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“He’s alive” should make everything alright, nearly fifty hours after V-Day.

“We found him” should settle Eggsy’s nerves and soothe the ache in his chest.

“He’s coming home” ought to be enough to set the world right again, to bring the sun out from behind the clouds.

“He’s here,” Merlin says, and it’s the one thing Eggsy has been wanting to hear for days.

It should all make everything alright.

But after he’s run headlong through half of HQ to get to the medbay on zero sleep, after he’s stopped in the doorway to the room, hearing a heart monitor beep and feeling the weight of the last week coming down on him like the sky itself…

Eggsy doesn’t feel alright.

He feels broken, like he’s only being held together by gravity, all the jagged pieces ready to fall apart.

He doesn’t trust himself to speak, just clings to the doorframe and shakes like a leaf.

The heart monitor beeps just the tiniest bit faster.

“Eggsy,” Harry sighs, and he smiles at Eggsy, an exhausted but beautiful smile that makes Eggsy’s ribs curve back against his heart and lungs.

“I was hoping Merlin wouldn’t send you until I was a bit more… decent,” Harry confesses, reaching up to fuss with the bandage on his forehead. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Harry,” Eggsy finally breathes, taking in as much air as his lungs can hold, afraid he’ll suffocate if he says anything more.

Harry looks to be all in one piece. He’s under several hospital blankets and somehow manages to make a dressing gown look flattering, and Eggsy can’t tear his eyes off the bandage nearly covering his left eye.

“It’s just a bullet to the head, Eggsy. Don’t look at me like that,” Harry says crossly, a bit of dark hair falling into his face.

He gently curls his fingers around Eggsy’s wrist, and Eggsy blinks.

He’s crossed the room, leaning heavily against the bed rail so he can gingerly touch Harry’s temple with his fingertips. The gauze is soft and warm, but not nearly as inviting as Harry’s palm on the thudding of his pulse.

Harry,” Eggsy gasps once more, and something hot and thick threatens to choke him. His throat feels leaden, his mouth gone dry as he skims his fingers down to Harry’s cheek, feeling the softness of his flesh there.

“Not even the slightest bit curious how I managed to survive?” Harry says, borderline playfully, and Eggsy flinches when there’s a loud clap behind him.

He whips around to find Merlin standing in the doorway, where he smacks his clipboard against the doorframe twice more before speaking.

“Bullet busted your glasses and grazed your skull. Severe temporal hemorrhaging caused the spray of blood, and you were unconscious for nearly thirty hours after. You’re lucky you didn’t lose an eye, Harry. You’re lucky you didn’t die,” Merlin scolds, looking like he’s ready to smack the clipboard up against the side of Harry’s head instead of the door.

Harry brushes his thumb along Eggsy’s wrist bone and sighs. “Dramatic, as usual.”

“Eggsy, lad, please. Explain the severity of the situation to him, because ever since he got here he’s been nonchalant as a garden gnome,” Merlin grouses, leaning out of the way when a nurse shuffles into the room.

Eggsy looks back at Harry’s face, searching it, memorizing it. Harry is still arguing with Merlin as the nurse types in his vitals and then checks his bandage.

Eggsy holds his breath as she lifts the gauze to reveal a dangerously dark strike of lightning that starts at Harry’s eyebrow and vanishes into his hairline. It cuts over his temple, a terrible reminder of what Eggsy saw that day on Harry’s monitor.

“Eggsy?” Harry’s voice brings him back to reality, and Eggsy jolts.

The nurse is gone, and Harry’s bandage has been set right.

“You make sure and tell him how sore you are at him as soon as you remember how to talk, Eggsy. I expect you’ll give him the same earful you gave Lancelot and myself,” Merlin says. “I’ll be back to check on you later, Hart. I may even make you dinner.”

“I just got home, Merlin. Try not to kill me,” Harry retorts.

“And here I was, happy you were alive.” Merlin exits the room and shuts the door behind him, leaving Eggsy and Harry alone.

The air feels thick in Eggsy’s lungs, and the pressure of Harry’s touch is his only  tether to reality.

He almost wishes Harry would let go. His touch is too soft, too warm and real compared to Eggsy’s cold dreams.

“Well? How about that earful, then,” Harry says warmly, almost apologetically, and when he moves to hold Eggsy’s hand, everything clicks into place.

Eggsy can breathe again, can think clearly, and he finds, with clarity, that he can speak. And he doesn’t want Harry touching him.

“You fucking arsehole!” he yells with surprising strength, especially given how silent he’s been this whole time.

Harry blinks up at him when Eggsy tears his hand away like he’s been burned.

“You absolute fucking prick! You got a lot of nerve showin’ up after what you did!” Eggsy snaps, blood on fire, a staccato thunder in his veins.

Harry looks incredulous. “...I was shot in the head.”

Eggsy outright kicks the base of the hospital bed, something burning at the corners of his eyes. “You got shot in the head! I watched you die, Harry. I saw you die!

“No, Eggsy. You saw me narrowly escape death with an obscene amount of blood loss and convenient unconsciousness,” Harry corrects.

Eggsy kicks the bed again. “Fuck you!”

“I thought out of everyone, you’d be happiest to see me.”

Reaching up to yank on his own hair, Eggsy does his best to hold onto his sanity. “I am happy to see you. I just hate you.”

“If you can look me in the eye and say that, I’ll accept it,” Harry murmurs, and Eggsy grips the bed rail and gets in Harry’s face, and he’s so fucking done.

“I…” he chokes, fingers numb and head swimming. “I hate…”

There’s something resigned in Harry’s warm, whiskey gaze. Something tired and nearly sad. But what does Eggsy know? And that stings Eggsy a bit more deeply  than it should: that he knows nothing about this man that he…

“I hate… that you left me,” Eggsy says, shoulders slumping as he casts his gaze down and away from Harry’s face. It causes him too much pain to look at that face and remember the last time he saw him.

Eggsy hears Harry shift, but he still doesn’t look up. “You left me… you yelled at me, you left me, and then I watched you die. I thought I was gonna go the rest of my life… feelin’ like…”

He sniffles.

Shit, he’s not crying, is he? Fuck, he can’t be crying in front of Harry.

Harry’s hand cups Eggsy’s cheek, gingerly tipping his head up until Eggsy is forced to meet his gaze.

And Eggsy feels like he’s watching Harry die all over again with the way Harry’s looking at him like Eggsy’s just shot him.

“I apologize, dear boy,” Harry says softly, like Eggsy’s a startled animal that could run at any moment. “I… Eggsy, are you—”

“Crying? No, fuck off!” Eggsy snaps, reaching up to rub the heel of his palm against his eye.

Eggsy,” Harry says more sternly, and then he’s cupping Eggsy’s face with both hands, brushing his thumbs under Eggsy’s eyes. “Before I left for Kentucky, I was angry, but not at you.”

It sounds like bullshit, and Eggsy snorts to convey as much.

“I just had such high hopes for you, Eggsy. And you didn’t disappoint me—not in the least. Perhaps I was angry with myself and took it out on you,” Harry explains. “I shouldn’t have treated you that way. Especially given the life I’d intended on saving you from. That—”

“Don’t do that.”

“Eggsy?”

“Don’t make me sound like I’m your fuckin’ charity case. I’m not a pity party, Harry—not some beat up stray you needed to take in and look after,” Eggsy says, swatting Harry’s hands away from his face. “I don’t need that shit.”

“Eggsy, I was not trying to make you feel—”

“‘Cause I’m not ashamed, you know. So what, my dad died. So what I took a few beatings--ain’t nothin’ wrong with takin’ a black eye or workin’ Smith Street instead of my mum,” Eggsy says, but even as he says the words, his voice shakes, and he wraps his arms around himself without meaning to. “I’m a Kingsman now. So what you gotta apologize for? What you savin’ me from?”

Exactly that, Eggsy. I wanted—” Harry pauses suddenly.

Eggsy hugs himself a bit tighter, and he feels a cold, bitter bite in his nerves that he wishes weren’t familiar to him after all these years.

When he looks back at Harry, something close to feral has altered Harry’s gaze, darkening his eyes. His mouth is open, as if stuck on a word he can’t say, and there’s a tremor in his hand Eggsy knows wasn’t there before.

“Eggsy, you,” Harry starts, closing his eyes. “You said you worked on Smith Street.”

Something cold pinches the back of Eggsy’s neck, and his stomach drops.

“What do you mean by that?” Harry murmurs, almost as if he doesn’t want to ask, like he doesn’t want the answer.

Eggsy shrinks back from the question in spite of all his bravado a moment ago.“I think you know what boys my age do on Smith Street,” Eggsy says, and the words feel thick and sour in his mouth.

Harry’s hands clench into fists. “There was nothing in your file about solicitation.”

Eyes wide, Eggsy looks back up at Harry. “I… I thought you…”

That dark look in Harry’s eyes softens minutely, before one hand unclenches and flexes on the bed. Eggsy watches as Harry very, very slowly reaches for him. When he gently grabs Eggsy’s elbow and ushers him closer, Eggsy steps in hesitantly.

“Did Dean force you to be a rentboy, Eggsy?”

Fuckin’ hell, Harry,” Eggsy whispers, but when he moves to tear himself away, Harry grips him tighter.

“Eggsy, this is important.You have to tell me; were you forced into it?”

Christ, I thought you knew, alright? I thought you knew everything; why the fuck do you think I’d mention it if I thought I was gonna get this reaction out of you?” Eggsy says, and Harry’s touch is somehow still so deliberately gentle. It makes him sick.

“Eggsy, I swear to you, had I know this from the beginning? Dean Baker would be dead—would have been dead, for quite some time. I’m so sorry I didn’t know.”

“I don’t need your sorry, you arse,” Eggsy snaps, but there’s no bite to it. He just sounds tired. “Lemme go. I’m sorry I even came to see you—don’t know what I was thinkin’, comin’ down here. Don’t know why I wanted to see you.”

“Eggsy,” Harry says, and he sits up and takes Eggsy’s wrist in his other hand. He draws Eggsy close, manages to get an arm around his waist, and Eggsy’s chest concaves.

The next thing he knows, Harry’s arms are around him, and he’s got his face buried in Harry’s chest. The rail of the hospital bed is digging into his hips, and he’s dragging in Harry’s scent through the hospital antiseptic. Eggsy grips the soft, warm fabric of Harry’s dressing gown and tugs, pressing his face deeper against Harry’s heartbeat.

“It’s alright, dear boy,” Harry says, carding a hand through Eggsy’s hair. His other hand smoothes down Eggsy’s back, warm as sunlight through the thin cotton of his v-neck.

It lights up the endings of Eggsy’s nerves, and he sucks in a ragged gasp and holds it. It’s so gentle, so dangerously tender that it confuses Eggsy’s brain and causes a sensation borderline painful.

But he arches up into it, craving it, searching it out, and Harry’s touch pulls him in deeper to warmth and safety.

Eggsy turns his face, finds himself burrowing into the crook of Harry’s neck, and whimpers. It’s a pathetic sound that would have gotten him bruised ribs when he was younger, but here, with Harry, it feels like the first breath of life after drowning.

“I’m sorry,” Eggsy sniffles, and Harry’s scent of warmth and spice and home makes his lungs feel like they’re on fire. “I’m sorry I yelled.”

Harry shushes him with a warm palm against the bare back of Eggsy’s neck, fingers slipping beneath his shirt collar to touch at his spine. Again, his nerves spark up at the contact, hot and biting and almost bone deep. “It’s alright. I’m sorry, too.”

Eggsy shakes his head. “You were right. You shoulda been mad at me—should still be mad. I’m such a fuck up, Harry. I’m sorry.”

“Shh, shh, don’t say such things, Eggsy,” Harry says, and he gingerly makes Eggsy lean up, at least high enough to look into his eyes. “Your loyalty and compassion for JB should have made me proud. I was just upset that I had failed another Unwin. You make me proud—infinitely so. Dear boy, I’m so sorry I made you feel like anything less than the remarkable young man you are.”

Eggsy laughs, but it’s wet and shaky.

“You have always been worth more than the world gave you. I can’t believe…” Harry sighs, and Eggsy feels him pushing him even further away.

He looks down and blinks away tears. He watches Harry lower the guard rail on the side of the bed, and then he gasps when Harry scoots over just the slightest bit.

“Come here, darling,” Harry breathes, warm and inviting as he takes Eggsy’s hand and squeezes.

And it may be against some kind of protocol for Kingsman med bay, and it may be one of the dumbest things Eggsy has ever done, but he’s not thinking as he climbs onto the hospital bed and lays himself along the side of Harry’s warm body.

And Harry wraps him in his arms and guides Eggsy’s head to rest upon his chest. Eggsy sighs, a shaky, heavy sound that takes so much more out of him than he has to give right now.

“I’m here,” Harry says, fingers burrowing into Eggsy’s hair, nails scraping his scalp.

Eggsy gives a full body shudder at that.

He’s never been touched like this, so gently and almost lovingly. Harry’s warmth floods Eggsy with the desire to fall asleep and never wake up. He makes a tiny noise, like a cat stretching in sunlight, and he curls up tighter into Harry’s side.

“There now, darling,” Harry says, too gentle, too soft.

Eggsy’s skin breaks out in goosebumps, and he nuzzles his face into Harry’s chest and makes another one of those distressed, almost sob-like sounds.

“It’s alright now. I’m here, I have you,” Harry says, and Eggsy wants so badly to believe him that he whimpers again.

After about ten minutes of Harry idly playing with his hair, Eggsy turns his face away from the wet spot he’s worked into the soft material of Harry’s shirt.

“I’m sorry,” he mutters, sniffling as he clings to Harry tighter, wrapping his leg over Harry’s like it belongs there. “I didn’t… I didn’t mean to cry.”

Harry hums a soft sound, almost a laugh, and Eggsy swears he kisses the top of his head.

His heartbeat has jacked up about twenty paces, and Harry’s warm breath tousles his hair when he speaks. “It’s quite alright, Eggsy. You’re allowed to cry, if you want.”

Eggsy shakes his head lightly, shivering when Harry’s fingertips brush across the back of his neck, just above his shirt collar. That touch, just there, is on the verge of driving Eggsy mad. “It’s stupid.”

“There is nothing remotely foolish about allowing yourself to feel and be vulnerable, Eggsy. I promise you,” Harry murmurs, using the arm wrapped around Eggsy to hug him closer to his body. His palm smooths over Eggsy’s ribs, fingers slipping into the spaces between, and Eggsy’s breath hitches.

His face burns, and his eyes sting as he shudders and whimpers, a steady stream of tears leaking from his eyes. Harry’s hand on his rib feels like puzzle pieces, a reassuring pressure fit into a space that usually feels empty and hollow.

“Tears are not trivial, Eggsy. There’s no dishonor in admitting you aren’t strong twenty-four seven.”

Eggsy hiccups. “When was the last time you had a good cry, then? If it’s so untrivial?” He inquires grumpily.

Harry lets out a soft puff of laughter that ruffles Eggsy’s hair and sends a fresh wave of shivers down his back. “On the plane ride here, actually.”

Eggsy lifts his head, putting himself nearly nose to nose with Harry. The motion fits him even closer against Harry’s body, settling him deeper into his arms as he meets Harry’s gaze. “Shut up. Harry Hart doesn’t cry.”

Harry smiles, a broad, endearing grin, as if Eggsy is so terribly charming saying something so idiotic. “Well, had you been alone with your thoughts heavily medicated after being told you were coming home after narrowly escaping death, I promise, you may have made a few unsavory sounds and let out just a few tears yourself.”

Eggsy snorts. “I might’ve. When you put it that way.”

Sighing, Harry lifts one hand and brushes the backs of his knuckles against one of Eggsy’s tear-stained cheeks. “No, I doubt you could ever make a sound even close to unsavory.”

Eggsy feels the tips of his ears burn, feels the flush spread across his cheekbones. He frowns. “I’ll make some unsavory sounds if you try and use anymore of that gentlemanly nonsense on me.”

Harry’s smile grows brighter at that. “Shame. I thought that would work.”

Eggsy sets his head back down with a loud huff, shuffling up until his head is warmly nestled under Harry’s chin.

Without another word, Harry sets back to his process of slowly unraveling Eggsy’s mind, stroking his fingers down Eggsy’s spine, drawing patterns on his ribs and shoulders. He’s still playing with Eggsy’s hair as well, dragging his nails over his scalp, tangling and combing his fingers through the length of it. He brushes it back from Eggsy’s face, pays tender attention to the base of Eggsy’s neck, carding the tips of his fingers through the baby hairs there just so, and Eggsy struggles to keep his shivers to a minimum and his sounds to zero.

“Are you finished crying?” Harry asks gently, and Eggsy blinks.

His eyes still sting, and his face still feels wet, but he’s not sure if tears are coming out. “I… I dunno…”

“Well, should you feel the need, I prefer that you do it in my company,” Harry tells him, hugging Eggsy a bit tighter.

“I—you too, ya get me?” Eggsy says, curling his fist tighter in Harry’s robe and tugging.

“Hm?”

“Don’t… Don’t you go cryin’ alone. I won’t take any special treatment from you if you’re gonna be a prick about it later,” Eggsy grumbles.

Harry’s quiet, for longer than Eggsy feels safe with, but then he feels a tension in Harry’s body relax.

“Of course not, Eggsy. Thank you,” Harry sighs, and Eggsy wants to live in this moment forever.

He wants the warmth and bright and the safety of Harry all around him. He wants Harry to always speak to him this gently, to always touch him this way.

“Can you ever forgive me?” Harry breathes, and Eggsy feels the tiny tremor that shakes Harry’s left hand when he asks.

Eggsy feels like he may choke on his heart. “For what?”

“Everything?”

As long as you keep doin’ this, yes, Eggsy thinks, but he knows Harry means more than what is on the surface.

He’s not only asking for forgiveness for the day before Kentucky. He’s apologizing for getting Eggsy’s dad killed, for letting Eggsy fall into Dean’s hands, for letting Eggsy know what it feels like to lose control of his life. He’s apologizing for things Eggsy knows he had no control over: Eggsy’s time as a rentboy, the bruises he earned, the nights he spent crying into his pillow.

And then of course, he is asking to be forgiven for the hurt he caused Eggsy’s heart when he left Stanhope Mews and fell before Eggsy’s eyes.

It makes Eggsy’s throat tight and hot, and his hands are shaking and he wants to kiss Harry. Wants to kiss him so badly—and where the hell did a thought as crazy as that come from?

“You don’t have to, you know. I’ll completely understand if you—”

“I forgive you, Harry… Or, I will, I mean… Might take me a mo, but none of this was your fault. I’m just,” Eggsy starts, choking on that hot lump squeezing in his windpipe. “Don’t leave me again. Don’t do that to me again, I… I’m just so glad you’re alive.”

And fuck, Eggsy starts crying again.

He cries a bit harder this time, a bit louder, and Harry pets and holds him through it, not saying more than an occasional reassurance.

“I have you,” Harry promises, “No one is going to hurt you again, Eggsy. I’ll keep you safe—I’m here.”

Eggsy sniffles, pressing his face against Harry’s collar bones, dragging Harry closer to him with a sudden tug. To get any closer, Eggsy would have to give up who he is and become part of Harry. He’s pretty sure that would be alright.

“Eggsy… I know it’s been hard. I have no idea the depth of the trauma you’ve experienced, the pain you’ve felt. I wish I could have protected you from that,” Harry says, gently as can be, and he combs his fingers through Eggsy’s hair more slowly than before. “You’ve been so brave, so strong. I’m so proud of you.”

A shiver rocks through Eggsy’s body, so strong his hairs stand on end and he swears his ribs rattle. He’ll never get tired of those words coming from Harry’s lips.

“But I’m here now. And I believe now that I know what you need, I am better suited to care for you.”

Eggsy blinks through his tears, turning his head to listen to Harry’s heartbeat. “Huh?”

Harry gets a hand between them, cups Eggsy’s chin and tilts his head up. Before Eggsy can question it, Harry kisses his forehead. It’s soft, warm, and nearly hesitant. Beneath his palm, Harry’s heartbeat skips a beat, and beneath his own ribs, Eggsy’s thuds contentedly.

“Just this…” Harry says, and he guides Eggsy’s head back down, comfortably resting it against his chest.

Eggsy doesn’t ask. He thinks he knows.

“Darling, you’ve been so mistreated,” Harry murmurs. “I have a lot to make up for.”

Eggsy shudders. If Harry is thinking of using soft touches and timid kisses to heal Eggsy’s emotional, mental, and physical scars? It’s going to take him a very, very long time.

But Eggsy’s alright with that. That means he’ll have to stay in Harry’s arms, Harry will have to keep touching him, keep speaking to him in that gentle voice.

“You’re safe, Eggsy… You’re safe now—with me,” Harry promises once again, and this time, Eggsy has no doubt. He just lets his eyes close, lids like lead curtains, and his body sags against Harry’s.

And Eggsy trembles in Harry’s arms until he has nothing left to give. He falls asleep without meaning to, breathing heavy and warm over Harry’s heart.

And that… That makes everything alright.