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less than a drop

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The fate of this man or that man was less than a drop...

 

_____

 

Dear Harry,

I don’t know why I keep insisting on writing these letters. Once put to paper, these words will only remain obscured behind other words, most likely long after your time is past. Mine too, for that matter.

But isn’t it just so with everyday human interactions? They constantly speak words at each other in order to mask all the things they really mean to say. I confess sometimes when you are reading to me and you happen to glance up from the page to catch me staring, you are doing likewise, like we are both complicit in this silent game together. You hold my gaze too long even as you continue to speak, but then, you have all the words nearly memorised by heart now, don’t you?

‘By heart’. Isn’t that a funny phrase. And yet how often the heart is a synecdoche for all human experience. In this case: an intentionally stored memory that is motivated by a desire to preserve. I, too, have this memory down by heart.

I can already see you rolling your eyes. You always warned me I was too human.

To which I have always replied, ‘I am as human as you.’

With Kind Regards,

Galahad

 

_____

 

Later, Eggsy would admit that boosting a car in front of a cop hadn’t been one of his brighter moments.

To be fair, he hadn’t actually known the plainclothes-wearing bloke with the atrocious hair was a cop until the whole shouted “Stop! Police!” bit, and by then it was too late: he already had the door open and was sitting behind the wheel while the engine had begun to purr delightfully from an expert hot wiring (if he did say so himself). Perhaps if he hadn’t been so fucking talented at breaking into said car, the copper would have cottoned on to his intentions sooner and hence tipped him off sooner before the real damage could be done.

Now there was nothing for it: it was either step on the gas or give up the next few years of his life to the nick, and Eggsy wasn’t a quitter.

Well, he wasn’t a quitter about the things he actually cared about, so you can shut up about his disappointing academic underperformance, Mr Thompson.

He cares about this car, though. It’s a beauty, all sleek sporty lines and high horsepower that’s completely wasted on the city of London and its speed restrictions. Eggsy personally resents any posh prick who buys a beautiful, expensive car and never actually leverages its full potential. He’d wager everything he had that the tosser had never taken her out of the city at all. The way he sees it, he’s just treating a very fine car in the manner deserving of its station.

That, and...it’s just that sometimes, Eggsy has these moments when his desire for something strikes with the random impact of a heart attack, and he’s compelled to simply do the thing. Some might call them impulsive fits of reckless self-destruction. He’d prefer to frame them as just trying to have a bit of fun every once in awhile, seeing as there are so few things in his life to be happy about (no job, no money, no girlfriend—or boyfriend, for that matter, because that turned out to be a thing—just an adorable baby sister, a sad mother, and a bastard stepfather).

As the car laps the narrow roads, which, at this hour, are mercifully empty, his fleeting illicit-induced euphoria is soon dragged back down to earth by a trailing entourage of candy cars behind him, lights blazing and klaxons blaring. Fuck.

Evasive manoeuvres it is, then.

He makes a sharp turn down a one way road in a shriek of tires against tarmac, very much heading down the wrong way, and the police are helpless to follow. He also can’t help but admire how the car handles so wonderfully, leaping to his touch at the slightest command like a mechanical extension of himself and hugging curves like it had been shaped for them when he’s got to dodge an oncoming car by driving up on the pavement. Better still, the cops don’t have the same agility and with one little stunt, Eggsy leaves them in the figurative dust.

His mobile vibrates in his pocket. Eggsy pulls it out to glance at the screen, remembering all over again that he’s got to change the contact info from the time he left his phone on the table with his mates when he went to the loo.

Eggsy Mum is Well Fit:
Daisy just used last nappy. Can you get sum more?

Yea he starts to type, but more flashing blue lights blinding him in the rear view mirror draw his attention from his phone.

May be a bit late tho sorry xx

Yeah, he shouldn’t be texting and driving, but that’s pretty much the least of his offences at the moment. He’s about to put his phone away when Jamal fucking texts him next.

Jazza:
Where u at cuz? We at bp. Come out!

Trying but bit tied up at mo. Btw wots best way to shake cops?

Wtf mate
...
Again??

Jamal must be with Ryan because the next thing he knows Ryan’s texting him too.

Stop Tryna Pull Me Mum Ryan:
Srsly??? EGGS Y!!
What kind?

Eggsy is in the middle of typing out a reply when he glances up and his eyes widen at the rangy four-legged creature standing in the middle of the road. Instinctively, he jerks the wheel and the car swerves sharply to the right, fishtailing out from under his control until it’s caught in a circular spin, coming to a stop when it crashes into the side of a building.

The impact is harder than he expects. The entire passenger side crumples inwards with a pop and shattering of glass as if the car were little more than a tin can. He remains still, stunned by the entire last two seconds, but then the continued wail of the police sirens startles him out of his daze and into a renewed panic. Eggsy frantically unbuckles his seatbelt and scrambles out of the car on wobbly legs. It takes him a moment to find his footing, and surely there will be some new aches and pains tomorrow, but adrenaline gives him a burst of strength and he’s off down the alley way, leaping up onto a skip and climbing up the ladder escape like the most nimble of primates. He clears the roof of the three story building just as the police come around the corner, but doesn’t stick around to watch. That would be a fool’s errand.

Higher up, he can see the bright lights of London scattered around him like the stars were pulled underneath the thick, cloudy sky. The next building over isn’t too far away, and with a running leap and more than a bit of daring, Eggsy clears the gap easily. The wind lashes at his face with a hint of moisture in it, promising later rain. Eggsy laughs into it. He feels alive like this. Larger than himself and immense. He feels free.

When he judges the amount of distance he’s put between himself and the scene of the, well, he prefers to call it incident, to be adequate, he reluctantly descends back to street level. His feet hit the solid pavement. He adjusts the angle of his hat, stuffs his hands into the pockets of his jacket, and strides away at a casually loping pace. Just another late night pedestrian on the streets trying to go home, whatever that may be. Nothing to see here.

The longer he walks, the safer it becomes, and the more giddy he gets from the high of having gotten away with it. It’s like when he took that leap through the air, he never came down.

It may just be why he keeps tempting fate.

Dodged another bullet today, Unwin.

Eggsy hops the turnstiles at Holborn when no one’s looking and takes the stairs down the escalator two at a time. The platform is practically barren save for a ragged shape of a homeless man curled up in a corner, hunkered down for the night.

As a low grumble signals the impending approach of the last train, he pulls out his phone to send another text to Jamal inquiring as to his whereabouts when a flash of movement from the corner of his eye draws his attention.

It’s just an idle glance to the newcomer at first, a quick look that still takes in enough to know that the man is about his age and about his height, neatly styled hair, wearing a long and dark navy coat that is more suitable for the cool evening than Eggsy’s own threadbare jacket, and in possession of a bearing that Eggsy can only think of as sophisticated. There are just some people who face the world while standing tall. In response, Eggsy hunches in on himself even more.

The other man must feel the weight of his stare, which goes on for longer than it generally would have, because he turns to look at Eggsy, and time stops.

Eggsy doesn’t make a habit of studying himself extensively in the mirror. He’s never found anything particularly distinctive about his features, though he knows from others’ responses that he isn’t unattractive. But he can recognise his own face staring back at him well enough, and the effect is disorienting.

For one hysterical moment, he has to wonder if he really exists.

It’s not so much like looking into a mirror as it is like looking into an alternate reality, one where he can afford an expensive haircut, a good-quality coat, and stylish glasses. One where his reddened eyes shine with unshed tears and utter misery.

Eggsy watches the other man with his face flow through a series of motions like he’s in a dream: approaching the edge of the platform, peeling off the various posh accessories he wears, and slipping them into his coat pockets before unbuttoning the whole thing and shrugging it off, letting it pool at his feet. He wears such an excellently cut suit that Eggsy can tell is expensive and tailored even if he knows fuck all about fashion. But more disconcerting is how Eggsy can recognise the body that the suit highlights, its proportions and angles. He knows it as if it were his own.

The man with his face looks at him again, and Eggsy also recognises the weariness in his expression. It’s the look he sometimes sees when he does take the rare opportunity to study himself in the mirror (be it his own or some random hookup’s) on mornings after long, drunken nights out. It’s the look he has when he contemplates all the medicine bottles lined up in the cabinet behind said mirror and, for a split second, thinks, maybe it’d be better.

The lights from the train grow brighter. Eggsy takes a small step forward, hesitant at first, and then urgently breaks out into a run as his gut fills with dread. He opens his mouth to shout, but he’s already too late.

The man with his face keeps staring at him, right until the moment he lets himself fall backwards onto the tracks, disappearing beneath the wheels of the train, and Eggsy’s screams are lost beneath the blaring horns and screeching metal.

 

_____

 

Dear Harry,

Every time we hear about another one, you like to say, ‘People commit suicide through weakness, not through strength.’ I think you are just too fond of that book. But you get so disgusted every time another fails whatever private standard you’ve held them to, and yet I don’t get the feeling your contempt is for them, but rather yourself. As if you were responsible.

Is it hubris or kindness to shoulder the entirety of the blame? We share many of the same parts. Maybe we are all responsible. You could not have stopped this any more than I, but you never lay the fault at my feet.

I never feel the same frustration or guilt as you do, though arguably I ought to feel them even more keenly. I don’t know why. Sometimes I like to think if they suffered so horribly in life, then may the find their solace in the great deep sooner rather than later. Sometimes I wonder if they weren’t the lucky ones all along.

Kind Regards and Still Going Strong for You,

Galahad

 

_____

 

Eggsy reels back, repulsed by the very thing he’s just witnessed. He thinks he can see the glint of blood between the wheels of the train. Blood rushes in his ears. He bends in on himself, nearly overcome by the urge to vomit.

The doors to the carriages don’t open. Behind them, Eggsy blearily makes out confused and concerned faces of the train’s passengers. Time, which had moved all too quickly only moments before, now comes to another standstill. The overhead announcement comes on, alerting personnel as to an emergency. Soon, they will descend upon the train like swarming ants.

He takes another step back and nearly trips over the stranger’s coat still bunched up on the ground. He doesn’t know what compels him to scoop it up, sliding into it like a second skin as he turns and starts walking swiftly away. It’s another one of those urges that make him act before he can think.

The coat fits him perfectly like it was made for him. He buttons it closed and runs up the escalator, two, three stairs at a time, only slowing down and adopting an air of normalcy as a horde of Underground workers stream down the opposite stairs. He quickly pulls off his snapback and keeps his head bowed as the police descend soon after. No one even looks at him. They see his expensive coat, and their eyes just slide right over him by habit. Another domain of the rich.

Eggsy keeps walking at a stately pace, like the coat lends him some of its prior owner’s elegance, until he reaches the end of the block, and then it all falls apart.

The world begins to blur around him. The pressure in his chest seems to swell. He feels like his heart is going to explode. His hands cover his mouth as his composure crumbles. He keeps trying to take deep breaths like he’d been taught.

His phone vibrates again in his pocket.

Finding something solid to latch onto, Eggsy hastily unbuttons the coat and digs through his pockets to retrieve his phone.

Jazza:
Still waiting cuz. Ry’s tryna pull this pensioner he thinks is lot younger. Beer goggles. Funny as shit. Cmon!

He can’t help laughing a bit too hysterically. Jamal, bless him. His hands are trembling, but he manages to type in a reply anyway.

Tell him if he snogs her and she got loose teeth they prolly false yeah? Be there soon then x

He slides the phone back into his pocket and pulls the coat in close around him, taking a deep, steadying breath of the cool night air and inadvertently gets a whiff of the stranger’s cologne. It’s nice. Smells like something light and green and earthy. Not overbearing at all. It’s something he’d choose to wear for himself.

 

_____

 

The Black Prince is practically warm and welcoming, nearly full to bursting, by the time Eggsy arrives. He had taken a cab because the stranger’s wallet had been full of more money than he’d ever seen in his life. He had felt a moment of guilt in using that money, but it wasn’t like the stranger was going to miss it now.

Eggsy welcomes the crowd he pushes through. He just wants to be around people right now and soak in their liveliness.

“Oi, there he is!” Ryan calls out, prompting both him and Jamal to throw their hands up in the air when they spot him like a bunch of hooligans.

Eggsy can’t help but grin back, and right away, Jamal and Ryan sense something false in it.

“Uh oh, what’s that?” Jamal says, giving Eggsy a one-armed hug that draws his attention to the coat. “And what’s this? You rolled over a banker or summat?”

“I think I’m in a spot of trouble,” Eggsy tells him as he slides into the booth.

“Shit, Eggs. What you done now?”

So Eggsy tells them. The car, the crash, the fleeing on foot, the station, the man who jumped in front of the train right before his eyes.

Jamal swallows but gives him a sympathetic look.

Ryan whistles lowly before moving to stand up. “That’s pretty rough, mate. No wonder you look like you seen a ghost. Get this one a drink, yeah? He gonna need it.”

“Cheers.”

“So you gone and steal his coat and things?” Jamal questions, giving him a weird look, like what he done was too much, even for him. “Eggs, they use that sort of stuff for identification. Why?”

“I…” Eggsy tries and fails to justify himself. He hadn’t mentioned the man could be his doppelganger for fear of it coming off as some long lost twins parted at birth shit that’s been ripped from the tabloids. There are plenty of photos of him as a baby, and he never had a twin in any of them, ever. “Dunno. Before he done it, the man just looked at me, you know? Just kept staring like he wanted me to watch and understand. I just wanted to know why he did it.”

When he closes his eyes, he can still picture the other man. His face. His defeat. His sadness. Eggsy tries to put himself in the other man’s shoes (the crazed part of his brain notes that they would have fit, perfectly). Imagines looking at himself as he leans back, back, back, past the point of no return as the wheels of the train come bearing down—

Eggsy gasps as his eyes fly open.

“You alright?” Jamal warily asks.

“Yeah,” Eggsy shakily says. “Yeah, just a bit shook up.”

When Ryan returns with pints in hand (and striking out on his second attempt in trying to chat up the pensioner), Eggsy pulls out all the things in the stranger’s coat pockets, laying them out on the sticky table: a fancy, surprisingly heavy watch, his thick-rimmed glasses, a gold signet ring, a gold plated lighter, and a fountain pen. Upon second glance at the wallet, Eggsy realises that all it contains is cash—no credit cards or bank cards or even any form of identification.

“Who the fuck was this bloke?” Ryan asks, voicing the question they all have.

“Oi, look here,” Jamal says, pointing at a small emboss on the leather wallet in the corner.

It’s a strange little logo as far as logos go, sort of looking like the notch of two hills within a circle. Eggsy wouldn’t think much of it except he finds the same small logo in gold on one of the arms of the glasses, on the underside of the lighter, the clip of the pen, the inside of the watch, and hidden behind the face of the ring.

“Someone’s a loyal customer,” Ryan remarks.

Moving on instinct, Eggsy shrugs off the coat and peers at the tag. Same logo, with the fortunate addition of an accompanying name: Kingsman. He shows it to his mates, and Jamal arches a brow before googling it on his phone and showing them. “Some fancy tailor shop, looks like.”

“Maybe they’d recognise him if you described the bloke to them, Eggs,” Ryan suggests.

But Eggsy doesn’t need to. He could just walk right into the shop on Savile Row, and if the bloke were as frequent a visitor to it as all his stuff would indicate, they’d recognise him for someone he wasn’t. At least he’d find out the bloke’s name and if he were lucky, perhaps a little bit more. Then he could tell them what really happened, apologise for taking the bloke’s stuff, and pray they didn’t phone the police.

It’s as good a plan as he’s ever going to have, because he hasn’t a clue as to what the fuck is going on.