“This is better isn’t it, Daisy?” Michelle said quietly. She doubted that her daughter would know what she was talking about- and it didn’t matter all that much anyway because Daisy wasn’t paying her any mind. She was entirely absorbed in the new blocks Harry had bought for her to play with.
It was better, though.
The party Michelle had had a few nights earlier, while not strictly a disaster, had been… awkward. That was at least a little bit her fault, Michelle knew. She hadn’t told her friends about Harry because, she supposed, she had wanted to see how he would introduce himself to them. It wasn’t too odd, was it, that she had wondered if Harry hadn’t taken so long to make things official with Eggsy because he was- perhaps subconsciously- ashamed of her son? Michelle hadn’t lied when she told Harry that she had seen how happy he made her little family and was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because of it. But she had still wanted to hear him say that he was Eggsy’s boyfriend out loud- and what she’d gotten was Sally’s boy, who she hardly knew, flirting with Harry as if his life depended on it.
Of course, the kiss Eggsy had given Harry when he walked in on that scene had hardly left things ambiguous, but it was not exactly the introduction Michelle had been hoping for. Sally and her son were mortified and Greg- well, Michelle didn’t always know what to make of Greg, but she had talked to everyone who had been at the party since then, including him, and none of them seemed too upset with her about it.
Which brought her back, as ever, to the question of Harry.
She had given him and Eggsy fifteen minutes to come back on their own that night, and then she had gone snooping, visions of everything from a frenzied tryst to an awful fight running through her head. What she had found was Harry perched on the edge of Daisy’s bed, reading to her from a book of fairytales in that undeniably sweet voice of his while Eggsy, on the other side of the bed, looked on. Michelle had supposed Mike might have done them a good turn, all accidentally, because Eggsy was practically glowing. Right there and then, she had decided that she'd gotten it all wrong.
Accordingly, she had asked Harry over again, this time for a dinner between just the four of them. Watching from the living room now as Harry helped Eggsy with dinner, Michelle felt an unexpected warmth in her chest.
This was definitely better.
Harry was chopping vegetables for a salad while Eggsy crouched in front of the oven, making sure the almost-finished roast and potatoes didn't burn. Harry said something to Eggsy; it was too quiet for Michelle to hear, but it made Eggsy snort out a laugh and shoot a fond look up toward Harry.
Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, Michelle didn't always know how she felt about Harry- this young man who she could have sworn was older, this she-didn’t-even-know-what who had turned her son’s life upside down in- it seemed- all the best possible ways. Looking at him in his perfectly tailored suit, and listening to his unfailingly crisp enunciation, Michelle would never have expected someone like Harry to be as good for Eggsy as he was without there being some kind of catch. But, like with the windfalls that had brought her this new house and this new life, Michelle was starting- slowly- to believe that maybe there was no catch. She wasn't yet used to that feeling.
“Can I help?”
Michelle looked around. While she was caught up in these thoughts, Daisy appeared to have lost interest in her blocks at last and approached the kitchen.
Eggsy glanced up, saw her, and smiled. “Sure you can, flower. C’mere.” He cleared a bit of counter space across the kitchen from the oven and scooped her up. She was giggling by the time he got her situated. “All right?” he asked.
Daisy nodded solemnly. Her positioning gave her a good view of everything going on in the kitchen, but she was geographically closer to Harry than to Eggsy. Harry didn’t seem to mind this; he immediately started explaining the mechanics of chopping to her, even though no one would be putting a knife in that child’s hand for some time yet.
Michelle sat back a little- but then she sat up again sharply only a moment later, when Daisy accidentally overturned the canister of flour at her elbow. Objectively, Michelle could tell that not much actually spilled- but it still unleashed an impressive cloud of white.
Harry’s vegetables, Harry himself, and of course Daisy as well had borne the brunt of the spill. For a second, nothing happened. Michelle still remembered the way explosions could build in the silences, so for the duration of that second she held her breath. “Would you look at that?” Harry said finally. “It’s a flower covered in flour.”
Daisy- clearly in the middle of deciding whether or not to cry- laughed uncertainly.
It was like they had all been taken off pause, and suddenly several things happened in quick succession. Michelle stood up. Harry picked up the still half full canister of flour and put its lid back on. Eggsy turned down the oven and crossed to him and Daisy, saying, “It’s my fault, I shoulda-”
“Nonsense,” Harry said, just as quickly. He was still looking at Daisy and his voice was low and even. “It’s nothing worth pointing fingers over, is it? Mishaps in the kitchen are part of growing up, or so I’m told.”
“You’ve got it all over your suit,” Eggsy tutted. Distantly, Michelle noticed that he sounded apologetic but not actually concerned.
Harry chuckled softly. “It’s seen worse, believe me.”
“Yeah,” Eggsy said, cracking a smile.
“We’re just fine, aren’t we little one?” Harry said to Daisy.
“Looks like sugar,” Daisy remarked- which wasn’t a surprising conclusion for her to draw, since it coated most of her favorite sweets. “Doesn’t taste like it, though.”
Eggsy finished crossing to Daisy and picked her up, raising another minor cloud of white. “I’d better get her cleaned up before she eats herself.”
Daisy giggled again.
“Do you mean that?” Harry asked.
“Well, no.” Eggsy pried Daisy’s hand out of her mouth gently. “She ain’t really gonna eat herself- are you, flower?”
“I meant are you really leaving?”
“Sorry,” Eggsy said. His lips ticked upward. “Got to. It’ll only be maybe five minutes, I promise.” He reached out with the hand not currently supporting Daisy and touched Harry’s cheek. “You got a little flour there.” Harry was actually covered in a pale film, so Eggsy’s thumb passing over his cheekbone resulted more in a single clean spot than the removal of a single dirty one. "You'll be fine." Eggsy patted Harry’s cheek one more time and left with Daisy.
It was only once he was gone and it occurred to Michelle that she ought to have volunteered herself to clean Daisy up instead of Eggsy that she realized she had been standing absolutely still, rooted to the spot, for far too long.
A moment after that, she noticed that Harry was looking at her, his expression very gentle. “I have terrible luck in the kitchen,” he told her. “Would you mind helping me out?”
She nodded a little jerkily and made her way into the kitchen. She thought about saying, I don’t know what came over me. She thought about apologizing. She thought about a lot of things- but when she looked at Harry, ineffectually dusting off everything in his path, none of it felt necessary.
He went to the sink and rinsed the flour off the vegetables as best he could. “Here,” he said. “You could watch the oven while I do a better clean-up job. Does that sound all right?" He gave her a tiny smile.
Michelle nodded, and they went about their separate tasks in unexpectedly comfortable silence until Michelle heard her daughter laughing again in the next room. She saw Harry's smile grow.
She thought, maybe, that she could get used to this after all.