. Harry doesn’t plan on sleeping until Eggsy is home, but Eggsy needn’t know that.

As Eggsy brushes past Harry on the way out of the door, Harry slips a bug under the collar of his polo shirt while pretending to straighten it and waves him off with a smile, pretending to be none the wiser.

Harry then retires to the sitting room with some paperwork he needs to finish writing up about the mission so far, with his tablet beside him so that he can absentmindedly listen in on Eggsy’s night.

As far as Sunday dinners go, it seems to be fairly normal. Eggsy spends most of his time playing with his sister, apparently helping her with some colouring—or at least that’s what it sounds like through the speaker. His mum asks a few questions about Harry that Eggsy answers with an unnerving ease and then there’s the sound of them eating in front of the TV. It’s quiet and relaxing, and probably exactly what Eggsy needs.

That is until there’s a sound of a door banging open and almost immediately slamming shut. It’s also followed with drunken slurring that sounds a lot like Dean Baker.

Harry’s stomach sinks and he hopes things don’t get heated, but it’s apparently too much to ask for as Dean starts his raving almost immediately.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” he yells, which is clearly directed at Eggsy.

There’s a sound of footsteps, the clatter of a knife and fork hitting a plate, and a soft oof noise from Eggsy. It seems as though Dean has grabbed him and Harry isn’t happy in the slightest.

He slips on his glasses and buzzes into the Kingsman communications line.

“Bedivere?” he asks the open line, which immediately flairs to life with Yves’ voice.

“Yes, Galahad?”

“There seems to be trouble at the Unwin residence. Please standby for further instructions. An extraction may be necessary.”

“Yes, sir,” Yves answers calmly. “The line will stay open.”

“Thank you, Bedivere.”

Yves is trained in seven different forms of self defense and Harry trusts him to be able to rescue Eggsy should he need to. Harry listens in on the conversation between Dean and Eggsy once more.

“Who said you could come back here?” Dean snaps at Eggsy furiously.

“Dean—” Michelle protests from the background, but Dean apparently isn’t willing to listen.

There’s the repeated noise of skin hitting skin with pained noises from Eggsy and Harry sees red instantly.

“You think you can make me look like an idiot and get away with it?” Dean yells, which is followed by the disturbing noise of choking from Eggsy.

“Dean, stop!” Michelle protests again and, after a long moment, there’s a sudden gasp from Eggsy and a shaky cough.

Harry isn’t sure what happens next, but there’s a faint click and a beep and then the noise of what sounds like air being sprayed from somewhere nearby. It takes longer than it should for Harry to realise it’s the sound of Eggsy deploying the pepper spray from his watch.

There’s a screech from Dean in obvious pain and the sound of quick footsteps

“Mum,” Eggsy says, between loud coughs. “Take Daisy round to Claire’s for a little bit, okay?”

There’s more coughing, followed by crying from Daisy, but then there’s a slam of a door and Harry knows they’re out of the flat.

“Wash her eyes out,” Eggsy says, somehow managing to remain calm and level-headed—something necessary for a Kingsman agent—and Harry has never been prouder of someone. “I think milk is good for that.”

“Where are you going?” Michelle asks, voice sounding watery.

“Back to work,” Eggsy begins before adding, “Go!”

There’s a creak of a hinge and an angry noise from someone that sounds like Dean, who appears to have dragged himself back out of the flat.

“I’ll kill you!” he threatens Eggsy before there’s the sound of footsteps.

Belatedly, Harry realises it’s not Dean running, but Eggsy, and he listens to the harshness of his breath and the slapping of his shoes against the pavement.

“Bedivere, Eggsy is on his way to you. Be ready for an extraction.”

“Yes, Galahad,” Yves responds and it’s not long before he hears the sound of a car door slamming shut through Eggsy’s microphone.

“Get me the fuck out of here, bruv,” Eggsy tells Yves, breathing heavily from the backseat, still coughing sporadically.

“Do you need medical attention?” Yves asks him, even as the wheels of the car squeal as they pull away, which is a fair point and Harry wonders how battered Eggsy is after all.

“No, no,” Eggsy hurriedly says. “Just get me back to Harry. I’ll get him to pay you double if you get me there in half the time.”

Something inside Harry flares at the thought of Eggsy thinking he’s safe with him, of wanting to be with Harry after dealing with Dean. It doesn’t last long as Eggsy lets out an unhappy pained noise and Harry will have Dean’s head if he’s done something lasting to Eggsy, he swears it.

“Get him home,” Harry tells Yves, who doesn’t respond, but Harry can hear the rev of the car’s engine and knows Yves is driving as aggressively as he dares.

By the time Harry hears a car pull up outside of the flat, he’s half worn a dent into the floor from pacing back and forth in the front hallway. He knows he can’t seem like he expects Eggsy to be home already, so he steps into the kitchen and flicks the kettle on at the last minute, only a moment or two before Eggsy throws open the door and makes his way into the flat.

“Harry?” he calls out and Harry tries to sound surprised when he answers.

“Eggsy? I’m in the kitchen. What are you doing home already?”

Harry almost crushes his mug in one hand out of anger when Eggsy walks in with a deep bruise already blooming across his cheek and a tinge of red around his throat. He sets it down before anything can happen to it, and moves towards Eggsy, who mirrors the action.

“Eggsy, what happened?” he asks, feigning innocence and trying not to stumble out of shock when Eggsy presses in for what could very well be considered a hug.

Harry slips his arms around him and holds him close, his hands rubbing soothing circles against Eggsy’s back.

“My step dad was there,” is all he says, the words muffled by Harry’s shoulder.

“Dean?” Harry confirms and feels Eggsy nod. “Let me see.”

He’s gentle when Eggsy takes half a step back, tipping his face up to Harry, though his eyes remain lowered. He presses softly against Eggsy’s cheek, just to be sure nothing is fractured, but Eggsy only winces, doesn’t flinch away immediately. He’s mostly worried about Eggsy’s throat. There are clear fingermarks on his skin and they’re going to bruise as the days go by.

The smell of pepper spray is strong in the air, however, and it makes Harry cough, his eyes burning slightly.

“You used your watch on him?” he asks and Eggsy nods, looking ready for Harry to scold him, but Harry will do no such thing.

“Yeah,” he admits, glancing up at Harry as though to gauge his reaction. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

“That was a good idea,” Harry encourages. “That’s what it was for.”

“Yeah, but it’s just going to piss him off even more and I won’t have it next time ‘cause it’s all used up now.”

Harry shakes his head and says, “I’ll get another made up for you. You won’t be without one when you need it, I promise. I’m more worried about you, Eggsy. You may have a sore throat later if he choked you.”

“I know,” Eggsy replies, finally looking back up at him. “S’not the first time he’s done this.”

Harry reaches out slowly and sets a comforting hand on Eggsy’s shoulder, wanting nothing more than to go and find Dean and teach him a lesson for ever daring to hurt Eggsy.

“Eggsy,” he says gently, to which Eggsy shrugs.

“S’life,” Eggsy says and Harry has so many things to say about that.

“No, it’s not, Eggsy,” Harry tells him. “Men like Dean exist because they think they can get away with it. They enjoy putting down those with less power than them because it gives them a cheap thrill. Men like that deserve to be put down like rabid dogs.”

Eggsy’s eyebrows raise as though not expecting such heat from Harry, but Harry is not proud to say they’ve touched a nerve.

“Then do it,” Eggsy suggests, sounding more hopeful than Harry is willing to examine.

“You want me to kill Dean?” Harry asks.

“Use your krav whatever to get rid of him. No one will know.”

“Except for Gainly,” Harry points out softly.

“Yeah, but he’s got plenty other scumbags working for him. What’s one less?”

“Eggsy, I can’t kill someone for you, as much as said someone deserves it.”

He squeezes Eggsy’s shoulder gently again, trying to ignore Eggsy’s disappointed expression, and then steps away, moving towards the fridge. From the freezer above it, he finds a bag of frozen peas, which he removes and wraps in a thin tea-towel.

“This will help with your cheek,” Harry says, holding the bag out to Eggsy, who takes it with a nod.

He winces as he presses it against his cheek, but then flops into the nearest chair and lets out a heavy breath.

“Are your eyes stinging?” Harry asks, wondering if he needs to dab at Eggsy’s eyes with a milk-soaked cloth, but Eggsy shakes his head.

“No, but I bet Dean’s are,” he says with a small smirk. “He didn’t even let me finish dinner.”

“Did you have enough to eat?” Harry asks worriedly, but Eggsy nods.

“Cup of tea would be nice, though.”

Harry smiles kindly at him and nods. “I can do that.”

When he’s made a cup for them both, he sits opposite Eggsy at the table and watches him take a first tentative sip. Eggsy sighs and adjusts the bag of peas against his face as he continues drinking.

“Did he hit you anywhere else?” Harry asks, just to be certain, but Eggsy thankfully shakes his head.

“Nah, he wasn’t quick enough,” Eggsy tells him with a wry smile. “I think I’m gonna head upstairs if that’s okay, though. I need to wash.”

“Of course, Eggsy. You really don’t need to ask.”

Eggsy nods, though Harry knows he isn’t going to stop asking anyway, and then drains the last of his tea before getting up and setting his mug in the sink and his peas back in the freezer. As he passes Harry by on the way out of the kitchen, he pauses, and Harry almost holds his breath waiting to see what he’ll do. He doesn’t dare move though, and after a long moment, there’s a light touch of Eggsy’s fingertips to the skin just above Harry’s collar. It’s not what Harry expects at all and it sends a jolt through Harry’s stomach, a zing of something that he doesn’t want to examine too closely for fear of what he might find.

Just as quickly, the touch disappears.

“Thanks,” Eggsy says to him gently.

“It’s no trouble, Eggsy. I promise you that.”

Eggsy doesn’t glance back at him and doesn’t say anything more as he slips from the room.

Harry stares down into his mug and knows he’s dug his own grave. He’s grown attached to the boy and it isn’t going to end well.

*

The following morning, Merlin stops by the flat with a new watch for Eggsy and a list of names spanning three pages.

“What’s this?” Harry asks, keeping an ear out for Eggsy upstairs. It’s still early, which means they should have a few minutes before he wakes up.

“The names of people in Trevors’ ring,” Merlin says somberly and Harry double takes at it.

“Good god,” Harry murmurs, scanning the names.

“We’re hoping Eggsy can take a look at it and see if there are any names he recognises. Anyone he’s met during his time with Shelby.”

“He’ll know something’s going on if we ask him, Merlin.”

“I figured,” Merlin says, rubbing a hand over his head. “How close has he been with you lately?”

“Warming up, but I don’t think he’ll take too lightly to being lied to this whole time.”

“We couldn’t compromise the mission.”

I understand that,” Harry tells him, “but I doubt Eggsy will. He’s been terrified that I’m going to—”

“Morning, Harry,” Eggsy says from the doorway and Harry flinches at the unexpectedness of it.

He has no idea how much Eggsy has heard and he panics that he’s blown his cover. But when he turns to face the boy, he still looks half asleep and not as though he’s overheard the mutterings of two undercover spies. His cheek has settled into a deep shade of purple and the marks on his necks are far more prominent.

“Morning,” Harry replies gently. “How are you feeling?”

Eggsy shrugs with one shoulder.

“Been better,” he says. “You want tea? Merlin?”

Merlin, whose eyebrows are somewhere halfway up his forehead, looks at Harry for just a second before glancing over at Eggsy.

“No, thank you, Eggsy,” Merlin says. “I should head out.”

Merlin leaves the list with Harry, but then slips out; Harry hears the front door close quietly behind him and Eggsy glances between it and Harry.

“Did I say something wrong?” Eggsy asks, but Harry plasters on a kind smile and shakes his head.

“No, Eggsy, of course not. Now, how about that tea?”

*

Three days later, Harry receives an invitation from Gainly for a gala the following week. It politely requests that he bring a plus one, and when he finally brings himself to pass the card across to Eggsy at the kitchen table the morning of said gala, Eggsy scans it and swallows thickly.

“Tonight?” he asks and Harry nods.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I was unsure if we would even go,” he lies and Eggsy nods as though he understands.

“Can we use that safeword again?”

Harry isn’t sure how to feel about it being the first thing Eggsy asks about.

“Of course,” he replies, however.

Eggsy nods and says, “Okay,” as though that’s all there is to it.

They fall into silence again and Harry nudges his cereal around his bowl before forcing himself to speak again.

“We may need to act closer than last time,” Harry says, eyes on the table. “There will be a lot more people to convince.”

“Okay,” Eggsy says again and Harry raises his gaze to look at Eggsy, who seems calmer and more collected than even Harry himself.

“Okay?” Harry repeats and Eggsy shrugs.

“It was fine last time. You were nice.”

“That was because I had the chance to. These people will have expectations and they will most certainly ask about your bruises.”

Eggsy distractedly brings his fingers up to the bruise on his face, the one that’s now yellowed, but still fully visible.

“Make something up,” Eggsy tells him. “No one’s going to know. I won’t be the only rent boy there, will I? I’ll probably have the least amount of injuries of any other boy there.”

Eggsy snorts wryly and Harry stares back down at the table. There’s a light touch on his hand and when he looks up again, Eggsy has his palm resting over the back of his hand.

“Don’t worry,” Eggsy continues. “You’ll be the nicest prick there.”

Harry can’t help but snort in amusement and Eggsy smiles in return.

“Look,” Eggsy says, “just warn me if you’re going to do something drastic, yeah?”

“But not the safeword?” Harry asks and Eggsy shakes his head.

“Nah, way too confusing.”

Harry takes a moment to think before saying, “Oxfords, not brogues.”

“What the fuck,” Eggsy says immediately. “How do you even think this shit up?”

Harry laughs and Eggsy smiles crookedly, clearly amused.

“Want to use something else?” Harry asks and Eggsy shakes his head.

“That’ll work just fine.”

Harry hopes so, though what he hopes most of all is that he won’t have to use it. He wants a low key night to monitor Gainly and keep Eggsy safe, but he thinks that might be asking for too much.

“The car will be here at seven,” Harry tells him and Eggsy nods.

“I’ll be ready,” he says, though Harry isn’t sure either of them will be.

They’ll have to see how the night pans out.

*

Eggsy seems agitated on the ride to Gainly’s gala. He fiddles with his cufflinks and wipes his palms on his thighs more than once.

“Nervous?” Harry can’t help but ask and Eggsy shoots him a quick glance.

“As fuck,” Eggsy admits. “Dean’s gonna be there, isn’t he?”

“He won’t lay a hand on you while Gainly is around, especially if I’m there too.”

“What if he does?” Eggsy asks and Harry gestures to Eggsy’s watch.

“You have a new one, remember? You’ve already had practice. Second time will be easier.”

For a moment, he loses Eggsy’s attention as his eyes dart to the floor and he almost doesn’t hear Eggsy’s voice over the sound of the engine.

“Dean said that, too,” he says quietly. “After he first started selling me.”

Eggsy’s never freely given away information about his past and Harry is almost glad for it because it feels like someone has stabbed him low in the gut.

“Eggsy,” Harry says quietly and Eggsy shakes his head.

“No, no, I mean it’s good, right?” Eggsy says looking over at him. “He fucked up my life and now I get to spray him in the face with mace more than once. Things are looking up.”

Harry knows Eggsy means it as a joke, but it still doesn’t sit right with him.

“We’ll be careful,” Harry tells him and Eggsy sobers up and nods at him.

“Yeah, we will.”

“Just stay close and look bored.”

Eggsy flashes a grin at him and says, “I can do that.”

“Good,” Harry replies. “Then we’ll have no issues.”

Eggsy nods, settles back into his seat, and seems to calm a little. Harry wishes he could say the same for himself. He’s really not looking forward to the mission.

*

The gala is already in full swing when they arrive. Harry believes it’s called being fashionably late these days, but whatever it is, it lets them slip into the party unnoticed and Harry grabs the nearest flute of champagne from a passing server’s tray and acts the part of entertained guest.

Eggsy, as promised, stays close, the heat of his body always at Harry’s side, though never in the way. If they were agents together, they would surely make a good team.

Harry converses with a few other guests and then eventually finds a quiet corner to observe from. Merlin is supervising for the night, feeding Harry names where needed, but he mostly stays quiet, silently tracking the goings on.

“Do you need those?” a voice at his side asks and he turns to find Eggsy watching him expectantly.

“Do I need what?” Harry asks and Eggsy gestures with his head.

“The glasses. You only wear them some of the time. Do you just pretend you need them so you can look like a fit librarian?”

Harry raises both of his eyebrows and takes a careful sip of champagne.

“You think I look like a fit librarian?” Harry teases and for a second, Eggsy stares at him, mouth slightly open, before the tips of his ears turn pink and he shakes his head.

“No,” Eggsy says far too quickly for it to be anything but a lie. “But, I mean, some people might think so.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint,” Harry tells him, “but I’m really just terrible at remembering to wear them. I’m nearsighted.”

It’s a lie, as Harry actually has twenty-twenty vision, but Eggsy nods as though he believes it.

“They suit you,” is all he says in response before falling silent again, and in Harry’s ear there’s a faint snort from Merlin.

“I think you’ve won him over,” Merlin tells him, which Harry doesn’t actually believe. He’s sure they have a long way to go yet before Eggsy will be ready to hear the truth about Harry’s job.

“Thank you, Eggsy,” he replies softly. “You’ll make an old man blush if you’re not careful.”

Anything Eggsy might say in return is cut of when Merlin says, “Gainly, three o’clock.”

Harry glances to the right just in time to see Gainly enter the room with someone who is decidedly not Penny Gainly on his arm. He feels Eggsy freeze beside him and quickly glances over at him.

“I know her,” Eggsy mumbles under his breath. “That woman with Gainly. I’ve worked the streets with her.”

“What’s her name?” Harry asks softly, hoping that either Merlin can cross-reference it to the list of names they already have, or supply them with another name so they can help free her later in the mission.

“Mandisa,” Eggsy tells him. “Don’t know her surname.”

Harry nods and says, “I’ll keep her safe too.”

He can only imagine what she’s already been through, but he’s sure it may comfort Eggsy to know they’ll keep an eye on her during the gala.

Gainly clears his throat with enough intention that the muttering around the room falls to a quick hush in order to listen.

“Thank you all for coming tonight,” Gainly begins. “It is a pleasure to have you in my home. This night isn’t about politics or fundraising—as much as I may want it to be.” There’s a ripple of laughter at the joke before Gainly continues. “This is for us, all of us, and the incredible achievement we’re striving for. Tonight, we take a break to drink and dine and appreciate how far we’ve come. To good friends and even better evenings.”

He toasts and his guests are quick to follow suit. Even Harry raises his glass, though he doesn’t think it worthy enough to drink to.

“If it’s not for fundraising, what’s it for?” Eggsy asks quietly as the volume of the room rises again as conversations resume.

“It’s for networking,” Harry tells him, still trailing Gainly with a steady gaze to see what his next move may be. “The next one will be for fundraising when he has twice as many connections.”

Eggsy makes soft noise of understanding and then follows up with, “Can I have a drink?”

Harry glances at him, but there’s nothing telling in his expression, no ulterior motives. When a server walks past, he grabs another flute of champagne and passes it to Eggsy, who then looks faintly surprised.

“You meant water?” Harry asks, but Eggsy shakes his head quickly.

“No, this is fine.”

Harry isn’t sure how much of a good idea it is, but Eggsy’s already drinking from the glass, swallowing down half in one gulp.

“Easy,” Harry warns and Eggsy blinks at him, caught. He nods at Harry and brinks the glass away from his mouth.

“Sorry, Haz.”

Harry doesn’t say anything more—not even about being given a nickname— but in his ear, Merlin says, “Haz?” which is followed by a laugh. “Definitely soft for you, Galahad.”

“We should concentrate,” Harry says, though really it’s for Merlin, who seems even more delighted by it.

“On?” Eggsy asks and Harry tips his head subtly towards Mandisa and Gainly.

“Keeping your friend safe.”

Eggsy nods, his face schooling into a look that would suit him as an agent, and says, “Right.”

*

It’s easier said than done when the party isn’t as large as Harry originally expected it to be. They watch from afar most of the night, working their way through hors d'oeuvres and glasses of champagne. There’s a pleasant pinkness to Eggsy’s cheeks like the alcohol is hitting him and he sways into Harry’s touch more than once.

When Gainly finally wanders over with Mandisa, he seems amused by their closeness, which Harry knows will work in their favour.

“Enjoying yourselves?” Gainly asks and Harry nods, glancing over at Eggsy.

“Very much so,” he says. “We appreciate your generous hospitality.”

Gainly smiles politely and then stares blatantly between them.

“He’s warmed up to you since last time,” he points out as though Eggsy isn’t right there. “Your method must really work.”

“We’ve found a common ground,” Harry tells him with a smirk, though he doesn’t tell Gainly that the common ground is in fact them both hating him. “It’s worked wonders.”

“Though it seems he may have put up a little fight,” Gainly suggests, clearly referring to Eggsy’s bruises.

“That was our common ground,” Harry lies. “As it turns out, the boy rather likes a little choking now and then and I rather like the feeling of my hands around his throat.”

Gainly’s eyebrows raise and his lips curl into amusement, as he says, “Who would’ve known? What a perfect companion.”

His eyes rake down Eggsy’s body and something fiery curls in Harry’s stomach, and he finds himself winding an arm around Eggsy’s waist to pull him closer.

Gainly’s grin widens. “No need to worry, Mr Hart. I have my own toys to play with now.”

He doesn’t know if it’s the alcohol or if Eggsy is trying to make a point, but he curls into Harry’s touch, slipping his own arm across Harry’s stomach and turning his face into Harry’s throat, his nose warm against the skin there. Eggsy’s breathing is even, but Harry can feel how quickly his heart is beating. He figures it’s time to get Eggsy somewhere quieter.

“If you’ll excuse us, Mr Gainly,” Harry says politely. “I’m afraid I need to visit your washroom.”

Gainly nods a vaguely knowing look in his eyes and he points to the staircase across the room.

“Up the stairs, last door on the right.”

“Thank you,” Harry mutters, but carefully unwinds Eggsy away from his chest and leads him away with a hand dangerously close to his arse to maintain appearances. When they’re climbing the stairs, away from Gainly’s range of hearing, Harry says, “I’m sorry, Eggsy. I didn’t mean for us to be so close.”

Eggsy scoffs quietly. “Pretty sure I was the one getting close to you,” he replies. “He still seemed suspicious.”

“Well, I’m sure you could use a few minutes to freshen up,” Harry tells him and Eggsy shrugs.

“Gotta pee,” Eggsy admits and Harry isn’t at all surprised with the amount Eggsy’s drunken.

However, it isn’t until they reach the bathroom that Harry realises he still has his hand on Eggsy’s back and Eggsy never complained or moved away.

“I’ll wait for you out here,” Harry tells him, to which Eggsy nods and slips into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

It’s secluded where they are; only faint voices audible so far away from the main party. Gainly’s house—as expected—is lavish and oversized. There are four other doors in the vicinity and he doesn’t know where they lead, but one is cracked ajar and it appears to be a study.

Glancing around to be sure he’s totally alone, Harry says, “Do you think he’s cocky enough to leave important papers out?”

Merlin’s voice flares to life immediately as he says, “Only one way to find out.”

He suspects it’ll take a few minutes for Eggsy to finish up—everything is always much harder to do when intoxicated—and he only expects to be gone for a few seconds. Just enough to poke his head around the door for a cursory glance. Merlin can review the footage and glean information from it later.

The door creaks when he nudges it open wide enough to slip inside and everything sounds louder in the silence. The room is rather more cluttered than he’d been expecting; he’d thought Gainly would be vigilant with his organisation, but perhaps not.

There’s a desk to the right of the doorway and Harry makes his way over to it, asking Merlin, “See anything relevant?”

“Check the drawers,” Merlin suggests, which Harry does.

They’re all locked, but on the opposite end, there’s a door that swings open and reveals small black safe with a touchpad on the front for a code.

“What do you think?” Harry asks.

“I’ll run the decrypting software and see if it comes up with anything,” Merlin says, “but it’ll take a few minutes.”

Harry doesn’t have a few minutes, barely has any time at all.

“Is there surveillance in the room?” Harry asks belatedly.

“Not as far as I can tell,” Merlin replies. “But trust your instincts.”

Instead of attempting to break the safe, Harry shuts the desk door, which is the exact same time that there’s a creak of a hinge and when Harry snaps his head up, there’s a face peering around the door into the darkness of the room.

“Harry?” comes Eggsy’s voice and Harry almost has to brace himself on the desk as the adrenaline hits hard.

“Eggsy, you startled me,” he admits and he sees Eggsy grin before he steps further in the room, letting the door swing almost closed behind him.

“You’re the one creeping around in the dark. The fuck are you up to?”

“I was curious about the man’s belongings,” Harry lies. “The state of one’s study can be a window into the mind.”

Eggsy snorts and says, “Just admit that you wanted to sneak away from the party.”

“There is that,” Harry admits with a small smile and he reaches over towards the desk lamp to switch it on, illuminating them with a soft orange glow.

He watches as Eggsy scans the walls for a moment, taking in Gainly's decorations.

"Posh git," Eggsy says before turning to Harry. "No offence."

Harry can't help but laugh. "None taken. It is a little gaudy, though, isn't it?"

Eggsy snorts and nods, but counters, "Says the guy with the butterfly collection."

Harry's mouth quirks. "Touché. I rather like you when you're tipsy, Eggsy. You're remarkably sharp."

For a long minute, Eggsy seems to consider Harry's words, clearly deciding how to interpret his tone. Where he's sure Eggsy would have shied away and apologised, the tipsy version of Eggsy smirks and says, "You're not bad yourself."

Harry doesn't know what to do with the information, but before he can settle on anything at all, he hears the unmistakable sound of footsteps heading down the hallway towards them.

"Eggsy, come here," he says as a precaution, a plan—a terrible one at that—half forming in his mind.

"Did I fuck up?" Eggsy asks, looking faintly stricken, but Harry shakes his head quickly.

“No, Eggsy. You’re in no trouble. There’s someone coming and I don’t wish to be caught here.”

Eggsy grins again and quirks an eyebrow at him. “So you were snooping.”

Eggsy,” Harry implores, because it doesn’t sound as though the footsteps are going to pause by the bathroom.

“We gonna hide?” Eggsy asks, taking three steps closer to Harry, getting within grabbing distance, which is what Harry does when he hears the telltale squeak from the door’s hinge.

“Oxfords, not brogues,” Harry says quickly and he sees the surprise in Eggsy’s eyes before he hooks one hand around Eggsy’s waist, the other behind Eggsy’s head to pull him in the rest of the way.

Their mouths meet crookedly in the middle, Harry’s lips landing at the corner of Eggsy’s mouth before he readjusts and moves them together properly. Eggsy is stiff against him, his brain clearly running through a thousand thoughts—Harry knows this because his own is doing the same. He can’t help but think that he promised Eggsy he wouldn’t touch him like the others, that he’s not like the men Eggsy has dealt with in the past.

Except he’s there taking advantage of him to keep a cover and it doesn’t sit right at all.

He almost thinks about pulling away and trying another tactic before they’re caught, except as he breaks the kiss to think, to breathe and give Eggsy much deserved space, Eggsy curls his own hand around the nape of Harry’s neck and draws him back in, his mouth soft and tentatively responsive.

Harry’s brain goes temporarily offline.

He can’t even hear anything except the sound of his own heart drumming a frantic beat inside his chest; he can’t feel anything except the warmth of Eggsy against him; he can’t taste anything except the crisp tang of expensive champagne on Eggsy’s lips. It hits him even harder when Eggsy gently deepens the kiss, when he swipes Harry’s bottom lip with his tongue and makes a soft noise of satisfaction as Harry opens reflexively for him.

Eggsy kisses like he means it and that terrifies Harry; the thought that Eggsy might want him, even after everything. He can’t deny that Eggsy is good at kissing, how he licks into Harry’s mouth like it’s the only thing he ever wants to do. And Harry returns it, trying to give it back as good as he gets it. Eggsy’s lips are pliant, but his tongue is hot and insistent and Harry would gladly drown in the feeling of it.

When there’s the loud sound of a throat clearing, it genuinely takes Harry by surprise and he pulls away from Eggsy so suddenly that the poor boy sways where he stands. His mouth is a devastating shade of red while his cheeks bloom pink, stark against his pale complexion and the bruise lingering below his eye.

Harry wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and clears his own throat before glancing across the room at the intruder.

It’s Gainly and the smile on his face doesn’t bode well.

“So this is where you both snuck off to,” he says and Eggsy freezes, his face turning away from Harry, his eyes on the floor. It’s the look of a man with regrets and Harry’s stomach turns to lead. “This was why you were so eager to leave?”

“It’s hard to keep my hands off him,” Harry lies, the words tasting bitter, like bile on his tongue.

Eggsy, with all due credit, maintains the façade by shifting minutely towards Harry, angling their bodies enough that it probably seems to Gainly that they’re been at it for some time, like he’s trying to hide something—for instance, the response from the body of a young man in his prime.

“Quite,” Gainly says. “A little privacy can go a long way. Unfortunately, I’m afraid to say this room is off limits to guests at the present time.”

Gainly is being polite and Harry doesn’t think the man will keep his composure for long. They need to leave, regardless of what’s in the safe; he’s becoming suspicious of them. However, as he opens his mouth to agree, to move and follow Gainly out of the room, Eggsy speaks.

“We’re not done here,” he says, his hand moving to Harry’s hip where it grips tightly, though Harry can still feel the trembling of his arm. “Let me finish him off.”

“Eggsy,” Harry warns, trying to play his part, but not sure where Eggsy’s taking it.

“No,” Eggsy argues. “You can’t walk back into a party with a hard on. I’ll finish you off with my mouth; it’ll be quick.”

Harry glances at Gainly imploringly, though he doesn't seem to want to budge.

"Eggsy, not now," Harry says instead, trying to convince him to drop the conversation without outright saying it.

"But I want to," Eggsy whines, playing the part of a needy drunk surprisingly well, leaning into Harry and nosing at his jaw. Harry swallows thickly. "You promised."

When he looks at Gainly again, the man raises an eyebrow at him.

"The boy is somewhat of an exhibitionist," Harry explains, wracking his brain for an excuse. "I told him there was a good chance we could slip away somewhere quiet tonight."

Strangely enough, that seems to disarm Gainly and he lets out a faint laugh and shrugs.

"Please make it quick," Gainly tells them. "I’ll be waiting outside. And don't make a mess."

"Don't worry," Eggsy says, lips grazing Harry's skin. "I always swallow. Isn't that right, Harry?"

Gainly makes a noise as though that's the last thing he wants to hear, and then slips out of the room, shutting the door behind him. In a moment, Eggsy pulls away from Harry, straightening his tie and tugging at his jacket. There's a flush on his cheeks that's more than just alcohol and he doesn't meet Harry's gaze.

"Do whatever it is you came in here for," Eggsy tells him. "I've bought you a little more time."

Harry hesitates for a second before Merlin's voice comes through.

"Harry, Eggsy knows something is the matter. I’ve got a combination that should work; we'll deal with him later."

Harry stares at Eggsy just a moment longer before finally moving into motion, heading for Gainly's desk once more. He quickly drops down and tugs the door open, revealing the safe.

“Combination?” Harry asks and Merlin reads it out for him.

“5-7-3-8-4,” he says, while Harry quickly punches it in, heart thudding loudly as there’s a click and the handle actually gives way.

When the door swings open, Harry is a little disappointed to see that the only things inside are a 9mm pistol and a small manilla folder. Without disturbing the gun—which Harry is sure Gainly doesn’t have a permit for—he pulls the folder out and flips it open, knowing time is of the essence.

"What are we looking at, Merlin?" Harry asks, listening to the noise of Merlin typing quickly in the background.

On the paper in his hands, there's a list of names that don't make much sense to Harry. It’s different from the one of Shelby’s victims, but a few sound vaguely familiar.

"They're members of parliament," Merlin tells him. "Along with some who aren't in yet."

"You think he's bought them out?" Harry asks and Merlin makes a noise of agreement.

"There are one or two names of people already in his pocket. I wouldn't doubt it. We'll look into it once you're back at HQ. What about the gun?"

Harry puts the folder back in place and draws his handkerchief from his pocket to pick up the gun without leaving prints.

"Can you get a scan?" Harry asks, holding it as steady as possible.

"Just initiating," Merlin says before pausing. "Fresh prints. Looks like Henry Billet."

"Henry?" Harry asks. "Why?"

"The man is an addict," Merlin points out. "I doubt there's reason to his actions. Perhaps Gainly wanted to keep it away from him. The names are enough for now, though. Wrap up and we'll touch bases later."

"Roger that; standby for more."

The line falls silent and after Harry ensures the contents of the drawer are exactly as he found them, he locks the safe once more and glances up, finally noticing Eggsy watching him.

"You've got a fucking huge amount of explaining to do, bruv," Eggsy tells him, his expression brooking no argument. "You're not just some rich prick, are you?"

"Eggsy, I'm sorry," Harry begins, shutting the desk door and moving to be closer to him. "I can't say anything right now, but I'll tell you everything."

Eggsy levels him with a stare and says, "You better."

"We need to get back to the flat," Harry tells him. "Thanks to you, I think we've thrown them enough that they won't suspect anything just yet.”

He heads for the door, ready to slip out, bid Gainly farewell, and hightail it back home, but Eggsy halts him with a hand on his elbow.

“Eggsy, I can’t explain now,” he says, expecting Eggsy to argue that he isn’t leaving until he starts talking, but Eggsy raises an eyebrow at him.

“I know that,” Eggsy says. “There’s one last thing.”

Harry is sure there isn’t, but he pauses regardless, knowing Eggsy deserves to be heard.

“One last thing?” he repeats and Eggsy nods.

“He thinks I’m going down on you,” Eggsy starts, but Harry interrupts.

“Eggsy, I’m not—”

“I can’t go out there looking like this,” Eggsy continues as though having not heard Harry. “I need to look—” he pauses, gaze darting around the room as though trying to find the right words—“well used. And you need to look satisfied.”

Harry waits for Eggsy to glance back over at him before speaking. “How do you propose we fix that?”

“I mean, I’m not saying I need to actually blow you,” Eggsy stammers. “I just—”

Harry watches him carefully, gently asking, “What is it?’

Eggsy squints his eyes as though bracing himself as he says, “Oxfords, not brogues?”

Harry, for all his infinite Kingsman testing and quick reflexes, doesn’t have enough time to predict Eggsy’s moving into his space; Eggsy cupping his face and pulling him down slightly; Eggsy kissing him as though he means it.

It takes longer than it should for Harry's brain to catch up and alert him that something's not quite right. He shouldn't be kissing Eggsy; Eggsy shouldn't want to kiss him. Harry pulls back.

“Eggsy,” Harry pants against his mouth. “Eggsy, you—”

It’s cut off by another kiss from Eggsy, his mouth just as insistent as before, his hands strong and sure holding Harry in place.

“I don’t know who the fuck you really are, Harry, but I want this,” he tells him when they break for air, though their lips brush as he talks. “As much as you think I don’t, I do.”

He meets Harry's gaze, his pale eyes seeming to hold nothing but the truth.

"It's transference, Eggsy," Harry tries to explain. "It's not real."

"Yeah?" Eggsy hisses. "You have no fucking clue."

"Not now, Eggsy," Harry pleads. "We need to leave."

"You need to look more disheveled," Eggsy tells him, hands reaching out to untuck one side of Harry's shirt, to tug his tie looser, to thread his fingers into Harry’s hair and force it out of place.

When Eggsy steps back, eyes running down Harry's body as he admires his own handiwork, Harry can't help but think that Eggsy's mouth does in fact now look well-used. It was clearly a better plan than any Harry could have thought up. Eggsy quickly ruffles his own hair, giving the appearance that Harry used it as a handhold, and then moves towards the door.

Eggsy wipes the back of his mouth as he strolls out, clearly for show for Gainly, who is still waiting outside as promised. However, when he steps out behind Eggsy and more of the hallway comes into view, he finds Gainly isn’t alone anymore. Dean and a couple of his guard dogs are there too.

“Better?” Gainly asks him, to which Harry lets the corner of his mouth curl up.

“Quite.”

“I fear I may have been a little harsh earlier,” Gainly says, stepping around Eggsy to reach out and grip Harry’s shoulder firmly. “Let us have a private word together.”

Harry’s eyes slide towards Eggsy, who has lost his air of confidence and who is looking rather pale beside Dean.

“Of course,” Harry says. “Come, Eggsy.”

“No,” Gainly interrupts. “The boy stays here. Dean will take good care of him.”

Harry can’t outright put down Gainly’s men. It would be far too insulting and they’re far too close to blow it all now. Instead, he meets Eggsy’s panicked gaze and tries to smile as supportively as possible.

“Won’t be a minute,” Harry says, gently tapping at the face of his watch, hoping Eggsy will get the hint to use the pepper spray again if necessary.

Eggsy blinks, glances down at his own wrist, and gives a minute nod of his head. Unfortunately, Dean’s gaze also follows the movement and his top lip curls up in a silent snarl. He clearly knows what’s being suggested too. It physically hurts Harry to have to turn away from Eggsy, but Gainly is waiting, holding open the door to his study as though Harry hasn’t only just stepped out of it.

Gainly shuts the door behind them and there’s nothing Harry can do.

“Focus,” Merlin mumbles into his ear and Harry blinks and moves his gaze to where Gainly is stepping around his desk and gesturing towards the nearest chair.

“Have a seat,” Gainly tells him, waiting for Harry to sit down before pulling up his own chair. “You’re a smart man, Mr Hart, and you’ve been a most loyal supporter. I feel it’s only fair to let you know what your generous donations are funding.”

“I am not your accountant,” Harry tells him smoothly. “I have no interest in what you do with your money.”

Gainly smiles like the sleazy man he is.

“Of course not,” Gainly replies smoothly. “Though I’m sure you’re intrigued.”

Harry tilts his head and offers Gainly a similar sleazy smile. “Of course. You’re a man of many talents. I’m sure your plans are impressive.”

There’s a pause as though Gainly is choosing his words carefully.

“Why settle for anything less than the majority of something?” Gainly starts and Harry nods.

“With a majority in your favour, who’s to stop you?”

Gainly smiles in agreement.

“I’d like to offer you the constituency of your choice,” Gainly tells him and Harry pauses.

“That’s very generous of you,” he replies. “And how would one go about that?”

“A few greasy palms go a long way,” Gainly suggests, before adding, “I have contacts.”

Harry knows they have him now; their case will be iron clad.

“I’m afraid I just don’t have the time for something like that,” Harry apologises. “But if there’s any way I can assist, just say the word.”

“No matter,” Gainly says. “The offer will still stand if you change your mind later. And never fear, I have more than enough contacts for smooth sailing.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Harry tells him.

“Until further plans are made, I’m afraid there’s not much else I can inform you about.”

“You’ve supplied plenty, Mr Gainly,” Harry tells him with a faint smile. “I look forward to seeing the plan in action. God knows this country needs a change.”

“God may know,” Gainly replies with a light in his eyes that makes Harry’s stomach flip nervously, “but I’m the one that will change things. The country won’t even know what’s hit it until it’s too late.”

Harry laughs, as he’s sure he’s meant to.

“It will be a sight to behold.”

“That it will,” Gainly promises. “That it will.”

Silence falls between them and Harry knows it’s the perfect time to escape.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Harry says, pushing himself upright. “I need to find my date.”

“He’s been good, has he not?” Gainly asks and Harry nods his head. “Then surely that means you must take him home and treat him well. Was that not the rule of you game?”

“That it was,” Harry replies, “which is why I’m sure you’ll understand if I bid you goodnight now. We both appreciate your hospitality—and the use of your room.”

Gainly winks and says, “Go find your boy. I’m sure he’s missing you a great deal.”

Harry doesn’t need to be told twice; he heads for the door and doesn’t look back.

*

Unfortunately, Eggsy isn’t out in the hallway any longer. In fact, the entire floor seems empty.

“Any clue?” Harry asks Merlin, who makes a faint noise of thought.

“We had GPS trackers fitted into each of his ties,” Merlin admits and Harry raises an eyebrow before Merlin adds, “just in case.”

“Where is he?” Harry asks. “Down by the car?”

“No,” Merlin says before pausing. “He’s nine metres ahead.”

It doesn’t sit well with Harry, who doubles his pace in said direction. There are only two doors to choose from: one on the right, and one straight ahead.

He picks the one on the right first, but it turns out to be small closet full of linens. He tries the door ahead instead, and it swings open easily under his touch.

It takes a moment for his brain to even catch up with what he’s seeing, but then Eggsy makes a wet, horrible noise and Harry realises that Dean is beating him half to death, one hand fisted in his collar, the other trying to rearrange the features on Eggsy’s face.

There’s blood, and lots of it.

Eggsy is still conscious, still struggling with him, his hands curled into the front of Dean's shirt, knuckles white with the strength of his grip. His eyes cut across to him and he makes another sound, somehow worse than the first one.

"'arry," he groans feebly, which is when Dean finally realises Harry is there and stops hitting Eggsy in order to glance over his shoulder.

Harry, impressed at himself for not just slipping the hidden gun from his coat and shooting Dean square in the forehead, strides forwards, his anger building catastrophically with every step. Apparently, Dean doesn't have enough self-preservation to know to let go of Eggsy and move away. Fortunately for Harry, it means it takes less time to rip Dean away, throwing him to the ground with barely any effort, and landing one sharp punch to knock the man out cold, knowingly breaking four bones in his face with the precise placement of his fist, though Harry feels as though he wants to break them all—slowly and painfully.

"'arry—" Eggsy moans again, his voice nasally and pained.

"I'm here, Eggsy," he promises, moving closer to where Eggsy is slumped on the floor, trying to catalog his injuries.

His entire face is bloodied—his nose seems crooked, possibly broken, and there's a gash on his brow that refuses to stop bleeding. Eggsy also has a split lip and possible tooth damage, but he can't get a good enough look yet. It may be painful, but Harry is thankful that it should only require a few stitches and plasters and it won't be life threatening.

Unfortunately, that's when Eggsy draws in a breath, the noise wheezy and unnatural. Harry quickly sits back on his heels, running his gaze along Eggsy's body, wondering if broken ribs can be added to the list of maladies. It's when his gaze reaches Eggsy's right side that he sees it, and he knows he must have missed it before because the darkness of his blood blends with the black of his jacket.

"Eggsy?" he questions, but Eggsy makes a faint gurgling noise and blinks slowly like he's fading fast.

Harry glances around, panicked at the thought of losing Eggsy, and his eyes land on a small pocket knife that's covered in blood, resting beside a side table near the door. There must have been a struggle for it to land across the room, but it seems Eggsy may not have been quick enough.

Without pausing to give Eggsy warning—not that Harry thinks he minds at the present moment—Harry tugs Eggsy's shirt from his trousers and lifts the hem enough to see a small puncture wound, dangerously close to his kidney.

"Merlin," he snaps. "He's been stabbed."

"I can see that," Merlin replies, which isn't helpful, but reminds Harry that Merlin isn't there physically, and that it's up to him to sort things out.

"Jesus, Eggsy," Harry curses, using his palm to staunch the blood, but needing something better.

There's nothing he can do beside getting Eggsy out of there and somewhere safer. Eggsy draws in a shallow breath and Harry makes up his mind then and there.

"I'm bringing him in," he tells Merlin who make a faint noise in response.

“Of course,” Merlin agrees, however. “He needs proper treatment.”

In a second, Harry has Eggsy scooped up, arms behind Eggsy's shoulders and knees and he lifts him up and begins walking to the door.

"Focus on me, Eggsy," he orders and Eggsy lets out a faint groan of pain in response, but his eyes track across Harry’s face.

He's still staring down at Eggsy in his arms, trying to make sure he stays conscious when there's a noise of surprise in the hallway.

"Mr Hart?" Gainly asks, which puts fire in Harry's blood.

"Did you know about this?" he spits, his voice quiet and deadly as Gainly takes in the state of Eggsy in his arms. His eyes widen at the sight of blood and he almost immediately shakes his head..

“Dean?” Gainly questions, seeming to instantly realise that Harry is not playing games, that he means business.

“Who else would it be, Mr Gainly?” Harry snaps and Gainly swallows.

"No, Mr Hart, I promise,” he says. “I would never have left them alone if I had known."

"Dean goes, or I do and you can find yourself another sponsor."

It’s the first time Harry has seen Gainly crack, even a little, and he can’t help but wonder how much the donations have been helping after all. He also can’t help but wonder how stressed Gainly must be with the entirety of the UK on his shoulders. He hopes it hurts.

“Mr Hart—Harry, I—”

“I will contact you, Mr Gainly,” Harry tells him. “When or if I ever decide to. Is that clear?”

Gainly nods, sparing one last panicked glance down at Eggsy, who’s trembling and still fading in and out of consciousness.

“Of course,” he replies. “You can use the back door. Down the stairs to the right.”

Harry doesn’t stick around to hear anything more, instead, he moves towards the stairs, taking them as quickly as possible while trying to keep the jostling to a minimum. Nonetheless, Eggsy makes pained sounds and Harry tries to comfort him with soft glances, but Eggsy seems too out of it.

Thankfully, no one but a handful of Gainly’s staff see them, though Harry wonders what else they’ve seen because none of them bat an eyelash. In fact, one man helpfully mops up the trail of blood they leave behind as they pass through the kitchen, which Harry sees as he turns to slip backwards through the door, making sure not to knock Eggsy’s head as it lolls back.

“Eggsy, stay with me,” Harry tells him. “Not much further.”

It’s a lie of course. It’ll take twenty minutes to get to HQ from where they are; fifteen if they’re lucky. It’s a good start that there’s a car already waiting for them, Yves’ familiar face watching silently as Harry gently slides Eggsy into the backseat and climbs in after him.

“Be quick about it, Yves,” Harry requests, kneeling on the floor so he can lean over Eggsy and keep pressure on the wound.

The car immediately gains traction, rumbling down Gainly’s long driveway, and Harry has never had time to believe in God, but he thinks about praying.

“It’ll be okay,” Yves says from the front seat. “HQ medics will fix him right up.”

“I sure hope you’re right, Yves,” Harry replies, “I really do.”

Most of the ride passes in a haze of whimpers from Eggsy, interspersed with the sound of blood bubbling behind Eggsy’s teeth. Harry keeps low, keeps his hands on Eggsy’s side, knowing that every noise from Eggsy is a good sign—it’s if he stops making any noise at all that he’ll have to worry.

“Almost there, Harry,” Yves tells him after what feels like forever.

Eggsy is pale and his breathing has slowed, but Harry has faith, if nothing else.

“See, Eggsy?” he mumbles quietly. “Almost there.”

Eggsy hasn’t moved for a few minutes now, but Harry can’t help himself from brushing the hair away from Eggsy’s forehead, from wiping his sleeve over the worst of the blood on Eggsy’s face. The cut on his brow is still bleeding sluggishly, but it’s beginning to clot.

“Not long,” Harry promises quietly, but remains silent for the rest of the drive, unable to speak past the heart that’s lodged in his throat.

*

Merlin is there when the car slows to a stop. He’s the first to open the door, and the first to help Harry out.

There’s a team around him; Harry recognizes the faces of a few doctors that have treated him before, and he knows Eggsy is in good hands.

He watches them lift Eggsy from the car and get him onto a stretcher, already slipping IV lines into the backs of his hands as they dart back towards the entrance to the medical wing. Harry jogs alongside them, meaning to stay at Eggsy’s side, however, Merlin catches the crook of his elbow with his hand and halts him.

“Harry,” he says gently. “There’s nothing you can do for him right now. Let them do their jobs.”

Harry wants to argue, wants to fight, but when he turns, Merlin’s face is solemn and Harry knows he’s been through this more times than Harry has. In fact, Harry is usually in Eggsy’s place, bleeding out while others take care of him.

He nods after a moment’s pause and Merlin carefully leads him in the opposite direction, heading for the main entrance with Harry trailing behind, feeling as though he’s missing a part of himself.

“Not so easy, is it?” Merlin asks as they step into the foyer, taking a left turn and moving in the direction of their offices.

“He has a whole life ahead of him,” Harry says. “What would we say to his mother?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Merlin tells him gently. “Until then—”

He leads Harry into his own office, closing the door behind them and pulling out a chair for Harry, who slumps into it, dropping his head into his hands before he even remembers they’re covered in blood.

“Merlin, he—”

“Harry,” Merlin says mildly. “Let’s wait until he’s stable.”

Harry glances up at him, accepting a package of wet wipes from Merlin, using a handful to wipe the worst of it off his palms the best he can.

“How—” he begins, but Merlin shakes his head.

“Harry, I saw the entire night. I can lecture you about protocols and harassment until I’m blue in the face, but now is not the time.”

Harry slumps back in his chair and stares at a spot on the wall, just above Merlin’s left shoulder.

“I didn’t know he felt that way,” Harry admits. “I would have said something otherwise.”

“Well, I did know,” Merlin tells him. “It’s not as recent as you might think.”

Harry blinks and then heaves out a long breath, carding his fingers through his hair and letting it fall into disarray.

“How do you do it?” Harry asks, meaning the waiting, the uncertainty they’ll face until one of the doctors decides to update them on Eggsy’s progress.

With a sigh, Merlin leans forwards and withdraws a bottle of gin from one of his drawers, setting it down hard between them and following up with two glasses and a container of tonic water.

“The only way a man can,” Merlin tells him, unscrewing the bottle cap and tossing it aside.

Harry can’t help but think it’s one of the best plans Merlin has ever come up with.

*

They’re three drinks deep when the intercom buzzes, jarring Harry from his exhausted slump, eyes widening from where they’d been drooping. Merlin picks it up with a steady press of his finger and Doctor Llanos’ voice filters through.

“Merlin?” she asks. “I was told to give an update about your patient, Gary Unwin.”

“Yes,” Merlin says, glancing across at Harry. “It would be much appreciated.”

“He’s lost a lot of blood,” she begins and Harry’s stomach sinks. “But for the moment, he’s stable.”

The sigh of relief Harry lets out sounds scarily similar to a whimper, one he never planned to let escape. Merlin glances at him cautiously, but doesn’t say anything.

“We had to give him a blood transfusion and we thought surgery might have been necessary. Thankfully, whatever stabbed Mr Unwin seems to have missed his kidney. We’ve stitched him up for the time being and we’ll need to monitor his progress, just to be sure.”

“Is he awake?” Harry can’t help but ask.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” she says gently. “He’s still unconscious and heavily sedated for the time being. He’s suffered from major trauma.”

“And what of his face?” Harry asks, knowing how bad it had looked.

“It’ll heal in time,” the doctor says. “A few stitches on his brow and a broken nose, but nothing major. I hope for his sake that you dealt with the cause of his injuries.”

“He won’t be hurt by it again,” Harry promises.

“Good; then I suggest you both go home and get some rest. Mr Unwin isn’t going anywhere in the near future and you’ll be no use to us with sleep deprivation.”

Harry sighs and rubs a hand over his face.

“Is there a spare bed there, Doctor Llanos?” he asks and he can hear the exasperation in her voice when she speaks again.

“Harry, go home,” she emphasises. “There’s no need for you to be here and I certainly won’t have you getting in the way of my patients.”

“I won’t be in the way,” Harry tells her, “I’ll be sleeping.”

“And what good are you just sleeping here?” she asks. “Mr Unwin won’t even know you’re there.”

“Maria, it’s either that or sleep at my desk,” he argues gently, and there’s a long pause before a heavy sigh.

“Harry Hart, you should be ashamed.”

Harry smiles tiredly. “Maybe I will in the morning, but until then, I’m far too exhausted to feel that even the slightest bit.”

“Merlin?” she questions, but Merlin shakes his head.

“No, thank you, Doctor. I’ll be heading home.”

“That is why they put you in charge,” Doctor Llanos says. “You at least have a head upon your shoulders.”

“Thank you, Maria,” Merlin says. “For everything.”

“Just doing my job,” she tells him. “I recommend the boy see a psychiatrist after this. I suspect he’ll come out of this with a few long lasting memories.”

“Of course,” Merlin agrees. “We can discuss it with him when he’s awake. We have a lot to talk about it seems.”

“I’ll call if anything changes,” Maria tells him.

“Thank you,” Merlin replies. “Have a good evening.”

She reciprocates the sentiment before signing off and Merlin stares wearily at Harry.

“Want me to walk you down there?” he asks, but Harry shakes his head.

“No, Maria was right; you should head home.”

“So should you,” Merlin retorts, but Harry is too tired to argue.

“I can’t leave him, Merlin. Not now.”

Merlin sighs, rubs his head, and then stands.

“Let me know if he wakes,” he requests and Harry nods.

“I will. Drive safe.”

Merlin tips his head and slips from the room, leaving Harry to follow after him.

It feels like the longest walk possible to get down to the medical ward, his head in a daze as he slips through the doors, spotting Eggsy almost immediately. He’s the only patient for the time being, but he looks far too still and far too broken in a bed all by himself. It seems most of Llanos’ team has cleared out, but there’s a nurse checking Eggsy’s vitals, his hands quick and efficient as he checks the gauze on Eggsy’s side.

He spares Harry a glance when he finishes tucking the blankets back around Eggsy’s body.

“He’s doing well,” the nurse says. “You got him out in time.”

“Would have been easier if I’d never gotten him into it in the first place,” Harry counters, but it’s an argument for another day when he doesn’t feel like death warmed up.

“We can’t have it all,” the nurse says. “But what you can have is the bed next to him.”

He gestures at the bed to Eggsy’s right, one that’s already made up but devoid of medical equipment.

“Thank you,” Harry says, already moving forward and loosening his tie. He shrugs out of his coat and leaves it on the chair beside the bed and watches as the nurse heads for the door. The nurse switches the overhead lights off when he reaches the door, which leaves only a dim light above the doorway on and the shine from Eggsy’s monitors.

“Alert us if you need anything,” the nurse says. “There will be someone on-call all night.”

“Thank you,” Harry says genuinely and the nurse nods and then slips away.

Harry feels far less self-conscious then as he moves towards Eggsy’s bed, leaning over so that he can stare down at Eggsy’s battered body.

There are deep purple bruises under both of his eyes from his broken nose and there’s a square of gauze stuck to his forehead, but he seems much cleaner and less likely to slip into the sharp grasp of death.

“I’m sorry,” he tells Eggsy gently, his hand reaching out to touch one of Eggsy’s own where it’s arranged neatly at his side. “I should have protected you.”

Harry knows for a fact that lingering on the should haves won’t get him anywhere, but he can’t escape the thoughts.

“This is almost over,” he promises. “I’ll tell you the entire truth when you’re awake again, I promise.”

He gives Eggsy’s hand one last squeeze and then moves away towards his own bed, his body aching for rest.

He kicks off his shoes, but leaves the rest of his clothes on, uncaring if they get rumpled, before slipping under the covers and rolling onto his side facing Eggsy.

“Goodnight, Eggsy,” he tells the quiet room as he shuts his own eyes.

The sound of Eggsy’s heart monitor lulls him into an uneasy sleep, but it’s a sleep nonetheless and for that he is grateful.

*

Harry wakes to the sound of movement nearby.

For a moment, Harry’s disoriented and he blinks, trying to remember where he is and why. He brings a hand up to rub his eyes and frowns when it hurts. When he glances down, his knuckles are bruised and there’s a little dry blood in the grooves of his skin.

It hits him like a ton of bricks when he remember beating Dean, remembers saving Eggsy and bringing him back to HQ.

When he turns his face, Eggsy is already staring at him, his chest rising rhythmically. He still looks out of it, his eyes not entirely focussed, but he blinks at Harry as though he has a million things to say. Discreetly, Harry presses the button to alert whichever nurse is on-call that they’re awake and carefully levers himself up.

“Good morning, Eggsy,” he says, though he doesn’t know if it actually is morning. “How are you feeling?”

Eggsy makes a faint croaking noise and Harry quickly moves to stand, grabbing the cup of water at Eggsy’s bedside and moving the straw down to Eggsy’s mouth.

“Drink,” he suggests, slipping a hand behind Eggsy’s head and tilting it up enough that he won’t choke.

Eggsy takes a few sluggish mouthfuls and then Harry moves the cup away, letting Eggsy smack his lips like a drunk man who is just figuring out how drunk he is exactly. His lips are chapped and look painful, though, and Harry dips his forefinger into the cup and gently traces it over Eggsy’s mouth, wetting them before framing Eggsy’s face carefully with his palm.

He looks worse this morning. His right eye has almost swollen shut from the cut on his brow and the bruises have darkened even more.

“Where am I?” Eggsy slurs, or at least that’s what it sounds like; Harry isn’t entirely sure.

Harry rubs his thumb gently along Eggsy’s cheek and meets his gaze.

“You’re at the Kingsman headquarters,” Harry tells him truthfully. “More specifically, the medical wing.”

Eggsy glances around as well as he can without moving his head and he snorts lightly.

“Not James Bond, huh?” he asks, voice gravely.

Harry can’t help but smile and nod.

“I fear I have a lot of explaining to do,” Harry tells him gently. “But first, we need to focus on getting you back on your feet.”

Eggsy groans and then lifts his head by himself to stare down his body, taking note of his hands, which are hooked up to various machines around him. He briefly picks at the tape over his IV and Harry gently nudges his fingers away from it.

“Everything hurts,” Eggsy admits quietly and Harry brushes hair off Eggsy’s forehead as he tries to comfort him.

“I’m not surprised,” Harry tells him. “You had quite the night.”

When he goes to move his hand away, Eggsy catches it, his movements sloppy, but Harry doesn’t try to fight him.

“You’re hurt too,” Eggsy says, eyes on Harry’s bruised knuckles.

“I’ll survive,” Harry tells him, and is too stunned to pull away when Eggsy brings Harry’s fingers up to his mouth, where he presses a gentle kiss to them. “Eggsy—”

“A lot of explaining,” Eggsy repeats Harry’s earlier statement and Harry doesn’t have the heart to argue with him when he’s still in a hospital bed recovering.

“Later,” Harry promises, carefully pulling his hand from Eggsy’s loose grip, and he’s thankful for the moment the door swings open on the other side of the room, as it means it buys him a little more time to wrap his head around everything.

“Good morning,” the nurse says. He’s different from the one the night before, but Harry isn’t surprised. “I’m Nico. How are you feeling, Mr Unwin?”

“Like shit,” Eggsy grunts and Nico shoots him a sympathetic smile.

“Not surprised,” he says, checking Eggsy’s chart and updating it with new vitals. “You took quite the beating. Almost as good as how Harry usually shows up.”

Eggsy glances over at him and Harry tries his best not to react.

“You’re a shit spy,” Eggsy rasps, “if you’re always getting hurt.”

Harry curls the corner of his mouth up in amusement.

“Noted,” he says and watches as Nico folds down Eggsy’s sheets carefully and checks under his hospital gown.

The gauze on Eggsy’s side is tinged pink, but doesn’t look bad; it’s the normal amount of oozing for a fresh wound—at least in Harry’s personal experience. In fact, underneath said gauze as Nico changes it out for a new one, there’s a row of neat stitches and it looks fresh and sore, but not infected.

“It’s doing well,” Nico says with a smile, taping down the last corner. “You’ll be up and about in no time.”

“Can we do something for the pain?” Harry asks casually and Nico nods.

“Of course. How strong were you thinking?”

Harry glances at Eggsy, whose eyes are still bleary, face still pale, and looks back at Nico.

“Let’s let him sleep,” Harry suggests and Nico nods.

“Sound good to you, Mr Unwin?”

Eggsy spares Harry a quick look and then nods.

“Yeah, sounds good.”

Nico rummages in a nearby drawer and pulls out a small syringe and a bottle of something. He measures it carefully and then injects it into the open port of Eggsy’s IV line. As Nico clears away the used needle, Harry rearranges Eggsy’s blankets and presses a comforting hand to his shoulder.

“Things will be better when you wake,” Harry tells him and Eggsy nods.

“Promise?” he slurs, his eyes already drooping heavily.

“Of course,” Harry replies and with that, Eggsy drops off to sleep with nothing more than a gentle sigh.

*

“How’s he fairing?” a voice asks as Harry is in the middle of working on his latest report.

Harry glances up from the screen of his computer and finds Merlin lingering in the doorway. He shuts his laptop and slides it onto the bedside table before slipping off his bed. He glances down at where Eggsy is still sleeping soundly and readjusts the crooked corner of his blankets.

“We sedated him again for the pain, but he’s doing well.”

“Have you explained anything to him?”

“I thought it better to wait until he’s able to tell up from down.”

Merlin nods and says, “Of course. Do we know when that’ll be? We still need to finish the mission with Gainly.”

“The ball for the Gainly job is in our court,” Harry tells him. “He can wait a little longer yet.”

“We shouldn’t push it,” Merlin says. “It’s balancing on the brink.”

“We have all the names we could ever need,” Harry says. “With the Shelby issue, we have more than enough to convict.”

“He’s going to put up a fight,” Merlin points out and Harry nods.

“I agree,” Harry says, “but I think we’re going to get some help.”

Merlin glances at him, his interest clearly piqued.

“I had a thought about Gainly’s desk and why Henry’s gun was in the safe,” Harry starts. “There’s dissension among the ranks. Or at least Gainly thinks so. He doesn’t trust Henry, perhaps thinks he’s up to something, which is why he hid the man’s gun.”

“Henry Billet?” Merlin questions and Harry nods. “But he’s also been neck-deep in snow.”

“Snorting cocaine gives him confidence, and what do men with confidence want?”

Merlin stares at him with understanding as he says, “He’ll want more.”

“So he gets rid of Gainly and takes a larger cut.”

“The question is if he’s working with anyone,” Merlin says. “Have you considered the boy he was with?”

“At the Gainly Cotswolds estate?” Harry clarifies. “We can ask Eggsy if he knows the boy, but he didn’t seem the sort. Did you find anything via his bug?”

Merlin shakes his head.

“Nothing to be suspicious of the boy about. Though he gave us a stronghold for our list and the location of where they’re being kept. Roxy and Percy will be moving in on that before you decide to confront Gainly. We don’t want him at all suspicious in case he decides to take it out on the hostages.”

Harry nods and then blinks before saying, “Shelby Trevors?”

It takes a moment for Merlin to catch that he’s hinting that her and Henry may be working together.

“She’s married with two kids,” Merlin says with a shake of his head.

“And extramarital affairs don’t exist,” Harry replies sarcastically. “She’s the closest thing to Gainly and clearly works with Henry on a regular basis.”

“Have we any other reason to suspect them?” Merlin asks and Harry shrugs.

“We’ll have to review footage, see if they’ve dropped any clues.”

Merlin nods and says, “I’ll have a few other agents run through it all again. Maybe Eggsy saw them together before he was given to you.”

Harry nods and spares Eggsy another quick glance; he’s still sleeping soundly.

“In time,” Harry says and Merlin nods before a silence stretches out between them.

“You should head home, Harry. Perhaps shower and change.” he suggests gently. “Eggsy won’t be going anywhere soon.”

“Merlin, we’ve been through this,” Harry says. “I can’t leave him alone.”

With a sigh, Merlin says, “I was worried you’d say that. At least use the dorm showers; you stink.”

It’s light hearted and Harry shoots him a smile, knowing he’s trying to distract him.

“I’ll be sure to change,” Harry tells him. “If only for your sake.”

“Well, since the boy isn’t awake to complain himself, I thought you might appreciate a little honesty.”

“As always, Merlin, it’s much appreciated.”

“Keep me up to date if anything changes,” Merlin says and Harry nods.

“I will. Let me know if you find anything with the Shelby side of things.”

Merlin nods and then shows himself out with one final glance at Eggsy’s unconscious form.

Harry perches himself on the end of his own bed and sighs. He knows he should wash as suggested, but he doesn’t want Eggsy to wake without anyone there. With a thought, he reaches for his phone and dials a familiar number, listening to it ring as he watches the steady movement of Eggsy’s chest rising and falling.

“Harry?” a voice answers and Harry smiles.

“Roxy, I have a proposition.”

*

He has to admit that he feels remarkably fresher after showering, shaving away a day’s worth of stubble, and slipping into one of the spare suits he keeps in his office. He feels as though he’s been put back together again, and it makes it easier to head back down to the medical wing to see how Eggsy is progressing. If there’s anything Harry hates, it’s having to wait.

The first thing Harry notices when he enters is that Eggsy is sitting almost upright, his bed angled to support him. The second thing he notices is that he’s smiling—albeit rather drunkenly—at something Roxy is saying. Roxy has her back to Harry, and she’s bent awkwardly over Eggsy’s lap, but when Harry moves around, he finds she has a crossword laid out between them and she’s filling in answers in her neat handwriting.

Harry isn’t sure Eggsy’s giving the correct answers, but he seems to be enjoying himself.

When Eggsy finally notices someone else has entered the room, he meets Harry’s gaze and grins crookedly.

“Harry!” he slurs out. “Nico gave me the most amazing drugs.”

Biting back a grin, Harry says, “So I can see. I’m glad you’re awake.”

“Rox has been keeping me company. Said you’d be back and now you are.”

“Now I am,” Harry agrees, moving closer and holding out his hand when Roxy goes to fold away the paper. “Don’t stop on my account. I need to work on more reports, so please do continue.”

“I should be getting back to Percy. We have a few details to go over.”

Harry knows he should let her go, but Eggsy smiles so rarely.

“Stay,” Harry insists. “It can wait an hour or so longer. You look like you’re having fun.”

Roxy looks as though she wants to continue arguing, but eventually nods and concedes.

“Ten across,” she said, attention turning back to Eggsy. “Dandy fellows.”

Eggsy glances over at Harry and says, “Harry Hart.”

“Four letters, Eggsy,” Roxy replies with a grin.

“Fops,” Harry answers quietly and Roxy nods and fills it in.

“You’re good at that,” Eggsy tells him. “I think you’re good at a lot of things.”

“Not good at keeping secrets,” Harry tells him and Eggsy shrugs.

“Fooled me.”

Harry wants to press the issue and tell Eggsy that it was never his mission to fool him, just to keep him in the dark until everything was safe. However, Eggsy turns his attention back to Roxy.

“Next clue,” he orders and Harry carefully tunes them out.

He pulls up another chair and uses his bed as a table as he opens his laptop again. He has a report to finish and evidence to review.

*

The healing process turns out to be a painful one for Eggsy. He’s allowed out of bed following a few more days of rest and then it’s only to shuffle to the bathroom and back after his catheter is removed and he loses the efficiency of peeing straight into a bag. With his pain medication, he doesn’t have much of an appetite, but he always accepts the pastries Percy brings in whenever he visits.

After a week, Eggsy starts physical therapy, where he calls the therapist a few choice names, breaks a window with a stress ball, and then sleeps thirteen hours straight without the use of medication. As far as PT goes, it seems to have gone well, and the following sessions are a lot less exciting.

There’s a brief conversation about surgery for Eggsy’s possible deviated septum, but Eggsy insists that he can breathe through his nose just fine, and the topic is dropped when Eggsy snaps that—in his words—he’s not having a fucking nose job to look like Michael Jackson.

Precisely two weeks after the confrontation with Dean, Eggsy is officially discharged from the medical ward and Harry finds himself in Merlin’s office beside Eggsy, feeling rather like he’s been called into the headmaster’s office.

“I suspect you have a few questions,” Merlin begins. “I’m not sure how much Harry has told you yet.”

Merlin, of course, knows exactly how much Harry has told Eggsy—which is nothing—but Harry knows it’s a tactic to make Eggsy feel more at ease.

“He hasn’t told me anything. Said I had to be on my own two feet and out of the hospital before he would.”

Merlin nods and folds his hands on the desk in front of himself.

“I assume I don’t need to remind you that anything said in this facility, or between any employees here, is strictly confidential and we have ways of making you talk should you breach that security.”

“Merlin,” Harry complains, worried that he’ll put too much fear in Eggsy, however Eggsy doesn’t even seem to bat an eyelash.

“I know,” Eggsy says. “I’m not gonna grass anyone. I’m not stupid.”

“The furthest thing from it,” Merlin agrees. “Which is why we’ve decided to share such information with you. We also believe you may be able to help with a current mission.”

Eggsy’s eyes widen comically as he says, “You want me to become an agent?”

Merlin shares an amused look with Harry and shakes his head.

“Not at the present moment, I’m afraid, Eggsy. But depending on how things go, there may be an opportunity in the future.”

Eggsy leans forward slightly in his chair, giving away his eagerness entirely.

“Then what did you want from me?” he asks and Merlin tilts his head.

“We’ll get to that, Eggsy, I promise. For now, I wanted to give you a little background.” Eggsy nods and Merlin continues. “The man beside you is Harry Hart, codenamed Galahad. He’s in the process of investigating Frank Gainly for suspected bribery, insider trading, blackmail, human trafficking, and possibly treason. He has been working undercover for the past few months, gathering intel via the use of hidden microphones and personal video surveillance.”

“Spy cameras?” Eggsy asks and Harry slips his glasses from the inner pocket of his jacket to pass them over.

“In the frames,” he says and Eggsy stares at him for a long moment, his expression calculating.

“Fucking hot librarian,” Eggsy swears before freezing and glancing worriedly over at Merlin. “How much did you happen to see?”

“I see everything, Eggsy. I am the eyes and ears of Kingsman.”

Eggsy sets the glasses on the desk and covers his face with both hands.

“Fucking hell,” Eggsy moans and when he drags his palms away, there’s a redness to his cheeks.

“Quite,” Merlin agrees. “Unfortunately, for this mission, we were not expecting a liability such as yourself. We were hoping we wouldn’t have to drag you into things, but our hands were tied. We will compensate you for your time and damages, and we will ensure your family remains protected. We currently have agents monitoring your mother's council flat and will prepare an extraction for both her and your sister should that be necessary.”

Eggsy swallows and glances worriedly at Harry. “Am I allowed to talk to them? Not about this stuff, but just to check in.”

“We were hoping to wait until after the mission ends,” Merlin explains gently. “We don’t expect it to drag on any longer than the month’s end.”

“Two weeks?” Eggsy asks and Merlin nods.

“Perhaps sooner, depending on the information you can provide.”

“No pressure then,” Eggsy jokes, but his face is solemn.

Any information would help us, Eggsy,” Merlin tells him and Eggsy nods.

“Yeah, I just—” he says, glancing to the side, away from them. “—it’s a lot to take in. This whole time? I was locking myself away, terrified that you’d—and you were just playing everyone the whole time. You were never one of them.”

“For what it’s worth,” Harry says gently, “you’ll be helping to save a lot of people in situations like yours.”

“You could have told me sooner,” Eggsy says, finally looking back over at Harry. “Think it would have saved a lot of time.”

“We didn’t know how you’d react,” Merlin says. “We had to be cautious.”

“Yeah,” Eggsy sighs in understanding, before shooting Harry a sidelong glance. “You play a creep way too well, guv. That first night? I was sick from worry.”

Harry remembers all too well.

“I’m sorry,” Harry tells him softly, reaching out to set a hand upon Eggsy’s forearm.

Eggsy stares down at it for a long while before nodding and glancing up at Merlin.

“What do you need my help with?” he asks, sounding ready for a fight.

Harry smiles to himself and pulls his hand away as Merlin slides a few stapled sheets of paper towards Eggsy.

“We have names,” Merlin explains as Eggsy begins browsing the list. “If you recognise anyone, we need to know.”

Eggsy nods distractedly, turning a page before freezing.

“Fuck,” he murmurs under his breath before meeting Merlin’s gaze. “I know a lot of these.”

Merlin passes him a pen and says, “Mark the ones you know and where they’re from.

“They’re all from the flats,” Eggsy says, but marks almost a dozen names with small asterisks. “Jesus, they even got Jamal. You need to save these guys, bruvs. Please.”

Merlin nods. “We already have an extraction plan ready. We know where they are, but we suspect you know more about the compound than we do. If we give you blueprints can you mark them up with whatever you can remember? Cameras, guards, anything.”

Eggsy nods and flips to the last page of names, marking a few more before handing it and the pen back to Merlin.

“That’s all I know,” he says, but Harry knows it’s a great start.

“We have a few important questions for you, Eggsy,” Harry begins, waiting for Eggsy to turn towards him before continuing. “Do you remember the boy at Gainly’s estate?”

“When?” Eggsy asks.

“The dinner we were invited to. It was just Gainly, Henry, and a young lad.”

“Theo?” Eggsy asks. “I marked his name already. He lived in the flat across the block with his mum and brother.”

“Would you suspect him of anything?” Harry asks cautiously and Eggsy lifts an eyebrow at him.

“No,” Eggsy says without hesitation. “Straightest fucking bruv I know. Wouldn’t even smoke a spliff ‘cause he was worried his bro would smell it and dob on him.”

Harry acknowledges that they are all words Eggsy uses, but he’s not entirely sure they make a lick of sense in a sentence. At their silence, Eggsy gestures broadly.

“No,” he repeats. “Definitely not.”

“Not even for Henry Billet?” Merlin asks and Eggsy shakes his head.

“Henry?” Eggsy says with a laugh. “He was only interested in the woman that worked for him. Unless he was high as a fucking kite; then he’d get one of the lads to blow his whistle.”

Eggsy makes a crude gesture with one hand and his tongue against the inside of his cheek and Harry gets the picture.

“The woman that worked for him?” Harry repeats. “Shelby Trevors?”

“Dunno who that is,” Eggsy says and Harry gestures at Merlin.

“Do we have a picture?”

Merlin nods, pulls out his tablet, and types for a few seconds. When he turns the screen to them, Shelby’s face peers back at them unmoving.

Eggsy pulls a face of disgust and nods.

“Yeah,” he says, “that’s her. Guess she was always more secretive than Henry.”

“Henry was with her often?” Merlin asks, turning his tablet off again, and Eggsy nods.

“Yeah, but he didn’t deal with us; Shelby did. He was just always there talking absolute bollocks all the fucking time. I don’t think they ever intended for us to get out,” he admits quietly.

“Why’s that?” Harry probes gently and Eggsy rubs idly at the fresh bump of his nose.

“Because they never kept their voices down.”

“What did they say?” Merlin presses and Eggsy shrugs.

“I dunno. It never really made much sense.”

“Did they talk about Frank?” Merlin asks and Eggsy frowns.

“Course they did,” he tells them. “But there was a lot of stuff. I don’t know if—”

“Did they ever talk about getting rid of him?” Harry asks and Eggsy laughs outright.

“Yeah, but I don’t think they were ever serious. At least not around us. They fucking hate the guy.”

“But he gives them power,” Merlin supplies and Eggsy shrugs.

“Frank gives everyone power,” Eggsy points out. “They could have their own business selling people, even without Frank.”

“But he keeps anyone from prying by silencing them with money.”

“And a gun,” Eggsy tells them wryly.

“He’s killed before?”

“Don’t think he did it himself, but he gave the orders. Some of those people on your list? You’re not going to find them during your raid.”

“We can scout for bodies after,” Merlin suggests, but Eggsy shakes his head.

“You won’t find them,” he says and Harry isn’t sure if he wants to know why.

“What happened to them?” he asks anyway and Eggsy picks at the skin around his thumb and talks to his knees.

“They kept us downstairs—”

“Underground,” Merlin corrects and Eggsy nods.

“Yeah, underground. But upstairs it was a front.”

“What kind of front?” Merlin asks, quietly jotting down notes as he listens.

“A pig farm.”

“Jesus,” Merlin says, his hand pauses as he glances up stricken.

“Apparently, when pigs are hungry, they’ll eat anything. I remember them screaming,” he adds and Harry wants to reach out and comfort him, but refrains.

“The people?” Harry asks and Eggsy shakes his head and looks up.

“The pigs.”

“I think that’s enough for today,” Harry says, even though Eggsy frowns and shakes his head.

“No, but—”

“We need to run through the details with the other agents,” Harry presses. “We can discuss things further with you later in the week.”

Eggsy stares at him, clearly expecting him to relent, but Harry holds fast. Eggsy needs a hot meal and some rest; it’ll do him good.

“How about some lunch?” Harry suggests and Eggsy sags in his seat.

“Not hungry,” he asks quietly, but then adds, “Tea?”

“Of course,” Harry says. “Come, let’s see if we can find Diamante as well.”

“Diamante?” Eggsy asks, letting Harry help him up, though it’s clear he doesn’t need it.

“Roxy’s standard poodle,” Harry tells him and Eggsy shows interest, glancing up at Harry.

“What? Roxy has a dog?” he asks and Harry smiles.

“If you’re lucky, she might just show you how dramatic Diamante is while playing dead.”

Eggsy snorts, but leads the way to the door, sparing a wave at Merlin before he slips out into the hallway. Harry shoots Merlin one last significant look to try to convey how far down shit creek they are before following him out.

*

That night, after Eggsy disappears into the dorms where he’s staying temporarily, Harry goes to find Merlin, who’s still in his office reviewing information for the Shelby job.

Harry sighs heavily as he sinks into the chair opposite and Merlin sets his work aside.

“How is he?” Merlin asks and Harry slouches.

“Unnervingly quiet.” They’d gone through the blueprints with the rest of the team that afternoon, watching as Eggsy placed red symbols across the paper, marking with a frowny face for guards and circles for cameras. “We should introduce him to Ramir.”

Ramir is the resident psychiatrist, the one Harry has seen many times before and whom has helped him fight many demons.

“I already have,” Merlin says, taking Harry slightly by surprise. Before Harry can question him, Merlin continues. “Are we going to address the elephant in the room?”

Harry really doesn’t want to.

“Can we postpone?” he asks and Merlin stares him down.

“Harry,” Merlin threatens and Harry relents.

“What do you want to hear?” he asks. “That he intrigues me?”

“I think he does more than that,” Merlin pushes and Harry drops his head into his hands.

“Merlin,” Harry argues, though he knows it’s true.

“When did it start?”

Harry lifts his head slowly, but doesn’t meet Merlin’s gaze.

“I’m not sure,” he says quietly, before adding, “perhaps when he started pushing back; when he wasn’t so afraid.”

“He’s a good lad,” Merlin says gently. “Strong, too.”

Harry nods. “Stronger than we originally gave him credit for.”

“You’re a good match,” Merlin tells him and Harry blinks.

“You’re okay with it?” Harry asks, surprised.

“I didn’t say it was right,” Merlin counters. “You’re both hot-headed and stubborn. You deserve each other.”

Harry snorts at that and the corner of Merlin’s mouth twitches.

“Just be careful, Harry,” he warns.

“For me or Eggsy?” Harry ask and Merlin shrugs.

“Both. And for god’s sake, don’t ruin things before the mission is over.”

“Of course not, Merlin. Eggsy will stay here where you can all keep a watchful eye on him.”

“Too right,” Merlin says with a nod. “Remember that I have eyes and ears everywhere, Harry. There are no dark corners to sneak off to at this headquarters.”

Harry knows all too well where the true blind spots in the mansion are, but he won’t be taking advantage of them.

“It’s not safe for Eggsy out there at the present time,” Merlin continues, “so you’ll need to head home and pack his belongings. He’ll be wanting his own clothes soon enough.”

Harry nods in agreement.

“I’ll pop to the flat later this week. It won’t take long.”

The silence grows between them for a moment, before Merlin breaks it.

“How do you manage this, Harry?” Merlin asks with a long sigh, clearly referring to Eggsy and falling for him.

“You’d think the excitement would stop after fifty,” Harry agrees.

“Perhaps I have something to look forward to after all,” Merlin jokes and Harry can’t hide his amusement.

“Whatever will Evelyn think?” Harry asks.

“I suspect my wife will be the cause of it,” Merlin retorts and Harry snorts softly.

“I can believe that,” he says. “Still as fiery as the day you asked her to marry you.”

There’s a fond look in Merlin’s eyes when he nods, but it turns mischievous when he glances up at Harry.

“I suppose the next wedding could be yours,” he jokes to Harry, who can feel himself pale.

“God help us,” he says, not allowing himself to think of a domestic life with Eggsy.

He doesn’t think about waking up beside him, letting Eggsy tuck his cold toes under his legs after he darts out for an early-morning pee. Or about Eggsy snoring and farting in his sleep, with Harry far too head-over-heels to even give a damn.

He doesn’t think about spending two weeks on a honeymoon somewhere warm where Eggsy would tan and Harry would inevitably turn lobster-red. Where they could share cocktails and messy sea-salt tinged kisses in the ocean.

Instead, he stares across at Merlin and repeats himself. “God help us all.”

*

The Stanhope Mews flat is unnervingly still without Eggsy in it.

It’s not that Eggsy was ever loud or took up a lot of space, it’s just that he was a presence nonetheless.

Harry’s only there to pack up Eggsy’s belongings, though most of it still seems to be in his bags. In fact, the whole room looks barely lived-in, as though Eggsy hasn’t been in there for the past few weeks. His bed is made, albeit half-heartedly, but the only other sign that someone was there at all is the half-empty glass of water on the nightstand.

Quietly, Harry folds away the rest of Eggsy’s clothes, gathers up the toiletries from the bathroom, and takes the bags downstairs, setting them in the hallway to remember to grab as he leaves. He knows he’ll have to get used to the silence once more as Eggsy won’t be returning, and he tries not to linger on the thought. It’s not a happy one.

He almost startles at the sound of the doorbell, not expecting anyone to stop by. The only person it could possibly be is Yves, but he’s not sure why he’d want to talk. He worries about it being an emergency and heads immediately for the door, pulling it open without even checking the peephole.

It takes him even more by surprise when he finds Eggsy outside, leaning against the rails of his front steps, bathed in the light from the lamp beside Harry’s door. He glances down the street to see if Yves is around, or even anyone who might spot them and suspect something is amiss, but there’s no one, not even a hint of movement in the night. There is however, a taxi parked at his kerb that looks suspiciously like one of Kingsman’s own and Harry eyes it warily, wondering how on earth Eggsy managed to nab one.

“You shouldn’t be here, Eggsy," Harry says. "If Merlin knew—”

“What Merlin doesn't know won't kill him," Eggsy retorts. "I want to talk.”

Harry lets out a long sigh, trying to weigh the pros and the cons, but he eventually just holds the door open for him, knowing it’s the easiest option. “Just to talk,” Harry insists and Eggsy nods in agreement.

Eggsy doesn’t stop in the hallway, just shows himself to the kitchen and glances around as though expecting something—Harry isn’t sure what.

“Tea?” Harry asks politely and Eggsy shakes his head, seeming agitated.

“No,” he says, before adding, “thanks.”

“What is there to talk about Eggsy?” Harry asks gently and Eggsy’s expression shifts to incredulous anger.

“Rather a fucking lot, Harry,” he hisses, raking his hand through his hair.

“If you have questions about the mission, Merlin can answer those,” Harry suggests, which earns him a sharp jab in the centre of his chest from Eggsy’s forefinger.

“No, I fucking don’t,” Eggsy argues. “What I want to know, is how you feel about me and why you’ve been practically ignoring me the entire time I’ve been at your headquarters.”

“I feel you were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Harry tries, which is clearly the wrong thing to say.

“No, Harry, feelings,” Eggsy says with another jab to Harry’s chest. “You know what—?”

Harry doesn’t get the chance to answer before Eggsy’s crowding forward, nudging Harry flush against the nearest countertop, and stepping into his space. Eggsy tilts his head up and kisses Harry right as he opens his mouth to argue, knowing he can’t, not in good conscience.

Although Eggsy’s lips are soft and warm, Harry breaks the kiss and urges Eggsy back a step with firm hands.

"Eggsy, you need to talk to someone. Whatever you think this is, it isn't. We have one of the best therapists in England working for Kingsman. I insist that you pay her a visit. She can help you with whatever you're dealing with, past and present."

"Harry," Eggsy begins, sounding as though he's ready to argue his point.

"Eggsy, it isn't fair of me to encourage this. I couldn't live with knowing I've taken advantage of you."

"How many sessions?" Eggsy butts in and Harry pauses.

"What?" he asks gently.

"How many sessions would I need to go to for you to finally listen to what I have to say?" Eggsy asks and Harry swallows.

"Eggsy, I'm not sure—"

"Because I'm already on my sixth," Eggsy finishes.

Harry blinks slowly, then asks, "What?"

"Merlin told me I wasn't allowed to talk to you about our—" he gestures between them, clearly meaning their relationship or whatever it is that they have, "—until I'd had a half-dozen sessions with Doctor Ramir. My sixth session was yesterday and she says I'm doing real well."

Harry blinks slowly at him once more. "Eggsy," he begins before Eggsy interrupts again.

"So, if you want to talk, let's do it. Or if you want Doctor Ramir in the room, we can do that too. I don't give a toss, to be honest; I just want you, anyway that I can get you."

Harry remains silent, trying to process the new information and reconcile with himself. His thoughts are jumbled, but Eggsy watches him expectantly, his expression soft and open.

“If you don’t want me, Harry, just say. I’m not going to hate you for being honest.”

The words hit him like a shot to the stomach and all he can think about is Eggsy believing himself to be nothing more than part of a secret mission, just a pawn in a game of chess. Harry cannot lie; it may have started out that way, unfortunately, but there’s nothing about how Harry feels now that is fake in any way.

He reaches out towards Eggsy, one hand brushing the side of his face.

“Eggsy,” he says softly. “I want you. I want you very much indeed.”

Eggsy leans into the touch from Harry’s fingers.

“Then what’s the problem? Do you need to talk to Ramir, too? Maybe I wasn’t the only fucked up one in this.”

“I think that would be best,” Harry tells him gently. “Just in case.”

Eggsy nods in understanding.

“What about in the meantime?” Eggsy asks, his gaze dropping to Harry’s mouth so quickly that it’s almost doesn’t seem to happen at all.

Harry can’t deny that he wants it and the fact that Eggsy has already spoken to someone about everything is comforting, but he can’t help but feel that it’ll still be a long road to recovery. However, in the meantime, he thinks, perhaps they can take comfort in each other.

With the hand he has on Eggsy’s face, he slides it further around, cupping the back of Eggsy’s neck.

“Do I need to give the signal?” Harry asks him and Eggsy grins and shakes his head.

“Nah,” he says. “Ain’t surprising any more, is it?”

Harry offers him a small smile before closing the distance between them, kissing Eggsy with an ease that fills him with warmth. Eggsy’s arms come up to loop around Harry’s shoulders, pulling him in until there’s nowhere else to go. Eggsy is certainly eager, his hands grappling at Harry’s shirt, his mouth sure as can be—and Harry doesn’t want to think about why that might be, why he’s had so much practice.

Instead, he curls his free arm around Eggsy’s lower back and feels half mad from the desperation between them. Eggsy’s mouth is so warm, his tongue gentle when it nudges Harry’s bottom lip, and it takes less than half a thought for Harry to open up to him, to let the kiss deepen.

It’s not at all like the kiss at Gainly’s house. There’s no guilt sitting in Harry’s stomach like sick, nor a panic that reminds Harry that he has a job to do. This is for them, a private moment that no one else can take away.

Eggsy breaks the kiss, gasping for breath and panting against Harry’s wet mouth.

“Harry,” he forces out between pants. “You’ve no idea.”

Harry thinks he rather does, and he lets Eggsy know that by tugging him in for another kiss, this one slower, but no less desperate. He wants Eggsy to know exactly how he feels, how he wants every piece of Eggsy that Eggsy is willing to give.

With a tug on Harry’s shoulders, Eggsy drifts backwards without breaking the kiss, pulling Harry with him until there’s a sharp thud as Eggsy hits the kitchen table. A stack of post sitting on the corner of it slides to the floor with a gentle swish, but Eggsy doesn’t even seem to notice. Instead, Eggsy hefts himself onto the edge, pulling Harry in between the splay of his legs.

“Eggsy,” Harry murmurs, mouth still grazing Eggsy’s own. “We should slow it down.”

“Been waiting long enough,” Eggys argues, in between quick, open-mouthed kisses. “This ain’t fast at all.”

Harry has a difficult time thinking of a reason why he shouldn’t give in, shouldn’t let Eggsy pull their hips flush, and curl one leg around Harry’s waist. Which is precisely what happens and Harry has to balance one hand against the tabletop as Eggsy slumps backwards, tugging Harry down over him.

“You’ve no idea,” Eggsy repeats again. “I’ve thought about this so much. Thought about it right here on this table.”

Harry face heats with the notion, imagining the times they’ve shared tea together there, of Eggsy sitting quietly and having thoughts about Harry like that. Harry had never even suspected.

“Please,” Eggsy continues. “Don’t make me wait, Harry.”

It’s unfair how easily Eggsy breaks down Harry’s defenses; it’s something that would take a hammer and years of work for others, but just a few long weeks and a gentle push from Eggsy. He pulls back to tuck his face against Eggsy’s throat, pressing periodic kisses to the skin as he tries to get this thoughts in order.

“Eggsy,” Harry murmurs softly. “The most dangerous thing about you is that I don’t think I could ever say no.”

Eggsy’s hands curl around the back of Harry’s head and Harry feels the press of lips against his temple.

“We make a right pair, eh?” Eggsy asks with amusement clear in his voice.

Harry drops one last kiss to Eggsy’s neck and draws back enough to stare down at Eggsy, whose eyes are bright with happiness, whose lips are reddened from too many kisses, whose cheeks are flush with excitement. Harry can feel the press of him between their bodies and he knows his own is mirroring; no matter how old he might be, Eggsy seems to make his body want to revert back to that of a teenager’s.

With Eggsy spread out before him, he doesn’t know where to start; he wants everything. Slowly, he moves his hand to the waistline of Eggsy’s jeans, his thumb nudging at the button.

“Is this all right, Eggsy?” he asks and Eggsy spares a glance downwards before nodding.

“Yeah,” he pants. “Please, Harry.”

Gently, he pops open the button of Eggsy’s jeans and drags his zipper down, barely able to believe it’s happening, let alone on his kitchen table. But the heart wants, he can’t help but think.

Eggsy lifts his hips to let Harry tug his clothes down and Harry leaves them bunched around his knees with his underwear, leaving Eggsy bared to him. The tip of Eggsy’s cock is already wet and when Harry smooths his thumb over the head, Eggsy draws in a shaky breath.

Harry wants to bury his head between Eggsy’s legs and worship him like he deserves, but he’s neither the time nor patience. That will come later. For now, he curls his fingers around Eggsy and strokes him firmly, watching Eggsy pant, his eyes never moving from Harry’s own.

Eggsy looks spectacular spread out for him, his body responding to each of Harry’s touches. He can’t stop himself from leaning down over Eggsy to kiss him, his mouth gentle as Eggsy returns it distractedly, mostly panting against Harry’s mouth and making quiet noises of pleasure. When he pulls away, Eggsy quietly murmurs his name and blinks slowly, as though dazed.

With his other hand, Harry gently cups Eggsy’s bollocks, which are plump, but sit close to Eggsy’s body as though ready for Eggsy to come. He doesn’t want that too happen too quickly though; Harry lets go of Eggsy’s cock just long enough to unfasten his own trousers, shoving them down with his briefs to free himself from the tight confines. Eggsy lets out a quiet moan and reaches down to clumsily stroke Harry.

“You gonna fuck me, guv?” he asks. “‘Cause you can. Right here, right now.”

Harry shoots him a small smile and shakes his head.

“Not today,” Harry tells him. “Soon, if you’re amenable.”

“So fucking amenable,” Eggsy tells him, gasping loudly when Harry moves close enough to nudge their cocks together.

He urges Eggsy’s hand out of the way and takes them both in his grip, stroking firmly, even at the awkward angle.

“Fuck, Harry,” Eggsy swears. “You’re the fucking best.”

Harry rather feels the same way about Eggsy. He briefly buries his face into Eggsy’s shoulder, letting Eggy’s fingers scrabble across his back as he works them both in his palm.

“Okay, Eggsy?” he asks, checking in when Eggsy makes a pained sound as he rubs his thumb across the heads of both their cocks.

“Yeah,” Eggsy replies hoarsely, nodding frantically. “Make me come, Harry.”

Harry can do that. He speeds his hand up and leans forwards to sink his teeth into Eggsy’s collarbone. Eggsy bucks against him, moaning loudly. Harry laves his tongue over the mark he’s left, finishing it off with a soft kiss, knowing Eggsy can keep it for later, as a reminder.

“You’re perfect,” Harry murmurs into his ear, kissing just below his lobe. “I want you so much, my dearest Eggsy.”

The words are whispered, only for Eggsy’s ears, and Eggsy makes a soft sobbing noise and then his body locks up. Harry doesn’t realise that Eggsy is coming until everything gets suddenly wetter and stickier. Eggsy pants against Harry’s mouth, dragging him in for a messy kiss that’s really more just a meeting of their mouths as they breathe heavily together.

“You’re so good,” Harry tells him and almost startles when Eggsy reaches between them and touches Harry’s cock as well.

As Eggsy begins to soften, he slips out of Harry’s grip, but it lets Harry stroke himself harder, faster, getting himself closer to the edge as Eggsy touches him tentatively, his fingers orgasm-slow.

“Are you going to come, Harry?” Eggsy asks and Harry drops his head to Eggsy’s shoulder once more instead of answering, which Eggsy seems to take as an affirmative answer anyway. “Yeah, c’mon, Harry.”

As Eggsy rubs his forefinger over the tip of Harry’s cock, Harry feels himself sliding inevitably to the edge, falling over it when Eggsy turns his head and presses a gentle kiss of his own to Harry’s cheek. He comes across Eggsy’s cock and the part of his stomach that’s revealed beneath the rucked up hem of his shirt. It’s filthy, and as much as Harry enjoys order and cleanliness, he doesn’t think he’ll ever get over the image of dirtying up Eggsy.

“Eggsy,” Harry murmurs. “I—” he doesn’t try saying anything more, just leans in to kiss Eggsy, attempting to convey everything he’s feeling.

“Yeah,” Eggsy sighs as they part. “Exactly what I was thinking.”

Harry shares a small smile with him and then pulls a face as he glances between their bodies.

“We’ve made rather a mess,” Harry tells him with a wince when he drags himself upright.

“I’d be surprised if we didn’t,” Eggsy replies with half a laugh. “Did we get jism on your table?”

Harry sighs heavily, even as Eggsy laughs.

“Please don’t leave that for your housekeeping to clean up,” Eggsy continues and Harry holds out a hand for him.

“Let’s see the damage,” Harry says, helping Eggsy to sit up and shuffle off the table and onto his own two feet again.

Harry can feel the trembling in Eggsy’s legs and he keeps a hand under Eggsy’s elbow to steady him. Surprisingly, the table is stain-free, but he’ll be sure to wash it thoroughly later.

“Would you like a tea towel?” Harry asks. “To wipe down with?”

Eggsy shakes his head and tugs his trousers up enough that he won’t trip over them when he walks.

“I’m gonna head upstairs and shower. Want to join?” Eggsy punctuates his words with a wink and Harry can’t help but smile.

“I’m not sure how young you think I am, Eggsy,” Harry says, “You may be overestimating my body.”

Eggsy grins and presses a teasing kiss to Harry’s mouth.

“Maybe you’re underestimating my abilities.”

“I have no doubts about your abilities,” Harry tells him with a slight smirk that Eggsy laughs at.

“Then let me show you a thing or two,” Eggsy says, grabbing Harry’s hand and tugging him towards the stairs, even as Harry tries his best to tug his trousers back up his hips.

Upstairs, Harry pins him to the doorframe beside the bathroom and kisses him fully, Eggsy immediately melting into it.

“Go ahead and start,” he tells Eggsy. “I’m going to find clothes.”

Eggys shoots him one last wink and disappears into the bathroom, leaving Harry to head into his bedroom.

Harry takes a moment to lean against the door, drawing in a few relaxing breaths as he thinks about everything he has now. He never in a million years would have expected things to change so suddenly. He shakes his head and moves towards his wardrobe for clothes.

He’s halfway through pulling out a new shirt when there’s a faint ping from the spare set of glasses he keeps in his bedside drawer. He drops everything on the end of his bed and finds said glasses, slipping them on and activating them.

“Galahad here,” he says.

“Galahad,” comes Merlin’s voice. “We have to move now.”

Harry’s heart sinks.

“What’s happening, Merlin?”

“Lancelot and Percival are in the process of evacuating Trevors’ victims,” Merlin explains, “but she’s not there. We’ve extracted information from one of the guards and apparently she and Henry are paying a visit to Gainly.”

“That’s not out of the ordinary,” Harry says. “What makes you think this is different?”

“It’s unannounced,” Merlin tells him. “And it’s eleven-thirty at night.”

Harry glances down at his watch, realising how late it is and how long he’s been distracted by Eggsy.

“You really think they’re going to make a move?” Harry asks and Merlin pauses.

“The probability is high.”

“Why now, though?”

“I’ve been tracking Gainly’s progress in the news,” Merlin says. “There’s a strong possibility that he’s announcing his endeavor to become PM tomorrow afternoon.”

“They don’t want him to take that final step,” Harry guesses and Merlin makes a sound of agreement.

“Most likely.”

“Should I call Gainly and warn him?” Harry asks. “We can establish ourselves up as a strong ally.”

“Call on the way,” Merlin suggests. “If this gets out, we may not be able to cut everything off cleanly.”

“Cut the head off and two more may grow back,” Harry says.

“Precisely. We need to remove the source.”

“Gainly, Trevors, and Billet?” Harry confirms. “What about Baker?”

“Dean will have nothing without Gainly,” Merlin tells him. “He’s not a leader in the larger sense. He may have a few followers, but they’ll keep to the shadows without Gainly to protect him.”

“I need a car,” Harry says, but apparently Merlin is well ahead of him.

“Yves is just pulling up outside. Get your armour on and head down.”

“I’ll check in again when I’m closer,” Harry tells him and Merlin makes an affirmative noise.

“Galahad,” Merlin says before Harry signs off.

“Yes, Merlin?”

“I take it you have Eggsy with you?”

Harry glances guiltily towards the door, beyond which he knows Eggsy is still waiting for him, possibly entirely naked.

“Yes, he’s here.”

“I don’t want to know,” Merlin tells him. “I trust you both to be responsible. Have him stay at the house. I’ll send Bors around to keep an eye on things.”

“Of course. I’ll be in contact soon.”

Merlin signs off with a quiet beep and Harry slips his glasses off before heading back into the hallway. The shower hasn’t switched on yet, which is a good sign.

“Eggsy?” he calls out and after a second Eggsy’s head pokes out of the bathroom, his shoulders bare—Harry suspects the rest of him is too. “There’s an emergency. I need to leave.”

Eggsy disappears again, but when he steps out, there’s a towel around his waist, preserving his modesty.

“You have to go?” he asks quietly. “When will you be back?”

“I’m not sure,” Harry replies truthfully. “This could be the end for Gainly.”

Eggsy swallows and nods, taking another step towards Harry.

“Be careful, yeah?” he tells him. “They ain’t afraid to fight dirty.”

“I suspected as much,” Harry says, carefully reaching out and brushing his hand down the side of Eggsy’s neck.

Eggsy goes to him willingly, his arms curling around Harry’s body to hold him tightly.

“Come back to me,” Eggsy orders, pressing his face into Harry’s shoulder, and Harry rubs his back softly.

“I’ll try my best,” Harry tells him before Eggsy pulls back enough to meet his gaze.

“Do better than your best,” Eggsy tells him seriously, and Harry doesn’t have a reply for that, just cups the side of Eggsy’s face and draws him in for a slow kiss. He hopes it says everything he needs to.

“Someone will be stopping by soon,” Harry says as they draw apart and Eggsy nods. “Shower and try to get some rest, all right?”

Eggsy nods again, gives Harry one last lingering kiss, and then steps away.

“Fuck them up,” Eggsy tells him and Harry shoots him a private smile.

“I plan on it,” he admits, but he has to go; he needs to wash, get his suit on, and head downstairs to where Yves is probably already waiting.

He spares Eggsy one last look and then turns and heads for the bedroom. It’s out of his hands now.

*

The car journey to Gainly’s mansion is fraught with tense energy.

Gainly, thankfully, answers his phone after the second ring, though he sounds groggy, as though he’s just woken.

“I apologise for calling so late, Mr Gainly,” Harry starts. “But I’m afraid I must warn you of something.”

Gainly sounds much more awake when he asks, “What is it?”

“Trevors and Billet,” Harry says and Gainly seems to immediately understand.

He swears loudly and there’s a faint crash of something in the background, like a vase falling to the floor.

“I knew it,” he snaps. “They’ve been planning this for months. When do they plan on showing up?”

“Tonight. I believe they’re on their way now. I plan on keeping you very much alive, Mr Gainly.”

“I’ll alert security,” Gainly tells him. “My panic room will suffice for now.”

“I’m in the car, just a few minutes out from your home,” Harry admits. “I’m not willing to take risks on my investment.”

“Mr Hart, we don’t need extraneous casualties,” Gainly argues, which Harry expects.

“I have multiple certifications for firearms, Mr Gainly.”

“How am I to know if you’re working with them, Mr Hart?” Gainly asks and Harry holds the phone far enough away to sigh without being heard.

“If I were working with them, I suspect I wouldn’t have made this call,” Harry tells him bluntly. “Also, I’m still under the impression that you owe me for what happened to Eggsy.”

Gainly relents almost immediately.

“Use the back door,” he tells Harry before abruptly hanging up.

Harry would take offense, but it’s neither the time nor place, and he also knows it’s not personal; Gainly just doesn’t like being strong-armed into anything. They’re thankfully only a few minutes from Gainly’s home now and Harry uses the time to double check his handgun and the clip inside it.

“Merlin, this is Galahad. ETA ninety seconds to target.”

“Copy that,” comes Merlin’s abrupt answer, but they both have more important situations to deal with.

He’s unsure if he should find Gainly first or head straight for wherever the other two may be; he doesn’t know which of them is the bigger target. But when Yves switches his headlights off a little while later and creeps stealthily down the driveway, he knows it doesn’t matter because it’ll all go down eventually.

There’s a car in front of the house—the doors hanging open as though whoever was in it was in a rush—which means Shelby and Henry are already there. He has Yves pull the car around to the side of the garage, where it’s slightly hidden, and then slips out with Yves right behind as backup. Together, they head for the backdoor, which Harry has to pick in order to get open. It slows them down more than he’d hoped, but eventually they end up inside, more specifically, in the kitchen.

Harry watches as Yves removes the pistol from his holster and waits for him to pop the safety off before silently gesturing for him to take the left door out, while Harry takes the right. Going to the right leads Harry through the length of the dining room and around towards the front hallway. With no lights on, it’s significantly harder to move around, until the night vision in his glasses flares to life thanks to internal programming from Merlin.

He pauses in the doorway, keeping his hands close to his coat for emergency access to his gun. He doesn’t risk taking it out yet, wanting to seem as off-guard as possible should he encounter anyone.

“Visual contact?” Harry whispers quietly.

“Negative,” Yves responds before Merlin speaks up.

“Two heat sources upstairs to the left.”

“Two?” Harry asks, which Merlin quickly confirms.

“Yes,” he says. “A possible third, but the reading is distorted.”

“Noted,” Harry tells him, before making his way across the foyer towards the stairs.

Yves hangs back as Harry makes it to the top and Harry can hear him quietly murmuring to Merlin over the open comms line about alternative entrances. He makes sure they’re set to go before rounding the top of the stairs and edging towards the open door at the end of the hallway, where he can hear voices. He keeps to the shadows and hides behind the doorframe as he lets his glasses take a scan of the room for Merlin.

“That explains the heat source issue,” Merlin says as Harry’s glasses outline a dead body slumped against the room’s radiator. It’s the same room that he found Eggsy in not long ago, but there’s no longer a blood stain on the floor. “Looks like Billet.”

That saves them the effort, he supposes, but inside the room, the voices get louder.

“You promised full immunity,” a woman yells, which must be Shelby Trevors. “That was why we partnered!”

“We were never partnered,” Gainly tells her. “Associates, perhaps.”

“I gave you all the company you could ever need,” she argues.

“You gave me gifts to continue keeping you under the radar,” Gainly points out, which is followed closely by the excruciatingly loud bang of a pistol firing.

For one awful moment, Harry thinks that’s the end of Gainly, but then he hears Shelby’s voice again.

“The next one goes in your fucking head!” she screams. “I’ve had police sniffing around. Are you selling me out?”

There’s a pause as though Gainly is thinking before he replies.

“I can’t afford to have allegiances like ours if I’m to become MP,” he explains and Shelby’s anger is almost palpable.

“And when were you going to tell me, Frank?” she yells. “‘Cause it seems a bit fucking late now.”

“The police was never alerted by me,” Frank tells her calmly, which doesn’t seem to help.

“Of course they weren’t,” Shelby snaps, “because nothing is done by you ever. That’s why people like me exist.”

Harry would rather like to point out that people like Shelby exist because sometimes hell is just too full, but he holds his tongue and continues watching from afar.

“Well, no one who works for me informed the police about you,” Frank corrects, at which Shelby shakes her head, disbelieving.

“Then why the fuck have I had dogs sniffing around?” she asks and Harry knows she’s not talking about literal dogs. In fact, she might be talking about Roxy and Percy.

“Did they find anything?” Gainly asks, sounding worried.

“No, they fucking didn’t, because I’m a fucking professional, Frank. I’m not Henry, and I’m not content to swallow the lies you shove down our throats.”

Harry almost smiles at the thought that currently, Shelby has no one at all and she won’t even know until later—if she even survives that long.

“Look,” Frank says abruptly. “I can’t offer the same protection, but we have names now, more people that can help.”

“My issue,” Shelby snaps, “is that I don’t enjoy working with people who don’t feel it necessary to tell me huge fucking changes, Frank.”

“I understand,” Frank says before Shelby interrupts.

“I don’t think you do, Frank.”

“Shelby, look what you’ve done to Henry.” Gainly points out. “This isn’t the way to do this.”

“Henry couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut,” Shelby snaps. “He was dead weight to me, no matter what he thought was going on between us. He was useful to get me closer to you and that was it. I didn’t need him hanging around causing an even bigger mess.”

“Killing me won’t make this easier,” Gainly implores, which Harry suspects isn’t the smartest thing for him to say.

It’s proven so when Shelby squares her gun at Gainly’s chest and says, “No, but it’ll make me feel better, you absolute cunt.”

Harry moves quicker than he has before, tugging his pistol free, slipping off the safety, and aiming Shelby. As he squeezes the trigger another shot rings out, but whereas Harry’s shot hits his target, Shelby’s doesn’t. It still hits Gainly, but on the shoulder instead of his chest.

Both of them drop to the floor and Harry gestures at Yves, who’s edging around the doorframe at the other side of the room, to hold his position.

“Frank?” Harry gasps out, pretending to be shocked by the scene as he quickly scoops the gun out of Shelby’s reach, though she seems to be too busy dealing with what Harry suspects is a shattered femur, which is exactly where Harry had been aiming. “I tried to get here as soon as possible.”

Gainly moans in pain, his eyes rolling as though not even realising that Harry is there, but it’s probably for the best.

Without much thought, Harry leans over and presses his thumb against the wound in Shelby’s leg causing her to yelp loudly before promptly passing out, as per Harry’s plan. With both of them out of it, he gestures for Yves to step in, knowing they won’t be questioned now; they can play it off as fever dreams should they remember later.

Yves moves to Shelby to put pressure on the wound, while Harry does the same for Gainly. Neither of them deserve the easy way out. He’s going to keep them both alive for as long as possible.

“Merlin?” he asks, “Emergency services?”

“ETA three minutes,” Merlin tells him, which means he must’ve called them almost as soon as Harry arrived. “Agents Ector and Breunor are part of the teams.”

Harry knows that means things will be kept quiet and records will be redacted afterwards. Ector is a medic and Breunor works for the local constabulary, and together, they’ll ensure no one knows the truth. They’re useful for missions like the current one.

All things considering, it’s rather anticlimactic for the size of the mission. They tend to end in gun fights spanning hours and Harry more often than not wins a trip to the infirmary to be patched up. To be honest, Harry is glad for it; he’s had enough of the entire thing. Gainly has caused more trouble than he’s worth and the only good thing about him is that he introduced Harry to Eggsy.

By the time help finally arrives, Harry is a little concerned about the amount of blood Gainly has lost, but he knows both he and Shelby—who are both quickly handcuffed regardless of their situation—are in good hands now.

There’s nothing they can do for Henry; he’s long gone, but they’ll take the body to the HQ mortuary and wait until they can get an answer about who shot him in the throat. At least they have a short list; it was either Gainly or Shelby.

“Any casualties on your end?” Harry asks when there’s nothing left for him to do there and he and Yves are heading back towards the car, knowing they’ll be called whenever Gainly and Shelby are awake and out of surgery, respectively.

“A few minor injuries, but not from tonight’s extraction, and nothing for any of our agents.”

“We’ve had a surprisingly good night,” Harry says and Merlin makes a noise of agreement.

“Waiting paid off,” he says. “But it means more paperwork.”

Harry isn’t looking forward to it; it’ll be two weeks straight of the blasted stuff.

“Yves and I will head back to HQ. We need to discuss where this goes from here with the entire team.”

“Agreed,” Merlin says. “Stop by my office when you return.”

“Will do,” Harry tells him, listening to the quiet ping of Merlin disconnecting.

Silently, they make their way around to the side of the house where the car is and Harry glances over at Yves.

“All right?” Harry asks quietly as they climb into the taxi and Yves nods.

“Had worse, eh?” he jokes and Harry snorts.

“What a mess,” Harry comments, “and all for a bit of power.”

Yves makes a quiet tch noise and slips into the driver’s seat of the taxi, ready to take them back to the others.

All Harry wants is to go home to Eggsy, but as Yves slips the car into gear, he knows there’s nothing but work for him now. It’s going to be a long night.

*

Roxy, Percy, and Kamri are already waiting in the conference room when Harry and Yves walk in. They look far more tired and Harry doesn’t blame them after having to extract more than fifty hostages. The room also smells vague of pig shit. He’s sure all they want to do is shower and head home for a good night’s sleep.

“We’ll make this quick,” Merlin says as he walks in. “But I can’t promise that it’ll be painless. Roxy?”

Roxy glances down at a few scribbled field notes on a sheet of paper in front of her and begins to talk.

“We removed 53 people from beneath Habgery Farms. The owner, whose silence was being bought, is in custody, but the charges are air tight and there won’t be anyone to bail him out now. All victims have been escorted to the sister HQ in Coventry where they will receive full medical care and board for the next few weeks while trials are pending. Some have agreed to testify, but we’re keeping everyone together until it’s safe for them to return home. A few of the victims are foreign and here illegally, so we should get in contact with our agents in the EU to discuss their return.”

“Thank you, Roxy,” Merlin says. “We can begin going over the details tomorrow morning.”

“It already is,” Roxy points out, punctuating the words with a tired blink.

Merlin glances down at his watch and says, “Fair point. Find me tomorrow evening instead. Kamri?”

“We met with the current prime minister late tonight and brought the widespread corruption to his attention. He’ll begin the process of removing power from these individuals, but it will be slow, unfortunately. They’ve been using loopholes set up centuries ago and it will take a while to close them. For the meantime, various MPs will be frozen and constituencies will have temporary representatives appointed to them. We suggested a full shutdown, but she feels it would be too messy; plus, we don’t need to follow the footsteps of the U.S.”

There are various snorts around the table, but Merlin nods and says, “Sounds like a good start.”

It’s all news to Harry, but he’s not surprised. Some things at HQ are on a need-to-know basis, and sometimes last minute decisions have to be made. It’s nothing personal.

“Harry?” Merlin asks and Harry slumps back in his chair.

“After receiving a lead in regards to Shelby Trevors and Henry Billet, we had reason to believe they would attempt to remove Frank Gainly from the totem pole. Contact was made with Gainly and we infiltrated the house without Trevors or Billet knowing. Billet was already deceased upon arrival—something we are looking into—and we captured audio evidence that Gainly was moving his venture away from the trafficking market.

“During the argument, Gainly and Trevors were wounded, but not mortally so. Once they have recovered enough, we will ensure a full trial is issued. Agents will be sent in to thoroughly search the Gainly residence to find out how deep the corruption goes as far as judges, bailiffs, etcetera, are concerned. We need to make sure none of their contacts are assigned to their trials. There’s more work to come, but none of our covers were blown, which means contacts won’t know where to look when we come knocking on their doors.

“There is, however, the matter of Dean Baker, who was supplying Trevors with victims. We’ll be sending officers over to his residence tomorrow to ensure he can’t flee.”

“Great work,” Merlin says with a small smile. “All of you. This was a large project, but you’ve worked together beautifully. Now, until we can start to get information from Gainly and Trevors, I kindly suggest you all get the hell out of HQ and get some rest.”

There’s a faint wave of tired laughs and slowly agents disperse from the room.

“Harry,” Merlin calls out just as Harry is walking towards the door, and he pauses, letting Merlin catch up to him. “Bors checked in earlier to say that Eggsy is fine—impatient as hell and asking too many questions, but fine.”

Harry smiles, not at all surprised.

“He would make a good agent,” Harry says, which earns a frown from Merlin and a finger pointed at him accusingly.

“Having you on the team is enough to keep me on my toes, Harry. There’ll be no end to it if he joins too.”

“Just keeping you young, Merlin,” Harry teases, earning a dark look in return.

“Go home,” Merlin orders, and that’s definitely something Harry can do.

“Goodnight, Merlin,” he says, and disappears before anyone else can call him back.

*

It’s gone five in the morning by the time Harry gets back home.

There’s still a light on downstairs and when he kicks his shoes off by the door and steps through into the living room, he finds Eggsy asleep on the settee as though he tried valiantly to stay awake for Harry’s return. His face is soft and relaxed, but from the angle of his face, it looks as though he’s pouting. He rubs his thumb along his full bottom lip and Eggsy sighs in his sleep and tilts his head away from the touch, making Harry smile fondly.

After a moment, Eggsy sighs again and his eyes flutter as he begins to wake.

“Eggsy?” Harry murmurs gently, one hand on Eggsy’s arm.

It takes a long moment for Eggsy’s eyes to focus on him, but then he blinks and smiles in return, the corners of his eyes crinkling in happiness.

“Harry,” he mumbles, voice rough from sleep, but he sits up, his fingers curling into the front of Harry’s shirt and pulling him down, kissing him as though it’s the only thing he remembers how to do.

Harry carefully cups Eggsy’s face, returning the frantic kiss, even though there’s no finesse to it at all.

“Thank fuck, Harry,” Eggsy gasps out between kisses, while Harry tries his best to calm him, hands gentle as they slip down to Eggsy’s shoulders and rub soothingly.

“Everything’s done,” Harry tells him softly. “There’s no need to worry.”

Eggsy sags against him, his face nudging into the curve of Harry’s shoulder. For a few long minutes, neither of them says anything, it’s just a peaceful shared moment to appreciate that they’re both still very much alive, and hopefully will be for many years to come.

“Does that mean we can sleep upstairs?” Eggsy asks. “‘Cause this sofa is uncomfortable as shit.”

Harry snorts and presses a quick kiss to the corner of Eggsy’s mouth before standing upright and pulling Eggsy with him.

“It’s not meant for sleeping on,” Harry points out, nudging Eggsy in the direction of the stairs, quickly turning off the lights as they go.

“That’s what happens when you buy something based on looks rather than use.”

“I should be careful that you don’t start saying that about me,” Harry says and Eggsy snorts, dragging Harry the rest of the way into Harry’s bedroom without a second thought.

“Nah,” Eggsy says. “You look good and are useful.”

“Thank you, Eggsy,” Harry deadpans, giving him a gentle shove towards the bed.

Eggsy immediately crawls on top of it, burrowing under the covers, commandeering one side for himself. He pats the other side, temping Harry with the lure of sleep and the warmth from his body. However, Harry is almost certain he still has blood in the creases of his body, and he’s not about the track that into the bed.

“I need to wash,” Harry tells him. “Go to sleep, Eggsy.”

“I’ll wait up for you,” Eggsy says, sitting up against the stack of pillows of which Harry is most fond. He looks partially petulant and entirely stubborn, but Harry isn’t going to argue.

“Of course, Eggsy,” he says, letting the bathroom door swing shut behind him.

Eggsy is indeed asleep as expected by the time he comes out, a billow of humid air following him out as he steps back into the bedroom. He isn’t completely dry yet, but he can’t be bothered with the hassle, just needs somewhere soft and warm for a few hours.

Eggsy stirs as the mattress dips under Harry’s weight, but only to unconsciously turn towards him, his hand stretching out to press against Harry’s side. His mouth is slightly open, tiny snores escaping him, and Harry can’t believe something so wrong could end up being so right. It feels as though only days ago Eggsy first stumbled into his life, and now he’s going to wake up beside him in the morning, feeling like one of the most content men in London.

He lets his gaze travel over Eggsy’s face one last time, memorising his soft features, before he finally shuts his eyes and succumbs to the gentle clutches of sleep.

EPILOGUE

Harry wakes feeling warm and well-rested, with someone sprawled comfortably along his side. He has no idea what time it is, but the sun is trying valiantly to slip its way around the edges of Harry's curtains. He blinks to clear the sleep from his eyes and staves off the want to stretch for fear of waking the bed's other occupant.

It turns out it’s for naught when there’s a quiet sigh of someone waking up and then the press of dry lips against his shoulder.

“M’rning,” Eggsy mumbles, hair ruffled endearingly, pillow creases pressed into his cheek.

Eggsy barely has his eyes open, but his face is tilted towards him as though it’s an automatic response to waking beside Harry. Harry brushes his thumb over Eggsy’s chin softly and carefully rolls towards him.

“Good morning, Eggsy.”

Eggsy makes another tired sound and settles his front against Harry’s, pressing the natural hardness of his body against Harry’s thigh. Harry rubs Eggsy’s warm back and can’t help but smile as Eggsy rolls his hips against him.

“You’re still half asleep,” Harry reasons, but lets Eggsy rub against him regardless.

“Yeah,” Eggsy mumbles against Harry’s chest. “But you told me you’d fuck me when I was amenable, and I’m feeling amenable right now.”

A startled laugh escapes Harry.

“I suppose I did say that,” Harry replies as Eggsy tilts his head back enough to squint at Harry and offer a large grin. “Though that was almost a year ago, Eggsy.”

“Still amenable,” Eggsy tells him and Harry sighs quietly.

“We’ve slept together in every single way possible since then,” Harry points out and Eggsy shrugs loosely.

“Don’t matter,” Eggsy retorts. “I still want it.”

“Don’t I know it,” Harry grunts, earning a finger to the side, right where he’s soft and vulnerable.

“Don’t tell me old age is getting to you.”

Harry huffs and rolls straight over onto Eggsy, pinning him and earning a bright laugh from Eggsy, who immediately curls his leg around Harry’s waist.

“For some reason, I think this is exactly what you wanted to happen,” Harry complains and Eggsy laughs again, quieter this time.

“Maybe,” he tells Harry before leaning in to trail a line of kisses along Harry’s jaw. “Too early to argue.”

Harry thinks it’s rather a fair point and he finds it’s far easier to give in than to come up with a rebuttal, and he tips his chin down to meet Eggsy’s lips. The kiss is slow and tastes of the morning breath Harry has come to know all about since Eggsy insists on waking him every now and then with eager kisses before work. It’s far better than waking to an alarm, at any rate.

“I like you like this,” Eggsy tells him as he breaks away, his hands moving to the hem of Harry’s shirt, tugging until Harry relents and shifts back enough to let it slip over his head.

“Like what?” Harry replies, pressing his mouth to Eggsy’s throat.

“All soft and shit,” Eggsy says, making a breathy noise as Harry nips at his skin. “Like you’d let me do anything.”

“I think I’d let you do anything whenever you asked, Eggsy. I thought that much was clear.”

“Mmm,” Eggsy moans. “But it’s much easier to take you by surprise like this.”

Harry is about to ask what he means, when the room suddenly spins and he finds himself on his back, half-tangled in the sheets with Eggsy perched above him. Eggsy grins down at him and Harry can’t find it in him to be the slightest bit annoyed.

“I’m impressed,” he says and Eggsy tips his head.

“Soft,” Eggsy repeats before dipping down for another kiss, this one headier than the last, as he rolls his body against Harry’s, making it painfully obvious how much both of them want it.

Harry hooks his hands into the back of Eggsy’s boxers, nudging the elastic enough that it slips under his arse and gives Harry free reign over smooth skin and rounded flesh. Eggsy groans into his mouth and rocks as though trying to get Harry’s hands elsewhere. With a teasing touch, Harry slides one finger across Eggsy’s hole and loves the noise it draws from him; sharp and needy and entirely desperate for more.

“Lube,” Harry suggests and if Eggsy were really in the mood to lord control over Harry, he would put up more of a fuss; instead, he just reaches over into the nightstand and holds the bottle back for Harry to blindly take.

It’s cool when he dribbles it across his fingers and he’s feeling generous enough to let it warm to his body temperature before nudging one fingertip against Eggsy’s entrance. The angle makes Eggsy feel tighter, but he takes the first finger without so much as a whimper, burying his face against Harry’s chest and leaving a series of bruising marks that can thankfully be covered by Harry’s suits.

He’s not so quiet as Harry curls said finger and lets him feel every inch.

“Hurry up,” Eggsy orders. “Don’t have all day.”

As a matter of fact, they do, but Harry doesn’t argue as he slips in another finger, knowing Eggsy will feel the burn—even more so the day after. But after almost a year of sex on a regular basis and learning exactly what Eggsy likes and how he wants it, it’s not surprising.

“Remember the first time?” Eggsy asks him, pulling his face back far enough that Harry can see his flushed face and the way his eyes flutter as Harry pumps his fingers into him. “When you fingered me?”

Harry does, in fact. It had been two days after the Gainly mission had been wrapped up as he’d refused to even broach the topic again until he knew everything had been cleared and process had begun to dismantle Gainly’s kingdom. He’d ordered curry and naan from the local takeaway and Eggsy had been full of good food, sprawled out on the settee while Harry jotted down a few late night notes on his tablet.

He’d only glanced over at Eggsy to see if he was still awake, but he’d been hit with such a need to care for Eggsy, to watch him come apart right then and there.

And Eggsy had—beautifully so.

Harry had been two fingers deep in him and Eggsy had orgasmed so hard that he’d had come on his chin after. Harry had fucked him through a second one some minutes later, and had then taken him upstairs to push him through a third with his mouth on Eggsy’s soft cock.

Harry shoots him a pointed look and says, “How could I forget?”

“Just making sure,” Eggsy said innocently, which is enough to tempt Harry into giving him a third finger.

Eggsy has let Harry slip more than three fingers into him before, but it’s really all he needs before he’s ready to take Harry’s cock—at least that’s what Eggsy has told him. Harry believes him, but he does take a few extra minutes to loosen Eggsy up, letting his knuckles tug at Eggsy’s rim until he’s panting from it.

Harry is painfully hard and leaking against his own thigh, but he doesn’t rush as he eventually slips his fingers free, the pads of them feeling pruned from the lube and heat of Eggsy’s body. With a nudge, he encourages Eggsy to kneel up while he slips his boxers down his legs, kicking them to the bottom of the bed. Following, Harry’s lead, Eggsy quickly divests himself of his own.

“Condom?” Eggsy asks, leaning as though preparing to grab one, but Harry shrugs.

“Depends how thoroughly you feel like washing later.”

If given the choice, he knows Eggsy likes it bare and he knows Eggsy doesn’t like the act of putting a condom on Harry, though he’s okay with putting one on himself. He knows it must be something to do with Eggsy’s past, but it’s not a thought that deserves to be in their bed.

“Yeah, alright,” Eggsy says, foregoing the condom, and Harry quickly spreads the leftover slick on his fingers across his cock and lets Eggsy reach back for him.

He angles it just right, adding the perfect amount of pressure to have Harry start slipping in. It takes a few rocks of Eggsy’s body, easing himself open just a little more with the fat head of Harry’s cock, before the tip pushes in and Harry feels Eggsy start to bottom out. He clutches at Eggsy’s hips, but lets Eggsy set the pace as he continues sinking down into Harry’s lap.

When Eggsy takes the final few inches of him and is seated firmly on Harry's hips, Harry moves one hand to curl around Eggsy's cock, tugging gently to keep him hard. Eggsy makes a soft noise and rolls his body into the touch, his own hands coming down to rest on Harry's chest. After a few minutes of Eggsy wiggling and adjusting to Harry's size, he uses his position to lift himself up and drop back down. The feeling is exquisite and being able to watch Eggsy do it is a personal favourite of his. He loves the way Eggsy uses his body to get his own pleasure, though he knows from experience that Eggsy is in no way selfish when it comes to their sexual endeavours—far from it, in fact.

He keeps stroking Eggsy's cock, loving the way he drips precome across the back of his hand and revels in the feeling of Eggsy all around him. The movement of Eggsy's body keeps him raptured and his gaze trails down from Eggsy's pink panting mouth, to the defined lines of his chest, down to the thickness of his thighs, where the muscles shift just under the skin. He's quite the sight to behold, and Harry will never tire of it.

"Yeah, Harry," Eggsy moans, his head rolling back as he begins to pick up the pace. "Feels so good."

Harry would agree, but his tongue seems to be stuck to the roof of his mouth and there's not much else he can do but keep his hand moving and enjoy the ride. Eggsy, glancing down—probably due to Harry's silence as Harry tends to usually be vocal, especially in regards to how Eggsy makes him feel—but he just grins when he sees Harry's expression.

"Like that, huh?" he asks "Like how tight I am for you?"

Eggsy will be the death of him, he knows.

When Eggsy hunches over to kiss him, Harry leans up to it, his mouth automatically opening for something deeper. It quickly puts moisture back on his tongue and he feels Eggsy's smile against his lips.

"Better?" he asks as he pulls back, returning to bouncing filthily in Harry's lap.

"Much," Harry tells him and there's a flash of something dangerous in Eggsy's gaze.

Before he can warn Eggsy against doing whatever it is he has planned, Eggsy twists his hips, adding in a circular motion that practically has Harry seeing stars.

"How about that?" Eggsy asks and although Harry blinks dazedly, he's awake enough now to not be as soft as he had been after waking up.

Half praying that the bed is wide enough, Harry grips Eggsy tightly and rolls them over, so quickly that Eggsy lets out a startled yelp and clings to Harry's back.

"What the fuck, Harry?" he asks his accent thickening with his confusion.

Unfortunately for Eggsy, teasing goes both ways in the Hart household, which means Harry doesn't even skip a beat before getting his knees underneath him and slamming into Eggy so hard that Eggsy actually gasps.

"How about this?" Harry asks, though instead of being annoyed by it, Eggsy lets out a bright laugh and clings to Harry once more.

"Shit yeah," Eggsy agrees, moving one hand up to press flat against the headboard of the bed as Harry resumes the hard thrusts, much to Eggsy's apparent delight. "Just like that."

At the current pace, Harry knows he won't last long, but he's sure it'll be just enough time for Eggsy to get exactly what he needs. As a precaution, he slips one hand under Eggsy's lower back and angles him just enough to ensure he brushes firmly over Eggsy's prostate. Eggsy turns practically nonvocal at that point, humming out his happiness and gulping in breaths whenever he gets half a chance.

As Harry’s other hand is ensuring he doesn't flop straight onto Eggsy, Eggsy has to do the honours of stroking himself off, but it doesn't seem to concern him. In fact, he lets out a litany of yeah, yeah, yeahs and seems to leak even more over himself. Harry watches, fascinated, and maintains a steady pace, pushing Eggsy closer to what he knows will be a great orgasm.

"Harry, you absolute—"

Eggsy doesn't get to finish his cursing before Harry adjusts the angle just a little more and has Eggsy moaning so loudly, Harry worries that the neighbours may hear.

“Harry, Harry!” Eggsy yells, his legs tightening almost painfully around Harry’s waist as he comes hard on Harry’s cock.

Harry almost has to stop moving due to how tight Eggsy is around him, but it help staves off Harry’s own orgasm just long enough to let Eggsy enjoy the aftershocks, dribbling one last spurt of come across his own stomach and hand. Eggsy has just enough time to collapse into the sheets, both arms going lax, even his legs falling away.

“Jesus, Harry,” he groans, sounding strung out. “C’mon, you gonna come?”

As a matter of fact, Harry is, but it takes four, five thrusts before he feels his bollocks draw up closer to his body as he comes inside Eggy with a guttural moan. Eggsy lifts his arms enough to rub Harry’s shoulders, encouraging him through it until Harry shoves all the way in and pauses, letting his body shake through the remnants of pleasure. Eventually, there’s nothing more to do than slump against Eggsy, his body rolling slightly to the side to keep from completely squishing him.

He slips out at the same time and Eggsy lets out a grunt of discomfort, even though he automatically rolls into Harry’s space and plasters himself against his side again.

“That was fucking good,” Eggsy tells him, voice sounding tired, and when Harry glances down at him, he looks to be half asleep already.

"Too soft in the morning, hmm?" Harry asks and Eggsy opens one eye long enough to glare at him good-naturedly.

“Get out of here,” Eggsy complains, pushing at Harry’s face, though there’s no real fight to it.

Instead, Harry smiles to himself and rolls onto his back to be more comfortable. Eggsy lets out one final sigh and is apparently content to doze silently. Harry knows he won’t be able to fall back to sleep, but he’s more than happy to sprawl out and enjoy a quiet morning together with Eggsy.

He’s just thinking about what he can make them for a late breakfast, when there’s a quiet chirping from his nightstand that doesn’t bode well. Eggsy groans beside him, even more so when Harry sits up and drags a sheet over them, keeping everything hidden that should be hidden, before reaching for his work tablet.

When he unlocks the screen and accepts the call, Merlin’s solemn face greets him.

“You do know what day it is, don’t you Merlin?” Harry asks in lieu of a proper greeting.

“As much as you may think I do, I don’t actually enjoy disturbing you both. Especially when nudity is involved.”

Eggsy laughs from where he’s still flopped out and Harry glances over at him fondly, enjoying the way he briefly lifts his head to tip his grin towards Harry. When he looks back at the tablet screen, Merlin doesn’t seem amused, but he doesn’t say anything about it.

“I take it this isn’t a social call,” Harry says as Eggsy grunts loudly and drags himself into a sitting position, idly wiping come off his stomach, noticeably avoiding the camera’s view.

“I’m afraid not,” Merlin replies. “There’s been a last minute request.”

Harry lets out a quiet breath and asks, “Where am I being sent this time?”

“Actually,” Merlin says with an eyebrow cocked, “this one is for Gawain.”

Harry looks at Eggsy in time to see his frown before Eggsy leans over to peer at the tablet in Harry’s lap.

“For me?” he questions and Merlin nods.

“How do you feel about Sri Lanka?”

“Never been,” Eggsy says, “But something tells me I’ll be heading there soon.”

“An unfortunate necessity,” Merlin tells him. “We need you to escort a gentleman back to the UK for a trial.”

Eggsy groans and Harry knows it’s because he hates being a glorified bounty hunter.

“If you’re good,” Merlin continues. “I may even make Harry your backup.”

Eggsy slips from beneath the sheets and heads for the en suite, ignoring the fact that Merlin gets a screen full of bare skin and possibly bollocks.

“Where’s my suit, Harry?” he calls over his shoulder and Harry gazes fondly at his back and the rosiness of his arse.

“Right where you left it,” he tells him, by which he means it’s hanging in the closet, beside Harry’s own. He glances down at Merlin and smiles. “We’ll be in soon.”

“Don’t be late,” Merlin tells him before signing off, but Harry’s never been any good at keeping time, and his promises can only go so far.

He pushes himself up out of bed and follows Eggsy into the bathroom, old age, be damned.

End